I have spent the last few days reading the various reports in newspapers and online about the Amanda Knox murder trial and her conviction last week. I can't help feeling that something has gone terribly wrong here.
Now of course it is difficult for someone just reading media reports of a trial to have a full insight into all of the evidence as do judges and juries. But we all have a gut reaction to these thing and all too often they prove to be correct. Just as when Barry George was convicted of the murder of Jill Dando, there is an uncomfortable feeling that this has been a grave miscarriage of justice.
I wrote just a few days ago that DNA evidence can all too often be seen as some kind of panacea and super witness by police and prosecutors. And so it has proven here. The fact that Knox's DNA was found on a knife was seen as telling. Yet it was a normal kitchen knife which she would have used on a day to day basis and it did not match all of the injuries to the victim, Meredith Kercher, or to a blood print of the murder weapon.
And that is all of the real physical evidence there was. The rest is circumstantial or based on innuendo. Much of it should not even have been allowed in a trial. It wouldn't have been in a UK or US court.
Knox has been vilified in the press and in that court room because she was a young woman in a foreign country who liked sex and the company of men. She even stated this on her Facebook page which has been reported in shocked terms. One can only assume that the people who are shocked by this have not been anywhere near a university campus recently, or a city centre on a Friday or Saturday night.
And then there is the sheer illogicality of the prosecution case. Their version of events, which by their own admission was pure guesswork, just does not make sense. Amanda Knox was fond of men and sex they say. Meredith Kercher less so. This offended Amanda for some reason. I still can't work that one out. They fell out as flatmates are prone to do. This then turned into a brutal and humiliating sexual assault and a murder. That is the motive we're told. And on that basis and all of the above, plus some observations of some odd behaviour in the police station, it is enough to convict a young woman and sentence her to 25 years.
Who would not behave a little eccentrically and strangely if accused of a terrible crime in a foreign country in which people are speaking to you in a foreign language? Who would not behave a little oddly even if accused of such a crime in their home country and they were able to follow every word? It might be considered a stressful situation.
Now she must wait a year for her appeal to he heard.
We tell ourselves that such injustices could not happen here. Yet they do, not least in the Barry George case which was largely based on similarly weak circumstantial evidence, some questionable forensics and his undoubted oddness.
And remember when suspicion briefly fell on the McCanns over the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine? The police had no case there and what they had made no sense. But just the suspicion was enough for some to condemn them. How quick were ordinary people, thanks to the outlet of the internet and messageboards, to point the finger at them and to argue that Mrs McCann did not look upset enough or was too calm. Happily that storm quickly blew over, but it illustrates how quick people are to judge and accuse on the flimsiest of grounds thanks to a feeling, unusual or eccentric behaviour or sheer malice based on dislike for someone else's lifestyle choices.
Amanda Knox finds herself in prison today and a convicted murderer because she went abroad and behaved in a way that thousands of students do every day. I knew plenty of girls at university just like Amanda Knox; pretty, intelligent, flirtatious and confident; they drank, they took soft drugs, they slept with various men - some of them even slept with me. In Knox's case something horrific happened to her flatmate and so her life suddenly became the focus of intense and hypocritical attention. That is ultimately the only difference, and is why she finds herself in her current predicament.