When British exchange student Meredith Kercher was murdered in November 2007, the world’s media descended on the medieval hill town of Perugia, Italy with a passion. From the start the case was always about Amanda Knox, the photogenic 20 year old from Seattle who along with Raffaele Sollecito and a third person were accused and later convicted of the crime. Eventually the two were found innocent on appeal but only after spending four years behind bars. In Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito tells the story of the forgotten boyfriend. His book is compelling, highly credible, cathartic, and heartbreaking.
During the last week Raffaele was in New York doing the talk show circuit. He was handsome and confident, but not fully up to speed with his English. Tuesday was with Katie Couric, followed by Anderson Cooper and Jane Velez Mitchell. This week he is in Seattle for a live conversation with local journalist Dennis Bounds at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall. In both Seattle and New York he took the time to meet with many of his most dedicated supporters.
After five long frustrating years Raffaele is finally able to speak his mind about the travesty of justice that he and Amanda both faced. While prosecutors can still appeal the most recent court decision that freed the two, he speaks openly and without fear. In his own words,
“Neither Amanda Knox nor I had anything to do with the crime, but we came perilously close to spending the rest of our lives in prison because the authorities found it easier, and more convenient, to take advantage of our youth and inexperience than to mount a proper investigation. It’s that simple. And that absurd.”
“In the newspapers and on the nightly news, we were turned into monsters, grotesque distortions of our true selves. It did not matter how thin the evidence was, or how quickly it became apparent that the culprit was someone else entirely. Our guilt was presumed…By the time we had dismantled the case and demonstrated its breathtaking absurdity, we had spent four of what should have been the best years of our lives behind bars.”
“The meandering complexities of the Italian legal system, where speculation and hearsay are allowed to run rampant and time invariably slows to a maddening trickle, did little to help our cause. For reasons deeply embedded in the country’s history, the concept of proof beyond a reasonable doubt scarcely exists in Italy…Few in Italian society wield as much unfettered power as the robed members of the judiciary, whose independence makes them answerable to nobody but themselves…The courts— tainted by politics, clubbishness, pomposity, and excruciating delays— are the most reviled institution in the country.”
“ I doubt an Italian court has ever published 427 pages quite this shameful, illogical, or flat-out ridiculous.”
The book also contains significant information not previously known. Surprising is his disdain for at least two of his own lawyers, Tiziano Tedeschi and Luca Maori. When pressured by Maori and some family members to abandon Amanda, he writes:
“For my part, I wasn’t nearly as concerned about Maori, whom I’d long ago dismissed as a lightweight, as I was about some of the other members of the family, especially my aunt Magda and her husband Enrico who kept on at me about Amanda and said it was time to cut myself loose from her.”
As close observers of the case are well aware, many court spectators identified an elderly male juror who slept almost every day in court. At least two authors of books about the case talk about this. Raffaele goes on to identify another juror, Anna Maria Artegani, who also often slept.
The Tabloids Fight Back
With the release of the book, the British tabloids and a handful of other yellow journalists are on the warpath again. The likes of Barbie Latza Nadeau, Andrea Vogt, and Nick Squires long ago bet their careers on the case.
In one infamous headline last week, Nick Squires of The Daily Telegraph directly quotes Raffaele as saying, “I’m unsure where Amanda Knox was that night.” Nick Squires is a liar; those words aren’t in the book. Take a look at what Raffaele actually said:
“Amanda did not leave – could not have left – my house on the night of the murder. She didn’t have her own key, so if she’d gone out alone, she would have had to ring the doorbell and ask me to buzz her back in. Even if I’d been stoned or asleep when she rang, I would have remembered that. And it didn’t happen.”
But the top award goes to part time CNN commentator Wendy Murphy who is apparently an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law. On the Jane Velez Mitchell segment she states:
“And Knoxy’s got a book coming out in a couple of weeks… all designed in my opinion to influence the public, to keep the pressure on the Italian court to sustain the acquittal. I think that’s outrageous primarily because victim’s can’t do that. Meredith Kercher doesn’t have a book coming out. Her family can’t write a book because if they did and told the whole truth, Knox and Sollecito would be able to say it interfered with our fair trial to put all that poisonous information in the public realm.”
Earth to Wendy Murphy. The victim’s father HAS written a book about the case. How come she doesn’t know that? But more to the point, what part of “poisonous information WAS put in the public realm” is she having trouble understanding? Shortly after her arrest Amanda Knox was told by an imposter posing as a doctor that she had tested positive for HIV. There was no scientific result that could be interpreted as a false positive. A list she provided of all the sexual partners in her life was promptly given to the tabloid press where it was reported, falsely, that the seven sexual partners mentioned were all during her short time in Italy. So much for somebody who claims to be a feminist.
It also turns out that Wendy Murphy has a long controversial history with the Duke Lacrosse case. Her basic strategy is to see how a case applies to her political views and then go look for facts that support what she wants to believe. Her specialty is in the advocacy of rights for child and female victims of violence. But sometimes such cases can be tricky and delve into gray areas of consent or the reliability of child witnesses. Wenatchee Washington and the McMartin Preschool cases are excellent examples. Wendy Murphy defines the kind of loud, careless with the facts, loose cannon that law students should be taught to avoid. Her value to the New England School of Law is as a specimen and not as a scholar.
The Motivation Document
Some of Raffaele’s best work is reserved with the so-called Motivation document authored by Judge Giancarlo Massei. While the trial record was only marginally available to the public, Italian law does require the judge to author a detailed opinion describing the logic behind the verdict. The Motivation Document is the only trial document fully available in its original unaltered form that is in the public domain. The document has been heavily criticized by experts from around the world. Raffaele’s insight is superb. Here is but one example:
“Why, if I was trying to further the idea that there had been a break-in, did I tell the carabinieri that nothing had been taken? Massei had to expend several paragraphs explaining this away. Because, he said, I wanted to establish some credibility with law enforcement and I knew, since I’d staged the break-in, that nothing had in fact been taken and I didn’t want to get caught in a lie. Huh? I had to read that one several times too. It was nonsense even on its own terms. Meredith’s money, credit cards, and cell phones were stolen, as the police later established. If I’d committed the murder, wouldn’t I know these were gone? Massei chose not to go anywhere near that subject.”
Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox were totally innocent of the crimes for which they charged. His book is highly recommended.