last updated: 8 November 2016 (approximate reading time: 5 minutes; 993 words)
In 2007, Meredith Kercher was murdered in Perugia, Italy. A man called Rudy Guede is currently in jail, having admitted involvement in her murder.
Few people remember Meredith Kercher. Even fewer remember Guede (and virtually none remember his name). However, nearly everyone remembers Amanda Knox, with whom Kercher shared an apartment.
Knox was found guilty—but was subsequently acquitted—of the murder of Kercher. Knox’s story is now recounted in a new Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox.
The Story According to Knox
Knox’s version of events (in short) is that she spent the night of the murder with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito (whom she had met five days previously). The next morning she returned to the apartment and found the front door ajar.
She entered, saw Kercher’s door was shut and so presumed she was sleeping, and then proceeded to take a shower. On getting out of the shower, she found a blood stain on the bath mat.
Knox then left the apartment and returned with Sollecito. The two noticed a broken window and, becoming concerned that Kercher did not answer when they knocked, they tried to force her door. When that was unsuccessful, the police were called. The police broke the door down to find the dead body.
Knox and Sollecito first came to public attention when cameras caught them kissing outside the apartment in which the dead body lay. And from that moment Knox achieved a level of celebrity the Kardashians can only dream about.
So… That Kissing…
Many people think they know how they would act in a certain circumstance. In this context, most people are convinced that if they found a friend/roommate murdered, they would not stand outside the crime scene kissing their boy/girlfriend.
Let’s cut to the chase: No one knows how they would act in any circumstance, especially in a situation that (1) they have never experienced before and (2) is highly emotionally traumatic.
While no one knows how they might act, that didn’t stop the media (and the police) from deciding that the appropriate behavior after a murder does not involve making out with your boyfriend.
It is hard to argue that the behavior was seemly, but a huge leap was then made—and a narrative developed—that Knox’s behavior indicated she was hiding something, and what she was hiding was her involvement in the murder.
The Police, the Media
It wasn’t long before Knox and Sollecito were arrested. Knox’s behavior and the (not insignificant) lies she told, helped the police believe they had the right person.
Not only did the police believe they had the right person—so did the media. Knox’s historic social media postings were great fodder for the press, as were the leaks from the police. The leaks included Knox’s prison diaries and details of the death. In addition, facts were extrapolated that were conveniently blurred with salacious speculation about a sex game that had gone wrong.
Before the trial for Knox and Sollecito could begin, in a separate fast-track legal process Rudy Guede admitted his involvement. Guede’s conviction didn’t remove any suspicion from Knox and Sollecito, and it didn’t stop Guede from laying blame on Knox and Sollecito, who were both convicted of the murder.
The prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini, had detective-like powers, and power to determine the course of the investigation. Mignini looked at Knox—and how she behaved—and was convinced that she was the murderer. From this point, the investigation appears to have been steered to back this belief rather than to search for facts.
And this is where I get twitchy (again) about what people actually know. Surely, if it’s possible for a detective to look into the eyes of a suspect and know that person committed a murder, then we don’t need juries. What is the point of having judges and the right of appeal if all that is necessary to determine guilt is for a prosecutor to look in the eyes of the suspect?
Now, certainly, it is right that a detective/prosecutor should be able to have hunches and to act on those hunches, but Italy relies on laying a case before the court.
How Should a Murderer Behave?
Giuliano Mignini was (and, according to the documentary, still is) convinced that Knox committed the murder. He clearly views her as some sort of criminal mastermind. But if she were a cold-blooded criminal genius (and please feel free to insert any relevant cliché here), might she have behaved differently?
For instance, might someone who had just killed their roommate feign extreme distress? Might they stand in full glare of the TV cameras and sob? Might they wait until the detective was passing and then break down in tears, grasping at the detective as they proclaimed the victim was their best friend, while demanding that the detective do everything within his or her powers to bring the culprit to justice immediately?
I don’t know how a murderer would act; I’m just suggesting that odd behavior does not inevitably lead to one incontrovertible conclusion.
And just to play the other side of the argument here, I’m not suggesting that Knox’s odd behavior proves her innocence, either. If you can murder your roommate in cold blood, then it is a simple thing to lie to the cops, to lie to the prosecutor, and to lie to a documentary maker.
Weaknesses in the Documentary
The documentary tells story of key players but largely ignores Kercher (although the title clearly explains the subject of the documentary). Given the subject matter, the documentary looks at the events from the perspectives of the key players but doesn’t really consider how the justice system failed.
The documentary gives an interesting to look back to 2007, but ultimately, it wasn’t engaging and doesn’t tell us anything more about what happened that night or what has happened since then. If you don’t know the background, it’s a nice summary, but if you already know the story, there’s better on Netflix.