A modern day witch hunt
Is being an American woman a crime in Italy? Why the Amanda Knox case is soscary
It's not exactly a secret that Italy has some interesting cultural quirks: Adults who have to be sued to move out of their parents' houses, a police uniform that mandates stilettos for women, and let's not forget a prime minister constantly on trial for his "bunga bunga" sex parties with minors.
So while the brutal 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher in her flat in Perugia should be warning enough that not all is idyllic in Italy, it's what happened to her American roommate, Amanda Knox that really frightens me. Knox, a fresh-faced beauty from Seattle, was arrested and convicted for the murder based on little more than a forced confession and the overactive imagination of the prosecutor.
Apparently it's not enough to be either a virgin or a whore anymore. Now you're either a virgin or a killer.
Knox was finally freed on Monday after four years in prison after an appeals court overturned her conviction. In her final statement to the court, Knox declared in Italian, "I am not what they say. I am not a promiscuous vamp. I am not violent. I don't disrespect life. These things don't belong to me and I didn't do what they said I've done."
And yet if the Italian media can turn the an honors student like Amanda Knox into a seductress, a tart, a "Jessica Rabbit" (this from the defense lawyer), a satanic orgy enthusiast, a witch and a cold-blooded murderess, could any American woman survive such sexual scrutiny? Apparently it's not enough to be either a virgin or a whore anymore. Now you're either a virgin or a killer.
Maybe I was so taken aback by the image prosecutor Giuliano Mignini created of Knox because his evidence seemed so familiar to American college life: coquettish posed photographs posted on Myspace, her possession of condoms and a vibrator, the "Foxy Knoxy" nickname, reportedly dating back to Amanda's days on grade-school soccer teams. I had a sports jersey nickname in college too — mine was "Rufsex." (Sorry, mom.)
It doesn't help that the prosecutor of the case theorized that it was a Satanic sex ritual gone bad. Mignini has a weird fetish for assuming every crime — including the famous Monster of Florence murders — might have Satanic overtones. It's the religious equivalent of misplacing your keys and concluding they must have been stolen by Russian spies, and yet it was an argument that was allowed to be presented as motive in a court of law.
It's the religious equivalent of misplacing your keys and concluding they must have been stolen by Russian spies, and yet it was an argument that was allowed to be presented as motive in a court of law.
Amanda's occasionally quirky behavior after the murder might not have done her any favors — in addition to signing a confession after being hit by police, denied a lawyer and questioned in Italian for hours, Knox kept herself awake by doing cartwheels in the police station and she once showed up in court in a T-shirt that read "All you need is love" — but her every move was held up as evidence of her sex-crazed nature.
Thus a comforting hug from boyfriend Rafaele Sollecito (who was convicted and now acquitted along with Knox) turned into canoodling outside the crime scene. Shopping for underwear — you know, because her apartment was a crime scene — was sensationalized as a sexy sojourn.
Of course, the story of a sex-crazed, drug-fueled "she-demon" (in the words of the prosecutor) is key in a murder trial with no physical evidence pointing to Knox and no other motive. To Mignini, Knox must have done it because she's evil, and she must be evil because she's promiscuous — who cares if none of the above are true.
When Knox's acquittal hit the newswires on Monday, I felt a personal sense of relief. Maybe the age of the witch hunt is finally over. After all, Mignini was himself convicted in 2010 for "abuse of office" for his actions in the Monster of Florence case.
But just in case, I'm going to stay the hell out of Italy.