Thursday, April 12, 2012

The People v. [Insert Trial Célèbre Here]

George Zimmerman has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Needless to say, the news media have plunged headlong into full breathless reporting mode. Here we go again. And it's only been 10 months since the hated Casey Anthony walked into the Florida sunshine after being acquitted of murder. And if a trial results in Zimmerman following the footsteps of Mommy Dearest, the consequences could be explosive. America's obsession (or neurosis) with sensational true crime didn't start with O.J. Simpson. It really began with alleged axe murderess Lizzie Borden in 1893. She was acquitted but the case became a cause célèbre. Next came the People v. Hauptmann, the world famous Lindbergh baby kidnapping case in 1935. It became the media template for future courtroom melodramas. The technique was refined "In Cold Blood," the 1959 trial of the two men who murdered a Kansas farm family and the basis for the famed Truman Capote book. The 1970s saw Charles Manson, Lt. William Calley (My Lai Massacre) and the Patty Hearst saga. In 1995, of course, we endured the mother of all murder cases: The People v. Simpson. Since then, we've been subjected to a rogue's gallery of sensational trials: Amanda Knox, the Michael Jackson saga, O.J. Simpson's retrial/conviction and, most recently, the death row case of Troy Davis. Now we can look forward to neurotic coverage of the People v. Zimmerman, assuming he doesn't plead out. And this one, God help us, has the potential to top O.J.


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