Like everyone else, we have no real idea whether Amanda Knox and Rafaelle Sollecito were involved in the murder of Meredith Kercher. The world seems to fall into two opposing camps – those who think that because Knox is good-looking, admits to liking sex, had a vibrator by her bed and didn't clean the flat very often, she must obviously be some kind of deviant sex-killer, and those like the GOS who just find the whole thing a bit unlikely and can accept that a rather wild 20-year-old who's only been in Italy a few weeks, speaks poor Italian and probably doesn't really understand half of what's said to her, might well behave oddly and slip easily into self-incrimination. There's plenty of evidence that for a long time she didn't realise that she was a suspect, but thought she was being a helpful witness by discussing various possible scenarios with police. Anyone who thinks that in those circumstances and at that age they'd have acted more sensibly is probably kidding themselves.
What is much clearer is that the storm of media comment has whipped up so much unreasoning and ignorant hatred that it's a miracle the Italian court system finally got its act together and handed down a reasonable verdict based on actual evidence, or lack of it.
To take just one newspaper, the fairly staid Daily Telegraph: here is a list of Knox stories carried in just two days, 4th and 5th October ...
“Meredith Kercher's family's 'disappointment' over case outcome”
“Juror: lack of motive sank case for Meredith Kercher murder”
“So who is the real Amanda Knox?”
“Amanda Knox was a victim of the internet age”
“Meredith Kercher's father: Amanda Knox acquittal is 'ludicrous'”
“Amanda Knox arrives in Seattle to emotional homecoming”
We initially saw no need for GOS to say anything about the case, as it has all been said, and is all still being said, elsewhere. But we did think this article by Bryony Gordon hit the right note (and yes, it's another one from the Telegraph. We haven't even dared to open up the Daily Mail website!) ...
Television reached a new nadir at 9.15 on Tuesday morning, when – just 12 hours after Amanda Knox had been cleared of the murder of Meredith Kercher – a Channel 5 presenter took to the air to pose the question “Foxy Knoxy: would ya?” Matthew Wright, the host of The Wright Stuff (a programme that claims to provide “topical debate”), put this to the audience shortly after a discussion about Botox, and how it can prevent perspiration when injected into the armpits.
“She’s entirely innocent of the murder of Meredith Kercher and foxy as hell,” Wright gurned into the camera, as he stood in front of a panel that consisted of Victoria Beckham’s interior designer (Kelly Hoppen), a pantomime star (Christopher Biggins), and a former contestant on Celebrity Love Island (Liz McClarnon). “So what I want to know this morning is: if you met Amanda Knox in a bar and she invited you back to her room – would ya?”
As Wright cut to an ad break, we learnt that a survey had found that 71 per cent of people thought Amanda Knox was “hot”. The preview blurb on the programme’s website went even further, summing her up as a girl who was “undeniably fit and loves wild sex”. Wright described the 24-year-old as “beautiful”, a “smouldering brunette”. “We should do a game show on this, shouldn’t we?” he grinned.
Sadly, that isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound. In America, the celebrity gossip website TMZ, which has an audience of 18.5 million people, ran a poll asking users if they’d “rather” Knox or Casey Anthony, a not unattractive 25-year-old from Florida, who was recently cleared of murdering her daughter. At the time of writing, 175,781 people had voted.
Matthew Wright has refused to apologise: he admitted on air that his debate was not “tasteful… but neither, I might add, is the morbid fascination with the case”. On this point, and this point only, he is right. It was with something approaching glee that the media – and the Italian prosecutors – cast Amanda Knox as an evil seductress, a real-life version of Sharon Stone’s character in Basic Instinct (she liked sex, so she must be a killer).
And what a gift it was to discover on a social networking site that her high school nickname was “Foxy Knoxy” – not because she had worked her way through the school football team, but because of her wily cunning on the soccer pitch.
Who knows the nickname of Knox’s former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito? Who knows, and who cares – despite the fact that he, too, was convicted and cleared of Kercher’s murder? In all the acres of coverage that this tragic case has received, Sollecito has barely featured. He has played the part of a mere extra. While his former girlfriend was described by the prosecution as a “she-devil” and by the defence as the cartoon character Jessica Rabbit (the buxom redhead who claimed: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”), nobody seems to have dedicated much time to Sollecito’s appearance, or gushed over the fact that he entered jail looking like Harry Potter but emerged looking like the lead character in Prison Break. They haven’t done it, because it is – like Knox’s looks – completely irrelevant.
The inherent sexism involved here is nothing new. When it comes to criminal cases, members of the fairer sex are expected to behave in a certain way – to weep and wail as they do in the movies. If they don’t, it’s seen as a clear admission of guilt. That Knox could kiss her boyfriend in public so soon after the murder of her flatmate was deemed cold, just like Kate McCann’s composure after the disappearance of her daughter Madeleine.
Joanne Lees had the finger of blame pointed at her when her boyfriend, Peter Falconio, vanished in the Outback, only for her to seem remote and unmoved at the ensuing press conference. But casting aspersions like this is not just dunderheaded: it is dangerous. Can anybody really say how they might react in a similar situation?
If there had been social networking and 24-hour news channels at Salem, it would probably have looked a lot like this. There seems to be a sense of disappointment that Knox’s conviction was overturned – not because the Italian police handled the case so shabbily, but because, in the words of several people I had previously thought vaguely intelligent, “I just don’t like the look of her.”
Some, on the other hand, like the look of her a little too much. Donald Trump has predicted that Knox will become a “big star”. It is said that she has been offered up to £6.5 million for her first television interview, and there has been talk of a book and film deal. Infamy, these days, can be a nice little earner.
How insulting it must be for the Kerchers to see the memory of their daughter eclipsed by our eagerness to turn people into celebrities. Tragically, Meredith Kercher has become a footnote in the life of Amanda Knox, when it should be the other way round.
The GOS says: Rather well put, I thought. I just have a couple of comments of my own ...
If reports are true that the Knox family have had to re-mortgage their homes to raise money for their campaign, it doesn't seem entirely unfair that the girl might be looking forward to book deals and celebrity appearances. The dreadful thing is that it was necessary for them to go to these lengths in order to get a just verdict from the law.
And it doesn't matter that it was the Italian legal system rather than the British or the American. We all know that much the same could have been true whichever country they were in. Money buys you justice, mainly because of lawyers' greed and the ridiculous costs of administering any public service these days. Those who are so concerned about Human Rights would do well to make a start with the law. Justice ought to be the greatest Human Right of all.
And it would be really nice if the media left the Kercher family alone. They've behaved with dignity and restraint throughout, and it's a great shame that now they have been tempted by newspaper reporters to make statements that they probably don't believe. They know perfectly well that just because Meredith is dead, that doesn't automatically make Knox and Sollecito guilty, so they need to explain their “disappointment” more clearly, and be even more clear why they find the acquittal “ridiculous”.
Do they really intend to say that because one girl's life has been tragically cut short, another's should be blighted? Are they privy to some compelling evidence of guilt that the rest of the world haven't heard? Of course not.
And do they really intend to say that because no amount of money will bring Meredith back, it is in some way unfair for the Knox family to plunge into debt to recover their daughter? No, of course they don't. At present Amanda Knox and Rafaele Sollecito are maintaining a dignified silence, but presumably that won't last for ever. No doubt when they are tempted to tell their stories in public, there will be those who complain – but if they are innocent (and we all have to presume that they are, since they have been cleared in court), why the hell should they keep quiet about it? I wouldn't.
The Kerchers deserve our sympathy and concern. They are victims, like their daughter. But their sorrow doesn't mean that common justice and the rule of law should be set aside and replaced by indiscriminate revenge.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2011 The GOS