Earlier this week, American citizen Amanda Knox was freed from an Italian prison after her 26-year sentence stemming from the murder of Meredith Kercher, one of Knox’s flatmates while the two were studying in Italy, was overturned. She had been convicted for the murder in 2009 and until this week, had been locked up in an Italian prison during the appeals process. This summer, Casey Anthony, was also found not guilty for the murder of her young daughter, two-year-old Caylee.
What do the two have in common, besides a not guilty verdict? Even before their respective trials, without sufficient evidence or extensive knowledge of either case, society condemned them as guilty. The moment Anthony was charged with the murder of her daughter, society served as judge, jury and executioner for a young woman who in the end was found not guilty. Never mind the lack of sufficient evidence, or the reasonable doubt the jurors had about her guilt; the world, in large, saw her as a convicted murderer. Baby Caylee’s death was heinous and tragic and society was thirsty for blood, vengeance for a crime they were determined to right.
The public outcry against Knox wasn’t as strong as it was against Anthony, but the situation is still very much the same; a young woman fighting for her freedom, or in the case of Anthony, for her life. According to The Telegraph, there was no DNA evidence or dependable witnesses at the crime scene in Knox. Another man, Rudy Guede, was also convicted of Kercher’s murder due to a large amount of DNA evidence, and serving his sentence in Italy for the crime. So while two of the most fundamental parts for any conviction were missing, so many were calling for her head. According to Marisol Bello and William M. Welch of USA Today, there was no DNA evidence or fingerprints that connected Casey Anthony to her daughter’s death, nor was there even a precise cause of death.
So while society recoils after two young women they were so determined to put down were freed, many mourn the death of Troy Davis, a death row inmate convicted of murdering police officer Mark McPhail in 1989 and sentenced to death in 1991. Despite desperate pleas heard around the world for clemency, some even coming from former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI, Davis was put to death in September. Though he had been on death row for many years, the case built up momentum as his execution date grew nearer; bringing out thousands to protests what they thought was an innocent man being put to death.
Troy Davis very well may have been innocent; the evidence was admittedly spotty and the testimony questionable at best. However, who are we as a society to pass judgment and condemn the accused before they all had trials? Even as Davis exhausted his last of many appeals, supporters held strong, defending his innocence. However the minute Anthony and Knox were charged, they were guilty, at least in the eyes of society.
Anthony is now living a life of hiding, cut off from family and friends, even from her own two parents. Knox is a bit more fortunate and will return back to her home in Seattle. But why did this happen? Because like Knox, she was guilty before she was proven innocent. They’re both young and likely have many years left in life, but because of public outcry and an unfounded assumption, they will never be innocent again.