Skip to comments.Westerfield trial TV coverage lures viewers with lurid details
Posted on 06/08/2002 3:33:44 PM PDT by MizSterious
Westerfield trial TV coverage lures viewers with lurid details Remote Control
Robert P. Laurence
June 7, 2002
TV is about pictures, and the David Westerfield trial has not been a pretty picture.
Carried live on four local stations, and on cable's Court TV, the trial's pictures have been drawn in words, words like "sexual penetration" "putrefaction," "animal activity" and "decomposition" used in describing what might have happened to the body of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam before and after her death.
To many, the pictures, again drawn in words, of adults engaged in spouse-swapping, group sex and pot smoking have been nearly as repugnant.
But just as many are finding the whole spectacle of kidnapping, murder, kinky sexuality and everyday middle-class suburbanites pursuing a lifestyle usually associated with memories of hippies of the 1960s morbidly fascinating. (Some may be looking at the folks next door with new curiosity.)
Decisions of local TV stations have varied according to the expected newsworthiness of whatever witness has been on the stand. All carried the testimony of Damon and Brenda van Dam, Danielle's parents, Wednesday and yesterday.
KUSI/Channel 51 has been the most dedicated, carrying all the testimony live, and airing a nightly hour-long wrap-up of the day's activities at 9 p.m. For viewers who don't subscribe to cable, KUSI has been the only place to watch the entire trial.
KGTV/Channel 10 has aired most of the testimony in the first three days of the trial. The coverage airs sometimes on Channel 10, and always on KGTV's all-news cable outlet on Channel 15. KFMB/Channel 8 and KNSD/Channel 39 have been choosier, often skipping the testimony of technical experts.
Wednesday's ratings favored KGTV and KUSI, and Nielsen totals of how many people have been watching TV during the day were up as much as 12 percent compared to last week.
Some of the technical testimony has been the most gruesomely fascinating, including the descriptions of County Medical Examiner Dr. Brian Blackbourne of the condition of Danielle's body when it was found, and his listing of which body parts had been gnawed by animals and which had not. (Blessedly, the courtroom camera has eschewed close-ups of the pictures of the child's body. Those would be too ugly to bear.)
Just as fascinating in the context of the grisly scenario was Brenda van Dam's description of the now-painfully mundane routine of selling Girl Scout cookies, the route she and Danielle followed as they walked house to house through the neighborhood, and her statement that the home of defendant David Westerfield "was the last house we went to."
For those who have made up their mind that Westerfield is guilty, Court TV is the place to go. Anchors Nancy Grace and Sheila Stainback have all but declared themselves witnesses for the prosecution. Both have ridiculed potential defense arguments before they've been made in court, and Grace described Westerfield at one point as "looking pretty pasty right now."
Grace yesterday waxed long and righteously indignant because Damon van Dam wasn't allowed to stay in the courtroom while his wife testified, bemoaning that he wasn't being allowed "closure," but ignoring the fact that California courts don't allow witnesses to remain in court while other witnesses testify.
Local anchors have remained neutral and objective, but speculation has not been entirely absent. Lawyer Milt Silverman, analyst for KGTV, yesterday said he was wondering whether Westerfield had "figured out ways to defeat those locks" on the Van Dams' home.
Still, the most memorable pictures we've seen so far in the Westerfield trial were those of yesterday morning.
The first was the stricken look on Brenda van Dam's face when she was asked how many children she has, and her long pause as she deliberately decided to include Danielle: "Three."
The second was of Brenda van Dam, sobbing and daubing a tissue to her eyes as she listened to a tape of her first 911 call, and heard her own voice tell the operator, "My daughter's not in her bed this morning. She's only 7...
"Oh my God! ... I don't know where she could be."
It's tough enough for a married couple to endure something like this under normal circumstances.
But when you dial in the kinky sex, then the embarrassment of having the whole world find out, and the gnawing questions about the degree to which your fetish may have exposed your little girl to being targeted...
It all adds up to a zero chance of them staying married to each other.
See? We're not the only ones who noticed this!
It does sound likely that there were some serious problems...
This'll be what tears it for them.
Yeah..good ol rick roberts..Neutral and objective..convenient they didn't mention his major role..
Brenda was crying uncontrollably while the 911 tape was being played and while talking about the frantic search for her daughter...what was DW doing? Yawning hugely and not just once either.
But where will they go and what will they do?? *Gone With The Wind*
I'm not as concerned about the marriage as about the boys. They have to live with all of this for the rest of their lives. And kids can be cruel, whether they stay in the same area or move away, it will follow them.
Re-read my initial post for the reasons.
Of course, I could be wrong. (Although, again, I'll bet I'm not.)
Time will tell. I don't expect that they'll be married (to each other) a year from this date.
If I'm wrong, don't forget to ping me with an "I told you so..."
They haven't been "married" to each other for a long, long time!
My guess would be that they were headed in that direction.
My speculation here has simply been that this'll be what triggers the (inevitable) breakup.
I grew up in the 60's, and was a young adult during the 70's. Those were crazy times, I saw plenty of couples take this route.
I never saw any of them NOT eventually split up. (Although sometimes for -nominally at least- other reasons.)
I suppose there are exceptions to this. Rules are made by the exceptions. If there are any, however, I never met them.
I think my bet is about as safe a bet as I could make. Time will tell.
Well, I mean married in the technical sense here.
Westerfield is looking less and less guilty. I read the testimoney of his dirty pictures for hours last night, there is no "beef". His DNA would be very close to Danielle's in the motorhome. Brenda had been seeing him, probably been in the motorhome too. Also similar DNA.
It's all just another weird possibilty and lot's of good arguments against it. I'm sure I'll hear them.
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