Raffaele Sollecito, the erstwhile boyfriend of Amanda Knox, was a silent character in one of the biggest media spectacles in recent memory. In 2009, Sollecito and Knox were convicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher, Knox’s 21-year-old roommate, who was stabbed in the home the two young women shared in Perugia, Italy. Two years later, they were sensationally acquitted on appeal. Sollecito, now 28, was a central figure in the case, but the story was never about him. Instead, the brainy computer-science student was often an afterthought, depicted as a druggie whose sexual infatuation with Knox, now 25, overshadowed any rational thinking. Indeed, the only person who got less attention than Sollecito was Kercher. The spotlight always pointed to Knox, whose enigmatic personality and oft-bizarre behavior proved far more interesting than her former lover’s somewhat dull demeanor.
Now it’s finally Sollecito’s turn in the spotlight with his new tell-all memoir, Honor Bound. Sollecito finally brings himself to life. At times witty and often sarcastic, he brilliantly rehashes four years of hell, dispelling many theories on what was really going on behind the scenes and shedding an interesting light on what it’s like to be a bit player in a major media show. He is candid and believable, even admitting that he resented all the attention she got. “Even though Amanda and I shared the same unjust fate, the case was always about her,” he writes. “Amanda, Amanda, Amanda ... But what about me? By the end, I vanished so far from public view I thought of myself—or rather my other self, the one unaccountably on trial for killing a student I barely knew—as Mr. Nobody.”
For those obsessed with the case, Honor Bound is an essential supplement to all the books that have been written on this case (including one by this author). Knox is writing her own book, which will be published in the spring of 2013. Sollecito, by publishing his first, can finally enjoy a little bit of the limelight all to himself. The book is his story, so it is no great surprise that he professes his innocence throughout and complains disdainfully about the Italian judicial system. More than once he relives the moments when he doubted Knox’s innocence and how his family did everything they could to drive a wedge between them. During the preliminary trial, he even toyed with the idea of accepting his family’s strong pleas to abandon a joint defense and distance himself from Knox. “My game plan had been to disassociate myself from Amanda and thus deprive them of the argument that I was covering for her because I was in love with her. Accordingly, I told the court I never wanted to see her again.” That strategy never worked because their alibis for the night of the murder were intertwined.
Not only does Sollecito give a great insider’s look at the trial from his unique vantage point, he also clears up a number of mistruths that Knox’s ardent supporters pushed throughout the four-year affair. He admits that Knox’s supporters angered and poisoned public opinion against her in Italy, and he writes how he often felt he and Knox were undermined by her supporters’ well-intended exuberance. “As I watched the continuing media coverage, I began to feel relieved that nobody was launching a political campaign on my behalf. The sentiments in support of Amanda provoked an immediate backlash, with the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera asking in scathing terms if perhaps the Marines weren’t about to land in Perugia to pull Amanda out from behind enemy lines.”
He writes openly about the night of the murder, but he does not entirely clear up doubt that lingers among some who still believe he and Knox were involved in the crime. He says he regretted smoking marijuana on the day of the murder, and he wonders openly about the effects of mixing drugs and alcohol together, though does not admit whether he has ever done it. He writes a curious passage about girls he knew during his Erasmus semester in Berlin who mixed drugs and heavy drinking one night when he was partying with them. “These weren’t the girls I knew—warm, charming, funny, like sisters to each other, and to me. It was as if robots had overtaken their bodies and were now trying to overtake mine. The next day, I asked the girls what had got into them, and they couldn’t say. They remembered nothing,” he wrote. “I have no idea what was in that cocktail, but the episode taught me how abruptly drinks or drugs can change our perceptions and our personalities. Or rather, it should have taught me. For some reason, I continued to indulge my occasional marijuana habit ... Now I knew I should have been smarter than that. I smoked no more than three joints with Amanda in the few days before the murder, but that was three joints too many.”
He also admits that Knox’s “bizarre” behavior was often embarrassing and off-putting. One evening after the murder, when they were at the police station with Kercher’s British friends, Knox was aggressively making out with Sollecito in the waiting room. “Amanda curled up on me like a little koala bear, grabbing hold of my neck with both arms and resting her body on my lap. We nuzzled and at one point she stuck her tongue at me as a joke,” he writes. He says the police then reprimanded them for their behavior, which Sollecito says he immediately regretted. “Days earlier, under very different circumstances, this quirky, unrestrained behavior had drawn me to her. But here it was embarrassing, and I can understand why Meredith’s friends were put off.”
Throughout the book, Sollecito gives a number of convenient explanations for lingering questions in the case. Often he brings up details that were never introduced in court because he did not take the stand. He dedicates several paragraphs to the fact that Amanda was crying the morning after the murder, even though not a single eyewitness ever testified to that in court. He also admits that the two had no credible alibi for the night of the murder. “We had no real alibi for the night of November 1 except each other, and we did not have lawyers to protect us, and we seemed to have a propensity for saying things without thinking them through,” he writes.
“Days earlier, under very different circumstances, this quirky, unrestrained behavior had drawn me to her. But here it was embarrassing.”
There are some shocking details that perhaps only the most intent followers of the case will find interesting. Sollecito confesses his disdain and distrust of his Pugliese lawyer Tiziano Tedeschi and his Perugian lawyer Luca Maori. He outlines what became serious infighting among his legal team and how his father liked the lawyers for their company. “[Papa] felt a continuing kinship with Tedeschi, despite everything, and he couldn’t help liking Maori, who was infectiously good company and invited Papa to lavish meals and evenings at the country estate,” he writes. “[Maori] was happy to take the case without payment—as indeed Tedeschi had been before him. In both cases, I came to believe that you get what you pay for.”
Sollecito ends the book with a painfully honest tale of flying to Seattle last year to meet with Knox. He was nervous to see her. “My apprehensiveness reminded me of the climactic scene in Clockwork Orange when Alex, the young delinquent played by Malcolm McDowell, has his eyes forcibly held open and he is saturated with images of sex and violence until the very idea of touching a woman, once his greatest pleasure, induces immediate nausea,” he wrote. “I wasn’t a delinquent, but the artificially induced feelings of aversion were much the same. I felt brainwashed, and I imagined that everyone who followed the media coverage of Meredith’s murder and our trials—especially those who obsessed over it and argued about our guilt or innocence based only on the media reports—must have been brainwashed to some degree too.” For anyone who fits that description, Sollecito’s book is sure to satisfy.