It has been a good day for Amanda Knox and all who wish her well, and the same goes for Raffaele Sollecito. But it has been a pretty bad day for virtually everyone else.
First, Italian justice suffers a terrible blow to its credibility. In Italy a sentence only becomes definitive after it has been confirmed by a higher court. Since the murder of Meredith Kercher at the beginning of November 2007, almost four years have passed. Yes, it took four years for a court to acquit two of the accused. The appeal (and all appeals in Italy are automatic) was heard one day a week, which seems incredible. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have been imprisoned all this time for a crime they did not commit, because the wheels of justice in Italy move extremely slowly.
This is not the only example of the near paralysis of Italian justice. Silvio Berlusconi has been able to escape justice by the use of a statute of limitations: his clever lawyers have spun out the proceedings in his various corruption trials for so long that eventually all the processes have automatically lapsed.
The glacial pace of Italian justice means that justice in the end does not get done.
Secondly, this is a pretty bad day for the press and television stations. Despite the fact that no definitive sentence had been passed, they all jumped to conclusions. The condemnation of Knox and Sollecito long before the trial ended would have ensured the trial being declared a mistrial in England. How could the accused get a fair trial when all sorts of allegations about their characters were treated as fact? How could a jury reach any sort of dispassionate consideration of the evidence in such an atmosphere?
Moreover, since when has someone’s appearance been of paramount interest in a case like this? Why on earth did we have endless references to Amanda’s appearance? She is a moderately pretty girl, but that is surely irrelevant. Why do women have to be judged on their looks? Incidentally, Sollecito is what the Italians call “bello”, but no one was interested in him, were they? This obsession with the way a woman looks is simply infantile, and our media should be ashamed of itself.
Finally, there remains the sad fact that Meredith Kercher is dead, an irreplaceable loss for her family and all who knew her. But it is important to remember that someone has been convicted for this crime and is doing time for it. The case against Knox and Sollecito was never strong, and once the forensic evidence vaporised, non-existent. It could not have helped those who mourn Meredith Kercher to see two innocents imprisoned for a crime they did not commit.
I call them “two innocents” and so they are – innocent of murder. One makes no other claim on their behalf. Let us remember that courts make judgments of fact based on evidence, not moral judgements on people’s character. They did not do it, and that is the one fact that counts. Let us hope now that Amanda and Raffaele, who must wish they had never met each other, can return to obscurity. Of course, Amanda will have to sell her story, simply to help her family recoup the expense they have been driven to over the last four years. She, and they, can hardly be blamed for that.