Category: The psychology

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A New Book Explains The Unfruitful Emergence Of More And More Conspiracy Theories

Posted by Peter Quennell


Conspiracy theorists have dismally failed to come up with a plausible alternative theory of how Meredith died.

However, they do keep trying. So do the proponents of literally hundreds of other conspiracy theories, constituting vast amounts of effort probably better spent elsewhere - conspiracy theorists very rarely achieve very much, or do well economically, or rise to the top jobs.

The articles here and here look with skepticism on the 9/11 conspiracy theories which on the tenth anniversary of the twin towers coming down have been pushed hard by the various factions.

Now a new book “The Believing Brain” explains the mental makeup that disposes people to so eagerly believe the worst of our fellow man or our governments: One review in the Wall Street Journal..

In Mr. Shermer’s view, the brain is a belief engine, predisposed to see patterns where none exist and to attribute them to knowing agents rather than to chance””the better to make sense of the world. Then, having formed a belief, each of us tends to seek out evidence that confirms it, thus reinforcing the belief.

This is why, on the foundation of some tiny flaw in the evidence””the supposed lack of roof holes to admit poison-gas cans in one of the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers for Holocaust deniers, the expectant faces on the grassy knoll for JFK plotters, the melting point of steel for 9/11 truthers””we go on to build a great edifice of mistaken conviction….

Mr. Shermer offers a handy guide for those who are confused. Conspiracy theories are usually bunk when they are too complex, require too many people to be involved, ratchet up from small events to grand effects, assign portentous meanings to innocuous events, express strong suspicion of either governments or companies, attribute too much power to individuals or generate no further evidence as time goes by.

The increasingly shrill posts appearing daily on the website Ground Report seem to mark pretty high against that list. Could the Evil Mignini have engineered even this?

Oops. Another conspiracy theory in play.


Sunday, September 04, 2011

An Overview Of Modern Thinking On The Criminal Mind

Posted by Ergon



[Above: an image of the influential researcher Dr Abram Hoffer]
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Introduction:

The question of criminality has been much in the news lately, as wild gangs of youth rampaged through British cities, and wild gangs of feral financial speculators rampaged through the world’s economies.

As a scientist I wonder about the pathologies involved, and as a spiritual person I wonder about root causes.

So this is about where we are going as a society. Are we descending into criminality, and is the problem getting worse? I also wonder about the connection between criminality and mental illness.

In the course of trying to find a treatment for my own children’s Autism, I came to the following conclusion: conventional medical science has no clue about the causes or effective treatment of mental illness.

Therefore I had to range further into alternative medicine to find solutions, and serendipitously, I did. Yet, when my son’s autism reversal was confirmed by psychologists, no one seemed to want to know how. Neither the media, nor the conventional establishment.

Never mind. My findings were presented, for free, to various alternative medical doctors and clinics, reported in journals and books, and confirmed by them. The protocol has great possibilities in the treatment of other neurological illnesses. It is possible to reverse brain disease.

At my clinic in Toronto as well as other countries, I treated hundreds of young people with Autism, ADHD, Aspergers, and other psychological disorders, using holistic medical methods alone. Many of them went on to have normal lives; most improved significantly. And, when I have the time, I will write a book about this journey, and share it with everyone.

Which I already did in fact.  See here. But this is by way of background. I do not claim to have cures, or answers; I’m a searcher for knowledge, which I wish to share with others.

The question:

So: Is there such a thing as a criminal mind? This was a question much pondered as the new field of psychology came into being. In opposition to religious belief that crimes were caused by man’s original state of sin, and provoked by deadly sins like avarice and lust etc., it tried to define abnormal behaviour as a function of upbringing and environment.

It was only later as research into the nature of the brain emerged that new theories were formed; could neurological deficits explain criminal acts? Along with other suppositions of nurture and nature, addictions and abuse?

The answer:

According to these studies yes there is..

The release today of a study by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showing than 64 percent of local jail inmates, 56 percent of state prisoners and 45 percent of federal prisoners have symptoms of serious mental illnesses is an indictment of the nation’s mental health care system. It is both a scandal and a national tragedy.

The figures are worse than those generally believed in the past, in which estimates of the total number of inmates with mental illnesses have been approximately 20 percent. The study reveals that the problem is two to three times greater than anyone imagined. What is even more disturbing is the number of these inmates that have served prior sentences, committed violent offenses, or engaged in substance abuse.

This is not an ideological statement, nor is it an attempt to avoid the serious problem of crimes in society. We have to have a system of laws and justice, and we have to protect the innocent. But the present system of crime and punishment doesn’t work, either.

So, how do we measure the criminal mind? Could there possibly be genetic, neurological, behavioral or even, physiognomic markers? I was 10 years old when a gentleman took one look at certain bumps on my head and said I “was very perceptive; could look at a scene and see what others could not"Cool, and this was my introduction to phrenology.

This was where 18-19th century researchers sought to determine racial and emotional differences through the study of skull size, shape and protuberances. And yes, they did believe the criminal’s head was different than that of normal people. This later became the field of craniology and craniometry as scientists tried to avoid making unsavory determinations.

The scars left after World War II by these atrocious programmes of research meant that the study of human skull shape and size fell into disrepute. Human variation, the core subject of anthropology, was increasingly explored through genetics and other biological markers, and became functional and adaptive in orientation rather than a search for racial affinities.

In recent years, however, the introduction of new computer-based techniques of measurement, and the greatly enhanced power of statistical analysis, has meant that there has been a resurgence of interest in this subject, and, stripped of its non-Darwinian and racist past, the study of the human head remains a topic of major importance.

So now, scientists are using cranial measurements to determine mental illness as shown here:

Recently, Harvard researchers reported that children with autism have a wide range of genetic defects, making it nearly impossible to develop a simple genetic test to identify the disorder. Now, University of Missouri researchers are studying 3-D imaging to reveal correlations in the facial features and brain structures of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which will enable them to develop a formula for earlier detection of the disorder…

When you compare the faces and head shapes of children with specific types of autism to other children, it is obvious there are variations. Currently, autism diagnosis is purely behavior based and doctors use tape measurements to check for facial and brain dissimilarities. We are developing a quantitative method that will accurately measure these differences and allow for earlier, more precise detection of specific types of the disorder,” said Ye Duan, assistant computer science professor in the MU College of Engineering.

Then you have “The Criminal Brain-Understanding Biological Theories of Crime”, by author Nicole Hahn Rafter, New York University Press (October 2008)

What is the relationship between criminality and biology? Nineteenth-century phrenologists insisted that criminality was innate, a trait inherent in the offender’s brain matter. While they were eventually repudiated as pseudo-scientists and self-deluded charlatans, today the pendulum has swung back.

Both criminologists and biologists have begun to speak of a tantalizing but disturbing possibility: that criminality may be inherited as a set of genetic deficits that place one at risk for theft, violence, and sexual deviance.

If that is so, we may soon confront proposals for genetically modifying “at risk” foetuses or doctoring up criminals so their brains operate like those of law-abiding citizens.

Wow. Now this really frightens me, to see scientists, once again, barking up the wrong genetic tree, but there you go any way.

Brain Injury as a factor in crime:

Alternative physician Dr. Russell L. Blaylock:  Vaccines, Depression and Neurodegeneration After Age 50

Previously, it was thought that major depression was secondary to a deficiency in certain neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly the monoamines, which include serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. While alterations in these important mood-related neurotransmitters is found with major depression, growing evidence indicates that the primary culprit is low-grade, chronic brain inflammation.

In addition, we now know that inflammatory cytokines can lower serotonin significantly and for long periods by a number of different mechanisms.

I would agree with him there, since it has been my observation that mental illness is often accompanied by inflammatory disorders or auto-immune illness. I also believe the changes in vaccine schedules may have led to increased neurological deficits and genetic damage passed on to subsequent generations, but that is an argument for a separate article. I do not blame vaccines alone, as I will explain here.

There is research that shows criminal minds and behavior issues are often accompanied by brain damage.

Brain injury is a condition that involves microscopic damage to brain tissue that can only be seen in life through the lens of the patterns of the injured person’s life. Chris Henry, the former NFL wide receiver whose autopsy results confirmed he was living with brain damage, may have finally made that clear.

“Limbic Abnormalities in Affective Processing by Criminal Psychopaths as Revealed by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging” by Kiehl, et al, (PDF)

Results: Compared with criminal nonpsychopaths and noncriminal control participants, criminal psychopaths showed significantly less affect-related activity in the amygdala/hippocampal formation, parahippocampal gyrus, ventral striatum, and in the anterior and posterior cingulate gyri. Psychopathic criminals also showed evidence of overactivation in the bilateral fronto-temporal cortex for processing affective stimuli

The brains of autistic individuals show similar defects:

The two research teams have noticed an intriguing abnormality in the brains of the small group of autistics they have examined: The cerebellum, a portion of the brain involved with muscle coordination and the regulation of incoming sensations, contains fewer neurons known as Purkinje cells. There are also preliminary indications that growth in parts of the limbic system, which oversees emotion and memory, is arrested while autistics are still in the womb

Likewise in schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.

New research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or other of the two illnesses..find that thousands of tiny genetic mutations ““ known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) ““ are operating in raising the risk of developing the illness.

“Early Signs of Psychopathy” argues that signs can show at an early age.

A twenty-five year study, published this month in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, demonstrates that, as early as the age of three, there are temperamental and physiological difference between those who show psychopathic tendencies as adults and those who don’t.

Not only do psychopaths lack emotions of conscience and empathy, but research has shown that these individuals consistently display certain aspects of temperament including a lack of fear, lack of inhibition and stimulus seeking behavior.

A lack of a hormone that affects empathy:

We’ve long accepted that hormones can make you amorous, aggressive, or erratic. But lately neuroscience has been abuzz with evidence that the hormone oxytocin—which also acts as a neuromodulator—can enhance at least one cognitive power: the ability to understand the gist of what others are thinking. In this week’s Mind Matters, Jennifer Bartz and Eric Hollander, two leading researchers in this area, review the many and surprising ways in which oxytocin seems to influence both our openness to others and our understanding of them.

For inherently social creatures such as humans, the ability to identify the motives, intentions, goals, desires, beliefs and feelings of others is not a nicety but an essential skill. We must understand “where others are coming from” not only to pursue our individual goals but also to facilitate social harmony more generally. Specifically, we need to recognize that other people can have thoughts, beliefs, desires and feelings that differ from our own…

And it may be this that drives psychopathy, or the criminal mind.

Cleckley in Psychopathy: Two lengthy checklists of psychopathic, or anti-social personality disorder:

Cleckley’s original list of symptoms of a psychopath:

1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
3. Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms considerable poise, calmness, and verbal facility.
4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.
5. Untruthfulness and insincerity
6. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
8. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience
9. Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness incapacity for real love and attachment.
10. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.
11. Lack of any true insight, inability to see oneself as others do.
12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness, and trust.
13. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking—vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks.
14. No history of genuine suicide attempts.
15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.
16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way, unless it be one promoting self-defeat.

Hare in The Psychopathic Personality:

A psychopath can have high verbal intelligence, but they typically lack “emotional intelligence”. They can be expert in manipulating others by playing to their emotions. There is a shallow quality to the emotional aspect of their stories (i.e., how they felt, why they felt that way, or how others may have felt and why).

The lack of emotional intelligence is the first good sign you may be dealing with a psychopath. A history of criminal behavior in which they do not seem to learn from their experience, but merely think about ways to not get caught is the second best sign.

The following is a list of items based on the research of Robert Hare, Ph.D. which is derived from the “The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, .1991, Toronto: Multi-Health Systems.” These are the most highly researched and recognized characteristics of psychopathic personality and behavior”:

1. glibness/superficial charm
2. grandiose sense of self worth
3. need for stimulation/prone to boredom
4. pathological lying
5. conning/manipulative
6. lack of remorse or guilt
7. shallow emotional response
8. callous/lack of empathy
9. parasitic lifestyle
10. poor behavioral controls
11. promiscuous sexual behavior
12. early behavioral problems
13. lack of realistic long term goals
14. impulsivity
15. irresponsibility
16. failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
17. many short term relationships
18. juvenile delinquency
19. revocation of conditional release
20. criminal versatility

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Is it becoming a rare quality among young people? It certainly seems to be declining in society.

Emotional intelligence “is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Mayer & Salovey, 1993: 433). According to Salovey & Mayer (1990), EI subsumes Gardner’s inter- and intrapersonal intelligences, and involves abilities that may be categorized into five domains:

Self-awareness: Observing yourself and recognizing a feeling as it happens.

Managing emotions: Handling feelings so that they are appropriate; realizing what is behind a feeling; finding ways to handle fears and anxieties, anger, and sadness.

Motivating oneself: Channeling emotions in the service of a goal; emotional self control; delaying gratification and stifling impulses.

Empathy: Sensitivity to others’ feelings and concerns and taking their perspective; appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.

Handling relationships: Managing emotions in others; social competence and social skills.

And according to Goleman (1995: 160), “Emotional intelligence, the skills that help people harmonize, should become increasingly valued as a workplace asset in the years to come.”

The last words belong to the educators, of course.

Howard Gardner (July 11, 1943 - ) American Psychologist and Educator

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) proposes that intelligent behavior does not arise from a single unitary quality of the mind, as the g -based theories profiled on this Web site suggest, but rather that different kinds of intelligence are generated from separate metaphorical pools of mental energy.

Gardner derived this conceptualization of intelligence in part from his experiences working with members (of) extreme populations, in which certain cognitive abilities are preserved (often to a remarkable degree) even in the absence of other, very basic abilities. For example, some autistic savants display extraordinary musical or mathematical abilities despite severely impaired language development and social awareness. Likewise, individuals with localized brain damage often demonstrate severe deficits that are circumscribed to a single cognitive domain (Gardner, 1983/2003).

And Piaget, who inspired me many years ago: Jean Piaget (August 9, 1896-September 16, 1980) Swiss Biologist and Child Psychologist

Definition of Intelligence:  Intelligence is an adaptation”¦To say that intelligence is a particular instance of biological adaptation is thus to suppose that it is essentially an organization and that its function is to structure the universe just as the organism structures its immediate environment” (Piaget, 1963, pp. 3-4).

Intelligence is assimilation to the extent that it incorporates all the given data of experience within its framework”¦There can be no doubt either, that mental life is also accommodation to the environment. Assimilation can never be pure because by incorporating new elements into its earlier schemata the intelligence constantly modifies the latter in order to adjust them to new elements” (Piaget, 1963, p. 6-7) (Including, imo, ‘criminal intelligence’)

Major Contributions:

The Theory of Genetic Epistemology.  Piaget also believed that intellectual development occurs in four distinct stages.

The sensorimotor stage begins at birth, and lasts until the child is approximately two years old. At this stage, the child cannot form mental representations of objects that are outside his immediate view, so his intelligence develops through his motor interactions with his environment.

The preoperational stage typically lasts until the child is 6 or 7. According to Piaget, this is the stage where true “thought” emerges. Preoperational children are able to make mental representations of unseen objects, but they cannot use deductive reasoning.

The concrete operations stage follows, and lasts until the child is 11 or 12. Concrete operational children are able to use deductive reasoning, demonstrate conservation of number, and can differentiate their perspective from that of other people.

Formal operations is the final stage. Its most salient feature is the ability to think abstractly.

It is my opinion that emotional intelligence development also follows these four distinct phases. This is where nurture and nature come into play, and any trauma, abuse, neglect, that occurs during these phases can lead to an emotional stunting where the child is unable to progress to the next stage of development.

In the same way, a positive home and school environment can help children grow to be more harmonious members of society, once you adjust for any biological and neurological deficits. Early recognition and treatment is key…

Having worked as a volunteer in the public school system, I can tell you what teachers and educators have been telling me for years: the number of learning disabled and emotionally disturbed children is increasing exponentially..

Is it just me, or does it seem like the world has become an increasingly disharmonious place lately?

But the last word might well come from a book written by a Norwegian judge, Jens Jacob-Sander:  The Criminal Brain: A View from the Bench…  Exploring the Criminal Mind

What goes on in the minds of criminals? This question raises perennial philosophical issues about human behavior in general and criminal conduct in particular. Do criminals act the way they do because of how and what they think and feel? And, are these internal forces of thought and feeling caused by the states of their brains, which in turn are predetermined by biology, chemistry, and genetics? Is the problem, in short, what used to be called bad blood?

Or, are the thoughts, feelings, and actions of criminals caused by external factors such as parents, education, and other influences in the environment that mold and shape malleable brains, which, in turn, give rise to the criminal personality? In other words, is the real culprit for criminal behavior what used to be called society?

With the emergence of brain science over the past 50 years, including brain imaging technologies and the study of brain chemistry, perhaps we can return to these profound questions with new hope of making progress toward answers.

At the present time, although some scholars of brain science lean heavily toward a reductionistic biological determinism, others call attention to the plasticity of the brain and its capacity for change. Even if we cannot ever uncover a single satisfactory answer to how the criminal mind works, perhaps we can begin to diminish the devastation caused by criminal behavior.

An exploration of the criminal mind might yield insights, ideas, and innovative hypotheses worthy of serious consideration and further study. It might also provoke us to reconsider how we think about the questions we ask about the causes of criminal behavior. Instead of polarizing the discussion by pitting determinism (biological or social) against free will as mutually exclusive explanations of criminal conduct, we might discover that biological predispositions and habits of thought can be influenced by education, cognitive retraining, and behavior modification. Whatever our current state of knowledge, isn’t it worth our effort to try to formulate better theories and more effective forms of intervention?

That daunting task has been undertaken in a new e-book titled Exploring the Criminal Mind and subtitled Advances of Brainscience and Mental Procedures of the Criminal Personality: A Unified Brain-Mind Theory. The author and publisher, Jens-Jacob Sander, is a judge in the Norwegian Courts of Justice, located west of the city of Oslo. Judge Sander tells us in the foreword to his book that it grew out of his frustration with trying to understand the criminal mind while he was engaged in a major international fraud-hunt in 1989 that, although successful, was apparently hampered by the lack of adequate information and insights about criminal minds.

Perhaps we can return to these profound questions with new hope of making progress toward answers, indeed.

Posted by Ergon on 09/04 at 05:01 AM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Crime hypothesesThe psychologyComments here (11)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Thinking About Rudy Guede, Raffaele Sollecito, and Amanda Knox: What Might Have Been

Posted by Ergon





This is my post on my website Man From Atlan of June 26, 2011 cross-posted here at the invitation of TJMK.

Due to my Scorpionic nature, I think, I come across a great many criminal and legal cases that grab the public attention.

It seems, also, that I get involved in the case in one way or the other, and, a great number of coincidences seem to er, follow me. Psychologists call that the ‘I was there syndrome’ and that’s fine, it’s a form of mental illness, and you can decide if I have it, or not!

But I have spent a lifetime studying the fine line between Psychic Sensitivity and Schizophrenia, and what interests me here is not only how we identify with the crime and the individuals involved, but how these cases establish themselves in the public consciousness.

And yes, I want to write about the lives wasted, and what might have been.

Whenever a person dies, there is a break in the fabric of consciousness, and all of humanity is affected. Most people learn to ignore it; some, more sensitive, get consumed by it, but we are all affected by it at some level.

A murder case may be just one individual; the devastation of an earthquake or tsunami may affect hundreds of thousands. As for me, I am an observer, but also in a way, a catalyst.

Look, you know my spiritual claims. Forget that for a moment. What I do is warn people about the fateful consequences of the psychic and spiritual damage done to our souls (or psyche) and environment, and if you don’t listen, if you don’t change, then so be it. What will be, will be. But a part of me, having seen what would happen, mourns for what might have been.

One of my patients was a girl who had Rhett’s Syndrome, a severe form of Autism. She came to my clinic and the treatments really helped, yet it was the mother who also needed help. In the end, suffering from depression, she killed her child and tried to commit suicide.

A woman two streets down from us, suffering from post partum depression, killed her husband and stabbed her two children as well. My son used to play with their dog at the local park, but curiously, I never met them.

I worked on a mayoralty campaign. The candidate, a lovely soul, came second. At the farewell party I saw something dark around him. I told his partner that he needed help, and offered. It wasn’t heard because they were, I think, already caught up in their karma. A year later he jumped off a bridge and killed himself.

Then, going from the personal to the ‘famous’ cases, and the ‘coincidences’ and lessons thereof.

I wrote in “Michael Jackson, the Drowning Man” about how I helped a famous musician with his Parkinson’s Disease in 1994 but when I asked him to introduce me to Michael Jackson, he didn’t. I was too controversial. Pity, I could have helped him before he descended into his inappropriate behavior.

OJ Simpson was the first criminal case. I lived in Santa Monica almost equidistant between him and his ex-wife Nicole Brown. I had driven around the neighborhood enough times to know the story had some inconsistencies, but I believed he was guilty. I also accepted the jury’s verdict of Not Guilty, because the principle of reasonable doubt, in American law, had to be upheld.

There also was the fact I had closed my practice in Toronto and moved to Los Angeles just to help people there, arriving in 1993 in time for the Malibu Fires and Northridge Earthquake (written in “A Spiritual Journey To The United States”) and once I knew my work was done left for Texas. And a few months later, the murder, the White Bronco slowly driving down the freeway, the media circus and all of LA enjoying a mass catharsis.

After I left the US in 1995 I shifted my focus to Europe, though Canada remained my home base. I still looked back to the US with fondness, and sadness for what was yet to come.

I was in England in 2005 when the Terri Schiavo case gripped the nation. She was in a lengthy coma, with most of her brain destroyed. Her parents were fighting to keep her on life support, while her husband wanted to pull the plug and let her die.

I tried to stay uninvolved, even though I knew her spirit wanted to be free. I felt this was wrong, for parents to keep holding on to their child. So one day, when Chloe called me about the latest developments, I said enough was enough, and helped her spirit pass on. She died that evening. And shortly after I left England, there was the London Tube bombing. Coincidence, or catharsis?

Madeleine McCann, a little girl from the U.K., disappeared from her holiday bedroom in Portugal just a few days before her 4th birthday, in May of 2007. Her parents were dining some distance away with their friends and inexplicably had left the children unattended and the door to their villa unlocked. The investigators never found Madeleine. The conclusion, absent a body, was that she had been kidnapped. There were many false sightings after that, as people assumed she had been kidnapped by child traders.

This was two months before I went to the UK with my family on holiday. I was asked what I thought about Madeleine. Would she be found? I replied that she had died that first night, and the parents were involved in a cover up. The person who asked me that question then consulted a psychic, who of course said what everyone wanted to hear: Madeleine was alive.

Then further reports came out, and we found that special police dogs, trained to sniff for evidence of death, had indicated she had died inside the bedroom that very night. Nothing further came to light, as political interference corrupted the whole process, and police investigators were sacked for ‘unfairly blaming the parents’

Yet, there’s a website that does just that; you be the judge. See here and here and here.

This was another example of a case that would consume the public, as so many identified with the missing child, or the parents. And, as always, my presence seemed coincidental to a whole series of events. A few weeks before we arrived in Glasgow, bombers hit Glasgow airport with a van loaded to the top with propane cylinders, the rains hit the whole country for three months straight, and the biggest floods in over a century inundated large parts of Southern England. Yet wherever we went, there was sunshine…This is the dichotomy of healing, that there can be sunshine, but also, darkness.

I had already arranged to go back to the UK for a month as a consultant. I returned to Canada on October 31.

The very next day, on November 1, 2007, British student Meredith Susanna Cara Kercher, was murdered in Perugia, Italy. Her roommate, Amanda Marie Knox, was convicted of the murder, as was her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Hermann Guede, a drifter from the Cote de Ivoire in Africa.

I hadn’t read much about the case and trial, but came across it on the pages of Huffington Post, the social news website. Here was a full blown narrative: Amanda Knox was innocent of the crime, she was the victim of a corrupt Italian prosecutor, and Rudy Guede was the sole perpetrator (All untrue, btw)

What piqued me was the fingerprints of an extensive PR campaign to manipulate public opinion so as to influence the outcome of a trial in another country. Appearances by Knox’s family on Oprah, calls to boycott Italy, politicians trying to intervene in a judicial process, oh my.

And the comments on the numerous Amanda threads were funny, and so sad. These people were, in a word, disturbed. They were even foul mouthed about the victims parents, for daring to say they felt justice had been served. And they had no compunction about blatant lying and slander either.

I’d seen this so many times, the ease with which people could be led to believe, on the basis of something they saw or read, the most outlandish things.

Now I really do believe that trying to convince True Believers is a waste of time. (But arguing with them can be er, illuminating:) I’m interested in the process by which they come to that belief, but any good book on mob psychology can give you the basics, and of course, you must always read Orwell’s 1984. The same principles of propaganda used to create support for war can also be used to support a position, no matter how wrong it might seem to the intelligent observer.

So I looked at the facts of the case. Amanda Knox had falsely accused her black boss, Patrick Lumumba of the crime, she and her boyfriend had provided alibis that were later disproved, there was a staged break in to mislead the investigation, and there was sufficient DNA, blood and foot prints to prove the complicity of the other two accused.

Two courts, led by Judges Micheli and Massei, had already looked at over 10,000 pages of evidence to conclude that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito had also been involved in the murder. And, the most compelling DNA evidence, Raffaele’s DNA on the victims bra, and Amanda’s DNA mixed with Meredith’s on the murder knife found in Raffaele’s flat.

The Supreme Court of Italy, while affirming Rudy Guede’s conviction, had already established that more than one attacker had been involved, and that DNA attributed to Knox and Sollecito had already been found.

I also noted that the Wikipedia page on Meredith Kercher, once reflecting the findings of guilt against all three accused, had now been hijacked by, let’s say, Amanda Knox partisans.

I have to thank the two websites TJMK and PMF for the fine work they have done compiling and translating the vast volume of Italian language transcripts of the trial and summaries of evidence. Without them, my technical knowledge of the case would have been quite inadequate. I can’t recommend them highly enough for anyone interested in learning about the case.

But I formed my opinions way before I found their sites, and I say this out of respect: I don’t want their work compromised by association with my own views.

What I write about here is first and always, spiritual in nature. I may use logic to confirm something, I will look at evidence, but ultimately I look at disturbances in the fabric to search out imbalance and untruth. And I learn to trust my instincts. It is only afterwards that I look at other factors, and if I need to adjust my views, so be it. But the patterns and the coincidences, are fascinating.

First, the Astrology. Meredith Kercher, born Dec. 28, 1985, and Rudy Guede, December 26, 1986, are both Capricorns. Raffaele Sollecito, March 26, 1984, is Aries, and Amanda Knox, July 09, 1987, a Cancer. Their signs form a T-Square, at 90 degrees to each other, which are widely seen as indicators of stress and incompatibility. The day of the murder saw widespread stressors on all their horoscopes which would lead to murder, detection, conviction and imprisonment. The Astrology even shows Raffaele’s drug dependency and mental confusion on the night of the murder, the conflict between Amanda and Meredith, and the violence and rage that simmered just below the surface of Amanda Knox’s psyche.

And the night of the murder, November 1, 2007, saw Saturn and Venus in the house of emotional excess, Uranus in the house of sudden death, and Jupiter/Pluto, in the sexual house, in an almost exact T-Square to each other. The close conjunction of Pluto to the Milky Way’s Galactic Center shows the potency of this murder in attracting the public imagination, and also, the trigger for the murder.

But Astrology is just one of many tools in Humanistic psychology. It shows patterns, yes, but mainly it gives a picture of motivations and stages of development. And sometimes, it tells us what might happen. For me, there are many tools: Psychism to know, and other tools to understand.

So I will say this about all four:

Amanda Knox’s profile is that of the self destructive individual who will fall from ‘the shattered tower’ due to her associations with others. Btw, her July 09 birthday is the same as OJ Simpson’s and they Both Wielded Knives, hmmm!

Raffaele Sollecito has powerful friends who won’t be able to help him. He almost had it too easy, and his drug use took him into some deep dark spaces. Note he wasn’t just using cannabis, but more likely a potent form called skunk weed, plus heroin and cocaine.

Rudy Guede may actually turn out to be a sympathetic individual. His is the one chart I see that leads to redemption and indescribable potential. He is, quite frankly, the most believable of the three, even though he did lie, and he was rightly found guilty.

Meredith Susanna Cara Kercher was greatly loved, had the intellectual capability to go far, and would have, if she hadn’t been murdered, been a bright blazing star. RIP Meredith.

I hate to make predictions. Human beings will always have the capacity to alter the future (though truth be told, not as much as they like to think) My prophecies have to do with the future of this planet and humanity’s ability to survive and regenerate itself.

But on June 27, Rudy Guede will face Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in their appeals trial, and for the first time, be forced to answer questions directly. I believe this will be the day he begins to redeem himself.

(Update: And on that day, he placed Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito at the crime scene)

On June 30th, the DNA experts will present their findings. This will be one day before the solar eclipse in Cancer. I predict bombshells in court.

(Update: the expert’s report was presented a day earlier, on June 29, and it was interesting, to say the least. It disputed some of the DNA findings accepted by the previous court and one would think from the media reporting they prove Knox and Sollecito’s innocence. From my reading of the report, it does no such thing, only places ambiguities on some of the evidence. There definitely will be fireworks in court, as the prosecution tears into the many errors of the report)

I am struck by the coincidences of the cases I outlined: allegations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, disputed forensic and DNA evidence, racism and political interference, your standard trial. But they all, held a special place in the public imagination.

But in spiritism we see that it is the unquiet spirit of the victim that calls to us, and we can only hope and pray for their peace. Justice is always done.

And one can only look back at them with sadness, for what might have been.

Posted by Ergon on 07/06 at 07:36 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Crime hypothesesThe psychologyThe officially involvedComments here (10)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Explaining The Massei Report: How Motive For The Crime Is Addressed By Judge Massei

Posted by James Raper





The Massei Report in the main I thought was excellent. He was incisive with his logic, particularly, though not exclusively, with regard to the staging of the break in and how that necessarily meant that Amanda was present at the scene when the murder was committed.

However, I thought that he was rather feeble in his coverage of the defendants’ motives as to the attack which led to this brutal murder. Perhaps he thought it better to stick with the indisputable evidence. Since this pointed to a sex attack he surmised that Guede had a go at Meredith first, and then - because the stimulation was too much for them - he was joined by Amanda and Raffaele. This works but does seem a bit weak.

Micheli, the judge who committed Amanda and Raffaele to stand trial, was more certain in his mind as to the roles played by these three. He said that there was “an agreed plan”, “to satisfy sexual instincts” with “murderous intent” and that effectively Amanda was the instigator and catalyst.

Motive is largely an area of speculation but it is surely possible to draw inferences from what we know?  As Micheli did.  The Appeal Court and ultimately The Supreme Court of Cassation may well adopt the same reasoning and conclusion ““ maybe go further.

And there were, to my mind, undoubtedly many factors at work, and it is these which I wish to address. I have always been interested in the possible dynamics of just how these three came to murder poor Meredith. Pro-Knox campaigners once made much of “No Motive”. Now not so much because the issue draws people in to a discussion of the evidence and of Amanda’s personality.

For instance, Massei asks, though he says we can not know, had Amanda egged Guede on as to the “availability” ( my word, not his) of Meredith during or prior to their presence at the Cottage?

Frankly the answer to that has to be “yes” since it is a bit difficult to figure out why Amanda and Raffaele would otherwise wish Guede to join them at the cottage. I doubt that Amanda and Raffaele would have wanted Guede around if they were just going there to have an innocent cuddle and sex and to smoke cannabis, as Massei implies. The evidence is that Raffaele hardly knew Guede and in the presence of Amanda was very possessive about her. If he had known of Guede’s interest in Amanda he would have been even less keen to have Guede around.

Also, if all was so innocent beforehand, then why would Guede have tried it on with Meredith and then pressed the situation in the face of her refusal to co-operate, knowing that there were two others there who could have come to her assistance?

The answer is of course that Guede knew full well in advance that there would be no problem with Amanda and Raffaele. He had been invited there and primed to act precisely in the way he did, at least initially. Why? Well there is plenty of evidence as to why Amanda, in her mind, may have been looking for payback time on Meredith. Come to that later.

What does not get much attention in the Massei Report, other than a terse Not Proven at the end, is the matter of Meredith’s missing rent money and credit cards and whether Amanda and Raffaele stole them. It is as if the Judge ( well the jury really) felt that this was a trivial issue that brought nothing much to the case and thus it was not necessary to give it much attention. And indeed there is no summation of or evaluation of that evidence.

Now that does surprise me. Of course there may have been some technical flaw with the charge and the evidence. But in the absence of any comment on this then we do not know what that may be.

What I do know is that the matter, if proven, is not trivial. A theft just prior to the murder significantly ups the stakes for Amanda and Raffaelle and produces a dynamic, which, threaded together with a sexual assault, makes for a far more compelling scenario to murder. It also leads one to conclude that there was a greater degree of premeditation involved : not premeditation to murder but as to an assault, rather than the more spontaneous ” let’s get involved” at the time of the sex attack as postulated by Massei.

What is the evidence? What evidence was before the court? I do not have access to trial records. Therefore I stand to be corrected if I misrepresent the evidence or if my interpretation of it does not met the test of logic.

There were two lay witnesses to whom we can refer. The first was Filomena Romanelli, the flatmate and trainee lawyer. If there was anyone who was going to ensure that the rent was paid on time, it would have been her. She gave evidence that the rent being due very soon she asked Meredith about her contribution of 300 euros and was told by Meredith that all was OK because she had just withdrawn 200 euros from her bank. Filomena assumed from Meredith’s reply that the balance was already to hand.

Is there a problem with this evidence? Is it hearsay and thus inadmissible under Italian law?

Perhaps it is not enough by itself because of course had Meredith not in fact withdrawn the money from her bank, or sufficient funds to cover the stated amount, then that would be a fatal blow to that part of the theft charge. Her bank manager was summoned to give evidence, essentially to corroborate or disprove Filomena’s testimony. I do not know what exactly that evidence was. One would assume that at the very least it did not disprove her testimony. Had it done so that would, as I have said, been fatal. It is also unbelievable that Massei would have overlooked this in the Report. I am assuming that Meredith did not tell a white lie and that the bank records corroborate this.

There may of course be an issue of timing as I understand that the bank manager told the court that transactions at a cash machine are not necessarily entered on the customer account the same day . However that does not seem to me to be significant.

One must also think that the bank manager was asked what other cash withdrawals had been made if the credit cards were taken at the same time as the money.

I understand that there is of course a caveat here: my assumptions in the absence of knowing exactly what the bank manager’s evidence was.

It would be useful also to know how and when the rent was normally paid. It sounds as if it was cash on the day the landlord came to collect.

We do know that the police did not find any money or Meredith”˜s credit cards. Had Meredith, a sensible girl, blown next month’s rent on a Halloween binge? Unlikely. So somebody stole it. And the credit cards. Again, just as with the fake break in, when according to Amanda and Raffaele nothing was stolen, who and only who had access to the cottage to steal the money? Yes, you have guessed it. Amanda, of course.

Does the matter of missing rent money figure anywhere else? There is the evidence of Meredith’s phone records which show that a call was placed to her bank late on the evening of her murder just prior to the arrival of Amanda, Raffaele and Guede. Why? I have to concede that there is no single obvious reason and that it may be more likely than not that the call was entirely unintentional.

But if, as may seem likely, the credit cards were kept with her handbag, and the money in her bedroom drawer, then on discovering that her money was missing she may have called her bank in a funk only to remember that the cards were safe and that no money could be withdrawn from her account.

The missing money also figured in the separate trial of Guede. He made a statement which formed the whole basis of his defence. Basically this was that he had an appointment with Meredith at the cottage, had consensual foreplay with her and was on the toilet when he heard the doorbell ring etc, etc. What he also added was that just before all this Meredith was upset because her rent money had disappeared and that they had both searched for it with particular attention to Amanda’s room.

Now why does Guede mention this? Remember this is his defence. Alibi is not quite the right word. He had plenty of time to think about it or something better. His defence was moulded around (apart from lies) (1) facts he knew the police would have ie no point denying that he was there or that he had sexual contact with Meredith : his biological traces had been left behind, and (2) facts known to him and not to the police at that stage ie the money, which he could use to make his statement as a whole more credible, whilst at the same time giving the police a lead. He is shifting the focus, if the police were to follow it up, on to the person he must have been blaming for his predicament, Amanda.

If all three, Amanda, Raffaele and Guede, went to the cottage together, as Massei has it, then Guede learns about the missing rent money not in the circumstances referred to in his statement but because Meredith has already discovered the theft and worked out who has had it and challenges Amanda over it when the three arrive. Perhaps this is when Guede goes to the toilet and listens to music on his Ipod. After all he is just there for the sex and this is all a distraction.

Although Micheli thought Guede was a liar from start to finish, he did not discount the possibility that Guede was essentially telling the truth about the money. Guede expanded upon this at his appeal, telling the court that Amanda and Meredith had an argument and then a fight over it. It is a thread that runs through all his accounts from his Skype chat and initial statements in Germany to his final appeal.

Guede’s “evidence” was not a factor in the jury’s consideration at Amanda’s and Raffaele’s trial. Although he was called to give evidence he did not do so. Now his “evidence” and the findings and conclusion of the courts which processed his case come in to play in the appeal of Amanda and Raffaele.

When were the money and credit cards stolen?

I have to accept that as to the money at any rate a theft prior to the murder is critical to sustain the following hypothesis. The credit cards were in any event probably taken after the attack on Meredith.

According to Amanda and Raffaele they spent Halloween together at Raffaele’s and the next day went to the cottage. Meredith was there as was Filomena.  Filomena left first, followed by Meredith to spend the evening with her friends, and Amanda and Raffaele left some time afterwards.

So Amanda and Raffaele could have stolen the money any time after Meredith left and before she returned at about 9.30pm - the day of her murder. Incidentally Filomena testified that Meredith never locked the door to her room except on the occasions she went home to England. Meredith was a very trusting girl.

What motive had Amanda for wanting the money apart from the obvious one of profit?

There are numerous plausible motives.

To fund a growing drugs habit which she shared with Raffaele? Not an inconsiderable expense for a student. Both Amanda and Raffaele explained during questioning that their confusion and hesitancy was due to the fact that they had been going rather hard on drugs. Mignini says that they were both part of a drugs crowd.

Because her own financial circumstances were deteriorating and to fund her own rent contribution?  She was probably about to be sacked at Le Chic where she was considered by Lumumba to be flirty and unreliable and to add insult to injury would likely be replaced by Meredith. In fact Meredith was well liked and trusted by all whereas Amanda’s star was definitely on the wane. 

But maybe Amanda just also wanted to get her own back on Meredith.

Filomena testified that Meredith and Amanda had begun to have issues with each other.

Here are some quotes from Darkness Descending.

Filomena ““ “At first they got on very well. But then things began to take a different course. Amanda never cleaned the house so we had to institute a rota “¦.then she (Amanda) would bring strangers home”¦.Meredith said she was not interested in boys, she was here to study”.

“Meredith was too polite to confront Amanda, but she did confide in her pal, Robyn Butterworth. Robyn winced in disbelief when Meredith said that the pair had quarreled because Knox often failed to flush the toilet, even when menstruating. Filomena began noticing that Amanda could be odd, even mildly anti-social.”

It seems that Amanda did not like it when she was not the centre of attention. It was observed that, comically if irritatingly, she would sing loudly if conversation started to pass her by and when playing her guitar would often strum the same chord over and over again.

On the evening of Halloween Amanda texted Meredith enquiring as to whether they could meet up. But Meredith had other arrangements. Meredith appeared to be having a good time whereas Amanda was not.

Indeed there has been much speculation that Amanda has always had deep seated psychological problems and that just after several weeks in Perugia her fragile and damaged ego was tipping towards free fall.


With Meredith’s money both Amanda and Raffaele could have afforded something a little stronger than the usual smoke and I speculate that they spent the late afternoon getting stoned.

Of course Amanda was still an employee of Lumumba and she was supposed to turn up that evening for work but perhaps she no longer cared all that much for the consequences if she did not.

Again I speculate that she, with or without Raffaele,  met Guede at some time -  perhaps before she was due at work, perhaps after she learnt that she was not required by Lumumba -  discussed Meredith’s “availability” and agreed to meet up again on the basketball court at Grimana Square.

The notion that Amanda and Guede hardly knew each other seems implausible to me. We know that they met at a party at the boys’ flat at the cottage. Guede was friends with one of those boys and was invited there on a number of occasions. He was an ever present on the basketball court in Grimana Square which was located just outside the College Amanda and Meredith attended, and just metres from the cottage. He was known to have fancied Amanda and Amanda was always aware of male interest.

What else did Amanda and Raffaele have in mind when arranging the meeting or when thinking about it afterwards? Guede was of course thinking about sex and that Amanda and Raffaele were going to facilitate an encounter with Meredith later that evening. However Amanda and Raffaele had something else on their minds. The logic of their position vis a vis Meredith cannot have escaped them. They had taken her money whilst she was out. Had she not already discovered this fact then she would in any event be back, notice the money was missing and would put 2 and 2 together.  What would happen? Who would she tell? Would she call the police? How are they going to deal with this? Obviously deny it but logic has it’s way and the situation with or without the police being called in would be uncomfortable.

They decided to turn the tables and make staying in Perugia uncomfortable for Meredith. Now the embarrassing, for Meredith, sexual advances from Guede were going to be manipulated by them in to a sexual humiliation for Meredith. Meredith was not going to be seriously harmed but as and when they were challenged by Meredith over the missing money, as inevitably they would be, she was to be threatened with injury or worse. Knives come in useful here. Amanda may have fantasized that Meredith would likely then give up her tenancy at the cottage, perhaps leave Italy. Whether that looks like the probable and likely outcome I leave you to judge, but the hypothesis is that they were starting to think and behave irrationally and that this was exacerbated by the use of drugs.

In the event there came a point when neither Amanda nor Raffaele had any other commitments anyway. They got to the basketball court. They waited for Guede.

We know Amanda and Raffaele were on the basketball court the evening of the 1st November. This is because of the evidence of a Mr Curatolo, the second lay witness. He was not precise about times but thought that they were on the basketball court between 9.30pm and 10pm and may have left around 11.00 ““ 11.30pm and then returned just before midnight. In any event he testified to seeing Amanda and Raffaele having heated arguments, and occasionally going to the parapet at the edge of the court to peer over. What were they looking at? Go to the photographs of Perugia on the True Justice for Meredith website and you will see. From the parapet you get a good view of the gates that are the entrance, and the only entrance as I understand it, to the cottage.

So why the behaviour observed by Mr Curatolo? They may have been impatient waiting for Guede to arrive. Were they actually to go through with this?  Was Meredith at home, alone, and had she found the money was missing and had she called the police or tipped off someone already? Who was hanging around outside the entrance to the cottage and why? There was, apparently, a car parked at the entrance, a broken down car nearby with the occupants inside awaiting a rescue truck, and the rescue truck itself, all present around 11.00pm. Amanda and Raffaele did not wish to be observed going through the gates with these potential witnesses around.

We, of course, cannot know for certain what went on in the minds of Amanda and Raffaele between the time of them leaving the cottage and their departure from the basketball court to return to the cottage. It has to be speculation but there is a logical consistency to the above narrative if they had stolen Meredith’s money earlier that day, and their meeting up with Guede just before leaving the basketball court does not look like a co-incidence.

From there on in to the inevitable clash between Amanda and Meredith over the money.

It is my opinion that at the cottage Amanda came off worse initially: that she got caught in the face by a blow and suffered a nose bleed.
Stefanoni and Garofano both say that there was an abundant amount (relatively speaking) of Amanda’s blood in the bathroom washbasin, and to a lesser extent the bidet.  Whereas most of Amanda’s blood in the bathroom was mixed with Meredith’s, the blood on the washbasin tap was Amanda’s alone. Both of a quality and quantity to discount menstrual (from washed knickers) or bleeding from ear piercing. Their conclusion was that Amanda bled fairly profusely though perhaps briefly at some stage.

Possibly Amanda may have cut her feet on glass in Filomena’s bedroom but if so it’s difficult to see how blood from that ends up as a blob on the basin tap and in the sink and cut feet are painful to walk on and she did not display any awkwardness on her feet the next day.

Amanda’s blood may have come from a nick by a blade to her hands. I think the nick would be obvious the next day .If so, she was not hiding it. She was photographed the next day outside the cottage waving her hands under the noses of a coterie of vigilant cops.

She might have got a bloody nose during the attack in Meredith’s bedroom save that there is no evidence of her blood there.

On the other hand if she got into a tussle with Meredith (say in the corridor outside their rooms and where there was little room for other than the two to be engaged) and was fended off with a reflex blow that accidently or otherwise connected with her nose, Amanda’s natural reaction would be to disengage immediately and head for the bathroom sink and staunch the flow of blood.

A nose bleed need not take too long to staunch especially if not serious and there is no cut (certainly none being visible the next day).  Just stuff some tissue up the offending nostril. A nose bleed is not necessarily something of which there would be any sign the next day.

Raffaelle fusses around her whilst Rudy briefly plays peacemaker. But Amanda is boiling. As furious with Raffaelle and Guede as she is with Meredith. She eggs Guede on and pushes him towards Meredith.  Raffaele proudly produces his flicknife, latent sadistic instincts surfacing.

Is a scene like this played out inside the cottage or outside? I think of the strange but sadly discredited tale told by Kokomani.

In any event motive is satiated and the coil, having been tensed, is sprung for the pre-planned, but now extremely violent, hazing of poor Meredith.

I am also thinking here of Mignini’s “crescendo of violence” and where a point is reached where anything goes ““ where there is (from their warped perspectives) almost an inevitability or justification for their behaviour. A “Meredith definitely needs teaching a lesson now!” attitude.

Psychology is part of motive and there is much speculation particularly with regard to Amanda and Raffaele. They have both been in prison for well over three years now and during this time psychological assessments will certainly have been carried out.

Based on specific incidents and and general patterns of behaviour, speech and language, and demeanour, some preliminary conclusions will have been reached correlated with the facts of the crime.

If their convictions are upheld these assessments may be relevant to sentence in so far as they shed light on mitigation and motive.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Thoughts On Meredith’s Tragic Case And Its Significance In The Bigger Scheme Of Things

Posted by Saskia van der Elst


As one of the regular commentators on this forum once pointed out, the question we all are trying to answer regarding the pointless murder of the talented and beautiful Meredith Kercher in Perugia is: What is it, that keeps on drawing us to this case?

We all have our own reasons. According to me, a murder case seldom has so much in common with an old school murder mystery, or “whodunnit”. A victim that you instantly sympathize with, several suspects, each with their own particular background, ethnic origin and possible motives, a tragic event taking place on the day of the Death, a charismatic prosecutor, who himself is the center of some controversy, and all of this set in the stunningly beautiful medieval hilltop town of Perugia, with its two universities, its relatively small population and its many temporary residents, studying and partying in the small town center.

All are ingredients for a captivating story: a small universe, that can easily be explained to an outsider and once you heard the beginning of the story, you crave more. More information, more depth, more color. For those that have a normal, healthy brain, there comes a point in any murder mystery where you are convinced of the guilt of one or more of the characters in the story and as you near the end of the story, there might be an unexpected twist, but you can rest assured that you will find out who did it.

Of course, in real life stories don’t follow formulas, most of the time they don’t have a definitive ending and in the case of the murder of Meredith, the book is not closed. The three perpetrators of the crime have been convicted to a total of 67 years in jail between the three of them, but all three maintain their innocence. We all know that three cannot keep a secret, so it is a matter of time until one of them reveals more about the exact events that took place on the 2nd of November in 2007.

Each of the three perpetrators will go through a process of maturing in prison. Once they feel they have paid a significant price for their crime, they may realize the graveness of they crime and realize that they made bad decisions in their past. Not until that moment, they can find redemption and may feel the need to let the world know that they have changed as a person. All three perpetrators were immature in their own way when they committed their crime, so it might take a while for them to mature enough to be able to face reality.

Rudy might be the first one to reach that point, since he is more or less an orphan, with no controlling relatives, friends and others with vested interests in the lies that have masked the truth. Nobody will lose face if he decides to confess his participation in the crime. The same thing, but to a lesser degree,  is true for Raffaele. Since he never even cared about clarifying all inconsistencies in his stories, he implicitly has already admitted his involvement. He too, doesn’t affect many people if he opens up and gets clean. The only close relatives he has are his father and sister and they have not publicly expressed a strong believe in his innocence.

Amanda is in a much more difficult position, because of the amount of people that was mobilized to defend her. By now she has been the income generator for quite some people and although nobody envies her parents, they have a clear mission, that keeps them occupied and that gives their lives meaning. The moment Amanda would confess her involvement, the parents would be forced to exchange the “free my innocent daughter” banner for one that reads “I raised a murderess that is serving two and a half decades in a foreign prison”.

On top of the above, the process of coming clean might be a slow one, because all three suffer from uncertainty about how the other two are doing. That uncertainty might cause postponing the advance, until they are forced to speak up, because one of the others did so first.

The result for those that are following the case is that we know we don’t have all information yet and for us to fill in all the blanks and be able to understand what exactly has happened to Meredith we need that information. Until we have it, we cannot accept the story as is as it leaves us unsatisfied. Of course we are talking about a true story here and not about a work of fiction, but for the rational part of our minds that doesn’t make a difference.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Elisa Benedetti: Another Sad And Unneccesary Death Of A Young Woman Living In Perugia

Posted by catnip


About our series

This is another in our occasional series of posts on crimes involving young women in Perugia.

It shows how trouble and death so easily overwhelmed the vivacious Elisa, how drugs and drug dealers may have played a role, how the authorities handled Elisa’s disappearance, and how caring Perugia yet again rallied round.

Who was Elisa?

Elisa Benedetti was a 25 year old student and call-centre operator and lived in Città  di Castello with her father Osvaldo, 51, and younger brother. Her mother had died two months previously.

The disappearance

On Saturday night, 29 January 2011, Elisa Benedetti, 25, out drinking with friends, disappeared into the dark wilderness north of Perugia. The car she was driving became bogged down on a muddy track.

She called the emergency number. She was lost, confused and frightened.

Eventually, the phone batteries gave out. It was icy cold and wet, mud everywhere. Around midday on the following Monday, her body was found about a kilometre from the abandoned car.

She had died from exposure to the cold.


Click here for the rest


Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Don’t Perpetrators Say They’re Sorry? A Psychoanalytic Perspective

Posted by Carol Poole


[Image: In downtown Leeds, a city in which Meredith was extremely happy]

A disclaimer: I do not intend these remarks as commentary on any specific individual(s). I’m offering them as food for thought, for anyone who (like me) struggles to understand both the human capacities for destruction and for healing

Why don’t abusers apologize when they’re caught? Even when it would be in their own best interest to show remorse?

Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes people own their crimes and take responsibility. The less shameful the crime, the more likely this is. As Johnny Cash sang, “I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die.” When he sang at Folsom Prison, no doubt his audience nodded along, sharing a general sense that shooting or getting shot in a bar is the kind of thing that any man might find himself doing on a bad day.

But no one sings about molesting a child. Or rape. Even the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, was offended when officers suggested he had raped the women he murdered—women, most of them young, all of them working the hardest of jobs and deserving much better.

So there are some crimes that no one brags about—or apologizes for, either, which is a shame, since the survivors and loved ones are left to try to understand what has happened. In my work as a psychotherapist for trauma and abuse survivors, I seek answers for this difficult question: how can people do such terrible things to others, and show no remorse?

This is especially hard when the perpetrator seems like a nice, “normal” person, a respected member of society. We can more easily understand when an act of violence is committed by someone in the grip of a psychotic delusion. It’s just a terrible accident then, a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Likewise, we don’t lose sleep trying to understand a coldly sociopathic attack: we don’t have to wonder why a mugger steals a purse.

But it baffles and hurts us deeply when someone we should have been able to trust commits violence against one of us. Especially when the crime is covered up by denial, adding injury to injury by robbing the injured parties of something they need in order to heal: acknowledgment of the truth of what’s happened.

Dori Laub, a psychoanalyst who survived a childhood in concentration camps in the Holocaust, observed that when our faith in goodness is shattered, we feel abandoned by the world of goodness, and lost in a kind of desert of the soul, a deathly state that feels empty of all life except for the malign presence of the perpetrator.

And he pointed out something he must have learned by experience: there is something about trauma that messes with our ability to recognize it when it’s happening. Our minds sometimes cannot see it, refuse to put together the picture that is right in front of our eyes, perhaps because we fear that if we see the truth, it will destroy our hope that the world is the good place we need it to be.

This, I believe, is why good people sometimes collude with abuse by refusing to see it. The refusal is happening at such a deep instinctive level that it’s rarely an entirely conscious choice.

And in a sense, it’s also why perpetrators of the worst crimes so rarely own what they’ve done. Research has shown that abusers have a curious relationship with remorse: they may have formidable defenses against feeling guilt, which is feeling bad about what you’ve done. But they are highly prone to shame, which is feeling bad about who or what you are.

The kind of people who are most likely to abuse others are those who are absorbed by a damaged sense of self. They lash out in a crude effort to fend of feelings of being bad, in a kind of magical thinking: If I put the badness in you, it won’t be in me anymore. If I make you hurt, then I won’t have to hurt. To a very childish state of mind, to hurt is to be bad. We all make that equation when we’re very small, but most of us grow a mature sense of self that integrates our many different feelings into a whole picture.

Having a mature sense of self means being able to say, “I sometimes do things that aren’t good. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. At least I can try to repair the harm I’ve done, and learn not to do it again.” The same sense of integration is what prevents us from acting out our worst impulses. We can safely want to strangle people from time to time, knowing we will never do it.

When someone’s sense of self is so badly damaged that they can be violently abusive, they aren’t able to hold together a whole story about themselves, or about what they’ve done. It’s only after years of therapy (or other means of growth) that such a person might become able to really put together the picture of their own violence, and take responsibility for their actions.

Which means that people who have been harmed by violence have to find ways to take care of themselves and heal, even though the perpetrator has an infuriating, baffling way of seeming not to have been there at all. It’s as though nothing happened.

It’s natural to wish that the perpetrator would be sorry. It would help so much to hear their apology. But there’s a trap, too, in waiting for help from that quarter. It’s no good trying to get such a person to hear you or understand that gravity of what they’ve done. It’s like trying to get a clear reflection out of the fragments of a shattered mirror.

Instead, what helps survivors and loved ones heal is to tend their souls, and work their way back toward everything that makes life full: love, trust, gratitude, hope. Which means finding a way to grieve the losses.

We don’t grieve in the cold shadows of the death zone; we grieve when we remember our love and our hope for the future.

It helps to have a sense of community acknowledging our loss. It helps if we can find a way to bring something good out of the devastation—if we can at least bring some meaning to the loss by letting the tragedy inspire us to do good.

It’s only at the end of the movie, when the mother and child embrace, that we can let down and weep for everything they had to go through to find each other again, and weep too for the ones we miss.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Claims Amanda Knox’s Confessions Resemble “False Confessions” Not Backed Up By Any Criminal Research

Posted by Fuji



[Above: Perugia’s central police station where Knox, Sollecito and Guede were all interviewed]

Meredith’s case is absolutely riddled with fabricated false myths. 

They are now found by the hundreds on some misleading websites, and they simply make experienced law enforcement and criminal lawyers laugh. 

For example “Police had no good reason to be immediately suspicious of Knox simply because the murder occurred at her residence”.  And “The double-DNA knife is a priori to be disregarded as evidence, because no murderer would retain possession of such a murder weapon.”

One of the most strident and widespread myths is that Amanda Knox’s statements to the Perugian investigators on 5 and 6 November 2007, placing her at the scene of Meredith’s murder, are to be viewed as the products of a genuinely confused mind imbued with a naïve trust of authority figures.

The apparent certainty with which many of Amanda Knox’s most vocal supporters proclaim that Knox’s statements are actual “false confessions” as opposed to deliberate lies is not supported by even a cursory reading of the pertinent academic literature regarding false confessions.

What actually are “false confessions”?

Richard N. Kocsis in his book “Applied Criminal Psychology: A Guide to Forensic Behavioral Sciences” (2009), on pages 193-4 delineates three different kinds of false confessions:

First, a voluntary false confession is one in which a person falsely confesses to a crime absent any pressure or coercion from police investigators….

Coerced-compliant false confessions occur when a person falsely confesses to a crime for some immediate gain and in spite of the conscious knowledge that he or she is actually innocent of the crime….

The final type, identified by Kassin and Wrightsman (1985), is referred to as a coerced-internalized false confession. This occurs when a person falsely confesses to a crime and truly begins to believe that he or she is responsible for the criminal act.

The first problem facing Knox supporters wishing to pursue the false confession angle as a point speaking to her purported innocence is epistemological.

Although much research has been done on this phenomenon in recent years, academics are still struggling to come to terms with a methodology to determine their incidence rate.

The current state of knowledge does not support those making sweeping claims about the likelihood of Knox’s statements being representative of a genuine internalized false confession.

As noted by Richard A. Leo in “False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications” (Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 2009):

Although other researchers have also documented and analyzed numerous false confessions in recent years, we do not know how frequently they occur. A scientifically meaningful incidence rate cannot be determined for several reasons.

First, researchers cannot identify (and thus cannot randomly sample) the universe of false confessions, because no governmental or private organization keeps track of this information.

Second, even if one could identify a set of possibly false confessions, it is not usually possible as a practical matter to obtain the primary case materials (e.g., police reports, pretrial and trial transcripts, and electronic recordings of the interrogations) necessary to evaluate the unreliability of these confessions.

Finally, even in disputed confession cases in which researchers are able to obtain primary case materials, it may still be difficult to determine unequivocally the ground truth (i.e., what really happened) with sufficient certainty to prove the confession false.

In most alleged false-confession cases, it is therefore impossible to remove completely any possible doubts about the confessor’s innocence.

The next problem Knox supporters face is that, even allowing for an inability to establish a priori any likelihood of a given statement being a false confession, the kind of false confession which is usually attributed to Knox is in fact one of the LEAST likely of the three types (Voluntary, Compliant, and Persuaded, as Leo terms the three different categories) to be observed:

Persuaded false confessions appear to occur far less often than compliant false confessions.

Moreover, despite assertions to the contrary, Knox and her statements do not in fact satisfy many of the criteria researchers tend to observe in false confessions, particularly of the Persuaded variety:

“All other things being equal, those who are highly suggestible or compliant are more likely to confess falsely. Individuals who are highly suggestible tend to have poor memories, high levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, and low assertiveness, personality factors that also make them more vulnerable to the pressures of interrogation and thus more likely to confess falsely…

Highly suggestible or compliant individuals are not the only ones who are unusually vulnerable to the pressures of police interrogation. So are the developmentally disabled or cognitively impaired, juveniles, and the mentally ill….

They also tend to occur primarily in high-profile murder cases and to be the product of unusually lengthy and psychologically intense interrogations… ordinary police interrogation is not strong enough to produce a permanent change in the suspect’s beliefs.

Most significantly, there is one essential element of a true Persuaded False Confession which in Knox’s case is highly distinctive:

To convince the suspect that it is plausible, and likely, that he committed the crime, the interrogators must supply him with a reason that satisfactorily explains how he could have done it without remembering it.

This is the second step in the psychological process that leads to a persuaded false confession.

Typically, the interrogator suggests one version or another of a “repressed” memory theory.

He or she may suggest, for example, that the suspect experienced an alcohol- or drug-induced blackout, a “dry” blackout, a multiple personality disorder, a momentary lapse in consciousness, or posttraumatic stress disorder, or, perhaps most commonly, that the suspect simply repressed his memory of committing the crime because it was a traumatic experience for him.

The suspect can only be persuaded to accept responsibility for the crime if he regards one of the interrogators’ explanations for his alleged amnesia as plausible.

Knox did not in fact claim drug or alcohol use as the source of her amnesia - rather, she claimed to have accepted the interrogators’ attribution that this was due to being traumatized by the crime itself, and she offers no other explanation for her selective amnesia:

This is from Knox’s statement to the court in pretrial on 18 October 2008 with Judge Micheli presiding.

Then they started pushing on me the idea that I must have seen something, and forgotten about it. They said that I was traumatized.

Of course, Knox’s initial statement went far beyond being that of being merely a witness to some aspect of Ms. Kercher’s murder, as the interrogators at first seemed to believe was the case.

Rather, her statement placed her at scene of the murder during its actual commission while she did nothing to avert it, which naturally made her a suspect.

In other words, in the absence of any of her other testimony which indicated that she was only a witness to the murder, her own self-admitted rationale for providing a false confession was that she was traumatized by the commission of the murder itself.

Perugia judges will be familiar with all of the above and we can be sure that they brief the lay judges on the remote circumstances and incidences of false confessions.

If I were a Knox defense attorney, I would find it to be a far more fruitful line of argumentation to argue that she was simply lying, rather than claiming the supremely unlikely provision of an actual internalized false confession.


Friday, November 26, 2010

More On Motive: Some Of The Cases Of “Nice” Girls Who Killed With Little Or No Motive At All

Posted by The Machine



[Above: One of the Manson girls’ murder victims, Hollywood film star Sharon Tate]

The conspiracy theorists trying so hard to spring Amanda Knox now have about zero credibility - because they can’t field even one good expert that any other expert respects. 

The various claims of their various faux experts about this or that aspect of the evidence having been mishandled or misread or contaminated lack the one really crucial element. ANY real evidence.

And NOT ONE Italian interrogator or investigator or prosecutor has been proved to have done even one thing wrong with intent.  Which seems these days to be making the conspiracy theorists more and more shrill in their claims.

An ex campus security guard Steve Moore is now one of the shrillest faux experts - but the conspiracy theorists still seem to think he is their great ace in the hole.

Steve Moore is not exactly what we might call competent as a real-crime-scene investigator. He seemingly can’t get even one core fact right and his knowledge of the Micheli and Massei reports are absolutely abysmal.

Few of this faux expert’s claims arouse more ridicule and sardonic contempt than one sweeping claim made to any lazy and gullible reporter who will listen - Ann Curry, Linda Byron and Steve Shay, for example.

The claim that there is some standard profile for women who kill. And that well-bred educated middle-class girls like Amanda Knox do not fit “it”. That profile.

So it is impossible that they would ever kill.

In an interview with Anne Curry on NBC the faux expert actually claimed: ““This was an honor student; she is not a violent person….  What they are alleging is that she not only helped assault the roommate, but stabbed her in the throat. That kind of deviant, violent behavior doesn’t go unnoticed for 18, 19, 20 years. Some things leak out; you see some episodes, some indication that this person has issues.”

Actually she DID have issues.

Their faux expert clearly does not know the history of Amanda Knox very well. She seems to have started putting out warning calls for help from around the age of four, and there are a number of stories about her quirks and her drugs up to when she left for Perugia.

In this piece, we will look at some some high-profile murder cases in America, Italy and New Zealand involving seemingly normal young women with profiles not unlike Amanda Knox who suddenly committed horrific and senseless murders.



[Above: Laurie Ann Swank’s victim, hotel night clerk Janet Chandler]

USA: Laurie Ann Swank

If anyone thinks the idea that a woman would arrange for men to sexually assault and murder her friend and roommate is totally far-fetched and beyonds the realms of possibility, they should read about the Janet Chandler case.

In January 1979, Laurie Ann Swank held a position of responsibility, working as the manager of the Blue Mill Inn in Holland, Michigan. She was also the roommate and friend of Janet Chandler, a 23-year-old student who worked as a desk clerk at the hotel. 

Laurie Ann Swank lured Janet Chandler to a “party” where she was tied to a chair and raped and tortured for hours by five security guards who were staying at the Blue Mill Inn. After Janet Chandler had been gang raped, she was strangled and her body was dumped on the side of Interstate 196.

The officers involved in the case concluded that Laurie Swank orchestrated the attack on Janet Chandler out of envy and jealousy “to teach her a lesson.” The motive behind this vicious murder was actually admitted by Swank to have been petty jealousy, especially over a boy. She actually watched while Janet was raped and then strangled with a belt.



[Above: Two more of the Manson girls victims Leno and Rose Labianca ]

USA: Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel

Steve Moore seems to think that honor students are incapable of committing murder. His apparent refusal to believe that someone who is from a respectable background and well-educateed could be involved in murder is not an uncommon phenomenon.

Vincent Bugliosi was the chief prosecutor in the Manson trial. He has pointed out that the backgrounds of the Manson killers terrified America precisely because they were from fairly good backgrounds and that many people refused to believe they could be involved. Vincent Bugliosi, chief prosecutor in the Charlie Manson case:

The other thing that terrified the nation so much is when the identity of the killers became known. And who were they? Young kids from average American homes with fairly good backgrounds. There was a feeling that this could be our own children.

Tex Watson, Manson’s “chief lieutenant” at the murder scene, was from Farmersville, Texas, hometown of World War II hero Audie Murphy. Watson was a football, basketball, and track star. He had almost an A average in high school. And when the people in Farmersville learned he was being charged with these murders, the general consensus was this is absolutely impossible, it must be a case of mistaken identity.

Patricia Krenwinkel””another one of the main killers””her father was an insurance executive; she sang in the church choir; got good grades in school; at one time she even wanted to attend a Jesuit college in Alabama. Leslie Van Houten””another killer””she was a homecoming princess at Monrovia High School here in L.A.



[Above: Manson girl Squeaky Fromm attempted to murder President Gerald Ford]

Leslie Van Houten was an honor student and a homecoming queen. She came from a middle class background; her father was an auctioneer and her mother was a school teacher.

In 1968, she joined Charlie Manson’s family. She was not involved in the vicious killings at Roman Polanski’s home - which upset her - but she took part in the savage murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.  She along with Patricia Krenwinkel attacked and stabbed Rosemary LaBianca. Van Houten tied the electrical cord from a lamp around La Bianca’s neck and put a pillow case over her head before stabbing her 16 times in the lower back.

Patricia Krenwinkel came from a fairly normal background. Her father was an insurance salesman. She graduated from high school and then attended a Catholic college for a semester before moving in with her sister. In 1967, she met Charles Manson when he was visiting her sister.

Krenwinkel participated in the Tate and LaBianca murders. She stabbed Abigail Folger more than 70 times. When the police found Folger’s body, they thought she was wearing a red dress.

Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel are currently serving life sentences for the Tate and Labianca murders. They are still being denied parole 40-plus years later.

USA: Amy Bishop

Dr. Amy Bishop, a Harvard-educated neurobiologist, inventor and mother of four, went on a shooting rampage at the University of Alabama. 

Amy Bishop had already shot and killed her 18-year old brother, with a shotgun, during an argument in 1986. Bishop claimed it was an accident and no charges were filed then - but 24 years later, charges were indeed filed.

According to witnesses, Amy Bishop later killed three professors and wounded three others during a meeting at the University of Alabama. They said that she sat through the first 30 minutes of the meeting and then pulled out a 9mm handgun and opened fire until the weapon jammed or ran out of bullets.



[Above: Karla Homolka murdered her own sister Tammy and and Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French]

Canada: Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo

Karla Homolka was the oldest child of three. She was regarded as well-adjusted and intelligent. She was a popular child who received plenty of love and attention from her family and friends. She loved animals and after high school she went to work at a veterinary clinic.

When she was 17, Karla Homolka attended a pet convention and met 23-year-old Paul Bernado. They soon discovered they shared the same sado-masochistic tendencies.

On 23 December 1990, Homolka and Bernado gave alcoholic drinks spiked with halcyon to Homolka’s 15-year-old sister, Tammy, at a Christmas party. They took her to the basement and Homolka held a cloth soaked with Halothane to Tammy’s mouth until she became unconscious. Bernado and Homolka then raped her. Tammy choked on her own vomit as she was being raped.

On 15 June 1991, Bernado kidnapped Lesle Mahaffy and took her to the couple’s home, where they repeatedly raped over a number of days. The couple videotaped many of the assaults. They then killed Mahaffy and cut her body into pieces and encased the pieces in cement.

On 16 April 1992, they kidnapped 15-year-old Kristen French and took her to their home and videotaped themselves torturing and sexually assaulting her. The couple killed French before they left for Easyer Sunday dinner with Homolka’s family.

Karla Homolda was convicted for her role in the raping, torturing and killing her own sister, Tammy and Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. She was released from prison after serving 12 years in prison. Paul Bernado is still in prison.

There are videos on the seeming normality of very dangerous people like these two here and here.



[Above: Julet Hume who with Pauline Parker battered Pauline’s mother to death]

New Zealand: Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker

Juliet Hulme was the daughter of Dr. Henry Hulme, an eminent physicist and a rector at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In 1954, Juliet Hulme and her friend, Pauline Parker, battered Parker’s mother, Honora Rieper, to death with half a brick in a lisle stocking. At the trial, it was revealed that Honora Rieper had been subjected to a sustained and brutal attack. Hulme and Parker had planned to murder Parker’s murder because they didn’t want to be separated.

After the murder, Parker and Hulme ran to a nearby tea shop, upset and covered in blood, claiming that Pauline’s mother had slipped and fallen.

Honora Rieper had 45 separate wounds on her head. The torn blood-soaked stocking with the brick in it was found nearby.

Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker were found guilty of murder.



[Above: Kelly Ellard was convicted of murdering Indian immigrant Reena Virk]

Canada: Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski

Kelly Ellard came from a middle class family and lived in a well-to-do neighborhood.

In 1997, she and Warren Glowatski murdered convicted of murdering Indian immigrant Reena Virk, who was the 14-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants. Ellard and six other teenage girls beat up Reena under a bridge. Ellard and Glowatski then dragged Reena to the other side of the bridge and beat her for a second time. It is believed that Ellard forced Reena’s head under the water and held it there until she stopped struggling.

Kelly Ellard was sentenced to life imprisonment for the second-degree murder of Reena Virk on 20 April 2000. . A second trial in 2004 ended in a hung jury. The Supreme Court of Canada reinstated the second degree murder conviction against Ellard in 2009. Warren Glowatski was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999. Six girls aged between 14 and 16 were sentenced in 1998 for their roles in the initial attack.

Next year Kelly Ellard will apply for parole. Reena’s parents are still waiting for any sign of remorse or sorrow for their loss.



[Above: Nadia Roccia was murdered by her friends Anna Maria Botticelli and Mariena Sica]

Italy: Anna Maria Botticelli and Mariena Sica

Anna Maria Botticelli and Mariena Sica lured their school friend Nadia Roccia to Botticelli’s home with the excuse of doing homework together and then they killed her. It was their second attempt as The Independent reports.

They turned off the lights and Sica began strangling her with a scarf. Botticelli urged her to pull it tighter and kicked Roccia in the stomach. Once satisfied she was dead, they looped a rope around her neck to simulate hanging…

The mother of Nadia Roccia yelled “Bravi ... finally justice for Nadia” as the sentences were read out. In imposing the toughest sentence, the court accepted the prosecution argument that the crime had been “premeditated, ferocious and for futile motives”.

Investigators are still at a loss to uncover a motive for the murder - with theories ranging from Satanic sects to prostitution rings. The pair appeared in court only once, but refused to answer questions and never showed any repentance.

It was discovered that the pair had tried to murder Roccia several months earlier. They offered her a cola drink laced with rat poison, but she refused to drink it. They made her sign a blank sheet on which they later typed a fake suicide note. “I am lesbian and in love with my best friend, that is you, my sweetest Anna Maria ... unfortunately you like men but soon you won’t have to worry about my jealousy any more,” read the note found by Roccia’s body.

Anna Maria Botticelli and Sica, both now 20, heard the sentence on television from their cell in Foggia, 90 miles from Naples. In jail they have completed their high-school leaving exam and are now studying law and economics.

Before Wednesday’s verdict Botticelli’s father pleaded: “I beg you on my knees to give these two girls a chance.”

There was widespread disbelief that Botticelli and Mariena Sica could be guilty of such a horrific murder because they were normal girls from respectable backgrounds. It was only after they were recorded admitting that they were involved, that many people acknowledged their guilt.



[Above: Erika de Nardo at letf with dark hair murdered her mother and brother]

Italy: Erika de Nardo and Omar Fasaro

Erika de Nardo came from a wealthy middle class family - her father was a factory manager and her mother was an accountant - and she grew up in an affluent part of Novi Ligure in Italy. From Wikipedia:

The crime scene, indeed, didn’t suggest a robbery: doors and windows weren’t forced and nothing precious had been stolen. Neighbours noticed nothing unusual and De Nardo’s dogs didn’t bark all evening long. Moreover, Susy and Gianluca had been over-killed (medical examiner counted almost 100 brutal wounds on their corpses), while young Erika was safe and didn’t exactly seem shocked.

She immediately described the presumed aggression she faced, but her version of the facts was full of contradictions. Policemen showed her several mugshots and she “recognized” without any doubt an Albanian teenager named Cezar: the boy was immediately interrogated but proved he had an alibi. Erika stated that she ran away from the garage’s door, but police easily observed that her footprints didn’t mark a run: in fact, she had walked quietly.

Some close friends described the 16-year-old girl as a neglectful, pampered girl, recalled she often squabbled with her parents because of her bad school marks and because her new boyfriend, a bully named Omar Favaro, was someone her mother disliked.

Investigators found Erika’s diary in her bedroom. It was full of terrible sentences such as “That damn child (her brother) made me angry today and I beat him… ” or “This is the end, Mommy, I hate you” or “However we know that everything will be finished by death” and so on. Two days later, Erika and Omar Favaro (a 17-year-old) were left alone in a room at the police station where some hidden microphones and a camera recorded their shocking confession.

It is reported that Erika even performed the very scene of the stabbing and whispered: “I hit her (referring to her mother) right here…” and recalled: “My brother was so strong, he didn’t want to die… he fought so much… was as strong as a bull… oh my God, he was my little brother! He was just eleven years old!” and later ironically asked Omar: “You enjoyed yourself by killing them, didn’t you?”.

But Omar was upset: “You don’t understand, Erika, this is not a game… two people have died… we do risk a life sentence for this!” whispered “Come here, you, murderer!” the boy screamed while shaking her. The girl stated: “I hate my mom, I hate my brother and if you keep on saying this I’ll hate you too! They (policemen and judge) can’t do anything, there are no evidences, they are to believe me!”

De Nardo’s false claim about Albanians (shades of Amanda Knox) caused immense collateral damage. There was an anti-immigrant outcry with Italian newspapers articles demanding a crackdown on illegal immigrants, and anti-immigration demonstrations.

Erika de Nardo drew only a short sentence as a minor and is due to be released in 2012. Omar Fasaro was released a few months ago.



[Above: Erika de Nardo murdered her mother and brother, above]

*******

There are some clear parallels between the Meredith Kercher case and the cases above. There was widespread disbelief that some of the highlighted killers were capable of committing brutal murders.

Like Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, many of these killers attempted to derail the police investigation. And nearly all these murderers came from respectable, middle class backgrounds, were well-educated and had no previous history of violence.

Real experts know that it is indisputable that murderers come from all walks of life. The motives behind the horrific murders described above are beyond the comprehension of any normal person, and in some of these cases a motive was never uncovered.

The claims of faux experts like Steve Moore that Amanda Knox is innocent because she doesn’t fit the profile of a someone who would kill in a violent rage are in fact the complete opposite of true.



[Above: Erika de Nardo and Omar Fasaro after their arrest in Italy]


Friday, November 12, 2010

Report Students Studying Abroad on Average Double Or Triple Their Alcoholic Intake

Posted by Peter Quennell


American embassies and other nations’ embassies abroad get to hear of hundreds of cases a year of students who got in over their heads.

In the past couple of years, there have been TWO notorious murders by foreign students in Florence alone. Florence is about one hour’s drive north of Perugia. The embassy simply shrugged and moved on as Italian justice worked its careful process through.

Both perps happened to be American, and both were high. There were no cries in those cases of anti-Americanism. Howvever, there was some troubled talk in Italy of the excesses foreign students go to.

And a lot of tightening up by the colleges who send a lot of students abroad, including the University of Washington (Amanda Knox’s college) and Pepperdine University (Steve Moore’s former college - this helped to seal his firing.)

Amanda Knox is one of the rare ones who shrugged off all home-college supervision, presumably with the okay of her parents. Meredith was closely watched over by the Erasmus scheme, which sadly did not save her life.

Now the University of Southern California’s student newspaper carries this report on one root cause of students facing foreign judges.

Students traveling abroad can keep glass half full

By Kelsey Clark of the Daily Trojan

According to researchers at the University of Washington, American college students who study abroad are likely to increase “” even triple “” their alcohol consumption while traveling internationally.

Students over the age of 21 doubled their intake of alcohol from an average of four drinks per week on campus to eight drinks per week abroad, according to a study published in the October issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. The overall increase in surveyed students’ alcohol consumption was 105 percent, while those underage students tripled their drinking with an increased consumption of 170 percent….

By consuming alcohol in excess, particularly in an unfamiliar country, the risks for students are greater than those traditionally associated with a night of drinking at USC.

Though instances of injury, crime and sexual abuse do occur as a result of binge drinking at USC, such severe ramifications are comparatively rare within the university’s party culture. Some of the more prevalent woes are students who slept through class because of a hangover or ruined a cell phone by jumping in a pool.

But students who travel abroad must take additional precautions as the heightened risks include becoming lost, getting pick-pocketed or otherwise taken advantage of.

And of course bumping some poor innocent person off.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Is The PR Campaign Finally Now Pushing Amanda Knox Very, Very Close To The Edge?

Posted by Peter Quennell


Things seem to be getting increasingly tough for Amanda Knox.

We have already posted that she seems increasingly adrift. Now consider all that is about to hit her.

1) Next week a book of interviews with Knox will be release by an Italian politician, Rocco Girlanda (image below), who we hear comes across as more than a little obsessive toward her. 

We are told that an active Italian MP is in fact legally forbidden from meddling in an ongoing case, and it seems he started the interviews with Amanda in Capanne without her even realising she was being recorded. Who knows how this book will come across in Italy, and how she will then be regarded?

2) Next week also the slander trial of Knox’s parents, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, may get under way in Perugia. We have posted repeatedly lately on what seems the real reason why Amanda Knox accused Patrick Lumumba: Sollecito had just destroyed her alibi.

Only very much later did Knox start to claim that she was driven to make her demonstrably false accusation because she was being harrassed by an interrogator. This is supported by no witnesses at all. The tough confident insouciant Amanda Knox who took the witness stand last June did not manage to make this claim sound remotely credible.

In the echo-chamber occupied by such shallow grandstanding self-servers as Steve Moore (Machine’s post below) this belated accusation somehow morphed into Prosecutor Mignini himself leading the harrassment, which was said to go on for hours and hours, with no food, no water, no lawyer, and no interpreter present in the room.

So Amanda Knox herself and her two parents are now facing their separate slander trials - Knox’s own trial will recommence in November. All three seem to be between a rock and a hard place. Either they must look all of the cops right in the eyes and say “Yes you did this” or visibly freeze or melt down emotionally on the witness stand, and end up facing possible legal punishment.

3) The Sollecitos increasingly seem to be going their own separate way. The Sollecito family trial for illegally releasing an evidence video to Telenorba showing Meredith naked at the crime scene (which stirred considerable dislike for them all across Italy) will recommence on 24 February in Perugia. Raffaele’s sister Vanessa, who was fired from her job in the Carabinieri (federal police) for trying to get politicians to use their influence for Sollecito, will also be facing her own hearing.

As we have explained so many times before, Raffaele Sollecito has NEVER endorsed Amanda Knox’s final alibi - that she was with him at his place all night. The Sollecitos do NOT like Amanda Knox or her family, and they have no time at all for the strident anti-Italianism of the PR campaign, which has done them nothing but harm.

4) Amanda Knox is now said to be pretty desperate to talk in person or on the phone with Raffaele Sollecito. This has just been approved. For each, it will be their one approved phone-call a week, and it will be monitored.

Although some of the Italian media have made light of this - that this may be a sign of love’s hot embers - the far more likely explanation is that Amanda herself and the inner Knox team are desperately worried that Sollecito could cut them adrift, and come out at appeal with a show of penitence and even a sort of explanation.

So Knox reaches out to Sollecito now in what seems to be growing desperation.

5) Hayden Panettiere is hanging around in Rome waiting for the shooting of the Lifetime movie to begin, grinning vacuously for the cameras as she thoughtlessly heaps still more pain on Meredith’s family and her friends and shows zero concern for the real victim.

To their considerable credit, Amanda Knox’s own lawyers in Perugia seem to have taken a strong dislike to Hayden Panettiere, and to the timing of the Lifetime movie. We have just now heard that they have said no to a request from Hayden Panettiere to meet with Amanda Knox in Capanne Prison. This film is likely to stir enormous controversy unless it sticks to the facts, and the facts hardly seem to favor Amanda Knox.

6) There is less sign now than there ever was that the US Rome Embassy or the State Department are inclining to intervene, even if there was an obvious way open. They know the case from end to end and they believe last year’s trial was a perfectly fair proceeding.  Just a couple of weeks ago the State Department did move actively to help some other Americans in foreign trouble, but in light of the strident anti-Italianism and the Massei Report, it just isn’t going to happen here.

7) The depth and detail and precision of the Massei Report is a nightmare for the Amanda Knox defence team. Even if all the DNA and other forensic tests are repeated, the result are very unlikely to be fully in their favor, and there’s a real chance new tests will work against them.

And now we are hearing that the opportunistic prisoners Mario Alessi and Luciano Aviello, one of who claims he was a cellmate of Rudy Guede who heard him confess, and the other who claims he is the brother of the “real” murderer, may STILL be the defense’s star witnesses at the appeal starting late in November. Both are very much reviled in Italy for their crimes, and each has a known history of lying.

So good luck to the Knox defense team with this one. Their appeal statement seems weak and disjointed. Amanda surely picks up on their despondent vibes, which hardly helps in her own struggle for emotional stability. 

***

So what do we ourselves hope for here? We hope that Amanda Knox finally breaks. Not calamitously, of course, but in a totally new direction. Maybe a shorter sentence for her. And certainly relief to the thousands this cruel senseless act toward Meredith has so very much damaged.



Thursday, September 09, 2010

Conspiracy Theorists Follow A Well Known Pattern - They ALL End Up Out Of Steam And Ignored

Posted by Stilicho



[above: conspiracy theorists don’t want you to believe that is an aircraft]

Conspiracy Theories And Those That Surround Meredith’s Murder:

What do the Apollo moon landings, the JFK assassination, the 9/11 attacks, and Meredith Kercher’s murder all have in common? 

They have each attracted the vigorous cult-like attention of conspiracy theorists.  Despite the cold hard fact that in each case there has been ample documentation to support what might best be called the official story. 

We know from independent and highly credible and very respected sources that the Apollo missions were successful, that a lone gunman shot and killed the US president in Dallas, that a terrorist group was responsible for hijacking of four aircraft, that the World Trade Center complex was destroyed by the subsequent fires..

And that Knox, Sollecito and Guede attacked and killed Meredith in her rented room in Perugia on the first of November in 2007.

Among the dozens of similarities between the Meredith case conspiracy theorists and others, we will focus on those made most apparent by the words and actions of those advocating for Knox and (occasionally) Sollecito.

A Commonality: Lack Of Any Coherent Alternate Narrative:

The court was obliged to create a logical narrative supported by the evidence.  That narrative, briefly, states that Knox and Sollecito encountered Guede after they found they had no obligations that evening, consumed drugs that lowered their inhibitions, and entered Meredith’s room. 

What followed was a sexual assault upon the young British woman, the active participation of each of the three accused, Meredith’s attempts to scream for help, and the silencing of the victim by covering her mouth, throttling her and finally stabbing her in the throat.  The three assailants then departed after locking Meredith’s bedroom door. 

Her mobile phones and keys were taken by Knox and Sollecito to be discarded in a remote location. Once it was apparent that the authorities had not responded to Meredith’s screams, Knox and Sollecito returned to the cottage to stage a break-in and to obscure as much evidence of their presence as was possible.

Those advocating for Knox and Sollecito have never supplied a coherent narrative to refute the official story.

Similarly, 9/11 truthers have never been able to agree on much apart from their strident belief that the official story simply must be wrong.  Various hypotheses have been advanced and withdrawn in the face of objections by scientists, engineers, and even rival truther factions. 

There is a no-planer faction that argues there were no planes hijacked and that all the video and film evidence was created in a government production studio.  There is a controlled demolition faction that argues government agents secretly wired unknown explosive devices in one of the busiest office buildings in the world while nobody noticed.  There are others who believe the leaseholder of the site ordered the demolition because of concerns about asbestos replacement.

When asked how Guede gained entry to the cottage, conspiracy theorists promote three main theories without selecting the one they all agree upon. 

They argue that Guede entered through Filomena’s window OR that Meredith let him in the house herself OR that he entered by unknown means and was there before she returned home at roughly 21:00.

Because conspiracy theorists are not constrained by the requirement for a logical narrative they will pick any of the three available and contradictory claims.

A Commonality: An Aversion To Respecting Good Science:

The Apollo moon landing hoaxes have a lot in common with the advocacy sites proclaiming the innocence of Knox and Sollecito. 

Apart from the development of the atomic bomb, there has likely been no human technological achievement so intensively documented as the Apollo programme.

Among the many claims of the conspiracists is the position that late-Sixties technology and instrumentation was insufficient or too bulky to allow the moon landings to take place.  They compare the size and power of 21st century computing hardware and software with that of 1969 and make their conclusions based on a perceived inadequacy of the previous era’s equipment.

In Meredith’s case there are several advocacy sites that criticise the scientific police on exactly the same basis. 

The techniques employed by (mainly) Dr Stefanoni, in determining the presence of Meredith’s DNA on a knife found in Sollecito’s drawer, are attacked partly because the equipment had not been used this way before. 

Just to be sure of their position, however, they add confidently that she simply could have faked the results or kept her tweezers in a beaker of Meredith’s DNA accidentally left in the laboratory.  It matters little to the unscientific mind of the conspiracy theorist that Stefanoni’s techniques were fully documented and observed by an independent party as required by law.

A Commonality: Lack Of A Credible Alternate Suspect:

Wrongful convictions happen.  There are dozens of them documented on a site operated by The Innocence Project, an American advocacy group.  Its banner proudly proclaims that 258 convictions had been overturned. 

The foundation seizes upon several important facets of wrongful convictions including DNA evidence and improper defence counselling. In almost all the 258 cases there is another common feature:  a credible alternate suspect.

JFK conspiracy theorists have never been able to establish a credible alternate suspect - and neither have Knox/Sollecito advocates. 

The latter have not yet gone so far as to accuse the Mafia, Fidel Castro, the Teamsters Union, LBJ, Nixon, the CIA and a man carrying an umbrella in Dealey Plaza.  But their attempt to establish Guede as the sole perpetrator accomplishes the same thing. 

Just in case the ‘lone wolf’ doesn’t make any sense, they are not beyond implicating even Filomena, falsely claiming that it is only her word against that of Knox that Meredith did not normally lock her bedroom door.

There was only one attempt to identify an alternate suspect and that was made by Knox herself.  She told police investigators that Patrick, her boss, was the killer. 

She is one step ahead of those proclaiming her innocence; she knew better than they that without another explanation it is she and Sollecito who remained the prime suspects.  She also knows, more than her supporters, that naming Guede instead would invite reciprocation.

Conclusions About Conspiracy Theorists

As briefly illustrated above, the length and depth of those being falsely implicated by the mostly anonymous Knox/Sollecito conspiracy theorists, untethered by the 80,000 pound gorilla in the room, the Massei Report, now knows few bounds.

This has now reached such levels of absurdity that they are increasingly being laughed at or, for the most part, ignored.  Nobody - really nobody - in either the Italian or American governments is paying them even the slightest attention. 

Meredith’s case is showing to the clear-thinking and objective world that Italy has an enviable justice system, that it is very careful and very humane, and that its scientific and forensic techniques are among the vanguard in applied criminal research.

And with no obvious way of obtaining special gains for themselves (or for that matter of hitting back against the anonymous attacks) the very fine police and investigators and prosecutors and judges and juries in Italy are doing the very best they can for Meredith.

Posted by Stilicho on 09/09 at 03:40 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in The wider contextsN America contextThe psychologyMore hoaxersComments here (12)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Van Der Sloot’s Attention Seeking Antics In A Peruvian Prison Are Continuing

Posted by Peter Quennell


We have periodically focussed on Joran Van Der Sloot now awaiting trial for murder in Peru because it was noted in the media that he and Amanda Knox both seem to be reveling in their prominence.

In Knox’s case, it tends to drive a new wave of media stories every few weeks (the stories now are about a new book which talks about baby adoption, and a movie) which re-energize a hard-line white knights movement that demonizes Italian officials for framing her to save face or because they don’t like Americans.

There is a present crescendo of such claims as an apparent attempt to divert attention away from the very impressive Massei Report (link at top here) the distribution of which from all sources is now pressing toward 10,000 and which seems to be convincing almost all readers that this really was a fair trial and outcome.

In Van Der Sloot’s case, the new wave of media stories every few weeks also seem aimed at attracting white knights to raising questions over his guilt and how the authorities are handling his cases in terms of competence and fairness.

1) Van Der Sloot has now gone so far as to confess now on Dutch TV that he did try to extort money from the family of disappeared Natalie Holloway - because they had been making his life hell.

“I wanted to get back at Natalee’s family “” her parents have been making my life tough for five years,” the paper quoted him as saying from prison in Peru. “When they offered to pay for the girl’s location, I thought: ‘Why not’?”

He has previously repeatedly hinted that he knows where Natalee’s body was disposed of and that he had some role in her killing. An extradition move by US law enforcement is expected.

2) Van Der Sloot seems to have posed willingly  in prison with several other inmates for a photograph that then appeared in the Peruvian media.

3) Van Der Sloot is receiving visits in prison from an apparent white knight who he is referring to as his girlfriend. 

4) There also appears to be a movie in the works by another white knight who has a history of taking the side of those who attempt to exonerate Van Der Sloot, in part by demonizing Natalee Holloway and her family.

On one side”¦.defenders of Joran van der Sloot and the Aruban authorities who consider him a prime suspect in Natalee’s disappearance but have never charged him. That defense consists mainly of character attacks on Natalee and her mother Beth Holloway Twitty.

Prominent among those pressing that case is Renee Gielen, a film maker from Curacao who produced a 2008 documentary entitled “Natalee, The Unrevealed Time Lines”“¦.a title that morphs on screen to “Natalee, The Unrevealed Time Lies.”  The film was widely attacked on line as a cover up and vicious attack on Natalee and her family. Others saw it as a defense of both the van der Sloot family and Aruban authorities.

And so we get to read about them periodically, at least until they grow somewhat older. The customary trend then is for such stories to drop dead.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 09/06 at 02:39 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Other legal processesThose elsewhereThe psychologyComments here (1)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Similarities Between Amanda Knox And A Teenage American Drug Addict Just Murdered In Mexico

Posted by Peter Quennell




Pretty, popular 18-year old Elizabeth Mandala (half Mexican, half Italian) was from Sugar Land, a rich outer suburb west of Houston in Texas.

That Fox report above of her very violent death was broadcast three months ago, when Elizabeth Mandala was found beaten to death with two unnamed Mexicans in a very dangerous part of north Mexico.

It appears she was already very deeply into addictive drugs. To support her addiction, she had secretly worked as a stripper, and she was secretly seeking to become a “mule” or “coyote” to move drugs or illegal immigrants across the Mexico border into Texas.

Although very under-reported by an American media that wants to give her every possible break, Amanda Knox was a KNOWN drug user back in Seattle.

And around Perugia, the perception of people who encountered Knox and Sollecito is that she was close to becoming or was already a cocaine addict. The same with Sollecito. They are still both referred to as coke-heads.

Possessing and using drugs both in the US and in Italy is of course a crime. It often results in stiff sentences. Prior to Meredith’s death, Knox seems to have already broken the drug laws of two countries, and quite possibly of a third (Germany). 

And this possible drug addict was already down to her last $5,000 or so, and she may have already lost the waitress job which she desperately needed.

This could have been making her desperate and dangerous. Prosecutor Mignini and Judge Micheli both seemed to think it was she that stole Meredith’s rent money which went missing on the night of the murder.

Here now is a long and well-investigated report in last Wednesday’s Houston Press on the circumstances of Elizabeth Mandala’s death. It is well worth reading in full.

You can bet your bottom dollar this story was read in full by a million anxious Houston-area parents, who in turn leaned a little harder on their own little darlings to keep them as far as possible away from drugs.

Paul Knight’s report makes it very clear that EVEN IF THEY WANT TO and it seems they very rarely do, the US State Department and the US Embassies and the FBI will NOT get involved in foreign crimes involving Americans when drugs are one of the factors.

Along with the mountain of evidence, this would help explain the cool attitude toward Knox’s case of the American Embassy in Rome, of Hillary Clinton and the State Department in Washington, and increasingly of that muddled Senator, Maria Cantwell.

Edda Mellas, if you or Curt Knox knew Amanda was on drugs, common knowledge in her circle in Seattle, you REALLY should have stepped in and stopped her. Stopped her drug-use, stopped her going to Perugia and in effect stopped her from killing Merediith.

So. Why didn’t you?






Saturday, July 24, 2010

Master Manipulators, Masks, and Murder: Parallels Of The Amanda Knox And Scott Peterson Cases

Posted by giustizia



Laci Peterson was soon to give birth in California in December of 2002.

On Christmas Eve, her husband Scott reported her missing. In April of the following year, her body and the body of her unborn son Connor were discovered in the San Francisco Bay.

Five years later, in Italy, on 2 November 2007, foreign study student Amanda Knox was at her rental home with her Italian lover Raffaele Sollecito in Perugia, Italy, when the postal police arrived early one morning to return some cell phones traced to her flatmates; the phones had been found dumped in a nearby garden.

Shortly after, the shocking discovery was made that her flat mate Meredith Kercher had been murdered.

Parallels Between The Perpetrators And Their Crimes And Court Cases

There are some striking parallels between Amanda Knox and Scott Peterson and their crimes and convictions.

The horrific murders of two beautiful young women (one almost at the end of the full-term pregnancy of her first child) unleashed in each case a maelstrom of publicity rarely seen in search of the murderer.

When arrests were made, there also came the stunning revelation in each case that the accused was well-known to the victim ““ in Laci’s case, it was her husband, Scott Peterson; in Meredith’s case, it was her roommate, Amanda Knox.

Ultimately, three people were arrested for the murder of Meredith (a fourth person arrested, Patrick Lumumba, who was falsely accused by Knox as Meredith’s murderer, was released when his solid alibi was proven). Of the three people arrested for the murder of Meredith Kercher, it appeared to the prosecutors that Amanda Knox was the instigator of the crime.

In each trial, the defendant presented a seemingly normal and middle-class appearance. Neither defendant had a significant history of violence or widely-obvious mental illness. Their families insist on their innocence. Yet both were convicted of brutal murders.

Knox and Peterson were each described by casual acquaintances, neighbors and friends as nice, regular people.

Ann Bird, Peterson’s half-sister, described him as being “charismatic, charming, courteous, polite.”  On Dateline NBC television, a friend of Amanda Knox described her as being “generous, kind, genuine, optimistic, bubbly. Pretty much all the good words that you can find in a dictionary, she was.” 

But they proved superficial assessments that in fact really only scratched the surface.

Parallels: Amanda Knox’s Reckless, Odd Behavior, And Her Lies

Amanda Knox had been cited and she had received a fine (a sentence which could have been much more severe) for disturbing the peace and throwing rocks at a party in Seattle shortly before her departure to Italy.

Knox abruptly and without clear reason dropped a much-sought-after internship in Berlin, Germany, before arriving in Italy.

She posted a vignette on Facebook about a sexual liaison she had with a stranger, a middle-aged man, while on a train in Italy.

Her roommate Meredith had quickly become disenchanted with the American flatmate who brought home different men without warning. “So she’s [Meredith] waking up in the morning and there’s someone making tea. And it’s, who are you again?” commented Meredith’s friend Brittany Murphy on the subject of Meredith’s unease at the strangers Knox brought to their rented Italian home.

Richard Owen, the Italy correspondent of the London Times in Italy, who has written multiple stories on the case, stated that Knox brought home “people who Meredith Kercher distrusted. Didn’t like the look of. It got to the point where she actually confronted Amanda about this.”

And Amanda Knox’s behavior after the Meredith’s murdered body was found in their rental home was more than atypical for someone who had their flatmate killed in such a horrific fashion in such close proximity.

  • “As she put them on she swiveled her hips, pulled a face and said ‘hop la’ - I thought it was very unusual behavior and my suspicions against her were raised.” (Edgardo Giobbi, a police forensic scientist, testifying in court, describing Knox’s behavior just hours after the murder, after he handed Knox a pair of shoe-covers to prevent contaminating the evidence during a search of the house. Sky News, UK, May 30, 2009.)
  • “While I was [at the police station] I found Amanda’s behavior very strange. She had no emotion while everyone else was upset. I remember one thing that really upset me. [Meredith’s friend] Natalie said, ‘I hope she wasn’t in too much pain.’ Amanda said, ‘What do you think? She fucking bled to death.’ At that point no one had told us how Meredith died.”  (Robyn Butterworth, a friend of Kercher’s, testifying in court. London Evening Standard, Feb. 13, 2009.)
  • “Their behavior at the police station seemed to me really inappropriate ... They sat opposite each other, Amanda put her feet up on Raffaele’s legs and made faces at him. Everyone cried except Amanda and Raffaele. I never saw them crying. They were kissing each other.” (Amy Frost, a friend of Meredith’s and a student at the University for Foreigners in Perugia at the time, testifying in court. The Independent, London, Feb. 14, 2009.)
  • “My daughter was a Leeds student with Meredith in Perugia. They went out together on Halloween. When Amanda Knox was asked how she felt on 2 November, she said: “Shit happens”, which contrasts rather sharply with the contrived way she addressed the Italian court about “my friend Meredith”.  (Marc Rivalland, in a letter to the editor of the Observer commenting on the Knox case. The Guardian, UK, 12/13/2009.)
  • “They came into the shop at about 7 p.m. and were there for about 20 minutes. She bought a camisole and G-string. I heard her tell him that “˜Afterwards I’m going to take you home and put this on so we can have wild sex together.” (Store owner Carlo Maria Scotto di Rinaldi’s testimony in court about Knox and Sollecito’s behavior in his store, taped on closed-circuit TV.)
  • “Knox and Sollecito were seen laughing as they hold up various G-strings. In one still shot taken from the footage, Raffaele is standing behind Amanda with his hands on her hips and his groin pressed into her. It was the same day as the candle light vigil memorial for Meredith, a few days after her murder.” (Excerpt from the book Angel Face by Barbie Nadeau.)

Perhaps the most controversial claim in the Knox trial was Knox’s accusation of Patrick Lumumba as the murderer of Meredith Kercher. Lumumba was placed under arrest and jailed for two weeks, until his solid alibi set him free.

Knox, who said nothing to help him during the two weeks Lumumba was incarcerated, changed her story after he was freed. She then claimed she was coerced by the police into making confusing statements. Knox’s parents made charges of human rights violations and anti-Americanism against the Italian justice system, though to date the U.S. government has refused to become involved.

  • “He’s bad. He did it. He killed her”¦It was him, it was him, he was crazy, he killed her.” (Amanda Knox’s statements, according to police at the police station, accusing Patrick Lumumba of murdering Meredith Kercher. The Daily Telegraph, UK, March 6, March 21, 2009)
  • “She was angry I was firing her and wanted revenge. By the end, she hated me. But I don’t even think she’s evil. To be evil you have to have a soul. Amanda doesn’t. She’s empty, dead inside. She’s the ultimate actress, able to switch her emotions on and off in an instant. I don’t believe a word she says. Everything that comes out of her mouth is a lie. But those lies have stained me forever.” (Patrick Lumumba, bar owner in Perugia and Knox’s boss. Daily Mail, UK, November 25, 2007)


Parallels: Scott Peterson’s Reckless, Odd Behavior And His Lies

Scott Peterson had all the appearances of an upwardly mobile middle-class white-collar worker. He was a salesman with a pretty wife and a baby on the way, and they owned a nice home in Modesto, California.

His friends and family described him as charismatic and friendly. But under the surface was a lifestyle filled with lies and mistresses.

Scott Peterson had hooked up with a mistress, Amber Frey, in November of 2002, leaving his pregnant wife home alone during the holiday season to see Amber Frey, with excuses of business meetings.

Peterson told Amber Frey that he was a widow, and also that he was traveling in France when he was actually in California - two of many false claims Peterson made to her.

  • “I’m near the Eiffel Tower. The New Year’s celebration is unreal. The crowd is huge.”  (Scott Peterson, from a taped telephone conversation to his mistress Amber Frey, telling her he is in Paris, when he is really in Modesto, California, about to attend a candle-light vigil for his missing wife. Dateline, NBC, 1/4/2005)

Shortly after Laci Peterson was reported missing, that candle light vigil was held for Laci. It was on New Year’s Eve.

  • ”˜Three witnesses testified that Peterson’s behavior at the candle-light vigil seemed inappropriate for a worried husband. One woman said that he showed no emotion during the service and was grinning as he “socialized” with friends afterwards.’  (From The Murder of Laci Peterson, TrueTV.com)

The jurors were shown a photo of the grinning Peterson at the vigil at the trial as evidence. He called his mistress before and after the vigil ceremony, while Laci’s distraught family members tried to cope with the situation of their missing relative.

  • “Scott came in with a great big smile on his face, laughing, it was just another day in paradise for Scott, another day that he had to go through the motions,” said one juror, Mike Belmessieri. “Scott had no emotion on his face. Scott was being Scott.” (Juror of the Scott Peterson Trial, commenting on his unusually cool demeanor in court. New York Times, March 17. 2005)

Shades of Amanda…

  • “The cartwheels? This is Amanda just being Amanda. As her friends would say, it’s an Amanda thing.” (Edda Mellas, commenting on Knox turning cartwheels at the police station. The Guardian, UK, June 27. 2009)
  • “I couldn’t help but think how cool and calm Amanda was. Meredith’s other friends were devastated and I was upset, but Amanda was as cool as anything and completely emotionless. Her eyes didn’t seem to show any sadness, and I remember wondering if she could have been involved.” (Giacomo Silenzi, Meredith’s Italian boyfriend who lived in the apartment downstairs from the murder. Metro.co.uk, November 18, 2007)

Parallels In Forensic Evidence

In both cases, there were no eye witnesses or “smoking gun.”

In Scott Peterson’s case, the ONLY piece of hard evidence was a single strand of Laci’s hair, found on pliers in Scott’s boat, which the defense charged as being contaminated evidence. The rest of the evidence at his trial was circumstantial.

Both the circumstantial and forensic evidence in the Knox trial were more considerable. Key items of hard evidence included a knife found in Sollecito’s apartment that had Meredith’s DNA on the tip and Knox’s DNA on the handle, and it was presumed to be one of the murder weapons.

A bloody footprint, the size of Knox’s foot, was found on a pillow underneath Meredith’s body. Mixed DNA material of both Knox and Meredith were found in several spots in the house where the murder occurred.

Parallels In Strange Coincidences

Laci and Connor’s bodies were found in the water in the bay area of San Francisco. Scott Peterson happened to own a boat and liked to fish ““ in fact, he said he went fishing on Christmas Eve, the day Laci disappeared, at a location where later the bodies turned up only about 3 miles away.

Meredith was sexually molested and killed by knife wounds. Raffaele Sollecito has a fascination with knives and he owns a large collection. Amanda Knox created and posted a fictitious story about rape on the Internet.

Sollecito posted a photo of himself on the Internet swathed in bandages and holding a large meat cleaver and a jug of a chemical-looking liquid. Knox and Sollecito were the only ones at the house on the day when the police showed up and later discovered Meredith’s body.

The juries in both trials concluded that these factors were more than mere coincidences, and represented incriminating evidence of guilt of the crime.


Parallels In How The Families Supported Their Children

Not all convicted murderers have a history of mental disturbance or violence. If there were any red flags regarding Knox’s and Peterson’s behavior, one would not know it from the descriptions provided by their families:

  • ”˜Lee Peterson said his son never posed a discipline problem, did not rebel as a teenager and was a perfect baby. He was said even to lose golf games because he did not want to hurt the feelings of his opponents. ‘‘He woke up smiling and went to bed smiling.’’  (Scott Peterson’s father of his son, testifying to the jury after Scott’s guilty verdict but before sentencing.  New York Times, December 2, 2004)
  • “She was an incredible easy-going kid even from a baby. She was so mellow”¦She loved being read-to, she loved books. As she got a little older she always wanted to be outside - building camps, playing soccer. She never watched a lot of TV - she still doesn’t. She was an excellent student.” (Edda Mellas, commenting on Amanda Knox’s character the week of her guilty verdict. The Sun, UK, December 5, 2009)

Parallels In Family And Groupie Websites

Peterson and Knox’s families insist on their innocence. There are family and groupie websites for each convicted murderer. They each proclaim innocence for the guilty, make charges of police incompetence, and make requests for money for the defense cause and legal expenses:

  • “Scott Peterson Family Mission Statement: “˜This web-site is a combined effort of our family and our support system. We know Scott is innocent and that he has been unjustly convicted. Our pursuit of justice for Laci, Conner and Scott remains steadfast. We want to keep you informed as to the specifics of the case, the appeal, and related topics. We also want you to know how grateful we are for your prayers and support.’ (From: http://scottpetersonappeal.org/)
  • “Amanda Knox - A heartfelt thanks for your support. On behalf of Amanda and her family, we want to thank everyone who has contacted FOA to express their concern and to offer help in the wake of an unjust and unsupportable guilty verdict. We are developing a strategy to raise public awareness of this case and help bring about a reversal of the verdicts against both Amanda and Raffaele. Once it is in place, we will welcome all the help we can get, and we will be in touch with you.” (From http://www.friendsofamanda.org/home_eng.htmleartfelt)

Parallels In The Verdicts Jurors Delivered: Guilty As Charged

The jurors in each trial fitted together all the pieces of the puzzle: timelines, witness testimony, cell-phone records, forensic evidence, lack of solid alibis, incriminating lies, and odd behavior of the defendants.

They each concluded after lengthy deliberation that the defendants were guilty of murder.

Non-Parallels In How The US Media Has Reported Both Cases

Of these two cases, not many people have questioned the jury’s decision in the Scott Peterson trial. He has been sentenced to death via lethal injection, and he is currently incarcerated in San Quentin prison in California.

There are no repeated media interviews of Peterson’s mother in tears, insisting on his innocence and his release from prison. There are no angry declarations from Peterson family that the police, prosecution and legal system abused, railroaded and framed Scott Peterson.

If such media coverage were to exist, it would be widely considered in the US to be extremely upsetting and insulting to Laci’s parents and family and to the memory of the victims Laci and Connor.

Peterson’s media coverage, thankfully, has dissipated. He still pursues an appeals process, possibly to be heard next year by the California Supreme Court.

Amanda Knox’s story plays out very differently. After her arrest, her family hired a public relations team that puts forth a determined effort to change Knox’s image of wild child and murderer and to keep her in the news.

They obviously do not consider their repeated loud public outcries for release of their daughter distressing to Meredith’s parents and family, and they don’t perceive their actions as being disrespectful to the victim, Meredith.

Or of course, as many people suspect, perhaps Knox’s relatives do realize it but they simply don’t care.

Non Parallels In Future Legal Prospects

Imprisoned in Italy, Knox has been sentenced to 26 years in prison. Italian prosecutors are now appealing that decision, and asking for life in prison. But regardless of this and the PR campaign, Knox’s prospects are considerably brighter than Peterson’s: she gets two automatic appeals and the worst case scenario is she serves life in prison.

Scott Peterson sits on death row in San Quentin Prison in California, waiting for the legal process to move his appeals case along.

It is curious that the fervent supporters of Amanda Knox do not crusade for the release of Scott Peterson as well. After all, he was convicted on LESS direct evidence, and also in the midst of a maelstrom of publicity. CNN.com had called the Peterson prosecution case so weak and “unimpressive” that they speculated that he could end up with a “Not Guilty” verdict.

But with the exception of his own family, no one has picked up beating the drum to overturn the jury’s conviction of Peterson. Perhaps it is because Peterson doesn’t fit well the damsel in distress role? More likely, it is because the American public trusted the jury’s assessment of the evidence and trial, as they and the American media usually do, and they feel that the jury delivered a just verdict, and justice to Laci and Connor Peterson.


Epilogue ““ Master Manipulators

How is it possible that two “regular” people like Knox and Peterson ended up in jail for horrendous murders? Below is a condensed version from an AP article about the type of personality attributed to Scott Peterson:

It is interesting to note that life transitions are tremendous stresses to a psychopath. Psychopaths also wear “false faces” and are master manipulators. They are the ultimate con artists and they are able to fool even those closest to them.

Peterson’s closest friends “never suspected there was a monster inside Scott’s psyche.
Motive still a question in Peterson case
By the Associated Press
Tuesday, December 21, 2004

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP)””Of all the questions surrounding the Laci Peterson murder case, the one that seemed to be running through practically everyone’s mind was this: If Scott Peterson was so unhappy in his marriage, why didn’t he just get a divorce?

Experts on the criminal mind say the answer may lie in what lurked beneath Scott Peterson’s charming veneer “”a psychopathic personality.

“When you say you’re going to get a divorce, everyone knows that it’s a long, tedious process. The psychopath wants the short-term solution,” said San Diego forensic psychologist Reid Meloy.

Peterson, 32, was convicted earlier this month of murdering his eight-months-pregnant wife and the fetus she was carrying, and the jury decided he deserves the death penalty.

Criminal psychologists say Peterson appeared to be a master manipulator who lacked the capacity to feel remorse or consider consequences “”some of the same psychopathic characteristics exhibited by serial killers Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.

Psychopaths “tend to con people very well and they wear false faces,” said former FBI profiler Robert Ressler. “They tend to be able to fool everyone from their families to their friends to society, schools, their community.”

At Peterson’s trial, prosecutors portrayed him as a callous liar who continued to carry on an extramarital affair even as police searched for his wife. They said he killed her to escape marriage and impending fatherhood for the freewheeling single life.

Whether Laci’s pregnancy was the catalyst for Peterson’s plan may never be known. But experts said pregnancy can lead to seismic changes within a relationship.

Pregnancy “represents commitment, fatherhood, another dependent, a lifelong bond ... and all of those things are strongly despised by the psychopath,” Meloy said”¦ pregnancy represents a life transition, and there are stresses around that transition.”

Peterson’s case was made all the more perplexing by the lack of signs that the couple’s marriage was in trouble. Although Peterson had cheated on Laci at least three times, according to defense attorney Mark Geragos, he appeared to family and friends to be a doting husband and father-to-be after Laci became pregnant.

Those closest to the couple said they never suspected there was a monster inside.

Heather Richardson, the maid of honor at the Petersons’ wedding, is still hoping for a plausible explanation to emerge. Perhaps, she said, Peterson suffers from a disorder that has yet to be revealed.

“It would be at least comforting. Then I would realize that the person I knew and loved dearly was there. He was that person and the other person, too,” Richardson said. “So at least part of him was not a lie.”

And A Last Word On Masks

Here is Amanda Knox in her own words about masks “” while taking the stand for the final time at her trial in Italy (CNN, Dec. 3, 2009): “They say that I am calm. I am not calm ... I fear to lose myself, to have the mask of the assassin forced upon me.”

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

For all the sources used here, please “Click For More” below the videos for Laci and Meredith

Click here for the rest


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

That Pesky Confession: Now Joran Van Der Sloot Is Trying Hard To Backpedal

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for another seeming parallel with Perugia.

When the police first confronted him, Van Der Sloot seemed eager to talk and to tell a version of the violent murder of Stephany Flores in which he was involved. Presumably to get a few breaks as the prisons in Peru sound like they are no party.

Van Der Sloot now seems to be trying hard to re-bottle that particular genie.

His own line here is that the confession he gave was on bad advice from his first lawyer, Ms Luz Romero Chinchay. He now has his current lawyer, Maximo Altez, suing her for “misrepresentation”.

However, a Lima Peru judge ruled several weeks ago that the confession itself was perfectly valid. And it looks like he will be facing some horrific new charges as well. 

For sex trafficking. The kidnapping and enslaving of women for sex. What he might have been trying to do with poor Natalie Holloway, who vanished while on vacation in Aruba.

It seems Van Der Sloot is sitting on some money but apparently not what he thinks he is worth. And (surprise, surprise) Van Der Sloot’s mom refuses to visit him in jail.


Friday, June 11, 2010

The Charging Of The Stephany Flores Murder Suspect In Lima Peru This Morning

Posted by Peter Quennell


The Lima + Aruba Murder Suspect Appears To Be Frantically Dealing: A Lesson For AK And RS?

Posted by Peter Quennell


Not surprising considering the thought of this.

That would grab any half-smart perp’s attention. Smart of the Lima authorities to make that hellish future quite plain.

Dealing is the only way Van Der Sloot can go now, several of our lawyer posters believe. His latest defense lawyer was talking of trying to have his confession to Stephany’s murder revoked, apparently on the grounds that his first lawyer (from Peruvian legal aid) was not a “real lawyer” whatever that means.

Perhaps he is not thinking things through.

Rudy Guede clearly dealt with the system too. He gave away a few things, but not very much (less than we would have liked) but still, he did end up facing only 16 years.

There is a rumor (just a rumor at the moment) out of Italy that Sollecito might - might - be separating himself out. He just might have offered to talk, and to do some sort of a deal.

Our lawyers suspect that Della Vedova and Ghirga might have wanted to try to deal for Amanda Knox too - maybe a psychological or hard-drugs based defense.

But that the hard-liners on the Knox bandwagon in Seattle and elsewhere (Preston, Ciolino, Anne Bremner, Michael Heavey, John Q Kelly, and so on) seem to have duped the Knoxes and Mellases into thinking that an innocence outcome was a very high probability with a hard-line PR campaign and defense.

And now look at where Amanda Knox stands. Not at all pretty. 

In our lawyers’ views, what is the worst move of all moves that the Knox bandwagon drivers and the AK groupies have made?

Arguing that this was simply a lone-wolf attack, and probably only by a seemingly very very very nimble Rudy Guede.

A lone-wolf- attack was totally ruled out over a year ago by Judge Micheli.

He based that on (1) the evidence from Meredith’s autopsy which showed 100% that two or three had to have been involved, (2) the overwhelming signs of a clean-up and the moving of Meredith’s body - several hours after the attack, (3) the various witness statements, and (4) the total meltdown of AK’s and RS’s various alibis.

And the AK + RS sentencing report due out soon on PMF and TJMK in English will be absolutely the kiss of death to any serious defense based on the lone-wolf scenarios (such as they are).

There is not the slightest possibility that Meredith was attacked by just one perp - with TWO knives - while being sexually attacked - while attracting all of THOSE wounds to her body - and not revealing ANY signs of being able to fight back.

Frankly, if the lone-wolf theory is the Knox campaign’s last best shot,  Amanda Knox is well and truly cooked.  She might still achieve a shorter sentence, some final peace of mind for Meredith’s family and friends, and some self-respect for herself through the rest of her life.

But she does need to deal.


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Knox, Anthony, and Van Der Sloot: Why Some Murder Suspects Revel In Their Sudden Prominence

Posted by Peter Quennell



Click here for Barbie Nadeau’s report on bizarre murder suspect mindsets in Newsweek.

Quite typical of charming psychopaths.

Today Barbie Nadeau starts with the Dutch murder suspect Joran Van der Sloot, possible killer of 21-year-old Stephany Flores Ramirez, whose capture in Chile and extradition to Peru (video above) has been on every US newscast.

He has previously been shown on TV in an interview secretly filmed (video below) in which he gleefully pretty well admits that he killed American student Natalee Holloway in Aruba, a Caribbean island that is an integral part of the kingdom of the Netherlands.

Now, as such smug suspects often do, he seems to have killed again.

In this case, as in the case of Casey Anthony, who is charged with killing her baby daughter Caylee, there has been no murder suspect’s PR campaign, no adolescent sliming of the prosecutors, and no adolescent mis-stating of the evidence. The true victim is the one getting all the sympathy.

The far more typical stance of the US media in such cases.

Certainly no one is more famous as an irreverent celebrity suspect than Seattle native Amanda Knox, who is serving a 26-year sentence for the sexual assault and murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy.

In the early days of the Kercher murder investigation, Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, acted absurdly. Knox, with no apparent grasp of the seriousness of a murder investigation, performed cartwheels for the cops in the police station waiting room.

The two suspects admitted to being high before talking to police, as Sollecito said, “to take the edge off.” They told investigators multiple stories and lies, including Knox’s naming her Congolese nightclub boss as the real assassin.

For added flavor, she even described Kercher’s screams to investigators. During her 11-month trial, she behaved like a beauty queen on the runway, making what jurors later called a mockery of the court by her blatant disrespect of the Italian legal system.

In the final days of her trial, when things were looking grim, she started to act demure. By then it was too late.

Dupes like Oprah and Geraldo Rivera and certain others should wake up to the true danger of charming psychopaths. They do tend to kill again. And also wake up to the one true victim in Perugia, whose name was Meredith Kercher.

By the way, in a bizarre parallel, it now seems that Joran Van Der Sloot is setting out to further entangle his mother.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Chilling Killing Propensities Of Sollecito’s Various Knives

Posted by SomeAlibi



[click for larger image]

The few rather puerile websites trying to make the case that Knox and Sollecito were framed all have this one thing in common.

They are all of them a mile or more wide on the facts of the evidence - but only a millimeter or so deep.

Time and again on some point of evidence TJMK and PMF have gone far, far deeper than they have - and from then on, on that particular point, deafening silence is quite usual. Here is one very good example, on TJMK, highly incriminating in itself, and highly suggestive of when and how Edda Mellas first realised her daughter was guilty.

On that point of hard evidence, almost enough to incriminate Amanda all by itself, there has never been any real comeback. The PR campaign’s Wizard of Oz moves on. 

Now we advance another in-depth analysis. This time it focuses on the really deadly nature of Sollecito’s various knives, and we’ll await the comeback if any with interest.

In effect, the deniers’ argument made is that Sollecito is not a collector or an aficionado, just a young man who might need to cut an apple with a pocket-knife. And he’s certainly not a hardcore knife collector, collecting fantasy-wish-list knives.

Carrying a pocket-knife above a certain size in public is illegal in Italy. But ignoring that technicality for a minute, let’s examine the knives of Raffaele Sollecito which were impounded during his arrest. Three knives, moving up in degrees of interest, not counting the very large knife prosecution witnesses identified as the murder weapon.

Knife Three

Take a look at the image up the top here. This knife actually hung above Sollecito’s bed.

It is a replica combat knife. The heavy t-bar protection is designed to protect the hand of the knife-user from slipping onto the blade when being used to stab another person, as well as to protect the user against another blade.

Blood grooves exist for only one purpose - as they imply, they are there for when one stabs someone deeply with the knife: they allow the blood to run out down the grooves. This breaks the seal and suction of the enclosing wound around the blade which makes the knife far easier to withdraw

That knife is specifically designed for stabbing people as well as cutting sentries’ throats etc. The female arm in the picture is Amanda’s by the way (you can find the zoomed-out version showing all of Amanda in the PMF gallery), as it was taken when she was being shown the knife in court.

She must have recognized it, of course, since it was from Raffaele’s bedroom, and would have been a rather noticeable discussion piece within view whenever Knox was in the room or laying on the bed.

Many teenagers and young adults put the objects of their highest interest and infatuation, from bands to film-stars, on their walls. Raffaele chose to put a knife designed for killing people on his wall.

It would be a lurking and incongruous presence on a small student-sized bedroom wall in the minds of the vast majority of people. The question of Raffaele’s degree of attraction to knives such that he actively chose to mount a replica combat knife on his bedroom wall doesn’t appear to need much further discussion.

And yet, it’s actually only less than a third of the equation as it was only a replica. Now let’s turn to two real knives - his so-proclaimed pocket knives - which Raffaele confirmed in his own words that he carried on him every day for years, and which tell a more subtle and deeper story.

First, consider what is the meaning of a pocket knife to you.

The phrase “˜pocket knife’ has been translated from the Italian from the transcripts / press coverage. For many, including myself, this will have conjured a mental image of a Swiss Army type knife or a simple blade and indeed this is the prevalent definition of a conventional pocket knife.

Let’s actually have a look at Raffaele’s “pocket knives” courtesy of pictures posted by poster Jools on PMF. These knives were impounded, one from the apartment and one, unbelievably, from Raffaele’s person at the Questura.

In the case of the latter, even Raffaele saw this as a devastating “own-goal” as we can read from his diary entry of 7 November 2007; “I’m not even able to offer guilt, given my deep fu**ing stupidity for the fact that I smoke cannabis I even forget what I have eaten and also for that I carry behind a knife to nock the tables and the trees and I carry it so often that I brought it also to the police headquarters.”

Knife Two



[click for larger image]

This is a 2.9 inch blade drop point, near spear point knife. At first glance (apart from the mark on the clip which should be ignored and was benign), the deniers camp might say “Well, look at it - it’s just a pocket knife even if it looks a bit sharp and so on ““ look, it’s even got a cute clip for the pocket, like on a pen.”

Let’s start there. The clip is actually a reversible one ““ it can be taken off and re-screwed to the knife to the user’s side / orientation of preference. This is already a proper knife rather than a cheap shop pick-up.

More obviously, the half-serrated edge to the blade for cutting is an active design (and purchase) feature.

Third, the “˜grind’ on the top the blade shows an aesthetic sensibility to the design but also serves a functional purpose for a cutting or stabbing use in terms of reducing friction.

Fourth, the serrations or (quite aggressive) “˜jimping’ on the top of the handle, just behind the blade are there to provide thumb grip.

Quite a lot of design features on this knife for a casual “pocket knife” one might think.

Which leaves us with the odd bar code thing at the top edge of the blade and the indistinct logo on the blade. Let’s see what that logo is with a little enhancing;



[click for larger image]

“˜Brian Tighe Design’. Brian Tighe?? Google sets us straight on who he is.

“You’d need a calculator to count the number of custom knife-makers who have jumped into the tactical fray over the past five years. You can tally the cream of the crop on two hands, being sure to earmark one of those digits for knifemaker Brian Tighe. In a matter of just a couple of years Tighe (pronounced “Tie”) has risen from the rank and file of edged weapons artisans to the rarefied air of the top 10 elite.”

A look at Tighe’s site shows that his own company’s knives sell for 500 dollars and up. He is a globally feted knife designer whose wait list for his knives was as high as seven years at one point.

So the design of the knife here is actually that of a noted master knife maker. Almost something one might collect, one might say. As loaded as Papa Doc Sollecito is, did Raffaele really spend over 500 dollars on such a knife?

Well no, actually, he didnt need to. This is a Columbia River Knife & Tool produced 811x series knife bearing Brian Tighe’s name. CRKT are a dedicated knife company who specialise in working with the world’s leading knife designers and producing the knives for a bigger market but still as proper aficionado pieces.

At this level of knife, there are extensive magazine, web and “˜user’ reviews. Knives like this are tested for resilience and sharpness including things like edge-on paper-cut tests where paper is cut through just like a razor from the side of a piece of paper held by one hand.

Such a knife is able to catch the edge of the paper and then slice straight through the width of the paper side-on without any tension in the paper. That’s what a knife like this is capable of. A “pocket knife” to me sounds like something picked up for 10 or 20 euro. The current model that replaced Raffaele’s now out-of-series model sells for about $80 at retail. Here’s the actual 2004 model that Raffaele had i.e. the same as the one above;



[click for larger image]

Worth looking at that for a second or two… Oh the bar code? It’s not a bar code, it a rectangular thumb stud you flick the knife open with. When you do, the knife goes to a locked position unlike many “pocket-knives”. In English speaking knife circles, these knives are not generally referred to as pocket-knives but are called “Tactical Knives” which are a cross-over of usage knives for outdoors / cutting etc but also for personal “protection”.

So, in addition to the wall-mounted replica combat knife, one of Raffaele’s daily carries (see diary / testimony) was a designer thumb-flicked locking tactical knife with jimping, top blade grind, switchable clip and a razor sharp edge costing about 80 bucks. That you can only carry in your pocket. Illegally. Some apple-cutter.

Let’s take a look now at the most worrying knife of all…

Knife One

At first glimpse, this “pocket knife” looks quite martial arts like, given the hole and the weird top edge of the blade and the spider logo.



[click for larger image]

The logo marks this as a Spyderco knife ““ a large premium knife manufacturer of tactical and many other types of knives. This particular model is a Delica4 Emerson Opener retailing for about $109.95rrp. Of particular note about this knife is the hole and the top edge. The hole, a Spyderco feature, allows a thumb to flick the blade open very quickly. This knife is about speed.

But actually the thumb hole is not the real speed feature ““ that is reserved for the top edge curl.

This is a truly specialist feature known as an Emerson Opener or “wave”. The idea is that the curl in metal catches on the edge of a pocket edge on drawing the knife and opens it immediately (see videos below).

This is a speciality feature licensed from Emerson knives ““ Emerson being another feted “˜name’ knife designer. The wave is only present on two of Spyderco’s 330 knives listed on their website ““ the Delica and the ¾ inch larger sister knife the Endura (“the best self defence knife in the world” according to one enthusiastic teenager on youtube). That’s how specialist it is.

The job of the wave feature is to provide the fastest opening knife in the world bar none ““ faster than a flick or spring knife in fact. This video (many similar to be found) gives a rather disturbing insight into what the real attraction of owning this knife is to a hardcore knife knut like Raffaele; (remember when you watch this for the first time that the knife is closed inside that pocket and also enable the sound on the embedded player below by clicking off the mute)

If I thought my son had a penknife, but then actually saw him with this, we would be having a very long chat..

“Enough!” the deniers say?! “You’ve still got it in for Raffaele haven’t you?” they say?! Despite the replica combat knife on the bedroom wall, the designer Brian Tighe Design CRKT drop-point and the Spyderco Delica4 with wave design)?  “You’ve used prejudicial phrases like “hardcore knife knut” haven’t you?” they say?!

Sorry, but don’t look at me. They’re not my words.

They’re the words of Spyderco itself on its own webpage. See here and below. 



[click for larger image]

Raffaele was out to impress Amanda and by his own admission both obsessive about her and a hardcore stoner. He also thought knives - proper knives with exclusive features by name knife designers not pocket knives were fascinating.

As with all of this case and any case, you REALLY need to look at the detailed evidence.

The overwhelming prevalence of skin-deep level of analysis / downplaying of this case by much of the deniers camp will lend and always has lent itself to people dismissing serious evidence as inconsequential based on their lack of understanding of what actually is in question.

The “mere pocket-knife” impression of Raffaele’s interest in knives is a clear case in hand. Raffaele’s father testified in court that his son carried a pen-knife. Some pen-knives or pocket-knives these really were…

As always with this case, when you take the time to look at the real detail, the reality you find is something far more disturbing…..


Monday, May 03, 2010

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

Posted by Peter Quennell


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

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

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

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


**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


***********

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe the second correction is not such a small one.

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

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

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





Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Transcript Of Today’s Online Chat Session With Barbie Nadeau Of The Daily Beast

Posted by Peter Quennell


Lucas Wittmann:
Hi, I’m the Books Editor at The Daily Beast and I’m delighted to welcome Barbie Latza Nadeau and our readers to discuss her new book, Angel Face…

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I’m Barbie Latza Nadeau. Welcome.

[Comment From kcolorado: ]
how was your sense of who she is affected by seeing her in court everyday? Have you spoken with her directly?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
Seeing Amanda Knox walk into the courtroom every day was very important in understanding how she interacted with her lawyers and her family, and in understanding how the jury perceived her. Amanda has not yet given any one-on-one interviews so no, I have not spoken to her directly.

Lucas Wittmann:
Just so you know we see your comments and will publish them live as Barbie is ready so please keep them coming…

[Comment From Kevad: ]
You have also stated in tv coverage that “we still do not really know what happened in that room”, is that how you still feel?

[Comment From stint: ]
Great job with book, Barbie. I really enjoyed it.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
Yes, after over two years following this case, none of us know exactly what happened in Meredith’s bedroom that fateful night. No one has confessed to the crime, so until someone does, we will not have a clear understanding of the exact dynamic of the murder.

[Comment From Guest: ]
How do you think your journalism during the trial affected its outcome?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
Thank you. I’m glad you liked the book. My hope is that it provides perspective of this complex case.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I don’t think that any of us who covered this trial as journalists had a direct impact on the jury’s decision. We were not in the deliberation room.

[Comment From Wade: ]
Why in your opinion did the seattle media frame the events as they did

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I think that many of my colleagues in the Seattle market did the best job they could with the information they had. Their primary source was the Knox family, so their coverage was affected by that. When members of the Seattle press came to Perugia, they did not speak Italian and had a difficult time following the court sessions because there was no translator. Those of us who live and work here in Italy often helped the American press as best we could.

[Comment From stint: ]
Regarding earlier comment. Since Knox Family PR firm *very* closely controls any and all media contact with themselves, and they have reportedly blackballed any reporters even seen *near* you, do you really think you might interview Amanda in the future

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I have hope that Amanda might want someone objective who understands Italian to conduct an interview with her at some point down the road. But because I have been skeptical, I am fairly sure I am not high on the list of interview candidates.

[Comment From mnh12121887:
But why did the American media take the Knox family version so much on face value without even trying to look deeper?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I think that the economic crisis has played a role. Many bureaus have been closed across Europe and it would have been a major expense to send a correspondent to Italy for such a long trial. I think that had there been a larger Italian based press corp it would have made a difference in coverage.

Lucas Wittmann:
Let’s explore now the facts of the case.

[Comment From Guest: ]
Do you believe Knox’s assertion that she was abused during her final interrogation?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I think it depends how you define “abused.” If you mean to ask if she was flicked on the back of the head (which is a cultural norm here in schools and in criminal investigations), then yes, that very likely happened. If you mean to ask if she was abused in the way the American police have been caught on CCTV abusing detainees, then no, I do not think she was abused.

[Comment From Guest: ]
You seem to have made some strange claims in your book - about AK and RS actually NOT remembering what happened. How on earth did you reach that conclusion?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I gave my hypothesis about the crime based on sitting through 11 months of a trial. I believe that if Amanda and Raf would have remembered exactly what happened, whether they were involved or not, their explanation of the evening of November 1 would have been more clear. A lie is often very black and white. Their confused responses seemed to me to be more consistent with a hazy memory or no memory at all.

[Comment From hattie: ]
I still believe that Amanda Knox is innocent, and I read your book to get another point of book. Thank you for that. My concern is that there is so much more DNA evidence against Rudy. How was Amanda able to clean up and not leave more DNA evidence in Meredith’s room?

Lucas Wittmann:
Don’t have Angel Face yet? Order it now as an e-book or paperback: http://bit.ly/chDjIX

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I think it is important to remember that the same scientific police and laboratories tested the DNA for all three suspects. That is to say, if the DNA matches Rudy and is accepted, then the DNA that matches the other two should also be accepted. How she may have left so little DNA if she was actually in the room is very hard to square. Whether some of the 14 unidentified fingerprints belong to her is a big question in this case. There were very few fingerprints on any flat surfaces belonging to Rudy either. Is it possible to pick and choose how to clean up DNA? Maybe not, but it is possible to wipe up fingerprints and footprints that you know are your own.

[Comment From Guest: ]
If they didn’t remember then why did they do the clean up? They clearly knew they had ‘something’ to hide!

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
That is a very good question. Perhaps waking up in a house with a dead body makes one act irrationally. Perhaps because they might not have remembered what they did the night before, they panicked. We do not know, but that is one question I will ask Amanda if I ever get a chance.

[Comment From Guest: ]
After 11 months viewing the trial, do you believe that Amanda joined in any sort of sex game with Meredith? It seems that Amanda did, bt then went to her room BEFORE and DURING the murder.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
There is no forensic evidence that Amanda had sexual relations with Meredith. I have a hard time accepting that it started as a sex game. I believe that if they were involved it was because they could not stop themselves from an aggravated escalation of violence. In essence, they could not tell agony from ecstasy and did not realize that Meredith needed their help. Instead, they may have helped Rudy and that is when things got out of control.

[Comment From Lisa: ]
I see that some folks her responded to the question “Who Killed Meredith Kercher” with “Amanda and Raffaele” only. No Rudy. How could that be? Do you think journalism had anything to do with that?

Lucas Wittmann:
We’re going to wrap this up in 10 minutes so please contribute any final questions now.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I think that the fact that Rudy’s trial was sewn up before Amanda and Raffaele’s began is the reason many people separate them in this crime. But Rudy was convicted for his role in the murder, not as a lone assailant. His judge’s reasoning clearly states that he felt Rudy acted in tandem with Amanda and Raffaele.

[Comment From mhm12121887: ]
What is happening now—in Italy?

[Comment From Noel: ]
How do you see the appeal going?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
Right now lawyers for both Amanda and Raf are preparing their appeal briefs. Those will be filed within a few weeks and then the date will be set for the appeal hearing, likely in the fall.

[Comment From Kermit: ]
Hi Barbie. Your journalism has opened up transparency and debate from an Iron-Curtain situation of control in the American press. Where do you see each of the three convicted (pending appeal) murderers 10 and 20 years from now?

[Comment From stint: ]
Thanks so much for this opportunity, and again thanks for all your objective coverage in “Angel Face”.... great read.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I think that the appeal will result in a few years taken from the sentences of both Amanda and Raffaele.

[Comment From Guest: ]
hasn’t her real beauty complicated this hugely from day one?

[Comment From hattie: ]
Thank for an excellent book. I read it in one day, and it gave me a different side of the story. I hope that both pro- and anti-Amanda sides will take an opportunity to read this book.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I think that it is very likely that all three of the convicted murderers of Meredith Kercher will return home one day.

Lucas Wittmann:
Here is the link if you’d like to order the Angel Face e-book and paperback: http://bit.ly/chDjIX

[Comment From mhm12121887: ]
Thanks also for the book and for the “on the spot” reporting and objectivity

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I think that Amanda’s beauty has increased the interest in this case, but I do not think that it dictated the outcome.

[Comment From Patty: ]
Thanks for answering questions Barbie.

Lucas Wittmann:
Down to our final question…

[Comment From somealibi: ]
(For the end) Compliments on the presentation and technology with the poll-type questions

[Comment From Patty: ]
Do you think any of them will ever confess?

[Comment From Guest: ]
You’ve been a real heroine in this case Barbie. Well done for your objective reporting.

Lucas Wittmann:
Thanks for answering the polls!

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I think that one day we will have a confession, yes. But not while they are in prison.

Lucas Wittmann:
Wait…one more!

[Comment From Guest: ]
Can you give your reactions to the 2 op-ed pieces in the NYTimes (Seattle writere)?

[Comment From Guest Guest: ]
Can we have another session please????

Lucas Wittmann:
Re: another session. So many great comments and questions, we’ll keep it in mind.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
I was in Perugia when those op-ed pieces came out and they were not helpful to Amanda. The prosecutor was angry, the jury members were insulted and Amanda’s own lawyers were not happy. Op-ed pieces are by nature controversial, but they should be weighed to see whether they will impact the topic. That sort of journalism likely had more impact on this case than what anyone wrote with a Perugia dateline.

Lucas Wittmann:
Thanks everyone for participating!
And thanks Barbie for answering all these great questions.

[Comment From ricardoricardo: ]
which ‘op-ed’ pieces > do you have a link ?

Lucas Wittmann:
Here is the link: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/10/an-innocent-abroad/

[Comment From Guest: ]
Cheers Barbie! Will raise a glass to you tonight…

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
Thank you. I want to also thank Andrea Vogt, of the Seattle P-I who was a voice of reason in Seattle during the trial based in Italy. The op-ed pieces are by Timothy Egan.

[Comment From Guest:]
Thank you. This is nice technology and nice pace. Could have been twice as long 😊

[Comment From somealibi: ]
Keep it going Barbie - thanks - we value an objective take

Lucas Wittmann:
Thanks again to everyone and we’ll definitely keep this in mind the next time.

[Comment From ricardo: ]
many thanks…

[Comment From Patty: ]
Thank you, and Andrea, for your coverage of the trial. Invaluable.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU:
Thanks to everyone who sent question.

[Comment From Clander: ]
Ciao from Roma !! You ROCK Barbie !


Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Three Communities Of Perugia And Why American Students Tend To Run Wild

Posted by Peter Quennell



[click for larger image]

Perugia’s population these days is just short of 200,000 and of those about 20,000 are either visiting foreigners or foreign-born long-term residents.

Perugia’s population is growing at twice the Italian national average, and higher education and research is by far its largest industry. The University of Perugia is very old and it is the largest of a number of universities, colleges and institutes.

The numbers of people in town on any given day, week or month fluctuate far more than in most Italian cities. During the public holidays and university vacations, the old city can be extremely quiet - most of our Perugia shots here were taken in the quiet phases when almost nobody was around.

But when the colleges are all in session, and when there is a football match (Perugia has a very popular team), and when there is one of the frequent annual festivals (chocolate, jazz, and so on)  Perugia can be very hard to drive, park, or even walk in the main piazzas.

The three communities referred to here are (1) the long-term residents who, although far from outnumbered, seem to feel increasingly hard-pressed; (2) the large body of serious students, who work hard at their education to the excellent standards the Perugia institutions maintain, and (3) a smaller but less restrained element which tends to get into drugs and party loudly, and on football and festival days make the town seem to some threatening and out of control.

Incidents in Italy involving American students surface periodically in the news. The most notorious cases in the past couple of years were not in Perugia but in Florence, a couple of hours drive directly north. We don’t believe there is any blanket anti-Americanism in Italy but cases like this and also this do tend to get people ticked.

We posted nearly a year ago on a police clamp-down on the sale of drugs in Perugia. This drive seemed to have much accelerated after Meredith’s murder. A clear majority of those involved with illegal drugs - both in the selling and the using of the drugs - are said to be non-Italian.

This is an excerpt from Barbie Nadeau’s new book which shares her insights on this sometimes turbulent town.

It is 2 a.m. on a sticky September night, and Perugia is a cauldron of illicit activity. A thick fog of marijuana hangs over the Piazza IV Novembre. Empty bottles and plastic cups litter the cobbled square. The periphery is lined with North African drug dealers, selling their wares like the fruit vendors who occupy this spot in daytime hours. A group of pretty young British students giggle, easy prey to the Italian guys pouring their drinks. The American girls are more aggressive, eager to nab an Italian lover. Down an alley, a young man has lifted the skirt of his conquest and is having clumsy sex with her under a streetlamp while her drink spills out of the plastic cup in her hand. Dozens of students are passed out on the steps of the church. There is not a cop in sight.

This is the scene that greets the study-abroad crowd when they enroll at Perugia’s universities for foreigners. It comes as a shock to some and an irresistible circus to others, and it was the backdrop for tragedy in the case of two young women, Amanda Marie Knox, then 20, and Meredith Susana Cara Kercher, 22, who arrived in the fall of 2007 and enthusiastically joined the party. Less than two months later, Meredith was dead, and Amanda was in prison, accused of her murder.

These young women were not exactly innocents abroad. They had both done their share of college partying before they arrived in Italy. But that was hardly preparation for the nonstop bacchanalia that has made Perugia infamous on the international student circuit. Tina Rocchio is the Italy coordinator of Pennsylvania’s Arcadia University, which facilitates many study-abroad trips. “When they want to go to Perugia, my first question is always, “˜How much self-discipline do they have?’ before I can recommend it,” she says. “Perugia is not for the weak. The students who go there are of two veins””either they party or they study, and Perugia usually means a party.”

In the 1920s, Benito Mussolini established universities for foreigners in Perugia and nearby Siena, aiming to spread Italy’s “superior culture” around the world by recruiting foreigners to study cheaply in these lovely, walled cities. The Siena school remains relatively small. But the school in Perugia, in tandem with the city’s Università  degli Studi, which also caters to foreigners but has a larger contingent of Italians, spawned dozens of smaller satellite campuses. There are so many that the town’s student population is now roughly 40,000, around a quarter of the city’s total population of 163,000. Perugia is popular among foreign students looking for something cheaper and cozier than Paris, Barcelona, or Florence, these last three cities being the top choices for well-heeled Americans. The academic offerings are wide-ranging, and the professors have a reputation for being forgiving. Sometimes, the college credits transfer back home as a simple pass-fail mark, when they should actually be given a grade-point score. All this attracts an eclectic mix of young people from around the globe. Most of the Italian kids come from wealthy families; in Italy, university students usually live at home, and it is a rare privilege to go away to school. The foreign students””the universities are accredited in Asia, Europe, and North America””are more likely to be scraping by on scholarships and second jobs. With very few dorm rooms available, the students usually live in the historic center in flophouses and apartments that have been partitioned into tiny rooms to accommodate multiple renters. The town is full of discos, clubs, and cheap restaurants that cater to a student clientele.

No surprise, Perugia is also a drug dealer’s paradise; the mostly North African merchants do a lively trade in everything from genetically modified hashish to cocaine and acid. It is very easy to get high in Perugia, and the police generally turn a blind eye. Perugia has a very low crime rate compared with the rest of Italy. Despite its reputation, drug arrests are rare, and the police are routinely lenient with the student population. The narrow, cobbled streets, some of which are built in steps, discourage car use, so the students stagger around the city center on foot, and the drunk driving offenses that usually dominate college-town crime dockets are not a problem. Murders are extremely rare””with one notable exception. The year before Meredith was killed, another young woman, Sonia Marra, who was studying medicine at the Università  degli Studi, disappeared without a trace. The body has never been found, and it was only recently that her former boyfriend was arrested in connection with her murder””amid suspicions that the investigation into her death was neglected during the two-year circus following Meredith’s murder.

Perugia was home to the famous artist Pietro Vannucci, who went on to teach Renaissance great Raphael. It is also famous for the Perugina chocolate factory, now owned by Nestlé. But without the universities, Perugia would be just another postcard-perfect Umbrian hill town competing for the tourist dollar with Siena, Assisi, and St. Gimagnano. The local community looks askance at the wild student culture, but also knows better than to interfere much with the town’s economic mainstay. As one Perugian prosecutor told a reporter, with long-suffering tolerance, “This kind of intoxicating freedom gets into these kids so far away from home, this total lack of control, this hunger for experience rules these kids.” The universities and administrators of study-abroad programs contribute immensely to Perugia, and they expect the local community to be forgiving. They insist, too, that the party scene it is no worse here than any other college town.

Perhaps if someone had done their due diligence on the Perugia scene, Amanda Knox would not be where she is now. 

And of course Meredith would still be alive.



Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Driving Psychology In The Perugia Case: Could Those Just Convicted Be “Charming Psychopaths”?

Posted by Miss Represented


Those not yet familiar with the “charming psychopath” concept may be in for a surprise when they google the term.

It has been quite thoroughly explored in the past decade, in part with the hope of preventing future crimes. Many thousands of relatives and friends of both victims and perpetrators have had their lives upended when one or other charming psychopath - probably part of a large pool - sheds any constraints and a cool callous murder results. 

The “charming” component leads easily to denial. There is quite a history of campaigns that set out to deny that any particular such murderer could actually have done it.

They simply seemed far too nice. 

A widely read article by Robert D Hare on charming psychopaths in Psychology Today presented a precise description of the symptoms that should hint to the perceptive eye that something might be seriously wrong.

These are two highly-rated book-length treatments of the charming psychopath concept which have recently been selling well

Psychologists well qualified in this field have now begun to float articles on the concept as it may apply to Raffaelle Sollecito and Amanda Knox and some books will presumably follow.

Here is an article “Signs that suggest Amanda Knox is a psychopath” by a highly experienced American psychotherapist, Dr Coline Covington, who now practices in England.

She was the former Editor of the Journal of Analytical Psychology as well as the former Chair of the British Psychoanalytic Council and she has also worked for the London police.  In the article she describes Amanda’s behaviour in court:

Knox’s narcissistic pleasure at catching the eye of the media and her apparent nonchalant attitude during most of the proceedings show the signs of a psychopathic personality. Her behaviour is hauntingly reminiscent of Eichmann’s arrogance during his trial for war crimes in Jerusalem in 1961 and most recently of Karadzic’s preening before the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

The psychopath is someone who has no concern or empathy for others, no awareness of right and wrong, and who takes extreme pleasure in having power over others. The psychopath has no moral conscience and therefore does not experience guilt or remorse.

Most psychopaths are highly skilled at fooling those around them that they are normal by imitating the emotions that are expected of them in different circumstances. They are consummate at charming people and convincing them they are in the right. It is only when they reveal a discrepancy in their emotional response that they let slip that something may be wrong with them.

The psychopath is the conman, or in the case of Amanda Knox, the con-woman par excellence. Her nickname “˜Foxy Knoxy’, given to her as a young girl for her skills at football, takes on a new meaning.

Whether or not Knox, who is appealing her verdict, is ultimately found guilty, her chilling performance remains an indictment against her. Her family’s disbelief in the outcome of the trial can only be double-edged.

This is not the only time a suggestion has been made that Amanda has displayed behaviour which is often associated with psychopathy. It is a view that I myself have supported in the past.

And similar arguments have just been made by Professor David Wilson and Professor David Canter.  Rather lurid headlines, but their science is sound.

On my companion website to TJMK on the psychological dimensions of the case, Miss Represented, there is some interesting discussion in the Comments on the arguments for charming psychopathia now being presented.

These articles are probably only the tip of the iceberg as more psychoanalysts get drawn to this case.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

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

Posted by Peter Quennell





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, November 27, 2009

The Summations: Patrick Lumumba’s Lawyer Describes Defamation By Knox As Ruthless

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click here for Nick Pisa’s noon report from the courtroom. Some excerpts:

Today the lawyer acting for bar owner Patrick Lumumba, who Knox blamed for the murder, was harsh in his judgement of the American student.

Lawyer Carlo Pacelli described Knox as a ‘talented and calculated liar, who had deliberately gone out of her way to frame Patrick.’

Mr Pacelli recalled how Knox had told police she ‘covered her ears as Patrick murdered Meredith. This was all a lie, his destiny at that moment was marked.

‘It was a ruthless defamation that destroyed Patrick as a man, husband and father. By naming him she hoodwinked the officer in charge of the murder investigation.’

Mr Lumumba was held for two weeks in custody before being released without charge after witnesses came forward to say he was at his Le Chic bar the night Meredith was murdered.

Mr Pacelli added: ‘Who is the real Amanda Knox ? Is it the one we see before us her, simple water and soap, the angelic St Maria Goretti (a teenager made a saint by the Catholic Church after she was murdered by an attempted rapist)?

‘Or is she really a she devil, a diabolical person focused on sex, drugs and alcohol, living life to the extreme and borderline -is this the Amanda Knox of November 1st 2007 (night Meredith was murdered).’

As he spoke, Knox could be seen writing notes to herself on the pad before her.

‘Conclusions drawn before knowing anything,’ she wrote, before adding: ‘In prison you don’t become a better person you become worse unless you have a inner light that guides you.’

 


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Americans Pretending To Be Italians?!

Posted by Peter Quennell


[click for larger image]

What this blogger encountered, among other things, in an obviously very happy few days in Rome.

We’ve heard that one before, by the way. Quite often. Visiting foreigners envying the Italians for their looks, their fire, and (now and then!) their real class.

And they can be so funny. And so caring.

Images here are of some of the amazing fountains of Rome.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 08/11 at 06:05 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in The wider contextsItalian contextThe psychologyComments here (3)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Defendant Testifies: Is This A Prosecutor’s Dream Come True?

Posted by Arnold_Layne



[click for larger image]

To my knowledge, in the past when Amanda has spoken on her own behalf she was not challenged by the prosecution.  Friday will be different.  On Friday, she will be asked to reconcile discrepancies in her statements.  She will not be a sworn-in witness so it is not clear which lines of questioning will be allowed but the prosecutor will certainly try to impeach her.  If she is a psychopath, things could get knarly.

You’ve all seen it many times on crime shows.  On cross examination, the witness offers some testimony, for example, the fact that she has never been married.  The lawyer then asks to offer into evidence a marriage certificate.  Reducing the credibility of a witness in this fashion is known as impeaching the witness.  There are special rules that apply which allow the attorney to ask questions not normally allowed.  To discredit a claim made by the witness, the prosecutor could, for example, enter new evidence not presented previously during the prosecution phase of the trial.  The jury is then instructed to use the evidence only as it reduces the credibility of the witness but to ignore it when otherwise considering the guilt or innocence.  That’s expecting a lot.

One characteristic of a psychopath is the ability to lie with facility.  This does not mean the ability to spin a yarn or to make up a good story.  Most of us can do this.  It also doesn’t mean that the lie is particularly bad (a boldface lie).  When asked a question when the truth is not going to yield a desirable outcome, most of us will pause a little, maybe lift our eyes upward, as we weigh the consequences of the lie.  Someone who can lie with facility speaks the lie as fast as they would the truth and with the same conviction.

The problem, of course, is that without the pause there is no weighing of the implications of the lie.  There is little checking for consistency.  In social situations this can easily be maneuvered around by saying something along the lines of, “Aw, I was just jokin’”.  Guede adjusted his story to meet the facts as they emerged.  Amanda now also knows the evidence against her and she’s had plenty of time to create a story to match it.  She will be on stable ground here as the Judge and jury weigh her statements against those put forth by the prosecution.  This is a good reason to only have one of the two defendants testify.  They can’t trip each other up.

Cross, on the other hand, is going to be a minefield for her.  Not only will the prosecution point out discrepancies but they will challenge her on them and she will be under pressure to correct them.  She will be up against a trial lawyer’s strong suit.  Mignini will be trying to impeach her.  If she steps on one of his mines, she will probably step on many ““ and he’ll be laying even more as she speaks.

Other incendiaries include her basking in the attention and notoriety she is getting.  Additionally, she is a creative writer.  Who can say what this might lead her to say if she strays from the straight and narrow.

I give her credit for doing this but I certainly don’t envy her.  I can’t say that I have ever done anything tougher myself.  I wouldn’t eat for two days, just as a precautionary measure. Btw “can you smoke on the witness stand?” I’d bring a carton, of Luckies.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Miss Represented Compares Behavioral Evidence With What’s In The Textbooks

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for a further post in her excellent psychological series.

This particular branch of psychology never makes for pleasant reading, yet some of the issues covered in books, journals and articles over the last 30 years have made a huge impact on our understanding of violent sexual homicides and the sorts of people that commit them.

Group theory has also expanded our knowledge of the terrible things that people can be driven to do for the sake of not losing face or perhaps due to the strange phenomenon that is diffusion of responsibility.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/25 at 01:03 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Crime hypothesesThe psychologyComments here (0)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

“An American Student Kills 62 Years Old Retired Bankteller”

Posted by Nicki

[click for larger image]

Corriere reports that this crime took place yesterday.

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

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

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


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