Raffaele Sollecito’s changing alibi

On November 4th, 2007, as the police in perugia were in day three of the murder investigation, the Sunday Mirror in the UK published an article by reporter Kate Mansey. According to her article, Mansey happened to run into Raffaele, who told her about the evening of the first and the morning of the 2nd, when Meredith was found murdered.

According to this version of events from Raffaele, he and Amanda went to a party on the evening of November 1st:

Raffaele had spent the night at his own house on the other side of the city with his girlfriend, Meredith’s American flatmate Amanda Knox, 22. He said: “It was a normal night. Meredith had gone out with one of her English friends and Amanda and I went to party with one of my friends.”The next day, around lunchtime, Amanda went back to their apartment to have a shower.”

It is not known if the perugia police were aware of Mansey’s article and Raffaele’s stateements in it; but this version of Rafaelle and Amanda’s actions on November 1 clearly contradicted with whatt Raffaele had already been telling them. The Italian Police may have been watching international reports, like the Italian press was. In fact, the “foxy knoxy” reporting started in the UK; this was not the Italian media attaking Amanda, but the Italian media were reporting on what had been published in the UK media. The UK tabliods found Amanda’s MySpace profile and published headlines about “Foxy knoxy” in the first few days after the murder.

On day three of the investigation, Raffaele had already been into the station and given a witness statement on Nov 2nd.  In that statement to the police, Raffaele said that he and Amanda walked into town on the evening of the 1st before returning back to his house, something not mentioned in Mansey’s article.

On November 5th, day four of the investigation, the police call in Raffaele to the station to answer some further questions, where he will give his third version of what he and Amanda did the night of Nov 1st.

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Rudy Guede

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On Sunday October 21st, Rudy Guede stopped by to visit the guys who lived downstairs from Amanda and Meredith to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix . Rudy Guede was born in the Ivory Coast but brought to Italy as a child by his father. In his late teens, Guede’s father returned to the Ivory Coast, and Guede was fostered by an Italian family he had become friends with. In the summer of 2007 he lost a job he had as a gardener at a restaurant. However, he still had a place in Perugia that he lived in which was very close to where Raffaele Sollecito lived. Though he is described as a “man”,  Guede was very close in age to Amanda and Raffaele; Guede is six months older than Amanda and two years younger than Raffaele. Guede was very interested in basketball, and liked to hang out at the court by the University for Foreigners, a few dozen feet from the house where Meredith and Amanda lived. Guede first met Marco, who lived downstairs from Amanda and Meredith, in 2006 at the basketball court, and played there frequently with Marco and Giacomo.

One day early in October,  Amanda and Meredith were in town with Giacomo and Marco, where they ran into Guede. They all went back to Marco and Giacomo’s. After they got there, Amanda and Meredith went upstairs briefly before joining them downstairs. During this time, Guede joked with Marco and Giacomo about having sex with Amanda before she came downstairs. When she walked in, they stopped laughing but wouldn’t tell Amanda what they were laughing about. They all hung out and smoked pot, with Guede later reflecting that  “for the entire evening [Amanda] had a joint in her mouth, and she was smoking and smoking

Guede claims he first met Amanda at Le Chic, and knew her well enough by late October to know recognize her on the street in town and know where she worked. Just the night before, the Saturday night whe most everyone in the house was at the Red Zone night club, Guede had come around looking for everyone and sought out Amanda at Le Chic.  He had seen Meredith at the Shamrock earlier Saturday evening during the Rugby World cup. He didn’t find anyone, and spoke to the guys about this on Sunday night when he stopped by for the Grand Prix.

Guede wrote a “diary” of sorts after he was arrested in Germany after the murder, prior to being extradited back to Italy.  In his diary he describes his meetings with Amanda and Meredith:

In the days to come I saw Amanda and Meredith around town. We said “hi” and that was it. Then one day, the guys invited me to eat out. It would have been all the guys from the other night, but I was late. I went to their house, but no one was there. So then I went to “Le Chic” to ask about Amanda, maybe she knew where they went, but she wasn’t there. So then I figured that she was with the guys, going out with the others. Meanwhile I went with my usual friends, hanging around in the center of town. It was Saturday that evening. The next day, Sunday, I went to the guys’ house and found them. I told them I‘d tried, but couldn’t find them the day before, that I‘d gotten to their house late, etc., etc., then that I hadn’t seen them in the town center, and that I’d gone to Le Chic to ask about them and Amanda, but not even she was there. And they told me that they’d gone after dinner to “The Red Zone.” Then we spoke a lot about what happened to the guys at “The Red Zone.” But this is their own business that has to do with them…

I met [Amanda] once at “Le Chic,” not knowing it belonged to Patrick. I had gone there once because I had been given a flier with the name of the club…It was inside the club where I met Amanda. I remember very well that she approached me with a smile stamped on her face. That evening I was by myself. I began to talk with her “How are you… Where are you from,” until she told me she was from Seattle…

It was the first time that I met Amanda and after that, I ran into her many times, but it was always “hi” and “bye” each going our own way. I didn’t strike up a relationship (with her).

Guede describes the night he met everyone in town and went back to their house and smoked pot with the guys downstairs:

… in front of the “Shamrock,” we met the two Italian guys with whom I often played Basketball on the small court of Piazza Grimana. It was these guys, with their friends, who approached me. That night I was a bit high/tipsy, but conscious and talking. By then it was time to return home, but talking with these guys, I lost sight of my usual friends and stayed with them.

That is to say, I knew them and I decided to stay with them. At that point, a girl approached us and started to chat us up. I asked where she was from, where she came from, etc, etc. She told me her name was Amanda, and she was from Seattle. Then and there I hadn’t recognized her and I told her that I’d met a girl from Seattle, around before. And she said that she was that girl, at which point, I made the connection of having already seen her. Then we talked, me, the guys, Amanda, while we were going home. Having arrived near Piazza Grimana, I said bye to the guys, but they convinced me to come with them to their house. It didn’t take much to convince me.

Amanda sat down and she too, began to smoke. Then and there, I knew she smoked a lot because the guys told me so, and I saw it with my own eyes. For the entire evening she had a joint in her mouth, and she was smoking and smoking.

A week after this, Guede is discovered in Milan sleeping in a Kindergarten. Police are called, and discover him with a laptop reported to have been stolen from a Lawyers office in Perugia. Guede claims he bought the laptop at a market, and that someone had directed him to the Kindergarten as a place he could sleep overnight.

A night at the Red Zone

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On October 20, 2007, England played Australia in the rugby world cup final in Paris. Meredith was watching the match with her British friends in a pub. Helen, one of her friends, recalls that evening:

One of my favourite moments occurred on Saturday, 20 October, which was on the nigh of the rugby World Cup final. We all went to a bar called Shamrocks to watch the game, and, despite England losing miserably to South Africa, Meredith did her best to keep our spirits up. She entered into some friendly banter with the guys in front of us, and every time South Africa scored, she would come out with a witty one-liner. Much hilarity ensued. (1)

Also present in the pub was Rudy Guede, who lived nearby and recalled seeing Meredith that evening.

flyerLater that night after the match, Meredith, one of her British friends, and Amanda all go to the Red Zone night club just outside of Perugia along with boys who lived downstairs, Marco and Giacomo. A DJ from New York, Quentin Harris, was spinning that night. He has appeared frequently at the Red Zone, stating it his “favorite club to play.” In Amanda’s view:

Red zone took up an entire warehouse. It was the largest, most over-the-top dance club I’d ever been to… we were listening to the music and laughing, getting up to dance every now and then. It must have been 102 degrees, and I was sweating, dripping. (2)

While they were at the club, Rudy Guede stopped by their house to visit, but found nobody at home. Guede had recently received an invitation from the boys downstairs for dinner. When he didn’t find anyone at home this evening, he went looking in town for anyone. When he didn’t see anyone at the basketball court, he stopped by Le Chic to ask Amanda were everyone was, but Amanda was not at work.  The next night, Sunday, Guede stopped by the boy’s place downstairs for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, and he found out from Giacomo that everyone had been at the Red Zone. (3)

Guede was not a stranger nor a “drifter,” as he had an apartment nearby. Guede first met Marco a year prior, and they played basketball the court near the house along with  Giacomo. In late September 2007, the Giacomo and Marco had been in the town center with Amanda and Meredith and ran into Guede, and everyone went back to their place downstairs. Giacomo recalls that Guede expressed an interest in Amanda and asked if she was seeing someone. On that occasion in September, Guede ended up falling asleep on the toilet, but then moved to the couch and slept there. (4)

At the Red Zone Meredith and Giacomo began their relationship. Meredith had not been with anyone in Italy up to this point.  Amanda also connected with someone this evening who she calls “Bobby,” who stays with her in her room upstairs:

This was the first time I’d invited a guy into my bed since I arrived in Perugia. We went to my room and had sex. then we both passed out.  (5)

DJ Quentin Harris mixes it up at the Red Zone on that evening:

 

1: Meredith, by John Kercher

2: Waiting to be Heard, Amanda Knox

3: Prison Diary, Rudy Guede

4 Testimony, Marco Marzan

5: Waiting to be Heard, Amanda Knox

5 Guede’s Diary in Germany, Late November 2007

Florence appeal proceedings

 

A visit to Perugia, Pt. 2

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Universita per Stranieri di Perugia and the road leading up to the apartments of Sollecito also Guede

Perugia was the final stop on a trip I took to several sites in central Italy. The last time I was in the country was several years prior, long enough ago that I haven’t had to understand spoken Italian and had some difficulty understanding what people were saying. When I first landed in Rome I had difficulty making out almost anything, but over the week and a half before I got to Perugia it started coming back to me and I was able to get around, order, understand the train announcements, and get the sense of what people were saying.

 

When I was in Rome I looked for books on the case, thinking that it wouldn’t be difficult to do and there may be some local books I wasn’t aware of. I stopped by a bookstore and asked a store assistant, giving the names of the people in the case and asking about “caso meredith,” the label given in the newspaper headlines every time there was an update. The first staff person I asked had little recognition when I said the names of the defendants and the victim, even when I wrote them down. We went to a second assistant at the checkout who recognized the names, but could not recall any specific books. The first assistant checked in the system and found one book (I think I recall it being Raffaele’s), but we couldn’t find it in the store.

In the US, due to the media cheerleading for Knox, there is at least some name recognition when you mention her name (though most people would look at you blankly if you said “Meredith Kercher”). In bookstores they definitely would be able to know the case, if not be able to recall specific books. And this was even before the current phase of popularity for true crime, due in part to the successes of the podcasts Serial and My Favorite Murder.

Guede article

Guede declares his innocence

Unfortunately I did not find any books while I was traveling in Italy. The only media I encountered on the case was a brief mention of Rudy Guede in a magazine I was reading while in a cafe in Perugia,  where Guede declared his innocence. Despite the lack of media I was still able to understand a bit of the Italian perspective while visiting Perugia.

 

I spoke to a shop clerk in Perugia about the case. After asking about some unrelated books, we started speaking in English and I asked if I could ask a few questions. I said I was visiting the town, since I had been following the case for years. I asked about the Netflix documentary, which had been released three months prior.  The clerk was unaware that the documentary had come out, but recalled when some filmmakers came to town a few years prior saying they were going to do a movie on the media reporting around the case; the clerk was surprised that the movie focused on Knox.

Security

Signs for security cameras in town

Even nine years later, I saw the difficulty and pain the case had on the clerk and the town. The clerk spoke of the negative media attacks on Perugia that were published internationally. The negative media publicity changed the town, and they felt this every time the media came to town to report on the trial and the case.

 

In my conversation it was clear to me that in Perugia, this isn’t a trial about Amanda Knox. Perugia remembers the death of Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student who was brutally murdered in a house she shared with three other girls.  Perugia remembers the death, but they also feel the judgment of the international media on their city. The city is still recovering from both.

 

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Perugia, just north of Piazza IV Novembre

 

 

 

Perugia Eurochocolate Festival

 

 

Yesterday, the annual Eurochocolate festival began in Perugia. The festival started in 1994, and occurs in the historic city center of Perugia, a very short walk from the house where the girls lived. It includes carvings out of chocolate and entertainment by local bands. According to Knox, she and Meredith went to this festival together one day:

Another afternoon, I returned to the festival with Meredith. I flipped the video switch on my camera and acted like a TV journalist. “Tell me, Meredith, what do you thing about being here at the Eurochoclate Festival. Meredith laughed and said, “no, no, don’t film me”.

The Netflix “documentary” apparently includes a snippet of this recording. The “Amanda Knox” filmmakers have stated that when they were given access to the case file, they came across a media card that still had items on it, so its likely this is how the footage got included in the film.

Meredith’s father also writes of Meredith attending the festival:

meredith eurochocolate

Meredith Kercher in Piazza IV Novembre, Perugia

“[Meredith] was particularly enthusiastic about the nine-day Eurochocolate Festival, due to be held in October in the center of the city. Apparently it would stretch from Rocca Paolina to the Carducci Gardens, Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza IV Novembre. Later, after she had visited it, she told me that the vestival had been wonderful, with dozens of diferent chocolate stalls and incredible choclate sculptures that, towards the end of the festival, were broken up and pieces given to the public. She said that she brought me some of my favorites, which she would give to me when she returned home in November for ther mother’s birthday.

All of the photos and videos in this post are found on the internet and are from the festival in 2007.

FILE ALL'EUROCHOCOLATE

The festival in 2007 included a playstation controller scupted in chocolate

 

EuroChocolate Perugia

 

The Netflix film also includes footage of a “funk” band that appeared in 2007, that Meredith and Amanda may have watched. Here’s a longer clip of that band from 2007, although this is from a different part of the city center. The recording in the film was taken in Piazza IV Novembre, while the clip below is from Piazza Della Repubblica:

Another clip of the band walking through the street, likely taken the same day as the clip in the Netflix documentary, judging by the red sweatshirt one player is wearing and the red sleeves of another player.

 

The festival also included live sculpting of a block of chocolate; in Waiting to be Heard, Amanda writes:

Laura told me about the chocolate sculpture carving. It was done in the early mornings, so the next day I went to Piazza IV Novembre to watch. The artists started with a refrigerator size block of chocolate. As the chiseled pieces flew, assistants gathered chips and shavings into small plastic bags and threw them to the rowdy crowd.

Meredith never got to deliver the chocolate to her mother. Rest in peace, Meredith.

A visit to Perugia, pt. 1

Via dell’Acquedotto

A year ago, I traveled to Perugia, Italy. I’ve been to Italy on many past occasions. When I was in college I decided to go on my own to a town in Italy and take language lessons-like Amanda, except for me it was Florence. I was not on a program arranged through my school- I had a semester off and decided to go. My original interest in Italy was not completely out of the blue, as I I had met and briefly dated an Italian woman while I was visiting England one year. The trip to Perugia was my third or fourth trip to Italy. On past trips I stayed primarily in the north, visiting Venice, Pisa, Trieste, Bologna, and, of course, Florence. This was my first time south of Florence.

Perugia Mini-Metro

Researching online, I wasn’t really able to understand how to get to Perugia by train. To get there from Rome required a transfer, and then the Perugia train station was some ways outside of the town center. Arriving by train, the first impression is of anything but a “medieval town,” which the English language media loved to call it. The buildings and the city looked quite modern- and sprawling.  The vision we get of Perugia throughout this case is really of only the city center- the older part of town on the top of the hill. I recalled Amanda’s story of having to walk a long way, then hitch a ride, to get into town, and I wondered where she actually got off the train, because luckily, there is the mini-metro to take you from the station, under the center of town to the other side, where its a short walk to the city center. The mini-metro opened in January 2008, four months after the girls arrived in Perugia.

Yes, this “medieval village” has its own little metro rail! Its cute; its self-driven, and the cars spend the day traveling from one end of the track to the other. There’s an automated turntable at either end of the track that spins the car then sends it back the other way. Interesting fact- if you instead ride the metro away from the city center to the end of the line, you arrive right next to the Questura!

View of Perugia, looking north along the historic town center. In the valley at the top is the house; the British girls lived center-right; Raffalle and Rudy lived in the upper left

I started following this case about nine years ago, and during that time I’ve looked repeatedly at the the online maps like Google and Bing. But even reading the descriptions and seeing the maps, I still don’t know if I was quite prepared for the city. I really didn’t fully understand the topography from those maps, although with Google’s 3-d view its easier to see now.  The main road along the top of the hill running south to north is primarily a pedestrian-only way. Its somewhat like an upside down J. At the north end, going down the hill takes you to the nook in the valley where the four girls lived. On the inside of that J (on the right in this photo)was Patrick’s Bar, Le Chic, and where Meredith’s British friends lived.  The path Meredith took home on the night of the 1st was on the street that circles the hill, which made a lot more sense once I was there walking the streets: the easiest path from the British girls house to the house Meredith and Amanda lived in was not up and over the hill, but around the short end of the “j”.

One thing I was immediately struck by as I took this route is that there is a grade school almost right above the house. The plaza behind the grade school is the one with the metal stairs directly above the parking garage right next to the house! Meredith would have walked past the school on her way home her last night. The nearness of the grade school to the house in which Meredith was murdered surely worried local residents, and I would not be surprised if we learned that the proximity to the school, AND to the center of town, increased the pressure on the police to solve the murder.

From the house you can walk almost directly up the hill straight into town, and its an uphill walk!  I did this walk several times during the time I was there as I was getting a feel for the town. As I spent time walking around town, I reflected both on my own impressions of the town and the events and stories of both Meredith and Amanda when they first arrived. Over the next weeks, I will be looking how my trip to Perugia helped with understanding aspects of the case.

While I saw these sites, though, I also got to know the city center for my own. I ate some great pizza, I hung out and talked to one of the wine bar owners, I shopped in the bookstore.  Perugia is a lovely place, and I hope to get back there again soon.

While I traveled I didn’t get too much of an opportunity to speak to people about the case. I was surprised when I stopped in a bookstore in Rome to ask about books on the case, I didn’t get an immediate recognition from the clerks. I spoke to two or three people, and finally found one that had a recognition about the case, but then they had to look up in their computer if there were even actually any books written.

The other conversation I had was in Perugia… and that will be in my next post.

Perugia metro and apartment buildings

Rescuing Amanda Knox

Ultimately, Amanda Knox is a project of restoring lost “innocence,” and the filmmakers seem eager to play their role.white-knight-2

The newest true crime documentary from Netflix, “Amanda Knox,” centers on Amanda and the eight years of court proceedings regarding the murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher.The movie presents interviews with Knox, her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, and British tabloid reporter Nick Pisa. The film resonates with American audiences, who have been primarily exposed to news media reporting favorably on the “home-town girl.” Amanda is America’s “woman in distress;” and the filmmakers are her white knights who have arrived to rescue her from the evil beasts of Nick Pisa and Guiliano Mignini.

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Cultural Constructions of the Femme Fatale by Steve Simkin

In the film, the brutal murder of Meredith Kercher is sidelined by focusing on Nick Pisa and the British tabloids as a stand-in for all media reporting, then portraying Knox (instead of Meredith) as the victim of Pisa’s reporting.

American audiences in particular have been outraged at the she-devil, femme fatale portrait of Amanda that is created by the British tabloids. Very few critics, if any, have looked at the role the Netflix filmmakers have in overturning this narrative.

While some feminists have spoken up, they have staunchly insisted on pushing the HIV claims made by Pisa (without fact-checking) as a key example of how Knox was persecuted for her sexuality. (The truth, according to Amanda, is the prison officials TOLD HER NOT TO WORRY; that the test could be a false positive and they would retest; and they DID NOT REQUEST her list of partners; it was her decision to write it in her diary) Almost all reviewers (save one) have missed that the it is the filmmakers who arrive to rescue Amanda and restore her lost “innocence.”

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To understand how the film reinforces that women need saving-and the positive American reception to the film-you first have to understand the narrow view of the case in the US media. After she was arrested, Amanda’s innocence campaign in the US pushed back on the image that was coming from the British tabloid media. Amanda’s family hired PR professional David Marriott, claiming this was done to manage the media requests coming into the family. However, later news reports tell it differently: “By enlisting her friends and family, and targeting specific news organizations to tell the family’s story, Marriott eventually helped reshape how the world saw the young American.” The Friends of Amanda pushed a counter-story of Knox being persecuted by the lead prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini.  The US media organizations were seemingly as content to report on what Knox’s representatives said without fact checking, as Nick Pisa was content to report on what trial informants told him without fact checking. Largely absent from US reporting was any real information on the case or evidence (a problem repeated in the Netflix documentary).

As supporters joined the campaign for Amanda’s innocence, they too focused their sights on Mignini and tabloid media reporters. Bruce Fischer targeted Guiliano Mignini and Nick Pisa as the “Architects of Foxy Knoxy.” Former FBI agent Steve Moore claimed that Amanda was being framed to cover for Guede. Jim Clemente, a behaviorist whose expertise was in child predators, claimed to know what happened to Meredith simply by ‘looking at a couple of photos.’ Amanda even had support from Seattle’s Judge Heavey, who wrote to Mignini in a plea for Amanda’s release.

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Knox’s innocence advocates: Bruce Fischer, Steve Moore, Greg Hampikian, David Marriott, Jim Clemente, Judge Michael Heavey (ret)

Over time, Knox’s innocence campaigners established the narrative in the US that Knox was being unjustly accused by a prosecutor with a vendatta. For its part, the US media was content to allow claims such as ‘Amanda was interrogated for 14 (or 43, or 46, or 53) hours,’ without ever fact checking whether this was true or not (See a recent Time magazine article with this claim). Knox’s innocence campaign was particularly focused on combating the tabloid narrative of “Foxy Knoxy.”

Another key component of her US based innocence campaign was that she was unfairly (according to the system in the US) retried and re-convicted, a belief which persists to this day. News organizations were content to think their audiences wouldn’t understand the Italian Courts, so instead they reported that Knox was unfairly being subjected to “double jeopardy,” that is, being convicted again after a trial court found her innocent.

king 5 double jeopardy

Enter the filmmakers.

Sometime in 2011, Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn and Stephen Robert Morse decided to embark on the “filmmaking journeytogether to produce a movie on the case. The directors and producers were all in Perugia for Knox and Sollecito’s first appeals hearing in October 2011. Producer Stephen Robert Morse was clearly in the pro-Knox camp, and to a lesser extent, so was director Rod Blackhurst. Morse appeared to have adopted fully the innocence campaign’s narrative, including attacking Nick Pisa as a “shit journalist”. (Recently, posters to Fisher’s online forums have stated that Morse was with people from “Injustice in Perugia” when he confronted Nick Pisa on the street in Perugia).

Blackhurst, to his credit, was more reserved in his views; he tweeted out “Free Amanda Knox”  in three posts in 2010 and 2011 prior to starting the film;  one of the posts linking to the sensational Rolling Stone article, “The Never Ending Nightmare of Amanda Knox” which describes how Knox was “coerced” into a confession. On the day the Supreme Court threw out the case, Blackhurst’s tweet was a simple heart.

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The filmmakers of “Amanda Knox”: director Brian McGinn, producer Stephen Robert Morse, director Rod Blackhurst

51lzeme4xnl-_sy344_bo1204203200_The filmmakers may have had a ready-made outline in the way of Douglas Preston’s novel the Monster of Florence. Douglas Preston had joined Knox’s innocence campaign in part due to his own confrontation with Prosecutor Mignini. Preston’s novel  describes Mignini’s role in the search for the serial murderer called the Monster of Florence. Mignini’s search is portrayed as an Ahab-like endless pursuit with an uncertain resolution. While the Mignini of Preston’s novel is not destroyed by his pursuit of the “monster;” it does consume him.

Preston learned of the serial killer case while living in Italy from journalist Mario Spezi, who co-wrote the novel. While Preston was researching the case, Prosecutor Mignini accused Preston of obstruction of justice, and Preston was given the option to leave Italy. After this, Preston had an axe to grind with Mignini- and he ground it to a fine point in his novel. Preston believed Mignini was a “rogue prosecutor,” and Preston was particularly fond of pushing a story that Mignini saw satanic conspiracies, that Mignini “believes that Satan walks the land.” This satanism claim was pushed in the US and elsewhere by sympathizers in media organizations like CBS. Preston’s co-writer, Mario Spezi, was also charged by Mignini with obstruction of justice for interfering with the Monster of Florence investigation.

monsterBack to Perugia; in 2011, after the filmmakers decided to start their project, Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn hung out with Mario Spezi in Florence. Producer Stephen Morse was with Spezi at the courthouse when the appeals court issued their ruling. (Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi are thanked in the credits of the Netflix film).

The film suggests Knox has become Mignini’s new monster to pursue; as she narrates in the film: “people love the idea of a monster.” Netflix’s imagery for the film puts Preston’s story in Times Square in banner ads. But to American audiences used to the reporting over the last nine years, its Amanda who is being persecuted, and she is the damsel in distress.

Of course, damsels need their saviors, and Stephen Morse in particular seemed ready to be one of Knox’s white knights. In a now deleted blog post, he telegraphed the role he perhaps eagerly pursued: “it is my hope that one day her world will be free of the misplaced hatred that has already been lofted upon her for years.” It was Morse who got Plus Pictures on the project and it was Morse who connected the directors with Knox. Netflix has reportedly distanced Morse from the project, saying his producer title is only honorary. Indeed, it was the directors, who, after hanging out in Florence with Mario Spezi, managed to get the participation of Mignini, Knox, Sollecito, and Pisa.

white-knight-chronicles-reviewAmanda finally had her white knights. The”white knight syndrome” is a “compulsive need to be the rescuer.” White knights “see women as powerless and unable to defend or take care of themselves; their problems are a result of misfortune or the cruelty of this world, never as their own fault.”

In the film, everything happens to Amanda; she is not responsible for anything. Knox is presented entirely as a victim of a prosecutor colluding with the media to create the myth of Foxy Knoxy, and any of Knox and Sollecito’s actions that counter the film’s narrative are left out. Her incredulous story of coming home, seeing blood, taking a shower, using the bathmat (with blood on it) to “surf” to her bedroom and back is hardly explored. The cell phone and computer records that contradict both Knox and Sollecito’s stories are ignored. Knox says her slander of Patrick is because she “broke” under the pressure of interrogation, and there is no mention of her following statements and writings where she acknowledges Patrick is in jail because of her (oddly, though, in the film she doesn’t repeat the 53 hour interrogation claim). The film ignores that Knox’s conviction for slander was upheld in all five courts that heard the case. There is almost no mention of Raffaele’s inability to maintain a consistent story and his refusal to support her alibi throughout the trial and first appellate hearing. Sollecito makes a lone passing comment about getting stoned, though at Knox’s apartment pot was as common as pasta.

white-knight-2To fully save Knox, the dual media images of guilt and sexual promiscuity needed to be confronted.  To deal with the image of guilt, Knox’s questionable reactions after the murder are swapped out with Pisa’s clear lack of empathy. The film cuts between Pisa’s statements on orgasmic headlines with scenes from Meredith’s funeral, putting Nick Pisa’s amorality at center stage. He becomes the wolf in pursuit, preying on innocent victims for his own gratification.  Knox’s own insensitive actions after the murder are replaced by the actions of someone who responded even worse.

At this time, Meredith’s death, shown in images of the funeral, becomes simply a temporary stand-in for Knox, and Meredith is quickly replaced on the way to Knox’s eventual redemption. Knox’s sex life becomes the topic of Pisa’s reporting, and the film similarly replaces Meredith’s death with Knox’s victimization by tabloid media. By the time Pisa makes the claim that the HIV test result was a ploy, Knox has almost fully replaced Meredith as the victim, and Pisa has replaced Mignini as the primary evil pursuing Knox. Even though Pisa admits himself that much of what he wrote was false, audiences are quick to latch onto Pisa’s newest salacious statement that the HIV test result was a deliberate ploy to get and publish Knox’s sex partner list. The implication is clear- Amanda is being pursued by Pisa and the tabloid media because of her sexual promiscuity.nxj6s

Meredith is reduced to an afterthought in Amanda’s tale; Meredith is not the one needing saving now. She doesn’t even warrant a R.I.P.  mention in the film’s conclusion.

The filmmakers have disclaimed any role in constructing a narrative by stating they have simply let the subjects of the film a free and open space to say what they wanted to say. The production of a feature film, instead of an interview, obviously involves many decisions. This is where the narrative is constructed; whether through deliberate storytelling on the part of the filmmakers or, as may be the case, inadvertently through their own background and assumptions. They filmmakers stated they ‘started with the final supreme court ruling and worked backwards;’ which privileges Knox’s story and appearance in the film. The film takes the Supreme Court’s statement on “media pressure” and swaps in Pisa’s tabloid reporting on “Foxy Knoxy.” Musically, the film could have replaced the score with Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” to the same effect. Instead of contrasting Meredith’s funeral with  Knox’s diary writing that she “could kill for a pizza” (made days after the murder), the film instead edits the funeral together with Pisa’s pursuit of headlines over any sense of humanity for lost life. And-as the directors later state-they didn’t have a film without Mignini, the target of many of Knox’s US supporters.

abc.pngA successful narrative is as much a process of exclusion as it is of inclusion, and the film makes several significant omissions. One key omission is the ruling from the Nencini appeals court, which contradicts the film’s narrative of the damsel in distress. The Nencini court was the second court to uphold the conviction of Knox and Sollecito, and Mignini had nothing to do with it. Judge Nencini harshly criticizes the independent experts Conti and Vecchiotti who appear in the film. The film reduces this appellate hearing to a quick 10 second screen mention.  During the appeals, the focus in the US was still on Mignini. Commentators on news sites in the US blamed Mignini for ‘retrying Amanda until he got the ruling he wanted,’ thus American audiences were primed to accept this story of redemption.

patrick-lumumba_1361210cOne person excluded from the film is Patrick, the Congolese man Knox blamed for the murder after about about two hours of questioning on the evening of November 5th. The filmmakers chose not to go from Perugia to Poland, where Patrick resided after losing his business in Italy. Patrick would have offered a more nuanced telling of the story. But ultimately, the black man who lost his business due to Knox’s accusations destabilizes the narrative of the woman in distress.

Rudy Guede, who had an apartment near Raffaele, is also almost entirely left out of the film. Guede is the only person serving a sentence for Meredith’s murder. The film’s editing suggests that Guede changed his story and blamed Knox to get a reduced sentence; again reinforcing the pursuit of Amanda as the central theme.

The film presents Mignini as a moralistic Ahab; except Mignini’s monsters that he chases endlessly are everywhere. Mignini’s statement when looking at the brutality of Meredith’s murder- “was it a monster that did this”-  becomes an indictment of his own pursuit. Instead of the film presenting a richer view of the evidence that led a trial court and an appellate court to convict Knox and Sollecito, the film concludes with a religious commentary from Mignini: final judgement will not come in this lifetime, but in death.

Ultimately the blame for “Foxy Knoxy” is laid at the feet of Nick Pisa. He becomes the real wolf preying on Amanda, and it’s Nick Pisa that the filmmakers ultimately slay.  In doing so, the white knight filmmakers restore Knox’s lost “innocence” and rescue her from the beasts that have pursued her for the last nine years.

In the end, the brutality of Meredith’s murder is all but forgotten.

By and large, those who have not been subjected to the “woman in distress” reporting have rejected the film’s narrative. They remember that the real story of a girl enjoying la bella vita before she is interrupted by the evil that besets her…

…is Meredith Kercher’s story.

As it currently stands, the Italian courts have ruled that Guede did not kill Meredith alone. The case is unresolved.

For additional information and reactions to the documentary:

Full list of evidence in the trial of the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Stephanie Kercher, sister of Meredith: “Why will Amanda Knox not stop speaking about Meredith Kercher’s murder?” Sister of victim speaks out to warn we still don’t REALLY know what happened despite ‘unnecessary’ Netflix show. (UK Daily Mail)

Documentary leaves people of color out of the story (The Stranger)

Producer Stephen Morse attacks credibility of Nick Pisa.

How the documentary misrepresents the DNA evidence. (True Justice for Meredith Kercher/Krissy G)