AFP, March 27, 2006
A high-profile murder case in New York involving an attractive, white graduate student has left the police and media trading charges of operating double standards based on race and social status.
The brutal rape and murder of Imette St. Guillen, 24, whose bound and battered body was found last month dumped near a roadside in Brooklyn, has been accorded blanket media coverage in New York and also garnered national attention.
On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted Darryl Littlejohn, 41 — a bouncer at the Manhattan nightclub where St. Guillen was last seen alive — for first-degree murder in the case.
A day later, just across the street from where the grand jury convened, a jury convicted two men of the equally savage rape and murder in 2003 of Romona Moore, 21, an immigrant from Guyana.
The two victims shared a common profile: both young, both women and both college students.
So the fact that the St. Guillen case became a media obsession while the Moore case was almost completely ignored has been attributed to the most obvious difference between the two: one victim white and middle class, the other black from an immigrant family.
Michael Hoyt, executive editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, believes the reason for the media bias is self-evident.
“If you are wealthy you get more attention. If you are white you get more attention. If you’re pretty you get more attention,” Hoyt told AFP.
“I think it’s racism. Maybe not conscious, but it’s white newsrooms kind of reacting to what they are interested in,” he added.
The media, meanwhile, have preferred to spotlight apparent discrepancies in the allocation of police resources for both cases.
Where the St. Guillen case brought a swift indictment based on strong forensic evidence, the Moore murder trial revealed a police investigation riddled with procedural errors.