Monday, 20 January 2014
THE DAILY MAIL AND THE HOUNDING OF LOUISE WOODWARD
Many of you will remember the case of the the 19 year old English nanny who was found guilty of the murder of a baby in her care in Massachusetts back in 1997. I'm going to simplify what happened next but a fuller, if still concise and clear, account can be found on Wikipaedia which I used for reference.
Woodward always denied harming the baby. When she stated that she 'popped' the baby on the bed she didn't realise that the word, innocuous in the UK, had connotations of severe violence in the US. For various reasons her defence attorney refused to allow a lesser charge of manslaughter and she was found guilty. It was later revealed by a juror that none of the jury believed she was guilty of murder but, although half believed her to be completely innocent, went along with the rest who would not let her off. On appeal, the murder verdict was overturned and reduced to involuntary manslaughter and her sentence reduced to time served. After 279 days Louise Woodward was freed. To me this suggests that the appeal judge himself had pretty strong doubts about her guilt over even this lesser charge.
A medical expert at the trial recently said that, given the results of improved medical knowledge over the intervening years, he no longer believed that the damning testimony he gave was correct.
So why, after sixteen years, has the Daily Mail plonked large colour photos of the woman on the Mail Online? Simple: Woodward has had a baby with her husband.
And here's the headline.
I find it difficult to express just how appalling I find this and this is actually the second time in recent days that the Mail Online has featured this story. If anyone wants an example of how low British journalism can sink to then this is a pretty good (though that's hardly the appropriate word) example.
After her American tragedy, Woodward has gone on to lead a blameless life. She got a degree, worked as a solicitor, got married, and has now had a baby. It's obvious what the Mail is implying even though it never states it outright and neither will I.
But frankly this whole thing makes me sick to my stomach. And, to their credit, it has the same effect of the readers of the Mail Online. Out of over 300 comments, 98% say effectively the same thing -leave her alone. A number mention the dubiousness of the original conviction. Not that I'm all that surprised as I've noticed before that only a minority of the Mail's readers belong to the racist, sexist, homophobic, generally all-round bigoted brigade. With this story they have really upset a lot of their readers as I imagine the reaction is also reflected among the many, like myself, who read the story but didn't comment.
I don't imagine that there's any way Woodward could sue the Mail which is a shame because it represents British journalism at its worst and, despite being an ex-union steward, I believe those responsible should be sacked.