How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

When people of color go missing

The gist of a report released yesterday regarding how authorities handled the case of Mitrice Richardson, a young woman found dead almost two years ago in a Malibu canyon, dealt with poor communication between agencies after her body was found, not with how her disappearance was handled or the decisions that led up to it.

But because it's part of a larger puzzle, her case is worth bringing up again for other reasons. Richardson, who was black, was 24 years old when she was released from the Malibu-Lost Hills station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department after midnight without her purse or a cell phone. Her car had been towed after Richardson, a former beauty queen and college graduate who struggled with mental illness, was arrested for not paying her bill at a Malibu restaurant.

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Why you've heard of Caylee, but not Brisenia or Marchella

Pool photo/Getty Images News

Casey Anthony, the mother of Caylee Anthony, reacts to being found not guilty on murder charges at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on July 5, 2011

The trial involving Casey Anthony, recently acquitted of murder charges in the 2008 death of her toddler daughter Caylee Anthony by a Florida jury, has made national headlines for months. The story has been a top draw on cable news shows, with CNN's Nancy Grace taping live from the center of the action in Orlando.

Yet similarly tragic criminal cases involving children - the horrific abuse and death of 4-year-old Marchella Pierce in New York, the murder of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father in Arizona during a home invasion by border vigilantes - have received scant coverage in comparison.

The stories of these three children are equally sad, how they died equally gut-wrenching. One difference is that Caylee was white, Marchella was black, and Brisenia was Mexican American.

Does race and ethnicity factor into how these cases are reported? Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member with The Poynter Institute and one of the nation's leading experts on media ethics, addresses this and other questions about the coverage disparity and what can be done about it:

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'I'm torn:' A death penalty opponent reacts to the sentencing of Brisenia Flores' convicted killer

Screen shot from Presente.org

As Arizona state senators yesterday prepared to hear some of the strictest anti-illegal immigration legislation to come out of the state since SB 1070, a convicted murderer whose crime was rooted in one of the darker corners of the immigration debate was sentenced to death in Tucson.

Shawna Forde, a radical anti-illegal immigration activist who led a Minuteman splinter group, has joined two other women on Arizona's death row; she was convicted last week in the brutal 2009 home invasion murder of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul, in the Arizona border town of Arivaca.

Forde was also convicted of robbery, the believed motive, and was not convicted of a hate crime. But it has been difficult to separate the crime from the beliefs she espoused. Among the reactions today is this post on Slate by blogger Amanda Marcotte:

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What really led to Brisenia Flores' murder?

Since the conviction last week of Shawna Forde for murder in the 2009 home invasion slaying of a Latino father and his 9-year-old daughter in rural Arivaca, Arizona, there have been sighs of relief among those who had called for justice, but also bitter questions about how the murder and trial were covered by media, in particular the degree of attention paid to Forde's radical nativism.

Forde, the ringleader of a trio accused of carrying out the killings, was also the leader of a Minuteman splinter group known as Minuteman American Defense, or MAD. She had been pushed out of the more mainstream Minuteman Civil Defense Corps for what members described to CNN as "unstable behavior."

Forde was not convicted of a hate crime. The motive for the home invasion that left Brisenia Flores and her father Raul dead was ostensibly robbery, for which Forde was also convicted. But there has been much criticism that mainstream media not only arrived late to the story, but in its coverage failed to sufficiently address the beliefs espoused by Forde as relevant to the crime.

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