I didn’t pay any attention to the Casey Anthony trial, although I was dimly aware that cable news shows were paying huge amounts of attention to the trial of a young woman accused of killing her two-year-old daughter.
In the wake of the jury verdict declaring Anthony not guilty of the crime, the media focus has become even more intense, and stories about the case seem to be unavoidable. Jurors are talking about how they reached their verdict. One of Anthony’s lawyers makes a vulgar gesture at members of the news media, whom Anthony’s counsel believe have engaged in character assassination. Other observers criticize the jury for what they consider to be a bad decision.
Murder trials happen every day in this country. Why do some trials — like the Casey Anthony trial, or the Menendez brothers trial, or any of the other criminal trials that people have obsessed about in this era of cable-TV sensationalism — command so much attention, whereas others don’t?
Right now, in Cleveland, a man accused in the deaths of 11 women is on trial. How many people in America have even heard of Anthony Sowell, the accused killer, or the poor women he is alleged to have killed, many of whom apparently had substance abuse problems and vanished without much attention being paid to their disappearance? Has Sowell’s trial received even a tiny fraction of the national attention that was paid to the Casey Anthony trial?
How can the death of one little girl, however tragic, command so much more attention than the horrific stories of the dead women that are being told at the Sowell trial? Which of the two trials is likely to have more to teach us about our society? And how much of the enormous disparity in attention paid to these two cases is due to race, class, and the perceived photogenic qualities of the victims and the defendants?