Friday, April 25, 2014

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: Waiting to be Heard

By now, you’ve probably heard of Amanda Knox. You may even have an opinion about her case and whether or not you think she was involved in the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. My interest in the case started when Amanda was acquitted a couple of years ago, but it grew with recent developments (in January, her appeal was reversed). In addition to the popularity of the case, I became interested in her memoir as a source of research for my third novel since it also deals with an exchange student who gets into trouble abroad.

After all that has been said about Amanda on news shows, magazines, the internet and even a made-for-TV movie, Amanda finally gives us her version of the story. In a prose that is easy to follow and insightful, we meet Amanda a few months before she moves to Perugia, Italy. We get to know her parents, her siblings and her sometimes quirky and adventurous nature in her native Seattle, where she has planned in some detail her year of studies in Italy—a lifelong dream of hers.

Amanda is not very different from other people her age who travel abroad. I also traveled to Europe in my early twenties and Amanda seemed as ordinary as any other girl I met during my trip. I won’t go into too much detail about her story since: a) it’s all over the internet and b) if I tell you too much, you won’t want to read it (and if you’re interested in her story, I believe it’s worth reading. Especially because we’re so used to making quick judgments based on what the media tells us.)  I’ll just say that Amanda goes into great detail about those first months in Italy, the people she associated with, her relationship with her roommates, the boys she met, etc. She doesn’t portray herself as a saint as she admits to having smoked pot and engaged in sexual activity with two or three guys. This, she says, were mistakes the media and the prosecution exploited during her first trial.

Amanda claims her relationship with Meredith was good. According to her, they were confidents and friends who explored the city together and shared similar experiences (both were English speakers trying to find their way through a new culture and a new language). Then she describes the moment she met Raffaele—her then boyfriend and partner in this ordeal—their short-lived but intense relationship, the day Meredith died, the police interrogations, her two trials and her life in prison. She brings insight into a few things that are not explored much on the internet or news shows:
  • What, according to Amanda, happened during the interrogation where she accused her boss of killing Meredith (and later admitted to lying about it). She offers a theory as to why she lied that night.
  • During her appeal, there was an important testimony from a man who’d been imprisoned with Meredith’s convicted killer (Rudy Guede, who’s DNA was all over Meredith’s room). This man said Guede confessed to having raped and stabbed Meredith in conjunction with “a friend” (who wasn’t Raffaele or Amanda, which is what the prosecution alleges). In fact, Guede was supposedly having a moral dilemma as to what to say during their appeal. (Guede had a separate trial and conviction from Amanda and Raffaele.) This story made more sense to me than the prosecution’s theories of a “sexual game gone bad” or a “Halloween Eve sacrifice.”
  • Explanations as to why there were traces of Amanda and Raffaele’s DNA in a couple of items that the prosecution assigned as proof of their culpability.
  • Insights on the people in Amanda’s life in prison and outside. I was especially touched by three people in her life: a Catholic priest who befriended Amanda—an agnostic—during her hardest times in prison (Don Saulo); one of her best friends from Seattle who moved to Perugia to be near Amanda after she was sentenced to 26 years in prison (Madison) and Laura, an American inmate who grew up in Ecuador and became sort of a foster mom or older sister to her. Amanda’s family is also commendable as they never abandoned Amanda and during her four-year-ordeal always made sure someone was in Italy on visiting days. Her stepfather went as far as to move to Perugia for some time. Amanda’s story, as sad as it is, also serves as a testimony that goodness is sometimes found in the most unexpected places.
After reading Amanda’s memoir, I conclude that yes, she made MANY mistakes, primarily not taking the police interrogations seriously—she didn’t wait for a lawyer to be present and she never called the American embassy before answering questions in a language that she didn’t speak well. Her lying during one of her confessions, I admit, is hard to understand and made me wonder if she was covering up for something else (heavy drug use?) however, I do not believe she was involved in Meredith’s attack. It just doesn’t make sense. Our civilization has become SO reliant on technology that sometimes we drop common sense out the window. The prosecution claims that a girl like Amanda—with no prior convictions and a model student who came from a good family—is guilty of murdering (savagely) and raping her friend (when she doesn’t even have the *right* equipment, if you know what I mean). What we do know is that there is no motive. The prosecution claimed Amanda and Meredith argued over the bathroom’s cleanliness, but only a psychopath would kill over this, right? Not to mention the fact that there is no evidence of her presence in Meredith’s room. The prosecution claimed Amanda and Raffaele wiped their own DNA in the room but left Guede’s, as though it was possible to see DNA! Plus, there was no proven relationship between Guede and Amanda or Raffaele (Raffaele said he’d never met the man and Amanda said she saw Guede once or twice with her downstairs neighbors but couldn’t even remember his name.) 

I truly believe that Amanda’s problems stemmed from her immaturity and naivety at the time of her trip. Not only was she cavalier about who she spent time with (including working at a bar with people she barely knew) smoking pot on a regular basis and having sex with guys she’d just met. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in people her age. When I moved to the US to go to college, I had the fortune of having a couple of family members here to guide me through the process of moving to a different country and start a new life as an adult. Also, my parents came with me and helped me settle in the dorms. When Amanda arrived to Italy, she had nowhere to live and found her new roommates on a bulletin board. I know, LOTS of college kids do this, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. ESPECIALLY in a different country where you barely speak the language and you don’t know the “rules of the land.”

By the end of the book, however, you see Amanda as a different woman. Not sure this has to do with the fact that Amanda is a writer (currently studying Creative Writing in Seattle) and she knows that in every journey, the hero must show change and growth, or that she truly matured with all the hardship she went through, but her transformation was evident to me.

Have you been following this case or read her memoir? Do you believe in her innocence? What do you think will happen now that her appeal got reversed? Do you think the US will extradite her to Italy? Do you think it’s fair that she was tried twice for the same crime?

Check out these coffeehouse reviews!

1.The Armchair Squid2.My Creatively Random Life
3.Wishbone Soup Cures Everything4.Valerie Nunez and the Flying Platypi
5.Huntress6.Servitor Ludi
7.MOCK8.StrangePegs -- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
9.Words Incorporated10.Agatha Friggin' Christie
11.Ed&Reub12.The Writing Sisterhood
13.Read, Write, Repeat14.V's Reads
15.The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: April 2014 16.Debi O'Neille, writing against the wind


  1. Although I've heard of Knox, I haven't followed this case closely at all, so I learned a lot from your review here. It is interesting to read a convincing account of an accused-murderer's story. Innocent people are certainly tried and convicted for murder, which is an incredible travesty of justice ... and one reason I'm against the death penalty, myself. It just happens too often that we put away the wrong people; and that's bad enough, but executing the wrong people is horrific.

    I hope the truth comes out in full some day.

    1. I realize that reading only her account gives us just one side of the story, but from everything I've read in the past I never was convinced that she did it. It just doesn't add up. I recently saw a case in 20/20 or Dateline where a couple of brothers had been in prison for 20 years for murder, but someone figured out (thanks to a random Facebook comment) that they were innocent. It's an interesting story. i'll tell you about it in person.

  2. "The prosecution claimed Amanda and Meredith argued over the bathroom’s cleanliness, but only a psychopath would kill over this, right? " never know about some people and why they do the things they do.

    On another note, I've heard so much about this case ad nauseam, if you know what I mean. There are so many different Americans imprisoned abroad that I just don't get society's fixation on this girl and this crime. Is it because she was so young? Is it because the Italian court system almost looks like a mockery with "Yes, she did it," "No, she didn't," and then "Yes she did do it!"? Is it because the real killer is probably already sitting in prison, but somebody doesn't want to lose face over Amanda going free? Who knows!

    I will agree that Amanda always made herself look suspicious with the lying, not getting a lawyer, and not really taking any of it seriously in the beginning. Her roommate was killed! Who does cartwheels down a hallway waiting to be interrogated for THAT? I studied abroad during my college years. If my roommate had been murdered, I think I would have been in total and complete fear for my own life!

    It's good to see that her family has always been behind her 100 percent. That had to be tough on all of them. Now, I just wonder if the Italian court system will follow through and extradite her...I guess we shall see.

    1. I think the fixation w/'the case has to do w/ how outrageous the accusations are and how obsessed the prosecution is with convicting her. It's like a witch hunt!

  3. I have only followed the case passively, although it didn't ever seem reasonable to me that she did it.
    I'm sure the book is interesting, but it's probably also one I will skip.

    1. I understand, this kind of book is not for everyone. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Interesting! I didn't know that Knox has written a book that goes into such detail. Good review, too -- I learned more about the case from this post than from the news reports and articles that I've seen over the past few years.

  5. Thanks for your review. I don't read memoir, but this book sounds interesting. I've only caught bits and pieces of the case, but I still can't fathom why a confessed, convicted suspect is not sufficient. Why keep looking for more killers? Especially when there is no real evidence. When people live together, their DNA gets on the common stuff. No doubt my DNA is smeared in every room in the house--even if I haven't much visited.

  6. Sorry to take so long to come around. It's been a very busy time in my world...

    I'd forgotten about this bizarre story. Sounds like quite an engaging read.

    A book you might enjoy, a fictional account of an ex-pat woman in Mexico City falling in with the wrong crowd: La Perdida. It's a graphic novel.

    1. Sounds very interesting. I'll definitely check it out. Thanks!


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