Amanda Knox is doomed. The old excuse for fascism used to be “At least, Mussolini made the trains run on time.” And if you traveled in Italy by train back when I was a student more years ago than I care to admit, departure and arrival times really were a hit-or-miss proposition. Nevertheless, the Italian courts seem to be very good at railroading people. Amanda Knox has been reconvicted by an Italian court in the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher. This reconviction overturns an acquittal based on a complete bungling of the investigation by the Italian police.
The basic facts of the case are simple enough and quite awful. In 2007, American Knox and Briton Kercher were doing the study abroad thing attending classes in Perugia, Italy, and they shared a cottage there. One night, someone stabbed Kercher with a knife, and she died in a pool of her own blood. The police found a bloody knife with the fingerprints of Rudy Hermann Guede, an Ivory Coast national. They arrested him, he requested a fast-track trial and got 30 years. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to 15 years. End of story, you would think.
But no, the police in Perugia also arrested Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. The claim was they all had been smoking pot and then engaged in some kind of sex game that went horribly wrong. At least, that was the story at the first trial, and it sold a bunch of papers and people got on TV. More recently, though, prosecutors said that the argument that led to Kercher’s murder was a dispute over the cleanliness of the house. My Italian isn’t good enough to translate “clutching at straws,” but that’s what that is.
Back in 2011, the BBC reported: “Experts tell the appeal court that DNA evidence used to convict Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito may have been contaminated and fell short of international standards, with police failing to wear the correct protective equipment. Italian prosecutors later deny the claims.”
Their denial is nonsense. The BBC reported a few days ago that “a knife recovered from Sollecito’s house was found to have Ms Knox’s DNA on the handle and a small amount of DNA on the blade ‘consistent with the victim.’ Dr [Greg] Hampikian, who founded the Innocence Project, an organisation that investigates claims of wrongful conviction, says: ‘That is significant because Miss Kercher had never gone to that house, so what is she doing on the blade of the knife?’”
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Contamination is the answer — the Italian authorities put it there, inadvertently. As Dr. Hampikian noted, “You can’t really wash the blood off and leave the DNA in any practical sense. That means that the few cells or molecules might have been from the laboratory after they amplified Miss Kercher’s DNA.” Amplifying here is the means lab techs used to make copies of the DNA to find out whose it was.
Add to this Knox’s statement that she was interrogated without a lawyer, food, water or bathroom breaks the night she was arrested. The Italian authorities actually charged her with slander for that. And when Mom and Dad spoke up for her, the Italian authorities slapped the same charges on them.
Even the Italian press is on Amanda’s side. Rome’s daily La Repubblica wrote, “From the very beginning [this case] has been judged more on the basis of sensation than actual evidence.” The paper added, “In reality, what is probably more at stake than assigning responsibility for a murder is the prestige of a part of the magistrature and the Umbrian police.”
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Regardless of how this finishes for Knox and Sollecito, the fact remains that Meredith Kercher was murdered, and there is no way her family will ever really know what happened to her. They will never know whether the right person or persons have been punished. That’s probably the biggest injustice in the whole case.