I haven't blogged much (or ever?) about the Amanda Knox case. But not because I haven't followed it or formed opinions about it. I have. (I've always thought the prosecution's theory was ludicrous and that the crime itself is most compatible with a lone-killer theory, which is what the evidence supports.) I just didn't really have much to add to the discussion, if there even is much discussion here in the U.S. Until this week when my college roommate gave me a book to read on the plane ride home. She, like me, is a prolific reader. But unlike me, she does not like to keep physical books lying around her house. (Our roommate relationship worked well because she didn't mind my clutter as long as it stayed on my side of the room. Her side was neat, mine wasn't, and there was never any discussion or nagging about it. I don't respond well to nagging.)
The book she gave me was about a serial killer. Naturally, I wanted to read it. (Apparently, it's said that I spend too much time thinking about criminal law and cases, but really, what the hell else have I got to do?) So when I got to the airport ridiculously early for my flight because that's what I do, I started to read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. (And in case you were wondering, I scored a window seat for my return flight, too.) I couldn't put the book down and finished it Thursday night. (The stuff I had to do just had to wait.)
Now you might think that a book about the only serial killer Florence, Italy has ever known (at least in modern times) has nothing to do with Amanda Knox's case, but you'd be wrong. The murders themselves, to any rational observer, clearly have nothing to do with each other. But based on what I learned from this book and other sources, I've concluded there isn't much that's rational about the Italian criminal justice system. I challenge anyone who thinks it's even possible that Amanda Knox is guilty to read this book and come away with anything but the overwhelming sense that there's just no reason to think she did anything.
Starting from the beginning. In 1981, Florence realized it had a serial killer on its hands. Between 1981 and 1985, someone was killing young couples who were getting to know each other all the way in their cars in the hills above Florence. Soon, officers realized this killer had also killed a couple in 1974. Eventually, the killer, dubbed the Monster of Florence, killed 7 couples total. The gun from those murders had also been used in a 1968 murder. The gun had left one very unique characteristic on all its shells. So the clear, logical solution is that someone with access to the gun used in that '68 killing became a serial killer. Preston and Spezi, who have studied the case for years, have a clear suspect in mind and it's the same person I had in mind before they identified him.
But that seemingly obvious suspect has apparently never been seriously investigated by police or prosecutors in Italy. Why believe that only one person is behind a series of gruesome murders when you can create a conspiracy involving hundreds? Occam's razor is not a preferred principle in Italy.
Instead of accepting the idea that they had a lone-acting serial killer (so prosaic, so American), they decided there just had to be more to it. Not because there was physical evidence to show there was more than one killer. But just because. They managed to convict 3 people of the murders, even though those people clearly lacked the mental faculties to plan such murders and conceal their guilt. One guy even confessed, but apparently it's a big thing to be "in the know" in Italy. So it seems this guy would rather be in the know and in prison for murder than not be part of the action. His story just doesn't match the physical evidence at all. For his story to be true, one of the couples had to have been murdered on the Sunday night before they were discovered on Monday. But another, far more credible witness, provided testimony that meant the murders happened on Saturday. And the scientific evidence also makes it impossible the couple only died 12 hours before being discovered. (I will spare you the details.)
But instead of accepting the testimony of the credible witness and the expert on decomposition, the prosecutors doggedly stuck to their theory. They also dredged up some unrelated 1985 suicide, decided it was really a homicide, and created an elaborate story about how the body had been switched in 1985 and then switched again 17 years later when the body was exhumed. I'm a little fuzzy on why the body-swap was supposed to have happened, but, sure, that's what happened. And then, in 2006, the prosecutor charged Spezi, accusing him of being part of the grand conspiracy behind the murders who was now trying to throw off the investigation by finding that expert and generally questioning the course of the investigation over the past 20 years. Who other than someone deeply involved in the murders, after all, would be so interested in steering the investigation away from the conspiracy theory?
Happily, reason ultimately carried the day and the charges against Spezi were dropped. Largely because the prosecutors also targeted the American writer, a best-seller, who mobilized the global journalism community to raise holy hell about it. Not only was Spezi released, but the prosecutor and chief investigator pushing the insane conspiracy theory were both found to have abused their offices and committed all kinds of misconduct. The prosecutor was actually sentenced to 2 years, but that sentence was suspended.
So, what does all of this have to do with Amanda Knox? Well, the disgraced prosecutor behind the arrest of Spezi and the nutty conspiracy theory about the Monster of Florence case is the very prosecutor who handled Meredith Kercher's murder and came up with the notion that it was a sex game gone wrong. Once again, Occam's razor would suggest that the likeliest explanation for Kercher's murder really is that the guy whose DNA is all over the murder scene, whose bloody handprint was on the wall of the room, and whose hair was clutched in the victim's hand is the guilty party. But the prosecutor just didn't like that Amanda; he had a bad feeling about her. I mean, she was buying lingerie in the days after her roommate's murder! (Never mind that she was barred from entering her home, the crime scene, so had to buy new underwear.) And she was making out with her boyfriend and smiling! (If they're talking about the video clip I've seen, I see two sweet, subdued, stunned kids finding a little comfort in each other. But I'm just a silly, prosaic American.) So he decided she did it (and the boyfriend, too), evidence be damned.
In one last interesting twist, there's a prolific blogger in Italy who lives for conspiracy theories. I'm afraid to use her name because I fear she might be one of those who would look up every webpage that has her name on it and I really don't want this crazy lady e-mailing me. But here goes. Her name is Gabriella Carlizzi. I do not know the name of her website. She is really one of the architects of the Monster conspiracy theory. She thinks it's all related to this mysterious Order of the Red Rose, some super-secret order dating back to Florence's heyday in the Renaissance. In her mind, the red rose guys are the cream of the crop in Florence society and engage in all sorts of perverse and satanic activities when no one's looking. They got all those simpletons to commit the monster murders and take body parts of the female victims so they could use those body parts in their rituals. And, no, of course there is no physical evidence to support any of this at all. Well, except for the hexagonal stone piece found at one of the crime scenes that is clearly a conduit between this world and the underworld. Or a standard Tuscan doorstop. Depending on how you look at it. (At one point, they finally thought they'd found the lair used by this sect. There were skulls and bones there! The search revealed Halloween decorations...) So clearly Carlizzi never met a conspiracy nutty enough to find unbelievable.
Perhaps you're already seeing where she took this? If you guessed that in the days after Kercher's murder, Carlizzi suggested on her blog that it was connected to the Monster of Florence conspiracy, you're a winner! Apparently those red rose folks were getting itchy to get back to the killing and satanic rituals, so they decided to try a different kind of murder. Or something. And that Amanda Knox was involved. It was the very next day that the prosecutor charged Knox and her boyfriend. In the book, Preston and Spezi write of Carlizzi having a Rasputin-like hold over this prosecutor. In his case against Spezi, the prosecutor used quote after quote after quote from her blog to the court. Spezi apparently had some fun pointing that out in his rebuttal.
This woman has no credibility. A prosecution based on a fantastical theory she came up with has no credibility. A prosecutor who would be guided by her (and has already been found to have abused his office, etc.) has no credibility. And yet Amanda Knox was prosecuted by this man spouting a fantastical theory originally thought up by this woman. How could anyone think her conviction has any credibility?
So, no, I don't think Amanda Knox is guilty. I don't even think it's possible. I don't think there is any rational reason for any person to believe otherwise. All the stuff against her is hysteria, sound and fury signifying nothing. The physical evidence points to Rudy Guede. All of it. But, Sarah, you say, what about the knife with Amanda's DNA on the handle and Meredith's DNA on the blade? Oh, you mean the knife that isn't the freakin' murder weapon?? Of course a knife that Amanda used to cook could have her DNA on it and the miniscule amount of Meredith's DNA on it is much more consistent with either transfer (some of her skin transferred onto Amanda who then carried it to the boyfriend's house and got it on the knife) or contamination at the lab. Either way, it really doesn't matter because that knife wasn't the one that killed Kercher!
The prosecution's theory simply defies all logic, ignores the actual physical evidence, and refuses to accept the likeliest explanation. Having now seen that this is just what prosecutors do in this region of Italy (especially this prosecutor), spin out crazy huge conspiracy theories and get innocent people convicted of murder, I have no doubt that Amanda Knox has no business being in prison. And I seriously question whether I will ever return to Italy. Which is a shame because I really did love Florence. But you never know where or when a dead body might turn up and how far the conspiracy behind that body might reach.