Amanda Knox and Troy Davis

The overturning of the conviction for murder of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito by an Italian court on Monday contrasts with the fate of Troy Davis.

In both cases, a conviction was built on shoddy evidence. In both cases, during the appeal the weakness of the case became apparent. But in the US, the verdict was allowed to stand. If Amanda Knox had been in Georgia’s legal system, she would probably be dead instead of on an airplane home.

Would it help for appeals in the US, like those in Italy, to have a jury? That step might counter-act the natural instinct of any court to preserve its authority by resisting a charge of having made a major error. The Italian system often modifies the original judgment on appeal, which seems to me a virtue. Would it help if attorneys could serve on the appeal juries, as in Italy?

Would it help for the United States, like Italy, to abolish the death penalty?

That is obvious. But it won’t happen as long as a significant part of the country actually cheers executions (the part that otherwise claims ad nauseam to be ‘pro-life.’)

34 Responses

  1. America’s culture of individuality distorts the role of ego … “being tough” is one of the unfortunate side-effects

  2. There was only a 90% certainty that Troy Davis was innocent. The US has adopted policy that if there is even a 1% possibility of guilt the accused must be ‘taken out’. This is the rule in the ‘War on Terror’ and it is now the rule in our Justice system. Most of the time, excuse me I meant to say all of the time, the accused are ‘pre-convicted’ by hearsay and hysteria in the media.

  3. Another aspect: There was considerable booing from the Italians watching the verdict. The only person who still stands accused and is in jail is Rudy Guede, the young man from the Ivory Coast. He is just a poor immigrant with no money, so in the world of American PR and Amanda Knox, he is expendable.

  4. “If Amanda Knox had been in Georgia’s legal system, she would probably be dead instead of on an airplane home.”

    You forget. Knox is white.

  5. Recent events in a review of execution of 14 year old in SC in 1944 indicates he was probably innocent and was victimized by a hostile judicial system
    link to rawstory.com

  6. Why would the US really benefit from abolishing the death penalty?

    It is a myth to say that it is the only industrialised nation that have it, and many other nations such as the UK, canada and my own would have it if laws really did follow the will of the people. Its also hardly looked down upon by the rest of the world for having it for most people do indeed support it.

    The argument on whether or not it acts as a deterrence is mixed however the majority of studies in the last ten years have found that it does.

  7. “If Amanda Knox had been in Georgia’s legal system, she would probably be dead… .”

    Troy Davis was Black male, convicted of murdering a white police officer. Amanda Knox, white female, was initially convicted of killing another white. Knox comes from a relatively wealthy family, Davis not. What evidence makes you think that racism and classism have been overcome in the American justice systems?

    In Georgia, there is a reasonable chance Knox would not have been prosecuted, let alone convicted, as would likely be true in many states.

  8. In Canada, the death penalty was repealed IN SPITE OF the majority of voters being in favour of the death penalty. The government went against the voters. Mind you, it was a federal issue not a provincial/state one, so one decision was all it took. Now that we have lived with that decision for however many years, majority opinion is that it is a good thing.

  9. In Italy, the facts of the case can be challenged in appeal; in America, even if later to be found in error, they cannot. In Italy, facts discovered after the trial can be introduced; in America they cannot. Is that crazy, or what?

  10. “If Amanda Knox had been in Georgia’s legal system, she would probably be dead instead of on an airplane home.”

    Georgia execute a white woman? I don’t think so.

  11. As with the healthcare issue, which everybody at some level admits there is a problem, there are many, many alternatives that have been developed to draw lessons from.

    The problem, as with considering this business of appeals, is that they were not originated here.

    Ultimately, the problem comes from having grassroots (aka dirt clod) democracy.

  12. I spent a great many years work for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles in an administrative support role. Before I went to work for the Board I was very anti death penalty.

    After working there for a few years and seeing who/what was being executed in Huntsville, and reading about the horrors they visited upon their victims, I have changed and now i dont think we can execute those monsters fast enough.

    This is one area i really part way with my fellow liberals…

    • Does it bother you that the black murderers are much more likely to get the death penalty than the white murderers? Or that Texas DAs will frame innocent men whom they think they can more easily execute and thus get re-elected (Errol Morris’ famous documentary “The Thin Blue Line” exposed such a case)? Or that the Republican governor of Illinois was so offended by the obvious bias in handing out death penalties that he suspended executions until the problem was fixed? Or that Europe and East Asia are largely lacking in these monsters you speak of, based on their much lower murder and execution rates?

      I think many of us Texans are willing to execute innocent black men because they see it as a form of collective punishment against the crime-ridden black race. If they execute enough blacks, it will terrify the survivors into submission. Juan has commented at this site enough times about the evils of collective punishment and the position of human rights law that I need say no more here.

      Elected district attorneys are public murderers; they execute people to get bigots to vote for them. Make them appointees, firmly incentivized to obey civil rights law, and we will begin to look more like the civilized world.

    • Do you believe that every single person that the State of Texas has ever executed was completely and totally guilty of the crime they were executed for? If not, does it in any way bother you that you might be complicit in the state killing an innocent man? I’m not being flippant here, I’d really like to know if it’s something that people who believe in state executions ever wonder about.

  13. Another good lesson from this is that justice in the US is different for African-Americans. Amanda Knox might have received life in prison (in accordance with your point about a flaw in our justice system), but can anyone imagine her even originally receiving the death penalty, as Troy Davis did?

  14. AK probably won’t feel any great desire to return to Italy anytime soon. I would advise her to stay from Georgia and Texas too.

  15. Thank you for opposing the death penalty. As an Evangelical Christian in America who daily is horrified by what so many in my subculture offer as Christian thought and action in the public sphere, I try to offer a different (and I believe more biblical) position. Again, thank you for being a voice for justice.

  16. Amanda Knox – being an attractive white female with access to money and favourable publicity would be alive still in Georgia – that’s the way the US systems work – you’re poor – you die – teabaggers cheer. That is the irony of US coverage of the trial – the implication that in the US every case would always have a higher level of forensic analysis than was shown by Italian authorities in the Knox case. The US media has no interest in such botched forensics cases in the US if they involve poor black and/or unattractive people. Oh and remember Amanda Knox initially blamed Ms Kercher’s murder on her black employer (he was completely cleared of course) for still unknown reasons… maybe she did think she was in Georgia not Perugia.

  17. It’s almost too obvious to point out, but comparing Knox’s chances in Georgia to Davis’s doesn’t hold up given their respective race and sex. If nothing else, she’d have been much, much less likely to get the death penalty in the first place than Davis was.

  18. Knox of course would not have ended up near a Georgia jail, or put to death by one.

  19. “Would it help for appeals in the US, like those in Italy, to have a jury? That step might counter-act the natural instinct of any court to preserve its authority by resisting a charge of having made a major error.”

    an appeals court is entirely different from the trial court and there’s no threat to the authority of the appellate judges’ authority entailed in reversing the result of the trial.

    I don’t see your point here.

    • Courts & prosecutors often support one another and see overturned convictios as dangerous to the system. Hence resistance to clear DNA evidence if it surfaces later

      • Thank you for the explanation. I now see your point.

        There’s some truth in it about resistance, but the practice in Italy doesn’t fit a common law system.

      • I was struck by this sentence too, and your defense of it is fallacious in the extreme. You asset corruption and collusion in courts that have nothing to do with each other, and offer no evidence. whatsoever, let alone persuasive evidence.

        Appeals in the US are not for re-arguing evidence or re-trying, they are for the purpose of finding errors in the applications of the law during the trial.

        Founding Fathers well understood the issues involved in creating appeals courts and placing appeals in the hands of judges, not juries They discussed it in detail during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

  20. Motive, opportunity, evidence, means….After all the words written about this case it seems there were still some big holes in the prosecution’s case. But that got less play than than the conflicting stances of the Italian and American press. I’m amazed that assertions of character came to be so important to the prosecution, and were lapped up by the press.

  21. We should reserve judgement as to the veracity of the yesterday’s decision until the prosecutions appeal to Court of Cassation is adjudicated. This appeal will be heard by a panel of 5 judges who won’t consider any new evidence. As Juan pointed out, Italian appeal courts often reverse the decision of inferior courts.

    If the Court of Cassation appeal upholds the original decision then I can’t imagine the US courts would extradite Knox, even though there’s an extradition treaty. And, unlike the US, Italy probably wouldn’t use extraordinary rendition.

    No mention here of Meredith Kercher’s family, my heart’s with them. I doubt their daughters killers will ever be “bought to justice”.

  22. People like Amanda Knox don’t get into trouble in GA. They go to Europe and “represent” America there. And then US politicians and media defend her rather than Assange or Polansky.

  23. On NPR someone, I believe a Knox relative, intoned how much better the courts were in the US than Italy. Almost gagged, shades of Troy Davis and many others. Our system of justice is anything but evenhanded.

    Anyone who doesn’t know the horror of murder and upon learning of the horror takes up cudgels for revenge-by-execution was never ‘liberal’ to begin with. ‘Liberal’ is knowing what horror is and, nevertheless, understanding the limits of revenge

  24. Mr Cole

    While the U.S justice system has its deficiencies, I doubt that the Italian justice system is a model for us to follow, given the large amount of corruption and unpunished mob crime present in that country (remember Judge Giovanni Falcone?). I think that relevant issue hear is more about race, class and sex: It took activists several months to bring the mainstream media and the general public’s attention to (poor, African American) Troy Davis’ case. By the time they succeeded, there were only days left to his execution and very little legal resources left to re-examine his case. Amanda Knox was a white, attractive young female, whose family could afford to pay for a PR campaign and managed to bring the MSM attention to her case, create sympathy and rally support for her years before her appeal, and she wasn’t even facing the death penalty. Imagine the media and public’s reaction had the state of Georgia executed Knox with evidence as flimsy as that used to convict Davis?

  25. Ash

    You’re right, and it’s posts like this which drive many Euro-American erstwhile antiwar economic near-liberals away from the left even when it’s “right” on really key issues.

  26. Unlike common-law countries, appeals in Italy are by way of trial de novo where all the evidence is re-submitted and arguments are made on the basis of that evidence.

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