Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Trials of Amanda Knox: American Version to Air This Sunday on TLC


This Sunday, the documentary "The Trials of Amanda Knox" will air at 8pm on The Learning Channel. Speculation has already begun about which version will air as several different edits currently exist.

The back story behind the filming is almost more interesting than the actual documentary itself, with the two main directors, Bob Graham and Garfield Kennedy, losing creative control of the editing process, where the footage rights are currently in the process of litigation. Paul Russell, a casting director who co-authored the first book in English on the case, Darkness Descending, was fired during the filming process for breach of contract.

For those who have seen the British version of the documentary which originally appeared on More4, the differences in the two edits may not justify a second viewing. This is not to say the two are exactly the same.

The American version begins by asking, "Who is the real Amanda Knox"? Is she the ring leader of a callous murder as described by the prosecutor, the quirky Seattle student described by her family and friends, or "Foxy Knoxy" the media creation?

If the film posits one sure conclusion, it is that the media itself is somewhat of a guilty party in a country where trial by media is common. As Richard Owen of the Times of London explains, "Well I think it's no secret to the Italians themselves that their system of justice is slow... suspects can be held in jail for up to a year before they're charged. The result of that tends to be trial by media and that is one reason you get a lot of leaks from legal sources, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and so on, so that the information will at least get out there and the public can make up its own mind."

We also get a glimpse of just how out of touch the views of many reporters writing about the case are towards the younger generation in Perugia (and the United States for that matter). For example, Barbie Nadeau, writer for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, states that it's not completely out of the picture to assume that group sex is part of the university experience now and that university kids are no strangers to extreme sex games--a ridiculous claim for even the worst of tabloid journalists.
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This version concentrates slightly more on the forensic evidence, but only to a superficial level that will fail to satisfy either side. We are told of the problems with the murder knife and the problems of the "two knife" scenario put forth by the prosecution. Also explored in slightly more detail is some of the footprint evidence.

The lead prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini, and his suing of the West Seattle Herald for defamation is also touched upon. (You can read more about Mignini on the side bar entitled "Mignini File" and his many lawsuits here).

In the end, just as with the British edit of the documentary, very few will be satisfied, and even fewer will be swayed one way or another. For those who are only vaguely familiar with the case, however, they will get an interesting view of the players involved and a primer for the basic areas of contention that surround this controversial case. If you never caught the British version, it is probably worth tuning in.

Special thanks to The Learning Channel and Discovery.com.