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The Amanda Knox case is an indictment of Italian justice

The news media do not come out well, either. The obsession with Knox’s looks was infantile

By on Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The press jumped to conclusions about the guilt of Knox and Raffaele Sollecito (Photo: PA)

The press jumped to conclusions about the guilt of Knox and Raffaele Sollecito (Photo: PA)

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.

  • Anonymous

    While everyone will agree with Fr Lucie-Smith’s criticism of the slowness of the Italian system, there is no research evidence to support his assumption that adverse publicity in the press and television makes a fair trial impossible. On the contrary he will probably be aware of some very high profile trials in the USA where there was a huge amount of extremely prejudicial coverage in the press (OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony, Michael Jackson to name but three) where the jury were able to produce not guilty verdicts that confounded the media commentators. Although we are often told by British lawyers that press coverage can make a fair trial impossible, if anyone has produced the slightest evidence that this is true then I am unaware of it.

    In addition Fr Lucie-Smith did not mention that the final verdict on the guilt or innocence of Amanda Knox has not yet been determined by the Italian courts. The prosecution are appealing to the Supreme Court in Rome who could, if they find sufficient reason, demand a new trial to be held in Florence.

  • Jacob

    I’m not convinced Knox is as innocent as you say she is. And if you think the justice system in Italy is not good, what about America? Last week a black man there called Troy Anthony Davis was executed despite witnesses recanting their stories. Even the Pope appealed for his clemency, all to no avail. I don’t think there’s a lot of justice anywhere in the world.

  • Anonymous

    Well said. It could have been a show trial or freak show from a Dickens novel the way the press went on about it. 

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    My opinion of Italian justice has no bearing on what I may think about American justice. Seperate topics!

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Good points. It is possible that the Court of Cassation may quosh this verdict – then we would be back to square one…. and we would have another two trials until two courts have agreed, then it can go no further. Quite a lot of trials…..

  • chiaramonti

    This case, and the trial presently taking place in the USA of Michael Jackson’s doctor surely demonstrate that a criminal trial , fascinating though aspects of it may be, is not a suitable subject for live TV reporting from the courtroom. The media has, once again, demonstrated beyond argument, that they cannot be trusted to ensure that matters of evidence adduced in court only are reported and speculation and inappropriate comment excluded. A criminal trial, particularly where the charge is murder, is a serious matter and not a vehicle for entertaining the public.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jack-Hughes/100000562751914 Jack Hughes

    I’m sorry Father but I whilst agree with your point about
    the speed (or lack thereof) of Italian justice, I fail to see why Ms Knox
    should be allowed to sell her story, her family did not need to spend
    exorbitant sums of money on a PR campaign that seems to have made the re-trial
    all about their daughter and not about the poor girl who was (most likely)
    raped and then murdered, they could (as the Kercher family has done) remained quietly
    obscure during the proceedings instead of whipping up a fury of media interest.
     I’m sure that the families of many who
    are acquitted of crimes behave in this dignified manner and at most release a
    statement through their attorneys, as for the cost of hiring attorneys; well it’s
    a cost that people have to bear and selling one story (in this case again
    making the story about Knox and not the poor girl (whose name I can’t remember)
    who was the victim of this crime.

  • Jacob

    My point is, it is does sometimes matter what you look like. If you’re a white middle class American girl the chances of the Anglo-American press rooting for you are that much more likely than if you were a black man, despite your innocence or guilt.

    You paint Knox here as the unfortunate victim of justice. Surely the real victim is Meredith Kercher and her family? There’s no way Meredith is coming back.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Because Knox was subject to a very damaging tiral by television, mounting some sort of a defence was necessary and right (everyone has the right to self-defence where their reputation is involved.) Most of the family’s expenses were in air fares and hotel bills. The Knox family is not rich.

  • Anonymous

    Father – have you actually read about the FACTS of the case; irrespective of the media-blackening of characters?

    We have a glorious principle in law that people are legally innocent until proven guilty; but you of all people will realise; especially working for the Herald; that legal innocence can sometimes have bugger-all to do with moral innocence. Does anyone believe that OJ did not murder his ex-wife and her boyfriend? Does anyone not believe that there was enough overwhelming testimony and forensic evidence to prove it? It didn’t matter when the courts allowed it to become a racial issue

    You seem to make a fundamental error in your summation. courts do not merely make judgments on evidence – they are also compelled to make judgments according to the lack of evidence – that makes all the difference in the world!

    Ironic that you appeal to condemning those who are merely ‘judging on people’s looks’ I seem to recall a few years ago a Herald reporter writing elsewhere who declared “Ugliness is not a virtue – until she sang we were right to boo Susan Boyle”

    …and being a confessor you must surely be aware that [in the words of Dr Greg House] “people lie”!
    Why?
    How many times does a lie [for the most ridiculous psychological reasons] inadvertently condemn the innocent and exonerate the guilty?

    I’ve witnessed too much over the years to be certain of anything except my faith. I’ve studied enough science to realise we’re arrogantly ignorant [we can't even prove if gravity works in the direction we all presume it does]. I’ve read enough history to know that downright lies, counterfactuals, hyperbolic speculations and revisionisms are prevalent but all-too-readily accepted by the ideologically motivated. How many modern theology books are grounded in the selfish presumptions of the author to alter reality and Church teachings/history to the way they want it to be?

    Did you listen to “Beyond Belief” on Monday regarding the future of the Church in Ireland? A nightmare of mendacity, duplicity and self-delusion grounded in maniacal egoism.

    I once knew an old woman who murdered her evil bullying family-ruining husband who was on the verge of destroying their son’s life – being cleverer than any Agatha Christie villain she got away with it. It would have been impossible to prove in any court – but she knew she’d done it and irrespective of the reasons she spent the entire rest of her life in penitence for it.

    Over a dozen witnesses all swore blind that a friend of mine struck his girlfriend in a pub; I only arrived later but when listening to the testimonies it was rationally deducible that the eye witnesses were all wrong – and later the girlfriend confirmed the entire story ; she’d slipped and he’d actually reached out to save her from falling – but supposing she’d been of malicious intent and saw an opportunity in the ‘eye-witness evidence’? or struck her head and died?

    When I was a Church pastoral assistant a young parishioner was at a nightclub and got into a fight with her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend; her friends subsequently took her away to a first floor private booth on a balcony; where she inadvertently knocked a bottle of wine off a ledge and it fell into the crowd below – seriously injuring the girl with whom she’d just been fighting. The bitter irony of coincidence and happenstance – these things – beyond common sensical credulity – happen!
    Remember how world war I started – the ‘karmic nexus’ that the Archduke’s Chauffeur’s wrong turns should lead them to the cafe Gavrilo Princip was exiting
    Look at the Birmingham six and the forensic tests for explosive nitrocellulose being identical with the new playing card coating on their hands.

    When I lectured in logic a looong time ago I taught the students something called “The iguandon’s horn” fallacy. palaeontologists discovered iguanadon remains with small spiky triangular bones they naturally assumed to be horns and for over a century argued, deliberated and made the most outrageous constructions grounded upon cartilage speculations as to how and where the bones were placed – it turned out that nobody ever noticed that the Dinosaur’s thumbs were missing and the Iguanadon didn’t have any horns!

    Intuitively we try and impose a holism upon the facts presented before us – but seeing through a glass darkly or being deprived of a vital, crucial piece of the jigsaw [or being overwhelmed with extraneous pieces from another entirely unrelated jigsaw] we can make the most embarrassingly ridiculous of presumptions

    Is Amanda Knox legally innocent?
    Yes.
    Was her imprisonment a miscarriage of justice or a miscarriage of due legal process?
    We may never know.
    The Italian judicial system may be in shreds: American pressure may be a savage self-indictment and the guilty might be free for all the right reasons or the innocent may be free for all the wrong ones.

    So let’s leave the Jugment to the Lord above – and endeavour to ensure that the system continues to protect the innocent and the guilty – until the guilty can be proved to be so. God will ultimately find a way that His Justice [which is not ours] and overwhelming mercy will prevail.
    Let’s also be grateful that we dwell in a society where most of the sins of which we are all guilty are not punishable by the law – otherwise we’d all be in prison.

    But come on Father: Play fair – we don’t know the entire story and it’s erroneous to presume we do.

  • Dr P J McFall

    Alexander Lucie-Smith is a Catholic priest and a doctor of moral theology, states “The Amanda Knox case is an indictment of Italian justice”, even though he has not read the court’s judgement, and is not privy to statements and other evidence and yet he recklessly and profoundly impugns the honour of the Italian court. Do not forget that the malevolence of Miss Knox has been established in the court judgement inasmuch she was willing to implicate an innocent person. Equally it has been shown by the court that she was contemptuous of the police and blatantly lied to them and about them regarding her forced confessions. Even then she spoke very good Italian so her excuse that she bewildered and intimidated does not stand up. Alexander Lucie-Smith condemns the integrity of the press but supports Amanda Knox right to sell her story to the press. The Knox family have spent millions of dollars in publicity and have shamelessly used the press, but he seems to have ignored that this conduct could have skewed the outcome of the appeal just as much as the press, or mass media. After all, dollar$ $peak a language, in any language. I think that The Knox family’s strong Catholic influence may have a bearing on Alexander Lucie-Smith’s perspective about his case. To state: “is and indictment” instead of: “may be an indictment ” is most unwise, especially for a person with a Ph.D., in Moral Theology. It is almost as though (ridiculous though it may appear) that Alexander Lucie-Smith is acting as literary advocate for the Knox family.Then what about the Vatican court that is based on Italian jurisprudence. They have obfuscated, procrastinated, perverted and obstructed justice for centuries and are still doing as in the recent cases of child sexual abuse.

  • http://twitter.com/morysireland Morys Ireland

    Except that Knox is now safely back in the US where the chances of her being extradited are precisely zero.

  • Anonymous

    The Vatican court does no such thing – if you studied Canon Law you would soon realise how fascinating and wonderful it is – how rich in mercy but determined in justice.

    When it comes to recent child-abuse cases – it wasn’t canon law which was to blame – it was the defiant refusal of [mainly western] diocesan tribunals and criminally negligent Bishops to uphold Canon Law – which has been categorically clear on the issues since 1962.

    Don’t blame the system: Blame those arrogant clerics who decided to abrogate their duties and responsibilities of actuating and implementing it.

  • Mark Castilano

    Yes, Miss Knox may use the press to tell her side of the story (maybe for gain), but so will other people who know her and have had dealings with her (also for gain). In the fullness of time the truth will come out and although Miss Knox may enjoy physical liberty, there may be psychological and spiritual issues to create a metaphorical prison. I am glad that she is free and I hope that she has learned from her experiences,  but I hope that she that she chooses a quiescent and inscrutable lifestyle as opposed to being another celebrity.

  • Anonymous

    I can understand her seizing the opportunity for financial reward to recompense the millions spent by her family and local community.

    Sure she lost four years of her liberty – but she shouldn’t seek to gain , even if only indirectly; through the death of her adamantly declared friend.

    I reminds me of a R4 Lenten talk earlier this year when one of the speakers spoke of his victimhood of being falsely accused of terrible things involving the death of his children but how he had forgiven those who’d libelled him – it was not a subject which should ever have been treated in such a way.

  • Anonymous

    That is what I had read before I posted above, but this seemingly authoritative article http://internationalextraditionblog.com/tag/amanda-knox-returns-to-us/ suggests that under double jeopardy she would not be tried again, but instead the Supreme Court in Rome could simply revoke the appeal verdict and re-instate the original 26 years. Whether the US would apply the extradition treaty with Italy and return her to prison is doubtful, and I would suggest that it appears likely to remain a moot point.

  • Anonymous

    That is what I had read before I posted above, but this seemingly authoritative article http://internationalextraditionblog.com/tag/amanda-knox-returns-to-us/ suggests that under double jeopardy she would not be tried again, but instead the Supreme Court in Rome could simply revoke the appeal verdict and re-instate the original 26 years. Whether the US would apply the extradition treaty with Italy and return her to prison is doubtful, and I would suggest that it appears likely to remain a moot point.

  • http://twitter.com/morysireland Morys Ireland

    Given previous cases I don’t think the US would extradite Satan himself… if he were a US citizen… which would not surprise me.

  • http://twitter.com/morysireland Morys Ireland

    Given previous cases I don’t think the US would extradite Satan himself… if he were a US citizen… which would not surprise me.

  • Anonymous

    vaz

  • Ignatius

    Have you read the original trial judge’s report Fr Lucie-Smith? You can here. The lack of evidence of any defensive maneuvers on the part of Meredith suggest that “several attackers were present, each with a distribution of tasks and roles: either holding Meredith and preventing her from any significant defensive reaction, or actually performing the violent actions.” From the pathology findings, Meredith was raped by Guede but she was also stabbed in the neck from left and right. Guede could not have done this on his own. The alleged murder weapon was found in Sollecito’s house and it had been cleaned with bleach.

    I think the Italian court’s original conviction was correct. There was sufficient evidence to convict all three – Guede, Sollecito and Knox. It’s actually our media that has turned this to an indictment of justice, not the Italian system.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jack-Hughes/100000562751914 Jack Hughes

    I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to disagree Father, whilst I  agree that the way Ms Knox was described was inflamitory to say the least (my observation is that Lawyers and TV do not mix) I stand by my assertion that Ms Kercher  has somehow been forgotten. 

    As for the State of the Knox family finances I can only observe that they were able to afford to send their daughter half way around the world on an exchange trip to Italy, personally I wish that my mother could have afforded to send me on a similar trip when I was an undergraduate.

  • David Devinish

    It is only a matter of weeks since Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark 20 Sep 2011 insulted the integrity of HM Judges and Partiality of the HM Courts. He accused the Queens bench of bias against Catholics, which is totally untrue. He could not substantiate his claim, but offered only conjecture. Now, Alexander Lucie-Smith is a Catholic priest and a doctor of moral theology questions the integrity of the Italian Court without just cause. He could not have known the deliberations of the court and why they reached their judgement when he stated “The Amanda Knox case is an indictment of Italian justice”. Had he stated: “It would appear that the crime-scene had been contaminated, that subsequently rendered forensic evidence unreliable and therefore inadmissible” that may have been acceptable, because the defence counsel said so. But to assert that careless gathering of evidence by the police and alleged careless investigative procedures, constitutes an indictment on the dignity of the Court, seems like folly. The careless theoretical attitude presented by both of these senior clerics does not behove the integrity of Catholic academia. The ‘poor old’ Catholic Church has not yet come to terms with the fact that it does not hold a privileged or special position in the world, any more. The real problem is that two Ph.D., academics made a crass emotive allegations, without evidence, flouting all the accepted rules of research. Even a GCSE student would be expected to justify such an assertion. A decent ‘A’ level would not have made such an absurd insinuation in a document for public consumption.

  • David Devinish

    It is only a matter of weeks since Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark 20 Sep 2011 insulted the integrity of HM Judges and Partiality of the HM Courts. He accused the Queens bench of bias against Catholics, which is totally untrue. He could not substantiate his claim, but offered only conjecture. Now, Alexander Lucie-Smith is a Catholic priest and a doctor of moral theology questions the integrity of the Italian Court without just cause. He could not have known the deliberations of the court and why they reached their judgement when he stated “The Amanda Knox case is an indictment of Italian justice”. Had he stated: “It would appear that the crime-scene had been contaminated, that subsequently rendered forensic evidence unreliable and therefore inadmissible” that may have been acceptable, because the defence counsel said so. But to assert that careless gathering of evidence by the police and alleged careless investigative procedures, constitutes an indictment on the dignity of the Court, seems like folly. The careless theoretical attitude presented by both of these senior clerics does not behove the integrity of Catholic academia. The ‘poor old’ Catholic Church has not yet come to terms with the fact that it does not hold a privileged or special position in the world, any more. The real problem is that two Ph.D., academics made a crass emotive allegations, without evidence, flouting all the accepted rules of research. Even a GCSE student would be expected to justify such an assertion. A decent ‘A’ level would not have made such an absurd insinuation in a document for public consumption.

  • Jon356

    This is nonsense. Do some proper research before spreading the lies that have dogged the innocents in this case from the beginning. There was a struggle. It spread blood and DNA all over the room, none of it from Knox or Sollecito, all from Guede. The ‘alleged’ murder weapon did not fit the wounds and, if it had been cleaned with bleach why did it have DNA on it at all, never mind the fact the so-called DNA turned out to be rye bread? Why do people continue to spread lies that are the invention of a prosecutor who simply refused to accept his initial theory was wrong?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stan-Zorin/100002884755445 Stan Zorin

    Good Father, and how do you know that Amanda Knox is innocent ? Because there was insufficient amount of the DNA to be properly tested, and because “of condemnation of Knox and Sollecito long before the trial ended…” ? If there is a stance of extra-judicial “condemning”, then there is an opposite one called “whitewashing”. Do you know what kind of disgusting smear job american media and “PR” hirelings done on the italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini ? They call him a fraud, a criminal, a nutcase, demented and that only in their public statements. What kind of words they use between themselves in private ? How is it possible that a man who spent a lifetime fighting the slime of crime is maliciously put through a shredder of a ‘ witch trial ‘ by the american media, to the point of destruction of his professional and personal reputation ?  Is this the way that those striving for justice speak and act ? To me it seems more like a satanic rage. In presenting the case of the suffering all american girl, at the hands of the medieval, corrupt, Mafia land judicial system, in the court of the american public opinion, no quarter was given to those on the prosecuting side and the right of reply and of presenting their case was not granted. It was quite upsetting to see all that, and I am not even an Italian. A.Knox exhibited clearly the classic psychology of the one who is guilty. Non biased commentators who tried not to be seen as prejudicial, had used a mild term “strange behaviour” when describing her antics. Among other things, she signed a false statement stating that she witnessed the rape and the murder and pointed her finger. She was willing to put P.Lumumba in jail for life as long as she would be kept clean of the mud of guilt and conviction. An innocent person would have said : ‘ I do not know what happened, I did not hear, see or remember seeing anything suspicious.’ or ‘ I was not there.’ Just for this act of false testimony and of trying to destroy somebody’s life ‘saint Amanda’ should have gotten good 10 years. In the more just times of the past the sentence for a false testimony and accusation was equal to the sentence for the falsely imputed crime. They took pity on Amanda because of a technicality; there was no american ‘ consular presence ‘ at the time when the false accusation and testimony was given. The Americans were squawking about this. The hypocrites, their judicial system executed “mexicanos” after or when the mexican ‘ consular presence ‘ was not granted or even when it was denied. Most importantly, Knox and Sollecito HAVE NO ALIBI FOR THE TIME OF THE MURDER !  Their alibi was proven to be a pack of lies and a fabrication. TO THIS DAY THEY CANNOT TELL WHERE THEY WERE AT THE TIME OF THE MURDER. Rudy Guede who is serving time for this murder as an accomplice admits that he was in the house that night, together with Sollecito, Knox and Kercher and maintains that he heard Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher arguing at the time of the murder. Father, did ‘ the angelic face ‘ of Amanda beguiled you like it beguiled so many others ? They have it better in the scottish judicial system. Aside from the verdicts of “guilty” or “innocent” there is the verdict of “NOT PROVEN”. That means circumstances and some good evidence point to a guilt, except the ‘ crown ‘/ the public prosecutor did not do a good job with proper gathering and/or presenting the evidence, or the case was lost on a technicality, but otherwise the guilt is evident. This system should be universally adopted so that there is at least some stigma attached to the rascal that “got away”, and so that the profiteering from the act of a crime and also the profiteering from the resulting notoriety of the one formerly accused should be somewhat diminished. … Guilty as charged !