Amanda Knox, the American college student accused of murder in Italy, came
out with a book this week about her ordeal in the Italian criminal justice
system. Her book,
Waiting to Be Heard, is likely to reignite the media attention her case has received in the
last several years.
Knox was initially convicted of the 2007 murder of her roommate. She was
then acquitted after a rehearing in 2011. Finally, the case went to the
Italian equivalent of the Supreme Court, which recently decided she must
be tried for the crime again. After that trial, which may not happen until
early 2014, both parties will have the right to appeal again.
Although Knox is now back in the United States, the retrial will happen
whether she attends or not. Almost six years after the murder, the case
is far from over.
Some of the features of Knox’s trial were – to put it mildly
– incompatible with American ideas about proof and fairness. The
lack of Knox’s DNA in the victim’s bedroom? No problem: she
must have cleaned up the scene to avoid detection. The large amount of
DNA at the crime scene, and even DNA on the victim, from a man who was
also convicted of the murder?
No problem: Knox helped him do it. The lack of any plausible motive for
Knox to kill her roommate? No problem: it could have been rage induced
by smoking pot (pot being notorious for inducing rage), the victim’s
refusal to participate in an orgy, or part of a Satanic ritual. Or maybe
Knox was such a remorseless psychopath that she did it for no reason.
In other words, the lack of proof that Knox committed murder was just more
proof that Knox committed murder. The Italian prosecutors were nothing
if not creative.
Only a justice system with standards very different from ours could have
produced a conviction with “proof” of this type. And while
we do have appeals in our system, we don’t have a system that allows
for a conviction, a retrial on appeal resulting in an acquittal, and then
a decision that the whole thing has to be tried again more than five years later.
Winston Churchill said democracy was the worst form of government except
for all the others that have been tried. The Amanda Knox case tells us
the same is true for the American justice system. It is messy, expensive,
and inefficient at times. But it looks like a truth-seeking gem when you
compare it to the others.