When did court cases become reality television?
That’s the first thought that went through my mind this week
when I saw the relentless coverage on the Jodi Arias case on HLN.
Maybe I’ve been living under a rock or something, but I had
no idea the network was dedicating this much time to one court case.
This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. The first time it
gained prominence was the O.J. Simpson trial – but he was a national sports
hero and that case became a poster child for the still strained race relations
in this country.
The Simpson trial can get partial credit for changing
daytime viewing habits forever (RIP daytime soaps) – and helping launch the popularity of 24 hours
news stations that do more than just deliver a revolving door of tidbits.
However, I’m not sure how the Arias case manages to live up to the Simpson
While other cases have grabbed the public by the throat and
taken over news cycles, there was always something “special” about those cases
in the past.
Natalee Holloway cast a glaring light on crime in other
countries, Laci Peterson was a young mother due to give birth at any minute,
and Elizabeth Smart was seemingly stolen out of her bedroom in the middle of
the night and vanished without a trace.
All three of those cases gathered national prominence, but
they didn’t take over an entire network 24 hours a day.
Then came the Casey Anthony trial.
At first, the Anthony story was just a curiosity. A young
mother didn’t report her daughter missing for more than a month, the car
smelled like a dead body and the mother had lied about her whereabouts to
everyone for months.
It seemed like a slam dunk.
The difference with the Anthony case was that Headline News
covered it like it was protecting its favorite bone.
Nancy Grace was the first personality to latch onto the
show. Grace was once a respected prosecutor who made a name for herself by
covering court cases on HLN. She was known as something of a shrew who cut off
all her guests and claimed to want justice for victims – but was really all
about promoting herself (I call it like I see it).
Grace saw something in the Anthony story, because she let it
take over her show for an entire year. When the ratings went up for Grace, the
other networks started following suit (although not to the extent of HLN).
Grace essentially tried, convicted and (quite frankly)
executed Anthony on her show. So, naturally, when the verdict came back not
guilty – Grace had egg all over her face, because she had told her viewers
there was no way Anthony wouldn’t be convicted.
The problem you had with that case is that anyone who has
ever sat through actual court proceedings knows that it takes a lot more than a
media frenzy to convict someone. When you actually look at the evidence in the
Anthony case, it was clear the prosecutors thought that public sentiment would
convict Anthony -- because they didn't have enough physical evidence to prove their theory.
Now, do I think Anthony was guilty? Absolutely. She acted
abhorrently. But we don’t KNOW how the child died. The prosecution painted a
gruesome picture, but it was all conjecture. That little girl could have easily
drowned in the pool – like the defense suggested – and the mother panicked and
hid her in the woods.
Anthony could have just as easily been drugging her so she
could go out in party – and accidentally killed the child in the process. That’s
second degree murder, not first degree murder.
Anthony could have also set out to kill the kid with
premeditation. We’ll never know. The problem is, there’s a whole population of
people out there who think they know because of what Grace told them.
With the Anthony case behind us, imagine my surprise to see
the fervor Grace is trying to drum up over this Arias case. I was stunned when
I saw it the other day.
How is a woman allegedly killing her boyfriend and then
turning around and lying about it national news? Especially national news on a
daily basis for hours and hours each day?
I realize that HLN must be getting viewers for this –
otherwise why would they continue to do it? I think the real problem is that
people are starting to treat actual crime as entertainment.
If Arias did set out to kill her boyfriend in a premeditated
fashion, that’s for the courts to decide. It is not a soap opera, though. It is
not meant to draw viewers in and have them rooting for the prosecution – or the
Honestly, I don’t get the preoccupation with court cases and
the need to turn them into full-fledged entertainment.
If a news person is saying this, why isn’t the rest of the
What do you think? Do you think that court cases are being
treated like entertainment?