Monday, October 27, 2014

Currently Reading

Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox

Me: “Mom, I’m officially studying in Perugia this summer!”
Mom: “Perugia? What happened to Florence?”
Me: “Too expensive. The Perugia program is dirt cheap.”
Mom: “You know that’s where Amanda Knox killed her roommate, right?”

Thanks, Mom.

I did not know that’s where Amanda Knox had allegedly killed her roommate. Up until this summer, Amanda Knox was a name I’d heard mentioned on the news or sporadically sprinkled in conversations. Having lived five minutes away from her apartment, and having attended the same university she attended for a month, however, my roommate and I developed an interest in the case. It’s not every day you get to live five minutes away from the location of one of the hottest and most controversial crime scenes in twenty-first century Italian history.

For those unfamiliar with the story, I’ve condensed it and summarized it below. If you’re familiar with the story, you may skip down to my commentary.

Amanda Knox was a twenty-year-old college student studying in Perugia for the 2007-2008 school year to feed her love for Italian culture and language. She chose Perugia for one of the same reasons I chose it: it was a beautiful, medieval college city where the people spoke only Italian. For the Seattle-based honors student, it posed the perfect opportunity to learn the language fluently and immerse herself in a new culture.

In Perugia, Amanda shared a flat with three other students, one of whom was a twenty-two-year-old British journalism student named Meredith Kercher. In the trials following Kercher’s murder, Amanda’s roommates would testify that there was tension and resentment between Kercher and Amanda over Amanda’s promiscuous lifestyle and slovenly living habits.

On the morning of November 1st, Amanda claimed to have returned home to find feces in her toilet and a broken window. Meredith’s door was locked, which was unusual; and it wasn’t until the police showed up to return a missing cell phone (traced back to Amanda’s flat) that they discovered Meredith’s body lying in a pool of blood. She had been strangled and stabbed twice in her neck.

In a condensed version of the story, Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito (an Italian student Knox had met at a concert about a week earlier) were arrested based on suspicion. Detectives surmised that the break in was staged, and officers found Knox’s and Sollecito’s cavalier attitude toward the murder as alarming. Officers testified that, while they were interviewing Knox’s other roommates—who were, of course, ballistic—Knox and Sollecito were fornicating and amusing themselves. One officer claimed to have watched Knox do cartwheels while waiting to be interrogated.

Long story short: Knox’s and Sollecito’s stories changed a few times while they were being interrogated (although we’ll never know how true this is, because there is mysteriously no recording of either interrogation), and they were both arrested. In the first trial, Knox was accused of being a whore and a “devil” who was the mastermind behind Meredith’s murder. The prosecution argued that—because Meredith was sexually assaulted—that Knox, who was under the influence of drugs, orchestrated a sadistic sex game. When Meredith refused to participate, Amanda and Sollecito killed her.

The case was appealed on the grounds that the prosecution had no solid evidence incriminating Knox, and that the Roman forensics team had royally messed up the DNA evidence (much of it was contaminated). Knox was acquitted and returned to the USA.

But, because double jeopardy is possible in Italy, she was tried again and found guilty, again, on January 30th, 2014. While her lawyer is seeking to appeal to the Supreme Court of Italy, there is a possibility that Knox will be extradited to Italy, where she will have to serve a 28.5-year-long prison sentence.

But, wait, Alex…what does this have to do with reading?

Okay, so Knox published a book recently called Waiting to Be Heard. I’m debating whether or not I should buy it. I read the first twenty pages or so on Google books, and it’s pretty poorly written—not that I mean to be a snob or anything.

But it’s such a fascinating case. The case, particularly the first trial, draws a sharp line between Italian and American culture. The Italian Supreme Court judged Knox based on her attire, her promiscuity, her childhood nickname “Foxy Knoxy,” and her behavior while in Italy, yet ignored the glaring errors the Roman forensics team made when gathering the evidence that was paramount to the case. And, because the DNA evidence was compromised and there’s no recording of Amanda’s interrogation, the arguments the prosecution made with regard to her “obvious” guilt are dubious.

Back in America, Knox received a great(er) deal of support – not only from friends and family, but also from millions of people who were outraged over the corrupt and unethical Italian judicial system. In Italy, Knox was the “devil” – a sick, depraved killer and nymphomaniac who engineered Meredith’s murder. Physiognomy governed the judge’s perception of her. In America, Knox was a sweet, hard-working asset to her community and was incapable of such a heinous crime.

I’m interested in reading the book because I’d love to hear what Amanda has to say. So far, I’ve watched European documentaries on the subject (which paint Amanda as the killer) and American documentaries on the subject (which paint Amanda as an innocent victim of a corrupt judicial system). It’s a remarkably interesting case, and I think the fact that there’s no definite answer is what makes me want to read more of the book.
-Alex Hajjar

1 comment:

  1. interesting, now I might want to read the book too just to get both sides of the story, it is very interesting and your article.