If the Italian Court of Cassation (i.e. Supreme Court) upholds the latest conviction of Amanda Knox for the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, Italy must decide whether to request her extradition. If the request is made, it should be rejected by the United States.
The botched investigation of the case resulted in a questionable conviction of both Knox and her then Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. No DNA or other physical evidence was found at the bloody murder scene to link either Knox or her boyfriend to the murder. Putative bloody footprints attributed to both Knox and Sollecito turn out not to be bloody at all. The prosecution claimed that Kercher’s DNA was on a kitchen knife found at Sollecito’s place but court appointed independent forensics experts challenged this evidence as being unreliable, as was the finding that Sollecito’s DNA was on a rusted bra clasp of Kercher’s discovered by police six weeks after the murder.
Other elements of the case are more troubling. The pair’s protestations of innocence were not buttressed, for example, by what many might consider inappropriate behavior in the immediate aftermath of the murder, such as public smooching and Knox performing cartwheels at the police station. More damning were the various accounts they provided police of their whereabouts during the crucial hours when Kercher was murdered, their recollections likely clouded by being in a pot-induced fog at the time and by a long and relentless police interrogation.
The fact remains that the evidence of the involvement of Knox and Sollecito in Kercher’s murder is thin, to say the least, whilst that for a small-time drug dealer from the Ivory Coast, Rudy Guede, is overwhelming. His DNA, for example, was found all over the crime scene including on the victim. Guede has been convicted for his role but prosecutors continue to insist that their original suspects, Knox and Sollecito, were Gudde’s accomplices. The original motive was said to have been a putative sex orgy. When that theory was widely ridiculed, prosecutors suggested an argument over a dirty toilet may have been the trigger. Really, a dirty toilet? And prosecutors have not been shy about suggesting yet other motives.
It’s understandable that the police initially set their sights on Knox and Sollecito in light of the pair’s struggles with their alibis and Knox’s perplexingly insouciant behavior at the police station. What is much harder to understand once Guede’s strong connection to the murder was discovered, is the obsession on the part of police and prosecutors to continue to link Knox and Sollecito to it, lack of evidence notwithstanding.
And this reluctance on the part of police and prosecutors to admit error in their initial theory of the crime and focus on a particular suspect even after new evidence reveals a more plausible suspect and motive, is not peculiar to Italy, unfortunately, as anyone who happened to catch the January 31 edition of Dateline NBC can attest.
It recounted the story of David Camm, a former Indiana state trooper, accused of the 2000 shooting murder of his wife and two young children, whose bodies he found in the garage of his home after he had returned from a basketball game. His wife was on the floor of the garage, while his children were in a nearby SUV.
For reasons I won’t go into, Camm himself quickly became the prime suspect, despite a stunning lack of evidence and the fact that he had an alibi (playing in a basketball game with some friends). Only the tireless efforts of his uncle and a smart team of lawyers eventually resulted in his exoneration, after three trials and thirteen years of hell.
What struck me, however, was the similarity to the Knox case in the single-minded, boneheaded and stubbornly incompetent pursuit of Camm as the perpetrator by the police and three successive prosecutors in Indiana against all logic and, more importantly, the evidence.
The Amanda Knox case may not be quite as much of a slam-dunk as Camm’s disgraceful persecution, but it is difficult for me to believe that anyone other than Guede was involved in Kercher’s brutal murder. The fact is that the physical evidence links him to the murder scene and the motive, that he tried to rape her, is logical and straightforward.
Guede’s original 30-year sentence was reduced on appeal to 16 years. Knox faces a term of imprisonment of 28 years for a conviction that seems to have more to do with the fragile egos and prejudices of the police and prosecutors in Italy than with the evidence. It would be a travesty of justice to allow such an outcome.
If the Italian Supreme Court upholds Knox and Sollecito’s most recent convictions, I hope the Italians have the sense not to press for her extradition. But if they do the US should refuse to extradite her, treaty be damned.