On 2 November 2007, at approximately 1:15 pm, police knocked down the door to a room in a small cottage in Perugia, Italy. Inside lay the body of an English exchange student, half-naked and mutilated. The girl’s name was Meredith Kercher – she had come to study abroad in Italy, and had moved into an apartment with two Italian students and another foreigner, a twenty-year old American girl named Amanda Knox.
For almost seven years now, Western media has teemed with conflicting accounts on Amanda Knox. Following the discovery of Kercher’s body, and preliminary investigation by local police, Knox and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were accused of murder and sexual assault and promptly arrested. They were held in jail while lawyers on both sides prepared for the upcoming trial, which drew waves of media attention from outlets in Britain, Italy, and the United States. From the outset, proper legal procedure was hampered by invasive media presence and sheer judicial incompetence, compounded by Italy’s convoluted court protocol and Knox’s continuously shifting alibi. What should have been a straightforward investigation aimed at bringing a murderer to justice became a drawn-out fiasco, with false accusations, tenuous evidence, and emotional appeals from Knox’s family and friends. Knox and Sollecito were kept in jail for almost a year after their arrest without having been accused, and, once indicted, remained in custody as the trial opened in October of 2008. During interrogation, Knox implicated Patrick Lumumba, the Congolese owner of Le Chic, a bar at which Knox occasionally worked. Though initially suspect, he was shortly released for lack of evidence; instead, police believed Knox had named Lumumba in order to protect Rudy Hermann Guede, an Ivory Coast national on an exchange program from Germany, whose fingerprints were found at the crime scene.
Guede opted for a fast-track trial apart from Knox and Sollecito, receiving a sentence of thirty years in prison. In December 2009, the Italian court found Knox and her beau guilty of murder and sexual assault, giving them 26 and 25 years, respectively. The conviction is appealed, and another trial opens in November 2010 to reexamine the case. In October of the following year, Knox and Sollecito are formally acquitted of all charges due to unreliable DNA evidence.
As Knox and Sollecito leave the courthouse on the eve of their acquittal, protesters crowd beside the doors, yelling “Vergogna!” (shame). Polls indicate that a majority if Italians believed – and still believe – she is guilty, which meant many Italians were pleased when, in March 2013, the corte di cassazione – the Italian supreme court – called for a retrial and, on 30 January 2014, re-convicted Knox and Sollecito of murder. Knox has stated that she refuses to return to Italy, though it is unlikely she would be able to stand trial in the United States, considering legal prohibition of double jeopardy.
I heard about Amanda Knox before I heard about Meredith Kercher. In fact, I’d learned many things about Knox – at least, the characteristics ascribed to her by the Italian media: Knox was depicted as a feckless, lascivious American who cared little about anything other than her next romp. Acquaintances say she was loud, social; she presented a far more striking figure than the timid Kercher. Her sexual indiscretion – she reportedly entered a lingerie store with her boyfriend the day after Kercher’s murder, canoodling with him between the aisles of lace brassieres – made her appealing to the press, a story. ‘Foxy Knoxy’, as she came to be known, was made the focal point, scrutinized, defended, condemned; Kercher became a footnote, marginalized by the maudlin portrayal of the attractive Knox. It was not the Meredith Kercher trial, but the Amanda Knox trial.
No one gave much thought to Lumumba, wrongfully accused by the manipulative Knox; little time was spent sympathizing with Kercher’s family, confused and angered by the oscillating verdict of Italian courts. Amanda Knox was likely involved with the murder of Meredith Kercher, though the details of what transpired on the night of 1 November 2007, are lost to time. Italian courts ineptly handled the case, prolonging it to a ludicrous extent and undermining the gravity of the crime as well as calling into question the viability of jurisprudence. Amanda Knox will never be completely guilty, nor is she innocent; she stands in the grey area between villain and victim, picked at by press buzzards as the memory of Meredith Kercher fades, slowly, from public memory.