Amanda Knox release goes viral

Amanda Knox AP
Amanda Knox reacts to an Italian appellate court's overturning of her 2009 conviction for her roommate's murder in 2007. Photo by Ted S. Warren/Associated Press.

News broke Monday on what had been one of the biggest stories set before the American public. It wasn’t about the financial crisis. No wars were ended or begun. Bipartisan compromise still remained elusive.

The news was that Amanda Knox, found guilty in 2009 for the 2007 killing of her British roommate in Perugia, Italy, had that verdict overturned by an Italian appellate court, freeing her and her Italian boyfriend, also convicted in the case.

The media went wild, plastering headlines about the case across the Internet and in print the next day. The Huffington Post put together a slideshow of Twitter reactions shortly after the verdict was released. The Telegraph, a British newspaper, wrote one constantly updated story; one section even followed her plane from Europe to the United States via GPS.

The Knox case bore more than a passing resemblance to another case from this summer: that of Casey Anthony, who was charged with the murder of her two-year-old daughter Caylee but found innocent in July. Anthony and Knox dominated the headlines while news on the financial crisis and other pressing issues were an afterthought.

Janine Geske, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, current Marquette professor of law, and leader of the law school’s restorative justice program, watched coverage of the Knox case in Belgium where she is teaching restorative justice at the Catholic University of Leuven.

She said the fact that Knox took precedence over other worthy stories was lamentable.

“Issues of genocide, war, torture, hunger, poverty, sickness, world economies, education, politics etc., all impact many more people and relationships than do these (cases),” Geske said in an email. “Unfortunately, I think most people would agree that the driving factor on selecting what to report is driven by economics…what news sells.”

Bonnie Brennen, a professor of journalism at Marquette, questioned the media’s obsession with these cases.

“Why is there such an interest with the lives of these women and their court cases when other court cases (and news stories) don’t get as much attention?” Brennen asked.

Brennen said while it may seem like the media’s fascination with these cases is a recent trend, such widespread coverage has been seen before in both the O.J. Simpson murder case and the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, the American teenager who disappeared on a trip to Aruba with friends.

Nancy Grace, an American legal commentator, has had a significant role in highlighting the stories of Holloway and both the Knox and Anthony cases, according to Brennen.

Brennen said Grace “seemed to make it a personal issue” to draw media attention to these stories.

“In both cases they (Knox and Anthony) were painted as bad, horrific … and sexualized,” Brennen said.

Victor Jacobo, a sophomore in the College of Communication, said he followed the Knox case on Twitter, but the overcoverage made the Knox and Anthony cases seem like “soap operas.”

“I think live-tweeting … made you feel like you were actually in the court room,” Jacobo said.

Jacobo said social media also allowed people to give their opinions on the acquittal verdict much more easily and provided a “global forum” for the case, but lost in the constant overcoverage was the crime itself.

“These were crimes that were committed by someone .. I think these (the crimes and victims) do get lost in all the craziness,” Jacobo said.