Crime, Litigators, Murder, Nancy Grace, Television, Trials

Fear And Loathing On Headline News

On Sunday night, I was sitting on my couch eating Chicken McNuggets®, when Lat Skyped™ me. The following is a faithful transcript of our conversation.

Lat: Hey Juggs, I’ve got an assignment for you. Wait, why aren’t you wearing a shirt?
Me: Why are you wearing a top hat?
L: Touché. Listen, I have an idea for a pretty delicious story. Did you read that article in the Times about Headline News’s coverage of the Casey Anthony trial?
M: I only read Mad Magazine.
L: Okay, well, listen. Is there any way you can put on a shirt?
M: *mumbles angrily and stomps off camera to find a respectable shirt*
L: Okay, cool. Listen, that post you did about Jose Baez got some deliciously high page views. This trial is apparently through-the-roof popular and I think I know what you can do to cover it.
M: Go on.
L: I want you to… wait for it… spend a day watching Headline News. You watch the coverage, scribble down some thoughts and… presto! We’ve got ourselves a delicious post.
M: Do I have to wear a shirt?
L: Jesus, what the f**k is it with you and shirts? No. God, I don’t care. Wear whatever you want. Just watch TV and write down your thoughts. You think you can do that?
M: Sure. I’ll be like Marlow, exploring the Heart of Darkness.
L: That’s another thing. Your random literary references. They barely make sense and I’m pretty sure you haven’t read any books.
M: Your top hat’s stupid.
L: Okay, just do this. Ciao.
M: Seacrest out.

And so it begins….

9:00 a.m. I wake up and head to the couch. I’ve promised Lat that I’ll be on this couch all day, so I’ve got to have a plan. This is breakfast, this is lunch, and this is me. I turn on the TV and let it wash over me.

9:18 Natasha Curry (filling in for Robin Meade) gives another quick update on the Casey Anthony case and I get my first Nancy Grace sighting. Is it wrong to think Casey Anthony is pretty hot? Because she is. She’s pretty hot.

9:26 Natasha just asked if “mispronunciation” is a word.

9:30 Criminal defense attorney Bryan Konoski is brought on to discuss the judge’s decision not to allow the prosecution to use a powerpoint containing photos of hair. Konoski’s doing a pretty alright job. He looks constipated the entire time, but he doesn’t say anything insanely stupid. Good job, Bryan!

9:45 I send my first email to the Robin Meade show. It reads “I think Casey Anthony did it. She looks guilty as hell with that ponytail haircut.”

9:47 This shirt’s really chafing my neck.

Jose Baez, counsel to Casey Anthony.

10:01 Bryan’s back. They’re still talking about the powerpoint presentation. Of Jose Baez, Bryan says, “He’s doing the best he can.” Yes, Bryan. But is his “better” better than a seasoned capital-defense attorney’s better? I think I’ll send another email.

10:30 This Bryan guy’s getting a lot of burn. “When you’re a defense attorney, your goal is to poke holes.” He repeats this several times.

10:41 Over on TruTV, Baez is crossing up FBI print analyst Elizabeth Perkins. I can’t tell you whether he’s poking holes or not. A lot of nervous laughter from both sides.

11:14 The trial has concluded for the day. The prosecution’s next witness won’t arrive until Tuesday afternoon. The pundits puzzle over whether the judge is upset about this development. One talking head says probably. Another says probably not.

11:30 Back to HLN.

11:44 I head on over to Nancy Grace’s official Facebook page. It’s a place where people can discuss the case. But more importantly, it’s a place where people don’t have to feel so alone. All Nancy needs to do is post a picture of Casey and the commenters take off. Most comments are as sober as this: “Wish I could reach threw the tv and slap that look right off her face.”

But it’s not all venom. Quite a few of the comments have nothing to do with the trial and everything to do with community. People log on to talk to others.

“@ April, you have been here all morning, no work today hon??”

People try to be as nice as possible to each other, even when they don’t agree on a particular legal theory. And there are semi-constant reminders that a certain kind of decorum should rule the day.

A woman writes, “My sister uses capz b cuz she cant see good,,,jus sayin…. Letz keep the peace n remember y we r here….♥”

11:53 If you’re watching HLN, you know that the Casey Anthony trial is the biggest legal issue facing this country. But the commercials arrive to remind you that there are other pressing legal matters. Matters like tax trouble (Are you being audited?) and mesothelioma.

12:05 The HLN team is dissecting the morning’s testimony about hair and heart-shaped stickers.

12:07 It’s summer, so white girls are disappearing. The latest is Lauren Spierer, an Indiana University student. The HLN anchors seem genuinely concerned about Lauren’s whereabouts.

12:17 Defense attorney DeeAnn Athan comes on to tell us that you have to “look at all the evidence.” This strikes me as probably true.

12:18 Another white girl, Holly Bobo, disappeared two months ago. HLN mentions it, but the anchor doesn’t appear to be as concerned as she was with Lauren Spierer.

12:30 HLN is just going to replay the testimony from this morning. First up is the FBI hair expert, who appears to be suffering from male pattern baldness.

12:46 The big news today is that the Judge announced that he thought the prosecution would wrap up its case tomorrow or Wednesday and that the defense would only take a week to present its case. Somewhere, an HLN executive weeps.

1:00 to 4:00 This chunk of time is largely taken over by a smooth-talking fella named Vinnie Politan. A panel of attorneys is asked their opinions on the two big issues of the day: a heart-shaped sticker and hair. And round and round they go, only occasionally interrupted by emails or Facebook posts from viewers.

The legal analysis itself is unexceptional. Like political punditry, legal punditry is of the horse race variety. Who is winning? Who is losing? And the vulgarity of the discussion is impossible to ignore. A child’s sticker and a single hair take on outsized importance, the mundane elevated to life-or-death consequences. And they really do hold life-or-death consequences. And the housewives continue calling and the various Facebook pages and Twitter feeds show no sign of relenting. And Vinnie Politan smiles and Jane Velez-Mitchell shows up to mug for the camera, with her impossibly small nose.

At one point, I started clipping my fingernails and a half-hour passed.

4:16 Bonnie writes in to ask where Casey is getting all her outfits from. We’re assured that there have been some repeats. “Lotta collared shirts… ”

4:18 Lynn wants to know how long a body would have to be in a car to produce such a strong odor as Caylee’s allegedly did. “For it to smell? 3 or 4 days would be about on target.”

4:20 I’m going to take a break. The all-star team of Nancy Grace, Dr. Drew, and the “funny” lady from The View starts at 7 pm, my time. Stay tuned for Part 2. I’m going to go get a sandwich now.

UPDATE (7:30 PM): Here is more coverage of the Casey Anthony trial.

Casey Anthony Coverage Gives HLN an Identity [New York Times]

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