Amanda Knox: The American girl’s sensational story
Oggi N20 May 15, 2013
Chilling. No other adjectives come to mind after having read Waiting to be Heard, finally released in the United States. An extremely detailed and very serious charge against the police and magistrates who conducted the investigation into the murder of Meredith Kercher. Immediately after the crime, Amanda recounts, and for entire days and nights, they had interrogated the American girl and placed her under pressure to make her confess to a non-existent truth, without officially investigating her, denying her the assistance of a lawyer, telling her lies, even prohibiting her from going to the bathroom and giving her smacks so as to make her sign a confession clearly extorted with something similar to torture. And now the situation is very simple. There are only two choices: either Amanda is writing lies, and as a consequence the police officers and magistrates are going to have to sue her for defamation; or else she is telling the truth, and so they are going to have to go, not without being sanctioned by the CSM [the magistrates’ governing body] and the top brass of the Police. The third possibility, which is to pretend that nothing has happened, would be shameful for the credibility of our judicial system.
Amanda Knox has written her Waiting to be Heard memoir with the sense of revulsion and of relief of someone who has escaped by a hair’s breadth from a legal disaster, but has got her sums wrong. Cassation has decided that the proceedings have to be redone and the hearings should be (re)commencing in October before the Florence Court of Appeal. In a USA Today interview, Ms Knox has not excluded the possibility of “returning to Italy to face this battle too”, but it would be a suicidal decision: it’s likely that the appeal will result in a conviction, and the Seattle girl will end up in the black hole from which she has already spent 1,427 days. In this way, Waiting to be Heard risks being the film on which Amanda’s last words are recorded about the Mystery of Perugia, her definitive version.
We have read a review copy. And we were dumbfounded. Waiting to be Heard is a diary that has the frenetic pace of a thriller, written in a dry prose (behind the scenes is the hand of Linda Kulman, a journalist at the Huffington Post), even “promoted” by Michiko Kakutani, long-time literary critic at the New York Times. The most interesting part does not concern the Raffaele Sollecito love story (which Amanda reduces it to puppy love: “With the feeling, in hindsight, I knew that he… that we were still immature, more in love with love than with each other”), and whoever goes looking for salacious details about the three Italian boys Amanda had casual sex with, one night stands, will be frustrated (Ms Knox describes those enounters with the nonchalance of an entomologist disappointed with his experiments: “We undressed, we had sex, I got dressed again with a sense of empitness”). There are no scoops about the night of the murder and even the many vicissitudes endured during the 34,248 hours spent in Capanne prison – the sexual molestations suffered under two guards, the unexpected kiss planted by a bisexual cellmate, the threats made by another two prisoners – remain on the backdrop, like colourful notations. Because what is striking and upsetting, in the book, is the minute descriptions, based on her own diaries, on the case documents and on a prodigious memory, of how Ms Knox had been incriminated (or “nailed”).
COME IN KAFKA: A Kafkian account in which the extraordinary naivety of Amanda (the word naïve, ingénue, is the one which recurs most often in the 457 pages of the book) mixes with the strepitous wickedness of the investigators decided on “following a cold and irrational trail because they had nothing better in hand”. Devour the first 14 chapters and ask yourself: is it possible that the Police and Italian justice work with such incompetence, ferocity, and disdain for the truth? You place yourself in her situation and you scare yourself: If it happened to me? You’re in two minds: is it a likely accusation, or a squalid calumny, the version of Amanda? Because in reading it you discover that in the four days following the discovery of Meredith Kercher’s body (on 2 November 2007), Amanda was interrogated continuously, and without the least of procedural guarantees [=due process]. She changes status from witness to suspect without being aware of it.” No one had told me my rights, no one had told me that I could remain silent”, she writes.
When she asked if she had the right to a lawyer, the Public Prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, had responded like this: “No, no, that will only worsen things: it would mean that you don’t want to help us”. Thus, the Public Prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini. For a long period of time, Ms Knox, who at the time, spoke and understood hardly any Italian at all, mistook him for the Mayor of Perugia, come to the police station to help her. Then, with the passage of time and of the pages, the assessment changes: Mignini is a prosecutor “with a bizarre past”, investigated for abuse of office (he was convicted at first instance, but Cassation annulled the verdict on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction: the case will be held in Torino – ndr) and with the hunger to fabricate “strange stories to solve his cases”. Mignini “is a madman who considers his career more important than my liberty or the truth about the killing of Meredith”. On the phone, the Perugian prosecutor reacts with aplomb: “First I will read the book and then I will consider it. Certainly, if it really calls me ‘mad’ or worse, I think I will file suit”.
BEING IN PRISON IS LIKE CAMPING: Amanda goes looking. When the officers mysteriously bring her along to the crime scene inspection of the apartment below the one in which she and Meredith were living in, Ms Knox put on the shoe protectors and the white forensics gloves and called out Ta-dah! spreading her arms “as if I was at the start of a musical: I wanted to appear helpful”. When they dragged her in handcuffs into Capanne Prison, she believed what the Police would have told her, and that was they would hide her for a couple of days to protect her (from the true killer, one presumes) and for unspecified bureaucratic reasons. “In my head I was camping: ‘This won’t last more than a week in the mountains’, I told myself,” writes Amanda. They take her money off her, and her credit cards, licence and passport, and she draws strength from repeating to herself that “surely they’re not going to give me a uniform, seeing that I’m a special case and that I’ll be here for only a little while”.
But it’s the account of the notorious interrogation that takes the breath away. Around ten in the evening on her last day of freedom, Ms Knox accompanies Raffaele to the police station (he was called in, also without a lawyer, by the Police) and is thrown into a nightmare which she populates with many faces: there is Officer Rita Ficcara, who gives her two cuffs on the head (“To help you remember,” she would say); there’s another officer who advises her: “If you don’t help us, you’ll end up in prison for 30 years”; Mignini arrives and advises her not to call a lawyer; super-policewoman Monica Napoleoni dives in and bluffs: “Sollecito has dropped your alibi: he says that on the night of the murder you had left his apartment and that you had told him to lie to ‘cover you’”. And a crescendo of yelling and intimidations that lasts from 11 at night until 5.45 in the morning. Seven hours “produce” two confessions that, exactly because they are made without a defence lawyer, cannot be used in the proceedings, but forever after “stain” the image of the accused Knox: Amanda places herself at the scene of the crime and accuses Patrick Lumumba.
RAFFAELE CONFIRMS THE ACCUSATIONS: An account of the horror confirmed by Sollecito in his memoir, Honor Bound, Raffaele writes of having heard “the police yelling at Amanda and then the cries and sobs of my girl, who was yelling ‘Help!’ in Italian in the other room”, and of having being threatened in his turn (“If you try to get up and go, I’ll punch you till you’ll bleed and I’ll kill you. I’ll leave you in a pool of blood”, another officer had whispered to him). Published lines which passed right under the radar of the Perugian investigators: “No legal action has been notified to us,” Franco Sollecito, Raffaele’s dad, tell us. For having recounted the sourness of her interrogation in court, Amanda was investigated for calunnia: the trial will take place in Florence. This one, too, will be a circumstantial case: it’s the word of two young people against that of the public prosecutor and the police. The recording of the interrogation would have unveiled which side the truth stands on. But is has gone missing.