HOW MEREDITH KERCHER WAS FORGOTTEN – Amanda Knox And The Media

In the story about Adam and Eve and their precipitous removal from the Garden of Eden,  Adam is presented as an innocent by-stander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It wasn’t his fault; the woman made him do it.  All Eve did was hand the apple to Adam.  It was that pesky free will that led him to make his own bad decision but Eve gets all the blame.

Dan Waddell posted the following analysis of the Amanda Knox trial fiasco on Murder Is Everywhere.  It is worth reading on its own merits, as are all Dan’s posts, but it is also a reminder that being young and foolish isn’t an actionable offense.  And, as so often happens, the victim is overlooked.

Knox Hunting

Meredith Kercher

This blog is slightly out of date but unforeseen circumstances meant I couldn’t post last week. It was a shame because earlier last week, as a result of a few tweets of mine on the Meredith Kercher murder case which saw Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have their convictions upturned on appeal in Italy, I was asked to go on BBC Word Service and discuss the case. Like all radio discussions, and this featured countless people from across the globe at the end of several phone lines, it was difficult to get one’s point across, but it was interesting nonetheless.

The Kercher case has fascinated me from the beginning. Not necessarily the details of the case, but the way it has been covered in the media and the depiction of Amanda Knox, or ‘Foxy Knoxy’ as the British tabloids called her. It has been proof both of latent and blatant misogyny in the British press and society, and disturbing evidence that we really haven’t come that far since the days we threw mistrusted and promiscuous women in a lake: if they sank and drowned they were innocent, but if they surfaced they were witches and were burned to death.

Amanda Knox

For those that don’t know the case, Meredith Kercher was a British university student on an exchange in Perugia in 2007 when she was found stabbed to death in an apartment she shared with some other foreign students. A few days later the police arrested her flatmate Knox, an American student, and her new boyfriend Sollecito on the suspicion of her murder. In interview, Knox was said to have incriminated another person who was arrested but later released. Some time later a third man, Rudy Guede, was arrested and he is in prison serving a 16-year sentence for the murder.

In a nutshell that’s it, but the case is far more complex and would require far more than a blog to discuss in detail. Needless to say some facts are not disputed: Knox gave a confession which was later deemed to be inadmissible because she had no legal representation; she was questioned for almost a whole day without a lawyer by a team of detectives speaking a language she barely understood; no motive was ever given for her or Sollecito killing Meredith; they spent a year in custody before being charged with murder; the crime scene wasn’t secured properly and rendered useless, and the DNA evidence brought against the pair was unreliable at best. When Guede was arrested, he claimed never to have never met Knox or Sollecito in his life. Then, after five months in custody, he changed his story and said he did know them and saw them at the apartment on the night of the murder. Shortly after remembering this, his sentence was cut from 30 years to 16.

In other words, you don’t need to be Perry Mason to realise the case against Knox and Sollecito was incredibly flimsy. Unfortunately the prosecutor wasn’t Mason, it was Giulano Mignini, a man who is facing a jail sentence of his own for abuse of process during his farcical investigation into the Monster of Florence murders. For more detail on that read Douglas Preston’s jawdropping book on the murders and investigation, The Monster of Florence. Preston ended up being questioned as an accomplice and was exposed to Mignini’s, um, how shall I put this, rather innovative investigative techniques. Except he was a grown man, who knew the law who spoke fluent Italian, and not a student who had spent a few weeks in the country.

Knox, however, in 2009 was found guilty of the murder, despite the lack of any real evidence. However, in the minds of the public, in Italy and in the UK, she was as guilty as hell. In the year between her arrest and trial, the investigators and their lickspittles shared all kinds of lurid stories to paint her as some sex-crazed devil. At one stage the cops erroneously told her she was HIV positive, and asked for a list of her sexual partners to warn them. This list was then leaked to the press. It was one thing to be a woman suspected of murder, but even worse to be a woman who was having lots of sex. Because of the absence of subjudice in Italian jurisprudence, the newspapers were free to print whichever lurid details they wanted, and the British press in particular made the most of their opportunity. Knox became a she-devil, a heartless, promiscuous killer. Because there was no motive, people had to believe all the smears about her otherwise it made no sense.

Funnily enough, her boyfriend Sollecito received barely a fraction of the press lavished on Knox and her sexual habits. Instead, despite being older and more worldly, he was portrayed as some kind of naive schmuck, beguiled and entranced by Knox and her nefarious, lascivious ways.

But it was all smears. Knox behaved no worse or better than countless foreign students who find themselves away from home, surrounded by other young, good-looking people and a ready-made, easy-going social scene to enjoy.

Slowly but surely, Knox’s family and their supporters managed to make their voices heard above the whole sordid din. People started to look beyond the wild claims of orgies and satanic rituals to the facts of the case. Which didn’t really add up to much, at least in terms of Knox and Sollecito’s involvement. Thankfully for those interested in justice rather than salacious tittle-tattle, the appeal court decided the same and released the pair. Cue, you would think, lots of apologies, not least from the British press, about their coverage of Knox.

Not a bit of it. Instead the focus has been on Meredith’s family, which is as it should be. They have been forgotten, the media say. By whom you might ask? Ah, yes, by the media, who were more interested in Knox’s sex life than the life of the woman who was so brutally murdered, but they skip over that bit. How are the family going to find justice now, the papers have also asked? This ignores that they already have justice. The man who almost certainly killed Meredith is in jail. The questions that need to be asked are why the prosecution bargained down his sentence to support their original paltry case, and why they allowed the myth of Knox and Sollecito’s involvement to get so far. They and their friends in the press are the ones who have cheated Kercher family, allowing them to swallow the myth of Knox and Sollecito’s involvement in their daughter’s murder, rather than closing the case properly and so letting them rebuild their lives.

Then we have the canard about how Knox is now free to make a fortune form books, interviews and movies. But why shouldn’t she? She has spent four years imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, much of it in solitary confinement. In the meantime, her reputation has been trashed across the whole world. If I was her I’d be suing everyone in sight for every penny I could get my hands on and it’s to her and her family’s credit that the early signs are she won’t. But what the newspapers and online ranters are really hinting at is is that they think she’s guilty, she’s got away with it, and now she might profit from it all, ignoring the facts, or the lack of them.

Thing is, Knox was guilty. Guilty of being a confident, attractive, sexually active young woman. Which is apparently still very much a crime.

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11 Responses to HOW MEREDITH KERCHER WAS FORGOTTEN – Amanda Knox And The Media

  1. spuds says:

    Thank you for linking this aricle. Dan shows so much insight into this case. He has it all figured out. I’m simply amazed.They didn’t even need a trial.

  2. Beth says:

    Unfortunately, a trial was needed but for all the wrong reasons. Although Amanda and Meredith were students, they still fell into the category of “tourists”. I don’t know how many British and American students opt to go to Italy for part of their university course work, but I am sure the number is significant. To let the murder of a student slide into the cold case category would have killed those numbers. I really cannot imagine the number of tourists who come to Italy in any given year, but those numbers, too, would have suffered if the typical, older American or British visitor believed crime against the person was common.

    Whenever something inexplicable or tragic occurs, there is a rush to find someone to blame. Doing that allows people to think that if they are very different from the victim, they have nothing to worry about. So, again, foreign student against foreign student makes the majority of the people feel safe. Then, add two sexually active young women who were open about their life styles, two physically attractive young women and the gutter press has a gold mine.

    Amanda spent a large chunk of her short life in prison, in a foreign country, only moderately fluent in the language. She is free now but how damaged is she by the experience? Meredith is dead and it is highly unlikely that her killer will be found. The Italians spent a lot of money on the prosecution of Amanda Knox. They spent very little time on the investigation but to re-open the case without any new evidence coming to light points out the stupidity of those who brought Amanda to “justice”. Killer wins.

  3. Anna says:

    Excellent piece. Very well written. I agree 100%

    It really is a simple case. Rudy Guede did it. He broke in looking for money. (He had a history of breaking and entering.) Meredith came home and caught him. Things went awry. While some people think Rudy had to have had help, others disagree. Therefore, the Kerchers have their killer. The case against Rudy needs to be re-opened.

  4. Beth says:

    One can only hope that the Italians have the will to re-open the case. Under any system, that is an expensive and long process.

  5. Johnny says:

    What was the motive for writing this slanted piece? One could easily forgive the writer – there is a lot of malinformation out there, but naivety and blissful ignorance is not the question here – the writer is seemingly intent on twisting facts. Why?

    • Stan says:

      I’m interested in knowing from Johnny what facts were twisted in the original article. I know very little about the case, and I am amazed by the distance between the pro and anti commentators.

  6. Jim says:

    It is an interesting, if slightly biased piece – as Jonny said. I’m not in the group that says Knox is guilty but at the same time I’m not convinced by the evidence put forward by the defending parties either – especially since it is extremely flimsy.

    Essentially Knox and Sollecito got off on a technicality – the DNA evidence was tainted, according to “American” DNA experts – so no bias there then. DNA was found on the knife and found in the bloody footprints on the floor – something the defending party appears to have overlooked, conveniently enough.

    It’s also important to remember a number of other issues that the author appears to have overlooked:

    1. Knox’s original story not only implicated an innocent man but suggested that she was at home during the attack. She then changed the story to state that she wasn’t home the time of the attack. I understand that she claimed that she answered under-duress and without a lawyer present but there are conflicting stories regarding this and there is no evidence to suggest that this was the case – merely word-of-mouth by a single witness – the defendant.

    2. If she was so distraught by the death why was she doing cartwheels? Bit of an odd way of behaving considering someone she regarded as “a friend” had just been brutally murdered.

    3. Seems convenient that you felt the need to slag off the European tabloid press, however, you left out the part where Curt Knox paid a huge sum of money to a PR company. Unfortunately his publicity of the trial probably biased the jurors, media and general public watching or involved in the trial – turning the original murder case into a mockery, much like the infamous OJ Simpson trial. Your article is evidence that his PR campaign certainly worked its magic on you as nothing in this piece is impartial and certainly omits important information.

    So, when it comes down to it you can blame the tabloid press in removing the focus from Merideth Kercher if you like but perhaps it’s important to look at the wider implications of how the PR campaign, along with the media cleverly manipulated how people feel – regardless of whether the couple were guilty or innocent. impartiality is key to establishing truth – let’s not forget that.

  7. Beth says:

    Just to clarify, Jim, the piece “Knox Hunting”, which was central piece of the post, is the work of Dan Waddell, a newspaper reporter in England and a mystery writer. Dan has been posting weekly on Murder Is Everywhere, the blog he shares with writers Timothy Hallinan, Leighton Gage, Cara Black, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip), and Jeffrey Siger.

    I have, with Dan’s permission, been taking some of his work and putting it on Murder By Type because he is far more interesting and informative than I can be. Blogs are the very definition of opinion pieces. Dan was expressing his opinion based on the facts he had available to him in Britain.

    In the US, the media reported on the case mounted by the Italian judicial system more than it did on the guilt or innocence of Amanda Knox. Because the Italians handled the DNA evidence so badly, there is a possibility that the two people charged were guilty and got away with murder but the DNA evidence was reviewed by an Italian university in Rome and the ruling was that there was never enough DNA for the tests to be reliable.

    The difference in the Knox and Simpson trials is that O.J. was found not guilty be the jury that heard the murder case. Amanda was found guilty, was sentenced to over twenty years in jail, and then had her conviction overturned on appeal. If the Italian system works like the US system, appeals are granted based on error in the original trial. The decision to let the appeal be heard in court would have been made by a judge, someone less likely to be convinced by the media.

    Johnny, like Stan, I would like to know what evidence was twisted in the original trial.

  8. Johnny says:

    With regards to the article in question
    The term Foxy Knoxy was certainly used by the British Press – it in fact originated from her chilldhood years when she played football and was foxy or cunning with the ball.

    Knox’s strange uncaring behaviour may well have been reported in the British press – but it originated mainly from accounts by Meredith’s British and Italian friends who were with Knox at the police station.

    A motive for the murder of Meredith Kercher was clearly established by the courts and in fact much repeated by the press – Meredith Kercher was the victim of a sexual game gone wrong under the strong influence of drugs.

    Amanda Knox was provided with an interpreter from day one – Knox herself confirms this.

    Guede’s reduction in sentence was because he went for a “fast track” deal – something akin to the American plea bargain system – shorter sentence for admission of guilt – absolutely nothing with him having remembered any facts.

    “Perry Mason and the flimsy evidence” – The evidence against Sollecito and Knox was vast and overwhelming – both in terms of DNA/forensics and circumstantial. To pretend otherwise is absolutely idiotic. The Italian Justice System is famous for being very pro defendant with guarantees and appeals. Judges must provide a motivation report within 90 days of a judgement. Do you seriously think a court would have unanimously found Sollecito and Knox guilty without adequate evidence?

    Mignini and Douglas Preston. Mignini and Preston certainly do not like each other. They both offer different versions of their encounter and their animosity. Mignini was found guilty – a suspended sentence – for over reaching his powers in another investigation – this does happen in Italy – magistrates must work within certain complex limits – magistrates are frequently investigated as to how they handled a particular case. Mignini is a controversial figure. To try and make out that he deliberately contorted or invented evidence and circumstances in this case is somewhat naive.

    Apologies from the British Press? Meredith Kercher was a British national. Her family fully supported the court’s guilty verdict. Genuine information on the case was much more freely available within the UK – hence people supported the verdict. Coverage within the USA was very slanted – that can be understood – Knox after all is an American. The acquittal may be regarded as a complete travesty of justice within some UK and Italian media – similar to OJ Simpson. It came as a great shock to the Kercher family. A very simple context to understand – so why would anyone expect an apology from the British Press? – surely you would expect the opposite.

    The canard of Knox making her millions refers to the above point – some people may see Knox as innocent – and she could well be – but for many people she is very guilty – to these people Knox is a murderess making millions from her crimes – again a very simple context to understand.

    DNA/forensic evidence was found on the knife – the bra clasp – within mixed blood samples – within footprints highlighted by luminol – bloody footprint/tracks visibel to the eye. Part of this forensic evidence – the knife and bra clasp was contested by court appointed experts. The prosecution insisted their evidence was solid and proper and produced some of the top experts in Italy to vouch for this. The pros and cons are still being argued within those academic circles. We presume that Judge Hellmans decision to acquit was based on the DNA issues. As yet we do not know – we have to wait for his motivation report. Hellman publicly stated afterwards that Knox and Sollecito may well have been in the bungalow that night but the evidence required by his court was not there.

    Knox and Sollecito may be innocent or they may be guilty. Only themselves or Guede genuinely know. I personally try to keep an open mind.

  9. kathy d. says:

    Mignini, from what I’ve read, also did some quite crazy things in his prosecution of this case, which make a mockery of any just trial. Apparently, he was consulting with a medium who was consulting a long-dead priest about the case and what to do.
    This is an absolutely outrageous and unscientific way to conduct a trial. Would that be allowed in England? In the U.S.? I doubt it.
    And I do not think that the Italian criminal justice system favors defendants. Just read Giancarlo Carofiglio’s first mystery “Reasonable Doubts” about a defense attorney who explains how that justice system works for anyone accused of murder — not fairly at all. And Carofiglio has been an anti-Mafia judge for many years in Italy. He would know.

  10. Pingback: What’s Hot in Blogging: October 2011 | Appenheimer

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