As the Anthony murder trail enjoys the limelight, far more important legal stories are being ignored
So I got this email the other day. I don't know any of the people highlighted in it -- and I mean nothing personal against them with this post. For all I know they are good and decent folks who are just trying to make a living, like the rest of us. But the over-the-top Casey Anthony trial phenomenon, symbolized by this unsolicited pitch for talking heads, makes me sad.
Sad that a child's murder -- and a mother's murder trial -- have turned into a cash cow for so many people. Sad that tens of thousands of hours of television time, and millions of words of print and online coverage, have been devoted to it -- to the exclusion or underreporting of far more important legal stories that saturate our world. Sad that a new generation of trial followers, too young to remember the O.J. Simpson trial, now will go forward believing that this case represents the rule rather than the exception in our justice system. Here's the email:
I know that people have been fascinated by trials since (before) the trial of Socrates. I know that people like to sit in their living rooms and judge the private lives and alleged deeds of other people. And I eagerly admit that in my 15 years of work as a legal analyst, I have often, and sometimes with great fervor, commented upon trials like this one. I am not claiming clean hands here. In fact, in just six months, we'll mark the 15th anniversary of the death of JonBenet Ramsey, a murder mystery that has never been solved. I was present at the creation of the circus-coverage surrounding that investigation. And I'll never forget it.
The world seems far more dangerous now than it was back in December 1996. Or exactly ten years ago, back in the summer of 2001, when America went nuts over the Chandra Levy case. Certainly the legal issues we now face -- from warrantless surveillance to the demise of campaign finance regulation to the explosion of our prison population -- suggest so. Take Wednesday, for example. In the midst of the Anthony case, in the very state where the circus is taking place, a federal judge declared Florida's death penalty scheme unconstitutional. There are nearly 400 men and women on death row-- the story impacts thousands of lives. Which story got more play, do you think? An update on the Anthony trial or capital punishment on the brink?
So here we are, millions upon millions of Americans, all obsessing about a murder trial that will yield no epic legal precedent nor impact the lives of anyone beyond the small circle of its tragic principals. Want to book me for a dog and pony show? Great. My "talking point" is simple: Let's talk about something other than the Anthony trial when we talk about the law.