I saw the movie about the Amanda Knox case last weekend, and all these days later, I’m still appalled by the way that case went down.
I didn’t follow the story too closely, but knew the basics. Exchange student Amanda was living in Italy where she was accused of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher, after an orgy or a night of wild sex or some such tabloid-sordid situation. She said she wasn’t there at the time it happened but was staying with her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.
The police in Italy didn’t buy it, in large part because – get this – she “acted inappropriately” when she found out the girl was murdered. Video in the documentary shows Amanda and her boyfriend kissing, a little too passionately, as they wait in the yard of the house where she’s staying and Meredith’s body was found.
Was it inappropriate? Well, yes, actually. Something about the over-the-top nature of it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like watching it. What’s appropriate in the bedroom isn’t in the yard of a murder scene. Yet the girl was only twenty years old, her boyfriend trying to comfort her. Does it mean they murdered Meredith?
Not shown were the cartwheels Amanda was said to have been turning in the yard of the house as she continued to wait for the police to get done with the crime scene. Cartwheels? While standing outside of the house where there was a murder? I’ll admit, that’s downright bizarre, strangeness of the worst order.
On the other hand, how long was she standing out there? Might she have needed to stretch her muscles? Was she perhaps blowing off steam, since if she’d been home in the house that night, she could have been killed, too?
Yes, turning cartwheels is not “appropriate.” But again, does a cartwheel really point to Amanda and her boyfriend being the killers?
It brought to mind another accused killer of many years ago, Lindy Chamberlain. Remember Lindy? She said her baby daughter, Azaria, was snatched up and killed by an Australian dog, a dingo, on a camping trip. Lindy was kind of brusque and matter-of-fact when questioned. “Let’s just get on with it,” was one of the lines I recall Meryl Streep uttering, with no emotion, when she played the role of Lindy later, in a movie, A Cry in the Dark. Lindy and her husband were sent to prison for three years, wrongfully, in large part because some policeman considered her reactions to the killing of her baby as “inappropriate.”
What, though, is an “appropriate” reaction to a murder?
I have personally witnessed a mass murder. When I emerged from the elevator at work on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was watched the first of the World Trade Center towers burn, stunned. As I looked, the second plane hit the second tower and exploded into it. I worked at a media company called Video Monitoring Services of America at the time. They recorded news segments for public relations clients, so there were television screens above the windows at work – and the actual sight of the horrific events that were taking place right outside of those windows, maybe a mile away, but still in a direct line with our building and clearly visible. I felt three things in a row: 1) that this was absolutely surreal, with the live and close-up images in front of us at the same time; 2) terrified our building could be next; and 3) that the explosion reminded me of the ones in, of all things, Star Wars.
I never mentioned that Star Wars thought to anybody. Yes, the sight outside the windows reminded me of the pyrotechnic effects in the movie, but such a comment just wouldn’t have been right to say at such a time, and I knew it. I kept my mouth shut. Had I been twenty years old, though, instead of 40, I may have blurted it.
I walked around in shock for about ten days, not crying, not laughing, not looking for any humor, the way I usually do, because who the hell could after such an event? I wasn’t acting at all like me, I was a silent shell, but that’s what happens after something extraordinarily horrific takes place right in front of you. You stop acting like you. You can go on automatic pilot, like I did, or run and become hysterical in the bathroom, like another friend at work later said she did. A third acquaintance, watching the same scene from a few blocks away at another media company, wound up having to take tranquilizers and go to therapy ever since from his reaction to it. Yet another friend no longer wants to go into Manhattan because of it.
Four people. Four reactions. Four different extremes, in four different directions, to the same terrible event. I was the quiet one, but no less terrified. One quiet, one hysterical, one strung out, one phobic. Who can say how any one of us might react?
Let’s get back to Amanda Knox. A policeman who saw her reactions to what had happened decided “she did it.” He set out to prove it. The evidence pointed almost entirely to a known area thief who broke into houses, but the cops still concentrated on Amanda and her boyfriend- not the overwhelming evidence pointing away from them. The thief’s DNA was all over the house. Hello!
Amanda was in jail, out on appeal, considered guilty again in another trial, and finally cleared in an Italian supreme court hearing. Same deal with her boyfriend. Now I don’t know about you, but this back-and-forth shuffle, guilt vs. innocence, evidence interpreted this way, then that, and the ensuing incarcerations, in themselves, strike me as…inappropriate!