Was Amanda Knox Slut-Shamed Into A Murder Conviction?

On Friday, after nearly 14 hours of deliberation and a trial that spanned almost a full year, an Italian jury returned to the courtroom and delivered a verdict—Amanda Knox is guilty of murder, sexual assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, and staging a crime scene, and was sentenced to 26 years in prison plus fines of close to $7 million. For those of you who haven’t been obsessed with this case, here are the basic deets: Knox was a University of Washington student studying abroad in Italy when, in 2007, her roommate Meredith Kercher was found dead in a pool of blood on her bed. Knox initially said she was home during the murder and heard screams, but then changed her story to say that she was with her boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito. Sollecito’s finger print was found on Kercher’s bra clasp and his footprint was found in her blood. Meanwhile, Knox’s finger prints were on the knife believed to have slashed Kercher’s throat—though all these pieces of evidence are questionable. A third person was also involved in the crime—Rudy Guédé, a man who claims he had consensual sex with Kercher, went to the bathroom, came out to find her being stabbed by a robber, and was so scared by the whole situation that he fled to Germany. He was convicted last year (he opted for a fast-track trial). Prosecuters in Knox’s trial argued that Knox, Sollecito, and Guédé had tried to rope Kercher into some kind of orgy, and when it didn’t work out, raped and killed her.

What’s so confusing about this case is … well … the whole entire thing. Even after the investigation and trial, nothing seems to fit together or make any sense.

There is clearly enough doubt that a conviction in the United States would have been unlikely and, according to Italian legal analysts, jurors must have felt this way, too—if they were completely convinced, they would have sentenced Know and Sollecito to life in prison and not given them 26 and 25 year sentences, respectfully. [Seattle Times]

So what happened here? Lots of theories are floating in the ether about why Knox was convicted in a case that was so shaky. One obvious reason—Knox did herself a serious disservice by changing her story on what happened the night of the murder several times. No one bought her story that she had smoked pot that night and couldn’t remember what had really happened. At one point, she even pointed a finger at her boss at a local bar, Patrick Lumumba, who apparently was determined to not have been at the scene of the crime. [NPR]

Another theory was that Knox’s conviction was fueled by serious anti-American feelings in Italy. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington has asked for a meeting with Hillary Clinton, who she’s hoping will intervene on Knox’s behalf. But Knox’s lawyers actually think that will worsen the situation. “That’s all we need, Hillary Clinton involved,” one of them stated. “I have the same political sympathies as Hillary but this sort of thing does not help us in any way.” [Daily Mail]

But there’s another theory out there—that Knox was slut-shamed. Throughout media coverage of the case and the trial, Knox’s sex life was brought into it—from the appropriation of her MySpace nickname, Foxy Knoxy, to the prosecution hammering home the idea that Kercher and Knox had fought about the number of men Knox brought back to the apartment. A big deal was made about a short story that Knox wrote—she was a creative writing major—about a woman who went to a wild sex party and was drugged and raped. Not to mention the fact that it kept coming up during the trial that, even though she had known Sollecito for only two weeks at the time of the murder, they knew each other in the Biblical sense and had sex the night of the murder. Which, uh, is hardly uncommon—the two called each other boyfriend and girlfriend. And long stories were written, both in the Italian press and elsewhere, dubbing her a “maneater” and detailing emails she sent to friends about sexual experiences. Like this one in the Daily Mail titled “The Wild, Raunchy Past of Foxy Knoxy.”

Knox’s family will be seeking an appeal, though experts say it will be two years before it goes to trial. Who knows if we’ll ever really know what happened in this horrible, twisted case? But we do hope that a woman wasn’t convicted on the basis of having had what seemed like a fairly normal sex life for someone her age.

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