Our Voices for August 13, 2011

The story that could have been

Please excuse me if I didn’t get caught up in the media-hyped trial and subsequent not guilty verdict for Casey Anthony in connection with the death of her 2-year-old daughter.

While what she was accused of doing is awful, I don’t care about where Ms. Anthony is living now, what she’s doing and who she is seeing.

And I don’t care that Nancy Grace, TV’s equivalent to fingernails raked across a chalkboard, is still unhappy with the verdict.

But I am perplexed by the lack of national media coverage — and even national public interest — shown in the murder trial of New Orleans police officers accused of shooting and killing, wounding and maiming unarmed citizens in the days after Hurricane Katrina. Five were convicted last week of civil rights violations.

As bad as the shootings and killings on the Danziger Bridge were, the elaborate cover-up described by witnesses was even more chilling. It begs the question, “How many times has something like this happened and no one was arrested or prosecuted?”

This sad story in New Orleans had everything to draw American viewers to their TV sets, newspapers and Internet news sites. There were shootings, killings, he said-she said and cops accused of creating evidence and witnesses and of using throw-down guns. This had all the grist for a great tale, except …

The problem with the story was that poor and black people don’t look like sympathetic victims — and don’t tug at American heartstrings, even among many black people, the same way as young, attractive white people do.

How could this tragedy in New Orleans not garner daily updates on the national news? Officers were accused of shooting two brothers, one of them in the back, then walking up and stomping one of the shooting victims as he lay dying. Oh yeah, and that victim had severe mental disabilities.

This alone should be the stuff that the national media would deal with.

Not done in this incident, officers shot at another group, killing a 17-year-old and wounding at least four more people. The officers said they thought they were being fired upon.

After the dead and wounded were hauled away and things looked bad for the police, the officers turned to what appears to be a cover-up playbook. They charged one of the unarmed shooting victims with trying to shoot them. One officer was accused of later bringing a gun from home and claiming the victim fired it at police.

And, as added flavor, they created witnesses out of whole cloth, then offered statements favorable to the police from the fictional witnesses, according to the prosecution.

You tell me this is not so sensational that national TV news should have been giving us a daily dose of this trial.

To add more spice this gumbo of horror, the national media could have referred to another case in which two officers were convicted in a post-Katrina killing and subsequent cover-up. This is the one where cops were accused of killing an unarmed man and burning his car with his body inside. Then the corpse’s incriminating skull went missing.

Talking about riveting news for the American public. The shock value of this kind of horror is enough for me.

But for the national media, everything was there for a compelling daily update, except the victims were …

Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is epratt1972@yahoo.com.