The Daval affair, the mechanism of “ultra-media coverage”

From the alleged disappearance of a jogger in full movement #MeToo to the extraordinary trial, the Daval affair has fascinated the media with an omnipresent civil party, multiple twists and a dramaturgy carefully maintained by the 24-hour news channels.

“All that makes the Daval affair is the media coverage”: launched before the jurors Me Randall Schwerdorffer, lawyer for Jonathann Daval, sentenced on Saturday to 25 years of criminal imprisonment by the Assize Court of the Upper -Saône after six days of a trial of rare intensity.

Civil parties ubiquitous in the media, multiple reports, successful mini-series broadcast in the middle of the trial by BFMTV, large formats, torrents of comments on social networks …

How did this conjugal and provincial news item become a national media success story? When and why do the media come into the picture?

– “Lie” –

“The media coverage arrived on the first day of the beatings” organized on October 29, 2017 to find Alexia whose lifeless body will be discovered the next day, remembers Isabelle Fouillot, the mother of the victim, interviewed Saturday on BFMTV, a channel which devoted important resources and long hours of air in the case and in the trial.

“The cameras have arrived on this missing jogger lie” invented by Jonathann Daval to make up the murder of his wife, she recalled.

The case of the media-loving “missing jogger”. In the collective unconscious, “the disappearance of a jogger implies a predator” who prowls, analyzes Me Schwerdorffer.

Photos of Alexia circulated in the press show the face of a pretty, smiling girl that everyone can relate to. “Alexia was the daughter of any French couple. A simple girl,” summed up Sunday, still on BFMTV, her father, Jean-Pierre Fouillot.

The investigation, scrutinized by the press, will be punctuated by multiple twists and turns which will give as many media lashes to the case.

First of these, the arrest in January 2018 of Jonathann Daval. Three months earlier, his tear-drenched widower’s face had moved the whole of France. His placement in police custody had the effect of a media bombshell. Its power was increased tenfold by the #MeToo movement which was in full swing.

The case even takes on a political dimension when Me Randall Schwerdorffer evokes during police custody the supposedly “overwhelming” personality of Alexia. Marlène Schiappa, then Secretary of State in charge of Equality between women and men, immediately denounces a “victim blaming”.

– “Media cauldron” –

Jonathann Daval’s incessant about-face during the investigation feed the chronicle with two highlights: when he accuses his brother-in-law Grégory Gay of being Alexia’s murderer, then when he confesses again, kneeling in front of Isabelle Fouillot during a moving confrontation with the examining magistrate.

“His successive lies have contributed to the media coverage of this affair,” said Gilles-Jean Portejoie, one of the lawyers for the civil parties, at the hearing.

The Daval trial, labeled “Grand Trial” by the Ministry of Justice, will also have concentrated for six days several dozen journalists from around forty media in the closed session of the small judicial court of Vesoul. A real media cauldron in full confinement.

In this trial too, the civil parties, wounded but worthy, played the leading roles.

– “Grégory” –

Isabelle Fouillot embodied their face. Speaking tirelessly, morning and evening, as well as at practically every suspension of hearing in front of a wall of cameras and microphones, the elegant sexagenarian will have tirelessly defended the memory of her daughter.

As for the lawyers, they developed their theses in front of the cameras, real second pleadings which, in addition to the many leaks which had marked the investigation, had the gift of annoying the Advocate General, Emmanuel Dupic.

“This trial is first of all a media trial in which the civil parties and the defense can express themselves”, he lamented in his indictment, calling on the “legislator to reconsider this imbalance” between the defense and the ministry public.

Paradoxically, it was in front of the cameras and the microphones that the magistrate reiterated his criticisms, when the court had just withdrawn to deliberate.

As an experienced magistrate, the President of the Court, Matthieu Husson, immediately warned the jurors: “you must not be judged differently because this case has had a particular impact”, promising “impartiality” to Jonathann Daval.

Sunday, Jean-Pierre Fouillot made the connection between the death of his daughter and another big news item which continues to fascinate, 36 years later: “Alexia’s face will remain, like that of little Gregory”. It was on BFMTV.

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