Category: Hellmann 2011+

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So The Two Pressed Defense Teams Decide To Go Eyeball To Eyeball With Cassation

Posted by Peter Quennell




1. How Looks The Appeal?

The appeal is not looking very pretty for the defenses.

There seems no single brick in the wall of the prosecution’s case that, if pulled, will place the entire structure in doubt.

The Supreme Court ruled last December that at Rudy Guede’s trial, Judge Micheli had it right in saying that three perpetrators killed Meredith, one of which was definitely Rudy Guede.

Judge Micheli also ruled in October 2008 that only Knox had a reason to rearrange the crime scene, and Knox’s and Sollecito’s trial judge Massei ruled the same in December 2009.

The extensive forensic evidence in Filomena’s room, in the corridor, and in the bathroom Meredith and Amanda Knox shared, has so far been ruled out for re-examination.

None of it suggests Guede was ever in that bathroom or in Filomena’s room - in fact it suggests he headed straight out the front door .

Eye-witnesses other than the man in the park, Curatolo, are not to be heard from again.

Curatolo is probably not much discredited because he could say that it did not rain on the night he claims he saw Sollecito and Knox in the park watching the house (it did rain on Halloween) and that it was the night before all the cops arrived at the house. Buses were around as he described.

The only thing that might have shaken his timeline is that he might have seen a late Halloween reveler or two.

And the defenses seem to have no obvious way of explaining why Knox and Sollecito came up with so very many muddled alibis and why each at one point even ended up blaming the other.

A report today from TGCom said this on the review of two small parts of the DNA evidence:

Expert reports on the traces of DNA found on the knife held to be the murder weapon used to kill Meredith Kercher, and the clasp of the bra worn at the time of the murder, will be filed June 30.

This has been established by the 2011 Assize Court of Appeal in the Perugia trial of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox. The new deadline was set by the judges at the request of their experts who had requested an extension of 40 days.

The experts have been in the courtroom, explaining that they have obtained all the scientific data required.

They have however also highlighted the need to consult the minutes related to the seizure of the knife and the testimony in the 2009 trial of the agents that followed the inspection at the home of Sollecito. Documents that the Court ordered are to be provided to the experts.

In front of the judges one of the experts stressed that the “maximum cooperation” was provided by the scientific police who performed the technical tests in the course of the investigations.

Nothing in that looks too promising.

2. Best Defense Options Left?

What moves are available if Knox and Sollecito are really to be sufficiently suggested not guilty?

  • Option 1: Putting both of them on the witness stand without preconditions for the first time so the appeal court can hear their stories in full, compare them, and subject Knox and Sollecito to no-holds-barred cross-examination.

  • Option 2: Putting the two prison inmates Mario Alessi and Luciano Aviello on the witness stand, with several claimed corroborators, to say in Alessi’s case that Guede confided that he did it with two others, and to say in Aviello’s case that his missing brother did it with one other.

What we know of their claims so far - and police and prosecution have really checked out Alessi and Aviello and revealed nothing of what they have up their sleeves - there are only poor connects between their claims and what is described in the Micheli and Massei reports.

Each could crumble in a devastating way under cross-examination, and then be contradicted by a long line of witnesses that the prosecution could bring in to rebut them.

Here is Andrea Vogt reporting on Option 2 from the trial session yesterday which turned out to be mainly procedural: setting several new appeal court dates, and a new date for the findings of the reviews of the DNA on the large knife and bra clasp.

The parties eventually agreed to hold hearings June 18 and 27. And, surprisingly, Judge Hellmann also agreed to admit five new controversial witnesses into the appeals trial, a process normally reserved for debating contested evidence already introduced in the first trial.

The five new witnesses being requested by the Sollecito and Knox defense are all prison inmates ““ convicted of everything from child homicide to being Mafia snitches and drug dealing.

Some of the witnesses have given conflicting accounts of stories they’ve heard about the case while behind bars. At least three, however, agree on their version, that Rudy Guede told them that Knox and Sollecito were innocent (an account Guede denies).

The prosecution is likely to call for counter testimony. The decision to open up the appeal to wholly new testimony from convicted prison inmates is bound to complicate the already confused trial even more, and likely push any final decision far into the fall, toward the fourth anniversary of Kercher’s brutal stabbing and Knox’s incarceration in connection with it.

As if five convicts weren’t enough, Knox’s attorneys announced they had received yet another letter from a different inmate, Tommaso Pace, this time making bizarre and unfounded claims that victim Meredith Kercher was targeted by two unnamed brothers paid $100,000 to kill her over alleged drug debts.

The new letter from Pace (whom the judge and attorneys must still agree to call as a witness) sets up the prospect of potentially six prison inmates taking the stand in Knox’s defense over the summer””each of them with a slightly different story and motive for telling it.

Alessi’s own lawyer seems to have counseled him not to get up on the stand, presumably fearing perjury charges and additional time in his cell.

Aviello is literally unlikely to show his face.

The prosecution could bring back Rudy Guede as a witness against both, and even without Guede testifying, it looks like the prosecution might turn all five witnesses on their heads. 

So Option 2 could drag things out for some months, and try to confront the unequivocal Supreme Court finding issued last December and ported into this appeal: no one wolf.

And still have the Knox and Sollecito defenses conclusively crumble.

Meanwhile, the judges and jury could be watching a very prolonged dog-and-pony show, while impatiently wondering:

“WHY didn’t they simply choose Option 1? Then some or all of us might very quickly have gone home.”


Monday, March 28, 2011

Sixth Appeal Hearing: Andrea Vogt On The Testimony Of The Witness In The Square

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above and below: north side of Piazza Grimana showing the benches where Mr Curatolo normally sits]

Click here for Andrea Vogt’s report for the Seattle PI from the appeals court.

One of the case’s most colorful and controversial characters, Curatolo, 53, has spent many a day sitting in the small public Piazza Grimana square near the university where college students come to play basketball, buy hashish and hang out….

When questioned by prosecutors, he said he remembered seeing Knox and Sollecito having “an animated discussion” in the square, which overlooks the villa where Kercher’s body would be found the next day. It was not raining that night, he said, when asked about the weather. The following day the Carabinieri came around to ask him if he had seen anything, he recalled, and he had watched as forensic crime scene investigators worked around the house.

“Are you sure that the day after you saw those two discussing in an animated way you were questioned by the Carabinieri and saw the police at Via della Pergola in their white suits?” asked Mignini.

“Very sure,” Curatolo said. “As sure as I am that I am sitting here.”

But minutes later, in questioning by Sollecito’s lawyer Giulia Bongiorno, Curatolo also said he had seen young people in masks and getting on buses to go to the discos. The distinction is important because Halloween was Oct. 31 and there were likely students in costumes, getting on shuttles to go to the discos on the outskirts of town.

Kercher, however, was killed on the evening of Nov. 1, 2007, which is All Saints Day, a somber holiday in Italy, when it is less likely there were any festivities.

“I think it is clear that he does not have a lucid memory,” said a member of Knox’s legal team, Maria del Grosso, after the hearing. “And I think it was demonstrated today that he is not a credible witness.”

However, prosecutors and the lawyer for the Kercher family, Francesco Maresca, maintained the testimony was in line with previous statements.

“He repeated exactly what he said during the first trial. We still believe he is reliable.”

Good neutral report, as you’d expect, from Andrea Vogt who is the American reporter most consistently in the courtroom. All the other reports in English seemed to include a lot of fluff from the defenses.

We’ll have an analysis post on this hearing and the DNA testing in Rome later today or tomorrow.

**********

Below: Mr Curatolo’s preferred benches are at the far left there. If Sollecito did watch the gate of the house on the night he’d need to be to the far right there. The gate can easily be seen from there.



Friday, March 25, 2011

Giordano Supreme Court Report On Final Appeal By Rudy Guede

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



[St Peters in foreground; Supreme Court large white building in background]


Please click on the image above for this meticulous translation from Italian to English.

The PMF translation team on three continents consisted of Jools, Thoughtful, Clander, TomM, Catnip, Yummi and the 411.

This post spelled out how very ominous for the Knox and Sollecito defenses this report really is.

We will have a post soon examining the fine details of this very tough report.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Limited Review Of The DNA Tests Agreed To By Judge Hellmann Are Now Underway In Rome

Posted by The Machine


[Amended by the Machine after his posted comment.]

Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti of La Sapienza University in Rome (above) have begun the review of the DNA on the large double-DNA knife and the bra clasp under the eyes of expert witnesses.

Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni and Professor Giuseppe Novelli will be testifying on behalf of the prosecution. 

Professor Novelli has an impressive CV. He is a highly regarded professor of biomedicine at Tor Vergata in Rome and director of the Centre of Excellence for Genomic Risk Assessment in Multifactorial and Complex Diseases.  Professor Novelli is regarded as the “father of police forensics” in Italy.

If there had been any doubts about the validity of the DNA evidence against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, he wouldn’t have agreed to testify for the prosecution.

A number of independent experts have already confirmed the validity of the DNA evidence at various court hearings.

There was an independent review of the forensic evidence in 2008. Dr. Renato Biondo, the head of the DNA unit of the scientific police, reviewed Dr. Stefanoni’s investigation and the forensic findings. He testified at Rudy Guede’s fast track trial in October 2008 and confirmed that all the forensic findings were accurate and reliable.

He also praised the work of Dr. Stefanoni and her team. “We are confirming the reliability of the information collected from the scene of the crime and at the same time, the professionalism and excellence of our work.”

Alberto Intini, the head of the Italian police forensic science unit, testified for the prosecution at the trial last year. He maintained that the crime scene had not been contaminated. He pointed out that unless contamination has been proved, it does not exist.

He also stated that the results of the tests showed that the investigation had been carried out correctly because there was not even one trace of any of the forensic technicians.

The Kercher family hired their own DNA expert, Professor Francesca Torricelli, and asked her to examine the DNA evidence.

Professor Torricelli is the Director of a genetic facility at Careggi University Hospital and has been working in genetics since 1976. She testified at Knox’s and Sollecito’s trial last year and she also confirmed Dr. Stefanoni’s findings.

She told the court that the significant amount of Sollecito’s DNA on Meredith’s bra clasp meant that it was unlikely that it was left by contamination. She also agreed with Dr. Stefanoni that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade of the double DNA knife.

Distinguished DNA expert and former Caribinieri General Luciano Garofano analysed the DNA and forensic evidence for the early 2010 book “Darkness Descending”.

He has more than 32 years of forensics experience and is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He is considered by many as Italy’s top forensics expert. In his section of the book, he explains at length why he too thinks that Knox and Sollecito are guilty of Meredith’s murder.

Although General Garofano agrees with Dr. Renato Biondo and Alberto Intini that the scientific police did a good job, he thinks the police should have separated the plastic handle from the knife and checked for blood there because it often gathers in the grooves and recesses under the blade.

Stefano Conti has asked Judge Hellman for permission to take apart the handle of the knife.

The conclusions of the DNA retesting must be filed with Judge Hellman’s court no later than May 9 and they will be discussed at the appeal hearing on May 21.

Retesting of the DNA was always a high-stakes gamble for the defense teams and could prove to be game-over for Knox’s and Sollecito’s appeal in a single stroke.

On the other hand, the prosecution has little to worry about either way, as the balance of the evidence is so massive.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fifth Appeal Hearing: Testimony On Club Closings And Buses Leaves Credibility Of Eyewitness Intact

Posted by Peter Quennell


The shot above from the front of the School for Foreigners is of Piazza Grimana.

Click for a larger image. You can see the square with the benches at extreme left and right, and at rear the basketball court where Rudy Guede played. At the back there at the far right are the stone stairs down which Knox and Sollecito may have entered the park.

The many traversing buses mostly stop right in front here and they would block most of that view.

It is hard for us to see the defense witness testimony from six witnesses - one nightclub owner apparently refused to show - that several clubs were closed and several buses not running as any big deal.

In this post below we mentioned that Judge Micheli at Rudy Guede’s trial in October 2008 had accepted the testimony of Mr Curatolo because he said it was the night before the police descended on Meredith’s house and the square.

Judge Masse’s court also used this as a pointer to Mr Curatolo’s credibility and the Supreme Court of Cassation in denying Guede’s ten appeal grounds also endorsed the testimony as good. 

Here now is a repeat of our report on Mr Curatolo’s day in court by our man in the court at the time, StewartHome2000,  almost precisely two years ago (29 March 2009).

He is a fixture in Perugia. He is a vagrant that spends most of his time hanging around Corso Garibaldi (the street where Sollecito lived) and Piazza Grimana (the piazza in front of the School for Foreigners within eyeshot of the gate of Meredith’s house on Via della Pergola).

The crowd murmured as he was helped in by court assistants, uncleaned and dressed in an old jacket and winter knit hat. His skin was dark against his long un-groomed white hair, beard and mustache. But once he opened his mouth, you knew that this guy was no slouch. He spoke clearly, concisely and directly, and was very certain of what he saw.

His testimony never swayed and was consistent even under cross examination. In short, his appearance was one thing, his articulate convincing testimony was another.

He stated that he has been a regular hobo (for lack of a better term) around that part of Perugia for about 8-9 years. He testified that he was in Piazza Grimani around 9:30-10:00pm when he saw across the piazza two people, a man and a woman. He described them as a couple from the way they were sitting next to one another.

He was asked to describe them and he turned and looked at Amanda, just a few feet away, and said calmly, “it was her”, and then looked at Sollecito and said “and him.” He stated that having been in that area he had seen them before separately, but this was the first time he saw them together. But he was certain it was them.

He said also that, although he did not watch them all the time, he did see them again “poco prima di mezzanotte” or “just before midnight” at the same place. He originally said that they were there from 9:30 through midnight, but clarified that they were there at 9:30-10:00pm and may have left around 11-11:30 and then returned to be there just before midnight.

After midnight, he left the piazza to go to the park and sleep.

The next day, he arrived at his faithful piazza around 12:00pm, and eventually, around 1:30 or so, he saw the carabinieri pass by, and the police and crime scene staff, and stated that he watched them at the scene, including the CSI people dressed in the full-white suits.

Under cross-examination, Sollecito’s lawyer Ms Buongiorno may have thought she had an easy target. But in fact he held up extremely well. She asked, “how could you possibly know it was 9:30?” and he responded “Because the sign next to the piazza has a digital clock. I look at it often to check the time”.

He stated that “when I sat on the bench to read I looked at my watch and it was just before 9:30pm”¦.and I saw them shortly afterwards.” He said he knows what he saw, and he saw those two! No more questions.

Buses and nightclubs were not even mentioned in this comprehensive report. They were not even brought up by the defenses to rebut Mr Curatolo’s timeline two years ago.

The defenses again seem to be clutching at straws.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fifth Appeal Hearing: The Two Appellants Arrrive In The Courtroom

Posted by Peter Quennell



Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/12 at 12:51 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Appeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+Comments here (13)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fifth Appeal Hearing: What Will Be On The Agenda Tomorrow In Court

Posted by Peter Quennell


Scheduled for tomorrow are seven witnesses for Sollecito’s defense, which is trying to prove that the eyewitness in the park, Mr Curatolo, got his dates wrong.

One of the ways in which Mr Curatolo identified the night on which he says he watched Knox and Sollecito sitting and talking in the park and periodically peering in the direction of the gate of Meredith’s house was by the presence of some buses.

They may have been the buses which climb up the very narrow Via Ulise Rocchi from the square to some clubs further up. However many, many other buses also pass through that square.

The defense hopes to land its first blow on the prosecution’s case by showing that on the night those nightclub buses weren’t there - that the clubs were closed that night for the holiday, and so the nightclub buses were nowhere to be seen.

Is this crucial? We think not. Mr Curatolo is useful in establishing a possible timeline for the night, but not for much more than that. The prosecution have never given the slightest hint that they believe anything like their whole case hangs on him.

And in Rudy Guede’s brief trial in October 2008 Judge Micheli accepted Mr Curatolo’s testimony as valid because he said he saw Knox and Sollecito on the night before all the police descended on Meredith’s house and the square.

Judge Micheli examines the evidence of Antonio Curatolo. He says that although Curatolo mixes up his dates in his statement, he does have a fix on the night he saw Amanda and Raffaele in Piazza Grimana sometime around 11:00 to 11:30pm. Curatolo is certain it was the night before the Piazza filled up with policemen asking if anyone had seen Meredith.

In his evidence, he says they came into the square from the direction of Via Pinturicchio and kept looking towards the cottage at Via della Pergola from a position in the square where they could see the entrance gate.

Judge Micheli reasons in his report that their arrival from Via Pinturicchio ties in with the evidence from Nara Capazzali that she heard someone run up the stairs in the direction of that street. He also reasons that they were likely watching the cottage to see if Meredith’s scream had resulted in the arrival of the police or other activity.

Acceptance of his testimony is already endorsed by two appeals courts, including the Supreme Court of Cassation, and all the decisions and all the evidence from all three courts now get ported into the Knox-Solleito appeal.

You can see photos of the square here and the view down to the gate of Meredith’s house here.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Andrea Vogt: Supreme Court Report Highlights Amanda Knox Mention To Mom She Was There

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Amanda Knox and her mother in courtroom when Edda Mellas testified 19 July 2009]

Andrea Vogt in the Seattle PI translates from the Cassation Report described in our two previous posts.

A sentencing report just released by the highest Italian appeals court sheds new light on why so many Italian judges have maintained Amanda Knox was involved in her roommate’s murder.

The document, among others, cites a conversation Knox had with her parents while under surveillance during a prison visit in which she said “I was there,” apparently referring to the night of the murder.

Amanda Kox’s remark was recorded at Capanne Prison and was long public knowledge, but that the Supreme Court listed it among other evidence of involvement in this report is significant.  The report summarises what is the evidence against all three, especially that against Rudy Guede.

The court…said that based on the 43 wounds to Kercher’s body (and the time it would take to inflict them) that it was… probable that Guede and two others forcibly held Kercher down, threatened, taunted and eventually fatally stabbed her.

The Court’s quoted language is extremely hard and gives a sense that the judges were appalled. The Court’s report has been out in Italy for over four days now - but the Seattle PI’s is the first extensive US or UK media summary.

The US and UK media have a pretty consistent habit of ignoring these inconvenient reports.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Very Hard Language Of Supreme Court In Rejecting Guede Appeal, Confirming Three Did It

Posted by Peter Quennell


The report of the Supreme Court of Cassation released on Thursday was foreshadowed in content in our post of 17 December:

Rudy Guede’s appeal is rejected on all ten grounds. His appeal grounds were ugly and dishonest and he has no further appeal. He will serve his 16 years, with maybe some time off, for being a savage willing party to the cruel stupid murder of Meredith.

Rudy Guede will go down in infamy for his sex crime against a defenseless victim, for being a party to a taunting torturing knife attack, for claiming Meredith invited him in for consensual sex, and for not calling for help for Meredith and maybe saving her life while it was still possible.

Cassation continues the fine Italian court tradition in this case of taking a firm and unblinking position, and for being utterly oblivious to the vile over-the-top campaign of Curt Knox, Edda Mellas and David Marriott which may now haunt Amanda Knox all of her life.

What really caught the Italian media’s attention and made this the second most widely reported development in the case after the Amanda Knox-Raffaele Sollecito verdict was the icy hard language, the pure contempt for the depraved pack attack, the total rejection of all Guede’s stories, including his oft-repeated and totally unbelievable claim that Meredith invited him in and wanted love-making, and the court’s conclusion once again that the evidence methodically described in the Micheli Report overwhelmingly proves that THREE perpetrators took part in the crime.

The Court of Cassation in this report made clear that Knox and Sollecito are not already formally nominated as the other two perpetrators and it does wait the referral of the outcome of the present appeal in Perugia. But unless the defense witnesses Alessi and Aviello can indeed convince Judge Hellman’s appeal court that Guede attacked Meredith with friends or that some other people entirely carried out the attack, there seems no way out for them. 

The court also indicated that it considered the motive of the attack on Meredith to be frivolous, which is precisely what the prosecution claims in the current Perugia appeal as grounds for rejecting Massei’s mitigating circumstances, and for increasing Knox’s and Sollecito’s prison sentences to life terms. 

This post of a month ago further explains Knox’s and Sollecito’s almost insurmountable problems.

The written report from Cassation on that December 2010 decision on Guede’s final appeal (due soon), plus Judge Micheli’s Sentencing Report for Rudy Guede of January 2009, plus all that associated evidence, now gets automatically ported by law straight into Knox’s and Sollecito’s appeal.

Judge Micheli took a hard line toward Rudy Guede, and he sentenced him to 30 years. He also remanded Knox and Sollecito to trial, and his report explains the basis for that remand.

Judge Micheli’s remorseless and tightly argued report (see summaries below) very comprehensively backed up his decisions. (Later reductions in sentence were automatic and they flowed from the terms of Guede’s short-form trial, and some controversial mitigating circumstances advanced by Massei for Knox and Sollecito.)

The prosecution’s appeal against the Knox and Sollecito sentences argues that the acceptance of mitigating circumstances by the Massei court should be thrown out, and that Knox and Sollecito should be subjected to a longer sentence. Remember that even in the case of Alessi’s wife, who was not even present when he beat the kidnapped baby to death, she received a sentence of 30 years.

So here is how it is stacking up:.

For the prosecution, four courts including the Supreme Court of Cassation have ruled that three people participated in the crime against Meredith, plus all of the evidence from both the Guede and Knox Sollecito trials now comes in, plus the prosecution is appealing for tougher sentences, which seems well justified based on precedents.

And for the defenses? Will they now feel they have no choice but to put Knox or Sollecito or Alessi or Aviello or for that matter Rudy Guede on the stand as a last-ditch manoeuvre?

Hard to see what further they have to lose.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fourth Appeal Hearing: Updates On Today’s Court Hearing Which Is Mainly Procedural

Posted by Peter Quennell


Above: Sapienza University is the largest European university and the oldest of Rome’s three state-funded universities.

  • At noon Italian time ANSA reported that the two DNA experts from Sapienza University have been given 90 days to do their retesting. They will begin their review on Feb. 9, conclude by May 9 and report their findings to the court on May 21.
  • The witness in the square on the night who said he saw Sollecito and Knox, Antonio Curatolo, will be re-examined. This is at the prosecution’s request, not at the defenses’.
  • The DNA experts have asked to break open the handle of the knife they are asked to retest. If Meredith’s blood is found to have seeped into the handle, by itself that will be case closed and verdict confirmed. Decision on hold.
  • The examinations will be carried out in the presence of representatives of all parties. Among them will be Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, the technical director of the forensic laboratory that conducted the original DNA investigations.
  • The prosecution requested Rudy Guede as a witness and that too was put on hold. Yet another shot across the bows of the defense. If Alessi or Aviello are put on the stand then Guede will also be there to heatedly rebut them.
  • The next appeal hearings scheduled by the court of appeal have been set for 12 and 26 March, and April 16 and May 21. May 21 is when the DNA experts will report back so just three days for examination of witnesses.

Judge Hellman is allowing no defense fishing expeditions, and he is giving the prosecution full latitude. Good reason for Giulia Boingiorno not to be in court: her baby was delivered today in Rome. We like her and wish her and the baby well.

Below, images of the two court-appointed DNA experts and of Amanda Knox. The Reuters caption says her lawyers are consoling her. Chris Mellas’s remarks later made it sound like the family is already trying to let her down gently.
.



The Fourth Appeal Hearing Today Saturday: The Main Items On The Court’s Agenda

Posted by Peter Quennell

Not very much drama is expected. This hearing is mainly organizational.

The mood of the defense lawyers will be interesting to watch. Also whether Sollecito lawyer Giulia Bongiorno is a show or a no-show. And we may find out if the possible defense witnesses Mario Alessi and Luciano Aviello will actually testify. 

Two DNA experts nominated by Judge Hellman at the last appeal hearing on 11 December for the genetics testing of the bra clasp and the knife will appear and be sworn in and charged with their assignment.

Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti of La Sapienza University in Rome will be asked how long they believe they will need and it is expected that they will ask for two to three months. 

And the court will establish a timetable for the testimony of several new defense witnesses who may challenge one or two components of Antonio Curatolo’s statement. Nick Pisa bizarrely mis-reports on this in the Daily Telegraph:

He had told the court he remembered the night “clearly” as he saw student revellers queuing up to catch buses to nightclubs on the outskirts of the city.

However defence lawyers have established that he could not have seen the students, as the night Meredith was murdered was a bank holiday with venues being shut and no buses running.

Have established that he could not have seen the students? Really? There were other buses than the disco buses running that night. Students were definitely around.

If prisoners Mario Alessi or Luciano Aviello are indeed put on the firm list to testify that’ll be a pretty sure sign that the defenses are really clutching at straws, as in each case their known claims are contradicted by dozens of evidence points .

The prosecution has interviewed both of them and those interviews have not been made public.  Here are more wrong and seemingly irrelevant claims bizarrely reported by Nick Pisa.

Retired British university professor David Anderson, who lives near Perugia and who has taken an interest in the case, said: “The conviction of Amanda and Raffaele is scandalous as neither has the psychological profile of a killer.

“The investigation was flawed from the beginning with many mistakes being made and there is no DNA, no real motive, no weapon and no credible witnesses at all.”


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The El Bizarro Defense: “It’s Unfair To Use The DNA They Didn’t Manage To Scrub Away Against Them”

Posted by Cardiol MD


Remember the twins who appealed for mercy at their trial for murdering their parents? On the grounds that they are now orphans?

There is something of that reminiscent here. The defenses of Knox and Sollecito seem to be trying to exclude evidence that they themselves tried to destroy, essentially on the grounds that their destructive attempts failed to destroy all of it, and left behind only some of it.

Their argument boils down to whether the disputed DNA evidence is more unfairly prejudicial than probative. The faux forensic experts who are arguing in the media that this disputed DNA evidence would not ever be admitted in US or UK courts are in fact totally mistaken.

It is my opinion that because it was the defendants’ deliberate conduct that nearly succeeded in extinguishing all their DNA, any US and UK courts would insist to admit this highly relevant evidence, and let the participants duke out its fairness, in open court, in front of a jury.

That is what the only relevant court in Meredith’s case, the Perugia appeals court, is now doing.

DNA evidence may be “only circumstantial” but that is as with most of the evidence in this case. Meredith was murdered - that’s a fact - but no one saw who did it except the killers.

Judge Hellman designated his selected Expert Reviewers with such alacrity that I think he had already thought it all out.  Judge Hellman is being prudently responsive to the legal and political pressures bearing down on him, and knows the ruling also calls the defendants’ bluff.

As Tom in the post below and others are pointing out, the review is limited to a very partial review of the DNA evidence, and what is not to be reviewed is by far the most significant.

The possibility of more residual blood at the blade/handle junction is thought-provoking. Sollecito’s obsession with knife-ownership suggests that his knife, the murder-weapon, would be top quality, probably with a handle/blade junction, pretty, but vulnerable to seepage into it.

Also, the knife-wielders significantly, even deliberately, stayed away from the well-known neck-blood-vessels, the Jugular Veins, and the Carotid Arteries, on both sides, focusing their neck-stabs on the area of the Larynx, as if they had some medical knowledge of what they were doing - but not enough.

The blood-vessel they did cut - the right superior thyroid artery - is a branch-of-a-branch of the better known blood vessels, but very close to the larynx. They didn’t know, or care, enough to anticipate the lethal consequences of cutting so small an artery in that particular location, so near to the airways.

I agree with others that Judge Hellman may also be innoculating himself by heading off a possible adverse ruling of the Supreme Court in Rome, which must be restricted to Procedural/Legal issues.

The defence lawyers sem to be submitting, probably against their own better judgement and advice, to the FOA camp’s insistence for additional review. I also believe the defendants will bitterly regret this insistence.


Monday, December 20, 2010

The Limited DNA Reviews - Why They Probably Won’t Help Defense And May At A Stroke Be Game Over

Posted by The Machine



[Above: Dr Stefanoni at trial respoding to a question from Sollecito’s defense team]

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito and their families were jubilant at Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman’s decision to allow an independent review of some key forensic evidence.

Two experts from Rome’s Sapienza University - Professor Stefano Conti and Professor Carla Vecchiotti - have already been nominated by the appeal court (they will be confirmed in January) to do an independent review of the forensic evidence.

Late saturday and sunday many of the journalists covering Meredith’s case saw Judge Hellmann’s decision as a major victory for the defence teams. Several giddy journalists even reported that somehow Amanda Knox had won her appeal.

However, two very important facts were lost in all the hullaballoo surrounding Judge Hellmann’s decision about this independent review..

First, the original forensic investigation and tests already were carried out by independent experts. Dr. Stefanoni and her team were from Rome, and they worked for another arm of the government. They weren’t hired by the prosecution to blindly confirm their suspicions that Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Diya Lumumba were involved in Meredith’s murder.

And many people seem to be unaware of the fact that it was not Amanda Knox recanting her false accusation, but the DNA testing work of Dr. Stefanoni and her team that led to the release of Diya Lumumba. In this case Dr Stefanoni has high credibility.

Second, a number of experts have ALREADY carried out independent reviews of the DNA and forensic evidence and some of them have testified at court hearings in the course of 2008 and 2009.

In this post, we will take a look at some of the experts involved in the original DNA tests and the subsequent reviews and consider the implications of the new review, including some possible unexpected stings in the tail.

1) The Original Tests

Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni is one of the leading forensic experts in Italy and she was part of the the Disaster Investigations Teams sent to identify victims of the south Asian tsumani in 2004. She had to pass a series of stringent state tests to join the scientific police in Rome. She led the forensic investigation into Meredith’s murder and was responsible for carrying out the DNA tests and interpreting the results.

The Double DNA Knife

Dr. Stefanoni found seven traces of human flesh (human tissue cells) on the large kitchen knife sequestered from Sollecito’s kitchen. There was only enough DNA for one test. However, the results of non-repetitive tests are allowed to be entered as evidence in Italy.

The defence teams are notified of the date and time of all non-repetitive tests to make sure that they can be present to observe that correct procedures are adhered to. If they miss the tests or don’t stay for the full (often long) duration they have not carried out their full mandate to their client (they might even be liable for malpractice) and the defense has no right to claim wrong procedures or lab contamination.

Dr. Stefanoni testified at the trial that the one test she did “reliably” identified the DNA as Meredith’s.

Italian TJMK poster and DNA specialist Nicki explained in May 2009 why the DNA on the blade of the knife was a definite match to Meredith’s DNA:

Two genetic profiles are identical and therefore belong to the same individual if a) they are in the same position, and b) they have identical shape and dimension. In this case, each peak produced in the original samples exactly corresponds to the peaks yielded by the knife sample, position, shape and dimension.

[Below: DNA on the blade of the knife(top chart), Meredith’s DNA(second chart), and the two superimposed]



The Bra Clasp

Sollecito’s DNA on Meredith’s bra clasp was identified by two separate DNA tests. Judge Massei rejected defence claims that Sollecito’s DNA was LCN DNA and noted that there was no reason to doubt the reliability of the result:

It has already been said that Dr. Stefanoni had reported that on the [bra] hook (Exhibit 165B) the mixed genetic profile attributable to the victim and to Raffaele Sollecito was found; looking at the electropherogram, the ratio had been estimated in the proportion of 1 to 6 (the victim’s DNA being six times that of Sollecito); the quantity of DNA found could not be considered terribly small because there were several peaks that easily exceeded 1000 RFU, and no [317] repetition of the analysis had been carried out because the peak height of the smaller fraction of DNA was good, such that there was no reason to doubt the reliability of the result.

2) Independent Reviews

Dr. Renato Biondo

There was an independent review of the forensic evidence in 2008.

Dr. Renato Biondo, the head of the DNA unit of the scientific police, reviewed Dr. Stefanoni’s investigation and the forensic findings. He testified at Rudy Guede’s fast track trial in October 2008 and confirmed that all the forensic findings were accurate and reliable.

He also praised the work of Dr. Stefanoni and her team. “We are confirming the reliability of the information collected from the scene of the crime and at the same time, the professionalism and excellence of our work.”

Professor Francesca Torricelli

The Kercher family hired their own DNA expert, Professor Francesca Torricelli, and asked her to examine the DNA evidence.

Professor Torricelli is the Director of a genetic facility at Careggi University Hospital and has been working in genetics since 1976. She testified at Knox’s and Sollecito’s trial last and she also confirmed Dr. Stefanoni’s findings.

She told the court that the significant amount of Sollecito’s DNA on Meredith’s bra clasp meant that it was unlikely that it was left by contamination. She also agreed with Dr. Stefanoni that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade of the double DNA knife.


General Luciano Garofano (image above)

Distinguished DNA expert and former Caribinieri General Luciano Garofano analysed the DNA and forensic evidence for the early 2010 book “Darkness Descending”.

He has more than 32 years of forensics experience and is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. In his section of the book he explains at length why he too thinks that Knox and Sollecito are guilty of Meredith’s murder.

In an interview with The Sun’s Nick Francis, he said that the right people had been convicted:  “I believe the police have prosecuted and convicted the right people, even if they got some of the details wrong.”

He told reporter Andrea Vogt that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn Knox’s and Sollecito’s convictions:  “I do not believe that there is enough evidence to convince an Italian magistrate and jury to overturn this conviction”.

Dr. Anna Barbaro

Rudy Guede’s defense lawyers hired their own forensic expert, Dr. Anna Barbaro, and asked her to examine the DNA evidence.

She didn’t dispute the DNA evidence against Guede, Knox or Sollecito. Guede’s lawyers claim that there was an innocent explanation for his DNA being at the crime scene and that Knox’s and Sollecito’s DNA implicated them.

Guede lawyer Walter Biscotti noted that the evidence against Knox was particularly strong.

3) The original prosecution team

Both Prosecutor Mignini and Prosecutor Comodi said after the appeal session on saturday that they are are confident that the independent review of the DNA and forensic evidence will confirm the sentences and verdict.

Mr Mignini

:

I don’t agree with the request and I see it as a waste of time. The judge did not criticise the methods that were used to collect and test the DNA….. The review was granted because the jury needed help to interpret the findings as they are difficult to understand. I don’t see how it is a victory for the defence, as the methods were not criticised in the ruling. The review will confirm the sentence and the verdict will stand.

Ms Comodi

As far as I am concerned this independent review will just confirm the excellent work carried out by the police scientific unit. The judge did not actually explain why he was allowing this review and although I do not agree with it I am sure it will underline the job originally done.

4) Two possible game-overs

Re-examination of the knife

In “Darkness Descending” the former Carabinieri General Garofano wrote that the police should have separated the plastic handle from the knife and checked for blood there.

The defence teams will regret having asked for the independent review if the new experts do this and they find there a testable quantity of Meredith’s blood.

Re-examination of the bra clasp

According to the authors of “Darkness Descending” Dr. Stefanoni found highly suggestive evidence of Amanda Knox’s DNA on Meredith’s bra. Raffaele Sollecito’s forensic expert, Professor Torre, also claimed that he had found Knox’s DNA on Meredith’s bra strap.

It seems that another forensic expert Vincenzo Pascali ALSO found Knox’s DNA on Meredith’s bra. The reporter Barbie Nadeau wrote the following:

Vincenzo Pascali, the chief forensic consultant who was set to give expert testimony about the possible contamination of the bra clasp, walked off the case last month, reportedly leaving a €50,000 bill. Back in September, Pascali, who declined to comment for this story, hinted that the clasp also contained Knox’s DNA.

And so in conclusion

One to two years later DNA testing techniques have improved, and also there is the sleeper of what is under the handle of the knife.

The defence teams’ insistence on an independent review could really explode in their faces if the new experts confirm more of Meredith’s DNA on the knife (Knox’s DNA is there very strongly) and that Knox’s DNA is on Meredith’s bra.

Posted by The Machine on 12/20 at 03:48 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Evidence & WitnessesDNA and luminolAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+Comments here (19)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

First Reports On Scope Of Appeal Sounds Like Maybe A Setback For The Defenses

Posted by Peter Quennell


The first full reports are not out yet. This is a first quick take on the Italian reporting and may be subject to correction.

Some of the Cassation’s hard-line decision for rejecting Rudy Guede ‘s 10 appeal grounds in Rome on thursday will indeed be accepted into this appeal for the judges’ consideration.

The judges are agreeing to the defense request for a review of the testing of the DNA on the bra clasp and the large knife, though of course nobody - nobody - so far has ever proved contamination as the prosecutors today pointed out.

Two Rome experts in DNA have already been nominated.

Apparently none of the other very extensive forensic evidence at the scene of the crime - which is the entire apartment, not merely Meredith’s bedroom - is to be retested. That has always been very tough to explain away.

Apparently only one or two of the previous witnesses whose testimony is described in the Massei report will be heard from again. Possible Guede confidant Alessi will be allowed and maybe Aviello who claimed his missing brother really did it.

And apparently ninety days is added to the allowed duration of this appeal, because the Massei Report took 90 days to produce. The deadline now is next September, although if it lasts through to the spring we will be surprised.

The defense doesn’t seem to have many strong hopes going forward. No more Spiderman attempts on Filomena’s window. They found no room for appeal with regard to the various contradictory alibis, the various peculiar phone calls, and assorted bizarre behaviors.

Remember that even Knox and Sollecito themselves have claimed they were zonked out of their skulls on the night - though magically they seem to have managed a major cleanup and rearrangement of the entire crime scene, minus evidence pointing to Guede.

The astute commenter Piktor posted this on PMF

The expert review would be needed if the scientific results were the only evidence that convicts.

What if the DNA evidence was thrown out. Could you convict without it?

You have the staging, the lies, the false accusation, the police testimony, the defendant’s multiple alibis that don’t mesh, Mrs. Mellas testimony in court exposing Knox’s willful “confusion”, the email and diaries.

You add it up and it all points in one direction. No doubt about the result.

The prosecution narrative makes sense. The defence has no narrative.



The Appeal’s Set Limits: What The Judges Allowed Today And Didn’t Might Tell Us A Lot

Posted by TomM



[Massei court deciding whether to buy spiderman theory; they didn’t]

1. The Context Of These Remarks

The judge ruled on the appeal’s inclusions and exclusions today. I’ll summarise what they are and how American courts might have differed.

I really do not understand why the defense and the family are so happy with this review, which is very limited and not complete in any sense - other than, perhaps, the “any port in a storm” phenomenon.

From my view in the bleachers, there are way more risks to the defense than to the prosecution from Saturday’s rulings.

2. What’s Allowed In Italian Appeals V. American

As a California lawyer familiar with trials and appeals in my state, watching the Meredith Kercher murder trial wind its way through the Italian legal system has been a learning experience.

It is a system with more protections than the one I know first-hand. The case is now in its first appeal phase, and proceeds far differently from the way it would in the US.

  • If Knox and Sollecito had been convicted in an American court (which an American court would have had no difficulty in doing) less helpful presumptions would be applied to their appeal.

  • In Italy they are convicted, and for that reason they are imprisoned and the visitation privileges they had before the jury’s verdict have been reduced. But for purposes of weighing the evidence in the appeal, they are presumed innocent.

  • In the US, the court of appeal would not presume them innocent or guilty; it would regard them as having been adjudged guilty.

  • In Italy, they can ask for the court of appeal to hear testimony from new witnesses and seek to introduce additional evidence.

  • In the US, the appeal would be on the basis of the clerk’s and reporter’s transcripts of the trial. In the US the jury at the original trial would have been instructed that if an item of evidence can be interpreted two ways, one favoring guilt and one favoring innocence, they should accept the interpretation that favors innocence. But not so on appeal; the court of appeal would interpret all the inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution.

  • An American court of appeal would not consider an attack on the credibility of a witness unless the testimony was such that no reasonable person would believe the testimony.Thus, an attack on the testimony of Curatolo would have no chance of success on appeal. In fact, jury instruction in the US would give the jury blessing to believe him even absent disco buses running that fatal night.

From a form jury instruction on how to judge witness credibility:

“Do not automatically reject testimony just because of inconsistencies or conflicts. Consider whether the differences are important or not. People sometimes honestly forget things or make mistakes about what they remember. Also, two people may witness the same event yet see or hear it differently.”

The Italian appeal is described as a “trial de novo”.

  • In common law jurisprudence, a trial de novo is simply a new trial, and the jury in a new trial would not even be told of the existence of the first trial. It would be done as if the first trial never happened.

  • Not so in Italy. The jury and lay judges have full access to the case dossier, the Massei Motivazione, and the briefs of the parties. They decide which parts of the case should receive new evidence, and the parts where none is needed. If that were not the case, they would not know how to respond to the defense requests.


3. Tellingly, What Court Has NOT Re-opened

1. Staging Of Burglary

It is significant that there is no re-visit on the staging of the burglary. This charge is not just one of the things used to prove the murder, it is also a separate charge which does not require that a person also have participated in the murder.

Let’s suspend disbelief a moment. Suppose AK and RS had not been present during the murder, having ducked out briefly to get more drugs, but returned to discover Meredith’s body.

Suppose they thought they would be suspects because they had let Rudy in and feared they would be blamed, so they staged the burglary to divert suspicion from themselves. In this hypothetical situation, they are still guilty of staging a burglary even if they didn’t otherwise participate in the crime.

So, what to make out of the fact that no further evaluation will be made of the staging?

This seems like the easiest of the charges to prove and the most difficult to defend. Staging is a recognized phenomenon in criminal investigations and the defense expert did not fare well under cross-examination. I don’t see how the court would reverse the judgment on this issue given the state of the record.

2. Collection Of DNA

Defense criticized the way the dna was collected from the bidet, but there will be no review of that evidence - or of any other of the mixed blood/dna evidence - only the knife and the bra clasp.

If the appellate jurors’ inclination were to think there is reasonable doubt on the dna, there is plenty of defense expert testimony to hang that hat on. That only two of the exhibits will be studied shows that they do not question the work of the scientific police as a whole.

4. The Pattern Of Sorts In These Rulings

From my own experience, I firmly believe that Hellman has not made up his mind on the final outcome. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he thinks the jury will do with the case.

He clearly knows the case, and I think he knows if there are areas in Massei’s reasoning that have vulnerabilities (not necessarily fatal) that could attract attention in the Court of Cassation.

I think he knows whether the prosecution’s case is a house of cards, or if it is a good case with some curable cosmetic flaws.

To me, the rulings look like the judge has reviewed the case, thinks it is fundamentally sound, and believes it will be backed up by unbiased expert opinion - and if it doesn’t,  he will assess what impact that has on the case.

The issue with respect to the scientific police is not that they were biased in the sense of falsifying evidence to wrongfully convict, but that the video of the crime scene investigation showed non-textbook acts, Stefanoni didn’t leave a complete paper trail in testing the knife,  and they failed to collect and correctly bag the bra clasp at the beginning.

All of which left an opening for the defense to claim the dna evidence is suspect. There is a reason why teachers don’t let students grade their own papers, I think that concept is behind Hellman’s decision to seek an unbiased review of these two items.

5. No Signs Of Exoneration In Rulings

If Rudy Guede testifies and gives a believable narrative, it may not matter what the two dna reviews say, and it might also undermine the jurors’ inclination to accept the theory of remorse from the covering with the quilt that persuaded Massei to reduce the sentence. 

An increased sentence is not out of the question.

As I said at the top, I really do not understand why the defense and the family are so happy with this review, which is very limited and not complete in any sense - other than, perhaps, the “any port in a storm” phenomenon.

The bra clasp evidence is not going to go away, and there is the risk that increased technical sophistication could result in identifying a complete dna profile of Amada Knox on it. If they disassemble the knife, there could be abundant blood between the handle and the blade.

Again, from my view in the bleachers, there are way more risks to the defense than to the prosecution from Saturday’s rulings.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Stinging Guede Final Appeal Rejection Suggests Trouble For Knox and Sollecito

Posted by Peter Quennell


Rudy Guede’s appeal is rejected on all ten grounds.

His appeal grounds were ugly and dishonest and he has no further appeal. He will serve his 16 years, with maybe some time off, for being a savage willing party to the cruel stupid murder of Meredith.

Rudy Guede will go down in infamy for his sex crime against a defenseless victim, for being a party to a taunting torturing knife attack, for claiming Meredith invited him in for consensual sex, and for not calling for help for Meredith and maybe saving her life while it was still possible.

Cassation continues the fine Italian court tradition in this case of taking a firm and unblinking position, and for being utterly oblivious to the vile over-the-top campaign of Curt Knox, Edda Mellas and David Marriott which may now haunt Amanda Knox all of her life..

This is clearly not a final court of appeal that is now going to turn on a dime and say when they hear the final appeals of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, oh, of course, we got that previous decision wrong, and of course Guede did it alone.

Here is the cool clear report of Andrea Vogt, this time being published in the UK’s First Post. The highlights:

1) On rejecting Guede’s ludicrous tale.

Put simply, no judge or magistrate has believed Guede’s story that he was in the bathroom of the apartment the two girls shared in Perugia, listening to music on his iPod while someone else stabbed Meredith.

According to Guede’s story, when he came out of the bathroom he found Meredith bleeding to death and tried to staunch the flow of blood ““ hence the discovery of his DNA by investigators.

2) On the huge new risk now for Sollecito and Knox.

Under Italian law, all documentation from Guede’s various hearings can now be introduced into the appeal trial of Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, which reconvenes in Perugia tomorrow.

The problem for Knox and Sollecito is that Guede’s trial documents will include the judges’ reasons for convicting Guede and denying his appeals: namely, that they believe all three ““ Guede, Knox and Sollecito - killed Meredith together.

3) On Kercher family lawyer Maresca possibly demanding Guede testify

“Guede can now be called to testify and we are considering, along with the prosecutors, if we will request that Saturday or not,” said the Kercher family’s attorney Francesco Maresca in Rome.

“We will ask that the high court decision be admitted, as it stabilises the facts and is an important point of reference, with judges confirming the reconstruction of events and the involvement of the other two suspects in this dramatic ordeal in which a young woman lost her life.”

If Guede is called, it is unclear whether he would be considered a reliable witness given that no court has believed his story so far. And the situation is further complicated by conflicting stories about Guede’s take on Knox and Sollecito.

4) On the prospects for requested defense witnesses Alessi and Aviello

Guede is also the subject of a mysterious 10-page letter from prison, written on blue notepaper in the feathery script of convicted child murderer Mario Alessi, and now sitting in a lawyer’s office in Parma.

Alessi claims to have heard the real story of what happened while stuck in a prison cell across from Guede. Three other inmates signed each page of Alessi’s letter bolstering his story - that Guede said repeatedly in his cell and the prison yard that Knox and Sollecito had nothing to do with the crime. (Guede denies the conversations)...

Will the judge overseeing Knox and Sollecito’s appeal in Perugia request it? If he does, it could be entered into evidence alongside further controversial letters, these from a Neapolitan mafia snitch named Luciano Aviello. Aviello claims that his own brother killed Kercher…

Since Knox and Sollecito were convicted and jailed a year ago.. these stories of intrigue have found their way out from behind the prison walls across Italy, from the sex offender ward in Viterbo to the high security penitentiaries in Prato and Turin.

5) And on John Kercher’s recent strong protest against the profiting from Meredith’s death

Meredith Kercher’s bereaved family this month broke a three-year silence to speak out against Knox’s “minor celebrity” status and the high-profile publicity campaign her family and supporters have been waging to claim wrongful conviction.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/17 at 02:41 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Trials 2008 & 2009Appeals 2009-2015Guede appealsHellmann 2011+Comments here (16)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

As Amanda Knox Via Her Statement Has Now Placed “Will She Testify?” Front And Center…

Posted by Cardiol MD





She sure has created an interesting cliffhanger.

Last Saturday Amanda Knox spoke from her seat beside her defense team and she was not subjected to cross-examination.

If she does choose to mount the stand to back up her claims with some testimony, she will be subject to cross examination, as will Raffaele Sollecito. 

What may the judges and lay judges be allowed to deduce if neither of them mount the stand, or alternatively refuse to answer?

This involves the legal concepts of the Privilege against Self-Incrimination, the Right to Silence, and the Right to Lie.

In the US prosecutors are prohibited from commenting adversely on a defendant’s Exercise of the Right to Silence at trial, on the argument that doing so would violate the privilege against self-incrimination.

But this may be circumvented as demonstrated in the Duke lacrosse-team rape frame-up by the prosecutor.

The DukeLax prosecutor (echoed by many others in Durham and elsewhere) falsely alleged, publicly, a lacrosse-player “wall-of-silence” as persuasive evidence in favor of guilt, even when he knew full-well that the Laxers had transparently cooperated with prosecutorial investigators.

So much for “enshrinement” of the right to silence in the US.

There is no argument that in all three countries, Italy and the US and the UK, criminal defendants have the right to remain silent. This means that they do not have to speak in their own defence, if they choose not to do so.

However, Italy takes the privilege against self-incrimination such a giant step further that a guilty defendant, if given the choice, might be wise to choose trial in Italy, in preference to trial in either the US. or the UK.:

First, there is a significant difference between the use of the word “testify” in Anglo-American common law and its use in Italian law. Iin the former a testifying-defendant is sworn to tell the truth under oath and pain of perjury. Iin the latter, a defendant, when called to the stand, is not even “a witness”, and is not under oath:

According to the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure a defendant can be called to speak, but may refuse to “bear testimony”

Technically, a defendant does not “bear testimony”, or testify; a defendant is not even “a witness” ; in Italian, a witness is interrogato, whereas a defendant is esaminato and may refuse to answer many questions.

A defendant, in Italy, can also lie without fear of legal sanction.

Since a defendant does not take an oath and since a defendant is not technically a witness, if a defendant tells a lie, the defendant is not committing perjury.

A defendant can choose to make spontaneous statements to the Judge; and can tell whatever she/he wishes to tell and can choose not to answer any questions. In the Perugia case too, a defendant can lie without legal sanction.

So, if Amanda Knox speaks at her trial, neither the Judges, the Prosecutors, nor Defendant’s Counsel neccessarily expect her to speak the truth - they may expect her to lie her head off.

Prosecutors will not try to directly expose her lies so much as they will try to expose the contradictions in her various statements.

Amanda Knox’s prepared statement-to-the-court at her trial [as opposed to her testimony] restricted itself to the subject of the false accusations she made against Patrick Lumumba. This unsworn statement could not be submitted to cross-examination. Such unsworn statements are also possible in the other jurisdictions.

In the case of the Meredith;s murder there seems to be an ample supply of evidence showing their guilt, such as the multiple contradictions both between and within their statements.

Furthermore, even if no one, ever, comments adversely on these defendant’s exercise of the right to silence, think of Simon and Garfunkel’s famous “Sounds of Silence”

That song reminds us that finders-of-fact, at least subliminally, can hardly avoid being influenced by accused defendants’ silence.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kercher Family Lawyer Walks Out As Amanda Knox Engages In What Looks Like Yet Another Stunt

Posted by Peter Quennell


The other day Meredith’s father John made a strong plea for the cruel and callous PR games to stop.

John Kercher made it pretty clear that he disbelieves EVERYTHING now that Amanda Knox and her parents say in their endless media quotes and appearance.  The English version of John Kercher’s letter is here and the Italian version is here.

Amanda Knox’s mother Edda Mellas was almost immediately reported as reacting to John Kercher thus:

Mellas also addressed the issue today on KIRO Radio in Seattle saying the Kerchers do not “know the whole story.” She said they were not in court except for a few days during Amanda’s trial and feels that they fell “hook, line and sinker” for what their lawyer and prosecutors told them. “They may not have the whole picture,” she said.

That callous and inaccurate reaction did Edda Mellas no good at all. Many who were still cutting her a little slack were appalled by this dishonest and smearing attack.

In fact the Kercher family have been extremely well informed and they have remained singularly cool-headed, dignified and truthful throughout. .

Unlike Edda Mellas they have actually read the Massei Sentencing Report. Unlike Edda Mellas they show no signs of having swallowed anything hook line and sinker. Unlike Edda Mellas they do not again and again lie about basic facts of the case. Unlike Edda Mellas, they did not hide the fact that an innocent man, Patrick Lumumba, was in jail because Amanda Knox lied to put him there. 

And unlike Edda Mellas their view of Amanda Knox’s guilt is no different from maybe 95 per cent of the Italian population. They do get the whole picture.

Time for damage control?  Today in court, Amanda Knox seemed to set out to try something completely different. A limited qualified evasive emotional non-explanation of an explanation. An “I didnt do it but I am so sorry for Meredith and her family anyway” kind of hangout.

To underline his contempt for this ploy, Mr Maresca conspicuously walked out of the court when Amanda Knox started her rambling nervous statement. If the statement actually won any new sympathy for her among the case-watchers in Italy, we are not seeing this reflected in the Italian media reports.

Here is Nick Pisa reporting objectively from Perugia in the Daily Telegraph - in his final para below, it seems he has the same interpretation of the real purpose of Amanda Knox’s statement as we do. 

Knox, 23, broke down several times as she delivered an emotional 20-minute address to the court hearing her formal appeal against conviction, her voice sometimes quavering as she claimed that she had nothing to do with Miss Kercher’s brutal death.

The American dismissed the prosecution’s view of her, saying she was not the “dangerous, diabolical, jealous, uncaring and violent” person depicted during her original trial, telling the court: “That girl is not me.”

Knox also expressed her sympathy towards’s Miss Kercher’s family and friends and said through tears: “I am very sorry that Meredith is no longer here. I have little sisters as well and the thought of being without them terrorises me.

“What you are going through and what Meredith went through is unacceptable and incomprehensible. I remember Meredith and my heart breaks for you. I am honoured to have known her. I don’t know how you must feel, your suffering over a lost life.”

Knox’s words appeared to be in response to John Kercher, Meredith’s father, who recently complained that Knox had been accorded the “status of a minor celebrity” while his daughter was a forgotten victim.

Amazingly, all three of the largest US networks had Ella Mellas on their breakfast shows, unchallenged and fawning, to claim that Amanda Knox’s performance was amazing. Edda Mellas of course speaks no Italian.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Italian reporting highlighted Mr Maresca walking out and reported his highly critical statement verbatim. NO media website today carried a majority of pro-Knox comments.

And in making herself so obviously the center of the universe in her statement, Amanda Knox may have already cooked her own goose with the new judges.

[Below: This now is a full audio recording of the full statement of Amanda Knox with court images ]

 


The Two Convicted Seen Arriving For Their Weekly Date In Appeal Court

Posted by Peter Quennell



Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/11 at 03:53 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Trials 2008 & 2009Hellmann 2011+Comments here (5)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Andrea Vogt Provides Heads-Up On What May Happen In The Appeal

Posted by Peter Quennell



Luciano Garofano created Carabinieri DNA labs; quote below

Update On Pending RS And AK Appeal

Another of the many very informative reports that have appeared on the Seattle PI website.

A mild qualification up front is that we would have liked it mentioned that the prosecution have also initiated an appeal, to throw out the “mitigating circumstances” outlined in the Massei Report.

A reversal on the mitigating circumstances, which we too have always found problematical, could result in all three serving longer time. What the prosecution will come out with in that phase is a real sleeper in this appeal.

1. On John Kerchers article protesting the over-the-top PR campaign

The Kerchers have maintained their silence since their daughter’s murder, even as Knox’s parents appeared on national television in the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Italy. But that could change, as negotiations are under way with at least one national network to hear the Kerchers’ side of the story.

Correct and accurate. More on Meredith would be so welcome to an American audience. We reposted John Kercher’s hard-hitting article here in English and (as the Italian media mostly don’t yet know about it) here translated into Italian.

Biased reports like those of the ill-researched Nikki Batiste of ABC, which mis-stated and ridiculed John Kercher’s claims, omitted to say what Andrea Vogt says: this is THE FIRST TIME that John Kercher has gone public, in an attempt to stop the depraved multi-million-dollar deluge.

2. On the chances of an overturn of the December 2009 verdicts.

American pundits are quick to predict Knox could walk, but Italian legal experts say the chances of completely overturning her conviction aren’t good. More likely, they say, are the prospects of a sentence reduction.

“The Knox trial is one of the few, in the history of Italian criminal justice, in which over 25 judges have agreed—at different stages—on the adverse impact of the collected evidence against the positions of both Knox and Sollecito. In this respect, the case is rather unusual, as Italian justice is often characterised by conflicting decisions of courts on the same case,” said Stefano Maffei, an Oxford-educated professor of criminal law in Italy interviewed by seattlepi.com.

“What I can confirm is that courts of appeal are generally more lenient than courts of first instance, and I would not be surprised if the decision on appeal could bear a lower sentence for both defendants.”

The point is made up at the top here that this report does not mention the appeal of the prosecution for tougher sentences , which would seem to effectively balance out the probabilities that Mr Maffei and all the defenses now claim.

The sheer number of judges that all of them agreed on the evidence in this case is particularly damning. Our own Italian lawyers between them know of ZERO cases where so many judges in succession have found no reason to reverse any part of the process.

We have posted a number of good descriptions of how the Italian process actually works (these go beyond the descriptions in ANY British or American reporting, another sign of how sloppy it has mostly been), and our key posts can be seen here and here and here.

3. On the requested defense witness Mario Alessi

In a file tucked neatly under a polished glass paperweight in Laura Ferraboschi’s Parma law offices is a carefully guarded letter that Knox and Sollecito hope will set them free.

It is 10 pages, handwritten in the small, tilted script of Mario Alessi, a convicted murderer who had the prison cell across from Rudy Guede in the sex crimes ward of a tough prison just north of Rome….

Alessi mailed his statement to her for safekeeping after becoming concerned it might “disappear,” she said…. Sollecito’s lawyers, eager to have the letter at their disposition, asked Ferraboschi to share it, but she has refused, saying she did not feel it would be ethical to do so.

“Alessi sent the statement to me for protection, and I do not feel it is appropriate to give it to other lawyers who might drag him into a case that could negatively impact him,” Ferraboschi said. “If a judge requests the statement or his presence, then we will provide it.”

Good luck on that one. We doubt Alessi ever makes the stand. Here is our most recent post on Mario Alessi which links back to several that went before.

Prosecutors Mignini and Comodi also interviewed Alessi. They have not yet made public what he said.

Investigators and prison staff would have checked Alessi out very carefully.  Laura Ferraboschi seems to be hanging firm on not sharing the letter, out of concern that Alessi could incure a charge of perjury.

4.  On the requested defense witness Luciano Aviello

The second series of jailhouse “revelations” are from Luciano Aviello, a Mafia turncoat from Naples who shared a cell in Terni with Raffaele Sollecito. Knox’s lawyers went to videotape a statement from him in prison near Turin in March, a month after Bongiorno had videotaped Alessi’s statement in Viterbo.

He wrote several letters to the court last year. In the most recent statement, he claims he can prove all three people in jail for Kercher’s murder are innocent. It was his own brother, he says, who killed her. Aviello…

Aviello said his brother killed Kercher in a robbery gone awry, then asked Aviello to hide a bloody knife and set of house keys. Kercher’s set of house keys have not been found.

Good luck on that one too. We doubt that Aviello too ever makes the stand.

In our most recent post on him here we remarked that, with this guy, the defense was already seriously grasping at straws. We are amazed that they still want to wheel him out. That weak move does not bode well for Knox and Sollecito.

5. On the requests for more testing of the DNA

Repeatedly, judges have rejected defense arguments about the forensic evidence despite the slipshod way it was processed and Italy’s reputation of lagging behind the rest of Europe in DNA certification, handling protocols and databasing.

Many outside observers believe the court should allow for such an independent review, given the number of protocol mistakes revealed in the first trial.

Defense attorneys and their expert witnesses heavily criticized the work of police biologist Patrizia Stefanoni and the Perugia and Rome forensic teams working under her direction for such missteps as not changing gloves after picking up evidence, poor collection methods and incomplete records of how evidence was handled and in what exact order during later laboratory testing….

Two of the primary pieces of evidence against Knox and Sollecito are highly contested: A bra clasp originally catalogued in the first days after the murder that was picked up in a sweep of the crime scene 46 days later, and the kitchen knife with Knox’s DNA found on the handle and the victim’s DNA found on the blade. The bra clasp is said to contain Sollecito’s DNA. The amount of Kercher’s DNA found on the blade was such a trace amount it registered with a “too low” reading when analyzed.

Our DNA section on TJMK is very complete and to a very high standard. The three posts here and here and here are particularly worth a very careful read. 

More tests had already been denied by Judge Massei. Defenses tend to like to do this, to keep insisting on more and more testing, until finally with luck an expert breaks their way.

The defense now “highly contests” the testing but they also attempted that throughout the trial and several of their experts under cross-examination had to take a step back.

Experts were invited to the one-time-only DNA testing of the knife and then (surprise, surprise) on the day of testing not all of them showed up.

And on whether Italy lags behind the rest of Europe on standards, see below (Italy doesn’t)..

6. On the standards of the laboratories that did the testing

A top geneticist at one of Europe’s top forensic labs at the University of Salzburg confirmed in an interview with seattlepi.com that it is possible to amplify such a small amount of DNA, as Stefanoni did, until DNA can be identified. But the expert added that it would not be allowable unless the result could be reproduced, something police biologist Stefanoni said under cross-examination could not be done.

The Salzburg geneticist, who does forensic testing for police agencies in neighboring Austria, said that in the university’s certified lab (which has the highest certification available in Germany and Austria) different operators are required to handle suspect and victim DNA and that the various phases of DNA analysis happen in different labs along a “one-way street” to avoid the possibility of contamination.

Such protocols were not in place in Rome. In fact, Italy is noted for being behind on international forensic standards. For example, it is one of the last (and only) European countries to have not yet become part of the Prum convention, which sets basic guidelines for sharing of DNA data and other security information.

The top geneticist at Salzburg University is unfortunately not named, presumably at his request, and there have been so many claims by both anonymous and unqualified self-proclaimed experts throughout this case that we wish he had said that yes, he could be named.

The Rome labs were in fact being operated to international standard and they had followed the European protocols for years. When they were only recently certified to European standards, none of the procedures or the training or the layout of the labs had to be changed.

Perhaps the top geneticist should have mentioned this. 

7. And on the views of renowned forensic scientists Luciano Garofano

One of Italy’s top forensic biologists, retired Caribinieri General Luciano Garofano, is at the forefront of the push to introduce a national database and DNA certification standard in Italy. Garofano (a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences who collaborated frequently with the FBI over the years as a high-ranking Caribinieri military officer) analyzed the forensic evidence in the Perugia case for a book released shortly after the trial was complete.

He believes Knox was involved in the murder, but he disagreed with the court’s conclusion that Kercher was sexually assaulted—he is convinced Kercher’s death was a fight that degenerated, then later staged as a rape.

Interviewed by seattlepi.com, Garofano said his read of Knox’s appeal was that it was mostly a rehashing of “points that have already been debated…. The knife is a weak element . . . they could argue it should be thrown out because the amount of DNA does not meet international forensic standards. But that still leaves a lot of other evidence,” Garofano said.

“I do not believe there is enough there to convince an Italian magistrate and jury to overturn this conviction.”

Terrific comments. Hard to see why either Knox or Sollecito deserve even the slightest reduction of their sentence. Neither of them has come up with a consistent explanation, both of them seem to have shown some glee, and neither has shown the slightest sign of repentance.

If they tortured and killed Meredith in a particularly cruel and barbaric way, as it seems, then they both seriously need to serve the time.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/07 at 05:14 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Trials 2008 & 2009Appeals 2009-2015Guede appealsHellmann 2011+Comments here (15)

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