Don’t go back, Amanda Knox


Just finished watching Chris Cuomo’s interview of Amanda Knox, the University of Washington student who was convicted of the murder of her flatmate and acquitted last year. I’m planning to write a longer piece soon but for now a few thoughts.

No one other than perhaps Rudy Guede, whose DNA was found on and inside the body of Meredith Kercher,  the murdered woman, and all over her room along with her blood (which bore his footprint marks), knows for a fact exactly what happened in the house the night Kercher was murdered. But two things seem undeniable to me: Italy’s courts have a lower standard than American ones in handling the rights of the accused, and the behavior of the Italian police and courts in this case has been appalling. Any reasonable person would be deeply skeptical of Italy’s justice system after studying this case, whatever one’s beliefs about Knox’s innocence or guilt.

Regarding Knox’s interview tonight, I’m disturbed to read some of the commentary that’s emerging. Nina Burleigh, who herself has written a book about this tragedy that no doubt profited her, criticizes the way the “murder was turned into tabloid entertainment” and writes, “Even in tears, she comes across as remote and cool. And years of coaching by attorneys still haven’t prevented her from saying tone-deaf things such as expressing a desire to visit Kercher’s grave.”

Am I missing something? The young woman I saw tonight was as forthright, as direct, as contained yet emotional as I’ve heard; she seemed to me without artifice or affectation. Despite the pugnacious tone of journalist Chris Cuomo who, though he can’t be faulted for asking her tough questions seemed to me unnecessarily rough, she made as dignified and straightforward a case in defending her innocence as any I’ve seen.

And yet, just as her emotional reactions were picked apart and taken as evidence of guilt in an Italian police station and then courtroom, so her every inflection and post-trial decision is being viewed as evidence of guilt – or at least with skepticism by the likes of Cuomo – even now. There is something bizarre about this. As Knox herself said, in explaining her emotional reaction to what amounts to years of harassment and psychological torture: “Everything I did was interpreted as me being this murderer. I was afraid to move, I was afraid to talk to people … because everything I was doing would be used in this horrible way…I became the type of person who today just holds still.”

This woman was utterly demonized and stripped of her identity in an Italian courtroom, then mistreated in prison (at one point a “doctor” intentionally misinformed her that she was HIV positive in order to extract information/break her spirit) in a way that, frankly, would constitute cruel and unusual punishment even if she were guilty. The idea that she may have, as an innocent person, endured all of this should boggle the mind of anyone watching her today. What does a guilty person look like? What does she talk like? Perhaps the better question is, what does an innocent person who has  been subjected to years of being falsely accused, publicly shamed and demonized, harassed, threatened, whose family has been threatened and almost bankrupted, who is being subjected to double jeopardy, look/talk/sound like? Should her voice be steady? Should her gaze be steady? Could she be forgiven for letting her eyes drift off for a few seconds? If she looks down as she struggles to answer a question, does it mean she is innocent or guilty? Think about how ridiculous and unfair this type of “analysis” is.

As Amanda Knox said tonight, “I find it incredible that despite an absolute lack of evidence that connects me to this murder, I am still being judged based upon unrealistic and unreasonable expectations about how a young woman would react to a horrible situation,” she said. “No one knows how they would react to a horrible situation until it happens to them.”

I find it incredible as well.

Chris Cuomo asked tonight if there’s any possibility Knox will “go back” for the re-trial. Good Lord. Given the utter lack of professionalism and the thuggishness displayed by Italian police, who at one point threatened to sue Knox’s father for slander for saying his daughter had been mistreated, and the prison’s utter barbarism in telling her she was HIV positive, Knox or anyone would be crazy to put their life in the hands of such a system.

Don’t go back, Amanda. Ever.

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