Life’s “Most Notorious Crimes” latest edition

The magazine/publisher Life recently released its latest edition of “Most Notorious Crimes in American History;” which is now on shelves at the grocery stores and book stores in the U.S. There is a two-page section on “The Murder of Meredith Kercher” in this edition. (herein referred to as the “summary”)

The lead-in to the summary is this quote, which immediately frames the entire incident before introducing any actual evidence or details of the crime:

Amanda Knox is- as was the victim herself- a lovely young woman, and the Italian press portrayed her as something between a vixen and a femme fatale. Her family and friends charge that hers was a trial by media.

What follows is my review of how this summary in the Life publication carefully selects aspects of the case to enable a reader to rationally and justifiably believe that Amanda’s family and friends are are right- that Amanda was convicted with little evidence, that Amanda was pursued (and abused) by a zealous prosecutor, and that the Italian press’ portrayal of Amanda influenced the jury.

The summary starts with a few-word intro of M.K, and introduces those who have received convictions for her murder, Amanda Knox, Sollectio, and Guede.

The summary moves quickly into the crime- regarding how M.K. died, the summary introduces this through an interpretation of the prosecution’s argument:

The prosecution’s contention during the trial was that the trio was trying to coerce Kercher to take part in a sex orgy on the night she was killed, that she resisted and that her assailants attacked her, tried to strangle her, and then stabbed her in the throat with a knife.

This theory is immediately negated by the start of the next paragraph:

When the police found Kercher’s corpse in her locked bedroom on the day after the murder, they determined that she had bled to death.

The casual reader is thus led by the author to start doubting the prosecution- after all, if the prosecution couldn’t agree with the police at the scene as to the cause of death, how solid can the prosecution’s case be? In doing so, the author of this summary elevates the determination of the cop-on-the-scene to that of a professionally-executed autopsy report. The actual autopsy is likely avoided because of what else the autopsy reveals. The website True Justice had this comment regarding the autopsy from the decision in Guede’s trial:

Judge Micheli devoted many pages to eliminating the possibility that just one perpetrator (a lone wolf) could have carried out such a violent and prolonged crime.

He based his analysis both on the overwhelming signs from the autopsy of a group struggle and the overwhelming signs of a clean-up, which he concluded only Knox would have had a motive for.

Getting back to the Life summary, by ignoring the complete brutality of the murder, it is easier for readers to believe the initial statement-that Amanda is simply a “lovely young woman” who was convicted largely in a “trial by media”.

The prosecution takes a further hit when the summary goes into Amanda’s version of the interrogations; she was “pressured, hit, called a ‘stupid liar’, and generally beaten down during sessions that lasted dozens of hours.” By the use of the plural “sessions”, the image formed here is that -all- of the questioning Knox was subjected to was adversarial and grueling;  no mention is made of Amanda wanting to stay in Italy to help the police and answer questions (from the testimony of one of Amanda’s relatives). In reality, Amanda only makes these claims regarding the interrogation that led to her arrest , where Amanda implicated the bar owner (and boss) Patrick, and where Amanda signed a statement that put herself at the scene of the crime.

As far as alibis, the summary makes a curious omission- it only says that Sollecito claims he was working at home on his computer, and does not mention any alibi for Amanda at all. This sidesteps the issue of Amanda’s and Sollecito’s conflicting stories and alibis, and also ignores the fact that Sollecito could not corroborate Amanda’s alibi that she was at his apartment all evening.

That is the totality of the case against Amanda that is presented in this summary.

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to the “ivory coast native” Rudy Guede, this summary turns 180 degrees and it is all about his DNA and his actions after the crime (fleeing the country)- even though this evidence was collected by the same police force and tried in the same courts as Amanda. A prosecution and court system  that is put in the hot seat for Amanda’s trial is not mentioned at all when it comes to “ivory coast native” Rudy Guede.

It seems that the prosecutor  is even to blame for Amanda’s confused memories (without referencing any of the hashish that was smoked that evening):

That her earliest recollections of the night in question were confused is agreed upon, but whether this was because of rough treatment by Giuliano Mignini and his associates remains in debate. He is legendary as a lawman who plays tough and at times by his own rules. In a separate case, he himself was convicted on January 22, 2010, of abuse of office and the bugging of journalists.

It seems that the mention of journalists reminded the author of the original tag line of the summary- that of being trial by media- as the next paragraph goes right back into the media surrounding the case and the juror’s ability to read the press, unlike in american juries. Without proving the case, the summary simply concludes

It’s hard to imagine that the tabloid frenzy surrounding Knox’s trial had no impact.

Ironically, this statement equally applys to trials in the US. However, in the US the “tabloid frenzy” is more appropriately known as the “mainstream media.”

The final part of the summary details the state of the appeals and obliquely mentions the Motivations document-and claims the jurors’ determined that knox had not acted out of “any animosity or feeling of spite”.  The final conclusion is that thus, the jurors’ determinations are

Strange phrases indeed when applied to such a bloody crime

It is curious that the brutality of the crime is only addressed in the final statement. But after reading the summary, the reader is left with the impression that there is no evidence against Amanda (Sollecito gets barely a mention); that the prosecution’s argument is at odds with both the police’s determination of death and with the jury’s conclusion; that the prosecutor is of questionable professionalism, and that an “ivory coast native” who left ample DNA and fled the country has already been convicted and lost the first of two appeals.  Thus, the reader is left with the contradiction of an american convicted of a brutal crime with little to no evidence.

With such a presentation of the case, how -could- anyone believe that the “lovely young woman” Amanda Knox was involved in “such a bloody crime?” For a start, it is worth mentioning that in the Motivations document for Amanda’s and Sollecito’s trial, DNA is mentioned over 400 times. Much of this evidence is Amanda’s DNA mixed with the victim’s DNA and blood, in several places in the apartment.  DNA evidence against Amanda is not mentioned once in this summary.

Another quote of this summary is that

(…) it is clear that differences between Italian and U.S. jurisprudence indicate that the case would have unfolded quite differently in America.

The quote that the case would have unfolded quite differently in the U.S is curious , since in the Life publication, the Kercher summary occurs immediately after a summary for the Scott Peterson case. In contrast, the Peterson summary is much more even-handed and hints at very little at the controversy of his trial.  The two cases are actually very similar, as illustrated by quotes from the book on the Peterson trial,  “A Deadly Game” by Catherine Crier:

  • “The people who know Scott and Laci have no doubt whatsoever that he has nothing to do with her disappearance”
  • “In the years since the O.J. simpson case, the phrase rush to judgment has become an increasingly prominent notion in our culture, trotted out whenever cops quickly hone in on a particular suspect in the initial stages of an investigation.”
  • “Nowadays, it seems that police testimony is considered suspect until substantiated by clear forensic evidence or AV corroboration.”
  • “Outside the courtroom, Lee and Jackie Peterson express their feelings about the Police- in particular, their distaste for Detective Brocchini.”
  • “Every story needs a villain, and for a time this hard-working detective was unfairly cast in the role. (…) the media portrayed him as a zealot focused entirely on one person, Scott Peterson.”
  • “The police did not have a body; nor was there sufficient physical evidence to link Scott to the crime. The case, thus far, was entirely circumstantial.”
  • “The inconsistencies in Scott’s story failed to resolve themselves.”
  • “Scott Peterson’s initial behavior gave the police real cause for concern. Why was he so sketchy in recalling the details of a fishing trip he had taken just that morning?”
  • “Trying to nail down a motive was one of our toughest issues,” a juror later said of the jury deliberations.

It is well known that Scott Peterson is on death row for the murder of Laci. Thus, it is not only likely, but probable (with the DNA evidence against her) that had Amanda been on trial in the US, her result would have been the same- IF the mainstream media didn’t have a gender bias in their reporting. The US media has largely ignored journalistic integrity in their constant “Damsel in Distress” reporting on the case-and there’s no reason to believe the reporting in the US would be any different.

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