If you saw the media coverage at the time, you know the Amanda Knox case was incredibly weird and confusing: Now we know why. In a closer look at the crazy-sensational case that took place in 2007 in Italy, a new Netflix documentary puts the accused at the center of a murder investigation that she never should have been the center of — at least as the filmmakers obliquely assert.
To recap the horrific crime, two young women studying abroad in Perugia, Italy, were living in the same shared house: Amanda Knox from Seattle and Meredith Kercher from London. Both were 20 years old. About six weeks after coming to Italy, Knox arrived home one morning after spending the night with her Italian boyfriend, Rafaele Sollecito, to find Kercher dead. Kercher's throat had been cut and there was blood everywhere. Knox's boyfriend called police and the couple huddled outside — in shock and holding each other — as the police did their work.
That, apparently, was their first mistake: Guiliano Mignini, who was the lead prosecutor (though he was involved in the investigation more like a detective would) said this of the couple's actions: “Outside, I saw two young people [Knox and Sollecito]. They were comforting each other with an affection inappropriate for the moment."
That's not the last time viewers hear Mignini's personal thoughts on Knox's actions. The prosecutor is also opinionated about how many sexual partners Knox had and bases his case on a motive that strains credulity, diving into virgin/whore archetypes. These theories were allegedly leaked by the prosecution to the media, which ran with the concepts, headlining papers around the world: the murder of a young woman morphed into a tangled web of torture, sex games and romantic triangles for which there's no evidence.
Mignini goes on to charge Knox for Kercher's murder, and she eventually spends four years in an Italian prison until her appeal, which raises questions about almost every aspect of the Perugia police investigation and results in her conviction being overturned. The process is riveting, with personal interviews with Knox, Mignini and Sollecito and all kinds of specific details, delving into DNA evidence, alibi statements, and phone recordings used to tell the story in a well-paced exposition of the crime, the police investigations and the trial.
The documentary takes a cool, distanced approach to a sensationalized story.
If you're not familiar with the details of the case, the documentary is a welcome approach to a crime that at the time, seemed messy and out-of-control. (Spoiler alert: It really was.) Commentary from Nick Pisa, who wrote for The Daily Mail at the time, shows how the media aided and abetted a specific, ridiculous perspective of what was a relatively simple case.
In most true-crime documentaries, the investigators delve into how and why a simple case is much more complex than it appears. (Think "Serial" podcast or "Making a Murderer.") Amanda Knox's case is the opposite, and it's the first time I'Ve watched a true-crime tale and left with fewer questions and more answers.
It's a welcome change.