Reactions in Europe to Michael Jackson's acquittal in a child sex abuse trial ranged from jubilation among his fans to admiration for his lawyers for their dexterous handling of the case to cynicism among the media.
Jackson and attorney Mesereau faced the music for 14 weeks
In Germany, the decision to clear Jackson of all charges of molesting minors at his Neverland Ranch in California found a strong positive resonance among many citizens. More than half of the 13,000 people who participated in an online survey for celebrity magazine Bunte on Tuesday welcomed the court decision.Only 27 percent were opposed, while 21 percent were undecided.
Jackson's Europe manager Ralf Sesselberg said that the Jackson family was planning a "thank-you" party for Jacko's loyal fans in Germany. "Some family members could come for it, maybe his father," said Sesselberg in Lower Saxony. But he ruled out the possibility of the so-called "king of pop" personally making an appearance.
Michael Jackson fans display hearts and signed messages in support of Jackson outside his Neverland Ranch in California.
Meanwhile, Jackson's lawyers have come in for praise for their expert handling of the controversial long-drawn out trial that attracted frenzied media attention.
German legal expert Dietmar Herz said that Jackson's lawyers had been "brilliant." In an interview with "Spiegel Online" news site, Herz said the trial had been just and fair.
"Naturally Jackson is an overwhelmingly prominent defendant who sparked worldwide support as well as criticism and stirred a media storm," Herz said. "But his stardom did not bring him any recognizable advantages. His only plus point was that he could hire one of the best lawyers in the country."
"He's just a wreck"
Newspapers across the continent, however, weren't so forgiving.
Spanish daily El Mundo wrote that Michael Jackson's reputation had taken a serious battering. "The singer was acquitted but only because of lack of evidence. Jackson didn't contribute to the defense at all," the paper said. It added that the trial had illustrated the physical and psychological decay of the star. "His records don't sell and he doesn't even attract fans the way he used to. He's like a broken toy. The former child prodigy stood in the spotlight almost all his life. But the singer couldn't come to terms with his fame and getting older."
Italian newspaper Il Messaggero was equally scathing. "There's no doubt that the Peter Pan of rock would still fill entire stadiums today," it wrote. "But there's also a concrete risk that he could lose face doing that (and that not only as a consequence of too many plastic surgeries)," the paper said. "The Jackson of today is not in the slightest the Jackson from 'Thriller' and 'Bad'."
Dutch daily De Volkskrant said the trial had visibly aged and weakened Jackson and that he left the California courtroom a broken man who only invoked pity. "A people-shy megastar whose career is practically over and who's financially dead, who may not have indulged in any proven buggery but who is obviously caught in the grip of an unmistakable and sick preference for the company of children," is how the paper described him. "The king of pop is finally rid of his throne."
Germany's Munich-based Münchner Merkur lashed out at the trial, saying the evidence was too thin, the witness testimonies too contradictory and the suspicion too deep that the relatives of the apparent victim were mainly driven by financial motives. "The former king of pop may not be perfectly rehabilitated, but he is rightly a free man," the paper opined. "However, the talent of the century with a childlike psyche will have to live with the stigma of a pedophile," it wrote. "A comeback to the pinnacle of pop will, however, remain off-limits -- despite all the hysterical swearing of loyalty from his fans."
Germany's mass-selling tabloid newspaper Bild titled "But what has the trial done to the king of pop? -- He's just a wreck."