I am not in a position to concoct even a half-informed opinion on the Amanda Knox verdict. I certainly didn’t follow the trial from inside the courtroom, and coverage of its progress has been spotty in the American press. I don’t know the Italian legal system to the extent that I am familiar with the American one, having served on a jury, been a plaintiff and a defendant in different cases (won a jury verdict in the former and had the latter settle long before it got anywhere near trial), and worked for a law publisher in Boston in the 1980s and inside law firms for most of the past decade.
It’s too easy to offer an opinion on matters about which one knows little. We do it all the time. A good, honest “I don’t know” is hard to come by in this country, and people should learn to use it and to respect when others do. Heaven knows there have been jury verdicts in this country that made the average American either scratch his head or scream with outrage, from the multi-million-dollar award for spilled hot coffee at a McDonald’s to the conclusion of O.J. Simpson’s criminal homicide trial. If we don’t understand our own jury system, how could we pretend to grasp what went on in an Italian courtroom?
It’s also too easy to feel umbrage toward foreigners, and to kick their version of one of our favorite whipping boys, the media. I’ve seen some of what has been claimed was written about Amanda Knox, but I have no idea where these quotations came from -- were they the local equivalent of the National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids -- and who is conveying them to us, and for what purpose? Anything that goes on outside a courtroom could be showmanship that has nothing to do with establishing the facts of a case and reaching justice.
What I can say is that I am not impressed by an American exchange student who admits in court to having sex with an Italian boyfriend and smoking pot at the age of 20 while on an overseas study trip. This does not strike me as making the most of a golden educational opportunity, but more the behavior of a spoiled American kid who is having fun misbehaving while away from her family and homeland. She may or may not have committed homicide, but she was dangerously careless and stupid not to have conducted herself more carefully and responsibly on foreign soil.