The guilty verdict: Amanda Knox and trial by media

21 May

(Image via aishdas.org)

Amanda Knox was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of British student Meredith Kercher in December 2009. A media frenzy quickly whipped up from the discovery of Kercher’s body in 2007. Currently Knox and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are in the middle of appealing their convictions. Rudy Guede, who was also convicted of the sexual assault and murder of Kercher, lost his appeal last year.

Being perfect tabloid fodder, a vivacious and attractive young American, Knox has suffered the brunt of intrusion into her private life. Media reports leading up to and following Knox’s arrest and trial dove into salacious details: her childhood nickname of ‘Foxy Knoxy’, the fact that she kept sex toys in the bathroom she shared with Kercher, the way she kissed her boyfriend in front of photographers just after her friend’s body was discovered, an ill-judged cartwheel down the corridor of the police station before giving a statement. Personal photos of Knox have been splashed across front pages, along with pictures of her at her trial and appeal. To some she is an angelic, misrepresented and unjustly incarcerated, to others she is manipulative, wicked and rightly behind bars.

Earlier this year, American network Lifetime broadcast ‘Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy’, a made-for-TV film about the case starring Hayden Panettiere as Knox. Knox’s lawyers tried to stop the film being aired, saying it would prejudice her appeal. Her legal team and family already feared that the intense media interest in the case, in particular the portrayal of Knox, had influenced the outcome of the original trial. According to her stepfather, Knox was so upset when watching a preview clip of the film that she nearly vomited. He has also said that she finds her ‘celebrity’ status “ridiculous”.

Today, The Sun printed a double-page piece entitled ‘Is She Knox Guilty?‘, citing Knox’s false confession, the questionable forensic evidence and discredited witnesses as reasons to support her appeal. The Sun is one of many media outlets, both in the UK and US, who has swung between portraying Knox as unfeeling and manipulative, and too angelic to have committed murder at all – let alone a sex-fuelled killing.

A verdict by the appeals court in Perugia is expected by the end of the summer. Even if Knox’s appeal is successful, the intense media coverage of her case will leave an indelible mark on the rest of her life. Louise Woodward, the British nanny working in the USA who was found guilty of murdering her eight-year-old charge in 1997, had her charge reduced to involuntary manslaughter and returned to the UK and relative obscurity (after granting an interview to Panorama), having always denied the charges. However, in 2007, she was named “the most notorious criminal” convicted in the state of Massachusetts by Boston law magazine Exhibit A.

Woodward’s defence lawyer Elaine Whitfield Sharp, said at the time: “This shows that the American hysteria over this case is never going to go away.” Guilty or not of Kercher’s murder, it is likely that Knox will never be forgotten by the press, on either side of the Atlantic. She is simply too good a story.

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