What next for Amanda Knox? A series of lucrative TV interviews, surely, followed by an even more well-paid publishing deal to write her memoirs, which, almost inevitably, will been optioned as a big-screen parable of courage amid adversity and the importance of knowing yourself. Emma Stone as Foxy Knoxy, perhaps? Or maybe Rooney Mara? Meanwhile, the awkward post-mortem is just beginning for the Italian law enforcement officials – from the cops to the prosecutors – whose shambolic investigation has further sullied the reputation of the country’s dubiously regarded justice system. The temptation to lambast the Italians is powerful, but it’s worth noting that more heinous miscarriages of justice have occurred elsewhere.
David Bain, New Zealand
In 1994, five members of the Bain family – the parents and their three teenage children – were shot dead in their Dunedin home. Surviving son David Bain, then 22, was charged with their murders and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in May 1995. Bain maintained his innocence throughout but had several appeals dismissed before, finally, in 2007, New Zealand’s Privy Council quashed his convictions and recommended a retrial. At the retrial, the defence argued it was Bain’s father, Robin, who killed his wife and three of their children before turning the gun on himself, after learning that allegations of an incestuous relationship with one of his daughters were soon to become public. The retrial lasted for three months before, in June 2009, Bain was found not guilty on all five murder charges.
Stefan Kiszko, United Kingdom
Lesley Molseed was 11 years old when, in 1975, she left her home in West Yorkshire to go to a local shop but never returned. Her body was found dumped by the side of the motorway, with 12 fatal stab wounds. Suspicion immediately fell upon Stefan Kiszko, a 23-year-old tax clerk and local eccentric who lived with his mother and aunt and had no social life. Kiszko was convicted on the basis of a confession – later shown to be bullied out of him – and the testimony of four teenage girls who claimed Kiszko had exposed himself to them – they later admitted this was a lie. Kiszko was convicted of Molseed’s murder and spent 16 years in jail before his case was reopened and his name was cleared.
David Milgaard, Canada
Milgaard was a teenager when, in 1970, he was convicted of the rape and murder of 20-year-old Gail Miller and jailed for life. Milgaard had been travelling in Saskatchewan with friends, who gave damning testimonies at Milgaard’s trial after police told them they were under suspicion. Milgaard served 23 years in prison before the Supreme Court reviewed his case and recommended his conviction be set aside, meaning he was released but not acquitted. Five years later, DNA evidence emerged to exonerate Milgaard, instead implicating Larry Fisher, a serial rapist subsequently convicted of Miller’s murder. Milgaard received $10m in compensation and an inquiry found he was the victim of a police cover-up.
Lindy Chamberlain, Australia
The outback in Australia’s Northern Territory was the scene of the country’s most famous murder trial, in which Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of killing her two-month-old daughter, Azaria, and sentenced to life in prison. Her husband, Michael, was convicted of being an accessory after the fact. The Chamberlains insistence that Azaria had instead been taken from their campsite by a dingo was treated with scepticism, despite evidence the animals had been in the area and were more than capable of dragging a child away. Four years after the Chamberlains were convicted, Azaria’s jacket was found half-buried in an area full of dingo lairs. The Chamberlains were released immediately and their convictions overturned.
West Memphis Three, United States
When the bodies of three eight-year-old boys were found in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993, suspicion fell upon three local teens. Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin were close friends but only acquaintances of Jessie Misskelley Jr. Police said the victims had been murdered as part of
a satanic ritual and Miskelley, who had an IQ of about 70, was coerced into confessing to the murders and implicating Echols and Baldwin, who received life terms, while Miskelley was sentenced to 40 years. During the course of subsequent investigation and appeals, witnesses who had helped convict the West Memphis Three recanted and it was shown there was no physical evidence linking the defendants to the crime scene. In August this year, they were released.
Guildford Four, United Kingdom
The story of the Guildford Four was told in the film In The Name Of The Father – four young Irish squatters were jailed over an IRA bombing of a pub in Guildford that killed five people. Two of the men had an alibi, in the form of a homeless man named Charlie Burke, who the prosecution hid
from defence counsel. There were also allegations of torture and coerced confessions, which the court ignored, leading to the four accused receiving life sentences in 1975. The families of the Guildford Four were dragged into the investigation – police raided a house in Kilburn and found nitroglycerine, which they charged was used to make bombs – and the so-called Maguire Seven received sentences of up to 14 years. In 1989, though, typed notes from police interviews showed up, with hand-written amendments revealing officers had fabricated evidence. The Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven were released and their convictions quashed.