The US constitution dictates that every American citizen has the right to a fair trial and that until proven guilty, every citizen is presumed innocent. This is a fundamental principle of American life and forms the very basis of the US legal system.

Michael Jackson was a US citizen, no different from any other. He had the same rights as any other citizen and when he was exonerated by a jury, he should have walked out of the courtroom with no stain on his character, just like any other US citizen.

But Michael Jackson wasn't treated like any other citizen - not before his trial, not during his trial and not after his trial.

The prosecution of Michael Jackson was one of the most frivolous wastes of taxpayer money and one of the most horrendous abuses of power in the history of California. In pursuing Jackson, Californian police officers breached the terms of their own search warrants, stole defense documents, conducted illegal raids, leaked sealed documents to the media, verbally abused Jackson in television interviews and were caught trying to plant fingerprint evidence during grand jury hearings. This was the dictionary definition of a malicious prosecution.

After Jackson was acquitted on the basis that the prosecution had no evidence and no compelling witnesses, that should have been the end of the matter. But a combination of manipulative propaganda released by the prosecution and shoddy reporting at the hands of the media meant that Jackson wasn't able to walk out of the Santa Maria courthouse with no stain on his character. He was denied this fundamental right. The continued censorship of Michael Jackson's name on the Gardner Street Auditorium is a continuation of this injustice.

Throughout this campaign, staff at Gardner Street School will have heard much about Jackson's charity work and his humanitarian efforts - but in a way, that is all irrelevant. It reads almost as a list of redeeming qualities, but this issue does not call for redeeming qualities. This issue is very simple. Michael Jackson was a US citizen, entitled to the same rights as any and every other US citizen. He was never proven guilty, ergo he was innocent. To continue covering Jackson's name on the Gardner Street Auditorium even after his acquittal is to strongly imply that he was a guilty man. This is unfair, unconstitutional and un-American.

Gardner Street School should decide to once again display Michael Jackson's name on its auditorium not on the basis of a petition or a list of humanitarian achievements - but simply because it is the right thing to do. The continued censorship of Jackson's name on the auditorium is a blow against everything that America is supposed to stand for, and a gesture of support for malicious prosecution, abuse of power and the erosion of civil liberties.

In brief, to uncover Jackson's name would be a gesture of support for everything the American justice system stands for. To continue censoring Jackson's name would be a gesture of support for everything which is wrong with the American justice system.

It is up to the staff of Gardner Street School to decide which of these values they wish to instil in their students.

Charles Thomson

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