In November of 2007, Amanda Knox, an American college student studying abroad in Perugia, Italy, was arrested, along with two others, for the murder of her roommate, Britisher Meredith Kercher. Kercher's murder was an international news event in the truest sense (consider that the suspects were an American, an Italian and a guy from Cote d'Ivoire, and the victim from the UK, and the crime occurred in Italy). It probably wouldn't be much of a stretch to characterize Knox's trial as the "trial of the century," at least as far as the century has progressed. It was a pretty big deal.
I won't go into the details of the case since all of that is readily available on the internet, but to sum it up, Knox had been incarcerated since her arrest until she was acquitted of the crime in appeals court in 2011. For a year of her incarceration she was held without charge. In total, she spent four years in prison for a crime that she did not commit. All during this time, she found her character sexualized and demonized by tabloid media hungry for torrid sensationalism. Waiting to Be Heard
is Knox's memoir of that experience.
The case was a big deal in my area, Knox being a Seattle native and a University of Washington student. I was a grad student at the UW at the time and had other things on my mind than following the news, but her case always seemed a bit off to me. While I'm generally skeptical on claims of innocence in real-life crime cases, Knox's alleged motives just seemed too bizarre, too far-fetched to make any sense. I didn't really think that she had any direct involvement in Kercher's murder.Waiting to Be Heard
was published in 2013, two years after her acquittal. Knox does a fairly decent job of telling her story, even if sometimes her writing seems rather unsophisticated, sometimes embarrassingly so with such blandly obvious observations as "Prison is a hard raw place, where people think of themselves first and where compassion is often forsaken." Her narrative is often repetitive, especially when she gets emotional and her attempts at sounding sincere sometimes sound as if she's trying too hard.
To her credit, however, Waiting to Be Heard
appears to have been written by Knox herself without a co-writer and, despite my minor complaints above, is a satisfactory personal account of her experiences. The first half is a little bit of a slog to get through, but the narrative picks up in the last third when Knox approaches her final trial and we get into the finer details of the case. I understand that her intent is to tell her side of the story and not to necessarily create a masterpiece of literature. To that end, she succeeds.
I did learn some things from this, though. One, the Italian legal system, while basically similar to ours, is significantly different. For example, if they judge you a danger or a flight risk they can incarcerate you for up to a year without charging you
. Juries consist of six members and are not screened for bias (and I get the impression from Knox's narrative, though she didn't specifically say it, that her jury was not sequestered and could be, thus, influenced by media). While courts do get it wrong sometimes here in the US, I find it hard to complain about the system overall in comparison to the Italian legal system (as least from what I know of it).
Secondly, as bad as paparazzi and tabloids are in the US, they are way worse
in Europe! At least that is my impression, judging by the way the Kercher murder case was sensationalized. The real-life murder of Meredith Kercher was sad and senseless; the tabloids made it a lurid, trashy affair, capitalizing on the prosecutions bizarre claims of satanism, sex games gone wrong, drugs, etc.
All in all, the whole case was a massive train wreck, filled with Keystone cops and self-serving prosecutors. The shame of it all is that if the investigation had not been handled so incompetently from the beginning the Kercher family, as well as those of Knox and Sollecito, would have been spared all of this unnecessary anguish.Waiting to Be Heard,
overall, is a satisfactory work and worth a look, if only to read Knox's perspective of the case and her incarceration. For those following the case, it is a must read, of course.