Ghosts in the Amanda Knox murder trial?

Not only do I avoid cable news, I think I was born without that gene where you obsess over white women who have gone missing or are in legal distress. I didn’t know Casey Anthony was a female until the end of her trial. My mom, on the other hand, followed the trial regularly. So did many others, to judge from ratings.

So it is with the case of Amanda Knox, a lovely young American who was convicted of murdering her roommate in a flawed trial in Italy. Most of what I know is from this Rolling Stone piece on the matter, where I learned that the prosecutor suspected Knox of being involved in a Satanic orgy. But while the prosecutor apparently suspects such things of many people and without evidence, there was very little discussion of Knox’s religion, if she had any.

Yesterday Knox was acquitted of murder and sexual assault and released from prison. The BBC report included a quote that intrigued me:

People close to Knox say that she has the character to handle the enormous scrutiny but will emerge from prison a different person.

“She is fundamentally the same wonderful and excellent person she has always been, but it’s dampened her optimism and forced her to deal with a reality we would do anything to protect her from,” says Jessica Nichols in Perugia, who has travelled from her Seattle home several times to support Knox.

“It has impacted her ability to inherently trust people, which was something she always did before this ordeal.”

In prison, she has kept herself busy, says Ms Nichols, 24, who describes her schoolfriend as “loving, sweet and patient”.

“She reads, writes, does yoga, assists other prisoners who can’t write in communicating with their families. She plays guitar and sings with the church choir, and values the time she gets to walk outside each day.”

And in this Guardian report, we learn:

Prison may even have made her more enigmatic. “Like all the women in here, she puts a mask on in the morning that she only takes off in the evening, in her own bed, when she is alone,” said Father Saulo Scarabattoli, the chaplain at Capanne prison, where she has spent the last four years.

I Googled Scarabattoli’s name and found a story from the Times (U.K.) November 2007 headlined:

Amanda Knox ‘is turning to religion’ says chaplain at Perugia prison

That article goes into some depth about how she was raised Catholic but wasn’t religious. The priest says it’s his sense she is turning to religion in prison.

Now, maybe this was well-covered by American media who, to judge from the headlines I’ve skipped past for years, have been all over it like the Ravens defense was on Mark Sanchez this week. But it is an interesting angle, if one that doesn’t fit the dominant media narrative about the woman who has spent the last four years in an Italian jail.

Contrast with the foreign press (yes, the same press that accidentally ran with “Knox is guilty!” stories). The UK Press Association ran a story headlined “Amanda Knox at Mass ahead of ruling.”

The Guardian‘s story on Knox’s exoneration included this bit:

Knox took minutes to pack up her belongings before thanking the prison chaplain, Father Saulo Scarabattoli, with whom she had spent most of Monday between her final speech and her return to court to hear the sentence.

“She spent the day in the chapel singing then pacing up and down to pass the time as the expected time for the verdict slipped,” said Girlanda. “She was nervously asking ‘Why do they need so much time?’” he added.

“After the verdict I asked her ‘So what really did happen that night?’ and she said exactly the same thing she has always said – ‘I was at home with Raffaele’. Now the first thing she wants to do is stretch out on green grass,” he said.

There was this Radar report:

Amanda Knox attended Mass Saturday afternoon at her prison outside Perugia, Italy. She also played guitar at the service.

“You can imagine how she is but Amanda envinces great strength and hope,” the prison chaplain, Rev. Saulo Scarabattoli told reporters.

For those of you that watch cable news and followed this sensational trial, was this aspect covered well?

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  • Nicole Neroulias

    Here in Seattle, it’s common knowledge that Amanda Knox attended Seattle Prep, which is a Jesuit high school, for what it’s worth. And the school was very active in supporting her for the past few years, with fundraisers, care package and letter-writing campaigns.

    Also, isn’t it fairly common for people to turn to religion in prison – Christianity or Islam in particular, depending on where the prison is?(Presumably there’s not so much Islam in a women’s prison in Italy.) Maybe this is another idea for a Religion Newswriters Association conference panel next year…

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    To be fair to the secular mass media–I ran across no mention of any kind of religous angle to the Knox story there, BUT also none in the religious or Catholic Press (except for one brief mention on a Catholic blog after her being acquitted).
    It seems as though if Rolling stone could bring up Satanism, it could have also looked into her real religion instead of just letting a Satanic accusation from the prosecution just hang out there.

  • Steve

    Amanda and Raffaele were aquitted not because they are not guilty but because the defence lawers were able to proof that the evidence was contaminated.
    No more no less.

  • Julia

    Other than mention of where she went to high school I saw almost nothing about her religious orientation or practice in the media – Catholic or secular.

    I did see a passing mention of her singing in the choir and playing the guitar at Mass. And there was some brief mention of her being in contact with the Catholic chaplain.

    The Friends of Amanda group in Seattle was/is supposedly made up mostly of parents of her classmates from the Jesuit high school. What I found interesting was the repeated media claim that she had rich parents. Was this a supposition from her attending that kind of high school?

    In other reports about Amanda, it seems she was not in the financial level as most of her classmates. It would be an interesting story about why these well-off parents of her Jesuit high school classmates took on her cause. The clips of them watching the court proceedings were only of older adults, not her HS classmates.

    What motivated these folks to support her and her parents? Between the lines it seems they have provided the primary financial support to hire lawyers and make the trips to Perugia to support Amanda.

    Is there a religious motivation here?

  • Julia


    Actually, the judge said the charged events didn’t happen.
    That is a much stronger statement than “not proven”.

  • Flamen

    Casey Anthony was found not guilty (not found innocent) by the jury despite much circumstantial evidence of guilt. Amanda Knox was also found not guilty although like Casey she lied, changed her story and tried to put blame on the bartender (for which she was convicted of slander). Both seem to have some complicity or involvement in the death of the victims and only God will know the truth.

  • TeaPot562

    The evidence presented by the prosecution at the Casey Anthony trial could support any of the following scenarios:
    - Her baby fell in the pool and drowned, and someone moved and buried the body;
    - Casey’s father murdered the baby;
    - Casey’s mother murdered the baby;
    - Casey murdered the baby.
    On that basis, the jury was unable to find the scenario presented by the prosecution true “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

  • Hugh Higgins

    I have never seen a mention of Amanda’s religion in the press. This is not unusual–the media are intensely anti-religious, in case anybody has not noticed. Always. They never report on Obama’s religion, or the religion of important figures, and when the bishop of the Methodist Church to which G. W. Bush belonged told him an invasion of Iraq would be wrong, the media hardly mentioned it. As for Rolling Stone, of course it would love Satanism, and spurn Christianity of any kind, as it always does. Since reporters in these media have no religion (as the Columbia Journalism Review found out years ago in a poll), they assume none of us ought to. I am happy to learn that Amanda found help in her religion!

  • Patt

    I guess you haven’t noticed the separation of Media and Religion (our godless press core) even stronger than that of Church and State.

  • Nicole Neroulias

    There’s so much else to cover with the Amanda Knox homecoming story, it’s only natural that the religion ghost — if it’s even a big one, which is arguable — isn’t going to be addressed just yet, especially since Amanda Knox herself isn’t talking much yet. There’s still the matter of whether the Italian courts will call her back, whether she’ll be granting major interviews, whether she’ll be going back to school, etc.

    For a Seattle-area story with a real religion ghost — though it puts evangelical Christianity in a negative light, which may not be GetReligion’s preference — you ought to blog about the Williams family accused of killing their adopted Ethiopian daughter and abusing their younger adopted son. I’ve just covered the basics of the murder case so far, but it’s clear from the charging documents and investigators’ reports that religion played a role in the already-large family’s decision to adopt Hana Williams and the boy, to keep all their kids homeschooled and isolated (from people who could have helped, or at least recognized the abuse), and to use a “spare the rod, spoil the child” kind of parenting style. Stay tuned.

  • Linda

    Does the animosity for Amanda Knox in the Brittish press have anything to do with the prosecution of “The British Au Pair” in this country?

  • john

    Actually..with the way the secular press is so bias I’m very surprised they never mentioned her religious faith.I would have thought their headline would’ve read something like “Catholic schoolgirl murders roommate in satanic sex ritual”.I never believed she committed the murder,i don’t even think her and the boyfriend were present at the time.There is someone who was convicted in the African drifter and drug dealer whose DNA was found at the scene and is now doing 16yrs.Once the police realized they screwed up they did what any police investigators would do..they covered their tracks and lumped poor Amanda and Raffaele made for great tabloid hysteria in Italy and Europe.Welcome home Amanda..glad your free and hope you recover.

  • nolajacinta

    I was curious to know her religious background. I hope her RC faith was helpful to her. I was swayed by the press hysteria in the early days but latterly found myself questioning the presumption ot guilt. On the appeal decision day I prayed for the Thrones, God’s instruments in our affairs, to set free the innocent and bring judgement to the guilty. I lit candles and prayed that the God’s Will be unimpeded by the imperfection of Man. I am relieved to find Amanda and Raffaele freed and exhonorated by the court judge and jury. ( I hope they can find space and forgiveness in each other to remain friends). I am chastened at how I had in the early days been swept along by the lies and avarice of evil. I am very sorry for this failing and beg forgiveness for thinking them guilty when they were merely confused and frightened and may the Lord shine his contenance upon Amanda and Raffaele.
    The police in Perugia have a case to answer.

  • bob

    I was first surprised that a prison chaplain, a Catholic one, said *anything* about someone he might have counseled or confessed. The right answer to a question to a priest about a parishoner is “none of your business”, period. But he’s in Hollywood, now isn’t he.
    I had never seen any religious angle on Amanda at all. An easy explanation might be that she did things in chapel to get out of the awful grind of prison life. She knew the services from childhood, maybe. Seattle Prep from people I’ve known who worked there and were students had a chapel, but rather little structure. Kind of the beanbag chairs around a coffee table. If she turned to her faith again, great. But it can’t be expected to be covered well. The original story of the murder doesn’t reflect a very interested Cathoic to start with.

  • Mollie


    If you saw a particularly good or bad story about the family who did not seek medical care for their dying child, by all means send it in.

    And as a long time reader of GetReligion, I’m sure you remember that we don’t “cover” stories but look at coverage of religion news.

  • Nicole Neroulias

    Mollie, regarding the Hana Williams abuse-murder case I referred to: Several national outlets are now covering this — Slate, Reuters – but the obvious evangelical angle hasn’t gotten much attention just yet, due to all the gory legal details. Check it out.