article

10.02.11

Knox Awaits Verdict

Italy’s most famous prisoner waits to hear about her future on Monday, but even that decision won’t be the end. Barbie Latza Nadeau says the media frenzy, whatever happens, is likely to be intense and controversial.

There is a weekend lull in the media trial of the century in Perugia, Italy, as Amanda Knox’s judges and jury take what is surely a much-needed break before making their crucial decision on Monday.

Many members of the local press left town on Saturday morning—even the ringleaders need a break from the circus sometimes—and those who traveled from America and the U.K. are preparing their verdict stories and courting Knox’s parents. Everyone will be in place on Monday morning, when Knox’s venerable attorney Luciano Ghirga will give his rebuttal to last week’s closing arguments. Then Knox herself and her co-convict Raffaele Sollecito will make their final pleas for their freedom. Those close to Knox say she has been preparing her statement for months.

The final outcome of this case is not as simple as it seems. Italy has a complicated judicial system, and the first trial, at which Knox was convicted, was the first in a three-step process. The second level, the current appellate trial, is then followed by the high court’s final ruling—no matter how this one ends. That is to say, the prosecution can also appeal the verdict if the duo are freed. Over 50 percent of all cases in Italy are modified during the appellate process, so Knox has reason to hope—and reason to worry. Her Moldavian jailmate, known as the “black widow,” had her own murder conviction overturned on the second level, only to find herself reconvicted of the crime by the high court. At this stage, literally anything could happen.

On Monday, when the judge announces the ruling (on live television, no less), he will spew out the case numbers and codes for the original conviction and then whether they are confirmed or overturned. He can absolve Knox of all or part of her conviction, and he can rule separately on Knox and Sollecito. He can absolve them completely, or let them go due to insufficient evidence, which is not the same as finding them not guilty. He can also reduce the sentence without absolving Knox of any crime. It will take a few minutes to decipher just what he says, and Knox’s family will be eagerly awaiting someone to translate it for them. Or, like last time, they'll just watch their daughter’s reaction.

It seems impossible that the jury will be unaffected by the incredible media scrum through which they must pass to get to court each day. Cameras are always rolling when they walk into the courtroom, and no matter how much the judge coaches them, it would take someone who is emotionally barren not to feel at least a little pressure. If they let her go, there will always be a contingent of the obsessed who think they did it not on lack of evidence but under American pressure. On Saturday, one of Italy’s leading newspapers, La Repubblica, poured scorn on the massive media attention and what it called manipulation by Knox’s “million-dollar public-relations campaign,” and blasted the American networks for buying into it, chiding them over rumors that a private jet is waiting for Knox to sweep her away—most likely straight to a studio in New York. Knox’s parents have been advised by their lawyers not to give any news interviews at all until after the verdict, but there is surely plenty of archived material to fill the void.

It is lost on no one that the Knox family uses the media as messengers of their daughter’s innocence, and won’t talk to anyone who won’t toe the party line.

This media circus does have two rings. We, the local press who cover Italy, along with the visiting international press, have admittedly done our part to create an insatiable hunger for this story. But the Knox family has played its role in this overblown affair. Their campaign to quash what they refer to as “bad press” has turned a standard-issue “big story” into a squalid competition for the “big get”—the first post-prison chat with Knox herself. It is lost on no one that the Knox family uses the media as messengers of their daughter’s innocence, and won’t talk to anyone who won’t toe the party line. Last week several more journalists were put on the blacklist after being berated by Knox’s father for stories they’d written in good faith. The Knox family can hold such sway over the press because they are believed to hold the key to their daughter’s debut in the free world. But no one knows for sure what Knox herself has in mind, or if she will even get out of jail. If she does, we can expect a huge spike of interest followed by a lull, reminiscent of other famous media cases from British nanny Louise Woodward to Casey Anthony and O. J. Simpson. If she doesn’t get out of jail, the story stays the same.