Amanda Knox is now in prison in Italy, serving what will be the third of a twenty six year sentence passed down to her by an Italian court that convicted her of murdering her roommate in Perugia: British student Meredith Kircher. While the verdict was likely incorrect, the one thing that all Americans can be sure of is that the trial that led to the verdict was anything but fair by our standards.
The trouble for Knox began when she was brought in for questioning by Italian authorities. She was reportedly doing the splits and cartwheels in addition to making contradictory and incriminating statements during her interrogation. She also suggested that her boss, a bartender, had argued with Kercher and could be a viable suspect. What was conveniently left out were the facts that she was a young college student in a foreign country whose roommate had just been murdered and she was questioned harshly for hours without a lawyer or a professional interpreter. Those are the just undeniable facts. If one were to speculate about why the interrogation turned out like it did, Knox claims that she was struck twice by her interrogators and she had been smoking hashish with her boyfriend for a few weeks so one suspects that those factors would complicate things and lead to a false self-incrimination.
Around the same time, Knox and her boyfriend went to the mall for her to buy new clothes including underwear. The tabloids, especially British tabloids which were selling by the millions, played this off as a celebratory shopping spree by Knox to prepare for even more sex after she'd finished a gang rape of Kercher with Sollecito (Knox's boyfriend) that turned into a murder. Europeans never bothered to realize that Knox's home was now a crime scene and that she needed to have clean clothes that weren't evidence in a murder investigation.
The tabloids caused Knox even more grief by expanding endlessly on ten pages from a diary belonging to Knox about her sexual experiences and hung the nickname "Foxy Knoxy" around her neck. The sexual escapades mentioned in the diary were wildly exaggerated by the tabloids to sell even more print while the nickname Foxy Knoxy originated years ago back home in Seattle for Knox's prowess on the soccer field, presumably before she became the huge slut that the European media portrayed her as. Also I would say that teens and young adults should take this case as a warning to be careful what they post on sites such as Facebook because once Knox had been arrested, the European media sought out her online profiles, combed them for pictures and then used those pictures to paint her as a sex-obsessed party girl that was capable of the violent rape and murder of her roommate. All this they accomplished by grabbing pictures of Knox when she was partying with friends.
The media coverage tainted the jury pool for Knox's trial and her trial was not moved out of the outraged community where the crime had occurred nor was the jury sequestered so that their opinions during the trial could not be swayed by the ever wilder accusations that the tabloids were printing about Knox.
There was no physical evidence tying Knox to the crime of even to the scene. The knife that was touted as the murder weapon that the Italian police found in Sollecito's possession and claimed had Knox's DNA on the handle end and Kercher's on the tip had two huge problems. Firstly, there was an imprint of the murder weapon left in blood on the bedsheet near Kercher's body and the knife that the police found did not at all match the outline of the murder weapon found at the crime scene and, thus, the police never actually found the murder weapon. Secondly, the DNA evidence was seriously flawed. The DNA that was claimed to have been Kercher's could have been a lot of people's because it was so minute that the lab had to amplify it repeatedly: so much so that it degraded the accuracy of the test and should have made it inconclusive. Also, the knife was from Sollecito's house where Knox had prepared meals and ostensibly used the knife. Even if it were Kercher's blood on the tip (which is extremely doubtful at this point), the prosecution had no logical way to put the knife in Knox's hand at the scene. The knife could have carried Knox's DNA on it from her legitimate use of it to cook all the way to the murder and back without her being involved at all but, more likely, the blood wasn't Kercher's at all and the knife never left Sollecito's. Yet this was considered damning evidence against Knox by the Italian court and jury.
The other physical evidence against Knox was even more questionable. It was DNA recovered from Kercher's bra clasp that the Italians said matched Knox's boyfriend's DNA, Raffaele Sollecito. However, the DNA was not discovered until 46 days (six and a half weeks) after the murder and the DNA was so minute that it also underwent the amplification process that could have made it many people's DNA at the end of the day. At best, this pointed to Sollecito's possible involvement in the murder and said nothing about Knox except that she was either so high she had no clue where Sollecito was or, more likely, was lying to protect her boyfriend. The worst case scenario was that Sollecito's involvement equaled Knox's involvement but the problem is that there was no actual evidence that either was involved, at least none that would stand up in an American court of law.
So, here we are now with Knox having been convicted by an Italian jury that was tainted beyond belief on beyond questionable evidence. Several of the jurors returned with the verdict wearing scarves bearing the colors of the Italian flag, raising questions about whether this conviction was about the evidence or about Italy saving face for saying the case was closed when they arrested Knox and Sollecito while the real killer, Rudy Guede, was on the run in Germany and unknown to the Italian authorities. The evidence, by the way, reliably pointed to Guede without question. Guede lied so frequently that the Italians couldn't even put him on the stand against Knox or Sollecito for fear of him being cross-examined.
The lesson that all Americans who leave our borders should take away from this is that, when you travel to another country, you are at the mercy of their justice system. I have talked to many Americans that believe the American embassy can pull strings to help them in the event they get into trouble. America is not the Roman Empire: you cannot declare you are an American citizen and demand an American trial in front of an American judge and jury with the same rights you'd get at home. All the embassy can do is try to help you contact an attorney, try to help you contact someone back home and check in on you to make sure that your jailers are not starving or otherwise abusing you. That's the end of the line because, other than that, your host government can do any patently unfair thing to you that they wish. This is one of the reasons why I have been hesitant to travel to other countries at all because their criminal justice systems can treat Americans like this and with the local media playing "pin the tail on the American" it can get you railroaded quickly. Not to mention that Italy is far from the worst country to get into trouble with the local law in: Mexico and Eastern European countries are far worse and below them are third world countries which have something called a criminal justice system but it isn't something that any American would recognize as one. So let Amanda Knox's sad story be a cautionary tale for you: before you travel abroad, think very carefully about whether you want to check your Constitutional rights at our border and if you do you'd better strive to keep your nose clean overseas because there's very little your government can do to help you after your host country decides they will arrest you.