The case against Amanda Knox is a useful reference case for the Chris Watts case, particularly in the area of the interrogation. Watts’ interrogation was long and exhausting. It involved three hours on Tuesday night [August 13] followed by seven hours the next day [August 14]. It could also be argued that he was informally interrogated for four additional hours, between 14:07 until around 18:00 when the cops were at his home.
If one adds the various phone calls, including several very early in the morning, the numbers on the clock really start adding up.
There are more than just a few glaring similarities between the Chris Watts case and the Amanda Knox case. For starters:
- Both confessed [and both confessions were bogus but derived to some extent from the true facts of the crime and crime scene
- Both implicated an innocent third party
- Both spoke at length during their interrogations, believing [or presenting] themselves to be “helping” investigators.
- Both went to elaborate lengths to obstruct justice [Watts by disposing of the bodies and removing evidence. Knox false accusation against Patrick Lumumba – to name one example – meant he was jailed for two weeks before he was finally cleared].
- Both were at the scene of the crime the next day, spotted by the media and behaving not a little inappropriately, but very inappropriately. This included not just physical behavior and demeanor but many statements made to various witnesses.
- Amanda Knox claimed “I wasn’t there” because very little evidence was found of her in Meredith Kercher’s bedroom. Although never tested in court, Watts also seemed to claim he wasn’t there [he was at work, or barbecuing] when his family disappeared or were murdered, even though they lived in the same house.
- Both Knox and Watts suggest some unknown intruder came into the home, committed murder, took virtually nothing and left no traces of themselves.
The list goes on…
Italy Wrongly Deprived Amanda Knox of Legal Counsel, Court Rules – New York Times
To understand how easily a top defense lawyer could have mounted a successful defense in the Watts case, we need only take a casual look at the Amanda Knox case, and how she was able to beat almost all the charges against her over the course of a multi-year court battle against the Italian courts. [Knox was convicted of slandering Patrick Lumumba, and later Knox and her parents were accused of slandering the police but not convicted].
A key part of Knox’s defense was to undermine, invalidate and challenge the police interrogation against her. So despite living in the house opposite the room where Meredith Kercher was stabbed to death, the real criminals – the real suspects – weren’t her and her boyfriend. It was the dodgy, abusive cops. That’s who people should have looked at. The real crime wasn’t someone stabbing Kercher in the throat [burying the blade so far into her throat it stopped at the hilt]. The real violence were the two SLAPS Knox received while the cops were talking to her.
And the police are to blame for the fact that the suspects didn’t call their lawyers. Raffaele Sollecito, Knox’s boyfriend at the time, was offered legal aid by a family member and rejected it. Knox’s aunt also repeatedly advised her to contact the embassy/consulate. It seems it’s okay if family make these advisements and the suspects reject them, but it’s not okay if the cops don’t [or allegedly don’t].
Knox’s father appeared to hire a PR firm at the same time lawyers were hired to clean up the mess. How the narrative is configured: The police should have told the suspects that them being questioned in the police station about a murder in their home meant they were potentially at legal peril [otherwise they would have no way of knowing].
We know in the Watts case that he was repeatedly told he could leave the interrogation at any time, and he also received advice from friends and family [Nick Thayer and his father Ronnie Watts respectively] to get a lawyer. Despite his dumb refusal to get legal advice, Watts could have a lawyer plead the case that like Amanda Knox [and Brendan Dassey], Watts was tricked, coerced, tortured, manipulated and confessed under duress.
While there is some evidence to support this defense, what’s all clear is Watts did commit murder in his own home, and did tamper with evidence, and did move the bodies. Nevertheless, his best defense isn’t to defend the merits of his case, but to attack the police interrogation and investigation.
Theoretically he could also claim that a minor, Nicolas Atkinson, contaminated and compromised the crime scene [framed him, set him up etc] and that the officer on the scene [Coonrod] was negligent or reckless in “allowing” this to happen.
In the Casey Anthony and OJ Simpson cases, there is muddiness around the moment of arrest, and whether the suspects knew they were being arrested, whether they were arrested, and whether the right procedures were followed. As soon as a suspect is arrested, ironically, they win a series of inalienable rights, while at the same time, law enforcement must follow strict protocols. Top defense lawyers are experts in finding loopholes in where or whether these protocols weren’t followed to the letter.
When a murder is committed, and a suspect emerges, the cops have a right to question that person [whether they are a witness, a person of interest or an “official” suspect]. It’s in society’s interest that law enforcement exercise this right to question or interrogate, otherwise everyone would get away with murder. Also, the sooner they can question the better.
We often see when a suspect is guilty, their main tool is not only to deceive, but also to delay. The more time that passes [especially where bodies are missing], the more it plays into their favor.
As mentioned, the process of arresting and interrogating is tricky though. While the cops have the rights to ask questions, the person they wish to question also has rights, including the right to remain silent.
It all becomes muddy when the suspect gives up the right to remain silent and the cops may pretend or manipulate the situation, basically playing along that they know less than they really do, or don’t really believe the person in their custody is guilty [when they do, or have strong reason to].
If both sides are trying to manipulate the other side, even if the suspect is lying, the legal case tends to favor the defense side. It’s seen as unseemly that law enforcement would use deception or underhandedness to catch their killer, and to some extent this is justified.
The flip side though, is this:
A murderer is a liar. If the cops were 100% upfront about everything, there would be little point in having an interrogation. Just give the suspect a clipboard to tick off a few questions and let them go. But in the grey area of true crime, a suspect has to be able to explain and reason their behavior to the cops, and this can become a game of psychological warfare. Who decides when that line is crossed, or where it is?
In the Knox case, a big part of her accusation that she was misled lay in her claim that she couldn’t speak Italian, and thus was in the dark about what was really happening to her. While we can clearly hear her speaking fluent Italian in the video clips below [one months after her arrest], and while it’s clear her boyfriend at the time was Italian [and he could hardly speak English], the onus does fall on the cops [even though they were Italian], to have made provision for an interpreter. So while the actual argument is probably not sound [or true], the legal argument is another matter.
When Watts took the polygraph test, he was given a demonstration where he was told to lie, and shown the results. This test was meant to provide unambiguous proof that he understood the English language, understood the difference between right and wrong [telling the truth and lying], and took the test anyway.
Another aspect that made it difficult for Knox to be prosecuted was the huge amount of negative PR coming from America [and later from Britain] directed at the Italian police and justice system.
The Knox PR camp successfully turned a criminal case into a political one. This meant Italy [the country] had more to gain by not convicting Knox than by convicting her.
It also became a lot more difficult to execute on the confessions on Knox when the interrogation and the police were being undermined in the media.
Now, at the zenith of the #MeToo movement, we see a European court – more than ten years after the criminal trial – upholding Knox’s “human rights”.
In theory, had Watts taken his case to trial, a top defense lawyer could have surfed this wave of his clients rights being violated at every turn. In addition to that, if he admitted to being bisexual, he could also question the motives of the imputed murderer of the children, and the rush to judgement by the cops to be a form of conscious or subconscious discrimination.
In the OJ Simpson case the acquittal wasn’t for lack of evidence, but because the jury sympathized and identified with the race of the defendant, and further, wanted revenge against an allegedly racist detective [Mark Fuhrman].
In true crime, and criminal law, we want the criminals to be evil and absolutely guilty, and the cops chasing them to be completely good, and completely innocent in their police work and interrogations.
Defense lawyers know the cops are only human, and as far as the law is concerned, that can trump the guilt of the defendant. If there is no reasonable doubt by way of the defendant, the methods used by the cops can be used to manufacture it. There’s no doubt that Watts was manipulated and misled during his interrogation. There’s also no doubt that he was actively manipulating and actively misleading about three murders and a recent burial of all three bodies. Sometimes the manipulation of the cops can turn a case, and a verdict, as we see in the Knox case.
Sometimes a degree of play-acting by law enforcement seems necessary and even justified. As they say, it takes a thief to catch a thief. In the Watts case we see how it takes the same foxy thinking to outwit and catch a liar and a murder, especially as they are doing everything they can to avoid telling the truth, being caught or held to account for their crimes. Ultimately, just as in the Knox confession, even when Watts did confess, the confession was a lie.
During their respective interrogations, the cops finally offered both Watts and Knox a way out, an exit, and both took it and ran with it. Both took the bait of blaming and implicating someone else.
In the Watts case, what this revealed was that his “disappeared” family were dead, all of them murdered, and he knew it. He’d known it all along. The fact that he could nonchalantly play act with the cops for hours on end, with a straight face, knowing they were dead is what horrifies us.
But at the moment he acknowledged the lie the cops offered him, that Shan’ann had killed his daughters, he admitted a) that he knew they were dead and b) that he was there when they died. Then, automatically he became the prime suspect not in a missing person’s case but in a homicide investigation.
In the Amanda Knox case, the moment she acknowledged hearing Lumumba murdering Meredith, she also admitted being at the scene during her murder. But the outcome of that bogus confession has since favored her, hasn’t it? Perhaps in due course Watts will appeal along this very same tenuous line of defense. Do you think he’ll win or that he should?