Friday, 29 March 2013
It is not often that I use this blog to talk about anything that is not directly related to US politics (at least, not yet), but the the announcement that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito now face a re-trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher has really got up my nose.
Firstly, Knox is back in the US, meaning that if she is found guilty of the very crime for which she was acquitted in 2011, her return to Italy can be determined only through an extradition agreement with the US government, which seems incredibly unlikely. If the Americans tell them to get stuffed, the Italians can appeal to other countries which Ms Knox might wish to visit in the future in the hope that they will turn her over instead, meaning that Knox might have to remain within US borders for the rest of her life.
Secondly, I do not yet understand why the re-trial has been ordered. It seems that someone has decided that the original acquittal was unsafe. I was under the impression that a re-trial can only be ordered when (a) new evidence comes to light which was previously unavailable, or (b) it emerges that someone who has been convicted has not received a fair trial, meaning that the original conviction was unsafe. How can an acquittal be considered unsafe unless new evidence has come to light which is highly suggestive that a guilty person has been let off? Apparently, that is not necessary. The mere fact that the Italians made a balls-up is sufficient to go through the whole process again. I was not aware that people who have been acquitted can be ordered to stand trial again simply because the police made mistakes.
Thirdly, although I do not criticise the Kercher family's insistence that Knox has some responsibility for Kercher's death and there remain many 'unanswered questions' - they are entitled to that view - I do question the idea that a new trial will help to answer those questions. Aside from the fact it is likely to be the same balls-up all over again, there is also the fact that Knox and Sollecito will presumably stick to the same account they used in 2011, when they were first acquitted, and of course, there is no guarantee that the Kercher family will be satisfied with the answers they receive, even if they are completely truthful.
Finally - and this is the bit that really pisses me off - it is overwhelmingly clear that Knox's looks and personality are at the heart of every single issue in this case. It is simply because of her looks and personality that so many myths have been created about her. Let us consider each one:
(1) That she is a sexually voracious young woman
This one would apparently explain the bizarre theory that Meredith Kercher was killed during a 'sex game' instigated by Knox. Where did this come from? What evidence is there to suggest an unhealthy obsession with sex? From what I know of the crime scene, the evidence suggested that a young woman was sexually assaulted and murdered. There was no evidence that a 'sex game' had taken place, nothing to suggest that anyone else was present in the house, and nothing to suggest that Rudy Guede (whose DNA was found on and inside Kercher's body) was goaded into sexually assaulting or murdering Kercher by Knox or anyone else.
Lacking psychological expertise, I can only speculate, but I would imagine that the inevitability of the image of Amanda Knox fitting together very comfortably with thoughts of sex in the minds of many men has been the biggest contributing factor to this myth. I would speculate that Knox's looks - classically beautiful features and bone structure - naturally feed into subconscious male sexual thoughts, particularly in this age of celebrity and media over-exposure. The decision of that silly bastard Matthew Wright to dedicate a phone-in on his programme to the issue of whether callers would or would not have sex with her following her acquittal pretty much sums it up. It is clear to me that last week's announcement that she would be forced to endure a re-trial was nothing more than the blind rage of a bunch of incompent, impotent men in Italy's legal profession who wish to offset their feelings of inadequacy by trying to control this attractive, independent, confident young woman. Reports of her treatment in prison - if accurate - would further suggest this.
As for Sollecito, he is clearly handsome, but he has attracted less speculation and debate, presumably because Knox has been castigated as the 'schemer'. Yet the fact that his DNA was discovered on the hook of Kercher's bra is significant, as it implies that he was in some way sexually involved with Kercher. Yet his DNA was not present on the bra strap itself. Not wishing to elaborate in detail on my own personal experience, I believe that it is impossible to remove a woman's bra by touching only the hooks and not the strap itself. This was the very logical argument used by the defence, and it suggests very strongly that Sollecito's DNA reached the hook through contamination during forensic examination - one of many disasters which contributed to his conviction.
But it is Knox who has suffered most through natural associations with sex. You only need to see her face once to recognise so many qualities that appeal to men's sexuality. There is confidence, but also vulnerability. Mischief, but also tragedy. She is there to be rescued, dominated, conquered and punished all at the same time - a veritable feast for the sexually inadequate male with an over-active sexual imagination.
The myth of the attractive, confident murderer is not an isolated case. Many will recall the way in which Jeremy Bamber's rogueish good looks and confidence played a significant part in convincing many that he was capable of the murder of his entire family in 1985, not to mention his apparent lack of remorse in the many photographs of him being taken away by police officers. Which leads me to myth #2:
(2) That she did not show sufficient remorse about Kercher's death
It is easy to see where this one comes from. Aside from the huge number of media clips showing Knox looking apparently unphased by her traumatic experience, there is also the story of her performing cartwheels while in custody. Her argument that she was trying to relieve stress may seem ridiculous to people who do not lead a particularly active lifestyle, but as someone who has often gone out for a run in order to relieve my depression, I can see some logic here. As someone who enjoys yoga and rock climbing, it seems quite plausible that Knox would attempt to relieve stress with physical activity, especially if she was confined for long periods of time. Everyone has their own personal view of how we should react when someone close to us dies. Yet there is no evidence that Knox and Kercher were close friends. And there seems to be no consideration of the fact that Knox, like anyone else finding their house burgled and their housemate murdered, might well have experienced some degree of shock. As a cannabis user, she might well have been subdued the morning after. Or she may have just been grateful that she and the people closest to her had not been harmed.
(3) That she relished the attention of the world's media
This leads me to the very selective way in which Knox has been portrayed. The most commonly-shown clip (from which the picture above is taken) has clearly fuelled the assumptions of many that Knox was in no way upset by Kercher's death. The fact that she and Sollecito were kissing and displaying affection so openly may have suggested to some that they were getting some kind of sexual kick out of the experience. Of course, no-one wants to acknowledge the fact that the sight of two attractive people kissing constitutes something for people to look at in the first place because no-one wishes to be associated with voyeuristic tendencies. For that reason, we have to invent other reasons why we might be looking. And still, the clip is shown: the BBC showed it last week when the re-trial was announced.
It really is time that we grew up and saw this pitiful legal mess for what it is. A discussion of sex and sexuality might lead us to the truth much quicker. The central problem - as with so many aspects of life - is that we live in societies which handle the issue of violence quite easily but still struggle with issues of sex and sexuality. And that is far more unhealthy than anything in Amanda Knox's personality.
Posted by James O. Heath at 16:15