Amanda Knox, Troy Davis, and Accountability in a Digital Age
Today I have a blog post up on CNN.com about the Amanda Knox murder trial, and where it fits within a long-standing American news tradition of hawking tales of pretty white female perpetrators and victims.
In the last graph, I pose a question that remains up for grabs: does Knox’s acquittal in Italian appeals court portend that accountability in well-publicized trials is now, more than ever, susceptible to global intervention – not just by lawyers and mainstream journalists, but also by social media users, citizen journalists and, as the New York Times intriguingly reports today, public relations firms?
The overturning of Knox’s conviction seems particularly relevant on the heels of Troy Davis’s recent execution. Davis, a 42-year-old black man convicted of the 1989 murder of police officer George MacPhail in Georgia, was put to death on September 21st, despite what many said was an unjust prosecution lacking in proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” His case, with the help of substantial “Save Troy Davis” organizing efforts and a social media uproar, managed to garner nearly as much national attention as the overseas trial of a privileged white American college student — which is, itself, a marvel. But in the case of Davis, that flurry of attention was not enough to save a man’s life. Davis’s final words amounted to a plea that his supporters not cease “to fight this fight,” and they continue to ring as Knox’s fate takes his place as the sensation of the moment.