4 Problems With the Amanda Knox Trial

The sensational murder trial in Italy has some American observers up in arms

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The trial of Amanda Knox, an American exchange student accused of brutally murdering her British roommate in Perugia, Italy, is coming to a close. The Italian jurors are deliberating over whether Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, collaborated to kill Meredith Kercher in the midst of an intended orgy. The sensational case has drawn much criticism, particularly after the discovery of a third suspect, Rudy Guede, with a much larger body of evidence linking him to the crime scene. Guede has since been convicted of the crime, allegedly acting in concert with Knox and Sollecito. As jurors near a decision, however, international commentators are outraged. Here's what American observers (and one Brit) hate most about the Knox trial:

  • The Witch-Trial Tone  In what Time's Tizana Fabi calls a "saint-sinner theme" in the trial, prosecutors have called Amanda Knox a "Luciferina," a sex-crazed girl with--according to prosecution witnesses--poor hygiene. Barbie Latza Nadeau at The Daily Beast also writes about this, while The New York Times' Timothy Egan is outraged by the prosecution's description of Knox as a "dirty-minded she-devil. "What century is this?" Egan asks. "Didn't Joan of Arc, the Inquisition and our own American Salem witch trials teach civilized nations a thing or two about contrived sexual hysteria with a devil twist?
  • The Lack of Physical Evidence Egan also points out that there is "no physical evidence placing Amanda Knox at the ... crime scene, the room where the killing took place. Zero." Tizana Fabi writes that "American lawyers and experts" have long "criticized the evidence" in the case. Recently, the Idaho branch chief of the Innocence Project, Greg Hampikian, has also stated that the controversially small quantity of DNA evidence in the case is ""meaningless under prevailing standards in U.S. courts."
  • The Defamation Suit Against the Knox Parents At The Daily Beast, Nadeau explains that while Knox's parents complained about their daughter being questioned in the early investigation without a lawyer, and "hit in the back of a head by a policy offer ... at least twice," they "never filed their own charges against the Perugian police." The police have now filed a defamation suit against Knox's parents, and are, according to Nadeau, "essentially denying the abuse." This "may well affect the outcome of the trial since the jury is not sequestered and very likely heard about the charges." Timothy Egan agrees, adding that "by casting doubt outside the courtroom on Knox's account of mistreatment, the authorities can hope to influence the outcome inside the courtroom."
  • The Italian Justice System In British publication The Independent, Peter Popham discusses the differences between the system of justice in Italy and that in Britain (the source of much American legal tradition, as well). "Whatever the jury's verdict," he argues, "the [Knox] case will only reinforce the view of the outside world that Italy's justice system is not only diabolically slow but frighteningly prone to error." Both he and Egan are appalled at the way investigators stuck to their original theory, even after a more plausible culprit--Rudy Guede--with a stronger link to the crime scene was discovered. Egan declares that "the case has very little to do with actual evidence and much to do with the ancient Italian code of saving face." Popham thinks the problem more pervasive:
One of the great virtues of the British judicial system is that, whatever ideas a detective or prosecutor may have about a case, he is not allowed to voice them until the case comes to court. And a very good thing too. They manage these things differently in Italy, where prosecutors regularly leak their theories to the newspapers, often in extraordinary detail. Reporters compete for the juiciest tit-bits. As a result, by the time the trial comes around, the public already know what they think about a case, and why. This makes miscarriages of justice horribly likely ... When Guede exploded on the scene, the investigators should have torn up their work and started again. But by this time the "guilt" of Knox and Sollecito was so well established in the media and in the public's mind that there was no going back.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.