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Friday, September 30, 2011

Locked Up Tighter Than Fort Knox

     Anti-American sentiment is nothing new in some parts of the world. China has long disliked us, mostly because we always show their national icon – Jackie Chan – as a buffoon. Even the Middle East has had problems with us in the past. I can overlook these groups of people because deep down I know that they would still be herding goats if Americans weren’t buying their cheaply made trinkets. But, when the Anti-American attitude comes from the country that gave us spaghetti and meatballs and the ancestors of the cast of Jersey Shore, then it becomes personal. This is because Italy has given America the boot — in the form of Amanda Knox.
     Knox is a 24 year old girl from a prominent family in Seattle, Washington. She had traveled across the pond to study abroad and ended up in the town of Perugia, Italy during the height of fallout from the US invasion of Iraq. A beautiful and charming girl in a strange new town, she quickly tried to make friends with the locals. She even took a job at a local bar to help her fit in better.
     It was here that Knox would become the focal point of a murder investigation involving her roommate Meredith “Mez” Kercher. Mez, a pretty 21 year old Briton, was well liked and well known in the small community. Knox’s trouble and involvement began on the night of November 1st, 2007. Knox went to stay with her new boyfriend (Rafaelle Sollecito), while Mez stayed out with friends. At some point Mez left her friends and went home alone. The next day Amanda returned home to find that her house had been vandalized and Mez was missing. She tried calling her friend a few times before finally calling local police.
     Knox was immediately a person of interest, along with Sollecito. Soon after, authorities would allege that “Knox directed her then-boyfriend (Sollecito) and a third defendant Rudy Guede, to hold Kercher down as Knox played with a knife before slashing Kercher's throat. They said the trio left her in a pool of blood and covered her with her own blanket.” Accounts vary as to motives, but when it went to trial prosecutors would claim that a “Sex and drug fueled satanic ritual” had been the reasoning behind the grisly murder. Prosecutors would change their reasoning for the motives throughout the trial to cover anything from ritual sacrifice to an over enthusiastically played out sex games. That’s because in Italy, sex is better when someone stabs you viciously over and over in your throat.
     The various media painted Knox as a naïve and innocent girl over her head in a hostile land. But surely justice would prevail. Surely a court would look beyond her country of origin and past the circumstantial evidence. Surely the real killer would be caught and she would be able to put this behind her as a bad memory. After all, she had merely notified police of a crime and then worked with authorities to the best of her ability to help find the ones who were guilty.
     The trial would come to a cold and bitter end in December of 2009. Knox and her ex-boyfriend Sollecito would be tried together and be given almost 30 years each. Rudy would earlier confess to the crime of murdering Kercher and would be offered 15 years if he would agree to testify against Knox and her boyfriend. Rudy took that deal with a smile! Knox’s conviction would take place despite the court having been presented evidence showing she had been allegedly abused by Italian authorities, despite experts testifying that evidence had been contaminated, despite experts testifying that events couldn’t have happened the way prosecutors claimed, even despite a confession of Rudy Guede – after his DNA was found inside Mez’s body!
     I would be afraid to contact authorities of a crime in Italy now, because I fear that I would be used as the scapegoat for a bungling police force. What’s next? Will Italian police arrest and convict American citizens for major crimes just because they happened to be in the same city? Will Americans become the “suspects” for crimes that occurred while that American was in the US of A?
     I suspect that Knox’s arrest and later conviction was instead a rebuke against America for the growing discontent with then President Bush’s Iraq war policies. Otherwise, why would poor little Amanda and her American loving boyfriend be given longer sentences than the man who confessed to sexually assaulting and murdering Meredith Kercher? After all the years I have spent watching CSI Miami, I know that in order to prove someone’s guilt you have to have a basement full of forensic evidence that conclusively ties the suspect to every aspect of the crime. Italian authorities didn’t have enough evidence to convict her of jay-walking — much less murder!
     It is a sad day in the world when a court system would find an innocent woman guilty just because of her nationality. But, Italy has a chance to redeem itself. Knox is gearing up to face the courts again as her appeal date draws near. The question now becomes: How do you overturn a poorly conceived conviction and still save face in the eyes of the world?
     If Italy needs a scapegoat to blame for this international debacle, why not turn on the lead prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini? After all, it was Mignini that suggested it was ritual sex and sacrifice that led to the murder of Ms. Kercher. Mignini has allegedly used that line of prosecution “unsuccessfully over 20 times.” This way Italy can claim it was the actions of a man possessed by some need to see the devil everywhere he looks in the world around him. They could even do it as a sort of national pardon. The Prime Minister could make an official statement recognizing that details in the case are too vague and while circumstantial evidence may exist, it is not enough to keep a possibly innocent girl locked up for the majority of her life.
     For the young Amanda Knox, I hope that Italy does the right thing. Grant this girl clemency in an ugly incident that made her guilty only by the nature of her birth. Hopefully for the girl dubbed “Foxy Knoxy” by the world media, absolution is right around the corner.

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