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Press and Prejudice: The Trials of Amanda Knox

Parents of college students worry about the fine line we must walk between protecting our children and letting them explore the world and grow. The further the offspring venture out from the nest, the less knowledge and control we have over the dangers they may face. For two young girls, one British and one American, a year abroad in what looked like a safe, low-key location in a European city turned out to be their parents’ worst nightmare: the British girl wound up murdered, and the American girl was accused, convicted, and imprisoned for it. Of the many striking aspects of this case, the story of the accused, rather than the victim, has received the most interest because of who she is: a beautiful, sexually active, young American girl, Amanda Knox. This is also the reason, it appears now, why she was targeted for prosecution.

Xenophobia, misogyny, race and the abuse of power are all prominent features in this case. Last week Netflix released a brilliant documentary called Amanda Knox about her murder trials, conviction, four years in an Italian prison and ultimate acquittal. A young college student from Seattle, Knox had saved for years to be able to spend a year abroad in Italy, and in the fall of 2007 arrived in the historic hilltop town of Perugia, in Umbria. She found a great living situation almost immediately, with three roommates, one British and two Italian. Finding her course load on the light side, she landed a part-time job in a bar. And by the end of October she had won the heart of a handsome young Italian student, Raphaelle Sollecito.

Amanda and Raphaelle met at an outdoor classical music concert and within days were inseparable. In the documentary, filmed without narration as the principles speak directly into the camera, the gentle seeming young man describes how excited he was to meet this charming and vivacious girl; she is shown in videos and pictures as a free-spirited and cheerful sort, with a quirky bent, excited to be on the brink of adventure. On the night of Nov. 1, 2007, Amanda spent the night at Raphaelle’s apartment, returning to her house the next morning to shower. It was only after showering that she noticed some disturbing details: a few drops of blood in the bathroom, an unflushed toilet, and open door, and, most ominously, the door to her roommate Meredith Kercher’s bedroom locked from within. Meredith didn’t respond to vigorous pounding from Amanda.

Raphaelle was summoned and when he arrived, he did the natural thing: he called the police, who discovered the murdered and sexually assaulted body of the 21-year-old British roommate. Videos reveal troops of officers streaming into the house in a chaotic scene. Amanda and her lover are seen holding each other as he attempts to comfort her. The Netflix documentary then allows the story to be picked up by the prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, and a tabloid journalist, Nick Pisa.

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