Yesterday I sent a few questions to Senator Maria Cantwell about her entry into the debate over the Amanda Knox trial, and her recent statement that she was "saddened" by the guilty verdict.
1. Does Senator Cantwell believe that Amanda Knox is innocent?
2. How closely did the senator follow the trial?
3. Can you describe further what she means by her suggestion that "anti-Americanism" may have tainted the trial? (The other two convicts in the case are Italian and African.)
4. What does she plan to say to Secretary of State Clinton when she meets with her to discuss the Knox case?
Today John Diamond, Cantwell's communications director, sent me some answers:
* Senator Cantwell wants to ensure that Amanda Knox gets a fair trial, and now a fair appeal, by an impartial tribunal. She believes it is the responsibility of the U.S. Government to press for fair treatment for any U.S. citizen facing legal jeopardy overseas. In much the same way, she believes that any foreign national on trial in the U.S. should be treated fairly and that such an individual’s government should speak out otherwise.
* Senator Cantwell is not making a judgment in this case beyond saying she has “serious concerns” about the guilty verdict. Her concern all along has been whether there was adequate due process and a fair trial. Senator Cantwell has serious concerns about the treatment of Knox after her arrest, the mishandling of evidence during the initial investigation, the failure to sequester the jury, the prosecution’s reckless leaking to press, and the pending indictment against one of the prosecutors for misconduct in another murder trial. She has to speak out forcefully because Ms. Knox has little or no voice in Italy. Senator Cantwell is concerned that for these reasons Knox did not get a fair trial by an impartial jury.
* Senator Cantwell received regular updates on the trial and stayed in regular contact with the family and with the U.S. Embassy in Rome throughout the trial. She did not follow the courtroom sessions daily. We limited our comments during the entire process to calling for fair treatment and due process. Now that a verdict has been rendered we are speaking out forcefully to ensure that attention is drawn to what we believe to have been serious irregularities.
* The trial took place in a context of strained relations with Italy on a number of fronts: the 1998 cable car incident in which 20 Italians died when a passing U.S. military aircraft severed the cable; the conviction in absentia in November 2009 of 22 Americans involved in an alleged CIA kidnapping of a terrorist suspect in Milan in 2003; the unpopularity of the Iraq War; as well as negative stereotypes about American college students, particularly women. All of this and more was reflected in Italian media press coverage that the jury was exposed to.
* In her meeting with Secretary Clinton, Senator Cantwell will ask the administration to convey to the Italian government that the United States expects Amanda Knox to receive a fair appeal, by an impartial tribunal and that the U.S. and world are watching closely. These are international standards required by Italian commitments to the European Union and the Council of Europe.
* Senator Cantwell encourages her constituents to contact her directly to share their views. The many letters and emails she has received from Washington staters run strongly in favor of her speaking out on behalf of a Seattle resident embroiled in an extremely difficult legal situation in a foreign country.
Diamond added that Cantwell's D.C. office has not yet received a copy of the letter Charles posted earlier, written by the people at True Justice for Meredith Kercher.