Amanda Knox was an American student who decided to study abroad in Perugia, Italy in 2007. Knox was 20 years old at the time and was living a British student named Meredith Kercher who was 21 years old. In October of 2007 Knox became romantically involved with a 23-year-old Italian man named Raffaele Sollecito (Trendski).
On November 2, 2007 Kercher was found dead in the flat that she shared with Knox (CNN Timeline). A detailed report from the police reported she was “dead on her bedroom floor, drenched in blood and half-dressed.” The report speculated that sometime between 9:15 and midnight of that night Kercher “sustained the fatal wound that caused her slow death by asphyxiation” (Hawkins). A postmortem examination done on November 4, 2007 revealed evidence that there had been some sexual activity some point before Kercher was murdered. A knife was found with Knox’s DNA near the handle and Kercher’s on the blade; Knox and Sollecito would later be charged with unlawful possession of a weapon (Guardian).
On November 5, 2007 Knox and Sollecito were detained for questioning. It is alleged that Knox confessed to being home at the time of Kercher’s murder and she placed the blame on 38-year-old Patrick Lumumba, the bar owner of where she worked (CNN Timeline).
TruTV’s Kristal Hawkins uses the headline Blaming the Black Man: Patrick Diya Lumumba when discussing Knox placing the blame on Lumumba. Lumumba was released from prison on November 20, 2007, because his alibi matched up. He later sued Knox for libel and won over 40 thousand euro in damages (CNN Timeline).
On November 22, 2007 media outlets published a note written by Knox from November 6 as she addresses an alleged confession:
“In regards to this ‘confession’ that I made last night, I want to make clear that I’m very doubtful of the verity of my statements because they were made under the pressures of stress, shock and extreme exhaustion. Not only was I told I would be arrested and put in jail for 30 years, but I was also hit on the head when I didn’t remember a fact correctly (CNN Timeline).”
On December 5, 2009 the New York Times’ Rachel Donadio writes a piece with the headline Italian Jury Convicts U.S. Student of Murder. Within the piece it tells that a jury of six civilians and two judges found Knox and Sollecito guilty of coercing Kercher into a sexual game which resulted in her being murder. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Francesco Maresca, lawyer for the Kercher family, said that he believed that justice had been served (Donadio). Knox’s plea at the time was the following:
“Ms. Knox said that she had spent the night of the murder at Mr. Sollecito’s house, where the two smoked marijuana and had sex. She said she had gone home the next morning and found some spots of blood on the bathroom floor, but took a shower anyway before finding Ms. Kercher’s body (Donadio).”
On November 24, 2010 the appeal process begins for Knox and Sollecito. Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga told reporters that it was more difficult for the defense to prove her as innocent than it is for the prosecution to prove her as guilty (CNN Timeline).
CBS News runs a story on December 18, 2010 titled Amanda Knox Makes Emotional Appeal in Court. She had gone back to court for the appeals trial and apparently broke down. She addressed the courts for 20-minutes saying she was the victim of an enormous mistake:
” “We are innocent,” she said, “and deserve to live our lives free.”
Knox told the three judges and six jurors, “I am not the person that the prosecution insists that I am – dangerous, diabolical, jealous, uncaring and violent. I have never been so. The people that know me are witnesses of this” (CBS News). ”
At some point Knox was forced to take an HIV test, and she was lied to and told she was HIV positive so that she would have to list all the people she had sexual encounters with. The names were published in a British tabloid and then Knox was informed she wasn’t HIV positive (International Business Times).
In January 2011 forensic experts from La Sapienza University in Rome were sworn in and retested all the crucial forensic evidence that was used to convict Knox which included the knife and a blast from Kercher’s bra. Then in June two prison inmates testify during her appeal to say that she wasn’t involved, but clearly the prosecutors doubted the credibility of the inmates (CNN Timeline).
In July 2011court appointed experts testify saying that during the investigation the forensic scientists made a “series of glaring errors.” The experts suggested that due to these errors that the evidence against Knox should be considered “inadmissible.” The appeal trial continues through September of 2011 (CNN Timeline).
On October 3, 2011 an italian Jury overturned the 2009 murder conviction, and then she soon after returned back home to Seattle, Washington (Guardian)
The have been four years of news coverage for Knox. It is safe to say that not only did she face trials in the courts but also a trial by the media. There are some good reports, but there are even more not so good reports. It doesn’t help that she had the nickname “Foxy Knoxy” which various sources have claimed was a childhood nickname based on her soccer abilities, but a CNN article states that during the murder trial the nickname portrayed her as a “careless, sex crazed party girl” (CNN).
Even a news source commented on how new sources portrayed Knox:
“While the American press has largely been sympathetic to Knox, reports in Britain and Italy have often described her as a devious, manipulative woman(CBS).”
It does seem as though there are more American news sources who side and sympathize with Knox compared to some international news sources. The media from both sides (America & non-America) did not do a great job with the reporting and media coverage. There was so much bias shown within news reports and most of them in some way or another referenced Knox as being attractive.
An opinion piece for the Chicago Tribune is entitled Europe’s scapegoating of Amanda Knox. Within this commentary piece the writer makes a very bold statement:
“It became clear that it wasn’t facts but Knox – her femaleness, her Americaness, her beauty- that was driving the case (Chicago Tribune).”
BBC News made a compilation of reactions by Italian, British and American media on the acquittal on appeal of Knox. This gives a great opportunity to compare the media coverage.
In the publication Corriere della Sera of Italy definitely portrays Knox negatively:
“Never before has the media aspect of a trial so outstripped the judicial aspect. The English media who are on the side of the victim, the poor Meredith Kercher, renamed the pretty Amanda “Foxy Knoxy” just to underline her elusive craftiness.”
Now, that is inaccurate, because “Foxy Knoxy” was the nickname that Knox had given herself and even used it on her MySpace – so yes, maybe the media used the nickname to “underline her elusive craftiness,” but it wasn’t a nickname that the media came up with themselves. It is true that the media took the nickname “Foxy Knoxy” and spun it in a bunch of different ways and really used the nickname to their advantage when trying to come up with witty headlines.
La Stampa of Italy takes a similar stance:
“Even if the rules have been followed, and the sentence is, probably, irrefutable, for the Italian justice system this is not, however, a victory….Yet this is an acquittal that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.”
It would have been more appropriate to report just the facts in this case especially and not add to it by saying that it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
The Guardian questions Knox’s identity:
“Is she just an older version of the compassionate diligent girl her parents knew back in Seattle – or the predatory and provocative young woman described by some who knew her in Perugia?”
It would have been nice if there was actually an interview with someone where they call her any of the aforementioned names rather than the reporter leaving it unattributed.
It is appropriate that the BBC included what the Seattle Times reported – since Knox is from Seattle. They show that they are not being completely sympathetic to Knox:
“Knox is not entirely without fault. In the wild, media-fuelled frenzy following the murder accusations, she falsely accused a bar owner, Patrick Lumumba, for him she worked at the time and caused him indue pain and suffering. Still, it is time for Knox to come back to Seattle and resume her life.”
It is good that the publication didn’t seem to be taking Knox’s side and showed sympathy toward Lumumba, but at the end it gets light hearted as it says it’s time for Knox to come back home, but that isn’t bad media coverage.
Time released a story titled Amanda Knox Goes Free: Why Italy Isn’t Pleased About Her Trial by Media. Within the piece Stephan Faris says that “many Italians have bristled at being judged by the land of O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony.” That is definitely a line that sticks out when reading this piece.
Nancy Grace of course had her opinion and she bold stated that the verdict was a “miscarriage of justice.” (USA Today).
Some examples of sensational headlines include Knox ‘bought underwear after Meredith murder’ in the Telegraph (Moore). The writer really wanted to keep people engaged to this story:
“He said the pair seemed “resolutely exhibitionist”. According to his statement, the pair approached the counter at the Discovery store, and Knox bought two g-strings.”After I get you back home, we are going to have wild sex,” she is alleged to have said.”
Under no circumstance should the media be concerned with Knox buying underwear.
And of course a Fox News headline from November 21, 2007 reads Fourth Suspect Arrested in ‘Extreme Sex’ Student Murder in Italy. That doesn’t even make sense. The transcript from the show The Big Story with John Gibson and Heather Nauert” includes the co-host John Gibson saying “Amanda Knox, also known as Foxy Knoxy.” No, she doesn’t need to be known as Foxy Knoxy, it’s just not appropriate anymore. They turned the playful nickname into one that is demeaning.
The transcript also includes Gibson saying:
“It really is. Extreme sex murder. This new suspect has been arrested. One was released. How does this affect the American’s case, that’s foxy Knoxy? (Transcript).”
Why must he refer to her as Foxy Knoxy? Honestly, it’s just not appropriate and very unprofessional.
Another headline from Fox News reads Couple Suspected of Murder Planned “Wild Sex” Romp Day After Roommate Was Found Dead.
Why are they reporting on the couple having sex? This is bad journalism right there. Saying that the couple planned a wild sex romp day after their roommate was found dead could be something put in an article with an attribution to the source who said it, but that is not appropriate for a headline. And again with the underwear reference:
“”I heard her as she was choosing the underwear — particularly the G-string — and as they were ready to pay, in front of the till, she whispered, ‘Afterwards I’m going to take you home so we can have wild sex together,’ ” the shopkeeper reportedly told police, according to Sky News (FOXNews).”
Something that is very unfortunate is that sensational news sources such as TMZ have linked Casey Anthony with Knox. TMZ had a video asking how ‘hot’ Anthony was, but after the Knox verdict a new video came out entitled Who Is Hotter: Amanda Knox or Casey Anthony (TMZ).
The two get paired together not only because they are young women, but because they are thought to be attractive. There are even suggestions from commentators saying that both women only got off on murder chargers due to their good looks.
Ravelle Mohammed wrote a piece for the Christian Post in which he thought it would be appropriate to interview Jose Baez (Anthony’s defense attorney) about what he thought of the Knox verdict. Baez called Knox and Anthony “all American girls” and expressed his happiness for Knox. This isn’t something that is seen with males. No one is going to ask O.J. Simpson’s lawyer how they felt about Scott Peterson, or maybe they are, but it is not likely. This is just a way to get Anthony back in the headlines and to pair her up with Knox just makes for a story that everyone just would love to read. And to talk about these women as sexual objects and asking who is hotter really shows that society is extremely superficial and that the media is feeding into it.
As media representatives we can learn to stop being so sensational and creating headlines just to get a rise and to get read. It is important to report the facts and to attribute all possible opinions to a source and to report what is relevant. Also, it really needs to stop with the commentary of the looks of an individual in regards to a murder suspect – there is usually a photo there for a reason. It makes sense sometimes to say the general look of the person, but to go so far as to name people attractive is just too much editorializing and takes away from the piece. The proverbial “next time” the media needs to not be so interested in the sexual aspects of this case but more so the legal aspects.
This is a paper I wrote for my Cross Cultural Reporting class. If you want to see my bibliography e-mail me at [email protected]: