Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Hesitant (Yet Long-Winded) Comment on the Trial in Perugia

About the only thing I can write with certainty about the Amanda Knox trial is that I'm glad I wasn't one of the jurors. When I first read of Knox's conviction last Friday, I immediately considered exploring in writing the media coverage of the trial and the ways in which both Knox and the Italian legal system made such fitting targets for soundbyte-ing and stereotyping. I quickly realized that just about every other journalist and blogger had that angle covered. As I read article after article about the trial, glimpsed image after image of Knox being escorted from the courtroom, and watched testimony from Knox's mother and the family of the victim, Meredith Kercher, I felt less and less as though I had a clear opinion about any element of this two-year-old case.

Sollecito, Knox, and Guede

I do think that it is at least worth noting (to what ends I'm not yet sure, but I have some uncertain arguments in there somewhere), in terms of the rhetoric of this trial, that while the two other suspects in the case - Rafaelle Sollecito and Rudy Guede - also were convicted of taking part in the killing of Kercher, they nearly always only receive a sidelong mention in a larger report featuring Knox. This has been the 'Amanda Knox Murder Trial,' in spite of the fact that there have always been three suspects under scrutiny. There has been a lot less concern about the conviction of Guede (which occurred over a year ago) or the evidence produced against him. Guede, like Knox, is non-native of Italy, but unlike Knox, is a black man originally from Cote d'Ivoire. In all my poring over articles about this trial, I've learned slim to none regarding Sollecito (an Italian citizen), but I've seen the same video of Sollecito and Knox kissing and comforting one another ('inappropriately') around the time they learned they were suspects. And in a move that is well precedented, there has been little attention paid to the victim, Meredith Kercher, although she is often remembered in interviews as a good friend and sister, and a person who is dearly missed by those who love her.


I hesitate to boil the entire trial down to this, but I want to consider the point (and it's likely an obvious one): the media coverage here bears a striking resemblance to other cases in which young, white, blond, U.S. American women feature in one way or another. A ready example is the Natalie Holloway case - clearly different from the Knox trial in so many ways, but also illustrative of emphasizing one family's plight over the innumerable tragic cases that involve less camera-ready individuals and families. I make this observation not to devalue the tragedy of Holloway's disappearance, but to consider the media coverage in a slightly different way than the Knox op-eds have thus far. Concerns over the sensationalizing of Knox's gender have been explicated in numerous ways, however, this isn't only about Knox's gender, but her national origin, as well as her classed, raced, and sexualized identities, especially as perceived by international media that have offered strikingly similar reports of the case.

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