Category: Other legal processes

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Sad Case Of Sonia Marra #4: And Finally The Story Of Sonia’s Still-Unresolved Case In Pictures

Posted by Peter Quennell

Our final post on the Sonia Marra case for now. Click on all for larger images.


Above: Sonia lived in the relatively new and modern Montemorcino area of Perugia at the bottom of the hill below the old town about two kilometers from the town center.

Five minutes walk to the south of her area are the railway station and central police station. Ten minutes to the north is the computer-science department Sollecito attended.


Above: Sonia lived at center-left of this map. Sollecito and Guede lived near top-center. Meredith and Knox lived at center-right, north of the parking facility shown in light blue.

The main University of Perugia campus is at top-center and top-left here, in that steep hillside area in between where Sonia lived and where Sollecito lived.


Above: Looking up at the north of the old city from Sonia’s area down on the flat. Most of the buildings at the top of the shot are part of the University of Perugia.


Above: Again, looking up at north old Perugia. We dont know where Sonia studied - the medical faculty is a long way off, to the north-east of the old town.


Above: These are steps leading down from the university area which, if Sonia walked to and from that area, she would almost certainly have used.


Above: The quiet and elegant neighborhood at the bottom of those stairs, which is about five minutes walk from where Sonia lived.


Above: This is one or two blocks away in the same area. The rents for apartments here are lower than in the old town of Perugia.


Above: Another street in the same area; although there are plenty of cars, most people would enter and exit this quiet area from the south.


Above: This is claimed to be the apartment building where Sonia was living, though the two flags (one of them the EU flag) have us puzzled. 


Above: This is the same apartment building, now from the side, showing at top left what is said to be the apartment from which Sonia disappeared.


Above: This and the shot below show what is said to be the one (rather small) window of Sonia’s apartment that actually had a view, of sorts.


Above: This is another view of the window, with the rolling wooden shutters outside the glass windows found on most modern buildings in Italy.


Above:Two of the Carabinieri officers who were active on the case - all disappearances in Italy are handled by Italy’s national police. 


Above: One of the Perugia offices of the national Carabinieri police from which investigations into missing people are conducted.


Above: Another of the Perugia offices of the national Carabinieri police from which investigations into Sonia’s case took place.


Above: The prosecutors’ office in old Perugia which became involved in the case when it first looked like it might be one of murder.


Above: Another shot of the prosecutors’ office - we believe this is where Mr Mignini can be found, though he is not active on Sonia’s case. 


Above: Another shot of Sonia; her sister Anna said she did not like to be photographed though in many shots she looks nice and appealing.


Above: A shot of Sonia and her mother Lucia who has traveled to Perugia from Specchia several times to help focus attention on her missing daughter.


Above: this is another shot of Sonia’s mother Lucia who is seen here at a special meeting on Sonia of the town council of Perugia.


Above: This is a shot of Sonia’s sister Anna Marra who has now lived in Perugia for three years, she is seen here in a Rome TV studio.


Above: this is another shot of Anna, seen here arranging sacramental candles in front of posters of Sonia and another missing person.


Above: This is said to be one of Sonia’s two brothers; Sonia had two older brothers and this is said to be Giacomo, the second.


Above: This is the catholic cathedral in Sonia’s hometown of Specchia at the very south-east of Italy 4-5 hours drive from Perugia.


Above: This is an aerial image of the coastline - Specchia is a couple of kilometers inland from from these beaches and the many holiday homes.


Above: This is another aerial image of the coastline - it is one arrival area for illegal immigrants who make it across by open boat from north Africa.


Above: This is the lawyer in Perugia who handles legal matters for the Marra family - they pay all of their own legal costs as far as we know.


Above: This is Umberto Bindella who was arrested for murder and last week released; Sonia claimed she loved him, he denied they had had an affair.


Above: Another shot of Umberto Bindella, Sonia’s probable lover, released last week but apparently still suspected, seen here together with his mother.


Above: This is the priest Father Stefano Ciacca who lived and worked at the Cante di Montevecchio and apparently was very friendly with Sonia.


Above: More than three years ago Father Ciacca was arrested for mailing a package of cocaine to himself from Colombia in south America. 


Above: Father Ciacca was sentenced to several years in prison, it is theorized that Sonia might have known something about the drug deal.

That is the reason why Sonia’s sister Anna keeps ringing the Cante di Montevecchio doorbell - only to encounter a complete wall of silence.


Above: This is prisoner Michele Mariucci being interviewed in prison by a TV reporter from a Rome TV network about Father Ciacca and Sonia.


Above: Michele Mariucci has admitted traveling with Father Ciacca to Colombia to mail back cocaine worth several hundred thousand dollars.

The cocaine was mailed to a false name in Perugia and Father Ciacca turned up to collect it, very shortly before Sonia Marra disappeared.

The police knew the package contained cocaine because dogs had identified it when the aircraft carrying it was unloaded at Rome airport. 


Above: This is the Rome TV studio from which the weekly missing-persons program “Chi l’ha visto?” (“Who has seen him/her?”) originates.


Above: This is one of the presenters of the widely-watched missing-persons program; she is seen here interviewing Anna Marra about Sonia.


Above: this is one of the posters with Sonia’s image and an appeal for help which Anna has been taping up for three years around Perugia.


Above: Another of the posters of Sonia, now faded so that the image is not recognizable; about 2000 people are presently missing in Italy.


Above: Some of the 2000 missing are seen here on the “Chi l’ha visto?” website; Sonia’s image can be at the bottom center here. 


Above: Click on Sonia’s image on the “Chi l’ha visto?” website page and this page for her case opens up with some details and four TV videos.


Above: The town council of Perugia held a special session on Sonia last year to keep attention on her and other persons missing.


Above: Another shot of the Perugia town council meeting which Sonia’s mother attended; Italy is nothing if not a caring country.


Above: Sonia is seen here in a video walking through a crowd; this video and some others were shown several times nationally.


Above: Sonia in her bedroom with what was said to be her stuffed cuddly creature and a shot of herself when she was younger.

These four posts on TJMK on Sonia’s case are the only English-language reports to have appeared about her anywhere.

Rest in peace, Sonia. We guess you, too, are never coming back. And may the Marra family of Specchia also arrive at some peace.


Friday, February 12, 2010

The Sad Case Of Sonia Marra #3: The High Standard The Italian Media Have Maintained Throughout

Posted by Tiziano


As with the many hundreds of Italian reports we’ve read on Meredith’s case, the reporting on Sonia Marra’s case has been objective, compassionate, and full of detail.

The tendency to demonize suspects and defendants that seems not uncommon in the UK and US tabloids and on the US TV crime talk-shows has never surfaced in the Sonia Mara case - even though in one respect there might have been some reason: the strange alternative theory of the crime (our next post) involving a drug-dealing priest.

This is quite a high-profile case in Italy for at least three reasons. Sonia disappeared right out of her apartment - she was not in a high-risk place. Sonia’s sister Anna has worked tirelessly in Perugia to keep some public attention on Sonia. And a TV network program and website that tracks hundreds of cases of missing people in Italy has done an excellent job.

This is a sampling of the articles up to where Sonia’s boyfriend or fiance Umberto Bindella was arrested; he was subsequently released again when the judge found the evidence inadequately conclusive. 

1. Translated from a permanent fixture on The RAI Website

The Sonia Marra Disappearance

Sonia Marra is a 25 year-old girl from Puglia who lives in Perugia and is a student in the Faculty of Medicine of this city. 

On November 61th, 2006 her mother called Sonia [from the south-east tip of Italy] as she did every evening, but her mobile phones were turned off.  Alarmed, the woman rang her other daughter, Anna, who lives in Rome with her fiancé, Paolo. 

The two began to ring the young woman from Puglia again and again throughout the night, without however succeeding in tracing her. 

On the morning of November 17th,  Paolo went to the apartment in Perugia where Sonia lived alone. He could not get in. However since there was a strong odour of gas coming from the house, he called the fire brigade, and they broke a window and went in.

There was no trace of the girl in the apartment.  According to a witness, the evening of the disappearance, about 8.00 PM, a car stopped below the dwelling of Sonia.  A man got out from a light-coloured car and went towards the girl’s apartment on the first floor of the premises. 

He opened the door with keys without forcing the lock.  Noises were heard from inside the house; then this individual went out, got into the car and went away.  Many investigations have been made, but there is no trace of the girl.

A murder investigation has been opened on the disapearance.

2. Translated from the RAI Internet site:

An Arrest In The Sonia Marra Case

Perugia, 18/01/2010

In the matter of the investigation into the disappearance of Sonia Marra, a warrant for the arrest and detention on remand of Umberto Bindella was issued during the afternoon. This was confirmed by the man’s lawyer, Daniela Paccoi, to the Italian TV programme and website “Chi l’ha visto?” [“Who has seen him/her?”] 

A civil servant, 31 years old, from Marsciano, Bindella is said to have had a brief romance with the girl, who is from Specchia in the province of Lecce.  He had already been interviewed a few days after the disappearance [of the girl] as a person informed about the facts.

His status had then changed at the end of last November, when he was investigated for murder and the concealment of the student’s body. The Carabinieri of the Perugia contingent and the Communication Police had returned to him after examining the phone records of the girl. 

The investigators also accuse him of the theft of the victim’s mobile phone in order to impede the investigations.

“Chi l’ha visto?” has dealt with the disappearance of the student from Puglia, Sonia Marra, which took place in the Umbrian capita in November 2006, on several occasions.

3. Translated from Terni In Rete

Sonia Marra Case: Umberto Bindella Denies all Accusations

19th January, 2010 at 23.51 Hours by Adriano Lorenzon

Sonia’s sister:“finding her alive is just a heartfelt hope”

According to the Public Prosecutor in Perugia, the parameters of the accusations against Umberto Bindella are quite clear.  Bindella was Sonia Marra’s fiancé.  This relationship is one which the civil servant from Marsciano continues to hotly deny, despite the fact that it is confirmed by numerous phone contacts, and above all, SMS between the two, according to the investigators. 

Furthermore, Bindella is said to have confided in a policeman friend the day after the disappearance of Sonia Marra, a disappearance about which he could not yet have known.  According to the evidence of this police officer,  Bindella is said to have referred to a “mess and something much bigger than you or me”. 

In support of the prosecution theory there is also the evidence of a tenant in the building where Sonia Marra was living.  The woman described a man, seen on the stairs, a description which corresponds to that of Bindella, according to the investigators.  According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, an argument between the two fiancés about the possible pregnancy of Ms Marra degenerated into a murder.

Umberto Bindella’s lawyers disagrees completely.  Accorrding to Silvia Egidi “it is an established fact that there was no pregnancy.  The test was negative, as stated by a nun.”  According to Daniela Paccoi, another defense lawyer, there is no mystery about the confidence made to the police officer friend. “Bindella knew that the carabinieri were looking for him because he knew Ms Marra.”  Paccoi concluded, “This is tortuous explanation of recognised facts.”

Sonia Marra disappeared on November 26th, 2006.  From that day, her family has followed the unfolding investigations in the hope that they would end up in Sonia’s being found alive.  Today Sonia’s sister Anna spoke out, referring explicitly to this hope. 

“Finding her alive,” said Anna, “is only a heartfelt hope.  More realistically, I am waiting to find out where her body is, so it can be brought home.  Sonia did not foresee that she would end as she probably has.”

4. Translated from La Nazione Umbria

Sonia Marra’s Disappearance

Perugia, 19/01/2010

There were several telephone calls and SMS texts between Sonia Marra and Umberto Bindella in the days that preceded the probable death of the student from Puglia, in November 2006.

And ‘the findings from an examination of phone records of the two like those conducted by the postal police in any investigation has led to the arrest of the thirty-one year old Marsciano employee on charges of murder and concealment of a corpse (not yet found).

The mobile phone of the twenty-five-year-old of Specchia (Lecce) has never been found. But the findings showed that it was turned off on the afternoon of her disappearance and was never turned on again.

In the investigation conducted by the Postal Police and the Carabinieri, coordinated by the prosecutor of Perugia, it has been suggested that Bindella had a romantic relationship with Marra. In particular, the student - the investigators believe - was particularly infatuated with him.

According to the reconstruction in the charge accusing Bindella, the disappearance and murder of Sonia Marra could be linked to a discussion about a possible pregnancy of the young student. Among the elements of the accusation against Bindella is a statement quoted by a policeman friend of his:’‘I’ve made a big mess.’’

The order is for remand in custody assuming risk of escape. Bindella, already interrogated in the past by investigators, has always denied any responsibility in the disappearance of the young woman. He also claimed that he had a romantic relationship with her but it was simple knowledge.

One of the central points of the reconstruction in the charge made on the basis of investigations conducted by police is a confidence picked up by a policeman friend of Bindella whereby the employee, the day after the disappearance of Marra, made reference to ‘‘something bigger than you and me.’’ And at that moment the young man - argued the prosecution - could not yet know that the student was no more in touch.

Another element is the description given by one of the tenants of a man seen on the stairs of the building where the couple lived for investigators that corresponds to the employee. The assumption is that accusations between the two there was a discussion related to a possible pregnancy of Sonia Marra, based on a test purchased by Bindella and a gynecological examination booked by the young woman but never sustained.

According to the lawyer Silvia Egidi, one of the defenders of the arrested man Bindella ‘It is a fact that there was no pregnancy. The test’‘(which our client has always spontaneously admitted to having purchased for the young woman) was negative and this includes confirmation by a Sister’‘.

Hence, no motive is seen by the defense and also no mystery about the phrase said to his policeman friend. “Bindella knew’’ explained lawyer Paccoi, that the police were searching for him because he knew Marra….

Anna Marra, Sonia’s sister who more than three years ago moved to Perugia to follow the investigation into the disappearance of her sister, says Sonia was in love with Bindella. “In recent times before her disappearing Sonia was strange, she told me that something was not being reciprocated.’’

Sonia, explained her sister,’‘had no reason to leave home that day. She did not expect to meet the end that she probably did.’‘

.
5. Translated from Corriere

The Sonia Marra Case

From our correspondent Francesca Mandese in Specchia

“We hope that Sonia is still alive.” After the arrest of the ex-fiancé expectations have grown in Specchia. Sonia’s brother and sister Giacomo and Anna say “We want to know the truth.”

The marra house is two storeys, a white and pink cottage.  In the early afternoon hours it appears to be empty, with the shutters closed and the doors bolted.  Inside, however, there is deep suffering, such as you would never wish to experience. 

Donato Marra, the father, Lucia Valente Marra, the mother, and brother Giacomo, the only one of the four children still at home; have left the phone off the hook so that they don’t have to talk about Sonia, who disappeared three years ago and who was perhaps killed by a fiancé who now even denies having mixed with her, other than as a simple acquaintance.

There is nobody in the streets of Specchia, a little town in the south of Salento.  There is not even anyone in Via Marconi where at number 23 the Marra family lives. 

At the ringing of the doorphone Giacomo himself responds, looking out from the doorway, but he says that his parents don’t want to talk to anyone.  “They found out yesterday evening [about the arrest], the lawyer Alessandro Vesi from Perugia rang us. He told us to remain calm, not to get alarmed, because, even if they have arrested that man, Sonia’s body has not been found and therefore nothing is certain yet.”
 
There are four children in the Marra family, the oldest, Piero, is 38, married; then there is Giacomo, 36, who still lives with his parents, Anna, 34, who since November 2006, the moment that Sonia disappeared, moved from Rome to Perugia to look for her sister, who today would be 29 and who was studying in the Umbrian city to become a bio-medical laboratory technician. 

The only one to know about the affair between Sonia and Umberto Bindella, the 31 year-old civil servant from Marsciano accused of murder, concealment of a corpse and suppression of evidence (the girl’s mobile phone has never been found) was actually Anna.

“My sister always talked to me about him.  She was in love with Umberto Bindella,” the woman repeated again yesterday.  “In the time just before she disappeared” Anna explains further “I felt that Sonia was out out of sorts.  She told me that something wasn’t going well for her.”  According to Anna, Bindella “was the second boy-friend in Sonia’s life.” 

Anna explains further, “I met him after my sister’s disappearance - she continues -and I spoke to him.  He told me that hers was a friendship like many others.  Sonia had no reasons to leave home.  There was no expectation that she would end up as she did.”

But they don’t want to talk about that end in the Marra household.  “We hope that she is still alive” says Giacomo “that she is being held somewhere against her will.  This is the last hope that we can hold onto.  Certainly, in these three years the thought that she could be dead has also come to us, but we have always relegated it to the back of our minds.”

Giacomo confirms that, as his father declared on a TV programme, the family wants to know the truth and wants justice.  “We are not people who like showing our feelings - he says further - we don’t even have many photos of Sonia because she would run off when she saw a camera.  My parents are really exhausted.” 

And even his reddened eyes betray suffering and pain, even if hope has not yet left this clean and tidy, silent house. Thus, after a brief chat Giacomo says good-bye and goes back inside to his parents Donato and Lucia, in expectation of a phone call which will reduce the anguish and placate the pain.  A phone call which perhaps will never come.

6. Translated from La Nazione Umbria

Anna, Sonia’s sister:“She was in love with him”

Sonia’s sister Anna moved from Puglia to Perugia in November 2006 to follow investigations on the lost student.

A young man from Marsciano, Bindella, has been arrested & accused of murder

“My sister talked about him all the time. She was in love with him…. In the time just before she disappeared I felt Sonia was acting strange. She would tell me that something wasn’t going well for her.”

The Marra family’s lawyer Alessandro Vesi said that “Of course Bindella must be considered innocent and will remain so until there is an eventual finding of definite guilt.”

On behalf of his clients. the Marra family, the lawyer then thanked the Perugia Prosecutor’s office, in particular Giuseppe Petrazzini and Federico Centrone, for their assistance to the the relatives of the missing student.

Vesi said Bindella’s arrest did not automatically imply guilt but adoption of this measure does mean that the prosecuting magistrate and the judge have absolutely important elements. He spoke of the news “hurting the morale of the family because it reduces the hope of finding her [Sonia] alive”

Anna Marra:said Bindella was only the second important man in Sonia’s life. Anna met him after her sister’s disappearance and spoke to him. He told her that it was just a friendship like many of his others. He went places with her and he knew many details about Sonia’s life.

Anna believes that her sister had no reason for leaving her home. Anna concluded by saying that that her sister’s end was not expected.

7. Translated from the Umbria Journal

Marra Case - a Crucial Week Begins for Umberto Bindella

24/01/2010 at 19.14 hours

The week about to begin will be decisive for umberto Bindella, in prison accused of the murder of Sonia Marra, the student from Puglia who disappeared in Perugia on November 16th three years ago. 

His legal representatives have presented a request fro the lifting of remand in custody invoked by GIP Paolo Michele, and an application for his release from custody has been put to the review court. 

Thus these are crucial days for Bindella, arrested a week ago for the murder and the concealment of the corpse of the young woman from Puglia. 

The legal representatives Daniela Pacconi and Silvia Egidi are certain of the innocence of the young man and convinced of the inconsistency of the clues pointing to the involvement of their client

And subsequently Bindella was released by the judge for lack of enough conclusive evidence as Catnip has posted below.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Sad Case Of Sonia Marra #2: Summary Of Known Facts To Release Last Week Of Prime Suspect

Posted by catnip


The Sonia Marra case hits another dead-end (blind alley) (n1).

Umberto Bindella, 31,  accused of the murder of student Sonia Marra who vanished in November 2006, was released the afternoon of 6 February 2010. (n2).

He had always maintained his innocence. (n3)

The Perugia GIP granted a defence request for release of their client (n4),  who had been in prison since 18 December 2009 (n5).

According to one of Bindella’s lawyers, Daniela Paccoi, the GIP had decided the evidence was insufficient (n6). “The evidence has been shown to be quite weak. There is no evidence against Umberto Bindella.” (n7).

“In any case, they found confirmation, elements furnished by Bindella himself, suporting his defence case.” (n8).

The GIP’s decision, following the defence’s formal request for a release from custody for their client, “was handed down due to lack of evidence against Umberto Bindella,” she said. (n9)

Bindella’s other lawyer, Egidi, also expressed satisfaction with the decision. (n10)  Waiting for him outside the prison, besides his lawyers, his parents were also present. (n11)

Bindella’s first words were: “I don’t want to appear banale, but Justice has been done.”  (n12)  “I’m satisfied.” (n13)

The same Justice that Sonia Marra’s family is waiting for. (n14)  They have had no news of the Pugliese student since 16 November 2006. (n15)

She left her apartment in order, and all her things behind. (n16)  Her disappearance is still wrapped in mystery. (n17)

FOOTNOTES AND REFERENCES BELOW IMAGES OF SONIA



Click here for the rest


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Sad Case Of Sonia Marra #1: Summary Of The Known Facts Up To The Charging Of A Suspect

Posted by catnip



[Above: Sonia Marra is at center here - we have many more photos to be added]


This annotated summary below of the known facts of Sonia’s case up to the charging of a suspect is the first of four posts here on TJMK.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting on on the release of the suspect. Then there will be two posts by my fellow Italian-speaker Tiziano, who has translated many of the media reports.

Sonia’s case is of special interest to us here because violence to women happens rarely in Perugia, and a year prior to Meredith meeting her fate, this case placed a cloud over the town.

And there are two other reasons why it is of interest.

  • It reflects the caring and discretion which is for the most part to be found in the Italian media - nobody here has been demonized.
  •  
  • It reflects the extreme caution of the Italian judiciary, which has released the prime suspect when the evidence did not stand up.

These facts are drawn from a number of Italian sources, and you will find all of them below listed the fold (“MORE”) at the bottom of this post.

The known facts

Sonia Marra disappeared on 16 November 2006 in Perugia (n1). She was 25 years old (n2).

Her body has never been found (n3) and nor has her phone (n4)  which was switched off on the evening of her disappearance and was never switched on again (n5).

Despite really intense investigations, there has never since been any trace of her (n6).

Her ex-boyfriend Umberto Bindella was arrested (n7)  at 6pm on the 18 January 2010 (n8) on suspicion of her murder - he is now released again, see below.

Her family raised the alarm when they were no longer able to make phone contact with her (n9).  Her mother called her that night, as she did every day, but her phones were off (n10).

Alarmed, she called her other daughter Anna, who lives in Rome with her boyfriend Paolo (n11). They both tried all night to call her, but were unsuccessful. (n12).



[Above: Sonia’s amazing sister Anna who moved to Perugia and incessantly fanned interest]

On the morning of the 17th, Paolo went to her apartment in Perugia (n13). He was unable to enter, seeing as there was a strong smell of gas coming out. (n14).

At this point, Sonia’s cousin called the Fire Brigade, who gained entry. (n15). The place was all in order. There was no trace of Sonia at all. (n16).

A (young woman) neighbour in Sonia’s building (n17)  saw someone on the stairs (n18) matching Bindella’s description. (n19).

According to a witness, on the night of the disappearance, at around 8pm, a car parked underneath her apartment. (n20).

A man got out of the light-coloured car and headed towards Sonia’s first-floor apartment. (n21).  He opened the door with keys, without forcing the lock.(n22).

Noises were heard from inside apartment, then the man exited, got into the car and left. (n23).

Sonia was from Specchia (n24) in the Lecce district (n25) of southern Puglia (n26) and she was studying in Perugia (n27)  at the University of Perugia (n28)  at the Faculty of Medicine (n29) training to become a biomedical lab technician (n30).

She was living alone in an apartment in the Elce zone downhill to the west of the historic town centre (n31) not far from the railway station (Meredith would have passed very close by at times) and the central police station.

She was formerly with the Theological School in Montemorcino, where she had got to know Umberto (n32).  She was doing volunteer secretarial work there (n33)  and they both lodged there for a time (n34).

The family’s lawyer is Alessandro Vesi (n35)  who is representing them during the investigations as “persons injured” (n36).

They never gave up the search for Sonia and the hope of finding her alive (n37).  But Vesi says: “The ray of hope of ever seeing Sonia again is diminishing ever smaller.” (n38).

“There is no way that this [arrest of Bindella] can ever be spoken of as a victory.” (n39).

“For the family, it was gut-wrenching to hear the word ‘murder’ tied to Bindella’s interview, and thereby also to Sonia’s disappearance. They were still hoping she would be found alive.” (n40).

“His arrest now has thrown them into deeper despair.” (n41).

According to the family, the young man would be “considered innocent until the last definitive appeal” (n42).  “Certainly, his arrest is a strong link in the investigations, but we have to wait for the conclusion of the proceedings.” (n43).

Umberto Bindella, 31 years old (n44) with no previous record (n45), is from Marsciano (n46). He had been under investigation since November 2009 (n47).

He was charged with: wilful murder (n48) and hiding a body (still not found) (n49) and suppressing evidence (a mobile phone) (n50) and aggravated theft (of a phone) (n51) with a view to misleading the investigation (n52) by making it more complex. (n53).

He denied all the allegations (n54)  and his lawyers were confident of accompanying him home after a review hearing (n55) which was two hours long (n56) before the GIP Claudia Matteini (n57).

The public prosecutor is Giuseppe Petrazzini (n58). The Chief Prosecutor is Federico Centrone (n59).

The precautionary custody arrest order, requested by public prosecutor Giuseppe Petrazzini and signed by the GIP Paolo Micheli, was carried out by the Carabineri of the provincial command and by the Postal Police (n60).

The order mentioned the possibility of evidence tampering and flight risk. (n61). The arrest was confirmed by his lawyer (n62) as well as by the carabinieri (n63) and the TV program “Has anyone seen them?” (“Chi l’ha visto”) (n64) which has featured the case for a while now. (n65).

The TV program is held in high regard by viewers and is presented by Federica Sciarelli, 51 (n66)

Sonia’s family were said to be “surprised” by Umberto’s arrest (n67). The news had thrown them into deep consternation (n68). They had up until then hoped to welcome their daughter back with open arms. (n69)



[Above: Sonia’s hometown at the south-east corner of Italy, south of Sollecito’s hometown]

The Case made against Bindella 

Bindella was the last person to have seen Sonia alive in Perugia (n70). He was interviewed various times previously (n71), in fact 4 times previously (n72). At the last interview, he admitted he was an old partner of hers (n73).

He was interviewed for 3 hours by the Public Prosecutor on 26 November, accompanied by his parents (n74). He was then interviewed as a suspect (n75) and was the only suspect ever (n76).

He had been interviewed in the past as “a person informed of the facts” (n77). His status changed last December (n78).

He has always denied having a relationship with Sonia or being involved in her disappearance (n79). He was only “a passing acquaintance”, “only a friend” (n80). The investigators thought he was lying (n81).

He says they met at the ex-forestiera at the ex-seminary (n82).

His lawyers are Daniela Paccoi (n83)  from the “Foro di Perugia” (n84)  and Silvia Egidi (n85).

The Public Prosectutor thought the picture against Bindella was clear. (n86).  So did the GIP (n87).

Investigators hypothesised there was a (brief) romantic relationship (n88).  Sonia was particularly fond of him, they think. (n89).  They not only knew each other but there was a relationship going beyond mere friendship. (n90).

That in fact he was her boyfriend. (n91) which he denied (n92),

Just before she disappeared, she bought a pregnancy test kit (n93)  (which Bindella says he bought, at her request) (n94) and she had booked a visit to the gynecologist (n95) though she never turned up. (n96).

Triggering the murder prosecutors believed was the news that Sonia might probably be pregnant (n97) and this degenerated into a murder (n98).

It was Bindella who, from the first, informed the investigators that she was having problems because she knew she was pregnant. (n99). He wasn’t ready for the responsibility and so prosecutors believed decided to kill her. (n100)

“I don’t know anything about a possible pregnancy for Sonia,” he told the magistrates at the initial interview. (n101)

But contradicting his assertion were two phone calls with her at the time when she was arranging an appointment with the gynecologist to confirm the pregnancy. (n102)

Phone contact was also made via SMS (n103), just before 8pm, the hour of her effective disappearance. (n104)

The phone records triggered the investigation which led to the arrest (n105)  after their analysis by the Postal Police of Perugia (n106)

The phone records established contact between Bindella and Marra, as well as with other people who, when interviewed, provided details useful to a reconstruction of the facts (n107)

As it turned out, she was not pregnant, but perhaps the news arrived too late. (n108).

In November, the Perugia Prosecutor’s Office ordered searches of the area around Montemorcino, where there are deep ravines where it is suspected Sonia’s remains might be found. (n109).

The day after the disappearance, before Binderlla was told about her disappearance, (n110),  “I’ve made a right mess of it,” he is understood to have told a police officer friend. (n111). “This is bigger than you or me.” (n112).

There are also doubts about his attendance at an Enlglish course on the night Sonia disappeared. (n113).

The prosecutors’ theory is pure fantasy, said his lawyers. (n114). Thjey said that Bindella, “from the first day, on his own initiative told the investigators that Sonia asked him to but a pregnancy test kit and he did so” (n115).

The prosecution was not certain there actually was a murder and, if there was, that Bindella did it, even if the elements of the case hint at an undeniable involvement. (n116).

Bindella was a bit demoralised by his arrest, but clear-headed and determined to assert his innocence. (n117). His lawyers immediately requested his release. (n118).

His lawyer Paccoi, flanked by her colleague Silvia Egidi, said:  “Bindella has answered all the questions put him, furnishing elements which he considered useful for demonstrating his innocence.” (n119).  “My client doesn’t understand why he was arrested.” (n120)

“He supplied further particulars regarding his movements prior to the student’s disappearance.” (n121). “In particular, the first two weeks of November, a period which Sonia had described to various people as ‘idyllic’.” (n122)

“But Bindella was not in Perugia for a week during that period, and we have documented proof.” (n123). “In particular, he was in Bologna for exams, and then in Pisa with his mother.” (n124)

“Other investigative leads were not fully followed, especially the possibility of other visitors.” (n125).  “Bindella is absolutely respectful of the law, even the road rules, to say nothing of criminal law.” (n126)

Paccoi says that there is no mystery about the remark made to the friend. (n127).  Bindella was explaining that the carabinieri were looking for him because he knew Sonia. (n128). He actually said: “What a mess! A friend of mine has disappeared.” (n129)

Even the witness doesn’t remember whether the phrase was “I made a mess” or “It’s a mess” (n130). “Lots of witnesses have modified or rectified their statements as the net drew in” (n131)

“This led in turn to a colpevolista-slanted investigation. (n132). “But I am totally convinced of his innocence, and he is the first innocent that I am defending.” (n133)

“There is no motive” (n134)  “It is a case of getting existing facts mixed up.” (n135).  “If there is no new evidence, it [the arrest] is a profoundly unjust act.” (n136).  “There is no reason at all why my client should remain in prison.” (n137)

Bindella’s lawyer is of completely the opposite opinion (n138).  “It’s a given fact that there was no pregnancy.” (n139).  “The test was negative; a nursing sister made mention of it.” (n140)

“It is obvious there is nothing new here and we therefore hope to establish that in the rights review hearing, which will probably be Thursday morning”, and further, “It is a given fact that there was no pregnancy and it is not even up for discussion.”  (n141)

Sonia’s sister Anna transferred to Perugia three years ago to look for her sister (n142).  She says: “finding her alive is only a slim hope now” (n143). “More realistically, I’m waiting to be told where her body is so we can bring her home” (n144)

“Sonia wasn’t expecting to end up where she probably did.” (n145).  “Sonia was in love with Bindella” (n146). “Just before she disappeared, Sonia was strange, she told me there was something that wasn’t working for her” (n147)

But “she didn’t have any reason to leave home.” (n148)

Commentator Federica Sciarelli:  “There is sadness, yes, but it transforms itself into anger, because in a lot of case, the research into the disappearances were not well done, often leaving dangerous people still on the loose. I’m always astounded by the number of women and girls who have vanished.”

“But call them for what they are: murder with the hiding of bodies. Take the recent case of Sonia Marra, the girl who went to Perugia to study and who called her mother every night: you think it’s possible that she could disappear without leaving even the slightest trace?” (n149)

FOOTNOTES AND REFERENCES BELOW



[Above: The beaches near Sonia’s hometown of Spechia]

Click here for the rest


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Breaking News From Perugia: An Arrest In The Sad Case of Sonia Marra

Posted by Peter Quennell


Sonia Marra was an Italian medical student who disappeared from her apartment on 16 November 2006, just under one year before Meredith met her fate.

Her disappearance was one reason why some women in Perugia became very nervous on the news of Meredith’s death, and it may have helped color the press coverage.

Sonia’s case more or less fell below the radar even in Italy as the years passed and it never was widely reported elsewhere. But the police never forgot her.

Now they have arrested an ex-boyfriend, and the key evidence is said to be some mobile phone records, extensively analyzed once again.

The only reporting is in Italian. We should have more here on Sonia’s case next week - there is a lot of reporting to condense..

Below: Sonia’s sister Anna, who moved to Perugia and tried to sustain public interest in her missing sister.



Friday, January 08, 2010

A Month Has Passed And Senator Cantwell Still Hasn’t Answered Constituents’ Hard Questions

Posted by Highly-Concerned Washington-State Voters


On December 9, 2009 five well-informed constituents of US Senator Marie Cantwell sent her an Open Letter.

It asked some questions about the reasoning behind her December 4th press release on the verdict in Meredith’s case.

The public release of this letter to Maria Cantwell garnered international attention, and it was quoted-from in various stories and reports published in Europe..

On December 10, a Cantwell Senate-office staff member in Washington DC, John Diamond, provided the one and only direct response to inquiries about it.

Mr Diamond claimed “Our staff has checked every possible in-box and not turned up the letter. We get lots of mail and email sent through to us every day, so I don’t know what the problem was. We now have your letter so it’s a mute point. We will get back to you.”

Rather bizarrely, on December 11th, Mr. Diamond then forwarded to the authors of the Open Letter a Knox/Mellas Family Press Release. It was issued by the paid Seattle PR man David Marriott, and Ms Cantwell’s office seemed to be endorsing it.

The release stated among other things, “We would like to publicly thank Senator Maria Cantwell for her support of Amanda, support of the family, and her continued work on our behalf.” 

No other response has ever been received by the authors of that Open Letter, other than one auto-reply email from Mr. Diamond saying, “I will be out of the office through Labor Day.” (Labor Day is the first Monday in September, then a full nine months away.)

On December 15th the Seattle PI’s Andrea Vogt in her story “The debate continues over Knox’s guilt”  reported that instead of repeating the harsh complaints of her press release, Cantwell’s spokesperson Katharine Lister was now saying this:

“Senator Cantwell believes that Amanda Knox deserved a fair trial, and now deserves a fair appeal by an impartial tribunal; all in keeping with the Council of Europe and the European Union’s treaties to which Italy has long been a signatory. While she certainly understands that the legal system and practice in Italy is different than in the U.S., she believes it is the responsibility of the U.S. government to press for fair treatment for any U.S. citizen facing legal jeopardy overseas. She will continue to press to ensure that Amanda gets a fair appeal, by an impartial tribunal.”

On December 24, 2009 the following new inquiry was sent to Senator Cantwell, reiterating the concerns of the original letter and a desire for a response from Senator Cantwell, and repeating the request to meet with Senator Cantwell herself or a senior member of her staff. 

To this letter Senator Cantwell’s Seattle area constituents are still awaiting her reply more than two weeks later.

Dear Senator Cantwell:

Last December we submitted an Open Letter and had some contact with John Diamond regarding your press release concerning the Amanda Knox guilty verdict in Italy for the murder of Meredith Kercher.  We have yet to receive a response other than an email from Mr. Diamond simply forwarding a press release from the Knox/Mellas Family. Five of your Seattle area constituents authored that Open Letter to question the reasoning behind statements made in your press release.

We did not feel as though we were well represented by that press release and are still awaiting a response to the issues we raised, including a request to meet with your Chief of Staff.  Now that the holiday break is upon us I think it’s a great time to revisit these issues since we haven’t seen any additional press releases from your office and are left wondering if the situation has progressed or if you have adjusted your position on the issue of the Amanda Knox guilty verdict in light of ongoing events and news coverage.

As a recap, here are the key points from your press release and a few of our questions regarding the rationale behind your points:

1. “I have serious questions about the Italian justice system and whether anti-Americanism tainted this trial.”

If you are requesting a full briefing on the principles of Italian justice it seems that there are far better places to ask than in what might be construed as a xenophobic press release. To our eye, you seem to be suggesting that anti-Americanism in Italy is a serious ongoing problem and I am wondering what evidence you have to support this perception and, specifically, how it would apply to the Amanda Knox (American) and Raffaele Sollecito (Italian) murder trial.

2. “The prosecution did not present enough evidence for an impartial jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Knox was guilty.”

How can you justify making such a statement?  You seem to be indicating here that you were following the case quite closely, but elsewhere you indicate that you weren’t.  Do you state this as an opinion or as a fact?  I am concerned because Curt Knox and Edda Mellas have been charged with defamation by the Italians for making similar unfounded accusations against the Italian justice system.

3.“Italian jurors were not sequestered and were allowed to view highly negative news coverage about Ms. Knox.”

What special knowledge do you have to make an informed critique of the Italian justice system? Our impression, having closely followed of the murder trial for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, was that the jury behaved honorably and was somewhat restrained and lenient in issuing their ruling. We expect to find some justification for this impression in the lengthy and detailed summary of findings that the court will issue within 90 days of the ruling.

Regarding press coverage, our personal observation is that the media battle waged by the Knox family and David Marriott was, in fact, very effective in highlighting the concerns of the Knox family in outlets around the world, to the extreme point that whatever Curt Knox and Edda Mellas have to say about the murder case is reported verbatim, without question or verification.  We also believe that media coverage during the lengthy trial itself focused heavily on the prospect of an “innocent” Amanda Knox and the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case.

4.“Other flaws in the Italian justice system on display in this case included the harsh treatment of Ms. Knox following her arrest; negligent handling of evidence by investigators; and pending charges of misconduct against one of the prosecutors stemming from another murder trial.”

What specific systemic flaws are you referring to here, and in comparison to what system?  We’re wondering what your specific recommendations would be to the Italian Foreign Minister and where you will find the time to research and author them. 

While we’ve seen the claims of harsh treatment and abuse in the media we are unable to verify any of these allegations.  We have noticed, however, that Amanda Knox has been charged with and investigated for making false allegations, and convicted in the instance of accusations made against her former employer Patrick Lumumba. Can you clearly detail any specific incident of harsh treatment Amanda Knox received, either before or following her arrest? 

Can you provide specific examples of the negligent handling of evidence that clearly compromised Amanda Knox’s right to a fair trial? We have followed this case closely from the beginning and while certain investigative elements could have been better handled we are not aware of anything suggesting that the Italians are fundamentally incapable of properly documenting and evaluating a crime scene, or conducting a fully “fair trial” for that matter.

In addition, we would appreciate a detailed description of your understanding of the alleged charges against prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and the relevant connection you are trying to make between that legal proceeding and the Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito murder trial.

In regards to Amanda Knox, Mignini was one of two prosecutors in a case that involved the coordination of a variety of completely separate entities in Italian law enforcement and legal systems.  According to our understanding of Italian legal processes, the charge against Mignini relating to the other murder trial case seems somewhat routine, rather insignificant, and could very well be dismissed later this month.

5.“I will be conveying my concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

What was Secretary Clinton’s response to you?  It has been our understanding that the US State Department and US Embassy in Rome have been following this case from the beginning, have visited Amanda Knox in prison, and have attended court sessions.

We’re wondering what compelled you to insert yourself so publicly into an international situation when your press release gives the strong indication that you were not fully briefed before issuing it and appear to know very little about what has actually been going on with the case.

In the sole interest of providing you with our valid and informed perspective, we remain very interested in meeting with you and/or your Chief of Staff to discuss these issues in detail and share the facts as we understand them.  As your concerned constituents, please us know if this will soon be possible.

[signed by five constituents in the original]


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Our Letter To Senator Maria Cantwell: Please Don’t Take Precipitate Action Till Full Facts Are In

Posted by Highly-Concerned Washington-State Voters


We are all regular voters who live in the Seattle area. We have signed the original of this letter to our US senator, Maria Cantwell, and sent it off to her Capitol office. 

We think we increasingly mirror a very large minority or even a majority of cool-headed but concerned Seattle-area voters who would like to see her speaking up for truth and real justice in this case.

And for the rights of the true victim.

We are not running a campaign. We don’t think Senator Cantwell needs hard persuasion. We think once she immerses herself deeply in the real facts, those facts will tell her the right thing to do.

Dear Senator Cantwell

A number of your well-informed constituents are wondering about your motivations for suddenly injecting yourself into the Meredith Kercher murder trial debate, immediately following last week’s unanimous guilty ruling for American Amanda Knox in Perugia, Italy. 

We wonder because you said you were saddened by the verdict and had serious questions about the Italian judicial system and whether anti-Americanism had tainted the trial.  But then you went on to describe how you knew for a fact that the prosecution in the case did not present enough evidence for an impartial jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Amanda Knox was guilty. 

We’re confused because it seems to us that if you had been following the case closely enough to be certain that not enough evidence had been presented by the prosecution that you would consequently have a very clear idea of how the Italian judicial system functioned and know whether or not anti-American sentiment had impacted the ruling. 

So, as a group of concerned Seattle area constituents who have been following every detail of this case since poor Meredith Kercher was murdered, we humbly offer you our assistance towards bringing things into proper perspective.

Were you aware that Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian from Giovinazzo, Bari was convicted right alongside Ms. Knox?  Mr. Sollecito received some of the best legal representation available in Italy, including senior lawyer and parliamentary deputy Giulia Bongiorno who won fame as a criminal lawyer when she successfully defended former Italian Premier Giulio Andreotti a few years ago. 

Ms Bongiorno has said nothing about anti-American sentiment having influenced the ruling against her client, nor has she complained about fundamental problems with the way this trial was run.  Instead, she is now completely focused on looking ahead to the appeal process as her next opportunity to mitigate sentences or argue for her client’s innocence. 

This should assuage some of your concerns.

But perhaps you are referring to the extra year Ms. Knox received in comparison to Mr. Sollecito’s 25-year sentence as a clear example of anti-American sentiment?  That’s a fair concern; however, in Italy the jury panel for a trial is required to submit a report within 90 days of a ruling describing in great detail the logic used to convict and sentence, or absolve a defendant. 

For example, in Rudy Guede’s fast-track trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher last year Judge Paolo Micheli issued an exhaustive 106 page report outlining the panel’s labored decision-making process, in sometimes excruciating detail.  We can expect no less for the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, and when that report is issued we will have our best look yet at the evidence that was used to convict the pair.

We suggest that you seriously reconsider “bringing” Hillary Clinton and the State Department into the debate.

Consider that State Department spokesman Ian Kelly stated that the US embassy in Rome had been tasked with monitoring the trial and had visited Ms. Knox in jail, and several embassy representatives were known to have attended the reading of the ruling last week. In addition, an American reporter based in Italy who has followed the case from the outset said last night on CNN that the trial had been monitored from the outset.

Secretary Clinton has clearly been very busy with far more critical tasks than to have maintained a personal familiarity with the Kercher murder case; however, Kelly did state that in response to recent press reports Secretary Clinton had taken time to look things over and has yet to find any indication that Knox did not receive a fair trial.  You surely realize that Secretary Clinton will not be interested making public comments regarding an ongoing legal process in a sovereign, democratic nation that is a long-time ally of the United States.

Also note that on the Italian side of the equation, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told his countrymen that he has yet to receive any criticisms of the trial from the office of the US Secretary of State and that the fierce criticism of the case by the Seattle based Amanda Knox support group should not be confused as the position of the US government. 

And Luciano Ghirga, Knox’s own Italian lawyer, has stated that he does not question the validity of the trial and that he believes it was conducted correctly. Furthermore, regarding your desire to have Clinton become involved, Ghirga concluded, “That’s all we need, Hillary Clinton involved”¦this sort of thing does not help us in any way.” 

Perhaps he is referring to the heated discussions in the Italian press these days regarding the strong criticisms of Italy’s legal system coming from a country that supports Guantanamo Bay, the death penalty, and other perceived injustices of a far-from-perfect American legal system.

As these examples demonstrate, and from your own humble constituents’ well-informed perspective, there is nothing out of the ordinary or alarming about the Meredith Kercher murder trial process.  The prosecutors and defense teams will continue to debate the evidence throughout the appeal process, just as we should expect them to. 

If you do decide to go forward with your inquiry, despite significant opposition from your constituents, we recommend that you do so only after becoming more familiar with the evidence presented during the trial, as presented by a neutral source. The family and friends of the US citizen recently convicted are probably not neutral.

If you take a good look, you will see that there are checks and balances in the Italian way of achieving justice, just as there are in the American system. In the final analysis, it is completely as Beatrice Cristiani, deputy judge for the Kercher murder trial, put it: “As far as I am aware our system of justice does not make provision for interference from overseas.”

Fully signed by all of us in the original sent to Senator Maria Cantwell


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Could The Italian Authorities Be Starting A Wave Of Libel + Slander Investigations?

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for Nick Pisa’s report on Sky News about the charges Amanda Knox’s parents are being investigated for.

The sliming of the prosecution, the police and investigators, and even the many judges in the process, never seemed to our legal contacts like a particularly good idea.

The CIA operatives trial we referred to in this post (over which the United States and the Italian prime minister could exert ZERO influence, please note) shows that Italy has a long arm and tough laws.

And the very independent judges and prosecutors are willing to take a very hard line to enforce them.

A Seattle lawyer who propagates what seems to us a pretty daffy and unfounded view of the case, made statements in the recent report by Italian network LA7 which don’t seem to have gone over very well in Italy. They may have attracted some official attention.

We dont know if the many statements made to an American audience on for example the ABC, CNN and CBS networks (most recently by New-York-based lawyer John Q Kelly) could attract investigations. But we do hear they might have all been taken note of, and it is possible the US networks might be monitoring their coverage of the case from now on.

ABC and KING-5 Seattle, both highly negative about Italy in recent months, may be particularly vulnerable.

And if and when the one administrative charge against Mr Mignini is dropped, an American crime-fiction writer and wannabe real-crime reporter might also perhaps find himself in the Italian legal cross-hairs for some very odd things he has said and written.

it will be interesting to see if any of the US-based media pick up on and report objectively on this development in Italy. Someone taking bets?

*******

Update #1: The Associated Press has just fed the defamation story to its client media outlets in the United States.

Update #2: The AP report has now gone viral. As of right now (2:00 pm New York time) Google is returning over 1500 hits. So the word is out: watch one’s tongue where Italian justice is concerned, or there may be consequences.

Update #3: Here is a safe bet based on some insider buzz. This development will make the US State Department and the American Embassy in Rome very happy. They have long wanted the sliming of Italy to stop.

Update #4: It sounds like it might make several million citizens of Seattle very happy too. They have long wanted the Mellases and Knoxes to simply stick to the truth - and address, you know, the hard evidence.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

How This Cable Car In The Dolomites Hangs Over The Trial In Perugia

Posted by Peter Quennell


The Dolomites (image below) are a spectacular range of mountains east of the Alps in north-east Italy.

In 1998 a squadron of American Prowlers (image at bottom) based in Italy as part of the US NATO presence was roaring up and down those valleys, when one cut the cable of the cable car shown above. Twenty people in a gondola died when it crashed to the ground 350 feet below.

The US military has a huge presence in Italy (scroll down to “Conditions in Italy”) and good US-Italian relations are extremely important as a result. But in this case, the airmen were yanked back to the US, under NATO rules, tried by other military officers - and found not guilty of anything except destroying a videotape.

Outrage in Italy and across Europe and even in the US was intense. There have since been very, very few US interventions in any judicial process in Italy.

Now suddenly there is a new US intervention and Italian emotions are getting stoked.

If the FOA campaign ever thought the US government would spring Amanda using political pressure, they could not have picked a worse country in Europe to ridicule and try to strong-arm.




Thursday, July 02, 2009

Doug Preston’s Nasty Ant-Italy Anti-Mignini Campaign To Stir Bigotry Hits A Wall

Posted by Skeptical Bystander



[click for larger image]

The Daily Beast has an excellent article on the unrelated case against Mr Mignini.

A final verdict has now been postponed, pending testimony from four other witnesses. This charge has been a huge part of the US PR campaign waged by Marriott and the FOA (of which Doug Preston is a member).

I came away from the article thinking that Doug Preston’s limited knowledge of Italian and excessive reliance on Spezi have not helped matters.

For example, in his Monster of Florence book - to which Preston has added an afterword about Meredith Kercher’s murder, even though the two cases are unrelated except for the fact that the prosecutor in both is Mignini - Preston relates that the crazy bloodied man in the square on Nov 2 was shouting “I killed her”, when in fact witnesses have testified that he shouted “I will kill her” (he was referring to his girlfriend and it was determined that he had nothing to do with the murder of Meredith).

In addition, Preston has claimed that Mignini told him he could not come back to Italy when in fact Mignini says he said no such thing, though he did suggest that Preston get an attorney, in part because his understanding of the Italian language (and certainy Italy’s laws) was limited.

It is also important to note that Mignini has been cleared of the illegal wiretapping of journalists charge. The pending trial is not about this at all, as the article explains quite clearly. The Daily Beast article actually provides invaluable facts for anyone who really wants to put the abuse of power charge against Mignini into perspective. I say “really wants” because I sometimes suspect that this is the last thing those stuck in “delirium” mode want.

Although the article only touches on the financial stakes - mentioning that Tom Cruise has optioned the MOF book - I came away feeling that there is a ferocious battle going on behind the scenes, and that the battle itself is part of the money-making drama.

The murder of Meredith Kercher has been caught up in this vortex, and I believe we have mainly Doug Preston to thank for that.

Poor Meredith.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Second Misleading New York Times Comment On The Case

Posted by Skeptical Bystander



No prizes for guessing that this is Italy’s wonderful Venice.

1. Seattle-ite Egan Gets It Bady Wrong, Again

Timothy Egan of the New York Times came back with a follow-up justification to his first post.

The cat was out of the bag at that point, of course, and the first post was being widely ridiculed as untrue and unfair both in the US and in Italy.

Egan’s second post makes me wonder if he actually even read the comments under his first post before firing off his second round. It also makes me wonder if Egan has any idea of how badly his “contribution” was received in Italy, let alone why.

Frankly, I was surprised that a “Pulitzer prize winning” journalist would make these basic mistakes and write such a shockingly bad article to boot.

I posted this NY Times comment on that second post addressed at his first piece, lamenting the number of basic factual mistakes he made, though without enumerating all of them.

From memory, there are at least five major errors in Egan’s blog entry still not corrected

1. Egan claims that no translator was present for the Nov 5 questioning. This is false. Granted, Edda Mellas and others have made this false claim on the record, repeatedly, even after the Italian police formally challenged it. (Note to Egan: check the CNN world news website once in awhile.) Finally, Edda and others had to change their tune in light of the undisputed facts, but they did so by shifting the claim from no interpreter to no “professional” interpreter. This too turns out to be false. How can Egan continue to claim that no interpreter was present when at three were called upon by the prosecution to testify under oath as witnesses to the session of questioning where Egan wants us to believe there were no interpreters? Incidentally, they—like all of the other relevant witnesses—have stated under oath the Knox was not physically abused or maltreated. Conversely and as a reminder, Knox is not testifying under oath.

2. Egan also claims that there is forensic evidence against Guede only, and not the other two suspects. This, as everyone else except official FOA spokespeople know, is false. For anyone who is interested in knowing what it is, this non-profit website would be a good place to start. It is too bad that Mr. Egan did not do more than just consult the new afterword to Doug Preston’s Monster of Florence book. In fact, Egan’s blog entry serves as a friendly review in a way.

3. Egan stated that a 6-person jury, with two judges among them, would decide the fate of Knox and Sollecito. Ii shows Egan’s sweeping and sweepingly ignorant indictment of the Italian criminal justice system. In fact, the correct numbers are 6 lay jurors and 2 judges, for a total of 8 individuals - and thereafter two automatic appeals. Does this make a difference? Only insofar as it is definitely better to demonstrate a grasp of the basics of the system one seeks to criticize. Instead of quoting Rachel Donadio, who was in fact talking about Italy’s Prime Minister, Egan would have been better off trying Wikipedia or, better still, a comparative law website. There are tons of them out there.

4. Egan states that Amanda Knox only suggested that Patrick Lumumba maybe killed Meredith Kercher. In fact, Knox did far more than that. She firmly accused him of killing her roommate, twice orally, and then three times in writing. The written statements were not coerced, and testimony from half a dozen other people (again, under oath) refutes Knox’s claim that her oral accusation was coerced. An investigation is underway, ordered by one of the two prosecutors. In fact, Knox admitted on the stand that her third written statement was not made because she was hit - it was a “gift” to the police who supposedly tortured her, whatever that means!

5. Egan failed to point out that two prosecutors are working side by side on this case. If Mignini has to step down because of the verdict in a pending matter, the case will go forward in the able hands of Manuela Comodi who is handling more than half the testimony. I hear she is clean as a whistle: not so much as a slap on the wrist during her career. Instead of just repeating what Doug Preston writes, Egan could have told us in more detail about the charge pending against Prosecutor Mignini.


2.  Enabled By Heavey, Bremner and Ciolino

Allegedly, some individuals—like Paul Ciolino, whom Egan quotes in his rebuttal (?) entry—speak of a “pattern” of misconduct, but I have been unable to find any other example of possible “abuse of office” except for the one related to the Monster of Florence case.

Wouldn’t it be great if an investigative journalist of Pulitzer prize caliber were to take the time to find out what the facts are in the longstanding feud between Mignini and Spezi, Doug Preston’s friend and associate? That would really add substance to this fake debate.

Paul Ciolino’s paid work for 48 Hours on this very case has been laughably poor. Forgive me for not taking the time to count the ways.

In a Seattle fundraiser for Knox he stated that legal experts in the US and Italy believe Mignini is “mentally unstable”.

What this really boils down to is the following: one quote in Italian by an Italian judge that was taken out of context (that’s the Italian legal expert (singular)), and statements made by two people from the Seattle legal community, Anne Bremner and Judge Michael Heavey, who have never set foot in an Italian courtroom but who happen to be members of FOA (Friends of Amanda).

Heavey, a neighbor of Knox’s, actually wrote a letter to the authorities in Italy asking for a change of venue. That letter ““ which incidentally was written on Heavey’s official Superior Court Judge letterhead—was so full of errors, and was so embarrassing to Knox’s own defense team, that Heavey is said to have written a second letter in apology.

The first letter, after being prominently displayed on Anne Bremner’s website, was then quietly removed. As if it had never existed. Never apologize, never explain, as Flaubert said. Where is that letter of apology? Why is it not displayed on Bremner’s website? Was it too written on official letterhead? As a King County taxpayer, I’d sure like to know.

Where are those Pulitzer Prize winning journalists when you need them?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How The New York Times Caused Unneccesary And Unhelpful Anger In Italy

Posted by Miss Represented



[click for larger image]

Another beautiful view of Italy. This one is of Portofino.

How could THE NEW YORK TIMES of all papers enable the ridiculing of this civilized and humane country for its handling of the case?

The Times may deny it because Timothy Egan’s rancid piece was “just” a blog. But ask any good lawyer - all content is ultimately the Times’s. They presumably have rules, and if they don’t have them, then they should.

Let’s look in depth at the content of Egan’s piece, which a huge audience in Italy has now read and found wanting. 

Aside from the very suggestive title “An Innocent Abroad” what becomes immediately apparent is not only the lack of objectivity (surely an essential tool for any self respecting journalist), but also the lack of any in depth discussion about the actual basis of the prosecution’s case.

A case that has been presented in detail twice a week for nearly half a year now.

Instead of discussing the factors leading to the arrest and trial of the defendants, Egan brings up the old, clichéd and unsubstantiated “mad fanatical prosecutor” charge as a reason for the trial. He muses thus:

The case against Knox has so many holes in it, and is so tied to the career of a powerful Italian prosecutor who is under indictment for professional misconduct, that any fair-minded jury would have thrown it out months ago.

My, my, feeling ethnocentric today aren’t we? Egan continues to bandy the “this would never happen in America” claim and appoints himself judge, jury and excuser, in order to make the assertion that he alone knows what the outcome of this trial would be in good old USA.

Egan is clearly suggesting to his readers that the conviction of Amanda Knox would be tantamount to a miscarriage of justice. Can anyone say objective reporting? Nope? I really didn’t think so.

Egan fails to mention that both Knox and Sollecito had many court hearings prior to the trial, and were afforded many legal advantages and some excellent legal representation.

If even one of the judges who presided over the initial hearings had decided there was insufficient evidence to hold or charge them, they would have been released. Every single judge that heard the evidence suggesting their involvement in the murder denied their release - some in very sharp terms.

It’s hardly as if they were at a disadvantage or even in the position to be railroaded. Knox and Sollecito actually incriminated themselves long before the police even got a sniff of Rudy Guede by way of their repeated lying.

Egan also fails to mention neither Knox nor Sollecito have a firm alibi that holds up for the night of the murder. Rather telling.

It seems Egan has opted to pass on the option of providing his readers with an interesting and objective piece, in favor of bandying the PR agenda surrounding the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for their possible role in the murder.

The victim here is of course an afterthought. Egan briefly gushes about Meredith being “high-spirited” before comparing how “high-spirited” (what?!) both girls were. Then he essentially explains that we should forget about Meredith, and focus on poor old Amanda whom this case obviously revolves around:

But it is also about Amanda Knox, an equally high-spirited student whose life has been nearly ruined by this collision of predatory journalism and slipshod prosecution ““ “the railroad job from hell,” as one outside expert hired by CBS News concluded.

Knox’s life has been nearly ruined by this collision of predatory journalism and slipshod prosecution? Most unfortunate. How inconvenient. Meredith of course now has no life to be interrupted.

Egan forgets to mention that the “outside expert” here is Paul Ciolino, a P-I for hire, whose objectivity and expertise have on several occasions been called into question. His several public forays into the case (Perugia for CBS and Salty’s for FOA) were disasters. 

The following statement is again pretty misleading:

Knox may not feel the same way. She spent nearly a year in jail without being charged. This, despite the fact that the only physical evidence found on the murder victim’s body was from someone else ““ a drifter with a drug problem named Rudy Guede.

Knox and Sollecito spent a year in jail whilst the police built a case, as they are legally entitled to do, while the accumulating evidence was gradually becoming massive.

There were repeated judicial hearings on the evidence, any of which could have released them.

The second statement, about Guede, is technically true, but Egan fails to go into any depth concerning the considerable other forensic evidence - something even the most banal reporter on the case has managed to do.

Equally telling is this:

After being questioned all night without an attorney or a professional translator, Knox said some things in response to a series of hypothetical questions. This was initially trumpeted as a contradiction, or worst ““ a confession. A higher court later threw out the most damning statements.

Egan at least fails to trumpet once again the accusation that Knox was hit by police, an accusation that has angered much of Italy (see several posts below) and got her into hot water with the Italian authorities.

Amanda was not questioned all night by Mignini, and she freely offered the police Patrick Lumumba’s name. She even made up details about how they had met and when they went to the cottage together.

Egan also attempts to gloss over the significance of the false confession with what is perhaps my favorite euphemism in the whole post:

Knox raised the possibility that a bar owner with an airtight alibi could have been involved.”

You don’t “raise the possibility” that someone was involved in a murder. You either accuse them or you don’t.

If the subject weren’t so serious and the potential for real harm and misinforming the public so great, it could almost be funny. In fact Knox accused Lumumba flat-out, in great detail, and later confirmed it in writing when certainly not under duress.

And Knox was certainly not questioned for 14 hours, it was four or five hours at most, between midnight and sunrise. She was offered refreshments, and she willingly signed a statement.

A lawyer was not present and therefore this statement cannot be used against her. But Egan forgets to mention a handwritten note Knox gave to police detailing her “confession” explaining how she would “stand by” her accusation of Patrick (that she knew was false) which, unlike her first statement, has not been thrown out of court and will be used as evidence in the slander case against her.

Egan further mentions (on details of Amanda’s sex life being leaked):

The Brits, in particular, had a field day. Locked from her house in the first days after it became a crime scene, Knox went to a store one day with Sollecito to buy emergency underwear. The British tabs bannered this as a g-string celebration of remorseless killers.

Emergency underwear that consists of a g-string and a camisole top? Hardly “emergency underwear” would you perhaps agree? Add this to the spectacular scene Amanda and Raffaele made in the Bubbly lingerie store, and it seems the British tabloids were perhaps not far from the truth.

The British papers were certainly not the only papers to have published details about Amanda’s sex life (which in the grand scheme of things is not important). But the press were always going to try and find out this sort of information about her because it’s what all of the press do.

Egan, as a journalist himself, should know this, and attempting to portray Amanda as a sweet and innocent ray of sunshine by criticising those who uncover evidence that she is in fact the opposite is a blatant attempt at shooting the messenger.

Some of you may be asking what the point of Egan’s article is? After all, it sheds no new light at all on the ongoing trial or the evidence that has come out over the last few months.

Well, hidden in Egan’s article is what seems a badly disguised advert for Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi’s book “The Monster of Florence” and as these little “promos” often are, the result seems a transparent endorsement written in extremely poor taste.

Has anyone noticed that whenever any criticism of the case against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito surfaces, the same name usually pops up? Often introduced by the synoptic tagline “the prominent best-selling American author” Douglas Preston?  I seriously rather doubt that Douglas Preston could give a fig about Amanda Knox.

Indeed, the only linking factor between Preston and Amanda Knox’s “plight” is the presence of Giuliano Mignini. Preston seems to harbor a grudge and to be using his “experience” of being questioned by Mignini to peddle his book.

Whilst people like Douglas Preston keep bleating on about the “backward” Italian justice system, the Italians have actually presented a very solid case. If people like Timothy Egan now choose to cover it irresponsibly and unethically, sadly, it’s up to them.

But there’s no reason at all for the New York Times to provide him with a vehicle.

Egan explains how “˜haunted’ he is by an observation made by a former Times colleague in Rome:

In Italy, the general assumption is that someone is guilty until proven innocent. Trials ““ in the press and in the courts ““ are more often about defending personal honor than establishing facts, which are easily manipulated.

I too am haunted by this statement.

Haunted by the fact that Egan has apparently based his entire article and his understanding of the complex and very fair Italian legal system on the opinion and hearsay of one other journalist.

And one who was absurdly in the wrong, as any observer with a brain can see.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Knox Testimony Does Not Seem To Have Gained Much Traction Here In Italy

Posted by Fiori





Posting from Florence (image below) where we have all been watching Knox testify in Italian.

I don’t believe her. It is interesting to see Amanda Knox being cool and self-confident, but testifying about how disturbed she became when the police became pushy during her interrogation. It doesn’t fit.

And it comes across as untrustworthy and contradictory that when asked about her drug use, she puts on a “schoolgirl”’ attitude: In effect “Sorry, daddy judge, I was bad, don’t punish me for being young”.  This seems definitely out of order with the rest of her performance.

“Performance” is the impression I get from viewing the segments shown from the court - a well-rehearsed performance. I suppose that the jury will wonder how this cool person can forget whether she has replied to a sms-message, how she can get so confused that she names Patrick, afterwards “is too afraid to speak to anyone but her mother”, and so on.

Most striking is that Amana Knox’s defence seems to stick firmly to the strategy of “mistreatment”; in effect that the only reason for AK being arrested is false statements produced under “illegal” pressure from the police.

By making “the ethics of police interrogation” the core question of her testimony, the defence - probably deliberately - creates a lot of associations to recent public debates of torture and interrogation techniques applied at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq.

By doing so they seem to want to try to turn the jury’s attention away from the point that AK knowingly participated in a murder investigation, and that any person with her intelligence will know that anyone who is called as a witness is required to show respect for the authorities - regardless of their nationality!

With reference to a variety of public materials from the US (“48 Hours” by CBS and many other reports), the way in which the Italian police have conducted Knox’s interview does not significantly differ from similar type interrogations made by US police. (This is not a stamp of approval, but removes the reason for any serious critique of the conduct of the Italian police.)

Her calmness and cool attitude, including her performing in two languages, does not, in my view - contrary to what the defence and her father expect - help to bring about an image of “another Amanda Knox” or a “more true Amanda Knox”.

Mostly her performance seems to contribute to shaping her image as complex, manipulative, intelligent, attention-seeking, and with only vaguely defined limits of identity.



Thursday, May 07, 2009

“An American Student Kills 62 Years Old Retired Bankteller”

Posted by Nicki

[click for larger image]

Corriere reports that this crime took place yesterday.

The American student was under the effect of psychotic drugs. He was wandering through the streets of Florence. He tried to force entry through a garage door while the victim was in the process of locking it.

The student attacked the retired bankteller and cut his throat with a mirror sliver. He covered the body with a piece of cloth and then left.

Police found him sitting on a bench nearby, a few hours after the murder was discovered. He has already confessed the murder.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Criminal Charges Almost Certain For Serious Disrespecting Of Meredith

Posted by Jools



[above: the Telenorba reporter who may soon be among those facing charges]

Raffaele Sollecito comes from Bari. Precisely one year ago, the local Bari TV station Telenorba did the almost unthinkable.

It broadcast some crime-scene video of Meredith. They showed her lying half-naked on her back on the floor, with the wounds to her throat clearly visible.

The footage was then picked up by the Italian state broadcaster, RAI, and it was rebroadcast a number of times.  Still shots ended up in a number of newspapers. And a video of the broadcast ended up on YouTube where (as of this morning) it still remains.

All of which now appears almost certain to attract a number of criminal charges.

Here is Richard Owen of the London Times describing the broadcast one year ago.

Relatives of Meredith Kercher, the British student murdered in Perugia in November, were said to be shocked and distressed last night after images of her bloodied corpse were broadcast on Italian television…

Telenorba, which showed the footage late at night, warned viewers that it was disturbing and suitable only for adults. It showed police scientists in white protective clothing pulling back the duvet to reveal Ms Kercher’s body and slashed throat, and turning the corpse over to examine her bloodied back.

Her eyes were covered by a mask. RAI did not include this part of the footage in its news broadcasts.

And here is the report in the Daily Mail also one year ago.

The Kerchers’ lawyer, Francesco Maresca, said: “This is an example of gross journalistic misconduct, which evidently violates all the rules of how to report a story….

Anna Maria Ferretti, the director of the leading Italian TV programme Antenna Sud, said: “For five minutes of television, the ultimate taboo has been broken without any shame.”

Italy’s Order of Journalists has asked for the video to be confiscated so that it is not shown again and a repeat of the programme that had been due to air on Tuesday night was cancelled…

Enzo Magistra, the editor of the programme, defended the show and insisted it had not meant to cause offence.

He said: “When I decided to transmit the images of Meredith’s corpse, I did not have the least intention of violating anyone’s dignity, but merely to do my job with respect to an important event.”

Sparked by a complaint from Mr Maresca for the Kerchers, the Perugia prosecutor initiated a one-year investigation.

And yesterday the outcome was announced. This is a translation of the report in La Nazione.

The prosecutor of Perugia has served notice of the completion of four investigations into Raffaele Sollecito’s family members and two journalists of the TV station Telenorba on the transmission of a forensic video in which the body of Meredith Kercher wa shown…

The report on the investigations (usually a prelude to a request for trial) indicates crimes were committed of defamation, invasion of privacy, publication of arbitrary acts of investigation and publication of gruesome acts.

According to the reconstruction by the Perugia prosecutor, the father and sister of Raphael Sollecito had legitimately obtained the scientific survey of the police, and had then illegally provided it to Telemundo.

The report also cites a journalist and the editor of Panorama for the publication of an article in which they reported that blood samples from Meredith had revealed an alcohol concentration above the legal norm - implying she was drunk when she was killed. This claim was proved a lie in the course of the forensic tests.

And this is a translation from the AGI news-service website.

Eight “notices of termination of the investigations” have been reported by the public prosecutor of Perugia…  Four Sollecito family members, the TV journalist on Telenorba and the director of the station, are accused of the crimes of defamation, invasion of privacy, publication of documents during the investigation, and publication of gruesome acts….

According to the reconstruction, the Sollecito family members delivered to Telenorba the video and photos of the crime scene survey carried out by the forensic team on November 2 of 2007 in Meredith’s house. Telenorba then put the material on the air.

Other investigations are on-going.

The YouTube video of the Telenoirba broadcast as of this morning had had over 9,000 looks. It is in an area for adults only, and it requires registration to get in.

Notwithstanding, these are typical of the angry comments in Italian that appear right under the video.

This video is a disgrace to every individual. There’s a girl who is no more, a family suffering for this, and now has to suffer public humiliation ... Let us never forget that the right to dignity and decency of the victims, especially if already dead.

*********

The video should be removed. The right to record is in conflict with the respect and devotion of the deceased. The publication of such images add nothing to the journalistic chronicle

Mr Maresca, who is in legal practice in Florence, appears to us to have fought hard for the rights of Meredith and the Kerchers.

He put the case for a closed trial (which the Knox and Sollecito forces bitterly fought) and he won the court’s agreement that the most disturbing segments at least would be closed to the journalists and the public. 

Here is the Times report on his battle then with the defendants’ families.

Mr Maresca said Italian law provided for trials in cases of sexual violence to be closed to the public, at the discretion of the judge. He said that showing graphic photographs and video footage of Ms Kercher’s body and the murder scene in open court could do injury to her memory.

Mr Maresca said that 280 journalists had been accredited for the pre-trial hearings, which were held in camera. This led to reporters and photographers trying to snatch pictures of the accused as they arrived and left the court, with defence lawyers and prosecutors besieged by the media outside the courtroom.

And to counteract the massive and pervasive spin being put on every development in the trial, Mr Maresca has been sharp and outspoken on what the growing body of evidence implies.

Other apparent attempts by the Sollecito family to interfere with the course of justice, as suggested in telephone intercepts, are still being investigated by the Perugia prosecutor. Mr Mignini is famous in Italy for fighting for victims’ rights to the maximum.

Mr Maresca is clearly doing a fine job in protecting Meredith’s dignity and the peace of mind of her poor family.

And this throws a MAJOR shot across the bows of the families of the defendants, if they incline to further disparaging of Meredith.

[below: the Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca; his office is in Florence]




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