vendredi 30 septembre 2011

Finally! The Seattle Times Leads with Meredith Kercher

Meredith Kercher as a child

Media circus, media circus, did someone say media circus?

With the PR-fueled media circus in full swing and hysteria in Perugia as the appeals court ruling nears, the Kercher family is finally getting a smidgen of attention in Knox's hometown.

In spite of what some members of the local media apparently believe, not all of Seattle has drunk the "innocent abroad" koolaid or been lulled by the "railroad job from hell" narrative.

The Kerchers are expected to be on-hand Monday when Knox and Sollecito give it their all, just before the jury retires to complete final deliberations. The system is different in Italy. The jury of six "lay judges" is assisted by two professional judges, including the judge who has presided over the trial. Jury selection is not done with the participation of the prosecution and the defense, and the criteria for serving are much more stringent. The jury is not sequestered and deliberations are ongoing as the trial advances. Accordingly, presiding judge Hellmann expects the verdict to be announced on Monday. The Kerchers will be in court to hear it read.

They are very private, very discreet and very respectful people, the Kerchers. If the jury and judges had seen their faces in the courtroom day in and day out for ten months -- as would be the case in America -- and not just the faces of the "revamped" Knox and Sollecito and their families, who knows what impact this might have had? We will never know.

But what we do know is that the unprecedented and costly PR-driven media circus they are being thrust into Monday was not of their making. The current atmosphere in Perugia has been described as gaudy and decadent; US media bigwigs have pretty much taken over the town, following the Knox/Mellas entourage everywhere. It is all tightly scripted, just one interview after another. Friendly journalists get to hang with the Fam and Friends at the Brufani, Perugia's swankiest hotel.

Here's what I think about all this: Amanda's family and supporters have apparently not thought about the repurcussions of their actions for other people. I am thinking in particular about the Kercher family. They have tried very hard to keep the media out of it and let justice function without all these distractions. Without consulting them or even thinking of them, the Marriott driven Knox/Mellas show has come to town in a really big way, forcing everyone in its wake to be part of the spectacle. I suppose the Knox/Mellas show will blame their producer, Marriott, who needs to be paid for all the work he has done to manipulate the media, obscure the truth and blow to smithereens any hope of dignity for any of the parties involved.
Meanwhile, the Knox/Mellas show has become enamored of itself and its capacity to capture the spotlight.
The Kerchers did not ask for this and are not benefiting from it. They do not deserve to be subjected to this kind of spectacle. I wish them courage and strength and want them to know that they have many friends in Seattle.

mercredi 28 septembre 2011

Postcards from the edge of the Amanda Knox circus: private jet standing by; loony supporter sent back to the hotel

Moore Righteous Than Ever: G-man and Celestial at home

Just when you thought it could not get Moore Nutty

The first appeal trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollicito, both convicted by a unaminous verdict in December 2009 for their role in the brutal slaying of Meredith Kercher, Knox's British roommate, is winding down this week.

I have already mentioned the Puget Sound Business Journal article on the Knox clan's lunch date with Matt Lauer in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, at Morton's. NBC's Lauer reportedly flew in, jumped into a limo and was whisked to Morton's. Someone got that article "disappeared" within a couple of days. That's what you pay your PR people for!

Unfortunately, a couple of news items since then seem to have escaped the swift hand of the Magician, but for how long?

Yesterday, Italian daily Il Messaggero fell out of favor by publishing a piece on the private jet that is alleged to have been loaned by some generous (and apparently wealthy) Friends of Amanda, ready to whisk Knox and her entourage of about twenty out of Italy if she is acquitted. The presiding judge in this appeal announced yesterday that the court would be ready to hand down its verdict on Saturday, after Knox gives the "spontaneous" declaration her father Curt Knox said yesterday she had been working on for three months. I guess spontenaity, like nostalgia, just ain't what it used to be.

I wonder if the Moores, Steve and Michelle Celestial Easterly, will be among the revelers on the private jet, if indeed there is one. I am waiting for an official denial.... So who are the Moores, you may be wondering? According to his bio, he is a retired FBI agent. According to his babbly wife, he is a trained sniper. She posts this all over the internet, especially when she wants to scare people after she has offended them. Moore is one of many who have used this case to insert themselves into the spotlight and make a career change. Moore was some kind of security advisor at Pepperdine, but now has a seriously nutty blog and gets invited once in awhile to ramble about the Knox case on television. If his hosts have noticed that he is inarticulate to the point of incoherence, they have not let on so far. Anyway, Moore had the excellent idea of turning up in Perugia for the remainder of the trial and the even more excellent idea of bringing Michelle along with him. At least it seemed excellent until Michelle sidled over to one of the prosecutors, the much maligned and demonized Mignini, and shouted at him, telling him he was evil and other stuff like that. The only thing she forgot was to brandish her homemade Mignini voodoo doll -- the one with all the pins stuck in around the vital organs. In Italy, as in America, that sort of thing can get you charged with contempt of court. Michelle was immediately removed from the scene, asked to provide her passport and then detained for about an hour. Within hours, she was back on the internet telling her side, mostly to other Knox supporters, most of whom seemed embarrassed. Nick Pisa reported on the incident, which the US media has mostly chosen to ignore. Methinks this is because they are all doing whatever the Knox/Mellas people tell them to do and these people realize how bad Michelle makes them all look. Just sayin'.

I'll have more anecdotes from the Lunatic Fringe post-verdict. Coming up: the fur salesman, the twittering twit, the hater hater and more.

If anyone is interested, Steve Moore keeps a blog. He seems to have something against me, but I can't quite make out what it is, since it is couched in biblical language and talk about baby rattles and stuff. Weird shit.

Michelle blogs too, but sporadically. Good luck making sense of her posts. She apparently suffers from some kind of rational disconnect between thought and speech/writing. Or maybe not, which is an even more frightening thought.

vendredi 23 septembre 2011

Remembering Meredith Kercher

This one's for you, Meredith

Today, as the appeal winds down, the prosecution began its closing arguments. You can read all about what was said today at abc's website and elsewhere, or wait until journalists Andrea Vogt and Barbie Nadeau file their stories for the Seattle PI and the Daily Beast, respectively. They have been consistently reliable and objective.

And Meredith's discreet family have come forward for an interview, to remind the public that this is not all about Amanda Knox in spite of what media coverage suggests. They have asked us to remember that this is about Meredith, or Mez as she was known to family and friends. In his wrap-up, Mignini too asked the jurors to remember Meredith in spite of the unprecedented attempt on the part of an aggressive PR campaign with media complicity to erase her. Her first death was brutal and cruel beyond belief. This second death, the act of erasure, is no less obscene. It's just that no one hears the sound it makes.

According to one court observer's tweet, Mignini said in summation that never in his 32 years of experience has he heard of networks buying tickets for defendants in exchange for interviews. The Knox/Mellas family has always denied this. But I have been told by people close to the case that the bidding war for the exclusive interview has been ongoing.... And we all know how the media works by now, right? As I noted in an earlier post, the Puget Sound Business journal reported on Matt Lauer of NBC's recent quick trip to Seattle (limousine waiting at the airport, lunch at Morton's with Curt Knox and others, a big fat porterhouse steak). Strangely, that article has since been yanked. Never underestimate the power of their PR man Marriott!

Below, Stephanie carrying a white rose at the memorial service for Meredith

Meredith was known affectionately as Mez

Stephanie and Arline during a recent and rare interview

mercredi 21 septembre 2011

Getting away with murder?

John and Arline Kercher, Meredith's parents, and Stephanie, her sister, at a press conference in Perugia.

In this intelligent and well-written piece (click on title for direct link), Andrea Vogt wonders aloud how Italians would react to an acquittal of the Seattle woman who was convicted in December 2009 of taking part in the killing of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. She notes that an acquittal would be cause for celebration in Seattle. It would certainly be cause for celebration among those who have taken up the cause and believe in Knox's innocence despite the compelling evidence of her involvement in this horrific crime. But the fact is, most people in Seattle are simply not that interested. And among those who are, the consensus is certainly not that an innocent abroad got railroaded.

If it seems so, it's because the local media has dutifully followed the lead of the national media and adopted the "innocent abroad" narrative concocted by David Marriott, whose PR firm was hired to manage Knox's image shortly after she was arrested. In Seattle, Meredith's murder has been played as a human interest story in which only the local protagonists matter. Meredith was British; it is assumed that Seattleites could not possibly give a toss about her. Hence, local coverage has favored news of fundraisers for the accused local woman and then for the convicted local woman. Questions from local journalists to her supporters (family) have ranged from "How is she holding up in prison?" to "How is she holding up in prison?" And since there is no guilter movement, local or otherwise, except in the minds of a few shrill locals, there has been no local coverage of the movement's "activities". How can a non-existent movement have activities?

I have met many people in West Seattle who quietly shake their heads in disbelief at Steve Shay's coverage for the West Seattle Herald. Yesterday, someone who works at a local business said "you're skeptical bystander" when she handed me back my credit card. She told me she was a long-time lurker who reads and TJMK every day for information about the case. There are many people like her in Seattle.

I found it amusing, though sad, to read the comments that follow Andrea Vogt's thoughtful piece for the First Post. Naturally, loud vocal supporter "Mary H" (this is her online pseudonym, and hiding behind it may be one reason she is so loud on the internet) was quick to condemn Vogt for merely pointing out the obvious. Mary H (fake name) asked Andrea Vogt (real name) how she could sleep at night! It ain't that hard, Mary, when you have the courage of your convictions and when you stand by the facts rather than getting sidetracked by the cause.

The fact at hand is that many people -- in Seattle, in Italy, and elsewhere -- would come away from an eventual acquittal with the feeling that justice had not been done for Meredith Kercher and her family and that at least two of those responsible for her death had gotten away with it. Mary H and others may not like to hear this, but it is a fact. And no amount of shaming on the part of Mary H or anyone else is going to make a bit of difference.

Yesterday, a lawyer friend and I were musing about what would have happened had this case been tried in the US. Many Knox supporters have said, repeatedly, that it would never have gone to trial here. My lawyer friend agreed, but for a different reason than the one implicit in this view (i.e. that there is supposedly no evidence). He said "I don't think the case would have gone to trial in the US. First, they would not have had to stop questioning her when they did. They would have artfully gotten her to waive her Miranda rights. They would have told her they can't help her unless tells her side of the story, been very sympathetic initially and built up her confidence that she could talk her way out of it. They would eventually hone in on the inconsistencies, and when she finally cracked there wouldn't be a lawyer there to stop her. The death penalty would have been on the table, and her only sure way to avoid that would be to plead guilty in exchange for life." He also thinks that this would not have been such a high-profile case had it happened in Seattle.

Let's wait and see how this court weighs the two contested items in the overall scheme of things. As a poster on PMF (another lawyer) wrote last night, it all boils down to this: How many pieces of evidence... 'consistent with, but not conclusive of' guilt can stack up against someone before, as a matter of common sense, it is no longer reasonable to believe they are innocent?

Meredith's sister Stephanie will be in Perugia on the day the verdict is announced.

Meredith's mother, Arline.

lundi 12 septembre 2011

Will Knox Walk?

I get asked that question a lot lately by friends and acquaintances who know that I have been hosting a discussion board devoted to this case for nearly four years now. Today's PI (click on title), having decided to dispense with the illusion of taste and decency, is currently running a poll that asks the burning question: Should Amanda Knox Return to Seattle?

For those who don't know, Knox and her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were unamimously convicted in December 2009 for their role in the torture and murder of Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher, and for their subsequent attempt to cover up their involvement by staging a burglary in the flat Knox and Kercher shared with two Italian women. In addition, Knox was convicted of calunnia for falsely accusing her boss, Patrick Lumumba, of the murder. Lumumba spent two weeks in jail after police arrested him based on Knox's accusation, during which time Knox did not admit that she had falsely accused an innocent man. A third young man, Rudy Guede, was also convicted for his role in this gruesome murder. He opted for a fast track trial, which is not the same as entering a guilty plea and, having exhausted his appeals, is now quietly serving out his sentence.

Knox and Sollecito are nearing the end of their first appeal. Which brings me to a point worth considering for a moment: in Italy, there are two rounds of appeal and they are automatic. Knox did not "appeal" her sentence; she and Sollecito merely moved on to the next phase in the criminal justice process. Incidentally, the prosecutors could also be said to be "appealing" the initial verdict, since they asked for life and the pair got "only" 26 and 25 years, respectively. Knox got extra time because of the calunnia.

In Italy, as in the US, convictions are sometimes overturned on appeal, so my answer to the question is that it is possible Knox will walk, or get a reduced sentence, but she would still have to face the final appeal. This has always been a possible outcome, in the same way that it was possible she would be acquitted by the first instance court. It would not be the first time that someone demonstrably guilty of a crime went free. The two examples that immediately spring to mind are OJ and Casey Anthony. The Casey Anthony verdict shocked many people, including me. I managed to obtain a copy of the judge's instructions to the jury, which gave me a better sense of how this could have happened. The judge should probably have instructed the jury with regard to the legal definition of reasonable doubt and the legal definition of circumstantial evidence. He apparently thought they already knew these rather basic things. But from what I have read and seen since the verdict was announced, the jury clearly did not have a clue. And now Casey Anthony is walking free but imprisoned for life -- because she has to live with the knowledge of what she did. As a very smart man once said to me, the sweetest prison is prison. Think about it.

It is impossible to predict with certainty how this court will rule, though last week the US media seemed to think it could do so based on the judge's denial of the prosecution's motion requesting that further retesting be done on the two items of forensic evidence for which he had earlier granted an independent review (two out of over 100). If you are interested in this complex subject, there is only one blog to read: Maundy Gregory's blog

In a nutshell, the two experts did not retest the items as requested but instead raised concerns about the admissibility of DNA evidence per se, the possibility of contamination, etc. At one point, one of them gave an in-court presentation using selected snippets from the crime scene video, claiming that a pair of latex gloves seen on-screen holding a pair of tweezers while removing evidence from the victim's body had a tear in it. People, I have seen the entire crime scene video (which is horrifying, you don't ever want to see it) and there is no tear in the glove. There are creases, which is normal. You can see a still shot of it on PMF (link below).

Those who have been following the case professionally, objectively and dispassionately are not prognosticating an outcome. As they have noted, however, it has been established that the DNA on the blade of the knife (Knox's DNA is on the handle) is undeniably Meredith Kercher's. The knife was found at Knox's boyfriend's flat, a place Meredith had never visited. As for the bra clasp (which was cut from Meredith's body after she died, as part of the staged rape), which has Sollecito's DNA on it, the court may decide the possibility of contamination is great enough that it should be given less weight or no weight at all in the court's decision. What is important, however, is that neither item has been "thrown out". And then there is the rest of the evidence. In addition to the crime scene staging, we have a bloody footprint which is compatible with Sollecito's bare foot and which was found on the bathmat. There are several samples of mixed DNA (Knox-Kercher). There are cellphone and computer records. There are shifting alibis and lies told by the pair. All of this evidence will be examined holistically, not in isolation, by the judges. Last but not least, let's not forget elements from Rudy Guede's trial, which are now admissible. In his final appeal, Italy's highest court of appeals ruled that this crime had been committed by more than one person. All hope of continuing to pin it on the Lone Wolf/black guy alone has thus vanished. Moreover, the nature of the physical evidence is such that only the truly deluded ever thought otherwise.

I have also been asked if I am worried for my personal safety if Knox is acquitted, though just as many have asked if I am similarly worried about what will happen if this court confirms the earlier conviction. Which is another way of saying I probably can't win for losing. There is a small but rather shrill and slightly deranged group of people, knoxophiles if you will, who have decided that I am a convenient target for all of their frustration with the process and hatred for people whose focus is on the victim, Meredith Kercher, and/or who have looked at the evidence and come to the conclusion that Knox is guilty. The few journalists who have covered this case objectively have also been targeted for abuse, threats and defamation, part of a nebulous online war being waged in the shadows. Meanwhile, the sunny façade of the supertanker is being advanced by the PR firm Knox's parents hired early on and by the FOA (Friends of Amanda). The latter group's executive committee is comprised of Mike Heavey, a Seattle judge; Anne Bremner, a Seattle lawyer; and Tom Wright, a minor Hollywood director turned producer who lives in Seattle. Heavey and Wright both have daughters who attended Seattle Prep with Knox.

I have received threatening emails (and one online death threat) from people who are completely wrapped up in this cause. Some of the faithful have been recruited online via the facebook cause page. I suspect they are being paid for their efforts. I don't know who posted the death threat; it was anonymous, as such things tend to be. I have also received unwanted emails from Knox/Mellas family members, including one from an aunt who told me that "they" know where I live and have done drive-bys. I responded with the simple request that "they" drive by slowly because my neighbors complain about all the folks who use our little street as a short cut to the West Seattle Bridge.

More recently, one of the FOA foot soldiers showed up uninvited at a memorial service for someone in my extended family, and had the poor taste to try and engage one of my grieving siblings in a discussion about me and the discussion board I moderate, PMF.

In the parlance of our times, that's messed up. Don't you think?

Really, the only thing about which I have no doubt is that the Italian criminal justice system is simply trying to do its job despite a lot of noise and intimidatingly bad coverage, by the US media in particular, whose jackals are so hungry for an exclusive with the currently imprisoned Knox that they will do or say anything to curry favor. It was reported last week that NBC's Matt Lauer recently arrived in Seattle, jumped into a waiting limo at Sea-Tac and raced downtown for lunch at Morton's with a select group of top-level supporters. It seems that Matt and Curt Knox, Amanda's father, split the huge and pricey porterhouse. I'm sure it was well done.

UPDATE: I appreciate all of the comments I have received since I posted this, in particular those from people who live in West Seattle and White Center. Here is one that I found particularly touching and telling:

"First time that I've heard Meredith Kercher mentioned as the victim. Now that I think about it, I would know Amanda Knox on sight, but have no idea what Meredith looked like. Sad."

In fact, this comment prompted me to add the photo below of Meredith Kercher, a lovely young woman whose life was taken from her in November of 2007. Three people were convicted of this heinous crime. One has exhausted his appeals; the other two are nearing the end of their first automatic appeal.

Photo below: The family of murder victim Meredith Kercher. Some of Knox's more extreme anonymous online groupies have actually suggested that the Kerchers are somehow to blame; others have urged them to get over their grief and help free Knox. FWIW, the Kercher family is satisfied with the first instance verdict and believes that justice was done. It is truly awful when a family's dignified silence is used against it.

dimanche 11 septembre 2011

My Drunk Kitchen

I know I haven't been the most consistent and regular blogger this past summer (past year? two years? whatever), but hey, summer is a magical time where you pack in all the fun and slothfulness you can, while you can. Especially if you live in a place where the sun don't shine all the time.

This little thing here is simply hilarious. Who doesn't get into the sauce while cooking? On television sitcoms and dramas, one person cooking and one observing and conversing usually equals one bottle of wine, easily. You'd think that two bottles of wine for two people on a given evening was the norm if all you did was watch people cook in the land of television fiction. On the rare occasion that I have surpassed half a bottle for my lonesome self, headache, hangover and unquenchable thirst have resulted. This gal's name is Hannah Hart. Yay for you, Hannah.

samedi 10 septembre 2011

Paradise, John Prine

The summer ends kind of like it began, with an open-air concert at Château Ste. Michelle. Last night's show was opened by Ani di Franco, which we didn't realize until afterwards. Her name wasn't on the ticket. She was awesome. I hate to say it, but I sort of missed her rise to fame. Let's say it was because I was living in France at the time. That's what I say whenever I learn of a cultural phenomenon known to every American but me.

About John Prine, what can I say that hasn't already been said. As Ani DiFranco noted, John Prine fans come to hear him because they like well-told stories. Every John Prine song is a true story, I'm sure of it. He ranks right up there with Leonard Cohen, which is odd because they are so different in so many ways.

Prine (and his two fine musicians) was so captivating I forgot about the two drunk Asian women sitting next to me, who spent the entire time gabbing and shrieking. One of them looked exactly like Imelda Marcos. Shoes and all. Walt politely asked them to shut it, but this only made them chatter with greater intensity. Finally, she traded places with her friend's husband, such that we were next to the two husbands, who obviously were Prine fans. Why the hell did they drag Imelda and her pal to the concert? Imelda's friend's husband had the annoying habit of reciting (not singing) each line of lyrics after it was sung by Prine. But we got so wrapped up in the music we just ignored him and his echolalia.

For his encore, Prine did Paradise, a song that many people associate with John Denver. It was really sweet the way the crowd spontaneously went up to the stage and sang the chorus along with him. We were right up there too, about a foot away from the guy. We said thank you to him and he said you're welcome.

Oh, and he also did another of his great songs, which he wrote for Bonnie Raitt. Here's Bonnie's version. As one of the youtube commenters said: if you don't fall in love with her just a little then you are soulless and evil.

Ani DiFranco is also a great songwriter. Her best line, as far as I know: "If you're not getting happier as you're getting older then you're fuckin' up".

She ended with a revamped version of Which Side Are You On? When I find a version that has decent sound quality, I'll post it.

jeudi 1 septembre 2011

Nina Burleigh: view from a broad who doesn't seem to like broads or being abroad

In Burleigh’s shoddy book on the murder of Meredith Kercher, she gets the victim’s birthday wrong. But that’s not all she gets wrong. From what I can tell, Burleigh simply skips over much of the key evidence in favor of gossiping about and criticizing other journalists who have covered the case. She is particularly hard on female journalists, which is odd given that she prides herself on being a modern feminist. I find it very telling, for example, that she indicates what Barbie Nadeau and Andrea Vogt's husbands do for a living (one works for the UN and one is a university professor), but does not see fit to provide us with any information on what the wives of any of the male journalists do. The implication is clear: these two “females” took up writing as a sort of hobby after trailing behind their menfolk to Europe. Worse, Burleigh notes that though they are both American born, they are more European in "style" and "craft" which, aside from being absolute nonsense, remains unsubstantiated by any analysis whatsoever. It amounts to saying “they’re sooooo European”. What does that mean? Well, once you know that Burleigh is a relentless and mindless cheerleader for the superiority of all things American, it becomes clear that what she means is that they are inferior journalists because all things European are inferior to all things American. Burleigh also claims that what she calls Nadeau's “cosmopolitan speech affect” is an attempt to hide her Middle American roots (in Burleigh’s words, her “rural South Dakota accent”). She says the "statuesque redhead" Vogt looks like she could play the role of Brenda Starr. In other words, Burleigh is trying to suggest that these two are imposters, merely playing at journalism by dressing up like a cartoon journalist or putting on airs and trying to talk like a big city slicker instead of a sharecropper. In fact, Vogt has been a working reporter for fifteen years, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in journalism, is trilingual and has published in English, German and Italian. I don't know much about Nadeau’s academic training, but she currently writes on a variety of topics for both Newsweek and the Daily Beast. And the excellent Christopher Dickey thinks quite highly of her.

Meanwhile, back to Burleigh and her seemingly endless supply of sour grapes. At one point in her book, she mentions an Italian female reporter, but only to comment on her boots! One starts to wonder what she has against women, especially her professional peers.

Her male peers do not get a free pass, either, at least those who work in that dreadful country Italy where, according to Burleigh, freedom of speech does not exist. She criticizes foreign journalists based in Italy, basically calling them a bunch of cowards, so fearful of the Mafia that they confine themselves to writing about la dolce vita -- food, wine and bunga bunga. This is absolute bollocks, of course. John Follain, who has covered the case for the Times, has written two books about Italy in the fifteen or so years he has lived there: one is about the Mafia, while the other takes on the Vatican. Vogt investigated the White Supremacy movement in Idaho and has written an excellent book about it, not without exposing herself to danger. As for Nadeau, she has covered Italy’s garbage crisis, and in one gritty, unforgettable article for Newsweek describes walking through some of the most dangerous Mafia neighborhoods. All three have been viciously attacked by Knox supporters. Meanwhile, Nina Burleigh is happy to fixate on what her fellow journalists are wearing and eating and drinking. Come to think of it, when she was a correspondent in France, she was obsessed with complaining about and criticizing French women, probably for not instantly recognizing her innate superiority.

It is too bad Burleigh opted to focus on this kind of crap instead of actually discussing much of the real evidence against Knox and Sollecito. Frankly, hers is the most disappointing and surely the nastiest book on the tragic murder of Meredith Kercher that has been published to date. After reading what Burleigh wrote about Nadeau and Vogt, I was left wondering why she has such an ax to grind with them. Is it because they are at least a decade younger than she is? Is it because they live in Europe and she doesn't? Is it because they are fluent in foreign languages and she isn’t? I really don't know, but the book sure has a bitter stench to it.

The good news is I didn't even have to buy it. In fact, I don't want to be seen reading it in public. Thanks to Google books, I was able to find many of the offending passages on line. In addition, I can discreetly skim at my local bookseller’s. All in all, I have found it a pretty dull exercise. The book is glib, superficial and gossipy. One walks away feeling dirty and sad, wondering where one would be placed within Burleigh's social and class hierarchy. Hopefully at least a hair above middle class.

I almost forgot to mention the pièce de résistance in Burleigh’s sliming of the two female journalists who did not roll over for the Knox family PR supertanker. Burleigh also asserts that these two small-town American imposters, after acquiring their polished "style" and "craft" by living in Europe, were "appalled" by the way AK and her family "flouted" Italian mores, implying that this snobbery tainted their reporting. While I recall both journalists providing good analysis of how and why some of the antics of AK and her family were not good strategy under the circumstances – for example, AK’s decision to turn up in court one day wearing an over-sized “all you need is love” t-shirt or her sister Deanna’s choice of courtroom attire on July 4 (red-white-and-blue hotpants outfit) – I have never read anything suggesting they personally disapproved of or were appalled by the American and her family. Since this snide and non-sourced aside appears on the same page as Burleigh’s claim that Nadeau tried to hide her "rural" accent with a "cosmopolitan speech affect", it is fair to say that Burleigh’s real goal is to discredit them as objective reporters. It is almost as if she - Burleigh - were taking dictation from Doug Preston! And if Burleigh finds this to be a sexist remark, then I suggest she take a long, hard look in the mirror.

In the same section of the book, Burleigh describes John Kercher as a tabloid reporter and notes that neither he nor his family even "attempted" to learn Italian, relying instead on their lawyer to tell them what was going on.

Yes, you read that right: Burleigh thinks that the grieving Kercher family should have set aside their grief and contacted Berlitz straight away! And she implies that it is a mistake to rely on their legal counsel for information or advice. (At least Italy gives the victim’s family a legal voice.) I guess Burleigh would prefer that the Kercher family turn to people like Amanda’s stepfather Chris Mellas, or the various profiteers riding the PR supertanker: David Marriott and Doug Preston to name just two. This is apparently what Burleigh did.

It is clear from what I have read that Burleigh is not concerned with the victim Meredith Kercher or her family. She seems more interested in passing judgement on those she considers inferior in station to herself (just about everyone),complaining about life in Italy and taking pot shots at other journalists. My guess is that deep down she likes Italy about as much as she liked France, which is to say not much, maybe not at all. Burleigh is that quintessential Ugly American. I saw early signs of it in her reporting on this case for Time. Incidentally, she did not begin until June of 2009, when the trial was well under way and almost two years after the murder itself. I had never heard of Burleigh, so I decided to have a look at her earlier work, especially that on life in France. I truly was flabbergasted by her utter inability to cope in a strange land. She took an instant dislike to the French in general and was unable to understand the culture, in part because she was unable or unwilling to learn the language. I find it ironic – and appalling – that she faults the Kerchers, of all people, for not learning the language of the country where their daughter/sister was murdered when she herself could or would not learn the language of the country she was residing in under happy circumstances.

Is it class or gender or nationality that Burleigh most has a problem with?

Hard to say, since she seems to have a sense of superiority that encompasses all three. Speaking of disapproval, Burleigh treats the Knox women and Meredith's British friends in the same haughty, catty manner as she treats her professional peers. In fact, she refers to the Knox clan collectively as "a hair on the low side of middle class". I guess from the throne upon which she has placed herself, Burleigh is able to make these fine distinctions and, in addition, finds it necessary. And how about this fine value judgement on page 33? "Amanda was the sole member of the gaggle of menstruating, jealous, bitchy, angry, loving, needy females around Curt who could keep her emotions in check". I'm not making this up; Burleigh actually wrote those words. One pictures hapless Curt surrounded by the seven dwarves (Jealous, Bitchy, Angry, Loving, Needy, Bloody and Amanda). While I believe that Amanda Knox was rightly convicted for her role in Meredith Kercher's death, and though I have been critical of her family's decision to hire a PR firm that has attempted to manipulate public opinion, I certainly think they are entitled to a little more respect and empathy than this. Speaking of entitled, that is how Burleigh herself comes off throughout this book.

Moving on to Meredith's British friends, Burleigh dismisses them en masse with this tightly packed bundle of sexism and stereotyping: "tweedy peaches-and-cream complected sylphs who moved as a pack". How Burleigh would even know how they moved is beyond me, since she was not covering the case in the days or even months that followed this brutal murder. Perhaps, if they did stick together, it was for mutual comfort. That's what the little people do, Nina.

Italian women are not spared either. In addition to her fixation on a local reporter's boots (perhaps because she could not read her work?), Burleigh describes Police Chief Monica Napoleoni's style as "part dominatrix, part donatella Versace with a badge" and another Italian policewoman as a "thick-bodied woman". Nina's motto: When in Rome and unable to follow what's going on, focus instead on making disparaging comments about the way other women look.

Burleigh pretentiously dedicates her book to the victims of sexual violence, an odd choice since she does little more here than perpetuate the sexist and sexual stereotypes that underlie this phenomenon. I am all for supporting the victims of sexual violence and will do so by not buying Burleigh's nasty piece of work, which adds nothing to our knowledge of the case anyway.

Anyone who really wants to read a good book on the murder of Meredith Kercher should try Darkness Descending and/or Angel Face, both out for some time now. In addition to these works, John Follain, who has lived in Italy since the mid-90’s and covered the case from the outset, has a book coming out soon. I seriously doubt he will be focusing on women's boots.