American Murder Meets American Idol
Former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective Mark Fuhrman was convicted of perjury in 1996 for lying under oath during the O.J. Simpson murder trial. A defense attorney asked if he'd referred to a black person as a "nigger" in the last 10 years, and Fuhrman said he hadn't. Several witnesses contradicted him, including screenwriter Laura Hart McKinny, who produced recordings of Fuhrman using the word.
Simpson's lawyers played the race card to defend a man who'd brutally murdered two people, and they succeeded. Fuhrman had found the infamous bloody glove Simpson wore during the murders, and the defense accused him of planting it. Blamed for Simpson's subsequent acquittal, Fuhrman apologized in his New York Times bestseller Murder in Brentwood for using the slur, and documented errors the LAPD and the prosecutors made that undermined an otherwise strong case against Simpson.
Fuhrman followed up with several more books and now works as a Fox News consultant on criminal cases. In his latest book, The Murder Business: How the Media Turns Crime Into Entertainment and Subverts Justice (Regnery), he exposes the media's inaccuracies, faulty reporting, and sensationalism in eight high-profile murder cases, including Caylee Anthony, killer cop Drew Peterson, Martha Moxley, Scott Peterson, and the case that started it all, O.J. Simpson.
"The media have become major players in the criminal justice system and their power increased dramatically in recent years," Fuhrman writes. "By studying the media's behavior in specific cases, criticizing their errors and applauding their successes, I hope to raise public awareness of a serious problem in our society, and begin a discussion of possible solutions."
Law enforcement and the media have different agendas. The police want to apprehend the perpetrator and seek justice for the victim, and the media want to prolong cases and produce high ratings. They do nothing to try to help solve the case. Fuhrman lays most of the blame on cable news shows. It might surprise some readers to know that he acknowledges the kind of victim the media love and is critical of their fixation:
Typically, the victims are female. Without exception, they are white and very pretty. In a ghoulish moment, American Murder meets American Idol, as America chooses its prettiest corpse, onto whom our collective horror is projected. It begins with a photograph that quickly becomes iconic in our culture, a name we adopt into our national conversation as if we were speaking of someone we all knew. JonBenét. Caylee. Stacy Peterson. Laci Peterson.