Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Circumstances

By Karen Pruett

September 5, 2011, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s appeal trial for the murder conviction of Meredith Kercher reconvenes after summer break and we expect to see the prosecution’s rebuttal continue.  At the end of July we left off with the prosecution foot-dragging for an entire day asking inane questions to the independent experts who had reviewed key pieces of the DNA evidence from the Trial of First Instance in 2009.  To the disappointment of Amanda and Raffaele’s family and friends, the maneuvering left the judges unable to rule on an end to the appeal, so they ordered a continuance leaving the kids in prison for yet another summer. 

The prosecution was also caught trying to submit a falsified document on the last day of court in July, the Negative Control Test.  This is a common test done to assure that equipment is not contaminated with biological material in-between evidentiary runs.  Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, who collected and processed the original DNA evidence, testified in both the trial of first instance and the appeal that this test was NOT done, yet the prosecution tried to pull a fast one using a poor quality photo copy.  They tried a number of tricks in July and we fully expect to see more in September.  We hope that Judges Claudio Patrillo Hellmann and Massimo Zanetti will continue to exemplify professionalism and not yield to any misbehavior on the part of the prosecution, as demonstrated by the judges in the trial of first instance.

The prosecution’s behavior is transparent; they need more time to perfect their next implausible scheme be it trying to discredit the court’s experts or the creation of ‘new’ evidence or some equally smarmy act of sedition.

By contrast the defense has been professional and patient.  At the beginning of the appeal, last fall, the defense was pleased when the judges ordered the independent review and again when they demanded that Dr. Stefanoni release her original DNA evidentiary report to the court appointed experts, Professors Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti of the University of Rome.  Access to the review and the report has long been denied to the defense, a breach of Italian law.  In July the expert’s conclusions were released and there was a sigh of relief as they agreed with the defense on every point. 

The DNA collection and processing was a shoddy mess and the report highlighted more than 50 departures from international protocol. 

The fickle press is slowly beginning to focus on the truth of this case, that two innocent college students were framed for the murder of a third, while the real killer is swept under the rug and his 30-year sentence halved.  Why are the Perugians so lenient toward the obvious killer and so willingly oblivious to the innocence of Amanda and Raffaele?  And why do people believe their crazy theories?  They have proved themselves to be liars time and again in court; they have proved they don’t care who the real Amanda and Raffaele are, they have proved they are not seeking true justice for Meredith Kercher. 

In 2007 news of Amanda’s arrested swept through my community like a wildfire in dry grass.  As the months wore on we felt a great sadness for her plight and we closed ranks around our friends.  It was not fair, except for trusted members of local media; not a single member of the press bothered to present Amanda or her family as they really are.  All these strangers kept creating sensational personas to sell their stories, every one unduly harsh and horribly wrong.

The real friends will tell you that the Knox and Mellas families are honest and hardworking, that they don’t deserve the cruelty dished on them by these strangers.  We are saddened that the media treated Curt and Edda’s divorce as if it were a diamond the size of a soccer ball, while ignoring the fact that Meredith’s parents were also divorced.  Imagine how difficult must it have been for them to suddenly be thrust in the spotlight together, yet they maintained their dignity despite the cruel things that were being said about their oldest daughter and themselves.  They had to be in shock and you know they were mad as hell; after all, Amanda has essentially been kidnapped; yet all anyone has ever seen is solidarity, concern and love from Curt and Edda and their spouses.  They make a great team.

Amanda is a very lucky girl to have four loving parents at her back and in the great scheme of things, imho, it was meant to be this way. 

Their circumstances have not robbed this family of a sense of humor and you find yourself euphoric while among them; they put you at ease.  I can understand how Amanda has remained serene and centered throughout her ordeal and I’m glad she is coming home to these people; they will help her ease into her New Normal.  I knew of these folks through my community, but didn’t know what to expect when I met them for the first time, I came away with an acute sense of their compassion for the Kercher and Sollecito families and how connected we are through our communities.  Connections we would have never known if Amanda had not been falsely accused.

So it’s with certainty that I say the Knox and Mellas families are some of the nicest people I have ever met.  Whatever behind-the-scenes-family-drama they have, I Just Don’t Care, I think they are entitled to it in light of present circumstances and every time I see them, I admire them more.  This entire family deserves the utmost respect for handling this crisis in such a manner, they are the epitome of teamwork and anyone would be lucky to have them for a support system.  The only ‘issues’ I have ever seen within their family structure are just like thousands of other normal people I know and love.

Amanda Knox in 2007

I invite you to look at Amanda through THIS lens, her family and friends.  Not the prosecution’s POV, which has been crammed down our collective throats for nearly four years. 

The Amanda that we know.  The Amanda who is so boringly normal that the international media took their blood money home because they couldn’t find anyone who wanted the ‘thirty pieces of silver.’  The Amanda that is so mundane that there exists only a couple of online examples of her alcohol use, how many Facebook 20-somethings can say that?   The Amanda that so many love.  Story after story of how ‘she played with my kids’ or ‘babysat my kids’ or ‘helped me.’  Stories of Amanda and her family’s academic, athletic, musical and artistic accomplishments.  She and her Dad have wings on their feet you know and she proved that by lettering in soccer throughout high school.  She is a talented artist with an innate eye for detail and follows in the steps of musical family members by playing the guitar.  She worked several jobs to earn money to study abroad, the smart kid with vision and drive, but still found time to pose for a friend’s photography project.  Stories of her compassion for all living things, buying a cup of coffee for a stranger in distress.  Waiting for her murdered friend’s family so they didn’t have to be alone.  She is the National Honor Society and University of Washington Dean’s List scholar that everyone is proud to know. 

The Perugians made too much out of “quirky.”  As if visitors to a foreign land have never been thought of as quirky by the locals.  Amanda is a child of the Pacific Northwest and we make no apologies.  “Admired” is how her friends know her, her real friends, not strangers with an agenda looking to make a buck.

Strangers have also insulted our home; they have alluded that Amanda lives in the slums, that her neighborhood is nothing more than a gravel pit.  Obviously they have never been here or they would have noticed the spectacular view of Puget Sound from thousands of homes in the neat as a pin neighborhood with a happy and vibrant community.  Obviously they have never sat in the sunshine on our beaches or watched the Pirates land on Alki or climbed our mountains. 

Never a discouraging word, that is one of the amazing things I have seen in four years of intense scrutiny focused on this family; they always look for the positive.  Friends of the Knox and Mellas families are bearing witness to an undeniable fact; these people exemplify normal people who had normal lives and are now being forced to cope with extraordinary circumstances.
They are kind people who have always been concerned for the Kerchers; Edda has reached out through the media many times to Meredith’s grieving family, only to be met with silence.  So they wait politely for the day when the Kerchers are ready to speak to them.  At each fundraiser, if an organizer has a memorial for Meredith, they get a personal thank you from Amanda’s family.  They are acutely aware that Meredith is largely forgotten in the media frenzy.  But not by them, they will remember Meredith long after the world has forgotten about the vibrant young lady whose life was cut short by a Perugian thief.

Photo taken at an Amanda Knox Defense Fund benefit in 2010

Friends from around the planet have donated cash and airline miles to the and  And international friends joined Americans in the effort to alert the White House and State Department about our concerns for Public Minister Mignini’s aggressive behavior toward Americans and the safety of Americans abroad. Thank you for each letter and each prayer but, please, don’t stop yet.

What has been missing in the press is the Defense POV and the online advocacy groups, Friends of Amanda and Injustice in Perugia, are working to bring this information to the forefront and answer anyone’s questions.  I noted that the caliber of the people who came to the aid of the Knox and Mellas families was another reflection of their character.  

The resumes of the folks involved blanket the fields of law enforcement, the judiciary and the sciences with networks that include Congress and NASA.  The vast majority are volunteers from around the planet all willing to help regular people like me.  It’s been a privilege to have access to these people and I found them to be honest, kind and very willing to explain Low Copy Number to the laywoman who only knew about Haplogroups. 

Impressive don’t you think?  All these exceptionally smart professionals speaking out for a girl who some say is the murderous, sexually perverted femme fatal mastermind of an act of Satanism?

In 2007, before she left, Amanda was nothing less that a nice, smart kid preparing for a year abroad, something that thousands of have done and are doing right now.  I’ve known hundreds of kids who went abroad and Amanda is just like many of them, just as Curt and Edda remind me of the parents of such kids.

Raffaele Sollecito
I also think highly of the Sollecito family.  Raffaele is the nice guy that any parent would be glad their daughter brought home.  Especially in light of the fact that this young man, a virtual stranger to Amanda, stayed by her side until her mother could arrive.  Unfortunately the Perugians had other plans and he was also swept up in the travesty, so his family is in court with Amanda’s, six angry parents standing together for their innocent children with Their families at their backs.

And despite this sad situation, I am struck by how much alike Raffaele, Meredith and Amanda are, nice kids from good families whose lives were forever altered by Rudy Guede and a few Perugians. 

Sadly, I see a cadre of writers who have some odd need to smear Amanda and her family.  All I can take away from the rehashing of the Perugian POV or the armchair psychologist’s analysis is that they’re just plain mean.  It’s obvious that they are not ‘investigative journalists.’  When the world catches up, they will know what we have always known, these are decent people and good parents, and when Amanda comes home the public’s Imaginary Amanda will evaporate and be replaced by the Real Amanda, someone Puget Sounders have known all along.  If this weren’t so tragic I'd laugh at the irony, the Perugians thought they had a devil, instead they persecuted an angel and in doing so, they have harmed three innocent families with their ridiculous dramatics.

Poetic justice.  That is what I want for Meredith, Amanda and Raffaele and their families.   Poetic Justice.