22 year old American college student Amanda Knox and her boyfriend have been found guilty of murdering Knox’s British roommate, 21 year old Meredith Kercher. The murder, according to the prosecution, took place during a sex and drug binge involving Kercher, Knox, Knox’s boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede of the Ivory Coast.
According to the prosecution, the two men, Sollecito and Guede, came under the siren spell of Knox, who somehow convinced them to torture and sexually assault Meredith Kercher.
The guilty verdict against Knox and Sollecito was reached in the small town of Perugia, Italy, in spite of the fact that Rudy Guede had already been convicted of killing Kercher and had admitted that Knox and her boyfriend weren’t there and played no part in the murder. Later, Guede said he was at the murder scene but did not kill Kercher. He is appealing his conviction.
The unsequestered jury reached a guilty verdict even though there appears to have been no firm evidence connecting Knox to the crime while Guede’s DNA was found at the murder scene. The prosecution though went after Amanda and her boyfriend first.. Later, they located and charged Guede who was then convicted. But the public feeding frenzy fueled by a media onslaught was underway. Sex, drugs and murder. It was a tabloid’s dream. And so, while the young woman reporters had dubbed “Foxy Knoxy” sat in jail for two years, the popular media ran wild with all the sleaze they could lay their hands on as the prosecution moved forward to seek convictions against Knox and Sollecito, even with only scant evidence.
One piece of that “evidence” was security camera video of Knox and her boyfriend shopping for women’s underwear shortly after the murder. In court the prosecution used the tape to impugn Knox’s character. Before that, they began building their case by releasing the video to the media. Video of a good looking young woman and her boyfriend out buying thong underwear. Bizarre behavior so shortly after the crime had been committed? Maybe, but according to Knox’s aunt, Amanda had no access to her clothing because the police had sealed off her apartment as a crime scene, leaving her with no choice but to go shopping.
Another report indicates the court refused to let the defense present DNA evidence that might have strengthened the American student’s case. This, even though in Italy there is an automatic presumption of guilt which places the burden of proof on the defense and not on the prosecution. In other words, you must prove you are innocent while the prosecution has no need to prove that you are guilty. Guilt is assumed.
My former colleague from the O.J Simpson Trials, the late Dominick Dunne, nearly always sided with the prosecution. It wasn’t something he tried to hide. He openly admitted to believing that people who were charged with murder were usually guilty. The murder of his daughter Dominique undoubtedly played a significant role in his bias against the defense. It would be fascinating to hear his take on the Amanda Knox case. I have a feeling that this might be one of those rare instances when even Dominick Dunne would come down on the side of the defense.
Sadly, we no longer have the advantage of Dunne’s insights from the pages of Vanity Fair. We do though have six pages from Judy Bachrach, who speaks Italian and spent more than four years living in Italy. Among other things, she points out that Knox made contradictory statements. It also appears she may have been beaten by the police which could have prompted her to tell them whatever they wanted to hear. As for the murder, she writes-
“Exactly what happened when she returned to the house on Via Pergola later that night is not clear. Rudy Guede’s DNA would be found all over her dead body the next day. His presence at the murder scene is one of the few firmly established facts of the case. There are others, but the Italian authorities have been led down an entirely different trail by the odd behavior of Amanda and Raffaele, whose actions have been too bizarre and callous to ignore, even if both are innocent.”
The following, again from Bachrach’s piece, provides some insight into Italian jurisprudence. ‘The Italian legal system, ecclesiastical judge Count Neri Capponi informs me, will not work in Amanda’s favor. “Our system stems from the Inquisition and also from medieval law,” he explains. What this means, in effect, he says, is that justice in Italy “is based on the supremacy of the prosecution. This nullifies the fact—written in our constitution by the way—that you’re innocent until proven guilty.”’ -Vanity Fair
Italy has no death penalty. Amanda Knox has been sentenced to 26 years in an Italian prison. Raffaele Sollecito has been sentenced to 25 years. Knox is filing an appeal. It can reportedly take up to two years before an appeal is heard by an Italian court.