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Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Amanda Knox Trainwreck: Good Reporters Start To Surface Amanda Knox’s False Claims In Droves

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



[American Ambassador to Italy David Thorne whose reports contradict Knox’s prison claims]

Did ANYBODY think to check Knox’s book for criminal defamations and false claims? Take this glaring “mistake” from page 248.

During the rebuttals, on December 3, each lawyer was given a half hour to counter the closing arguments made over the past two weeks. Speaking for me, Maria criticized Mignini for portraying Meredith as a saint and me as a devil

Really? Prosecutor Mignini said that? So why did the entire media corps report that it was said by Patrick Lumumba’s lawyer Carlo Pacelli? As the BBC reported:

[Mr Pacelli] added: “Who is the real Amanda Knox? Is it the one we see before us here, simple water and soap, the angelic St Maria Goretti?”

“Or is she really a she-devil, a diabolical person focused on sex, drugs and alcohol, living life to the extreme and borderline - is this the Amanda Knox of 1 November 2007?”

So even Mr Pacelli didnt compare Knox to Meredith, or simply call Knox a she-devil to her face. He asked rhetorically if she was a she-devil or a saint. Not exactly unheard of in American courts.

And remember he was addressing someone who would have been quite happy to see Patrick put away for life, cost him two weeks in a cell, entangled her own mother in a cover-up, destroyed Patrick’s business and reputation world-wide, still hasnt paid him money owed, and for lying about him served three years.

Prosecutor Mignini in fact never called Knox anything at all. We can find no record that he did. Again and again he has denied it. And he had no personal need to prosecute Knox, and certainly no need to frame her, despite many pages Knox devotes to trying to prove the reckless claim that he did.

Another false claim: Knox’s claim that Prosecutor Mignini invented the notion of a satanic cult to explain the Monster of Florence murders, also made by Sollecito, is totally untrue. 

Dozens of others had suspected and talked about a satanic cult for YEARS before he investigated one loose end in the case. And both that theory and that investigation are back on track - at the recent order of the Supreme Court.

Another false claim: Knox devotes pages to trying to make herself look good on the witness stand at the trial. But Italians who could follow in Italian in real-time ended up suspecting and despising her performance up there.  Read what they saw here and here.

Inspired by such conspicuous false claims as these, various reporters have begun to dig. We posted on Knox’s false claims about her prison time and the many disproofs. Italy-based reporter Andrea Vogt uncovers some more.

Knox’s memoir is a vivid personal account of the difficulties of prison life in Italy, complete with claims about inappropriate behaviour by staff. But Knox herself once painted a different picture.

Other documents - including writings Knox penned in her own hand while incarcerated, case files and state department records - conjure up quite another impression of a very different Knox, one who was more sanguine about her experience.


On the attitudes of the prison staff

“The prison staff are really nice,” wrote Knox in her personal prison diary, which was eventually published in Italy under the title Amanda and the Others.

“They check in to make sure I’m okay very often and are very gentle with me. I don’t like the police as much, though they were nice to me in the end, but only because I had named someone for them, when I was very scared and confused.”

She described Italian prisons as “pretty swell”, with a library, a television in her room, a bathroom and a reading lamp. No-one had beaten her up, she wrote, and one guard gave her a pep talk when she was crying in her cell.

Unlike the heavily-edited memoir, these are phrases she handwrote herself, complete with strike-outs, flowery doodles, peace signs and Beatles lyrics.


On the positive HIV result she was given

Both accounts also refer to the devastating but erroneous news from the prison doctor that she had tested positive for HIV, although her diary presents a more relaxed person at this point. “First of all, the guy told me not to worry, it could be a mistake, they’re going to take a second test next week.”

We also know that it was Knox’s own lawyers who leaked the HIV report and list of sex partners. Not the doctor or anyone else. No malice was intended, that is clear, despite her claims.

On her framing of her kindly employer Lumumba

[Knox] writes that she had a flashback to the interrogation, when she felt coerced into a false accusation. “I was weak and terrified that the police would carry out their threats to put me in prison for 30 years, so I broke down and spoke the words they convinced me to say. I said: ‘Patrick - it was Patrick.’”

In her memoir, she describes in detail the morning that she put that accusation in writing, and says the prison guard told her to write it down fast.

Yet in a letter to her lawyers she gives no hint of being rushed or pressured. “I tried writing what I could remember for the police, because I’ve always been better at thinking when I was writing. They gave me time to do this. In this message I wrote about my doubts, my questions and what I knew to be true.”


On her medical examination after arrest

“After my arrest, I was taken downstairs to a room where, in front of a male doctor, female nurse, and a few female police officers, I was told to strip naked and spread my legs. I was embarrassed because of my nudity, my period - I felt frustrated and helpless.”

The doctor inspected, measured and photographed her private parts, she writes - “the most dehumanising, degrading experience I had ever been through”.

But in the 9 November letter to her lawyers, she described a far more routine experience.

“During this time I was checked out by medics. I had my picture taken as well as more copies of my fingerprints. They took my shoes and my phone. I wanted to go home but they told me to wait. And that eventually I was to be arrested. Then I was taken here, to the prison, in the last car of three that carried Patrick, then Raffaele, then me to prison.”


On her persona and mood swings in prison

She says she was often suicidal, but recollections of prison staff and other inmates differ. Flores Innocenzia de Jesus, a woman incarcerated with Amanda in 2010 described Knox as sunny and popular among the children who were in Capanne with their mothers, and recalled her avid participation in music and theatrical events. She also held a sought-after job taking orders and delivering goods to inmates from the prison dispensary.

“Most of the time when we spoke during our exercise break, the kids would call her and she would go and play with them,” de Jesus told me.


And on what US officlals and her own lawyers perceived

State department cables, released through the Freedom of Information Act, show that between 2007 and 2009, three different high-level diplomats from Rome (Ambassador Ronald Spogli, Deputy Chief Elizabeth Dibble and Ambassador David Thorne) were among those reviewing Knox’s case.

Embassy officials visited regularly. Records show one consular official visited Knox on 12 November, soon after her arrest.  A few weeks later she wrote in her diary how the visits of embassy officials improved her experience….

In 2008 and 2009, she was visited by two embassy officials at a time, six times. Ambassador David Thorne, whose name appears at the bottom of cables in August, November and December of 2009, is the brother- in-law of US Secretary of State John Kerry (at that time chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee).

If the diplomats knew anything of the “harrowing prison hell” Knox was going through (as one paper put it), they are keeping those reports under wraps. Neither Kerry nor any other prominent US politician has made any public complaints. Even today, her Italian lawyers maintain she was not mistreated.

Half a dozen obvious false claims and defamations here. We estimate we will uncover well over one hundred more.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

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.

.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

UK Cosmpolitan Magazine Rightly Names Stephanie Kercher As A Woman Of The Year

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters





We posted Stephanie’s Open Letter about herself and Meredith back in November 2011.

This much deserved award is widely reported in the UK. Good interview by Rosie Mullender in Cosmopolitan and she indicates that another longer one is to come.

When we met near our offices, I was nervous – Meredith’s death would obviously be a devastating subject to talk about, and I wasn’t sure how Stephanie would deal with being asked about what happened.

But as soon as I met her, I relaxed. Stephanie is warm, open and friendly, and her face lights up every time she talks about her sister. As she told me all the wonderful things she remembered about Meredith – her smile, her laugh, the way she’d help anyone with anything – she couldn’t help laughing herself.

And good photos and another report in the Daily Mail.

Celebrating the ‘resilience and strength’ she has shown in supporting her family, the 29-year-old will receive the Ultimate Editor’s Choice accolade at the event, which celebrates the year’s most inspirational figures.

Cosmopolitan editor Louise Court said: ‘Since the death of her sister, Meredith, five years ago, Stephanie remains an inspiring figure of strength and support…

‘Most impressive of all is her single-minded desire to ensure her sister isn’t forgotten and to make sure her personality shines through any projects she undertakes…

‘A devoted daughter and sister who has shown extraordinary courage and love in the most difficult circumstances, Stephanie is fully deserving of her award and we are delighted to celebrate with her tonight.’

Stephanie will receive her award at a star-studded ceremony at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum on Tuesday evening, with the likes of Jessica Ennis, Kimberley Walsh and Alesha Dixon also set to be in attendance.

[Below: Stephanie Kercher leaves Perugia Dec 2009 after trial when family was relieved to think it was all over]

[Below;Stephanie at the press conference before the disputed Hellmann-Zanetti appeal verdict]


Monday, September 24, 2012

Strong Trend: Increasingly The Good Lawyers Are On One Planet And The PR Shills Are On Another

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Prominent lawyer Wendy Murphy reflects many in saying the evidence is very strong] 


In the post below Jane Velez Mitchell of CNN can be watched staking her legal reputation on Sollecito.

This may surprise you. Jane Velez Mitchell is not herself a lawyer. In fact, she has only a possible journalism degree awarded by New York University.

She claims she was hooked after she “read his book until 2:30” and encountered him in some elevator - we have been puzzling over which elevator and when, for if it was an elevator in the Time Warner building in New York why was he not right there in the studio?

Of the three lawyers she had on the show, the two who did know the case (Wendy Murphy and the crime blogger Levi Page) came down very decisively against Sollecito. The third (Joey Jackson) knew nothing about the case, though even he thought the book was terribly timed.

In effect, Jane Velez Mitchell was carrying on like another PR shill. She really wasn’t any less amateurishly invested than Saul Kassin. Another non-lawyer - Saul Kassin is actually a psychologist.

Where ARE the lawyers for Knox-Sollecito?

All of them seem to have gone awol. Our main poster James Raper, himself a lawyer, sent out this invitation to speak up. In the five months since he posted that, not ONE lawyer has come forward.

Well, except for one strange burble from Anne Bremner, about RS and AK watching Amelie and that being their alibi - though the watching of Amelie took place three to four hours earlier. Even RS and AK didnt claim that.

Knox family legal advisor Ted Simon sounds rattled every time he talks, which he hasnt done since late in 2011. And poor lost Michael Heavey still can’t get to grips with the facts.

In contrast, we now have two of the foremost legal talking heads in the US - Wendy Murphy (a former prosecutor) and Nancy Grace (a former prosecutor) - saying the evidence is overwhelming.

In Italy the Sollecito lawyer Giulia Borngiorno, in face of the Galati appeal and possible legal trouble of her own over Aviello and judge-shopping, has become seriously silent. And Sollecito lawyer Luca Maori just had to distance himself from Sollecito, in conceding that Sollecito in his book had been lying.

Where are the PR shills for Knox-Sollecito?

Though they seem to have shadow-written much of the Sollecito book ostensibly shadow written by the real shadow writer, Andrew Gumbel, Curt Knox’s hatchet men have become so nasty and so distanced from the real facts that they now repel classy media company.

To her great credit, a week ago Katie Couric was repelled - and she showed it. 

However there are still a few out there shilling for Knox and Sollecito. We would include in the active shill group Andrew Gumbel, Sollecito book agent Sharlene Martin, and maybe the publisher’s own promoters (if any).

Also Jane Velez Mitchel of course now. Saul Kassin (a flagship shill who may have gone silent). And the shrillest of all the shills, David Anderson, Bruce Fischer, Frank Sforza, Nina Burleigh, and Candace Dempsey.

They all seem to have big chips on their shoulders, and of course financial stakes. Maybe that is what it takes to be a shill here? Sort of the opposite of a degree in law?


[Below Two Sollecito shills: ghost writer Andrew Gumbel and literary agent Sharlene Martin]


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Giuseppe Castellini Speaks Up For A “Kind Homeless Man Of Many Aspects”

Posted by Jools





Giuseppe Castellini (above) is the editor of the Journal of Umbria in Perugia. Throughout the case he and his various reporters have done amazing, fearless work.

Today he writes movingly about the sad passing in prison of the honest and brave free spirit Antonio Curatolo, who had been charged during the appeal on a minor eight-year-old charge, apparently at someone’s insistence.

Our lives crossed on the path of the tragic murder of Meredith Kercher. And, somehow, we were no longer separated. Even though, rather than crossing paths, in time they’ve run parallel courses. Up to Friday, when death took him away, at the age of 56. And in his passing we (I speak in the plural because the same sentiment is felt by Francesca Bene, Luca Fiorucci and Antioco Fois, the colleagues who have been following the Meredith case and who met him), we feel deeply saddened.

Antonio Curatolo was no saint. But he had his candour, his naturalness, his humanity and his inner rectitude. Sometimes, I felt he was perhaps dissociated. The homeless romantic and anarchic that reads a lot and has a self-taught culture, living on the edge of society by choice, but who “struggles along” not always in a limpid way. A stray cat, clever and naïve at the same time. Tough and kind, profoundly honest, and at the same time illicit.

I remember when we were informed that a homeless man told someone (who then informed us) that he had seen on the night of the murder Amanda and Sollecito in the Piazza Grimana in Perugia, when as usual he was reading while sitting on a bench in the piazza. The story is well known: Amanda and Sollecito are at the edge of the basketball court, and Raffaele sometimes gets up and leans over the guard rail.

An important testimony, because they had said they were asleep at that time. I remember the contact, the meeting, making him repeat continuously until he was exhausted, what he had seen. Trying to make him contradict himself, to see if what he was saying was true.

A good relationship was born in those days. We spoke about other things apart from the Meredith case, things in general. We got to know each other, we talked about our lives, so many things. And, eventually, it was not very difficult to convince him to tell the investigators what he had told us.

Even though we had to insist (with him, but also with the other witnesses that we found) on surpassing that anti-State Italian mentality in which everyone goes about his business, and that if you rather trust the State you’ll end up in trouble. He testified, and since his testimony was very important (he was defined by the media, with a bit of exaggeration, the “super-witness”), he was “grilled” very thoroughly. 

But he essentially repeated the same story. So much so that the defence teams of Amanda and Raffaele, in the end they stirred in the direction of Curatolo maybe having seen the two youngsters, but not on the night of the murder. His version fully convinced the GUP Judge Micheli (who pointed out that no one could dare question his story because of the mere fact that Antonio had chosen an unusual way of life) and also convinced the judges of the First Instance trial.

Not those judges of the appeal, though, according to whom all the witnesses - especially if found by journalists – were either mythomaniacs, or were prompted to exaggerate by the suppose desire at all costs for a journalistic scoop by reporters (showing, if I may say so myself, a strong cultural retardation of the judges and a very provincial point of view - far from the reality – toward the print press and, more generally, media).

Antonio, as mentioned, was not a saint. His relationship with drugs not only bears witness to his admission that he was a heroin addict, but also the legal troubles related to possession of drugs with intent to sell. An accumulation of small penalties that brought him under house arrest and in prison. Although he proclaimed his innocence. The last time I saw him, some months ago, was when I met him in the street and I accompanied him to the small flat he had rented in Corso Cavour. To complete the house arrest penalty, he told me.

But seeing him enter into that small apartment, after seeing him in the cardboard houses that he was building here and there, gave me the sad impression of a little bird entering a birdcage.

In short, I loved him, despite some aspects of his life. When I saw him we smiled. And they were smiles of men sincere with each other. I had affection for him. His sins, I’m sure, have been forgiven.

May the earth of the grave rest lightly on you, Antonio.



Sunday, February 19, 2012

HarperCollins: A Commendably Balanced Report By The UK Daily Telegraph’s Iain Hollingshead

Posted by Peter Quennell





Iain Hollingshead has written a fair and balanced piece in the Daily Telegraph. It contains quite a few notes of caution for HarperCollins:

1) Iain Hollingshead has this restrained Anne Bremner comment from her side though it fails to mention the million-dollar-plus PR campaign that has so many people addled on the real evidence; a pity Iain Hollingshead didnt press her.

“No one here has lost sight of the enormity of the fact that Meredith was killed,” says Anne Bremner, a Seattle-based lawyer and a spokeswoman for the Friends of Amanda Support Group. “But there’s widespread belief in Amanda’s innocence. And when something horrible happens, people all over the world are interested in how you get through it.”

Something horrible happened to Meredith too, of course - and she didn’t get through it. Anne Bremner might press Amanda Knox to make sure to answer in her book the several hundred open questions.

2) Then Iain Hollingshead quotes a London agent who is saying, like other agents and publishers, that HarperCollins sure seems to have taken on a risky publishing venture:

A positive balance sheet is far from guaranteed, however. “I think it’s very risky money,” says Ed Victor, the London-based literary agent whose clients range from Keith Richards to Alastair Campbell and Frederick Forsyth. “But all advances at that level are risky. A lot will depend on whom they hire as the collaborator. It has to be written well.”

3) Also Iain Hollingshead points out what many others have previously pointed out which is that that Knox is not really known for good prose or interesting writing:

HarperCollins hasn’t released the name of the ghostwriter, but one imagines they will have their work cut out. Not only is the book scheduled for publication early next year, they will also have to tread the fine line of polishing Knox’s prose without losing her voice. Although Knox is said to have harboured long-standing dreams of becoming a writer, extracts from her prison diaries – some of which were given to investigators in an attempt to clear her name and were later leaked to newspapers – suggest that she has a little way to go. One poem read: “Do you know me? Open your eyes and see that when it is said I am an angel, or I am a devil, or I am a lost girl, recognise that what is really lost is: the truth!”

By the way, Mr Burnham of HarperCollinws is widely quoted as saying that Amanda Knox’s side of it is the only one still to come out.  He seems to think that her side of it is still a mystery, and that the world is holding its breath.

Really?!

She seems to be one of the most widest quoted perps or suspected perps or non-perps in all history. In fact, she talked so much in the early days that her own lawyers had to publicly caution her to stop piling wrong explanations on wrong explanations.

There are her letters and her emails and her diaries and her notes to police and prosecutors. Plus long quotes from her in books by for example Rocco Girlanda. Plus her two full days on the witness stand. Plus half a dozen major statements to the trial court and appeal court. Plus a few hundred quotes from her family on her behalf. Plus her whole raft of alibis.

Often (when her parents and lawyers are not shushing her) she seems to be digging herself in deeper. Which elements of her story does Mr Burnham think we are all waiting for?

4) Also (although Iain Hollingshead fails to mention John Kercher’s book due in April and may not know about it) he points out that Meredith is the real victim in this case and a very sympathetic one especially in the UK.:

In the British market, Knox’s book will face far greater challenges than the quality of her ghosted prose. “I don’t think the book will be huge here because a lot of British sympathies are with the British victim,” says Victor.

5) Also Iain Hollingshead points out that when there is a sympathetic real victim there is little evidence that the perp or framed perp (dont they all claim they are framed?!) sells a lot of books:

The interest in the O J Simpson case, for example, did not lead to good sales for his book, If I Did It. And while many pundits are comparing Knox’s book to Jaycee Dugard’s A Stolen Life, the memoir of the Californian girl held against her will for 18 years which has sold more than a million copies since last July, Victor thinks the comparison unhelpful. “She was the victim of a crime, not the putative perpetrator of a crime,” he says. “And that’s a big difference. You could say she was the victim of a miscarriage of justice – but so are a lot of people.”

6) And Iain Hollingshead shows us that Andrew Gumbel, Sollecito’s ghost writer, is pretty uninformed on the case.

We will now be able to watch him having a tough time writing on the hard evidence and the fair Italian system and the real character of the druggie loner Sollecito. Assuming that Mr Gumbel hasn’t made up his mind:

“The book will be a lot of things: a love story, a harrowing description of an innocent young man in prison, a full-blooded Italian family drama, and a legal thriller,” says Gumbel. “But these are not the only reasons I got involved: what happened to Raffaele and Amanda was inexcusable and unconscionable and my intention is to get to the bottom of exactly why they were targeted.”

Gumbel denies he’s cashing in on a brutal murder. “I know that, in Raffaele’s case, no day has gone by without him thinking of Meredith and the hell her family has gone through,” he says. “We are not ‘cashing in’ on her death, but rather illuminating the way the Italian police and judiciary compounded the tragedy by throwing two young people into prison for no good reason. Their stories – both their stories – deserve to be heard and I believe it is important that they are.”

Cashing in on Meredith’s death? No, the thought never even occurred to us. Image of the accusatory and under-researched Mr Gumbel below. Keep on his tail Mr Hollingshead.

7) We would have liked Iain Hollingshead to touch on the risks of calunnia for HarperCollins, but to be fair to him it is doubtful he knows what in the very fair Italian system that defense for those unfairly attacked means.

Mr Burnham and Mr Gumbel seem to be setting themselves up nicely to find out.

[Below: Sollecito ghost writer Andrew Gumbel; and Sollecito book agent Sharlene Martin]


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TJMK’s Review Of John Follain’s Very Meticulous Book On Meredith And Her Case “Death In Perugia”

Posted by James Raper



[Platform behind the train at the main railway station is where Meredith first set foot in Perugia]


“Death in Perugia”  by John Follain is 433 pages long, about the same length as “Darkness Descending” There is a lengthy list of acknowledgements. The blurb on the cover reads “Uniquely based on four years of reporting and access to the case files, Death in Perugia takes readers on a riveting journey behind the scenes of the investigation, as John Follain shares the drama of the trials and appeal hearings he lived through.”

The final section (from Nov 2010) is devoted to Knox and Sollecito’s appeal (with mention of Guede’s final appeal) and is relatively short – just fifty pages, but it does succeed in redressing much of the misreporting of the evidence heard during the appeal, leaving the reader as bewildered as ever about the acquittal verdict.

Indeed the book ends quite suddenly, but appropriately, with the words of Judge Hellmann – “Maybe Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito also know what happened that night, because our acquittal verdict stems from the truth which was established in the trial. But the real truth can be different. They may be responsible, but there isn’t the evidence.”

This book amply contradicts the notion that there isn’t the evidence.

I have to say, though, that given that the court hearings contained many days, if not weeks, of testimony by, and cross-examination of, experts, particularly in relation to the DNA evidence, and that this was also covered at great length in the Massei Report, I was initially surprised that this was covered so little in the book.

It is not that he ignored it but there is no layman’s introduction to the subject of DNA, no explanation nor mention of PCRs, electropherograms, FRUs, polymerase chain reactions, peaks, drop ins and drop outs, stutters etc. The author steers clear of delving into a science which perhaps he, and no doubt most of us, do not really understand and are glad to be spared.

He concentrates more on character, events and outcomes, on what was said, written and reported. These include his own author interviews, including with Amanda’s parents and stepfather, prison officials and guards, the prison chaplain and prison inmates, and the Kercher family. He had access to the 10,000-page files of the prosecutor’s investigation, Amanda Knox’s taped meetings with her family in prison, her diaries, and a complete set of the verbatim transcripts of the first 11 month trial, much of which he attended including the appeal trial.

In particular Follain had a 6 hour interview with Sophie Purton and corresponded by e-mail with Amy Frost.

Follain states that his aim was to write an objective account, and in that he has succeeded.

Content is delivered in chronological order without editorial analysis. Topics - my own favourites being the staged burglary, the manipulation of the crime scene, and Amanda’s blood on the faucet in the small bathroom - are not given special treatment or explanation. To have done so could in any event give rise to a charge of advocacy. The reader is left to form his own judgement

Some people might argue as to whether it is a balanced account. Of course he has had to be selective with the material available and that is obviously a matter of choice in which some bias may arise. 

For instance he gives some prominence to the relationship between Meredith and Amanda and to Amanda’s’s behaviour at the police station as seen through the eyes of Meredith’s English girlfriends, discussion between them afterwards as to Amanda’s’s behaviour including her behaviour during the trials, and their reactions to the acquittals.

None of the English girlfriends has any doubt as to Amanda’s involvement in the murder even if they cannot figure out motive and exactly what happened. Sophie Purton obviously found everything very stressful, including giving evidence when, she says, she almost fell to pieces. If the prominence given to these girls’ accounts and observations is a bias it should be remembered that they are witnesses in their own right and -  given that Curt, Edda and Chris were constantly in front of TV cameras and giving interviews to the press asserting Amanda’s innocence, whilst the Kerchers were not – giving the girls a say is both illuminating and provides some balance retrospectively.

There are many interesting nuggets of information in the book. Just referring to a few of them hardly does justice. The following struck me.

Amanda appears to have admired Laura for her strong personality as well as her guitar playing, and days after arriving back at the cottage in late September after her short trip to Germany she copied Laura by having eight piercings done in one ear and three in the other, all in one go. The speed with which Amanda had copied Laura’s piercings surprised Meredith. “Amanda’s a bit obsessed with Laura. She got herself the same piercings Laura had, and they’ve only just met!” Meredith told her friend Sophie.

Meredith, who was already in residence when Amanda arrived, was quick to include Amanda in social activities with her English girlfriends, but despite this act of inclusion it appears that Amanda started to become resentful at not being the centre of attention and to accentuate her own difference would often insist on speaking in Italian to them or singing loudly and unexpectedly. Indeed a feeling gradually developed amongst the English girls, and with Filomena and Laura, that Amanda was, well, a bit weird. [Did Amanda end up blaming Meredith for this?]

As in prison, Knox kept a diary on arrival in Perugia. The pages for October had however been ripped out.

At the police station –  ““Oh Amanda, I’m so sorry!” Sophie exclaimed as she instinctively put her arms around her and gave her a bear hug.  Amanda didn’t hug Sophie back. Instead she stiffened, holding her arms down by her sides. Amanda said nothing.  Surprised Sophie let go of her after a couple of seconds and stepped back. There was no trace of emotion on Amanda’s face. Raffaele walked up to Amanda, and took hold of her hand: the couple just stood there, ignoring Sophie, and gazing at each other.”

“Robyn was also shocked to see the way Amanda translated the word “minaccia” (threat) for Raffaele when Meredith’s friends talked about an English media report of a threat made before the murder [the bomb threat to Mrs Lana].  Robyn saw Amanda repeat the Italian word minaccia to Raffaele several times, her face up close to his. She would say the word, then kiss him, then repeat it, then kiss him again and then they both laughed.”

“Amanda was the first to have her fingerprints taken and came back complaining that her hands were dirty……….Amanda suddenly raised her eyes to the ceiling and shouted vehemently: “Those fucking bastards!” Sophie and Samantha stared at each other bewildered.”

It emerges that Amanda was being bugged by the police almost from the start. When she and Raffaele arrived together at the police station on the 5th November they were deliberately placed together in a room with a microphone in a cardboard box on top of a cupboard. However the microphone picked up only part of their conversation – they often dropped their voices and the noise from a nearby playground made it difficult to hear what was being said.

As to the taped prison conversations there is, disappointingly, no further context to the “I was there” business. Indeed it seems that Amanda and her parents were aware from early on that their conversations were being bugged. On several occasions Amanda raises her voice to repeat “ I am innocent, I am innocent” for the benefit of the hidden microphone, and Edda, on one occasion, is recorded as mockingly saying “Testing, testing, anyone there?”

Four pages are given to Comodi’s cross-examination of Conti and Vecchiotti, to surprisingly good effect I thought, although Comodi became exasperated with them on more than one occasion.  For instance (C & V having agreed that Meredith’s profile was on the knife blade but, since the test could not be repeated, this was unreliable in their opinion) –

“Vecchiotti said she had no idea that Stefanoni had carried out the so-called negative tests intended to exclude the possibility of contamination. The tests had been filed with an earlier judge, and Judge Pratillo Hellmann later admitted them as evidence at the trial.

Nor did Vecchiotti know that Stefanoni had analysed the traces on the knife in her laboratory six days after last handling Meredith’s DNA.

“Are six days enough to guarantee that a test tube doesn’t come into contact with another test tube?” Comodi asked.

“They’re sufficient if that’s the way things went,” Vecchiotti replied stubbornly.

“You can’t cast doubt on everything the forensic police write!” Comodi fired back.”

And a final, rather depressing quote –

Mignini “felt the DNA review had very probably persuaded the court – assuming it needed persuading in the first place – to cast doubt over his entire case. [He] had looked into the chances of America ever extraditing Amanda to Italy if she was acquitted and then found guilty when the case went to the Supreme Court for a second appeal. Officials told him that yes, there was an extradition treaty between the two countries, but no, America would never send Amanda back.”

“Death in Perugia” is a significant addition to anyone’s overall knowledge of the case, and for this reason I urge anyone interested to buy and read it. But with the appeal court’s Motivation Report and the second appeal still pending, it is premature for it to lay claim to being the definitive account.

What it does do is leave the reader disturbed with aspects of the verdict.


Friday, October 14, 2011

John Kercher’s Book “Meredith” To Be Published By The Second Largest Publishing Group In The World

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Giant publisher Hachette Livre’s headquarters is in the 15th Arrondissement of Paris to the right]


London-based publishers Hodder and Stoughton (image below) are an arm of the French publishing giant Hachette Livre.

Hodder and Stoughton have purchased the rights to “Meredith” from John Kercher’s hustling literary agent Ben Mason in very competitive bidding at the Frankfurt Book Fair.  From the Bookseller website:

Editorial director Fenella Bates bought world English rights from Ben Mason at Fox Mason. The book will be published in hardback in April 2012.

Billed as a “celebration of Meredith’s life”, the title is also a father’s story of losing his daughter, and will be the first account of the lives of the Kercher family since her murder four years ago.

Bates said: “Here at Hodder we feel this is an important story that needs to be told. We are privileged that John Kercher has entrusted us with his book, in which he’ll talk for the first time about the case and Meredith’s life.”


John Kercher has had a number of other books published. He completed two books about two two years ago as his literary tributes to Meredith, and his way of conveying her to the world.

We mentioned the other book early this year: The Strange Case of Miss Carla.  That book is a collection of children’s tales John created which Meredith loved to hear in her teens.

Her family prefer that proceeds from “Meredith” go toward an Italian remembrance of Meredith which they have not yet defined. They chose this as their goal as Meredith really loved Italy and because Italy is still obviously fascinated with her.

Her case in Italy is always referred to as the Meredith case, not the Amanda Knox case, and her Mediterranean looks, her wide range of talents and accomplishments, her strong sense of purpose, her empathy for other people, and her sense of humor are much admired.

Below: images of the Frankfurt Book Fair, and of the London headquarters of Hodder and Stoughton in Euston Street.





Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Another Prominent US Legal Commentator On The Evidence Points That Simply Won’t Go Away

Posted by Peter Quennell




Now a second prominent TV analyst joins CNN’s Nancy Grace.

Wendy Murphy is controversial, but then, aren’t they all? Like Nancy Grace she is a former prosecutor. This syndicated report is already being carried on 150 media websites.

The evidence still points to Amanda Knox

What’s more galling: Amanda Knox making out with her co-defendant boyfriend hours after Meredith Kercher was stabbed to death, or Amanda Knox crying tears of self-pleasure after being acquitted of murder despite overwhelming evidence of her guilt?

The most horrifying part of this story is the way it proves our collective stupidity. If a guilty criminal spends enough money on public relations, we can be convinced that up is down and a murderer is a national hero….

Here’s a small sample of what Amanda’s obKNOXious cheerleaders don’t want you to know:

Wendy Murphy then summarises four of the evidence points that wont go away. Pesky stuff. Mr Sollecito? Ms Knox?

It seems that lawyers are increasingly not taking kindly to the usurping of the law by P-R.

*******

Added Wednesday afternoon. Wendy Murphy’s article was the subject of a concerted attacked with the usual faux facts on many websites. She came back fighting with this long comment.

Please refrain from posting false information. There is ABUNDANT evidence against Knox and Sollecito.

Guede’s involvement in the murder cannot be questioned. Nor is it in doubt that there were multiple offenders. Guede’s race is irrelevant. That Amanda Knox falsely accused an innocent black man is highly relevant and speaks to her consciounsness of guilt, and her character, as much as her racism. One news report revealed that she once photographed herself in a white supremecist context (claiming it was a joke).

She claimed to make the initial false accusation against an innocent black man (Patrick Lumumba) under stress from police questioning, but when given a chance to clarify her accusation at a later date, she reaffirmed her false claim against him. The man sat in prison for two weeks because of Amanda’s false accusation. She was convicted of lying about police treating her unfairly. One of her lawyers at the first trial told the New York Times her trial was fair.

ONLY THE BRA CLASP WAS ALLEGEDLY ‘CONTAMINATED’ - NOT THE KNIFE

The defense argued that the DNA on a metal bra clasp, which had been severed from the victim’s bra, could have been contaminated when it was moved on the floor, six weeks after the murder, or in the forensic laboratory in Rome. The judge at the trial of Rudy Guede acknowledged that the DNA sample on the clasp was considered small, but described the claim of contamination at the laboratory as making ‘no sense’, since there was no material from which such contamination could have come, and so ‘the risk would have been the LOSS of traces found there, not the risk of somehow discovering new traces’.

FROM CNN

The defense has said the knife found at Sollecito’s apartment doesn’t match Kercher’s wounds or an imprint of a knife left on a bedsheet at Kercher’s apartment. They have also said the DNA sample is too small to be conclusive. They also raised speculation that the DNA found on the bra clasp could have been contaminated.

THE DNA EVIDENCE WAS ONLY A SMALL PIECE OF THE MOUNTAIN OF EVIDENCE AGAINST AMANDA KNOX

‘Why do you need to review the forensic evidence when this conviction is based on much more than the knife and the bra clasp?’ Prosecutor Manuela Comodi argued before the court began deliberating.
She then reminded the court that Knox and Sollecito don’t have an alibi for the night of the killing, adding that there was ‘ample’ evidence of a staged break-in.

FROM ITALIAINFORMAZIONI.COM
..
Kercher’s body was found with her throat cut on November 2, 2007, in the house she shared with Knox in the central Italian city. A knife with a 6-inch blade was later found at Sollecito’s house, bearing traces of Kercher’s DNA on the blade and Knox’s on the handle. The defence teams of both Knox and Sollecito, who pleaded innocent at the weekend, have cast doubt on the DNA findings, saying the samples were too small to prove their provenance. THEY DID NOT CLAIM THE SAMPLES ON THE KNIVES WERE CONTAMINATED. THE DEFENSE ONLY CLAIMED THAT KERCHER’S DNA ON THE BLADE WAS TOO SMALL TO BE A MATCH - BUT EVEN IF YOU BELIEVE THAT - IT IS SIGNIFICANT THAT KERCHER OULD NOT BE RULED OUT!

Guede says he was in the bathroom of the house when he heard Knox and Kercher argue about money [Meredith had several hundred dollars in her room - that went missing - which was likely the motive that sparked the fight] before Kercher screamed and he found her in a pool of blood

FROM THE DAILY BEAST

Forensic scientist Patrizia Stefanoni, who testified as a prosecution witness last spring, wrote too low in English on initial results, assumed to mean that the samples of Kerchers DNA on the alleged murder weapon were only partial strands that needed amplification. [THERE WAS NO DISPUTE THAT AMANDA KNOX’S DNA ON THE HANDLE WAS A LARGE ENOUGH SAMPLE SIZE TO BE MATCHED TO AMANDA KNOX. NOR WAS THERE A DISPUTE THAT THE BLADE HAD BEEN SCRUBBED CLEAN WITH BLEACH AND AN ABRASIVE SUBSTANCE]. Writing too low suggests the expert was copying a reading directly from the machine, while she was continuing to test the sample. The implication, according to the defense, is that Stefanoni then had to amplify the tiny sample found on the blade beyond the protocol to find a match to Kerchers DNA. AMPLIFICATION IS NOT FORENSICALLY INAPPROPRIATE AND IS DONE ALL THE TIME.

FROM ARTICLESBASE.COM

Knox and Sollecito were interviewed several times by the police on the day the murder was discovered and the following two days. On 5 November 2007, Knox voluntarily accompanied Sollecito to the police station where he gave a statement, in the course of which he said that he DID NOT KNOW FOR SURE that Knox was with him on the night of the murder. The police then decided to question Knox and began the interview at 23.00 that evening. Knox was interviewed twice during the night of 56 November, firstly by the judicial police and then, later, in the presence of a prosecutor. During these interviews, Knox made statements implicating Patrick Lumumba, the owner of a bar-restaurant named Le Chic, at which she occasionally worked. She said that she had accompanied Lumumba to Kercher’s house and had been in the kitchen and heard screams while Lumumba committed the murder.

Knox was formally arrested later on the morning of 6 November. Some time afterwards she made a written note to the police, explaining that she was confused when she made the earlier statements [IMPLICATING HERSELF], saying ‘I’m very doubtful of the verity of my statements because they were made under the pressures of stress, shock and extreme exhaustion’. However, she still seemed to incriminate Lumumba, saying: ‘I stand by my statements that I made last night about events that could have taken place in my home with Patrick [Lumumba], but I want to make very clear that these events seem more unreal to me that what I said before, that I stayed at Raffaele’s house.’ She went on to say ‘I see Patrick as the murderer, but the way the truth feels in my mind, there is no way for me to have known because I don’t remember FOR SURE if I was at my house that night.’

Lumumba was arrested on 6 November 2007 as a result of Knox’s statements. He was detained for two weeks until the arrest of Guede. Initially doubts about his alibi were reported in the press, but ultimately he was completely exonerated.

Knox’s DNA was found on two of the knives kept in Sollecito’s kitchen drawer for cooking, and a small amount of Kercher’s DNA was found on one of the two. At trial, the defence countered that Knox’s DNA would normally be on the knife because she used knives for cooking at Sollecito’s apartment. The defence also challenged the Kercher DNA sample as being too small to be reliable. Knox and Sollecito’s defence teams also asserted that this knife was not the lethal weapon because it did not match two of the three wounds and tested negative for blood. However, a forensic evidence expert for the prosecution testified that it was compatible with one of the wounds on Kercher’s neck, but that two other wounds might have been inflicted by a different weapon;

Mixed samples of Knox’s DNA and Kercher’s blood were found in the apartment, including in the bathroom sink and in Filomena Romanelli’s room. The defence argued that Knox’s DNA should be expected to be present there in the ordinary course of her use of the apartment and bathroom as a resident of the cottage - BUT KNOX HERSELF MADE STATEMENTS TO POLICE CONCEDING THERE WAS NO REASON FOR HER DNA TO BE MIXED WITH THE VICTIM’S BLOOD IN SO MANY LOCATIONS IN THE APARTMENT. KNOX HAD LIVED THERE FOR ONLY A FEW SHORT WEEKS BEFORE THE MURDER.

*******.

AN IMPORTANT PIECE FROM THE SEATTLE TIMES ABOUT PRO-KNOX POLITICAL INFLUENCE/POSSIBLE CORRUPTION

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016448492_knox09m.html


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Excellent Sunday Times Report On The Many Killer Questions The Second Appeal Next Year Might Answer

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Rome: St Peter’s and Vatican in foreground; Supreme Court large white building in right background by River Tiber]


It really ain’t over until it’s over, and knowing the hyper-cautious Italian justice system, maybe not even then.

Now the drama moves to Rome.

Before any verdict and sentence in the case can become final, under Italian law and the constitution the verdict and sentence must be endorsed by the Supreme Court of Cassation.

If either the prosecution or defenses demand that issues be looked at by Cassation (as we know, the prosecution will) Cassation will do so, and it may punt the case back down to the first appeal court to re-examine questions or even run a complete re-trial at first appeal level.

At Cassation level the prosecution is likely to have at least five advantages.

    1) A confusing Hellman sentence report seems likely which won’t be able to dispose of the Massei and Micheli reports because the Hellman court did not re-examine all issues

    2) Cassation’s ruling on the final appeal of Rudy Guede which points to three perps, and Cassation’s general tendency to side with trial courts against first-appeal courts.

    3) The likelihood that only the prosecution will file issues for consideration by Cassation and not the defenses and so the prosecution will dominate all proceedings.

    4) Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito and entourages seem unlikely to be there in person for the Cassation hearings or a retrial, and emotive factors would be less in play.

    5) The Italian media and Italian public opinion and increasingly UK and US opinion seem to be taking the position that the Hellman appeal decision was unsatisfactory.

Two days ago, the Sunday Times ran this fine analysis below by their reporter on the case, John Follain, of the open issues that will be facing Cassation and possibly again facing the lower appeal court. 

With a dozen books out John Follain has by far the largest and most impressive book publishing record of any reporter on the case.

Publishers Hodder and Stoughton have announced that his book Death in Perugia: The Definitive Account of the Meredith Kercher Case will be released first in the UK later this month - on 25 October.

KILLER QUESTIONS; The acquittal last week of Amanda Knox only deepens the confusion surrounding the murder of the British student Meredith Kercher. John Follain, who has investigated the case for four years, unpicks the evidence How could one man pin Meredith down and inflict those injuries?

By John Follain in Perugia.

They may have been coached to hide their true feelings, but the expressions of the judges and jurors were an open book. Surprise and shock registered on the faces of the appeal tribunal in Perugia as they watched a video taken by the forensic police who searched the whitewashed cottage where Meredith Kercher was murdered.

That summer’s day in the medieval, vaulted Hall of Frescoes was the pivotal scene of the 10-month appeal trial of Amanda Knox, 24, and Raffaele Sollecito, 26 — the moment that freedom suddenly became possible, if not probable, for the former lovers.

The rotund, bespectacled Stefano Conti, one of two specialists in forensic medicine appointed by the court to review two crucial traces of DNA evidence, gave a sardonic running commentary on the behaviour of the Roman scientific squad searching for clues in the cottage. They failed to use clean protective gloves to handle each item of evidence or biological sample, Conti pointed out. They passed Meredith’s bra clasp to one another before placing it back on the floor where they had found it. The officer who picked up her bra wore no gloves at all.

As the senior appeal judge, Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, recalled last week after acquitting Knox and Sollecito of sexually abusing and murdering Meredith, the DNA review was “the most difficult moment” of the trial.

“The prosecutors understood that their case was at risk, and it was at that moment that the trial became a battle with no holds barred,” he said.

The courtroom fight over this international cause célèbre ended with a sobbing Knox being rushed out by guards and flown home to a heroine’s welcome in Seattle.

But, far from resolving the mystery of how and why Meredith died, the acquittal has fuelled the unanswered questions over her fate. Are we “back to square one”, as Meredith’s brother Lyle said after the verdict? What are the mysteries still to be resolved? And will we ever know what truly happened? MEREDITH, a 21-year-old language student from Coulsdon, Surrey, was found lying virtually naked, her throat cut, in her bedroom in the house she shared with Knox and two other young women on the afternoon of November 2, 2007. “Case closed,” an overoptimistic police chief proclaimed just four days later.

The investigators thought Knox had handed them the keys to the mystery. Under questioning she placed herself at the crime scene on the night before the body was found. She had been in the kitchen, with her hands over her ears, she said, while Patrick Lumumba, a Congolese bar owner for whom she worked as a waitress, killed Meredith.

Police promptly arrested Lumumba, Knox and her boyfriend. But Knox later went back on her testimony, insisting she had been with Sollecito at his flat all night.

Investigators were forced to release Lumumba after witnesses testified he had been working at his bar on the night of the murder. Knox and Sollecito stayed behind bars.

Forensic evidence then prompted the arrest of another African immigrant, Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast drifter. Part of his palm print was on a cushion under Meredith’s body, his DNA was in her body where he had apparently groped her sexually, and his DNA was mixed with hers in drops of blood inside her shoulder bag.

The prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, accused Guede, Knox and Sollecito of killing Meredith when she resisted their attempts to force her into a sex game.

Certainly, there appeared to be compelling evidence that Knox was lying. She had tried to frame Lumumba. The defence now claimed that an intruder had broken into the cottage and attacked Meredith; but the break-in had clearly been staged. Amateurishly, a room had been ransacked before the window into it was smashed — the glass lay over the strewn clothes instead of under them. Was this to cover Knox’s tracks? There were mixed traces of Knox’s and Meredith’s blood in the bathroom and another room. Bloody footprints had been left by Knox and Sollecito in the bathroom and in the corridor. Knox had behaved bizarrely at the police station after the murder, kissing and caressing Sollecito and doing yoga exercises. Sollecito had said he spent much of the murder night on his computer, but this was disproved by experts.

Still, this was all circumstantial evidence rather than proof. The Rome forensic police came to the rescue of the prosecution team. They reported that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade of a kitchen knife found at Sollecito’s flat — and Knox’s was on the handle. This was believed to be one of the murder weapons.

Forensic pathologists said Meredith’s wounds had been caused by two knives, pointing to more than one killer. The team from Rome also reported that Sollecito’s DNA was on Meredith’s bra clasp. (Only much later would it emerge that the police had retrieved this from the bedroom floor a full 46 days after first spotting it.) The case rapidly became a sensation. The prime suspect was an intelligent and alluringly pretty American, only 20 at the time, who, reporters joyously discovered, had been nicknamed “Foxy Knoxy” back home in Seattle. That this was for her skills on the soccer pitch was lost in the rush to find out more.

Dozens of witnesses and expert consultants passed through Perugia’s Hall of Frescoes during the first trial, which lasted for much of 2009.

Knox was portrayed by the lawyer for the bar owner, Lumumba, as an unscrupulous and manipulative she-devil, and by her defence team as “a wholesome girl” wrongly accused.

The prosecution case was that Kercher, a hard-working young woman from a modest background, had become exasperated by Knox’s slovenly and promiscuous behaviour as a housemate.

She had remarked to her father that “Amanda arrived only a week ago and she already has a boyfriend”. She told friends that Knox left a vibrator and condoms in the bathroom and brought “strange men” to the cottage. Investigators leaked Knox’s diary, in which she had listed seven sexual partners, three of whom she had slept with after her arrival in Italy, including a man she had met on the train on her way to Perugia. On Facebook she had put down as her interests: “Men.” Unable to prove exactly what had happened on the night of the murder, Mignini offered a plausible scenario based on Meredith’s 43 knife wounds and bruises.

He suggested that an argument between Meredith and Knox escalated when Guede and Sollecito joined the American “under the influence of drugs and maybe of alcohol” in trying to force Kercher into a heavy sex game that ended in murder. The sensational 11-month trial ended in guilty verdicts and jail sentences of 26 years for Knox and 25 years for Sollecito.

Some months later, in August 2010, I met Knox briefly in Capanne women’s prison, which is a short drive from Perugia. She had cut her hair and looked younger and more frail than during her trial. She wore a red Beatles sweatshirt, black leggings and silver nail varnish.

When I arrived, she was pushing a trolley down a corridor.

A guard explained that her job was to collect orders from other prisoners for small goods they could buy: newspapers, cigarettes, coffee, magazines and — at that time of year — strawberries. We were allowed to talk for only a few moments, but a guard told me: “She’s pretty well. Amanda’s confident that the future will bring freedom for her. She doesn’t break down in tears. It’s nothing like the night of tears after the verdict, when we had to comfort her.”

I was told she had been reading — in Italian — the 427-page summary by the two judges at her trial, who had dissected the inconsistencies in her evidence.

This summary included the judges’ own reconstruction of what might have happened on the night of the murder, based on the evidence that had been put before them.

They suggested that Knox, Sollecito and Guede had arrived at the cottage at about 11pm. Knox and her boyfriend had gone to her bedroom to have sex, and, excited by a situation “heavy with sexual stimulus”, Guede had walked into Kercher’s room wanting to have sex with her.

Kercher rejected him — she was tired, and had a new boyfriend anyway — but Knox and Sollecito intervened to assist him. According to the judges, they were probably drugged on hashish and seeking “erotic sexual violence”. Forcing Kercher to yield to Guede was a “special thrill that had to be tried out”.

They suggested Sollecito cut Meredith’s bra with a small knife he always carried — collecting knives was a hobby. As Guede sexually assaulted Kercher with his fingers, Sollecito stabbed her in the neck. Kercher screamed — a neighbour heard her — and Knox stabbed her in the throat with a kitchen knife, the judges argued. She took several minutes to die as she inhaled her own blood.

THAT was the lurid and damning case that Knox had to fight when she returned to the Hall of Frescoes last November for her appeal.

Her demeanour had changed. Gone was smiling and self-confident “Foxy”, whose manner may have helped secure her conviction. After three years in prison, Knox was much more demure.

The appeal hearing began auspiciously for her when the deputy judge remarked: “The only certain and undisputed fact is the death of Meredith Kercher.”

The comment prompted prosecutors to complain that the court had already made up its mind, but it was a portent of what was about to be revealed.

The appeal court’s decision to grant a defence request for an independent review of two items of DNA evidence — the kitchen knife and the bra clasp — proved devastating for the prosecution’s case.

The two experts — Conti and Carla Vecchiotti, from La Sapienza University in Rome — said the DNA trace on the knife blade could not be attributed to Meredith because it was too slight. They said Sollecito’s Y chromosome was on the bra clasp, but it could have been the result of contamination by police mishandling of the evidence. From then on, the prosecutors fought a losing battle to discredit Conti and Vecchiotti.

Outside the courtroom the Knox camp’s media offensive exploited the experts’ conclusions.

Knox’s family — her mother, father, stepfather and friends — had come well primed for battle. Homes had been remortgaged and funds raised.

With the help of a PR company in Seattle, they dominated prime-time shows on the leading American TV networks, dramatically influencing public opinion there — so much so that the prosecutor Mignini thundered in court that he had never seen a convict hire a PR firm to prove her innocence.

Mignini himself was a key target. In what appeared to have been a turf battle with prosecutors in Florence, he had been given a suspended 16-month prison sentence for abuse of office after tapping the phones of police officers and journalists in a separate investigation into a serial killer. It was a reflection of the fragmented and politicised condition of the Italian justice system.

The prosecutors tried but failed to switch the focus away from the forensic evidence by introducing Guede, the third party to the murder. He had been prosecuted separately because he had opted for a “fast track” trial that offers a lighter sentence as an incentive. Jailed for 16 years for murder, he had appealed to the Supreme Court in Rome — Italy’s highest court — which confirmed his conviction, ruling that Guede had sexually abused and murdered Kercher with “unidentified accomplices”.

This was an insight into the mystifying processes of Italian law. How could justice be served by trying Guede separately? Why had he not been brought to give evidence at the first Knox trial? Why were his accomplices “unidentified” when Knox and Sollecito had been convicted of joining him in the murder? The answers lay in the fact that his supreme court appeal started just after Knox’s appeal began in Perugia — and the two cases overlapped, a bizarre way of seeking out the truth.

Once Guede’s Supreme Court appeal had been dismissed he was summoned to the witness box in Perugia, where his contribution was damning yet so limited that it did not sway the judges and jury.

Rather than taking him through the events of the killing, Mignini read out a letter in which Guede had written of “the horrible murder of a ... wonderful girl by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox”. Challenged by one of Knox’s lawyers, Guede stood by the letter, saying: “It’s not as if there is my truth, and the truth of Tom, Dick and Harry. What there is is the truth of what I lived through that night, full stop.”

A lawyer for the Kerchers detailed the injuries Meredith suffered, arguing it would have been impossible for Guede to hold her down, sexually assault her, try to suffocate her, try to strangle her and wound her with more than one knife.

But it was too late. The appeal panel of judges and jurors had made up their minds. A juror confided after the “not guilty” verdicts had been delivered that the court had decided to acquit because of doubts over the forensic evidence, and because it saw no motive for the murder.

Pratillo Hellman explained: “To convict, the penal code says you have to be persuaded beyond every reasonable doubt. The smallest doubt is enough to not condemn.”

But he added enigmatically: “Maybe Knox and Sollecito know what happened that night, because our acquittal verdict stems from the truth which was established in the trial. But the real truth can be different. They may be responsible, but there isn’t the evidence… So, perhaps they too know what happened that night, but that’s not our conclusion.”

The judge’s comments earned him a new nickname, which investigators texted to each other delightedly: “Pontius Pratillo”, after Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of responsibility for the execution of Jesus Christ.

The prosecution scored one potentially significant victory. The court found Knox guilty of slandering the former bar owner Lumumba by initially claiming he had killed Kercher. It sentenced her to three years in prison, but released her as she had spent almost four years behind bars.

“That’s absurd, absurd,” Mignini fumed. “Knox accused Lumumba to throw the police off her tracks. Why else would she accuse him?” IN PERUGIA, at least, the prosecution can count on overwhelming backing. After the verdict, a crowd several thousand strong massed outside the courts, amid jeers at defence lawyers and chants of “Assassini, assassini!” (murderers, murderers) and “Vergogna, vergogna!” (shame, shame). In bars across the picturesque city, and on the main cobbled street, Corso Vannucci, many dissected the case for days afterwards — the consensus was that Knox and Sollecito were at the cottage when Meredith died, but no one agreed on what role they played.

For the Kercher family no outcome could have been more bewildering. As Knox flew home, Meredith’s mother Arline, her brother Lyle and her sister Stephanie spoke to me.

“It almost raises more questions than there are answers now,” Lyle said, “because the initial decision was that [the murder] wasn’t done by one person but by more than that. Two have been released, one remains in jail, so we’re now left questioning: who are these other people or person?” Did they believe that Knox and Sollecito were guilty? “In a way we have to believe what the police say because they are the ones compiling the evidence,” Arline replied. “We haven’t a clue. I think that’s what he was saying. It’s the police — it’s their job.”

“It’s difficult for anybody to make a valid opinion on any case, not just this one, unless you’re a trained expert,” Lyle echoed. “There are forensics, detectives, psychological profilers and so on, who are trained to do this and read the information and draw the hypotheses from that, which of course no lay person really is. So if that’s the conclusion they come to, then we’re happy to stand by that.”

“We have to accept, don’t we, just like now we have to accept this,” Arline said.

“And that’s why it’s so disappointing, because we don’t know,” Stephanie added.

It is not over for the Kerchers.

Last week’s acquittal is far from the last word on the case. The judges have 90 days to draft a report explaining the reasons for the verdict. Then the prosecution and the defence will have a further 45 days to lodge a new and last appeal. Only rulings by the Supreme Court are considered definitive in Italian justice.

Guede’s lawyers said he would appeal for a new trial if the Supreme Court confirmed Knox’s acquittal — on the grounds that it would contradict the Ivorian’s conviction for killing Meredith alongside unidentified accomplices. “So I’m supposed to be Meredith’s only assassin?” Guede is reported to have told a prison visitor. “I’m supposed to have struck that poor girl with a knife 40 times? I confessed my responsibilities and I accused those who were in the house with me.

“I’m in prison, and the others are free and happy at home. If it wasn’t them in the house that damned evening, who are the other accomplices supposed to be? The money made available to Amanda and the media strategy helped to free her.”

Many investigators and lawyers admit privately that the Italian judicial system may simply never come up with a full and convincing explanation of Meredith’s death.

Italian justice is agonisingly slow. Judges and lawyers attend several trials in the same week, with the result that the appeal trial saw 20 days of hearings over no fewer than 10 months. It is also full of safeguards for defendants, including long preliminary hearings enshrined in the post-war constitution to eradicate the caricature of justice delivered by the courts under Mussolini.

Many of the most notorious cases in Italy’s post-war history have yet to be resolved in court. Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire prime minister, is embroiled in a string of corruption, fraud and sex offence investigations and trials, and claims that leftist prosecutors are plotting to oust him.

This week Berlusconi will push through parliament a bill banning publication of phone and other intercepts before a case reaches trial — a measure that has become a priority for him, as investigators are expected to release within a few weeks dozens of intercepts of reportedly embarrassing conversations between Berlusconi and a convicted drug dealer.

In such a climate Italian justice itself is on trial. The truth of what happened to Meredith Kercher may emerge one day, but it’s no safe bet that it will do so in an Italian court of law.


Sunday, October 09, 2011

“Wrong To Capitalise On Any Murder. Not Just For Us, But For Anyone”

Posted by Peter Quennell





Helen Weathers reports on a face-to-face interview with Meredith’s father John in the Daily Mail.

On John’s memories of Meredith which haunt him daily: 

‘Meredith was extremely intelligent and humorous as a child. She had an almost adult sense of humour, and was always very thoughtful and considerate — sensitive to other people,’ says John, who was divorced from Meredith’s mother in 1997 after 20 years of marriage.

‘Meredith was very witty. She had quite an original line in humour, what you might call a barbed wit, I suppose, but not hurtful; never hurtful.

‘I remember once coming back from a holiday in Egypt and showing Meredith a photograph of myself wearing a floppy sunhat I’d bought. She took one look and said: “Dad, just tell me you didn’t pay any money for that hat.”’
Amanda Knox cries following the verdict that overturns her conviction and acquits her of murdering her British roomate Meredith Kercher, at the Perugia court in Italy

Like her father, Meredith loved the relaxed Mediterranean way of life. Indeed, her love of Italy started on family holidays to Rimini and continued on school trips and exchanges. John was not surprised when she chose to study Italian and European studies at Leeds University.

‘The irony was that after two years at Leeds she found they’d accidentally put her on a three-year course which would have excluded the year in Italy, so she fought to get put back on the four-year course and get out there,’ says John.

‘She had the choice of going to Rome, Milan or Perugia. While she loved Rome and would have liked Milan, she felt she’d have a better chance of making friends more easily in Perugia than in a large city.

‘Meredith was very excited about going. For the first three days she stayed in a small family-run hotel until she found the cottage. She told me her room was a bit small, but the views were beautiful.’

John last saw his daughter a month before she was murdered. She’d returned to Britain on a flying visit to buy some clothes for the Italian winter and arranged to meet her father for coffee at an Italian restaurant in Croydon.

‘Meredith had bought a new pair of boots which she wanted to show me. I think they were leather with a small heel. And that’s the image of Meredith I want to remember: my daughter smiling, laughing and showing me her new boots.’

On the media speculation about the megabucks that Amanda Knox and her clan could make.

‘I think it would be more sensitive to Meredith’s memory if Amanda Knox maintained a low profile,’ says John, a freelance journalist, in his first in-depth interview.

The Amanda Knox cult insults my Meredith’s memory: Victim’s father says it’s wrong to capitalise on murder in his first interview since the verdict

‘I don’t want to say anything confrontational, but I believe it is wrong to capitalise on any murder. Not just for us, but for anyone.

‘This cult of celebrity is demeaning to Meredith’s memory, disrespectful. I don’t think Amanda Knox has actively sought out celebrity status; I think that has been created for her. But then again, she hasn’t actively rejected it.

‘It is distressing that all this will go on for a long time and that all the focus is going to be on the defendants for some time yet.

And at the shock of the U-turn first appeal verdict

‘I thought the judge might uphold the conviction but possibly reduce their sentences to be more in line with Guede’s — but not this,’ he says.

‘We thought the original evidence would be upheld, so it is a huge shock. You hope the appeal jury is going to recognise what was established in the first trial. In this case, it wasn’t.’


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Andrea Vogt’s Interview With Meredith’s Family In The First Post

Posted by Peter Quennell





Click above for the interview with Arline, Stephanie and Lyle in Perugia yesterday morning.

They miss the most ordinary things - the way she used to come dancing into the living room or rugby tackle her brother… her quick-witted sense of humour.

“It’s so sad. At the age she was killed, there was still so much ahead. We had so many laughs and good times ahead that we will never have.”


Barbie Nadeau’s Interview With Meredith’s Family In The Daily Beast

Posted by Peter Quennell





Click above for the interview with Arline, Stephanie and Lyle in Perugia yesterday morning.

They say they haven’t had time to digest the news that Knox and Sollecito weren’t part of the scenario they’ve played over in their minds so many times. They say they will wait the 90 days until the appellate judge’s motivation for acquittal is released before deciding whether to alter what they really think happened that night. In the meantime, they remain in an unimaginable state of limbo, caught somewhere between the hyped celebrations of Knox’s release and their own bottomless void.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

One Good Take On Italian Justice: Interesting Thought Not Neccessarily Entirely Ours

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for Tobias Jones’s take in the Guardian which seems to be trying to report evenly on the case..

Here are our most-read posts on first trials by Italian poster Nikki and the two appeals by Italian poster Commissario Montalbano and often-overlooked victims’ rights about Italian campaigner Barbara Benedettelli.

All explain better than Tobias Jones does the many hoops that prosecutors have to jump through for victims’ interests to come out ahead..

We can agree with Tobias Jones on this below - the elaborate, expensive and slow automatic first appeals complete with lay judges who don’t see the first pass of the evidence at first trial and often act as a wildcard in the process.

It’s one of the many failings of Italian justice that it never delivers conclusive, door-slamming certainty. What usually happens is that the door is left wide open to take the case to the next level, first to appeal and then to the cassazione, the supreme court. The score in the public imagination, at the moment, is simply one-all.

It’s always been that way. There’s barely one iconic crime from the post-war years that has persuaded the country that, yes, justice has been done: the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Ustica crash, the Bologna railway station bombing, the Piazza Fontana atrocity, the Monster of Florence murders, the murder of Luigi Calabresi, the “caso Cogne” … none has ever been satisfactorily, convincingly resolved. Instead the country seems to split into innocentisti and colpevolisti (those who believe in the innocence or guilt of the accused) and the heated debates continue for decades.

But we’d agree less-so, at least from an American perspective, with the Italian uniqueness of this below.

Dietrologia – literally “behindery” or conspiracy-theorising – is a national pastime precisely because the courts don’t offer convincing verdicts. It allows every journalist, magistrate and barfly to try their hand. The result is that everyone with an active imagination has a go at explaining the truth behind the mystery, and inevitably the truth only gets further buried beneath so many excited explanations. The media plays an active role in keeping the circus going: in no other country are cronache nere – “black chronicles” – so much the mainstay of the evening news. There’s always a case on the go.

Tobias Jones should watch the urbane elegance of the Porta a Porta shows, which are reminiscent of human games of chess, and then visit the US and watch all the cable news channels devoting many hours a day to legal talking heads debating one another over high-profile crime cases. CNN and MSNBC could probably not survive without them (Casey Anthony was a godsend) and they go back to the OJ Simpson trial when it seemed half the country joined in.

He probably has a good point about subjudice (blackouts on court news in the UK) but there’d seem more chance of a wrong outcome driven by public opinion in the US with its elected judges and police chiefs and prosecutors angling for news exposure than in Italy. (Judge Michael Heavey is an elected judge.)

Local public opinion in the US is very much behind the high execution rate in several American states and the difficulties non-whites often have in getting off.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Good Reports By Seattle PI And Daily Beast On Mignini Summarising The Evidence Presented At Trial

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: The indomitable victim’s proponent Giuliano Mignini preparing for court today with Giancarlo Costagliola]


Click the image above for Andrea Vogt’s report on Mr Mignini’s afternoon in court. Tough points Mr Mignini made:

“They know the truth because they were at Via della Pergola along with Rudy,” said Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini said emphatically, pointing to Knox and Sollecito in his last remarks to the court. “Not only the young man of color should pay.”...

[Mr Mignini] sometimes seemed to obsess on small and bizarre details, but at other times showed an incredibly effective use of courtroom oratory. Just before showing the jurors gruesome autopsy photos of Kercher’s wounds, for example, he told them softly how he would never forget “the wide open eyes of the victim and the composed, immense pain of her parents.”

He reminded the appeals jurors that it was not a U.S. court, but rather one in the Italian republic and urged them to ignore “improvised detectives who give their superficial opinion from 10,000 kilometers away.”...

[Mr Mignini] went over all the witness testimony, described how a break-in in the apartment Kercher and Knox shared had been staged and frequently cited Knox’s own statements on the stand during her first trial, especially on the topic of a large drop of Knox’s blood on the bathroom faucet and mixed traces of blood and DNA of Kercher and Knox in the bathroom.

Highly worth reading the entire thing. Barbie Nadeau covers the same ground equally well in the Daily Beast and notes that today could be the final scene changer. The embattled Sollecito defense counsel Giulia Bongiorno was reduced to making this preposterous claim:

Sollecito’s attorney Giulia Bongiorno told reporters that Mignini was desperately clinging to old arguments because the independent experts’ report had demolished two key pieces of evidence : a knife and a bra clasp.

Demolished?! The independent experts didn’t retest the DNA material with modern techniques when they could and should have and they even admitted that was Meredith’s DNA profile the scientific police had produced the first time around.

They ended up looking weak and evasive. Hardly the silver bullet Bongiorno wants.

By the way, no sign of Mr Mignini being fazed by the presence (surely unhelpful to Knox and her lawyers) of the muddled “ex FBI agent” Steve Moore whose bizarre and often defamatory takes on the case and Italian justice officials we have again and again shown to be wrong.

Perhaps Mr Mignini should ask Steve Moore to publish his own detailed resume. So far, all requests for it have been stonewalled.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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

Posted by Skeptical Bystander





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, June 27, 2011

The BBC Reports Rudy Guede For The First Time Accuses Knox And Sollecito Face To Face

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click image above for the report. It refers to Guede’s letter of March 2010 in the post directly below.

Guede was in the witness stand as his letter was read to the court on Monday. “This splendid, marvellous girl was killed by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox,” the letter said.

This also for the first time on Guede’s side (but not on Knox’s or Sollecito’s side) crosses a public boundary between the three of them which the Italian lawyer Cesare Beccaria described starting here.

The Supreme Court has in effect already given Rudy Guede’s credibility an edge. Also this in the report in the Seattle PI report by Andrea Vogt.

As if the appeal wasn’t bizarre enough, two convicts were called by the prosecution as counter witnesses Monday to contradict several inmates called by the defense earlier this month. They maintained they had overheard in prison conversations about a plot among other inmates to testify in exchange for money and benefits, such as reduced prison time.

The person they heard was arranging things, they said, was Sollecito’s attorney, Giulia Bongiorno, who heads up Italy’s parliamentary justice committee. She forcefully denied the corruption accusations in the break afterwards and vowed to file charges and take legal action against her accusers.

One claim by the inmates was that she offered a sex change operation to Luciano Aviello. It would be helpful if some of this if it exists emerged on tape. What possible reason would they have to lie?


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