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Category: Great reporting

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Second Of Three Excerpts In Italian from LA7 Program On Meredith’s Case

Posted by True North

Thanks to TJMK poster Cesare Beccaria for the video links. We posted some background last Friday.

This is the interview with Knox defense lawyer Luciano Ghirga at his law offices in Perugia, plus a fleeting but telling reenactment.

When the LA7 reporter Andrea Vogt asks Mr Ghirga to explain Amanda’s version of events, he emphatically responds that throughout the trial Amanda has been painted as a liar.

He says that Amanda stayed and never left Sollecito’s house between 5:00 pm and 10:00 am the next morning. He disputes the eye witnesses who claimed to have seen Amanda at the convenience store, and at the piazza above the house with Sollecito around 11:00 pm.

When Ms Vogt asks Mr Ghirga what he thinks about the quality of the evidence, he raises the fact that the bra clasp wasn’t retrieved until 46 days later. He believes the bra clasp evidence was contaminated because it had moved from its original location.

Andrea Vogt says to Mr Ghirga: “You always argued that there was only one perpetrator”. He responds that the trial forensics experts never ruled out the possibility that all of the body wounds, including those on Meredith’s neck, mouth and knees, could have been committed by one person.

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Note that in this interview Mr Ghirga never states that Sollecito never left his house that night. He only mentions that Amanda never left that house. In line with the observations of our poster Cesare Beccaria that the defenses rarely give the other defenses any breaks, and often make things more difficult for them.

Both the Micheli sentencing report for RG and the Massei sentencing report for AK and RS conclude that the wounds on Meredith with two knives and the sexual assault HAD to have been done by more than one person, and that dozens of evidence points confirm this.

And Mr Ghirga’s arguments at trial that Knox never left Sollecito’s house were very weak - and undermined by Knox herself and by Sollecito. Even the few straws he grasps at seem to be floating out of reach.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

First Of Three Excerpts In Italian from LA7 Program On Meredith’s Case

Posted by True North

Thanks to TJMK poster Cesare Beccaria for the video links. We posted some background last Friday.

The male reporter asks Prosecutor Mignini what was the most damning evidence in this case? Mignini replies: the knife, the bra clasp, and the mixed blood traces in the bathroom.

Mignini stands firm when answering Andrea Vogt’s repeated question of what about “the low copy numbers?” He asserts that it was indisputably Meredith’s DNA on the knife. There was never any transfer or contamination of DNA on the knife because Meredith never touched it nor had she ever been to Sollecito’s house.

While admitting that the bra clasp had not been retrieved until 46 days later, there was never any transfer or contamination of DNA on the clasp. He stresses that the bra clasp never left Meredith’s room and yet still had plenty of Sollecito’s DNA on it.

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Added: As suggested in Comments below, there seems very good reason to translate all of Mr Mignini’s remarks, and we will be posting a full transcript of this video one day this week.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Commentary by The Most Widely-Read English-Language Website In Italy

Posted by Peter Quennell


The Knox campaign seems to have divided out into three pieces, none of them seemingly at all effective.

The ludicrously shrill David Marriott campaign, the ludicrously shrill Anne Bremner/FOA campaign, and the adolescent internet rantings of the Knox groupies. All three seem to be painting themselves into a corner.

Meanwhile, Amanda Knox’s two lawyers in Italy seem to be going their own sweet way, quite impervious to the above, and it is clear that the Massei sentencing report has given them very much food for thought.

Italian-language reports as they have mostly done for two-plus years vary between strict neutrality and the occasional caustic comment on Knox or Sollecito.

Italy’s biggest English-language internet outlet, read by tens of thousands of residents and visitors who don’t speak very much Italian. has also adopted the same cool objective tone.

This is today’s thoughtful, well written commentary by Rome Journal contributor Rebecca. 

We had closely followed the first trial, in which Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were found guilty of murdering her British flat mate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia.

This was one of the most dramatic and internationally observed Italian trials of this decade, and Italy as the scene of crime and trial had come under close scrutiny, and had been at the centre of a bizarre media frenzy covering the case.

Now, Amanda Knox is back in court. She faces slander charges against the police, who she claims hit her during the questioning a few days after the killing in November 2007. Italian police strongly denied that Knox was subjected to any physical abuse, which is supported by an external inquiry.

If Knox is found guilty of slander, she could face another six years in jail, on top of the 26 years she is currently serving.

Knox’s defense lawyers filed a motion to prevent the presiding judge, Claudia Matteini, from hearing Knox’s slander case because of her involvement in the preliminary hearings into the murder. A hearing today will take the final decision about whether Matteini is the appropriate judge to hear this case. The trial is likely to start on October 1….

What is particularly unnerving about this case is the sense that much of the testimony is contradictory: All three convicted of the murder deny their involvement, but cannot explain their inconsistent testimonies, and keep changing their account of what happened on the night of the murder.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, a journalist who has followed the case from the start and has always provided excellent coverage and analysis, asks ten questions that Amanda Knox has never answered, even though they could set her free. That she never addressed them, indicates that her involvement in the murder may have been substantial.

Whether the lies aim to conceal that the convicted did partake in the murder ““ which frankly didn’t work ““ or whether they intend to cover up something else, remains a mystery. Any hints regarding the truth in this matter, even if they come from a separate trial, will be of high interest.

What are your thoughts on the trial? Why do you think Amanda Knox keeps lying? If she is truly innocent, why not tell the truth?


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Questions For Knox And Sollecito: Ten From Daily Beast As Knox Calunnia #2 Trial Starts

Posted by Peter Quennell





This Daily Beast report indicates that the cancelled jailhouse TV interview with Amanda Knox was a lot more firmed-up than Knox’s stepfather, Chris Mellas, seems to have claimed.

And it outlines the first phase of Knox’s Calunnia #2 trial which is based on charges brought by the interrogating police, all of whom testified at her trial that she was treated well during her interrogations as a witness and suspect. .

Click the image or link above above for the fine reporter Barbie Nadeau’s full article on some issues Knox has never been able to account for, including Knox’s callous skipping of Meredith’s memorial service.

The ten questions are all very tough, and each would also have been asked by the jury. Here they are:
.:

It’s back to court for Amanda Knox, the 22-year-old Seattle native currently serving 26 years in prison in Italy for sexually assaulting and murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher.

This week, Knox is expected to attend a preliminary hearing on slander charges lodged against her for accusing Perugia police of abuse. During her testimony at her murder trial last June, she accused the cops of slapping her on the back of the head during an interrogation just days after Kercher’s body was discovered in November 2007.

The police deny hitting her, and Knox’s own lawyers have never filed charges for the alleged abuse. If she is convicted of slander, a judge could add six years to her sentence….

Knox’s resurgence in the headlines was to coincide with a joint jailhouse interview she had granted to ABC News and the Italian broadcaster Mediaset’s Matrix program. But the bureau of prisons denied the interview in the final hour, effectively silencing Knox indefinitely.

A high-profile jailhouse interview with Knox is considered the Holy Grail by journalists covering the case, and the American and Italian networks have been vying for a chance to ask Knox a few questions on camera. Now it is unlikely anyone will get an interview before Knox’s appeal hearings this fall.

But if we did, there are a few questions we’d want her to put to rest.

1. Why did you and Raffaele Sollecito turn off your cell phones at the same time the night of November 1, 2007 and on again at the same time the next morning? You told the police that you and Raffaele slept late the morning of November 2, 2007, but phone records show that you both turned your phones back on very early that morning. How could that be?

2. Why were you bleeding? Your lawyers agree with the prosecution’s findings that at least one of the spots of Meredith’s blood found in the house where she was killed had your blood mixed with it. Your mother told me that you had your period. Your stepfather told others that your ear piercings were infected. Which was it?

3. Once you realized your mistake in blaming Patrick Lumumba for Meredith’s murder, why didn’t you tell the authorities? You told your mother that you felt bad about it, so why didn’t you alert an official so Patrick could be set free?

4. Why did you go with Raffaele to the police station on November 5? You were not called in for questioning. Did you realize at that time that you were both under suspicion?

5. Why weren’t your and Raffaele’s fingerprints found in your house after the murder if the two of you had spent time there that morning and the day before? Only one half-print on a glass in the kitchen has been attributed to you, yet you have claimed that you took a shower there that morning. How did you spend so much time there and leave virtually no trace?

6. Why did you take the mop and bucket from your house over to Raffaele’s house? You told the prosecutor during your testimony in June 2009 that you took the mop and bucket to his house to clean up a leak under his kitchen sink. But by your own testimony, the leak was miniscule and could have been easily cleaned up without it. What were you really doing with the mop?

7. What would you do differently if you had a chance to rewind the clock back to November 3, 2007? Would you go to the memorial service for Meredith? Would you still have gone to the police station with Raffaele? Would you have left for Germany when your aunt asked you to?

8. What do you think happened the night Meredith was killed? You have professed your innocence. Who do you think killed her and under what circumstances?

9. What do you really think of the Italian justice system? You told an Italian parliamentarian that you got a fair trial, and you even thanked the prosecutors for trying to solve the mystery of Meredith’s death, but your supporters at home in Seattle maintain that the Italian system is corrupt and unfair. What is your real view?

10. Is there anything you wish you would have said in court during your trial? You talked about your vibrator and about how you did not want an assassin’s mask forced on you. But in your final appeal after the closing arguments on December 4, 2010, why didn’t you say the words, “I did not kill Meredith Kercher?” Raffaele did when it was his turn to speak. Why didn’t you?

Our posting soon of the judges’ sentencing report will open up dozens of new questions for Knox. Such as: “How did you track Meredith’s blood into your own room and leave three traces revealed by luminol?”


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

From The Book Darkness Descending: The Insights On Rudy Guede

Posted by Peter Quennell


Above and just below: Abidjan, the very attractive West African city where Rudy Guede was born and where he lived until he was five.

Darkness Descending includes this well-researched and revealing portrait below of Rudy Guede and the two traumatic experiences that really threw him: his moving in with the Caporali family, and the collapse of the restaurant in northern Italy which briefly employed him.

No claims here about Rudy Guede being a drifter or drug-dealer or dangerous knife-wielder or petty criminal.

None of those things are confirmed by the record or the Micheli report, and few or none in Perugia or Italy generally seem to believe Rudy Guede was the sole perpetrator or even the main perpetrator of Meredith’s death. 



(Above: the downtown of Abidjan, the economic and former political capital of the Ivory Coast)


From Darkness Descending by Paul Russell and Graham Johnson (Pocket Books) pages 292 to 296

Unlike Amanda and Raffaele, the background of Rudy Hermann Guede seemed to inspire a degree of sympathy in readers and viewers.

At least once the undercurrents of reactionary racism had run its course and readers were able to identify with Guede the individual.

Guede had been dragged up a virtual orphan. He seemed to be luckless, directionless, prone to following others into trouble, his carers said. He’d never had a paternal figure to look up to or guide him.

That, and the fact that once he’d been caught he seemed to be at least trying to tell the truth about his involvement with Meredith, gave him a certain credibility.

He was often given a fair hearing in the papers for not trying to evade guilt by changing his story. Editors and readers seemed to appreciate that he had not relied on high-powered family connections to duck out of one of the most tragic cases that had ever come before them.



(From Piazza Italia at the south end of the walled city - Rudy Guede first lived off there to the south-east)

Guede came to Italy in 1992, when he was five years old. His father Roger had emigrated from the Ivory Coast a few years before at a time when the Italian economy needed new manpower to fuel the country’s post-industrial boom…

Roger Guede had trained as a teacher in the former capital city of the Ivory Coast, Abidjan, where his wife still lived with little Rudy, but in Italy he found work as a bricklayer.

Life was hard because of exploitation, denial of workers’ basic rights and rampant illegal labour.

After five years he was granted a regular resident’s permit and returned to Abidjan to his wife, to see if he could take the young Rudy back to Italy with him. She agreed that in Italy he would have a chance of a better life.

Roger and Rudy found a flat in the shabby low-lying suburb of Perugia called Ponte San Giovanni. The neighbourhood was not at the top of the hill, with its wide vistas, ancient buildings and air of academia.

Roger’s life had no room for aspiration or fanciful gap-year adventures. He settled for a seedy new-build on the valley floor near the railway station. An unhealthy stream meandered through the projects like a sewer.

Still, it was better than the shanty town where Rudy’s mother was eking out a bare existence.



[Shots here and just below of Ponte San Giovanni, the town just to the east where Guede first lived]

New to immigration, Italy’s attitude to race relations has often been schizophrenic. Far-right extremists have been known to whip up dissension. But in Perugia, a small community like many that made up the backbone of Italian society, Roger and his son were welcomed.

His presence stimulated the lively cutiosity of Italians, not their hostility. The kindness of his neighbours and the willingness of social services to offer him childcare were proof of that, and he was free to hit the road to find building-site work.

During these absences Rudy was fostered by local families. One of his first full-time carers was a Mrs Mancini, who had been his maths teacher at school. She never lost interest in him and was to be like a second mother.

Rudy also struck up a lifelong friendship with her son Gabriele and another schoolmate, Giacomo Benedetti. The fabric of a closeknit Italian working-class community felt like a protective cloak and Rudy thrived.

His teachers and foster families all say that he was a quiet child, well behaved and responsible. He had moments of daydreaming stupidity, but no more than other kids.

He was good at basketball - tall, athletic and serious. The local professional basketball team was sponsored by one of Italy’s most successful companies, Liomatic, who manufactured coffee dispensers - a link that would later change the course of his life.

One day, Rudy’s dad went home to Abidjan to renew his passport, but civil war broke out when he was in the country and instead of spending two weeks away from his son he was trapped for six months, as strife raged in the Ivory Coast.

Back in Italy, the social services stepped in with a view to formalizing Rudy’s foster status and finding a long-term home for him.

Rudy was unhappy but he coped with the loneliness and uncertainty with admirable courage. He didn’t complain. And he was soon rewarded. Astonishingly, he was catapulted into the heart of one of Italy’s richest families.



[Another shot of Ponte San Giovanni, where Guede in his early days apparently lived happily]

His change of fortune was like something out of the plot of the musical Annie. Rudy had met one of the Caporali sons at basketball. Now the family wanted to officially take him in as one of their own. He never lived with Roger again.

The change wasn’t smooth. Rudy found it difficult to adapt. When he moved out of Ponte San Giovanni, he lost touch with many of his old friends, which he found particularly hard.

They had been the bedrock in what had so far been a rather unstable family life. He soon missed the informality, the lack of pressure to succeed and the maternal bonds that Italian families are famous for.

It wasn’t long before his new father figure, Paolo Caporali, was calling Rudy ‘an inveterate liar’. He skipped school and spent his time in front of the television or on PlayStation. Caporali’s wife and kids were much kinder in their view:

Rudy was introverted and shy. He lied to protect himself, but not maliciously to hurt others or gain personal advantage.

The move from a poor area to the home of the super-rich Caporali family had confused Rudy and, to some degree, had embarrassed him.

His basketball trainer Roberto Segolini said Rudy was friends with everyone and never missed a training session. Where he could prove his worth and show success to his new high-status family, Rudy thrived.

With such a chequered school career, Rudy would find it hard to find a job that suited him once he left school. But at the age of nineteen he went to stay with an aunt in Lecco and landed a job as a waiter in Pavia.



[Shot of Lecco north of Milan where at age 19 Rudy Guede moved to live with an aunt]

Finally, he had found his way. He was ecstatic. He was now going to prove that he could knuckle down and stand on his own two feet. He thought about learning the trade and one day opening a restaurant.

But as soon as he settled in, the rug was pulled from under him - his employer was arrested and the business folded.

To someone with a fragile view of himself, this chance setback took on a great and doom-laden significance. Rudy blamed himself and worried about how he would explain his bad luck to the Caporalis.



[Shot of Pavia south of Milan where Rudy Guede worked as a waiter till the restaurant collapsed]

Confidence shattered, he fled back to Perugia in shame. It was July 2007 and the beginning of the long summer that would end in tragedy.

The Caporalis were desperate to bolster his self-esteem. In August they found him a gardener’s job at a restaurant they owned out of town.

He stayed with the Mancinis, where the father and mother made sure he got up early to catch the bus. But the rot had set in; he wanted to live where the excitement was.

He was distracted by the scallywag antics of the lads in Perugia, who never seemed to work but always had money, and by the beautiful students from allover the world who were descending on the University to find digs and party.

Amanda and Meredith would be among them. Once he failed to go to work for a whole week, claiming he had flu and snivelling unconvincingly over the phone. He was sacked.

He lived off his savings until 2 November, when the murder and his doomed getaway would end any hopes he had of turning his life around.



[Shot of Mainz on the Rhine between Frankfurt and Bonn where Rudy Guede was captured]


Monday, May 03, 2010

From The Book Darkness Descending: The Insights On Knox And Sollecito

Posted by Peter Quennell


This is Hamburg above. And that is Berlin and its parliament (the Bundestag) below. 

Amanda Knox speaks German and she spent several months in these two cities, staying for some weeks in in Hamburg with her relatives, and several days in Berlin, before moving to Perugia to start her study period there.

Darkness Descending is the book on Meredith’s case by two British writers from which we excerpted on Meredith a few days ago.

As far as we know the writers did not visit Seattle, and their focus is more generally on Italy and to some extent the UK. But they did offer this brief take on Amanda Knox, and also one on Raffaele Sollecito.


**********

From Darkness Descending by Paul Russell and Graham Johnson (Pocket Books) pages 291 and 292

Meredith had enjoyed making the pop video with her University of Leeds friends, but Amanda’s summer job, before travelling around Europe and going to Perugia, had not been so successful.

A politically well-connected uncle in Hamburg had got her an internship to die for - a job working for a German MP at the Bundestag. Kindly Uncle Uwe also set Amanda up with a flat on the .outskirts of Berlin.

Astonishingly, two days later, his seemingly ungrateful niece walked out on the job without telling anyone, moaning that she had nothing to do and she wasn’t sure if she was getting paid. Again, money was a big feature in her thoughts.

She’d spent most of the time reading Harry Potter and showed no curiosity about how the parliament or the high-powered people in there worked. She ignored conversations about its history and architecture.

After walking out, she spent her time drinking wine in the local bars and reading more Harry Potter.

Two days later she left Berlin for Hamburg, where her uncle was waiting for her. He was furious - she had let him down.

It seems Amanda craved excitement on her terms, usually based on getting drunk and goofing around.

Her friends said she simply feared boredom like any young girl. She showed a healthy streak of youthful carelessness, they said, no worse or better than anyone else. A video posted on YouTube showed her drunkenly giggling in a friend’s kitchen after downing shots.

On campus, back in the US, Amanda had been fined for being drunk and disorderly at a party held in a fellow student’s house. During the incident she had also insulted the police.

However, her defenders gave another version, portraying a magnanimous Amanda. They said that in fact she was courageously fronting up for her underage friends, who were in no state to talk to the police; she was the only one sober enough to handle the situation.

A big plus in her character assessment, they said, possibly displaying a sense of chivalry that would later get her into deeper trouble in Perugia.

Despite her college party lifestyle, there was no denying that Amanda was clever and that she could compartmentalize her life.

She made the Dean’s List, an elite commendation of the University of Washington reserved for the institution’s brightest students, and an honour that would ultimately qualify her for a prestigious and sought-after place on the study-abroad exchange programme.

If Amanda wanted something, she would go all out to get it, no messing around.

Raffaele Sollecito’s later years were quite different: he seemed to laze around and evade responsibility.

He posted pictures of himself on the internet wrapped in blood-covered bandages, brandishing a meat cleaver, and wrote a weird story to go with the images. In a blog he expressed satisfaction at once being lodged in the same hostel as the infamous ‘Monster of Foligno’, a murderer who slaughtered two youths in the 1990s.

And yet his new-found fascination with gory horror and violent comics would have surprised the friends he left behind at Licea Scientifico Einstein secondary school at Molfetta.

They said Raffaele suffered from excessive softness - his kickboxing instructor recalled that he even hesitated when kicking out, for fear of hurting the hardened expert.


***********

A few interesting insights there, though we could use more on Sollecito.  For most of it, this is a pretty good book, the weak part being the closing analysis of the evidence. Two small corrections.

  • The house where the notorious rock-throwing party took place was where Knox herself was living at the time. See here.

  • Knox was not on an official University of Washington study-abroad program, as the university has rather anxiously tried to make plain. See here.

If Knox had indeed been on a proper study-abroad program - something many caring parents actually insist upon - her behavior might have been more restrained. She may not have moved in with Sollecito for one thing.

She may not have hit the drugs so hard. And she would not have run so desperately short of money, just when Patrick was apparently about to hire Meredith to replace her. No monthly checks were arriving from Seattle. 

Maybe the second correction is not such a small one.

In fact, it is a pity that no writers have really explored all of this - there is, if anything, a surfeit of motives in this case, and the writers might be able to narrow them down.

Although he went to highschool in Molfetta (bottom shot here) and the book is correct on that, Raffaele Sollecito actually comes from Giovinazzo which is ten minutes drive south along the coast.

Both are north of Bari, where his father practices medicine.   





Friday, April 16, 2010

Italian Media Reporting Impartially On Prosecution Appeal Filed For Increased Sentences

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Prosecutor Manuela Comodi.]

In light of the judges’ sentencing report (due soon here and on PMF in English) the prosecution have filed an appeal that Knox’s and Sollecito’s sentences be revised upward to life.

Life sentences were their original request to the court last November, and the Italian media in November and early December largely anticipated at least 30 years. The 26 years for Knox and 25 for Sollecito came to many as a surprise.

First legal advice from the Italian lawyers on our team is that at minimum this could firm up the existing sentences, and at maximum Knox and Sollecito actually could be looking at life behind bars - such upward revisions do happen. 

Remember that the Italian public are way better informed on the cruel depravity of the crime than the British or American publics.

And that Knox’s cold smug antics on the stand, during which she spoke flippantly and callously of Meredith’s passing, seemed to leave few in Italy feeling any real sympathy.

Grounds for the appeal are twofold: (1) That the judges’ arguments for the granting of extenuating circumstances was a stretch (such as the conclusion that the duvet placed over Meredith was a sign of remorse), and (2) That the judges’ dismissing of aggravating circumstances was in effect a shortfall (such as the possibility that Meredith could have been saved if they had not removed her phones, locked the door, and walked off).

The posters here and on PMF may be the largest group in the English-speaking world so far to have actually read the judges’ sentencing report.

Typically we are finding the description of the evidence to be extremely detailed and quite remorseless. There is very, very little room for argument about it, and the defense teams in the appeals will have an even tougher time laying a paw on it than they did in the course of the trial.  We are highly impressed by this - this case NEEDED this to put an end to the endless myth-mongering, and to give Meredith’s family and friends hope of some respite.

But the motives assumed in the sentencing report, the judges’ timeline (which differs from both Micheli’s and Mignini’s), and the instigating role given to Rudy Guede, were interpretations the sentencing judges made which the appeals judges may not buy into.

The defense teams will not be resting any easier in light of this. The pressures may be mounting for the lawyers and defendants to finally split three ways - we will have a major post next week on their three-way herding of one another over the past two-plus years.

And perhaps enough pressure on each of the defendants to show real remorse and finally tell their version of all.


Friday, April 02, 2010

How The Strongarm Public Relations Resulted in Most Of The Media Getting It Wrong

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for the full excerpt from Barbie Nadeau’s new book.

This is surely one of the worst cases of misreporting and malicious bias in all of media history. It’d be very nice (though don’t hold your breath!) if journalism schools and media owners examined the firestorm to stop it ever happening again.

Consider just the US hall of shame.

And please remember: this is the SAME media that turned a blind eye to the Micheli sentencing report on Guede, and appears to be trying hard to do the same (not one of them is translating it) to the Massei sentencing report on Knox and Sollecito.

Here is Barbie Nadeau describing how the sharp-elbowed Knox/Marriott public relations bombardment warped Americans’ take on the case.

Coverage of the crime began to diverge on the two sides of the Atlantic. From the vantage point of Perugia, it seemed as though the Knox family’s American supporters were simply choosing to ignore the facts that were coming to light in Italy….

The American press hung back, at first, objective and somewhat disbelieving that such a wholesome-seeming girl could have any connection to such a sordid foreign crime, and then, as the family stepped up its defense, increasingly divided between two camps that would become simply the innocentisti””those who believed she was blameless””and the colpevolisti, those who did not. In Perugia, these labels governed access…

Of the handful of American journalists in Perugia in late 2007 and early 2008, none got access to the Knox family without certain guarantees about positive coverage. Within months, the family decided to speak on the record primarily to the American TV networks, often in exchange for airfare and hotel bills. Most of the print press was shut out. And the TV producers learned to be very cautious about being seen with people like me, lest the Knox family should cut them off.

But as interest in the case grew, an odd assortment of American talking heads attached their reputations to Amanda’s innocence. An aggressive support group called Friends of Amanda formed in Seattle, headed by Anne Bremner, a media-savvy criminal lawyer who had cut her teeth as a tough prosecutor in Seattle’s King County Court…

Very quickly, [PR manager David] Marriott lost control of the situation. As he spoon-fed the Knox-approved message to American outlets that couldn’t afford to send correspondents to Italy, those of us on the ground in Perugia began passing his contradictory e-mails around as entertainment during the long days in the court.

[We reporters in Rome] began what would be a two-year battle against the Seattle message machine, incurring personal attacks and outright threats.

.

We rather like the Daily Beast book, for its splash of cold water on the media, and for its highly accurate accounting of the court proceedings and of the voluminous evidence the judges also describe in their report.

We also believe that although Meredith’s family did not participate, Barbie Nadeau has strong compassion for them, and a sense of real loss over Meredith.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tina Brown Of The Daily Beast Extols Barbie Nadeau’s Book On Knox’s Descent Into Hell

Posted by Peter Quennell


Our previous post on Tina Brown of New York’s Daily Beast who is publishing and championing Barbie Nadeau’s new book.

Tina Brown is certainly sounding more up to speed on the case than a ludicrously misinformed Oprah Winfrey and likely to be a much-needed balancing voice. Excerpts from her new piece, starting with a kind gesture to Meredith’s family.

“It’s such a shock to send your child to school and for them to not come back.”

That was the brokenhearted testimony of the mother of Meredith Kercher, the 22-year-old British student killed in Perugia, Italy, in November 2007, at the trial of her daughter’s alleged killers two years later. “We will never, never get over it.”

As the mother of a 19-year-old myself, I shuddered at her words.

Hers is the nightmare that haunts every parent who sends a son or daughter off to one of the “gap year” or study-abroad programs that have become a rite of passage for educated Western youth. But the rapid growth of such programs can be credited, in part, to parents’ woeful””or is it willful?””ignorance about what can happen when students suddenly find themselves in a foreign land, free from parental or college oversight, and surrounded by a new set of peers, all of them eager to experiment….

Only with Meredith’s horrific death did it become clear that she and her roommate had been mixing with a crowd that was headed not just for trouble, but, in Amanda’s case, a descent into evil….

[Barbie Nadeau’s]  objective dispatches also earned her the enmity of ferocious pro-Knox bloggers, who hurled insults and threats, hoping to discredit her professionally. Instead, her reputation has been enhanced by her diligent pursuit of a story that most of the U.S. media, including The New York Times, badly misread….

Mining diaries, social-networking sites, exclusive interviews, and telling moments in the courtroom, Nadeau paints the first full portrait of a quirky young woman who is neither the “she-devil” presented to an Italian jury nor the blameless ingénue her parents believe her to be. What Nadeau shows is that Amanda Knox is, in fact, a 21st-century all-American girl””a serious student with plans and passions””but is also a thrill-seeking young woman who loves sex and enjoys drugs and who, in the wrong environment with the wrong people, develops a dark side that takes her over and tips her into the abyss.

In short, every parent’s worst fear…

We strongly endorse Tina’s uncomplimentary crack at the New York Times. The Times did nothing to advance the truth here. Instead it hosted the xenophobic blogging of Knox slobberer Timothy Egan.


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sentencing Report: Barbie Nadeau Quotes The Motive, Physical Evidence, And Alibis

Posted by Peter Quennell


Please click above for Barbie Nadeau’s full report on the Daily Beast website. Key excerpts.

1) The motive

“One can hypothesize that the bad decision came after the consumption of stupefying substances.”

But they disagreed on the motive. The prosecution lawyers began their case in January, 2009 by arguing that Kercher was killed during a sex game gone awry. By closing arguments, they had changed the theory slightly, trying to make the case that Knox resented her prissy British roommate and killed her in hatred. The jury rejected both theories, and the reasoning document declares that “the killing was carried out with no planning, no animosity and no revenge against the victim.

“The two young lovers, interested in each other and in the intellectual and cultural world around them, would not have made a conscious decision to kill Kercher. Instead, the judge wrote, they killed spontaneously under the influence of drugs. “One can hypothesize that the bad decision came after the consumption of stupefacente””stupefying substances””that Amanda verified in her testimony.”

As the jury saw it, Knox, Sollecito and Rudy Guede, the Ivory Coast native who was convicted for his role in Kercher’s murder after a fast-track trial in 2008, came to the house the two girls shared in order to get high. Guede used the toilet, then became aroused when he saw Knox and Sollecito making out. He went to Kercher’s room and made sexual advances toward her. The reasoning refers to evidence presented at Knox’s trial that Guede was the type of guy that “bothered women” when he was under the influence.

Then, according to the reasoning, Kercher cried out for help, but instead of helping her, Knox and Sollecito, their judgment impaired, decided instead to help Guede. The killing was based on “sexual-erotic violence” but not with Knox as the mastermind. The jury felt that it was Guede who led that attack, and the other two, too high to know better, joined in.

2) The physical and forensic evidence

The judge’s reasoning also underscores what the jury believed to be the most important elements of the prosecution’s forensic case. They believed that a kitchen knife with Knox’s DNA on the handle and a trace of Kercher’s on the blade was the weapon that made the large fatal wound in Kercher’s neck. They also referred to Sollecito’s “knife habits,” surmising that, as an admitted collector of blades, he likely used his own knife to make the second wound. The jury agreed that Sollecito and Knox conspired to stage a break-in in another bedroom to cover their tracks.

And they attributed an unidentifiable bloody shoeprint found on the pillow under Kercher’s body to Knox, even though the prosecution only implied that it was compatible with a woman’s shoe size. A spot of Knox and Kercher’s mixed blood in one of the bedrooms, found using Luminol, and four additional spots in the small bathroom the girls shared also swayed the jurors.

“These were left when Amanda was cleaning her hands and feet of Kercher’s blood,” the judge wrote.

3) The Knox and Sollecito alibis

The judge also wrote emphatically about the lack of credible alibi. Although Knox and Sollecito claimed to be at his apartment all night, “Not one phone call, not one meeting, no computer activity or any other element proved that they stayed at that apartment.” And the judge was particularly hard on Knox for accusing Patrick Lumumba, an innocent man, of the murder “knowingly and deceivingly.”

Overall, however, it appears that the jury was sympathetic to the two suspects, but ultimately felt that they committed a crime for which they must pay a hefty price.


Sentencing Report: La Repubblica Has The Most Substantive Report So Far Today

Posted by ziaK


Click above for the Repubblica’s story in the original Italian.

This translation below is of this the longest report so far today in the Italian media, presumably by staff reporters in Perugia, although it is unsigned.

Verdict filed in Meredith crime: Murder arising from Guede’s sexual violence

PERUGIA - Four hundred and twenty-seven: This is how many pages it took for the judges of Perugia’s Court of Assizes to explain the sentence on the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia on 1 November 2007. For this crime carried out, the judges wrote, “without any planning, without any animosity or feeling of rancour”, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were sentenced to 26 and 25 years imprisonment, respectively. For the same crime, Ivory Coast national Rudy Guede was sentenced (to 30 years following a “fast-track” trial, subsequently reduced to 16 years in appeal) and is currently waiting to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. The Perugian judges wrote: “The motive, was of an erotic, sexually violent nature, which riginated in the evil choice made by Rudy, and elicited the active collaboration of Amanda and Raffaele.”

From Viterbo prison, where he is held, Rudy wrote a letter with an appeal: “to those who know, talk”. A request which appears to be addressed to the same Amanda and Raffaele (both - particularly the American student whom he has always claimedto know - pointed to by Rudy as having been present at the crime scent, ndr) who have always declared themselves to have no involvement in the affair.

Together, all the elements which emerged during the process “demonstrated a comprehensive and unified picture, without gaps and inconsistencies”, wrote the judges in the file signed by the Court President, Giancarlo Massei and by assessor judge Beatrice Cristiani. According to the College [as in the board of judges], the picture that emerges “has, as its necessary and strictly consequential outcome, the attribution of the hypothesized facts of the crime to both the accused.”

The measure furthermore asserts that Knox “freely accused Patrick Diya Lumumba of having killed Meredith, and so accused him with the full knowledge of the innocence of the same Lumumba”. The judges underlined that there had not been “any confirmation” that Amanda had been urged by the investigators to accuse Lumumba. For Perugia’s Court of Assizes, the objective aimed at by the American (who was also convicted for the crime of calumny with regard to the Congolese [sic] musician, ndr) was to “lead the investigators down the wrong path, far from that which could have led them to establish her own responsibility, and that of her boyfriend”. “Such behaviour is a choice”, wrote the Court, “and thus merely defensive: Amanda had a good relationship with Lumumba, by whom she had always been well treated, and therefore there could have been no motive for rancour, animosity, revenge which could have justified such a serious accusation.”

The murder of Meredith Kercher, it further reads, was carried out “without any planning, without the animosity or feeling of resentment towards the victim which in some ways can be seen as the preparation/predisposition to commiting a crime”. According to the board of judges, “the actions turn out to have been carried out as a result of purely coincidental events”.

In the judges’ report, they talk of “purely coincidental events which, when joined together with each other, created a situation which, in the combination of various factors, made possible these crimes to the detriment of Meredith: Amanda and Raffaele who suddenly found themselves without any commitments, meet Rudy Guede by chance (there is no trace of any appointment having been made), and find themselves together at the house on the via della Pergola on the very evening (between 1 and 2 November, ndr) that Meredith is there alone”. According to the judges, “even the behaviour towards Meredith - once the assault and the murder have been commited - which consisted in covering her lifeless body, shows a feeling of pity for the victim, refusal, and thus a sort of repentance for what has been done: refusal and repentance shown through such an act of pity.”

The judges attributed the material criminal act, that is, the sexual violence, to Rudy Guede, who was aided by Amanda and Raffaele, weakened by the drugs they had consumed. The judges wrote: “Amanda and Raffaele participated actively in the criminal actions carried out by Rudy with the aim of overcoming Meredith’s resistance, subjugating her will, and allowing Rudy to relieve his lustful urges.” The judges also wrote in their report: “The prospective of helping Rudy achieve his aim of subjugating Meredith in order to sexually abuse her may have appeared to be an exciting detail which, although unforeseen, should be tried”.

“The motive”, added the Perugian judges, “was therefore of an erotic, sexually violent nature, which originated in the evil choice made by Rudy, and elicited the active collaboration of Amanda and Raffaele. That such participation, active and violent, had also involved the current defendants as well as Rudy can be deduced from what has been observed in talking about the lesions suffered by Meredith, by the outcome of the genetic investigations, by the prints of bare feet found in various parts of the house.”

According to the judges, in this murder case, one of the tests, carried out by several people, is confirmed by Meredith’s physical strength, by the fact that she was conscious on the evening of the assault, and by her previous experience in the gym. “Meredith, when the violence began, was awake and dressed, and was not laying down on her bed.” Furthermore: “According to the analyses, the young woman had a slender and well-endowed physique, and was physically very strong, as was claimed by Meredith’s mother and sister. She had even done boxing”.


La Repubblica’s Riccardo Stagliano Reports On The Seattle End of The Case (2)

Posted by The 411



This below is a translation of this excellent report by La Repubblica’s Riccardo Stagliano which was widely watched on Italian television.

Like the article below it also follows the typical mould of Italian reporting on Seattle - polite but seemingly doubting of the FOA claims about Amanda and the case.

AMANDA KNOX SPONTANEOUS STATEMENT: “In these days, I’ve reflected a lot about what I’ve wanted to say and what came into my mind. I wrote a question that maybe still puzzled a lot of people.”

ITALIAN ANNOUNCER VOICE-OVER: But it was the entire Meredith Kercher murder story that leaves many people puzzled in spite of the triple first-degree conviction of Rudy Guede, Raffaele Sollecito, and Amanda Knox.

We went to Seattle to try to see if we could enter into the world of the American 20-something girl - angel for her family, devil according to the judges.”

The obligatory first stop is the office of David Marriott, spin doctor these past two years, who has handled media relations for the family. You can’t enter into the inner circle of the girl without passing by him first.

The first interviews are with the mother and father, separated [i.e., divorced] for 20 years.

CURT: “Amanda is a person who’s always been extremely real. As her parents, it wasn’t always pleasant to hear what was said. But, she wasn’t able to hide the truth. She’s someone who takes care of others, honest, as a study habit she has an intellectual approach to things.”

“With Raff, they met for the first time at a classical music concert. They went out for about a week, before Meredith was found dead. In such a brief period, you don’t transform a beginning relationship in to [the type of] scenario made up by the judges. You don’t go from zero to an orgy. It doesn’t happen in nature…. It’s not started out in an orgy manner.”

EDDA: “Amanda and Meredith were friends. She only said good things about her. They spent their time together, going to bookstores, or hanging out around town, reading and discussing books. Everyone will say that Amanda is a type of person who couldn’t hurt a fly. She couldn’t even do aggressive sports, because she doesn’t like violence. She’s affectionate with the elderly and children. She’s a kind human being.”

“The only direct contact we have now is 10 minutes every Saturday morning, in which we all try to tell her we love her and we all say “hi” quickly because there’s such little time. And then there are the letters. She’s written a lot of them to us, and we try to do the same.”

VOICE OVER: An important turning point for Amanda’s life was high school - attended at Seattle Prep, a Jesuit school attended by all the offspring of the upper middle class, which, later, would mobilize for The Cause.

We met Kris Johnson, her Literature teacher for two years, who let us see in the classroom where she taught, a letter, in very childish handwriting, that she sent from prison.

KRIS JOHNSON: “Amanda was an enthusiastic student who loved to learn..It really affected her. She sent me a lot of emails after class. She was simply excited by learning. She was fascinated by characters and people because she wanted to become a writer….as if she wanted to train for it, continuously.  It is not at all possible that the person I knew in class could even THINK of the things that the media has portrayed.”

VOICE OVER: Before coming to Italy, Amanda studied at Washington University and she lived near campus. There she met and became friends with Madison Paxton, the official friend, the only one Marriot lets journalists come close to.

MADISON: “One of the reasons that we became such good friends is that we had opposite views of life and people. She’s a very trusting person, while I’m not. In the end, we balanced out each other.”

“As for her man-eater reputation, when she came to college, she had less romantic experience than the average student. In high school, she hardly went out with anyone, and in college, she had a total of two boyfriends.”

VOICE OVER: Not all of Seattle, however, is so united in their outraged defense of their famous fellow citizen. Among the despised critics of the family is Peggy Ganong, a doctoral student in French at the University, who moderates the forum “Perugia Murder File” where information is gathered about leading stories on the case.

PEGGY: “One of the things that aroused my suspicions was that the family issued a press release the day after the arrest. I found it strange- and interesting. And then I discovered that a Public Relations firm was recruited to manage the Amanda image - a firm known to use techniques, I don’t want to say unethical, but let’s say unconventional,  in order to reach their objective.”

“I think that the incredibly one-sided coverage of the case in the American media is the result of this massive PR activity that cost more than a million dollars. What Marriott and the family have done was to say from the moment that the tabloids demonized Amanda, we’ve painted her as an angel. That’s why they’ve constructed an image of a typical American girl, which is probably just as false as the demonized image of her, which the tabloids have perpetuated.”

VOICE OVER: Ms. Ganong is not the only one to think that way, and to say it publicly. Among the skeptics, there’s Charles Mudede who’s in charge of the cultural pages of “The Stranger,’ a popular weekly newspaper…. We meet him at the Quarter Lounge, near his workplace.

CHARLES: “She didn’t grow up as the classic American girl. She played soccer, which isn’t a national sport here. In fact, it’s fairly non-traditional. And then, yoga, which speaks of a Far Eastern influence, rather than of praying.”

“You might expect from a classic American girl that she’d be very focused on the Christian side [of things]  “”she on the other hand did a mixture of different things, typical of the liberal cosmopolitan girls of Seattle.”

PEGGY: “The reason why many of our well-known local people have mobilized in her defense, organizing fund-raising dinners, putting together groups of people on her behalf all goes back to Seattle Prep.”

“People who pay $13,000 a year to send their children to high school so they can prepare them to go to the best colleges do not want to see the value of that investment go down, as a result of that type of scandal. Seattle Prep was the school where Judge Mike Heavey’s daughter went, [a girl] who was quite friendly with Amanda. As were the children of Tom Wright.  I believe worrying about saving the good name of the school is a good part of the [motivation behind the] ‘Innocentisti Movement’ in Seattle.

“Although it’s important that these influential people on her side have made a big splash, they don’t really represent the entire city.”

VOICE OVER: Anne Bremner, former prosecutor and current TV legal commentator is the spokeswoman for the Friends of Amanda, a site where counter-information regarding trial facts is continually updated.

ANNE: “An injustice in any part of the world is an injustice in all of the world.  I personally felt it was important to lend a hand, to expose the absolute lack of evidence. In other words, someone who has absolutely nothing to do with this horrendous crime. What has happened since the verdict? Nothing, except to increase the passion, that much more. We will never, ever abandon Amanda.”

SUBTITLES OF STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS CONFERENCE - A REPORTER ASKS: “Today Senator Cantwell spoke of contaminated evidence”¦ of unsequestered jurors and a questionable prosecutor”¦ additionally, we’ve seen jurors wearing tri-colored sashes”¦ and there was anger in the Italian press and all this indicates that there hasn’t been a fair trial”¦and all of you in the State Department claim the opposite”¦”

VOICE OVER: In the meantime, they continue their tireless lobbying activity, recruiting the most varied of advocates. Senator Maria Cantwell has expressed such serious doubts about the judicial system, that Anti-Americanism contaminated the case, also making Hillary Clinton more aware of the case.

Fortunately, she [Hillary] was too busy dealing with Afghanistan and Iran to offer an opinion on the matter. [There are] even VIPs, like Donald Trump, who proposed a boycott of Italy, until the girl comes home.

SUBTITLE OF STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS CONFERENCE: “Italy has its own justice system, different than our own.”

VOICEOVER: No one remembers one detail—that at least Italy doesn’t have the Death Penalty.

Nor does anyone seem to remember the many cases when America made great efforts to collaborate with Italian judges, including such times as [after] the Disaster of Cermes, and the [after] the killing of Agent Nicola Calferi by [American] soldier Mario Lozano.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Formidable Tina Brown Speaks Out On Barbie Nadeau’s Forthcoming Book

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above and below: New York publisher and editor Tina Brown; click for larger images]

Someone you’d sure want to have in your corner if you have a good book to promote is New York’s colorful, driving Tina Brown.

A former editor first of Vanity Fair and then of the New Yorker, British-born Tina Brown launched the hustling Daily Beast news-site late last year. We get emails daily from the Beast on breaking news and, as a newspaper-blog hybrid, the Beast may have found the sweet spot that promises survival in this media day and age.

We believe that Tina personally sought out the Rome-based American journalist Barbie Nadeau to write a blog on Meredith’s case, and then Tina promoted the idea of a book - the Beast’s second book to be published, and one certain to be very high-profile. 

Here on MediaBistro’s Galleycat are Tina Brown’s first remarks about Barbie Nadeau’s book: Angel Face, The Real Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox

Q: What’s coming up next?

A: It’s called Angel Face by Barbie Nadeau. It’s about the true story of a student killer Amanda Knox. Nadeau was at every one of the sessions of the trial, so she covered it obsessively for the Daily Beast.

She gathered a huge following with us, and so we’ve given her the time and space to do a great 40,000 word narrative. She put the whole trial together into a really compelling narrative.

It’s terrific, I mean I couldn’t put it down; I was reading it this weekend.

Barbie Nadeau’s book on the student-killer Amanda Knox is due out early in April - the third book on Meredith’s case to hit the stores. The next three are expected to be Candace Dempsey’s polemic and then the cool factual studies by John Follain and Nina Burleigh.

Between now and the Knox-Sollecito appeal late this year, we expect to be posting first all of the judges’ sentencing report in English. The report is due out at the latest in a couple of weeks. And then many, many excerpts from the best of the books.

Those that see that, here, finally, true justice for Meredith really was done. 



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Andrea Vogt Has A Long Cool Take In The Seattle PI On Where Things Stand

Posted by Peter Quennell


Please click above for the report. This one is highly worth reading in full.

Apart from the highlights quoted below, the report touches on Amanda Knox, now semi-resigned in her cell, on the very extensive nature of the evidence, and on the pro-defendant stance of the Italian justice system.

Italian reactions to the commentaries of Timothy Egan and others not very immersed in the evidence are also reported on.

According to Andrea Vogt, in many ways, things are not, at least not yet, so very different from before. The campaign goes on, if now sensibly a lot more subdued.

We do however continue to see large numbers coming by TJMK to read here at length (especially now from Seattle) and according to our emails the shock-factor of the actual evidence is often quite considerable.

And the judges’ long and very detailed judgment report out early next March at the latest may prove to be a definitive bottom line, as Judge Micheli’s report was after the Rudy Guede trial.

It is that objective and exhaustive judgment statement that will define what the appeal is about.

1) On Italian reactions to the charges of anti-Americanism

On Monday, another salvo was fired at Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., from Italy as the Italian president of the Italy-USA Foundation, an association that works closely with the U.S. Embassy in Rome, released a statement on the foundation’s website describing his Sunday prison visit with Knox and harshly criticizing Cantwell’s comments about the Italian justice system.

“I believe it is out of place to insert anti-Americanism, as stated by American Sen. Maria Cantwell, into a situation like this that can be easily exploited,” wrote Rocco Girlanda, president of the Italy-USA Foundation, in a news release posted on the foundation’s website. “In my opinion it would have been more correct to avoid creating controversy or alleged affairs of the state that are totally outside the official declarations of the parties and of their respective governments.”...

On Monday, Cantwell’s spokeswoman did not repeat the complaints that the senator has made but said her office will continue to monitor the Knox case….

Cantwell’s questioning the fairness of the Italian justice system has raised the ire of many on this side of the Atlantic….The handful of American journalists inside the courtroom regularly attending the trial did not witness the “anti-Americanism” of which Cantwell spoke.

2) What really mattered to the jury in their deliberations and the length of the sentence

Jurors said they believed the forensic evidence, as reported last spring here and here and not the defense’s attempts to dismiss the evidence at trial and during closing arguments.

The forensic evidence was presented in open court and subject to cross-examination and robust debate. Legal scholars say Knox is lucky she didn’t get a longer sentence….

The jurors, polled and interviewed after the verdict, said they were not split on the question of innocence or guilt but rather on the question of whether she should get life in prison or less.

3) An Italian expert on the justice system notes that this was a fair trial

“This is the simplest and fairest criminal trial one could possibly think of in terms of evidence,” said Stefano Maffei, lecturer in criminal procedure at the University of Parma.

“There were 19 judges who looked at the facts and evidence over the course of two years, faced with decisions on pre-trial detention, review of such detention, committal to trial, judgment on criminal responsibility. They all agreed, at all times, that the evidence was overwhelming.”

The court’s sentence of Knox and Sollecito was mild, Maffei said, with the jury taking into account the facts of the crime along with her clean criminal record.

He noted that a similar reduction in sentence did not happen with co-defendant Rudy Guede, even though he agreed to a fast-track trial, which reduced his sentence from life to 30 years.

4) The very extensive nature of the evidence presented.

Often lost in the debate over Knox’s guilt is the evidence presented at trial. Some of it was strongly disputed, and some likely forgotten by those in America trying to keep up on a trial that took place a couple of days a week over several months with long breaks of no proceeding at all.

Jurors, interviewed after the verdict, said they were convinced by the forensic evidence and were unanimous on the question of guilt or innocence, though they made a point of noting they did not believe Kercher’s murder was premeditated.

[In Andrea Vogt’s full report in the Seattle PI (click through above) there follows an excellent bullet-point list of the evidence.]

5) The many pro-defendant protections built into the Italian justice system

For historical and political reasons unique to Italy, the country has a justice system with an extraordinary number of protections for the accused, more than many other European nations.

“These criticisms we are hearing from the United States are so strange,” said Stefania Carnevale, an assistant professor of criminal procedural law and prisoner’s rights at the University of Ferrara.

“They leave me perplexed because the critique seems to be about the behavior of the police or the prosecutor or small details of this single trial, not the system as a whole. If there are errors in a trial, the Italian system has rigorous checks and balances in place to correct such mistakes, and guarantee an appeal.”

Knox may have a number of salient points on which to base her appeal, most notably several pieces of contested forensic evidence and the fact that she was questioned without an attorney present despite being treated as a suspect by Perugian police.

The presumption of innocence is so strong in Italy that under criminal procedural law, Knox is still not considered a convicted murderer, and won’t be, until she has been found guilty through all phases of the process: Court of Assize, where the jury just made a decision; the Appellate Court of Assize; and the Court of Cassation.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Jeanine Pirro A Former Powerhouse Prosecutor Weighs In Accurately On The Case

Posted by Peter Quennell



Jeanine Pirro is extremely well known and much admired and respected around New York because she was a FORMIDABLE District Attorney for Westchster County.

Westchester County is directly north of New York City and it is one of the two or three most wealthy in the US. It has more than its share of powerful perps. 

Jeanine Piro won case after case after case, and she has an absolutely exceptional TV presence, being scary smart, extremely funny, and absolutely gorgeous to look at.

She appears in the second half of this clip, right after a mumbling and confused Ann Bremner.

The host here, Geraldo Rivera, never lets real facts get in the way of a good story. Here his grasp of the real facts is dismal. But although he tries very hard to trample all over Jeanine Pirro, it is pretty clear that he is desperate and she emerges the clear winner.

Geraldo Rivera’s stance here is interesting. This is only the second example after Jane Velez Mitchell of CNN of a Hispanic leaping on board the xenophobia bandwagon. Normally Hispanics have very good reason to want to see other countries and peoples treated with respect.

Memo to Fox, CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC: perhaps one way of reducing your exposure to those defamation suits that may be headed your way from Italy?

Have Jeanine Pirro on your broadcasts from now on. You know. For some actual balance.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/11 at 03:07 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in News media & moviesGreat reportingComments here (25)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Amazing Person That Was Meredith Kercher #4: Sue Carroll Captures The Growing Mood

Posted by Peter Quennell


Sue Carroll reflects on Meredith and Amanda Knox in today’s Daily Mirror

I wonder, if Amanda Knox had the saturnine looks of a psycho-killer, would US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton be interested in fighting her conviction for murdering fellow student Meredith Kercher?

It is a shocking but entirely predictable reflection of our image-conscious society that we don’t expect a bright, multi-lingual student with a penchant for writing fiction (albeit warped) to be a brutal killer.

We like our she-devils Rose West-shaped with the harsh staring eyes of a Myra Hindley and a bit of Lady Macbeth thrown in.

That a dewy skinned, nubile young woman could plunge a knife into the neck of her flatmate in a drug and drink-fuelled rage doesn’t compute.

Even her nickname, Foxy Knoxy, has connotations of sauciness and frivolity, not the blatant wickedness of which she was found guilty along with ex-boyfriend and accomplice Raffaele Sollecito in an Italian court last week.

From the moment Meredith was found semi-naked in a pool of blood at the cottage she shared with Knox, attention has been focused on one woman only ““ the accused.

Articulate and flirtatious with moist Bambi eyes, her status, carefully manipulated by her garrulous publicity-driven parents, morphed from suspected murderer to victim long before the trial. A flight home had been arranged and grandiose plans were afoot for the prodigal daughter’s return with lucrative book deals in the pipeline, movie rights under discussion and TV interviews planned.

The brutal murder of a beautiful young girl in a vile sex game was turned into a side issue. The fact Knox had wantonly and without a single vestige of shame named an innocent man, Patrick Lumumba, as Meredith’s killer was also conveniently forgotten by fans and family.

By contrast the dignity shown by the Kerchers, who have expressed only relief at the guilty verdict, could not be further removed from the crass insensitivity of the Knox clan who don’t merely protest their daughter’s innocence but threaten to turn it into a political row, pointing the finger at Italian justice and citing anti-American prejudice.

What clap-trap.

An interesting challenge since the jury also condemned Italian-born Sollecito to the same fate as Knox. And spare us, please, the tales of how the condemned cries herself to sleep at night.

I’ll reserve my sympathy for Arline Kercher, who says she can never bring herself to sell the family’s Surrey home because if she did Meredith would never know where to find her.

“It’s silly really,” says Arline. No, it’s not. When the physical bond has been ripped away all that’s left for the bereaved are emotional ties and associations.

For exactly the same reason Kate McCann has vowed to stay in the only home her missing daughter Madeleine ever knew. To leave it would feel like abandoning her child and for both these mothers constant reminders and memories, not bitterness or anger, are what keeps them going.

Meanwhile, I’d suggest the Knox family take their distasteful publicity machine home and consider themselves fortunate their daughter’s trial was conducted on European not American soil.

They have a special kind of punishment for killers in the good old US of A. It’s called the death penalty. Is that the justice they would have preferred?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/08 at 06:10 AM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Concerning MeredithHer memoryNews media & moviesGreat reportingComments here (4)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

“Amanda Knox: Behind The Hollywood Smile, A Liar, A Narcissist And A Killer”

Posted by Peter Quennell





Knox’s flippant callousness in court clearly did her no good.

With the exception of several in the media the universal view seems to be that Knox has been given her due.

Here’s a commentary by Tom Rawstorne that is typical of any of the reporters who followed the best of the reporting from the court.

For Team Knox, it wasn’t meant to end like this. The flights back home to America had been reserved and plans meticulously laid out for the first day in Seattle ““ a manicure to smooth Amanda’s prison-worn nails and then a Mexican meal followed by her mother’s home cooked pastries.

Then there would be the seven-figure media deals to be mulled over (with best-selling crime writer John Grisham pitching to pen the definitive book) and dates with Oprah Winfrey and Larry King to fulfil. There was even talk of a Hollywood film ““ after all, who could resist the story of a beautiful 22-year-old American whose trip to Italy ended with her being forced into confessing to a brutal murder that she did not commit?

But, as film goers know, Tinseltown loves a happy ending, and the guilty verdict delivered last night in the Aula degli Affreschi (Court of the Frescoes) put paid to that.

So instead it is a very different future that now faces Amanda Knox and her family, who had flown in en masse to be by her side for the closing days of the year-long trial.

For Knox, her conviction for the murder of her British flatmate Meredith Kercher means an immediate return to Capanne prison on the outskirts of Perugia where she has spent much of the past two years.

She will be placed in a cell on her own and checked by guards every 15 minutes. If she is deemed not to be a suicide risk in all probability she will then be returned to the five-person cell she was in before.

There she had bagged one of the top bunks, so that she could see out of the window and to the world beyond.

Of course although Knox has been convicted, the judicial process is far from over. An appeal will be launched in the New Year, but that will not be heard until the autumn.

Not only will it take time to organise but it will also cost a lot of money, with high-flying lawyers and forensic experts once again to be retained. It is money that Team Knox claims it no longer has. The family has already spent in excess of $1.2million (£750,000) supporting Knox.

Her divorced parents Edda Mellas and Curt Knox have remortgaged their homes, and so has Knox’s 72-year-old German-born grandmother Elizabeth Huff .

They say that their credit cards are ‘maxed out’ and that they are now so short of money that they will have to sell their homes to continue their fight. Indeed, Mrs Mellas is seriously contemplating moving lock stock and barrel to Italy with her new husband to reduce the need for expensive transatlantic flights.

Mrs Mellas insists that she has never once doubted her daughter’s innocence.

‘Never,’ she says. ‘I’ll do whatever it takes for Amanda, however long it takes. The good news is she will get out of this, the bad news it could take several more years.’

That she and her family are so sure of her innocence has at its essence a belief that Amanda Knox simply could not have murdered another human being.

‘I’ll tell you a little story about Amanda,’ is the way Mrs Mellas explains it. ‘She doesn’t know how to lie. If you were to ask her, “What d’you think of my shoes?” and she thought they were hideous, she doesn’t do the polite thing ““ she’ll tell you they’re hideous. Since she was five she’d do that.’

When Amanda Knox was first remanded in custody a little over two years ago, she vowed that she would learn to speak Italian. Having cut her linguistic teeth on The Jungle Book, she recently finished reading Anna Karenina.

Indeed so good is her grasp of the language that her lawyer has suggested that she should herself go in to the law. While many will raise an eyebrow at such a suggestion it is entirely in keeping with the spin put on Knox’s incarceration by her supporters.

They insist that she has tried to draw positives from her time inside, rather than wasting energy getting angry and resentful about the fate that has befallen her.

So it is we are told that she has whiled away the time by helping teach other inmates English and yoga and by learning to cook, to do needle-point and to play the classical guitar.

‘She’s made it a time to learn, to learn about herself and the friends she has and the way the world works,’ says her mother. ‘She realises it’s not about her any more, she truly sees herself as one of the lucky ones in there.

‘She sees women in there who have no support, or good lawyers, or even family, they have nothing.’

Such a depiction is central to the portrayal of Knox as herself a victim in this tragedy, the suggestion being that the way she has comported herself is indicative of her true character.

Since her arrest, any cracks that have emerged in that portrayal have time and time again been dismissed as being down to ‘naivety’ rather than anything more sinister.

For instance, at the police station prior her to arrest, why was Knox seen performing cartwheels?

‘This is Amanda just being Amanda,’ explains her mother. ‘As her friends would say, “It’s an Amanda thing”. The police were still being friendly to her then, so she was stretching, and they were talking to her and she said, yes, she had been a gymnast, and they were like, “Well, how about a cartwheel?” so she did one.’

Shortly after that came Knox’s confession, the one that put her squarely at the murder scene.

‘It was coercion,’ says her stepfather Chris Mellas, a 36-year-old IT professional who has spent many weeks at the trial supporting Knox.

‘They (the Italian authorities) did what they needed to do to get her to say what they wanted her to say.’

Next they had to explain why she told police that Patrick Lumumba, an entirely innocent bar owner, was involved in the killing. Again, we are told, it was all down to police ‘bullying’, and that ever since Knox has felt ‘terrible’ about dragging him into it.
Amanda Knox on her way to Germany

Then there is the story she had written about a violent rape and posted on her Facebook site that was discovered by journalists following her arrest.Over to her mother again.

‘That was for an assignment at university,’ she says. ‘Her friend Jessie had the same assignment, and she said Amanda’s story is tame compared to hers.’

During the trial there were other slips, other quirks that caused surprise. Arriving at a hearing on Valentine’s Day she wore a t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘All You Need Is Love.’

On another occasion she interrupted proceedings to explain that a pink vibrator found amongst her belongings was a gift from a friend and was just ‘a joke’.

Then there has been her see-sawing behaviour, smiles and flirty flirty glances followed soon after by tears and pained protestations of innocence. On its own, no one is saying that any of the above is indicative of guilt.

But taken with the prosecution’s DNA evidence, it is easier to understand why the jury was willing to accept that Knox did indeed have it in her to carry out a brutal murder.

They clearly did not believe that Knox was an innocent abroad (the girl with the so-called ‘acqua e sapone’ face, the ‘water and soap’ representing wholesomeness and purity).

Rather, they chose to accept the version put forward by prosecutor Giuliano Mignini who describes the real Knox as being ‘narcissistic, aggressive, manipulative, transgressive, with a tendency to dominate’.

Not only was she ‘easily given to disliking people she disagreed with’ but was a ‘talented and calculating liar’.

On the night of the murder, the prosecution alleged, Knox and Sollecito were high on drink and cannabis and returned home after meeting Rudy Guede, the Ivory Coast drifter who was separately convicted of the killing.

Finding Miss Kercher at home alone, Knox decided to take revenge against her housemate whom she had come to view as boring and sober-minded.

Maybe the spark was an argument about Knox bringing home another man, or maybe about some missing money. No one knows for sure. But it is claimed that when Guede went to the bathroom, Knox and Sollecito started to argue with Miss Kercher in her room.

Venting her resentment of Miss Kercher, Knox pushed her violently against a cupboard while her boyfriend held her hair. Guede emerged from the bathroom and joined in, eager to compete with Sollecito to have sex with Miss Kercher.

When she fell to the ground the three tried to undress her, Knox pulling out a knife while Guede began to sexually abuse her.

Mr Mignini told the jury: ‘It is easy to believe Knox said . . . “You were such a little saint . . . now you are going to be forced to have sex”.’

As Sollecito pulled at her bra strap, Knox stabbed her for the first time. Pulling out his own, smaller knife, Sollecito did the same. As it became clear Miss Kercher would not submit, Knox began to strangle her as Sollecito continued to stab her, prompting Meredith to let out the ‘terrible’ scream that neighbour Nara Capezzali heard.

At this point, Knox delivered the fatal blow, plunging her knife into Miss Kercher’s neck at around 11.30pm.

Under Italian law, relatives of victims can ask for compensation from the defendants if a guilty verdict is reached. Miss Kercher’s family have lodged a claim for £22million damages for her death.

While the amount is largely symbolic, it is an additional front for Team Knox to fight. Mr Lumumba ““ later released without charge ““ has also put forward a compensation claim after what his lawyer called his ‘ruthless defamation’.

He has said: ‘My life as a man, husband and father has been ruined because of Amanda Knox.’

Then there is the separate case being brought by Italian police, also for defamation, over an interview given by Curt Knox and his ex-wife Edda to the Sunday Times in which they said their daughter had ‘been abused physically and verbally’ by police.

Team Knox has dismissed the possibility of such court action as a minor problem, adding that all their efforts will focus on clearing the name of Amanda.

Plans for her home-coming will not be cancelled, they say. Just put on hold. Whether that postponement will be a matter of months ““ or years ““ only time will tell.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Der Spiegel Reporting Meredith’s Father Is Writing A Book To Cover Their Considerable Costs

Posted by Peter Quennell


We knew that a book by Meredith’s father John is in the works. We did not know the real reason why.

This news is frankly pretty heartbreaking.

Alexander Smoltczyk in Perugia reports on the health and financial hurt descended upon Meredith’s family..

The announcement of the verdict is expected at the end of this week, after a long trial that has taken its toll on everyone involved, not just the defendants….

Kercher’s mother only manages to cope by taking psychiatric medication, while her husband, a journalist, has been forced to write a book about the case to cover their legal fees.

The publishers’ grapevine has been hinting in fact that the book will be all about Meredith.

Meredith’s family have said through their lawyer that they expect never to see any financial return from the financial awards made by the Italian court against those who are found guilty.

Multi-million-dollar awards are common now in the US and Europe if there is a danger of profiteering from inside a prison cell. And in Italy, those sitting in prison cells often get easy access to the media.

Many of us here - many readers too - have long wanted to organize something financial for Meredith’s memory and for her family by way of this website for Meredith. Maybe now is a good time to begin.

Mind you, if the book IS all about Meredith this could be truly huge. Pent-up demand to find out more about Meredith, which we encounter every day, is now really enormous.

After being overshadowed for so long by obnoxious others, Meredith deserves her day in the sun.



Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Barbie Nadeau Cracks The Mystery Of Why Sollecito’s Lawyer Was Arguing For Knox

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for the report in the Daily Beast.

Yesterday’s strategy by Ms Bongiorno had been puzzling us behind the scenes. Even the Italian media seemed confused. Some thought she was subtly saying that Knox had framed Sollecito. This analysis sounds authentic.

American murder suspect Amanda Knox was nervous Monday morning when she entered the courtroom in Perugia…

Sollecito’s co-counsel Giulia Bongiorno…. surprised court observers and spent most of the morning ignoring her own client. Instead, she defended Knox even though Sollecito is the only of the two with DNA evidence in the room where Kercher was murdered…

By doing the work of Knox’s defense team, Sollecito’s own defense took a calculated risk that it will be harder for the jury to convict them both. But in doing so, she paved the way for the two to be judged as one, meaning they will either both be acquitted or both receive life sentences.

And by defending Knox and attacking the forensic evidence against her…. [Bongiorno] is banking that Knox’s lawyers will also do their bit to defend Sollecito later this week when it is their turn.

“She is not Amanda the Ripper,” Bongiorno told the jury, which at times must have been wondering when she would get to Sollecito. “She is a little crazy, extravagant. She does the cartwheels in the police station because reality for her is too strong to deal with. She is spontaneous, immediate, and imprudent.”

It was a moment of obvious relief for Knox. The last few weeks have been particularly arduous for her. Two weeks ago, Rudy Guede, the man who has already been convicted for his part in Kercher’s murder, testified in his appeals trial that he saw her silhouette in the window of the crime scene the night of the murder.

The same week, the prosecutor painted a disturbing picture of Knox as a drug-fueled vixen who called Meredith Kercher “prissy” before threatening her at knifepoint to have group sex with Guede and Sollecito. Then last week as the civil plaintiff’s closing arguments against her concluded, Knox was called a “dirty minded she-devil” by lawyers for Patrick Lumumba….

[Monday] was the best day the defense has had in this trial. Bongiorno’s oratory was a tribute to criminal defense. The jury didn’t take their eyes off her as she weaved a story separated by her own self-titled chapters. And when Knox’s defense lawyers begin their summation, they are expected to do their part and pick up where Sollecito’s defense left off.

“We are really four lawyers with two clients,” Knox attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova said after court. “We are all in the same boat.” Soon the jury will decide whether it will stay afloat.


Andrea Vogt Asks Some Useful Questions Concerning The Legal Process

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click here to read all of this well-researched report on the Seattle P-I website.

After presenting an overview of the system similar to those posted here by Nicki and Commisario Montalbano Andrea Vogt asks two experts on the system these questions.

Do jurors have to find Knox guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

Yes. The concept of proof beyond a reasonable doubt has long been a part of Italy’s justice system. It was formalized and passed into law in 2006.

Knox’s defense lawyer Luciano Ghirga said his team will remind jurors that, even after more than 40 hearings, everything is still in doubt.

The court’s ruling (which is not called a verdict in Italy) is made by an eight-member jury: six laymen and two professional judges. They will vote, and the majority rules. In the case of a 4-4 tie, acquittal overrules.

Could Amanda Knox have plea bargained?

Knox maintains her innocence.

However, while not completely analogous to plea bargaining, Italy does have a similar alternative to trial, also a part of the 1988 reforms. The alternative is not applicable for serious crimes, such as murder, punishable by more than five years in prison.

Suspects who cooperate fully with the police, however, may become eligible for a bundle of mitigating circumstances that would lower prison sentences. A judge may also choose to apply aggravating circumstances to increase a sentence.

Negotiation on the evidence—in which both sides agree what can be admitted—is also available when defendants choose a fast-track trial, as did Rudy Guede, sentenced to 30 years last year for his role in the case for which Knox is on trial. Guede is appealing his conviction.

Why does the figure of prosecutor seem so powerful in Italy?

The prosecutor is a powerful figure in Italy connected to the judiciary, not elected or appointed. While there is a career separation between judges and prosecutors, the qualifying examination and training are common, That has made judges and prosecutors close both culturally and professionally.

In the U.S., prosecutors are appointed in federal system and typically elected in the state system, hence it is common to hear cases referred to as The State vs. X.

In Italy, protections were put in place precisely to prevent the state from pursuing or persecuting, hence the independence of prosecutors.

As a result, prosecutors haven’t shied away from taking on politicians. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, for example, faces a series of criminal procedures in the courts.

That independence , some argue, is precisely the protection needed as a check against government power, and without it, corruption could not be exposed, said Maffei. But others argue that prosecutors wage their own political battles. using their independence to attack political opponents.

Another major difference: the prosecutor supervises the investigation rather than letting police handle it.

Further, he or she also has no discretion over the decision to seek charges. There is a constitutional principle of mandatory prosecution. If there is sufficient evidence to build a case against a defendant, a prosecutor must seek an indictment.

In the U.S. prosecutors can and do drop cases for such reasons as workload or because the defendant has agreed to help with a criminal investigation.

Was it legal for Knox not to have an attorney present when police questioned her?

Yes and No.

Amanda Knox’s interrogation falls into a gray area of the law because she came voluntarily to the police station and was being interviewed in the beginning as someone who could become be a witness, not a suspect.

Then, in the course of questioning by police in November 2007, she blamed Patrick Lumumba for the slaying, and said she was present at the scene of the crime. Lumumba was innocent. Knox has since denied she knows anything about the slaying and says she wasn’t in the flat the night Kercher was killed. Limumba is suing Knox for slander.

The law is very clear: A suspect must not be interrogated without a lawyer.

Once a suspect, an interrogation must be interrupted, the suspect read his or her rights to remain silent and be provided a lawyer. Italian law does not allow waiver of one’s right to counsel. Even if a suspect doesn’t want a lawyer, the authorities are required to appoint one.

If a suspect’s freedom of movement is hindered, the interrogation must be videotaped.

In Knox’s case, a video or audio recording of the entire police interrogation (authorities have denied that any such recordings exist) could identify when police began treating Knox as a suspect and what procedures were followed.

In fact, Italy’s Supreme Court has already said that some of her early statements may not be used against her because they were made without an attorney present.

 


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