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Investigating Amanda Knox

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The international media has analyzed Amanda Knox’s personality. MySpace and Facebook photographs have painted a portrait of her that some say isn’t fair.

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Amanda Knox’s friends continue to defend Knox and are angry about her portrayal in the news media. They believe the press has erroneously covered the investigation.

Murder suspect Amanda Knox’s framed photograph hung on “murderers’ row” in the office of the state police in Rome. The photograph was displayed alongside other notable arrests by Italy’s Serious Crime Squad, in a news video aired in April on the U.K.’s Channel 4.

The footage was taken about a week after the murder of Meredith Kercher. Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were the prime suspects. All the evidence pointed to their guilt, Italian authorities said.

But the facts of the case were far from determined, and some believe the police botched the initial investigation.

“They’re just not very good at this whole murder business,” said Paul Ciolino, a private investigator hired by CBS’ 48 Hours to examine the case.

Giuliano Mignini, the prosecutor in charge of the Kercher case, has been scrutinized for jailing one journalist and forcing another, American journalist Doug Preston, to leave the country, while Mignini worked on a serial murder case.

Preston alerted various newspapers and described his treatment as “the worst abuse of state power I have ever seen in a Western European country.”

In Knox’s case, the British tabloid press quickly speculated about information on her MySpace and Facebook pages.

Members of the international press arrived on the UW campus and questioned anyone who had even a remote relationship to Knox, and some reporters even knocked on doors seeking interviews.

A British tabloid journalist from the Daily Mail called Daily staff writer Ben Schock, who lived in Terry Hall with Knox during her freshmen year.

A Nov. 11 story reported Schock had a “serious romance” with Knox, although he told the Daily Mail he “only went out casually [with Knox], and always in a group.”

He said he hasn’t talked to Knox since they moved out of Terry Hall.

“I didn’t even know she was in Italy when this happened,” he said. “It just really irritated me because I didn’t say anything that would lead [the reporter] to suggest we were in a romantic relationship.”

The Daily Mail also failed to note that Schock is openly gay.

Knox’s close friends at the UW said there were other inconsistencies with the media’s portrayal of the former UW student.

Knox’s MySpace headline read “Foxy Knoxy,” and media outlets took this as a sign that she is sexually promiscuis.

But the headline, as explained by Knox’s close friends, has a different meaning.

Madison Paxton, Knox’s friend, said the name originates from when Knox played soccer during her childhood.

“She kind of ran like a fox a little bit,” Paxton said. “She crouched.”

Paxton also recalls that Knox never saw herself as especially attractive.

“She even told me, ‘In high school, I was really unattractive and pudgy,’” Paxton said. “She never thought of herself as some gorgeous fox.”

Her friends also called into question the double standard between the hype surrounding Knox’s personal life and the relative lack of attention given to the other two suspects, Rudy Guede and Sollecito.

“Nobody even questions Raffaele’s or Rudy’s sex lives,” Paxton said. “It sells so much more papers if she did this than [if] Rudy did this.”

Alexandra McDougall, another friend of Knox agreed.

“It’s because a promiscuous girl is more exciting than a promiscuous boy,” she said.

Immediately after Knox’s arrest, journalists approached Andrew Seliber, another friend of Knox, using the UW student directory.

Seliber and fellow friend of Knox Ben Parker said they were offered as much as $40,000 by the Daily Mail if they would provide tabloid writers with information related to Knox’s personal life.

They declined the offer.

The use of MySpace and Facebook information shouldn’t be used to draw conclusions, said Joseph Weis, a UW sociology professor who studies murder. The same information published about Knox applies to many college students, he said.

“I can take a random sample of UW students who are on MySpace or Facebook and I can find a lot of stuff,” he said. “A lot of college students smoke dope and party.”

The Internet maelstrom surrounding the case has perpetuated rumors, allowing anyone to draw conclusions about Knox’s role in the murder, said Candace Dempsey, a Seattle-based journalist who has been writing about the case on her blog, Italian Woman at the Table.

“If you don’t really understand the Internet, you don’t understand this case,” she said.

A tabloid, such as the Daily Mail, will run a story on the case and fill it with dubious facts that outlive more balanced updates, Dempsey said.

“It’s there [and] it’s permanent,” she said.

Dempsey also said international cultural differences were influential in the amateur psychological investigation of Knox by the news media.

“I think there was a lot of misunderstanding about American college students,” she said. “She wasn’t the first person in Europe who smoked hashish or had sex.”

Ciolino, the CBS investigator, said that Knox’s confused statements are the result of a 14-hour period of intense questioning by eight Italian police officers, with a single interpreter present. Italian courts have dismissed portions of the interrogation, although other sections may remain as evidence in the case.

“There isn’t a single 20-year-old college student who you couldn’t break down,” he said. “I know it’s not the U.S., but if that was done in the States, that thing would’ve been thrown out so quick it would’ve made their heads swim.”

The Chicago detective has an alternative to the official police theory, based on his own investigation into Knox’s case.

Guede should be the prime suspect, he said. According to The Times of London, the Italian high court has said that Guede was involved in the killings but his role remains unclear.

The Ivory Coast national has reportedly admitted to being present during the murder; he said he was listening to his MP3 player while using the bathroom.

That’s not an alibi, Ciolino said. Ciolino’s theory is that Guede killed Kercher because Guede suspected Kercher had money in the house to pay rent at the beginning of November.

“Poor Meredith [Kercher] was robbed, raped and murdered by one person, and one person only, and that’s Rudy Guede,” he said. “He is a classic burgling raping-machine who just got caught.”

According to Perugia Shock, a blog dedicated to the case, Sollecito’s bank account was also near empty at the end of the month, giving him the same possible motive.

Knox’s involvement is also unclear, but Ciolino insists the evidence against her is flimsy and that Italian authorities are building their case based on hearsay and intuition.

“The physical evidence — the science — does not and will not support their theory,” he said, but “they’re going to the wall with this thing.”

Others, however, aren’t quite as ready to declare Knox innocent — or guilty, for that matter.

“To say that he (Ciolino) knows she didn’t do it because she is an all-American girl, that doesn’t necessarily correlate,” Weis said. “There are a lot of all-American girls or boys who do a lot of terrible things.”

American VS. Italian Law

United States Bill of Rights

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed $20, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

ITALIAN CRIMINAL LAW

The accused has the right to a public trial, with some exceptions, within an adequate period of time, to be informed of the nature and content of the accusation, to cross examine witnesses for the prosecution, to subpoena witnesses for the defense, the right to counsel, and the right to be presumed innocent.

In the Court of Assizes and Court of Assizes of Appeal, the judicial panel consists of stipendiary and popular judges. There is no jury.

Pre-trial incarceration is permitted only when a person is accused of a crime carrying a maximum penalty exceeding 3 years in prison and when at least one of the following is present: danger of counterfeiting; destruction of evidence; danger of escape; and danger of committing more crimes of the same kind.

Bail is not allowed in the penal system.

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