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The Amanda Knox Case: The Hard Questions the Press Have Never Asked

In just a few weeks an Italian court will reach a decision in the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for their December 2009 conviction in the murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher. By all accounts the case against the two has collapsed.

The case has been marked by sensational tabloid coverage focused primarily on the photogenic Ms. Knox. Much of the information made available to journalists was leaked to the media by authorities and was heavily biased toward the prosecution’s position.  European journalists covering the case have repeatedly accepted this information as gospel and have never asked the hard questions of the Italian authorities. Here are some of the questions they should have asked:
(1)    No recordings of the November 6, 2007 interrogation of Amanda Knox have ever come to light. Were any such recordings ever made?  Discussion: Italian law requires electronic recording of the interrogation of anyone who is deemed to be a suspect in a serious crime. Amanda’s interrogation lasted through much of the night and followed other conversations in the same building where her words were recorded without her knowledge. Such recordings would have cleared up any questions about whether she was abused or coerced.
(2)    There was an apparent semen stain at the crime scene that has never been examined. Modern DNA technology could easily determine who had deposited the sample.   Why wasn’t it tested? Discussion: In her book Angel Face , journalist/author Barbie Latza Nadeau accepts without question the explanation of forensic investigator Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni that testing of the stain might compromise the examination of an associated shoeprint. Responsible journalists would have sought the opinions of outside experts.
(3)    Investigators have asserted that the large number of wounds to the victim are an indication of multiple attackers. Was “overkill” present in this case and are there outside experts who believe that the number of nature of wounds in this case indicate multiple attackers? Discussion: “Overkill” is a term used by crime scene investigators to describe wounds beyond what was required to kill the victim. All victims fight back as hard as they can. As an accomplished basketball player Rudy Guede would have been more than powerful enough to have dominated Meredith even though she had been trained in karate.
(4)    Meredith Kercher was found partially clothed and covered with a duvet. Investigators have asserted that covering the victim with a duvet is a sign of a female killer. Are there any independent experts who have said this prior to the murder of Meredith Kercher? Discussion: In Angel Face, Barbie Latza Nadeau writes, “criminologists agree overwhelmingly that covering the body is almost always the mark of a woman, especially if it is done after the murder.” Have experts outside of this investigation ever said this? Is it possible to cover the victim prior to the murder?
(5)    Female participation in sexually motivated homicides is rare. Is there any crime in history that equates to the scenario alleged by the prosecution? Discussion: In all but the rarest of circumstances, a crime such as the murder of Meredith Kercher would be committed by a troubled male acting alone. In those few cases with actual female participation in a sexually motivated homicide, invariably the woman is an empty shell controlled by an evil manipulative male.
(6)    Amanda Knox was found guilty of staging a break-in. It turns out that Rudy Guede had participated in other burglaries where he entered through windows broken with rocks. Doesn’t this make it more likely that Rudy Guede was responsible for the broken window in Filomena’s room? Discussion: When Italian police arrived at the crime scene, they initially felt, not without reason that a burglar would not have chosen to climb through Filomena’s window. The problem is that Rudy Guede was involved in other burglaries where the entry was through a window broken with a rock. In a number of other ways his known M.O. was very much present at the Meredith Kercher crime scene.
(7)   In the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito defense attorneys were not able to get police to come in and testify as to their investigation of three incidents prior to the murder involving Rudy Guede, including one in which he threatened a person with a knife inside his own home. The defense had to rely on the testimony of actual victims who had themselves been robbed and threatened by Rudy Guede. Why wouldn’t police testify in court about this? Their testimony would have had more weight than that of citizens and they would have had access to information not available to the victims. Discussion: This is an enduring mystery of the case.
(8)    Rudy Guede is said to have made statements implicating Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the murder of Meredith Kercher. His story has evolved over time, always moving in the direction of what the prosecution wanted to hear. To what extent were his statements due to suggestion, coercion, or offers of reduced sentence? Discussion: While on the run, Rudy Guede first said that he was not in the room and that if his finger prints were found, it must have been from a previous visit (actually he had never been there.) In the same conversation he later said he was there and specifically stated that Amanda was not present. The exact nature of his statements subsequent to his capture is not clear. Journalists have reported that he has implicated Amanda and Raffaele if only vaguely. At the appeal trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, he came into court to contradict statements made by other prison inmates about what they say Guede had told them. He denied making the statements attributed to him but did not make any specific statements about seeing Amanda and Raffaele that night.
(9)    Several hard drives belonging to Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were rendered unreadable by police investigators. Careful examination of these drives could have provided an alibi for Amanda and Raffaele. Is it possible for multiple drives to be destroyed by accident, and why weren’t outside experts brought in? Discussion: Police forces throughout the world have expertise in examining personal computers. Such investigations form the basis of many pedophilia cases with very high stakes for those involved. The Italian police should have gotten this right.
(10) On October 27, 2007 Rudy Guede was caught having broken into a nursery school in Milan. Police found a woman’s gold watch in his backpack. Only a few days earlier the house of a woman named Madu Diaz was badly damaged in a burglary/arson incident in which a woman’s gold watch was stolen. Following the arrest of Rudy Guede, Ms. Diaz came forward and identified Rudy Guede to police as a possible suspect in the incident. Why haven’t police tried to determine if the gold watch found in Guede’s backpack in Milan was the same one stolen from Madu Diaz’s house? Discussion: No one knows the answer to this question.
(11) In the days following the murder, Rudy Guede fled to Germany. Once he had been identified by fingerprint and DNA evidence, police were able to extensively monitor his telephone and internet communications. In conversations recorded without his knowledge he stated that Amanda Knox had nothing to do with the murder. Why are these conversations not deemed more credible than statements made well after his arrest? Discussion: Rudy Guede had a well documented history of lying. Journalists should have asked why police only believe him when he is saying what they want to hear.
(12) On appeal, Rudy Guede’s sentence was reduced from 30 years to 16. It was widely reported that this was in part due to his “apology” to the victim’s family for not doing enough to save the victim. Is there anyone in Italian law enforcement or the judiciary who believes Rudy Guede’s story that he had tried to save the victim? Discussion: The reduction of Rudy Guede’s sentence is a mystery of the case that demands investigation by responsible journalists.
(13)Amanda Knox was accused of stealing 300 Euros from Meredith Kercher, even though Rudy Guede’s DNA was found inside Meredith’s purse. Rudy Guede was unemployed with no income in the months prior to the murder yet he was able to pay rent and frequent the student bar scene. Why didn’t police carefully investigate how he was able to make ends meet? Discussion: Amanda Knox had $4,000 in the bank at the time of the murder. Rudy Guede was a known burglar with no source of income and his DNA was found inside Meredith’s purse. Why would anyone think someone besides him stole the money?
(14) Shortly after her arrest, Amanda Knox was told by a police officer posing as a doctor that she had tested positive for HIV. A list she subsequently made of all the sexual partners in her life was taken from her and provided to the tabloid press who reported that she had had sex with seven men during her short time in Italy. Why was this allowed to happen? Discussion: Italian jurors are not instructed to avoid newspaper or television coverage of the case. The claim that Amanda Knox had had seven sexual partners during her short time in Italy helped to convict her in the public’s mind. European journalists should never have participated in this dissemination of such false information and they should have investigated the public officials who perpetrated this outrage.
(15) It has been asserted that samples containing the blood of Meredith Kercher mixed with the blood of Amanda Knox were found. Is there technology presently available that can definitively determine that a sample contains the blood of two different individuals as opposed to the blood of one and the DNA of another? Discussion: A number of blood samples examined by forensic investigators contained the DNA of both Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. Amanda lived in the apartment so it is not surprising to find her material mixed with the blood of the victim.
The final point to consider is that Italian journalists are constantly under threat from the prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini. Under Italian law, defamation is a criminal offense. Mignini is currently prosecuting a number of people for criticizing his performance. The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists has taken note and has issued three public statements condemning his actions. In the end, public officials must answer to the people. The sooner the Italian people take a hard look at the performance of their public officials in the Amanda Knox case, the better.

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