The Trashy Tabloid Story You Didn't Follow, But You Really Should've

I didn’t follow this story until a month ago.  Then I did.  Now I can barely think about anything else.

It’s an incredibly important story.  Not a story about murder — a story about politics and government and society and media.

Amanda Knox on a publicity tour to say she’s innocent, and promote her book, and she does need to promote her book, because four years of prison, lawyers, and lawsuits have left her with a yawning pit of debt.

“I find it incredible that despite an absolute lack of evidence that connects me to this murder, I am still being judged based upon unrealistic and unreasonable expectations about how a young woman would react to a horrible situation,” she said. “No one knows how they would react to a horrible situation until it happens to them.”

Criticisms that she was cold and unfeeling about her roommate’s murder are unfair, she said.

“I have cried. I have been angry. I have been scared. And these were all things … that I have shown, that have come out of me,” she said.

That November, Kercher’s semi-naked body was found at the home where they lived, her throat slashed.Police arrested Knox and Sollecito, who was her boyfriend at the time. Two years later they were convicted of murder.

Another man, Ivorian drifter Rudy Guede, was convicted separately of Kercher’s killing. Guede admitted having sexual relations with Kercher but denied killing her.

I had absolutely no interest in this case until last month, when Nice Deb linked a story about it. All I knew is that she was pretty and was tabloid-fodder and was accused of some convoluted Sex Game Gone Wrong.

I believe most people assumed she was guilty, because most people accused of murder are guilty. That’s why I assumed she was guilty. I mean, why would they say she was guilty if she’s not? Most people accused of murder are guilty of murder.

But then most people accused of rape in North Carolina are guilty too. And yet, even though most are guilty, some are innocent. Some are extremely innocent. Some are so completely innocent that it shakes one’s confidence in the police and prosecutors– how could they not see the Duke Lacrosse guys were innocent? How did they proceed with the case in the face of the avalanche of contrary evidence?

I don’t really care about murder cases, usually. The “local crime stories” like Jodi Arias, I don’t care about. They’re good for drama and are, basically, a cheap soap opera for the news networks. They get dramatic programming for a tiny cost.

But I have been trying to induce people to take an interest in this murder trial. Because it’s not just a soap opera. There are actually very important questions at play. Questions about the murder of Meredith Kercher are the least interesting questions — I say that not because her killing was unimportant, but because the answer to that question is so obvious: The killer was Rudy Guede, the lowlife thief with a history of breaking into apartments armed with a knife that just happens to match the exact dimensions of the weapon that killed Meredith Kercher. Rudy Guede, whose DNA is all over the murder room — and his bloody handprint on the wall, and his bloody shoeprint on the floor — and no one else’s DNA at all, except for the victim’s.

He was duly convicted of having a role in the murder.This is why I say the case is interesting, but not because of the Whodunnit aspect. It’s obvious Whodunnit– Rudy Guede done it.  If that were the story, it would be a boring, obvious, cliched one.

The interesting question — the compelling question — the question that I’ve gotten a little obsessed over — is this: If it’s obvious Rudy Guede killed Meredith Kercher, and hardly needed any recruitment to do so, why are there two other people on trial for the crime?

Let me take the opportunity to re-recommend an outstanding true-crime book, The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, which is about Italy’s own Jack the Ripper, a serial killer who killed seven couples parked in lovers’ lanes between 1974 and 1985. That book isn’t about Amanda Knox — but it is critical background.  If you don’t want to commit to a book, Preston wrote up the basics of the book as an article for The Atlantic. That’s free.  Feel free to skip ahead to pages 5 and 6 if you don’t much care about Italy’s Jack the Ripper.

If you found the Duke Lacrosse case compelling, I think you’ll find this one even more compelling.

This is not a murder story.  Or, at least, none of the unresolved questions concern the murder.  Just as the Duke Lacrosse story is not a story about rape.

This is a story about society. And it’s an extremely important one. And an extremely ugly one.