Monday, December 7, 2009

Amanda Knox and the Power of Projection

By far the best article I have read on the Meredith Kercher murder.

Like most of you, I'm sure, I've been stunned by the verdict against Amanda Knox in Perugia, Italy, and trying to gauge its accuracy. I've also been coming up with many questions about the trial and the Knox family's repeated statements of their daughter's innocence. As several commentators have pointed out, we seem to have watched not only two Amanda Knoxes on trial, but two different portraits of an American college student. Her closest friends insisted last night, on CNN, that Amanda is the least violent person they've ever met. The Italian media and prosecution insist, by contrast, that she's nothing short of a "she-devil," nymphomaniac, and a participant in satanic rites.

Continued at Psychology Today.


Chalicechick said...

From your link:

((((Yet we do know that Knox was quite prepared to defame her boss, Patrick Lumumba, and falsely accuse him of murdering Kercher.)))

Well, actually we know that Knox said that after hours of questioning in a foreign language with no access to a translator. If it took that then I wouldn't say that it was something she was "quite prepared" to do.

And there are some claims that she only said that when the police started asking her for her theories on who could have done it.

I'm not saying that the police always follow the law in America, but in America the police have to read you your rights in a language you understand and interrogate you in a language you understand and when the case comes to trial it's a major constitutional issue if they didn't. In Italy, it seems to have been largely treated as a "her fault for not speaking Italian fluently" sort of thing.

Also, even viewed charitably, the prosecution's case seems to be "Knox hated Kercher, so Knox played satanic sex games with Kercher, Knox's boyfriend and a man Knox didn’t know, and then Knox murdered Kercher in the middle of those sex games." They’ve already convicted the man Knox didn’t know of the crime, though I don't understand why he would be more than an accessory under the theory of the crime they used to convict Knox.

Also, they think it is telling that Knox’s DNA was all over the apartment where she was living and that Knox had used a knife from her own kitchen that didn't match the stab wounds. Huh?

None of this makes Knox innocent, mind you, and Knox's behavior after the crime was weird.

That said, I can certainly see why a lot of Americans think there's some serious fishiness given that the prosecution's theory of the crime makes so little sense.


Unitalian said...

If only Meredith could tell us the truth. I think it is important to remember her as, psychologically, it is a very human to focus on the living, losing sight of the dead and the quiet suffering of their family, who have indeed been sentenced to life, without remission.

No system of justice is perfect and I have found it a bit rich for Americans to be so critical of the Italian system when their own is so often found at fault, sometimes with fatal results.

Talk of anti-Americanism etc (not by you CC) betrays a remarkable solipsism when Amanda Knox was only one of three convicted. On the whole Italians like Americans.

There seems to me a vein of superiority in the Anglo Saxon culture (by which I also mean my own, the English) which often does not stand up to scrutiny. Italy certainly has its faults, but I'm not convinced i would prefer to stand trial in the US or UK.

Chalicechick said...

Personally, I'd go for the American courts, but then, I don't speak Italian.

I apologize in advance if you know this, but some 15-20 years ago there was a huge fuss about "satanic rituals" in America. Even though there was almost no evidence, the fuss led to a few dozen arrests for "satanic rituals" involving alleged abuse of little children. In the years since, the only evidence, eyewitness testimony of little kids*, has been found to have been brought about by overzealous interviewers and children who made things up and said what the interviewers wanted to hear after hours of intense questioning.

At this point, very few Americans believe that those accused of Satanic rituals at that time were justly convicted or indeed did anything wrong at all.

Suffice to say, the "Amanda Knox killed Mercher in a Satanic ritual" thing played up in the Italian press is a claim that has a LOT of baggage for Americans, and a lot of that is related to innocent people being unjustly convicted.

You're right that Knox has gotten far more attention than her boyfriend and I'm sure it's because she's the American.

As for the friend of Kercher's who was convicted awhile ago, he's the one whose DNA is all over everyplace one would expect a murderer's DNA to be and one doesn't need a "Satanic sex game" theory of the crime to give him a motive. I don't know the evidence on that one as well, but my impression is the Italian courts may be right as far as he's concerned.

And indeed, for all I know Knox is guilty.


*Some of which was pretty clearly untrue on its face. Kids often testified that they had been stabbed or cut or impaled on large knives, for example, but didn't have and had never had any corresponding wounds.

Unitalian said...

There's no evidence that Rudy Guede was a friend of Meredith.

I've tried to avoid going in to the "forensic" detail of the case, but there are as many incriminating facts that convicted the pair as suggest their innocence - i suppose, as per the satanic reference, it is about the perspective one takes.

However, I do not think the conviction was any less unsafe than in most other developed countries. Only yesterday in the Times I read the following letter:

Sir, After her conviction, we are told, Amanda Knox is “regarded widely as a victim of . . . an ancient, corrupt legal system” by Americans, including Senator Maria Cantwell. The senator is “saddened” by the verdict, which has left her with “serious questions about the Italian justice system” (report, Dec 7).

This devastating critique of Italian criminal justice emanates from a country which, four days earlier, executed a man after a prison test confirmed he had an IQ of only 68.

While we are on the subject of Knox’s possible innocence, it is worth noting that we cannot be certain how many of 1,186 people executed in the US since 1976 may have been innocent. At least the Italian system allows Knox to live to challenge her conviction. The lethal lottery of the US death penalty results in about 150 inmates being sentenced to death row, out of approximately 22,000 murders each year in America. Those wealthy enough to pay for the best lawyers are most likely to avoid execution.

Race also helps to determine who is subject to the death penalty. A 2007 study showed that black defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants, in cases where the victims were white. Disproportionate execution by race is, of course, just part of the depressing litany of the brutal US penal experience.

The senator might find it fruitful to consider a criminal justice system closer to home than the Italian model.

Michael Teague
Senior Lecturer in Criminology
Teesside University