A sad story in the history of Italian justice, it seems

I was passing by the Perugian courthouse when they announced the acquittal of Amanda Knox, and the reaction of the crowd was not completely exemplary.  It seems they wanted her to be guilty, even though the supposed proof of her guilt was far from satisfactory.  I, for one, am happy to see her freed:

Knox seems determined to use prison as a comparative-literature graduate program. She continues to study Italian (which she now speaks fluently, with occasional sallies into jailhouse vernacular), reading textbooks from cover to cover three times each. She has also become proficient in German and French, and is studying Japanese, Chinese and Russian. She is devouring the Western canon, and lists in her journals each book she completes. She has become something of a specialist in Existentialism (Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, Sartre’s No Exit and Nausea), Magical Realism (Calvino, Borges, Eco), Absurdism and Despair (Vonnegut, Beckett, Woody Allen, Kafka).

One story on the original trial is here.

Comments

Is such a reaction on the part of the crowd really all that anomalous?

It seems to fit well with a lot of mandatory sentencing laws and other similar things like the increased use of plea bargaining in the judicial system. Ditto issues like rape - accounting for 88% of DNA-based exonerations in the US between 1989-2003 - where I suspect there are both more rapists never brought to justice and more people unjustly imprisoned than most other types of crimes.

People seem willing to accept reduced standards of justice to try to quel their legitimate outrage. Whether or not it's a good idea is another question.

Scarier version: rape is where they actually have DNA evidence.

At least Italy doesn't have the death penalty...

No, they lock up people for no reason and no proof. Americans stay away from italy they are crooks if there ever was one.

O J Knox

What was the sad story? That the Italian system took years to free Amanda or that the crowd disagreed with the decision? And were you randomly "passing by" the courthouse or did you intentionally go there as thousands of other curious people?

I think that the reaction from the US media, this blog included, is slightly hypocritical. The fact that the story happened outside the US seems to justify people to write irrational opinions, equivalent to supporting a football team or another. "I am American and therefore I think Amanda is innocent" is the logic used by many people. "I am from the UK so I want her in jail" is the other.

The rolling stone's article you quoted was just awful. It is based on the idea of an Italian "Anti-American feeling" that nobody heard about before. Plus, the same way some UK and Italian media depicted Amanda as evil in order to sell more copies, some US media depicted her as an illuminated hero of our age. Both are just laughable and irrational. I can't believe you used that article as a proof of the "failure of the Italian justice". On the contrary, if she was able to learn so much in jail, it looks like a terrific success of the Italian jail system (BTW, Italian jails are far from being in a good condition).

The murder in Perugia was extremely contorted and the behaviour of Amanda was far from clear, especially in the beginning. Eventually the defense line changed and became stronger and she was rightfully acquitted - because of lack of evidence not because she had a good alibi. For a long time in the beginning the two suspects said that "they were too stoned" to remember where they spent the night of the homicide." Drug experts excluded that weed could have such a devastating effect.

So please, instead of talking like football fans let's try to be honest and say that we don't know what happened. There is some evidence against the two suspects but not enough to convict them. Acquittal was therefore right in this context, although some suspects are still there and deserved to be deepened by the police.

"she was rightfully acquitted – because of lack of evidence not because she had a good alibi"

The thing is, over here we assume there needs to be evidence.

Sure. Ask Troy Davis.

Or Scott Peterson - who was convicted with zero physical evidence and no witnesses. But he is not poor black guy or a pretty white girl so everyone was happy to see justice work its ways.

Yeah those poor black guys catch all the breaks, especially from the criminal justice system.

32 eyewitnesses isn't evidence? Spent shell casings aren't evidence? On what planet?

Shell casings are evidence that shots were fired, and cannot point to an individual on their own.

Eyewitnesses are extremely unreliable. Coached eyewitnesses even more so.

In Italy too, as far as I know. But if you can't see the difference between the two then we are on different page

The reactions of crowds are seldom exemplary. That's why mobs have a pretty negative reputation in human history.

She should talk with OJ about how to hunt for the real killers.

The real killer was already found -- Rudy Guede, to whom all physical evidence pointed. And then after his conviction, the prosecution re-invented their theory to be "no, it was Guede AND these two (for whom we have zero or flaky DNA evidence), whom Guede never mentioned until he they told him about Knox and Sollecito, and they must have been having a sex orgy or some other low-probability event".

Is anaylsing the crowd response of the sorts of people who flock to courthouses to hear verdicts of murder trials really the best sample of a nations attitudes?

I came in here to say that. Also this:

>>"It seems they wanted her to be guilty"

The hell? They wanted a vicious murderer to be kept in prison, not sent home to become incredibly rich by selling her story. That's how they saw the situation, and that's why they were horrified by the outcome.

>>"...even though the supposed proof of her guilt was far from satisfactory."

That's your opinion. And it also happens to be my opinion. But that and $870 billion will get you a stimulus plan, nothing more. Don't state it as absolute fact.

...that and $870 billion will get you a stimulus plan...

Brilliant.

It's just like graduate school, except they let you go if you HAVEN'T done anything.

Read 'The Monster of Florence' for some real insight into the justice system there as well as the insane prosecutor who handled both the 'Monster' and Knox cases and who apparently envisions wild conspiracies involving satanic rituals routinely:


Mignini claimed Narducci was a member of a satanic sect that killed women for body parts to be used in black masses, and the wealthy Perugia doctor was the keeper of those body parts. Mignini claimed Narducci was killed to keep him quiet.

Even though all the Monster's victims were shot with the same gun, Mignini told a court that it wasn't the work of a single serial killer. Rather, Mignini described an elaborate conspiracy of 20 people, including government officials and law enforcement officers, who made up a secret society behind the Monster killings.

Mignini indicted the 20 people and charged them with the concealment of Narducci's murder, and laid out a hard-to-follow plot that included body doubles and featured Narducci's body being swapped - not once, but twice!

If all of this sounds hard to believe, it is. Tuesday, in a preliminary hearing, Perugia Judge Paolo Micheli threw out the case against the 20. The judge found there was no solid evidence to back up Mignini's claim that Narducci was murdered, let alone the victim of a satanic sect.

"Mignini's malicious and completely unwarranted accusations ruined many lives and impoverished the defendants and their families," Douglas Preston, the author of "The Monster of Florence," told Crimesider. Added Mario Spezi, Preston's co-author in Italy, "The great question is: How was it possible that Mignini was able to pursue a case that everyone knew was crazy?"

Those who follow the case of Amanda Knox, the American student convicted of murder in Perugia last December, will find much of this familiar.

Giuliano Mignini was the prosecutor in Knox's case. Mignini argued, at one point, that Knox was demonically motivated when, he says, she killed her roommate, Meredith Kercher in November 2007.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20003238-504083.html

(Sorry. I guess I should have read the whole story before posting -- it eventually gets to the same point about the prosecutor).

It’s amazing. We live in a sexually liberated Western society, where sexual promiscuity is common, ubiquitous, and taken for granted, and then we suddenly believe that a girl must be guilty of murder, or at least that she deserves no sympathy as a murder defendant, because she is promiscuous. This is a classic example of projection and scapegoating, of society, or at least the society of Italy and the society of Britain, projecting all its sins upon one individual (”Foxy Knoxy,” the “She-devil”) who conveniently seems to embody those sins, and so falsely imagining itself innocent of those very sins.

Uhm, the problem with the "promiscuity" was that it was believed to have had a direct, causal link to the murder. Meredith Kercher wrote in her diaries of the steady procession of strangers to Knox's bedroom, and how the presence of some of those freaks in her own apartment un-nerved her. I would imagine that her protestations about this to Knox were not received with magnanimity.

Knox may not have plunged the knife in, but her claim that she had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Meredith Kercher should invite credulity, at the very least. Let's hope she comes clean with the full story now that she's in the clear.

D'oh! Incredulity

Why would the obvious explanation be at all incredible? Known thief Rudy Guede breaks into what he thinks is an unoccupied apartment, is surprised by one of the residents, panics, and kills her. Or opportunistically rapes her, then panics and kills her? All by himself? This would hardly be unprecedented in the annals of criminal history, and is amply supported by the evidence that lead to the independant conviction of Guede. And it does not depend on speculation, however founded, regarding the behavior or character of the roomates.

Here in the real world, boring ordinary crimes happen everywhere, including next door to attractive promiscuous women who are not actually involved. Murderous conspiracies involving femme fatales are much less comon, and the one that ties these three alleged killers together is particularly unbelievable.

Thank you for a reasonable comment.

The Rolling Stone article is a bit more charitable. Instead of suggesting that she's a sociopath in the wrong place at the wrong time, it posits that she is merely a complete fool. That's a bit better, I guess.

Then why Raffaele Sollecito was sent to trial with Amanda? Did we need two scapegoats? Or, more likely, sexual promiscuity is totally irrelevant in this story?

After executing an innocent just e few days ago, the last thing Americans can do is to complain about Italian justice. Amanda was guilty but since the court had no clear evidence she has been acquitted. In the US, an Italian innocent may have been sentenced to the death penalty. Please limit yourself to comments on the topics that you know.

Which innocent? Troy Davis was guilty of murder, and there's absolutely no doubt about that. The supposed recantations were of people who were lying on the stand, and whose testimony in the original trial did not support the prosecution's theory.

It would take about five seconds of research to learn that, unfortunately too much to ask of the hate America crowd.

"As one of the prosecutors in the case, Manuela Comodi, no friend of Knox, implied last week in his remarks: were Knox being tried in the United States, she might well be on her way to an execution". This is the NYT. No American hate at all. I lived in the US for 4 years and I can tell you that I trust the Italian judicial system much more than I trust the American judicial system. Moroever, I believe none of you has any idea of the Italian judicial system. You simply were born believing that whatever you do must be the best thing around: this is simply wrong

Italian,

Above your comments, are well written challenges to the "Amanda is Guilty" arguments by Silas Barta, Slocum and John Schilling, yet the first thing you state is that her Guilt is established and any alternative argument is pure Unthinking Nationalism. You then go on to make some put down of both Americans and the Criminal justice system, all the while asserting that your not anti-American. I don't' doubt your not anti-American, but you have so effortlessly succumbed to the same tribal instinct of defending your "people" that it's impossible to take you at face value as unbiased. This is blog with a predominantly well educated American audience, it would be an good place for an "Italian" to present some of the persuasive arguments of why she is likely guilty from the perspective of those closer to the event, It would be a refreshing counterbalance.

"Amanda was guilty but since the court had no clear evidence she has been acquitted."

Read that. Now read it again. How can that sentence stand on it's own two feet? If there is no clear evidence what have we then?

Well, reading the sentence both generously and mischievously, the author could be a co-conspirator with Knox in the murder, and thus have access to evidence that the court did not.

This is a truly stupid comment, Nic Smith.

Oh? But that reopens the question -- how is it that you have clear evidence that the court did not?

Nic Smith: how do we know that O.J. Simpson was guilty? Because we have seen the evidence. Sure enough: he was acquitted by the court. But we all know that was a travesty of justice. Having observed the trial of Amanda and Raffaele, most Italians came to the same conclusion. They were guilty. Justice has not been made this time.

The U.S. certainly has its share of travesties of justice committed by bumbling police and ambitious, amoral, out-of-control prosecutors (you might start with reading some of Radley Balko's work). The U.S. even has had its share of people convicted of having committed preposterous, invented satanic sex crimes (during the child sex abuse witch hunts in the 1990s). There is no reason why people of conscience should not object to these outrages wherever they happen (whether in their own country or not). BTW, when it comes to judicial systems, American states have more sovereignty than E.U. member states in some ways -- including the death penalty. In Michigan (where I live) capital punishment has been banned since 1846 (long before most European states -- including Italy).

Italian: You obviously know nothing about the Troy Davis case, or you wouldn't have described him as innocent.

I think Knox's idiosyncrasies, her mannerisms, and her being young, attractive, and spoiled (and American) -- and likely she was callous and indifferent when hearing the facts about Kercher's death -- were all things that hurt her in the eye of public opinion, but my reading of the available information is that there was simply no concrete evidence against her. Morever, her alleged motive was bizarre and hardly-believable. Couple that with the undisputed evidence against Guede and this wasn't a surprise at all.

Tkehler, maybe I know about Troy Davis as much as you know about Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. Otherwise you would not consider them innocent.

What evidence? The police faked it to close their case. The person that is still in jail was the killer. He tried to prove someone else helped him to get a lower sentance. This is like Italy keeping american children from their fathers when they have been kidnapped by incompatent mothers for revenge! Then put the kid up for adoption. Italian law sucks, they are stupid.

People need to care less about these murder stories.

As for Knox, we have similar tastes in literature and philosophy.

Knowing Amanda, I'm not surprised at all. I hope she continues all of these intellectual pursuits when she comes home.

Perhaps she'll raise the eyebrows of a few prominent journalists after letting slip a few offhand references to the great works mentioned above.

I think it's extraordinary that she's been able to turn something as horrendous as a false conviction for murder into an education. That shows a true strength of character that I think most people lack.

She has been extremely good in learning Italian. The fact that she could address the jury in Italian at the end of the trial played a big role in making jurors feel closer to her.

Where is she getting all these books from? In the united states, I think you would be lucky to get anything more than pulp fiction and a bible.

http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/04/14/restricted-reading-south-carolina-jail-bans-all-books-except-for-the-bible/

Unblinkered,

I do not want to defend any tribe. Actually, I believe the Italian judicial system is far from being perfect. But, well educated or not, it is very likely that you know nothing about the Italian judicial system. My impresssion is that Americans viewed this case as an American women sent to trial in an uncivilized country where defendants' rights are not respected by the State. This view is plainly wrong. There was no bias against Amanda because she was American or a woman, as one reader has stated in his/her comment. She was sent to trial together with an Italian man, Raffaele Sollecito. She had excellent lawyers who could have access to the available evidence. And, on the top of it, the Italian juducial system allows, contrary to the American one, to bring new evidence in the appeal. And without any prep-walk, the symbol of the fairness of your wonderful judicial system.

I certainly don't feel that way. All I care about is due process and justice. If she is guilty I hope she gets what she deserves, the problem I see is all the people saying "she's guilty, we just can't seem to find any real evidence." And then it seems like you criticize the government, you are in fact correct, and then they sue you for libel. I don't understand that.

I'll even go you one better though. In the US, she might not have gone to trial because she would have plea bargained out and stuck it to the other guy. I don't understand the trial of multiple people at the same time, but maybe it has that one upside where people are not threatened with prison to give them incentive to fabricate.

Italian,

"But, well educated or not, it is very likely that you know nothing about the Italian judicial system" This is absolutely correct, And that is why, I stated very clearly, that this was an opportunity to make the argument of why you thought her guilty. The rest of your points are a refutation of the Bias you project upon others. You again repeatedly "perp walk" etc.. attack the U.S. Judicial system, which is irrelevant to the case and argument at hand.

Your entire argument is that we "Italians" watched this case closely and from what we saw we "know she's guilty" and You "Americans" are biased and your judicial system sucks..... which all seems like shadow boxing of your pride.

I'm asking again, can you help me understand WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS that convinced you of her guilt. Slocum, Silas Barta and John schilling make good arguments. It annoys me to even say this, but I'm trying to understand both sides of this argument, but I cant find the other side. Please enlighten me.

Knox lied to police to frame her boss. She knowingly tried to ruin him and the police caught her in her own lie. She brought it all on herself.

As I understand it, Knox made a statement implicating her employer after two days of police interrogation in a foreign language, with no legal or consular representation. One of the standard Stupid Cop Tricks for obtaining a confession is to interrogate the target until she is exhausted, disoriented, and terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought, and then "helpfully" explain that the only way to avoid a draconian punishment is to make a statement implicating another as the criminal mastermind while casting themselves in a mere supporting role. Ideally, one does this to two suspects and arranges for them to point at each other, e.g. the classic "prisoner's dilemma",
but third-party scapegoats work adequately in many cases.

This is genuinely effective at convincing actual criminals to confess when they would otherwise quite rationally remain silent. Unfortunately, it is also now understood that actual innocent bystanders, honest and decent people of high moral character, will also make false accusations/confessions under the same circumstances. Hence, stupid cop trick. A technique that measures not guilt or innocence, nor honesty, decency, or moral character, but merely mental resilience under extreme stress. It can also be used by evil cops who know they are persecuting the innocent, but other evidence suggests the Italian police and prosecutors in question were merely ignorant.

It is often disturbing to reflect on the finite limits of the human mind, the breaking point for reason and morality. It is inappropriate to demand that innocent people be convicted of murder simply to preserve the comfortable illusion that these limits are infinite.

Oh yeah, we also don't charge people with libel for criticizing police. That's kind of stupid don't you think?

- 1, Good start with the earlier posts, lousy finish with cattiness

Comments for this post are closed