The Amanda Knox trial is one that had the whole world watching a few years ago. And now it seems the series is set to return to our screens. The tragic story of the death of a British student who was on exchange in Italy, has caught global attention – mainly because of the accused killer, Amanda Knox – who looks like anything but what you’d imagine a ‘murderer’ to look like.
But as the case is now set for a retrial and the prospect that Knox could be returned to prison in Italy grows stronger, let’s do a quick re-cap of what’s happened.
Let’s break it down.
1. What’s the case all about?
– On 1 November 2007, the body of English student Meredith Kercher was found on the floor of the Italian apartment she shared with her roommate, American, Amanda Knox. Kercher’s throat had been slit.
– Five days later Amanda Knox and her the Italian boyfriend were arrested by police. The print and TV media in Europe went berserk; images of Knox and her boyfriend Raffaelle Sollectio were splashed on the front page of every newspaper.
– The European media speculated that Knox was some kind of sexual deviant who had hosted a sex party in her home that went wrong. Several support groups began to form in the United States, protesting Knox’s innocence.
– A man from Ivory Coast, Rudy Guede was then arrested in connection with the same murder. After his DNA was found at the crime scene, the Italian courts sentenced him to 30 years in prison (the sentence was reduced to 16 years following an appeal).
– In December 2009 Knox and Sollectio were convicted of Kercher’s murder and sentenced to 26 and 25 years in prison respectively.
– Knox and Sollecito both appealed their convictions, which were then overturned in October 2011 mainly due to the way the prosecution had recklessly handled vital DNA evidence.
– Knox was released from jail (where she had spent more than four years) and returned to Seattle in the United States.
– The Supreme Court of Italy ruled late last month that Knox, now aged 25, would be retried for the murder of Meredith Kercher. Knox’s tell all biography is due for release in the United States next month.
2.Why did the case get so much media attention?
The media coverage of Knox’s arrest and the trial itself was on a scale not seen before. European press worked themselves into a total frenzy over the case as it became number one in tabloid news. The fact that the two women at the centre of the case (the victim and the accused) were young and attractive was central to the coverage. Some media outlets would even refer to the defendant as ‘Foxy Noxy’.
The crime itself was particularly gruesome and the original claim of the Italian prosecution was that Kercher had been killed as part of some strange – and quite possibly satanic – sex party which Knox had hosted. The Daily Beast reported at the time that:
The trial proceeds in a frescoed courtroom with the unlikely backdrop of a massive wooden crucifix hanging above the jury. Outside, satellite trucks crowd Perugia’s pretty piazzas and paparazzi hide around corners stalking lawyers, prosecutors and the big prize: Knox’s parents.
Their daughter is such a household name across Italy that she was voted a top newsmaker of 2008. Her leaked prison diaries, in which she describes various lovers and wonders whether any of them might have infected her with HIV, has become a steamy bestseller.
British website ‘The Week’ in the UK argues why we’re so fascinated in this case is because Knox doesn’t fit the stereotypical view of a ‘killer':
Our deepest fear is that the “girl next door”, whom we trust and see as innocent and loving, turns out to be a vampire or a murderer. This is the stuff of horror movies and we all want to believe that in real life these horrors don’t occur. We also want to believe that we are not capable of doing evil deeds. Evil is something that is done by others not one of us….
The very fact that Knox is in many ways the epitome of the “girl next door” is what is so frightening and threatening. If she is in fact guilty of murder, then we are compelled to face the possibility that each of us has the capacity for evil. This is the real horror that gives rise to protest and disbelief in our attempt to disown this part of ourselves.
3. What happens now? Will Amanda be returned to Italy for a trial?
The ruling from Italy’s Supreme Court that the case against Knox be retried, means that all of this business will drag out for at least a few more years.
Knox is reportedly saying that she will not return to Italy for the trial and therefore won’t be able to testify in person in her own defence. This will put her at a disadvantage under Italian law because she ‘won’t be able to take advantage of Italy’s right of “spontaneous declarations” in which the defendant can stand and make a statement to defend herself against particular testimony.’
Were she convicted of murder once more, the Italian Government would probably want her extradited back to Italy so they could put her in jail. This however, would require the cooperation of the United States Government. The USA does have an extradition treaty (agreement) with Italy and so Knox would have to mount a pretty strong argument about why she shouldn’t have to go back.
Chances are the outcome of this fresh trial would be appealed by the losing side, regardless of who it is.
4. How can Amanda be tried again, what about double jeopardy?
Yep, we’ve seen the film too! (How great is Ashley Judd?) And that’s where our minds went, legal sleuths that we are.
Double jeopardy is a rule in the American legal system that prevents someone being convicted of the same crime twice. The key here though is that it’s not the American legal system we’re dealing with. The Italian legal system has no such rule and this practice of ordering a fresh trial – which effectively starts the whole process over from scratch again – is just a part of how their laws work. Double jeopardy could be relevant though, as a US court might take the rule into account when making a decision about whether of not to extradite Knox back to Italy.