»KRISTIN KITTELL – kkittell@my.apsu.edu

A beautiful American student, overwhelming in brightness and naiveté, chose to study abroad in Italy – a privilege all but promised to university students with both the ambition and means.

She was likely encouraged to do so, seduced by the illustrious Italian countryside and the prospect of self-betterment. Experience, in whatever form, is after all the chief pursuit of a youthful girl.

I doubt she considered her disadvantages – her beauty might breed distrust; her American passport might cast a shadow of guilt if circumstance would permit it; her book smarts would translate to a devilish tendency to manipulate in a court of law.

These are the disadvantages that landed Amanda Knox in Italian prison with a 26 year sentence for the murder of her university roommate, the equally beautiful Meredith Kercher.

Evidence in this case was scarce – a trace of DNA here, a story indiscrepancy there. The prosecution relied almost entirely on the portrayal of Amanda Knox as a “sex-crazed killer.”

Rolling Stone Magazine reported European tabloids were permitted to run headlines such as “Orgy of Death; Amanda was a Drugged-up Tart.”

If this is all it takes to get a murder conviction, the media is the only jury we need.

There is also the confession Knox gave before even coming to the full realization she was considered a suspect in the murder, one she was coaxed to “remember” by police officers who repeatedly struck her in the back of the head, suggesting she might have forgotten what truly happened.

The world is convinced Knox is guilty. We have once again taken the oh-so intoxicating bait offered up by a sensationalist media. The story of an innocent middle class American woman accused unjustly of murder while studying abroad is no more enticing than the minutes of a neighborhood watch meeting.

The story of a bright young vixen burdened by her sexual deviancy and satanic extremism, however – well, that’s just a damn good read.

On Monday, Oct. 3, Knox was cleared of all charges and released from jail after an appeal in which the defense cast serious doubt over the validity of the only DNA evidence linking Knox to the case. This information was not permitted in the original hearing.

While her guilt was shouted from the highest hilltops worldwide, no one dared ask the question that would truly challenge our senses of first world superior morality – is she guilty because the evidence has proven it, or is she guilty because it’s exciting?

No one understands the possible detriment of media portrayal as well as Casey Anthony, the young mother arrested for murdering her daughter, Caylee Anthony, in July of 2008.

The case is infamous, possibly even more so than Knox’s because it occurred solely on American soil. Anthony was also much easier to portray as a criminal. She behaved irresponsibly.

She was easily a negligent mother with an affinity for lying. Her employment history was shady. Her partying history was well established, to say the least.

But the evidence wasn’t there. No one could even identify how the girl was killed, and although Casey’s account never did add up, the prosecution couldn’t prove her guilt.

The burden of proof was not met. This could be called a failure of the prosecution, or even a failure of the police, but let’s not ignore the glaring possibility Casey Anthony was, actually, innocent.

And what if she was? We would have to address the mysterious notion there might have been a different murderer, escaping justice under a perfectly fitted cloak provided by the media, our trusted vigilante.

Years of her life were wasted sitting in a prison cell, awaiting a verdict that would vindicate her of the guilt of murdering her own daughter.

But that vindication is only as deep as legal paperwork.

The picture created by the media has left a stain on Anthony’s life that will never truly fade; she has been found innocent by a jury of her peers, but the public will never concur.

We’ve fallen in love with the careless mother who wouldn’t be bogged down by the responsibility of a child, and we will except nothing else.

Whether these women are guilty or innocent is irrelevant. They were beautiful. They were young. They were white and middle class, with enough faith in their environments to display lax naiveté in defending themselves against the web the media would spin.

It is not justice for an innocent child and a beautiful young student we are seeking. It is merely the satisfaction of our thirsts for thrill.

For this, we thrust our thoughts into the spotlight in the same way a torch was thrust into the air in a witch-hunt so many years ago.

If we have the audacity to toy with human lives for our own entertainment, why bother with the justice system at all? A trial must now be won on two fronts – in the courtroom and on the newsstands – and if guilt can be determined on either front, the defendant runs the risk of exile, whether through imprisonment or social leprosy.

Both women have been cleared of all charges legally. The courts knew things about these cases that the public will never hear. Their verdicts should be enough. TAS