Issue of Demeanor Raised In Amanda Knox Case

In Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, the  narrator, Meursault, is being tried for the murder of a man he encounters at the beach.   At his trial, the prosecutor makes much of Meursault’s demeanor, and the prosecutor focuses on irrelevant information like Meursault’s failure to properly show grief at his own mother’s recent funeral. I read this book back in college and did not understand what Camus was driving at.  However, as a practicing criminal defense attorney, I think of this often whenever the authorities or the news media comment that the accused does not show proper remorse.  I always thought it was basically understood that people grieve in individual and often unpredictable ways.  When I worked as a coroner, I sometimes had the unpleasant task of having to inform people that their family members were dead.   You just never knew what reaction you would get.

A prime example of unfair media coverage on grieving might be the American college student Amanda Knox on trial for murder in Italy.

Amanda wrote to classmates: "After a year I at least have learned to respond to the negativity of my current environment as peacefully and calmly as possible..."

"I at least have learned to respond to the negativity of my environment as peacefully and calmly as possible..."

The British tabloid Telegraph.co.uk alleged that after Amanda Knox found out her roommate had been murdered, she went out on a shopping spree for lingerie.  See link.  In fact, she had to buy new underwear because the police cordoned off her apartment, and she was not able to get in to retrieve even her personal effects.   Nevertheless, the Telegraph quoted an Italian shopkeep as offering the opinion that she did not show remorse in the right way.  During her trial, an Italian reporter wrote: “Amanda Knox faces life in prison if convicted of killing Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student who was her roommate in picturesque Perugia in central Italy. However, her breezy behavior in hearings over the last three months has set tongues wagging in Italy and abroad.”  Well, the story was picked up by the AP and reprinted in the U.S. – see site and photo.  As you can see from visiting the story Knox is indeed smiling in some of the pictures.  Do people really believe that a defendant will not smile at all during a trial that lasts ten months?  In the photo it is clear that court is not even in session.  I do not view the photographs as inconsistent with what we know about Amanda Knox.  First let’s look at the photographs everyone is talking about:

Amanda Seven amanda two
Amanda Six Amanda Three
Amanda five ITALY-MURDER

Now that we have seen the photographs, let’s talk about what we know about Amanda Knox.    Amanda is young and probably like a lot of young people she is capable of being overly optimistic. Amanda Knox very likely believes that being innocent alone will suffice, and that she should just be herself.  I have found that in my practice, the demographic of young/white/suburban/middle-class sometimes brings a naivete to the process.  Poorer people, and sometimes ethnic minorities, will more often recall a negative experience that they or a family member have had with the justice system, i.e. they are aware of the system’s flaws.   It could be that in Amanda Knox’s mind, no amount of prosecutorial misconduct, no amount of sensational news coverage, and no amount of tainted DNA evidence will lead to a break down in the truth finding process.

A second thing to remember is that in most of the pictures Amanda is smiling at the guards.  Although most guards tone it down in court, guards are usually quite talkative with inmates.   This surprises a lot of people, and surprised me when I was a young prosecutor.   This is partly human nature when you spend over a year in close contact with a person.  But additionally,  a guard that gets to know the inmate is practicing good safety.  A guard’s job is dangerous – developing a good read on an inmate and learning his or her baseline or normal behavior, and constantly watching for signs of shifts in mood or mental instability is simply something that is taught in corrections academy.   Look again at the photographs above.  I see in those six pictures what I often see in my practice as a criminal defense attorney.  That is, guards skillfully watching and interacting with a woman in their charge.  And oh yeah, you might notice the guards stifling their smiles a bit more when the cameras come out.  They do that in the U.S. too.

I believe that there are significant cultural differences between the way Americans and Italians view their governments.  Amanda Knox testified at her trial: “I am innocent and I have faith in the Italian legal system.”  To many Italians, this statement (combined with a nonchalant smile in court) is iron clad proof that Amanda Knox is crazy.   Italians, as a whole,  are just not enough naive to say what Amanda said.   But Americans often are – and sometimes we are that way about our own court system too.  In this country, a view of government that is too skeptical is somehow unpatriotic.

Amanda Knox and her family both seem to have a lot faith in the jury.   The best case scenario for Amanda Knox acquits her of all charges and returns her to the U.S. this month.  However, will the same daughter come home that the Knox family sent off over a year ago?   Amanda Knox’s demeanor is probably a comforting sign to her parents Curt Knox and Edda Mellas.

As a former prosecutor I was deeply troubled by Giuliano Mignini’s failure to produce any motive in this case.  Consider the closing argument of the Italian prosecutor.  He surmises that Knox wanted to get back at Kercher (the victim) for saying she was not clean and for calling her promiscuous.  He argued: “Amanda had the chance to retaliate against a girl who was serious and quiet… She had harbored hatred for Meredith, and that was the time when it could explode. The time had come to take revenge on that smug girl.”  See story.  I really have a hard time with that.  What college kid gets along with their roommate perfectly anyway?   Does he really expect a jury to believe that Amanda Knox (who has  no criminal history) stabbed to death her roommate because she was “smug”?   While there are times in our life that we might feel tempted to slap a smug person, Amanda Knox’s record shows no propensity for violence.   Stabbing someone to death is not an “entry level job”; the people who perpetrate such crimes have worked their way up to such deeds by committing school yard fights, animal cruelty,  brandishing weapons, unlawful threats, etc.   Giuliano Mignini described what he called “an unstoppable crescendo of frenzied violence,” “…which began with Knox and Sollecito trying to take off Kercher’s clothes and threatening her.”  See story.   Female on female murder is extremely rare and makes up only 2% of the homicides in this country.  See source.  Giuliano Mignini’s explanation as to motive is pure conjecture, and just does not have the ring of truth.

What do you think about this case?  Do we have prosecutors of this caliber in the U.S.? Think of the college kids that you may know, would you expect them to act much the same way?

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29 Responses to “Issue of Demeanor Raised In Amanda Knox Case”

  • Evergreen:

    Thanks for the article, your observations are very informative. I don’t know much about the inner workings of the court systems here or in Italy. (Not sure if I should say this, I am just a person from Seattle, not a lawyer)

    What has got under my skin about the case, is the prosecutor. He is all powerful and silences any criticism of the trial in the media, unless it is people ‘defending’ him against the accusations the defense is making. I am from Seattle, never met Amanda Knox(I did not even go to the UW, but to EWU), and either if she is convicted or acquitted probably never will. It is just that the prosecutor has managed to lump everyone here who says anything different than his interpretation of events into a PR Machine. On some blogs some commenters even brought up infamous criminals of the past to show what this region has produced. The evidence in the case is questionable, but I cannot help to think that the jury has been swayed already by the press coverage.

    There are so many questions that are not being asked. Not sure if you can help answer one that has me thinking a lot. When was our embassy notified, and could they have helped end the interrogation? It might have saved 3 nations, and many families a lot of grief. Now 3 families are about to be destroyed if convicted. The Kerchers will never get their daughter back, Amanda Knox’s parents may never get to see their daughter again, with the defamation charges hanging over them, not to mention the prosecutor’s request for 9 months solitary in addition to the Life Sentence. Since you said you used to be a prosecutor, could you have ever been able to make that kind of a recommendation?

    I have a feeling that if she is acquitted, she will never be the same again. Somethings locally have already changed. Don’t want to go too far off topic, but a lot of things can change in 2 years.

  • logan:

    I agree with the gist of your article, with one minor quibble. My understanding is that Amanda is mostly smiling at her friends, family, and legal team, not her guards. As she is whisked along to the courtroom, she sees her supporters in the crowd and smiles broadly at them. The paparazzi then take the photos and attribute all sorts of nefarious motives to her snapshot. In the fourth picture from the top, Amanda is smiling at a member of her legal team who has his hand on her shoulder.

    As I look for all available news on this trial, the most disturbing thing I have recently learned is that during Amanda’s final interrogation, there were 36 police officers present in the room with her! If what she says is true, that she was hit over the head and called a stupid liar during this time, that would have been bad enough, but when you place 36 police officers in the room at the same time, this becomes a scene out of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I (a forty-year old man) would probably have said anything to get the hell out of there. How in heaven’s name were 36 police officers present at the all-night interrogation of a 20-year old college student who does not speak the language and has no legal representation? What unrelenting pressure! If Italy fears showing a “brutta figura” to the world, I’m afraid it’s unavoidable now. The police terrorized this girl into a confession. That much is indisputable.

  • Evergreen:

    The confession she allegedly made was also thrown out by Italy’s Supreme Court, in a rare concession to the Defense, almost implying there were problems with the questioning. No lawyer or translator present, let alone potentially nobody from the embassy. Unfortunately, the people who blogged about the confession, the false accusations, seized on that, so the jurors got to hear it. Also, it was at the heart of one of the civil plaintiffs suits. Without the false confession, her former employer probably would have had a hard time proving slander.

    I cannot avoid thinking is their anything the state department could do to negotiate her release if she gets convicted, or are we going to have to leave her to the mercy of a justice system that seems to have railroaded her. I also cannot avoid thinking that her conviction would ensure Mingini’s own acquittal, vindicating his trial procedures.

    logan, good point. Probably having that many police officers in the room as interrogations were going on was intimidating enough. Also other things I have heard went on during that interrogation seem to be bizarre, like the AIDS accusation. It seems she got into a mess, tried to quit digging, but was unable.

    The defamation suit also seems to be a little overkill, and I wonder how many more will be filed no matter what the verdict is? I would sincerely hope she can file one herself if she is acquitted.

  • Thanks for a wonderfully refreshing and intelligent commentary on the Knox travesty. I got drawn into this case about a year and a half ago, and I have gotten to know Amanda’s family well. They are decent, honest, good-hearted people. Amanda grew up feeling secure and loved, knowing that her parents would be there for her. And in this crisis, they have come through in spades.

    As for Amanda herself, I have never met her, but I will indulge in a bit of the armchair psychology so popular on the Internet. In my view, Amanda exhibits all the classic behaviors of a well-adjusted personality. I would not be at all surprised to learn that she spent her youth rescuing animals, extinguishing fires and getting out of diapers early. Now, the job is to get her out of prison and out of Italy ASAP.

  • Evergreen:

    jim, you have some good points, and from what you said about her parents, reminds me of an article I saw on the site of a British Paper, the Guardian where her mother did an interview. Mentioned something about her daughter in the past seeming to be incapable of lying, and was honest about many things. The article was from around June 27th.

    I fear the verdict, how the family will hold up, and how many out there on the internet will seize upon a guilty verdict, with this questionable evidence, as proof of guilt, and what is left of her character will be further attacked, ignoring that the appeal will be automatic. I also fear how her parents will hold up. With what they are facing themselves. I also fear for her safety if she is acquitted and does get home. That is how bad the passions have been inflamed on both sides of the issue.

    Whatever happens in the next few days, I hope the State Department is prepared to go the extra mile. This is the time to step up. She can’t be alone if convicted but that is exactly what seems to be getting set-up. What I never saw in the criticisms of her parents, is those doing the criticizing, is do they have any kids, and how would they be in this situation. I do not know myself, I have no kids myself, but if I were in her parents situation, I would go the extra mile. Should not stand by while opportunists on one side get control of the media coverage and slant it towards guilt before the defense will get a chance to present it’s case in court.

    Sorry about my frequent postings, Steve Graham. I admit sometimes they can sound like a broken record.

  • Steve Graham:

    Thanks for your comments guys. Facial expressions are always a little hard to read in still photographs rather than in video. The photographs I posted were obtained from googling “amanda knox smiling”. In our “O.J. Simpson case” we could see it all on court t.v., but in Italy’s version of “O.J. Simpson”, we don’t get a lot of video. I would really like to see the video of the closing arguments. From the excerpts of the summations that I have read it seems like Luciano Ghirga was simply brilliant in his defense of Amanda Knox. Likewise Manuela Commodi, a prosecutor, impressed me with her skill as she presented her closing argument and tried her best to clean up after her boss Giuliano Mignini after his numerous missteps in front of the jury. Mignini argued to the jury: “Probably she [Amanda Knox] would have insulted Meredith,” “And she probably said, ‘You are always behaving like a little saint. Now we will show you, and now we will make you have sex!'” Engaging in such speculation in a closing argument is a pretty serious mistake for a prosecutor. Prosecutors should be asking the jury to draw conclusions from known facts. Having a good imagination is a virtue in many professions, but not as a prosecutor. In most major cities in the U.S., entry-level prosecutors would get their knuckles rapped for making such an error. I have followed this case very closely, but am not affiliated in either way with either side. Just as a former American prosecutor, it is hard for me to look at Mignini as being very professional. In earlier posts in my blog, I have defended other prosecutors in other cases but I find it very hard to say anything good about Giuliano Mignini.

    As to those defamation issues, I guess I may address them later if they are still relevant. In the U.S. the Supreme Court has ruled that criminal defamation charges are unconstitutional, so it is kind of hard to imagine being jailed for such conduct.

    I guess all we do is wait at this point. My guess is that Amanda Knox will be acquitted tomorrow.

  • Evergreen:

    Dave Ross, a local talk show host on KIRO FM(they changed to FM only this year), had both a KIRO TV reporter who is on the ground in Perugia and Van Sant from 48 hours. THe latter thinks the jury has it’s mind made up for guilty, but hopes he is wrong. Then again, Van Sant is reporting from New York, probably because his previous reports have made it hard for him to go back. To hear that she said in her statement that she thanked the prosecutor for only doing his job even though he is trying to put her in jail for the rest of her life. It drove him to tears as he went out into the hall and cried. I hope that is the final last minute surprise in this trial, other than a not guilty verdict.

    http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=112&cmsid=90
    (10:OO hour, this morning, but the first few minutes of it was on breaking news out of the Seahawks. On the podcast I was listening to, it was about 10 minutes into the hour)

    By the way, your welcome. I try to think out what I am going to post, and try to keep emotions out of it, but this case is different. So much said in November 2007 that was untrue then is taken as gospel in December 2009. Left out then, by the media, was that she worked three jobs to pay for the trip that has now ruined her life. It got left out. If it were not for the family’s interviews, it probably would have been lost. Also, I like how she used the Italian she has had 2 years to learn in jail to address the court, might have swayed the court, having to rely on the interpreter provided, something would have been lost in translation.

  • Evergreen:

    The case goes on, guilty on all counts, but she only got 26 years, they are saying. The appeals will most certainly be filed soon, I wonder if there is anything Secretary of State Clinton can do, possibly get her moved to one of our prisons. I am surprised the jury even deliberated so long, it is just after midnight there right now. 26 years without ones family I would assume would be tough in an American Prison, but in Italy, with her parents being threatened with the defamation suit.

    KING 5 News has a lawyer from Italy on right now that says the 26 years is a good thing, because they could have gotten the tough sentence the prosecutor wanted. Her attorneys are saying the same thing, so it may not be that bad. All the rest of the world is going to go by is GUilty.

  • Steve Graham:

    I think that there is probably not too much the State Dept can do. Generally countries try to stay away from involvement in particular cases. I haven’t heard of countries allowing inmates to serve their sentence in their home countries. I think all that can be done is to wait for the appeal process to begin.

  • Evergreen:

    Out of curiosity, I subscribed to podcasts of news organizations like the CBC, and they mentioned the case of Brenda Martin, a Canadian on trial in Mexico for Fraud. It seemed to get an interesting outrage and Ottawa was getting pressured to do something. Plus, she did not hold up as well as Amanda has so far. Once the process had completed it’s course, they managed to get the transfer done, but that is a different legal system, and the Canadian Government then commuted the sentence.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Martin

    http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080214/wfive_martin_080214/20080216?hub=WFive

    Hopefully the appeals process can be swift, and just. Still, can’t help wondering how bad the backlash will be. If British and Italian tourists going to the Vancouver Olympics stay away from Seattle, maybe that might be better. Just hope everybody else does not. I heard this case has already dramatically decreased the number of UW Students studying in Perugia, from around 19 to 2. I wonder if it will be down from 2 to 0 next. Some of the news coverage at the UW of students that were considering studying abroad, has already discouraged them from doing so.

    As I said, things have already changed in the past 2 years, but it was minor things, like Puget Sound being renamed Salish Sea(but it will still be called Puget Sound, nobody ever calls things by their official names here, the Albert D, Rosselini Bridge(SR520) is always called the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge). So far, I hope nothing is done on the defamation charges against her parents, at least until the appeals process runs it’s course. They got to be able to keep in touch. Skype and phone calls can’t replace what face to face contact they had had over the past few years. It’s a miracle she has held up so far. They say the first appeal will take about a year.

  • logan:

    I am very disappointed with the outcome of this trial. Obviously I was not privy to every ounces of evidence and testimony, but I followed this case very carefully. If the evidence had shown that Amanda and Raffaele were guilty of this murder, I would be happy to throw the book at her and Raffaele, as Meredith Kercher and her family need justice. But the judicial system in Perugia has created 2 more victims. Amanda and Raffaele are only guilty being imprudent in a society that requires certain forms of behavior to be observed – as steve said, Amanda is guilty of having the wrong demeanor at the wrong time. What a travesty of justice.

    I just read that Amanda’s aunt is probably going to have to sell her home in order to help defray the legal expenses. The collateral damage from this travesty is unfathomable. I hope every American is a friend of Amanda after this. I will certainly donate what I can.

  • djl:

    I just learned about this case tonight after reading news about the conviction, and I’ve read something like 30 articles in the past couple of hours to try and understand something that seems something so mind-boggling. I’d like to thank Steve Graham for putting this up, because one of the things that is most mind-boggling to me is that: in a case that seems to have so little evidence in its favor, not only has a guilty verdict been passed, but media coverage has been overwhelmingly focused on digging out banal events in Amanda’s life to paint a picture of a sex-orgy-crazed-murderer-villain.

    I guess this isn’t so surprising, given media’s ability to make news out of nonsequiters taken out of context. What is really surprising is that all of the things that have been so highlighted on the press are incredibly common college behavior. It would be one thing to use the “smoking hash and having sex” argument about moral decline. It is another to use it to paint character for an incredibly bizarre, illogical, prosecutory argument. It ends up being damning when a trial takes place under legal circumstances where jurors are allowed to read the news every night. It ends up being overall insane when for some reason it takes weight over actual evidence of a crime actually being committed. And since there is no reliable evidence in favor of Amanda’s verdict, it evidently has.

    There are millions of reasons why trials are unfairly prosecuted every day. They are all frustrating in ways that make the prejudices behind them seem even more frustrating. But in cases like this, where the prejudice going against Amanda could equally be applied to the children of the jurors, judges, writers, indignant readers–and it manages to gain over the general lack of evidence, motive, likely weapon–where is everyone’s moral compass?

    I feel extremely for Amanda’s family, as well for her boyfriend’s, as well for Meredith, and I hope very much that the verdict is overturned in appeals. On side note, I have never met any of them, but my thoughts are with them.

  • mayan s:

    I’m new to this story, but my heart is with Amanda and I feel deeply for her parents at this time. Most of us strive to raise our kids surrounded by love and to guard intact their youthful idealism. We try to help them at least reach adulthood with their self-confidence and their trust in the ultimate goodness of humanity and the power of truth reasonably intact.

    Such children may dream and achieve much more than kids who reach adulthood cynical and broken-spirited. But the downside is that they often cannot recognize malevolence, may try naively to counter it with goodness and charm, and don’t know to duck until it is too late. God help this poor girl.

  • Adam:

    (Writing from Australia) Some points to consider as I see it:

    1. Amanda’s inability to realise the gravity of the situation right from the outset have landed her in this mess. As people have noted this is in large part due to her naivete and misplaced faith in a justice system and culture of which she was completely ignorant; which is in turn a product of her upbringing. It is one thing to come from a white/suburban/middle class/wholesome background and be raised with self confidence, good ideals, a well adjusted personality and an all round nice person but you need to have some concept of the darker side of life also. Blind Freddy knows not to give any sort of account to any legal/police character without appropriate legal representation. Period.

    2. Although on the surface a minor misdemeanour the issue of Amanda’s marijuana use: never a good look particularly when combined with a changing police statement – whatever the reasons for the changing statement be they made under duress or whatever. Marijuana use invariably leads to inference of unreliability, clouded judgement (does she really remember the exact events of last night?) and makes Amanda an easy target for character assassination. A dangerous drug to play around with but too often underestimated.

    3.The media has played a considerable role in this travesty yet they seem to be completely unaccountable.

    I fail to see how any sort of justice will prevail in this appalling case with the possible exception of someone somehow getting a truthful statement out of the clear true villain Rudy Guede.

  • Rick:

    I think you nailed this story Steve. Good job.

    When I look at pictures of Amanda, I see a pretty, sweet, down-to-earth person that anyone would want to call a friend. Why so many want to villify her for her demeanor is completely beyond me.

  • tuscanella:

    Anti-American Sentiments and the Case of Amanda Knox
    I have followed the case somewhat distractedly, but since I am an American “immigrant” to Italy, having resided here for three decades – since I also work with both American and Italian university students of Knox’s age, the case naturally attracted my attention.

    Some weeks before the verdict was given, I was surprised to read an account of the case on CNN in which it was strongly suggested that there was little evidence against Knox that could stand up in court and that belief in her innocence was widespread in the US. I was surprised because up to that point, I personally had just assumed Knox was guilty – as indeed almost everyone in Italy has. So I asked myself why I had made this assumption when I really don’t know much about the evidence convicting her. The answer was simple: the press and television news reports have, since the very beginning, consistently created this impression in the mind of the public. So I began to pay a little more attention to what was said, and how it was said in the media. Knox, often described as having “an angelic” appearance, has consistently been portrayed in such a manner so as to suggest ( not openly state of course) that she is a slut, a thief, a cold, calculating, depraved and diabolical manipulator of men.

    Such an impression can be created with just a few ambiguous words: For example, after the verdict was given last week, one news report by a major channel stated that Kercher frequently argued with Knox over “l’igiene di casa” — in other words “cleanliness in the apartment” — “il furto dei soldi” stealing money, and “I troppi uomini” the too many men Knox allegedly brought home. Those few words presented a devastating picture of Knox – but of course beneath it all there might have something totally different. Just who reprimanded whom, for example, about cleanliness and money? Maybe the problems over “cleanliness” was just a question of one of the two not washing their dishes? And if we are told that Kercher argued with Knox over some money stolen – are we to assume that she accused Knox or was it the other way around?

    It’s this kind of suggestive press coverage that contributed to create and fix in the public mind for many, many months an image of Knox which doubtless contains serious distortions. Another detail that has stuck in my mind since the story first broke two years ago was that Knox and Sollecito had gone shopping for “lingerie” right after the crime, and had been reportedly seen laughing and smiling at the shop. Again, what lingerie they purchased was not given to us to know – but the suggestion of course was that it was unseemly for her to purchase such items given the circumstances – and that therefore, she must be guilty. I am sure that a detailed analysis of many tidbits carefully meted out to the public over these many months will reveal hundreds of insinuations of this kind. Just the other day, for example, as Knox was being accompanied back to prison after the trial, the news commenter mentioned that she had received a great deal of support, letters, as well as “declarations of love.” The picture of Knox used for the backdrop of the Italian talk show Porta a Porta, showing her angelic face – was slightly airbrushed to resemble in part, a figure painted by Vermeer, and with its slightly exaggerated, plump, pouty lips, a cartoon figure, which is how the Italian press has portrayed her.

    Irrespective of whether or not she is guilty -the problem remains, how fair a trial could she have had if the media consistently and consciously shaped public opinion in this way? Neither Sollecito or Guede have received anything approaching a similar treatment by the press. Sollecito is consistently pictured as Knox’s puppet and play thing.

    On Dec. 8th one of Rome’s major newspapers ran an article about the case in which
    Knox was described as being “determined” to get on with her appeal and with her life, by continuing her studies from within prison. Sollecito was described as being lost, pathetic, and confused. Yet, Knox’s determination was being criticized: again, Amanda surfaces as unrepentant and tough; Sollecito, himself a victim. Next to that article, there appeared another article signed by a journalist named Martinelli in which it was suggested that Amanda Knox had nothing to complain about — since she had received a fair trial and had had the benefit of legal counsel. The article went on to complain about Italians imprisoned in the U.S. and suggested that some have been denied the right to legal defense. Such misrepresentations are preposterous and are rife with anti-American sentiment, alluding to deeper questions which have nothing to do with Amanda, but which may have influenced the outcome of the case.

    Lastly, days before the verdict was announced, a major Italian channel ran an episode of the tv drama Close to Home in which the characters ( not the plot) strongly resembled Amanda and Sollecito –a young blond American student, sexually depraved and manipulative convinced blond boyfriend ( with an extraordinary resemblance to Sollecito) to commit a murder. I was shocked by the resemblance of the actors to Amanda and Sollecito. I was also disgusted by the fact that this was shown at such a delicate time, for it would subliminally reinforce in viewers’ minds the certainty of Amanda’s guilt.

    I think it very likely that a cultural clash is also a determining factor in the public perception of Amanda– and that this perception was more likely to be problematic in a small, tradition-bound town like Perugia. In America, it is not all that unusual for an attractive and sexually active young woman to have a variety of partners at certain times. We may not approve of promiscuity – but we aren’t that shocked by it. The Perugians probably were. Young people live at home for much longer in Italy than in the US, and are more subject to parental control in some ways. American college women tend to be franker and more “upfront” about sex than their Italian counterparts. They enjoy greater freedom and are perceived as being more aggressive and eager for sex and attention. I offer this anecdote only to illuminate a type of prejudice existing in this country. I tried to organize meetings between a group of Italian students studying English with me at an Italian university in a small town and a group of American students studying creative writing with me through an American study abroad program in the same town. It didn’t work out and one young Italian woman confessed that the American women were too aggressive. They were only interested in meeting and talking to the Italian male students and not at all interested in making friends with any of the women, or even talking to them. If a mixed group of Italians ran into a group of American girls at a pub, for example, the American girls would rudely ignore the Italian girls present and only speak to the men. Also, the Italian girls didn’t understand the Americans’ obsession with dating – and they were also shocked at times by the “partying” the Americans indulged in, as well as the abuse of alcohol Americans seemed prey to. They clearly did not understand the socializing behavior of these young Americans. Alcohol abuse and inappropriate behavior in public by a very small number of American students over time led to a situation of conflict with the local authorities. Similar problems with students from European countries did not arise – therefore the Americans were seen as wild, unable to control themselves, and insolent. It’s the current stereotype of the American student abroad in which Amanda has been typecast.

    Unfortunately Amanda has been branded by Sollecito as a “party” girl — of which the local culture in Perugia strongly disapproves, but does this make her a murderer.
    Strangely the case epitomizes a series of news worthy issues filling Italian news reports these days : sex scandals with young Amanda-like women, rising levels of violent crime committed by young people, and growing drug and alcohol abuse among the young – all factors influencing the general psychic climate of the moment. Given the xenophobic tendencies currently pervading northern and central Italy – what more perfect scapegoat than someone like Amanda? Misogyny, xenophobia, anti-Americanism, generational conflict, are cankering together here. Anti-Americanism is very present in this country – subtle, hidden, hard- to- pin down, but very pervasive.

    .

  • Dave:

    I have been keeping up on this trial for two years. If Amanda Knox lived during the 1500s she would have been burned at the stake as a witch. The case against her is ludicrous, and the assertions of her behavior are at best inane.

    Thank you so much for your logical observations! How refreshing.

  • Rainer Alexander:

    Several have commented on the MSM having moulded ‘public perception’ of Amanda.

    The relentless one-sidedness of the speculation about Amanda’s character and personality is very odd, even allowing for the venality of ‘sensationaistic’ (puerile) tabloid journalism – it doesn’t smell right to me.

    Why has so liitle doubt, if not outright scepticism, been expressed about the asinine cod-psychology asserting that she exhibited “psychopathic traits”? By all verifiable accounts, easily found with even the most cursory research, Amanda Knox is exactly what she seems – a likeable, conscientious and (I’ll be honest) very pretty young woman who had never shown the slightest inclination to harm anyone, physically or otherwise.

    Amanda’s appearence ALONE would normally have generated sympathy for her with a percentage of observers, even if there HAD been convincing evidence against her, but this just didn’t happen.

    A precedent was set very early on (within days of her arrest in Nov 2007) by certain ‘prestigious’ organs of the press such as the Murdoch-owned (London) Times.

    It seems as if a directive was issued AT PROPRIETER LEVEL to assign ‘columnists’, rather than reporters or journalists, to the story (i.e. Giuliano Mignini’s “narrative”) in their droves, ensuring it was covered by the kind of hacks who see fact-checking and research as the last thing they need to bother with, and who are inured to simply making sh*t up on the spot with impunity.

    Note how little effort (none, basically) was made to correct or retract some of the numerous ‘errors’ and outright falsehoods reported. For example, the existence of receipts proving Amanda or Raffaele bought bleach early in the morning after the murder, reinforcing the (also false) “cleanup” allegation, or that Merediths blood had been found on the blade of the alleged murder weapon, etc’ – these and much else are STILL being widely quoted as fact.

    Practically no effort has been made to clarify the outrageous and illegal methods used to extract her “partial confession” – almost ALL one read was pontification about “why did Knox lie?” or “why did Knox try to frame her boss?” etc’.

    A comprehensive list of all of these “errors” would take pages to list. It’s extraordinary, and like I said, it JUST DOESN’T SMELL RIGHT.

    Top-down manipulation of the MSM and hence people’s percerption to ENSURE conviction? (no – surely not!?)

    Why? To accomplish exactly what it has – alienating a swathe of the population of the U.S from that of continental Europe, and vice versa, (and, of course, simply distracting them) at just the time a popular TRANSATLANTIC mandate is desperately needed to oppose the usual crew of “advisers” lobbying the U.S. administration to start a war with Iran (in effect, a war by the West on Islam).

  • Eve A:

    Thank you for this article Mr Graham. Though you’re not an attorney from Italy, your expertise as an American Attorney is invaluable.

    There are so many things I can say about this case, but I will say just this… I can not for the life of me understand why and how this happened? How does a revered Prosecutor get a way with creating a cockamamie story and it hold up to a jury of respectable local judges and jurors? Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito just about killed Meredith Kercher or any one else, as much as my dog and I have had a philosophical conversation about his understanding of Kant.

    It is overwhelming to think of innocent young people like Amanda and Raffaele sitting in prison for a horrific crime they did not commit. not only do I think about them and how awful this is for them and their families, but I feel enraged that the opportunity to have found Meredith’s killers was wasted by focusing on 2 innocent young people instead of performing an air tight investigation.

    It’s absurd and despicable what has been done about this case and I sincerely hope Italy opens their eyes to see what this is doing to their infrastructure on a deep level…it’s just all too much!!

    I await their appeal where I want to believe justice for innocent people will be avenged and a better investigation for the real killers might even begin….

    My thoughts and heart is with all the people involved in the case, everyday…I can’t shake the complex elements that makes it up and keeps it going…

  • Evergreen:

    Ranier Alexander, had the tabloid side of the press not focussed in on the details that they got from the investigators, they may have had some sympathetic articles run, if they had known more about her background. She was from West Seattle, but not her father. He was a Vashon High School graduate, as in Vashon Island. Vashon Islanders are connected to Seattle and Tacoma via ferry, but are a world away and an independent lot. I found this article in the Vashon/Maury island Beachcomber, and admire the webmaster’s diligence on it. I was observing the comments on it, within the first few hours, one guy responded to three of the positive commenters, but those 3 responses to the response were taken down in a matter of hours(They did allow one critical comment to stand). Plus, the article was focused originally on a class reunion Mr. Knox had, and his classmates coming to his help, mainly with his immediate problems here at home. Not all of those responding to the article were islanders, though. Plus on the downside, the father’s background would have probably played into the picture the tabloids were painting.

    http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/vashon/vib/news/83913432.html

    One concern on this case, is the appeal. Since Mingnini’s conviction, I heard one story on Ray Turner’s blog, that the list of those that have been sued for slander/defamation by Mignini has grown, to include Luciano Ghirga and Luca Maori. I wondered if that would affact the appeal, if the attorneys for Knox and Sollecito could handle that and being charged themselves, but then again, I remembered that Ms.Knox was convicted while the prosecutor was on trial himself. Probably just grandstanding by the prosecution.

    http://knoxarchives.blogspot.com/2010/02/another-giuliano-mignini-defamation.html

    Probably just have to wait and see how that happens. Also, Donald Trump’s idea of a boycott would not work these days, you can’t know what all was made in one place or another these days. Not to say that he should not do what he can, but for him, doing something behind the scenes probably would not happen.

  • Heather:

    There’s no evidence of Amanda and Raffaele at the scene of the crime because they weren’t there!

    Look into this and research it. Two innocent people’s lives are being destroyed. Would you want to be convicted using a piece of Low-Copy number DNA “evidence”? Ask yourself that.

    Please visit http://www.sciencespheres.org for more facts about this case.

  • I am in complete agreement with your article. Thank you for writing it. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are innocent. There is no credible evidence linking them to the murder. Many people put on their guilt glasses and looked at Amanda and Raffaele through accusing lenses— distorting and misinterpreting the pair’s behavior. And the prosecution heaped false statements and evidence on Amanda and Raffaele. How heartbreaking for their parents. No human being of any nationality should be wrongfully convicted.

  • kitt waters:

    If you think Amanda Knox is guilty, then why? Because you heard someone say so? Because you accepted without questioning some myth about a cartwheel or accusing an innocent man? (Not true.) If the information you heard is wrong, then so is your conclusion. If she was your daughter/sister/friend, wouldn’t you want people to listen to both sides of the story before deciding?
    http://www.injusticeinperugia.org/
    injustice in perugia . org

  • kittwaters:

    A bright young honor student with a reputation for kindness and honesty goes off to study in Italy and overnight turns into a vicious murderer and liar? I’m skeptical. Seems hard to believe without some real proof. I looked all over the net for proof and didn’t find it. Found lots of slurs and allegations but all of it shown to be untrue or reasonably refuted. I’m firmly convinced she is innocent. Now someone has collected the information and posted it here:
    http://www.injusticeinperugia.org/
    injustice in perugia . org

  • may doveaston:

    A bright young honor student with a reputation for kindness and honesty goes off to study in Italy and overnight turns into a vicious murderer and liar? I’m skeptical. Seems hard to believe without some real proof. I looked all over the net for proof and didn’t find it. Found lots of slurs and allegations but all of it shown to be untrue or reasonably refuted. I’m firmly convinced she is innocent. Now someone has collected the information and posted it here:
    http://www.injusticeinperugia.org/
    injustice in perugia . org

  • may doveaston:

    Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are innocent people and have been wrongfully convicted of this terrible crime. They should be free and exonerated as soon as
    possible.

  • Evergreen:

    Latest developments having the appeals being filed, not just by the defense, but the prosecution going double for nothing, appealing the sentence. Although I thought the original prosecutor would be removed by now, with his conviction as well. He is appealing his own conviction as well. I hope the defense at least gets the third party independent review of the DNA evidence that they were trying to get in the trial, during the appeal. DNA has managed to free the innocent and convict the guilty, but the way the evidence was collected and handled, it may cast doubt on it’s effectiveness.

    Sometimes I wonder if some anti-American issues got into this trial, but probably not one that I was thinking of. I doubt the prosecutor even heard of the Fort Lawton incident during WWII, where Italian POWs were held.(The Army re-opened the case a few years ago, reversed a few convictions and upgraded discharges of the remaining soldiers to honorable). The African American soldiers accused of the murder, were accused of doing it out of jealousy, supposedly. They felt the POWs were getting better treatment than they were. Although I usually when I type the above info in a comment, then delete it, erring on the side of caution, and that it is a mere coincidence, and not relevant.

  • cliff:

    What may have happened is that there may have been a need to conceal, not the murder of Meredith Kercher, but something else – for instance, substance abuse – which may have incriminated them and thus compelled Amanda and Raffaele to fabricate accounts of what happened on the night and immediately after the murder. On realising that they are now being charged with something much graver than what they attempted to cover up, they fabricate a new story to cover-up both which, of course, is now barely credible. Finally, desperate and abandoning the attempt to cover up the suggested “relatively minor misdemeanour”, they have a story, which is probably closest to the truth, but with no credibility at all.

    Understandably, the long-suffering court has had to sit patiently through the pitching of these fabrications and now, becoming short on patience, they refuse to listen any further. It should be obvious that once caught lying, there is very little sympathy for the liar even if he now tells the truth.

  • FoolsGold:

    Even in the USA we have a great many people who base decisions on post-crime demeanor. Usually the questioned behavior is considered indicative of guilt. Wore a blue dress, looked at her husband, wore a red dress, didn’t look at her husband, it makes no difference. A belief in guilt is the starting point and it really does not matter what particular cloud formations from the crystal ball are used as evidence. It is not only tabloid readers but often includes prosecutors.

    The statements about trust in any aspect of the legal system are absurd. Italian trials are more theater than anything else. Quite frankly, I’m not all that impressed by American trials or American interrogations.

    The victim’s family is wealthy and maintains a website that will brook no criticism of the prosecutor or statements condemning the lack of evidence. The tabloid editors surely know that lurid details sell papers and gain television ratings. The editors also know that the falsity of those lurid details is not relevant.

    I don’t think Italian law embraces the concept of spoliation of evidence so it seems irrelevant that the Italian authorities erased Amanda’s computer drive. I don’t think an Italian jury is permitted to conclude that the hard drive would have revealed friendly emails between the two girls. It seems the tabloid editors don’t want to even speculate on that issue much less reach conclusions about it.

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Photo of Steve Graham Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
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