Feature

Italy: Convicting Amanda Knox with no evidence

An Italian appeals court reconvicted the young American student for the 2007 murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher.

An Italian appeals court was clearly out for “a conviction at any cost” in the celebrated case of Amanda Knox, said Alessandro Perissinotto in La Stampa (Italy). Reversing an earlier acquittal, the court last week reconvicted the young American student for the 2007 murder in Perugia of British exchange student Meredith Kercher, sentencing her to 28 and a half years in prison. Knox’s Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, was also convicted and sentenced to 25 years. Yet the forensic evidence for their guilt was absurdly scant: In essence this judgment “clings to a small trace of Amanda’s DNA on a kitchen knife, which she may have used to cut her friend’s throat—or to cut onions.” Both defendants have filed appeals before Italy’s highest court, and the delicate question of Knox’s extradition from the U.S. to Italy will be addressed only if this conviction is upheld. But in the meantime, we Italians can hardly be proud of a legal system that appears less interested in justice than in grasping at “a fragment of DNA to save the dignity of the prosecution.”

What makes it all the more baffling is that “someone else was convicted of the murder five years ago,” said Joan Smith in The Independent (U.K.). Rudy Guede, a troubled drifter with a criminal record who was arrested in Germany after the attack, left his handprint in Kercher’s blood and other evidence in the apartment, and was quickly convicted and sentenced to 30 years for her murder, though his term was shortened to 16 years on appeal. Yet Italian authorities have remained obsessed with the idea that “a woman must have been the prime mover” in Kercher’s murder. One hostile lawyer at the original trial called Knox “a diabolical she-devil,” harking back to Perugia’s past as the epicenter of Italy’s 15th-century witch trials. Knox’s continued travails suggest that “a rank species of misogyny” is still at work.

Let’s hear no more about the victimhood of Amanda Knox, said Alison Phillips in the Daily Mirror (U.K.). The victim here is Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old who “went to Italy and never came home.” Now Knox has been convicted twice for murdering her. The American has earned $4 million peddling her memoirs, clearly enough to “afford the very best PR and legal team money can buy.” They’re surely the ones who told her to adopt “discreet makeup, a furrowed brow, and a brand-new grown-up bobbed haircut” when she appeared on American television last week to play “the role of distraught victim with aplomb.” She should have spared herself the trouble. “No amount of makeup can hide true guilt.”

But where’s the evidence of that guilt? asked Andrew Gumbel in TheGuardian.com. This case “raises serious doubts about Italy’s ability to mete out criminal justice based on factual verification.” At first we were told Kercher died “as a result of a multiperson sex game gone wrong,” and now we’re supposed to believe that Knox killed her roommate after Kercher accused her “of being messy around the house,” and that Sollecito joined in “out of love for her.” But there’s not a shred of proof. Instead of admitting that it “blew the case from the start,” the Italian justice system has “tarnished Kercher’s memory by chasing phantoms and needlessly tormenting two wholly innocent young people.”

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