It was the crime of the decade. In a town which hadn't seen a murder for twenty years, the bizarre death of Meredith Kercher shocked the Italian press and authorities, pressing them to find a suspect. The seeming scapegoat for this horrendous crime was Amanda Knox, who had failed to find a suitable alibi for her whereabouts on November 1st 2007. The result was a sensationalised trial the likes of which hadn't been seen since O.J Simpson.
Now this story is the subject of a Netflix documentary, titled Amanda Knox. You can watch the trailer here:
This reflects our growing salaciousness for true-crime stories, as seen by Making Of A Murderer, The Jinx, The People vs OJ Simpson and Serial. Netflix will be using this film to build upon their recent Oscar documentary successes such as Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom, and What Happened, Miss Simone? But what is the true story of 'Foxy Knoxy' and is she actually innocent?
Amanda Knox appeared to have a normal childhood. Growing up in West Seattle, she was the daughter of a math teacher and the vice president of a local Macy's. First travelling to Italy at the age of 15 and visiting natural sites of beauty such as the Amalfi Coast and the ruins of Pompeii, she vowed to go back and study there, enrolling at the University of Peruglia for an academic year. She moved into a four-bedroom flat with two Italians and Meredith Kercher, from Leeds University. Although Knox preferred to mix with Italians, the two girls were generally believed to be decent friends, as texts between the two of them have proved.
The two girls were friendly with the Italian boys who also lived in the house, and went out one night with them to a basketball court, where they made friends with Rudy Guede, later to be a key suspect in the case. A little while later the two girls met Raffaele Sollecito at a concert; Knox and Sollecito quickly got romantically involved.
Finding The Body
Kercher was last seen on the 1st November, 2007, walking back to her apartment around 9pm. She was believed to be the only person there at the time, the other Italian girls on holiday, and Knox staying over at Sollecito's house after her bar shift was apparently cancelled by her manager Patrick Lumumba. According to Knox, she went to the apartment the next morning and was highly concerned to find evidence of a break-in and Kercher's door locked.
She called her and was surprised she didn't respond. She rang her mother for advice. Her mother told her to call the police. Sollecito finally got through at 12:51 pm, telling the Carabinieri that they couldn't open Kercher's door and that they could see bloodstains. Eventually a friend of theirs battered the door down, and Kercher was found dead as a result of multiple stabbings. Knox was taken in for multiple interviews, before finally being arrested on the 30th November.
What The Prosecution Believed
The theory of the prosecution is that Sollecito, Gaude and Knox were engaged in a drug-fuelled orgy, and that when Kercher refused to join in, they killed her. The prosecution was led by Giuliano Mignini, a well-known figure who was famous for pressing hard for convictions — a New York times article dubbing him as "a powerful figure" and "a rogue prosecutor". Knox was dubbed "Foxy Knoxy" and "Angel Face" in the British and Italian press, and details of her active sex life were bandied about with no real regard for her feelings.
They believed that the call to her mother before finding the body was merely a cover in order to make her feign concern. Likewise was the break-in, which they believed was staged in order to cover their tracks. A homeless man was brought in as a witness, saying he saw Knox and Sollecito in a nearby square on the night of a murder, something so circumstantial — seeming as they all lived in the same town — its a miracle it was submitted as actual evidence. A fragment of Sollecito's DNA was found on the small metal clasp of Kercher's bra, whilst Guede's DNA was also found on the back strap.
The prosecution's reconstruction contested that Knox attacked Kercher, strangled her, and repeatedly banged her head against the wall. They removed her jeans and Sollecito and Knox held her down whilst Guede sexually assaulted her. Then Knox was the one who stabbed her and inflicted the fatal wound.
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What The Defence Maintained
The defence looked at the actual DNA evidence, which pointed heavily to Guede, including DNA found from a vaginal swab, suggesting sexual abuse. Additionally, there was no DNA evidence anywhere in the room relating Knox to the crime, whilst Sollecito's DNA found on Kercher's bra was revealed to be 46 days old. The prosecution countered by saying that they deleted all traces of evidence, somehow painting them as professional killers. In a gross miscarriage of justice, the judge denied a request to independently review evidence and to look at the compatibility of the wounds to the murder weapon. This could have been crucial to acquitting Knox in the first place.
Weighing up this evidence do you:
It is widely assumed in the American press that Amanda Knox was the victim of a vast miscarriage of justice, with circumstantial and incomplete evidence being compiled by the prosecution in order frame her for a murder she didn't commit. This was compounded by the presence of a prosecutor who had a reputation for pressing rather too hard for convictions. American author Douglas Preston is on record saying that it was:
The problem with the interrogation by the police is that she was first questioned without the presence of a lawyer as she was not under investigation at the time. No record exists of these transcriptions. She argues that she spent hours and hours maintaining her original story, but the police wouldn't have it, and didn't allow her to have any food, water, or use the bathroom. She also claims to have been abused by a female police officer, who:
"was saying 'Come on, come on, remember' and then – slap – she hit me. Then 'come on, come on' and – slap – another one"
This treatment could explain her multiple accounts of events, which made it easy to:
Amanda Knox, for either reasons of stress, confusion, grief, or possibly duplicity, was seen as a dubious suspect by the Italian police for the inconsistencies in her statements. At first she claimed to be in the house during the murder, and painted her bar manager Lumumba as the murderer, despite him having an airtight alibi of serving customers all night
Her behaviour was seen as unlike a normal person who found her friend had died, instead showing what the press and the Italian prosecution deemed as sociopathic tendencies. The police were highly concerned that she didn't raise the alarm immediately, instead waiting with Sollecito until 12:51 pm before getting them involved. Her behaviour after the fact was also seen to be that of a someone acting without remorse, with police stating that:
"she did the splits and a cartwheel in one of the rooms at the station"
She was also found two days later to be buying underwear with Sollecito, something the tabloids used to paint her as highly uncaring. She claims it was for an emergency.
“Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing — or I am you"
The documentary, which admittedly offers no new evidence, looks to examine the nature of the Italian justice system, the press, and whether or not Knox was unfairly treated during the whole affair. Regardless of whether or not she took part in the murder, it seems that the media was only too happy to slut-shame her, and pointed to her having an enjoyable sex life and liking to drink and take drugs (like many young people) as evidence that she wanted to kill Kercher.
Hopefully it will look to criticise how women are wrongfully portrayed in the media for doing what most men do without fear of judgement. Coupled with the tabloid press of Knox, with newspapers writing gendered headlines such as "The Ice Maiden" (The Daily Mirror) and "Meredith: Foxy Knoxy 'brought strange men back to the house'" (The Daily Mail), it is evident that Knox was treated extra harshly merely by fact of being female.
It could do to show how people's judgement of your character can be seen as equally important as the facts of the case when it comes to determining somebody's guilt. Legal expert Kendel Coffey is on record saying that:
"In this country we would say, with this kind of media exposure, you could not get a fair trial."
Knox spent four years in jail before being acquitted by the supreme court. This was the result of much legal wrangling on both sides, the costs of which nearly bankrupted her parents. She wrote in a letter that:
"It is really torture. I am being tortured. It is not right. I'm suffering so much."
Guede still has seven years left on his sentence. From my personal reading of the case, there simply was not enough concrete evidence to suggest Knox was guilty of killing Meredith Kercher, and that one's sexual history is not relevant in a murder case. Additionally, why would she and Sollecito clear all DNA evidence and not Guede's? It doesn't make any sense. Knox will be hoping that the publicity from the documentary helps to clear her name once and for all.
Will you be watching Amanda Knox on Netflix?