Category: Hellmann 2011+

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eleventh Appeal Session: Judge Overrules Defense Objections and Stefanoni Will Return to the Stand

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above Dr Stefanoni today with Ms Comodi and the Sollecito defense team minus Giulia Bongiorno]


The session has begun with prominent DNA expert Dr Luciano Garofano again in the audience.

Mentioned in previous posts is that he has spoken out nationally several times recently about his concern about the “CSI effect” where DNA evidence becomes in some trials a make-or-break issue even when other evidence is widespread.

Dr Stefanoni is of course also present with her team and other prosecution DNA witnesses are also prepared. TGCom have reported this as the first item to have been covered.

The President of the Court of Assizes of Appeal of Perugia, in opening the hearing, read a letter from the Director of the Scientific Police, Piero Angeloni, to the Court iin which reference is made to the criticisms of certain experts of the laboratory’s work in the context of scientific investigations into the murder of Meredith Kercher.

In the letter Angeloni emphasized the powers of the science, pointing out that “every year 4,500 investigations” are handled. He described how the laboratories are equipped with quality certification. “The laboratory is equipped with a computerized system for tracking objects” Angeloni said in the letter..The technical equipment is modern and the staff have many years of experience.” 

Angeloni stressed that “never before has asurveys of this nature been advanced, as here, into the work of the national forensic laboratory.” The service had never been subject to criticism before and used state-of-the-art equipment, his letter said.

Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti were first questioned by the Knox defense team. The Sollecito defense team have said that they will have no questions. ADNKronos reports that Carla Vecchioti in response to a question said that there was no DNA of Meredith found remaining on the knife when reexamined. Some starch was found.

Prosecutor Comodi then pressed the two on what is the standard lower limit of DNA traces to be subjected to low-count DNA testing and on this there was apparently not a concrete answer.

The court next moved into closed session. The defenses have objected to the prosecution’s DNA experts being allowed to take the stand. We may not know the outcome until after the break for lunch.

Okay the defense objections are overruled. The lead judge decided that the court will reconvene on September 5 to give Dr Stefanoni plenty of time on the stand. No more witnesses for today. Mr Angeloni’s letter may have had some effect. His labs should only be criticized (for the first time) with proven great care and no bias.

Oddly, the independent review team largely ignored the European state-of-the-art on low count DNA testing which, at strong prosecution request, the judge had instructed them to get on top of. That is a very suspicious goof.

Judge Hellman may not much favor this review in light of that.



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Witness Tampering By Defenses? Investigations Launched After Witness Aviello U-Turns

Posted by Peter Quennell



To whom Aviello now points a finger

1. Witness Aviello’s U-Turn

Sources tell us they believe Vanessa Sollecito and her family are again under investigation, this time possibly with Sollecito’s defense lawyers.

The investigation was said to be sparked by the specific claims of Luciano Aviello yesterday under oath before a magistrate in Capanne Prison that Vanessa Sollecito paid him 30,000 Euros for his testimony on June 18 with Sollecito’s counsel in the loop.

2. Aviello’s Testimony 18 June

We repeat here a summary already posted of what Luciano Aveillo testified to on 18 June by Will Savive:

Another prison inmate Luciano Aviello [42] who has served 17 years in jail after being convicted of being a member of the Naples-based Camorra, testified today that his brother Antonio and his colleague had killed Meredith while attempting to steal a “valuable painting.”

Aviello said that the Albanian (who offered his brother “work” in the form of a robbery) had inadvertently jotted down the wrong address, and they instead went to the house where Kercher and Knox were living, and they were surprised by Meredith’s appearance. According to Aviello, his brother and the Albanian man then committed the murder and fled.

Aviello is from Naples, but was living in Perugia at the time of the murder. He claims that his brother, who is currently on the run, was staying with him in late 2007 and on the night of the murder he returned home with an injury to his right arm and his jacket covered in blood.

Flanked by two prison guards, Aviello described how his brother had entered the house Meredith shared with Knox and had been looking for the painting when they were disturbed by a woman “wearing a dressing gown.” So many convicts, which one to believe, if any?

“My brother told me that he had put his hand to her mouth but she had struggled,” Aviello testified. “He said he got the knife and stabbed her before they had run off. He said he had also smashed a window to simulate a break in.”

Aviello said his brother had hidden the knife, along with a set of keys his brother had used to enter the house. “Inside me I know that a miscarriage of justice has taken place,” he asserted. Consequently, Aviello had been in the same jail as Sollecito and had told him: “I believe in your innocence.”

3. New Aviello Claims 26 July

In light of the betrayal by his cellmates, Luciano Aviello now states that all of this above was fiction.

There were no hidden keys, and no knife, and his brother was not living in Perugia at that time.

Here is a translation by our main poster ZiaK of one of the most comprehensive reports of what Aviello now says. We’ve added the emphasis to key passages..

“I lied following agreement with Sollecito’s lawyers in exchange for money”

Aviello claims he received 30 thousand euros in exchange for his testimony

Published 27/7/11

by Francesca Marruco

After having received notice that investigations had been completed by the Perugia prosecutor, the ex supergrass (state’s evidence), Luciano Aviello, requested and was granted a hearing with the Perugia prosecutors.

Last Friday in Capanne prison, the witness who had been brought into the court case by Amanda Knox’s defence team admitted - in a roundabout way - to Dr Manuela Comodi that everything he had declared was false: that it was false and had been agreed with Raffaele Sollecito’s lawyers in order to create confusion in the case.

He denied all the statements he had made in court. Luciano Aviello, who had told the judges of the Assize court that Meredith had been killed by his brother and that he himself had hidden the knife with which she was killed as well as the keys of the via della Pergola house, told the assistant prosecutor, Manuela Comodi - who, together with her collegue Giuliano Mignini, was in charge of the investigations into the death of Meredith Kercher - that he recanted everything he had previously declared.

His brother had nothing to do with it, he had never hidden any knife nor any bunch of keys. And he had never lived in Perugia - as he had stated in court before the judges.

Aviello: “Nothing is true, and it was all by agreement.” As to why he had told this flood of whoppers, he gave his explanation in fits and starts in over 80 pages of court records.

It was from a desire to help someone he had met in jail, and whom he loved - Raffaele Sollecito - by means of his lawyers, some of his family, and one of Amanda Knox’s lawyers, who apparently went to the Alba jail to hear him in order to deflect suspicion from Sollecito’s team.

Aviello heavily accused Sollecito’s lawyers and sister [Vanessa]. He said that it had been Vanessa who had delivered the 30,000 euros to an acquaintance of his in Naples, who was to act as a go-between. The money was to be found in an apartment in Turin which the Perugia police will check.

Aviello declared himself as being willing to appear in court and repeat everything before the appeal judges of the court of Assizes.

His first motives and his current ones:

The reasons for which he had agreed to tell these lies, according to what he told the prosecutor, was that he had been assured that the Perugian prosecutors would not investigate him - contrary to what had in fact happened - and that he was fond of Raffaele Sollecito.

And also because he was to receive in compensation those 30,000 euros which he would use for a sex-change operation, as he himself had declared several times.

But now that he had received notice that the investigations were finished, and since (he claims) he no longer hears from Raffaele any more, because otherwise no-one would believe him [translator’s note: I assume “him” means Raffaele being concerned that if he stays in touch with Aviello no-one would believe hi, Raffaele, any more], he no longer has any reason to continue lying.

Whereas he has plenty of reasons to try and lighten his own position as someone under investigation for calunnia (criminal slander).

Aviello: Raffaele had told me that it was Amanda and that he was also there.

Around the middle of the interrogation, Aviello said - referring to something that Raffaele apparently told him - that “the murderer, in fact, was not him: it was Amanda, during an erotic game”.

Raffaele apparently also declared “I actually know that it’s true that Amanda did it, but I didn’t do it: it wasn’t me that did the murder; I didn’t do it”.

This is what [Aviello] declared between one allegation and another, and he also declared that he was prepared to repeat everything before the judges. Before those very judges to whom, on 18 June last, he had so shamelessly lied.

What has changed? The repercussions which these new declarations - made by a man who has already been convicted 8 times previously for slander [calunnia] - cannot be conjectured.

Or at least, not all of them. The lawyer Giulia Bongiorno has already declared that she will defend her honour in court against anyone who might accuse her of having paid a convict to create confusion in the case.

It is foreseeable that Luca Maori and Carlo Dalla Vedova will take the same stance.

What the Prosecution will do is more difficult to determine. The investigations on Aviello’s slander against his brother may have ended, but how many others may be instigated as a result of these declarations?

In the meantime, everyone will return to court on Saturday to discuss the genetic evidence, which might truly decide the path that this case will take.


4. What Happens Next In Court

This was sworn testimony. Dr Comodi will now file a statement with Judge Hellman. and request that Aviello be brought back to court as a prosecution witness this time for defense cross-examination.

Early announcements might also be expected from the accused Sollecito family, who did meet with Aviello in prison, and from the accused Giulia Bongiorno.

And presumably a beeline is now being made to that apartment in Turin where the 30,000 Euros if it exists might be hidden.

Meanwhile, any search for the knife and keys Aviello had claimed he hid will drop dead.

Added 7 September: see Part

5. Another Investigation Commences

Several sources make us understand that the independent DNA consultants Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti might now be under investigation for possible contact or collaboration with one or several defense DNA experts including Hampikian.

Our main poster Fly By Night already suggested that the geographical location and published views of experts quoted by Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti looked pretty fishy.

And the lawyer for the family of Meredith, Francesco Maresca, complained on Monday that a request endorsed by Judge Hellman for those consultants to make sure to use European resources on the state-of-the-art of low-count DNA testing had been ignored.

6. Important Update 7 September

Update: We have posted the sworn Aviello statement on the Wiki.

At the appeal-court session today 7 September Judge Hellman without substantive explanation refused to even allow a court hearing on it, let alone to recall Aviello to alow the defenses to cross-examine him.

This looks like more strong anti-prosecution bias - but it also has the perverse effect of leaving a black cloud over the Sollecito family and defense team.

If the prosecution or defense come to believe that an element of the appeal is not being thoroughly and objectively examined, they are entitled to appeal instantly to the Supreme Court of Cassation for a ruling.

Amanda Knox’s defense already took that route late in 2007, long before she ever went to trial, to request that her statement made without counsel present in the wee hours of November 6 2007 should be put aside. The Supreme Court so ordered.

So the power of upward appeal to Cassation is available to the prosecution if they want ti use it.

Hedging their bets, the prosecution has sent the Aviello statement to the Florence courts (to circumvent Hellman?) where Aviello may now be put on trial for perjury. He could then denounce his brother again, or he could denounce the Sollecitos and their lawyers.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tenth Appeal Court Session: Might Today’s Testimony Give Sollecito More Of An Advantage Than Knox?

Posted by Peter Quennell





As expected the Italian reporting is a lot cooler and more dispassionate than that in English. The prevailing attitude is one of let us wait and see.

There are at least three good reasons for this.

Italians sat through the trial and the talk shows on television in a way that other nationalities didn’t and saw it as a fair and open process where the prosecution did an excellent job and the defenses were often pretty bumbling. And several times in the past two weeks the nationally respected DNA expert Luciano Garofano has cautioned the nation that juries should not over-weight forensic evidence in comparison with all the rest.

Also Mr Maresca was shown on national TV after today’s hearing saying this:

In my opinion, they have not worked in a completely non-partisan way. Next Saturday we will explain to the judges who have not followed the whole discussion [in the 2009 trial] all that was presented in the first trial of experts’ findings.

In their review they have responded to only the requests of the defence and not of the prosecution, and I don’t know if an [impartial] expert should do this. In the expert’s report they have not even referred to a single request from the prosecution.

Still, after her dismal misfires over the testimony of Alessi and Aviello and Rudy Guede, Sollecito lawyer Giulia Bongiorno might tonight have some reason to be a bit pleased. At least until the end of next Saturday when she will have sat through a fierce rebuttal.

Today’s testimony clearly showed that the handling of the bra clasp has its problems - though the prosecution will point out that there is still no scenario for precisely how Sollecito’s DNA was present and pressed so hard into the clasp if he did not do it himself.

Knox’s position seems much more problematic.

She was the only one to have a reason to rearrange the crime scene, she was the one to finger Patrick Lumumba for no obvious reason if she was not guilty, she placed herself at the scene in her several so-called confessions, and her pattern of phone calls remains very incriminating. Those mixed-blood traces in the bathroom and corridor and Filomena’s room are of Knox’s blood mixed with Meredith’s, not Sollecito’s,  and those appear to be her footprints revealed with luminol on the floor.

If the bra clasp evidence is discounted after next saturday, what physical evidence would then tie Sollecito to the house at the time of Meredith’s death?

Pretty well only the footprint on the bathmat which (for reasons we have never understood) the Knox camp has spent years discrediting. And Sollecito cut Knox adrift on 5 November 2007 when he presented an alibi in which he was at the house all night whereas she wasnt. He said at the time Knox had lied.

She was the one seen at the Conad supermarket at a time when she said she was asleep. And her phone was shown at the trial to have been elsewhere on the night Meredith died.

Stefanoni probably has her best shot in rebuttal in maintaining the knife evidence as credible, because at least one defense witness observed her one-time-only testing and saw Meredith’s DNA profile appear in front of his eyes. Her methods were not out of line with low-count DNA practices elsewhere in Europe, and the American comparisons seem suspect and irrelevant.

We still agree with the Supreme Court of Cassation’s finding at Guede’s final appeal that the forensic evidence in Meredith’s room and on her body points overwhelmingly to three assailants having been present.

But the appeal court might just buy the notion that there were actually only two.

Giulia Bongiorno has often gone her own way in defense of Sollecito (for example in calling Alessi and Aviello) and she is nationally respected for presiding over the justice committee in parliament. And the Sollecitos are said to not like the Knoxes and Mellases very much.

So in light of today’s bra clasp evidence she might now be tempted to bet the bank and put Sollecito on the stand. To claim he was not present when Meredith died.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Tenth Appeal Court Session: Italian Reporting So Far Good, First English-Language Reports Misleading

Posted by Peter Quennell





Italian media are reporting flatly and evenly that the court session has begun. Some have asked to use quotes from our posts on the suspect report.

First English language reports are less impressive. Peter Popham of the UK Independent which has been a major propagator of false facts in the past has already posted this:

There has never been any forensic evidence placing Amanda Knox at the scene of Ms Kercher’s murder.

Actually there has been. Plenty. Various mixed-blood traces in the bathroom, corridor and Filomena’s bedroom, and several footprints in blood. All these the defenses generally keep well away from, as there simply seems no innocent way to explain them.. 

More misreporting can be presumed and we will add any additional examples here or in comments below.

Francesco Maresca, the lawyer for the victim and her family, made a strong statement before the start of the court session. Here it is from TGCom in part:

The family of Meredith Kercher, the British student murdered in Perugia, is feeling “a lot of concern” about the latest developments in the appeal process. This was conveyed by their lawyer Francesco Maresca.

The new findings are considered “slight, but perhaps still too much, given the wild atmosphere in which they have been advanced, in contrast to the evidence that was seriously and carefully developed and presented by prosecution forensic scientists.”

“As to the objections of the new experts, they are familiar. We know them by heart and they have already been presented… The Kercher family is surprised at the categorical nature of Conti and Vecchiotti’s assessment.”

He added that “there is much other proof that shows the guilt of the two accused parties.”


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is the Conti-Vecchiotti DNA Review Defamatory? Stefanoni Believes So and May Sue

Posted by Peter Quennell


This looks like really bad news for Amanda Knox and Raffaelle Sollecito. The last straw.

TJMK main poster Fly By Night already described in great detail how suspect and heavily biased is the Conti-Vecchiotti report.

He predicted fireworks by the Scientific Police and prosecution expert witnesses who were seriously and without proper bases impugned. He predicted the fireworks would start tomorrow in court. 

But already the fireworks have begun. The Guardian’s Tom Kington (who himself has often seemed to show a pro-Knox bias) reports quoting the UK’s Sunday paper The Observer: 

A prominent forensic scientist, whose DNA evidence helped to convict the US student and her former boyfriend, has vowed to overturn the findings of an independent report that says much of her work in the case was unreliable.

Written by two independent experts from Rome’s Sapienza University, the 145-page DNA review rubbishes the work of Patrizia Stefanoni, the police forensic scientist who found Knox’s and Kercher’s DNA on a kitchen knife at Sollecito’s house and identified DNA belonging to Sollecito on a torn bra clasp found beside Kercher’s semi-naked body.

The report claims Stefanoni ignored international DNA protocols, made basic errors and gave evidence in court that was not backed up by her laboratory work, rendering the knife and bra strap worthless as evidence. But Stefanoni has vowed to fight back during three hearings devoted to the DNA reviews.

“I am angry about the false statements in this report and ready to come to court to highlight the past record of these experts,” she told the Observer. “I am also looking into taking legal action against them. What international DNA protocols are they talking about? The Italian police is a member of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI), while they are not.”...

After discovering there was no DNA left to check on the knife or the bra clasp, the experts retraced the steps taken by Stefanoni, concluding that the DNA trace of Kercher on the blade was so weak it could not be reliably matched ““ or was at best the result of contamination ““ and quoted Stefanoni admitting in court she should have double-tested her result to be more convincing.

Stefanoni claimed she had no need to repeat tests since the experts for the defence were on hand to witness her work. “And it was good enough to show it was Kercher’s DNA,” she said. “A small amount, but good quality.”...

The experts quote numerous US police and FBI experts on the risk of low DNA results and poor evidence handling, prompting one Italian police source to claim they were being fed information by Knox’s defence team. (Emphasis added.)

More attempted manipulation behind the scenes that now turns out to be heavy-handed overreach? Good luck to Judge Hellman tomorrow. He appointed the two “independent experts.” And he already almost lost control of his court once.

He will already be getting anxious to protect his good name before the Supreme Court. Unlikely now to buck any trends.



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Might Come Up In The Final Days Of The Current Appeal

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters


There have been nine appeal hearings since last November and there might be a further half a dozen.

Court will meet on July 25 and 31 and August 1. Then will come the August break, and then further hearings and an appeal verdict. At the last hearing on 27 June, Judge Hellman assigned the next three court dates for the DNA report and its rebuttal.

The only other sure thing accepted for discussion is the prosecution’s intention to revisit the mitigating circumstances Massei allowed and argue that they should be disallowed and the sentences of RS and AK increased.

The judges and jury have available to them not only the Massei and Micheli reports but all of the 10,000 plus pages of evidence from both trials plus all the court transcripts.

Our main posters James Raper, a lawyer, and Kermit will be posting a Powerpoint presentation after the DNA court sessions which will explain all of the tough questions that are still lurking in plain sight.

If the appeal court is to overturn the original verdict Judge Hellman would have to convince the Supreme Court of Cassation that Massei, Micheli, Guede’s first appeal judge and the Supreme Court itself that they all got it wrong and that the evidence suggests there was either only one perpetrator or another two.

But the existing evidence including the mixed blood, the mismatched alibis, and the strange pattern of phone calls does not fit either scenario.

Each of the discussion items in the appeal so far seem to have been quasi-disappointments for the defenses, and Giulia Bongiorno seemed to signal that at the June 27 hearing when her frustration over the failure of either Alessi or Aviello to convince became obvious.

Guede on the stand saying that Sollecito and Knox murdered Meredith had to have been a hard blow, and there would be no reason obvious to the court why he would lie.

Our Italian lawyers think the defense on appeal has been misconceived and too hard-line, too zero-sum-game, not very smart.  In the appeal hearings Knox and Sollecito have not had the opportunity to exercise either any innocent charm or any show of repentance, and Knox’s statement on 11 December blaming a whole lot of others could have seemed to the jury rather unpleasant.

Our lawyers don’t see an acquittal in the cards barring some huge surprise, such as Sollecito or Knox getting up on the witness stand and surviving withering cross-examination in convincingly putting across one or other of their alibis.

If they don’t get up on the stand, the judges and jury are meant to not make anything of that. But they surely would wonder why.

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters on 07/19 at 01:09 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Trials 2008 & 2009Hellmann 2011+Comments here (19)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Analysis Suggests The Conti-Vecchiotti DNA Review Is Weak, Tendentious, Cites Non-Existent Standards

Posted by Fly By Night


Background

In light of the huge fanfare two weeks ago over the release of the court-ordered independent expert review by Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti (image above, more in post below) on the forensic science methods and findings of Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni as part of the Knox/Sollecito appeal, we start this analysis of that report by summarizing a few hard facts:

  • The DNA samples currently under review by the court are NOT the only DNA samples used to convict Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.  In fact, the five mixed samples (not just DNA ““ there was the fresh blood of both women in four of them) of Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher constitute the strongest, most damning physical evidence of the case. This is why they have not been subjected to independent review during the appeal, along with the great majority of the evidence Judge Massei and the jury considered in convicting Knox and Sollecito of the murder of Meredith Kercher.

  • In reviewing the findings of Dr. Stefanoni, Technical Director/Principal Biologist with the Polizia Scientifica in Rome (image below), the expert report is also critiquing the findings and opinions of an entire well-regarded forensics agency along with the personal views of many prominent forensics experts. They include Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli, and the nationally prominent General Luciano Garofano who in support of Dr. Stefanoni’s own open descriptions have provided lengthy statements describing in great detail their reasons for agreeing with Stefanoni’s methods and findings.

  • The use and acceptance of LCN DNA analysis techniques in the USA lags behind that of other countries in the world, as documented in the numerous publications on the topic now seen in US professional journals.  Enhanced typing methods for LCN DNA are routinely relied upon in forensic DNA laboratories across Europe to provide sound evidence for courtroom arguments.  So the expert report’s overbearing reliance upon AMERICAN sources including the controversial opinions of Bruce Budowle (image below) of the University of North Texas, in questioning Stefanoni’s LCN DNA testing techniques, is highly questionable. Budowle has been strongly criticized by a number of distinguished researchers including Theresa Caragine and John Buckleton for his non-scientific opinions and for allegedly engaging in unethical practices and maintaining serious conflicts of interest.

  • Claudio Pratillo Hellman, the judge presiding over the Knox and Sollecito appeal trial, appointed Vecchioti and Conti to provide an independent assessment for the court regarding the handling and analysis of several pieces of evidence that played a role in the conviction of Knox and Sollecito.  Using the expert report as a focus, on Monday July 25th these independent experts will appear in court along with various expert witnesses for the prosecution, the defense teams, and the Kercher family to discuss the only pieces of DNA-related evidence that have been subjected to review in the appeal trial. They are (1) the DNA on the kitchen knife accepted by the Massei court to be the murder weapon, and (2) the DNA on a bra clasp torn from Meredith’s body.

The findings of the expert report itself in all their 145 pages of depth appear to boil down to two primary debates: (1) Issues surrounding the Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA analysis techniques employed by Dr. Stefanoni, and (2) Issues surrounding the probability of excluding all possible sources of contamination from the evidence.

The Expert Report

When the supposed findings of the independent expert report were first leaked, international media ballyhooed them as a sure sign that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito would soon be cleared of murder charges, claiming that the prosecution’s DNA arguments had now been shown to be based upon substandard DNA testing practices, and that the evidence might have been contaminated.  Knox herself was said to have sung and danced with joy upon hearing the news.

But a closer look at actual contents of the report, and its supporting documents, suggests that such celebrations are premature and ill-advised.  The expert report exists to serve only as the focal point for upcoming courtroom arguments, including arguments over the validity of Dr. Stefanoni’s claim to have identified Meredith Kercher’s DNA on the blade of the kitchen knife.  The report explains why a complete repeat of the testing Stefanoni performed on both the knife and bra clasp was not possible and how DNA on the bra clasp had deteriorated beyond testability. 

The expert’s attempts to perform repeat tests on the knife were unsuccessful in identifying cellular material on the blade. This was not a surprise, considering that Stefanoni had previously reported that additional testing would be impossible due to the minimal amount of DNA originally found there.  The expert’s testing did, however, firmly conclude that Amanda Knox’s DNA was located on the handle of the knife.

The expert report will steer upcoming courtroom debates towards a complete review of Stefanoni’s crime scene management practices, the DNA analysis methods she employed, and the reasoning and protocols she used to reach her conclusions.  The expert report provides one of several frames of reference for these debates and in part focuses upon criticisms not only of Stefanoni’s use of LCN DNA testing techniques to identify Kercher’s DNA on the knife blade but the entire LCN DNA analysis methodology itself.  As noted above, Vecchioti and Conti confirmed the presence of Amanda Knox’s DNA on the handle of the knife but suggest that the very small sample of Meredith’s DNA located on the blade, identified by LCN DNA testing, is the result of contamination.

The Potential For Contamination

Contamination of evidence might occur in the evidence collection phase of an investigation, or it might occur as the result of improper laboratory testing procedures once a sample has arrived securely at the forensic laboratory.  Before digging deeper into laboratory contamination potential, including associated LCN DNA analysis issues, we first take a look at the expert report’s evaluation of evidence collection protocols and the potential for contamination in that phase of the criminal investigation.

The expert report attempts to establish that international standards for crime scene management practices exist. However, their approach raises the same question raised by the assignment of Bruce Budowle, a controversial and opinionated LCN DNA commenter, as the foundation for their DNA analysis critiques.  Namely, why does the expert report find it necessary to over-rely upon inappropriate and highly questionable American resources to support its most critical arguments?

As strange as it may seem, the Italian expert report references quite a few relatively obscure, and often outdated, editions of American resources. They include the State of Wisconsin Crime Laboratory Manual, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Handbook, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Evidence Guide, the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory Manual, the New Jersey State Police Evidence Manual, and even introductory college textbooks covering criminal investigations at the level of “please wash your hands.”

If the intent of the expert report was to establish that a standard set of international protocols exists, and then to compare that set of protocols to protocols used in the Meredith Kercher murder case, then why not cite the international body that establishes and upholds such standards, if that body actually exists?

Instead, the approach taken by the expert report only serves to underscore the notion that there may, in fact, be no such thing as international standards for evidence collection and handling.  What the report actually establishes is that they are citing from a selected list of extremely diverse regional “best practices” manuals in support of theoretical and abstract concepts or points.  In doing so the expert report authors its own set of ad hoc “international standards” as it moves along. 

It would have been far more effective to put the focus on creating an objective and fair analysis of the real-world crime scene management procedures employed in this case, and then comparing and contrasting those findings with the successful, or unsuccessful, management practices of other similar case-study investigations providing appropriate citations from relevant literature along the way.

As a result of the independent experts’ approach, the contamination risk concerns cited in the expert report during the evidence collection phase appear to be largely a rehash of arguments over protocol that were thoroughly vetted during the course of the trial itself, such as how often investigators changed their gloves.

What we are left with is a report that only theoretically suggests that contamination cannot be ruled out, while completely failing to provide concrete examples of precisely when and how contamination could have entered into the evidence management chain.  For the appeal, this will result in a repeat of the same attacks upon investigative methods and processes, and all of the related arguments, that the court entertained during the trial, albeit this time with a new judge and jury.

The expert report apparently confirms that Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA was found on the bra clasp in an amount that would be difficult to attribute to contamination.  Dr. Stefanoni found about 4 nanograms of Sollecito’s DNA on the bra clasp, which is a substantial amount of DNA considering that research suggests that contaminated samples usually contain sub-picogram amounts of DNA, or around 1000 to 10,000 times less DNA than attributed to Sollecito on the bra clasp.

That fact that Raffaele’s DNA on the clasp appears to be mixed with additional DNA should NOT lead to conclusions that his profile cannot be effectively isolated and identified, or must be the result of contamination.  In fact, Italy’s premiere forensic science expert Luciano Garofano testified that Stefanoni’s analysis of the bra clasp was “perfect.”  It is also not plausible to suggest that contamination is the source for Sollecito’s abundant DNA on the bra clasp in the absence of significant environmental traces for Sollecito anywhere else in or around Meredith’s home, or in the Rome laboratory for that matter.


LCN DNA Testing

LCN is a DNA profiling technique employed when available DNA is limited to very small quantities.  A DNA sample might be as small as a millionth the size of a grain of salt, amounting to only a few cells of skin or sweat left in a fingerprint.

Using LCN testing techniques the small sample can be successfully evaluated and attributed to an individual.  LCN DNA testing has been in use since 1999 and is rapidly gaining worldwide acceptance in both legal and forensic science communities.  For example it has now been used in more than 21,000 cases in the UK since being approved for use in criminal cases in 2008, following a period of stringent testing and evaluation.

The increased sensitivity of LCN testing techniques does increase the potential of contamination to impact analyses of small DNA samples in the laboratory.  Since LCN techniques can accurately amplify DNA samples having as little as just a few cells it has been suggested that even breathing on such a small sample has the potential to render the resulting profile useless.  Contamination is particularly problematic for LCN samples because both sample and contaminant DNA are amplified, resulting in a complex mixed profile with related stochastic effect impacts. 

But, as evidenced in the expert report itself, Dr. Stefanoni is well-versed in the appropriate methods for dealing with these concerns, since she is quoted as already having admonished the court experts Vecchioti and Conti for not making use of a fume hood to ensure the absence of contamination as they conducted their retests on the evidence.

In recent years numerous professional publications have addressed the scientific, technical, and legal issues surrounding LCN DNA sample testing, outlining the stochastic effects and artifacts such as peak imbalances between alleles and loci, as well as allele and locus drop-out, or allele drop-in, along with making a variety of suggestions for both avoiding contamination and making error-free evaluations of stochastic effects. 

On the basis of these publications, including the proceedings of the biannual world congresses of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, it is clear that enhanced typing methods for LCN DNA are now routinely in use in forensic DNA laboratories across Europe.  This is strong evidence that the scientific community is now actively engaged in an effort to document all LCN DNA methods in use and is working towards developing standard biostatistical tools for evaluating LCN DNA typing results. 

It also appears as though the USA is lagging behind other regions in research, practice, and acceptance in this discipline.

In this relatively new field of study it is not surprising that researchers have yet to establish anything approaching standards for LCN DNA testing and analysis.  Even so, this has not prevented the results of LCN DNA testing from being successfully and routinely introduced as viable evidence in courtroom arguments. 

For example, on February 8, 2010, Judge Robert Hanophy of the Supreme Court of Queens County, New York ruled that results of LCN DNA testing, as performed by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York City, is now generally accepted as reliable in the forensic scientific community, it consistently yields reliable results, it is not a novel scientific procedure, and it is therefore admissible at trial (People v. Megnath, Supreme Court of New York, Queens County, 2010 NY).

Although the current Wikipedia article on the topic maintains that LCN DNA has only been adopted for evidential purposes in the UK, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, this unreferenced claim stands in ignorance of the fact that inquisitorial court systems in numerous European countries do not typically require formal publication and peer review of analytical methods in scientific journals as a justification for their methods. 

And as we have seen in the current Knox/Sollecito trial, in Europe it has become customary to have independent experts attempt to convince the court of the validity, or invalidity, of the LCN typing results that have been presented in a trial.  To be successful, it is essential that an independent expert provide the court with evidence of expertly-conducted retests of available evidence, relevant citations of appropriate research, and meaningful evaluations of protocols employed in outlining their objective and balanced set of opinions for the court. 

In this regard, it appears that the independent expert report for the Knox/Sollecito appeal has completely missed the mark.

Their report gives the strong impression that Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti were overtly attempting to invalidate the findings of Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, the Polizia Scientifica in Rome, and the wealth of supportive testimony provided in court during the trial.  The tone of their report strongly indicates that they have lined up with Sollecito defense experts Adriano Tagliabracci and Valerio Onofri of the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Ancona, and Knox defense experts Sara Gino, Walter Patumi and Carlo Torre from the University of Turin.

We will see in court on the 25th if they are really across the figurative aisle from the prosecution witnesses Dr. Stefanoni and Dr. Giuseppe Novelli, a highly esteemed professor of biomedicine at Tor Vergata in Rome who is considered to be the “father of police forensics” in Italy, along with the expert witnesses for the Kercher family Professor Torricelli, and Dr. Emiliano Giardina, who is a colleague of Professor Novelli at Tor Vergata University.

This appears to establish grounds for a formidable courtroom battle if all experts can provide solid grounds for their opinions. However, the Kercher’s lawyer Francesco Maresca was already quick to point out that those on the prosecution’s side of the aisle have substantially more practical experience and years of work in the forensic science field.

An in depth reading of the expert report uncovers allegations that Dr. Stefanoni has not followed internationally established forensic science management standards and that in doing so she has committed analytical errors, such as the misattribution of peaks in her bra clasp DNA analysis.  What the report fails to mention, however, is that no such standards exist and that there are currently multiple perspectives from which a scientist might argue their case regarding the proper interpretation of DNA data, as evidenced in any sampling of current forensic science journal articles. 

For example, the expert report cites a 2006 International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) publication as an example of a standard for determining which stutters should be considered as alleles in the assessment of mixed DNA samples.  But this alleged “standard” stands in contrast to direct testimony from Dr. Stefanoni while defending her lab protocols in comparison to the ISFG “recommendations” which she claims in no way qualify as authoritative standards.  The difference between recommendations and standards is a critical distinction in scientific fields.

A closer look at this discrepancy reveals that in 2007 Dr. Stefanoni and her immediate supervisor, Dr. Renato Biondo, hosted a meeting in Rome of the European DNA Profiling Group (EDNAP) in which these same 2006 ISFG recommendations were discussed.  At that meeting papers were presented from the UK and Germany that contested a number of the ISFG recommendations that the expert report now attempts to establish as mandatory standards. 

In the midst of this ongoing debate over ISFG recommendations, it is quite remarkable that the expert report, citing that 2006 ISFG document, chooses to assert that Stefanoni made erroneous interpretations of chart peaks simply because her interpretation of the data did not respect the controversial ISFG recommendations. 

The experts report consequently admits that they confirmed Stefanoni’s awareness of the ISFG recommendations, and that she expressed a personal view that they should simply be viewed as “guidelines.”  Yet they STILL insist on continuing to label her conclusions as erroneous since she did not “correctly” and “explicitly” adhere to the ISFG “recommendations.”

In light of all this, it is highly unlikely that Judge Hellman will dismiss Dr. Stefanoni’s knowledge and expertise on this matter as readily as Vecchioti and Conti have in their expert report.

An in depth analysis of the expert report also indicates that the citations from scientific journals are incomplete and often “cherry-picked” to directly support specific criticisms brought against Dr. Stefanoni’s methods. 


For example, the expert report appears to base its entire argument against Stefanoni’s reliance upon LCN DNA analysis techniques upon one paper, authored by Bruce Budowle et al entitled “Low Copy Number Typing Has Yet to Achieve General Acceptance.”  The expert report then goes on to cite a paper by Gill and Buckleton where these authors appear to support a few claims made by Budowle (image above) in his article, but the report completely ignores the fact that Gill and Buckleton then go on to air strong criticisms of many other claims made by Budowle.

In fact, in 2010 John Buckleton and Peter Gill authored a scathing criticism of Bruce Budowle’s entire “Low Copy Number Typing Has Yet to Achieve General Acceptance” article; the very article that the expert report relies exclusively upon in bringing Dr. Stefanoni’s methods into question.  In their article, published in Forensic Science, Buckleton and Gill state:

[Budowle’s] article is not peer reviewed. The proceedings of the ISFG Congress are prefaced by the message: “the manuscripts were neither reviewed nor edited in detail.  The articles reflect the opinions of the authors.”

It contains neither new data nor any novel scientific findings. Rather it represents public advocacy and is an expression of alternative opinion by the three authors concerning observations that are largely common ground. There is a place in the scientific literature for advocacy but it must be soundly based on proven facts.

We have some considerable difficulty in actually determining just exactly what the authors are indeed advocating. This is because of their inconsistent use of terminology and inconsistent recommendations. In our opinion, the views presented are inadequately precise, demonstrate a lack of appreciation of underlying principles and are not aligned with broader scientific opinion.

The title of the paper appeared to have one eye on future Frye or Daubert hearings and again we question whether such a title has a place in the learned literature. It takes upon itself, inappropriately, the role of gatekeeper of what constitutes “general acceptance” (The Frye test).

The article itself appears to be a rather inappropriate continuation of a debate arising from a court case in New York (People v. Megnath). Again we would question whether this journal is the correct forum to air this debate.

In other words, Buckleton and Gill are suggesting that Bruce Budowle acted unethically by publishing his non-peer reviewed opinions in a professional journal for the purpose of using the article to support his work as a paid consultant, and as an expert witness in court cases such as People v. Megnath in New York. 

Incidentally, Budowle was unsuccessful in advocating his opinions as an expert witness for the defense in People v. Megnath in his battle with Theresa Caragine of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York over her submission in court of data obtained using LCN DNA testing techniques.

Theresa Caragine herself authored a powerful rebuttal of Budowle’s article claiming that when Budowle’s “opinions” were published he failed to disclose that he had, in fact, been retained by the defense counsel for Mr. Megnath, and that he had already testified as a paid expert witness regarding the opinions he expresses in the journal article that the expert report relies heavily upon in attempting to substantiate its points.  And even though Bruce Budowle’s opinions had previously been delivered as a paid expert witness in a judicial setting, he made the claim of “˜No Conflict of Interest’ when applying to publish this non-peer reviewed article.

Caragine’s remarks go even further in criticizing the Budowle et al LCN DNA article by pointing out that it is not even a research article, but a non-peer reviewed submission that had purportedly been presented in the context of the 23rd Biennial Worldwide Conference of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, 2009 in Buenos Aires. 

Caragine claims that, while Budowle had in fact submitted a similar paper at that meeting, it was not under its current title, nor did it have the same the list of authors, and the abstract submitted to the conference organizers for their selection process does not align with the content of the paper now cited in the Italian experts’ report submitted to the court in the Knox/Sollecito appeal.  In her rebuttal, Caragine strongly questions whether or not such a circumvention of all standard principles of scientific publishing is in any way acceptable or appropriate.

Conclusions

In light of all of the above, the upcoming July 25th court hearing in the Knox/Sollecito trial should be considered as anything but a foregone conclusion.  The rationale behind the exuberant remarks noted in recent press releases regarding content allegedly favorable to defense efforts and anticipated impacts appears to be baseless. 

For an Italian report, it gives the appearance of being remarkably Amero-centric, and we find it ugly and unprofessional that the expert report chooses to attack Dr. Stefanoni and her colleagues by citing nonexistent international standards and by relying upon extraordinarily questionable resources in doing so. 

The report’s final conclusion that contamination cannot be completely ruled out is remarkably weak considering that there are relatively few real-world cases in which contamination of evidence might be completely ruled out.

It becomes clear, then, that well informed prosecution interrogators will have no problem in identifying and attacking the report’s multiple weaknesses.  We should expect Dr. Stefanoni and the prosecution’s team of experts to present precise counter arguments for the challenges expressed in the expert report, strongly defending the forensic science capabilities of Stefanoni and her team.


Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti In Perugia Seen Enjoying Their 15 Minutes Of Fame

Posted by Peter Quennell









Saturday, July 02, 2011

Sentiment Runs Deep In Perugia For Meredith But Not At All For Sollecito, Knox, Or Guede

Posted by Peter Quennell


Here are two examples of how the sentiment for Meredith stays alive.

The Perugia lawyer and law professor Francesco Bastianelli often comments online pro-Meredith and pro-prosecution. He first became active in irritation over the Perugia-Seattle twin cities arrangement, reacting to the disparaging comments in the Seattle media about Perugia.

He was pushing for the twin-cities thing to be abolished.

With the comment “that sucks” he linked a couple of days ago to a cynical disparaging post on how the defense lawyers are fattening their lot in life by way of this case. The post is on a Perugia blog called Pulchritudo Est Veritatis Splendor (Latin for “Truth is Beautiful”).

The Pulchritudo post is kindly translated below by our main poster Jools.

inCERTAINTY

I know a few things about the process that is celebrated in my city to shed light on the Kercher murder:

I know what were my impressions in the immediacy of the news;

I know that the President of a parliamentary commission [Bongiorno] should be acting as President of the commission, and not requiring fees up to 5 zeros to attend yet another show-trial, and forcing a whole tribunal to do court hearings on Saturdays and having to pay extra respective fees to judges, clerks and ushers;

I know there’s a convicted man in the final phase (we want to call him a murderer) for “complicity in murder” (but in complicity with whom?);

I know that lawyers in Perugia have been slaughtering each other in order to join the defence team, go on TV, and be the posers in front of the cameras of CNN;

I know that lawyer Bongiorno [beforehand] disclosed the results of the [DNA] experts that had to be secreted;

I know that five relatives of Raffaele Sollecito and two journalists, in adjournment after adjournment of court, thanks to the statute of limitations, will never be held accountable for the [Telenorba] broadcasting of the infamous video of the forensic police;

I know that DNA evidence has become “the only evidence” and “the key proof” only just now that it is in favor of the defendants. But what about other “evidence” that came out during the course of the trial;

I know, in the end, that in case of acquittal the same tribunal will be giving birth to an aberrant sentence with two people acquitted, and acquitted despite their peculiar behavior over a murder that was vociferously committed in the room right next to the room that one of them happens to live in.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/02 at 02:27 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Trials 2008 & 2009The wider contextsHellmann 2011+Comments here (11)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

DNA Report Already Dead On Arrival? Francesco Maresca Etc Don’t Think It Is Very Good

Posted by Peter Quennell


The New York Times redeems itself a little with an okay story on the report. It includes this:

The lawyer for the Kercher family, Francesco Maresca, countered that the word of the independent experts would not be the last word, and said he would raise his objections during the last week in July, when the report will be formally discussed during a week of hearings.

He said that the scientific police and the consultants who carried out the original tests had far more experience than the independent experts appointed by the court.

“I was surprised that these experts were so certain, and gave such strong, drastic opinions, given that they don’t have the same number of years of experience under their belt,” Mr. Maresca said.

Our Main Poster lawyer Tom M emailed this.

Maresca makes sense.  The referral was not for the purpose of making a legal judgment about the two pieces of evidence, but to report on the techniques employed and the procedures followed. At the end of the first trial there were X number of DNA expert witness reports; now there are X+1 expert reports and this latest one only muddies the water. 

It does not make the judges’ task easier as far as these two items are concerned.  Unless there is something in their analysis that is considerably more persuasive than what the previous defense experts said, AK and RS really haven’t advanced the ball, it’s just that now they have, I don’t know, say 3 expert reports instead of 2 that criticize the LCN and say it could be contamination.

One thing that needs to be looked at is whether legal standards and scientific standards are at odds.  Italian law places the burden of proof on the party that asserts something.  “Can’t rule out contamination” may be a true scientific statement, but does it supplant legal doctrine?  I don’t think so. 

Also, while scientific protocol call for repeatability, Italian seems to provide where the amount of material to be tested is so small that only one test can be performed, others are notified and invited to attend to observe and to raise objections.  I think the law is within its rights to do this, even though the pure scientist would not.

That of course is what happened. The defense experts were all invited to come witness the one-time-only testing of the knife but failed to show. The knife test would not even be under review if they had showed. No wonder the prosecution sound ticked.

There are also quotes in the New York Times from others who expected more and better than they got. 

Other accusers of Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito said that the DNA was just one piece of evidence in the case that they built against them, based on various testimonies, their lack of an alibi and what prosecutors say is other damaging physical evidence, which has not been reviewed. During one interrogation, Ms. Knox allowed that she was in the house when Ms. Kercher was murdered, an admission she later retracted, saying she had spoken under duress.

“The first jury decided looking at a wide range of evidence, the DNA was only part of it,” said one prosecutor, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. “Everything else still stands.”

And Italian poster Yummi on PMF posted this:

I am reading the report. The report brings in a lot of interesting information about the details of the DNA findings on these two items.

However, I fail to find the conclusions about the bra clasp convincing. In this report, the final issue of contamination is considered in the abstract, as well as criticisms on Stefanoni’s work.

In the abstract means, the conclusion on the probative value is given without an assessment on how likely a contamination might occur on that one specific profile of that contributor, which is Raffaele Sollecito.

The same report infers there was environmental contamination of the bra clasp, on the basis of the presence of a plurality of male contributors (at least two). But fails to give weight to the outstanding difference in the peaks hight/areas (amount of DNA) between these third parties, on one hand, and Sollecito’s DNA on the other: the amount of DNA prsent is very diferent in the two cases.

There is a very big difference in the amount of DNA from these contributors - Sollecito on one side versus others, his contribution really very large compared to others. I don’t know why the report fails to notice this.

The report also criticizes the “interpretation” given by Stefanoni, as said, of the DNA chart on the bra clasp. But, in fact, in the end the report acknowledges that both autosomic and Y haplotype DNA of Sollecito are present on the bra clasp (p.135):

So there is no doubt Sollecito’s DNA was on the bra clasp in large amount.

The same report cites failure of meeting interpretation standards for the bra clasp DNA. But acknowledges that there are no agreed standards for the assessment of stutters and alleles on mixed profile traces.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The 140-Page Conti-Vecchiotti Report On The Partial DNA Review Is Released

Posted by Peter Quennell


The report is much in the news in Italy. We don’t yet see a good English language report and a full translation will take a few days..

The experts have concluded that the LCN test of Meredith’s DNA on Sollecito’s large knife may have been invalid. This was the one-time-only test that every defense expert chose to skip.

Also that they cannot rule out that there was no contamination on the bra clasp (above) and that Sollecito’s DNA might indeed have flown through the air - though from where? There was only one other DNA sample for Sollecito in the entire house.

Italy does follow its own DNA protocols, but for reasons that are not altogether bad. It is very common for nations to depart from international protocols in all areas, not only forensic, if they think theirs are in some ways better.

Jurors did not say after the 2009 trial that either of these bits of evidence or non-evidence were the make-or-break items for them. The defenses asked for 33 re-examinations of evidence in their appeal submission but were granted only these two.

The DNA in the bathroom and the corridor and Filomena’s room all still looms very large. So do the cellphone, computer, eyewitness and alibi testimony. For the defense, it seems still an uphill task.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Seen In The Court Today: The Appellants, Main Witness, Prosecutor, Defense Counsel

Posted by Peter Quennell








Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/27 at 06:55 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Trials 2008 & 2009Hellmann 2011+Comments here (3)

30-Plus Minute Video By Perugia’s Umbria24 TV Of Rudy Guede In The Courtroom

Posted by Peter Quennell

All in Italian. This is a video of the press TV feed in the press room which is allowed.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/27 at 06:00 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in The officially involvedTrials 2008 & 2009Hellmann 2011+Comments here (4)

The BBC Reports Rudy Guede For The First Time Accuses Knox And Sollecito Face To Face

Posted by Peter Quennell


See at bottom for the BBC report. It refers to Guede’s letter of March 2010 in the post directly below this one.

Guede was in the witness stand as his letter was read to the court on Monday. “This splendid, marvelous girl was killed by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox,” the letter said.

This also for the first time on Guede’s side (but not on Knox’s or Sollecito’s side) crosses a public boundary between the three of them which the Italian lawyer Cesare Beccaria described starting here.

The Supreme Court has in effect already given Rudy Guede’s credibility an edge. Also this in the report in the Seattle PI report by Andrea Vogt.

As if the appeal wasn’t bizarre enough, two convicts were called by the prosecution as counter witnesses Monday to contradict several inmates called by the defense earlier this month. They maintained they had overheard in prison conversations about a plot among other inmates to testify in exchange for money and benefits, such as reduced prison time.

The person they heard was arranging things, they said, was Sollecito’s attorney, Giulia Bongiorno, who heads up Italy’s parliamentary justice committee. She forcefully denied the corruption accusations in the break afterwards and vowed to file charges and take legal action against her accusers.

One claim by the inmates was that she offered a sex change operation to Luciano Aviello. It would be helpful if some of this if it exists emerged on tape. What possible reason would they have to lie?

****************

Here is the full BBC report in case it scrolls from their website.

Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend did kill Meredith Kercher, a man who was also convicted of the 21-year-old’s murder has told an appeal court.

After Rudy Guede confirmed he believed the US student killed her British housemate, Knox jumped to her feet saying she was “shocked and anguished”.

The hearing in Perugia is the first time that all three defendants have given evidence on the same day.

Knox, 23, and Raffaele Sollecito, 26, are appealing their convictions.
Child killer

Miss Kercher, of Coulsdon, Surrey, was found with her throat cut at her Perugia flat after what prosecutors claimed was a sex game taken to the extreme.

Knox is serving a 26-year sentence for Miss Kercher’s murder while her Italian co-defendant and ex-boyfriend, Sollecito, was sentenced to 25 years.
Image caption Guede admits being in the house at the time of the Miss Kercher’s murder but denies any involvement

Guede told the court that claims by a fellow prison inmate that he thought Knox and Sollecito were innocent were not true. He said he never made that claim to the inmate.

On 18 June, convicted child killer Mario Alessi told the appeal Guede had confided that Knox and Sollecito were innocent.

According to Alessi, Guede said he and a friend went to the house Miss Kercher shared with Knox with the intent of having sex with Miss Kercher and that when she refused, the scene turned violent and his unnamed accomplice slit her throat.

Drug-dealer Guede was jailed for 30 years for the sexual assault and murder of Miss Kercher after a separate fast-track trial. His sentence was reduced to 16 years on appeal.

Guede was in the witness stand as a letter he had written in response to Alessi’s claims was read to the court on Monday.

“This splendid, marvellous girl was killed by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox,” the letter said.

Guede has previously admitted being in the house at the time of the murder, but denies involvement in Miss Kercher’s death.

After cross-examination by the defence, Guede said he had always believed Sollecito and Knox were behind the murder.

“I’ve always said who was there in that house on that cursed night,” he told the court.

Knox stood up after Guede’s evidence and denied his claims.

“The only time that Rudy Guede, Raffaele and I were in the same space has been in court. I’m shocked and anguished.

“He knows we weren’t there and have nothing to do with it,” she said.

Sollecito said Guede was always talking “about a shadow that could be me and a voice that could be Amanda’s… we’ve been fighting shadows for four years. Our lives have been destroyed in a subtle and absurd way.”

Speaking before Monday’s hearing, Knox’s mother Edda Mellas told reporters she hoped that Guede would have the “integrity to stand up and tell the truth”.

She said her daughter was “always very anxious and nervous but I think she’s glad things are moving along. She feels things are going well,” but that it is, “hard to get too hopeful, especially after the first trial.”

Two other witnesses were called to counter claims made by another defence witness, a member of the Mafia named Luciano Aviello, who had told the court earlier this month that his brother - who is on the run - had killed Miss Kercher during a botched burglary.

The two witnesses - two inmates at the same prison as Aviello - testified that Aviello had said he had been contacted by Sollecito’s defence team to stir up confusion in the trial in exchange for money.

Witness Alexander Ilicet said Aviello had wanted the money for a sex-change operation.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

If Rudy Guede Testifies On Monday As He Might, It Could Be Game Over For Sollecito And Knox

Posted by Peter Quennell





Rudy Guede might be compelled by the judge and prosecution on Monday to testify at length. He does not seem to have a legal reason not to as the Supreme Court set his sentence in stone.

He may of course really want to. Guede seems tired of being painted as the lone wolf or the wolf with two other accomplices.

In March last year he was decidedly ticked off when Mario Alessi began quoting or misquoting his claims about involvement. Here is the public letter he issued at the time, which inspired Mignini and Comodi to go interview him.

Guede’s letter to News Mediaset translated by TJMK poster Tiziano.

The complete text of the letter written by the Ivory Coast man.

Viterbo 07/03/2010

As usual in this beloved beautiful country of ours, there are many dishonest people given over to lying.  And there are likewise those who give these people a voice without the slightest questioning of their consciences, whether it’s worth the trouble of giving space to certain conjectures.

In recent days the only things I have heard have been blasphemous insinuations about me; baseless gossip which has done nothing other than harrying, hither and thither, TV news channels, even though for reasonable people it is the pure invention of a wicked mind.

It must be said that all I have heard in recent days in the media, about what has been falsely stated by this foul being by the name of Mario Alessi, whose conscience is nothing but stinking garbage, are purely and simply the ravings of a sick and twisted mind, his ravings are the dreamed-up, untrue declarations of a monster who sullied himself with a frightful murder in which he took the life of an angelic little human being, as is known throughout Italy. This fellow, now, is telling lies about things that I never said to him and (other things) that I never said, things that don’t exist either in this world or the next.

To his ““ or rather their- rotten declarations, it’s my intention to put in black and white that I never confided in this disgusting creature, since moreover that I’ve got nothing to confess or anything else (to say), and everything that I had to say I have already said to the judges and I will go on shouting and fighting while I am still alive, until the truth itself and justice itself prevail over such lies, and even less did I speak one to one or together with other people or with other inmates about my trial affairs, and if I had ever had something to say, don’t you believe that I would have talked about it with my lawyers?  Giving rise to and giving credit to what is a blasphemous statement made by a sick mind, to a monster who had no pity for a child.

With this latest scenario, which my lawyers, my family and I are now used to, from this latest person, the monster Alessi, I hope that Italians and the rest of the world realise that they are dealing with pigs, pigs which stink of the slime of falsehood, but which, not withstanding everything, go around showing their faces and suffocating people with their fetid lying.

Like their umpteenth scenario which does nothing more than give me the strength and the awareness to struggle more than ever, so that the truth that they want to hide is revealed for everyone to see.

As far as I’m concerned, (I have) the serenity and the calm of complete peace of mind, as a person who does not parade this unfair suffering, but who trusts in justice and in the good sense of Italians. 

And finally I wish that sooner or later the judges will recognise my complete non-involvement in what was the horrible murder of the splendid, magnificent girl who was Meredith Kercher, by Raffaelle Sollecito and Amanda Knox.

Guede Rudy

See that final paragraph? It seems likely that he explained as much to Mignini and Comodi when they interviewed him in March 2010 in Viterbo (nothing has ever been released about what he said) and on Monday Judge Hellman could press him for proofs.

Past posts worth reading in this context are this one on his rather sad growing up and this one on the Supreme Court’s reasons for rejecting his final appeal, stating that three people had to have done it.

Also this one on one of his online conversations from Germany in 2007 with a Perugia friend, kindly translated by a PMF team.


Giulia Bongiorno’s Next Super-Witness: The Apple Of Her Witness Luciano Aviello’s Eye?

Posted by Peter Quennell




1. Anti-Aviello Testimony

This above is former Italian politician Vladimir Luxuria who, despite appearances, is fully male.

Testifying for the prosecution today, several rather convincing fellow-inmates have now contradicted defense witness Luciano Aviello’s 18 June testimony that his brother and one other had murdered Meredith.

Here is their claim. Defense counsel Dalla Vedova’s and Bongiorno’s “super witness” Luciano Aviello had told his fellow inmates that he wanted a sex change operation so he could end up looking like Luxuria.

This operation was to be paid for with money he claimed Bongiorno was offering for his false testimony to help RS and AK.

Giulia Bongiorno ended up outraged, and threatening lawsuits at this testimony, which she claimed was false (the paying of the money bit).

We are told an investigation will be started which may affect whether Bongiorno can stay on the Sollecito team.

[Added: yes, a month later we were told an investigation was under way.]

2. Bongiorno’s Other Problems





Above, a juror is grinning at Giulia Bongiorno’s frustration while Rudy Guede stonewalls her.

At various points in the trial and appeal she has dropped the ball in spectacularly goofy ways.

Bongiorno disappeared from the trial court late in 2009 for weeks with no explanation. She next appeared with a baby in her arms. 

This morning she was sputtering to Judge Hellman that she only found out today about Rudy Guede’s letter - the letter reproduced in full in in this post which we translated into in English a full year ago.

She tried to have it excluded.

Here is another of Bongiorno’s sundry public disasters. She had claimed that an ex-burglar would climb into Filomena’s bedroom - but he never made it above eye-level with the window-sill.

In fact in three and a half years NO climber has ever made it through that window, though one or two did break in the far more logical way - via the hard-to-see and easy-to-climb rear balcony.

We do look forward to Giulia’s suit against the inmates. She has promised such suits often before.

Perhaps they will all arrive in a bunch?


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Current Court Reporting: Seattle Post Intelligencer Still Posts The Best, Least Bias, Most Detail

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Seattle waterfront just north of downtown - Seattle PI building is at front center with globe]

Witness Andrea Vogt’s excellent report on the proceedings today in Appeal Court.

1). On the assorted criminals testifying today. 

The dramatic day of testimony, requested by the defense, brought together a gang of criminals of whom Hollywood scriptwriters could only dream, including a convicted rapist and childkiller, a mafia snitch and other hardened long-timers with little to lose.

Their riveting testimony (complete rubbish or explosive and key new revelations, depending on your point of view) led jurors down some of Italy’s darkest alleys, from the desperate gangster neighborhoods of Naples to the powerful masonic lodges of Umbria and tough Italian prison wards with their own code of honor….

Only one of the five had no connection to Sicily or Naples and that was a Romanian who claimed on the stand that his signature had been forged on a document presented by the defense and that he knew nothing about anything….

2) On the testimony of Mario Alessi

Alessi took the stand around noon, after a sharp drop in his blood pressure required a nurse’s attentions (the stress of testifying had caused him to lose 15 pounds over he last 10 days, his lawyer told seattlepi.com). Alessi said he earned Guede’s trust while they were incarcerated together.

One day, Guede took him by the arm and led him to a corner of the prison yard where they would be out of view of closed-circuit cameras, he said. Then, Guede told him that the real truth was that a drunkard who had gone to Kercher’s flat with Guede from the disco had sexually assaulted her and then killed her to avoid “rotting in prison” for the rape….

Toward the end of Alessi’s story, the lawyer for Meredith Kercher’s family, Francesco Maresca, branded him a repeat liar. Maresca held up a photo of “Tommy,” whose high-profile disappearance and slaying in 2006 shocked Italy….  In response to the photo of Tommy, Alessi said no, he didn’t recognize the boy, to which Maresca said, “That’s OK, we do.”

3) On the testimony of Luciano Aviello:

But on the night of Kercher’s murder, Nov. 1, 2007, Aviello testified, his brother came home with a ripped, bloodied jacket and was covered in scratches on his arms. He eventually said he had stabbed a young woman after surprising her during a break-in to steal a painting, Aviello said…

The brothers had then hidden the murder weapon and keys to the house in a nearby wall and covered the hole with mortar. “Go and see for yourselves. Verify it! You’ll find I am telling the truth,” said Aviello. “Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are innocent.”  Police and prosecutors have never publicly confirmed that such a search was done. Aviello’s brother’s whereabouts are unknown.

When prosecutors asked him about his connection to Alessi and the other cons, Aviello took offense, saying he had nothing to do with those “pedophiles and rapists,” but was rather just an “honest” gangster from Naples doing time for routine organized crime.

Toward the end, Aviello’s testimony grew increasingly aggressive toward prosecutors and police with whom he had collaborated. At one point guards held his shoulders as he yelled accusations through the gap where two front teeth should be. “You are a klan, not the judiciary!” he yelled.

4) And on the prosecution’s many new rebuttal witnesses.

... the court agreed to call a number of counter-witnesses requested by the prosecution, including two more prisoners and two police officials. The court also agreed to hear Giacomo Benedetti, the friend of Rudy’s whose Skype conversation with Guede while Guede was on the lam in Germany led to his arrest, as well as Guede himself.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Today’s Desperate Moves By The Defense Lawyers Seem To Have Backfired On The Two Defendants

Posted by willsavive




1. Court Order Of Business

Just as expected, five inmates testified to the Italian court that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are innocent, to the best of their knowledge.

According to Barbie Nadeau (author of the Beast Book Angel Face) security was tight in Perugia today, as a string of blue prison vans pulled into the back parking lot of the central courthouse carrying some of Italy’s most notorious convicts.

2. The Testimony

1. Mario Alessi

First to the stand was Mario Alessi who is serving a life sentence in Italy for kidnapping and killing 17-month old, Tommaso Onofri, in 2006, was called by Sollecito’s defense team. Almost immediately after taking the stand, Alessi turned pale, became ill, and had to step down. After nearly an hour he finally returned to tell his story.

Alessi, who was being held in the same prison as Rudy Guede, testified that the Guede told him that Knox and Sollecito are innocent, speaking in prison conversations in November 2009, a month before the Knox and Sollecito were convicted.

Alessi said Guede approached him during recreation time at the Viterbo prison. “Rudy links arms with me, inviting me to take a walk with him, he has something important to tell me,” Alessi told the court. He quoted Guede as saying he was worried because “I don’t know whether to tell the truth or not,” and that the truth “is altogether different from what you hear on TV.”

Alessi then testified that Guede said he and a friend went over the house with the intent of having three-way sex with Meredith Kercher. When she refused, the scene turned violent. Alessi said Guede told him he had gone to the bathroom and upon coming back he had seen his friend holding Kercher to the ground.

Eventually, “a knife appeared, almost out of nowhere,” Alessi said, quoting Guede as saying that it was pointed at Kercher’s throat. Kercher began fighting, according to Alessi, and her throat slit got slit in the process. Guede tried to rescue her, Alessi said, but his friend stopped him.

Alessi testified (translation by Jools) that”¦

“Guede asked me what benefits he would get if he told the truth. He then said that he had met Meredith in a bar with some friends of his ““ one was called The Fat One. He said that one had got drunk and that he had followed Meredith home to see where she lived.

A few days later he said he and this drunk friend went back to the house to see Meredith. They asked her if she would like to have a threesome and she had told them to leave.

Rudy said he then went to the bathroom and that when he came back the scene was very different. He said that Meredith was on the floor, back down, and that his friend was holding her down by the arms.

He said that they swapped positions. Rudy then told me that he had put a small ivory handled knife to her throat and that it had cut her and his hands were full of blood. He said that his friend had said: “˜We need to finish her off or we will rot in jail.’”

Note: The bold statement above is a huge inconsistency, because, by all accounts (Knox as well as others who lived in the cottage), Guede already knew where Meredith was living - he had been to the cottage twice before that.

According to Alessi, Guede did not reveal the identity of his alleged accomplice.

Alessi said he and Guede had developed a friendship in prison but eventually Alessi broke it off as he realized that Guede “said two innocent people were in jail” but did nothing about it. Alessi then contacted the lawyers representing Sollecito. Of course, being the humanitarian that he is, Alessi claims that he tried to convince Guede to “tell the truth.”

Upon cross-examination, Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca held up a photo of the child Alessi murdered (Tommaso Onofri) and asked him, “Do you know who this is?” “No” Alessi replied, looking away. Italian media report that he also denied he is serving a life sentence.

Three more fellow Viterbo prison inmates were called to back up Alessi’s story, including police informant Marco Castelluccio, who took the stand behind a blue cover, guards around him. Castelluccio said he heard the story about Knox and Sollecito’s innocent mostly from Alessi. He said on one occasion, however, he heard Guede say from a separate cell that Knox and Sollecito were innocent.

2. Luciano Aviello

Another prison inmate Luciano Aviello [42] who has served 17 years in jail after being convicted of being a member of the Naples-based Camorra, testified today that his brother Antonio and his colleague had killed Meredith while attempting to steal a “valuable painting.”

Aviello said that the Albanian - who offered his brother “work” in the form of a robbery - had inadvertently jotted down the wrong address, and they instead went to the house where Kercher and Knox were living, and they were surprised by Meredith’s appearance. According to Aviello, his brother and the Albanian man then committed the murder and fled.

Aviello is from Naples, but was living in Perugia at the time of the murder. He claims that his brother, who is currently on the run, was staying with him in late 2007 and on the night of the murder he returned home with an injury to his right arm and his jacket covered in blood.

Flanked by two prison guards, Aviello described how his brother had entered the house Meredith shared with Knox and had been looking for the painting when they were disturbed by a woman “wearing a dressing gown.”

“My brother told me that he had put his hand to her mouth but she had struggled,“Aviello testified. “He said he got the knife and stabbed her before they had run off. He said he had also smashed a window to simulate a break in.“Aviello said his brother had hidden the knife, along with a set of keys his brother had used to enter the house. “Inside me I know that a miscarriage of justice has taken place,” he asserted.

Consequently, Aviello had been in the same jail as Sollecito and had told him: “I believe in your innocence.”

Knox’s lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova and Luciano Ghirga, visited Aviello in Ivrea prison near Turin back in May 2010 and videotaped his statement and included it in their appeal request.

Under cross examination from the prosecution it emerged that Aviello had also been convicted seven times of defamation to which he angrily replied: “That’s because all of you, the judiciary are a clan.”

As Aviello testified, Knox””dressed in an ankle length floral pattern white dress and blue top””listened intently, occasionally making notes or discussing points with her lawyer. 

3. A Comment

So many convicts, which one to believe, if any?

Rudy Guede will now get a chance to rebut all of the above at the next appeal hearing on 27 June. This may be the worst-case scenario that the pussyfooting Knox and Sollecito defenses tried to avoid for three years. Did Knox realize?

Oh yes, it’s true! Judge Hellman has ordered Guede’s testimony to counter that of Mario Alessi. Guede will be heard alongside two fellow-detainees and two Perugia officers. June is shaping up to be a real “scorcher” in this appeals trial.

Guede had refused to speak on the stand in the original trial of Knox and Sollecito, because his appeal was still ongoing. Now, with Guede’s final appeal completed with Italy’s Court of Cassation; a real surprise could be in store.


Cross-posted here from my own website Savive’s Corner.


Today’s Star Witnesses For The Defense Alessi & Aviello Up To Necks In Trouble?

Posted by Peter Quennell


Alessi above; no shot of Aviello available due to protected status

1. Summary Report

Today the Long-shot defense witnesses Mario Alessi and Luciano Aviello were heard. 

Already the Italian media are reporting on what looks like a slow moving train-wreck for the defense.

1. Mario Alessi

We have already had many posts on Alessi (read from the bottom up). Frankly, not a great choice. Mario Alessi is one of the least liked and trusted characters in Italy.

In part because before Alessi was arrested for killing a baby with a spade after kidnapping the parents, he was seen on national TV saying “Who could have done such a horrible thing?” Attempts to hoodwink the Italian public and courts never seem to go over very well.

Main reporting on the testimony of Mario Alessi will be available later today.

Here is what we already know. 

1) Alessi’s nervous and defiant claims on the witness stand that Guede told him Sollecito and Knox were not involved sounded distinctly hollow.

2) The prosecution ripped into him during the cross-examination phase and left him squirming and evasive on his claims.

3) The prosecution announced that the police have already investigated him for false claims, and a request for his prosecution has been sent to Viterbo.

4) The lawyer for the victim’s family also ripped into him with a description of his murder of a baby, with an image of the baby being presented to the court.

5) Alessi then developed some sort of health condition with low blood pressure as one of the symptoms, and was briefly treated.

6) Alessi seemed to be trying to opt out from any more interrogation on the stand, but Judge Hellman ordered him to come back.

2. Luciano Aviello

Luciano Aviello next took the stand.

We have already had many posts on Aviello too (read from the bottom up).  Again this is not someone Italy likes or trusts.

The Naples Comorrah mafia snitch among other things accused his missing brother and one other of murdering Meredith while in the wrong house looking for valuable art. Hellman had real problems keeping order in the court as Aviello also accused the police and RS lawyer Bongiorno of crimes.

The prosecution cross-examination of Aviello was cut off. Oddly, Hellman appeared to not want to hear about those latter accusations at all.

A fuller report will be posted when the media reports come out. It will be interesting to see if any photographs appear of Aviello. There are no recent shots. Barbie Nadeau tweeted from the court that he looks about 12 years old.

If he cannot produce Meredith’s keys or a knife that he claimed he buried at his brother’s request, he too will be toast and also facing new charges.

2 Longer Report #1

From an excellent report in the Daily Beast by Barbie Nadeau:

Five super-witnesses took center stage in a Perugia courtroom in defense of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, who are appealing their convictions for killing Meredith Kercher.

[Mario Alessi]

The first witness, Mario Alessi, was on the stand briefly before he turned pale and took ill and had to leave the courtroom. After nearly an hour, he returned to tell the court a very convincing story about how Rudy Guede admitted that Knox and Sollecito were not part of Kercher’s murder and that a “drunk man” and a “fat guy” killed her instead.

He started by recounting how he and Guede found a quiet spot in the prison yard out of the view of the closed-circuit television camera and Rudy poured his heart out, telling him the real story of Kercher’s murder.

Alessi’s account was rich in detail as he explained how he tried to convince Guede to “tell the truth.” The only problem with Alessi is the fact that he is one of Italy’s most notorious murderers himself, convicted for the 2006 kidnapping and murder of a two-year-old boy.

The lawyer representing the Kercher family Francesco Maresca held up a photo of the child and asked Alessi, “Do you know who this is?” “No,” Alessi replied, looking away. “That’s ok, we know who he is,” replied Maresca.

[Alessi Cellmates]

Three more witnesses followed, each backing up Alessi’s account of Rudy’s story, each one more colorful than the previous… their credibility was deemed questionable based on the fact that they were convicts and the essence of their testimony was prison-yard gossip.

The judge… decided he needs to hear from Guede himself to clarify the prison gossip. That hearing was scheduled for June 27. And Guede will testify.

[Luciano Aviello]

The final witness threw a curveball in a day that was going largely Knox’s way.

Luciano Aviello took the stand to tell the court that his brother was the real murderer. He explained that he was just out of prison for mafia collusion and living in a “mini apartment” in Perugia “thanks to your generous justice system” he added, looking at the judge for effect.

Then he explained that on the night of November 1, after he got back to Perugia after a quick trip home to Naples, his brother came to his apartment at around 10 or 11 at night.

“My brother came in and sat on the sofa. The right arm of his jacket was ripped and he could see blood on his arm. My brother then pulled out a pocket knife and a set of keys. He was very afraid. He didn’t want to create problems for me in Perugia. My brother was very emotional.”

Aviello then went on to explain that his brother had met up with an Albanian man who offered him “work” in the form of a robbery. The Albanian had inadvertently jotted down the address incorrectly and they went instead to the house where Kercher and Knox were living.

Having found Kercher home alone, they started to attack her sexually and then they killed her. “I’m not telling you this because I have hate inside me for my brother,” he said. “I am coming forward because it is the right thing for me to do.”

At one point he lectured the prosecutor about jumping to conclusions too quickly. “Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are innocent,” he said. Then under cross examination he lost his temper and exploded into a near-rage of wild gesticulation and Neapolitan dialect that was largely incomprehensible…

[Reaction Of Knox]

Knox, who was dressed in a conservative skirt and blue blouse, looked dismayed during most of the hearing. Her appeal is winding down and she knows well that every trial date should count towards proving her innocence, and potentially setting her free….


3. Longer Report #2

This is by our main poster Will Savive.

Another prison inmate Luciano Aviello [42] who has served 17 years in jail after being convicted of being a member of the Naples-based Camorra, testified today that his brother Antonio and his colleague had killed Meredith while attempting to steal a “valuable painting.”

Aviello said that the Albanian (who offered his brother “work” in the form of a robbery) had inadvertently jotted down the wrong address, and they instead went to the house where Kercher and Knox were living, and they were surprised by Meredith’s appearance. According to Aviello, his brother and the Albanian man then committed the murder and fled.

Aviello is from Naples, but was living in Perugia at the time of the murder. He claims that his brother, who is currently on the run, was staying with him in late 2007 and on the night of the murder he returned home with an injury to his right arm and his jacket covered in blood.

Flanked by two prison guards, Aviello described how his brother had entered the house Meredith shared with Knox and had been looking for the painting when they were disturbed by a woman “wearing a dressing gown.” So many convicts, which one to believe, if any?

“My brother told me that he had put his hand to her mouth but she had struggled,” Aviello testified. “He said he got the knife and stabbed her before they had run off. He said he had also smashed a window to simulate a break in.”

Aviello said his brother had hidden the knife, along with a set of keys his brother had used to enter the house. “Inside me I know that a miscarriage of justice has taken place,” he asserted. Consequently, Aviello had been in the same jail as Sollecito and had told him: “I believe in your innocence.”


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Possibilities For Political Derailing Of Justice For Meredith Are Now Down Near Zero

Posted by Peter Quennell

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (below left) gets a huge slap in the face in a referendum of Italian voters. He had no obvious powers to wield over the appeal in any case.

Mr Berlusconi’s own grip on power will be weakened by the repeal of a law that excused senior office holders from attending court because of their workload. He is a defendant in three time-consuming trials involving allegations of bribery, fraud and paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl—cases that are sapping his authority.

And the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano (below right) makes clear through a spokesman that he will not lift a finger to help to spring Amanda Knox despite the request from some junior Berlusconi-party parliamentarians..

Italy’s president says he’s following the case of American student Amanda Knox but can’t intervene as she appeals her conviction on charges she murdered her British roommate.

President Giorgio Napolitano’s diplomatic counselor responded to an Italian lawmaker who asked the head of state to intervene to avert controversies stemming from the case.

Mr Napolitano is known to really dislike Mr Berlusconi and his party, so the Rocco Girlanda ploy the Knox forces inflated into an imminent home run was actually dead even before it ever began.

There is no growing global or American or Italian mass movement pro-Knox, and President Obama and Republicans leaders have nothing to gain by denying Meredith her justice.



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