The Globe and Mail: In Knox case, Europe's justice system was also on trial 11-12-21 10:23 AM
October 3, 2011
In Knox case, Europe's justice system was also on trial
By DOUG SAUNDERS
Globe and Mail Update
Italy's inquisitorial judicial system, in which the judge acts not as a neutral arbiter but as a chief
prosecutor, has North Americans up in arms about fairness
As the world watched, the Italian justice system was thrust into a showdown with American outrage on Monday - and
Amanda knox, the 24-year-old American university student who was convicted in the 2007 murder of her friend and
roommate Meredith Kercher, had her case thrown out by an appeal verdict in Perugia, Italy Monday and was set free
along with her co-convicted ex-boyfriend, Rafaele Sollecito, after more than 1,400 days in Italian prison.
Ms. Knox was convulsed in sobs as the verdict was read, and swiftly ushered out of the court. She has become a
cause célèbre in English-speaking countries and in Italy, in good part because of her striking looks and the air of
mystery surrounding her case and her mysterious personality.
Earlier Monday, Ms. Knox had delivered a closing statement before TV cameras that also contained a veiled attack on
the Italian justice system.
"I trusted them completely," she said of the Italian police and legal system. "I was betrayed on the night of November
5. I was manipulated. I am not who they say I am. I did not do the things attributed to me. I am not violent. I don't have
a lack of respect for life. And I did not kill. I did not rape. I did not steal. I wasn't there at the crime scene at the time."
Her frustration, echoed by many Americans and people from English-speaking countries that had devoted years of
heavy media coverage to the case, was directed squarely at an Italian legal system that seems alien and menacing to
But equally visible Monday was the fury many Europeans hold toward the American view of justice. As Ms. Knox was
rushed out of the courtroom, hundreds of Perugia residents rushed to the court, mobbing reporters and lawyers and
shouting "Injustice" and "Embarrassment."
Italy, like most European countries, has an inquisitorial judicial system. That is, the judge does not serve as a neutral
arbiter between prosecution and defence, as in North America, but as the chief prosecutor and chairman of the jury,
responsible for deciding whether charges should be brought and, ultimately, responsible for determining the absolute
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truth behind the charges. (After 1989, Italy added some non-inquisitorial elements to its system, such as the ability of
defence lawyers to call their own witnesses, but it is mainly an inquisitorial system.)
The guilty verdict of Ms. Knox in 2009 caused a number of prominent Americans, including celebrity lawyer Alan
Dershowitz, to lash out at the European system. It seemed that the case had been biased by circumstantial evidence,
including Ms. Knox's personality, reputation and psychology, that would have been disallowed or challenged by the
defence in an American court.
Of course, the friends and defenders of