The walled and well-protected city of Perugia has not taken kindly to intruders for the past 500 years. Each year it is invaded by those students. Joining the onslaught this year has been a horde of journalists, each looking for an angle on the story. Because the victim in the case is British, and the defendants are from the United States and Italy, the journalists represent those three countries. And to use that old adage, where they stand on this white-hot international murder mystery depends on where they are from.
To many of the U.S. television and print media, Amanda Knox appears to be an innocent abroad, the victim of circumstance and a zealous prosecution. Many of the reporters who understand Italian have pored over the documents and testimony and so far seem unconvinced by blanket declarations of Knox and Sollecito's innocence. But they are keeping an open mind, pending the defense's case.
To the British press, largely sympathetic to the Kercher family, who are now suing Knox, she was a somewhat spoiled American whose hygiene and personal habits Kercher complained about to friends. To the Italian press, Knox's inconsistencies and her behavior, kissing Sollecito outside the murder scene (her defenders say she was seeking comfort during a time of stress) and doing cartwheels in the police station while Sollecito was being questioned (she may have been doing a yoga stretch, again to relieve stress), seem odd and suspicious.
Forensic psychologist Xavier Amador, a Columbia University professor, has an explanation for Knox's behavior following her roommate's murder. "I think cartwheels and kisses right after the death of her friend could mean so many different things," he told ABC News. "This could be immaturity and anxiety. It doesn't scream to me of culpability in the murder. The behaviors that tell me the person is probably involved in some way are things like reticence to talk to the authorities. Disappearing, not even being able to be found. These are the kinds of behaviors that are typically associated with people who are found guilty, in my professional experience."
As Knox prepared to take the stand last week, with the stakes so high -- especially because Sollecito was not testifying -- the media were abuzz with speculation about how she might do. "It could either go really well for her, and she shows the genuineness of her quirky personality," said Andrea Vogt, a U.S. journalist who lives in Italy and has been covering the trial for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Or it could go really poorly, and she's very unpredictable and unscripted, and maybe she'll get off-message."
In the end, the outcome may have been a bit of both, again, depending on where you sit.
Meredith Kercher's murder case itself is complex, with a range of technical and forensic evidence, and legal issues that either point circumstantially to Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito's guilt, or to their lack of involvement in the crime. Another man, a local drifter named Rudy Guede, has already been convicted of the crime and is facing 30 years in prison. But that has not deterred the prosecution from pursuing its case against Knox and Sollecito, on the theory the crime was motivated by a sex-game that went terribly wrong, ending in Kercher's brutal stabbing.