Well, so many people have been asking me if the proud Ms. Peacock did it in the bedroom with a kitchen knife, I thought I'd put my hands into the fray surrounding Italy's first O.J. trial (leave it to the Americans to export this insane media frenzy, too).
Just like everyone poring the Italian papers, I was utterly convinced Amanda Knox was guilty, along with her Harry Potter-like boyfriend, Raffaelle Sollecito. Like the Preppy Murder 20 years before, could it be, as the prosecutor suggested, it was a sex game gone awry? But, looking at the American press, you begin to question her guilt. An excellent article in last summer's Newsweek makes a fairly non-biased summary of the very Italian convoluted 'trial procedures' (if you can call them that), which begin to illustrate the chaos of the case. To highlight just a few:
- Knox's original witness list contained 35 names but defense lawyers have retracted 23.
- The jury is not sequestered, and are allowed to talk with each other and read papers along the way.
- Sollecito's chief forensic consultant walked away from the case (and stuck lawyers with a 50,000 euro bill) in May because he disagreed with the defense strategy.
- The witnesses who actually testified for the defense caused even more confusion: two forensic scientists placed on the stand contradicted each other. (Sollecito's expert told the jury that Kercher was killed by a single assailant from behind; Knox's said Kercher was killed from the front).
- Sollecito's lead attorney, a parliamentarian in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party, missed court for weeks.
- His other two attorneys dismantled their joint practice during the course of the case.
Furthermore, we have a guy already in jail for Meredith's murder, Rudy Guede, caught after a series of knife break-ins around Perugia and across Italy (and repeatedly released), and then picked up only after fleeing to Germany. In America, one of these three would have been fingered for the actual murder, the others as accomplices to the crime -- after all, how many people actually held the knife?
To this circus, one must evaluate the excellent observations made by an American journalist during another media circus trial: Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi in their book about a serial killer in Florence, quaintly called, Il Mostro - 'The Monster of Florence'. In a nutshell, they reveal that a) the prosecutor devises his own cockamany theory, then b) pursues it with unbridled fervor, c) stopping at nothing to prove his point. He then d) brings in sex cults and e) stuff straight out of a Sydney Sheldon novel, like accusing an innocent man in Perugia for running a black sect, and at one point, even arrests said journalist for being the mostro himself, despite the fact he was most likely at the Olive Garden (to be differentiated from 'an' Italian olive garden) near his home in the U.S. when it occurred. During all of this, the hungry media was fed lines -- no investigative reporting, just repeating the rumours endlessly for effect. In fact, all those accused by this loose cannon have been released by Italy's Supreme Court and the case remains unsolved.
This same prosecutor, with his fervid imagination, is the man behind the Foxy Knoxy trial.
And, while I agree with the Times' view that in Italy (as elsewhere, I might add), circumstantial evidence and on-trial behaviour is important; even with Amanda's conflicting stories, her base accusations that the police beat her (provoking them to sue her for slander), and all the other conflicts in this comedy of DNA errors, I cannot honestly state that she should be convicted 'beyond a shadow of a doubt'.