LOS ANGELES Their faith has been tested many times, but Michael Jackson's fans have always supported the "Thriller" singer. That remains true at the trial of his former doctor who is accused in the superstar's death.
Outside the Los Angeles courthouse where Dr. Conrad Murray faces a manslaughter charge, the fans do not number as many as they did at the singer's 2005 child molestation trial. But his supporters are just as colorful and no less passionate.
Cooper Lawrence, author of "The Cult of Celebrity," told Reuters Jackson had a unique relationship with his fans.
"He constantly talked about them, whereas now a lot of celebrities have taken the lazy man's approach to staying in touch with fans through Twitter and Facebook," Lawrence said.
More than two dozen people, including European tourists, celebrity impersonators and women with sunflowers, Jackson's favorite, showed up last week for the start of Murray's involuntary manslaughter trial in the pop star's 2009 drug overdose death.
A handful earned seats in the courtroom, where they watched in silence and, when the second week gets underway on Monday, there is little doubt they will be there again.
Jackson's personal assistant, Michael Williams, testified last week that when Jackson was rehearsing in Los Angeles for the "This Is It" tour, his admirers would camp out just beyond the driveway to his rented mansion.
Fans would cheer Jackson as his Cadillac Escalade pulled into the arena where he rehearsed. They would be there when he left at night and would race back to his home to see him again. Often, the singer stopped to greet them, sign autographs and collect gifts or letters they brought, Williams said.
Gregory Son, 34, is one of those outside the courthouse, and he wears a red armband that reads "Justice." Son said he was among the fans who gathered at Jackson's mansion and saw the gifts he would receive.
"People, they spent money on Michael. They'd give him jewels, statues, antiques, dolls, Mickey Mouse or Charlie Chaplin things, pictures of babies," Son said. "I mean, the list just goes on."
Rita Bosico, 46, a Web editor, flew to Los Angeles from Oklahoma for the trial. She said after Jackson died she had a "spiritual awakening" and wants to create an outreach mission called Square Peg for people who do not always fit in.
The cadre of Jackson fans is vocal in demanding "justice" for their fallen icon -- which for them means Murray's conviction.
Prosecutors claim Murray was negligent in his care for the singer, improperly administered the anesthetic propofol that Jackson used as a sleep aid, and then did not properly monitor his patient. Murray has pleaded not guilty, and his defense is expected to argue Jackson gave himself the fatal drug dose.
But the pop star's adoring fans have already reached their own conclusion. One trailed Murray in the court house hallway this past week yelling, "murderer."
For the most part, however, the fans have been peaceful as they face a handful of Murray's own supporters who have carried signs proclaiming his innocence.
"He's a good man, he's a Godly man, I believe when all the facts are in he will be exonerated," said one supporter, Beatrice Fakhrian, who said she attended church with Murray.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Ellen Wulfhorst)