The multiple confusions of the Knox case

The website, True Justice for Meredith Kercher, is a good source of information on the Amanda Knox - Raffaele Sollecito murder trial. One of its main points is to show the influence of Friends of Amanda in spreading one-sided stories in the U.S. media that have tended to exculpate Knox. For example, the True Justice site says that the famous 14 hour police interrogation of Knox in fact was only going on for three hours when she made her famous confession; if that is true, then Knox’s defenders and the U.S. media have been spreading a falsehood and I fell for it. The site goes into detail on a cell phone call that Amanda placed to her mother at 12:27 p.m. the day after the murder to her mother in Seattle, where it was 4:47 a.m. The call made it appear that Amanda and Raffaele had not yet called the police; in fact the police (or at least community police) were already at the house. Amanda afterward denied any memory of making the call. This could be explained as follows: she made the call to make it look as though she and Raffaele had innocently come upon the murder scene, but when she realized that the call showed her to have been pretending to believe that the police were not yet there when they were and thus that the call implicated her, she pretended to have no memory of the call.

On balance, I was too positive when I said that the conduct of this case by the Italian authorities was a disgrace. I also take back my earlier suggestion that there may not have been enough probability of the defendants’ guilt to justify having a trial. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve been convinced of their guilt. Some key arguments against them seem very weak. The prosecutor said that the broken window was the “nail” on which the entire case rested; but in my view everything we’ve been told about the broken window is so confused and contradictory that it’s impossible to derive any clear meaning from it. If that’s the most decisive piece of evidence against Knox and Sollecito, then it’s a weak case.

This is the most confused, contradictory criminal case I’ve ever read about, filled with facts or factoids that fail to make sense no matter how you look at them. The confusion begins with Knox herself. Her weird statement to police that she could see herself standing there and hearing Meredith’s screams as Patrick Lumumba attacked her, and covering her ears so as not to hear the screams, followed immediately by her repeated comment that she didn’t know if this was true or if she was dreaming it, could be seen as her indirect way of confessing her guilt. Or it could be seen as the behavior of a person with a very strained relationship with reality, but not necessarily a murderer.

The prosecutor’s scenario is that Knox thought Meredith was too “prissy” and she wanted to punish her, that Knox was the ringleader and involved Sollecito and Guede as her accomplices. In his summation the prosecutor constructs a scene in which Amanda slits Meredith’s throat. The prosecutor’s narrative, with Knox as Maenad leading her two obedient male assistants, does not have the ring of truth to me. I know of nothing in her history warning that she was inclined to violence or showing that she had a sufficient motive to want to kill her. Also, contrary to the statement that Knox was an acquaintance or friend of Rudy Guede, it appears that the only definite contact between them was when they were introduced at a party in the flat below Knox’s flat where Meredith’s boyfriend lived. While Knox’s and Sollecito’s guilt is not certain, this much is certain: the black thief Guede was socially welcomed in the flat of Meredith’s boyfriend below Meredith’s flat, and Guede subsequently raped and murdered Meredith. In the free-flowing, sexually liberated, racially integrated environment of Perugia, Meredith’s boyfriend and his apartment mates brought into the building the man who ultimately killed Meredith.

I repeat what I’ve said before: as bad as Amanda looks (and she looks worse to me now then she did a couple of days ago), I still have not seen a convincing account showing that she and Raffaele joined up with Guede in the murder of Meredith. Even if the probability that Amanda is guilty is 60 or 75 percent, which is not an unreasonable estimate, that is still not enough to declare her guilty. In Italy, as in the U.S., a guilty verdict in a criminal trial requires that the jurors consider the guilt to be beyond a reasonable doubt. How many people reading this who believe in Amanda’s guilt believe that she is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

I also have questions about Sollecito’s guilt. If, as all the anti-Amanda people insist, he was telling the truth when he changed his original story and said that Amanda left him at his house that night and went back to her house alone, then he was not at her house when the murder was committed. The anti-Amanda people can’t simultaneously rely on the truth of Sollecito’s story and say that it was a lie.

Update: The problem is that anything you learn about this case is soon contradicted by something else. For example the account of how Amanda was introduced to Guede—which I got from the True Justice site—seemed to be a complete account, and on that basis I believed that the introduction was the only known contact between them. But just now I’ve just heard that witnesses reported seeing Knox, Sollecito, and Guede together in Perugia, which throws out what I said above. Given the fragmentary nature of everything that has been written about the case, one would basically need to become an expert before having a definite opinion, not only about the case as a whole, but about any particular detail of it.

- end of initial entry -

Markus writes:

In a previous post you said you were unable to imagine a scenario by which two college-educated whites (Knox and Sollecito) would team up with a black drifter/career criminal (Guede) to rape and murder Meredith Kercher.

Maybe the answer is found in the psychosis generated by what you’ve said of Perugia, Italy, but extended to our global village: We live in a “free-flowing, sexually liberated, racially integrated environment”—and the result is (drumroll) … amoral acts of extreme, brutal violence.

Here are just two crimes that occurred in my city (Toronto) in the last few years:

The first involves a 15-year old girl who sexually manipulated her 17-year old boyfriend to kill another girl—then had sex with him. Which tells me it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Knox to be complicit in murdering a rival (of sorts) and then having sex with her boyfriend.

The second recounts the recent conviction of a (nonwhite) bisexual woman in her 30s, who, in some sort of arrangement with her lesbian lover, axed her white boyfriend to death—and then sought to cash in the insurance policy.

LA replies:

I of course never said that I regarded these types of perverse murders as impossible. I said that I didn’t see the facts supporting such a scenario in this case.

JP writes:

I am glad to read in your recent post the realization that you might have been misled in your conclusions about the case by media reports. I haven’t been particularly interested in this case but have read your posts with concern. I was alarmed that you consistently took at face value much of what you read in the media. If I have learned anything in my career as a cop, it is that the media never get it right. I have spent hours on the phone with reporters briefing them on cases I’ve worked, only to read later in their corresponding stories numerous factual errors that reveal their complete failure to grasp certain aspects of the case. And those are merely “routine” cases that don’t have a controversial angle of which to speak. Once the media picks up on some sort of associated controversy, all bets are off. These controversies are often ignited by friends of family of the suspects who go to the media with “their side of the story.”

It is a given that until a case is completely adjudicated, law enforcement agencies can only release certain information to the media in order to protect the integrity of the case. To fill that void, the media will seek out anyone who can or will comment publicly. Often that ends up being the family of the defendant. Most of the time, these people have no direct involvement with the case other than their relation to the defendant. Yet, they are willing to offer their opinions on the case to any reporter who will listen. What is most maddening is the media’s willingness to treat what is obviously an uninformed opinion as fact, and then present a story about the case to the public that essentially asks, “Who can we believe?” I say uninformed opinion because these people were most often nowhere near the incident when it occurred and their only source of information is what their accused friend or relative told them, or what they believe to be the truth based on their relationship with the defendant. The most significant fallout of this type of reporting and controversy generation is that during ongoing investigations, it often forces us to waste our time dealing with the “controversy” instead of focusing all our resources on what we know is factual.

I’m sure that most people have experienced the realization that when the media reports on a subject or an endeavor of which they (the reader) have a particular abundance of first hand knowledge, the reader comes to understand that the reporters know very little about which they write. Yet, they somehow have difficulty extrapolating that realization when they turn the page and read a story about something else, and assume the writer knows what he’s talking about. This doesn’t even factor in the obvious agenda under which most journalists operate.

LA replies:

Yes. Here are three things that are true about the overwhelming majority of today’s reporters and editors:

(1) they lack basic intellectual curiosity. Thus when there is an obvious loose end or contradiction in a story, they don’t ask further questions to try to resolve it, they just go ahead and print it.

(2) They have no notion of exactitude or desire to get facts right. Their idea is that if they state approximately what they’ve heard, that is good enough.

(3) Once there is an established “line” on a story, they just repeat that line.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 12, 2009 01:58 AM | Send

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