Wednesday, October 8, 2008

An American Girl on Trial for Murder Trial in Italy - The Amanda Knox Case

by Jenna Jackson

Last spring, we brought you the story (or at least the beginning) of the Amanda Knox case. She’s in Italy–accused of killing her roommate.

On November 1, 2007, Meredith Kercher, 21, was found semi-naked with her throat cut in her bedroom of the student house she shared with Knox (pictured center) in the Italian hilltop town of Perugia.

Her Italian ex-boyfriend,
Raffaele Sollecito (above, to Amanda's right), and another man, Rudy Guede (left), are accused of sexually assaulting, brutally murdering and stealing money from Kercher, Knox's British roommate in Perugia, the ancient learning hub near Rome where Knox was spending a year abroad from the University of Washington.

Pre-trial hearings are ongoing in this case–and a murder trial is finally on the horizon.

Peter Van Sant is a correspondent with me at 48 Hours–he has been working on this case for months. For those who missed the Mystery Man column he wrote for us in April, here it is. For our regular readers, here's a primer on an upcoming trial worth following.

by Peter Van Sant

This is a murder case that, from the beginning, just didn't seem to add up. The background here is very important to gain perspective on this investigation.

Amanda Knox is the classic all-American girl. She was a straight-A student at Seattle Prep, one of the top Jesuit high schools in the country. She plays guitar and has a wonderful singing voice, starring in a production of "Annie."

A tall brunette, Amanda's beauty turns heads wherever she goes. Her smile radiates. The twenty-one-year-old's biological parents divorced when Amanda (pictured right) was very young, but the family remained close. Mom is a math teacher. Dad is in management at a major department store. Her step father is in finance. All are good people.

Amanda went on to attend the University of Washington in Seattle, where she discovered her true passion in life, languages. She speaks fluent German (her grandparents on her mother's side are from Germany), Italian and some Japanese and Russian. Her friends describe her as friendly, helpful, someone who is concerned about others.

Doesn't sound like the profile of a killer, does it? I admit I'm teasing you here, but please read on.

While studying in Seattle, Amanda learned about a school in Perugia, Italy, called the University for Foreigners. Perugia is a beautiful medieval town about a two-hour drive north of Rome. The university offers students from around the world an opportunity to study in Italy. For Amanda, who was always interested in learning about different languages and cultures, it seemed the perfect place to go.

So while attending the University of Washington, Amanda worked three part-time jobs on the side. Eventually, she saved up more than $7,000. She was accepted into the University for Foreigners, and late last summer, she arrived in Perugia to begin a year of study abroad.

Six weeks later, Amanda was in prison—a suspect in the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher of greater London, England. Meredith (pictured left) was a lot like Amanda. She attended Leeds University in the U.K. and dreamed of studying abroad.

She got her chance last year and moved to Italy, where she attended a different school from Amanda's, the University of Perugia. Meredith needed a place to stay, and she eventually found a house she could rent with two Italian students and a young woman from Seattle, Amanda Knox.

On the night of November 1, 2007, Meredith was last seen walking home after having dinner with friends. Amanda wasn't home. She was spending the night at her boyfriend's house.The next morning, Amanda claims she went home to shower and change her clothes. She was upset that someone had left the front door open. After her shower, when she came out of the bathroom, Amanda says she noticed some blood on the floor. She tried calling her roommates, but no one answered their cell phones. Meredith's bedroom door was locked.

Amanda called her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who walked over to the house. Just then, police arrived. Meredith's two cell phones had been found in someone's yard. Police had come over to the house to return them.Amanda told the police of her concerns. They broke open Meredith's door and discovered her body lying on the floor, covered with her bedspread. There was blood everywhere, including bloody finger stains on a wall.

Meredith's throat had been slashed. Authorities believe she may have taken nearly two hours to die. In the room were some tantalizing clues, a bloody fingerprint and a shoe imprint left in Meredith's blood on the floor.

Amanda Knox was questioned by police. She was later taken back to the crime scene with her boyfriend. Police wanted to see how they would react. They held each other and kissed several times, quick pecking-style kisses. Since Amanda's house was now a crime scene, she didn't have access to her clothes. Later, the two went to buy underwear for Amanda. The clerk claimed they were talking about having steamy sex that night. Authorities thought the behavior was cold and insensitive.

Four days after the murder, Amanda and her boyfriend were brought back to the police station for questioning.

After an all-night, 14-hour session in which Amanda was denied sleep, food, or an attorney, she agreed to sign a statement saying she HAD been at the house that night and that she thought she remembered her boss, Patrick Lumumba, killing Meredith Kercher. You should read her statement. It's written in bizarre English, clearly not dictated by Amanda.Amanda, Patrick Lumumba, and Raffaele Sollecito were all arrested.

Police developed a theory of the crime. They claimed that Amanda, Patrick, and Raffaele wanted Meredith to participate in kinky four-way sex. When Meredith refused, she was assaulted and murdered. The theory was fed to the news media in Italy and Great Britain. For weeks, tabloid newspapers gave the case sensational front-page coverage. Italian television also did extensive coverage. Much of the country saw Amanda as "The Dark Angel of Seattle." That coverage made its way to the U.S. as well.

Through her parents, Amanda has proclaimed her innocence. 48 Hours Mystery hired a renowned private detective, Paul Ciolino of Chicago. The investigator went to Italy to examine the case against Amanda. Ciolino has spoken with witnesses, key investigators, and people who knew all the suspects involved. He has come up with a startling conclusion.

This is a railroad job from hell," says Ciolino, a cigar chomping, pug-faced detective, who specializes in wrongful arrest cases. "There's not a shred of evidence putting this girl at that murder scene. But they've gotta convict her now, or they look like fools."

48 Hours Mystery has learned disturbing new details of what happened during Amanda's 14-hour interrogation that led to her "confession," which was not recorded or witnessed by a third party.

Paul Ciolino also questioned one of the most important witnesses in the case, a woman whose story helped form the police theory. What the woman tells Ciolino, while a 48 Hours Mystery camera is rolling, turns the case upside down.

In Italy, a person can be held without charges for up to one year. Amanda has still not been charged with any crime. She sits today in a maximum-security prison, allowed to see her parents twice a week for a brief time. Her parents say she is frightened. This is as disturbing a case as I've ever covered. (Click here for the full story.)


Kathryn Casey said...

Amazing case, Jenna and Peter. Thanks for bringing us up to date. I'll be watching for news on the trial.

Anonymous said...

You don't mention her various blogs that show another side of Amanda. She wrote a fiction story that eerily resembles Meredith's murder. Steve Huff did a lot of good reporting on this. Perhaps you should call him.

free amanda knox said...

Anonymous - And this is Peter VanZant's side. Maybe those "bloggers" should contact the 48 Hours correspondent who's investigative reporting cracked the case wide open. 48 Hrs busted the pinata, then all the little bloggers analyzed the scattered pieces on the ground.

Leah said...

She may be innocent but her actions and her demeanor after the murder don't reflect that, at least to me.

Truth squad said...

Steve Huff now says he doesn't think Amanda did it. Be honest, people.

Regan said...

What can we do to help Amanda?

Anonymous said...

Even if your coverage of the Kercher murder is about one year old, how can you mislead readers, with so many lies?

First get facts, and don´t write so much BS.

I read you previous stories with interest, but after this keep your information for the group who only read your own facts.

Good bye!

Anonymous said...

This just shows the corruption in many western, non-communist countries regardless whether she sisi it or not. Many people forget the power of wealthy countries when travelling and often don't realise foreigners are tried and sentenced much harder thena locals.

Anonymous said...

This just shows the corruption in many western, non-communist countries regardless whether she sisi it or not. Many people forget the power of wealthy countries when travelling and often don't realise foreigners are tried and sentenced much harder thena locals.

Anonymous said...

I feel for this family. Why arent more people with influental power helping them. It is a shame. I will pray that she finally gets her freedom. Say what you will, she said, he said, bottom line there is not evidence clearly linking her or her boyfriend to this murder and everything point to the one already found guilty, which by the way there is no link at all between him and them.

Anonymous said...

Convicted- Tragedy :(
You can Boycott porducts from Italy!

Anonymous said...

I think its important to look at the differences in the adjudicatory process from investigation--evidence issues, possible police coersion, prosecutorial misconduct, a jury system that allowed influence during trial from tabloids and general public opionion which appears very biased against Americans abroad, and a verdict which is based on a majority and beyond a reasonable doubt standard. She did not help her case with her demeanor and behavior, but that should have been handled by her attorney. This case needs a second look and an appeal.

Anonymous said...

moral when in other countries-don't trust anyone. just a thought, it took her 5 maybe six weeks to hook up with some shady characters. hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

The fact that they kissed and planned to have sex after the roommate was found killed and they were invited for questioning, does not make murderers out of them. What it does make them is two people deeply in love. To take advantage of their emotional vulnerability and detachment from the surrounding world is an atrocity against human soul.

Harry Rag said...

The English translation of Judge Massei's sentencing report can be downloaded from here: