by Wendy Murray
A third ruling in murder trial of Seattle native Amanda Knox is due January 30 from Florence.
It is time for all of us to brace ourselves.
British college student Meredith Kercher (then age 21), was Knox's roommate at a university in Perugia, Italy, when she was murdered in November 2007. Knox and her then-(Italian) boyfriend, Raffaele Sollicito were arrested shortly thereafter and subsequently convicted of the crime in 2009. Since then the case has seen a staggering number of twists that challenge anyone who is sincerely trying to understand and process this tragedy. The murder of Meredith Kercher is a story so sad, that all its respective constituencies--Italians, Americans, British and even Africans–simply can’t sustain a measured conversation about it.
Yet the verdict looms and will be decisive. Amanda told the Italian paper La Repubblica yesterday (Jan 9) that if she is found guilty, she will become a fugitive.
Ma se il processo dovesse concludersi con una condanna cosa farà?
"In quel caso sarò... come si dice... una latitante."
[But if the process results in a guilty verdict?]
["In that case I will be ... as they say ... a fugitive."]
(Knox has since released a clarification of this statement.)
It is time for everyone to think about how to process this case.
At the time when I took a dozen journalism students to Assisi, Italy in May 2010 in an international journalism seminar, Amanda was still incarcerated in Perugia. I was living in Assisi when the murder took place in 2007 and knew some of the people involved. I followed the case meticulously from the start and then, returning with these students, followed up locally.
During that two-week seminar my students and I were joined for a day by Chris Mellas, Amanda's stepfather, who was living in neighboring Perugia. I interviewed him on tape and he answered every question I asked. [See the interview.]
My students in turn struggled to process the conflicting elements of this vexing case (the cumulation of this work can be seen here). I issued them two provisos:
First: This case is about justice for Meredith Kercher; it is not about Amanda Knox.
Second: The Italian court system, though different than that of the U.S., is competent. We must trust the process.
Here are the bullet points of this complicated case:
- November 1, 2007, Meredith Kercher was murdered in the apartment she shared with Knox.
- November 6, 2007, Knox was arrested by the Italian police and, along with Sollecito, charged with the murder of Kercher.
- December 5, 2009 Knox (then 22) and Sollecito were convicted on charges of faking a break-in, slander, sexual violence and murder, and sentenced to 26 years imprisonment. However, according to Italian law, she would not be considered guilty until the verdict was confirmed by higher courts.
- Her appeal at the second level (secondo grado) of trial concluded on October 3, 2011, when the original conviction was annulled and Knox and Sollecito were released from prison.
- On March 26, 2013, Italy's highest criminal court annulled the annullment and resumed the appeal process at an appellate court in Florence. The retrial began, with Knox in absentia, on September 30, 2013
- A verdict is expected January 30, 2014.
Meredith — or “Mez” as her family and friends called her–came to the Umbrian town of Perugia in the fall of 2007 to complete her degree in European studies. During the night of November 1st that same fall, she was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in her home. She shared a flat in a small cottage outside the city center with three others: two Italian women and one American. The “American girl,” Amanda Knox, was convicted of the murder by an Italian court in December 2009, (along with Raffaele Sollecito and a third man from the Ivory Coast, Rudy Guede). In October 2011 the verdict was overturned and she was released. In March 2013 the next round of appeals opened a new trial.
After so many phases of this tortured case -- all of which have been scrutinized in the crucible of time and under the eye of the international press -- once the verdict is rendered, the public should be satisfied the court has done its work.
After all my research and reflection and despite my personal connection to this story, I maintain what I commended to my students:
This case is about justice for Meredith Kercher. We need to trust the process.