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An Arrogant Abroad

It is not America over there.

It is a sovereign, independent state. Its legal system is not like our legal system. There a murderer is not likely to go free on a legal technicality, as is possible here. And the convicted murderer will likely serve out most of the sentence before the automatic appeals process there runs its course. And this is especially true when the murderer is also convicted of defamation for being a false witness.

All of these is why Americans in general, and (naturally) the murderer's family in particular, are weeping and gnashing their teeth. This is especially so when the murderer is a young American woman. The American mass media is all too happy to fuel the outrage, focusing on her youthful mask of flesh, and not pondering — because the media are not capable of deep thought, which is not saleable — about the evil mind beneath.

The independent state is Italy; the scene is a courtroom in the university city of Perugia, north of Rome; and the murderer is a young American college student convicted of killing a British co-student during a sex game. She tried to frame her boss for the murder, hence the separate defamation conviction. And so, as I had said, she is likely to serve most of her sentence before the appeals run out.

This case has attracted my attention because I have been reading this off and on since the BBC started reporting the murder in Perugia a couple of years ago. The trial began in January and concluded only this month.

As I have said, the murderer's family and other Americans are complaining and teeth-grinding and wire-pulling — the latter by getting the Secretary of State to do something to get the Italians to release the murderer. The result of all these is to smear more dirt on our reputation, already sullied by many years of America's futile wars in the Middle East, into which Italy's pro-American president has dragged his country. The complaints and wire-pulling is seen by Italians and other Europeans as arrogant and defamatory of the Italian judicial system. The Wikipedia article on the murder trial, based on American sources, has produced an angry debate and will have to be completely rewritten as soon as the murderer is in prison and the dust settles down.

This is what happens when you act like an American college student in a place that is not America. In a foreign country, all your social and cultural credit, which might be worth something in the States, is worthless overseas. American lawyers cannot help you, nor can the American State, no matter how many letters to your Congressman your family writes. You cannot get the free hammer murder [1] in Italy or anywhere else — which, I suppose, is why so many Americans are so angry.

But look at it thus: Italy has no death penalty. And while the murderer will be pushing forty before she will get out, and will be weighed down with fines she can never pay off, at least she will still be alive.

I do not remember that kind of media frenzy, or complaints about injustice, when during the early 1980's a Ball State professor of Latin (whose name, I think, was Kasparek) was tried and convicted in a British court of murdering his wife. But then the motive was obvious (his wife, a besotted shrew, drove him to shut her up once and for all); and the professor pled guilty. I think he served out his sentence and has vanished into the ether. There was hardly any media frenzy about him, else I would have remembered his name.

But then, the professor of Latin was not a young American woman.

update (8 november 2010)

The convict faces another trail, this time for slander, for lying about being beaten by police into confessing to the murder. Her defense was that she was just trying to defend herself, no doubt in the only way she knew how.

update (11 october 2011)

I am innocent.
No, you are not. Go back to jail and serve your time, you kinky Brit-killer.
The Italian court
We had enough of this: Let her go and kick her out of the country.
The Italian people
The victim's family
Isn't it too bad, that American justice would taint the Italian system?
I am free!

And so a murderess goes free on a technicality. Fine. At least she will have to pay out to the bar owner for her slander of him (she already did time for the slander). And then there are those horrendous legal bills. And, once the she-apeling leaves Italy, she can never return there or to any other country in the European Union. Even if the conviction is reinstated on appeal, the American State is not about to extradict her. Her days of foreign travel are over.

The free hammer murder refers to the murder of Yale student Bonnie Garland by ex-boyfriend Richard Herrin in 1977. He smashed her skull with a hammer while she slept. He got away with it, too: Herrin evaded life in prison with a manslaughter conviction. He did seventeen years in prison. Why? Because, to quote the victim's mother, If you have a $30,000 defense fund, a Yale connection and a [Roman Catholic] clergy connection, you're entitled to one free hammer murder.

Written by Andy West on 6 December 2009. Updated 8 November 2010.