Category: Justice systems

Friday, February 21, 2014

The US Lacks Legal Authority To Decline To Deliver A Guilty Knox To Italian Authorities

Posted by TomM



[Rome airport; exceedingly rare for those convicted of Italian crimes not to be sent back via here]


The reporting on this case has, with few exceptions, been poor.

Recent reporting on whether the US would extradite Amanda Knox continues that tradition, ranging from assertions that “sources” within the State Department say they would never extradite her, to claims that the risk of extradition is real, but that the Secretary of State has the discretion to refuse to extradite.

If the Secretary of State actually has this discretion, it must be grounded in the law.

That means it must be found in the Constitution, or in an act of Congress, or in a treaty—all of which constitute the “law of the land”.  Beyond authorizing the President to make treaties, with the consent of two thirds of the Senate, the Constitution sheds no further light.

The only act of Congress dealing with extradition of US citizens is Title 18, United States Code, section 3196; a bit of background first.

There is no uniform US extradition treaty.  Each treaty is separately negotiated with the other sovereign nation.  Historically, many of the treaties entered into by the US contained clauses providing that neither country was obligated to extradite its own citizens.

Notwithstanding this, the US had extradited US nationals on the basis of discretion to extradite even though extradition was not required by the language of the treaty.  But in 1936 the US Supreme Court held that if the treaty does not “obligate” the requested party to extradite its own citizens, the Secretary of State does not have the discretion to deliver the person sought to the requesting country.  [Valentine v. United States ex rel. Neidecker 299 U.S. 8]

In 1990, Congress passed 18 U.S.C § 3196, captioned “Extradition of United States citizens:”

“If the applicable treaty or convention does not obligate the United States to extradite its citizens to a foreign country, the Secretary of State may, nevertheless, order the surrender to that country of a United States citizen whose extradition has been requested by that country if the other requirements of that treaty or convention are met.”

That is the full extent of Congressional action on extradition of US citizens; there is no Congressional grant of discretion to the Secretary of State to decline extradition in the face of a treaty obligation.

Some US extradition treaties contain clauses that give the requested country the discretion not to extradite its own citizens; perhaps that is where the idea that the Secretary of State has discretion not to extradite Knox comes from.

Here, for example, is a clause from the US-Sweden treaty:

“There is no obligation upon the requested State to grant extradition of a person who is a national of the requested State, but the executive authority of the requested State shall, subject to the appropriate laws of that State, have the power to surrender a national of that State if, in its discretion, it be deemed proper to do so.”

The treaty with Italy is short (ten pages) and written in plain language.  The treaty has commences with Article I, captioned “Obligation to Extradite”:

“The Contracting Parties agree to extradite to each other, pursuant to the provisions of this Treaty, persons whom the authorities of the Requesting Party have charged with or found guilty of an extraditable offense.”

The cover letter of the Secretary of State to then-President Reagan explains:  “Article I obligates each State to extradite to the other, in accordance with the terms of the Treaty, any persons charged with or convicted”¦”. (emphasis added)

There are mandatory grounds for refusal, such as political or military acts, double jeopardy (if the person sought has already been tried by the requested State for the same offense), or if the prosecution or penalty is time-barred in the requesting State.

There is just one discretionary ground: if the country requested is also prosecuting the person sought for the same act.

Article 4 provides:

“A Requested Party shall not decline to extradite a person because such a person is a national of the Requested Party.”

Thus, any discretion to deny extradition implied by 18 USC 3196 has no application to requests made under this treaty.  Further, although some appellate cases have treated some issues regarding extradition of nationals differently, they fairly firmly hold to the difference in the meaning of mandatory words like “shall” and “obligate” on the one hand, and discretionary or permissive words like “may”.

Comments to the effect that the US has declined extradition to Italy in the past are superficial and uninformed.

The first illustration such commentators cite is that of the Air Force pilot who severed a ski lift cable, causing multiple deaths.  That was not an extraditable offense under the treaty because of double jeopardy; the pilot had been court martialed.  Although his acquittal enraged Italians, the pilot had already been tried by the US, and thus his case fell under the mandatory ground to denial of extradition specified in the treaty.

The other example mentioned is that of the CIA operatives who were prosecuted in absentia for the abduction of Abu Omar in Milan.  The Italian Minister of Justice refused, during both the Berlusconi and Prodi administrations, requests of the Milan court to commence extradition proceedings.  In Italy, the courts and the government are independent, and the courts lack power to compel government to make a request for extradition.

Even if the Italian government had made an extradition request, there is at least a colorable argument to be made that this was in the nature of a military act in the US war on terror, thus constituting a mandatory ground of refusal.

Thus, if Italy requests the extradition of Amanda Knox, the US lacks legal authority to decline to deliver her to Italian authorities.  If the US government wants to avoid extraditing her, it will have to rely on diplomacy rather than law.  In other words, it will need to convince the Italian government not to make an extradition request in the first place.



Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Italy’s Unpopular Politicians And Mafia Fellow Travelers Against Italy’s Popular Justice System

Posted by Peter Quennell


[Above and below: several of over 100 car bombings Italian police and prosecutors were killed in]

1. On The Pro-Justice Side…

This puts the faux Nencini “end-of-civilization-as-we-know” crisis into some sensible context.

The Italian system doesn’t exactly come out badly compared to say that of the US. Surprise, surprise: See here who agrees.

Comparatively speaking, Italy has a much lower crime rate than the US, a much lower murder rate, a highly professional un-elected police hierarchy, a much smaller court system, and a miniscule number of prison cells.

The mafias are now mostly backed into small pockets..

For reasons to do with Italian history pre-WW II the system keeps politicians very much at arms length.

Almost every other justice system in the world comes under the Prime Minister’s or equivalent’s control, and it his or her party that appoints the judges. The Italian system comes under the separately-elected and non-partisan President of the Republic.

All judges and all prosecutors follow a career path laden with checks and balances, learning exercises and tests. (At this the highly-competent and impartial Dr Mignini excels and he will soon be the attorney-general of a region.)

The system is extremely pro-defendant - probably the most pro-defendant in the whole world. See this article and this article for proof.

The number of Italians who are in prison at any one time is proportionally only about 1/5 that of the United States. Take a look.

It is not like everyone in Italy is impatiently waiting for the fatuous posse of Preston, Heavey, Fischer & Moore to turn up and save them from themselves. There is no problem there.

Our Italian poster Machiavelli (Yummi) who reported for us on the Cassation and Nencini appeals has assembled these facts on what the Italian population actually thinks. 

For comparison, in 2011 the percentage of Italians who declared they trust the justice system “a lot” or “enough” was 53.3%. By comparison, the percentage of Italians who declared they trust the government “a lot” or “enough”  were 14.7%, and those who trust the parliament were only 15%.

In 2012, the percentage of Italians who trust the parliament is now only 9.5%, and those who trust the Mario Monti administration are only 21.1%.

Over the eight years from 2004 to 2012 the percentage of Italians who trust the justice system was always bigger than those who trust parliament or government by at least ten points, and in some years we can see a spread of 20, 30, even 39 percentage points achieved by the judiciary over the parliament and government.

However, some cases of corruption (such as our Hellmann-Zanetti case, but also several others indicated by the Rapporto Italia 2012) do hamper trust.

The most trusted institutions in Italy above all are the Carabinieri (74% of Italians trust them) and the Polizia di Stato (71%).

Which means the most trusted institutions are precisely those law enforcement instruments which are deployed to enforce the orders of prosecutors.

(My source is “Rapporto Italia 2012” by EURISPES).

More evidence of this popularity.  And even more.

2. On the Anti-Justice Side

In the past decade both corrupt politicians and the mafias have been remorselessly rolled back.

The Perugia Prosecutor-General’s Office being close to Rome and notoriously hard to bend was given national jurisdiction over the corruption of the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 2010 rebuilding following a huge earthquake.

The Florence Prosecutor-General’s Office being close to Rome and notoriously hard to bend was given national jurisdiction over the corruption of the contracts for the high-speed rail links that pass through Florence and on.

But attempts of corrupt politicians and others to meddle in this case go on and on and on.

Knox and Sollecito may think it is for pure love of them. Think again. There are unsavory parties on the anti-justice bandwagon who if it suited them would disappear Knox and Sollecito in the blink of an eye.

Politics played a part in ex-MP Rocco Girlanda, a Berlusconi poodle, accessing Capanne Prison multiple times to slobber over Knox. As a member of the Justice Committee under former Berlusconi-party MP Giulia Borngiorno’s sway (hows THAT for a conflict of interest?) Girlanda (1) petitioned the President for Knox, (2) tried to cut the national police wiretap budget, (3) tried to get Perugia prosecutors investigated, (4) repeatedly appeared on TV and in other media to make false allegations, and (5) chaired several US/Italy “liberation” meetings.

Sollecito lawyer Giulia Bongiorno has been wearing her member-of-parliament hat to stir up the (essentially toothless) Ministry of Justice against Judge Nencini. And to try to get the Council of Magistrates to give her client a break (Good luck with that - they wont move.)

The mafia backseat drivers (known about in Italy but not reported in the US) are there in a minor but pervasive way. Their roles were summarised in several places including this post here.

It is odd, to say the least, to see such self promoting reformers of the Italian system as Preston, Heavey, Fischer and Moore happily carrying water for the mafias.

So What We May Expect

Judge Nencini is a seasoned mafia fighter, and he is also a seasoned fighter of politicians who are corrupt and try to bend the system their way. But his record is very clear. Attack him for murky end - and he does not exactly back down.

From the point of view of Sollecito’s prospects, this faux storm looks like another huge wrong move.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

How Many Extraditions Do The US And Italy Refuse? Approximately Zero, When It’s To Each Other

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Ex-fugitive Florian Homm above and below in front of his palatial Mallorca Spain home]


The State Department and FBI collaborate more closely with their Italian counterparts than with almost any others in the world.

Italy is a very loyal political ally to the US and has helped out a lot diplomatically and militarily around the world. The FBI and their Italian counterparts in Rome have officers permanently embedded from one another and there are dozens of transactions going on all the time..

Extraditions both ways take place without fuss at the rate of a few a year, which the State Department and Justice Department are not inclined to fight. A couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court in Rome declined the final appeal of fugitive swindler Florian Homm and sent him on his way to the US.

Homm had many millions to pay top lawyers to fight his extradition case. But he still lost.

The only extradition requests from Italy the US doesnt fulfill are the CIA kidnaping in Milan and Air Force Dolomites case.

It is the CIA and Pentagon overtly or clandestinely exercising special military privileges that is the cause of the two standoffs. NOT the Department of State, which has made clear it is not too thrilled.

Contrary to broad confusion in the US (fed by biased stories from Colleen Barry of the Associated Press) the Florence appeal is not a second or third trial of Knox.

It is a FIRST appeal, actually filed by Sollecito and Knox, on the same lines as any American first appeal, after the previous Hellmann appeal was furtively bent, and then scathingly annulled.  Knox has been in provisionally guilty status since late in 2009.

So double jeopardy absolutely does not apply.

The one REAL difference between this appeal and any American appeal, which seems over Colleen Barry’s head, is that this appeal request was automatically allowed. Any American appeal judge (except Heavey, who serially gets the hard facts wrong) would have thrown the flimsy appeal grounds out.

It may take up to a year, if Amanda Knox chooses to waste more big bucks on lawyer fees -  their batting record for that is pretty dismal so far, though, and a confirmed-guilty verdict in Florence next week might be only the start of more legal strife. False claims in her book will soon see her back in court.

But it seems 100% likely that Italy will “get their man”. To a rapidly increasing number of Americans, Italy’s gain would also be the US’s gain.



Friday, December 06, 2013

After 6 Years Heavey Is Still Heedless Of His Errors Pointed Out Again & Again & Again

Posted by pat az




1. Overview of this post

Michael Heavey has a considerable record of interventions that seriously mislead.

He makes false claim after false claim after false claim. Often corrected, he heedlessly gravitates no closer to the truth.

This post corrects a misleading and dishonest letter from Heavey to President Obama copied to Congress of 16 May 2011.

1 Misleading interventions in 2008

During this year Heavey (then still a judge, though one who was merely elected - nothing compared to the rigorous process Italian judges must go through) sent three erroneous open letters (posted on the web and widely copied) to senior justice officials in Italy about the case.

TJMK posted on the errors in December 2008.

2 Misleading interventions in 2009

By way of interviews in the media, Heavey continued his campaign. He has claimed that his motives really are noble: in effect, Knox could have been his own daughter, though his daughter has distanced herself from this campaign.

3 Misleading interventions in 2010

One of the 2008 letters to Italy was sent on official judicial letterhead, as if he was speaking for the State of Washington. In 2010 the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct disciplined Heavey although it was only for an illegal use of the official letterhead, not for wrong claims.

The initial announcement was posted on here. The details of the charges were posted on here. The disciplinary penalty was posted on here.

4 Misleading interventions in 2011

In April 2011, one month prior to his misleading letter,  Heavey was a droning presence on a panel before an audience of 35 at Seattle University. His familiar talking points were again repeated.

It is cross-posted from my own website here.  Links to previous posts about Heavey on TJMK for the period 2008 to 2011 appear at the bottom of this post.

2. The 16 May 2011 letter to President & Congress

On May 16, 2011, Judge Heavey (now retired) apparently sent US President Barack Obama a letter regarding the Amanda Knox case. 

This document was retrieved from the King5.com news site under a search result for “Amanda Knox.” The subject of Judge Heavey’s letter was “Re: Failure of Rome Consular Officials to protect the rights of U.S. Citizen Amanda Knox.”

The new Heavey letter was written on letterhead “From the chambers of Judge Michael Heavey.” The address given is his house address.






The Judge charged that the State Department absolutely failed to look out for the rights of Amanda Knox. Nowhere in the letter does Judge Heavey actually address any of the evidence in the case.

Ten times in his letter, he charges consular officials failed to take action when they should have.

However, many of his points are false or misstate the events. In many instances, Judge Heavey is proven wrong by statements from Amanda Knox herself.

This letter, full of errors, was carbon copied to Members of Congress AND the Secretary of State (at the time, Hillary Clinton).

These mistakes would have known at the time Judge Heavey wrote his letter by using the interviews and documents available at that time.  This did not stop Judge Heavey from writing an error-laden letter to the President and Congress. These errors are detailed below.

Additional signatories to the letter (on letterhead from “from the chambers of Judge Michael Heavey”) include Friends of Amanda representative Thomas L. Wright, and author of “The Framing of Amanda Knox” Dr. Mark C. Waterrbury.






Judge Heavey had been admonished for using court resources and stationary as a part of his advocacy in the Amanda Knox case, as well as his public speeches while he was a sitting judge. 

The admonishment only covered the letters written to Italian court officials and prosecutors, using court stationary and court staff. The letter he apparently sent to Obama and congress was not included in the admonishment.

The following is a point by point review and rebuttal of the by-now admonished Judge Heavey’s Letter to President Obama and Congress

1. False brutal interrogation claims

The letter opens up with a summary of the argument- that this case was a prosecutor’s vendetta against Amanda Knox, and that her rights were violated, and Consular officials did nothing. The letter is arranged as a series of points, which are discussed below.

Judge Heavey writes: “Amanda Knox was arrested for the murder of her roommate after an all-night interrogation [...]. The Perugian Police denied her food and water, cuffed her on the back of the head, and, most importantly, prevented her from sleeping.”

However, Amanda Knox was not the one called into the station. Raffaele was; and they went right after having dinner!

A UK based paper had published the day before an article with quotes from Raffaele. Raffaele said he and Amanda went to a party on the night of the murder. Police were likely calling in Raffaele due to the conflicting stories.

Amanda’s “interrogation” didn’t start until at least 11pm. Police have testified she was offered food and water. She went to sleep after signing her second statement, at 5:45 am. There was a break between signing her first statement at 1:45 am and signing her second statement (after being warned by Dr Mignini to say nothing further without a lawyer) at 5:45 am.

Here is Amanda Knox:

“Around 10:30pm or 11pm Raffaele and I arrived at the police station after eating dinner at the apartment of one of Raffaele’s friends. It was Raffaele who the police called, not me, but I came with him to the Questura anyway while he was to be questioned for support, as he had done for me many times.” -Amanda Knox, letter to lawyers, 9 Nov 2007

“I signed my second “spontaneous declaration” at 5:45 AM [...]. I asked permissions to push two metal folding chairs together, balled myself into the fetal position, and passed out, spent. I probably didn’t sleep longer than an hour before doubt pricked me awake”¦ “  -Amanda Knox, Waiting to be Heard

To this day, Raffaele Sollecito has not corroborated Amanda Knox’s alibi in court.

2. False no-lawyer claim

Judge Heavey writes: “When a witness becomes a suspect, the police are obligated to appoint a lawyer”

Knox was not a suspect and the interview was merely a recap/summary session with someone who might have information as the defenses themselves agreed. Knox herself twice declined a lawyer before insisting on writing three statements out.

Prosecutor Mignini was interviewed by CNN ten days before Judge Heavey wrote his letter. In the interview, Mignini describes the questioning of Amanda:

“And thus her interrogation as a person informed of the facts was suspended by the police in compliance with Article 63 of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure [c.p.p. - Codice di Procedura Penale], because if evidence appears that incriminates the person, the person being questioned as a person informed of the facts can no longer be heard, and we must stop. “Everyone stop! There must be a defense attorney [present]”. And thus the police stopped and informed Amanda” -

Prosecutor Mignini, CNN interview, May 6 2011 (Ten days prior to Judge Heavey’s letter)

Thus, it was known on national television in the US what the sequence of events was. This did not stop Judge Heavey from writing an error-laden letter to congress.

3. False no-recording claim

Judge Heavey writes: “Article 141 of the CCP requires that every interrogation of a person in custody (for any reason) must be fully recorded by audio or audiovisual means”

However, Amanda Knox was not in custody during her questioning on Nov 5th & 6th. She was not a suspect, and this was not a suspect interview. She merely eagerly listed seven names. She was only at the station because Raffaele was called:

“It was Raffaele who the police called, not me, but I came with him to the Questura anyway while he was to be questioned for support, as he had done for me many times. “

-Amanda Knox, Letter to Lawyers, 8 Nov 2007

4. False no-interpreter claim

Judge Heavey writes: “Amanda spoke little Italian, yet was not allowed to have an interpreter to assist her with understanding the questions put to her, the charges against her, or anything else.”

Two sources refute Judge Heavey’s point- official court records of the questioning, and Amanda Knox’s own statement on trial and in her book:

From Court documents

“...assisted by the English-speaking interpreter Anna Donnino” -Signed 1:45 AM statement.

“....assisted by the English-speaking interpreter Anna Donnino” -Signed 5:45 AM statement.

And from Amanda Knox:

November 2nd: “”¦they brought in an english-speaking detective for hours two through six.”  -Waiting to be Heard

November 4th: “AK: So, it seems to me that Laura and Filomena were there, but they had arrived with other people, while I was in the car with the police and an interpreter, that’s it.” -Trial Testimony

November 5th/6th: “The interpreter, a woman in her forties, arrived at about 12:30 A.M.” -Waiting to be heard

5. False vengeful prosecutor claim

Judge Heavey simply engages in a character assassination of Prosecutor Mignini:

“[...] Mignini was well known in Italy for a bizarre theory [...] under investigation for abuse of office [...] previously driven American journalist, Douglas Preston out of Italy[...]”

Judge Heavey, Dr. Waterbury, and FOA representative Thomas Wright conclude point five with:

“Consular officials knew Mr. Mignini was prosecuting Amanda Knox. They knew he had been charged with abusing his office. They knew of the bizarre theory that he pursued, from which the charges arose. They also knew he was under tremendous pressure to achieve some vindication to save face. Why did consular officials do nothing?”

The trumped-up charges against Prosecutor Mignini pursued by a rogue prosecutor ad rogue judge in Florence were overturned by the Florence appeal court and sacthingly roasted by the Supreme Court. Dr Mignini (now Deputy Attorney General for Umbria) was under no pressure at all. See this post here.

6. False satanic myth claim

Heavey and others raise the satanic ritual myth quoting Prosecutor Mignini as stating at the October preliminary hearing, “the crime was a sexual and sacrificial ritual in accordance with the rites of Halloween.”

The ONLY source for this quote is a defense lawyer for Sollecito who made it up. Judge Heavey then turns around and uses this metaphor himself:

“these and other statements should have shouted to consular officials that Amanda was a defendant in what had become a witch trial, being prosecuted by a delusional prosecutor. Why did consular officials do nothing?”

7. False US Embassy claim

Despite Heavey’s claims, US consular officials WERE monitoring the case, as revealed in FOI-released documents requested by journalist Andrea Vogt. She released these documents in a May 2013 post on her website.

This is clear: consular officials regularly visited Knox and tracked case developments. The following diplomats’ names appear on the cables: Ambassador Ronald Spogli, Deputy Chief   Elizabeth Dibble and Ambassador David Thorne, U.S. Embassy Rome.







The US Embassy cables that were released were dated: Nov, 07; Dec 08; Feb 09; May 09; Aug 09; Nov 09; Dec 09. No other documents were released.

Consular staff visited Amanda Knox on November 12 2007, and noted her lawyers had already visited with Knox.  The charges against Amanda Knox as stated by the US Embassy were:

  * Participation in Voluntary Manslaughter with aggravating circumstances of cruelty
  * Participation in sexual assault
  * Simulated robbery
  * Slander
  * Possession of weapons
  * Aggravated theft.

Over four years from late 2007 to late 2011 we estimate that the US taxpayer paid $400,000 for the Embassy’s monitoring of Knox.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Differences Between Micheli, Massei, Hellmann and Nencini Courts Pointing To Almost Certain Outcome

Posted by Peter Quennell





What are the biggest differences? In fact the Supreme Court already pointed them out: science, scope, and balance.

Judge Micheli, Judge Massei and Judge Nencini all have a very extensive criminal-case background. All three have handled many cases of murder, many cases against the mafia, and many cases involving criminal science. All three have remarkable success records and have hardly ever been overturned on appeal. 

Judge Hellmann and his court are the extreme outliers. Until forced into early retirement by the Council of Magistrates, he had been a (quite good) business judge. His one major criminal case, years ago, had led to a farcical outcome, and he was ridiculed for this at the time.

Cassation made it very clear that he simply did not reflect a knowledge of the precise Italian law on scope and balance at the appeal level, and that he mishandled the science. In fact, as he actually said, the reason he appointed two independent DNA consultants was that he was at sea on the science.

That left Judge Hellmann’s panel of judges like a rudderless ship, bereft of the kind of good guidance from the lead judge on science, scope, and balance that comes only from many years of experience.

Which, given a level playing field, the pathbreaking Italian system enforces competently like almost no other.

Above all as the Hellmann Report makes extraordinarily plain, his court came to be swayed by the CSI Effect, with the help of two tainted consultants and probably the irresponsible Greg Hampikian in Idaho.

The CSI Effect is a phenomenon very, very unlikely to happen in Judge Nencini’s court.  First, take a look at this good explanation of what the CSI Effect is in the Fox Kansas City video.



Many crime shows such as the BBC mysteries and the Law & Order series and spinoffs show investigators solving their crimes in the old-fashioned way. Lots of witness interviews and alibi and database checking, and walking around and loose ends and lying awake at night puzzling. And often there’s a big stroke of luck. 

But if you watch the very popular CSI Las Vegas series and its spinoffs in Miami and New York, and the various clones on other networks, you will see something very different indeed.

When those shows first began airing worldwide in the late nineties, the producers explained that audiences increasingly appreciate learning something new when watching a show, and it is true, one sure can load up on the trivia.

But you will also see the US equivalent of Dr Stefanoni and her forensic team in those shows, roaming far beyond the narrow crime scene, interrogating witnesses and checking alibis and finding a lot of non-forensic evidence, and even at times drawing guns.

Most unreal is that, time and again, the forensic evidence testing is clearcut and takes just a few minutes and instantly clinches the case.

  • There are several articles like this one and this one on whether the Casey Anthony jury was affected by a shortfall in the starkness of the forensics when the behavioral evidence seemed so strong.
  • There are several articles like this one and this one on whether the appeal verdict outcome in Perugia might be affected in the same way.
  • There are many articles like this one and this one and this one and especially this one saying there is a tough added burden on investigators and juries without a commensurate improved outcome.

With conviction rates declining in the US and Europe, professionals are taking a scientific look at whether the CSI Effect is one big cause of that decline.

At the macro level in the US this writer doubted that the CSI Effect is fatally unbalancing takes on the wider evidence. The same conclusion was reached in this first major study at the micro level.

But the belief in the CSI Effect continues. Articles like this one on an Australian site talk of a backlash against too many acquittals. Some articles like this one argue that maybe lay juries are out of their depths.

And judges and prosecutions are taking countermeasures.

In Ohio and many other states prosecutors and judges are acting against a possible CSI Effect in their selection and briefing of juries. And an NPR report came up with these findings.

Some states now allow lawyers to strike potential jurors based on their TV habits. Judges are issuing instructions that warn juries about expecting too much scientific evidence based on what they see on TV.

In the field, Shelton says death investigators sometimes run useless tests, just to show they went the extra CSI mile.

“They will perform scientific tests and present evidence of that to the jury. Even if the results don’t show guilt or innocence either way, just to show the jury that they did it.”

This is coming at a time when death investigators in America have no resources to spare. An investigation by NPR, PBS Frontline and ProPublica shows some states have already opted not to do autopsies on suicides, others don’t autopsy people who die in traffic accidents, and many don’t autopsy people who die over the age of 60.

But Murphy, the Clark County coroner, expects things to get worse.

“You know, we’re in budget cuts right now. Everybody’s in budget cuts. Las Vegas is no different than anybody else. We’re hurting. We’re going to feel that same crunch as everybody else,” he says.

One of Zuiker’s great disappointments is that, for all its popularity, his fictional Las Vegas crime lab didn’t generate more political support to fund death investigation.

“I’ve done my job. You know, we’ve launched three shows that cater to 73.8 million people a week and is a global phenomenon and the largest television franchise in history. We hoped that the show would raise awareness and get more funding into crime labs so people felt safe in their communities. And we’re still hoping that the government will catch up.”

None of the science in Meredith’s case has ever been discredited in court. Even in Judge Hellmann’s court the agenda-driven independent consultants Conti and Vecchiotti failed - and under cross-examination admitted it.

Also remember that the Hellmann court did not get to see two very key closed-court scientific presentations (the stark recreation of the attack on Meredith, in a day of testimony, and later in a 15 minute video) which had a very big balancing effect on the Massei court. 

Right now the reputation of not one defense-campaign stooge who has attacked the science remains intact.

Greg Hampikian has headed for cover. He had widely proclaimed that he clinched the Hellmann court’s outcome, in an act which may well have been illegal. Unsurprisingly, he is now trying very hard to hide his own claimed “proof ” of shortfalls in the science, as Andrea Vogt has been showing in her Boise State University investigation, and as we will soon post more on. 

Saul Kassin is another defense-campaign stooge who falsely claimed that he clinched the Hellmann court outcome by “proving” a false confession by Knox - in an interrogation that never even took place.

Despite all of this, maybe as straw-snatching, we can again see an organized attempt to confuse American opinion on the science of the case.

Whether she did this intentionally or not, that is what the PR tool Colleen Barry of the Associated Press was doing when she omitted that the trace of Meredith on the knife is undisputed hard evidence.

Judge Micheli and Judge Massei handled the science, scope, and balance with some brilliance. In all three dimensions Judge Hellmann fell short abysmally.

What is your own bet on the outcome under the exceptionally experienced Judge Nencini?





Parts of this post were first posted in 2011 after the disputed and much examined outcome of the Casey Anthony murder trial..


Friday, October 25, 2013

Questions For Sollecito: Do You Stand By Your Smear Of Reasonable Doubt In Italian Law?

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



The Italian Supreme Court is seen here at rear-right with the Vatican in the foreground]


How the tough questions for you only grow, and grow… We have 12 posts already in our questions for Knox series and 11 posts already in our questions for Sollecito series.

We also have increasing confirmation that this thrust is paying off and is helping to meet a widespread felt need in the media. Ask Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer, and the CNN legal talking heads, and the BBC, and an increasing number of others in the media.

Today’s post returns, certainly not for the last time, to your wildly inaccurate book.

1. What You Wrote in Honor Bound On Reasonable Doubt:

Amond the absurd legal babble in your absurdly titled book Honor Bound this legal babble especially stands out.

The meandering complexities of the Italian legal system, where speculation and hearsay are allowed to run rampant and time invariably slows to a maddening trickle, did little to help our cause. For reasons deeply embedded in the country’s history, the concept of proof beyond a reasonable doubt scarcely exists in Italy, and the very notion of undisputed fact is viewed with suspicion, if not outright aversion.


2. How Lawyer James Raper With Yummi Disagreed

From their post last January before Cassation uttered its final word, which also takes to task Hellmann’s and Zanetti’s interpretation. 

What he is implying (in a manner gratuitously insulting to the intelligence of his compatriots) is that were the above statement not true then he, and Amanda, would have been acquitted in the first instance.

Oh, really?

It seems that we are also being asked to believe that Sollecito and his ghostwriter, Gumbel, are historians of Italian jurisprudence. So, let’s quickly examine what substance there is to the claim.

It will be seen that the concept of “reasonable doubt” is understood well enough in the courts of Italy, though unfortunately less well understood by the former Umbria Appeal Court judges Hellmann and Zanetti.

Not only that but those two judges made pointed remarks at the outset of the appeal also garbling the concept, which were very disturbing. I shall look into that in a moment.

Sollecito”˜s remark does have some context but it is wildly inaccurate and unfair. 

We know that the Italian legal system is based on the inquisitorial system common to continental Europe, whereas the anglo-saxons amongst us are used to the adversarial system. It is also true that the specific expression “beyond reasonable doubt” was not introduced into the Italian criminal procedure code until 2006.

It is Article 533 of the Criminal Procedure Code: “The judge pronounces sentence of conviction if the accused is guilty of the offence charged beyond all reasonable doubt.”

Now let me defer to our Italian poster Yummi who can explain the historical context. He writes -

The current Italian system is the result of a procedure code reform introduced in 1989. This reform introduced several features of the adversarial system into a new criminal procedure code. One of the features of the new code was the abolition of the “not proven” verdict. This factually had been working very effectively as the version of “reasonable doubt” in the Italian system.

In an inquisitorial system the court is a council headed by professional judges and it’s task is not just to deliver a verdict, but to deliver a written rationale or dossier aimed to provide “a judicial truth”.  Typically “reasonable doubt” is a formulation coming from systems where juries do not issue a written rationale while systems that have motivation reports on verdicts usually don’t have it: it was commonly agreed that the absence of doubt should be understood from the rationale. Absence of doubt is not a quality that is inherent in the internal conviction of a juror, but instead is understood to be a feature of the logical proof provided by the written rationale. It was believed that the absence of doubt in the judge’s mind should be shown by the fact that a motivation report is logical.

No Italian scholar would ever maintain that the “reasonable doubt” standard is a recent introduction in the Italian system.  Only the acknowledgement of it’s wording is relatively recent.  In the Italian system the formulation “reasonable doubt” was starting to be used explicitly in Supreme Court jurisprudence in the early nineties; a change of wording in honour of the adversarial reforms, but in fact a continuation of the long jurisprudence tradition of the “not proven” standard.”

In fact in the adversarial system “beyond reasonable doubt” is really an instruction to the jurors that they must arrive at a certain evidentiary standard if they are to convict. Any system that would produce a “not proven” verdict would mean that the standard has not been met.

In the adversarial system no written rationale for a verdict is required to accompany the verdict. That the Italian system retains this requirement is very much a safeguard for the accused as well as for the State both being thereby protected from perverse or capricious convictions or acquittals.

Second here is Judge Zanetti at first appeal:

The only certain and undisputed fact is the death of Meredith Kercher.

So said Judge Zanetti on the opening day of the appeal. It was a statement that brought gasps of astonishment from those in court, particularly from the reporters present who deemed it to be an admission that reasonable doubt existed.

In fact, of course, there were a lot of certain and undisputed facts. No one denied that there was evidence, most of it undisputed. What was disputed was the interpretation of that evidence.

That, being so, why did not Zanetti say that? Clearly the remark was injudicious, and cogent only in its intended impact.

What of the Massei Motivations Report one might ask? is it toast?

That remark not only helped to set the tone for the entire appeal - what was said soon after by his senior colleague was even worse. 

Compliance with article 533 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Judgement of conviction only if the defendant is guilty of the offence complained of beyond a reasonable doubt) does not allow (us) to share fully the decision of the Court of Assize of First Instance.

(In Italian: il rispetto dell’articolo 533 del Codice di procedura penale (pronuncia di condanna soltanto se l’imputato risulta colpevole del reato contestatogli al di la ogni ragionevole dubbio) non consente di condividere totalmente la decisione della Corta d’Assize di primo grado”)

That was said by Judge Hellmann on the third day of the appeal before even the evidentiary and discussion stage had opened. And thanks again to Yummi for the above quote.

It seems that the presiding judge had felt compelled to expand upon his colleague’s stark opening remark but in doing so he had opened a can of worms. He had just made things even worse. Unfortunately the prosecution decided not to challenge the remark and the appeal proceeded. They should have done so.

Article 533 relates to verdict. The verdict (to be) is not to be hinted at or discussed at the opening of any trial or appeal and certainly not as pointedly as this. So serious is this faux pas that I have it on good authority that the prosecution considered impeaching the presiding judge for incompatibility and incompetence. It seems that they did not because of the furore this might have caused and perhaps also because they were confident of the strength of the case in any event. In retrospect a grave mistake.

What in fact was Hellmann saying? Let us consider.

“Compliance with article 533.”¦..”¦does not allow us to share fully the decision of the Court of Assize of First Instance.” 

I believe that what we see here is the first indication of the judges’ manifest misunderstanding of what should have been the correct approach to an evaluation of the evidence in the case and the application of the “reasonable doubt” standard.

I do not intend to deal with that in any detail. It is set out cogently in the Galati appeal.

Suffice to say that the “reasonable doubt” standard applies only to the culpability of the accused for the offence with which he/she is charged. Article 533 makes this abundantly clear and this is no different from how our own adversarial system deals with it. It is not a standard to be parcelled out to each item of evidence or inference drawn. That the appeal judges thought they could do (and did) precisely that is implicit in Hellmann’s remark.

How can one not “share fully the decision of the lower court”?

Hellmann could have said that he did not fully share the decisions of the lower court as regards each element of evidence rather than “the decision”, which can only be a reference to the actual verdict. But “the decision” is what he says, linking it specifically to article 533 where only the singular use of the noun would have any meaning. So on the face of it this can only be about the verdict of the lower court. And yet, how can one not fully share a verdict? A verdict cannot be parcelled out. One either agrees or disagrees with it.

Despite it’s manifest inappropriateness, no doubt the remark was meant to acknowledge that there was some doubt about the validity of the verdict in their minds. Well at least that’s honest but in that case, was it not incumbent on them to specify what it was that concerned them? I would have expected that. True, it was already clear that the DNA on the knife and bra clasp, and Curatolo’s credibility, were specific issues, as they had allowed these to be examined, but beyond that there was no disclosure as to what other doubts on the evidence they had in mind. We know now from the Motivations that there were others and what these were ( Quintavalle and the staged break-in, just for example) - and I think it would be pretty disingenuous of them to pretend that they did not exist at the time.

Already one sees elements of confusion, incompetence, mis-procedure, misleading the prosecution and coded messages (for the media and politicians?) to the effect that the appeal judges had already rationalized an acquittal in the appeal.

And if, with their doubts, they had in fact done so then what, pray, was the point of :-

1. Ordering a review of the DNA evidence on the knife and the bra clasp

2. Re-hearing Curatolo

3. Hearing from Aviello and Alessi

“¦”¦other than that they were seeking that elusive “reasonable” element of doubt.

It is almost as if the entire appeal was tailored to suit and a sham. It certainly looks that way in retrospect, particularly as the element of reasonable doubt still remains elusive on close examination.

Yet it may just be that the appeal judges were just incompetent and that their incompetence (with the incompetent assistance of Conti & Vechiotti) infected the entire proceedings.

We shall see what Cassation thinks of the garbling of this fundamental concept when the prosecution appeal is entertained on 25 March.

3. How The Cassation Motivation Report Also Disagrees

The Supreme Court doesnt buy your smear of Italian law either, though we doubt your book was a hot item there. The concept of “reasonable doubt” was fully respected in the Massei trial where your guilt was firmly established - and the concept was trashed by the unlamented Hellmann & Zanetti.

This is from the Cassation report on the decision to annul the Hellmann appeal.

2.2.3 “ Manifest lack of logic and inconsistency in the reasoning in reference to the use of the principle of reasonable doubt in sustaining the order of 18.12.2010. [According to the lawyers for the Civil Parties], the verdict of conviction beyond a reasonable doubt could have been reached even after the outcome of the expert report arranged for in the second instance trial, inasmuch as the examination of the circumstantial evidence ought to have been global and consistent, the hypothetical defect of any one of these being acceptable, provided that the remaining elements were ““ as they ought to have been deemed ““ sufficient to reach the required level of certainty, [29] since what is asked of isolated elements of proof being evaluated is that they display the credentials of correspondence with real events, at least with predominant probability. Proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt can rest on items of circumstantial evidence that are not all equally certain, that is, not all established with the same level of probability.

So, Raffaele Sollecito, you jobless failure in all walks of life: would you care to correct all these fine lawyers?


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Involvement Of The Formidable Carabinieri Shows How Italian Justice Will Not Be Leaned Upon

Posted by Peter Quennell





Judge Nencini may have invoked the help of the Carabinieri for reasons going beyond simply very good science.

Italy has among the world’s lowest crime-rates, murder-rates and incarceration-rates. Unusually low criminal and anti-social tendencies among native-born Italians, and strong family pride, explains a large part of this.

But another main reason is the high-profile and exceptionally smart police presence. Deliberately a cool presence rather than a hot and intimidating presence, and in fact a very popular one.

This has allowed for an extremely small court and prison system relative to the size of the population. These principles are now being adopted by of all places New York city.

At its apex is the very well-trained well-funded well-equipped national force, the Carabinieri, about which, in response to a claim that was stupid even by Sollecito’s standards, our main poster Yummi remarked:

The most trusted institutions in Italy above all are the Carabinieri (74% of Italians trust them) and the Polizia di Stato (71%).

Quite possibly the police force with the highest popularity rating in the world. In a recent email about the Carabinieri, Yummi also added the following:

The Carabinieri are a very peculiar police corps. They are indeed a police corps, yet also are formally military; in fact, they have military battalions (elsewhere) and under all points of view they are an extreme elite-corps. As militariy they don’t answer directly to the government but to the President; and from their facilities, you may infer they are a pretty well-trained police force.

They have the popular respect that the US’s FBI would probably like to have. (The two forces do co-operate very closely, and in fact they permanently exchange officers to work on their numerous common cases.)

The only relationship prior to these lab tests of the Carabinieri to Meredith’s case was that Raffaele Sollecito’s sister Vanessa once worked there.

She lost her job for some seriously foolish moves and her appeal to get back in to the Carabinieri was a failure.

So. The Carabinieri. Of possible real significance now in Meredith’s case?

The Carabinieri report directly to the President of the Republic. The President is also the ultimate head of the justice system, deliberately so as set out in the constitution to keep murky politics at bay. He also is wildely popular.

Judge Nencini may be signaling that he wants Italy’s most respected institutions on the side of his verdict. And no more murky politics.











Sunday, April 07, 2013

Tip For The Media: In Fact Knox Extradition Is Likely To Be Readily Granted

Posted by James Raper



[[Above: a plane landing at Florence airport; most under arrest arrive via Rome airport]


This is the latest in our many posts nailing the myths perpetrated by the pro-Knox campaign,

We can already see that there is an attempt to generate a new myth in the media and on the internet.  This is that it is unlikely that Amanda Knox would be extradited to Italy. Talking heads appear by the dozen on US TV channel networks to say so. A plethora of internet articles add up to the same. They are all wrong, take it from me.

However the fact that the subject is even under discussion is an indication that the implications of the Italian Supreme Court’s annulment of the Appeal verdict are sinking in, in some quarters at any rate. I am sure that what Ted Simon says for public consumption is very different from the advice which (assuming he has been asked) is rendered privately to Amanda and her family. If not then the family is being seriously misled as to Amanda’s prospects of avoiding extradition.

There is, of course, an extradition treaty between the United States and Italy and it seems that the main issue as to whether extradition could take place would be Double Jeopardy.

Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Professor of Law, has written a good piece.  Sensible articles like this have been a long time in coming but even he gets some of it wrong and cannot resist creating a little air of uncertainty.

“Ms Knox would likely challenge any extradition request on the ground that she was already acquitted by the lower appellate court, so any subsequent conviction would constitute double jeopardy.

That is when the real legal complexities would kick in, because Italian and American law are quite different and both will be applicable in this trans-national case involving a citizen of one country charged with killing a citizen of another country, in yet a third country.

America’s extradition treaty with Italy prohibits the US from extraditing someone who has been “acquitted”, which under American law generally means acquitted by a jury at trial. But Ms Knox was acquitted by an appeals court after having been found guilty at trial.  So would her circumstances constitute double jeopardy under American law?

That is uncertain because appellate courts in the US don’t re-try cases and render acquittals (they judge whether lower courts made mistakes of law, not fact). Ms Knox’s own Italian lawyer has acknowledged that her appellate “acquittal” wouldn’t constitute double jeopardy under Italian law since it wasn’t a final judgement - it was subject to further appeal, which has resulted in a reversal of the acquittal.

This argument will probably carry considerable weight with US authorities, likely yielding the conclusion that her extradition wouldn’t violate the treaty. Still, a sympathetic US State Department or judge might find that her appellate acquittal was final enough to preclude her extradition on the ground of double jeopardy.”

“Final enough”?”¦.hmmmmm. That doesn’t seem very legal language to me. And given the Italian three tier system how does one determine when an acquittal is final enough, other than at the end of it? Of course, if in doubt, the State Department or judge could read all the published court judgements in the case. That would help.

On the other hand, perhaps Dershowitz should read the 1984 Extradition Treaty between the USA and Italy more carefully.

Article VI states -

Extradition shall not be granted when the person sought has been convicted, acquitted or pardoned, or has served the sentence imposed, by the Requested Party for the same acts for which extradition is requested.

The Requested Party, in the case of a request for extradition from Italy, will of course be the United Sates.  Clearly this is no bar to extradition in the case of Amanda Knox as there has been no judicial process against her in the USA regarding the murder of Meredith Kercher .

And for the avoidance of doubt jeopardy Article I states - “The Contracting Parties agree to extradite to each other, pursuant to the provisions of this Treaty, persons whom the authorities of the Requesting Party have charged with or found guilty of an extraditable offense.” So an offense shall be an extraditable offense only if it is punishable under the laws of both Contracting Parties by deprivation of liberty for a period of more than one year.

(There are other circumstances under the treaty when extradition will not be granted, but these do not apply to Knox. They concern political and military offences.)

Furthermore the 1984 Extradition Treaty recognizes (as do all such treaties) the validity and fairness of the contracting parties’ respective judicial systems. Such treaties would not be possible otherwise. The USA has already extradited its citizens (when it had to) to countries where, as here, an appeal acquittal has been overturned on further appeal, the original conviction has been re-instated, and the process then continues to another appeal. This is in recognition of the fact that in some systems the State has a right of appeal as well as the accused. What’s wrong with that?

Is all of this likely to change on account of Amanda Knox?

Imagine, for a moment, that Knox fights the request for extradition through the US courts and secures a landmark decision from the Supreme Court that the request is a violation of double jeopardy. At a stroke the US government will be forced to negotiate a raft of new unequal treaty rights and obligations with a number of foreign states that will feel insulted, nonplussed and humiliated by the slight to the reputation of their judicial systems. Some may refuse to do so, and this will more likely disadvantage the USA than the other way around. It would create an enormous mess in US relations with such states.

I don’t think the Supreme Court would be that daft. It’s just not, given the circumstances, a runner.

Neither would the State Department, for the same reasons, be that daft. It is under a treaty obligation, the extradition papers being in order, to (a) grant the request or (b) if the request is challenged in the courts, to hand the matter over to the Justice Department for it to be pursued there on behalf of the Requesting Party.

The reality is that if Knox’s fresh appeal were to fail and the conviction were to be upheld finally by the Italian Supreme Court, then her opposing an extradition request from Italy through the US courts would be an exercise in futility, and an extravagant waste of legal costs that would cut deep into the alleged $4 million for her book.

There would be nothing left for her after that, and after paying off Marriott and numerous other creditors waiting in the wings.


Saturday, March 09, 2013

FBI Reporting Close Co-operation With Italy In Arresting And Soon Extraditing A Fugitive Swindler

Posted by Peter Quennell





A new FBI report in the news.

It is still more confirmation in line with many previous posts here that US and Italian crime-fighters respect one another and work closely together - and don’t turn a hair at requests for extradition.

The fugitive fund manager Florian Wilhelm Jürgen Homm could face 25 years in prison. The FBI explains what he is accused of: 

Florian Wilhelm Jürgen Homm, a German hedge fund manager who was on the run for more than five years, has been arrested in Italy on federal fraud charges that accuse him of orchestrating a market manipulation scheme designed to artificially improve the performance of his funds, a fraud that led to at least $200 million in losses to investors around the world….

Homm was the founder and chief investment officer of Absolute Capital Management Holdings Limited, a Cayman Islands-based investment advisor that managed nine hedge funds from 2004 until September 2007. The criminal complaint filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles alleges that Homm directed the hedge funds to buy billions of shares of thinly traded, United States-based “penny stocks.” Homm caused many of the purchases of penny stocks to be made through Hunter World Markets Inc., a broker-dealer in Los Angeles that Homm co-owned. Homm also allegedly obtained shares of the penny stock companies through various businesses he controlled.

And the FBI credits the role in arresting Florian Wilhelm Jürgen Homm of the Italian authorities.

Homm, 53, was arrested at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Friday (local time). Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles obtained an arrest warrant on Wednesday, March 6, after filing a criminal complaint that charges Homm with four felony charges: conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and securities fraud. Homm was arrested by Italian authorities after the United States submitted a request for a provisional arrest with officials in Rome.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Some Homework For Curt Knox/Marriott/FOA: How Leaning On Italian Judiciary Can Seriously Misfire

Posted by Peter Quennell




Update: Nicolo Pollari won at the Supreme Court level and walks free. On close examination this seems fair. He was forbidden by secrecy rules at trial to explain his role and put on a defense. It seems his role might have been very minor or none at all if he was kept out of the loop. Italy has ignored a negative opinion on this from the ECHR.

Nicolo Pollari (above) has just been sentenced to ten years and Marco Mancini to nine.

Mr Pollari was the supreme head of Italy’s intelligence agencies - its top spy - and Mr Mancinin was one of his deputies. They were sentenced by a court in Milan.  They were found to be complicit in an act now illegal both in Italy and now the US.

Under the George Bush and Berlusconi regimes, an Egyptian called Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr was kidnapped by the CIA in Italy and dispatched to be tortured elsewhere. Revealed not to be a terrorist, he was later released.

Some 26 Americans, mostly CIA, were previously sentenced in Milan for the same crime in absentia. Italian warrants for their arrest are out and those warrants could be submitted to Interpol to be applied worldwide.

These were the outcomes DESPITE elements of the US and Italian governments putting up a tremendous rearguard fight. To their credit the US State Department and Rome Embassy dont seem to have been proactive in this (State was even sued for not providing one CIA operative with diplomatic cover) but bets are they would have hit a wall if they had. .

In an amazing new behind-the-scenes expose of the sordid history of the political strong-arming in The Guardian, in which he praises Italian justice a lot, Glenn Greenwald includes this:

This prosecution was possible in the first instance only because a single Italian magistrate, Armando Spataro, insisted on pursuing it despite all sorts of attacks against him.

This 2009 Der Spiegel article reports that, as a result of his pursuit of the case, “his communications were monitored, the Italian intelligence service placed him under observation and there were even investigations into whether he had betrayed state secrets.

The government tried again and again to silence him. But the magistrates ignored those repressive efforts, eventually even seizing [chief CIA operative] Robert Lady’s retirement villa in Italy to cover court costs.

Numerous cables show Italian officials, especially Berlusconi himself, attacking the Italian magistrates and assuring the US that Italian courts would eventually stop them.

One 2005 US cable celebrates that Minister of Justice Roberto Castelli “took the unusual step of publicly criticizing a member of Italy’s highly independent magistracy” over this case, specifically that he “called Armando Spataro a “militant’. meaning a communist”...

That public denunciation of the magistrate happened, recounted the US cable, after he “presented Castelli with requests for the provisional arrest in contemplation of extradition for 22 Americans involved in the alleged rendition of Egyptian Imam Abu Omar from Milan.”

Does this sound at all familiar?! There seem to be good lessons here for Curt Knox, David Marriott and the FOA.

Italian justice may take its sweet time (deliberately so, because of the Post World War II constitution) but all important cases are an opera in three acts - and no perp should think he or she is home free (and start writing books) at the end of Act II.

And prosecutors should never ever be leaned on because they invariably push back and most have the firm support of powerful colleagues - not the hapless Judge Hellmann, though, who the Council of Magistrates has made quite sure is gone.

Note that under Italian law criminal defamation suits by officialdom can be brought in Italy even if the serial slimers are across the Atlantic and believe distance or a helpful government is on their side.

The first of the suits against Sollecito for the multiple defamation in his book could be filed any day now, and Andrew Gumbel and Simon & Schuster executives might find targets on their own backs.

Roll on, the Amanda Knox interview and book!  We’ll see if anyone by then grew a brain.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Italy’s Advanced, Effective, Humane Law & Order System Also Adopted By City Of New York

Posted by Peter Quennell





New York City.

The main characteristics of the Italian system are (1) a large and visible national and local police presence, (2) a low crime rate even by European standards, and even more-so by American standards, and (3) a very low rate of incarceration that is only 1/6 that of the US.

Pretty well the exact opposite of what you’d suppose if you read only Frank Sforza and Raffaele Sollecito and Bruce Fischer and Saul Kassin and Steve Moore and of course Mario Spezi. Read only them, and one might be excused for thinking Italy’s is a huge, horrible system the Italian population desperately needs them to save it from.

Get a life!

An extremely misconceived campaign if the real purpose (we do wonder) is to do anything helpful for in particular Amanda Knox. The average Italian in the street likes and respects and is proud of their system. Polls repeatedly show that the institutions of that system are the most trusted and respected in Italy.

The general mood is probably toward a bit less concern about all perps and a lot more concern about all victims.  But essentially the system is liked for what it is. Conspiracy theories don’t fly.

New York is now the safest big city in America. It is following a route that is not only almost identical to Italy’s - it is being watched and emulated elsewhere across the US. All of John Tierney’s important report in last Friday’s New York Times is worth a read, for this could represent a huge sea-change.

These are the openings paras. 

Now that the United States has the world’s highest reported rate of incarceration, many criminologists are contemplating another strategy. What if America reverted to the penal policies of the 1980s? What if the prison population shrank drastically? What if money now spent guarding cellblocks was instead used for policing the streets?

In short, what would happen if the rest of the country followed New York City’s example?

As the American prison population has doubled in the past two decades, the city has been a remarkable exception to the trend: the number of its residents in prison has shrunk. Its incarceration rate, once high by national standards, has plunged well below the United States average and has hit another new low, as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced recently. And crime in the city has fallen by more than 75 percent, almost twice as much as in the rest of the country.

Whatever has made New York the safest big city in America, that feat has certainly not been accomplished by locking up more criminals.

“The precise causes of New York’s crime decline will be debated by social scientists until the Sun hits the Earth,” said Michael Jacobson, a criminologist who ran the city’s Correction and Probation Departments during the 1990s and is now the president of the Vera Institute of Justice, a criminal justice research group. “But the 50,000-foot story from New York is that you can drive down crime while decreasing your jail and prison population “” and save a huge amount of money in the process.”

New York’s singular success has attracted attention across the country from public officials whose budgets have been strained by the prison boom. The 2.3 million people behind bars in America, a fifth of the world’s prisoners, cost taxpayers more than $75 billion a year. The strict penal policies were intended to reduce crime, but they have led to a historic, if largely unrecognized, shift in priorities away from policing.

“The United States today is the only country I know of that spends more on prisons than police,” said Lawrence W. Sherman, an American criminologist on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Cambridge University in Britain. “In England and Wales, the spending on police is twice as high as on corrections. In Australia it’s more than three times higher. In Japan it’s seven times higher. Only in the United States is it lower, and only in our recent history.”


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Italy Continues The Search For True Justice In A 30 Year Old Case

Posted by Peter Quennell





Nothing if not tenacious, those Italian prosecutors and police - and Italian TV on which the victim’s family never stopped pressing.

This is the case of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, a Vatican citizen, who disappeared in 1983.  At the time the Vatican was much in the news because of a banking scandal that spread to London and because of an attempt made on the Pope’s life.

The Vatican is back in the news now because finally it stopped blocking for unclear reasons the exhumation of a crime gang leader who for unclear reasons was buried under a Vatican basilica in Rome.  The exhumation has now been done and there were some extra bones and pending tests may show that they are Emanuela’s.

The New York Times says there are at least three theories that could explain the disappearance and probable murder of Emanuela.

In 2005, an anonymous phone call to a television program about the disappearance added a piece to the puzzle:

“To find the solution to the case go and see who’s buried in the crypt of the basilica of Sant’Apollinare,” an unidentified man said, referring to the tomb of the local mob boss, Enrico De Pedis, known as Renatino, who was gunned down in Rome in 1990.

The caller also implied that Emanuela had been kidnapped as a favor to Cardinal Ugo Poletti, who in 1983 was the vicar general of Rome.  Cardinal Poletti died in 1997, and Archbishop Marcinkus in 2006.

Questions remain about why Mr. De Pedis, a member of the Magliana crime gang, was buried in a church owned by the Holy See. His tomb is in a small locked room in a crypt under the church…

To lay rumors to rest that the Vatican had obstructed investigations into Emanuela’s disappearance, last month the Holy See agreed to the opening of Mr. De Pedis’s tomb.

Whether the police can now narrow down to a single theory we soon shall see. After 30 years they are still doing what they can for the real victim. And her family never rests.

Below: images of Emanuela’s brother Pietro, a Vatican protest, and the exhumation yesterday of Mr De Pedis.















Wednesday, April 25, 2012

After Five Years, Heavy Police Resources Still Assigned To The Case Of The Missing Madeleine McCann

Posted by Peter Quennell



The case of Madeleine McCann.

In one respect, there’s this parallel to Meredith’s case. After five years police are still assigning major resources to close to their own complete satisfaction a vexatious and divisive case.

Unfortunately, the parallels end there.

In this case, it is the British police still assigning the resources (now close to four million pounds), in parallel to the relentless Italian effort for Meredith, because they fear that in light of cases like Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard the Portuguese police may have dropped the ball far too soon.

The Portuguese, in face of a confusing situation on the night when Madeleine disappeared, where the parents say they had left her home with younger twins while they had dinner 100 yards away, and a nervous Portuguese vacation industry, declared the parents as under suspicion in Madeline’s death and (see video above) aggressively furthered that meme.  They may have closed off kidnapping possibilities which in this day and age are far too real.

It may be that one day the British police eventually do conclude that her parents had a role in Madeleine’s disappearance and possible death, or simply declare that they have hit a brick wall.  But as Time and other UK and US news services are today reporting, they are concerned that the little girl is still out there, alive, and a kidnapper may be getting a free pass - and the opportunity to do it again.

The British police have released the two images below, showing how Madeleine looked back then and could now look at age nine. These are the latest developments according to the NY Times.

Scotland Yard released a statement saying its investigators had uncovered what they believed to be “genuinely new material,” as well as nearly 200 new opportunities for further inspection. Investigators said that they “now believe that there is a possibility Madeleine is still alive,” and have called for the investigation by Portuguese police to be reopened after an almost four-year hiatus….

While the initial investigation by the Portuguese authorities was roundly criticized, the British inquiry has been aided by the fact that, for the first time since Madeleine disappeared from her bedroom in the family’s rented apartment in the Algarve region of Portugal, investigators have been able to review material generated by three independent investigations, all in one location.

The detective leading the review said that having access to the Portuguese investigation, inquiries by British law enforcement agencies and the work of private investigators hired by the McCann family presents the team with “best opportunity” of finally solving the mystery of what happened in the seaside resort of Praia da Luz.

Rewards totaling millions of dollars were offered by wealthy Britons, including J. K. Rowling, the billionaire author of the Harry Potter series, and Richard Branson, the airline tycoon. But the Portuguese police identified only one suspect, a 33-year-old Britain living with his mother in a nearby apartment….

Detectives have been painstakingly sifting through “every single piece of paper” “” approximately 100,000 pages “” generated by the original investigation, on the basis that sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see what was always there….

Mr. Redwood rejected the conspiracy theories that have circulated about Madeleine’s parents’ involvement. He said that the girl’s disappearance was the result of “a criminal act by a stranger.”

It will come as renewed encouragement to the McCann family, whose ceaseless energy and reluctance to call off the search have been fundamental in keeping the case in the international spotlight. Since their daughter’s disappearance they have traveled to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, who blessed a photograph of Madeleine, published a book and even appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”







Friday, April 20, 2012

Italy Handles Wrongful Death of An American With Usual Efficiency And Real Respect For The Victim

Posted by Peter Quennell





This story has had great play in Italy - there are dozens of video reports - but little play in the US and almost none elsewhere.

San Giovanni Valdarno is a small town one hour’s drive north of Perugia, about two-thirds of the way to Florence in Tuscany which is one of the most visited areas in Italy. Many foreigners have villas there.

Allison Owens. aged 23, from Columbus in Ohio, was a tour guide there. She was last seen alive on Sunday 2 October. Worried for her safety, her friends stirred up a manhunt of the area, which came to include over 100 police with dogs.

After three days of searching, her body was found in a pond on the other side of a crash barrier from a busy highway. She was wearing jogging clothes, and her IPod headphones were still around her head.

The autopsy on her body confirmed that she had been hit by a vehicle, and with lots of publicity the search was on for a hit-and-run driver.

Local resident Pietro Stefanoni turned himself in to the San Giovanni Valdarno police on 7 October after he had already had the damage to his Volvo repaired.

He claimed that he fell asleep at the wheel and only woke when his car side-swiped the crash barrier. He claimed that he went back to the same spot a day or two later to see if he had caused any damage, but did not see any.

Stefanoni did not report the accident. He claimed that it was only several days later that he heard on the news that the police were looking for a hit-and-run driver. Thereupon, in the company of the Florence lawyer Francesco Maresca, he went to the police and was arrested.

He requested the abbreviated fast-track trial procedure (which Rudy Guede also took advantage of in 2008) but which nevertheless resulted, for manslaughter, in a tough sentence: 39 months behind prison bars, and an interim award of nearly $400,000 payable to the Owens family.

The prosecutor had cast Stefanoni’s actions subsequent to his knowingly or unknowingly hitting Allison in a very bad light, and the judge appeared to have concluded that he handed himself in only when he became convinced he would be caught.

Not much is published about the life of Allison Owens, but she is very sunny in all her images. Her family and friends clearly loved her and miss her, and through very careless driving Pietro Stefanoni has made havoc of their world.

Her hard-hit family from Ohio were in court. Thankfully, the case was efficiently and sensitively handled by the Italian authorities, with great support from the Italian media and the public. 

Zero sign a pretty American was resented.



















Friday, April 13, 2012

In Close Parallel To Amanda Knox, Casey Anthony Faces Court Action For Falsely Fingering Another

Posted by Peter Quennell



Both recent images. Above the plaintiff Zenaida Gonzalez; below the defendant Casey Anthony


Amanda Knox provisionally got off on the main count (the murder of Meredith) but anyway was sentenced to three years (which she served) for fingering Patrick Lumumba.

Casey Anthony definitively got off on the main count (murdering her infant daughter Caylee, see previous posts) but anyway was sentenced to some time in prison for time-wasting and expensive misleading of the police officers.

She received no sentence for falsely fingering a nanny, Zenaida Gonzalez, for making off with Caylee, and as she had never even met Zenaida Gonzalez it is unclear how she came up with Zenaida’s name.

The Orlando Sentinel reports an issue is whether or not Anthony identified Gonzalez specifically enough when she talked to her parents when they visited her in jail.

Anthony’s attorney said details offered by Anthony did not match Fernandez-Gonzalez and clearly showed Anthony wasn’t talking about her. Gonzalez’s attorneys say she still was damaged as the only person with that name interviewed by investigators.

Fernandez-Gonzalez had never met Anthony. Investigators believe Anthony may have seen the name on an apartment rental application.

During Anthony’s trial last year, her attorney Jose Baez said Anthony made up the story about the babysitter and that Caylee truly drowned in the family pool. Anthony was acquitted of murder and other serious charges.

Nevertheless, yesterday a judge in Orlando, Florida, ruled that Zenaida Gonzalez may sue Casey Anthony for defamation of character, and the case is scheduled for January 2013.

In Amanda Knox’s case she absolutely did know Patrick Lumumba, her kindly employer who gave her a job without a work permit, and she and her mother let him languish in prison for several weeks.

Pretty hard to look worse than Casey Anthony, but in her cruel act of framing Patrick, Amanda Knox certainly does.



Friday, March 02, 2012

The Irony In A Legal Standoff Between Italy And (Normally Its Good Friend) India

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Cantilevered fishing nets. There are hundreds of these along the ocean shore and harbor of Kochi.]


Images here are of the beautiful and comparatively wealthy south-west India city of Cochin (Kochi).

Also of an Italian oil tanker, the Enrica Lexie, which was ordered into the Kochi port mid-February by the Indian coastguard. Two Italian marine snipers guarding the tanker en route from Singapore to Egypt had shot two Indian fishermen on a small tuna boat assuming they were pirates.

The marines do seem to have been rather quick on the draw, and in contravention of a new IMO law of the sea saying violence during such incidents must be kept to a minimum. The tanker had apparently already been attacked once that day; shots had apparently been fired then too.

Indian accounts say India has behaved reasonably. The incident was in an area the Indian navy makes a serious effort to keep safe (images also below) even though most ships cruising along the busy sea-lane off Kochi (map below) don’t touch base in India and provide no benefit to the Indian economy. 

The Italian tanker has been released now and is on its way, but the two Italian marines are still under house arrest in the house shown below, while a discussion between the two governments continues over where they should be put on trial.

The Italian government is arguing that as the marines are military personnel therefore Italian military law trumps Indian civil law and they must be put on trial in Italy.

Okay. Now for the irony. Read the posts here and here. The US government made the same argument twice against Italy, and to say the least Italy was not too happy.

Pssst. Don’t tell India.

At bottom: Another Italian ship in trouble in the Indian Ocean. This is the fire-stricken Carnival cruise line ship Costa Allegra (yes that Carnival cruise line) unloading its disconsolate passengers in the Seychelles.































Friday, February 24, 2012

Costa Concordia: Amid Continuing Environmental Concerns The Captain Is Charged With More

Posted by Peter Quennell

The death toll has now risen to 25 including one child, a little girl. Maybe 10 are still unaccounted for.

The ship turns out to be balancing precariously on two small castles of rock at its front and back ends and they now seem to be decomposing under the ship’s colossal weight.

Whether the fuel oil can be removed from the ship before it disappears into deeper waters in a very fragile marine environment now seems anyone’s guess. Technically the engineers seem to be doing all they can.

The Genoa-based Carnival subsidiary seems to have closed ranks again as its own top management behavior comes under investigation. Nick Squires of the Daily Telegraph has just reported this from a session of the Grosseto court.

Prosecutors allege that the captain’s negligence and misconduct were compounded by errors made by senior officials from Costa Cruises, the Italian company that owns the ship.

They have broadened their investigation to include three Costa Cruises employees, including Manfred Ursprunger, the vice-president, and Roberto Ferrarini, the head of the company’s crisis management unit.

He was in regular contact with the skipper on the night of the disaster but prosecutors accuse him of being “culpably unaware of the real situation on board the ship” and of falling to verify the information provided by Capt Schettino.

Nick Squires also reports that Captain Schettino’s legal prospects have now worsened.

On Thursday, prosecutors lodged two new charges against the captain, accusing him of abandoning incapacitated passengers and failing to inform the coast guard in Livorno, on the mainland, of what was happening on the ship.

He was already charged with abandoning ship, causing a disaster and multiple counts of manslaughter and is under house arrest at his home near Sorrento, south of Naples.

Nick Squires also reports on how the ship was slowed down to allow the captain and his lady friend to finish their meal. Then it was speeded up to awe someone in Giglio, and a big crowd on the ship’s bridge.


Friday, February 10, 2012

The Learning Experiences Emerging From The Carnival Ship Disaster Off Italy’s West Coast

Posted by Peter Quennell





Value migrations force better systems upon us, and so the human race progresses…

Check out first what seems to be happening to value as a result of the Costa Concordia wreck, as reflected in the stockmarket chart just below.  Stockmarkets and currency exchange rates constitute the value votes of a lot of watchful people trying to decide where to put their money.

Italy has no independent currency any more, so Italy sorely lacks that other very useful value indicator and safety valve.  But stockmarket behavior is telling us a lot both about Italy and about the Carnival cruise line.

In the past three months during which the main American index, the Dow-Jones (red curve), gained an okay 8 percent, the Italian stockmarket index (green curve) gained a very impressive 30 percent.

The main news out of Italy in those three months was (1) the austerity plan, which in theory is setting the stage for future growth (toward which there was some cynicism), and (2) the recovery from the wreck of the Costa Concordia (toward which the doubts were even greater).

You can see a slight blip down in the green curve immediately after the wreck, but then Italy continued with speedy value migration inward.  It seems fair to say “Well done Italy. You’ve received votes of international confidence on both fronts.”

Carnival, however, rather less-so.. The blue curve is the stock price of Carnival Cruise Lines and it’s still down about 12 percent since the wreck happened which is about $3 billion off Carnival’s market valuation. All cruise lines seem to have taken something of a hit and are likely to encounter other heat to make sure they all keep improving.


Check out now what is happening to systems.

It seems clear that the captain was steering the ship while he was a bit tiddly while showing off to what increasingly appears to have been his girlfriend by his side. By international and Carnival rules (1) the captain should not have been drinking, (2) he should not have been five miles off course, (3) the Moldovan dancer should not have been on the bridge, and (4) the captain should have been a lot more careful in his navigating.

So four systems at least were violated.

Then when the ship was beached - there is some uncertainty as to whether this was deliberate or whether the captain was just putting the ship in shallow water -  (5) damage to ship bulkheads was much more than expected, adding to the high number of deaths, (6) the lifeboats were almost impossible to launch, and (7) the evacuation procedures almost totally broke down - in part because there had been no evacuation drill before the ship left the port of Rome, and in part because the captain went awol and was already standing on the beach.

That is far from an exhaustive list and systems changes implemented after the 9/11 attack numbered up in the hundreds - military responses, building techniques, city preparedness, corporate distribution of their people and physical assets. We will see the same happen here. 

Right now we are watching what appear to be two very efficient systems cutting in and doing their work. One is the recovery of the oil from the ship and then the ship itself. And the other is the Italian legal system, which is going to be kept busy with this one for years.

There is increasing evidence that the single Moldovan dancer and the married captain were having some sort of affair.  She briefly admitted as much, telling a court she loved him, and the searchers and divers may have found her effects in his cabin.

He may now face 2,500 years in prison to reflect on the importance of respecting systems and the value of peoples’ lives. . 






Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Compared To Italy, Say, Precisely How Wicked Is The United States?

Posted by Peter Quennell





Please click above for a chart we can all read.

Okay. According to this proportional comparison of prison populations, the US is about seven times as wicked as Italy.

We have often remarked that Italy’s crime rate is low, the three mafia families (Sicily, Calabria and Naples) are mostly fading, and the justice system is one of the most cautious - conviction rates are infuriatingly low for the suffering families of victims, but in a forgiving Catholic nation rates of incarceration are unlikely to jump any time soon.

The American incarceration rate in sharp contrast has for a decade led the rest of the world, and it increased every year for nearly 30 straight years from the arrival of President Reagan to the departure of President GW Bush. Its prison rate is ahead of Russia’s, with its mafias and corruption and poverty, and ahead of China’s, with its large population of political prisoners.

Finally, however, the American incarceration rate and execution rate are both now headed downward.

Factors that had been keeping incarceration rates high included the 1980s-1990s drug wars, the estimated 12-15 million illegals, the estimated several hundred million private guns, the law-and-order hard line of many politicians and the Supreme Court, the elections of many sheriffs and judges and district attorneys based mainly on a law-and-order hard line, the part-privatised for-profit prison system, and distinct racism (see graphs below) in who goes to prison and who doesn’t. 
 
Factors that are now pushing incarceration rates down include a major drop in all crime rates, the liberalization of US society as it gets richer, the pressure on government budgets, the easing of certain drug laws, the proofs from DNA that police do not always get the right perpetrator, Obama-administration investment in re-entry programs and more effective methods of parole and probation, and the continued push of humane people to radically change things for the better.

Executions were put on hold by the Supreme Court for some years. You can see from the last graph below that after that ended there was something of a surge in executions, but the numbers are sinking down again quite sharply (now at about 30 a year) and execution might be a thing of the past by 2020.

Wow! In matters of crime and punishment the United States is now starting to converge upon…  Italy!






Sunday, October 30, 2011

Outcry In England At Evidence And Jury-Briefing Requirements Which Make Convictions Much Harder

Posted by Peter Quennell





In this post on the CSI Effect we touched on the disturbing declines in convictions throughout much of the world. It is possible that more and more murderers are walking free.

In many countries now the playing field is becoming noticeably tilted against prosecutors and police. One factor may be a growing suspicion of governments which seem to have been captured by the very rich. One factor may be declining budgets as those same governments get more and more into debt. One factor may be TV shows and live court coverage which allow everyone to think they know best.

Especially when narcissistic defendants (many crime-doers are exceptionally self-absorbed which helps in putting on a great defense) twiddle peoples’ heartstrings and cause them to lose their cool.

Another major factor may be legal precautions carried to extremes which go way back and almost grind prosecutors into the dust. In Italy we have described the ultra-cautious legal system at length in posts such as this one and also this. 

On Friday in western England Vincent Tabak was found guilty of the murder of Joanna Yeates and sentenced to life in prison which will see him behind bars for at least 20 years.

The defence the jury heard was that he was a shy awkward boy with girls and when he tried to kiss Joanna Yeates (who in fact did not even know his name) he held her mouth for a bit, without her struggling - and suddenly she was dead.

The verdict was something of a squeaker. Now it has come out that the jury was never told things about him that seem highly relevant to the understanding of Tabak and what he did. 

First a description of something that happened at trial in Saturday’s Bristol Evening Post.

Vincent Tabak had a secret fetish for strangulation porn that showed women being held by the throat and assaulted by men.

Films portraying blonde women being throttled during sex or tied up and bundled into car boots were found on his laptop computer and were planned as a trump card for the prosecution during his murder trial.

But Mr Justice Richard Field ruled it would have been prejudicial for jurors to hear such evidence.

Nigel Lickley QC put forward a failed application to the judge in the first week of the trial at Bristol Crown Court, before the jury was sworn in.

Mr Lickley said: “They concern the defendant’s interest in porn, but in particular porn depicting violence towards women with their tops raised.

“There are also violent images of women being held by the neck, then being sexually abused by men.

“We submit that these images have a real significance and explain why the defendant held Joanna Yeates by the neck and killed her.

“We submit that it is the case he developed a sexual pleasure from it and that is because he viewed this material.

“There is sexual activity between a man and a woman ““ often bound and gagged…. It is a fact that the women are held by the throat often when gagged ““ as a means of control.”

Another article in Saturday’s Bristol Evening Post describes other key things that the jury never got to hear.

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones, who led the murder inquiry, attacked Tabak for being “manipulative” and devising a “cunning” plan in a bid to cover his tracks.

He said: “It has taken ten months to bring this investigation to a positive conclusion, and to provide Joanna’s family and Greg with some closure….

Ann Reddrop, of the Crown Prosecution Service’s complex case unit, branded Tabak a “cunning, dishonest and manipulative” man.

She said: “He was cunning and dishonest towards his girlfriend with whom he maintained a normal relationship, and towards his former landlord, about whom he lied to the police and which in part led to that person’s arrest for the murder.

And get this - shades of Ted Bundy and many other psychopathic killers who played cat-and-mouse with media, police, prosecutors and jury.

“He was manipulative of the police by virtue of his own in-depth research on the internet to keep one step ahead of the investigation prior to his arrest and then made very selective admissions surrounding the circumstances of Jo’s death which sought to cast her in an unfavourable light ““ even when he was giving evidence to the jury.”

One of many similar comments in the UK media is this one in the Daily Mail..

I am glad we have juries but this trial has once again raised issues that many people find hard to comprehend.

Should this evidence have been admissible? Mr Justice Field said that although Tabak’s choice of viewing was reprehensible, it was not valuable enough to outweigh the prejudice it would cause his defence.

There are those who say this is justice at its exemplary best; that criminal trials are often based on negotiations between lawyers and judges about what evidence can be put before a court.

Then there are the rest of us who are left somewhat mystified by the methods used by the legal establishment to ensure justice.

Post-verdict statements by Joanna Yeates’s parents and her boyfriend were much more hard-line than this. And they were among the “lucky” ones who saw their harmer locked up.



Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Terrible Weight On The Victim’s Family Because The Italian System Is So Pro Defendant

Posted by Peter Quennell





The Italian prison population is proportionally perhaps the smallest in the western world.

Italy has an overall population about one-fifth that of the United States, but a prison population only about one-thirtieth the size of that in the US, below 100,000 as compared to 2.7 million.

It is true that Italy has a very low murder rate, and that most towns see no murders at all year after year. Even now outside the main cities many people still tend to leave their houses unlocked. There seems to be not that many crooks.

But even in light of this, two factors have resulted in sentences often amazingly light by international standards, with prison sentences under three years almost never served, and crooks often happily walk free.

  • The first factor is all the safeguards built into the post-WWII constitution to make sure that the kangaroo courts of the fascist era would never ever again reappear.

  • The second factor, now in the news,  is the manipulation of the justice system by the occasional politician over the years to soften the situations of their locked-up buddies. 

So prosecutors now have to jump through a large number of hoops and judge after judge has to check on their reasonableness. Mr Mignini noted this in court the other day when he said that 42 judges had come to see the case against Knox and Sollecito in essentially the same way he presented it. .

Defendants get to speak in court while not under oath whenever they want to. They get two automatic appeals, and verdict and sentence are not considered final until the Supreme Court of Cassation rules that way. The overturn rate on either level of appeal is not particularly high, but there seems a tendency for appeal courts to be more lenient than trial courts, though Cassation often does favor the rulings of the original trial courts.

Now Italian crime rates are creeping up, with the influx of drugs and immigrants, and majority opinion in Italy is that the system should definitely be a bit tougher. Various pro-victim TV shows and various books have shown that because of all the pro-defendant breaks, the toll on victims’ families can be really shocking.

We have posted on the pro-victim campaign of Barbara Benedettelli who is a prominent TV show hoster. She has just come out with a book telling of the sufferings of victims families in saddening detail.

One of the families she describes saw their baby snatched by defense witness Mario Alessi, who soon after killed the baby with a spade because it would not stop crying. Alessi and his wife are locked up now, but you would rarely see in the UK and the US the kind of suffering along the way that the family of baby Tommy went through.

Victims’ families may get some legal and social help but they often end up financially decimated and quite often in poor health. This seems to be the tragic predicament of Meredith’s family which their lawyer Francesco Maresca highlighted the other day.

“You will look Meredith’s family in the eyes only once,” Maresca said. “They could not always be here in court due to the mother’s health problems and siblings’ economic problems.”

In fact, he said, the family had trouble finding airline tickets for the verdict, which the lawyer contrasted with reports that the Knox family had a private jet ready to whisk the American student out of the country in the case of a not guilty finding. Knox’s family has denied the existence of such a plan.

John and Arline Kercher’s bills are said to to be pushing now toward $200,000 at a time in life when their earning powers are no longer at their peak and neither of them are in good health. They have to pay all of their own travel costs to and from Perugia and all of their own hotel bills, and also the fees of Mr Maresca and his team.

Kind attention has just been paid to their terrible plight and to the memory of Meredith by the Italian media, and also in the US and UK by Reuters and the Associated Press and Fox News and The Examiner.

But they deserve a great deal more.


Friday, July 08, 2011

Jury Sequestration Coming Under Fire From Those Who Question The Casey Anthony Verdict

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above and below: The jury’s Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando; there are more images here].

The jury was imported for the Casey Anthony trial from a Gulf of Mexico town 100 miles west.  They stayed in this hotel for nearly seven weeks.

Now they are rather defiantly starting to speak out (see the ABC News video posted below) to explain that, given big gaps in the evidence against Casey Anthony, and the dubious scenario presented (that she put the baby she loved to sleep with chloroform and duct tape in the trunk of her car while she went off to have a good time), they did what they had to do: unanimously vote no on the charges of murder and manslaughter.

There seem to be no signs that during the trial a hue-and-cry media had any pro-guilt effect on their thinking - in Tuesday’s post we suggested that if anything it seemed to do quite the opposite.

But it is now being suggested that while staying all together in this hotel the 20 jurors became just a little too chummy.

The former Los Angeles prosecutor Marcia Clark, who is critical of both the verdict and the prosecution, argues in the Daily Beast that jury members themselves are signaling that their sequestration was a very big factor.

I’m going to start by saying that, for those who thought the jury came back awfully fast””less than eleven hours spent in deliberation, you should now wonder what took them that long. Because from the very first vote, this jury was already close to a unanimous verdict of acquittal - at least as to murder: ten to two for not guilty. That’s an impressive show of solidarity for a first vote. And it shows they were almost unanimously inclined to acquit right from jump.

It’s the fact that this jury was already in sync in a case that posed so many debatable issues is what’s so noteworthy. And it has everything to do with sequestration. This jury was sequestered for more than two months. When jurors are forced to spend day and night with each other, apart from their families and friends, they become a tribe unto themselves. Because they only have each other for company, and because most people prefer harmony to discord, there’s a natural desire to cooperate, to compromise in order to reach agreement. And they have no safe retreat. If they disagree with their fellow jurors, they can’t go home to a husband, a wife, a friend, where they can regroup and marshal their energies. Make no mistake about it, sequestration is no picnic and I have sympathy and respect for the jurors who put up with that incredible hardship.

But we can’t ignore the mental and emotional impact it has on the jurors””an impact that likely thwarts the whole point of drafting twelve individuals to decide a defendant’s fate. The point of having twelve jurors is to have an array of differing points of view. The belief is that people of different backgrounds and experience will naturally bring a variety of attitudes to bear, and thus produce a more balanced view of the evidence. What one juror doesn’t get, another one does, and each of them sees different aspects to each witness and piece of evidence. The idea is for them to share differing views and reach a greater understanding””not to have them shave off their square corners so they can all roll together.

Unfortunately””and psychological studies bear this out””a group that is kept together for any length of time becomes more and more alike, more in sync, as time goes on. (By the way, this phenomenon is also in play with regard to proximity to the defendant. The longer the jury is in contact with the defendant, the less sinister he or she appears. In this way, familiarity with Casey Anthony turned her from a potential murderer to an abused, perhaps disturbed, but certainly nonthreatening, child.) Add this phenomenon to the natural desire to avoid contentiousness and seek harmony and you can see how individuality begins to erode in a sequestered jury.

Now add to that the psychology of group dynamics””a subject well known to trial lawyers and jury consultants. In every group there will be leaders and followers. Listening to Juror Jennifer Ford, who was very likely a leader, it became abundantly clear that the leaders on the Anthony jury were cheerleaders for the defense.



Jennifer Ford Is The First Juror To Speak Out On The Casey Anthony Acquittal

Posted by Peter Quennell


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Interesting Tilts Of Marcia Clark And Alan Dershowitz Toward Educated, Informed Italian-type Juries

Posted by Peter Quennell



Neither of these heavy hitters are saying to abolish the common-law system of not placing professionals in the jury room.

Or for that matter to swing over to a semi-professional and seemingly less error-prone system like Italy’s, where the judges stake their own reputations on their verdict and the written explanation that must follow.

But both found the Casey Anthony non-guilty jury verdict a bit peculiar, and Alan Dershowitz specifically suggests that semi-professional jury systems (like Italy’s) tend to be more accurate. 

Above, the former prosecutor Marcia Clark commenting a couple of weeks ago on why the media boosted the Casey Anthony trial into such a “fry her” phenomenon. And here in the Daily Beast she comments on why that media angle had no sway over the jury.

For one thing the evidence and scenario had some major gaps. And for another:

[American] jury instructions are so numerous and complex, it’s a wonder jurors ever wade through them. And so it should come as no surprise that they can sometimes get stuck along the way. The instruction on circumstantial evidence is confusing even to lawyers. And reasonable doubt? That’s the hardest, most elusive one of all. And I think it’s where even the most fair-minded jurors can get derailed.

How? By confusing reasonable doubt with a reason to doubt. Some believe that thinking was in play in the Simpson case. After the verdict was read in the Simpson case, as the jury was leaving, one of them, I was later told, said: “We think he probably did it. We just didn’t think they proved it beyond a reasonable doubt.” In every case, a defense attorney will do his or her best to give the jury a reason to doubt.

“Some other dude did it,” or “some other dude threatened him.” But those reasons don’t necessarily equate with a reasonable doubt. A reason does not equal reasonable. Sometimes, that distinction can get lost.

Former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz went deeper into jury principles on the Piers Morgan interview show on CNN last night.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, if you want justice, don’t look to the criminal law system. That’s not its job. Its job is not to produce a just result. Its job is to produce a legally correct result.

We have a system that says better 10 guilty go free than one innocent be wrongly confined. If you have a 60 percent likelihood a person did it, you must acquit. If you think he probably did it, you must acquit. If you think he almost surely did it, you must acquit.

We acquit lots of guilty people, and that’s the right thing to do. When we convict an innocent person, that’s the wrong thing to do. That’s our system of justice. Many people don’t like it. Many people think the opposite, that we have too much popular justice, too much dependent on elected prosecutors, elected judges, elected officials.

The French, for example, don’t understand our stem with a case that’s going on now with the rape in New York. They don’t understand our system. They say it’s much too popular. In France, there’s a professional system. They have professional judges, professional prosecutors, professional jurors.

We’ve opted for a much more democratic system, and it means that in the end you’re going to be dissatisfied with a lot of verdicts. Just don’t expect too much from our legal system. Don’t expect truth. Don’t expect justice, because that’s not what it’s supposed to give you.

It’s supposed to give you a legal process that only convicts if admissible evidence proves the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If you don’t like that system, I’ve got plenty of other systems for you that are more accurate. The Chinese system, the military justice system, the Russian system. Many European systems. But the American system errs on the side of freeing the guilty instead of convicting the innocent.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Token Balance In The Italian System: The Voice In The Court For The Victim

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



[Above: Francesco Maresca with the Lead Appeal Prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliol and Ms Comodi]


We have often posted before on the pronounced tilt toward defendants’ rights in the Italian court system.

The Italian criminal justice system is just about the only one in Europe that has not yet adapted to the 2001 directive of the European Court that was asking for equality in criminal trials.

As we can see in this case, the system is extremely pro-defendant.

Police and prosecutors have to jump through a large number of hoops. Judge after judge combs through the evidence. Defendants can get up and talk in court at the nod of a judge without being cross-examined.

Defendants never have to take an oath to tell the truth. Judges in effect have to be part of the jury and to stake their reputation on the outcome of every case, the reasoning of which they must describe in writing.

No-one is conclusively declared guilty until two appeals have been concluded. The second appeal is to the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome, which seems to be sitting on more appeals now than the rest of the western world put together. Just about all prison sentences of under three years are waived. 

And that is just for starters.  One outcome is a prison population proportionally less than 1/4 that of the United States.

Many Italians feel that this fairness or leniency - call it what you will - has gone way too far, and Prime Minister Berlusconi’s attempts to press the fairness or leniency even further are wildly unpopular.

We posted recently on the tireless Italian campaigner for a stronger assertion of victim’s rights Barbara Benedettelli and she has a new book out on various cases. She has also sent us some background material on the generic issue which we intend to build into a post.

Against this tsunami of systemic pro-defendant bias in Meredith’s case, we really only have the fortitude of the police and the prosecutors involved, and the systemic presence of the lawyer representing the interests of the victim and her family: Mr Francesco Maresca, who practices law in Florence.

Although his English is said to be hesitant - which means the English media don’t usually track him down for any soundbites - he seems to us to be tirelessly aggressive in the court in standing up to the many impromptu interventions of the three perps and the fireworks of their six-plus lawyers.

Here is an interview with Mr Maresca in yesterday’s Umbria Left which was kindly translated by our poster Tiziano.

The lawyer for the Kercher family: Alessi and Avielli contradicted.

“Guede confirms the presence of the accused in the house of the crime. We have heard witnesses who contradicted Mario Alessi and Luciano Aviello.” Thus said lawyer Francesco Maresca, lawyer for the family of Meredith Kercher, at the end of the hearing of the appeal trial of Raffaele Sollecitoand Amanda Knox.

“Witnesses which,” he added “we could have however done without, heard only because it was necessary from a procedural point of view.” Lawyer Maresca claimed, “Regarding Rudy Guede, this person confirmed what he wrote in the letter to his defence lawyers. And to the specific question whether it was an opinion of his, he replied ‘no, it’s what I experienced that night’.

“In my opinion Guede once again confirmed the presence of all three accused at the site of the murder that night. It seems to me the truth of a co-accused already found guilty. To me it appeared absolutely clear,” Maresca concluded.

Another one landed for Meredith by her lone ranger in the court.



Saturday, June 11, 2011

US Kidnapping Victim Gets Justice After 8 Years Despite Defense + Perp Groupies Gaming The System

Posted by Peter Quennell

A 14-year old Mormon girl, Elizabeth Smart, was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City on June 5 2002.

On March 12 2003 she was found alive with her abductors on the streets of a town about 18 miles from her home. Her abductors were Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Ileen Barzee.

A couple of weeks ago,  Mitchell was finally handed two life terms at trial.

It sure was a strenuous process getting there.

The defense had great success over the years in lining up a number of mental health specialists to say he was not well in the head, and should of course be committed to their institutions rather than prison where, presumably, they would cure him.

Elizabeth Smart and her family and the cops and prosecutors and many or most of the American public never ever bought Mitchell’s insanity act for a moment. There grew to be a small mountain of evidence that he was faking it. He was observed to turn on and off bizarre behavior whenever it served him..

But many others, some naive do-gooders and some very nasty  did buy Mitchell’s act. And in the video at bottom you can see how the defense tried to argue that Elizabeth Smart herself was not REALLY affected by her ordeal and so Mitchell should get a break on the length of his sentence.

In this case Wikipedia has an excellent and impartial account of the psychological testimony. The defense portion of the trial, which ultimately failed to convince the jury:

Many stipulations were presented and many lay witnesses where called covering Mitchell’s alleged sanity and his alleged insanity. The defense relied most of all on the testimony of two mental health professionals, Dr. Paul Whitehead and Dr. Richard DeMier. Dr. Whitehead is the clinical director of the forensic unit at the Utah State Hospital and studied Mitchell extensively since his arrest in 2003 and concluded that Mitchell suffered from a delusional disorder which made him both incompetent to stand trial and not responsible for his crimes. Dr. DeMier testified that Mitchell suffers from both grandiose and paranoid delusions which he characterized as bizarre however he offered no opinion as to what Mitchell’s mental health was at the time of the crimes between 2002 to 2003 because he only analysed his mental state as of 2008.

And the prosecution portion of the trial which won the jury over.

A total of seven lay witnesses were called to testify on December 3, 2010 regarding Mitchell’s cruelty and religious beliefs including his two former step daughters who testified that Mitchell abused them long before he claimed to be “Immanuel” or a prophet…  A US Marshall who escorted Mitchell into the courtroom each day testified that Mitchell only sings inside the court room. The officer also said that Mitchell spent his time in the nearby holding cell following proceedings, napping or exercising. Mitchell’s behavior outside the courtroom changed only when his wife Wanda Barzee testified with Mitchell standing as close as possible to the monitor, not moving during the duration of her time on the stand….

The prosecution’s last witness was Dr Welner, a forensic psychiatrist from New York City, who spent more than 1,600 hours working on a report on Mitchell…. Dr Welner testified that Mitchell does not suffer from a mental illness, but rather pedophilia, anti-social personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder adding that to know Brian Mitchell is to be fooled by Brian Mitchell. Amongst other things he testified that Mitchell would abandon his revelations when it suited him which showed they weren’t sincere and that Mitchell used blessings to control his wife and used threats and force as a way to control Elizabeth Smart.

A life sentence eight years in the making. Nice to see a prosecution stick to its guns and achieve justice, despite such strenuous attempts to derail it.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Italian Justice System Efficient And Uncontroversial In Other Prominent International Cases #2

Posted by Peter Quennell





Faux experts Doug Preston and Steve Moore and other Knox cultists don’t seem to realize it. But Italian and American law enforcement are smoothly co-operating on hundreds of cases at any one time.

Here is a good example. Italy’s role was absolutely crucial. The Italian police tracked down and apprehended in a tent high in the Alps an American fugitive who had been on the run for six years.

His name is Dr Mark Weinberger and he ran a clinic in Indiana. He got in seriously over his head and assembled debts up in the millions. While on his large powerboat in Greece’s Aegean Sea with his wife Michelle, also seen here, he disappeared.

Man overboard, hopefully presumed dead?

But both American and European law enforcement kept digging. Below the image from Indiana’s North West Times is an excellent timeline of events in the next six years.


September 2004: Dr. Mark Weinberger, a Merrillville-based sinus surgeon, heads to Greece on vacation on a yacht. He never returns from his regular 6 a.m. jog, taking thousands in emergency cash with him. Michelle Weinberger, his wife, is saddled with nearly $40,000 in dock fees and no means to get home. Her friends take up a collection to help her return.

Sept. 6, 2004: Weinberger patient Phyllis Barnes dies of throat cancer.

Oct. 5, 2004: With Weinberger missing, Robert Handler is appointed by Lake Circuit Court to manage Weinberger Sinus Clinic’s business affairs and settle $7 million in outstanding loans. Records indicate the clinic has about $7,000 in its coffers, which sits in stark contrast to Weinberger’s lavish lifestyle.

Oct. 13, 2004: Barnes’ estate files a lawsuit against Weinberger. He is accused of incorrect diagnosis and unnecessary treatment that prevented Barnes from getting treatment for her throat cancer.

Oct. 20, 2004: Twenty-three other patients, ages 7 to 60, file suit, accusing medical malpractice. They say Weinberger never considered nonsurgical options after diagnosing them. Ultimately, nearly 300 lawsuits will be filed, most saying Weinberger issued identical diagnoses and treatments.

Oct. 21, 2004: Valparaiso attorney Ken Allen says a private detective he hired believes Weinberger traveled to Israel aboard his yacht. Allen said Weinberger, who is Jewish, may have picked the country because American Jews can travel there without a passport and cannot be extradited.

Oct. 28, 2004: The Indiana Medical Licensing Board votes unanimously to suspend Weinberger’s license for 90 days.

Dec. 10, 2004: Michelle Weinberger says her husband’s credit cards were used to pay large sums in the French Riviera. She heads there to find him.

January 2005: Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter seeks to extend suspension of Weinberger’s medical license for another 90 days. He says 221 malpractice complaints have been filed with the Indiana Department of Insurance.

April 28, 2005: Weinberger’s license is permanently suspended.

July 12, 2005: Weinberger’s 14,000-square-foot surgical center and 10,000-square-foot condominium office building sell for about $2.4 million.

Also sold at auction are 1,000 pieces of medical equipment for $650,000.

March 2006: Weinberger’s wife, Michelle, divorces him.

March 30, 2006: Fred Weinberger files a lawsuit against his son, seeking repayment of a $1 million loan plus $417,043 in interest and expenses he claims his son owes him.

Dec. 8, 2006: Mark Weinberger is indicted on charges of fraud and malpractice.

The investigation shifts gears from a missing person search to a manhunt.

September 2008: The TV show “America’s Most Wanted” features a segment on Weinberger’s disappearance.

March 2009: Barnes’ estate wins its malpractice lawsuit.

Dec. 15: Weinberger is apprehended. The 46-year-old was found hiding in a tent some 6,000 feet above sea level at the foot of Mont Blanc in the Italian Alps. He stabs himself in the neck with a knife he hid while authorities were approaching, but he recovers and later is extradited.

Oct. 18: Weinberger agrees to plead guilty to each of the 22 federal fraud counts against him in exchange for a four-year prison sentence. He agrees to pay $366,600 in restitution to 22 patients he admitted defrauding. A judge still must accept the plea deal.

Michelle Weinberger (now Michelle Kramer) testified against him in detail. She later graduated with a doctorate in psychology. He was sentenced to spend years in prison (exact duration depends on the amount of fraud still being uncovered) and huge fines. And for botched surgeries he faces a huge number of suits. Here is another example.

So a lot flowed from that high-altitude Italian arrest..






Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Italian Justice System Efficient And Uncontroversial In Other Prominent International Cases #1

Posted by Peter Quennell


Going on right now is a trial of an alleged blackmailer’s accomplice at Pescara which is on Italy’s east coast about an hour south-east of Perugia.

In the dock is a rather strange Italian who assisted a Swiss gigolo to swindle at least six wealthy European women out of many millions. One of the women is a German divorced mother of three, Susanne Klatten (image above), who through her majority ownership of the chemical giant Altana and large stake in car manufacturer BMW is a multi-billionaire and Germany’s richest woman.

It was through her refusal to succumb to blackmail regardless of the personal embarrassment when she was shown sex shots of herself and the gigolo Helg Sgarb (image below) that the case was blown wide open. Helg Sgarb was tried in Munich in 2009 and sentenced to six years in prison.

A few days ago Susanne Klatten testified in Pescara against Ernani Barretta (image at bottom) who among other things is alleged to have done the secret filming of Ms Klatten at an exclusive spa in Germany. 

The case is going smoothly, Italian justice is looking good, and nobody connected to Barretta seems to think a hate campaign against Italian justice would do him any real good. 





Wednesday, March 02, 2011

In The US Political Commutations Of Judicial Sentences Are Rarely Greeted With Public Approval

Posted by Peter Quennell

The idea that PM Berlusconi could insert himself into Meredith’s case - or for that matter Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton - has frankly always seemed rather ludicrous. .

In Italy there is not even any clear route for politicians to meddle with the legal processes. The Italian judiciary is one of the world’s most independent, as many politicians (not least Mr Berlusconi) have found out to their cost.

In the United States the president and many state governors have the power to award prisoners clemency and to reduce or fully commute their sentences. Rarely is this very popular, and sometimes it turns into a third rail.

We now have a good example in California. Arnold Schwarznegger left office as governor of California late in January, already under something of a cloud for a lackluster performance while in office.

Just before departing he approved various commutations including a reduction by half of the sentence of the son of a political colleague who had already pleaded guilty to a knife murder and had been awarded a not-very-tough sentence.

Now the outraged family of the murdered boy are running both a legal campaign and a political campaign to have this commutation reversed, and those campaigns are both gathering wide public traction.

Mr Schwarznegger is seeing no obvious gain out of this, and his legacy could be permanently tarnished. Shades of Senator Cantwell? She also has gone very very quiet.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

From Shortly Before Last December’s Verdict: Our Poster Hopeful’s Moving Tribute To Italian Justice

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters




We have dozens of posts on TJMk illustrating how the Italian justice system is among the best in the world. Careful, humane, and in fact hardly ever wrong.

In part because police and prosecutors are very painstaking - read here of all the hurdles they have to get through.

In part because judges have to put their careers on the line with each judgment, as with Judge Massei now, and not simply hide behind an unexplained jury decision from 12 amateurs of random education levels.

Six weeks before the December 2009 verdict, Hopeful paid them this kind tribute.

Moved By Italian Justice: Doing The Very Best It Can For Meredith And Her Poor Family

Crestfallen and broken, Amanda and Raffaele react in visible distress in the latest courtroom photos.

Amanda looks sad, smitten, perplexed, astounded, with anger not far under the veneer, yet overall truly sorrowful for the first time in 2 years. Raffaele is weeping as the court denies more evidence do-overs. He feels the weight of this blow.

These two are probably guilty, but it still makes me sad to see what prison can do to human beings. Why, oh why, couldn’t they have let Meredith live and simply enjoy her sweet life? Mercy to her would have been multiplied back to them so very many times over.

I believe Prosecutor Mignini and his assistant, Mrs. Comodi, and all the Perugia homicide cops want to see JUSTICE done above all.

Surely they take no pleasure in the misery that native-son Sollecito is undergoing. They had to arrest him to redress a huge evil. I’m sure they regret the repercussions this has meant to his father, a fine medical doctor, an upstanding citizen of Italy. Despite this, and America’s loud outcries, they have proceeded.

I think the Italian police and prosecutors have acted with more intense caution and discretion in handling the evidence against Amanda because of her U.S. citizenship. I don’t think this is a case of two innocents being railroaded.

If the Italian police had wanted to score points politically, they could have closed the case after the arrest and conviction of Rudy Guede. The police saw undeniable proof to their practiced eyes that Amanda and Raffaele were very guilty.

And I don’t think forensic scientist Patrizia Stefanoni of the Polizia Scientifica in Rome is in the prosecution’s back pocket. I believe she acted in good faith. Patient and careful analysis of forensic lab samples requires real intelligence and excludes quick passion.

“To be or not to be??”. From Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Methinks Amanda does look a little Danish.

It wasn’t fish blood or cat’s blood or pierced ear blood on their hands, it was the blood of honor. Meredith was defenseless in a foreign land. She was a great asset to her own family, to the Erasmus program, to Italy, and eventually to the world. She deserves the best efforts of her host country, and she’s receiving them here.

It now feels like justice is not only happening here - it’s convincingly SEEN to be happening. We all owed you this one, sweet Meredith. May you forever rest in peace.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Why The Italian Judiciary Is Probably Less Prone to Pressure Than Any Other In The World

Posted by Commissario Montalbano



Image above: The Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura in session

Some of the very best lawyers in the UK and USA and around the world are learning a lot about the Italian system by way of the Perugia trial - and are in many, many ways impressed.

Italian magistrates enjoy an extraordinary level of autonomy from the other powers of government (executive and legislative) and the point of this post is to explain why. This autonomy is above all due to the Italian constitutional framework.

That framework is intended to guarantee such an exceptional level of independence so as to avoid the abuses that occurred during Mussolini’s fascist regime, when Italian magistrates were forced by the executive to prosecute (and persecute) political opponents to the fascist dictator.

The source of such independence is set forth in Title IV of the Italian Constitution which in particular provides for an independent body [image at top here] which is called the “Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura” or C.S.M. (Superior Council of Magistrates). This is the self-governing body for Italy’s judiciary, and it comprises ordinary (civil and criminal) judges and prosecutors.

Its competence is based upon Articles 104 and 105 of the Italian Constitution, as well as several ordinary laws. Article 105 says that the C.S.M. is responsible for the hiring, training, assignments, transfers, promotions, appointments to the Supreme Court of Cassation, disciplinary actions and terminations of all Italian judges and prosecutors.

Article 104 opens with the statement: “Magistrates constitute an order autonomous and independent from any other power”. The article then proceeds to provide norms relating to the composition of such a self-governing body.

In order to guarantee the independence of magistrates and in accordance with the general principle of the balance of powers, the constitution establishes a mixed composition of the members of the CSM.

According to the constitution, two thirds of its components are in fact judges elected by all magistrates (judges and prosecutors) in special nationwide elections of the CSM (these are called “membri togati”, i.e. judicial members).

And one third is chosen by Parliament among law professors and attorneys with at least 15 years of experience (these are called “membri laici”, i.e. lay members). And in addition, there are three so called “˜De Jure’ members:

  • the President of the Republic, who is the President of the CSM
  • the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation
  • the General Prosecutor before the Supreme Court of Cassation

The CSM then elects the Vice President of the Council choosing among its lay members appointed by Parliament. The Vice President is the real acting President of the CSM, since the role of the President of the Republic is primarily symbolic. The current Vice President of the CSM is Nicola Mancino [image below} who is a former Speaker of the Italian Senate.



Image above: Nicola Mancino, Vice President of the C.S.M., addressing the Council

The constitution establishes the above mentioned proportions, but not the number of members. However a law passed in 2002 sets the number of elected members at 24. Therefore at present there are 16 members (all judges) elected by magistrates and 8 members appointed by Parliament. With the three “De Jure” members the total is therefore 27 members.

The position of member of the CSM is incompatible with that of legislators, therefore CSM members cannot be members of Parliament or members of the Regional Assemblies.

Art. 107 reiterates the extraordinary independence of magistrates (judges and prosecutors) by stating: “Magistrates are not removable. They may not be dismissed or suspended or transferred to other locations or functions if not after a decision of the CSM, adopted either for reasons and with the guarantees established by law or with the magistrate’s consent.”

Ordinary laws also confer other powers to the C.S.M. including the power of giving opinions to the Government and to Parliament on proposed laws affecting the order of magistrates and the judiciary in general.



Image above: Palazzo dei Marescialli in Rome. The Seat of the C.S.M.

The extraordinary independence of Italian magistrates, especially considering that Italy is probably the only country in the world where not even State prosecutors report to the executive power, has created a lot of tensions between magistrates and politicians.

The Italian Prime Minister, Mr Silvio Berlusconi, who is indicted and undergoing prosecution in over twenty separate cases, some of which already concluded (for bribing of judges, illegal campaign financing, tax evasion, fraudulent accounting) dating back to the time before he entered politics in 1994, has often accused magistrates of having proceeded against him for politically motivated reasons.

His pressures on the CSM to discipline those magistrates whom he alleges are politically motivated in their prosecutions against him, have not succeeded, and the CSM has always defended the actions of magistrates against the frequent attacks from the executive power and from the many politicians who are under investigation for corruption and other crimes.

Recently Mr Berlusconi’s coalition passed a law to guarantee immunity from prosecution to the four highest offices of the Republic, including that of the Prime Minister, but the Supreme Constitutional Court struck it down as unconstitutional.

Currently out of 945 Members of Parliament in the two houses, there are about two dozen convicted felons and over 70 more under investigation by Italian magistrates. They’re all holding to their seats very tightly, since all members of the Italian parliament are immune from arrest, if not from prosecution.

Pressure on this extremely powerful and immune judiciary has not worked where real heavy-handed political and media persuasion was attempted. Be assured, the judiciary in Perugia will take no notice of it at all.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

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

Posted by Peter Quennell


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

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

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

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

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

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




Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“They Were Held For A Year Without Even Being Charged!!” How Italian Justice REALLY Works

Posted by Nicki



[Above: Cassazione, the Italian Supreme Court Of Appeals}

A misleading mantra

This frequently quoted claim above is maybe the most mindless and misinformed of all the mantras on the case.

Much of the US media and some of the UK media - sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes with reserve - has parroted the claim that Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox were “held without charges” for nearly a year.

Perhaps bringing to mind the notion of two innocent bystanders to the crime being arbitrarily arrested? Locked up in cockroach-infested jails by abusive police? Led on by an evil prosecutor with endless powers up his sleeve, and nothing at all to slow him down? Lost and forgotten by any judges in the case?

Well, good luck with that one, if it’s designed to sway the process.

It irritates just about everybody here in Italy, the judiciary and the media included. And it is doing the defendants no good at all.

Negative stereotypes like these really should not be applied to a country that is one of the founding members of the EU, of NATO, and of the European Council, and of the G-7, G-8, OECD, and United Nations (the non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2007-2008).

So for media reporters and commentators, please let us get the facts straight. Once and for all?!

Origin of Italian jurisprudence

Italian jurisprudence developed from Roman Law. It was shaped in the course of history to become a modern and very fair system. Judicial powers are subjected to a very complex and extremely pervasive set of checks and balances, which really assure maximum protection of every citizen’s rights.

Comparing the US and UK common law system - a model founded on non-written laws and developed through judicial proceedings - with this system which arose from the Roman Law model - based on a written civil code - is really like comparing apples to oranges.

They were both conceived to protect individual’s rights at a maximum level, while seeking justice for the victims. But with entirely different processes.

One is not necessarily better or worse. But there are legal experts who think the Italian system is distinctly fairer - much more weighted toward the defendants. In the US and the UK the prosecutor usually has to make it through only one pre-trial hoop. In Italy the prosecutor has to make it through a whole row of pre-trial hoops.

Legal status of a witness and a suspect

Let’s see what happens in Italy to the legal status of a person who, while considered a “persona informata dei fatti” which means “a person who could yield useful information” in relation to a brutal murder, suddenly becomes a suspect in the eyes of the police.

If while interviewing the “person who could yield useful information” the suspicion arises that such person could have played an active role in the crime, their status then turns into that of a suspect. The police can then detain that suspect up to 48 hours.

Those 48 hours are the period within which a prosecutor - if he believes that the evidence of guilt is meaningful - can request a validation of the arrest by the Judge of Preliminary Investigation (the GIP).

If the judge agrees with the prosecutor that a serious indication of guilt exists, a warrant for the arrest is issued by the judge, and the person’s detention is thus validated.

Immediately, as soon as the status of “person who could yield useful information” status changes into the status of a suspect, the suspect person has a right to legal counsel. This legal counsel normally immediately appeals for the release of the suspect.

Subsequent hearings by different judges

Thus setting in motion what can be a LONG sequel of hearings - for which in US and UK common law there is no such equivalent. Each hearing is headed by a different judge. This judge examines prosecution and defence arguments, and decides if the suspect may be released on any of these bases:

  • Seriousness of the clues presented by prosecution

  • Likelihood of repeating a similar crime

  • Likelihood of fleeing the country during the ongoing investigation

  • Danger of tampering with, or fabricating evidence

If every one of the defence appeals fails, in front of a number of different judges, in a number of different hearings, and the investigation is officially closed, the suspect then goes on to a pre-trial hearing.

Once again here, yet another judge rules either to clear and release the suspect by rejecting the submitted evidence, or to send the suspect to trial on the basis of that evidence, thus making the charges official.

Judicial decisions on bail, house arrest, or jail

Now that the charges are official, the judge can decide if the defendant must await trial under house arrest, or in freedom, of if the defendant must remain in jail.

If the judge, based on their knowledge of the crime and the defendants, estimates that the chances of re-offending or fleeing the country are high, the suspect must remain in jail.

So nobody in Italy can be detained without a reasonable suspicion, a long series of judicial hearings (any one of which could set them free) or eventual official charges.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have not in fact been incarcerated for over one year due to zealous police or a bizarre prosecutor or the complicity of a number of judges throughout the process.

They have been incarcerated because an articulate and balanced process of law has officially and very fairly established there are strong indications that they willingly participated in the vicious murder of Meredith Kercher.

Failure of defenses to persuade judges

Their own lawyers have put up a tough fight for Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox throughout the judicial process.  But they have simply failed to convince the judges throughout that process.

One that actually seems strongly weighted in their favor.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Next-Day Press: A Good Take By Andrea Vogt For Hearst’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Posted by Peter Quennell



PERUGIA, Italy—A little more than a month from now, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito will stand trial for murder in an Italian courtroom. For Americans following the case, it’ll seem a little strange.

The trial is expected to be open to the public—in stark contrast with the series of closed-door hearings held over the past year just to get to this point.

Under Italian law, Knox and Sollecito could be held in prison for several years during the trial and appeals, if any, but this case is likely to take only months to play out because there’s already been an unusual amount of trial preparation, according to legal observers.

Unlike a typical criminal trial in the United States, the Italian version is longer—often taking months to get to a verdict.

Until two decades ago, the trial process here was similar to that of France, but recent reforms have brought the system closer to what might be expected in an American trial.

There are usually six civilian jurors and two judges, one of whom serves as the “president” of the jury and helps manage the procedural elements of the trial. All of the jurors, including the judges, are chosen randomly.

Although it’s a sensational case, Knox and Sollecito will probably be tried in Perugia, a central Italian city with a population of about 340,000. A change of venue to another city jurisdiction is seldom granted.

The capital of the region of Umbria, Perugia is known for its high-profile jazz festival each summer, its chocolate fair in the fall and as a magnet for international students. But the influx of foreign students and tourists belies how the real Perugia operates, many say.

“It is a paradoxical city,” said veteran Italian journalist Meo Ponte, who is covering the case for the Italian daily La Republica and lived several years in Perugia before transferring to Turin.

“It has the dimension of a small town,” he said, “but because of its large student population, it also has the openness of a large, cosmopolitan city.”


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