The idea that media hysteria and lawsuits of public opinion did not exist before Twitter and Facebook is refuted by the inferno of disgrace that engulfed The British nanny Louise Woodward in 1997.
The 19-year-old au pair was accused of shaking eight-month-old Matthew Eappen to death in his suburban house in Boston. Her lawsuit quickly came to compete with OJ Simpson’s prominent role.
The issue of Woodward’s guilt was not settled in episode two of The Killer Nanny: Did she? But this fast-paced forensic film conveyed the sheer madness surrounding Woodward’s trial. And it addressed the transatlantic divide that the case created. Many Americans assumed Woodward was guilty, even though neighbors back in Cheshire protested her innocence.
With neither Woodward nor the victim’s parents involved, The Killer Nanny would never be a final decision. However, there was an interview with Woodward’s rock star defense attorney, Barry Scheck. “Why should a 19-year-old girl just take this baby [and] hit your head against a solid hard surface? ” he said. “It made no sense.”
And there were revealing conversations with members of the jury, which suggested that Woodward had made a mistake in removing the possibility of sentencing for the minor offense of manslaughter.
A quarter of a century later, a member of the defense team compared Woodward to a victim of the Salem witch trials: an innocent woman burned by the patriarchy. But despite such full-blown emotions, The Killer Nanny told the story soberly and largely without sensation.
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