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Holding Hands with Young Debbie Rowe

1975_10_debbie_roweDebbie Rowe was a classmate of mine at Hollywood High School. I was in the class of 1976. Debbie was a year behind me. Here is her photograph from the ’76 Hollywood High yearbook. (The picture was taken in October 1975.)

Debbie and I weren’t friends, but one time a substitute teacher made us hold hands in class as part of an exercise. Her hands were soft and warm but not squishy. I liked her, though I got the clear impression that she would have been happier holding hands with most of the other boys in class.

She made enough of an impression on me that I recognized her name at the time of her marriage to Michael Jackson. I had gone to Gardner Street Elementary School in Hollywood for first through fifth grade. I left Gardner when my parents moved into the Hollywood Hills. My slot at Gardner was filled in September, 1969 by a transfer student named Michael Jackson. It’s a small world.

At the end of the 1990’s I found myself in a Ventura County Superior Courtroom, where I was defending a guy on Third Strike felony charges. One of the first twelve prospective jurors in the case was none other than Debbie Rowe.¬† I asked to approach the bench. “Your honor, Juror #5 was a classmate of mine at Hollywood High in the 70’s. Her name is Debbie Rowe and she’s married to Michael Jackson.”

The judge had been on the team of prosecutors during the first Michael Jackson child molestation case, the one that ended when MJ paid millions to the alleged victim. I came to view the judge as a prosecutor in judicial robes, utterly blind to fairness or the pursuit of truth…but that’s a story for later.

I watched Ms. Rowe as the prosecutor asked her questions. She looked and sounded much the same, but her jaw looked as if it had spent a lot of time clenched during recent years, and I sensed a great desire¬† on her part to be left alone.”I like police officers,” she told the prosecutor. “My husband is an entertainer. He hires off-duty officers to protect me and our children.”

OK, put yourself in my position. You’re defending a serious felony case. Do you want Debbie Rowe on your jury? Would you use a preemptory challenge to kick her off the case? As I sat in court considering exactly that question, it turned out that it wasn’t a decision I was going to have to make.

“The People would like the court to thank and excuse Juror #5.”