I’m of an age when I can feel nostalgic about murder trials. I remember the Amanda Knox case vaguely. It was 2007 and I was finishing a PhD – and out of the corner of my eye was this story on TV of an American girl and her boyfriend facing life for the murder in Italy of her roommate, Meredith Kercher, which she denied.
Knox was pretty. She had cold blue eyes and laughed a little too much for someone in mourning. The Italian prosecutors concluded that she must have initiated a sex game that turned violent. A court gave her 26 years.
Amanda Knox (Netflix) concludes that its subject was innocent, that she was crucified by public opinion. Crucified by a prosecutor who modelled himself on Sherlock Holmes and saw himself as the hammer of God. Crucified by a police force in a hurry, which botched evidence and treated the crime scene with all the forensic care of a chimp’s tea party. And crucified by a media that helped frame a narrative of Foxy Knoxy the Sex Killer because, well, it sounded good.
In archive footage, we watch Knox enter the courtroom looking terrified – and a TV journalist can be heard saying that she could “maybe use hair and makeup”. Later, when acquitted after the DNA evidence is discounted, another pundit wonders if she’s going to write a book “or go on Dancing with the Stars”. As the cameras circle, she begs to be left alone. A journalist asks her father directly if he’s been offered any movie deals.
Back in 2007, I recall a friend who was living in Italy and who had “gone native” – in that she insisted Knox deserved life. You’ll still find Italians to this day who think that. In their opinion, American dollars bought her freedom, even though her body language suggested guilt. But, as Knox asks the viewers, what kind of justice convicts on the basis of a hunch? The Italian justice system does, which plays out as a soap opera.
Everything gets subsumed into entertainment nowadays, even murder. Donald Trump features briefly in the film, demanding Knox’s freedom. His presence is no coincidence. Our cultural decline is well advanced.
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