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School of Hard Knox

International news hits close to home.

It’s a strange experience when a global media explosion happens in practically your own backyard. That happened last week when Amanda Knox in Italy and arrived at Sea-Tac on Tuesday. Suddenly, every reporter around the world was talking about Seattle.

Knox hasn’t been the only big local news story as of late. There’s also the never-ending and increasingly bizarre soap opera revolving around Puyallup’s Josh Powell, his missing wife, porn-loving father and two young sons. For me, following the Powell story – especially the recent ruling which took custody of the children away from Josh -- was a similar experience to tracking the events of Knox’s vindication and release. Since these families are local, I’m more emotionally invested. 

Logically, I know this doesn’t make much sense. Location is fairly irrelevant these days. I don’t know Amanda or her family or anyone who does. And I’ve probably only been in West Seattle a few times. But somehow the fact that she’s a Seattle girl transformed the story from abstract to concrete. She went to . She's probably played soccer on the same fields my kids do. Amanda could have been my daughter (If I was much, much older, obviously).

This identification with Seattleites was an unexpected turning point for me. For maybe the first time, I instinctively considered myself part of this greater community, instead of a recent transplant. I automatically think of Amanda as one of us, not one of them. And when Gawker made a crack about how they supposed “even Seattle is better than an Italian prison,” I wanted to smack some heads. Not that long ago, I would have been snickering along with them. It rained the day after Knox arrived home, and I thought these gray, misty skies of ours probably never looked so spectacularly beautiful to anyone as they did to her that day. 

I suppose this investment in international-turned-local stories is a good thing. Empathy can’t be bad, no matter how illogical the reason. Civilized society tends to unravel when we disconnect from others, impersonalizing their tragedies so they're less painful for us.

And here's another bright spot to my mild obsession with the case: the whole episode made me acutely fond of the old US of A. Before everyone starts sending me emails about Troy Davis, of course injustices happen all the time. But what’s with this insanity about Italians holding Knox for a year before charging her with a crime. We get to have a lawyer present during questioning and can’t be beaten over the head or such forced confessions become inadmissible. And double jeopardy? Brilliant idea. Despite being found innocent, Knox could still be retried in Italy. Even her appeals case was a game of Russian roulette: Prosecutors upped the ante from the 26-year sentence she’d already been given and went for life in prison instead. 

As for Amanda, I have a feeling she’s going to be just fine. Eventually the paparazzi will drift away and she’ll get on with her life. With her mature, level-headed attitude and strong family network, she'll likely rise above this tragic event much like Elizabeth Smart did after her kidnapping. While I’m sure there will always be people who doubt Knox’s innocence and want to argue points of the case, I hope people will eventually leave her alone. 

Because I just keep thinking, what if she were my daughter?

(Ed. Note: This week's entry in the Welcome to The Rock column is the penultimate installment of the series. Tune in two weeks from now — Oct. 25 —to find out what Michelle has in store for her future.) 

Michelle Bowers October 11, 2011 at 05:05 PM
this comment came in by email from one reader.... "That's what I kept saying as I (obsessively?) followed this story. What if she was my 24 year old daughter? I've kissed her goodbye in airports as she embarked on gap year programs, and now post grad as she satisfies her adventurous streak. Welcome home Amanda. I hope she and her family can escape this notoriety and get on with their lives. "
Mazzer October 11, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Hmmm, I'm not sure if I agree with your "she's from same place as me so she can't possibly be guilty" view. Her DNA wasn't found in the murder room but her behaviour was never that of an innocent person. The changing stories, the contradictions between her story and that of her Italian boyfriend, the false accusations, the dope smoking, the cartwheels....need I go on? A lot has been made of appalling Italian justice system....(I'd have to agree it's shambolic), but at least she was acquitted. What about the 2 English students that were shot dead in Miami in October for no particular reason? No second chance for them. I think that "the old US of A" has it's own issues which seem to be conveniently forgotten by some people.
Linda Williams Rorem October 11, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Regardless of what actually happened in Perugia, we should celebrate the fact that an intelligent young American has been given the opportunity for a fresh start; that is truly what separates our country from others. By the way, I will soon become a regular Patch blogger, and will post my take on an aspect of the Knox case this Friday.
Carl Shepard October 11, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Unless entire confessions are video taped, they are not worth a hill of beans. There are rogue prosecutors. Think Mike Nifong, think the Stephany Crowe case. I'm a law and order guy, not blind to evidence. O.J. was guilty. Casey Anthony was guilty. Knox was railroaded by her personality.
Michelle Bowers October 11, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Mazzer: I'm not arguing that she's innocent because she's from Seattle, I'm going on the lack of evidence. There was none. No DNA, nothing. She had no motive and no history of violence. Even the Italian courts which *really* wanted to keep her imprisoned finally had to acknowledge that. No one is saying that her behavior was perfect after the crime, but I think the Knox story spun completely out of control. Also, I don't think smoking pot has anything to do with committing murder!
Jerome October 11, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Emotion should not come into legal process: only facts. The fact is that Knox accused an innocent man of murder and stuck with this accusation right up until he had an alibi. She was clearly trying to cover something up, and that's why she was sentenced to three years in prison, and remains a convicted criminal...And actually, @Carl Shepard, Knox wrote her accusations against Parick down - infamously on the morning after her original confession to being at the murder scene. You can read her long, handwritten statement, produced under no duress whatsoever, if you Google 'Amanda Knox note'. It was nothing to do with 'railroading' - it was a classic example of a criminal not knowing what the police had on her, and so hedging her bets with lots of 'might haves' and 'maybes' and 'my memory isn't too good' and 'I may have dreamt it'. Wholly innocent people don't lie like this. If Knox had wanted to recant her confession from the night before she would have just written 'I was not there' on her scrap of paper. Instead she incriminated herself and Patrick for purely self-serving, devious reasons........You may want to believe the opposite for emotional/nationalistic/civic reasons, but very few other people will.
mhjim October 11, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Everything we know about "inappropriate" behavior has come from the police. All I have actually seen is a few seconds of kissing and Amanda at a store counter. Believe me, if there was anything worse than that we would have seen it for sure. Meanwhile, all the Italian house mates lawyered up immediately. And Meredith's friends did just what Rudy Guede did, fled the country.
Carl Shepard October 12, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Jerome, I read that note and I come to a COMPLETELY different conclusion. You can tell how much from the note the police were practically torturing her for a confession, how they lied to her, how she never admits killing anyone, how she is just throwing random stuff out there to get them off her back. You need to read about forced confessions that have unequivocally turned out to be false. I'm not against interrogations...but they need to be videotaped in their entirety to be admissible in my opinion. The Stephany Crowe case is what changed my mind about not trusting prosecutors. Like I said, I think OJ and Casey Anthony are guilty. I'm not a left wing nut. I've just come to realize how compulsive, close minded, and ambitious some prosecutors can be. It is unfortunate, because most are a credit to society. But there are Mike Nifongs out there giving a black eye to law enforcement.
Mazzer October 12, 2011 at 04:24 AM
Michelle, I think you misunderstand me. Pot smoking I agree has nothing to do with murder, but when taken together will her other behaviour does not make her a reliable witness. And that is what she was sentenced to 3 years for.

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