September 27, 2012
Professor Michael Vitiello's clever and inventive original course, "The Trial and Appeal of Amanda Knox," proved to be a big hit with students in McGeorge's summer program on International Legal Studies in July 2012 in Salzburg, Austria.
The three-week course followed the actual four-year trial and appeal process of Amanda Knox, a young American college student who was convicted in the 2007 murder of her English roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy. Knox and an alleged accomplice, her Italian boyfriend, spent nearly four years in prison before the original conviction was overturned. The case became the focus of worldwide media coverage, especially in Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Vitiello and another Amanda, Amanda Iler, '14, developed the course materials from the actual trial and appeals record. Their hard work paid off as the course attracted an equal number of McGeorge and European students eager to play out the script under an American set of criminal trial rules.
"The course was a mixture of lecture and simulations," Iler said. "We worked through a motion to suppress evidence, then an appeal of a motion to suppress. The course ended in a mock trial and Amanda was acquitted."
"Something that was great about the trial is that we had students who weren't in the course volunteer as jury members," Iler said. "They went into deliberations in the afternoon on the day before we were all supposed to take exams in the other course. Despite this, they took their job extremely seriously, even calling Professor Vitiello in at one point for some clarification on things. It was really nice to see that level of interest in the course."
Vitiello was pleased with the high level of participation his 14 students put into the course work. "It definitely captured their collective imagination. Students, sometimes working in small groups, were prepared every day and you could tell some of them had strong feelings about the case."