Tuesday, 8 December 2009

No Justice For Amanda

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.


  1. Perhaps an innocent person would have reacted differently from the get go, such as phoning the the polizia first, prior to phoning her mom and not telling so many different versions of the story. An innocent person sticks to their story and is consistent no matter how many times told or questioned, so it kind of makes you wonder if they are just grasping at straws. Not to mention, if Italy was anti-american and that is why she was convicted, then why would they convict Sollecito, an italian?

  2. don't believe the hype

  3. If she was telling the truth, she would have told the truth from the very beginning!
    Instead, she was trying to blame someone else. Was it a coincidence that the polizia forced her to implicate Lumumba? Come on, you are smarter than that!

  4. Okay, I accept that she behaved oddly and possibly/probably knows more than she is letting on. But the version of events alleged is improbably and plain ridiculous. What was the motive? The likelihood is that something happened, she knew about it, panicked and lied about it and the lies just got worse and worse. Nobody knows how they would react in such a situation. We all do or say stupid things, especially when young and at college. Usually those stupid things just lead to embarrassment and loss of face. Here it led to a murder charge.

  5. I have introduced in Italy, almost 30 years ago, the SEM/EDX method for the research of GSR (gunshot residues). Italian police and Carabinieri started to use this method less than 25 years ago but, since then, I never met a single correct investigation coming from their labs.

    It is not my field but I often ask myself why their skill in DNA research should be any better than the one they have in GSR. I remember the Peter Hankin case: “Cleared murder accused victim of DNA blunder,, this was the title of Liverpool Daily Post, because the British Forensic Science Service easily ascertained the mistakes made by the Italian police.

    In the Knox case all the DNA evidence should be reexamined by a competent laboratory and not in Italy.

  6. Hi Paul,

    The English translation of Judge Massei's sentencing report can be downloaded from here:



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