Why the shock in Amanda Knox ruling? | Torrens Talk
By VAL TORRENS
North Kitsap Herald Columnist
December 14, 2009 · Updated 9:34 AM
Listening to local news reports and local people’s reactions to the results of the Amanda Knox trial in Italy has been very enlightening. It was amazing to see not only how many people expressed shock and dismay over the guilty verdict but how one-sided our media was in their newscasts.
For those who may be unaware, Knox was a University of Washington student who chose to go to Italy for part of her degree program. While there, she and her former boyfriend were charged with and convicted of the murder of her English roommate. This saga has been going on shy of two years and during that time Knox has been in an Italian jail.
Obviously, her family and friends are extremely distressed because the picture painted by the Italian prosecutor of Knox was not one they recognized. For them, Knox and murder should never occur in the same sentence. However, according to the Italian authorities, she and her ex-boyfriend had been using drugs, tried to coerce the roommate into some sexual activity and when she resisted, they killed her.
Of course, Knox and the ex vehemently denied the charges. They are both planning to appeal. The big question seems to be whether the families can afford to do this. Relatives and friends are digging deep and there is no guarantee they will get heard.
In the meantime, many people, including the media, are displaying disbelief that not only was she convicted of murder but that she was sentenced to 26 years in jail. As one local television reporter stated, Knox will be a broken and old mid-50’s-year-old woman when she gets out, assuming she is unsuccessful in her appeal.
Huh? Why is everyone so shocked and outraged? What if the same thing had happened here? Would people be decrying the sentence or demanding to know why she isn’t getting capital punishment?
It almost seems as if the “angel,” as the Italian press likes to call her, is, because of her background incapable of this. And, because she is an American in a foreign country, she is being treated differently.
Really? Or is it more that we are unwilling to accept that Americans don’t have any special claims over any other people, especially when we are the foreigners in a foreign land?
It is fascinating to see how quickly people assume that the Italians did the wrong thing and the trial was unfair. A number of issues have been brought up such as the jury not being sequestered, the “bias” of the Italian press and the inconsistencies in the charges and claims made by the Italian prosecutor.
While these things may not have happened in a trial in this country (not all juries are sequestered nor the media quiet about cases), it is improper to hold the Italian jurisprudence system to American standards.
It is their country, their laws and their justice system. It is why it behooves travelers to know the rules in the lands they travel through. Even our progenitor, Great Britain, does not have the same approach to criminals that we do. Here, you are “innocent until proven guilty.” There, not so much — it is more like you are guilty until proven innocent.
Certainly, based upon reports, it seems unbelievable that a prosecutor could present a case based upon one motive and then change that in the closing argument and still win the case. But, their standards of proof differ from ours and what we consider to be “beyond a reasonable doubt” is not the same for them.
It is a shame what has happened. It is bad enough to be caught up in the legal system for crimes committed in this country, but to be a criminal in another land is a whole other ballgame. It certainly gives one pause to recognize that what we have here in our system is precious and should never be taken for granted. Even if Knox wins her appeal, her life and those of the others involved is forever changed. It definitely is not what she or her family had envisioned for her future.
And, on a completely different note: chag sameach for those who will be celebrating tonight!
Val Torrens is a community columnist. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. She also serves on the North Kitsap School District Board of Directors, but the views she presents are her own.