Tag Archive | "Murder"

Critical Analysis: Judge Overturns Acquittal in Amanda Knox Murder Trial

Amanda Knox was initially convicted of murder in 2009 in Perugia, Italy, following a highly publicized and sensationalized trial. (nydailynews.com)

Amanda Knox was initially convicted of murder in 2009 in Perugia, Italy, following a highly publicized and sensationalized trial. (nydailynews.com)

The Amanda Knox saga is far from over, as Italy’s highest court overturned a judgment of acquittal and has ordered a new trial. The initial conviction, which came in 2009 in Perugia, Italy, followed a highly publicized and sensationalized trial. After deliberating for 12 hours, a jury convicted  Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, for murder of their English roomate, Meredith Kercher. In 2011, this conviction was overturned by an Italian appellate court in a decision that brought relief and prompted cheers from the American families present in the courtroom.

Seemingly exonerated of all charges and freed from her 26-year prison sentence, the then 24 year-old former University of Washington student returned to America. However, prosecutors appealed to the Italian Supreme Court and prevailed in March of this year when it overturned the acquittal. The initial trial headlined around the world, as an unlikely 22 year-old visiting American college student was accused of the 2007 brutal murder of her roommate. As the prosecution rested most of their case on circumstantial evidence, including very small amounts of DNA on the murder weapon and on a bra clasp, their case was further complicated with reports of the police’s mishandling of the material.

As Amanda Knox faces the reality of revisiting a nightmare that included 4 years of imprisonment in Italy, questions about her trial and guilt are raised, including why she acted so strangely at the police station following her roommate’s murder, and the unusual friendship between Knox and Kercher. Among the controversy is the release of her memoir, Waiting to Be Heard. She uses the memoir as an opportunity to defend herself and explain her reaction and behavior following the murder of Kercher, explaining that it was a very “confusing and terrifying situation” that resulted in unusual emotional responses. She also describes her promiscuous life as a student in Italy as well as the life she led with co-defendant and former boyfriend Sollecito. Knox also reveals that she wrote a letter to Kercher’s parents saying she did not kill their daughter, but did not send the letter upon advice from counsel. While capitalizing on her experience, as HarperCollins reportedly paid around $4 million for the book deal, Knox must still face the reality of a new trial.

Knox is admittedly afraid to return to Italy and believes there is an absolute lack of evidence and insufficient grounds supporting a conviction. She is still fighting critical comments regarding her apparent cold and insensitive reaction following Kercher’s murder. Still a student at the University of Washington, Knox will have to prepare for any potential outcome in a new trial.

Lydia Rice is 2L and a Candidacy Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.

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Pauline Nyiramasuhuko

The First Family of Genocide

The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda issued its judgment earlier this summer in the case of Pauline Nyiramasuhuko et al.

The Rwanda Tribunal has been working for 17 years and it has completed 50 genocide trials. Its judgments are now issued with comparatively little fanfare. But the Nyiramasuhuko judgment is extraordinary and merits a closer look.

Nyiramasuhuko, often referred to as simply “Pauline”, is first woman at the Rwanda Tribunal to be charged with genocide and the only women ever to be convicted. Pauline’s case concerned the town of Butare in Rwanda, a University town whose mayor bravely resisted the national government’s unfolding genocidal plans providing a safe harbor to thousands of desperate Tutsis. Nyiramasuhuko was instrumental in having the mayor sacked and later murdered to pave the way for the killing. She then proceeded to be a pivotal figure in the massacre of thousands of Tutsi refugees.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko

Nyiramasuhuko was the first woman to be convicted of rape as an act of genocide. After the genocide but prior to her arrest, she was interviewed by the BBC in a Congolese refugee camp in 1995. She told the BBC she was not involved in the killings: “I couldn’t even kill a chicken. If there is a person who says that a woman, a mother, could have killed, I’ll tell you truly then I am ready to confront that person.” It turns out, this woman and mother not only had many Tutsis killed based on her direct orders but also ordered many women to be raped.

Nyiramasuhuko was the Minister of Women’s Development in Rwanda. Nyiramasuhuko held a Ministerial post in the extremist Rwandan government. It was cruel irony that the Minister of Women’s Development so brazenly ordered women to be raped and machete’d to death.

Nyiramasuhuko was convicted of conspiracy to commit genocide. The Nyiramasuhuko case was one of the rare cases where a Rwandan Trial Chamber issued a conviction on the conspiracy mode of liability. More often than not, Trial Chambers have not been persuaded by the evidence offered by the prosecution that an agreement to commit genocide existed. Only the Nazis wrote down their explicit genocidal plans, for the other genocides the evidence of conspiracy tends to be circumstantial. In Pauline’s case, however, the Trial Chamber found that the evidence clearly established Pauline audaciously conspired with her son and others to eliminate the Tutsi in Butare.

Nyiramasuhuko was the first person to be convicted for committing genocide with a son. The one thing you can say in Pauline’s favor is that she had a close-knit family. One of Pauline’s co-defendants was her son, Shalom Ntahobali. Evidence at trial established that Pauline ordered her son to abduct and rape Tutsi women. And being a good son, he complied.

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