This November marks seven years since the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. In that time, the names of two of the three people convicted -- Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito -- have filled immeasurable slots on the news and have been the subject of countless news reports.
The debate as to whether these two young people are guilty of murder, or were simply set up by a corrupt, vengeful and vindictive Italy still rages on today. No one, of course, has had more written about her than Amanda Knox.
Immediately cast as both the media star and murderess vixen of this case, there has been outrage at the "character assassination" and gender discrimination that was, initially, very prevalent.
This prejudice is the crux of Knox’s defense; we are asked to believe the overwhelming evidence against her is either contaminated or fabricated simply due to supposed Italian prejudice towards a sexually active and good-looking American woman.
That said, dissecting the evidence in the Kercher case is not the focus of this piece. Instead, I am interested in unpicking the double standards that permeate the way the information is relayed to us.
I am interested in examining the intricacies and truths that lie beyond the media spin, the way all three defendants are presented and depicted and, most importantly, how this impacts our judgment of the evidence against them.
Prejudice and manipulation of image is key to understanding this case, and to understand it properly, you must dismantle the deceptive veneer that surrounds it.
The PR Party Line
It’s no secret that there is a PR company behind Amanda Knox. Her father has described hiring Gogerty Marriott, the largest PR firm in Seattle, three days after Knox’s arrest as “one of the smartest things we ever did.”
Gogerty Marriott’s first task was to get Americans on board with the case. While much of the tabloid press was consumed with reporting on Knox’s appearance and sex life, the news coming into the US from Perugia was meticulously sieved free of any negativity. In fact, no American reporters were given access to the Knox family without guarantees of positive coverage.
The second, more malevolent task was smearing the Italian justice system, at which Gogerty Marriott excelled. For those who have not read any official documents or court testimony, you would be forgiven for thinking that Knox was found guilty because of faulty DNA evidence, a "forced confession" and the idea that the Italians will simply try Knox repeatedly until they get the result they want. The reality could not be further away from the spin.
Instead, we are told that it’s not Knox who is lying, but everyone else. Let’s point the finger at the mendacious Italian judiciary system; let’s insist that the police, multiple judges, witnesses, lawyers and forensic teams have all united in deceit because of their medieval judgment of a sexually active American woman.
How absurd this idea is; how surprisingly willing we are to allow twisted facts to go unchallenged and overlook key gaps in evidence when it comes to an attractive white female. This is where the manipulation of both image and evidence becomes very interesting.
If you suspect that prejudice impacts our understanding of evidence -- as Knox supporters constantly remind us in so far as it relates to Knox, and Knox alone -- then you must apply that logic to all three defendants. There are three; though, it's easily forgotten.
Let’s look at the handling of the third person convicted: Rudy Guede. Before doing so, however, I must make one point very simply: Rudy Guede is a convicted liar and killer. He is in prison, where he belongs. I take pains to point this out because, frequently, those who dare highlight the bias against Guede are immediately branded as his supporter.
No one is absolving Guede of his crime; his abhorrent involvement in Kercher’s murder is incontrovertible. However, my absolute belief in his guilt has no bearing on an untold and hugely important fact: Guede has been unfairly demonized in the press for nearly seven years.
The Manipulation of Image
Drug dealer. Drifter. Delinquent. Criminal.
This is the image we have been fed of Guede for the past seven years, the image Gogerty Marriott worked hard to create. Never mind that this “drifter” lived in Perugia since he was 5; never mind that he had no history of violence, no criminal convictions and there is absolutely zero evidence for his supposed involvement in drug dealing.
Guede is black, so evidence is not required. Without money, without power, without Gogerty Marriott at his side, the staggering double standards in the press relating to Guede have gone unchallenged. Guede himself has made a few attempts to contest the misinformation, but his letters are largely ignored.
Guede has written:
In the final judgment, I was acquitted of theft and simulation of crime, a fact I never hear mentioned in the various journalistic reconstructions. I do not accept in any way to be passed off and continually held up as a drifter, a thief, a homeless man, seeing my person and my dignity offended continually, [...] when I had a beautiful family and precious squeaky clean and friendly relations in Perugia.
While I have no care for Guede's offense, his point is valid. What is most striking about this case, aside from the senseless crime itself and the twists and turns of the appeals system, is the discriminatory pattern that almost all reporting has followed. It’s almost as if journalists are following a set of ludicrous, prescribed guidelines.
They go something like this:
1. Always refer to Guede as a drug dealer, burglar or criminal. Ignore the fact he didn't have a single criminal conviction at the time and there is zero evidence for drug dealing. At the very least, call him a drifter at least once; it doesn't matter that he had his own apartment.
2. Embellish the black man's previous conduct, while suppressing the white people's. Do not refer to Knox's and Sollecito's previous encounters with the police, Knox’s links to a Perugia cocaine ring or the fact that Knox faked a break-in in Seattle before this case even began. Discussion of Sollecito's bestiality fetish (which led to him being monitored at university) and his obsession with knives is also strictly off-limits.
3. When writing about the DNA evidence implicating the white people, minimize it and refer to it as "tiny" or "a speck." Pretend the DNA evidence consists of just the knife and the bra clasp. Don't mention the footprint evidence. Definitely don't mention the five instances of Kercher/Knox mixed blood and DNA and Knox's own blood she testified was not there the day before the murder. Under no instances mention the circumstantial evidence.
4. When writing about the DNA evidence implicating the black man, make sure to exaggerate. Always refer to it as being “all over the victim's body.” No one needs to know there was just one sample of Guede’s DNA on Kercher's body. Be sure to make evidence up: Guede left his hair and fluid samples on Kercher. If you can, state that Guede has “confessed” to the murder. The fact that he hasn't is unimportant.
5. Raise the burden of proof impossibly high when it comes to evidence against the white people. Expect mathematical certainty, and argue that they had no motive for murder. Lower the burden of proof when it comes to evidence against the black man, and remember that no one will have a problem believing he had a motive to kill.
6. When discussing the evidence against the two white people, strictly limit the “crime scene” to Kercher's bedroom. When discussing the evidence against the black man, ensure the “crime scene” includes other rooms in the cottage (i.e. the bathroom, the kitchen and the hallway).
7. Conduct countless interviews with the friends and families of the two white people. Ensure you never speak with the friends or relatives of the black man.
The biases saturating nearly all US reports of this case are not restricted to the evidence. This year alone, there have been staggering examples showcasing the full extent of Knox’s PR influence.
In January, Knox made the incriminatory admission that she faked a break-in in Seattle, months before leaving for Perugia. Bearing in mind that this entire case pivots on a staged burglary, this is immensely revealing information that went entirely unreported.
Several months ago, on Italian television, Sollecito’s family declared that they think Knox may be guilty. Again, hugely significant information that was also somehow suppressed in the mainstream US media.
In July, Knox’s links to a Perugian cocaine ring, whom she contacted in the days before and after Kercher’s murder, were disclosed. Considering how central the use of drugs has always been to this case, there is no evading the weight of this information. But once again, large portions of the American media remained silent.
In July, Sollecito held a press conference where he withdrew his alibi for Knox and challenged her testimony in critical places. “Sollecito withdraws Knox alibi for night of Kercher murder” is one example of the headlines across the world.
Things read quite differently in Seattle: “Amanda Knox’s ex-beau: Evidence points to my innocence” was the title of The Seattle Times’ coverage, and its reporting inexplicably failed to mention that Knox no longer has an alibi for the night of Kercher’s murder.
Even those who remain convinced of Knox’s innocence cannot deny this is a shameful coverup of crucial information by the US media.
Prejudice: Shield & Weapon
The fact that Knox’s DNA was not found in Kercher’s bedroom simply is not important. There is no usable DNA in the vast majority of murder cases, and countless people are convicted every day without a shred of forensic evidence.
Why should Knox be any different? Absence of evidence is not, and has never been, evidence of absence. There was not a single trace of Guede in the "break-in room."
If one was to apply the same logic to Gruede's case as Knox’s, defense would tell us that Guede could have never set foot in there, and the break-in was, as the evidence suggests and the prosecution claim, staged.
Similarly, there were zero traces of Guede in the blood-stained bathroom, but there was the fresh blood of Knox; this would tell us that Guede did not commit the crime alone.
You cannot have it both ways. If you believe prejudice exists and affects the lens through which we form our judgments, then you cannot cherry-pick some examples of bias while conveniently ignoring others.
You must, instead, carefully unpick and do away with the prejudice, and in doing so discover the simple, yet disquieting truth about this case: Prejudice has been used not only as a shield to underplay and mask the truth, but also as a weapon to direct focus and sole blame at this case’s most obvious target.
In 2014, the double standards that still prevail here are truly shocking. How easy is still is to cry “contamination!” or “coercion!” at every incriminatory piece of evidence against a pretty white girl.
How easy it still is to exploit the image of a "criminal” black man and a “drug-dealing drifter.” Then again, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, if recent criminal news tells us anything, that power, money and the invaluable image of a young, attractive, white defendant can somehow, shamefully, override the overwhelming evidence against her.
All the more important it is, then, to highlight the way the relaying of information and evidence is controlled, distorted, manipulated and even omitted for the gain of the suspects and not the victim.
Marketable images or narratives cannot determine guilt or innocence; only logical analysis of the facts can do that. In the interest of justice for Meredith Kercher, we should feel encouraged that the cracks in this carefully constructed PR façade are beginning to show.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Elite Daily.