Murder is really an understatement though, as the circumstances of Kercher’s death indicate she was sexually assaulted, tortured, and her throat cut in such a manner that she slowly choked to death on her own blood.
Motive is always important in any crime, and the prosecution has speculated that Kercher was killed after she discovered her rent money ($444) had been stolen by her American roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend to pay their drug dealer for drugs, and that it was these three individuals that murdered the victim. This crime, says the prosecution, took place over an extended period of time, and, if you were to believe investigators, was part of a horrific drug-fueled sex game that could have been ripped from the pages of a brutal Japanese comic book. There was nothing remotely funny about this death though.
It has been over two years since the body of the young British woman was found in a pool of her own blood, her bloody hand prints found on the wall of the murder scene, indicative of her futile attempt to save her own life. Kercher’s father has said Meredith studied karate and would have fought against any assailant bent on ending her life.
It was shortly after Kercher’s murder that I traveled to Perugia to better understand her murder. As part of an NBC Dateline team, we went to the crime scene and had the opportunity to discuss this case with Italian police investigators, prosecutors, and saw some of the physical evidence gathered as well as had the chance to tour the Italian CSI facility where the evidence was examined. It is this physical evidence, as well as statements made by the suspects and the post murder investigation conducted by police, that is at issue in the trial of American Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Italian Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of Kercher. Trial summations are being made and it will then be up to the eight-member jury, including two professional judges, to decide if the two suspects are guilty or innocent Kercher’s murder. Less significant charges will also need to be decided concerning the young defendants.
Prosecutors believe they have presented more than enough evidence to meet the legal threshold to convict the remaining two murder suspects (a third, Rudy Guede was already sentenced to 30 years for his believed role in Kercher’s murder). Then there are the defense teams that believe they have successfully refuted the evidence against their clients and have disproved any theory offered by the prosecution in its attempt to establish motive on the part of the defendants. Meanwhile Knox’s mother is already planning her acquittal and subsequent homecoming, to include a mother/daughter spa adventure, this as “Amanda’s hands are rough and raw as she does her own cleaning in the prison and the chemicals do that to her hands.” Prosecutors, for their part, have asked that both Knox and Sollecito be sentenced to life in prison. As in any criminal prosecution, one side will feel justified with the verdict returned by the jury while the other side will feel a great injustice had been done. And with the absence of an eye witness to Kercher’s murder, at least one who is willing to testify, the jury must depend on the available physical evidence, or at least the 180 degree difference of opinion concerning the interpretation of the evidence as offered by the prosecution and defense witnesses, as they consider individual guilt or innocence.
Every piece of physical evidence has been in contention in what for some has become the media trial of the century in Italy. Depending on which media outlet you have followed this case through, i.e., American, British or Italian, or whether you followed blogs dedicated to Amanda’s defense or justice for Meredith, you too will have noted the exact opposite interpretation of the evidence, this depending on your belief of the former young lovers’ guilt or innocence.
The murder weapon. As most know, Meredith’s throat was cut. While both sides agree that the exact murder weapon has not been found, the prosecution contends that a knife with a 6 ½ inch blade found in Sollecito’s apartment (noting he was a knife collector) was similar to one of the edged weapons used to cut and kill the victim. This same knife, though it had evidence of vigorous cleaning (with investigators noting the powerful smell of bleach in the apartment), was found with the DNA of Knox and trace evidence of DNA that was deemed similar to that of the victim, but due to the miniscule amount of DNA, it could not be positively identified as that of Kercher’s. And were it to have been the victim’s DNA, Sollecito sought to explain it away stating that the victim had accidently been cut with the knife while cooking in his apartment. The prosecution contends there is no evidence Kercher was ever in Sollecito’s apartment and that; in fact, due to her low opinion of Knox, she would not have gone to his apartment. “Close enough” for prosecutors, but is “close” really “enough” when you face life in prison? Point, counterpoint.
The bra clasp. Investigators believe that Kercher’s bra was cut from her body after her death, perhaps to further support the idea that the victim was assaulted by an unknown offender who had entered the residence via a broken window and cut the bra during a sexual assault. Although not recovered in the initial CSI processing of the crime scene, a bra clasp was later found on the floor of the murder apartment. On the clasp; the victim’s blood and Sollecito’s DNA. The prosecution not only believes this evidence places Sollecito at the crime scene, but also puts him with the victim at the time of her murder. The defense, for its part, points out that the clasp was not found for six weeks, indicating it could have been contaminated at the crime scene or even at the police laboratory, this while the prosecution counters with the fact that DNA evidence has been recovered long after other crimes had been committed and still used to convict a suspect. Point, counterpoint.
The broken window. The defense suggested that an unknown offender, probably Rudy Guede, threw a large rock through a rear window of the victim’s residence, this in order to gain entry into the second story and to the victim herself. The prosecution, for its part, argued that the glass from the broken window was on top of items in the room that was already in disarray, i.e., the window was broken after the assault and murder, probably to give the appearance that someone had entered the residence via the broken window. I’ve stood below the broken window and believe it could have been too high off the ground to have been a point of entry by an intruder. Police point out that the hole created in the window was too small for someone to have entered the room without cutting himself while climbing through the window. Point, counterpoint.
The bloody footprints. If you have ever watched CSI on television, you know about Luminal, a chemical sprayed at a crime scene that reacts to a component found in blood. Under the appropriate lighting conditions, traces of blood sprayed with Luminal glow a bright blue. Other blood evidence at the crime scene, however, was easily visible to the human eye, especially when you consider the large amount of blood Kercher lost in the course of her murder. The prosecution suggests that some blood evidence had been cleaned up at the crime scene by the killers. The prosecution presented evidence that Knox’s footprints were found in Kercher’s blood, to include prints of her exiting her own bedroom and one print just outside of the victim’s bedroom, facing into the room. While the defense says that absence of prints leaving the room in which Kercher was killed should exclude Knox, the prosecution explains this away as indicative that some prints had been cleaned up by the killers.
Then there was a bloody shoeprint found on a pillow under the victim’s body. The prosecution produced a science expert who indicated the print was that of a woman’s shoe, between a size 36 and 38. Knox wears a size 37, but a defense expert testified that the alleged print was nothing more than evidence of a fold or crease in the pillowcase. Point, counterpoint.
There were also footprints found at the scene of the crime that the prosecution attributes to Sollecito, this by the various individual characteristics of the print, which the prosecution matched to the male suspect’s foot; comparisons disputed by the defense.
The mixed blood evidence. Knox’s blood and the blood of the victim were allegedly found comingled in multiple places around the crime scene, to include the bathroom, in one of the bedrooms and in the hallway. While chance would have it that perhaps both women had somehow left blood at one location, the statistical probability that this mixed blood or DNA could be found in multiple locations seems to be a stretch, even for the defense. While it is difficult, if not impossible to accurately date blood evidence, Knox testified that there was no blood in the bathroom the day before Kercher’s murder, therefore apparently dating the damning blood evidence to the night of the crime, and by her own statement seeming to place her at the crime scene at or near the time of the victim’s death. The same mixture of DNA was found in a bloody footprint in the hallway and in a roommate’s bedroom, more evidence that is hard to refute. The defense, though, acknowledges that Knox had entered the residence the morning after Kercher’s murder, perhaps accounting for the overlay of physical evidence. Point, counterpoint.
Knox initially told investigators she was in her apartment at the time of Kercher’s murder, further indicating that Patrick Lumumba, a Congolese man who owned a local bar where Knox worked, and who allegedly was considering terminating Knox and hiring Kercher, had murdered the victim during a violent attack. Knox and her defense team later indicated Knox was simply responding to a request by police to imagine what she thought could have happened to Kercher vs. actually being a witness to such an offense. Knox is also being charged with defaming Lumumba, and it will be up to the jury to determine whether Knox tried to implicate another in a murder she had committed or if she was simply overwhelmed by overzealous investigators. It was Knox, after all, who said investigators deprived her of food, drink, legal counsel and struck her in the head, all in their attempt to extract some type of statement to force her to implicate herself in this brutal crime. Point, counterpoint.
Knox has testified that she could not have been involved in Kercher’s murder as she spent the night of the murder in Sollecito’s apartment, and in his bed. She also indicated they watched a movie on Sollecito’s computer during the believed time of Kercher’s murder. Sollecito, for his part, has testified that Knox was in his bed that night, but he was unsure if she stayed the entire night, this as they were both under the influence of drugs that evening. Investigators, for their part, proved that Sollecito’s computer was not used during the critical time surrounding Kercher’s time of death. Both suspects had also allegedly turned off their cell phones the night of Kercher’s death, evidence, actions that the prosecution suggested were taken by the two so as to deny police the ability to trace the location of their phones that night. But could the two, while under the influence of drugs, nonetheless have been so cunning to have thought this out in advance, thereby suggesting some type of premeditation on their part? Were Knox and Sollecito lying to cover their role in Kercher’s murder, or were they just too stoned to accurately recall their activities and simply made up a story to cover their lack of memory? Point, counterpoint.
And while Knox continues to profess her innocence as well as her friendship with the victim, the prosecution believes her to be one of three people responsible for Kercher’s death, with robbery, revenge and sex being the various motives for the three alleged killers. It his attempt to paint the suspects with the darkest brush possible, the prosecutor has said the three alleged killers acted in an “uncontrolled and drug-fueled crescendo of violence.” The Knox and Sollecito defense teams suggest a far simpler motive for murder. Guede, with a past history of drug use and sales, home invasions and crimes committed with a knife, had broken into Kercher’s residence while she was home alone, assaulted and murdered her and stole her rent money. He alone is the murderer and he has already been sentenced, so let those who continue to profess their innocence go free. Period.
Knox and Sollecito have been imprisoned for more than two years. Their trial has slowly moved along for the past eleven months, this with court sometimes held for only a few days per week with breaks and recesses for up to two-months at a time. For some, Knox and Sollecito are two of a three-person murder team that committed a crime almost too terrible to talk about, were it not for the tabloids reporting on the case on a daily basis. And while many believe the case to be a prosecutive slam-dunk, there are many others who believe Knox and Sollecito to be but two more victims, in this case victimized by a cruelly creative and overzealous prosecutor who tried to force the meager evidence against the young couple to fit this terrible crime and his bizarre explanation for the motive for murder. Why would the prosecutor do this? Perhaps, say some, to make the charges of prosecutorial misconduct against him in yet another case disappear. After all, should he win this current case he will be somewhat of a hero, and heroes usually don’t go to jail. Only the guilty, and those innocents erroneously found guilty do…
There is one thing for certain though; something said by Amanda Knox’s mother, Edda Melias. She said the biggest mistake she made was not getting Amanda on a plane from Italy to America when Kercher’s body was initially found. Knox, like so many other Americans, has found that while there is much to criticize about our criminal justice system, if you are a U.S. citizen you do not want to be arrested for a crime outside of the USA.
Within a few weeks the jury will render its decision and the fate of two young people will be determined for years to come. And for Amanda Knox; she will keep her spa date with her mother and probably write a best seller about her trumped up run-in with the Italian criminal justice system, or she (and Sollecito) will spend the rest of their lives in separate Italian jail cells. While America’s standard for conviction is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the Italian jury may use a standard that could consider the significant public opinion that runs against the suspects.
Which side do you believe the jury will come down on?
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