CYBERSPSACE—Radar Online has posted a story about testimony in the sentencing phase in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who was convicted in the brutal home invasion murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in 2007. Komisarjevsky faces life in prison or death. His accomplice, Steven Hayes, is already on death row.
Monday, according to Radar, Komisarjevsky’s adoptive mother testified that she had found “traces of over 900 adult web sites” on her son’s computer the week before the killings. Radar found that testimony so compelling that they made it the headline: “Petit Family Killer Visited 900 Porn Sites In One Day Leading Up To Deadly Massacre.”
The implication being communicated is that his massive porn viewing in such a short period of time contributed to his murderous state of mind, and may even have been a causal factor in the killings. Similar insinuations are being made across the Pond in the aftermath of the murder of 25-year-old Joanna Yeates by her neighbor, Dutchman Vincent Tabak, who also visited porn sites and reportedly had a fixation with violent porn.
Some seem intent on making the "porn made him do it" connection—popularized by Ted Bundy's dubious death-row confession to Focus on the Family's James Dobson—including the prosecutor in the Tabak trial, who, according to the Daily Mail, “said the pornography [watched by Tabak] depicting violence towards women with their tops raised and violent images of women being held by the throat had ‘a real significance and explain why the defendant held Jo Yeates by the neck and killed her.’”
The judge in the trial excluded evidence of Tabak’s visits to porn sites from being introduced into court, saying, “In my judgment the watching and possession of porn showing violence and the threat of violence is reprehensible conduct. I think this would be the view of the majority of the fair-minded people in this country today.”
It is becoming abundantly clear, however, that some members of the media are convinced that pornography is in some way, shape or form an ingredient in these killings. In the Radar Online story, for instance, the body of the article contains some telling facts that throw more than a little doubt on the 900 porn site claim made by the killer’s mother.
Reporting on her testimony, the article stated, “The devout Christian told the police about her online findings when they interviewed her days after the crime, although she said [she] never saw her son actually looking at adult sites and the police didn't find any evidence when they searched his computer.”
So she’s a devout Christian who’s able to do a forensic search of her son’s computer and identify 900 “traces” of porn site visits before wiping the hard drive clean before the cops search it? Is that what Rader expects us to believe?
Komisarjevsky’s sister also took the stand to argue for leniency for her brother, and testified that he had molested her when they were children. According to the mom, he had also been sexually molested when he was even younger by a foster child the family had brought in. But for Radar Online, neither that extremely troubled family history, his many emotional problems as an adolescent, his run-ins with the law nor his time in prison are as relevant to his state of mind before and during the commission of his horrific crime as those alleged porn site visits?
That’s kind of what I’m taking away from the headline. Porn kills.
Okay, Rader Online is a pustule on the body of the national media—what else is new? But the editor who created that headline had to know that writing it as a fact, when it came from the testimony of a deeply (and understandably) biased individual—the killer’s mother!—with no corroborating evidence from follow up searches by the police, is an editorial abomination.
As bad as that is, the Radar editor went one worse by adding the "In One Day" assertion to the headline. According to the New Haven Register, where Radar got the story, the mother made no mention of "one day" in her testimony. It seems that was invented out of thin air.
Even for a rag, a story such as this deserves a modicum of journalistic integrity. Radar Online is not, by the way, the only outlet that has run with the 900 porn site lede. Google it and you'll see for yourself.
Image: graphic from the 2006 documentary on Ted Bundy, Natural Porn Killer