News Briefs | June 13 edition

Local student recognized, Beachcomber wins in regional journalism contest, and more.

Local student recognized

Ryen Kirschner was named to the spring 2024 Dean’s List at Illinois Wesleyan University, which requires maintaining a 3.5 grade point average or higher.

Beachcomber wins in regional journalism contest

The Beachcomber earned an award this month in the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2023 Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest. The competition is one of the largest of its kind in the nation, in which newsrooms in Washington compete with their peers across Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

In the contest, Beachcomber reporter Elizabeth Shepherd earned second place in the “Editorial & Commentary” category for her column “Writing about orcas? Dive deeper,” which advocated for more nuanced and thoughtful coverage of the intelligent and majestic creatures, with whom we share Puget Sound.

Editor Alex Bruell also earned two awards for his news coverage at the Federal Way Mirror prior to joining The Beachcomber in late 2023.

Knox slander conviction upheld in Italian court

On June 5, the Court of Appeals in Florence, Italy upheld a 2007 conviction of slander against Vashon Island resident Amanda Knox, the last remaining criminal conviction against her in the saga of her wrongful murder conviction over the killing of her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher, during a study abroad trip.

Knox was exonerated in 2015 of killing Kercher, but she remained convicted of defaming Patrick Lumumba, the owner of a bar where she worked part time, by wrongfully accused him of killing Kercher.

She appealed that slander conviction after a change in Italian law and a 2019 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that her rights to a lawyer and interpreter were violated when Italian officials interrogated her. An Italian court in October 2023 overturned the slander conviction against Knox and ordered that she face a new trial.

The two statements written by police that Knox signed, containing the accusation, were ruled inadmissible by the Italian court.

The only evidence allowed in her new trial was the recanting statement she wrote hours after signing the accusation, in which she stated that she was under extreme stress when she made her “confession” and was “very doubtful” of its veracity.

Lumumba spent two weeks in jail, released only after a witness provided an alibi for him. He has told the news media that the accusation ruined his reputation, forcing him to leave Italy and rebuild his career. Knox, who has lived on Vashon with her husband, Chris Robinson, since 2019, asked the court on June 5 to recognize that authorities bullied her into signing the accusation.

“Patrick was not just my boss; he was my friend,” Knox said in her statement to the court. “I would never knowingly accuse an innocent person, much less a friend, of a grave crime. … I feel terrible that I was not strong enough to resist the pressure from the police, and that he suffered as a result. At the first moment of reprieve from that pressure, I wrote this document to recant the statements I had signed under duress, and to remove any suspicion from Patrick. This document is evidence that a scared 20-year-old girl was lied to and abused by the police until she was psychologically destabilized enough to not trust her own memories.”

Knox has already served the length of her original slander sentence, so she won’t spend any more time behind bars from being re-convicted. She will continue to fight the conviction and plans to appeal the decision to the Italian Supreme Court, she said on her podcast Labyrinths.