1 February 2014
Two news items occupied the media today. The "big" national and international story was the reversal of the reversal of Amanda Knox's and Raffaele Sollecito's conviction for complicity in the sexual abuse and murder of Meredith Kercher. The outcome was almost a foregone conclusion, not because--as Americans have been saying--an American cannot get a fair trial in Italy, but because Italy's highest court had condemned the appeals court judges for ignoring vitally important evidence. Such a public slap insured a careful reinvestigation of the case in Florence, and once the evidence was readmitted--Sollecito's DNA in the victim's brassiere, Knox's footprints in her blood, Knox's illegal and libelous accusation of an innocent third party and her conflicting lies--there was little the judges could do but to reinstate the original sentence.
Since neither Knox nor Sollecito--the two people who could actually shed light on the events of that night--have been willing to tell the truth about anything, we may never know what happened. Personally and without evidence, I suspect that the prosecution's original gaudy story of sex, drugs, and satanism was as overstated as their account--an argument that broke out when Rudy Guede (the Ivory Coast native convicted for the actual killing) failed or refused to flush the toilet. More was going on in that apartment than discord over hygiene. Did Knox and Sollecito actually plan to murder Kercher? I very much doubt it. Did they get carried away and egg on their less than perfectly rational African friend to a sexual assault that went sour? Perhaps, perhaps even probably.
Neither Knox or Sollecito gave credible responses to the final phase of the trial or their reconviction. Solleciio could only give the typical adolescent excuse we all heard, saying in essence that this was not the sort of thing he was capable of. Ethical probability might get a guilty person off in ancient Athens but not in modern Europe or the USA. Knox's two responses were even less convincing: First, she dismissed the whole thing by saying nothing would bring Meredith back, which I interpret to mean, "OK, I was involved, but let's get on with our lives." This was Hilary's response to the Senate probe of the Benghazi affair. Her other response was no better than a whine: Poor Amanda, from now on she's a marked woman.
Italian reaction has been for the most part very calm. A majority would appear to regard the pair as guilty, and there is considerable sympathy for the victim. The case is inevitably described as the Meredith case, not the Knox trial (much as it was always the Trayvon Martin case). What irrational sympathy breaks through seems to be for Sollecito, but if he is innocent, then so is Knox.
Will the US extradite Knox? The BBC thinks not, since the US has a long history of abiding by treaties only when it suits our purposes. I can already hear the cries of "double jeopardy" and Old Europe's anti-Americanism coming from the disgruntled Bushies hoping to recapture the White House they disgraced for eight years.
The Knox-Sollecito condemnation, though, is small potatoes here in Pisa, where the Arno is cresting to dangerous levels. Last night, walking across the Ponte di Mezzo on the way back from dinner at Il Nuraghe (Sardinian ravioli in a fresh tomato sauce, gnocchi in bolognese sauce, lamb, and veal chop followed by home-made grappa that must been over 110%) we saw the river waves dangerously close to the walkway, albeit many feet below the top of the wall. This morning, when we went to visit our bar across the river, we could not get on the bridge. There were police and emergency vehicles everywhere.
Schools were let out, businesses along the Arno and elsewhere were closed, and the streets were flooded, not with water but with teenagers with nothing to do but overwhelm the cafes and bars.
After coffee and pasta (pastry) at Lo Sfizio in the Borgo Stretto, we walked up to the so-called Baths of Nero, a bathing complex dating back to Domitian's time but identified in the Middle Ages as a Palace of Nero. It was probably a tourist ploy.
We are still enjoying life in Pisa, though we had planned to take a train to either Empoli or Livorno to have a look around. As it happened, we could not even get to the station. The bridges were open, however, by the time we came back from our little excursion, though the Italian papers are filled with screaming headlines about the danger to Pisa. If it keeps raining, we are going to have some concern about getting to Florence.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.