December 6, 2009

Beyond any reasonable doubt?


As (almost) everyone already knows, Amanda Knox, the 22-year-old American college student who had been accused of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007 in the medieval town of Perugia, Italy, was found guilty of the crime in question and sentenced to 26 years in prison by an Italian jury. The trial took nearly a year. The court also convicted Knox’s co-defendant and former boyfriend, Italian Raffaele Sollecito (25 years sentence). A third man, Rudy Guede, had already been convicted and sentenced to 30 years.

Though I must admit that I didn’t follow the trial that closely, I feel like saying something about what I consider to be the most important aspect of the whole thing, with all due respect for the strictly human aspects of the story. In fact, as the New York Times puts it, “for many in Britain and the United States, what was on trial here was Italian justice.” “I have serious questions about the Italian justice,” Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, said in a statement after the verdict. “The prosecution did not present enough evidence for an impartial jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Knox was guilty,” she added.

According to Pulitzer Prize-winner Timothy Egan, Amanda has spent two years in prison because of her inappropriate behaviour, such as kissing her boyfriend after Meredith’s body was found or doing cartwheels in the police station, but there is no proof against her. And a couple of days before the verdict he wrote, “As with the American system, the Italian jury will be asked to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt this week. […] If they simply apply the standard that the law calls for, the verdict will be obvious.”

“Beyond a reasonable doubt,” that’s the main problem with Italian justice, in my humble opinion.

But there is something else. Peter Popham in November 24, 2009, Independent:

One of the great virtues of the British judicial system is that, whatever ideas a detective or prosecutor may have about a case, he is not allowed to voice them until the case comes to court. And a very good thing too...


This is the plain truth.

…They manage these things differently in Italy, where prosecutors regularly leak their theories to the newspapers, often in extraordinary detail. Reporters compete for the juiciest tit-bits. As a result, by the time the trial comes around, the public already know what they think about a case, and why. This makes miscarriages of justice horribly likely.


True, sadly true. And that’s another major problem.

But never forget that this is the same “justice” which has been holding the whole political system in check in this country since about 20 years, amidst much international fanfare and celebration. Not that I want to accuse the New York Times & Co. of anything, but …



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