Italy’s Dreyfus Affair

On March 25th the Italian Supreme Court will rule for what could be the final time on the Meredith Kercher murder. This bizarre case has now transfixed three countries for seven years since a prosecutor obsessed with conspiracies and witchcraft constructed a fantasy around three people when only one – Rudy Guede – was Meredith’s killer.

After being falsely accused, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito served four years in prison, but were released following a successful appeal in 2011. No credible witnesses have linked them to the crime and the forensic evidence has been discredited by international experts, including Professor Peter Gill, the pioneer of low copy number DNA technology. Sollecito’s attorney Giulia Bongiorno said it was the first time that ‘two people have been convicted of a crime when there is no evidence putting them at the scene’.

Double jeopardy Italian style
The Italian judicial system is the most criticised in Western Europe and tops the charts in referrals to the European Court of Human Rights. In Italy an acquittal is not an acquittal – the prosecution can keep on appealing until it eventually gets its guilty verdict, although the Italian Supreme Court can also throw out a conviction and order yet another second degree trial. This process can continue almost indefinitely.

None of this has fazed the tabloids. For them, Knox is guilty and is another reluctant celebrity to be exploited – the Daily Mail is so obsessed that it frequently prints pictures sourced from a stalker who follows her around Seattle.

Meanwhile film director Michael Winterbottom’s confusing mystery thriller, ‘Face of an Angel’, inspired by the case, is slated for a March 27th release – perfectly timed to cash in as Knox hits the front pages again. Don’t bother to see it if you expect to be enlightened. Confused? – Winterbottom certainly was.

A guilty verdict could be welcomed by Meredith’s grieving family. They may even see it as a kind of closure, though this can never be. The Kerchers are the stooges of a corrupted and highly politicised system. Justice has never been on the agenda. Judge Hellmann’s 2011 acquittal of Knox and Sollecito, which followed a fair trial, resulted in him being sidelined and ‘retired’ by the shadowy Italian legal establishment.

A slender grip on reality
There remains a slender chance that the Italian Supreme Court’s grip on reality may be sufficient to allow Sollecito’s appeal to succeed. He is the defendant in most immediate danger of being forced to return to prison. And even the most bone headed of judges must know that if they confirm a guilty verdict for Knox this will be a pyrrhic victory that is unlikely even to persuade the Italian government to request her extradition, much less to convince the USA to grant it.

So the outcome on March 25th remains a mystery and the liberty of two innocent people hangs in the balance once again.

The European Court of Human Rights will be the final arbiter of the case. It will undoubtedly exonerate Knox and Sollecito, but how many more years will slide by and how many more newspaper articles, movies and television programmes will be made before justice for Meredith becomes a reality?

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