On November 1st, 2007 Meredith Kercher was found dead on the bedroom floor partly naked with stab wounds on her neck, many bruises, and signs of being sexually assaulted. At the time, Meredith was a foreign exchange student in Perugia, Italy along with Amanda Knox, an American foreign exchange student. Five days after interrogation, Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were arrested and later convicted with murder, sexual violence, as well as other charges (Knox was sentenced to 26 years while Sollecito was sentenced for 25 years). DNA and fingerprint evidence at the scene both inside and around Meredith's body pointed to another man, Rudy Hermann Guede. Guede was later arrested, tried, and was also convicted of murder an sexual assault. Guede was initially sentenced to 30 years in prison but appealed his sentence which was then reduced to 16 years.
I had never heard of this case before but I happened to turn on Oprah today and caught the tail end of the story. I got the sense that it was a pretty well known case and I found this to be true when I was searching online and I did end up finding a lot of information about it. Here is the link to the Wikipedia article which I think does a great job summarizing the case and is a good place to start if you haven't heard of the case before: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MurderofMeredith_Kercher
There seems to be quite a bit of controversy going on about the differences in the criminal justice system and culture of Italy compared to that of the United States when dealing with this case. I haven't looked into this issue very extensively, but what I have gathered is that many people feel that if Amanda was tried in the United States rather than Italy, she would have never been convicted.
Regardless of this controversy, it became apparent to me while watching the rest of the Oprah show and reading and watching the videos online (http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Amanda-Knoxs-Family-Speak-Out/7), being wrongfully convicted has substantial consequences not only for the person wrongfully convicted, but for their family as well.
First of all, being wrongfully convicted puts a huge financial burden on the person who is desperately fighting for their freedom. The book I am reading for this class (Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter) also touches on the tremendous debts one can be in when fighting their conviction. Thousands upon thousands of dollars were spent, not only by Carter himself, but by his supporters. Amanda's case seems to be no different. When searching through sites online, I came across her official site where you could donate money to contribute to her defense fund which will hopefully someday free her.
Being wrongfully convicted also takes a emotional toll on the person who has been wrongfully convicted as well as their family. On Oprah's website, you can watch a short video of an interview of Amanda's three sisters. The oldest of the three talks about her new responsibility of being the older sister since Amanda is away and how she struggles at being a good example for her younger sisters. Amanda's youngest sister talk about how she feels like she doesn't have a family because she describes a family as everyone being there, which is not the case. Her younger sister struggles with her emotions and her need to stay strong for Amanda and her parents. My book focuses a lot on Carter's emotional struggles to keep his identity while in prison and the shame he feels, which inevitable causes him to distance himself from his former wife and children. Carter's family was torn apart by his wrongful conviction, but Amanda's has come together. Her parents divorced when she was three, but since her conviction, they have combined forces in attempt to free their daughter. Every Saturday her family gets together for the weekly phone call from Amanda.
Being wrongfully convicted has tremendous repercussions for the individuals and their families. Stories like these really make me understand the importance that psychology plays in the law. I'm not sure how heavily eyewitnesses played in Amanda's conviction, but eyewitness evidence was the only thing used to convict Carter of his sentence of triple-murder. In order to keep the innocent out of prison, it is evident that a better understanding and acceptance of faulty eyewitness testimonies is necessary, but I'm afraid that no matter how hard we try, there will always be people who are wrongfully convicted. Even if our criminal justice system improves on keeping the innocent out of jail from now on, there are currently many innocent people in prison, most of which are more than likely desperately trying to free themselves.