Archie Bland: Of course it's unedifying, but it's hard to look away

FreeView from the editors at i


As if to deliberately underline the flimsiness of the concept, there are currently two trials-of-the-century for the world's media to scrutinise.

One, in Perugia, is the latest instalment in a legal and popular saga that feels as if it has been going on forever, but may finally come to a close this weekend; the other, in Los Angeles, also feels like it has been going on forever, but in fact only opened yesterday.

The cases of Amanda Knox, Meredith Kercher's roommate, and Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's physician, do not have a great deal in common when it comes to the specifics. But they share the same mood music.

Both are media spectaculars, exercises in legal process as refracted and magnified by the dozens of reporters following every minute. Both, likewise, centre on protagonists who might reasonably feel that this attention has done their chances of a fair shake no good at all. None of this is anything new – remember OJ Simpson, mugging for the cameras as he demonstrated to the jury's satisfaction that the glove simply wouldn't fit – but the coincidence feels, to me, about as unseemly as it gets.

As I write this the Murray trial is being broadcast on four televisions in my eyeline, and the Daily Mail website is showing pictures of Michael Jackson's corpse on a gurney under the word HOMICIDE, as revealed by the prosecutor.

Also available for our general consumption is a recording of Jackson, plainly under the influence of drugs, slurring his way through a masterplan to build a children's hospital. And I've just read the latest reports from the Knox case, where a lawyer has followed up a colleague's description of the suspect (who is, of course, appealing her murder conviction along with ex-lover Raffaele Sollecito) as a "she-devil" with his own overripe comparison to Jessica Rabbit.

Britain has its own tradition of that fascination, of course, from penny dreadfuls to public hangings to true crime dramas like Dominic West's recent version of his namesake Fred in ITV's Appropriate Adult. But where the Italian and American courts have always had, according to those who follow them, a tradition of florid rhetoric, our own judicial system has prided itself on its restraint.

Once, that might have had an edifying effect on public life. These days, it just means we pick up the live feed from overseas, instead. There are strong arguments that the British justice system isn't sufficiently transparent. In weeks like this, though, it's hard not to be grateful for the remnants of that circumspection.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam