Monday, October 03, 2011

Must be Witchcraft: Innocent of Murder in Italy, Young American Woman Is Guilty of 'Defamation' Because She Said She Didn't Do It

The media are overlooking one important aspect of the Amanda Knox story this afternoon out of the medieval environs (in every sense) of Perugia, Italy.

She's the young American who was convicted by hysterical Italian prosecutors of murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia in 2007, and sentenced to 26 years after a media-sensationalized trial marked by accusations of lurid sex and even witchcraft. An Italian court overturned the conviction today and said that Knox could go free.

I hope she gets on a plane and gets the hell out of Italy as fast as humanly possible.

She was released from custody but hasn't yet left the country, with Italian media hysteria raging, which is always a dangerous circumstance. Some of the more odious British newspapers, also heavily invested in the presumption that of course the American woman murdered her British roommate, also are at full howl over the exoneration of Knox, who they long derided as "Foxy Knoxy." [You think I'm kidding? Look at the snide lead on the story online right now in the UK Daily Mail, which initially embarrassed itself (again) by flashing out a false news report that Knox's conviction had been upheld. Finally they got it right, but still delivered the newsd with obvious disdain for the American(italics are mine): "Amanda Knox was freed to make millions from her life story last night after a court cleared her of murdering Meredith Kercher."]

Good old British prejudice being somewhat more focused these days on Americans, the case marks the first time to my knowledge that the Brits have ever given the Italians the benefit of the doubt.

[Not that we don't have our own media ignoramuses like this character, obviously looking for a contrarian theme to milk in her television shows.)

(For the best and most comprehensive account of the prosecutorial, police and media misconduct that turned Amanda Knox's young life into a nightmare, read this long account in Rolling Stone magazine from last June.)

According to this report by MSNBC, it wasn't clear when Knox would actually get out of Italy: "Knox had an outdated passport that had to be renewed, but it's not clear how quickly that could be done or if the paperwork was already completed." Could the poor girl now be at the mercy of an Italian passport office?

It's of course good news to know that this young woman has finally been found not guilty. Anyone who looked at the travesty of her trial could see that police and prosecutors had rushed to accuse the wrong people in the crime, and had then gone to shocking lengths to justify their gross mistakes and cover up their malfeasance.

Steve Moore, a retired FBI agent who closely investigated this case, told CBS News that he initially assumed that Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were guilty because he trusted the good faith of the Italian prosecutors. But Moore quickly decided, looking closely at the evidence, that "they should have been eliminated on day one, but on day five, before the physical evidence came back, the prosecutor had already decided, 'These must be the people, because I know these things intuitively.'" (And let's hope the Italians don't charge Moore with defamation for doubting their "intuition.")

Timothy Egan, the Times columnist, blogs today about the outrageous behavior of the prosecution: "Motive? This is where any defender of women’s rights, or modernity, should howl. Standing in front of the crucifix that adorns Italian courtrooms, prosecutors and lawyers for their side called Knox a 'she-devil,' a seducer, a 'witch,' someone who manipulated Sollecito into an orgy with Kercher and Guede. [The reference is to Rudy Guede, a drug dealer from the Ivory Coast who evidently actually committed the crime.]

"Their evidence? Well, she was sexually active, they said. She had a sex toy. I half-expected prosecutors to throw Knox in a tank of water to see if she sank or floated, a la the Salem witch trials.

"Then who did it? Guede, a drifter with a drug history, pled guilty to complicity in the killing. He fled Perugia shortly after the murder. He changed his story, dramatically, to fit the prosecution, which prompted his judge to call him 'an absolute liar.' He only named Knox and Sollecito months after he was in jail and looking to cut a deal."

Led by a bizarre Italian called Giuliano Mignini, the prosecution first insisted that the murder had been committed in a Satanic ritual orgy. Mignini had previously had some success in that part of Italy charging people in what he regarded as Satanic-themed crimes. When the devil wasn't getting enough traction, the prosecution decided that the murder happened during a "sex game" that got out of control. Probably, it was charged, Knox and her alleged accomplice were in a "marijuana rage."

As to the charge of witchcraft, it isn't clear how that was disposed of by these judicial geniuses. But one thing we ought to be paying attention to is that she was also convicted of "defamation" because she so vehemently insisted that she had been a victim of injustice, and gave police testimony as to who she thought might be involved.

Basically, she insisted she had been wrongly convicted of murder, and so was also convicted of defamation -- even though, as we now see, the court agrees that she had been wrongly convicted of murder. Her protests that somebody else had committed the crime were, then, accurate.

The defamation conviction stands on shaky legal ground, although the judge magnanimously ruled today that she had already served the sentence for that, on that, three years. She had been in an Italian prison since early November 2007.

Her parents also were charged with defamation. Here's a link.

The point here, of course, is that there is a growing trend in some countries, especially those with famously thin-skinned notions of national "honor" (and almost always, as in both Brazil and Italy, with political backgrounds in fascist regimes) to wildly charge foreigners with defamation for speech that would be entirely protected in the United States.

The media free-speech organizations, still rightfully congratulating themselves on backing England down over the disgraceful "libel tourism" issue last year, need to pay more attention to this trend.


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