Scrutinizing media obstructs justice

These past few months, it’s been hard to flip a channel without running into coverage of the Casey Anthony murder trial.

The media frenzy reached a boiling point on Tuesday, July 5, with the sentencing of Casey Anthony, who was found not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter, but simply four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to police.

Within an hour of her sentencing, nine of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter were related to Anthony, as viewers turned to social media to express their angry reactions to the controversial ruling.

The main reason for this massive reaction to the sentencing has to do with the endless media coverage of this trial. There was a rare fascination with this story that would have otherwise gone relatively unnoticed had the media not chosen to fixate on it.

It is unfortunate that today’s media is more interested in catering to ratings and consumerism than reporting what matters. They do so by choosing to focus on controversial and entertaining stories instead of news that is actually relevant to America.

There are countless news stories that have been passed over in the past few months in favor of the Anthony trials, from the civil wars taking place in Libya and Syria to the Greek debt crisis that could have disastrous effects on the EU. Not to mention the current American debt ceiling problem we are facing as well as the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan. Clearly there are more important stories that deserve the half of media coverage that the Anthony trial has received, so why have they not received this attention?

The tendency of the media to focus on trial stories has the negative effect of making the defending party involved appear villainous. The reason for the worldwide negative reaction to Anthony’s acquittal of all serious charges was because, in our eyes, she was guilty even before the trial.

All of the circumstantial evidence was there: partying for a month before reporting her child was missing, rancid smell in her car and searches for chloroform use on the family computer. The age-old adage “innocent until proven guilty” did not apply. However, at the end of the day the prosecutors reached too far by charging her with first-degree murder and seeking death penalty.

Without a direct cause of Caylee’s death, or a motive or anything linking Anthony to the dead body, the jury was unable to rule her guilty without a reasonable doubt of first degree murder. They chose to rule objectively, instead of emotionally, even though based on circumstantial evidence, Anthony was as guilty as they come.

Perhaps if there hadn’t been so much pressure on this high-profile case from the media, the prosecutors would have chosen to pursue a lesser and more realistic charge. Instead, because of the outside scrutiny, they aimed too high and ended up with nothing.

The sensationalizing of a murder case by the media has been seen many times before, most recently in the Amanda Knox trial. Accused of murdering her roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy, Knox was convicted and sentence to 26 years in prison. As with the Anthony case, the prosecution largely relied on character assassination by the media that portrayed Knox as a promiscuous girl who had been jealous of her roommate.

The difference between the different resulting verdicts can largely be attributed to the fact that, in Italy, the jury is not required to be sequestered and isolated from the media, as American jurors are in high-profile cases.

Those jurors in the Knox trial were free to watch the nonstop media coverage that widely vilified Knox, and that no doubt affected their decision. In fact, Knox’s case is currently on appeal right now, and there is a chance that she will be exonerated due to a new report by forensic experts that casts doubt on the DNA evidence that was a huge key to her conviction.

While the true characters of these now infamous women are shrouded in mystery, it is safe to say that scrutinizing media has obstructed justice.

Instead of fixating on these murder trials and turning them into sensational reality shows to bolster ratings and increase sales, the media should focus on real newsworthy stories and let justice work undisturbed.

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