Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reflecting On Andrea Vogt’s Fine Report “Knox: Innocent Abroad Or “˜Getting Away With Murder’?”

Posted by Skeptical Bystander

Cross posted from my personal blog. Please click the image above for Ms Vogt’s new piece.

In this intelligent and well-written piece, Andrea Vogt wonders aloud how Italians would react to an acquittal of the Seattle woman who was convicted in December 2009 of taking part in the killing of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. She notes that an acquittal would be cause for celebration in Seattle.

It would certainly be cause for celebration among those who have taken up the cause and believe in Knox’s innocence despite the compelling evidence of her involvement in this horrific crime. But the fact is, most people in Seattle are simply not that interested. And among those who are, the consensus is certainly not that an innocent abroad got railroaded.

If it seems so, it’s because the local media has dutifully followed the lead of the national media and adopted the “innocent abroad” narrative concocted by David Marriott, whose PR firm was hired to manage Knox’s image shortly after she was arrested. In Seattle, Meredith’s murder has been played as a human interest story in which only the local protagonists matter. Meredith was British; it is assumed that Seattleites could not possibly give a toss about her.

Hence, local coverage has favored news of fundraisers for the accused local woman and then for the convicted local woman. Questions from local journalists to her supporters (family) have ranged from “How is she holding up in prison?” to “How is she holding up in prison?” And since there is no guilter movement, local or otherwise, except in the minds of a few shrill locals, there has been no local coverage of the movement’s “activities”. How can a non-existent movement have activities?

I have met many people in West Seattle who quietly shake their heads in disbelief at Steve Shay’s coverage for the West Seattle Herald. Yesterday, someone who works at a local business said “you’re skeptical bystander” when she handed me back my credit card. She told me she was a long-time lurker who reads and TJMK every day for information about the case. There are many people like her in Seattle.

I found it amusing, though sad, to read the comments that follow Andrea Vogt’s thoughtful piece for the First Post. Naturally, loud vocal supporter “Mary H” (this is her online pseudonym, and hiding behind it may be one reason she is so loud on the internet) was quick to condemn Vogt for merely pointing out the obvious. Mary H (fake name) asked Andrea Vogt (real name) how she could sleep at night!

It ain’t that hard, Mary, when you have the courage of your convictions and when you stand by the facts rather than getting sidetracked by the cause.

The fact at hand is that many people—in Seattle, in Italy, and elsewhere—would come away from an eventual acquittal with the feeling that justice had not been done for Meredith Kercher and her family and that at least two of those responsible for her death had gotten away with it. Mary H and others may not like to hear this, but it is a fact. And no amount of shaming on the part of Mary H or anyone else is going to make a bit of difference.

Yesterday, a lawyer friend and I were musing about what would have happened had this case been tried in the US. Many Knox supporters have said, repeatedly, that it would never have gone to trial here. My lawyer friend agreed, but for a different reason than the one implicit in this view (i.e. that there is supposedly no evidence).  He said

I don’t think the case would have gone to trial in the US. First, they would not have had to stop questioning her when they did. They would have artfully gotten her to waive her Miranda rights. They would have told her they can’t help her unless tells her side of the story, been very sympathetic initially and built up her confidence that she could talk her way out of it. They would eventually hone in on the inconsistencies, and when she finally cracked there wouldn’t be a lawyer there to stop her. The death penalty would have been on the table, and her only sure way to avoid that would be to plead guilty in exchange for life.

He also thinks that this would not have been such a high-profile case had it happened in Seattle.

Let’s wait and see how this court weighs the two contested items in the overall scheme of things. As a poster on PMF (another lawyer) wrote last night, it all boils down to this: How many pieces of evidence… ‘consistent with, but not conclusive of’ guilt can stack up against someone before, as a matter of common sense, it is no longer reasonable to believe they are innocent?


Quoting Skeptical…
“Let’s wait and see how this court weighs the two contested items in the overall scheme of things.”

I suggest that only an intimidated court would dismiss the murder weapon.
(a) Why did Amanda admit to her parents in a recorded conversation that she was very very worried about that knife?
(b) Why did she concoct that fantasy about Sollecito’s having (maybe) put the knife in her hand while she slept & pressed her hand to give her fingerprints to the handle?

And Sollecito (whose bra clasp I would also refuse to disallow—not least in conjunction with his footprint in blood on the bathmat.)
(c) Why did Sollecito explain to the police that he had accidentally pricked Meredith’s hand while cooking?

Amanda’s fantasy shows openly her fear that her fingerprints will be found on the murder weapon. She invents a story that is hugely improbable: she sleeps through this maneuver on Sollecito’s part.
Notice that her fantasy implicitly blames Sollecito, even as she accuses Sollecito of blaming her.

Sollecito’s explanation confesses to the fact of Meredith’s blood on the blade without questioning it.

The Roman professors overstated the case, invoking standards like those required in a surgeon’s operating room.  With the convenience of hindsight they imagined a well-crafted detective story instead of considering trained professional police who came upon a messy murder scene & took all sorts of precautions NOT to contaminate the evidence or interfere with its placement (one example: restraining the coroner’s examination lest he destroy any slight item of evidence by moving & examining the body.)

Amanda must not walk free: & I don’t believe that could happen.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 09/22/11 at 07:13 AM | #

Like Skeptical Bystander, I live in Washington State. I’ve always thought Knox is guilty.  Her actions and words have always pointed to her guilt.  As the recently posted transcript of her prison conversation with her mom and stepdad shows, she might have ended all of the speculation and turmoil early on by admitting her invoolvement in Meredith’s murder if her family hadn’t shushed her.  Knox has been riding the wave of her supporters’ creation ever since. Just before her conviction, her family was saying she’d be home for Christmas.  This time they’re saying she’ll be home for Thanksgiving. During this limbo period before the summations, deliberations and verdict, Knox’s supporters are having a heyday, trying to make her acquital seem inevitable.  However, this isn’t American Idol where people call in and determine the winner.  Knox’s fate is in the hands of six Italian jurors and two Italian judges who probably don’t read Ground Report.

Posted by Sailor on 09/22/11 at 08:24 AM | #


I’m sick to the stomach at the possibility of any acquital.

What are the chances of this? How solid was the defence’s appeal? Was it really that bad as reported?

In summing up, does Guede’s Cassation judgement come into play?

I’ve asked this before: surely, she would not be allowed to leave the country pending an appeal?

PLEASE, can someone advise?

Posted by Zoff on 09/22/11 at 09:25 AM | #

AK & RS were convicted as a result of many pieces of evidence. They have not been allowed to appeal most of these pieces. If the court has allowed two pieces to be challenged, does that mean that the court believes that if these two pieces are overturned that there is a good possibility of acquittal? What I’m trying to get at is that (my) common sense says that if the court believes that 2 pieces of evidence out of a total of (say) 14 pieces of evidence will not change the overall picture, then why do they allow an appeal? The scary conclusion that I have come to is that the court may believe that for ‘justice to be seen to have been done’ that there is a distinct possibility of acquittal. Otherwise they would be wasting everyone’s time. Can someone with a Legal background maybe clear up my confusion?

Posted by Terence on 09/22/11 at 09:45 AM | #

While the US has been busy executing people today, I happened to read about this case which shows that people are convicted on less evidence than there is against Knox/Sollecito:

Two friends met a woman in a bar. One of the men—SW—was flirting with the woman. At closing the bartender said the woman left in her car followed by the two men in their truck.

The woman was found shot in the head the next morning in a ditch. DNA of both men was found inside the woman. There was a bloody piece of duct tape that was never tested.

Police went to the motel where men were staying and found one of the men—CF—who showed them his friend’s gun in one the drawers. The woman’s DNA was subsequently found on the gun. CF was interrogated as a witness and gave several conflicting statements.

Meanwhile SW was arrested while trying to flee. SW told police he had dropped CF at the motel and then went home with the woman and had sex with her. Then they returned to the motel and found CF asleep. SW said he and the woman went out driving. At some point—he was doing drugs—he realized he had shot the woman in the head so he hid her body and fled.

A month later CF revised his statement to essentially match SW’s except that he remembered having sex with the woman while he was half asleep.

SW was sentenced to death but died of a brain tumor. CF was also convicted and sentenced to death based upon his changing statements and forensic testimony indicating that SW was not strong enough to carry the victim alone.

So I ask: Which is the stronger case for conviction, Knox/Sollecito or Cleve Foster? Does the fact that Cleve Foster has neither “all-American good looks” nor “Harry Potter charm” have anything to do with it?

Posted by brmull on 09/22/11 at 09:48 AM | #

@Terence - that’s my fear too. I’m a cynic. We have the court appointing ‘experts’ that obvioulsy are not and biased; then the Prosecutor is denied a re-test? Why?

Mignini says that the requests for re-tests should have been done immediately, not 2 years later? Why did the Court allow it? I think you right Terence, i think they’ll walk !!!

Posted by Zoff on 09/22/11 at 10:41 AM | #

@Zoff - Cynicism aside and considering the amount of evidentiary items agains thse two I find it inconceivable that they will walk.

@Terence - The defense has not questioned or challenged any of the evidence apart from the DNA of the knife and bra clasp. They are betting on these tow items to cast doubt as to all the other evidence which is ridiculous of course. The best they can hope for is a reduced sentence.

So to sum up, tomorrow should see some fireworks.
Don’t forget that they can’t convict one and let the other off so it’s either all or nothing that’s why I’m optimistic

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 09/22/11 at 02:49 PM | #

I say that the evidence is conclusive (vs. the “consistent with but not conclusive” wavering of Skeptical’s lawyer-friend quoted above.)

I thought less highly of Ms Vogt’s report (the particular report) than Skeptical. A gifted reporter she is mindful of her readership (& even so she took a ton of abuse for this wavering article!)

Both Amanda & Raffaele (& each separately) show in explicit statements high concern about the implicating knife. Amanda expressed anxiety & has effectively conceded her “fingerprints,” Raffaele acknowledges the stated fact: Meredith’s blood on the blade.

So then on top of this (low copy number notwithstanding) to find by careful testing an exact match for Meredith on the blade & Amanda’s DNA on the handle is simply damning. Overall, the conclusiveness of the prosecution’s case is the sum of all evidence (& much evidence) but the knife evidence in context—vs Skeptical’s wavering about “contested” evidence—is enough for conviction. This is why it has been the target of the defense’s attack.

Whatever the obfuscations of defense, the Sun Also Rises…

Posted by Ernest Werner on 09/22/11 at 02:56 PM | #

@Zoff and Terence

Rest assured that these two pieces of evidence have nothing to do with why there was an appeal.  Under the Italian system, you get two appeals, so the Court didn’t have to make a decision based on any particular evidence.  There would have been an appeal even if the Defense had found no evidence that could be reasonably questioned. And there will be another appeal regardless of how this one ends: if they are declared innocent, the Prosecution will appeal; if they are confirmed guilty, they will move on with the second appeal.

So the reason why these two pieces of evidence were re-examined is not because the Court believed them to be of utmost importance, but because the Defense could prove that they could be questioned.  Fair enough, since what we are interested in is the truth.

Even if the judge decides that this evidence is too ambiguous to be considered, there is an entire body of evidence which points to AK, RS, and RG. RG has already received a final “guilty” verdict based on the same evidence, and his court report concluded that he could not have done this alone given the evidence. The decision could not be reasonably overturned just based on the knife and bra clasp, since there are still footprints, mixed blood, cellphone records, etc. which place the defendants at the crime scene.  Plus, neither has been able to provide a coherent, believable, consistent narrative to explain their whereabouts and movements on the night of the murder.

Obviously, anything could happen in the next few days, but I think it’s reasonable to expect that the verdict be upheld.

Posted by Vivianna on 09/22/11 at 03:31 PM | #

Here last news from AK&RS;’s lawyers: evidence this time directly against RG.

Here last news about Meredith’s mother letter.


May be worth to remember to all non-italian posters that, as Rocco Girlanda clearly pointed out, AK&RS;’s case, and in particular the unlikely charges invented by prosecution, is obviously linked [in his mind] to Silvio B case(s). Enough?

Posted by ncountryside on 09/22/11 at 04:16 PM | #

My Italian is woeful, but as far as I understand that TGcom article they’re saying that a small cut found on Guede PROVES that he must have climbed in the window, cutting himself on the glass on the way, and then attacked Meredith.

Is this really what they’re saying? And are they saying it in order to try to create doubt? It just comes across to me as desperate.

Posted by Spencer on 09/22/11 at 06:19 PM | #

Yes, that is correct, and “due to this” their clients “are unrelated with the murder”.

A quick translation of the letter from here:

“My daughter Meredith was killed while she was in the safest place: in her bedroom. Who killed her knew her well, but her confidence had been betrayed. For me it is inconceivable all that.

I had my daughter killed in her home. Not in a park, not in a street. We haven’t found her body in a garden.

I had talked with her the day before the murder. She was happy. She promised me that she would be back to celebrate my birthday. She had bought the chocolate that she wanted to give me.

During these four years I have never stopped thinking about her. And it is as if I always had her near me.

She loved Italy, she was fascinated by Perugia.

I do not care about the names of those convicted, I do not care whether they are called Rudy, Amanda and Raffaele. For me it’s just that my daughter was killed by someone who at first instance was found guilty and convicted.

In that trial there were many evidences, I wonder what happened to them now. They tell me that would no longer be valid but they are two and all the others? What has changed from the first trial?

I accepted the ruling of the Court of Assizes, and I accept what will be decided by the Court of Appeal and all the others will have to do like me without any distinction.

I want justice done for my daughter. “

Posted by ncountryside on 09/22/11 at 09:08 PM | #

Thanks ncountryside.

So according to AK’s and RS’ lawyers Guede cut his finger while breaking the glass to climb in through Filomena’s window. Without bleeding anywhere. So it looks as if we are back to the discredited lone wolf/breaking in through the window theory again.

Or is this a feint? If so I can’t think what else they have in mind.

Guede’s own explanation for the cut, whether you believe him or not, is that he fought with an assailant wielding a knife.

Posted by James Raper on 09/22/11 at 10:39 PM | #

It is so sad, to see the Kerchers have to fight to remind people not to forget their daughter. I hope the court hears them, and not the arguments emanating from American PR. Only then will they have justice, and, closure.

Posted by Ergon on 09/23/11 at 05:16 AM | #

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