For Michael Jackson fan, covering trial is her duty
LOS ANGELES – She takes two buses to get to the courthouse each day and depends on donations from fans to run her website.
She has no formal training as a journalist but for tens of thousands – maybe multitudes more – she is the oracle for all things Michael.
Inside the cramped downtown Los Angeles courtroom each weekday, Taaj Malik furiously taps away at her iPad as the Michael Jackson wrongful-death case unfolds, taking notes for a transcript she will later post on a website crammed with court documents, autopsy reports, links to court exhibits, salutes to Jackson and an occasional plea for money. Thousands visit the website daily.
With nearly 40,000 following her “Team Michael Jackson” Twitter account, the 52-year-old Malik blasts out tweets during breaks and keeps up a running dialogue with followers.
“It was a great day to watch that roach squirm on the stand, Hes adapting many personalities, none r working cause ever1 can see he’s a #LIAR,” she writes as one witness is grilled.
“What a pair of MUPPETS,” she snaps after two ranking music executives testify.
When a follower thanks her for the stream of information from the courtroom, Malik deflects it quickly. “No, dear … Its my duty with Michael and the truth! Dont say thank you! :).”
The Orange County resident, who ran a housekeeping business until she was injured in a car accident in January, climbs out of bed at 4 a.m. to begin her trek downtown. She is part of a worldwide fan community consumed with the minute details about the King of Pop, fully primed to feast on the latest legal entanglement to invoke his memory.
The wrongful-death trial is playing out in a courtroom with seats for only a handful of observers selected each morning via lottery. Most days the few available slots go quickly and Malik – along with much of the print and television media – is herded off to an overflow room to watch the proceedings on a closed-circuit feed.
There is no televised coverage of the trial, so fans are left to search for what details they can find on Twitter, Facebook and – if they must – the mainstream media. Jackson fan forums and websites have been in full gear since the trial began two months ago.
“Ultimately it’s a thirst for knowledge,” said Pez Greaves of British-based fan club MJ Vibe, which produces a quarterly magazine dedicated to Jackson.
For those suspicious about the mainstream media – and many Jackson fans seem to be – someone like Malik is a go-to source. For some, her tweets serve as real-time dispatches from the civil trial.
Although Malik has her critics, she receives praise from those who consider her an ally in the ongoing fight to protect Jackson’s reputation. Katherine Jackson, the pop singer’s mother, knows Malik though she is unfamiliar with her tweets or Web page because she does not use the Internet, a family attorney said.
Malik lives off a legal settlement from the car accident – she said back injuries from the accident left her unable to continue work as a housekeeper – and her mother and an aunt send her regular allowances.
She created her website in January 2011 when preliminary hearings for the Conrad Murray case were taking place. Her mother, who lives in Britain, gave her $30,000 to buy and post the court transcripts for those hearings. Malik later sent in daily transcripts of the trial, which ended with the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson a fatal dose of propofol, a powerful anesthetic typically reserved for surgical procedures.
The current civil trial, which promises to offer a panorama of Jackson’s final days, feels special to Malik.
“This one means everything to me,” she said, “more than Conrad Murray because the charges were an insult. I mean, involuntary manslaughter? This trial is definitely bringing out the truth.”