An appeals jury in Italy this afternoon overturned the convictions of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Knox’s roommate Meredith Kircher four years ago. While it has shocked many, it was a victory for the rule of law given the lack of evidence and serious mistakes of police in the course of the investigation. What was interesting, however, was the fact that slander convictions against Knox and Sollecito were upheld.
We have previously discussed the problems in the physical evidence and false statements made in the case against the couple. We also discussed the ludicrous slander charges made against the parents.
The defamation claim stems from her accusing her former boss in a bar where she worked, Patrick Lumumba, in testimony. Later she said that the police pressured her into accusing Lumumba. The use of defamation to charge people for such testimony (considered privileged in the U.S.) is a terrible practice. Since the sentence for such defamation is three years, however, Knox is free to go.
What is clear after this case is that the police investigators are virtually “libel proof” in light of their numerous and mind boggling mistakes. I fear great sympathy for the parents of Kircher. There was a foundation to suspect both Knox and Sollecito, whose testimony changed in fundamental ways and retained serious gaps. However, the police so bungled this case, the threads of evidence left ample doubt. The prosecutors relied on open speculation based on highly questionable forensic evidence such as Sollecito’s DNA on the bra strap. The evidence against Knox was even weaker. None of this dispels suspicions of the couple or their contemptful conduct before and after the murder. Knox now stands to make millions. However, the jury proved itself dispassionate and disciplined is separating speculation from fact in overturning the convictions.