The main stream media’s coverage and obsession of the Amanda Knox arrest, trial, post- conviction, re-trial and release vastly differs from its coverage of Troy Davis and other persons in similar situations. Why is Amanda Knox’s case so compelling and worthy of attention in the eyes of the main stream media when so many other similar cases do not garner much, if any attention by the media?
Knox was convicted of brutally killing her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, while studying abroad in Perugia, Italy. The case was based in part on her confession, statements to the police and questionable DNA evidence. On appeal, the DNA evidence was found to be unreliable by an independent lab. The smoking gun, Amanda’s DNA on the gun, was later determined to be a rye bread see. Knox made a compelling statement of her innocence at the re-trial. The Italian jury apparently believed her, discarded previous evidence and freed her.
Troy Davis was also convicted of a brutal killing, that of a police officer while on off duty in Georgia. Davis always maintained his innocence and never gave an incriminating confession. Seven of the nine witnesses later recanted their testimony. One of the two remaining witnesses was alleged to be the actual killer. There was no DNA in Davis’ case. Despite Troy Davis spending 20 years in prison before his execution, there was only recent media coverage in the last few years. And it paled in comparison to the main stream media’s attention given to the Amanda Knox case. Davis was also fighting for his life, like Knox. His fight was unsuccessful.
The main stream media’s lack of coverage of certain cases and great coverage of others goes beyond these two cases. Our society gives media attention to celebrity defendants like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Chris Brown and the like. And in the case of Amanda Knox, she was an attractive, young white woman studying abroad who gets arrested for a very heinous crime. Her case becomes sensational due to these very characteristics. Many affluent and middle class families relate to her ordeal, getting in trouble while studying abroad. And in Amanda’s case, her family also had the financial means and support to keep her case in the public eye for 4 years.
But, it still begs the question of why the media doesn’t bring attention to similar injustices committed in our own backyard. At the same time as the Amanda Knox release after spending 4 years in an Italian jail, Michael Morton was released from a Texas prison after DNA evidence exonerated him after spending 25 years in jail for killing his wife, a crime he did not commit. There have been numerous persons released from prison after faulty DNA evidence in this country but rarely, if ever, do they receive the media attention that Knox garnered. They just go away quietly as if we sweep them under a rug. And shouldn’t we know of injustices occurring in our own backyard?
Amanda Knox is Troy Davis, except she’s an attractive young white woman. And that makes all the difference.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer and political/legal commentator appearing in national and local media including CNN, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, XM Sirius radio, NBC , ABC and CBS -Washington, DC affiliates, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post and Politic 365.