European Court of Human Rights Sides With Amanda Knox—to a Point
The justices ruled Thursday that the Seattle native’s rights were violated when she falsely accused her Puglia boss Patrick Lumumba of murder—but that might not matter.
ROME—In March 2015, Italy’s highest court definitively acquitted American exchange student Amanda Knox and her erstwhile boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito of the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher in Perugia in 2007. She and Sollecito had been twice convicted and twice acquitted of the heinous crime, but the final acquittal from Rome’s high court was not the final word.
On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights decided that Italy violated some of Knox’s rights when they originally interrogated her, backing up her claim that she was denied an interpreter or a lawyer but stopping short of agreeing that the interrogators hit her, and they did not support her claim that she had been treated inhumanely.
“The court further observed that at the hearing of 17 December 2007, Ms. Knox had stated that she had been deprived of sleep until she incriminated D.L.,” the court ruling reads, referring to Patrick Diya Lumumba, the full name of the man she initially accused of committing her roommate’s murder. “She had also complained about the limited choice of food offered to her during the period in question. Moreover, the extreme emotional shock that she had sustained during the police interviews had been mentioned in her statement and in that of the interpreter.”
The ruling goes on to state: “Ms. Knox had alleged, in particular, that she had been treated aggressively and with contempt, and that she had been slapped, subsequently repeating her allegations in identical terms at the hearings.”
The court stopped short of siding with Knox’s claims of inhumane treatment. “The court found that there was insufficient evidence for it to conclude that Ms. Knox had actually sustained inhuman or degrading treatment of which she complained.”
When Knox was first interrogated after Kercher’s bruised and battered body was found in the apartment they shared in November 2007, the Seattle native accused her boss at the pub where she worked, Patrick Lumumba, who was innocent of the murder. She was convicted of slander for the false accusation, and sentenced to more than three years in prison, which was coincidentally the amount of time she served while standing trial. In both court rulings in which she was acquitted of the killing, her conviction for that false accusation stood. It remained a sort of stain on her otherwise clean slate.
Because no tape exists of the interrogations in question, the Italian judicial court had always relied on its own officers’ testimony denying that Knox had been abused.
The Court of Human Rights did acknowledge that Knox had been supplied an interpreter, who had in fact testified in the case against her, but questioned that person’s objectivity. “The court... could not overlook the ambiguity of the role played by the interpreter, who had been acting more as a ‘mediator’ even though she was not required to go beyond her interpreting duties.”
Knox’s Italian lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said that he was not surprised by the court’s decision, but was disappointed they did not find that she was treated inhumanely. “It’s not a big surprise for me because the supreme court already said there were many mistakes,” he told The Daily Beast by phone. “That is one of the reasons that encouraged us to tell Amanda to go to Strasbourg.”
In Knox’s appeal to the European court, she asked for more than $3 million in damages from Italy. The European court ruled that Italy should pay Knox just over $11,000 in damages and $9,000 for costs and expenses endured to file the case in Strasbourg. Because the court’s decision is non-binding, it is possible that she will never see any of the suggested payment.