Stillwater is a 2021 movie directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Matt Damon. The movie was a decent success in America and Europe. Its plot is partially inspired by the true story of Amanda Knox, an American girl who was arrested and imprisoned for murder in Italy, a legal case that was on the news for years, especially in Europe. Since not everybody today knows the real story of Amanda Knox and her trial, this article will help you with a brief summary of her case.
You can watch the official trailer for Stillwater here on Youtube.
The true story behind the movie Stillwater: a brief summary of the Amanda Knox case
November 1, 2007. A heartbreaking scream pierces the night in Perugia. That evening will be the beginning of a story that will forever shock the city’s population, leaving a young English student without her life.
The story begins with two distinct situations, which will be destined to converge in the Perugian house in Via Della Pergola number 7.
On the evening of November 1, 2007, a lady residing in Via Sperandio receives an anonymous phone call threatening the presence of a bomb in her house. The woman notifies the police, who search the house without finding anything.
The following day, the homeowner finds two mobile phones in her garden and hands them over to the Postal Police. Through one of the two mobile phones, it will be possible to trace the owner, Meredith Kercher, an English student in Perugia, for the Erasmus project. She lives in Via Della Pergola 7, together with three other roommates.
The police officers head to the scene, but as soon as they arrive, they notice the presence of two people outside the house, who claim to be waiting for the Carabinieri (the Italian national gendarmerie), suspecting there may have been a theft in the house, as there are signs of forcible entry. They are Amanda Knox, Meredith’s roommate (along with two other girls), and Raffaele Sollecito, a university student who was dating Amanda for six days.
The officers enter the house and notice some traces of blood in the bathroom, while the door to Meredith’s room is locked. At this point, the entrance is broken down, thus leading to a terrible discovery: Meredith’s body lies lifeless, covered by a duvet.
It is later discovered that the cause of her death is a hemorrhage caused by a wound in the neck inflicted by a sharp object.
Although Stillwater is based in France, the true story that inspired it occurred in Italy.
Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were interrogated at the police headquarters on November 5, 2007. Both claimed to have spent the night together at Raffaele’s house. The two statements do not convince the investigators, who decide to detain them and put them under arrest at the end of their talks.
On November 6, Amanda wrote a memorandum in which she declared that she did not remember what she had done on the evening of the murder but that, according to some flashbacks she has, she believes Patrick Lumumba is Meredith’s murderer. Patrick is Amanda’s employer, who works in a pub called Le Chic, and he’s arrested as well. Subsequently, Knox retracted her statements, stating that what she had written was actually the narration of a dream and did not correspond to reality. After 14 days, Patrick Lumumba is released as he had a cast-iron alibi for that evening, being inside his club.
Another character enters the investigation, discovered through the findings on Meredith’s body and at the crime scene. We are talking about Rudy Hermann Guede, a boy of Ivorian origins who lives in the foster care of a family in Perugia. His DNA is on the victim’s body and unequivocally leads to sexual contact. There are also traces of him in the bathroom and the imprint of his bloody hand on the pillow. Guede is intercepted and arrested after fleeing to Germany.
Thus begins the trial with three defendants, Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Guede. The Ivorian’s lawyers request and obtain the abbreviated procedure for their client. Therefore two separate processes will be carried out.
Stillwater, the true story: Amanda Knox’s first trial
The first act of a long and complex judicial process begins. On December 5, 2009, Italy’s Court of Assizes sentenced Amanda Knox to 26 years in prison and Raffaele Sollecito to 25 years.
According to the indictment, the two are nailed by the traces analyzed by forensics. One concerns the clasp of Meredith’s bra, on which the presence of Raffaele’s DNA was identified. The other refers to a knife found in Sollecito’s home: there were traces of Amanda on its handle and traces of Meredith on the blade (these reports will later be discussed in the subsequent levels of proceedings).
According to the Court, the crime would have occurred following Meredith’s refusal to have sexual relations with Guede, who was in the house with Knox and Sollecito. The victim’s resistance would have triggered the spring of aggression for all three defendants, in an escalation of violence degenerating into murder.
Knox and Sollecito would later stage a break-in, in an attempt to avert suspects, and throw away the victim’s cell phones.
On December 16, 2010, Rudy Guede was sentenced with the abbreviated rite formula to 30 years in prison, reduced on appeal to 16, for complicity in murder.
In the meantime, an appeal is being filed for Knox and Sollecito.
The appeal: the sentence is overturned
On October 3, 2011, Perugia’s Courts of Appeal acquitted Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for not having committed the crime. The two are then released after almost four years in prison.
The sentence gives space to the hypothesis that Guede is the only culprit.
In the reasons for the acquittal, the finds on which the two defendants were convicted in the first instance are at the center. The evidence of the knife found at Sollecito’s house is questioned. Amanda’s DNA is on the handle, but there would be no traces of Meredith on her blade. As for the bra hook, it is highlighted that it was collected by forensics 46 days after the discovery of the body, leaving the possibility of involuntary contamination. In general, the method by which the surveys were carried out is questioned.
Perugia’s General Attorney lodges an appeal with the Supreme Court.
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Court of Cassation: everything needs to be redone
On March 26, 2013, the Court of Cassation canceled the acquittal sentences. According to the court, the reasons for the appeal are approximate, and the story deserves to be investigated.
It, therefore, requires a new appeal process, which will take place in Florence. The true story of Amanda Knox, which inspired the movie Stillwater, is not over yet.
The second appeal and a new overturning
January 30, 2014. Florence’s Court of Appeal sentences Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito to 28 and 25 years in prison.
According to the reasons, the two committed the murder together with Rudy Guede. Knox’s DNA on the knife seized in Sollecito’s house is considered probative, and the latter is deemed involved due to the lack of a well-defined alibi. The motive would consist of a dispute between Amanda and Meredith, which degenerated into a violent manner with the participation of Guede and Sollecito, over the state of cleanliness of the house, as Guede soiled the bathroom that evening while he was in the place.
Knox and Sollecito’s lawyers appeal to the Supreme Court.
Again the Courts of Cassation: Amanda Knox, the last sentence
On March 27, 2015, the fifth criminal section of the Court of Cassation definitively acquitted Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.
According to the judges, the clues against the two defendants are too weak to be considered evidence. The genetic findings were not regarded as reliable as they were found in a questionable manner, and the DNA was in such small quantities as to prevent a new analysis. Amanda’s DNA on the knife can be traced back to domestic use.
Based on Amanda’s memorandum, the cassation argues that she could have been present in her home but that she did not play a role in the killing of the victim. They also don’t exclude the presence of Sollecito in the house on the same evening. Still, it is impossible to establish at what moment, and in any case, he did not take part in the murder, as there are no genetic traces of the two suspects on the victim’s body.
This is the last act at the procedural level of the story. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are innocent.
The true story behind Stillwater: epilogue
The case of Meredith Kercher remains one of the most discussed crime stories ever, even at an international level. A sad story that has marked the Italian city of Perugia and a young student who was brutally murdered. The University for Foreigners of Perugia established a scholarship in 2012 in memory of Meredith to keep alive the memory of a girl who was ferociously snatched away from her gift of life.