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  • MichonK

Trial by Media Coverage

In the past 5 years there have been quite a few cases of women conspiring with their lovers to murder their husbands. The reasons include abusive spouses, scorned feelings, insurance policies and payouts, and just wanting to move on without their spouse. While every state has laws for murder and conspiracy to commit murder, not all cases result in the same sentences and publicity, especially where race is concerned.

Murder, they Wrote

To take a glance at the differences and similarities in how women can be treated for similar crimes we can consider two cases, Nikki Sue Entzel, a white woman from North Dakota, and Tia Young, a Black woman from Georgia. Entzel currently stands accused of conspiracy to commit murder and arson with her lover, Earl Howard, who pled guilty and was convicted. Young and her lover, Harvey T. Lee were both convicted of the murder of Young’s husband.

For starters, looking at how the media chooses to cover these cases shows noticeable variations. Entzel’s case is portrayed very simply, meaning the articles tell what happened and some specifics of the crime and death of her husband. Young’s case is portrayed in a different way, often going into greater detail, sharing more opinions and statements from the victim’s family and friends, and focusing on the life insurance policy she had taken out for her husband. Entzel’s life insurance policy on her husband was not as central to media coverage and neither was the renter’s insurance policy she had recently taken out. The policies tended to make an appearance further along in the articles towards the end if they were mentioned. The policy on Young’s husband however was either the main point of the article, was quickly brought up, or seemed to be a central point in most media coverage.

Another notable difference in how the two cases were portrayed can be found within internet search results. Searching Entzel’s case returns a variety of headlines while Young’s case shows one variation of the same headline. Young’s headlines rarely mention her name and instead refer to her as “Gwinnett wife” or “Gwinnett woman”, reducing her to a location and a relation to the victim. In contrast, Entzel’s case shows her name and places her as the main subject of the article.

The Court of Media Portrayal

After looking at these two cases, there are noticeable differences in how the stories are covered. To put it simply, one case seemed to lack emotion, while the other was filled with facts and information that triggers an emotional response. The one similarity seems to be the sentences and charges of conspiracy to commit murder.

The main point we are left to consider is what happens in media coverage when two people of different races commit similar crimes. Are they treated the same way? Do they receive the same media attention and portrayals? Does it depend on the crime? Whether or not they are guilty or innocent, have they already been put on trial before their day in court? These two cases seem to demonstrate that there is often more to the story than just innocent or guilty.

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