The murder trial of Casey Anthony and the sexual case of Dominic Strauss-Kahn, accused of sexually assaulting the hotel maid in New York, have all the same elements of sex, race and politics, yet each will have a different outcome. The Casey Anthony case from the start was a media frenzy combined with a missing 2 year old white child, a mother partying all over town and a prosecutor bent on trying the case . Then there’s the other case of the sexual assault on a hotel maid in New York oozing with sex, race and politics, yet with a different end about to occur. There has been little media frenzy and little outcry for justice in the case of an African maid sexually assaulted by one of the most powerful men in France. Sex, race and politics play two different roles in each of these cases. In the case of Casey Anthony, this trifecta worked to convict Casey Anthony in the media; yet it works to invoke an acquittal in the media world for Strauss-Kahn. So what is the difference?
First, the child missing in the Casey Anthony case was a cute little white child. And the black blogosphere has been filled with comments of whether the media coverage would have been the same if the child were African American, Latino or some other ethnicity. And we need not go far to find that answer. The media has had cases of missing black children and yet, fails to find them suitable enough to cover. Take the missing case of Phylicia Barnes, a 16 year old black honor student headed for college a year early, who travelled from North Carolina to visit her relatives in Baltimore over the Christmas holiday. She turned up missing and the Baltimore detectives felt foul play had occurred and tried to get national media coverage for her case. They practically pleaded with the media to air her story. And other than 1-2 times on the Nancy Grace show and the Today show, no national media covered her story. She was later found dead this year. Yet, Nancy Grace spent countless hours on the “tot mom” case as she dubbed Casey Anthony. The same holds true for the coverage of the hotel maid sexual assault case. Once it was learned the maid was African, negative comments in the media began occurring shortly after Strauss-Kahn’s arrest even before any difficulties with the case occurred.
Yet, politics is involved in both cases. In Anthony’s case, politics demanded that a trial occur, even with scant circumstantial evidence about a murder occurring and no cause of death. The prosecutor’s rush to judgment and trial prevented the outcome that the public and media were seeking. And yet in the Strauss-Kahn case, the prosecutor’s rush has been the opposite–to throw the victim under the bus. And in examining the two from this former prosecutor’s perspective, there is far more direct evidence linking Strauss-Kahn to a sexual assault than there was to link Casey Anthony to a murder. There’s DNA on the maid’s clothing, the hotel room carpet plus medical evidence supporting her claim with vaginal bruising and a torn shoulder ligament. But, Cyrus Vance coming off an earlier rape case loss involving 2 police officers appears to want to dismiss this case to save what he perceives as another difficult sexual assault case.
And for all the media cry against Casey Anthony, there is none against Strauss-Kahn, who stands to walk away from charges of a sexual assault before his day in court. So where is the justice? In cases of sex, race and politics, there is little justice if the victim is not the right race.
Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political commentator and former prosecutor. She is often seen in the media speaking on topics of race, gender and law. She also writes for the Huffington Post.