Amanda Knox was supposed to spend her junior year at the University of Washington studying in Perugia, Italy. She worked extra jobs, and saved her money so she could afford to experience the world beyond the borders of Seattle. Instead, she spent it, and three subsequent years, in an Italian prison, falsely accused and wrongly convicted of the brutal murder of her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher.
The evidence against the 20-year old Knox consisted of her having had a few episodes of "casual sex," being hugged and kissed by her boyfriend while observing the gruesome scene of Kercher's murder, a split she performed in front of an Italian police officer who had asked her to show him her flexibility, and, critically, her coerced lie about meeting her boss (Patrick Lumumba), who owned a pub where she worked, and fingering him as the murderer -- a lie she almost immediately withdrew, in writing, when outside the highly-charged atmosphere of the interrogation room.
Lumumba's name arose in the first place because the police saw a text message on her cell phone, "see you later," that they refused to accept was an American expression, translated literally (and wrongly) into Italian, that did not literally mean that she would "see him later." They ignored -- as any good right-winger would ignore -- her next sentence that said, "good evening."
To complete the picture it should be added that Knox is quite pretty, knew very little Italian and was told that she did not need a lawyer at the time she was being interrogated during which she was hit, and threatened with 30 years in jail if she could not "remember" what they were suggesting to her had happened.
From this, the prosecutor in Perugia -- who himself was under investigation for abuse of his office! -- concocted a story of what happened, and then kept changing the story, but not the conclusion, as evidence (yikes!) refuted his theory.
Based on nothing except Knox's few casual sex encounters (and her good looks, making her prowess as seductress credible), and what appeared to them as inappropriate behavior in the aftermath of finding an horrific murder scene [if my girlfriend had been anxious and upset from observing such a scene, I would have hugged and kissed her too, so perhaps I will be carted off to jail next], the prosecutor asserted that Knox, her boyfriend and the actual murderer had decided to force Kercher to engage in some weird sexual acts, that Kercher resisted and so they stabbed her brutally.
The prosecutor's story was totally invented. Totally. No one else had even hinted that Knox or her boyfriend had ever suggested, mentioned, expressed the slightest interest in, or engaged in any weirdo sexual scene in their entire lives. Nor was this the first time that this same prosecutor invented a sadistic ritualistic murder fantasy.
From a young woman exploring her own sexual feelings with a few one-night stands, to a sexually insatiable and crazed seductress, to a brutal murderer -- all in the space of a few weeks! Even Karl Rove ("it was Democrats who wanted the Iraq War voted upon just before the November 2002 elections!") would not have tried that one.
Sounds very much like U.S. right-wing political lies. Sandra Fluke, for example, was labeled a slut because she favored providing women contraceptive coverage in their health insurance policies. [The Right has never been comfortable with female sexuality]. Or, perhaps recall that candidate Obama met Bill Ayers a few times in Chicago so that became him "pallin' aroun' with terrorists," or even that he met his own father twice, so, according to Newt Gingrich, his politics is based on the Kenyan opposition to British colonialism (count me as another opponent, despite never having met the President's father.... come to think of it, the Tea Party should be opposed to British colonialism too, shouldn't they?).
The similarities with our right-wing lying do not end there. The Perugia police decided a kitchen knife, among an entire drawer of kitchen knives, was the murder weapon. How did they determine this? "Gut instinct," according to the Perugia police, just as the right-wing's "instinct" (aka money from the oil companies) tells them that the laws of physics do not apply to global warming.
Was there even DNA evidence of blood on the knife? No. Did the prosecution let Knox's attorneys know that there was no blood on the knife? No. Could the knife have made those wounds? Well, only if the attacker had been able to thrust it in part way twice, and stopped at exactly (to the millimeter) at the same depth with each thrust.
So, they invented another knife, the boyfriend's penknife. The problem, however, is that none of his DNA was found at the murder scene -- oh, except for a trace on the clasp of Kercher's bra. Now, anyone with even a half brain and a third grade education knows that one cannot selectively leave, or selectively erase, DNA from a scene. Moreover, the clasp had been moved into other parts of the house where the boyfriend's DNA was found -- because he had visited Amanda there on many occasions.
One cannot observe this prosecution without recognizing the similarity to the multiple, shifting lies, theories and justifications for the Iraq War. First, Saddam had WMD. But, there were none. Then, he had tried to purchase "yellow cake from Niger." He hadn't, and when an undercover CIA agent's husband revealed the truth, they attacked his wife. They had a photo of meeting between a high-level Iraqi government official and Mohammed Atta in Prague, except the person in the photo was not Mohammed Atta.
The key similarity is not just the serial lies, but the refusal to question their conclusions when the facts were, to put it mildly, not adding up.
Both the Knox prosecution and the Bush Administration and Darrell Issa (just to name three) planted phony information in the press. The Cheney operation fed the New York Times' Judith Miller information about Iraq's WMD, she printed it as scoops, and then Cheney went on TV quoting information in the New York Times as if it were independent corroboration. The Knox prosecution released garish photos of blood-stained bathroom walls to the press, except they were not really blood-stained at all, they had been treated with a chemical that turned red upon contact with blood, but also with ordinary cleaning fluids.
Both the Knox prosecution and the Bush Administration relied on sources they knew were phony. For the Bushies it was a screwball named "Curveball" whom they never met, nor interviewed, whom the intelligence community considered squirrely at best, who informed them about Saddam's WMD.
The Knox prosecution had a "star witness," a similarly screwball drifter, who is the only person -- i.e.,not Knox's roommates or housemates, but a drifter -- who claimed to know that Knox and the actual murderer, Rudy Guede, knew one another. He had seen them, he said, talking together in the town square. When asked how it knew it was Knox, the star witness said he saw the gap in her front teeth. Knox has no gap in her front teeth.
Indeed, the failed "star witness" is a key tactic of today's right-wing. How many times has Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced he had witnesses that were going to blow open the Benghazi or IRS hearings? All of them turned out to be duds, with no new information.
And, just like the Knox prosecution that refused, even on court order, to provide the defense their technical report on the crime scene, Issa pre-releases selected portions of his information. The effect, of course, is well-known: the press jumps all over the sensational release, and reports on the back pages when it turns into a dud. [Will the press ever have the wisdom or good sense not to report sensational stories from the Right until they do a bit of checking?]
Hence, today, Americans believe that Benghazi was a scandal, not just a tragedy, just like the world was led to believe that Knox was an evil seductress, determined to make her roommate suffer for not participating in some weird sexual orgy.
The reasons the right-wing does what it does are quite clear: they have their non-reality version of the world and select, or ignore, facts to support it, all for the purpose of duping the American people into giving them power.
Why, however, did the Perugia prosecutor behave similarly toward Knox? That is, what difference should it have made to him that Amanda Knox was involved in this murder, as opposed to finding and punishing the real culprit? One can only speculate that the prosecutor, who was himself under investigation for abuse of his office, jumped to a conclusion that he was too embarrassed to withdraw because it might have made him look even worse to the residents of Perugia.
It is, however, not surprising that the court and jury initially bought his invented story, despite one piece of evidence after the other being shown to be false. During the period when the prosecutor's office was releasing false, but highly damaging, information to the public, the Knox defense team was not provided the evidence the prosecutor had to rebut it.
So, this false evidence just sat out there, for more than a year, without contradiction. With the perception of Knox already deeply and repeatedly implanted in peoples' psyches, the jurors likely reacted to the actual facts of the case as "mere technicalities."
And, that is exactly how the right-wing operates.
Rent (or purchase) the film Hot Coffee to show how false information, repeatedly trumpeted and never fact-checked by news organizations that are supposed to be doing more than just parroting what a press release says, creates a persistent false impression that is nearly impossible to reverse. One suspects that a fair portion of the American people, who received periodic snippets of information about Knox during her four-year ordeal, probably maintain the view of her as an "evil seductress," that even an acquittal -- for lack of a single scintilla of evidence, motive or circumstance -- will dispel.
"A lie," said Mark Twain, "is halfway around the world, while the truth is putting on its boots." And, that was more than a century ago.
Think of how much further it goes and how much deeper it penetrates, with today's speed of global communications.