Saturday, December 5, 2009

May they find peace

(Jim Lovering)

Meredith Kercher's parents and siblings have behaved impeccably ever since her death. They have spoken rarely, and when they have done so, they have chosen their words carefully and tactfully.

Meanwhile, those of us who are certain of Amanda's innocence are mixed up in a raucous debate. We are outraged, and we are mobilized. We're going to get Amanda out and exonerated.

But by doing so, do we add to the pain felt by the Kerchers, who support the prosecution? Do we create the impression that we think the death of their daughter is secondary in importance to Amanda's freedom?

These are concerns I take seriously. I believe Amanda is going to come out of this ordeal with her head high and her exuberant personality fully intact. She has a great future ahead of her. Meredith does not, and I am deeply conscious of that essential fact whenever I write or think about this case.

I am also conscious of what I believe is the worst kind of bad faith on the part of the Perugian authorities. Giuliano Mignini and his associates have fed the Kercher family an account of what happened that is even more painful than the truth. The evidence at the crime scene shows that Meredith was ambushed in a lightening attack by someone she barely knew. It left her unconscious within a few minutes. It was a terrible death, a monstrous injustice, but it was nothing like the protracted ordeal that Mignini laid out in the trial, in which Meredith was taunted and tortured by someone she thought was a friendly housemate.

Another irony of the case is that the prosecutor, in a futile attempt to make his narrative hold water, has presented Meredith as someone whose behavior was confrontational and irritating. But that is nonsense. Amanda told the truth at the trial, when she said that Meredith was never anything but nice to her. If she and Amanda disagreed, it was a trifling matter for both of them. Both were busy making the most of a year in a foreign country and had no time or reason to sit around and brood.

In 1980, an Illinois seminary student named Steven Linscott lived in an apartment building where a young woman was killed. He foolishly told the police about a dream he had on the night the murder took place, and he was accused and convicted of the murder on the basis of no evidence whatsoever. Eventually the conviction was overturned, and he was released.

Linscott has written extensively about his ordeal. He fit the experience into the framework of his religious beliefs, and turned it into an odyssey of spiritual growth and understanding. One aspect of the case was that the the victim's family believed Linscott to be guilty. Linscott accepted that. He understood that they needed that belief.

I do not doubt that the Kercher family desperately wants the peace that will come with seeing this case fade from the headlines. Sadly, they are not going to get such closure for some time. But that is not the fault of Amanda Knox or Raffaele Sollecito. It is the fault of officials who are too proud and self-interested to admit a mistake. Over time, however, their mistake will be examined in minute detail until the whole world understands. Such is the nature of these cases.

In the mean time, my heart goes out to the Kerchers. Their conduct has been above reproach. They are entitled to whatever opinions they wish, and I hope they find peace in the end.