Where truth is never clear-cut

The Amanda Knox case highlights one of the many failings of the Italian court system – it never delivers door-slamming certainty.

Published on 6 October 2011 at 14:23

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have won their appeal against their conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2007. But if many doubted the first verdict, just as many will doubt this one. It’s one of the many failings of Italian justice that it never delivers conclusive, door-slamming certainty. What usually happens is that the door is left wide open to take the case to the next level, first to appeal and then to the cassazione, the supreme court. The score in the public imagination, at the moment, is simply one-all.

It’s always been that way. There’s barely one iconic crime from the post-war years that has persuaded the country that, yes, justice has been done: the murder of poet and film director Pier Paolo Pasolini [1975], the Ustica crash [1980, 81 dead], the Bologna railway station bombing [1980, 85 dead], the Piazza Fontana bombing [1969, 17 dead], the Monster of Florence murders [1968-1985, 16 dead], the murder of senior police officer Luigi Calabresi [1972], the “caso Cogne” [a 3-years old children murdered at his home in 2002]… none has ever been satisfactorily, convincingly resolved. Instead the country seems to split into innocentisti and colpevolisti (those who believe in the innocence or guilt of the accused) and the heated debates continue for decades.

Part of the reason that the Knox trial has captivated media attention isn’t just the “Foxy Knoxy” thing, the fact that Knox was attractive and allegedly sexually adventurous. It isn’t just because of the cosmopolitanism of the crime, the fact that here was a foreign victim and, it was thought, a foreign assassin. Its appeal, if that’s not too gruesome a word, lies in the fact that there was sufficient doubt about both the prosecution and defence cases. Italy is divided down the middle, meaning that the case is, in a way, perfectly set up for a media circus, for debate and deconstruction. Already the Kercher case has spawned, at the last count, 11 books and a film. Read full article in the Guardian

From Italy

A fallible judicial system, but a respectable one

In Italy, the decision of the Court of Appeals of Perugia that has overturned the decision of the Court of Assizes in 2009 has reopened the debate on the Italian justice system and its workings. “Even if the rules have been followed and the decision is irreproachable, it is certainly not a victory for the Italian justice system,” writes the celebrated lawyer Carlo Federico Grosso in La Stampa, defending the decision of the Court of Appeal. On the same wavelength, Riccardo Arena, an expert on prisons, writes in Il Post of a “failure of the criminal justice process”, blaming the parties for letting it drag on for four years, during which the defendants were left in protective custody.

Still in La Stampa, the lawyer Vladimiro Zagrebelski defends the Italian appeal system, which is based on an open publication of the motivations behind the judgement and on the presumption of innocence, differing here from the Anglo-Saxon model, which is viewed as more ‘summary’ – i.e., ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. “The Italian appeal system does have its price.” Inevitably, it produces cases where a crime goes unpunished”; on the other hand, it minimises the possibility that an innocent person may be convicted. The deplorable aspect of the trial in Perugia lies rather in the strong media pressure. “The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly noted that the clamour outside the courtroom and ‘judgments in the media’ may influence the judges, and especially the jurors, and prejudice the fairness of the trial. What has happened around the Perugia trial (and it happens often in Italy) is light-years away from the atmosphere that is necessary.”

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