I fell in love with Michael Jackson’s music because it was different from all the other music that I was listening to in the summer of 2018 when I was 10. The sincerity and intensity of his voice stood out to me. There was a complexity to his songs that I liked because it seemed like every time I listened, there was something new to discover. I was captivated by his performances, where he really seemed to become the music through his dancing. Another reason I became such a big fan is because of how Michael Jackson wanted to use his fame for good causes. His drive to make the world a better place inspired me to look into both environmental and social causes, and pay attention to the suffering in the world.
When the film Leaving Neverland was released, the media was portraying Michael in a very negative light. I was confused and upset, because everyone accepted these stories so quickly. I believed in his innocence because I had read many real life stories about the people around Michael taking advantage of him, including the prior accusers.
But when my mom sat down with me to talk about these recent allegations, I trusted her warnings. Even before Leaving Neverland, Mom always taught me to research whatever I heard from friends or saw online, and not to just believe it. My mom explained to me that I hadn’t researched enough about these recent allegations to be confident in Michael’s innocence. She said that confidence needed to be earned through fact checking each of the claims of the accusers. If the evidence my mom found had pointed towards his guilt, I would have stopped supporting him. I could never be a fan of someone who committed such crimes.
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So I was relieved when my mom’s research found overwhelming evidence of Michael’s innocence. I also felt sad and angry because of all Michael had to go through. It was these feelings that led me to want to do something to help educate people about these allegations. I wanted to stop feeling angry and do something. Those feelings led to this podcast.
Some of my favorite Michael Jackson songs are Little Susie, The Lady in my Life, Another Part of Me, Why you Wanna Trip on Me, and Stranger in Moscow. Other artists that I listen to are Yes, The Rolling Stones, The Police, Hans Zimmer, Taemin, and k-pop groups like Twice, NCT, and BTS. Favorite podcasts include Star Talk, Planet Money, and The MJ Cast. In my free time I enjoy playing tennis, reading, drawing, and writing letters.
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Because of the sensitive subject matter and because of the sheer legal density of the evidence, I did all of the research for this podcast, and left more peripheral work for my daughter. A big role for June was keeping me motivated and providing a soundboard for my thoughts. She helped with biographical information, technical assistance, advice on artistic elements, and she was always ready and available for recording her parts of the podcast.
It certainly would have been an asset to have a background in law or journalism when examining these allegations. Poring through all of the legal back and forth in these cases necessarily led to lots of research to be sure I understood these documents. What does it mean to argue for equitable estoppel? What exactly goes down in Grand Jury proceedings that makes them rubber stamps for prosecutors? How does attorney-client privilege extend to private investigators? I discovered that much of the public's misunderstanding of the Michael Jackson allegations comes from an ignorance of the legal maneuvering behind these claims, so doing research into the law was a necessary component when putting together the content for this podcast.
I also wished for the skills of the journalist, not only for the facility of accessing resources, but also in compiling this overwhelming evidence into something listenable and accessible. My respect and admiration for writers went up exponentially while trying to cobble together some kind of cohesive narrative from all of this unwieldy information.
What I did bring into this project, however, (besides stamina!) was a career’s worth of applying the scientific method. As part of my practice in physical therapy and as part of the curriculum for my Master’s and Doctorate degrees, I’ve had the opportunity to analyze and critique the methodology, statistics, and outcomes for many studies in our field.
It was eye opening and a life lesson to discover how many published studies were flawed enough to challenge their conclusions. I learned from the outset of my schooling not to get emotionally attached to a particular treatment or outcome, but to let the research guide my practice.
The benefit of my background when investigating the Michael Jackson allegations is that it gives me the mindset and experience of applying a high standard for evidence and keeping a cool head when engaging with this evidence.
The biggest barrier for me in making this podcast was having to talk about the personal lives of people I don’t know. But I overcame that obstacle because I was appalled at how law enforcement, the media, and the filmmaker of Leaving Neverland handled the allegations of all four accusers . And it's only through explaining the detailed actions and words of the accusers and their families that their credibility issues can be understood. I managed my discomfort by seeking and remaining open to evidence on either side, and always searching for what I might have missed.
A big thank-you to my husband for supporting me in this unexpected and all-encompassing volunteer project for the past few years. A special thanks to my editors, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Suzy, who not only provided exceptional feedback on each episode, but also kept me encouraged. Thanks also to all my friends who patiently listened to me as I vented and processed my work on the podcast with them.
A huge thanks to the impressive websites that have collected court documents over the years, which was invaluable to my own research--most notably, The Michael Jackson Allegations, The MJJ Repository, The Daily Michael, and Vindicating Michael.
June insisted I include something personal, so here's a few of my favorite things:
Some of the music I loved growing up: Yes, Sting, Pink Floyd, Joe Jackson, Oingo Boingo, Thomas Dolby, Michelle Shocked, and Tracy Chapman. Current favorites include Jackson Browne and Carlos Vives. In my free time I enjoy cooking for friends, book clubbing, and hosting game parties.