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|That´s why the crime of Perugia has become a unique case|
La Stampa - October 5th 2011
Having spent most of September in
Everyone should feel sorry for the family of the murder victim, Meredith Kercher, whose killing became almost a mere detail in the vast amount of media coverage of this trial. But we should also feel sorry for all other murder victims and their families, for the trials of those accused of their murders happen every day, with not even one-hundredth as much interest from the media as in the Kercher case.
Why did this case, above all other cases, attract so much attention? Even the British prime minister and the American State Department felt obliged to make a comment to the media about the verdict. Well, that in itself provides a first clue: because the trial was international, which quickly made it also political.
It is easy to forget that the person who remains convicted of Meredith Kercherís murder came from
For it is strange but true that many people, in all our countries, feel especially suspicious, or just afraid of, foreign police and foreign justice systems. Italians, who read about American accusations of the incompetence of Italian police and prosecutors, or allegations that
Yet there is no need to take this criticism personally, even if Silvio Berlusconiís attempts during 17 years in politics to undermine the credibility of Italian magistrates might well have encouraged this sort of prejudice. Think back to the initial French public and media response to the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the then head of the IMF, on charges of raping a hotel cleaner in
Immediately, there we
re accusations in
Or, in a British context, we can think back to a previous case that dominated our newspaper headlines for years, the disappearance in 2007 of a young child, Madeleine McCann, when she was on holiday with her parents in
There was, however, another reason why the Kercher case, now known widely as the Amanda Knox case, achieved such extraordinary international celebrity. It is that it involved women, and young, attractive ones too. The vast majority of murders are done by men, even if many of the victims are female. It is fairly rare to have a female defendant, even if she was just one out of three accused. That is why, quite apart from her American nationality, the two men involved feature far less prominently, at least in the international media coverage.
The case also, of course, featured sex and drugs, though that is sadly true of many criminal cases. The media, along with its readers and viewers, love an exotic story, and this was certainly one, involving as it did the private lives and apparent debauchery of young, attractive women living in a faraway and, to that same audience, seemingly romantic land.
In other words, the story also played into a stereotype about
Explaining it in this way, as a trial featuring the dynamite combination of international defendants, women and
I remember back in 1997, when news came through on a Sunday morning of the death of Princess Diana. I immediately asked a colleague: ďDo you really think this will still be a big story by Friday?Ē (when The Economist would be published). Of course it was. It became The Economistís biggest-selling issue ever, at least until 9/11.