The Morning After and the Mornings After That
What a long strange trip it’s been.
After I posted that giddy piece the other night I poured a good shot of my favorite Barbados rum and settled back to savor the good news. Then, after a decent interval, I poured another, and in my bliss forgot altogether that the NCAA basketball games were on.
The next morning I watched Amanda, who never looked lovelier, give a classy and emotional statement to the press, her supportive fiancé at her side. Reportedly, Raffaele too is engaged. Endless trials and tribulations ending in marriage. It’s beginning to sound like something the Bard himself dreamed up.
I hope that in the days and weeks ahead the full significance of what just happened will sink in. What just happened was a vindication of Judge Hellmann and a complete repudiation of the foggy thinking and dishonesty exhibited at various times by Massei, Galati, Chieffi, and Nencini. Indeed, Gennaro Marasca’s court viewed this line of thinking as so pernicious that it treated it like a dangerous cancer to be radically excised before it metastasized.
This is great good news for the cause of justice, especially in Italy. No doubt old habits will die hard, but henceforth it will be harder for judges and prosecutors to just spin absurd theories out of their butts like so many berserk spiders. Their opinions and theories will have to be grounded in real facts and clear thinking. It seems very likely that Marasca and the other four judges would not have taken such a radical step unless doing so was strongly supported by a majority of Cassation judges.
I would love to be able to say “I told you so” except I really did not predict such a dramatic turnaround–no one could have. I did predict that Amanda Knox would never go back to an Italian prison and I was more optimistic than some that the outcome would be acceptable. But these are different things:
It might be useful to review what the grounds for my relative optimism were:
- First and foremost, the fact of Amanda Knox’s innocence was trivially obvious to see, a real no brainer. It was, as an old professor of mine liked to say “a truth like a cow.” (This sounds better in German).
- It was equally apparent, and child’s play to demonstrate, that the trials that convicted her were about as far from being fair as it is possible to be in a Western democracy.
- The various convicting reports (Massei, Chieffi, and Nencini) were little more than serial intellectual embarrassments, filled to the brim with misrepresentations, falsehoods, speculation, and illogical, circular reasoning.
- Serious people in Italy, the U.S. and the U.K. were obviously aware that Amanda was innocent and that the varying rationales for conviction were absurd, even if such an obvious truths had somehow escaped the notice of more casual observers and the usual Dementors in the press.
- It was in absolutely no one’s interest to see this fiasco play out further and it was not unreasonable to hope that serious people might put an end to it.
I suspect that is exactly what happened. Serious people said “enough of this crap.” Did my own government have anything to do with events? I have no idea but I certainly hope so. A government that complacently allows one of its young citizens to be railroaded is pretty useless. But of course the major impetus for the reversal had to come from within Italy, from decent people who understood that Italy’s honor and reputation would be best served by a definitive acquittal.
Although good triumphed over evil in the end, we should not get distracted from the fact that this should never have happened. As I believe I said earlier, if Amanda Knox could be convicted on this sort of illusory evidence, then anyone can be can be convicted anywhere of anything.
Bad judges and a problematic system of justice in Italy was not sole source of injustice–not by a long shot. There was just a whole lot of lazy, biased, irresponsible journalism surrounding this case–by the tabloids, of course, but also by much more mainstream outlets like the BBC and Newsweek. Even my beloved New York Times went all wobbly at certain junctures, though Timothy Egan’s thunderous denunciations of the Perugian clown show were one of the things that inspired me to study the case.
I suppose I should say something about the Kercher family. Here I admit to being conflicted. I am a father and know that I can at best dimly imagine the magnitude of their loss. There is an old Irish saying to the effect that the death of a youngest daughter is a “needle in the heart,” and the power of that image gives me some sense of what they have been feeling since November 2007 and what they will always feel. But I also think it is terribly important at this time for them to speak out clearly and tell the world that they accept the verdict and that those who have attacked Amanda Knox in Meredith’s name should also.
In the end what I most want for the Kerchers is peace. But to achieve it they will throw off the veil of illusions in which they are wrapped and see the verdict as history will see it. There are villains in this story but none of them are named Amanda or Raffaele. Rudy Guede murdered Meredith Kercher, and he was enabled by the Perugian police who inexcusably failed to take him off the streets when he was arrested for earlier crimes. For the Italian authorities who persecuted Amanda Knox, the case it was never about Meredith Kercher at all. Beneath the smiles, the charm, the impeccable manners and the expressions of sympathy beat hearts as coldly calculating and self-interested as those of the Borgias.
As for me, I intend to enjoy the pastoral delights of spring in the north country and wonderful sense of renewal that they bring. I will not disengage from the case right away as there are a few issues that need resolution. But I am getting a sense that the media is rapidly losing interest. This is almost certainly a good thing. All Amanda Knox ever wanted was to be an ordinary young woman from Seattle. Well, she has that chance now and the world needs to step back get and out of her way.
I wish Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito well.