Journalism

No Two Murder Cases are the Same. Stop Pretending Otherwise!

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Recent murder cases — and the reaction to them — sparked a tasteless, tacky debate on social media. It’s time people stop getting caught up in this crap.

The reaction to coverage over a couple of murder cases shows some hidden prejudices those who express them probably hope no one notices.

The most recent is the killing of a 5-year-old boy in North Carolina. Police say a man the child’s family identified as a neighbor shot the child while he was riding on his bicycle. He died a short time later at an area hospital. Police captured his accused killer — he’s accused because he has not been convicted — within 24 hours.

The other case, depending on who’s ranting, is, by comparison, a much higher-profile case. Some compare the boy’s killing with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Others compare it with the death of Brionna Taylor.

No two murder cases are identical. But some seem to think some blatant conspiracy must be involved.

The shooting of the child, Cannon Hinnant, happened on Aug. 9. Police arrested the suspect the following day. By that Thursday, just three days after the suspect’s arrest, people were demanding “equal” coverage. They said they were “tired” of hearing about Floyd or Taylor’s deaths. Media consumers wanted to know why “the media” wasn’t showering their feeds with the Hinnant case.

They wanted to know why they didn’t see and hear violent protests coast to coast over the death of an innocent little boy.

And they wanted to know why no celebrity came forward to announce plans to pay for the child’s funeral.

There are plenty of reasons…but most people just don’t want to hear them.

First, let’s consider where the crimes happened.

Floyd and Taylor died in larger cities in which television stations operate. Hinnant died in a small town about 45 minutes away from the stations that cover that area. You wouldn’t think that would make a difference in this age of satellite technology, but getting crews to a smaller community that far away does.

The proximity (or lack of it) determines how much television stations were able to cover the stories and how many crews they could send. When a high-profile crime happens in the same area you’re in, it’s obviously easier to cover.

Second, let’s consider the arrests. (Or the lack thereof.)

The speed at which police made arrests — if they did at all — shaped public perception of the crimes. By the time most people heard about Hinnant’s death, the man accused of the crime was already behind bars and a judge denied bond. There was no search for the gunman. There was no question about whether anyone would face charges.

When Floyd died, no arrests came immediately. The release of a video taken by a bystander showed a police officer pinning Floyd to the ground with his knee to Floy’d neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd said more than once that he couldn’t breathe. Eventually, he became unresponsive and died.

But the officers involved did not face arrest immediately. Even after people saw the video and the outrage manifested itself into riots, no arrests immediately followed. That angered protesters. Protests turned to riots. The officers, ultimately, did face charges.

Taylor’s death in Louisville happened while police were executing a no-knock warrant. She was shot multiple times in her apartment. She was not the subject of the warrant. People criticized no-knock warrants for years because of perceived danger involved. Taylor’s death seemed to only intensify those concerns.

You may notice, however, that Taylor died in March. Police have made no arrests in her case all these months later.

Let’s talk about protests for a second. I already mentioned the protests surrounding Floyd’s death. They morphed into something bigger than that given the Taylor case as well. It became a message about black people dying at the hands of police and an apparent lack of justice.

At the time protesters demanded justice for Floyd and Taylor, no arrests had been made. It looked as if none might happen.

Within 24 hours, Hinnant’s alleged killer was already in custody.

One has to wonder whether the protesters would have taken to the streets at all if arrests had come that fast in the other two cases.

But in Hinnant’s case, what, at this point, is there to protest? The justice system seems to have worked quite well, assuming the accused killer is actually the person who committed the crime.

Why haven’t celebrities jumped in to offer to cover the price of Hinnant’s funeral? I have mixed feelings about the question. Clearly, people want to see someone make a show of helping the family. That, to me, becomes a problem in itself. If a celebrity wanted to help a family suffering such a tragedy, why couldn’t he or she do so without the publicity?

It feels a little weird to me to hear people making a big deal about a big name paying the bills. Shouldn’t that be anonymous? Shouldn’t the focus be on the departed?

Oh, and in case you’re one of the ones griping that a celebrity should foot the bill, you might want to know this: The family hoped to raise $5,000 to help cover the funeral expenses. GoFundMe says their campaign raised more than $740,000.

How many celebrities ever paid that much for a regular person’s funeral?

(And while we’re at it, how much have the people complaining about what celebrities haven’t paid for actually donated themselves?)

Let’s call it what it is.

For the majority of people feigning such outrage over the coverage of the murder cases, you can’t escape one fact.

It’s about race.

Many will flat out say that when a Black person is killed, they hear all about it. Endlessly.

But when this innocent White boy is killed, the story is ignored.

Well, Google his name and you’ll see how “ignored” the story is. You’ll find listing after listing from stations across the coast. This belief that the media ignored the killing is absolutely false.

But if you’re trying to convince people some race card is being played, you just hope no one does any research on their own. As long as they don’t, your argument may carry some weight for a little while.

There’s no conspiracy that uses the race of the victim to determine whether they cover the story. That doesn’t even make sense. But if you’re playing the race card, making sense does not have to be a qualification, does it?

All killings are tragic. One of the three we’ve talked about here seems to have seen justice work swiftly.

If you can’t see that difference right off the bat, maybe you’re not in a good position to try to search for other explanations.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.