One of 2016’s hottest documentaries is Netflix’s Amanda Knox, which chronicles the story of how its titular subject went from being an anonymous 20-year old studying in Italy to an object of worldwide media fascination, scrutiny, and ridicule, resulting in her murder conviction which was reversed after she spent four years in an Italian prison. The documentary focuses on the role that the media played in her conviction, and, while most criminal defendants will not have to deal with anything near the level of media intrusion as Knox did, we can take valuable lessons from her story in applying them to any type of criminal investigation and prosecution.
The Media Firestorm Hanging Over Amanda Knox
On November 1, 2007, Amanda’s roommate Meredith Kercher was found murdered in the dwelling she shared with Knox. There was an intense media publicity from the very start as news cameras captured footage of Knox holding and kissing her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito outside the apartment where police were still collecting evidence. Many in the media questioned why the two would engage in such behavior so soon after the discovery of the murder, the implication being Knox was not sufficiently distraught and therefore somehow culpable.
Knox and Sollecito were then questioned repeatedly without the presence of a lawyer and reportedly told that contacting a lawyer would result in 30-year prison sentences. As the police continued to investigate, journalists from around the world descended on Perugia, Italy where the murder occurred to cover the story, and specifically to dig into Knox.
The Netflix documentary focuses in on one British tabloid reporter in particular who unapologetically admits to sensationalizing the story, specifically anything that suggested Knox was into unusual and dangerous sex which might have had a role in the murder. The journalist was able to obtain Knox’s private journal and published entries from the journal. Later, an Italian writer published a book which claimed to detail Knox’s involvement in the murder, and which contained scenes invented the writer along with non-public witness transcripts and portions of Knox’s journal.
In December 2009, Knox was convicted of Kercher’s murder and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
Lessons Learned from Knox’s Story
Fortunately, the American legal system has protections which do not appear to have been present in the Italian system, but a critical factor to understand is that, in most cases, an American criminal defendant’s rights will only be protected when a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer is present is there to assert and defend those rights.
First off, a criminal defendant should never speak to the police about a crime without the presence of a lawyer who has been retained to represent the rights of that defendant. Although police may tell you that calling a lawyer will reflect badly on you, that is not the case at all and exercising your constitutional right to an attorney during police questioning cannot be held against you.
Secondly, as a criminal defendant you have the right to a fair trial. This includes having your case heard by an impartial jury who is only hearing evidence that a judge has deemed admissible. When a jury is tainted by all kinds of outside media-provided evidence, much of which is irrelevant and/or flat-out false, that jury cannot be impartial. Your criminal defense attorney will fight to ensure that jurors in your trial have not been exposed to harmful media speculation so that you get the fair trial you deserve.
Work With Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you are under arrest or investigation for a crime in Pennsylvania, the criminal defense attorneys at The Martin Law Firm, P.C. are here to defend your rights and represent you in any investigation and on through to trial. Contact us today to discuss your criminal defense matter.