Down the Funny Stairs
Judges must beware of hard constructions and strained inferences, for there is no worse torture than those of the law.
–Francis Bacon, Sr.
Bump bump bump,
down the funny stairs.
The case against Amanda Knox has never been a search for the truth. Nowhere is this clearer than in the extraordinary “fluidity” with which prosecutors (and now judges) have changed their theories and facts. Prosecutors have now offered five different excuses for why the vital interrogation tapes went missing. They have revised the time of death upward into the zone of physical impossibility. They have offered five equally implausible motives for the murder. They have ignored the impossible-to-miss fact that key prosecution witnesses contradict one another.
Far from being scandalized by all this, the judges who have convicted Amanda Knox have accepted it calmly and with the greatest complacency. Facts are not stubborn things in Italian courts; they are infinitely malleable things, changeable at whim. Evidence disappears or is withheld. Theories that are advanced one day, disappear the next. Powerful, fact-driven defense arguments are simply ignored altogether.
It might, therefore, be useful to focus less on shape-shifting “facts,” and more on the absurd narrative framework that purports to hold them together. In focusing too much on the trees, we risk failing to note that we are being led into a vast, dark and forbidding forest, a forest full of strange sounds and grotesque, fantastical creatures and happenings.
When one steps back from the minute details of the case, it becomes immediately obvious that if you are to believe in Amanda Knox’s guilt you must enter the world of fantasy and willingly suspend disbelief on a massive scale. You must, in short, become a believer in outlandish fairy tales. Here is a starter selection of some of the extravagant absurdities and improbabilities to which you must subscribe:
- You have, first of all, to believe that Amanda Knox left the comforts of Raffaele’s apartment on a cold November night for no discernible reason, and you must ignore the fact that no security cameras or remotely credible witnesses provided evidence that she had.
- You must believe that Amanda armed herself for the occasion with a large kitchen knife carried in her bag, and you must ignore the fact that she was not in the habit of doing such things, that no one saw this happen, and that there is no physical evidence whatsoever that it did.
- You have to believe that by some as-yet-unspecified agency Knox met up with Guede, though, again, no remotely credible witness or camera puts them together. You must ignore the fact that she had previously had only the briefest introduction to Guede, and that the prosecution failed mightily despite enormous effort to find any further association between them.
- You have to assume that Amanda, a good student and athlete with no dark side or history of violence, could, without the barest hint of a plausible motive, butcher a lovely housemate whom she liked and esteemed.
- You have to assume that Meredith died at least two hours later than established medical science says is physically possible.
- You have to assume that Amanda cleaned up the scene of the murder so completely that no trace of her survived in the room where the murder took place–no DNA, fingerprints, hair, or traces of her clothing, etc. You must further ignore the fact that it is physically and scientifically impossible to clean a murder scene in this fashion without leaving evidence that you did so.
- You must assume that though the victim was hemorrhaging liters of blood, Amanda somehow managed to avoid getting even the smallest drop on her person or clothes, and somehow managed to avoid disturbing the blood in a way that signaled her presence.
- You have to assume that Amanda engaged in yet another masterful act of deception by staging a break-in, something she could only accomplish through a series of diabolically clever intermediate steps that include:
- Bringing a large rock into the apartment, opening the window in the direction of the wall, and then hurling the rock through so as to simulate its having come from the outside.
- Re-adjusting the windows, and then picking up bits of broken glass and throwing them across the room, precisely imitating the expected directional spray of a real break-in.
- Moving shards from the rock that broke off when it hit the floor to a new spot that would suggest an entirely different entry trajectory, consistent with the spray of glass.
- In an especially clever trompe l’oeil, grabbing the rock once again and rolling it into a shopping bag on the floor, thereby creating a touch of verisimilitude that would fool all but the most lynx-eyed Perugian detectives.
- You have to assume that instead of simply disposing of the murder weapon as any garden variety of criminal might have done, Amanda took the bloody knife back to the apartment where she continued to cook and prepare food with it over the next four days (No ordinary ghoul our Ms. Knox!).
- You have to assume that, instead of leaving the country like the victim’s friends did, or getting a lawyer as her Italian flatmates did, or even going to the American Embassy as her family recommended, Amanda preferred to play a grueling, 40-hour+ cat and mouse game with the police–a tactic so pleasant that it left her stressed and exhausted to the point that one officer asked her if she needed medical attention.
- You have to assume that the small army of investigators who awaited Amanda at the police station on November 5, some of whom were on special detail from Rome, were there just for the fun of it and because they had nothing better to do on a cold November midnight. You must further assume that the assemblage of this task force required no prior planning or authorization and had absolutely nothing to do with the fact Amanda’s mother was flying in the next day to take charge of the situation and assist her daughter.
- You have to assume that when Amanda did “crumble,” she did not: a) confess or b) attempt to shift the blame to her co-perpetrators, but c) blamed an innocent bystander she had every reason to expect would have an iron-clad alibi.
Surely, and as we are sane, reasonable people, the most fitting and proper response to this speculative daisy-chain of contrived nonsense is humor–derisive laughter, to be specific. It is just a breathtakingly foolish reconstruction of events and only card carrying fools would believe it.
The prosecution’s clean-up theory and claimed time of death defy the laws of nature. The other elements are merely wildly implausible. Taken together they are the stuff of fairy tales, and about as far from reality and sound judicial reasoning as it is humanly possible to be.
Unfortunately, recent experience shows that fairy tales pass as sound reasoning in the osmotic swamps of the Italian courts. And what, you ask, about bedrock legal protections such as the presumption of innocence, prosecutorial burden of proof, the neutrality of judges, and acquittal when there’s reasonable doubt?
The answer is these protections do not exist in Italy when powerful interests will them to disappear.
By way of winding all of this up, let’s briefly examine the competing, alternative hypothesis that Rudy Guede, acting alone, killed Meredith Kercher. Where the case against Amanda Knox is a speculative disaster, the case against Guede has the simple inevitability of truth.
- There is no evidence at all of Amanda Knox in the room where Meredith was murdered, but there is abundant and unimpeachable evidence against Guede. It includes bloody palm and finger prints, bloody shoe prints, and DNA on the victim’s clothes, on her personal property, and in her vagina.
- In the immediate aftermath of the murder, Guede left Meredith Kercher dying horribly and choking in her own blood as he went dancing at a club, where friends described his mood as being altered and his manner “rough and serious.”
- Guede admitted to being at the scene of the murder and only began naming Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito as co-perpetrators after prosecutors offered a sweetheart deal that required him to do so. Previously he had maintained that Knox was not at the scene and that he did not even know who Sollecito was.
- Where Amanda Knox remained in Italy without a lawyer, Guede fled to Germany. After he was tracked down there, someone paid for a politically well connected team of lawyers to accompany him back to Italy before he could be interviewed by the Italian police.
- Unlike Knox, who had plenty of money, Guede was in constant need of funds, and the murder took place on “rent day,” a time when money was likely to be around because rent was paid in cash. The money that the victim had in her purse disappeared and the purse itself had Guede’s DNA on it.
- Unlike Knox, who had no history of criminality, Guede was a one man crime wave during the weeks leading up to the murder. He was arrested multiple times and his criminal modus operandi foreshadowed many of the elements of the Kercher murder: he broke in through second story windows, helped himself to food, defecated in the toilet, stole money and electronic items, and threatened people with knives.
Now, just a few short years after being the sole author of a heinous of murder, Rudy Guede is being allowed out of prison regularly in preparation for supervised release. He is enjoying the prospect of freedom even as two innocent young people are being hounded almost to the grave.
If you find yourself outraged and asking how this is remotely possible, you are well on your way to understanding the full infamy of the case. From the first, the effort to frame Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito has been linked to an equally determined effort to deflect attention from Guede and minimize the grave indications of his guilt.
We know for certain that this is so. What we don’t know is why.