Amanda Knox stands to make millions from press deals in the aftermath of her imprisonment in Italy. Is it acceptable for her to earn a single penny out of Meredith’s death?
Some would say “yes” – if Amanda is indeed the innocent victim of a dreadful miscarriage of justice. She underwent a nightmarish and horrifying ordeal over four long years that will have left her permanently scarred. Her notoriety is such that there is no chance of her returning to a normal way of life in Seattle. It’s only reasonable, therefore, that she makes use of that fame to both champion the cause of wrongful conviction and to provide herself with a high level of income. It is, one could say, small compensation for the terrible suffering and trauma of an innocent person.
If, conversely, Amanda is guilty of murdering Meredith Kercher, and only won her appeal because of insufficient evidence and a botched enquiry, the answer is an emphatic “no”. Not only should she remain behind bars, but the thought of her profiteering out of this terrible crime is deeply cruel to the aggrieved Kercher family and unacceptable to society in general. To reward a vicious killer with fortune and celebrity is utterly repugnant.
There is a wider issue here. The sums received by people who are wrongly convicted vary enormously and are disproportionate to the amount of injustice or suffering. Amanda Knox, with her powerful publicity campaign, the high profile of the murder and her photogenic looks, is set to make huge sums. But there are others, whose cases have not hit the headlines, who are released from prison into poverty, and with precious little expectation of having their stories sold.
How, then, does one begin to address these inequities and the fact that a murderer, released on a technicality, can potentially earn millions? With great difficulty, but here’s a germ of an idea …
Why don’t the USA, Britain and other democracies introduce laws that state that no media or publishing entity can make a payment directly to anyone charged, convicted, suspected of or exonerated from murder for anything in connection with that murder? Instead, all monies negotiated for buying the story should be paid to independent charities that work with victims of miscarriages of justice.
The charities would hold the funds and dispense them in the ratio they deem fit, to both the individuals and other victims of miscarriage of justice. If the case of Amanda Knox, for instance, it would mean that all her media/book earnings go first to the charity, which will assess how much she should receive and how much should go to help others.
You could say that this allows the charities to play God – by, in effect, deciding who is less worthy and innocent – but they would be in the position to assess the needs of all the miscarriage of justice victims, including the unsung ones, and dispense the funds on that basis.
And what about the families of the murder victims? My first thought was that they should be the recipients of the media earnings but, the more I considered this, the more complications and dilemmas I could see. Would, for instance, the Kerchers feel comfortable taking money “earned” by Amanda Knox? I concluded that there were other and better ways to give financial help to bereaved families and that this scheme should centre on victims of miscarriages of justice.
Establishing and administering it would be quite complex to start with, but it could work and would certainly be an improvement on the status quo. At any rate, it is food for thought.