Netflix latest documentary shines a light on media’s influence in criminal investigations
In a continuing attempt to take on the majors, Netflix have given us some of the best TV we’ve seen, and their documentaries are just as good. The world went mad for last year’s Making a Murderer their one-off feature on Amanda Knox is just as important.
Amanda Knox was an American student on a year break in Perugia, Italy. She’d found a boyfriend lived in an apartment with British student Meredith Kercher. As well as being housemates they were also friends until one night in 2007 when Meredith Kercher was murdered. The focus of the Italian police quickly shifted to Knox and her boyfriend Rafaele Sollecito; Knox then implicated her boss, bar owner Patrick Lumumba. Changing stories, flaky alibis and police pressure eventually resulted in the conviction of Knox and Sollecito, Lumumba was eventually released. Parallel to this evidence was discovered that another party, Rudy Guede, was present at the scene and all of the physical evidence eventually lead to his conviction for the sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher.
Knox and Sollecito were freed on appeal and most recently in March 2015 were acquitted of the murder due to there being no evidence that they were at the scene or implicated in any way. It was a complex case of contractiction, coersion and accusation that was egged on by the press in their actions.
Netflix’ documentary briefly dives into the past of Knox herself before quickly shifting on to the night of the murder and subsequent events. Featuring interviews with Knox, Sollecito, Giuliano Mignini – the prosecutor who led the investigation that lead to the prosecution of Guede, Knox and Sollecito and Nick Pisa a British journalist with the Daily Mail, it quickly becomes clear that the egos of Mignini and Pisa alone drove much of the investigation and reported narrative. Mignini wanted a case that proved him to be on a par with Sherlock Holmes and latched on to this one making seemingly massive leaps of assumption while Pisa coerced the Italian police into sharing many of the cases lurid details with him and then very much using that as a stick with which to beat Knox from a distance.
Innocent or not, the two pronged attack of Knox and by extension Sollecito drove the focus on to them in such huge measure despite the lack of any physical evidence that they were involved or even present at the scene. Inconsistencies in Knox and Sollecito’s stories and alibis lead the police to apply excessive pressure and quickly meant that Knox in particular buckled and ended up implicating another innocent party in an attempt to protect herself. It’s telling that the investigation into Guede’s involvement in the murder took a back seat and was hardly reported when the best ‘story’ for the media was the one that was the narrative of a pretty American violently murdering her friend and housemate.
Despite being largely driven by talking heads, Amanda Knox manages to be engaging and enlightening; saliently covering most aspects of the case with enough detail and precision to give the viewer a rounded view of what happened. As a demonstration on how press coverage can massively affect the narrative and outcome of cases like this it should be essential viewing for anyone who believes the media is extraneous to events – it clearly isn’t and in the case of Nick Pisa shows that journalist ego and lust for fame can push them to play with real people’s lives in a way that is both distasteful and ultimately very damaging.
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