John Kercher has repeatedly claimed that attention to Amanda Knox and her appeal is preventing the Kerchers from getting closure on his daughter’s murder
David C Anderson
It is now nearly four years since the cruel murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia. After only five days, with a pompous fanfare, the local police and prosecutors declared it was ‘case closed’. (Recently, amid all the criticism, and at the height of the Appeal, the police even awarded themselves medals for this!) They had three culprits, it seemed, who had committed murder in an elaborate and improbable sex game gone wrong. They were Meredith’s beautiful 20-year old American flatmate Amanda Knox, Amanda’s new boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and Patrick Lumumba, in whose bar Amanda had been working. When overwhelming evidence indicated they had the wrong black man, the prosecutors simply exchanged Lumumba for the true culprit, Rudy Guede, put the latter through a fast track trial, blamed Amanda for the error, and left things in place for her conviction with Raffaele in December 2009.
I do not intend to go into the flawed evidence on which they were convicted, and the painfully slow process by which it is currently being overturned on appeal. This is the role of the Appeal Court, and surely all who care for justice must hope that the new judges and jury get it right this time round. Instead my purpose here is to point out that the family of the dead girl also have a responsibility towards those whose appeal is being heard. It must be self-evident that they hold an enormous amount of sympathy, which might easily be directed in a hate campaign against those whom a faulted judicial system has judged guilty. There is more than a suspicion that this is happening on the ‘True Justice for Meredith Kercher’ website, which, using Meredith’s name and images, is shamelessly pro- the guilt of Amanda and Raffaele.
I have attended all but one of the Appeal Court sessions, and wonder if Meredith’s family fully realize what is being done in Perugia in their name. They are represented in Court by the Florentine advocate Francesco Maresca, who I understand was introduced by the Public Prosecutor within a few days of Meredith’s death. Maresca unapologetically acts as an extra Public Prosecutor against Knox and Sollecito. I was personally outraged when, on December 11th 2010 a tearful Amanda rose to her feet and made a heart-rending appeal for justice, whereupon Maresca immediately slid out of his seat and left the hall, followed shortly by Prosecutors Mignini and Comodi. On September 5th, after the summer recess, Maresca himself is due to cross-examine the independent expert witnesses who have been fiercely critical of the Forensic and DNA evidence that convicted Amanda and Raffaele.
So I would like to pose a few questions for the consideration of Meredith’s family. After all, Amanda has said repeatedly that she and Raffaele had nothing to do with her death, and that Meredith was her friend. Indeed one does not have to be a Hercule Poirot or a Miss Marple to spot the extraordinary improbability of two normal kids with no track record of violence, and in the throes of a whirlwind romance, doing anything of the sort. Young people in love do not get bored with sex that quickly, and in any case there was nothing remotely suspicious about their behaviour the next day. So let’s suppose, as many who have taken a close interest in the case now believe, that this was a deliberate and systematic pinning of a crime onto two totally innocent youngsters? True, you have to postulate a corrupt police and judicial system, and extensive tampering with the evidence. But then among many strange occurrences, including the use of sleep-deprivation and other interrogation techniques directed at obtaining false confessions, the police did manage to destroy four highly relevant computers. And the independent experts in the appeal have found no less than 53 flagrant errors of procedure on the actual crime scene.
Maresca claims in Court to represent the Kercher family, but how exactly does he do so? How do they communicate, if the Kerchers do not speak Italian? Does Maresca speak to them directly or through a translator? Who is the appointed family spokesman in Kercher family negotiations and do they all agree? Meredith’s parents are, after all, divorced; a fact which suggests they do not always agree on important things. How often and how does the family discuss their collective policy with Maresca, and do they support the pro-guilt stance he openly espouses during the appeal? What is the financial arrangement by which he is paid, or is he working for nothing but the professional exposure it gives him? Or, since Meredith’s family was awarded massive damages against the families of Raffaele and Amanda, what precisely are the terms of any contract, between Maresca and the Kerchers? Is he on a percentge of a final settlement which depends on the conviction being upheld, and if so how much? And are they locked in to paying fees they can ill-afford if the Kerchers were to drop the Prosecution line?
These are uncomfortable questions, and they have been made necessary by Italian Law which allows the civil case in a murder trial to be run simultaneously, and before criminal responsibility has been established. Meredith is dead, that is tragic, and her family deserves final closure. But two other young people have been held in prison for four long years under a highly flawed system in which Police and Prosecution have so far held all the cards, and that is both tragic and outrageous. Is it really right for Meredith’s family’s lawyer to express a prejudicial opinion in Court? Recently Guede’s cross-examination by Amanda in Court was actively obstructed by Francesco Maresca in the name of the Kercher family. Such questioning becomes especially relevant as the Court comes to final decision time. Far from helping, support for a mis-conviction surely impedes family closure on Meredith’s tragic death, and has even contributed to a reduced sentence for the undoubted perpetrator, Rudy Guede.