For those of us who have had enough of “Parenthood Vs. Politics: All Elian All The Time,” we’ve now been privy to “Valessa: Poster Child for Parricide.”
For those who can’t wait for the supermarket tabs, HBO and “48 Hours,” there have been the daily print and electronic news accounts. But even they, of course, couldn’t keep up with the sheer newsworthiness of Valessa Robinson’s notoriety nor the presumed demand for more details, both mundane and ghastly.
That’s why the St. Petersburg Times ran a serialized feature — during jury selection — on Valessa, the former Sickles High student who was on trial here in Tampa for helping her boyfriend and another chum to murder her mom in a particularly gruesome fashion. The Times’ multi-part report, teased on its newspaper racks and through tabloidy radio ads and available on its Website, was laid out colorfully with lots of photos — some relevant and in focus. (And yes, you can order extra copies of the series from the Times.)
Even columnists, need I say, have proven voyeuristically challenged in the process of decrying the media circus.
It’s not just the allure of the lurid, however, that makes us all stop and look — not unlike knee-jerk rubberneckers at an accident intersection. It’s the human fascination with the ultimate, unthinkable crime: killing the one who gave you life. Moreover, perpetrators, no matter how grizzly or senseless their crime, can morph perversely into a societal celebrity.
Thus we have, sensationally yet simply, “Valessa.” In this culture, someone has truly arrived as a media staple when they join that special pantheon of one-name personalities that includes Cher, Madonna, Sting, Hillary, Junior, Fidel and Jeb!.
Thanks to her public-defender attorney, Valessa Robinson was decked out demurely every trial day like Becky Thatcher looking for Tom Sawyer on the set of a slasher movie. Her defense team knew there was always the chance that a jury, especially one that claims it doesn’t know enough to be anything but impartial, would buy the child-victim makeover.
Too bad Valessa really wasn’t the preppy schoolgirl she so resembled. But that, of course, would have been boring and unworthy of the Jerry Springer Show, let alone a notorious, first-degree murder trial.