The reigning emotion in the wake of the Conrad Murray guilty verdict on Monday was of hollow victory rather than catharsis.
At the end of the ordeal, Michael Jackson was still dead and no amount of prison for his doomed doctor would bring him back.
Surprisingly, the spectacle of Murray’s public humiliation didn’t seem to interest the normally voracious consumers of celebrity trash.
The story had little traction in the tabloids, drove even less TMZ traffic and the live feed of the six-week trial was neither the subject of water cooler debate nor late night comics across the nation.
Herman Cain’s sexual harrassment rumors nabbed more time on cable news than the courtroom account of how Conrad Murray injected the King of Pop with a fatal dose of hospital-grade sedative, and then lied about it to save himself.
The Casey Anthony trial riveted Nancy Grace. Not Conrad Murray.
Where was the outrage? Maybe we were just tired of it.
Rather than peel back the curtain on a celebrity’s private life, the Conrad Murray trial showed us a sordid picture of Michael Jackson that we no longer wanted to see.
With his death at age 50, we had finally deified the King of Pop. His sudden demise led to an outpouring of global emotion. Those of us who had casually mocked him for years or reviled him for suspected child abuse, suddenly let all that fall away.
Instead we remembered the Michael Jackson we loved – his childlike innocence, his talent, and the outright joy his music brought to millions across the world.
The documentary film that showed the last days of Michael Jackson, “This Is It,” seemed to affirm all the best qualities about him. Though thin and somewhat fragile, MJ’s voice was still strong, he could dance like a dream and he seemed thoroughly in control of his gift.
But the trial negated all that. It revealed a sad and broken pop star, propped up by a complicit drug pusher with a medical degree.
People close to Jackson seemed to agree. " I think the overwhelming feeling is one of being empty," said family attorney Brian Oxman, on CNN. "There is no sense of vindication; there is no sense of justice having been done. It’s empty. The fact is Conrad Murray is guilty, yes, we know that but we are still without Michael Jackson and his kids are without their dad, and that leaves me empty."
One of the most heart-breaking moments of the testimony came from AEG chief Randy Phillips, who said that Jackson cried as he told him that he just wanted to make enough money from this tour to live a normal life with his three children.
One of the most nauseating was the description by an EMT of Murray scooping up pills and hiding them into bags before calling 911.
To trial-watchers, Murray seemed guilty from the start. Propofol expert Dr. Steven Shafer shredded Murray’s credibility in rattling off 17 deviations from the standards of care, according to Wrap reporter Tim Kenneally.
And when his turn came, the doctor put up the most feeble of defenses, and never took the stand. The central notion of the defense, that Michael Jackson had died at his own hand by injecting himself with a fatal dose of propofol, seemed ludicrous on its face.
The jury seemed to agree that it was. In two short days of deliberations they dropped a guilty verdict of involuntary manslaughter. Murray, who listened to the verdict in a state of near catatonia, faces four years in prison and the loss of his medical license.
And while there were cheers outside the courtroom and a few lone tweeters sharing thoughts like this – “Justice has been SERVED!! Doesn't bring the King of Pop back, but now someone will be charged!! I can only imagine how the Jackson fam feels” – overall, none of us felt better.
Murray will pay, but ultimately not enough for the loss of a life.
And none of us could find closure from a trial that showed the seamiest side of celebrity.