Controversy Swirls Around New Netflix Documentary ‘Amanda Knox’

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By Miles Goslett | 3:52 am, September 23, 2016

The new Netflix documentary Amanda Knox will be watched by millions when it drops next week.

It’s presented as a fresh and objective look at the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher in the town of Perugia, Italy. Knox and her former boyfriend Rafaelle Sollecito were found guilty of this crime but after four years in prison were acquitted.

Nothing about this tragic case has ever been straightforward. But now it turns out the same could arguably be said of Netflix’s documentary.

Its makers have said they want the audience to decide the circumstances of Miss Kercher’s death. To that extent their 90-minute film reaches no definitive conclusions and, indeed, uncovers no new evidence. There is no smoking gun.

To their credit  the makers have secured a lengthy interview with Knox (who appears in about half of the film) plus a shorter interview with Sollecito. Significantly, Meredith Kercher’s family – who still have no clear idea of the exact circumstances of Meredith’s death – played no part in the project.

But despite the claims to be objective, Heat Street has established that one of its producers, Stephen Robert Morse, has already delivered his views on the case and he seems to be in no doubt that Knox is innocent.

Morse presented his thoughts in a 1700-word post on his personal blog in February 2014.

This post was subsequently deleted but we have managed to track it down and read it. Having done so, it has to be asked: how objective is this film and did Morse enter into it with a pro-Knox agenda?

The post is titled “Amanda Knox Is Joffrey: Fighting The SVU-Obsessed Narcissistic Trolls Who Want To Live In Her World”.

In his intemperate essay, he proclaims Knox’s innocence and criticises those who believe her to be guilty. He also launches an attack on the British press because allegedly they wrote “crap” about the case. He compares Knox’s treatment to that of Jack Gleeson, the actor who plays bad guy Joffrey in Game of Thrones and who attracted opprobrium in his personal life from some viewers who took the show too seriously.

Here is an excerpt from Morse’s deleted essay:

“In the narrative of Amanda Knox, Amanda has been portrayed as the bad guy, especially for people in the United Kingdom, who saw the trashy, headline-driven press in The Daily Mail, The Sun, and The Daily Mirror that target “working class” citizens of that former empire. With salacious claims of “Foxy Knoxy, the girl who had to compete with her own mother for men” and other horrible, completely false headlines, eventually, anyone who didn’t bother to read the crap in the articles and only read the headlines, might believe that they had some validity, simply from seeing them over and over and over again.”

He adds:

“There is an inherent bias by the media and experts (who are paid for their opinions) to jump to conclusions too early. This clearly happened in Amanda’s case…Very quickly, I learned that the narrative in British media, the one detailed by prosecutors, was preposterous and false.”

From the post we learn that Morse was able to travel to Perugia in 2011 to examine the case himself in what he describes as “independent investigative journalism”.

It may have been these things, but it was also funded by a European Union grant.

After speaking to “thirty” people about the case (we have no idea who they are) he concludes:

“Not a soul thought Amanda and Rafaelle were guilty. They were simply at the wrong place, at the wrong time..”

Morse sums up his defence of Knox by saying:

“Amanda Knox has responded with strength and intelligence to the people who have created hateful Facebook groups against her, like Perugia Vi Odia (Perugia Hates You), and it is my hope that one day she will be free of the misguided hatred that has been lofted upon her for years.”

Heat Street has spoken to friends of the British newspaper reporter who appears in the film, Nick Pisa.

Pisa is said to be very unhappy about what he sees as the negative way he has been portrayed in it. In particular, he is apparently concerned that parts of the interview he gave have been taken out of context.

One friend said: “Italy is very different. Over there, police and prosecutors routinely talk to the press. Nick was the only English speaking freelancer covering the case full time. He made it his business to get to know police and prosecutors and they briefed him. In a breaking news situation, he was told the murder weapon had been found and it had Amanda’s prints on the handle and Meredith Kercher’s DNA on the blade. How was he supposed to independently test on the spur of the moment what the police had told him? Of course he couldn’t, so he reported it. And yet Nick’s been made out to be a scumbag tabloid journalist.”

With a high voltage story such as this one, it is always difficult to remain completely objective.

But among the many outstanding questions surrounding the case can be added these regarding Netflix’s film: why did Morse apparently remove from public view the blog post in which he wrote with such passion in defence of Knox; and how has this affected the project overall?

Heat Street asked Morse to comment several times but he did not respond directly to requests to do so.

A Netflix spokesman said: “Stephen Morse was given an honorary producer credit for his role in introducing Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn to a family friend of Amanda Knox. Rod and Brian are the co-directors of the documentary and Stephen Morse did not have any creative input into the film.”

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