Four long years later, American student Amanda Knox returned from Italy to her hometown of Seattle, Wash., this week.
Most Americans viewed her return as justice finally served: inconclusive evidence was officially recognized as such by the Italian court system, and after serving time in an Italian prison for a murder many do not think she committed, Knox was released and allowed to return home.
Ultimately, the DNA evidence that was originally presented to help convict her and her Italian boyfriend of the murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy, was found, upon appeal, not to be convincing enough. Her DNA was present at the scene of the crime, but without a motive and without a clear link between that DNA and the murder itself, the case fell apart.
While many think Knox acted suspiciously—or maybe just insensitively—in the aftermath of the murder, that alone is not enough to determine whether someone is guilty or not. If the evidence did not prove conclusive, then there seems to be little to hold someone in jail for.
Of course, these are all things that numerous columnists and newspaper articles have reported in the past week: that Americans generally feel Knox is either innocent or not tied strongly enough to the crime with hard evidence.
In Europe, though, things are different. They have been for a while.
The UK’s Daily Mail put it this way: “For Amanda Knox and her family, a bright future beckons at last… For poor Meredith Kercher’s still-grieving parents, there is to be no respite from the horror of this murder and its awful aftermath. For them, the agony goes on.”
Kercher, of course, is British, so this may factor into the sharp and stark juxtaposition of the two women’s stories.
However, what is most important is that Kercher she should not be forgotten in this case.
Though appealing the latest decision made by Italian courts this week, Kercher’s family was even-handed when speaking with the press.
“We don’t want the wrong people put away for a crime they didn’t commit, but now we may have to wait another year or so. We will wait,” Stephanie Kercher, Meredith’s sister, told ABC News this past week.
As Kercher’s family acknowledges, holding an innocent person in jail does not do much to bring Kercher back, if Knox is innocent.
But if Knox is guilty, then several things have gone wrong here.
Part of the prosecution’s case rested upon calling Knox a “she-devil” and rebranding her childhood nickname, “Foxy Knoxy,” which her family claims refers to her soccer skills, to fit the description of the “she-devil” with loose moral values.
This was the story that primarily hit the European newspapers: Knox the she-devil was responsible, alongside her boyfriend, for her roommate’s death because of her character, as it was interpreted by the prosecution.
Since juries are not sequestered, perhaps this had a lot to do with her guilty conviction in her first sentence.
But it also had, ironically enough, a lot to do with her appeal.
In the past couple of years, the tide of public opinion has changed—even if only slightly in Europe. Claims of anti-Americanism and criticisms of the Italian court system gave even the staunchest believers in Knox’s guilt reason to question her conviction.
If Knox is guilty, then the Italian police made a mess out of the case by not being more meticulous and careful in their collection and analysis of evidence.
If Knox is guilty, then the prosecution focused its efforts on the wrong strategy.
If Knox is guilty, then a grave disservice has been done to the memory of Meredith Kercher and her family.
But this disservice was aided by the Italian police, prosecution, and court system—making them, in some ways, culpable as well.
This was originally published in the Southbridge Evening News and other Stonebridge Press newspapers last week.