Friday, April 05, 2013

The New Palace Of Justice In Florence Where The Repeat of The Appeal Will Take Place

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



[Click above for a larger image]


The huge new Palace of Justice in north-west Florence was fully opened in January 2012.

It was built on the site of a former FIAT factory. It is Italy’s second largest Palace of Justice after that in Turin (in Rome the justice functions are still distributed) and one of the most modern and spectacular in Europe.

Several thousand people work in the building, including the judges, lawyers, clerks, police and support employees.

It houses all the civil and criminal courts for Florence, and the higher courts for the province of Tuscany. Also the chambers of the chief justice and all other judges. Also the office of the prosecutor general and chief prosecutor and all prosecutors. Also the office of the judges for preliminary investigations (GIP), and also all the associated police and support functions.

It was inaugurated on 23 January 2012 by the Minister of Justice Dr Paola Severino and the Mayor of Florence Mr Matteo Renzi (images below) and It frees up nine sites in the center of Florence for other business.

It was designed by the architect Leonardo Ricci (now deceased), is 240 meters long and 146 wide, with a tower of 72 meters, the second highest in the city. The occupied building area is about 800,000 square meters.

The largest courts are on the ground floor, and the upper floors house smaller courts and the offices for all the judges and prosecutors.


























Above: the January 2012 inaugural opening ceremony. Front from the extreme left the Chief Prosecutor (red tie), the Mayor of Florence (red, white and green sash), the Central Government Minister of Justice (white scarf) and the Chief Judge (beige coat).

The Chief Prosecutor Dr Giuseppe Quatrrocchi and the Chief Judge Dr Fabio Massimo Drago will be ultimate overseers of the new appeal. They will appoint the prosecutors and judges who will preside.

The Chief Prosecutor is already heading a contempt of court investigation into the many false claims of criminal behavior in Sollecito’s book. He seems certain to need to do the same if Knox’s book transgresses.

False claims in either book may incur additional years in prison, and millions in civil damages.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Real Catastrophe For The Defenses That Was The Supreme Court Ruling Last Week

Posted by Machiavelli (Yummi)





On Tuesday March 26, the Supreme Court of Cassation quashed the previous acquittals of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of Meredith Kercher.

The Supreme Court annulled almost the entirety of the 2011 Hellmann-Zanetti appeal verdicts, declaring the appeal outcome completely invalid on five of the six charges. The Court only upheld the sixth charge which made definitive Knox’s conviction for calunnia for which she had been sentenced to three years.

Calunnia is the crime of maliciously placing false evidence or testimony against an innocent person, something the Italian Criminal Code considers not as criminal defamation but as a form of obstruction of justice, a more serious offence. 

Worse for Knox, the Court annulled a part of the appeal verdict which had dropped the aggravation known as continuance, the aggravation that acknowledges a logical link between the obstruction of justice and the murder charge.   

Once the dust has settled, the defendants and pro-Knox and pro-Sollecito supporters and defences may finally realize how severe a defeat has been dealt to their side. 

Most American journalists were completely unprepared for and very surprised at the outcome. But most Italian commenters and a very few others elsewhere considered the outcome quite predictable (the criminologist Roberta Bruzzone for example hinted so in written articles, so did Judge Simonetta Matone, as well as John Kercher in his book, and many others too).

This really is a catastrophe for the defences. A complete annulment of an acquittal verdict is just not frequent at all. They do occasionally occur, though, and this one appeared easily predictable because of the extremely low quality of the appeal verdict report. 

For myself I could hardly imagine a survival of the Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti outcome as being realistic.

I previously posted at length on the Galati-Costagliola recourse (that is an important read if you want to understand all angles of the annulment). I argued there that a Supreme Court acceptance of the verdict would have so jeopardized the Italian jurisprudence precedents on circumstantial evidence that it would have become impossible to convict anyone in Italy at all. 

The previous appeal trial obviously violated the Judicial Code as it was based on illegitimate moves such the appointing of new DNA experts for unacceptable reasons.  It contained patent violations of jurisprudence such as the unjustified dismissal of Rudy Guede’s verdict on a subset of the circumstantial evidence. Hellmann-Zanetti even “interpreted” the Constitution instead of quoting Constitutional Court jurisprudence.

They omitted a number of pieces of evidence, literally “forgetting” them or dismissing them without providing an argument (they should have, being an appellate trial based on the previous findings and arguments of the lower court). The appeal trial had obvious illogical contradictions on a macro level, such as the contradictory putting together of the conviction for calunnia and the acquittal on the murder charge (ignoring a logical link required by statute without introducing any reason at all). 

The Hellmann-Zanetti verdict was also based on an illogical processing of all pieces of evidence (such as the dismissal of Nara Capezzali’s evidence without logical reason, even after calling her “credible,” and that of Quintavalle; and attributing the bloody footprint to Rudy Guede on the basis of some ludicrous reasoning).

The appeal verdict basically ignored the concept of “a contrario” evidence, like concluding that the luminol footprints are probably not in blood but in some other substance and not related to the murder (despite failure to indicate any alternative substance nor any reasonable scenario).

The verdict was also biased with open prejudice in favor of two of the suspects in assuming they would be unlikely to even socialize or hang out together with the third, based on social or racial discrimination (two whites from good-looking families are called “good fellows” while the third is “different”). 

Beyond the glaring, major faux pas in procedure, the verdict’s low quality, unlawfulnesses, and hypocrisy in its reasoning tended to be pervasive and obvious through all its paragraphs, and possibly this also could have caused an aura of distrust toward the work of the Hellmann-Zanetti court. 

One could assess the strikingly low quality of the appeal verdict especially by comparing it to a sophisticated recourse such as the 100-page Galati-Costagliola Supreme Court appeal. While nobody could anticipate with total certainty the Supreme Court decision between the Galati-Costagliola appeal and the Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti appeal verdict, to good legal eyes the outcome would be as uncertain as the result of an England versus San Marino football game!

EACH of the eleven single mistakes, plus EACH of the six “method” mistakes pointed out in the Galati-Costagliola recourse could by itself have been a sufficient cause for the annulment of the acquittals.

The redundancy of reasons and remarks by Cassation sheds light on the judgment shortcomings from many different angles, and all the reasons presented for the recourse were certainly assessed by the Supreme Court. 

But on the practical side, most probably the Hellmann-Zanetti verdict did not even survive beyond the first mistake. The appeal verdict most likely crumbled completely from the very beginning on reason #1, the illegitimate appointing of new experts by Hellmann-Zanetti to re-examine the DNA.   

But even given that the defences’ defeat could be foreseen, I never expected the defeat to pervade to this extent.

I thought the appeal verdict might be quashed entirely and a new appeal would start from scratch. But the Supreme Court went further and decided to “save” only the parts of the verdict that were unfavorable to Knox, and declared her conviction for calunnia definitive.

Meanwhile, the Court accepted the Calati-Costagliola reason #10, and quashed the part that denied a logical link between calunnia and murder.
 
The Supreme Court thus sends Raffaele Solecito and Amanda Knox back to appeal trial, but this time Amanda Knox will enter the trial as a felony convict with a definitive criminal record, which – the Supreme Court hints – is to be considered logically linked with the charge of murder. 

Moreover, judges in the appeal that will come next in Florence will have to follow the decisions set by the Supreme Court. Since the Supreme Court’s motivations report has not been issued yet, we still don’t know what points exactly Cassazione will make. But we can expect that several arguments used by Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti that were “needed” to acquit Knox and Sollecito will be now declared illegitimate. 

This might mean that we will not see for a second time such faulty reasoning as “Knox’s statement can’t be used as evidence of lying because it is not true.” It may not be possible to dismiss the verdict that found Guede guilty of concurring in murder “with others” from the set of evidence just because it was “weak.” It may not be possible to deduce the time of death based only on declarations of Rudy Guede. 

We also may not have a chance to again see an expert declaring that contamination is “likely” on the sole basis that “everything is possible.” We also may not have another judge attributing footprints without talking about any measurements.






The Supreme Court session began on March 25, and it is only a rare event that a Cassazione session extends over into two days.

The first criminal division of the Supreme Court – scheduled to decide on this case – was a five-judge panel presided over by Dr Severo Chieffi. His name never did sound like a particularly favorable omen for Knox and Sollecito. Dr Chieffi is a 70-year-old judge, known for being the author of a famous 2008 verdict which definitively closed a notorious criminal case (“the first time a Cassazione hearing attracted massive live media attention”), a verdict among the most quoted in jurisprudence which is known as that “on reasonable doubt.” 

Dr Chieffi and his nine-judge panel explained reasonable doubt as to be intended as an “a contrario” concept, the concept used to formulate a logical reasonable alternative. That verdict pointed out the concept of “reasonable” and also stressed that the nature of evidence is “logical” – reasonable depends only on the plausibility of alternatives, not on how conclusive or reliable single pieces of circumstantial evidence are, and a piece of evidence does not require any specific “physical” element or conclusive quality.   

The rapporteur judge was Dr Piera Maria Severina Caprioglio. The rapporteur judge goes through the papers of the whole trial and summarizes their content to the other panel judges; the rapporteur and the president are the two who physically write the report (it may sound like irony that both judges have the adjective “severe” in their name). I was told Dr Caprioglio was a rather stiff judge, known for her scrupulosity in procedure matters, and she is also a specialist – and hard liner – about sexual crime (maybe that’s why she was chosen by Dr Chieffi as the one to do the research on this case). 

At the Supreme Court there is also an office known as the Office of Procurator General, which has more than 50 magistrates. The Procurator General appoints a magistrate (normally called the “PG”) to study cases and to make arguments on all cases dealt with in Supreme Court sessions. The PG is considered “neutral” in the sense that their office represents no party only the “precedents” of the court. While the rapporteur makes a description of the case, the procurator makes arguments about the recourses submitted by the parties. 

At 10:30 am on Monday, Judge Caprioglio begun her 90-minute speech summarizing the case. She detailed legal events that led to the first Massei-Cristiani verdict, and then the appeal trial led by Hellmann-Zanetti and their verdict. 

She sounded rather neutral; hers was a sheer summary with no comment attached. Nevertheless, it sounded most ominous for the defences: right from Dr Caprioglio’s speech, in fact, Knox and Sollecito’s attorneys understood that they were going to lose. 

This is because Dr Caprioglio devoted half of her rapporteur time or more to detailing Massei’s first degree trial and verdict, explaining the arguments and evidence used by the Massei court. Such attention was itself ominous to the defences. 

A main basis of the Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti verdict is in fact a series of denials about the work of the lower court, in which plenty of evidence was simply ignored or dismissed without dealing with the first degree conclusions; while the strategy of Giulia Bongiorno was to entirely “replace” the details of the evidence set with a self-made narrative, quite unattached to actual trial events, which somewhat “worked” as rhetoric and in the media.

Yet Dr Caprioglio was not yet the biggest problem facing Knox and Sollecito. The defence was about to face a pincer front, because the Procurator General’s offices did not appreciate the appeal verdict at all.

A bomb went off with the speech of Procurator Riello which followed next. 

Dr Riello recalled the points of recourse submitted by Galati-Costagliola, which may sound technical or subtle to those unaccustomed to them. Dr Riello endorsed the radical censures made by Galati-Costagliola and made clear his own view in an overview of the whole verdict. His arguments had the subtlety of an anvil. 

To summarize, he basically maintained the appeal judges had conducted an appeal trial as if they were idiots, and followed the paths of logic, procedure and law like sailors without a compass.
 
Seen from the point of view of the Procurator General, their way of conducting the appeal trial itself was like a journey through a dreadful series of unlawful steps, decisions informally taken without deliberation, and arbitrary and unjustified ordinances. The court simply “lost their way.”

In the body of their findings, it seems they understood almost nothing about the evidence – in particular about how circumstantial evidence works. They did not deal with the findings and arguments of the first instance court as they should have, as if they didn’t exist, and they trivialized the previous legal material. 

In fact Dr Riello sounded almost sarcastic; outraged by the incredibly amateurish work of this appeal court, he tended to detail the merit of questions and was interrupted by the president asking him to stick to the discussion on the table. 

At the close of his speech, he called the appeal verdict “a rare concentration of law violation, a monument to illogicality.” He said “the judge of merit lost their way in this trial.” Dr Riello noted “they fragmented, they parceled out the pieces of circumstantial evidence.”

He implied not only incompetence but a kind of disingenuous attitude: “The Court employed a fair dose of snobbism for trivializing the first degree verdict, reducing it to four elements. A very imprecise and superficial synthesis.”

He went beyond the criticism expressed in the Galati-Costagliola appeal when he described an obvious bias of the appeal court “not in just a few passages of the second instance verdict – it’s as if the defendants should benefit from a kind of anthropological and cultural immunity, in relation to the events.”

He criticized Pratillo Hellmann’s dismissal of Amanda Knox’s handwritten memoir, and recommended that a new appeal trial must in part be based on that statement as “it is a usable document”; and he stressed that in his opinion “the scream heard by Amanda is a significant datum, of great importance.” The behavior claimed by Knox on the morning of November 2, 2007 in his view was “chilling” and her taking a shower in a cold bathroom is a “chilling detail.” 

Dr Riello concludes by saying: “These are all conditions for not letting the curtains close on an upsetting and extremely serious crime for which the only culprit found up to the present day is Rudy Hermann Guede, who has been addressed through a Lombroso-style assessment, either calling him a thief, a criminal or a drifter. He didn’t confess and he was not convicted by another court for concurring in a crime together with others, maybe with ‘ectoplasms.’” (A reference to Cassation’s previous decision that he did commit the crime with others, but Hellmann-Zanetti identified no other people; hence ‘ectoplasms.’)

The Prosecutor General also dealt with the DNA experts’ report which defined the previous results as “unreliable.” He implied that the report and its language were used as a pretext by the defences “as a tombstone, while in fact it is not.” It was used as a tool to focus the trial on the DNA and steer it away from the whole evidence set, to “bury the set of pieces of circumstantial evidence which all have their vital value.”

The rhetoric of the defences aimed to “blame everything on those involved in the scientific police who are almost depicted as bunglers; however they are not brigadiers playing with toy chemical sets, they are in fact a highly qualified department and they do employ cutting-edge technologies.” 

A severe legal bashing like the Riello speech is not at all common at the Cassazione. As I heard the news on the radio, law experts commented that the event was unusually serious, and they hinted that its consequences may lead to the setting of a historic jurisprudence precedent.

Francesco Maresca – who brought his mentor Vieri Fabiani with him – endorsed the recourse points and made points similar to Dr Riello’s. He pointed out that a major flaw of the appeal trial was to focus on two DNA instances as if the case was based on them. The court appointed experts to review items with no legitimate basis, they provided an inconsistent explanation for their steps, and then they refused to analyze and introduce further evidence, totally contradicting themselves and also violating the code.

Their criteria for choosing which piece of evidence to discuss or review were totally contradictory, and their series of steps egregiously violated a series of procedural conditions that any court is supposed to follow.

The analyzing of the knife DNA sample and bra clasp sample as pieces in isolation is a sort of device that serves a defence made-up narrative; the focus on “disputed” items and the re-make of a narrative about legal events is simply a defence strategy which is aimed at the media rather than official court proceedings. For the Kercher family, the evidence points to the guilt of Knox and Sollecito beyond reasonable doubt. 

The evidence, explained Maresca, consisted of numerous pieces of evidence and reasoning, that were simply not dealt with by the appeal court. The whole process was “non-transparent” and the result is also contradictory given that Knox is indicted by her own words on the crime of calunnia.

Maresca explained that the appeal verdict is riddled with many flaws and errors in the merit of the facts which cannot be assessed by the Cassazione court, but there are also patent violations of law which are “strong and obvious” and of the most serious kind.






Then it was the defence attorneys’ turn. Giulia Bongiorno knew she would need to apply the full power of her best rhetorical skills: she pointed out a factual error in the recalling of Prosecutor Riello and threw herself head-first into the merit of the evidence. 

She even made FOA-style overstatements on the number of Guede’s DNA instances: “So many genetic traces of Rudy Guede were found in the bedroom of the murder, Amanda and Raffaele’s DNA would have been found too if they had been there.” (Her claim is false: in fact, only four samples yielding Guede’s DNA were found in the bedroom, and some were very scant.)
 
Bongiorno focused on investigation mistakes and complained that Raffaele Sollecito “was put in jail because of a shoe print found beyond the duvet which covered the body, a print that was attributed to Guede.” She also commented on Knox’s handwritten memoir and again put forward the claim – already rejected by all the judges of all instances – that the statement should be “not usable” because there was a “blackout” of defendant guarantees. Apparently, Bongiorno did understand that the most dangerous threat, and the actual battleground, would be about the danger of having Knox now definitively convicted for calunnia. 

Bongiorno said “we do not want to put the scientific police on trial” but then said the point defence demonstrated was that they made “an infinite series of errors.” In fact, Bongiorno’s speech largely consisted of the well-known defense stance of pointing the finger at a list of supposed wrong-doings by the police.

Bongiorno’s argument of pointing out supposed “police mistakes” would probably ring true to Knox’s Amarican supporters, who may find these arguments convincing and effective. 

In fact, it was obvious that Bongiorno’s position was extremely weak, and that her arguments were not going to have any effect. The weakness of Bongiorno’s arguments was obvious from the start because she backed into arguing the case only on the merit of investigation techniques. 

Her arguments would maybe resonate effectively with uninformed spectators, but they had already failed in those courts that were legitimate, and they have no consequence from a legal standpoint. Talking about supposed mistakes during the investigation and supposed bad behavior of police are good to build a narrative for journalists, but they would have zero effect on expert judges. 

I think she knew she was going to lose, but besides being a lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno is also a smart public person, and she plays in the public arena as well as in a court of law at the same time. Her technical stances are all wrong, but she knows she will be remembered well for her good-looking performance. 

The president did not interrupt her, showing due politeness toward the defence attorneys. But no attorney would convince the Supreme Court by simply saying “we demonstrated that the investigators made mistakes.”

In order to seek to obtain some positive effect, she should have argued in favor of the Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti appeal verdict on points of law, and put forward arguments for their legitimacy; for example, an argument in response to point #1 of Galati’s recourse claiming that the appointing of DNA experts was unmotivated.

Luciano Ghirga and Carlo Dalla Vedova had to take care of their own recourse against the conviction for calunnia on the false accusation of Patrick Lumumba. Their line of defence on this point was the same – and could be nothing else – than what they maintained though all the previous instances. Dalla Vedova deals with the handwritten note where he understands “Amanda says she is confused, she does not care about what she said.”

They reintroduced the myth that “she had been interrogated by the investigators for 54 hours.” They explain – almost a paradoxical argument – that the document was “a defensive paper” while then becoming one of the elements on which the charge of calunnia was built. They stressed that “she wanted to cooperate” with the investigation and that “she was a friend of Meredith.” 

A failure of their arguments was easily predictable because their recourse was built on points that had already failed at lower instances. Some time ago before this appeal, I posted this criticism of the Ghirga-Dalla Vedova recourse on Knox’s calunnia conviction to the Supreme Court:

Pages 3-11: The first argument is about the non-usability of the evidence for the crime of calunnia.

Such an argument is basically the re-proposal of the same argument that had been already dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2008, and subsequently by Massei-Cristiani in 2009 and also by Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti. Therefore, it is an especially weak argument. Ghirga-Dalla Vedova do attempt to use it again at the Supreme Court because it is what they have.

Just like Giulia Bongiorno will likely recall it too, just like she attempted to request of nullification of Stefanoni’s testimony on procedure grounds before Massei, which was rejected again by Hellmann-Zanetti (the Knox supporters have such a spun perception of the proceedings, they apparently don’t see how some basic defensive claims were rejected by all judges).

Pages 11-14 complete the first argument, addressing the further requirements of the crime of calunnia (maliciousness and voluntarity). 

Basically, this point contends that the false accusation was not voluntary or not malicious. The only usable point in my opinion in this reasoning consists of one line, which recalls that Hellmann-Zanetti did not acknowledge the aggravation of continuance for the crime of calunnia. But this point has no consequence because it is a weak point in Hellmann’s verdict itself which violates jurisprudence and logic itself.

The other claims at this point are basically useless; they attack the Hellmann verdict in a way peculiar to the prosecution appeal with an opposite stance. But in fact “not knowing” that someone is factually innocent obviously cannot be extended to an absolute meaning; Hellmann is illogical on that, because he dismisses the logical link with the murder without explanation. 

Pages 14-18 speak about the alleged “extreme exhaustion” of Knox in order to exculpate her of her confusion and falsehood.

This argument tends to be a stronger attempt to use some of the contradiction in Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti, using as a starting point the fact that H-Z did state that Knox was allegedly under excessive pressure. They convicted her for calunnia nonetheless. I think this argument won’t go too far, for two reasons.

First, because it’s basically on the merits; it quotes the whole writing of Knox and requests the SC to directly re-assess the sincerity of her words, something which the SC are unlikely to do.

Second, because while on the one hand there is a contradiction in H-Z as they accuse her of calunnia but do not use her writings as an evidence of lying on the other crime, and they reject the continuance despite the obvious link between the calunnia and the murder, on the other hand the contradiction addressed by Ghirga is weaker. There was in fact no factual finding about “excessive pressure,” neither in the H-Z appeal trial nor in previous Massei testimonies.

As for jurisprudence, pressure and “psychological alteration” itself is not enough to cause a loss of mental faculties to understand and will. Basically, most crimes are committed in a state of psychological stress or alteration, and people are responsible for themselves notwithstanding. The faculty to understand and will is not a psychological condition; it is something that affects the cognitive and decisional functioning of the brain on more basic functions, and requires a medical assessment.

So there is no way the argument of Ghirga-Dalla Vedova can overturn a conviction for calunnia based on an argument of psychological conditions: they have no basis; and there is no consistent ground to assert “excessive pressure” either. 

Pages 19-20 is a very short argument about two articles of the code that Ghirga puts in in relation to a case of defensive rights. 

This is an argument I am unable to assess clearly. This point basically claims Knox is somehow protected by the law because of an extension of her rights of defence. I have the feeling this point is wrong, because the boundaries of the right to defend oneself are already fixed and limited by a SC ruling of 2008, and because Article 51 only applies to what she declared as a defendant, but not to what she declared as a witness.

Pages 20-22 is only about the sentencing and not about innocence; it claims that, anyway, even if Amanda is guilty of calunnia, the punishment was too stiff and this severity was not logically motivated by Hellmann. This point is the only that could stand, in my opinion.

After the hearing of March 25 – which was the ninth case the Supreme Court panel dealt with that day – the panel deliberated for six hours, then adjourned the hearing and scheduled the final decision for the following morning.

The question whether to annul the verdict entirely, or to confirm the calunnia conviction, might have been the cause of some of the extra time needed. 

When the Supreme Court has to deal with scheduled cases the relator puts a mark – between 1 and 8 – indicating the difficulty of the case: 1 is the easiest and 8 is very complex. 

Almost all recourses are below 3, while a case like the one on the Narducci investigation a week earlier, involving Mignini, could have been closer to 8. The difficulty of this case is unknown. But because of some sensitive jurisprudence involved and because of the articulation of the recourses, this could have been around 6 or higher.

After retirement of the court, and adjournment to the subsequent day, at 10 am on March 26, the court’s dispositivo was the following:

ENDING THE RESERVATION FROM THE HEARING OF 03-25-2013, [THE COURT] DECIDES AS FOLLOWS: ANNULS THE IMPUGNED VERDICT, LIMITED TO THE CRIMES UNDER CHARGES:  A) (INTO WHICH CHARGE C) IS ABSORBED), B), D), E), AND TO THE AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCE UNDER C.P. ART. 61 NO.2 IN RELATION TO CHARGE F), AND REMANDS [THE CASE] TO THE CORTE DI ASSISE DI APPELLO OF FLORENCE FOR A NEW TRIAL. REJECTS THE APPEAL OF AMANDA MARIE KNOX, WHOM IT SENTENCES TO THE PAYMENT OF COURT COSTS AS WELL AS REIMBURSEMENT OF EXPENSES INCURRED IN THE PRESENT PROCEEDINGS BY CIVIL PARTY DIYA LUMUMBA, IN THE AMOUNT OF 4000 (FOUR THOUSAND) EUROS, IN ADDITION TO I.V.A. AND C.P.A., PLUS GENERAL EXPENSES ACCORDING TO LAW.

Thus, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are sent back to appeal trial in Florence on all charges related to the rape and murder of Meredith Kercher (a, b, c, d, e). And Knox is definitively declared guilty of the obstruction of justice charge known as calunnia, while the argument denying any logical link between the calunnia and the murder is quashed.

Resources used

The article above draws in part upon a translation into English of news information published by various Italian press sources, which our readers may like to look at directly. A good coverage of the case – including Riello’s speech – was broadcast by RaiNews 24 and they also have a lot of information on the website. Online updates were provided by Televideo. Commentaries and discussions were hosted on Radio1 - GR Rai. Dr Riello’s comments were reported by Il Fatto Quotidiano and Style.it. There were reports on Libero Italy.it. Also details and chronicles were reported at the end of the day by Il Giornale dell’Umbria. Coverage and the quotes for March 25 were provided by AGI. The dispositivo official document was obtained and published by Andrea Vogt.



A Growing Number Of Commentators Are Objecting To Overexposure Of The Two Still Accused

Posted by Peter Quennell





We have a series of posts coming up that will describe in detail and analyze the outcome of the Supreme Court.

At least one post will be a roundup of the media. Noticeable this time was less of a tendency to lionize Knox and Sollecito. Some articles and TV reports flipped for Knox, but none did for Sollecito.

And some editors and reporters have weighed in strongly for better balance. David Barrett of the Daily Telegraph wrote this one.

The impending retrial for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher fills many court-watchers with dread, myself included.

Details of the crime are horrific enough. But during the lengthy court processes which we have already witnessed, my discomfort was intensified by the obsession with Amanda Knox.

The photogenic young American, now 25, was convicted and then acquitted of the 2007 murder. She received more sympathy than most suspects who have ever stood in the dock on such a serious charge.

The media pack which followed the Italian trial would often comment on Knox’s apparent frailty; the “stress” she was suffering or whether she looked “pale”. It made me gag.

It’s a difficulty with which any professional and humane court reporter is familiar: how do you keep the victim, who is absent, visible in the very human drama that is a murder trial?

Is it appropriate to pay more attention to the suspect than to the issue at hand; namely, securing justice on behalf of a person whose life has been taken from them? I say it is not, although I can understand why it happens….

When the Italian prosecutors again attempt to secure a conviction for that tragic murder in Perugia we will have to get used to seeing Knox’s face on a daily basis once more. But let’s ensure that Meredith remains at forefront of all our minds.

.


Monday, April 01, 2013

Alarm Bells Ignored: Overconfident PR And Lawyers May Have Led To That Shock At Cassation Outcome

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters





Amanda Knox has seemed to us more stunned than confident since she got out of Capanne. Her father mentioned that she was not given the whole picture there.

But we have been surprised in recent weeks at how the defense lawyers and spokesmen and especially Raffaele Sollecito and Giulia Bongoirno and Carlo Dalla Vedova and the PR flunkies were seemingly seeing the Supreme Court appeal as a forgone conclusion in their favor, a blip requiring no change in the end game.

Here are 20 warning bells that we think they might have missed or heard wrongly which contributed to a shocked and ill-prepared reaction to the Cassation ruling, and each of which a team of hard-nosed lawyers not befuddled by PR might have heard and responded to quite differently. 

    1. The Italian media in 2007-2008 in fact did not blow the case and Knox herself out of all proportion. Most of the lurid headlines appeared in the UK press where they had zero effect on the 2009 jury. There really was a hard case to answer.

    2. The British and American media mostly came to be manipulated on the lines Barbie Nadeau’s book described, which meant a big contrast opened up between hard Italian reporting and fantastical UK and US reporting.

    3. The Knox and Sollecito teams shrugged off a short-form trial in October 2008 at which point they might have pleaded that Meredith’s murder was not intended and drugs and mental quirks had resulted in a terrible but unintended outcome, perhaps providing relief both for themselves and Meredith’s family. 

    4. The prosecution part of the trial in 2009 was in fact, contrary to frequent illusory claims, fast and comprehensive and decisive, and it may have been at the end of that phase that the jury was already ready to vote guilty. 

    5. The defense part of the trial was far less successful with Amanda Knox on the stand suggesting to Italians that she was cold-blooded and uncaring, and from then on the defenses were desultory and dispirited with no strong points ever landed. Several days one or other of them failed to show.

    6. The prosecution summation at end of trial was extremely powerful and included in it was a very convincing 15-minute crime-scene recreation video (never released to the public) which accounted for all the marks and stains in Meredith’s room and on her body by an attack group of three.

    7. The Massei report, again contrary to frequent illusory claims later, was considered by those familiar with such reports a model of good logic and reasonable assumptions. It laid out and connected hundreds of evidence points which in a normal appeal process would have been unassailable.

    8. The 2011 appeal did not happen because Massei was riddled with legal errors and wrong assumptions, which would have been the criteria for any British or American judge to agree to such an appeal. It happened solely because, unique to Italy, such appeals are automatic if demanded, resulting in a huge number of appeals on weak grounds. 

    9. Italy does not have a terrible record of trial reversals as some claim. It has a record of fine-tuning and adjustments of thousands of appeals by appeal juries seemingly wishing to prove that they are being diligent. Cassation is aware of this quirky systemic effect, and it often bounces back appeal outcomes to dead center. 

    10. It had appeared that the PR effort was joined by a lot of influential “heavies” including MP Girlanda, Judge Heavey, Senator Cantwell, Joel Simon of CPJ, and the billionaire Donald Trump. Most had limited positive effect in the US and less in Italy, and have been quiet since the Cassation ruling.

    11. Judge Hellmann was a surprise replacement for Judge Chiari, then the able and experienced head of the criminal division. (He resigned over this.) Judge Hellmann, a good civil judge, had very limited criminal-case experience. Chief Judge De Nunzio has not explained why he replaced Chiari .

    12. The scope of appeals is carefully laid out in the Italian judicial code, and they are not to be repeat trials with overall reconsideration of all evidence and al witnesses only absent the careful presentation process and cross-examination at trial. In the US or UK the defense grounds for appeal might simply have been rejected. 

    13. Prosecutor Mignini was provisionally convicted in March 2011 of abuse of office, but careful examination would have revealed that the grounds were spurious and he had no need of a conviction in this case. Cassation in the past month has killed his own case terminally and chastized those who brought it. 

    14. Incriminating DNA was found in Meredith’s room and also outside it in many locations, and also on a knife in Sollecito’s apartment. DNA consultants were “illegally” appointed who muddied the waters but decisively disproved none of it. 

    15. The Supreme Court is on record as deciding that three perpetrators attacked Meredith. The defenses never set out to prove Guede was a lone wolf attacker, for a long list of reasons, and they failed to prove that jailhouse witnesses Alessi and Aviello had pointed out credible alternatives.

    16. The Hellmann-Zanetti report surprised a majority of Italian lawyers who read it for its passion and broad scope and tendentious logic, and for misunderstanding certain key legal concepts. Some instantly saw it as having feet of clay, and a pretty sure candidate for reversal.

    17. The significance of Chief Prosecutor Dr Galati in the process seemed seriously discounted.  UK and US media mostly ignored his appointment and where he came from, which was in fact Cassation in Rome where he was a highly effective Deputy Chief Prosecutor.

    18. The Galati appeal itself was extremely competent and hard line and targeted the Hellmann appeal outcome in several levels or layers in a total of ten points. It is one of the toughest and most sweeping appeals ever filed in Italy, and in the US or UK alarm bells really would have gone off at this one. 

    19.  Sollecito’s book was seemingly okayed by his lawyers, although it causes them major complications in three respects: it introduces new “facts” which contradict his own defense; it derides Italian officials and accuses them of crimes; and it looks like a seedy attempt to make money out of a crime for which the writer is still on trial.

    20. While Sollecito had been acting happily oblivious and super-confident in recent months, he has added to Amanda Knox’s own problems by semi selling her out in his book, and by waking the new 800 pound gorilla of contempt of court prosecutions for not respecting the judicial process.

It may not surprise you to learn that Giulia Bongiorno has not had a very winning record at Cassation, and as far as we know the other lawyers have no experience of winning there at all.


One Final Word On Nina Burleigh In Response To Those Saying She Got It Right And We Wrong

Posted by The Machine





Actually Burleigh didnt get very much right. I’ve dipped into the book and read various articles and they all stray from the truth.

Here is our review of one major aspect of the book which shows what damage to the truth it does.

Many of the pro-Burleigh commenters on the Time website and also many reviewers on Amazon dont seem to realise just how hard and fast Burleigh played with the facts.

Poor understanding of the evidence, poor grasp of the law, terrible fact checking, emotions run wild, and zero grasp of the Italian language, account for her very inaccurate work. This really is her Achilles heel.

As our responses scroll fast in comments at Time and we have only so many hours in the day, here below are ten quick examples for Burleigh supporters of how easily she screws things up.

The book is being officially examined and Nina Burleigh will surely in due course be confronting a much longer list.

    1. She falsely claimed in her book The Fatal Gift of Beauty that Meredith Kercher was born on 28 December 1986 (The Fatal Gift of Beauty, Dramatis Personae).

    According to the Massei report, her actual birthday is 28 December 1985 (p23).

    2. She falsely claimed in her book that Rudy Guede was on 26 December 1983 (The Fatal Gift of Beauty, Dramatis Personae).

    According to Rudy Guede’s sentencing report, he was born on 26 December 1986 (p2).

    3. She falsely claimed that Rudy Guede’s DNA was inside Meredith’s purse (The Fatal Gift of Beauty, p14).

    According to the Massei report, his DNA was found on Meredith’s purse (p43). The Micheli report specifies that his DNA was found on the zip.

    4. She falsely claimed that Rudy Guede’s prints were on Meredith’s walls (The Fatal Gift of Beauty, p14).

    The Scientific Police were unable to identify any fingerprints on Meredith’s walls. Guede was identified by a bloody palm print on a pillow case. (Micheli report, pages 10-11, The Massei report, p43, Rudy Guede’s sentencing report, p5).

    5. She falsely claimed on the Sound Authors website that Mignini charged Knox with participating in a satanic rite.

    Mignini has never claimed Meredith was killed during a satanic rite. In fact, he has specifically denied ever claiming this. In his letter to LInda Byron, he stated the following:  “On the “sacrificial rite” question, I have never said that Meredith Kercher was the victim of a “sacrificial rite”.

    Mignini told Drew Griffin the following in an interview on CNN:  “I have never said that there might have been a satanic rite.”

    6. She falsely claimed that Amanda Knox described a “vision” in her handwritten note to the police (The Fatal Gift of Beauty, XXIV Timeline).

    Amanda Knox never claimed she had a “vision” in her handwritten note or any of her witness statements.

    7. She falsely claimed in an article for Time that there were only two elements of “material evidence” against Knox and Sollecito - Sollecito’s DNA on Meredith’s bra clasp and Meredith’s DNA on Sollecito’s kitchen knife.

    According to the prosecution’s experts, there were five instances of Knox’s DNA or blood mixed with Meredith’s blood in three different locations in the cottage. Even Amanda Knox’s lawyers conceded that her blood had mingled with Meredith’s blood.

    In other words, Meredith and Amanda Knox were both bleeding at the same time.

    According to the imprint experts, the bloody footprint on the blue bathmat in the bathroom matched the precise characteristics of Sollecito’s foot, but couldn’t possibly belong to Guede.

    Knox’s and Sollecito’s bare bloody footprints were revealed by Luminol in the hallway.

    8. In the same article, she falsely claimed that the knife was picked at random.

    Armando Finzi was the police officer who bagged the knife. He testified that he thought it was the murder weapon because it was compatible with the wound on Meredith’s neck.

    9. Another false claim from the article was that Rudy Guede left fingerprints at the crime scene.

    He didnt. None at all.

    10. In an article for the Columbia Chronicle  she falsely claimed that freedom of speech doesn’t exist in Italy.

    Pretty bizarre. She should learn to read some Italian. They have as many freedoms as those in the US and UK. And the incarceration rate is 1/7 that of the US.

    11.She falsely claimed in a Time article that the prosecutors painted Amanda Knox as an “angel-faced she-devil”.

    It wasn’t prosecutors who painted who Amanda Knox as a “she-devil”, it was Carlo Pacelli, the lawyer who represents Diya Lumumba, at the trial in 2009.

    Carlo Pacelli’s comments were widely reported by numerous good journalists who were present in the courtroom, so this would have been really easy to check. .

    Barbie Nadeau describes the moment he referred to Knox as a she-devil in some detail in Angel Face: “Who is the real Amanda Knox?” he asks, pounding his fist in the table. “Is she the one we see before us here, all angelic? Or is really a she-devil focused on sex, drugs, and alcohol, living life on the edge?”

    “She is the luciferina-she devil.” (Barbie Nadeau, Angel Face, page 124).

 


Unmasking What Is Behind The Angry Virulence Of Bruce Fischer And Elina Miettinen Of The ABT

Posted by Peter Quennell




1. Who Knox supporter “Bruce Fisher” really is

“Bruce Fisher” is notorious for telling lies even among his own people. Lately he has lost many supporters for very extensively misleading them about Frank Sforrza who has a whole row of trials in his future. 

Fisher’s real name, hidden with great effort for more than two years so that he could defame freely, turned out on professional investigation to be Bruce Fischer and he was recently laid off as a floor assistant at York Furriers, a store in a mall 35 miles north-west of Chicago. 

We are told his education is very basic and his professional skills relevant to elaborating on the Perugia are zero. Also that Fischer had declared personal bankruptcy twice and now possibly has done so a third time to try to escape big debts. His sole income is from his wife’s family and what he panhandles from his naive group..

We are also told that when his house was repossessed for default on mortgage payments he was reduced to taking his family to live with his mother. Also that from his schooldays he has been known as a hothead with poor people skills and thinking skills.

When “reporter Bruce Fisher of New York” first surfaced online in obsessive support of Amanda Knox in the year after trial (which he appears not to have followed or know much about) eyebrows of all our psychologists went up at the blatantly obvious perversion.

We are told that he called himself “Bruce Fisher” to attempt to hide this from his wife and that our “outing” his real name and identity did a lot to push him to the deep end. He doesn’t seem to have any friends willing to say that they respect him. Some regard him as a rather dim and very angry redneck who has yet to make any positive contribution in life.

At first glance his unfortunate appearance - his large jug ears and the eyes far too close together - is said to make people secretly grin.

Fischer along with Frank of Perugia Shock has duped many others into thinking there is no case against Knox - only a huge conspiracy in which half of Italy is involved. David Anderson, Karen Pruett, Saul Kassin, Michele Moore, Steve Moore, Michael Wiesner, on and on.

(2) Correct facts about Elina Miettinen

As many have remarked, Bruce Fisher is notorious for telling lies even among his own people. One of the main ways he has lied to them is about the histories and credentials of those who stand for the truth - all a lot better qualified and successful than Fischer.

He has lied about many people on TJMK and PMF and about various reporters in addition to his serial lying about Dr Mignini and other Italian officials. In my case Fischer highly misrepresented a business relationship that was about to come right which would set a ballet dancer up nicely for life and provide a success model for many others.

Miettinen’s desperate situation

When (Russian-born) Elina Miettinen and I first talked very briefly in July 2009, at the Metropolitan Opera House stage door in New York, she had just then been laid off very suddenly and shockingly.

The ballet company she worked for (American Ballet Theater) could no longer pay its bills. Other companies were also hit. About 10 junior dancers were simultaneously laid off by each of New York’s two main companies (ABT and NYCB) none with many savings or alternative gigs.

Some like Miettinen were foreign, with only a short-term dance viza to allow them to remain and work in the US.  Miettinen was panicky and decimated and I was the ONLY one who offered her any help.

Assistance we provided

Loans I advanced her, as part of a carefully worked out business deal with many observing, allowed her to (1) stay on in the United States, (2) pay her rent and keep rehearsing, (3) find two interim dance assignments, (4) become featured on a highly popular website, (5) activate interest in NBC in reporting her life story, and (7) eventually be available when the ABT’s finances came right at years end, when they could offer her a new contract.

She as never repaid any of the $15,000 despite dozens of promises to do so. To repeat: without the money we loaned her (for various work requirements all of which she skipped out of) Mietteinen would not even be in the US now.

She and I talked for many hours about the problems of dancer promotion. We decided to try a new “personalizing” website and we worked out a plan and a contract over several meetings for which we both kept copies in ring binders.

I didnt go looking for her in particular for this experimental dancer site, so she may not have been the best potential candidate of whom there were many others. A senior staff member of her former company wrote saying she was a poor choice as they did not see her going far i her career.

But she just came along and was desperate and interested and seemed to show promise, so I tried work with what she was.

Her initial promising start

When I first met her, she was hyper-anxious about almost everything, her future, her men (or lack of them), her dance and her looks included.

She was very cooperative for the first four months, attending our meetings 1-2 times a week, telling me her stories for the site, providing video and shots of herself, and meeting in San Francesco to accumulate more and apply for gigs.  We both worked on the design of the site which for its purpose looked cool and professional, and she suggested such ideas as bringing in her best friend and teacher ion the project, and also a photographer back home. .

Her teacher, her room-mate and some others all saw us getting along just fine. They were willing to join the project so I had several separate meetings with the teacher and best friend to gather material on them too. I pressed her to consult her parents on the site and the contract and several weeks later she told me they said it should really be her site.

Her peculiar personality

She increasingly revealed a strange habit, of ranting on at agents and photographers and so on who she endlessly supposed wanted to rip her off. (Actually they did - she had never got paid for any modeling done.)

In direct response I made quite sure to involve my wife and four Swiss girls who were staying with us at the time. They had all seen her dancing and it was one of them that first pointed her out. For the record they were all smarter (they all have good college degrees now), taller and prettier than Mietttinen (they all dance and model). In Geneva I know all of their parents and we all get along really well.

Also she shared a number of personal concerns especially about boy friends and I tried to give her the best advice. We were good friends in a business sense, and there was nothing more as everybody involved in the project could see.

I email all my business partners about the rate I emailed her, and we set up a separate email account so she only needed to read when she wanted. The emails the Swiss girls send me and vice versa are no different in tone or subject. She had every opportunity to arrange something different or to stop the emails or meetings or contract altogether - I actually offered that several times.

The agreed website

So within three months the website was created. She provided all the materials we posted and repeatedly promised many more, especially videos. As agreed in the business plan the website (“Exciting Arrivals”) was intended

(1)  to give Miettinen a shot at new ballet gigs and long term contracts and a ballet future, and also at promoting herself commercially as a model, and to be able to stay on in the US for which she had only a dance viza,

(2) to personalize her rather than to glamorize her, telling her stories which are in fact very interesting (she was born in deep poverty on the edge of the Arctic circle in the terrible economic era of Gorbachev);

(3) to be a pioneering model website to help many other dancers to promote thelsmlves career-wise and financially too. The company and property to that would become hers and would cover my costs only.

By the autumn of 2009 the website already showed we had got it right. It rose up to be briefly the most popular dancer website in the world. The story approach clearly worked. We already had offers on the horizon equivalent to maybe one million dollars factored forward.

Failure to meet terms of the contract

The only demands I was making were for video and shots and interviews for the site and for her to follow up on our leads. I thought she would give our project 3-4-5 months of work for that money, but it actually added up to maybe two weeks.

Instead of following up our excellent leads with NBC TV (who may have profiled her life) and the Finnish Embassy (who may have sponsored her in her company) she increased her classes (which was fine), danced several roles in the Staten Island Nutcracker (which was fine), and began to spend many days with photographers (not so fine, they paid her nothing, and we got nothing new for the site which was still only half complete.).

In November her company found they could take her back on contract and even offered her a raise. We were with her teacher when she told us and her teacher didnt seem to think this was entirely for Miettinen’s best.

Teacher sees the growing problem

She wanted the project to go on but her increasing narcissim and suspicion were evident. Her teacher at two separate meetings and her room mate at one told me she had an extraordinary knack for misunderstanding people and becoming paranoid and ranting on. Her teacher was so unhappy at this attitude, which she saw at the start of every class, that she refused to say on the site that Miettinen would have a great future in dance.

Miettinen promises not to defraud

With $15,000 at stake, my wife and the Swiss girls who followed everything now began to suspect her. We found out that young Russians had been running a series of scams in Manhattan, acting desperate and getting money and then turning nasty and walking off.

She promised she was not part of a scam or planning to walk off. Right up to our last meeting in mid December, when we put the project on hold while she returned to work, she agreed the site should stay up. It remained way short of done, of course, and never ever became that model that so many dancers need.

Miettinen walks with $15,000

The deal between us, a very generous one, was always that we would keep the site up as a model and work on it when we could, and take it down only if she paid me back half the money which would be around $7500 now. It was never agreed that she could have all the money and at the same time I would end up with nothing.

Final exchanges with Miettinen

There were a few emails and Facebook messages in 2010. She sounded okay and there was no evident problem. This exchange below is the one and only time Miettinen ever asked to have the website taken down. She hardly sounds in wild-eyed terror. It is dated 16 June 2010 exactly six months after we had last met.

1) My message to Miettinen

Subject: Ashton Ballets tonight

Tonight was absolutely amazing.  I liked the Birthday and Awakening and loved the Thais and the Dream. So did everybody around me. I just posted this on my Facebook + the ABT Facebook.

“American Ballet Theatre dancers LOVE Ashton! Tonight they could hardly stop grinning. DH and HC and GM did grin! Ashton presses them to absolute limits, theres NO WAY they could keep that up for one big ballet. Corps too was pressed way beyond normal. Plus we got to see half the principals and soloists.”

2) Miettinen’s response

Subject: Ashton Ballets tonight

Good that you are enjoying our season and having fun in creating websites about abt! I think the website of me doesn’t make much sense anymore because I’m not working for it with you. Maybe it’s better for you to concentrate on the other sites. I’m sure people are more interested in reading about the whole company than just about one dancer.

Have fun with the sites and have a great summer.

3) My response

[There is no copy. I wrote back on Facebook and Miettinen has deleted that message. Presumably because I reminded her of the deal. I repeated the purpose and pluses of the model site, and observed the site was still doing her and the company a lot of good, but if she wanted to pay 1/2 the money back as often agreed, then we could be done.]

Then there were just 1-2 quick messages between us in the next eight months, not about this. The project was extremely promising for her and for others and I hoped she’d resume - it is very common for people experiencing rapid change and jealousy from others to sit it out for a while on the side..

False accusation to police

And then, apparently on the prompting of Fischer and Steve Moore, a NYPD detective phoned me in March 2011.

He had been misled (as he has agreed) into thinking the site represented extortion and stalking. He didnt know that Miteinen was in the US only because of my funding, he didnt know that we had a contract and business plan, he didnt know that she had provided all material for the site, he didnt know that she owed me half of $15,000, he didnt know that she had a tendency to rant.

Still, I took the site down and decided simply to wait.

Intended future action

Miettinen’s illegal posting online with the narcissistic phony and failure that is Bruce Fischer of many of our emails anonymously complete with absurd interpretations was unprovoked. She had less than zero reason to have any beef with me. She added a very nasty slant, the purpose of which other than to create malicious hurt was unclear.

Miettinen continues to owe me the $15,000 that I loaned her to allow her to stay on in the United States and to get back on her feet. Many people who know her as “Jane” her online name now intensely despise her. Many women who have read the emails have said “what the hell?!”


Friday, March 29, 2013

More On The Ill-Considered Campaign of Vilification By The Sour Knox PR Shill Nina Burleigh

Posted by Peter Quennell





REALLY not a good time for the sour PR shill Nina Burleigh to be entering into attack mode. Much better to be covering her tail.

One book is already being investigated by the chief prosecutor of Florence (the same one that will oversee the repeat appeal) for contempt of court in attempting to interfere with an ongoing legal process.

Sollecito and his team might face years in court and millions in awards - and Burleigh’s defamation-riddled The Fatal Gift Of Beauty which flatly accuses many Italian officials of crimes is already a candidate for a similar outcome. 

Good luck with that one. She could be paying out for years. Nina Burleigh now seems to me a tad delusional - making things up, not for the sake of lying for an advantage, but simply because her mind sorta works that way, and so she shoots herself in the foot.

Skeptical Bystander of PMF has already rebutted Burleigh’s claims against her, in this post immediately below. This was my own experience with Nina Burleigh.


Request for assistance from Nina Burleigh

Burleigh really didnt have any good cause to pick a fight with me as I have always treated her extremely well.  I met her personally only once - in August 2009 - but we emailed frequently though most of 2009.

The meeting grew out of this post.  I emailed the link to that post to Nina Burleigh via her blog;  and also to John Follain, who thanked me politely.

She emailed back that she was surprised to have landed the assignment, as she had no expertise in that area, but her publisher had recommended it. She said she could use any help. I said I would see if our contacts in Rome and Perugia could help her.

She moved to Perugia in the spring for a month or two and as she has no Italian some arrangement was made for an interpreter. She attended some of the court sessions. As agreed, I emailed various contacts asking if they might want to help her.

The reaction across the board however was no. 

Burleigh was being seen constantly in the Knox-Mellas entourage and was already regarded as a doubtful reporter at best, one who had already lost her cool.


Burleighs request for a meeting

She returned to New York, after Knox had been two days on the stand, to rustle up more money and take her family back with her. She emailed me for a meeting to share tips and information, and was hoping we might open a way to the Kerchers. (We never do.)

I asked her if she was neutral and independent, or working for the PR scheme. I would not have met with her if she hadn’t promised by return that her mingling with the Knox-Mellas crowd was for show, just an act, really she was secretly neutral.

Based on that guarantee, she and I met for an afternoon and evening at her summer place in the Delaware gorge two hours west of New York.

We had lunch in the village, when she presented me with a signed book, and then we moved to the kitchen of her house, a converted schoolhouse. Her children were playing in there so we moved upstairs to sit at a table in her bedroom.


Burleigh says Knox seemed psychopathic

I explained the case from the prosecution side and she seemed to do her best to follow along, busily generating notes. She VOLUNTEERED that she had concluded that Knox was a psychopath during Knox’s stint on the stand. She said the realization had kept her awake at nights some.

I didnt prompt her or make that up - how would I have possibly known? In fact until then I didnt even know she’d been in the court.

She did tell me this assignment would be a financial strain. None of her books had covered their costs. The publishers’ advance was a small one, Italy is expensive, and she joked that she might have to give up her Manhattan apartment.

Oddly, she managed to stay in Perugia for most of a year. Wonderful how those savings stretched out so.


Subsequent emailing between us

We kept in touch for a few months after she went back to Perugia with her family. She asked me for some more help in making contacts. Here below is an email exchange late in October - ten weeks after we had met.

This is also six week after she claims she questioned the bucket and mop claims on this site and concluded we had facts wrong and were not to be trusted (she never actually emailed a question, and we never did make the “bucket and mop” claim she invented). 

1 MY EMAIL 21 OCTOBER

>>    Long time no talk. I still owe you some stuff and my knowledge seems to grow daily. I just drove to Seattle, and had nearly a week getting in deeper there.
>>
>>    Are you staying on there in Italy until the whole thing is done?  The other publishers’ publicists have been emailing me, and we have talked several times.
>>
>>    I could be in London soon and if so in Perugia.
>>
>>    Pete

2. BURLEIGH REPLY 21 OCTOBER

>> Hey {Pete
>>
>> I’ll definitely be here for the verdict! Send me any stuff you want to share. I am still hoping to talk to the British friends at some point, but only if they want to, I don’t want to bother them.

>> cheers,
>> n

3. MY REPLY 21 OCTOBER

> Thanks Nina! How nice.
>
> How much do you actually have on Meredith? Its not just (I hope!) only all about La Knox? The friends might talk but I’d need assurances on this angle.
>
> And what is the title and the publish date now? We foresee now three okay books coming out in January with no firm date on John Kercher’s about Meredith.
>
> Pete

4. BURLEIGH REPLY 21 OCTOBER

> Meredith. Not much at all! Really just what’s been in the press and that’s not good because I want to bring her character into the story, who she was, what the world has lost. It is a big hole in my repoirting. Anything you can do would be so appreciated.

> As for date, its really dependent on when I get key interviews. I am more interested in getting the good, true story than beating quickie crime book competition in january.

> So grateful to you for keeping up with me, and it will be really nice to see you here.

> All best
> Nina



Rebutting claims in Burleighs Time attack

Actually it has never had a down day: the Knox-hating websites have been passing along innuendo and cherry-picked factoids for six years now.

What innuendo and cherrypicking? What hate? Let us see some examples. We deal in hard facts and key documents and Italian translations here. Dozens of reporters and lawyers read. And TJMK was created only four and a half years ago, in direct response to the hyper-aggressive PR scheme. 

The other acronym you will encounter is TJMK, which stands for “True Justice For Meredith Kercher”—the young British woman murdered in this case–and is run by a New Jersey-based Englishman who claims that at one time he consulted at the United Nations.

I dont claim that. I was on the permanent staff of UN development for over 20 years, and then I left to consult with governments on growth directly. Burleigh KNEW that by the way. An example of this supremely under-qualified womans’ attempts in her article at personal put-downs of others.

These sites host extremely active avatars, many proclaiming to be lawyers, forensic experts, criminologists, but who never reveal their true identities.

Anyone can tell at a glance that real names are used here where they can professionally tolerate personal put-downs like Nina Burleigh’s.  They ARE lawyers and experts, they state their experience, and nobody else questions this. They all have better qualifications than Burleigh’s.

In 2009, I sat down with TJMK founder Peter Quennell, who has always claimed he started the site to make sure that no one forgot the victim.

We sat down only at her pleading request. There was really little in it for me. And TJMK DID make sure Meredith is not forgotten. I didnt just claim that.

A stout, ruddy Englishman living in New Jersey, he had been holding out the carrot of introducing me to the elusive Kercher family.

I am not stout, ruddy or English, and I live looking across to Manhattan. What carrot? She hoped for contact with Meredith’s family, and I offered and promised nothing.

After a month in Italy doing reporting, however, I realized that some of the “facts” on Quennell’s website didn’t seem to be in the police record in Italy. I emailed him to ask where he had found out that Knox and Sollecito met police standing outside the murder house with a mop and bucket in hand. That damning incident was nowhere in the record, not even the prosecutor would confirm it, nor had Italy’s Polizia Scientifica ever tested such items, which would surely have offered up some useful DNA evidence, had they been used to clean blood.

So where is that famous email? This would be two months BEFORE the emails quoted above. Does she sound questioning or suspicious or rejecting in those?

Try searching “bucket” on this site and see what you find. Did we really make the bucket a big deal? There is ONE mention in a media report of someone’s evidence of a bucket having been at the door. All the other mentions are of the bucket in Sollecito’s flat.

Quennell then accused me by email of being on the Knox family payroll, informed me that his sources in Perugia had seen me consorting with Amanda’s mother (I had in fact met with her once, in a public place, by then) and eventually started writing about how he was going to “train his scope” on my apartment in Manhattan, and closing emails with “how are the kiddies?”

That joke email preceded all of those emails above. I didnt accuse Burleigh then of being on the Knox payroll. She is presumably thinking of the question I put to her months ago, before we ever met.

To which she had promised me she WAS neutral. Not just a PR shill.


What’s Nina Burleigh Got Against Women? A Bizarre Time Report Suggests Deep Problems In Her Psyche

Posted by Skeptical Bystander





We depart from our scheduled posting for a few hours to contend with a bizarre attack by Nina Burleigh. 

I get up quite early because my clients have a nine-hour head start on me.

Today I woke up to the usual flurry of work-related emails plus a message directing me to Nina Burleigh’s Time blog post devoted to the “haters” – i.e., the many people around the world who have expressed their support for the family of Meredith Kercher and who are convinced that Italy’s first instance court got things right when it convicted Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for their role in Meredith’s brutal murder.

Italy’s highest court has just overturned the acquittal and definitively upheld Knox’s conviction for the felony offense of falsely accusing an innocent man of murdering Meredith Kercher. In that false accusation, Knox placed herself at the scene of the crime. 

In her blog post, Burleigh once again misquotes an off-the-record conversation with me, though I set her straight the first time she did it and asked her to cease. She also wrongly asserts that I am a “housewife” and “former” translator.

For those who may have missed them the first time around, the two blog posts I wrote that got Nina Burleigh all riled up can be found at TJMK or at my personal blog (http://skepbystander.blogspot.com/), under 2011 posts.

First, a bit of background: Burleigh spent a lot of time in her book maligning two of the best reporters covering the case, one of whom, like Burleigh, wrote a book about it. Since I wrote my review of Burleigh’s book and then pointed out that the New York Times was critical of her advocacy masquerading as journalism, time has passed.

According to her online news site (thefreelancedesk.com), which focuses on current events in Italy, where she lives, Andrea Vogt has been working as a reporter for 20 years and writes for, among others, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Seattle Times and The BBC.

As for Barbie Latza Nadeau, in addition to her frequent reporting for Newsweek/The Daily Beast, she is also a regular contributor for CNN. Both are excellent journalists whose work speaks for itself.

But what’s up with Nina Burleigh? I honestly don’t know what she was thinking when she decided to belittle their accomplishments in print, not to mention her decision to misrepresent my own rather more modest ones. Is she just angry because she got this case so wrong? Is this a simple case of sour grapes from a sore loser?

It probably doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. But I would caution anyone who talks to a reporter off-the-record to beware. I have talked to many reporters off-the-record, and they have all respected this agreement, except for Nina Burleigh. In addition to breaking a promise, she misrepresented what I said.

And now that she has had her public snit, may I suggest that the focus now shift from these petty personality clashes - between Knox’s fan base and anyone who doesn’t share their views - and onto the facts? I think the tone needs to change as well: facts are best discussed rationally, calmly and respectfully.

And for the record, I have nothing at all against women who choose to be homemakers.

In the final analysis, however, Nina Burleigh has done Meredith Kercher and the truth a huge favor by attacking her supporters as “haters” and, in doing so, giving our efforts a plug. It is too bad that she could not resist plugging Knox’s upcoming book as well, and thus proving the point made by the New York Times: that Ms. Burleigh has been treading what she must know - as a seasoned reporter - to be a very dangerous line, that which separates journalists and advocates

She seems to have lost her way and, instead of figuring out how to get back on track, has decided to lash out at those advocating for truth in reporting.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tips For The Media #1: Getting Up To Speed With The Hard Facts Of This Complex Case

Posted by Media Watcher



[Above: Harvard “superlawyer” Alan Dershowitz, who conceded yesterday that there IS a strong case]

Our main poster Media Watcher is based in Seattle and has spent more than 25 years helping reporters at national publications (including the New York Times, TIME, and the Washington Post) understand and report accurately about complex, technical topics.



In the United States, with few exceptions, the media has generally accepted the spin from the defense team.

As a consequence, much of the reporting has been shallow and/or wildly inaccurate.  These errors have compounded over time, which leads to a situation where the American media was completely unprepared for yesterday’s decision.

As someone who has read through all of the available court documents and much of the media and who has more than 25 years’ experience helping national media to understand complex, technical stories, here’s my take on the issues the media should consider as they continue to write about this case:

    One - Formidable Legal Experts Say the Evidence is Strong

    First off, before ever repeating or suggesting that there is a lack of evidence, remember that Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been on the winning side of 13 of 15 murder and attempted murder cases, has said that in a retrial, Knox will likely be found guilty, “because the evidence supporting a conviction is pretty strong…..At best, she was a terrible person who tried to blame it on some innocent person and she was clearly a liar, and at worst she participated in a horrible murder, and the American media focused much more on Amanda Knox than on the victim of the case because Amanda Knox was prettier and an American and an American sweetheart.”  You can read the context of those remarks here.


    Two - Italy’s Justice System Has Important Differences from the U.S.

    Understand that the rules that apply in U.S. courts don’t apply in Italy because the justice systems are fundamentally different.  As an example, for contested verdicts, a decision is not considered final in Italy until the Supreme Court has weighed in.  Also, unlike in the U.S., at all levels of the three-stage judicial process (original trial, appeal, appeal to Supreme Court) in Italy, juries and judges are required to explain the rationale behind their decisions in legal documents.  These documents are important and anyone who reports on this case should read the underlying source documents.  It is an enormous benefit for defendants to understand how and why a jury convicted, because it makes the chances of filing a quality appeal much higher.  Italy does many things to protect the rights of defendants, and requiring juries to defend their decisions to convict are among them. 


    Three - Amanda is a Convicted Felon for the False Accusation

    After yesterday’s decision, Amanda is now a convicted felon for having falsely accused Patrick Lumumba, a man she worked for, and standing by that accusation for several weeks, but the decision on whether she is guilty of the actual murder won’t be considered final until after the new appeals trial happens and any appeals resulting from that decision are determined at the Supreme Court level.


    Four - The Status of the Case is Not “Starting Over”

    The trial is not “starting over.”  The appeals process and decision was vacated.  The first trial stands, and a new appeal of that trial will take place.


    Five - The Questioning was Not Unusually Harsh

    On the question of whether Amanda was treated unfairly and/or questioned harshly, in the aftermath of a murder, people are questioned fiercely here in the U.S. all the time.  Amanda was not considered a suspect until she put herself at the scene of the crime and until her alibi(s) clearly conflicted with those of Raffaele Sollecito.  She was not a reluctant witness.  In fact, she volunteered to answer more questions at the time Sollecito was being questioned.


    Six - Study the Cell Phone Evidence

    The cell phone evidence is compelling.  Few American media have paid any attention to the cell phone evidence, but the original jury gave it significant weight and it was discussed at length in the original sentencing report.  You should read it.


    Seven - Look at the Photos of the Blood in the Bathroom

    The DNA evidence is also compelling.  There is clear evidence of Amanda’s DNA mixed in with Meredith’s blood in multiple places in the bathroom.  The photos that show the amount of blood – all Meredith’s - in the bathroom Amanda and Meredith shared is compelling.  (The Amanda DNA likely comes from scrubbed skin –as would happen in the context of scrubbing to remove blood.) Amanda has said she assumed the large amounts of blood were from someone being messy after having a period.  Once you take a look at the blood on the faucets, you realize that given the sheer amount of blood, a woman having a period would have had to stand up over the sink and drip blood from the pelvis down onto the handles to make that scenario real.  Instead, of course, given that Amanda herself said the bathroom did not have obvious blood earlier that evening, the blood had to have come from someone (and it couldn’t be Guede given that his footsteps led from the murder scene to outside) who was cleaning up after the murder and was covered in Meredith’s blood.


    Eight - What was the Lamp Doing in Meredith’s Locked Bedroom?

    A lamp from Amanda’s room was found locked in the bedroom where the murder took place.  It’s difficult to imagine any scenario where a lamp would be taken from another room and locked into the scene of the crime other than that it was used to look for evidence during the cleanup and then inadvertently forgotten.


    Nine - Rudy Guede Did Not Act Alone

    The break-in was clearly staged and there was no credible defense argument given to refute that.  Also, given that Guede’s footprints led directly from the scene of the murder to the front door, he clearly was not involved in any after-the-fact coverup/cleanup, which meant someone else was.


    Ten - Consider Amanda’s Middle of the Night Call to Her Mom

    Amanda called her mother in the middle of the night Seattle time before the murder was even discovered.  It was the first and only time she’d done this from Italy.  When asked about it, Amanda claims to not remember having made the call.  It defies credibility to suggest that it was mere happenstance that Amanda decided to call her mother after the murder, wake her up from a sound sleep, and then not remember she had done it.  Instead, the far, far more likely scenario is that she realized she was in serious trouble and reached out to her mother instinctively.  And this happened before a body was even discovered.


    Eleven - “Contamination” Resulting in Sollecito DNA - How Again?

    The defense claimed that there was contamination of the bra clasp and that’s why the DNA from Sollecito was not reliable.  Contamination had to be the defense claim because there was no question that it was actually Sollecito’s DNA.  Keeping an open mind, how would Sollecito’s DNA get on the bra clasp even through contamination?  There was only one other spot of Sollecito’s DNA found in the apartment and that DNA was never near the bra clasp or near the equipment that was used to do the testing on the bra clasp at the time the bra clasp was tested.  In fact, at the time the DNA on the bra clasp was tested, it had been more than seven days since any DNA testing from the crime had been done in that lab and everything had been thoroughly cleaned.  How did any DNA from Sollecito get transferred to the bra clasp?


    Twelve - DNA on Knife - Study the Analysis with an Open Mind

    The DNA evidence from the knife was considered questionable because the method used was relatively new and frankly, some people didn’t seem to understand the underlying math/analysis that supported the conclusion that it was Meredith’s DNA.  The appeals court was directed to have an updated test done on the knife to help clear this up and that analysis was never done.




There are multiple other pieces of evidence and issues to consider – and they are discussed on the True Justice site.  If you are going to write on or report about this case, please at least start by reading the document that was written by the judge and jury involved in the original trial. Relying on the defense PR team and on previously published media reports will not help you understand the case because so much of it is completely and wildly inaccurate. 

Also you have a responsibility to get reporting on this case right because if and when Amanda Knox is extradited, it’s important to not fan the flames of a potential international incident by blowing this case up into something it’s not.  It is is a murder trial where the weight of the of evidence is strong enough to convince a Harvard law professor who has worked on many murder cases that Knox’s guilt will likely be affirmed. 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday: Elite First Criminal Section Of Italian Supreme Court Annuls The 2011 Appeal Verdict

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



[Above: Some of the judges of the First Criminal Section hearing another recent case, with other sections behind]


Report one

@andreavogt Breaking: high court has anulled acquittals and a retrial has been ordered in #amandaknox case.

Report two

From the New York Times report  Italy’s highest court on Tuesday overturned a previous acquittal and ordered a new trial in the sensational case of Amanda Knox, an American exchange student accused of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher of Britain, in 2007.

The ruling offered a further dramatic turn in a long-running case that has fascinated many people in the United states, Britain and the rest of Europe. But the full implications of the ruling were unclear, particularly the question of whether Ms. Knox would return voluntarily from the United States or be extradited to face new hearings.

Report three

Andrea Vogt in the Seattle PI. In a stunning turn around of one of Europe’s most closely watched murder trials, Italy’s Court of Cassation on Tuesday annulled the acquittals of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito and ordered two to stand trial again on appeal.

The decision came after nearly six hours of debate, not just on points of law, but on the evidence too.

This was a rare mix of exceptional violations of law and monumentally illogical reasoning, said Procurator General Luigi Riello in his scathing description of the appeals court’s 2011 decision to acquit. I believe all the elements are there to make sure the final curtain does not drop on this shocking crime, he said.

[Read more, especially on the remarks of AG Riello]

Report four

Further Tweets from Andrea Vogt who was in the courtroom:

Any outcome at appeal retrial in Florence would have to be upheld at Cassation [Rome] level.

No extradition unless formal request is made after a definitive conviction (appeal conviction upheld by high court).

Report five

Translated from La Stampa

The news is breaking news on all major U.S. television, including from CNN. The announcement of the Supreme Court arrives at Seattle on the U.S. west coast a little past two in the morning, and in New York at four. “I am not unsatisfied,” said the Attorney General of the Supreme Court Luigi Riello. The lawyer Francesco Maresca, the Kercher family lawyer, welcomed the judgment of annulment by the Supreme Court with a gesture of a fist in victory “It ‘a moral victory and good appeal trial outcome ,” said Maresca. “I had confidence in the Supreme Court” Maresca-explains why there were so many weaknesses of the judgment of the Court of Assizes of Appeal of Perugia.” In tears the victim’s sister, Stephanie said to him. “I’m happy ...,”


More Pervasive Myths We Will Nail Soon In Our New Series; Read Summaries Here

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters





We hope you made it through those amazing Powerpoints on the case for guilt introduced in the post directly below.

We have created around two dozen other Powerpoints also. Here are all Kermit’s Powerpoints and here are all other Powerpoints.

Below are summaries of some more key and very pervasive myths which you can easily spot in today’s media in the US and UK (though never in Italy) which we will nail in depth soon in other longer posts.

The real hard truths can all already be found here on TJMK if you search for them. Please feel free to email us if you need some quick guidance.

1) That Knox and Sollecito maybe face a “retrial”

Rubbish. At most they face a re-run, done properly, of a poorly managed, legally and scientifically incompetent, and highly biased first appeal. It SHOULD look like any US or UK appeal: limited, fast, focusing only on a few points, no consultants, no witnesses, no attempt to run a new first-level trial.

2) That any such “retrial” is a case of double jeopardy

Rubbish. Under Italian law Knox and Sollecito still stand accused of murder and other crimes until the final appeal court (in this case the Supreme Court) signs off, so they were NEVER found “innocent, end of story” at first appeal level. There’s no question of double jeopardy; and the exact-same rules apply in the US.

3) That Amanda Knox was forced into “confessing”

Rubbish. This is the misleading label for her framing of Patrick Lumumba. She spilled the beans fast and vociferously (and repeatedly) after Sollecito who was being interrogated in another room sold her out and said she had made him tell lies. Interrogations were short, she had an interpreter, she was not interrogated as a suspect without a lawyer, and she had refreshments.

4) That all the DNA evidence was thrown out by Hellmann

Rubbish. Hellmann (who is now edged out in disgrace) and Zanetti were not criminal judges, and this was their first DNA case. They were totally at sea. By innuendo, two consultants, illegally appointed and ill qualified, tried to make out there was possible contamination. They proved nothing. They ADMITTED Meredith’s DNA was on the big knife and that Sollecito’s DNA was on the bra clasp. There was lots of other incriminating DNA evidence outside Meredith’s door.

5) That “the” prosecutor was rogue, satanist, and out of control.

Rubbish. The lead prosecutor at trial (Mignini) is straight as an arrow and very admired, and has no interest in satanism. His work was checked by a co-prosecutor, other prosecutors, and many judges. He is in line for a major promotion, and has no dark cloud hanging over his head. The Supreme Court TWICE came down strongly in his favor in the part several weeks, and he is about to be promoted to Deputy Chief Prosecutor for the Province of Umbria.

Final warning:

Disregard everything coming from ABC, CNN, and any Seattle TV station. They are highly biased for commercial reasons, they don’t know the case, and they have essentially been serial-lying to the American public.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Nailing Myths #1: In Fact 2009 Trial Was Decisive By US/UK Standards, Evidence Very Powerful Indeed

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters





This first post in our new series is a collection of Powerpoint slides summarising the case against.

It was created by our lawyer James Raper with help from Kermit on the content and slides. Please load Powerpoint Viewer if not on your system, and click here for the show.

The Powerpoints consist of 150 slides, the outcome of many hours of work, and should open up in the viewer via most Internet connections in 30 to 60 seconds. 

As we continue to point out NOT ONE credible independent lawyer has ever destroyed this case, or come up with a scenario that lets Knox and Sollecito authentically off the hook.

See the header to this post?  MANY lawyers are making the comment that in the UK and US this trial would have been the end of the road.  No judge in the US or UK would have okayed any appeal. There were never the grounds.


Elite First Criminal Section Of Italian Supreme Court Now Receiving Presentations On The Appeals

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Some of the judges of the First Criminal Section hearing another recent case, with other sections behind]


We believe the woman in the image is PIERA MARIA SEVERINA CAPRIOGLIO who is the lead judge (rapporteur) for the case.

Dr Caprioglio is known as a legal expert and hardliner on sex crimes. There is a total of five judges, and the president of the First Section is on the panel. This is unprecedented judicial firepower for a murder case, and seems to be a response to the enormous damage done by the Curt Knox/David Marriott campaign. No American political leader is going to second-guess this.

We are anticipating tweets and news reports out of Italy throughout the day.  Andrea Vogt is one who is tweeting from the court. Follow her here.

First report:

@andreavogt #amandaknox discussions starting now in cassation court in Rome. Judge Caprioglio is summarizing the case.

Second report

@andreavogt Procuratore Generale Riello now taking the floor in #amandaknox case, after a 90-minute review of all the arguments.

[Deputy Chief Prosecutor Luigi Riello [image below] holds the same rank that Dr Galati held before he transferred to Perugia to be chief prosecutor there.]

Third report

@andreavogt PG Riello: I believe the judges [Hellmann and Zanetti] lost their way. There are elements that were absolutely not taken into consideration.

Fourth report

@andreavogt PG read from Guede’s letter blaming Sollecito and #amandaknox. Says “strange” that court believed some Guede statements and not others.

Fifth report

@andreavogt The president just curtly asked PG Riello to get on with it, not go into details heard already in first instance and appeal.

Sixth report

@andreavogt PG Riello has concluded, asking that acquittals be anulled and an appeal retrial be set. Half hour break in #amandaknox hearing.

Seventh report

Okay this is us. The proposal to annul the Hellmann-Zanetti outcome has gone viral on Italian media websites. A translation of ACP Riello’s remarks is coming.

Eighth report

@andreavogt Cassation back in session in #amandaknox case, w/ Kercher Atty F. Maresca asking why there wasn’t a full review all forensic evidence.

Ninth report

@andreavogt Giulia Bongiorno has begun def arguments in #amandaknox case: “raff sollecito went to jail for a shoeprint that belonged to Rudy Guede.”

Tenth report

@andreavogt #Bongiorno just pointed out a factual error in the PG’s #amandaknox arguments. Judges listening. She’s a very good orator.

Eleventh report

@andreavogt C. Dalla Vedova urges Cassation to uphold #amandaknox acquittals and overturn slander: “This girl was stressed, confused, pressured.”

Twelvth report

@andreavogt Lawyers say the court of cassation is expected to announce a decision in the #amandaknox case around 21:00.

[Image below: Luigi Riello Deputy Chief Prosecutor Of The Supreme Court]

 


Tom Kington Reports On Huge Questions That Have Faced Meredith’s Family Since 2011 Appeal

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Stepahnie Kercher at end of first appeal in late 2011 with Meredith’s second brother Lyle]


Judge Massei came out with a clear scenario for Meredith’s death after trial in 2009.

Judge Hellmann attempted to pick it apart but left no sensible scenario in its place. That is the toughest and legally most crucial argument of today’s prosecution appeal: that the 2011 appeal judges attempted to run a whole new trial - but essentially only listened to the defense.

In this context as Tom Kington reports the Kercher family lawyer in Perugia Dr Francesco Maresca has made this series of comments:

Francesco Maresca, a lawyer representing the Kerchers, claimed the acquittals of Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito were “defective” and “lacked transparency”, adding he was pushing for a retrial.

The appeal court rejected key evidence against Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito after ordering new expert analysis of traces of DNA found on a knife belonging to Mr Sollecito, and on Miss Kercher’s bra strap.

“There are many parts of the judge’s ruling that are defective,” said Mr Maresca. “For example, why did they only review those two bits of evidence? What about the blood in Miss Kercher’s bathroom and traces in the rest of the house?”

Mr Maresca also suggested the appeal court judge had buckled under pressure from supporters of Miss Knox in the US.

“There was a lot of external pressure and the judge showed a will from the start to acquit,” he said.

Dr Maresca also passes on a statement from Meredith’s sister Stephanie:

“We all still miss Meredith terribly… Unfortunately nothing will bring her back.”  Miss Kercher said her family continued to receive support from around the world and had set up a Meredith Kercher Fund to help pay their legal fees, adding the fund could be turned into a charity foundation when the case concludes in Italy.

“A beautiful young girl, my little sister, was taken from us far too soon in such a brutal way with too many unexplained factors,” she said.

 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Supreme Court Appeals: A Good Briefing On Tomorow’s Court Proceedings By Italy-Based Andrea Vogt

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Image above: Supreme Court in the foreground and St Peters & Vatican in the background]


Andrea Vogt often tweets very usefully on the case. Her tweet feed is here.

Today’s tweet pointed to this overview here.  It is very worth your reading the whole piece.

This is news about three of the judges of Cassation’s elite First Section on Criminal Cases which hasnt yet appeared in the Italian or, UK or US media.

I’ve chosen to not name the magistrates involved in the case until the hearing opens Monday, but for those following closely, here is some brief background on the key judges whose roles are more prominent, based on information I have gleaned from Ministry of Justice documents and “bolletino ufficiale” or public bulletins required to publicly announce personnel changes and events in the judiciary.

The presiding judge is a 72-year old magistrate originally from Naples. Over the years he has dealt with some of Italy’s most high profile crime cases, including the Sarah Scazzi case, as well as the Cassation’s 16-year prison sentence confirmation to Anna Maria Franzoni in the “delitto di Cogne,” the first high-profile case to divide Italy among innocentisti and colpevolisti lines. According to Ministry of Justice documents, the relatrice in the Amanda Knox case is 57-year old female magistrate from Turin.

The procurator general is the figure who has a prosecutor-like function and who presents the case to the panel and suggests what decision should be taken. In this case, the PG is married with two children, has been a judge since 1979 and worked for over two decades in Naples, including several years at the court of appeals there. He is known for his hard line against the clans of the Camorra.

Dr. Giovanni Galati, the Perugia procurator-general leading the recourse of the appeal’s court acquittal ruling is also no stranger to high-profile cases, having worked in the 1980s on the case of Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker murdered and found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in June, 1982

And this further explains the Cassation decision last week which will probably see the hapless Mario Spezi back in prison. We have several more of our own posts pending on this very complex affair.

There was a major development in that case earlier this week, when a separate section of the Cassation court ruled that the decades- old Narducci case, which Mignini had been ridiculed for pursuing, be sensationally re-opened.

The ruling gives new credence to Mignini’s much-maligned theory that there had been a body swap and cover up in the death of the Perugia doctor found in Lake Trasimeno and alleged to be involved in the Monster of Florence case.

Mario Spezi is among those whose acquittals were overturned this week and who has been called by the high court to stand trial.  Spezi’s alleged crime is calunnia, for suggesting Antonio Vinci was the real killer (his book marries this theory and it is the charge over which he was originally taken into custody in 2006).  It appears there are still a few chapters to be written.

Spezi has one definitive defamation conviction from the 1980s, and in the last two years, courts in Perugia and Florence handed down other convictions. He also faces trials in Padua, Milan and Perugia: all related to allegedly false or defamatory declarations in the Monster of Florence case.


In An ABC Report Did Curt Knox & Edda Mellas Just Smear The Prosecution Appeal As “Harassment”?

Posted by Peter Quennell





That headline above is actually about a statement Knox’s parents made about Dr Galati a year ago.

They may or may not have just repeated it. Watch the video here. That is a video of a report broadcast today on ABC’s morning show. The claim comes at the 2:00 minute time point.

ABC is the Knox-Mellas’s current pet poodle among the American media, and (with the brave exception of Ann Wise on their website) ABC has consistently with extreme bias reported only the Knox-Mellas side of it.

So the new claim may well be accurate.

There are already dozens of recorded instance of ABC slamming the Italian police and prosecution - in effect accusing them of crimes.  Are ABC and the Knox-Mellases really wanting to head down this slippery slope some more? Right now?

Note how the bar has been seriously raised for any false accusations of crimes by Italian officialdom in this case.

While the Knox Mellases only face a calunnia (criminal defamation) trial for a previous instance, Raffaele Sollecito is being investigated for contempt of court for allegedly illegally attempting to interfere with an ongoing legal process.

Guilt on that charge can put perpetrators away for a long time. Ted Simon, are you asleep at the switch? Et tu, Signori Dalla Vedova e Ghirga?


Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Hellmann-Zanetti Appeal Court’s DNA Consultancy Looks Even Worse In Face Of The Latest Science

Posted by Fly By Night



[Above: images of typical modern analysis DNA facilities similar to Dr Stefanoni’s in Rome]


The Galati appeal to Cassation comes down very strongly against the work and conclusions of the appeal court’s DNA consultants Vecchiotti and Conti.

Dr. Galati argues that the consultancy should never have happened at appeal level, that its methods were slipshod and out of date, that its conclusions were mainly innuendo that left the prosecution case untouched, and that the consultants should not have refused to test a remaining sample from the large knife collected at Sollecito’s place.

In July 2011, about the midpoint of the appeal trial, I took strong issue with the C&V science and essentially mirrored in advance what Dr. Galati would argue to Cassation nearly a year later. Many other TJMK posters including our legal posters James Raper and Cardiol took issue with legal and other aspects.

With a Supreme Court ruling on the 2nd level (first appeal level) outcome scheduled for early next week, it’s the perfect time to re-examine the role of DNA in that outcome against the latest science. I want to include some excellent observations from our contributing poster “Thoughtful” as expressed in her recently published book Math on Trial.

I’ll start off with an overview of the science of DNA analysis and describe recent developments in analysis approaches, techniques and capabilities.  Incidentally, one of my resources for this information is a chapter in “DNA Electrophoresis Protocols for Forensic Genetics” published shortly after the Hellmann verdict for the first appeal (circa early 2012); a chapter in which Carla Vecchiotti is cited as providing technical assistance.

Given Vecchiotti’s involvement in recent academic publications we can be certain that at the time of the Hellmann verdict Vecchiotti was well aware of the rapidly evolving and improving nature of DNA testing procedures and capabilities.  And in contrast to her courtroom allegations that Dr. Stefanoni had not followed “internationally established forensic science standards” in her DNA analysis techniques, Vecchiotti has recently contributed to sources claiming that today’s critical challenge is to develop general guidelines for DNA evaluation and promulgate clear and universal laboratory practices while recognizing that a multitude of labs exist, each with its own specific protocols and personnel.

We will return to the Conti-Vecchiotti report shortly, but first let’s have a quick look at the history and state-of-the-art of DNA analysis.


Brief History of DNA Testing

The literature reveals that the USA has never been at the forefront of forensic DNA analysis.  The first court cases to successfully employ DNA “fingerprinting” techniques occurred in England during the mid 1980s.  A case involving a double rape/homicide of teenage girls in 1986 turned out to be prophetic in that it involved the first use of DNA to exonerate an innocent suspect and also was the first to apply DNA “databases”, issues which still give rise to disputes nearly 30 years later.

Over time, a variety of procedures were developed to extract DNA from biological samples but all worked on the same basic principle of breaching individual cell walls, removing the protein surrounding the DNA, isolating the DNA, and finishing with the purification and quantification of the DNA.

An important milestone in DNA fingerprinting was the development of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) in 1985.  The PCR quickly became an important analytical method for forensic samples because of its sensitivity, specificity, rapid analysis, and ease of automation.  PCR amplification technology permitted the analysis of forensic samples with low quantities (less than 1 ng) of extracted DNA, unlike earlier methods that required at least 50 ng.

While PCR was far more sensitive than earlier procedures, problems with mixed DNA samples and DNA degradation led to the use of genetic markers known as Short Tandem Repeats (STR). STR analyses were fast and reactions could be multiplexed permitting multiple loci to be amplified in a single run.

In 1997 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory in the USA launched an effort to establish a set of 13 core STR loci for use within a national DNA database known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).  Similar sets of STR markers had already been selected by the European Union and elsewhere but, in general, a DNA profile obtained using 12 or more STR loci was found to yield a composite genotype frequency of less than 1 in a quadrillion.  This high degree of accuracy results from the hereditary nature of STR distribution and enables a very powerful method for biological identifications.

STR typing of extracted DNA has traditionally been very sensitive to the quantity of input DNA with ideal levels ranging from 0.5 to 2 ng.  Either too little or too much DNA could produce imbalanced amplification results resulting in incomprehensible outcomes.  The STR process is further complicated by “stutter” in the interpretation of multiple contributor DNA samples.  Stutter is an artifact of the PCR process that produces “false alleles” one repeat shorter than a primary allele.

In recent years DNA analysis techniques have evolved rapidly as equipment manufacturers upgrade STR systems to tolerate even the smallest of samples and samples that have been highly degraded.  The improved sensitivity of today’s STR kits along with the development of new strategies for the amplification of low levels of DNA now allows samples which previously could not be analyzed to produce viable results.

Low-level DNA samples often contain mixtures of DNA, which has complicated the detection and interpretation process due to stochastic sampling effects that include peak imbalance, enhanced stutter, allele loss (allele drop-out), and un-attributable alleles (allele drop-in).  With this in mind, strict guidelines have been developed including a careful determination of analytical thresholds and the use of replicate analyses in a profile to properly interpret low-level mixed-DNA samples.  More importantly, new analytical techniques such as laser micro-dissection and fluorescence in-situ hybridization have been developed enabling the identification, capture, and amplification of DNA from individual cells prior to “electrophoresis”, eliminating the problem of mixed profiles altogether.

In addition to today’s far more precise DNA analysis machines and methods there are also compelling arguments for the use of statistical or probabilistic models within the DNA analysis process to augment traditional “consensus allele” electropherogram evaluation approaches.  In short, the efforts of both scientists and statisticians are now creating powerful next generation approaches to DNA analyses as we progress through a second decade of highly successful STR typing methodologies.


Logic and Science on Trial

In my 2011 report I challenged Carla Vecchiotti’s contention that Dr. Stefanoni had not followed “internationally established forensic science standards” in her DNA analysis techniques.  Vecchiotti herself has conceded to the challenge through her contributions to publications that clearly describe a need to develop generally accepted guidelines for DNA evaluation and to create clear and universal laboratory practices that can be accepted by the diverse population of analytical labs currently operating under divergent operational protocols, all under the direction of professional and expert personnel.

In her excellent and recently published Math on Trial book, contributing poster “Thoughtful” accurately describes how DNA analysis expert Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni proceeded in her laboratory analysis of a small DNA sample found on the blade of a knife confiscated from Raffaele Sollecito’s apartment.  Not having what she felt was a sufficient sample to divide for replication of her analysis Dr. Stefanoni took the chance of running her entire sample in a single run.

As is typical of all DNA analyses, Stefanoni proceeded to amplify the results to a point where an electropherogram would reveal meaningful “peaks” and found that a resultant 13 pairs of peaks corresponded precisely to peaks derived from a known sample of Meredith Kercher’s DNA!

In this case it is pointless to attempt to argue that Stefanoni somehow exceeded the amplification limits of her equipment.  As outlined in the DNA discussion above, the typical problems associated with an amplification of low levels of DNA are related to peak imbalances, enhanced stutter, allele drop-outs, or allele drop-ins.  In this case there was nothing but a perfect match for Meredith that even Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti could not deny in court.

Stefanoni had clearly identified an identical match for Meredith’s DNA on the blade of Sollecito’s kitchen knife, leaving Vecchiotti and Conti no other option than to argue for “contamination” in court.  However, it was convincingly demonstrated by Stefanoni and all evidence handlers that from knife collection through laboratory analysis no reasonable opportunity for contamination with Meredith’s DNA existed.

In the first appeal trial, Judge Hellmann was thus presented with exceptionally compelling evidence that Meredith’s DNA was in fact found on the alleged murder weapon that had been confiscated from Raffaele Sollecito’s apartment.  Astonishingly, Hellmann rejected this evidence on an expressed assumption of non-compliance with testing techniques established by international scientific community standards; compliance standards that Vecchioti herself admits do not exist via recent academic and scientific publications as discussed above.

As “Thoughtful” carefully explains in Math on Trial, Hellmann’s faulty reasoning in excluding the knife evidence did not end there.  Hellmann provided Vecchiotti and Conti with an opportunity to retest any remaining DNA on the knife if they felt it was warranted.  Vecchiotti and Conti declined to perform any retests on the basis that that only a few cells might still exist on the knife, thus invalidating any potential results according to a false assumption that “international testing standards” somehow prohibited such low-level DNA tests even though, as outlined in the DNA discussion above, single-cell DNA analysis had at that time already become an acceptable possibility and Vecchiotti knew it.

Hellmann, however, accepted Vecchiotti and Conti’s reasoning by essentially stating that repeating an “invalid” DNA analysis procedure twice can do nothing towards resolving a DNA identification problem because two wrongs do not make a right.  In Math on Trial, “Thoughtful” artfully explains the complete failure of logic of Hellmann’s line of reasoning.  Hellmann claims that running an experiment independently two separate times and obtaining the same result each time can do absolutely nothing towards increasing the assurance of reliability for an event.

However, “Thoughtful” describes how successfully repeating Stefanoni’s low-level DNA analysis technique could easily carry a probabilistic result from a “not beyond a reasonable doubt” percentage range to a highly convincing 98.5% or higher probability.  “Thoughtful’s” arguments in Math on Trial are completely in line with today’s efforts to embed statistical and probabilistic models within the DNA analysis process for a much higher precision and accuracy standard.


Conclusions

In 2011 I concluded that Vecchiotti and Conti’s expert report findings actually boiled down to two primary debates: (1) Issues surrounding the small sample (Low Copy Number – LCN) DNA analysis techniques employed by Dr. Stefanoni, and (2) Issues surrounding the probability of excluding all possible sources of contamination from the evidence.

In 2013, on the eve of the Court of Cassation ruling on the first appeal outcomes of the Meredith Kercher murder trial, it appears to me that all issues related to DNA analysis and contamination have been powerfully addressed by both the prosecution and “best available science” considerations. 

The errors in Judge Hellmann’s logic and reasoning that set Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito free have been shown to be plentiful and astounding, as evidenced by the few DNA related examples that have been examined in this report.  In light of all of the above and the powerful legal arguments raised by the Galati appeal to Cassation, it seems that there can be no other option than to send this appeal outcome back for a thorough lower court re-evaluation.


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