The grisly murder of Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student, in Perugia in 2007 caught international headlines for the nature of the murder and the alleged involvement of Amanda Knox, an American exchange student and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. As the case evolved, lurid details were leaked to the press who gleefully reported them all over the world, painting a sordid picture of Knox and Sollecito. The couple were freed after four years on appeal and Knox returned to the US, only to be re-convicted along with Sollecito on appeal and eventually exonerated irrevocably by the Italian supreme court. Rudy Guede, a low level criminal was convicted in the first instance ahead of the couple's trial and remains guilty of the murder.
All this is pretty well known and has probably drifted somewhat from the collective consciousness since the final acquittal in 2015 but the story remains fascinating, largely because of the astonishing lack of evidence that Knox or Sollecito ever had anything to do with Kercher's murder. In a post Making of a Murderer world though, we know that a total dearth of evidence is in no way a guarantee of being found innocent.
So, American directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn gather together some of the central players in the fiasco to illustrate their thesis that a combination of the stunning incompetence of the Italian investigators and the poisonous attention of the world's media combined to turn a horrible murder into a horrible and very public injustice.
The four main talking heads here are the then couple Knox and Sollecito, joined by Daily Mail journalist Nick Pisa and lead prosecutor Giuliano Mignini. It's a powerful and clinical choice by the filmmakers, the three corners of a horrific triangle all brought together to show how badly wrong things can go when a media, all too willing to rush to the most newspaper selling headlines combines with poor professional practice and a deeply dubious relationship between prosecutors and reporters.
Needless to say, journalism and prosecution do not come out this very well. Mignini comes across as a Sherlock Holmes obsessed moral crusader (to the point of actually sporting a pipe), quick to fill out the details of his suspects misdeeds in his own head, whilst perpetually pushing himself into the media spotlight. Pisa comes across as the very picture of godawful journalism, desperate to get his career launched with headlines concocted from third-hand reports and salacious gossip. Neither seem to have learned anything whatsoever from the experience, both justifying themselves thoroughly in either the name of journalism and a shrugged, 'if I hadn't reported it, my rival would have beaten me to it' casualness or a righteous, 'okay if they're innocent but if they aren't, they will face a higher judgement'.
The one thing for certain is that Knox, Sollecito and Kercher's family have been ground through the court of public judgement for pretty much the same amount of time as the actual killer was given for the crime. In the current environment of the consequences of fake news, this is all a timely reminder of the responsibility that must be borne by the press as they angle their reporting to suit either sales or their own ends. Not as forensic in its approach as recent more thorough Netflix documentaries - there is probably plenty more here to look at in regards to the prosecution's methods - but a depressing enough view of a perfect storm of ambition, incompetence and sub-standard morals.
Amanda Knox is showing on Netflix.