Michael Jackson legacy expected to thrive after trial

By Linda Deutsch

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 1 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

In this Jan. 31, 1993 file picture, Michael Jackson performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena, Calif.

Rusty Kennedy, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

LOS ANGELES — The private world of Michael Jackson, fiercely shielded by the superstar in life, was exposed in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. But rather than suffering harm from revelations of drug use, experts say Jackson's legacy and posthumous earning power will survive any damage done and could actually grow after he was portrayed as a victim by a money hungry doctor.

Jackson died before he could launch a series of highly anticipated comeback concerts in London as he tried to regain the towering status he enjoyed when he released the "Thriller" album in 1983.

But his death did breathe new life into record sales and boosted other projects to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for his estate, even as his already tarnished personal life took another hit by revelations about his drug use.

Jackson zoomed to the top of the Forbes Magazine list of highest earning dead celebrities and his executors are moving quickly on more projects designed to burnish the performer's image and expand the inheritance of his three children.

A Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour" opens in Las Vegas this weekend, a precursor to a permanent installation at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, and fans are expected to flock there for a "Fan Fest" exhibit of Jackson memorabilia.

After the trial, a judge made it clear that the defense effort to cast Jackson as the villain in the case had been a miserable failure. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, called a reckless opportunist and sentenced to the maximum four years in prison.

Judge Michael Pastor also blasted Murray for experimenting on the pop star with the operating-room anesthetic propofol to help him battle debilitating insomnia, even though the drug was never meant to be used in a private home.

Some experts say the revelations made the King of Pop look more like a regular person coping with a difficult challenge.

"In the final analysis, not a lot of damage was done," Jackson biographer J. Randy Taraborelli said. "I think the trial humanized Michael Jackson. It presented him as a human being with problems."

As evidence unfolded, "It definitely made our hearts go out to Michael Jackson. He was a person suffering a great deal and not getting the help he needed," the author said.

Taraborelli said the entertainer's family, fans and estate executors were concerned before the trial that testimony would paint Jackson as responsible for his own death while resurrecting past accusations of child molestation and bizarre behavior by the King of Pop.

But the judge limited testimony and evidence to Jackson's final months and specifically ruled out any mention of the 2005 molestation trial.

Thomas Mesereau Jr., the attorney who won Jackson's acquittal in that case, believes the Murray trial did damage Jackson's reputation but said the impact would likely be short term.

"It certainly didn't help to have all this testimony about drug use," Mesereau said. "But as time passes, people will focus more on his music and the negatives will fade."

While Murray was ultimately shown to be negligent, the portrait of his patient that emerged during the trial was one of an aging superstar desperate to cement his place in entertainment history while providing a stable home life for adored children, Paris, Prince and Blanket.

The image of Jackson as a caring father had never been illustrated quite so vividly. A probation officer who interviewed Jackson's mother, Katherine, said she told him: "Michael Jackson was his children's world, and their world collapsed when he left."

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