Once And For All


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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48 Responses

  1. Avatar Morat20 says:

    It was a flipping weird thing. It makes the Italian court system look crazy, from an American perspective.Report

  2. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Court decisions aside, can anyone tell me what it was about this case that made it one of *those* court cases?

    This is a serious question.

    It seems like ever since the OJ trial, the press goes out of its way to find murder cases that people can obsess over in great detail, form very strong and unwavering opinions about what did and didn’t happen, and become emotionally attached to the outcome to a great degree despite the fact they don’t have any connection to anyone involved.

    I was listening to the radio in the car yesterday and Knox was the topic of conversation on three different talk shows. All the hosts — each of whom would call Burt a bleeding heart pinko who’s whats wrong with America for not believing she is a monster that deserves the death penalty — seemed really angry when talking about it. One woman caller was actually weeping she was so upset that Know isn’t going to jail.

    Seriously, what is it about this case and not another that makes it rise to the level of a cottage industry?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Weird. I thought it was a cause celebre because of the way those damned foreigners were railroading a pretty, white, young American woman. I had no idea a sizable number of Americans wanted her convicted.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I can’t answer your question, @tod-kelly but perhaps if you contrast Burt’s link in the op with this, you’ll get to a point where there was some real conflict over what the evidence showed, and your nationality might have some bearing on which side of that interpretation you opted to embrace.

      I do think that the method of the Italian system troubles most Americans; right up until cases like OJ’s.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

        Good link.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        Wow. Until I I looked at the linked piece I had never realized the main point of this case: Amanda Knox is really gorgeous.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        OK, Now that I’ve seen Dershowitz’s summary of the serious evidence against Knox, I also know that she isn’t Jewish.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

        Yeah, it’s worth noting that, while it’s good to have an opposing view, that one gets some important stuff wrong. The bra strap DNA is likely irrelevant, and it fails to note something very important: the knife it focuses on was not the murder weapon (in fact, anyone familiar with the case would know this, so I wonder why it’s not noted).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to zic says:

        Did you opt to embrace a side, @zic?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Only that something very bad happened, and it will hobble her like Marley’s chains, no matter her guilt or innocence, the rest of her life.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to zic says:


        Amanda Knox is really gorgeous

        Yeah, no shit. Don’t you remember the talking heads referring to her as “Foxy Knoxy”?

        As an aside, when I call her that, I use my Sean Connery voice.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      This is one of those times when I realize how completely out of touch I am with certain breeds of conservatism. I have heard a lot of people with opinions on this case, but not once have I heard someone think the Italians got it right the first time.

      Pretty people and sex are probably a big part of why this is a case people pay attention to, though.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      There are Americans arguing that Knox should have been convicted? From what I remember, most American media was aghast at the original convictions of Knox and her boyfriend because of the sheer wildness of the prosecution. Even the most pro-prosecution lock them all up Americans eye roll when prosecutors start talking about Satanic sex games these days. The lack of due process as Americans understand also struck many people as deeply wrong.

      As to why this case became big, simple. It involved young people, sex, murder, and nationalism. That is always a very popular combination for getting people’s blood roiled.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        There are Americans arguing that Knox should have been convicted? From what I remember, most American media was aghast

        The American media you or I consume mostly was, but I have no idea how, say, the Enquirer and the like were handling it.

        And I can say that the comments sections after any Knox article I read online were quite…lively, with both pro- and anti-she’s-guilty forces being quite vitriolic.

        I don’t THINK all the pro-she’s-guilty’s were Italian and English; my sense was that many if not most were American, but I admit that is just my sense of things based on their language use and their apparent understanding of the US legal system vs. other systems.

        The lurid claims of the prosecution definitely elevated this case in notoriety – “sex games gone wrong” (implying possible group sex), Satanism, drug use*, etc.

        IMO, the sex/drug/Satanism thing is interesting, because to me it not only recalls the Satanic Day Care Panics, but it goes father back, to things like the Inquisition, and the Salem witch trials; and cross-culturally to things like the West Memphis Three or those weird things you hear out of Africa or India every so often where some mob fears that witches are stealing their penises, and kill some poor person for “witchcraft”.

        There’s seemingly something deeply-wired in people, where even the hint of kinky taboo-breaking sex, or altered mental states, or non-mainstream religious practice, gets us all tripped up (and if it’s all three? Forget about it) – even the Inquisition or the Witch Trials couldn’t have proceeded long if it was only the power structure who went so nuts – there HAD to be a groundswell of popular panic supporting them, to let them get away with what they got away with for so long.

        *the drug angle is interesting, only because I kind of suspect drugs WERE involved, and not just the marijuana Knox admits to smoking; I suspect stimulants and/or psychedelics as well.

        Note that I DON’T speculate about drug use to imply anyone’s guilt, but I do think it might go some way towards explaining certain discrepancies in the stories, not just because the memory of someone under the influence may be faulty, but some of the timelines are so late-night (someone super-stoned would just go to sleep sooner or later); plus if you are already in deep doo-doo for possible murder, you don’t want to get slapped with additional charges for drugs (in fact, I suspect that one or more persons who were more or less otherwise innocent of the crime might have failed to obtain timely medical help for Kercher because they feared punishment for drug use) – this might account for certain lacunae, as people lie to elide those parts of their stories.

        While I tend to think it’d be nice if drugs weren’t legally/socially so taboo, so that people would be more likely to obtain help if needed, and tell the truth after the fact about what went down when something bad happens, I do note that it would present problems in the courtroom as juries evaluate testimony.

        If Witness A gives one account, and Witness B gives another but adds “and I was tripping total balls at the time”, it will affect jury evaluations of their credibility – even though A may be lying through their teeth, and B may be reporting exactly what went down.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to LeeEsq says:


        (in fact, I suspect that one or more persons who were more or less otherwise innocent of the crime might have failed to obtain timely medical help for Kercher because they feared punishment for drug use)

        This is something I worry about with a lot of teenagers, particularly teens in highly-structured, zero-tolerance environments where it seems there’s more to lose by getting help. Alcohol poisoning seems most common.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Foxy Knoxy! Remember that one? The media played up the name, suggesting that she received it because she was a ma-eating hotty who liked a lot of sex! (!!!) So, she was guilty of something.

      I read up on the case quite a bit a long time ago and I was never convinced of her innocence. In a US court the presented evidence probably achieve the “beyond a reasonable doubt” threshhold, but doubt certainly struck me as very reasonable. Her (everchanging) story coupled with other evidence never added up.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Recall that Ms. Knox was subject to a lot of slut-shaming that was part of the case against her.

      Italians also have an uneasy cultural relationship with America. on the one hand, they admire and respect America, and cannot seem to get enough of certain elements of American culture like music and movies. American women are valued aspossessed of an exotic sexuality. On the other hand, there is a significant puritanical strain among some folks left over from the days of heavy Catholicism, mixed with a degree of reactionary response to America’s political, economic, and military dominance in Europe.

      so a part of Amanda Knox’s alibi was that she was at Italian boy friends apartment, smoking marijuana and having sex with him.that adds quite a lot of fuel to the already simmering fire of resentment and allure of an attractive young American woman.why this crime in particular, as opposed to any other crime, weather petty or major, committed by an American in Italy? That I can’t answer. But I can say that Amanda Knox touches a number of raw cultural nerves for quite a lot of Italian people.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Alsotoo, I think the very first account of the murder promulgated by the prosecution was that Amanda was part of a love-triangle gone bad sexsexsex! young people! sex! jealousy! murder!Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I think Burt is spot on with the nationalism comments. This seems to be a mini-nationalst war of resentments played out. The divide over guilt and innocence seems largely based on nationality. Americans are for Knox. The Brits and Italians are not. The Salon article that Zic posted is the first from American media arguing/implying she was guilty. LGM takes the opposite side.

      Knox also seems to be a proxy for “This is just representative of how women are treated in parochial and sexist countries that see women as possessions”Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Honestly, Tod, I have spent a lot of thought on this very question, and what I come up with is that this is more pro-authoritarian propaganda of the police state, the same as Nancy Grace, and most police dramas. It’s all about setting a baseline of expectations.

      Over the past month, I’ve gotten two gigs as a volunteer law clerk with a charity organization. The one is religious affiliated, but provides for the poor, who really need representation. The other is my local chapter of the Innocence Project.
      A week ago today, the last man our chapter freed spoke at my school. Not much, because he only knows a handful of English. Nonetheless, after keeping him awake almost forty hours, the cops wrote up a confession in English, gave it to him, and told him he had to sign. He did, and spent twenty years in prison for it. He was stabbed twice while he was in prison. He was freed by DNA evidence that had been available for twenty years.
      Not the sort of storyline you would catch on a police drama.

      We’re working now on a case where a babysitter was convicted of murder, though the medical evidence shows the internal bleeding which led to the infant’s death began three to four days before she was in her care.
      Again, not the sort of storyline you see on police dramas.

      Or the bench trial in the capital case.
      Allegations of brutality to obtain confession? Check.
      Doctor’s testimony saying he saw no indications of abuse? Check.
      Some black fellow snuffed? Check.
      On and on.

      The short answer to the question is:
      It’s all about “watch the birdie.”

      The long answer delves into the insidious aspects of that.

      The truly horrible part?
      No one really cares, just a small handful.
      The majority of Americans cannot grasp that false imprisonment is an additional threat to our safety rather than a means of providing for our safety. That is exactly the reason so many are totally unconcerned about the collateral damage with drone strikes. Killing a few of a bad guys family members ought to make us safer.

      Seriously, I sat in a group the other day talking about bullying.
      There were quite a number of people who said that bullying is good for kids, because it teaches them empathy and “builds character.”
      All the while, failing to realize that if empathy were the natural end of bullying, more people would reject bullying as being good for kids.
      If that builds character, then an arbitrary amputation ought to be good for anyone.Report

  3. Avatar Morat20 says:

    I admit, I only paid any attention because the Italian case involved claims of satanism and such.

    Which is, to me, a giant red flag. (Towards the people claiming Satanism was involved in the murder/death/whatever).

    There’s certain claims that make me sit up and go “That’s probably BS.” Satanism as a connection to some crime, X causes violence in kids (lead being the exception, because I’ve actually seen solid evidence — complete with biological explanations — for that), blood libel, and a handful of other things.

    The Satanism claims caught my attention, and then a quick perusal of the facts showed an out-of-control prosecutor. (Which, as a Texan, is another thing that catches my attention. We’ve got lots of those).Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I only know about the Knox case because of Burt. I may have heard a bit about it on the radio once, but that’s it.

    There is apparently someone named Theresa or something in prison. I know that because of the cover of some magazines in the check-out line. But that her name is Theresa and that she’s in prison is all I know about her. And I’m not 100% positive about the prison.

    It’s amazing what passes me by.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

      Apparently (based on 1 minute of Google-based research), she’s in a TV sreality how and she and her husband are going to prison for fraud. This will not shake my faith in the integrity of these shows. Hmm. he came to the US at age 1, was never naturalized, and may be deported. That seems unjust, even if he is a sleazeball.

      As long as I’m Googling, isn’t there something up with Papa Duck? Oh, he told a vile story about mutilating and raping atheists. Whatever.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I actually started a post on this Friday at about 5 o’clock EST when people were wondering if the decision was going to come down that day after all. I felt pretty sure they were going to kick the can again and order more trials, as self-defeating as that would have been. I thought the extradition debate would make for some excellent weekend combox legal BSery. I quickly realized I didn’t have enough mastery of the specifics to even want to post something just meant to elicit comments. Then the decision thankfully came down.

    What an egregious injury that eight years of two young people’s lives were consumed by the miscarriage of justice for the extinguishing of a third young person’s life.

    I’m still somewhat interested in the particulars of the evidence underlaying Knox’s conviction for slander against her tavern boss. Did she clearly accuse him of the murder, or perhaps was whatever she said about him essentially coerced as much as the other statements that caused her to be wrongly detained in Italy for four years were?Report

  6. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Big deal here (local girl & all). I don’t think she’s guilty of murder, but even if she was, the prosecution was so outrageous that reasonable doubt is pretty solid.Report

  7. Avatar Gabriel Conroy says:

    I mentioned this on one of the earlier (several months ago) Knox thread, but I´ll say it again. Ive read one interpretation of Kafka´s”The Trial” that said the novel was really about, or was a spoof on, the civil law courts in Europe, in which one would be on trial forever and would eventually lose even by winning. Not knowing much about Europe´s civil\code law system (and yes, I realize that Prague or wherever Kafka placed his story is not Italy), I don´t know how accurate that interpretation of his novel is. But the Knox case seems to exemplify it.

    I didn´t click on Burt´s links, so maybe this is addressed there, but do we know that this really is the end for Knox´s ordeal? Is there some “second review” by the highest court of its own decision?Report