Headsup: In "Talking To Strangers" Malcom Gladwell lied to his readers with an inaccurate and venomous attack on Italian justice that gives aid to the mafias. Below is the seventh of maybe 10 posts providing the ACCURATE information Gladwell should have done. Series starts here.

Category: Other legal processes

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]




Page 8 of 8 pages ‹ First  < 6 7 8