Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Michael Jackson death will be the 21st Century story that won’t wither away

Call this commentary Reporter 101. There are a few bits of the English language that any reporter-type person worth anything manages to pick up, and it would be nice if the public at large could do the same.

A “burglary” and a “robbery” are not synonymous. One must always be careful with their typing when using the word “public” in a story.

MOST RELEVANT ON this day in late August of 2009 – “homicide” and “murder” are not the same thing.

The problem is that most people think they are, which means we’re going to be dealing with many weasel-y type people in coming days who are going to think that we now have a murder investigation going in the death of Michael Jackson.

The pop singer whose soul departed this earth nearly two months ago (but has yet to be buried) is gone, and police investigators looking into his death have found unusual behavior with regards to his doctor.

They seem to think the medications he was taking may have somehow been improperly used in amounts that far exceed appropriate levels. In short, they are wondering what was going on.

THIS WEEK, THE death of Jackson was officially classified by the coroner’s office in Los Angeles as a “homicide,” which seems to mean that police do not believe the drug overdose was solely Jackson’s fault.

That may be true. But too many people want to equate “homicide” and “murder” in their minds as being the same thing. Now we’re going to get more rounds of Michael Jackson conspiracy theories.

It makes me wonder if Jackson’s death is meant to be for the 21st Century what the shooting of John F. Kennedy was for the 20th? Are we determined to go through our lives hearing all kinds of whacked out theories about how, who, and why the “king of pop” was deliberately put to death?

And will an aging Oliver Stone someday take it upon himself to give us a film that purports to tell us the Jackson saga, similar to how “JFK” is seen by too many people as somehow being relevant to the death of the former president?

IF ANYTHING, THIS ruling has ensured that we likely will never hear the end of the Jackson conspiracy – even if someone someday is arrested, charged and put on trial for the “crime.”

It all comes back to some people thinking that “homicide” is somehow some legalese fancypants alternative word for “murder,” and they think that by using or thinking “murder,” they’re somehow being more honest.

So here’s where we get into the Reporter 101 rhetoric. “Homicide” is a medical term. “Murder” is a legal term.

“Homicide” is the medical phrase used to describe any human death that was caused by the deliberate actions of another human being (just like “suicide’ is the medical phrase for any death caused by one’s own deliberate actions).

BUT “MURDER” IS a legal term, specifically the name given to a criminal charge applied whenever someone dies because of another human being’s deliberate actions, and it can be shown that there was some foul, illicit motivation behind such actions.

Basically, all “homicides” are not “murder,” although all cases that get classified as “murder” can be called “homicides.

The classic example of this difference relates to executions. All of them count as “homicides” in the home counties of the prisons where they are conducted. Yet the fact that a court order authorizes someone to take a deliberate action to kill someone means it’s not “murder.”

I’m not saying that’s the case here. I doubt anyone had a court order authorizing an overdose of any type for Michael Jackson. I just don’t want to see this story get exaggerated because many people don’t understand the nuance of the word.

SO IS IT possible that the Jackson “homicide” will not result in a “murder” charge being filed against someone? It could be. In fact, much of the reporting I have read out of Los Angeles these days seems to imply that any criminal charge that will result from Michael Jackson’s death will be a lesser offense.

That will probably upset the people who want to think that Michael Jackson’s death somehow warrants the top-level criminal charges. If anything, I shudder when I hear the word “homicide” used in connection with this story because this is a story I want to end. I’m tired of it, and not particularly interested in having to have a “criminal trial” of any type take place.

I’d rather have him put to rest in whatever tomb his family manages to have erected for him, and have his fans remember his memory through the music – which remains in circulation. It’s not like all those long-playing records, compact discs and other recordings have suddenly disintegrated, although I wonder if anyone young enough to truly enjoy an iPod has ever bothered to download a Michael Jackson song.

Somehow, it just seems more respectful to the one-time Gary, Ind.-resident’s memory to listen to “Beat It” or “ABC” for the millionth time, rather than obsessing over who “murdered” him.


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