More than 200 reporters, photographers and TV producers are credentialed to cover the trial, according to Ric Barrick, a spokesman for the city of Charlottesville.
In addition to local outlets, including The Post and Baltimore Sun (Huguely is from Chevy Chase; Love was from the Baltimore area), the trial has received extensive national coverage. Among those who’ve registered to cover it are representatives from the three broadcast networks’ morning shows, CNN, “48 hours,” “Dateline,” “20/20,” the New York Times, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and several authors researching books on the case. The Times of London is covering it, too.
The only thing that’s stopped the case from turning into a full-blown circus (think Casey Anthony) is Judge Edward Hogshire’s decision to ban TV cameras from his courtroom.
Why, in a nation that averages more than 15,000 murders a year, do a few crimes or trials gain such attention?
The answer may be in Orwell’s basic formulation, with a few contemporary American wrinkles thrown in.
First, to build sustained interest over the many weeks of an investigation and trial, the outcome must be in doubt, says Scot Safon, executive vice president of the HLN cable network, which often broadcasts live trials. As in Orwell’s day, crimes that are resolved quickly, where guilt and innocence aren’t at issue, don’t rate much attention, he notes. In Huguely’s case, the question is whether he is guilty of first-degree murder.
Safon denies that factors such as the race, wealth, age and telegenic qualities of the victim or the accused are critical. “I have never been part of a discussion where race or class or looks was a determinant of how much time and attention we would give to the case,” he says.
But the record of recent years suggests otherwise. Almost all of the great media spectacles surrounding crime and punishment in America over the past 30 years or so have involved one or more of the following: young white women, celebrities, or wealthy people.
A short list of the most notorious trials includes those of Claus von Bulow; “Scarsdale diet doctor” murderer Jean Harris; the Menendez brothers; O.J. Simpson; Scott Peterson; Phil Spector; Amanda Knox; Casey Anthony; and Conrad Murray, the physician who was convicted last fall of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson (whose trial on child molestation charges was a sensation in 2005).