The Italian police and prosecutor made a laughingstock of themselves by zeroing in on the most unlikely suspect.
Many ostensibly informed citizens, including – especially – progressives, have scoffed at interest in the arrest, tribulations, and trials of Amanda Knox. They see the attention the case garnered as a variation on “missing white woman syndrome” (MWWS), in which the likes of Ms. Knox receive attention denied minorities and foreigners in similar situations. The case can be made, though, that precisely because of who she is, her case generates sustained interest on the part of members of the general public who ordinarily wouldn’t be exposed to injustice in the form of police and prosecutorial misconduct. Whether or not they can extrapolate Ms. Knox’s victimhood to minorities in the United States and citizens in other countries, especially those with less developed legal systems than the United States or (cough) Italy, though, is ultimately up to them.
After following the case of Ms. Knox – “Kuh-nox” to her Italian jailers – from her arrest to her release on appeal, I read her book Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir (Harper, 2013). Some begrudge her the $4 million advance, but, if it makes them feel any better, they can view it as restitution for her four years in prison which will help her family pay off her legal bills.
What distinguishes this case from most murders is that the central mystery wasn’t who killed young Englishwoman Meredith Kirchner, but why the legal and police authorities in Perugia, Italy chose to charge Ms. Knox and her new boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito with the crime. It’s as if police and prosecutors viewed this girl with extraordinarily clear blue eyes, who seems to have been conditioned by her nature and upbringing to look for the best in people, as a challenge. If we can charge and convict someone that innocent looking, we can get deliver a guilty verdict on anybody.
In fact, one of her lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said the police suspected Ms. Knox, “because you behaved differently than the others.” He’s speaking of her infamous failure to display sorrow in a manner the police thought appropriate, as well as the affection with which her boyfriend attempted to console her. Never mind that Ms. Knox made a point of remaining in Perugia when she wasn’t required to and voluntarily visiting the police station to help solve the case. Dalla Vedova added:
“These are small-town detectives. They chase after local drug dealers and foreigners without visas. … Plus, they’re bullies. To admit fault is to admit that they’re not good at their jobs. … They stuck with it because they couldn’t afford to be wrong.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Knox writes, the Perugia prosecutor Giuliano Mignini was determined to link her and Raffaele with Rudy Guede, the young man arrested after them and subsequently tried and found guilty of the murder.
Their theory seemed to be that I knew Guede from the time Meredith and I had met with the guys downstairs in front of [a] fountain … the night Guede told the guys I was cute. … The prosecution hypothesized that, after that night, he’d gotten in touch with me, perhaps about buying drugs. … They further decided – based on a blurb Raffaele had written on his Facebook page way before he met me – that we’d been bored on the night of November 1 and. … ran into Guede at the basketball court. I purportedly said, “Hey, let’s go hang out at my place.” … According to Mignini, we found Meredith at the villa and said, Hey, that stupid bitch. Let’s show Meredith. Let’s get her to play a sex game.
Scratching your head? Ms. Knox, too, and then some.
I was horrified. Who thinks like that?
In their scenario, I hated Meredith because we’d argued about money. Hearing Mignini say that I told Guede to rape Meredith was upsetting. He added that I was the ringleader, telling Raffaele to hold her down.
Who would buy this story? It gets worse.
When he said that I threatened Meredith with a knife, I felt as if I’d been kicked. Even worse was hearing him say that when Meredith refused to have sex, I killed her.
… His “proof”? Raffaele’s Japanese comic books about vampires and the one Marilyn Manson song he had downloaded. In closing arguments, Mignini said Meredith’s murder was … a sexual and sacrificial ritual.
Why did Mignini take this laughable tack? Ms. Knox again.
[Lawyers Dalla Vedova and Luciana Ghirga] told me [that] for Mignini, winning his case against Raffaele and me was a Hail Mary to save his career and reputation. … As I found out that summer, the determined prosecutor had a bizarre past, was being tried for abuse of office, and had a history of coming up with peculiar stories to prove his cases.
In 2002, on the advice of a psychic, he reopened a decades-old cold case. The Monster of Florence was a serial killer who attacked courting couples in the 1970s and ’80s. After murdering them he would take the women’s body parts with him. Mignini exhumed the body of Dr. Francesco Narducci after the psychic told him that Narducci, who died in 1985, was the Monster and that he hadn’t committed suicide [but] had been murdered by members of a satanic sect, who feared the Monster would expose them. He charged twenty people, including government officials, with being members of the same secret sect as the Monster.
Not to justify Mignini, but bear in mind that the Monster of Florence serial killer case haunted Italians for years and, no doubt, made them especially susceptible to conspiracy theories. Douglas Preston, an American crime novelist who investigated the crime, was actually interrogated by Mignini, who threatened to try him as an accessory to murder. Preston hightailed it out of the country and later chronicled the killings and investigations in a book titled The Monster of Florence (Grand Central Publishing, revised 2013). If you read his 2006 Atlantic piece by the same name, you realize that the Knox case is like an aftershock from the Monster of Florence case.
More on the charges against Mignini from Bruce Fischer at Ground Report:
Mignini created an elaborate conspiracy [that] led to the indictment the 20 people, which included government officials and law enforcement officers, all charged with the concealment of Narducci’s murder.
The case against the 20 defendants was thrown out of court because there was absolutely no evidence to support Mignini’s preposterous claims. [He] was convicted in a Florence court for … the following [numbered items edited – RW]:
1.) Illegally investigating journalists who had criticized him with the “intent to harass or deter them from pursuing their legitimate profession.”
2.) Ordering an illegal investigation of the Florentine ex police chief.
3.) Ordering illegal investigations of two officials of the Viminale, the Ministry of the Interior in Rome, including an illegal investigation of the … ex-director of the office of external affairs.
Way to make enemies in high places, Mignini. He was convicted for abuse of office and sentenced to a 16-month suspended sentence. But, writes Fischer
The Florence court later canceled Mignini’s conviction, due to the fact that one of the people Mignini was convicted of abusing was a prosecutor from Florence, so it was ruled that the case should not have been tried there. The Florence court then sent the case to the prosecution office in Turin for retrial. [Though] reaching a final decision will take years.
Among the most moving passages of Waiting to Be Heard are those that embody the title of the book. Ms. Knox obsesses over the composition of statements to the court which will convey her innocence. When those fail to have any impact, she then convincingly chronicles her frustration and feelings of helplessness.
We’ll end where we began. After reading Waiting to Be Heard, one reviewer wrote:
If I ever made crass or asinine comments about Amanda Knox’s attractiveness, or propensity for murder, or very bad ideas, on Twitter, I shamefully retract them.