Lee V. Gillis: Does Media Matter?

1654 words - 7 pages

There were two serial killers working on their victim list at the same time, in the same place, but only one was noticed by the media. Both killed at least seven women. One would think that both of these killers would grab the attention of the media. Unfortunately only one was reported about which made the other jealous causing him to kill more. It was not until after the first serial killer, Lee, was arrested that anyone even knew Gillis was on the same killing path. Had the media not focused solely on one killer others may not have died at the hands of another. There should not only be concern for media impact on trials but also its impact on the cases before the defendants are even known, those seeking fame even when it is by murder.
Dubbed the “Baton Rouge Serial Killer” Derrick Todd Lee was only one of two serial killers working the Baton Rouge area during the time between 1992 and 2004. Lee is a black male, who lived with his wife and children St. Francisville, LA. Lee had avoided being caught for many years because an eye witness had told authorities the suspect was a white male (Mustafa, Clayton & Israel, 2006). This information was very believable because most serial killers do not cross racial lines when choosing their victims and all of Lee’s victims were white except one (Mustafa, Clayton & Israel, 2006). Lee was eventually named as the suspect in 2002 when DNA tests revealed the killer was a black male (Stewart, Boyd, M., & Nunnally, D. (2002). He was arrested in 2003 and now lives on death row in Louisiana State Penitentiary.
There was extensive media coverage of Lee’s murders, which alarmed the Baton Rouge community. There was fear and panic among women in the community when the DNA information was released and the community was informed the murders were related and there was a serial killer among them (Tresniowski, Rozsa, Barnes, Wescott, Pierce & Cosgriff, 2003). In fact, there was so much publicity Lee’s public defender petitioned the court for more funds for Lee’s defense (WOIO, 2003). The judge found it absurd that the attorney would suggest Lee was entitled to such an extensive defense just because of the amount of publicity the case received and at the cost of the public; the request was denied (WOIO, 2003).
Lee and his attorney felt the cloud of fear the public had been living for a couple of years was sure to prejudice any perspective juror against to Lee (Louisiana v. Derrick Todd Lee, 2008). Lee submitted over 5000 pages of material published between about himself at his request for a change of venue (Louisiana v. Derrick Todd Lee, 2008). The court referenced Mills v. Singletary, 1995, where a change of venue had also been requested based on media coverage, but the media material did not mention the defendant only the victim (Louisiana v. Derrick Todd Lee, 2008). This was similar to Lee’s case where most of the media he used referred to a serial killer (Louisiana v. Derrick Todd Lee, 2008). The request for a...

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