Written on October 14 2011.
It’s just over a week since Amanda Knox was freed by an Italian court, after four years in jail for a murder she insists she didn’t commit. In one of the most fascinating cases of recent years, many questions have been raised, especially about the role of the media in murder cases.
The facts of the murder of Meredith Kercher is enough to send shivers down the spine of any college student who has lived in a flatshare in their own country, never mind on a semester abroad. A pretty, vivacious British girl, drawn to the Italian city of Perugia partly because of their annual festival of chocolate, finds herself living with an American girl, Amanda Knox, a fellow exchange student. There are stirrings of discontent between them. The American gets an Italian boyfriend and they become inseparable.
And just two months after Meredith Kercher arrived in Italy, her body was discovered, wrapped in a blanket, in her bedroom. She had had her throat slashed and she had been sexually assaulted. Her American roommate was nabbed immediately by the less-than-thorough investigation by the local police, and the media immediately begin to have a field day.
Lurid tales of sex orgies were the first resort. Kercher had been killed by Knox, her boyfriend, Rafael Sollecito, and a drifter, Rudy Guede, because she had refused to take part in a sex game. Of course, the pretty blonde Knox was immediately seized on by the media. Her grade-school nickname, Foxy Knoxy, was proof of her wild, sexual abandon.
It’s important to note that Knox did not do herself any favours. The coolness with which she received the news of Kercher’s murder, the somersaults in the police station- it all points to an odd streak that became Knox’s undoing. But it is even more important to note that being an odd housemate does not make someone a murderer. The old Irish proverb, ‘If you want to know me come and live with me’ seems apt for the Kercher murder case. Kercher gained an insight into Knox’s personal habits that she probably didn’t wish for- media seized on complaints made by Kercher in an email as evidence of Knox’s murderous tendencies. But how many students have discovered that even their closest friends have weird domestic habits, let alone total strangers?
Supporters of Knox say that she was beaten, kept awake and harassed into signing a confession in a language she didn’t understand. The police did not properly preserve the crime scene, losing vital evidence and mixing up crucial DNA. The evidence tying Knox to the crime scene is flimsy at best. But if the police messed up, it’s nothing compared to the media.
Certain media outlets behaved disgracefully in the Kercher case. The prurience of the coverage- one paper listed the number of men Knox had ever slept with- to the Daily Mail prematurely declaring that Knox had been placed on suicide watch after losing her appeal, was disturbing.
They are still serving a life sentence.