Off the Wall: The Bird Woman Of Santa Maria

There were Christers waving banners admonishing celebrity-watchers to repent. There were gender-bender girls in glitter gloves and angled fedoras. There was even one mad thing waving a tri-color French flag that read "FRANCE -- YES YES -- MICHAEL." But above all there was a lone figure in the crowd that kept catching our eye.

She was holding a birdcage.

Nancy Grace x 4Outside the Santa Maria courthouse, the Jackson fans waited for the verdict that would decide for some of them whether they would go on a rampage through the streets of this sleepy little town. Some prayed, others sang, many were on cell phones, and everybody waved when they got the word that the cameras were panning. The mood, we were told by the Court TV reporter, was "guarded." Meanwhile, back in the studio, Nancy Grace and her coven of shapely harpies were predicting a grand slam for the prosecution.

"This. Is. A. Moment. In. Legal History, folks," Grace told us in bite-size chunks, her sunbelt lilt on the rise. "An icon, really. An American icon. Known all across the world. Some people believe Michael is a diety!" Her voice dropped to an end-of the-world hush. "A cross between a man and a god!"

Nancy paused for a moment so we could digest this nugget. It was an explantion for those of us who had forgotten, perhaps, what a diety was or that Michael was not, say, a cross between a man and a woman. "Make no mistake about it, Michael Jackson is a star," Nance announced. "In a class with Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe." Her voice now caught a rumble. "On trial for felony! On trial for child molestation!"

Nancy was just getting started. While the camera scanned the crowd, she spoke in a sidebar box, her face at a tilt, showing to advantage what looked like subtle but recent work and just the tiniest hint that her left eye had been pulled too much in a Chinese direction. Meanwhile, the camera had found the woman with the birdcage, and like ourselves, had come to a standstill. The woman's blond helmet-haired head was bent.

She was speaking to the birds.

Grace, meanwhile, was still in full sail, bouyed up by the jury's unexpectedly long deliberation and reports coming in from the scene that the juors had walked in with heads lowered, declining to meet Michael's eyes. "Always bad news for the defendent," one of her colleagues butted in -- a hard-looking babe who had the square mouth of a porn starlet specializing too long in throaty blowjobs.

But Nancy was not to be thrown off her game. "Will they go ahead and fingerprint Jackson right there in the courtroom?" she asked with wide-eyed anticipation. "Will they handcuff him? Will he be allowed to meet with his family, with his lawyers before they take him away." Nancy had no doubt what the answers to these questions would be: Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

Birdwoman x 4Meanwhile, the lady with the birdcage bent closer to a radio. The clerk was about to read the verdicts:

Innocent. Innocent. Innocent.

With each verdict, the woman reached into her cage and released a white dove. Sometimes she kissed the bird on its beak; other times she'd clasp her hands in prayer as it ascended Holy Ghost-like. We'd hate to think what might have happened to the birds had the verdicts gone the other way. Would she have wrung their necks in teeth-gnashing grief? -- or, worse, bitten off their heads?

The doves, mercifully were spared. But not so the ravens hovering around Nancy Grace. For the rest of day, she repeatedly told her viewers, "Well, I'm having a crow sandwich. It doesn't taste very good."