Maybe we're all a little burned out from the Maurice Clemmons coverage. But there are other alleged murderers in the world, one being UW student Amanda Knox, whose trial in Perugia, Italy is entering final arguments this week. Clemmons will never go to trial. But Knox has been in the Italian legal system for two years since the killing of her British housemate, Meredith Kercher. To recap briefly: one man, Rudy Guede, has been convicted of the crime. But Italian prosecutors allege that Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were also involved in the killing, which supposedly began as a sex game escalating into fatal revenge for Kercher's gossiping about Knox.
Knox is "spontaneous, immediate and imprudent"... but not enough to kill?
Knox has become the tabloid heroine--demonized, endlessly discussed, constantly photographed--in an international show trial. So it was no surprise this week that a defense lawyer invoked a movie to explain Knox's sometimes erratic behavior...Attorney Giulia Bongiorno employed what might be called the Amelie defense, arguing that Knox--like Audrey Tautou in that 2001 French film--is harmless. CBS and other news outlets quoted the attorney thusly: "Amanda, just like Amelie, has a lot of energy. She is naive ... (and) candid. The approach of Amanda toward life is exactly the same of Amelie, spontaneous, immediate and imprudent." Not a killer, in other words, just an adorable, silly girl who made contradictory statements to the police.
The Amelie gambit isn't a coincidence--that's the movie that Knox and Sollecito claim to have been watching while away from the house where Kercher was slain, their alibi of sorts. But the comparison and strategy aren't without risks. Was that movie as popular in Italy as it was in Seattle? Members of the jury may hate it. And star Tautou more recently appeared as a mercenary gold-digger in Priceless.
And is it actually a good idea to introduce movies and movie stars in the courtroom, fantasy into the arena of facts? (Usually, prosecutors blame movies for copycat crimes.) Or does it reflect desperation among the defense counsel? We'll see when the verdict is delivered, possibly this week.
And if the Amelie defense works, other defendants might follow suit. Attorneys for accused cop killer Christopher Monfort, for example, may one day be thumbing their Ebert guides to find an exculpatory analogy for their client.