Media frenzy over Yale murder draws criticism

Commentators in New Haven, Conn., where Yale is located, said other local murders should get just as much attention as Annie Le's. Police charged lab technician Raymond Clark III Thursday.

Douglas Healey/AP
Raymond Clark III (c.) is arraigned at Superior Court in New Haven, Conn. on Thursday, in connection with the murder of Annie Le, a Yale graduate student whose body was found stuffed inside a lab wall Sunday.

The murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le continued to draw extensive media coverage early Friday, one day after police arrested lab technician Raymond Clark III and a judge set his bail at $3 million.

Some New Haven commentators have begun to criticize the outsize attention surrounding Ms. Le’s death, while Yale officials are trying to allay safety concerns it has triggered among students.

Police charged Mr. Clark with Le’s murder after his DNA was found in the wall of a Yale building where her body was found stashed last Sunday.

Clark, who worked in the building, attempted to hide lab-cleaning equipment spattered with blood even as investigators were interviewing employees and students in the lab. That, combined with the DNA match, wounds on his body, and computer records showing he was the last person to see Le alive, led to Clark’s arrest, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Police have not revealed a supposed motive for the crime, which they have referred to as an incidence of “workplace violence,” not urban crime.

That is of particular import to Yale, where safety is often a concern among students. Yale has attempted to tamp down security worries following the murder, including in a letter sent from university President Richard Levin to the Yale community Thursday:

Mr. Clark has been a lab technician at Yale since December 2004. His supervisor reports that nothing in the history of his employment at the University gave an indication that his involvement in such a crime might be possible….
This incident could have happened in any city, in any university, or in any workplace. It says more about the dark side of the human soul than it does about the extent of security measures. Nevertheless, safety is a very high priority, and we will shortly be soliciting suggestions from the community about how we might further improve campus security.

In an indication of the enormous media attention the case is attracting, the New Haven Register printed 5,000 copies of a special edition announcing the arrest of Clark, reports the Associated Press.

As national media have descended on New Haven to report on the death of an attractive Ivy League student, some are asking why her murder draws more attention than others’ in New Haven. A columnist in The Connecticut Post writes:

What gets all of us about Le's tragic slaying is that it involves not just any university student, but an Ivy Leaguer. Translation: Someone who might earn beaucoup bucks. Someone who possesses sky's-the-limit potential. Vivacious and attractive, too. Someone even the most critical parent would be hard-pressed not to like…. Nobody in the Elm City's 'hoods has that kind of cachet. Are they worth less? Why don't their disappearances merit day-in, day-out coverage like Le's? …
The folks in the 'hood don't begrudge the attention Le's homicide is getting. They just wish somebody'd pay the same attention when their kids disappear, get shot or killed.

Matt Kelley, the criminal justice editor for and a communications manager at the Innocence Project, writes in a blog post that the drama of Le’s case should not be allowed to overshadow other murders:

The intense media coverage of this case is also worth noting. The media focuses on sensational stories, with as much drama as possible - because that's what we, the news consumers, demand. Le's story is heartwrenching and dramatic - her body was found on what would have been her wedding day. It's hard to ignore a tragic story like this, and we shouldn't ignore it. But the front-page national frenzy around this case shouldn't obscure the other cases just because they lack the drama.
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