It’s time to Break It Down!
On November 1, 2007, 21 year-old Meredith Kercher was murdered in Perugia, Italy. Ms. Kercher was a British exchange student from Coulsdon, South London.
Rudy Guede, a native of the Ivory Coast, raised in Perugia, was convicted in October 2008 of having sexually assaulted and murdered Kercher. Initially sentenced to 30 years, his sentence was reduced on appeal to 16 years in December 2009.
Amanda Knox, an American exchange student in Perugia,Kercher’s flatmate (roommate), and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian student were convicted on charges of sexual assault and murder in December 2009, and sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively. Their convictions were overturned on appeal in October 2011. In a statement of their grounds for overturning the convictions, the two judges who oversaw the case wrote:
“There was a “material non-existence” of evidence to support the guilty verdicts at the trial. The prosecution’s theory of an association between Sollecito, Knox and Guede was “not corroborated by any evidence” and “far from probable“
Kercher’s murder and the subsequent events, especially Knox’sarrest and trial, received worldwide media attention. This was particularly true in Italy and England, where much of the publicity was of the salacious tabloid variety. A number of observers criticized the press for failing to describe events in an accurate and dispassionate manner. Naturally, the concern was that this could skew the outcome of the case.
In recent days, American media has been afire with reports that the Italian Supreme Court has overturned the acquittal, and declared that Knox and Sollecito’s case must be retried. While the case is set in Italy, in America, we operate on a presumption of innocence, until one is proved guilty. There is also a rule against what is called double-jeopardy, which means, in effect, if an individual is tried and found not guilty, they cannot be tried again for the same crime.
All of this may seem quite confusing to casual observers, familiar with the rules of American jurisprudence. In the Italian system, there is a procedural sequencing that allows the Supreme Court to take the action it has in Ms. Knox’s case. In the technical sense, what is about to happen is an extension of the stages or phases of the original prosecution, and not what Americans would consider double-jeopardy.
Amanda Knoxmay in fact be innocent of the murder of Meredith Kercher. I hope she is! This review of the facts is not intended to try her case from my vantage point. Rather, it is meant to note the markedly biased treatment the recent ruling is being given by parts of the American media stream, which appears to be enthusiastically questioning how “unfairly” Ms. Knox is being treated, as she attempts to rebuild her life back in her home town of Seattle.
Yet, this is what I find troubling. In her initial story to police, Ms. Knox alleged that Patrick Lumumba was infatuated with Ms. Kercher, had sex with her, and later killed her. Lumumba was a bar owner for whom Knox worked. At one point she noted:
“I have a hard time remembering those moments but Patrick had sex with Meredith, with whom he was infatuated, but I cannot remember clearly whether he threatened Meredith first. I remember confusedly that he killed her.“
Mr. Lumumba spent two weeks in jail, before the evidentiary trail fell apart abruptly, on two separate fronts. First and foremost, he had an airtight alibi. He was at work at his bar, and engaged in conversation all evening with witnesses who corroborated his whereabouts. Second, his DNA could not be found at the crime scene…the reason being both understandable, and abundantly clear, since he was not there! On its face, at best, this was yet another classic instance of “blame it on the black guy;” at worse, it was a blatantly opportunistic, perhaps even desperate ploy to point the po-po in any direction, not aimed toward her.
In the end, regardless of whether Ms. Knox tried to “Susan Smith” Lumumba, or whether she was just lying through her teeth in an at-all-costs effort to save her own skin, damn the consequences to an innocent man; her behavior and character must be put under a microscope, due to her personal actions, color notwithstanding. She was eventually found guilty of slandering Mr. Lumumba, and had her sentence for doing so, initially slated for one year, increased to three years and eleven days.
The Italian Court of Cassation later found that Knox’s human rights had been violated, because the police had not told her of her legal rights, appointed her a lawyer, or provided her an official interpreter; therefore, her statement to police was ruled inadmissible for Knox’s and Sollecito’scriminal trial. The court did, however, rule the note she wrote afterwards questioning the validity of her statement was admissible as evidence to prosecute her.
On 16 November the Rome forensic police matched fingerprints found in Kercher’s bedroom to Rudy Guede, who had lived in or near Perugia since arriving in Italy with his father when he was five years old. Because he was an immigrant, his fingerprints were on file. He was arrested on November 20, 2007 in Germany, where he had fled days after the murder. His DNA was later found at the crime scene, on and inside Kercher’s body. The prosecution charged Guede for the murder, but retained the allegations against Knox and Sollecito that originally related to acting in concert with Mr. Lumumba.
On October 3, 2011, the court overturned Knox’s and Sollecito’s convictions on charges of complicity in murder, sexual assault, illegally carrying a knife and staging a break-in. The conviction of Knox on a charge of slander was upheld.
Ms. Knox immediately returned to the United States upon her release from custody. She then undertook the arduous task of putting the pieces of her life back together after four years in an Italian jail. She is enrolled in college, she is writing a book about her experience, and by and large she has tried to get on with her life.
Americans have a tendency to look out for their own. Consequently, I understand, given the range of less than delightful circumstances that Ms. Knox experienced, how and why Americans, spurred by an overzealous media, may be prone to view her as a sympathetic figure. Yet, I cannot exorcise from my mind the image of Patrick Lumumba; innocent and in jail. And no matter how you frame it, he found himself in that unenviable position because of the nonfactual representation of events presented by a woman whose collective defense much of the American media seems to be at the ready.
I’m sorry, but in my view, Patrick Lumumba is the sympathetic figure in this story. As I wrote earlier, I am not suggesting that Ms. Knox is culpable in Ms. Kercher’s death. I don’t even care to speculate on that subject. However, what has been established as fact, and etched in my mind is, for whatever the reason, Ms. Knox concocted a story, among a spate of other inconsistencies, that led to an innocent black man going to jail. “Patrick Lumumba: A Tortuous Tale of Italian Jurisprudence!” That’s all I need to know!
I’m done; holla back!
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