Some of the comments on the last post about Amanda Knox’s murder conviction made me want to clarify a few points.
First, the Italian court system is sometimes troubling, true, but the deeply problematic criminal justice system in Perugia should not be generalized to all of Italy. Perugia’s head prosecutor is not a good person, and this is not the first time the Perugian justice system has refused to let the truth get in the way of a good story. But by no means is Knox’s situation the Italian norm. It’s a crazy and unfortunate outlier.
The court system is not the only problem, either; even more pervasive are the biased and sensationalist media accounts. Perhaps even more so than Mignini, the media’s tabloid-style rumor mongering is in part responsible for Knox’s conviction, by convincing the public that baseless stories are grounded in some sort of proof, rather than sprung whole cloth out of peoples’ imaginations.
Second, staging an American boycott of Italian products or getting President Obama directly involved is the surest way to guarantee Amanda never sees the light of day again. Nations are — rightfully — extremely allergic to the idea of foreign entities interfering with their court system. Just think about how Texas and the rest of America flips their shit when the idea of the ICC is brought up, or when trivial things like multilateral treaties get in the way of us executing foreign murderers. Or about how we react to little issues like, say, LaGrand, Medellín, Avena?
If Italy thinks the U.S. government is trying to bully them into letting the vixen-murderess free, they will circle the wagons. The Italian court system will be pressured to uphold the conviction on principle, so as to not be seen as weak and catering to a foreign superpower. When I said “it’s time for the state department to bring out the big guns,” I was thinking more along the lines of behind the scenes diplomatic efforts that the rest of us never hear a word about. That way, Italy’s public officials will be able to act without taking a massive hit to their popularity, as would certainly occur if the fact the U.S. had asked them for help were publicized. And, I do think the U.S. Government has been exactly right so far in refusing to even acknowledge the case’s existence. Before Knox’s conviction, by far the best way that the U.S. could help her was by refusing to lift a finger in her defense.
If things get really desperate — and this would, unfortunately, be years down the line — I wouldn’t be against turning to multilateral international institutions for relief. It would deplete some of our foreign policy capital to be sure, but there are worse things to spend it on than freeing an innocent woman wrongfully convicted in an allied country.
Plus, you know, there’s that whole Italian conviction of 22 American CIA agents last month we have to deal with, too. We’re also going to have to sort out that mess. Unfortunately for Amanda, she’s going to be of secondary concern, if that, for the U.S. Government, and I doubt they’re going to offer Amanda too much assistance if it’s going to hinder other national security concerns.
Anyway, there is hope yet, and Italy’s domestic criminal procedures absolutely must be exhausted before any other action is contemplated. On appeal, the current bunch of Perugian officials will not be involved, which gives Knox a fighting chance.