Breaking news: Sadly, another bad earthquake hits Italy, epicenter about 90 miles south-east of Perugia. As so often with the oldest towns the death-rate appears high. Cause of these earthquakes was explained here. The central mountains are sinking and the coasts moving further apart.

All our posts on Hellmann 2011+

Friday, November 22, 2013

US Judge Startles Legal Watchers By Overturning A Unanimous Verdict: Is This Hellmann Part Deux?

Posted by Peter Quennell




Martha Moxley’s murder 1975

Martha Moxley’s is a case with quite a few similarities to Meredith’s case - and after 38 years it has once again flashed back into the US news.

Greenwich, where 15-year-old Martha lived, is a few minutes drive up the Long Island Sound shoreline from New York City. Great wealth resides there. It is the US zip code with the highest family income and net wealth, and there are many mansions set in large estates.

The brutal murder of Martha happened on Halloween Night of 1975. She was beaten to death with a golf club by someone around 10:00 pm soon after leaving a Halloween party at the Skakel house across the street. No physical evidence ever tied anyone to the crime.

The main suspects in the case

Michael Skakel was a close neighbor (with his large family, he lived in a mansion diagonally across Walsh Lane from Martha’s smaller one-storey house) and a school classmate of the same age as Martha. He had a troubled record of misbehavior and substance abuse (he was later sent to a special school) who Martha’s diary later revealed had a history of pestering her. The golf-club came from the Skakel house.

He was not the only suspect. A new tutor at the house was long considered. And Greenwich police first interviewed and polygraphed his brother Tommy, who was very friendly with Martha, and with whom she was seen flirting at the party at the Skakel’s house the same night. Between the two brothers, there was bad blood.

Read here the final entries in Martha’s diary which seem to show her attraction to Tommy but none at all to a jealous Michael.

Michael Skakel’s conviction in 2002

Michael Skakel over the years (seemingly proud of himself, and sounding quite like Sollecito) came to hint and even openly claim more and more that he was the one that killed Martha. Skakel also claimed to have been up in a tree or a treehouse peeping through windows on the same night. An alibi that he was across town during the party at his house fell through.

In 2002, after these pointers to himself reached critical mass in police investigations and various books and reports, he was put on trial and unanimously found guilty by a jury, and then (controversially) sentenced as an adult to 20 years to life. As with Sollecito and Knox in Italy, the vast majority of the population thought it was a fair cop.

There are of course some differences between the two cases.

In Perugia the police and prosecutors really did do a good job and didnt blink under the considerable pressure of TWO families and TWO defense teams playing all manner of dirty tricks. They never backed off, whereas the Greenwich police (who never called for outside help) seem to have become timid and indecisive and simply wanting the case to go away. And in Martha’s case DNA has not yet reared its intrusive head.

But the two cases also have a lot in common.

Commonalities of Martha and Meredith cases

1) Martha was younger than Meredith but given time would have emerged to be a very similar girl. She also was ambitious, talented, hard-working, eye-catching, witty, and the apple of their eye of various boys which might have sparked jealousies in some.

2) The attack involved a number of ferocious blows over several or some minutes with a golf-club, suggesting not a burglar or prowler who did not know Martha but someone who did know her who was in a considerable rage. The golf-club broke, and the shaft was thrust through her neck. She was then dragged alternatively face up and face down quite a few feet to a place under a tree. There was a lot of blood, and as some of her clothes were down there may have been a simulation of a sex crime.

3) The rich and connected Skakel family (among which Michael did not stand out as the major achiever) was not especially helpful in the investigation, and they blocked certain important moves by the Greenwich police. They have spent huge sums of money (possibly up in the millions) on lawyers and detectives and still do. Theirs was a fairly sharp-elbowed media campaign and it looks as if it was driven more by family reputation (the Skakels are related to the Robert Kennedys by marriage) than by deep conviction that Michael was a good boy.

4) The evidence presented was a mosaic that had been accumulated over time. Alibi and behavior mattered a lot. It required very close attention to absorb it all and to assemble it into an incriminating pattern. At trial prosecutors did a good job. In this case no incriminating DNA was found at all, although it is possible that for the new trial new tests will be done on Martha’s clothes.  The conviction by 12 jurors was unanimous. They did a very careful job, and their deliberations lasted four days. Those who seek to argue that they have it wrong usually pick on isolated points. 

5) Various books have been published to explain the case. The most-read book is by ex-police-detective Mark Fuhrman titled Murder in Greenwich published by HarperCollins (Amanda Knox’s publisher) in 1999. He claimed he broke the case though police said they needed no help.

6) There are several websites like PMF and TJMK with no vested interest at all which seek to keep the victim’s presence alive, and to seek justice for her in face of many attacks and dirty tricks.  See the forum Campy Skakel here and the website MarthaMoxley dot com which is or was being run by Tom Alessi who was a classmate of Martha at school.

And the sudden new situation

Now Connecticut’s Judge Bishop has decided that Skakel didnt get the best of defenses by the high-profile legal talking head Mickey Sherman (who back then seemed to be hired for his high public profile) and noted several things Sherman could have done. Also the evidence seemed to Judge Bishop to be slim (what, no DNA?!). So he has ordered that Skakel can face a new trial.

A second judge has just released Michael Skakel on $1.2 million bail and he must wear an electronic bracelet in case he decides to skip. He will apparently head for a secret location to wait for the new trial to begin.

Although Judge Bishop is well qualified (unlike Hellmann) and seems impartial and detached, he has startled the legal community and crime followers by going against both a well-informed trial jury which really saw a lot of evidence and against a whole row of previous judges who had considered and declined Skakel’s requests for appeal.

Judge-shopping till the “right one” appears is often how big money wins out, and the general US reaction to the annulled verdict seems to be “What?! Not again?!”

Michael Skakel may perhaps win at a new trial with new lawyers and a new strategy - there is still a theory that his brother Tommy really did the crime, though the Skakel lawyers may not be allowed to play that card.

However, as in Meredith’s case, legal and public opinion is against him, and Martha’s mother and the victim websites still fight on bravely. 


[Below: Michael Skakel(right) with defense lawyer Mickey Sherman in 2002 who he now says let him down]




[Below: Directly ahead is where the crime took place; a new mansion has replaced the Moxley home ]




[Below: The Skakel mansion, which is diagonally across Walsh Lane from the old Moxley home]




[Below: Mark Furman’s diagram of his scenario of the murder in “Murder in Greenwich”]




[Below: Judge Bishop of the Connecticut courts who has ordered a new trial for Skakel]

Posted on 11/22/13 at 06:50 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
Archived in Appeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+Other legal processesOthers elsewhere
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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

Posted by Peter Quennell





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And judges and prosecutions are taking countermeasures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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


Thursday, August 23, 2012

DNA Proof 40 Years After A Cowardly Murder Shuts Down A Fact-Fogging Campaign For The Murderer

Posted by The Machine



[Above: the murder victim Michael Gregsten and Valerie Storie who survived]

Relevance to Meredith’s case

You maybe thought journalists, politicians, human rights campaigners, lawyers, writers, filmmakers and celebrities campaigning on behalf of someone who evidence strongly suggested was guilty was peculiar to Meredith’s case?

Think again. Exactly the same thing has happened more than a few times. This is one. The UK’s notorious A6 murder of 1961.

On the evening of 22 August 1961, Michael Gregsten, a government scientist, and his girlfriend Valerie Storrie, a laboratory assistant, were sitting in his car next to a cornfield in Berkshire, just west of London, when a masked gunman tapped on the car window. He demanded Gregsten’s wallet and Storie’s handbag.

He then forced Gregsten to drive 60 miles to Deadman’s Hill at Clophill in Bedfordshire where he shot the scientist twice in the head, killing him instantly. Next, he raped and shot Ms Storie five times. She survived the attack, but was left paralysed from the waist down.



[Above: Convicted murderer James Hanratty and his campaigning father]

Trial and evidence

James Hanratty, a petty thief, was arrested after cartridge cases from the murder weapon were found in a London hotel where he stayed the night before the murder. Valerie Storie picked out Hanratty at an identity parade from her hospital bed and she also made a voice identification of him. 

At the trial at Bedford Assizes, James Henratty changed his original alibi that he was staying with friends in Liverpool on the day of the murder and said that he had gone to Rhyl, in north Wales, and stayed two nights in a boarding house. The jury didn’t believe him and James Hanratty was found guilty of murdering Michael Gregsten.

The families of the victims (one dead, one crippled for life) expressed relief that a unanimous verdict was reached.

Hanratty was hanged at Bedford Prison on 4 April 1962. The day before he was hanged, he told his family: “I’m dying tomorrow but I’m innocent. Clear my name.” 

The pressure for an appeal

After James Hanratty was hanged, his father launched a campaign to clear his name. A number of high-profile public figures lent their support to the campaign, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and prominent politicians David Steel and Norman Fowler.

In 1971, a hundred MPs signed a petition demanding a public inquiry. The Conservative government refused to open such an inquiry.

Three years later the Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, commissioned a report from Lewis Hawser QC who sat in secret and came to the conclusion Hanratty was guilty.

In 1999, the case was sent back to the Court of Appeal. In March 2001, Hanratty’s body was exhumed and DNA tests were carried on it to see whether his DNA matched DNA traces found on Valerie Short’s knickers and her handkerchief that was found wrapped around the gun.

DNA tests confirm a right verdict

Forensic scientists from the Forensic Science Service (FSS) found that there was a perfect match and concluded that the DNA found on these exhibits was 2.5 million times more likely to belong to Hanratty than anyone else.

A report from the Daily Mail.

James Hanratty was guilty of the notorious A6 murder for which he was hanged, sensational scientific evidence has revealed. A DNA sample taken from his exhumed body has been matched by forensic experts to two samples from the crime scene.

They now believe that there is only a 1-in-2.5million chance Hanratty was innocent.  The results of the tests, released to Hanratty’s defence team, are a crushing blow to campaigners who have insisted he was not guilty.

In 2002, James Hanratty’s conviction was upheld at the Court of Appeal and a bid to take the case to the House of Lords was rejected. Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, who with two colleagues - Lord Justice Mantell and Mr Justice Leveson - considered the posthumous appeal, said the DNA evidence established Hanratty’s guilt “beyond doubt”.

Lord Woolf for the Supreme Court on 10 May 2002:

We have already stressed the importance of looking at a case such as this in the round. The grounds of appeal are of differing significance and although we have dealt with them individually it is also necessary to consider them collectively in asking ourselves the critical question is the conviction of James Hanratty of murder unsafe either on procedural or evidential grounds?

As to the evidential issues they all ultimately relate to the single issue which dominated the trial and this appeal, the identity of the killer. In our judgment for reasons we have explained the DNA evidence establishes beyond doubt that James Hanratty was the murderer.

The DNA evidence made what was a strong case even stronger. Equally the strength of the evidence overall pointing to the guilt of the appellant supports our conclusion as to the DNA.



[Above: journalist campaigners Paul Foot and Bob Woffinden]

The 40-year media campaign

Forty years of excruciating hell for the families and friends of the victims, one dead, one crippled for life .

Investigative journalists such as Bob Woffinden and Paul Foot wrote articles and books about the case, stubbornly certain that James Hanratty was innocent and that the case was a miscarriage of justice.

Paul Foot was a highly-respected campaigning journalist who worked for Private Eye, the Daily Mirror and The Guardian. However, his reasons for believing that James Hanratty was innocent were flimsy to the say the least.

From the BBC obituary for Paul Foot:

Beyond his obvious triumphs, Foot sometimes got it terribly wrong.

The Hanratty affair is a case in point. Twenty-five-year-old James Hanratty was hanged in 1962, after being found guilty of killing scientist Michael Gregsten and raping and shooting his mistress Valerie Storie.

Foot’s interest began in 1966 and, for the next 34 years, he consistently and eloquently demanded justice for Hanratty.

The case was finally reopened in 2000 and, after Hanratty’s body was exhumed, so DNA samples could be scraped from his bones, his guilt was proved beyond doubt.

The main crux of his argument for innocence was that James Hanratty was in Liverpool and Rhyl on the day of the murder. There were no positive identifications of Hanratty, just a couple of people who claimed that they had seen a man who looked like him.



[Above: John Lennon and Yoko Ono with Hanratty’s parents]

A report of John Lennon’s involvement.

On Side One of John & Yoko’s “Live Jam” album (recorded on 15th December 1969) Yoko can be heard to shout “Britain, you killed Hanratty you murderer!”, she then chants Hanratty’s name throughout the opening bars of Don’t Worry Kyoko.

As the [1960s] progressed, the view that Hanratty had in fact been the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice began to gather momentum, another man was even seen to confess to the murder on British Television in 1967. Together with Hanratty’s parents, John and Yoko discussed the idea of making a film to back the campaign for an enquiry and this was announced at an Apple press conference on December 10th 1969.

The one and only public screening of the 40-minute colour result was eventually shown in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London on 17th February 1972.

29 years later DNA evidence from the exhumed body of Hanratty was said to prove that he DID commit the murder, although it has been argued that the retained evidence may have been cross contaminated in storage.

Supporters of James Hanratty have come out with the predictable excuse that the DNA evidence must have been contaminated. However, the forensic scientists who worked in the case said this highly unlikely and pointed out that they had found no other DNA profiles on the two exhibits.

Implications for PR campaigns

The DNA tests carried out by the FFS that finally provided definitive proof that James Hanratty killed Michael Gregsten and raped and shot Valerie Storie more or less stopped the bandwagon dead in its tracks.

But there had been for decades almost fanatical and very vociferous support for someone who’d been unanimously convicted of murder, many of whom stood to gain, though it didnt have too much effect except to have the case looked at and found solid twice.

James Hanratty’s supporters claimed that he had no motive, that the police framed him, and that the DNA evidence was contaminated by the government’s experts. NONE of this was proved. Unless there is actual proof of dastardly plots and contamination, these claims against the authorities are unfruitful and unfair.

The most important lesson to be learnt from the A6 murder case is that a bandwagon of journalists, politicians, human rights campaigners, lawyers, writers, filmmakers and celebrities being absolutely convinced of someone’s innocence does not make him or her innocent in fact.

Even intelligent and well-intentioned people like Paul Foot and David Steel can mistakenly believe a killer is innocent and shrug off the pain the victims’ families must feel.

Implications for Curt Knox’s campaign

There are a number of parallels to the campaign against justice for Meredith. The families of the victims for one were put through years of hell, the real evidence was wildly distorted, and many good justice professionals and reporters were impugned. .

Hopefully the judges at the Italian Supreme Court will order a new appeal trial early next year, and the new tests the prosecution requested at the appeal on the remaining sample from the large knife can now be carried out.

Professor Novelli testified that it is possible to extract, amplify and attribute DNA with just 10-15 picograms of DNA using cutting-edge technology.  Conti and Vecchiotti extracted approximately 100 picograms of DNA from the blade of the knife.

Sollecito seemed to know there could be incriminating DNA evidence on that knife, and Knox had an extreme reaction not yet accounted for in an innocent way when she was shown a drawer full of knives.

There is enough DNA for more than one test. If Meredith’s DNA is indeed identified once again, the already strong case against Knox and Sollecito can be closed once and for all. And Curt Knox’s PR will be gone.


[Below: the then Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf]

Posted on 08/23/12 at 04:39 AM by The Machine. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ominous Development For Sollecito And Knox: A DNA Conviction Based On A Tiny Sample Of DNA

Posted by The Machine



[Burgess, image below, murdered Yolande Waddington and, above, Jeanette Wigmore and Jacqueline Williams]


There is a HUGE dagger hanging over Sollecito and Knox. A UK case resolved this week indicates why.

New tests on the DNA sample on the large knife found in Sollecito’s house which the independent DNA experts refused to do, and the judges failed to re-order despite a strong prosecution request, could result in Knox and Sollecito being ultimately convicted and secure Knox’s extradition to serve out her term.

Lawyers consider it a dead certainty that the Supreme Court will order those tests -  that is if they dont throw out the entire Hellman/Zanetti judgment for illegal scope, or throw out the DNA report for illegally having been ordered in the first place.


(1) Summary of the UK case

David Burgess this week was convicted in Reading of murdering Yolande Waddington, 17, some 46 years after the crime was committed, thanks to all the advances in DNA technology. Back then, he was already convicted of killing Jeanette Wigmore and Jacqueline Williams.

Burgess is the latest person in Britain to have been finally found guilty of murder years after his crime was committed. Nat Fraser, Gary Dobson and David Norris had been convicted of murder this year after evading justice for a number of years.

In September 2010, Thames Valley Police reviewed the case and with advances in DNA techniques finally gathered the evidence which resulted in Burgess being convicted of Yolande Waddington’s murder.

Forensic experts obtained a partial DNA profile from the blood samples using a new technique called MiniFiler. It differs from previous methods as it can obtain information from smaller pieces of DNA. This is ideal for older cases where samples have degraded over time.

According to the manufacturer’s website

[The MiniFiler kit] increases your ability to obtain DNA results from compromised samples that previously would have yielded limited or no genetic data. This means cold cases can come off the shelf for re-analysis and new, challenging samples have a better chance of delivering interpretable results.

When David Burgess attacked Yolande, he left blood on a number of Yolande’s items, including her hair band and comb. Tests showed the chances of the DNA found on the comb and hair band not being Burgess’s were not more than one in a billion.


[Below: David Burgess then and now who had taunted the police a year ago to “prove it”]




(2) Here are the implications for RS and AK

It puts the 46-day delay (caused by the defenses) in retrieving the bra clasp into perspective.

It’s not the first case of somebody being convicted of murder decades after the crime took place on the strength of DNA evidence. Ronald Castree was convicted of murdering Lesley Molseed 32 years later.

It also highlights the arrogant negligence of the DNA consultants Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti who had refused to carry out ordered test on the knife for flimsy reasons (“the technology is experimental” when it wasn’t) that no US or UK court would have accepted. They had been specifically instructed to do the tests if possible by Judge Hellmann.

At trial in 2009 it was accepted that Amanda Knox’s DNA was found on the handle of the knife sequestered from Sollecito’s kitchen. There still is no argument about that.

And a number of independent forensic experts - Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli and former Caribinieri General Luciano Garofano - had all confirmed that Meredith’s DNA was found on the blade.

Even Greg Hampikian, a forensic expert who argues Knox is innocent, concedes that Meredith’s DNA was definitely found on the blade.

Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti didn’t know that Dr Stefanoni analysed the traces on the knife a long six days after last handling Meredith’s DNA. Contamination couldn’t possibly have occurred in the laboratory after so long a gap.

At the appeal, Professor Guiseppe Novelli testified that there are a number of laboratories that now have the latest accepted technology to carry out a new test on the remaining DNA on the knife.

The fact that Judge Hellmann denied the prosecution the opportunity to present evidence to the contrary was a violation of the procedure code. Italian law states the following:

If new evidence about a point is admitted, evidence a contrario proposed by the opposing party must always be admitted too.

Dr Giovanni Galati has now argued in his appeal to the Supreme Court that Judge Hellmann should have allowed a new test to be performed because the technology is NOT experimental but cutting edge. Summary here:

The second [point concerns] the decision to not allow a new forensic investigation requested by the prosecution at the end of the ruling discussion. In the appeal to Cassation it is written that the Appeal Court’s rejection reveals “contradictoriness/contrariness and demonstrates manifest illogicality in the grounds for the judgement/reasoning report”.

As remarked at the top, if the entire judgment or the DNA report are not thrown out for illegal scope, Judge Hellman’s refusal to allow the prosecution’s request to allow a new test on the knife will be the main reason why his verdict will be revoked.

Under Italian law RS and AK still stand accused until the Supreme Court signs off. Anyone who is concerned with the truth and justice and what Meredith stood for and the good name of Italy will want to know whether the remaining DNA on the knife is Meredith’s.

If Meredith’s DNA is identified on the knife it should make conviction and extradition a slam dunk..


[Below: ViaDellaPergola’s video first posted 18 months ago and still relevant]

Posted on 07/21/12 at 04:51 PM by The Machine. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Action On Dr Galati’s Appeal To The Supreme Court Today Moved Ominously Closer

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation is the large structure at right background]


The ANSA news service is reporting today that Dr Galati’s appeal was formally accepted by the Supreme Court on 15 May.

The case has just been assigned to the First Criminal Division of the Supreme Court which is responsible for appeals involving murder. A hearing and outcome which could involve the appeal being punted back to Perugia to be done again properly might be expected in about seven months.

Still no word from Sollecito or Knox or their teams about the exceptionally tough appeal Dr Galati filed against Judge Hellman’s interim verdict releasing them. Our Italian lawyers are surprised that there has been no announcement of any new legal help.

Do the still-accused or their families understand what is about to hit them? Cassation appeals are considered very specialised and certain Rome lawyers make a good living doing nothing but handle them. 

Dr Galati was a deputy chief prosecutor at the Supreme Court and would seem to have the Knox and Sollecito teams who are inexperienced at that level thoroughly out-matched. If Knox fails to appear at any appeal trial re-run she would lose the advantage of personalising her own plight with the help of her flash-mob in the court.

In Italy there is enormous suspicion that politics and money played roles in bending the outcome the last time around. The prosecution clearly felt that, and there seems a good chance the full story will not remain hidden.

We also hear that the continued rabid postings of Curt Knox’s hatchetmen are increasingly under the microscope. No sign their campaign does anything but hurt. It sure put real resolve into this appeal.

Posted on 06/06/12 at 09:37 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
Archived in Those officially involvedThe prosecutorsThe judiciaryAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+
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Monday, April 30, 2012

Does ANY Competent Lawyer Believe RS And AK Are 100% Innocent? If So, Then Prove It Please

Posted by James Raper



[Above: Knox defense legal advisor Ted Simon increasingly seems to have some explaining to do]

After 3 days and growing, unfortunately no sign that pro-innocence lawyers (if any) want to respond.  Mr Simon? Mr Barnett? Ms Nancy Grace? (Well perhaps not you)

The Italian, US and UK lawyers who guide TJMK (of which I am one) look around and wonder: why are genuinely-convinced pro-Knox lawyers (if any) still not comprehensively answering all the open questions?

I contrast this with the various media talking heads who have offered drive-by comments without a really deep understanding of the facts of the case or Italian law.

In the law of all three countries, defense lawyers don’t need to KNOW either way whether their client is guilty or innocent. They don’t have to come out with a complete scenario to account for all the facts and point to innocence that would be the counterpart to my scenario (powerpoints - wait a few seconds to load) seemingly accounting for all the facts, which is still an unchallenged case for guilt.

But a comprehensive rebuttal would do the hard-pressed Sollecito and Knox factions a big favor, and provide a much-needed framework for the media (which is posting many incorrect legal claims), and make the Cassation appeal and the book-writing by Knox and Sollecito so much easier.

Consider the ups-and-downs of the defense legal teams on the case,

It was clear in 2008 that her lawyers absolutely didnt like Knox speaking out, offering different versions that between them made her look distinctly guilty. They didnt like the anti-Mignini campaign run from Seattle and they publicly said so - when Mr Mignini was attacked by a main speaker at an event at Salty’s they actually spoke up and publicly defended him.

In December 2008 NBC TV aired an excellent Dateline report. The main legal talking head, Ted Simon, explained that this was a really tough prosecution case to beat, and that whacking down individual points of evidence would not win the case in the public eye (justice would not be seen to be done) and that only a complete alternative explanation of the crime would do.

At trial in 2009 the defense teams did what they could with a torrent of facts and two unpredictable clients. The cross-examination of Amanda Knox on the stand mid-year in the context of Patrick Lumumba’s alleged framing must have seemed a real low-point for them, as she came across as rather flippant and chilling, and she said a number of things that all defense lawyers would probably prefer that she hadn’t.

Through the publication of Judge Massei’s report the defenses seem to have been faced with an uphill battle.

In 2011 an experienced criminal-case judge was initially appointed to preside over the first appeal. But quite suddenly, to the surprise of many in Italy and the alleged unhappiness of the judge himself, he was removed from the case, and Judge Hellman was appointed in his place. 

Defence counsel would of course have had no role in that surprise change of lead judges for the first appeal, but from Day One of the appeal (spaced out to one session a week by Judge Hellman to suit one of them) the defenses seemed much happier.

The prosecution were now on occasion publicly hinting that they were now stuck with the uphill battle. The defenses now seemed the side energized and confident. But please note these three things which suggest that they knew they were not all-powerful.

    1)  They appealed on very narrow grounds, essentially on some witness testimony and a small part of the forensic evidence, and they kept well away from the multiple alibis, mobile phones and computers, and forensic evidence in the hallway, bathroom, and Filomena’s room.

    2) They never argued that Rudy Guede was the lone-wolf killer in the case (the surprise preference in his report of Judge Hellman) and even put their own witnesses Alessi and Aviello on the stand to in effect try to prove otherwise.

    3) Knox legal advisor Ted Simon was reduced to arguing on TV that there was no evidence of Knox and Sollecito IN the bedroom, while never accounting for the mishmash of alibis or all the mixed-blood and footprint evidence just outside the door.

As Dr Galati’s appeal and public opinion in the three countries are showing, the defences may have mostly won the second battle, with Judge Hellman’s interim verdict and sentence (Knox was still sentenced to three years), but they seem to be falling far short of winning the war for the two clients.

Now the defences again face an uphill battle.

So here we go. An opportunity for any good pro-innocence lawyer to help to win the war for Knox and Sollecito. Forget the forensics for now. I offer these several dozen questions for you and/or Amanda Knox which, truthfully answered, might put many concerns to bed.

I will be happy to post here any real attempt at answering all of these questions by any qualified lawyer who is thoroughly on top of the case - or of course any attempt by Amanda Knox herself.   

    1. Why did you not mention the 16 second 12.07 phonecall to Meredith’s English phone on the 2nd November in your e-mail?  When explaining why you made this call, please also explain why it was to the English phone rather than Meredith’s Italian phone which you knew Meredith used for local calls?

    2. Why did you not mention this call when you phoned Filomena immediately afterwards?

    3. Why did you make so little effort to contact Meredith again after being told by Filomena to do so. Remember the logged 3 and 4 second phone calls?

    4. Why did you tell Filomena that you had already phoned the police when neither you, nor Raffaele, had.

    5. Can you and will you explain the contradiction between your panic at the cottage (as described in the e-mail) and the testimony of all the witnesses who subsequently arrived that you appeared calm, detached and initially unconcerned as to your friend’s whereabouts or safety?

    6. Why did you tell the postal police that Meredith often locked her bedroom door, even when it came to taking a shower, when this was simply not true, as Filomena testified?

    7. Can you and will you explain why you did not try either of Meredith’s phones at the cottage if you were indeed in such a panic about Meredith’s locked door?

    8. Can you and will you explain how you knew that Meredith’s throat had been cut when you were not, according to the witnesses’s testimony, a witness to the scene in Meredith’s bedroom after the door had been kicked in and, with the exception of probably a postal police officer or the ambulance crew, no one had looked underneath the duvet covering the body when you were there?

    9. What made you think that the body was in the cupboard (wardrobe) when it was in fact to the side of the wardrobe? Were you being flippant, stupid, or what, when you said that? Do you think it just a remarkable coincidence that the remark bears close comparison to the crime scene investigators conclusions, based on the blood at the scene, that Meredith had been shoved, on all fours, and head first,  at the door of the wardrobe? She was then turned over on the floor and moved again. How did you know that there was any position prior to her final place of rest?

    10. Will you ever be able to account for the 12.47 pm call to your mother in Seattle ( at 4.45 am Seattle time)? Do you remember this now because it was not mentioned in your e-mail nor were you able to remember it in your court testimony?

    11. Why do you think Raffaele told the police – contrary to your own alibi that you had spent the whole time with Raffaele at his apartment – that you had gone out at 9 pm and did not return until 1 am?

    12. Did you sleep through the music played for half an hour on Raffaele’s computer from 5.32 am?

    13. Were you telling the truth when you told the court that you and Raffaele ate dinner some time between 9.15 and 11 pm? Can you not narrow it down a bit more? The water leak occurred, you said, whilst washing up dishes after dinner. Why then did Raffaele’s father say that Raffaele told him at 8.42 pm about the water leak whilst washing up dishes?

    14. What was the problem about using the mop, rags, sponges etc already at Raffaele’s apartment, to clear up a water spill? Why was the mop from the girl’s cottage so essential and if it was, why not collect it immediately since it was just a short distance away?

    15. Why, when you knew that you were going to Gubbio with Raffaele on the 2nd November, did you not take a change of clothing with you, if needed, when you left the cottage on the afternoon of the 1st?

    16. Why did you need a shower at the cottage when you had already had one at Raffaele’s apartment the previous evening?

    17. If you had needed one again why not have it at his apartment, in a heated apartment, before you set off, or on your return, rather than have a shower on a cold day, in a cold flat?

    18. Why did you not notice the blood in the bathroom, and the bloody footprint on the bathmat, until after your shower? If the blood you then observed was already diluted and faded, how do you explain this?

    19. Do not ignore your blood on the faucet. In your own testimony you said that there was no blood in the bathroom when you and Raffaele left the flat on the afternoon of the 1st.  What is your considered take on this now? Did your ear piercings bleed when having that shower or drying afterwards? If so, why were you not perfectly clear about the matter in your e-mail?  But then again you said that the blood was caked dry, didn’t you?

    20. Why did Raffaele say that, on entering the flat with you, Filomena’s door was open and he saw the damage and mess inside, but you said, in your e-mail, that Filomena’s door was closed when you returned at 10.30 am? Did you subsequently look inside on that occasion, or not? It’s just that if you did, then why did you not mention the break in to Filomena prior to you and Raffaele returning to the cottage?

    21. You are a creative writer so please explain. What is the point of the word “also” in the following extract from your e-mail? “Laura’s door was open which meant that she wasn’t at home, and Filomena’s door was also closed”.

    22. In your trial testimony you mentioned shuffling along the corridor on the bathroom mat after your shower. From the bathroom to your room.  Because there was no towel in the bathroom. You had left it in your bedroom. Then back again. Why is this not mentioned in your e-mail?

    23. In your e-mail you stated that you changed for your shower in your bedroom, and then afterwards dressed in your bedroom. That makes sense. What you don’t explain is why, if you towelled and dressed in your bedroom, there was any need to shuffle back to the bathroom on the bathmat. Why not just carry it back?

    24. But why, in the same testimony, did you then change your mind as to where you had undressed for your shower? Not in your bedroom - saying so was a mistake you said - but you did not say where. Some people might think, uncharitably, that your change of mind was necessary to incorporate the double bathmat shuffle.

    25. Were there any things that you disliked about Meredith? Be honest because we know from her English friends and other sources that there were things that she disliked about you.

    26. Why are pages missing from your diary for October?

    27. Once again, and this time so that it makes some sense, please explain why you permitted the police, on your say so, to believe that poor Patrick Lumumba was involved in Meredith’s murder.  Clearly, had you been at the cottage you would have known that he was not, and had you not been there you could not have known that he was.



There are actually over 200 open questions on this site, and I can think of others, but I consider these between them to be the core several dozen that relate to the quirks,contradictions, omissions and inconsistencies in Amanda Knox’s own account and behaviour. Answer all of these and in the public eye Amanda Knox really could be home free.

Posted on 04/30/12 at 11:33 PM by James Raper. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Typical Of Dozens Of Cool Italian Reports On Mr Galati’s Appeal - This One By Cronaca

Posted by ziaK





My translation. Please click above for the original.

Meredith: the appeal in Cassation Court has been lodged against the acquittal of Amanda and Raffaele

The appeal agains the acquittal of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox for the murder of Meredith Kercher was lodged this morning by the Prosecutor General. The appeal is contained in 111 pages, signed by the Prosecutor General Giovanni Galati and by the deputy [prosecutor], Giancarlo Costagliola.

In a meeting with journalists, Mr Galati and Mr Costagliola themselves explained that the appeal originates from their firm conviction that Sollecito and Knox are “co-perpetrators” in the murder of Meredith Kercher. Referring to the appeal verdict, Galati and Costagliola spoke of a verdict “needing to be revoked” which has “omissions and a great many errors”.

In their appeal the magistrates therefore call for the reversal of the second-level (Hellman) verdict and thus for a new appeal trial for the two young folk.

Inconsistency of the Reasoning Report  Mr Galati described as “unfortunate” the opening words of the associate judge, Massimo Zanetti, who began the introduction of the report with the claim that “the only certainty” was the death of Meredith Kercher.

“A resounding forecast of the judgement”, the chief prosecutor claimed, “before even having heard the accounts of the prosecution and of the defence”. For Mr Galati, the appeal verdict “seems to be a second first-instance verdict, but in which the judges read the arguments of the defence beforehand [i.e. before hearing the prosecution’s case]”.

He then spoke of “inconsistency” in the reasoning report, of a “useless reasoning which achieves nothing”. In contrast, the Reasoning Report of the first-instance [Massei] trial was, to his mind, “complete and thorough, based on [elements of] evidence that were compatible with each other”.

Levelling to the defences’ stance “I immediately had the feeling that the appeal verdict was profoundly unjust” Costagliola then added, “and I am now convinced that it should be revoked. It is as if the judges had made an ex novo decision - tilting everything to the direction of the defence.”

Rudy Guede [who was definitively sentenced to 16 years through the fast-track trial system - editor’s note] was [in effect] put on trial again, even though he was not a defendant in these proceedings.

It leads one to think that, because the Court held that Guede was guilty of the break-in [of the window of the room belonging to one of the flatmates in via della Pergola - editor’s note], Sollecito and Knox should [therefore] be acquitted of the charge of executing a crime.”

Sollecito: “A 4-year Calvary” In the meantime, Raffaele Sollecito also remarked on the news, and spoke of “hounding against him”. “It is a never-ending story. For me, it is a real Calvary [nightmare] which has lasted 4 years”, he said, after having learned of the appeal lodged against his acquittal and that of Amanda Knox.

He was told the news by one of his defence attorneys, the lawyer Luca Maori. “I agree with him”, the lawyer said, “and to me it seems almost that the prosecutors are hounding him.”

Posted on 02/14/12 at 09:03 PM by ziaK. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Italian Report That Prosecution Appeal Against Knox-Sollecito Appeal Verdict Could Be Filed Tomorrow

Posted by Peter Quennell





Italian media are widely reporting that the prosecution appeal will be filed for sure this week with the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome.

We have previously posted on the pending filing of the appeal documents here  and here and here. The well-infomed website Perugia Today now reports that the prosecution appeal may very well be lodged tomorrow, Tuesday.

The report goes on to sardonically remark that, based on media shots like the above, the “supermodel” seems to be losing her charms amid the hard realities that faced her back in Seattle.

The hair in a ponytail is not shining, and the absence of the usual pantsuit indicates that with freedom and the return to the US a few pounds have accumulated on the flanks.

The denim jacket takes away the rest of the charm that this girl had aroused in many in Seattle during the process. Away from the stage lights, the banality of being back daily hits home.

The report goes on to say that the prosecutors and police have never stopped believing in Knox’s guilt, even though Judge Hellman swept many strong indicators under the rug.

Hmmm. Finally Knox and Sollecito really might now want to return and take the stand. Lie detector tests and brain scans might also prove of help.

Posted on 02/14/12 at 01:26 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Amanda Knox Team to Appeal Conviction And 3-Year Sentence For Fingering Patrick Lumumba

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: the Supreme Court of Cassation]


Appeals against Judge Hellman’s rulings must be lodged in Rome by 18 February.

Now Reuters is reporting a Knox-team appeal apparently announced by David Marriott. The Knox team probably had little choice but to lodge this seeming long-shot of an appeal.

Judge Hellman’s ruling left her “half pregnant” facing a hard-line and unbendable Supreme Court and it left her mom and dad more vulnerable in their own trial for calunnia for claiming in a UK interview that Knox only “confessed” in fingering Patrick because of duress.

Explanation of calunnia

The charge of calunnia (art. 368) has been commonly translated as “slander” in the English/US media. This translation is incorrect, however, as calunnia is a crime with no direct equivalent in the respective legal systems.

The equivalent of “criminal slander” is diffamazione, which is an attack on someone‟s reputation. Calunnia is the crime of making false criminal accusations against someone whom the accuser knows to be innocent, or to simulate/fabricate false evidence, independently of the credibility/admissibility of the accusation or evidence.

The charges of calunnia and diffamazione are subject to very different jurisprudence. Diffamazione is public and explicit, and is a more minor offence, usually resulting in a fine and only prosecuted if the victim files a complaint, while calunnia can be secret or known only to the authorities. It may consist only of the simulation of clues, and is automatically prosecuted by the judiciary.

The crimes of calunnia and diffamazione are located in different sections of the criminal code: while diffamazione is in the chapter entitled “crimes against honour” in the section of the Code protecting personal liberties, calunnia is discussed in the chapter entitled “crimes against the administration of justice”, in a section that protects public powers.

Judge Hellman essentially contradicted Cassation’s ruling on Guede which agreed strongly that Guede and two others did it (Judge Hellman of course went for the very tenuous lone wolf approach which Judge Micheli and Judge Massei both shot down in some detail) which had many lawyers in Italy doing double-takes. 

Knox in fact fingered Patrick when she was merely a witness who had not even been invited to Perugia police headquarters for the evening and who had volunteered for the questioning.

The interrogators have all claimed she was under no duress except the duress of hearing that Sollecito in the next interrogation room had just called her a liar and destroyed the latest of her various alibis.

Then she had several weeks (as did her mom) to move to spring a devastated Patrick from an adjacent wing in Capanne prison, but of course she didn’t.

Her lawyers never lodged a complaint against the claimed duress and on the witness stand at trial in mid-2010 the prosecutors actually got her to admit that she was treated well.

Key at this stage may be that Knox cannot use her natural advantages of being young and rather dopey and of being able to speak up in court at any time, not under oath or cross-examination, which she used twice in front of Judge Hellman (with lusty sobs and tears for herself and no caring for Meredith).

Cassation works like Supreme Courts elsewhere in Europe and the United States They receive the written appeals and then months or even years later hold very brief hearings, and then almost immediately issue a ruling. It looks to us like the case almost certainly gets bounced back to Perugia - and a new judge - for re-working.

Judge Hellman may have found Patrick’s highly aggressive lawyer impossible to overrule, and he would have been wildly unpopular in Italy to leave Patrick without even his small settlement. If Patrick’s lawyer does not somehow react to this appeal it will be a surprise. He may have the opportunity for rebuttal.

This case has thrown up a lot of possibilities for shortening the Italian process in murder cases and leveling the playing field in favor of victims and families. We’ll round up and post ideas for such reforms already being pushed in Italy by reformers such as Barbara Benedettelli.

Reforms might include no right to defendant statements in court without the possibility of cross-examination, the limiting of judges’ scopes in first appeals, and no jury being required for those appeals.

But everybody sure appreciates those judges’ and juries’ written statements. A precedent the whole world could use.

Posted on 02/07/12 at 04:31 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Don’t Be Fooled By The Recent Claim That The Knox-Sollecito Case Imperils Perugia University

Posted by Peter Quennell





At first glance this headline looks terrible: Perugia: Less Money And Students; University Is at Risk Of Closure

Something has gleefully been made of this in some quarters to the effect that those meanies who prosecuted Knox and Sollecito have seriously dissuaded other students from enrolling and now put the whole university and town at risk.

Look into the cries of risk of closure more closely though, and a rather different and more innocuos explanation emerges.

Google this phrase “università a rischio chiusura” and for all of Italy you will get nearly three MILLION hits.  Three million claims is an awful lot of gloom and doom - and in fact Perugia only came very lately (and very mutedly) to the sobfest.

Universities all over Italy (map of just some above) have been forcefully claiming for several years that this or that faculty or department or program risks closure. This intensified when one year ago the Rome Parliament capped university staff costs.

Articulate academics are hardly famous for simply taking their medicine and keeping quiet about it. Especially as staff cutbacks are also happening in corporations and other institutions all over Italy (and all over Europe, for that matter).

And there are not a lot of empty seats in the lecture halls and seminar rooms in most Italian universities including Perugia.. Most programs still get more applications than there are places.

The number of foreign exchange students headed for Perugia may have dropped slightly, but with current uncertain economic conditions they have also dropped somewhat all over. Perugia continues to attract more and more Chinese students.

Budget wars all over the world are the same. In the best way they know how, the universities are putting in their bids for resources, and trying to show the world how they in particular in the bigger scheme of things really matter. Very healthy.

There are no signs the town or university of Perugia are arguing against the prosecution’s Cassation appeal going forward.

Posted on 01/25/12 at 05:04 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Translation Of Today’s Corriere Newspaper Report On The Hellmann Motivation Document

Posted by ziaK





Click image above for the original. This is today’s straight reporting. In-depth commentary should start appearing soon.

The appeal court: “There is no proof of offence” : Amanda and Raffaele are good kids


The report contradicts the first instance judgment: “The motive - of an unplanned choice of evil without purpose by two good youngsters, who were well-disposed towards others - is improbable”

MILAN - The board of appeal judges, which acquitted the two young folk of the charge of having murdered Meredith Kercher, talks of the “essential baselessness” of the elements upon which the Court of the first instance based their conviction of Raffaele Sollecito and of Amanda Knox.

“There is no proof of guilt” with regard to Amanda and Raffaele, writes the judges of the Appeal court of Perugia, in the “reasoning” report on the second-grade acquittal ruling, which was published on Thursday. This baselessness, according to the report, “takes precedence over even the equivocality of those same elements”.

“BUILDING BLOCKS” OF THE CONSTRUCTION - In the 144 pages which must be lodged before 3 January, the judges who wrote the report claim that “those same building blocks” which led the first-instance judges to convict Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox “had failed”. “The Assizes Court of the first instance felt the need to seize upon a motive which, however, while it was not corroborrated by any element of proof, was in itself entirely improbable”, says the report, which demolishes, brick by brick, the structure upon which the judges of the first instance based their verdict of guilt.

GOOD KIDS - “The unplanned choice, by two good young folk, who were well-disposed towards others, of evil for evil’s sake, without any other purpose, is even more incomprehensible because it was aimed at upholding the criminal acts of another youth, Rudy Guede, with whom they had no relations, and is unlike their own personal histories, character and human condition.”

RUDY GUEDE - The judges set out these considerations, reflecting briefly on Rudy Guede’s definitive sentence to 16 years of incarceration for his participation in Meredith Kercher’s murder. In the reasoning report, they explain that the hypothesis of the participation of several people in carrying out the crime had been set out in the Ivorian’s appeal-court conviction [which had] “basically upheld all the arguments put forward by the prosecutor”.

According to the judges who acquitted Sollecito and Knox, however, “an analysis of every single element on which the hypothesis of joint contribution [to carrying out the crime] leads one, at the least, to doubt the necessary participation of several people in perpetrating the crimes in question”. The Assizes court of appeal therefore stated that they could “concur with” the appeal court conviction with regard to Guede’s responsibility, without “assuming that this conviction has any probatory relevance” as far as determining the responsibility of Sollecito and Knox is concerned.

“The only evidentiary elements which remain unopposed (the crime of “calunnia’ towards Patrick Lumumba) but without the aggravating circumstance, the incompletely demonstrated truth of the alibi, and the dubious reliability of the witness (Quintavalle), when taken as a whole, do not even allow us to hold that the guilt of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito has in any way been clearly demonstrated”.

AMANDA UNDER STRESS - “Over and above the formal aspect”, the judges write, “the context in which those declarations were made was clearly characterized by psychological conditions which had become, for Amanda Knox, a truly unbearable burden. In that context, it is understandable that Knox, yielding to the pressure and to fatigue, had hoped to put an end to the situation, by giving to those who were interrogating her what they, at heart, wanted to hear: a name, an assassin.

By giving “the news” of that name to those who were interrogating her so harshly, Amanda Knox hoped, no doubt, to put an end to that pressure, by then - after many hours - a real torture, while adding details and building a brief story around that name was surely not particularly difficult, since many of the details and many conjectures had already appeared the previous day in many newspapers, and were in any case doing the rounds of the town, given the small size of Perugia”.

According to the judges, furthermore, for Amanda “it would have been easier to name the real author of the crime” because “basically, she lived in that house, and to have been there at the time the crime was committed, in her own room, perhaps entertaining [herself with] Raffaele Sollecto, would have been a completely normal circumstance, to the extent that it would certainly not entail responsibility for a crime committed in the room beside [hers]”.

WHO MUST JUDGE - “Having excluded the existence of the proof of guilt which the two current defendants are charged with”, the judges write, “it is not up to this Court to suggest how the affair [the crime] might really have been carried out. Nor whether the author of the crime was one or more than one person, nor whether or to what extent other investigative hypotheses might have been neglected.”

Posted on 12/16/11 at 08:33 PM by ziaK. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Breaking News Thursday: Judge Hellmann’s Sentencing Released In Italian; Responses From Italy Follow

Posted by Peter Quennell





Quick summary of main points of the 150 page report by our Italian poster ncountryside below. 

We will have a roundup post on the reporting and takes of the Italian media on Friday and a full translation courtesy of the fluent Italian speakers on PMF in due course.

At first glance our lawyers in three countries are not at all impressed. Any seamless legitimizing is seemingly not obvious to them.

Page 8
Lumumba was arrested following “spontaneous” Knox’s statements.Please note: Court’s quote.

Page 11
The previous report is long even (italian: “ben”) 425 pages.

Page 12
Quintavalle: testimony, however, after one year

Page 27
Guede and sentence of Supreme Court. The sentence is not binding for the Appeal Court mainly because: defendants would be judged on the basis of evidence obtained in their absence during Guede’s trial; Guede’s trial was fast Track (“abbreviato”).

Page 28
Bra clasp, knife, wounds, break-in: examining separately all these facts is strengthened the hypothesis of the presence of an only one person in the house.

Page 30
In page 30 cartwheels are recognized as “gymnastic maneuvers“ ( italian: “manovre ginniche”).

Page 30-35
Calunnia. AK accused Lumumba because exhausted by obsessive interrogations without lawyer. She was well aware of accusing an innocent person, so she is guilty but without aggravating circumstances. Anyway her guilt cannot be used as evidence to the murder.

Page 40
Guede surprisingly has never been questioned .... follows the description of the well known hearings ... conclusion: Guede is unreliable also for this trial, in particular during the hearing of 27 June and also his letter. Instead the chat from Germany with his friend Benedetti is considered reliable.

Page 42
Aviello, Alessi, Castelluccio, De Cesare, Trincan. Called by defense are considered unreliable but the prosecution can not exploit them as witnesses against the defendants.

Page 44 and following.
Curatolo. He is a tramp, now held in prison, with a decline of his mental faculties. Unreliable.

Pages 51-55
Quintavalle. One year later.

Pages 56-58
Capezzali. Unreliable
Monacchia. Not clear.
Deamis.Unreliable.

Pages 58-61
Phone calls. For the Court, Bongiorno’s considerations are valid while Massei is wrong, so the time of death is fixed not later than 22,30

Page 64
Murder weapon.The arguments of defense consultants seem more convincing than the prosecution’s.

Page 87
The clue represented by presence of Meredith’s dna on the knife cannot be considered valid/existing

Page 92
Bra clasp. Contaminated before gathering

Page 100
Footprint on the bathmat. Probably belongs to Guede

... Mixed blood ...

Pages 114-123
Staged break-in. Real and not staged.

Pages 123-130
Alibi. Erroneous conclusions drawn by the Court because based on erroneous scientific expertise .

Page 129
The shower. Not implausible

Page 131
Phone call to Meredith at 12.07. Nothing of suspect.

Page 137
Remain; 1) calunnia 2) non completely proved alibi.

Posted on 12/16/11 at 06:33 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Nancy Grace’s “Miscarriage Of Justice” Observation Goes Viral, Google Says It’s On 38,000 Sites

Posted by Peter Quennell





Amanda Knox will be lucky if CNN’s popular legal commentator Nancy Grace doesn’t get on her case the way she still is on Casey Anthony’s.

Nancy Grace says there is NO innnocent explanation for Knox’s second written confession placing her at the house (with Patrick Lumumba) and including observations that only someone who really was there could have known.

We have noticed that time and again commentators have come out batting for Knox, read the evidence, and then gone quiet. Nancy Grace’s CNN colleague Jane Velex-Mitchell had swallowed the Kool Aid at one point, but now she is ambivalent and careful.

Here is Huffington Post Media’s version of what Nancy Grace said last night.

Nancy Grace issued a typically blunt verdict on Amanda Knox during a Monday interview.

The outspoken HLN host and fierce ‘Dancing with the Stars’ competitor declared her true feelings about Knox when she spoke to Access Hollywood following her waltz performance Monday night.

“I was very disturbed, because I think it is a huge miscarriage of justice,” Grace said. “I believe that while Amanda Knox did not wield the knife herself, I think that she was there, with her boyfriend, and that he did the deed, and that she egged him on. That’s what I think happened.”

In Knox’s final plea, she told an Italian appeals court that she was not present the evening her British roommate Meredith Kercher was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in their shared apartment. Grace said she did not think Knox is telling the truth. “I believe her original statement to the police - that she was there in the home when her roommate was murdered was true,” Grace told Access Hollywood.

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook exploded with celebratory messages on Monday as the judge proclaimed Knox’s innocence, allowing the study abroad student to finally return home to Seattle, Washington after four years in an Italian prison.

Grace was not one of those supporters, saying that while she would love to believe Knox innocent, “I just happen to know the facts.” Grace was even harsher when asked if her show would compete with other networks to get the first Knox interview.

“I’m not trying to get Amanda Knox’s first interview because… my show does not pay for interviews…Second, I don’t think she’s going to tell the truth anyway, so what’s the point?” Grace responded.

THAT will get the noses of thousands of new followers firmly into the REAL evidence. Not all that made-up stuff. Other legal commentators may follow Nancy Grace’s lead, because she is the real pace-setter and power broker in that community.

The equally popular Fox News political and legal commentator Bill O’Reilly discussed the verdict on Monday night with Judge Andrew Napolitano, another prominent commentator. This is from the the summary on Bill O’Reilly’s website.

]Bill O’Reilly] concurred that Amanda Knox likely knows what happened on the night British student Meredith Kercher was murdered; therefore, we shouldn’t really be happy with this outcome since a terrible crime is unsolved.

Pity that Judge Napolitano claimed that Amanda Knox was interrogated as a suspect for 56 hours without an attorney. That did NOT happen. She had an attorney present at all times. Someone please correct him. .


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

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.

Posted on 10/05/11 at 09:11 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Understanding Yesterday’s Knox/Sollecito Verdict

Posted by Maundy Gregory


For those who have been reading my blog Maundy Gregory it will not come as a surprise when I say I am less then wholly satisfied with yesterday’s acquittal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

I’m very much with the unruly mob shouting “shame!” outside the courthouse this evening. In spirit, you understand.

I don’t even believe this is a case where a court has erred with two left feet on the wrong side of the fine line between technical and reasonable doubt. I’ll not go into the detail of the evidence, since, over the next few days, that will undoubtedly be done thousands of times with greater inaccuracy than I could ever achieve. But perhaps it suffices to give the view that it is such that no acquittal could have been possible under normal circumstances.

It won’t be possible to know how the decision of the court was reached until it publishes its detailed motivation report. But I find it hard to imagine how it will make sense. The disheartening expectation I have, which I think others will share, it that it will offer the reasoning of a court that has crumpled under the pressure of a public relations campaign. A humiliating day for Italy.

And, of course, a heartbreaking tragedy if you are able to spare a thought for the Kercher family. Tomorrow, one of their daughter’s murderers will fly home to ticker-tape and a small fortune. Another, like the drummer in successful rock band, will take a smaller share of the royalties, but the proceeds, taking into account possible government compensation, may still be enough so that he is at liberty to choose whether or not he ever wants to work in his life or not. Merdith Kercher’s death seems almost reduced to the level of a smart career move.

Yesterday’s verdict will undoubtedly, however, be appealed. That’s more than a speculative exercise, since it does happen than people are acquitted at first appeal and then found guilty by Italy’s supreme court. But the focus of the second appeal will be much narrower, restricted only to questions of law and logic. Although that is construed fairly widely in the Italian system, what it means is that the decision of the appeal court can’t be corrected simply because it is wrong.

It will have to be shown to be legally unsound before any evidence can be re-examined. Until the motivation report from the appeal is published, it is impossible to say what the chances of the prosecutors succeeding in a further appeal might be.

The case, because it has had such a high profile, may have ramifications in Italy for two reasons.

Firstly, even though the reasons for the decision will not officially be known for a few weeks, it can be assumed that the court has rejected entirely the forensic evidence provided by the police. That’s not a small matter. As in most European countries, forensic testing in Italy is centralised, so an implication of the verdict may be that the entire forensic science set-up in the country is simply not fit for purpose or, at least, it wasn’t at the time of the investigation.

A modern forensic science service ought to be able to handle DNA evidence that, as in this case, comes from a very small sample or from an item that had lain in situ for some weeks without difficulty. The Italian police would undoubtedly claim that their forensic teams are as capable as any in the world. I’m not in a position to deny that. But, from a practical point-of-view, if the whole of the scientific aspect of a prosecution is capable of simply crumbling in court, it must be important to try to understand why that happened.

Secondly, reform of the judicial system in Italy is a very live issue, in no small part because Silvio Berlusconi stands accused of various crimes and so he has made judicial reform a priority. I think it is unlikely that Italian public opinion will be behind yestrerday’s verdict and it will be seen by many as an example of how Italian justice is far too lenient with defendants.

Personally, I think Italy should take caution before making too reactionary an interpretation of the Knox/Sollecito case. It may be fair to point out that Italian appeals can tend to be slanted so that the focus for live examination is selected aspects of the defence case, so that much of the prosecution case takes a back seat. And there may be some room for quibbling about certain evidentiary rules applied in the case (the exclusion from evidence of Knox’s false allegations against Patrick Lumumba, for example).

But the decision yesterday can’t just be about a systematic problem. The automaticity of appeals in Italy may indeed favour defendants. But, surely, a guilty person ought to remain guilty regardless of how may re-trials are granted.

If, like me, you’re disheartened by yesterday’s verdict, then I don’t really have much to offer by way of consolation, except the observation that justice is not always done and that’s something we have to live with. And at least you know, next time you kill someone, to think about who is going to do your PR before you think about who your lawyer is going to be.


Posted on 10/05/11 at 02:24 AM by Maundy Gregory. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Media Reaction Commences: What Is It About Amanda Knox…

Posted by Peter Quennell





Media can be a fickle friend. Big bucks may now be dictating a U-turn. One early indicator?

We should be happy for her, the innocent victim of this terrible miscarriage of justice.

Yet there is something disquieting about Amanda Knox, something that slightly chills the blood. Those piercing blue eyes, as cold as the steel of the knife that slit Meredith Kercher’s throat, have hardly flinched during her court appearances.

Not since Lindy-the dingo-did-it-Chamberlain was cleared of murdering her baby has a woman so divided public opinion.

Amanda’s prison diaries reveal an astonishing calmness and self-belief. While most 20-year-old girls falsely accused of a vile sex murder would be in pieces, she was planning her 21st birthday party, right down to the guest list.

There is hardly a mention of the brutal murder of her friend in the bedroom next to her. It’s all about Amanda.

Even The Independent’s Peter Popham is pouring cold water on the parade. Helping to find “the real killers” may be a way to help stem this tide.

Posted on 10/04/11 at 03:22 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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ABC News Reports On The Low-Key But Bewildered Reaction Of Meredith’s Family

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click image above for Colleen Curry’s report. An excerpt:

The Kercher family, who earlier in the day professed its belief that Knox was involved in Meredith’s death, remained behind in the courtroom long after the Knox family and its supporters poured into the streets in celebration. Arline Kercher was held upright by her daughter and attorney as she made her way through a crowd of reporters to a waiting vehicle.

The article mentions that Meredith’s family has issued this brief statement.

We respect the decision of the judges. But we do not understand how the decision of the first trial could be so radically overturned. We still trust the Italian judicial system, and hope that the truth will eventually emerge.

Posted on 10/04/11 at 03:58 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, October 03, 2011

Knox And Sollecito Declared Not Guilty But With Angry Booing Outside The Courtroom

Posted by Peter Quennell




Posted on 10/03/11 at 11:57 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Van Watch: Around 8:00 PM Perugia Time And The Vans Are Reported Still At Capanne

Posted by Peter Quennell


The BBC and other news services are keeping a close eye on the gates of Capanne Prison.

When the vans carrying Sollecito and Knox exit and head back for Perugia (at the top of the massif in the shot below) the judges and lay judges will have something to announce.

Added: the two blue vans are on their way back to Perugia from Capanne and they should be arriving at the court about now.  The defendants may enter at the level of the street tunnel that runs right under the court. If so then they walk up or catch an elevator.

When they were found guilty in 2009 they exited that same way.  The court is one level below street level but if the windows had clear glass in them the views to the east would be terrific. The court is NOT underground as some of the media commentators have claimed.


Posted on 10/03/11 at 09:54 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Awaiting Appeal Court Verdict, Arline And Lyle And Stephanie In First Press Conference:

Posted by Peter Quennell







The family was fair but firm that their priorities are justice for Meredith and her remembrance.

This first report on the press conference (probably the first of two) is from the Daily Telegraph.

Stephanie Kercher said her sister had been “hugely forgotten” in the furore around the appeal launched by American student Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito over the November 2007 killing in Perugia, Italy.

Sitting alongside her mother Arline and brother Lyle, she told a press conference: “It is very difficult to keep her memory alive in all of this.”

Miss Kercher said forgiveness “does not come into it” at the moment.  She went on: “It would be very difficult to forgive anything at this stage.

“What everyone needs to remember is ... the brutality of what happened that night, everything that Meredith must have felt that night, everything she went through, the fear and the terror, and not knowing why.

“She doesn’t deserve that, no-one deserves that.”

Meredith’s mother Arline refused to say whether she believed Knox killed her daughter but said she trusted the Italian justice system.

She added: “You have to go by the evidence because there is nothing else. What I want, what they want doesn’t come into it.

“It is what the police have found, what the science has found, what the evidence is and that’s all you can go on.

“It is to find out what happened to Meredith and to get some justice really.”

Posted on 10/03/11 at 08:04 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Twentieth Appeal Session: Translated Transcript Of Amanda Knox’s Final Plea To The Court

Posted by Peter Quennell





The image above and Knox’s remarks below are from one of the live broadcasts of the pressroom feed.

Members of the court. Many times people have said I am some other person, people don’t understand whom I am. The only thing different from four years ago is what I have suffered. I lost a friend, a girlfriend, in the most brutal way in the most unexplained manner.

My trust in the police authorities has been betrayed. I have had to dealt with unfair and unfounded charges. I have paid with my life for things that I did not commit.

Four years ago I did not know what tragedy was. I have never faced so much anger before. I didn’t know how to interpret it. How did we react when we found out Meredith had been killed? I did not believe it. How was it possible?

Her bedroom was next to mine. She was killed in our home. If I had been there that night I would have died. The only difference is, I was not there. I trusted the police’s sense of duty and trust. I trusted them completely. I was betrayed on the night of November 5. I was manipulated.

I am not who they say I am. I am not violent. I don’t have a lack of respect for life. And I did not kill. I did not rape. I did not steal. I wasn’t there at the crime scene.

I had good relationships with everyone who lived in my flat. We all had good relationships. We helped each other. I shared my life, particularly with Meredith. We were friends. She was worried about me. She was very kind to me.

I have never run away from the truth. I insist after four desperate years, that our innocence is true and needs to be recognized. I want to go back home. I want to go back to my life. I don’t want my life and my future taken away from me for something that I didn’t do.

I am innocent. We do not deserve this. We never did anything to deserve this. I have the utmost respect to this court and the care that it has shown. Thank you.

Posted on 10/03/11 at 04:14 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Twentieth Appeal Session: Inside The Court This Morning Before The Procedings Started

Posted by Peter Quennell






Posted on 10/03/11 at 03:54 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Twentieth Appeal Session: The TV Media Assembled At Front Entrance Of The Court Today

Posted by Peter Quennell





Posted on 10/03/11 at 03:20 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, September 30, 2011

Nineteenth Appeal Session: The Prosecution Seems To Be Looking Confident In Court

Posted by Peter Quennell






Posted on 09/30/11 at 04:54 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pseudoinnocence: Is This Possibly The Predicament Of Amanda Knox?

Posted by Vivianna


In a dissertation titled Pseudoinnocence – An Invitation To Murder, Barbara Shore explores the phenomenon of “pseudoinnocence” in American culture as an inadequate response to the “conflagration of violence that encircles us today.” These are her introductory words:

“America is a country long haunted by its pseudoinnocence, by its blinding prolonged naivete. We are a culture that closes our eyes to all that is too painful to see, persuading ourselves that we have escaped, that we are neither interdependent nor vulnerable, or that we are victims.

We cannot come to terms with our own unwitting complicity in the destructiveness brought to ourselves or others. Capitalizing on such naivete, we fail to see how such ‘innocence that cannot include the demonic becomes evil’ (Rollo May 50).” (Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences Mar, 2001 Vol 61(9-A))

Ms. Shores’ words, although published six years before the murder of Meredith Kercher even took place, represent an eerily accurate description of Amanda Knox’s predicament, even reflecting some of the terminology employed in Attorney Carlo Pacelli’s exposition on September 26, during the closing portion of the first appeal trial.  As a reminder, Pacelli, who represents Patrick Lumumba in his civil suit against Knox, pointed out that Knox “has a split personality, fresh-faced, the daughter everyone would like, Saint Maria Goretti, and then with her histrionic side [she is] an impostor, she is a she-devil, satanic, diabolic, addicted to borderline behaviour.”

Although Pacelli’s words have been seen by some as too harsh, they carry a heavy implication mirrored in the above quote from Shore – that “innocence that cannot include the demonic becomes evil”; in other words, that if Knox cannot reconcile her two sides and seek atonement, she has no hope of redeeming herself as a human being.

I have argued before, in a comment posted here on the TJMK board, that Knox is not likely to make a confession in the near future due to the pressures exerted by her family’s innocence campaign. The innocence campaign is, in my opinion, just one of the factors which prevent Knox from admitting her direct involvement in the crime against Meredith Kercher.

The other factors may include her failure to reconcile the two parts of her persona (innocent, carefree, kind, compassionate young woman versus “diabolical” murderer) and perhaps a culturally-engrained inability to accept involvement in a destructive act. The discussion of these latter factors is perhaps best left to someone with formal training in psychology or sociology.  What I would like to enlarge upon is my conviction that there is a direct correlation between the strength of the innocence campaign and Knox’s unwillingness to admit guilt.

I would like to draw your attention to a conversation between Knox, her mother (Edda Mellas), and her father (Curt Knox) which took place in the early days of the investigation, when Amanda had already been detained.  This conversation will be well-known to those who have been consistently following this case as evidence that, in the early stages, Knox may have been inclined to give a confession.  I have chosen not to include it, but it is readily available on both TJMK and PMF. 

The reason why I believe this conversation to be so important is not only because it might contain the beginning of the confession, but also because it highlights the involvement of her family in defining her position.  I would argue that, had Knox been left to her own devices, she might have cracked in the early stages and given an accurate description of that night’s events, saving both herself, her family, the victim’s family, and anyone involved in the trial considerable grief, time, money, and effort.

At that particular point in time, she may not have been as psychologically divided and conflicted, and she may have had an easier time accepting her criminal side and perhaps moving on to experience positive changes.  It is, however, her parents’ firm belief in her innocence and in her inability to commit such a heinous crime that has consistently mired her in a difficult position.

As we well know, the Knox-Mellas family hired a PR firm, Gogerty-Mariott, to clean up Amanda’s image after unflattering stories started appearing in European tabloids.  The PR campaign has grown exponentially from a few stories about Amanda’s childhood, complete with baby pictures, to what I consider to be a falsification of public opinion. 

On the one hand, there is a concerted effort to offer inaccurate information about existing evidence (limiting the crime scene to Meredith’s room, stating that there is no evidence linking Amanda and Raffaele to the murder, pushing Rudy Guede as the “lone wolf” assassin, etc.), which is then fed to news outlets unwilling to do their own research and pushed upon the unsuspecting public via books, blogs, and forums. Then comes the even more insidious effort to falsify the public’s response to these stories, by hiring posters to write positive reviews for FOA books, post positive comments to inaccurate stories, and shout down any reasonable opposition.

Of course, this entire effort does not come cheaply, and rumors say that the PR campaign’s tab is around one million.  This is an enormous debt to place on the shoulders of a young woman who already needs to contend with the guilt of having committed an incomprehensible, heinous, violent crime.  While it is difficult to feel sympathy for any of Meredith’s killers, I find it impossible not to feel a certain amount of compassion for Amanda, who most likely never asked for this campaign to be initiated.  How could she admit her role in this crime when a million dollars has already been spent to trumpet her innocence?

In addition to the material aspects, there are social and psychological aspects to contend with.  While many of the FOA members are paid for their public appearances and statements (and may not harbor any personal opinions about the case), there seem to be individuals who are supporting Amanda’s innocence out of personal conviction.  Some of them may have even donated money to help her family.  How could she disappoint everyone who invested money and time into supporting her, from her own family to charitable strangers? How could she look them in the eye, after four years of lies and obfuscation, and admit that she was terrified of being punished, or incapable of seeing herself as a murderer?

Peter Quennell has suggested to me that this may be an example of “path dependence,” a concept used in both economics and social sciences to describe a scenario in which current actions and decisions are inexorably determined by past decisions. While my personal knowledge of path dependence is limited, I think that it is certainly applicable in this case and that it can be traced back to the prison conversation discussed before.  During the conversation, Amanda’s parents indirectly communicated to her that the course had been set – that the legal team would handle all questions and that she was not to communicate her thoughts without supervision; also that a confession would be unacceptable because she was undeniably innocent. 

As to why her family took this position, I think we can find the answer in the concept of pseudoinnocence – the inability to accept responsibility for and involvement in a terrible event, accompanied by a forced distancing from anything that could be considered troubling. 

It is not a coincidence that Amanda has been consistently portrayed as a victim of the supposedly corrupt, medieval Italian justice system, as someone who has been “railroaded” in a “third-world” country, as her supporters want us to believe. It is more comforting to become a victim than to accept responsibility and acknowledge that Amanda’s problems may have started at home, long before she was on a plane for Perugia. I believe that the innocence campaign is not only meant to exculpate Amanda, but to also exculpate her family from any perceived contributions to the formation of a murderer. 

As long as Amanda’s family continues to invest so much money and effort into supporting her innocence, and to maintain so much publicity around her case, I believe that any professional attempts to help Amanda admit her involvement will prove ineffective. This entire undertaking, combined with her own psychological dividedness and any cultural influences, is placing an enormous amount of unnecessary responsibility on Amanda and displacing a more appropriate type of responsibility. 

Amanda, at this point, should feel responsibility towards Meredith and Meredith’s family primarily.  While the murder itself cannot be reversed and no true solace offered, a confession would offer a certain amount of closure to those who knew and loved Meredith. Instead, Amanda’s sense of responsibility is being artificially redirected to not disappointing her own family and supporters, and to not betraying the trust they have placed in her innocence. Aside from being hurtful to the victim’s family, this situation is also damaging for Amanda herself, as it’s setting her on a path of continued “evil” rather than one of heal

Posted on 09/28/11 at 08:29 PM by Vivianna. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seventeenth Appeal Session: Tough Day Ahead For Raffaele Sollecito’s Lawyers In The Minefield

Posted by Peter Quennell


Today it will be Giulia Bongiorno and Luca Maori for Raffaele Sollecito.  Important considerations to bear in mind:

1) There are still all these open questions assembled by lawyer and main poster SomeAlibi and Sollecito chose not to address them on the stand.

2) The Supreme Court has definitively shut down the argument of a possible lone wolf perpetrator and Guede in court accused Sollecito to his face.

3) Attempts to show that Guede did it with others (Alessi’s testimony) or two or three others did it (Aviello) both descended into farce.

4) A staged attempt by Bongiorno using a staff member to try to scale the wall of the house to Filomena’s window descended into farce.

5) Sollecito referred to Amanda Knox as a liar in his third alibi and in effect implicated her by saying that on the night she was absent for four hours.

6) Solleito has still not explained his phone record or computer record or how his DNA could have got onto Meredith’s bra clasp.

7) Sollecito has still not explained the other physical evidence tying him to the scene: how his bloody footprint ended up on the bathroom mat.

His family faces a trial for releasing an evidence tape to a TV station, and for attempting to subvert justice by involving national politicians. And the family have still not rebutted Aviello’s charge that a bribe was waved at him to testify.

Not a pretty mess, by any means. Good luck, Bongiorno and Maori.


Posted on 09/27/11 at 03:01 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
Archived in Those officially involvedThe defensesAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+Raff Sollecito
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Sixteenth Appeal Session: Lawyers For Patrick Lumumba And Victim’s Family Weigh In

Posted by Peter Quennell


1) Lawyers for Patrick Lumumba

A translation of the Umbria24 TV station report kindly provided by main poaster Tiziano.

MEREDITH, LUMUMBA’S LAWYER: “AMANDA IS DIABOLICAL” PATRICK: “I HAVE RELIVED THOSE DAYS”

“PATRICK IS THE SECOND VICTIM IN THIS CASE”

By Maurizio Troccoli

The civil parties are playing the last cards too in the Mez trial, represented by the lawyers of Meredith Kercher’s family and those of Patrick Lumumba, the young man who ended up in gaol with Amanda and Raffaele, because he was accused of being the author of the murder by the young American.

A few days before the sentence, which should come on Monday, and the reconstructions of what happened that night between the 1st and 2nd November, 2007 in the cottage in via della Pergola in Perugia, go on stage. A bloody murder which has seen the two ex-lovers condemned to 26 years prison for Amanda, and 25 for Rafaele at the first stage [trial}.

Patrick Lumumba was set free after a few days of detention thanks to an “iron clad alibi” which put him in a different place from “the house of horrors”, that is to say in his night spot, together with a Swiss professor, Roman Mero, who witnessed this, thus helping the young man to get back his freedom.

That testimony was sufficient to convince the magistrates - notwithstanding the accusations of Amanda - of his “complete non-involvement in the facts”, which originated in the questioning at the Perugia police headquarters on November 6th, 2007.

Patrick is still waiting for justice to be done, to be compensated for what was taken from him, for payment for the person who was stained by such a serious crime which sees him as “the second victim of this tragedy”, as his defender Claudio Pacelli said this morning. “Patrick has paid a lot, not only for his imprisonment but also for the damage to his image, said Pacelli. “My client ended up in the newspapers and on TV all over the world as the author of the murder of the young Englishwoman.”

“During the appearance of my lawyer - [Patrick] says – it is as though I had gone back, reliving that really sad period. We hope that justice is done. Today I relived those moments - the night when the professor came to the pub saying that he wanted to say good-bye because that next day he would be going back to Zurich,” Lumumba said, “However he came to save me, with neither I nor he realising this.”

“Amanda falsely accused an innocent person - lawyer Pacelli affirmed - exclusively to avoid being discovered. A classic scheme. Amanda is a consummate actress, a very intelligent girl, astute and cunning. One who really knows how to inspire the emotions of whoever is listening to her.”

And the fault of what happened to the damage of Patrick resides completely in “the young American, Amanda”, whose profile the lawyer drew in court, defining her “an explosive mixture of drugs, sex and alcohol.”

He added, “Quite the opposite of sweet, she has a split personality, fresh-faced, the daughter everyone would like, Saint Maria Goretti, and then with her histrionic side [she is] an impostor, she is a she-devil, satanic, diabolic, addicted to borderline behaviour.

What Amanda says when she claims that Patrick’s name was suggested to her by the police is a huge lie. She was the one to arbitrarily choose to point to Patrick as the guilty on, in order to distance herself from suspicion,” the lawyer said further.

2) Lawyers for the victim’s family

[translation to follow]

Posted on 09/27/11 at 05:52 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
Archived in Those officially involvedPublic evidenceThe witnessesAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+The wider contextsPerugia contextAmanda Knox
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Sixteenth Appeal Session: Images Of Main Participants Before Start Of Court Today

Posted by Peter Quennell







Posted on 09/26/11 at 08:48 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fifteenth Appeal Session: Prosecutor Manuela Comodi Starkly Explains All The Forensic Evidence

Posted by Peter Quennell


This is a translation of key parts of a detailed report from the AGI news service - the excellent reporter is not named.

On Ms Comodi’s opening remarks to the court.

In Perugia the hearing of the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, in the first instance [at trial] convicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher, has resumed. This morning, the prosecutor Manuela Comodi began her part of the indictment.

“Regardless of the scientific evidence, your decision can only be the confirmation of the decision at first instance [at trial],” the prosecutor said. During the day the prosecution will make its request for a tougher sentence for the ex-lovers who are present in the courtroom next to their defence teams.

Ms Comodi on the strength of the forensic evidence.

“Quite apart from all the scientific evidence, the outcome of this process can only be at least the confirmation of the conviction of first degree”...The prosecutor judge then began to attack the independent expert report on the traces of DNA ordered by the Court.

“That ploy may have led you to believe you do not trust the results for the knife proposed as the murder weapon and the hook of the bra worn by the victim when she was killed. Those conclusions are strongly challenged by the prosecution.” Then Comodi talked of “the awkward performance of experts who have betrayed your trust… [with] their absolute inadequacy and incompetence.”

She then mentioned the lack of experience in the field of the experts appointed by the Court. “Would you trust your daughter’s wedding to a cook who knows all the recipes but has never cooked?”. In the initial phase of her indictment the prosecutor also mentioned the process carried out in England to indict Danilo Restivo…

The Guardian has a good report on how Danilo Restivo was caught in part by incriminating DNA some TEN YEARS after his crime.

And Ms Comodi on the DNA on the knife and bra clasp.

“Who wielded the knife [that killed Meredith Kercher] was Amanda Knox.” The prosecutor said in court, mimicking the way according to the defense reconstruction that knife was contested by the murderer of Meredith.

“They will tell you, She used it at some other time while staying at Sollecito’s house, but Amanda’s DNA was found in the wrong place for normal use. Give it a try, you will see that in cutting bread or meat the hand rests on the back, not there.”

“Starch on the knife? It could come from the powder present on the “vast majority” of rubber gloves used by personnel involved in investigations.” The prosecutor was recalling the words of a senior advisor to the defense of Amanda Knox, according to whom the starch was derived from the cutting of food such as potatoes and is a sign of lack of washing of the blade on which should have been found traces of blood of the victim if it was used for the crime….

“Talc is present on most sterile disposable gloves, such as those used by the scientific and the Flying Squad in Perugia. It is totally unfounded, the thesis of the non-washing of the knife.”

“The hook of the bra collected 46 days after being found missing? What of the DNA of Elisa Claps [in the Danilo Restivo case] analyzed after nearly 20 years? There is no way this could be contamination because Sollecito had not since been in the house.

Here is a very strong report from Il Mattino which after mirroring the AGI report above adds this:

“In addition to the knife and the bra hook there are other tracks that connect the presence of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito to the crime scene” said the prosecutor in her indictment.

“Traces of the mixed blood of Meredith and Amanda have been found in the bathroom, where there was an imprint of a foot of Raffaele Sollecito in Meredith’s blood. Footprints of Raffaele and Amanda in Meredith’s blood were found using Luminol in the hallway and the room of Amanda.”

The prosecutor pointed out that under the bed, in Meredith’s room, the lamp of Amanda was found. In Meredith’s room there already was one lamp. Amanda’s lamp was there “because they had to find something to take away, maybe a bracelet or a ring that Amanda might have lost.”

And the prosecution concluded by asking for life sentences and some solitary confinement for Sollecito and Knox as the crime was “aggravated - carried out for trivial reasons” and asking for the exclusion of the mitigating factors that Judge Massei had allowed.

Some of the Italian media reports carried headlines quoting Ms Comodi saying “They killed her for nothing”.

Posted on 09/24/11 at 04:27 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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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.

Posted on 09/24/11 at 04:22 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Umbria’s Attorney General Giovanni Galati: A Tough New Presence In The Courtroom

Posted by Peter Quennell



[We are told that this is AG Giovanni Galati at the recent justice info system announcement]


Italian media note that the defenses are up against quite a powerhouse prosecution team.

The media have observed that Giovanni Galati, the new Attorney General of Umbria, is in the court to give his full support to the case made by his colleagues.

He was formerly a a Deputy Attorney General with the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome and will know everything there is to know about winning appeals.

He is sitting next to his Deputy Attorney General, Giancarlo Costagliola, the lead prosecutor for the appeal.

Posted on 09/23/11 at 07:29 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Fourteenth Appeal Session: Italian Media Describing Very Tough Prosecution Opening

Posted by Peter Quennell





First good report on the opening remarks by Mr Costagliola is from RAI News:

Hard, harsh, and direct. The [Deputy] Attorney General Giancarlo Costagliola this morning attacked head-on the findings of the independent DNA experts in the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the murder of Meredith.

Moreover the homeless man who claims to have seen Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito not far from the murder house on the evening of 1 November 2007, when Meredith Kercher was killed, is ‘“credible and reliable”...

Costagliola described the skill of the original DNA experts of the Court…The Attorney General also spoke of the “absolute certainty” of the analysis of traces of DNA detected by experts of the Court on the knife found to be the murder weapon. “A re-examination of the DNA by the prosecution was refused [by Judge Hellman] although it was the first request put to the Court.”

“Denying the presence of the DNA of Meredith Kercher, and Raffaele Sollecito on the knife and bar hook is a falsification of scientific reality” said the prosecutor, still attacking the expertise of Professors Vecchiotti Carla and Stefano Conti, which questioned the work of the forensic team…. “Professors Vecchiotti Carla and Stefano Conti had refused without any reason to analyze traces highlighted on the knife, which in 2007 were not analyzed because ‘there was no machinery suitable “.

“I want you to decide, you judges, if you feel a little for the parents of Meredith Kercher, a young, discreet and serious woman who these “good” kids from good families are prevented from living.”...

For Costagliola “there was an almost obsessive campaign by the media, the press and television that made the audience feel a bit like everybody is parents of Amanda and Raffaele, two kids from good families kept in prison because of the fury of a prosecutor.”.’

La Nazione reports that Mr Mignini in his opening remarks observed that he will never forget Meredith’s staring eyes. He’ll remember them for the rest of his life. He pointed out that 22 judges had already agreed with his reasoning.

And from a long report by Phoebe Natanson of ABC News:

Italian prosecutors argued today that American student Amanda Knox should be kept in prison and displayed a series of bloody crime scene photos, including gruesome close ups of murder victim Meredith Kercher’s wounds.

The bare knuckle tactics by the prosecutors comes on the final leg of an appeal by Knox, 24, and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 27, who were convicted in 2009 of killing Kercher. There has been growing speculation that Knox and Sollecito could win their appeal and be freed because court appointed experts have raised damaging questions about the prosecution’s DNA evidence.

Knox , serving a 26 year prison sentence, today seemed to reflect that hope that she could be released, as well as the worry that her hopes could be crushed. She appeared tense and anxious as she entered the courtroom in Perugia, Italy, for the start of summations. She barely smiled at her family who have gathered in Perugia for what they hope will be a final time.

As Knox walked in, her mother Edda Mellas was heard to say, “It looks like Amanda isn’t sleeping well.”...

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini presented the court with a slideshow of photos that included pictures of bloodstains in the house as well as photos of Kercher’s slashed body. The blood-filled pictures included close-ups of the wounds…

[Prosecutors] also appealed for the jurors to not be swayed by the press coverage that has been critical of the prosecution’s handling of evidence and what is perceived to be a growing sentiment for Knox and Sollecito. Mignini called it “media clamor,” and added, “This is not a media fiction… This case has to tried and decided here.”...

“Don’t commit grave error..it would be unforgivable,” Mignini warned. “It’s not just about the knife and the bra clasp. There are lots of other things.”

Posted on 09/23/11 at 06:13 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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How Things Seem To Be Stacking Up As The Appeal Summations Get Under Way

Posted by James Higham



[Above: the media presence in court before the trial started in January 2009]

Cross-posted at TJMK’s invitation from my own website Nourishing Obscurity.

The interview with juror Jennifer Ford on the Casey Anthony outcome was quite fascinating because her decision was based on something we’ve been arguing about for a long time – circumstantial evidence. 

There’ve been classic cases at Orphans of Liberty where expert testimony described actual evidence found and tested and what conclusions were drawn from that.  When you get up to 12 or 13 experts all saying exactly the same thing and some of those were actually on site, then what do you conclude?

Against that, you have that comment that “circumstantial” is usually all you have in a murder.  By definition, the murderer does not oblige by taking snapshots or videorecording the event.”  Often he or she does everything in their power to cover it up.

It’s all very well for a Columbo to waltz in and cleverly trap the murderer he’s fixed on but in most cases, it’s the result of painstaking work building exhibits and other evidence which fits together.  True, when the police try too hard, you can get frame-ups. But what the pro-Knox machine are making out – that “a stream of lies” has come out of Mignini’s office, while conflating that with his provisional conviction over another case - concluding from that that Knox is innocent, they’re open to challenge.

Sorry – it doesn’t work that way.  Mignini has not been officially charged but has only been accused by the Knox camp of failure in his investigation and as for that other case, here’s what the Times said:

Mignini was convicted by a Florence court of exceeding his powers by tapping the phones of police officers and journalists investigating the still unsolved “Monster of Florence” serial killings between 1968 and 1985.

Phone tapping. Getting at the truth by any means possible.  The Knox defence, of course, has not used this separate issue but the Knox parents media machine has and it’s landed them in a slander trial, following this case.

Mignini was most surprised, in fact, that this conviction came up now, during the Knox trial.  Why now?  Who then is Judge Hellman?  Is there anything in his appointment?  You’d have to say no but keep it at the back of the mind.

Coming back to Jennifer Ford, what struck me was how tough it was for her because they did not have absolute final proof.  They did have so much evidence of what happened – the car trunk, the remains in the swamp and so on, the forensic evidence, so much so that it was pretty much a foregone conclusion, unless some other person or persons unknown had come into it.

Yet they did not convict, on the grounds that the prosecution had not finally proven, i.e. they didn’t have Casey Anthony at the scene, through an eyewitness, actually doing the murder.

In the Knox case, they have far more.  The Supreme court has unequivocally said there were three people and what’s more has named each of them.  On forensics alone and ignoring the conflicting evidence given by the defendants for now, the independent experts conceded that was Knox’s DNA on the handle and Meredith’s on the tip, as well as the mixed blood which neither side seemed to run with.

The independents – who seemed hardly that – did not destroy Dr. Stephanoni who waded in and presented exactly how the tests had been conducted, the one on the knife done in a one-off, with a member of the defence present who saw Meredith’s DNA appear.

Then you get to the other evidence:

(a) Why did Amanda admit to her parents in a recorded conversation that she was very very worried about that knife?

(b) Why did she concoct that fantasy about Sollecito’s having (maybe) put the knife in her hand while she slept & pressed her hand to give her fingerprints to the handle? And Sollecito and the bra clasp,  in conjunction with his footprint on the bathmat.)

(c) Why did Sollecito explain to the police that he had accidentally pricked Meredith’s hand while cooking?

And so on.  The tapped conversations.

Edda: Like I said, the lawyers believe that they are doing it on purpose, because they sure have nothing, so they are trying to put pressure on like when they interrogated you to see if you would say something more and so you have to keep calm and do not say anything to anyone.

Amanda: Yeah, when I was in the room with him I said what? … (Laughs) and then when I returned to my bedroom I was crying. I’m very, very worried for this thing about the knife… because there is a knife from Raffaele …

Curt: Well, here, here, here are the facts… we talked yesterday with the lawyer and asked him about the knife. Every time that they have to review an item we have an expert there that will review it with them. This is an example of… this knife of which they are talking about, they have never notified anything about the knife.

Edda: So, it’s bullshit!

Amanda: Is it bullshit?

Edda: It’s bullshit. [Curt cuts her off.]

Amanda: It’s stupid. I can’t say anything but the truth, because I know I was there. I mean, I can’t lie on this, there is no reason to do it.

Curt: Yeah, yeah, so what you have to do is not to talk about anything with anyone. Don’t write anything.

I don’t see that as confession, by the way, but it’s not necessary for it to be.  There is so much else.

There is Sollecito’s story about Meredith pricking her finger on the knife.  That alone raises so many questions of foreknowledge.  The body was moved.  Who moved it?  What has that to do with lack of DNA in the room it had been moved to? And the Knox camp’s major point – there were no fingerprints of anybody in the room where the body was found.

Precisely – there weren’t.  Not one.  What do you make of that?  And why was Knox at the Conad store next morning [two witnesses, including the manager]?

Lumumba – knowing her accusation was wrong, Knox let him languish in jail as the accused.  If she explains nothing else, how does she explain that, if she’s innocent?  You tell me how an innocent person would act?  If you say she was alone and scared, she wasn’t.  She had Sollecito with her and they were hugging and kissing, giving one another support.

Meredith’s phone.  It was taken.  Why?  They had their own phones.

The Knox camp never addresses these.  They only zero in on the DNA on two items and raise doubts on those. Fair to an extent.  Yet they never address the points just raised.

Meanwhile, the media really is culpable in all this. Tthere’s been so much written which point blank denies evidence which actually came out. 

Then we have my situation.  I wrote a reply at the First Post to the commenters and though other comments sympathetic to Knox were published, mine was not [it required moderation].  Make of that what you will.  I’ve written to First Post to complain but there’s been no response as yet.

If she walks, the prosecution will, of course, immediately file grounds for the appeal and that will take another year or more, but after the slander trial, she would for now be a free agent.  And don’t forget that the Sollecito family trial is also coming up.  Obviously they’d get Knox back to the States as quickly as possible and then that might be the end of it. Italy might never get her back on the witness stand again. This must weigh on the minds of the judges.

The most damning part, in my eyes, are the conflicting stories. Note even in the appeal, they never put the defendants on the stand – they’ve kept them well away.  The danger has been that if Sollecito had dropped Knox in it to save himself, her team would have had to tear at Sollecito and do the prosecution’s work for it. 

It’s not a cut and dried affair but it’s certainly at the stage where there are no credible alternative scenarios for the crime which anyone has been able to come up with, not from either side. 

The defence has based its entire appeal on the DNA being too little to test – something the prosecution claimed anyway would be the case after two years – with the original testing using up so much of the DNA – and on faulty procedures by Dr. Stephanoni and team.

The odds, with Judge Hellman having two votes, the other judge and the six jurors one each, is that to acquit, the defence has to have established gross negligence in the investigation. 

Judge Hellman, apparently is like Massei who leaves no stone unturned.  He might well look at the totality of the evidence and while he has not admitted some critical evidence for the prosecution, the reason could well be that he already accepts that and only wants to look at what the defence has brought, to see if it changes anything.

If Knox walks, it will be a major boilover, which negates the entire investigation and calls the Italian investigative authorities and the court system into question.  There’s no doubting it would be a massive coup for the Knox camp and the media machine who’ll claim their part in the victory.

If she gets 30 years, it would surprise many and would indicate a certain anger on Hellman’s part and possibly of the judiciary as a whole.  That doesn’t seem indicated so far and the defence have made a reasonable case on the only evidence they can attack.  There would not be a “retribution” factor here.

More likely is that the sentences will be upheld, with possibly a reduction of some form, although one pundit asked, “On what grounds a reduction?”  Fair question.  That’s where you would put your money, particularly as the defence did not seem to lay the sort of groundwork for a complete acquittal.

There is the possibility that Judge Hellman, in his desire to show the world the impartiality of Italian justice, accepts the defence case and wishes to rap the forensic team over the knuckles for sloppiness, which has not been established as yet.

There are ways Knox could walk and if she did, that would be a huge travesty, let alone what it does to the Italian investigative and justice system.  For us, it would be a body blow because here, finally, was one case where the power of money to buy a PR firm and to dominate the media did not win. 

Alternatively it could be a case where, with so many perpetrators walking free these days and with courts failing to impose proportional penalties, just this once an appropriate punishment was meted out.  In a way, that would be one small victory for justice and as it doesn’t involve execution and as there is one more appeal left after this anyway, it is less critical than the Troy Davis case.

Finally, Knox has much to answer for, aside from the questions from Meredith’s murder.  There is Lumumba, there is her alleged slander (with her parents) on the investigators, there is her allowing all blame to fall on Rudy Guede – there seem some very nasty things she has done. 

Even if she does not go down for the murder, as I’ve stated before, she surely needs some time inside for all these other things.  To walk completely free would be a travesty.

Posted on 09/23/11 at 05:10 PM by James Higham. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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An Overview Of What The Italian Media Are Saying In Advance Of The Final Appeal Sessions

Posted by Peter Quennell





As usual, Meredith and her family and the prosecution are being given much more space than in the USA and UK.

Italian media and the Italian public are generally cognizant of the fact that no final verdict for this level of crime can be issued except by the Supreme Court. In effect what Judge Hellman’s court will issue is a provisional finding, and Sollecito and Knox may not know their final verdict and sentence for a year and a half.

That is, if the Supreme Court does not bounce the case back to the lower courts for reconsideration of some aspect as quite often happens - that happened in the case of defense witness Mario Alessi’s wife though her final sentence was not greatly affected.

In that event a final outcome could take even longer. 

Libero News reports (as we of course knew) that the prosecution will be seeking a more severe sentence and looking to exclude the mitigating circumstances that Judge Massei allowed.

Il Secolo reports the same thing, with no quotes from the defense teams. Prosecutors Giancarlo Costagliola, Giuliano Mignini, and Manuela Comodi will all present parts of the prosecution argument. Ms Comodi will rebutt the independent experts’ report on some of the DNA.

Il Secolo also mentions that that the court has accepted that Guede has confirmed Knox’s and Sollecito’s presence at the house. Unclear where this comes from but usually it is impossible to be sure what was weighted heavily until the sentencing report comes out. No evidence is rejected in the Italian system; it is all carefully weighted instead. .

And many media sites are reporting in Italian a statement by Meredith’s mother. Here from Comments is a translation by our Italian poster ncountryside.

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

My daughter was killed in her home. Not in a park, not in a street. Her body was not found in a garden.

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

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

She loved Italy, She was fascinated by Perugia.

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

In that trial there was much strong evidence, I am wondering what is happening to it now. They tell me that some may no longer be valid but they are two items, what of all the others? What has changed from the first trial?

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

I want justice done for my daughter.


Posted on 09/23/11 at 06:56 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

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

Posted by Skeptical Bystander





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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on 09/22/11 at 06:44 AM by Skeptical Bystander. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Several Cautious Overviews Of The Possibilities In The Final Sessions Of The Appeal

Posted by Peter Quennell

[Above: the central London area of Southwark where Meredith was born]

We note that Andrea Vogt is reporting on the prospects from Coulsdon in south London where Meredith grew up and went to school.

Hellman and his lateral judge, Massimo Zanetti, will guide a jury of six civilians toward a decision. If there is disagreement, the matter could go to a secret vote. Each juror has one vote, Zanetti has one vote and Hellman has two.

The jury members have free reign to fashion their decision as they please. They could acquit, convict or also choose to convict on lesser charges, reducing sentences, or even opt to release Knox from prison but order house arrest with electronic monitoring in Italy as the case moves on to the final phase in Court of Cassation.

If there is a full acquittal, Knox would go from court to Capanne penitentiary and after two hours of signing papers, walk out of prison a free woman.

“It is common for Italian courts of appeal to review sentences, and I would not be surprised if the two defendants in fact receive a more lenient sentence, also given the final outcome of Guede’s trial,” said Stefano Maffei, who teaches criminal procedure at the University of Parma.

But it ain’t over untill it’s over, though, given Italy’s automatic two levels of appeal where the prosecution too can advance grounds. The Supreme Court Of Cassation will hear the final appeal next year. As Tom Kington notes in the Guardian.

Mignini claims he is “satisfied” with the disputed forensic work, finds the triumphalism of the Knox camp “questionable”, and also has a new legal argument up his sleeve.

“The legal code states that any review of evidence must be requested immediately, not two years later.”

If the couple are acquitted, he added, the verdict could yet be annulled if Italy’s high court decides the recent DNA review was illegal.

Judge Hellman of course refused a prosecution request for a re-test of the DNA material which Judge Hellman’s consultants had failed to do. That could be appealable too.

Mr Mignini also believes that the Supreme Court made a mistake in disallowing Knox’s first written statement implicating Patrick Lumumba and placing herself firmly at the scene with facts no-one who wasn’t there could have known.

His reasoning is that Knox ASKED to write out this statement. Mr Mignini merely observed while she went ahead and he asked her no questions, and so she did not need to have a lawyer present for that.

So far the Supreme Court has been firmly on the prosecution’s side except for the above, and the court specifically noted a taped conversation in Capanne Prison where Knox appeared on the verge of a confession (one of several times where she seems to have come close).

Her parents interrupted her, apparently, the court thought, to stop her dropping herself even further in the soup. Seeming proof that her parents have all along known of her guilt is suggested also by their not passing on that Knox said to them that Patrick had been framed.

And suggested also by this hot potato of a post by Finn MacCool.

Posted on 09/19/11 at 06:32 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, September 12, 2011

As We Long Predicted Knox Will Not Face Cross Examination When It Really Matters

Posted by Peter Quennell


Majority opinion in Perugia has long inclined to the view that the right perps were convicted back in December 2009.

It is very hard to see the six jury members (the lay judges) bucking that trend without being given a great deal more red meat for them to convince their friends and neighbors (and for that matter most of Italy) than they have now.

And Judge Hellman has a reputation similar to Judge Massei’s for making sure all the bases are covered and for not arriving at trial or appeal outcomes based on a few outlying contradictory “facts” or a mere whim. He too has been given very little that is new.

Putting Knox and Sollecito on the stand now would seem the last best shot at taking care of that.

But there is no sign that either defense team has been eager to see their clients speak out at any time, and Knox was even publicly warned early on not to do so.

The teams quite possibly winced now and then (along with many others) at Knox’s performances in past spontaneous declarations and in her stint on the stand in July 2009 which did not really go over at all well.

See here and here and here.

Kermit in this December 2010 post explained the risks Knox would face on the stand. Kermit helpfully included 150 cross-examination questions to drive home the stark point.

So. Knox and Sollecito. Trapped by poor legal and PR strategy between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Posted on 09/12/11 at 04:18 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Fourteenth Appeal Session: Judge Hellmann Consults Jury And Concludes They Have Enough To Wrap Up

Posted by Peter Quennell


Judge Hellman took the jury into chambers for half an hour yesterday and they decided not to delay matters for a further DNA review.

Final arguments will therefore take place later this month (dates in our right column) and a verdict on the appeal could be announced by the end of the month.

Defenses didn’t ask yesterday to put their clients on the stand, no further impromptu remarks from the defendants were made, and no defense request for review of the very damning mixed blood traces was advanced.

Our Italian lawyers are not rating chances of a full acquittal above one or two percent. They believe the groundwork for that has simply not been laid.  The judges and jury dont have what is needed to upend the detailed outcomes of two trials and two other appeals. And the Italian system is nothing if not very cautious and lacking in surprise. 

The Supreme Court has accepted that THREE attackers had to have been present on the night. Not the slightest evidence of any perps other than the three put on trial has been advanced. No scenario has been offered in court for Guede having committed the crime on Meredith alone - in fact Guede accused the other two of being there right to their faces in court.

Free-lance reporter Nick Pisa (image above) who we often quote on the occasions when we think he’s got it right reported yesterday in the Daily Mail that Prosecutor Comodi expressed frustration with the judge and predicted an acquittal due to bias.

This is not confirmed by any Italian source and Ms Comodi is simply reported there as saying she had expected the request for further tests to be turned down and the defendants COULD still walk. Nothing more.

TJMK main poster Will Savive offered this explanation for Nick Pisa’s apparent serious mistake in a comment on our previous post.

ABC News is also reporting that they spoke to Comodi after the session and it is a big difference than what Pisa wrote.

In fact, it is ABC who has claimed that they interviewed her. According to ABC, Comodi informed them that there is “a possibility” that Knox and Sollecito could win the appeal. There is also a possibility that the sun will fall from the sky, so it is all in the context and translation of how she said it. Then ABC quoted her as saying, “I would find it very serious if they were set free.”

FOX News also reported Comodi speaking out. Sheppard Smith put Comodi’s alleged quote on the screen and it read word for word what Pisa wrote. FOX has been decent, in my opinion, thus far on reporting on the case, but Sheppard and his two cronies today were amateur at best and clearly not educated on the case.

It is very likely that Pisa twisted her quote to fit his agenda and make news; I wouldn’t be surprised!

HOWEVER…

The Seattle Times has the best piece on it I think.  In their article they write the interview as going like this:

COMODI: We did our job. I am convinced by what I have said. I am fully convinced of their guilt and I would find it very serious if they were set free. Today’s decision could lead one to think that there is more of a possibility that they be set freed.

So in essence, she never said that there is a possibility, in her opinion. She said that the hearing today “could lead one to think that there is more of a possibility that they be set freed.” It seems as though only Pisa is reporting it the way he did.

The Seattle Times included this: “Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga warned that the court’s rejection of new DNA testing was not equal to a positive outcome of the whole appeals trial.”

As discussed at length on PMF (link just below) the present Knox PR hype is very reminiscent of the hype just before Judge Massei’s blunt and unequivocal verdict was read out.

Posted on 09/08/11 at 03:41 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Thirteenth Appeal Session:  It Looks Like The Defenses’ Last Best Shot Might Have Fallen Short

Posted by Peter Quennell


Tuesday’s was an abbreviated court session because of a strike in Perugia.

It emerged in the time remaining that the DNA that was remaining on both the bra clasp AND the knife might have been re-tested if Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti had not come up with some contentious quibbles for not proceeding.

The prosecution may now call for those tests to actually be done, by a new set of independent experts. Hard to see this amounting to pivotal either way any more, and Judge Hellman might simply move the court on.

Seemingly no grounds left now for Judge Hellman to live up to the PR-instilled rumor that he is about to deny Meredith her justice.

The Italian reporting today as usual leaves the English reporting in the dust. It conveys a picture of more of the same tough rebuttal that we were seeing yesterday. There are some quick translations on PMF via the PMF link at the bottom of this post. .

Amanda Knox looked increasingly down today as she absorbed the trend in the testimony, and at one point she slumped on the table seemingly asleep. Serial over-promising by her suffocating entourage hasn’t done her any good.

Mr Mignini believes that at several points Amanda Knox wanted to confess and to pay her dues. Surely better this than a Caysey Anthony or OJ Simpson situation with their attendant huge overtones of illegitimacy.

Posted on 09/07/11 at 06:06 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Twelfth Appeal Session: Prosecution Start To Undermine The Independent Experts’ More Tenuous Claims

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Dr Stefanoni head of the Scientific Police’s Rome DNA labs with her prosecution interrogator Ms Comodi]


Monday’s Italian reporting suggests that Dr Stefanoni is coming across as highly competent and very objective.

Her team’s DNA handling and testing seems to have cut no corners. Her testimony will spill over into Tuesday.  The AGI News Service describes Dr Stefanoni on Monday running through her procedures and precuaions and denying that contamination could have taken place.

She hit point by point on all the complaints made by the consultants of the Assize Court of Appeal at Perugia about the police work in the context of scientific investigations into the murder of Meredith Kercher. She strongly defended the specialist work done by her laboratory. Stefanoni has categorically ruled out a possible contamination of the findings, pointing out that “the contamination is not ‘a thing that comes out of something abstract.”

The expert then recalled that the DNA of each operator that operates within the laboratories of the scientific police is ‘duly filed and that any possibility of contamination, whether by a person or from sample to sample, is tested on a regular basis. Dr Stefanoni also described how the “wet samples” collected on the first day of the murder investigation were kept in the refrigerator of the house and then brought to Rome.

And La Nazione in describing the same testimony adds that the defenses are taking quite a gamble in their all-or-nothing approach where a full acquittal seems increasingly unlikely and where the prosecution are asking for tougher sentences for Knox and Sollecito based on a waiver of Judge Massei’s mitigating circumstances.

The huge volume of evidence not being re-examined in the current appeal (about 95% of all evidence including a majority of the forensic evidence) is highlighted in many of the reports. Rudy Guede’s direct accusation of Knox and Sollecito to their faces in one appeal session is also recalled.

No mention of the position of the no-nonsense Supreme Court of Cassation position but that gorilla has to loom large in Judge Hellman’s mind. Judge Hellman does not have the final word on this appeal in Italian law, and a final outcome may take another 18 months. And if there is any funny business suspected, appeals can always be made to Cassation instantly.

In light of these two circumstances, the defense teams are still much more pussyfooting in Italian in the appeal court than the shrill PR claims in English-language media, while still not making the smartest move in Italian courts when defendants seem cooked and evoking some sympathy for them.

Knox’s best chances seem to be falling between those two stools.

Posted on 09/06/11 at 06:00 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eleventh Appeal Session: Judge Overrules Defense Objections and Stefanoni Will Return to the Stand

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above Dr Stefanoni today with Ms Comodi and the Sollecito defense team minus Giulia Bongiorno]


The session has begun with prominent DNA expert Dr Luciano Garofano again in the audience.

Mentioned in previous posts is that he has spoken out nationally several times recently about his concern about the “CSI effect” where DNA evidence becomes in some trials a make-or-break issue even when other evidence is widespread.

Dr Stefanoni is of course also present with her team and other prosecution DNA witnesses are also prepared. TGCom have reported this as the first item to have been covered.

The President of the Court of Assizes of Appeal of Perugia, in opening the hearing, read a letter from the Director of the Scientific Police, Piero Angeloni, to the Court iin which reference is made to the criticisms of certain experts of the laboratory’s work in the context of scientific investigations into the murder of Meredith Kercher.

In the letter Angeloni emphasized the powers of the science, pointing out that “every year 4,500 investigations” are handled. He described how the laboratories are equipped with quality certification. “The laboratory is equipped with a computerized system for tracking objects” Angeloni said in the letter..The technical equipment is modern and the staff have many years of experience.” 

Angeloni stressed that “never before has asurveys of this nature been advanced, as here, into the work of the national forensic laboratory.” The service had never been subject to criticism before and used state-of-the-art equipment, his letter said.

Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti were first questioned by the Knox defense team. The Sollecito defense team have said that they will have no questions. ADNKronos reports that Carla Vecchioti in response to a question said that there was no DNA of Meredith found remaining on the knife when reexamined. Some starch was found.

Prosecutor Comodi then pressed the two on what is the standard lower limit of DNA traces to be subjected to low-count DNA testing and on this there was apparently not a concrete answer.

The court next moved into closed session. The defenses have objected to the prosecution’s DNA experts being allowed to take the stand. We may not know the outcome until after the break for lunch.

Okay the defense objections are overruled. The lead judge decided that the court will reconvene on September 5 to give Dr Stefanoni plenty of time on the stand. No more witnesses for today. Mr Angeloni’s letter may have had some effect. His labs should only be criticized (for the first time) with proven great care and no bias.

Oddly, the independent review team largely ignored the European state-of-the-art on low count DNA testing which, at strong prosecution request, the judge had instructed them to get on top of. That is a very suspicious goof.

Judge Hellman may not much favor this review in light of that.


Posted on 07/30/11 at 12:50 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Witness Tampering By Defenses? Two Investigations Apparently Already Launched In Rome And Perugia

Posted by Peter Quennell





Sources tell us they believe Vanessa Sollecito and her family are once again under investigation, this time possibly with Sollecito’s defense lawyers.

The investigation was apparently sparked by the specific claims yesterday under oath before a magistrate in Perugia of Luciano Aviello (a serial defamer and perjurer whose credibility never has ranked high) that Vanessa Sollecito paid him 30,000 Euros for his testimony on June 18 with Sollecito’s counsel in the loop.

First, here is a summary of what Luciano Aveillo testified to on 18 June by our main poster Will Savive:

Another prison inmate Luciano Aviello [42] who has served 17 years in jail after being convicted of being a member of the Naples-based Camorra, testified today that his brother Antonio and his colleague had killed Meredith while attempting to steal a “valuable painting.”

Aviello said that the Albanian—who offered his brother “work” in the form of a robbery—had inadvertently jotted down the wrong address, and they instead went to the house where Kercher and Knox were living, and they were surprised by Meredith’s appearance. According to Aviello, his brother and the Albanian man then committed the murder and fled.

Aviello is from Naples, but was living in Perugia at the time of the murder. He claims that his brother, who is currently on the run, was staying with him in late 2007 and on the night of the murder he returned home with an injury to his right arm and his jacket covered in blood.

Flanked by two prison guards, Aviello described how his brother had entered the house Meredith shared with Knox and had been looking for the painting when they were disturbed by a woman “wearing a dressing gown.” So many convicts, which one to believe, if any?

“My brother told me that he had put his hand to her mouth but she had struggled,” Aviello testified. “He said he got the knife and stabbed her before they had run off. He said he had also smashed a window to simulate a break in.” Aviello said his brother had hidden the knife, along with a set of keys his brother had used to enter the house. “Inside me I know that a miscarriage of justice has taken place,” he asserted. Consequently, Aviello had been in the same jail as Sollecito and had told him: “I believe in your innocence.”

Luciano Aviello now claims that all of this above was fiction. There were no hidden keys or knife, and his brother was not living in Perugia at that time.

Here is a translation by our main poster ZiaK of one of the most comprehensive reports of what Luciano Aviello testified to yesterday under oath in Perugia. We have added the emphasis to key passages..

Meredith, Aviello: «I lied following agreement with Sollecito’s lawyers in exchange for money »

Aviello claims he received 30 thousand euros in exchange for his testimony

Scritto il 27/7/11 • Categoria: Cronaca

by Francesca Marruco

After having received notice that investigations had been completed by the Perugia prosecutor, the ex supergrass (state’s evidence), Lucian Aviello, requested and was granted a hearing with the Perugia prosecutors. Last Friday in Capanne prison, the witness who had been brought into the court case by Amanda Knox’s defence team admitted – in a roundabout way - to Dr Manuela Comodi that everything he had declared was false: that it was false and had been agreed with Raffaele Sollecito’s lawyers in order to create confusion in the case.

He denied all the statements he had made in court. Luciano Aviello, who had told the judges of the Assize court that Meredith had been killed by his brother and that he himself had hidden the knife with which she was killed as well as the keys of the via della Pergola house, told the assistant prosecutor, Manuela Comodi – who, together with her collegue Giuliano Mignini, was in charge of the investigations into the death of Meredith Kercher – that he recanted everything he had previously declared. His brother had nothing to do with it, he had never hidden any knife nor any bunch of keys. Just as he had never lived in Perugia – as he had stated in court before the judges.

Aviello: «Nothing is true, and it was all by agreement» As to why he had told this sea of whoppers, he gave his explanation in fits and starts in over 80 pages of court records. From the desire to help someone he had met in jail, and whom he loved – Raffaele Sollecito – by means of his lawyers, some of his family, and one of Amanda Knox’s lawyers who apparently went to the Alba jail to hear him in order to deflect suspicion from Sollecito’s team. Aviello heavily accused Sollecito’s lawyers and sister. He said that it had been she [the sister] who had delivered the 30 000 euros to an acquaintance of his in Naples, who was to act as a go-between. The money was to be found in an apartment in Turin which the Perugia police will check. Aviello declared himself as being willing to appear in court and repeat everything before the appeal judges of the court of Assizes.

His first motives and his current ones The reasons for which he had agreed to tell these lies was that, according to what he told the prosecutor, he had been assured that the Perugian prosecutors would not investigate him – contrary to what had in fact happened – and that he was fond of Raffaele Sollecito, and also because he was to receive in counterpayment those 30 000 euros which he would use for a sex-change operation, as he himself had declared several times. But now that he had received notice that the investigations were finished, and since (he claims) he no longer hears from Raffaele any more because otherwise no-one would believe him [translator’s note: I assume Aviello means he doesn’t hear from Raffaele because Raffaele is concerned that if he stayed in touch with Aviello no-one would believe Raffaele any more], he no longer has any reason to continue lying, whereas he has plenty of reasons to try and lighten his own position as someone under investigation for calunnia (slander).

Aviello: Raffaele told me that it was Amanda and that he was also there Around the middle of the interrogation, Aviello said – referring to something that Raffaele apparently told him – that «the murderer, in fact, was not him: it was Amanda, during an erotic game». Raffaele apparently also declared «I actually know that it’s true that Amanda did it, but I didn’t do it: it wasn’t me that did the murder; I didn’t do it». This is what [Aviello] declared between one allegation and another, and he also declared that he was prepared to repeat everything before the judges. Before those very judges to whom, on 18 June last, he so shamelessly lied.

What has changed? The repercussions which these new declarations – made by a man who has already been convicted 8 times previously for slander [calunnia] – might have cannot be conjectured. Or at least, not all of them. The lawyer Giulia Bongiorno has already declared that she will defend her honour in court against anyone who might accuse her of having paid a convict to create confusion in the case. It is foreseeable that Luca Maori and Carlo Dalla Vedova will take the same stance. What the Prosecution will do is more difficult to determine. The investigations on Aviello’s slander against his brother may have ended, but how many others may be instigated as a result of these declarations? In the meantime, everyone will return to court on Saturday to discuss the genetic evidence, which might truly decide the path that this case will take.


Presumably a beeline is now being made to that apartment in Turin where the 30,000 Euros if it exists might be hidden. Early announcements might also be expected from the Sollecito family, who did meet with Aviello in prison, and from Giulia Bongiorno who chose to put Aviello on the stand.

There is also a second investigation, we are told. Several sources understand that the independent DNA consultants Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti might now be under investigation for possible contact or collaboration with one or several defense DNA experts.

Our main poster Fly By Night already suggested that the geographical location and published views of experts quoted by Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti looked pretty fishy. And the lawyer for the family of Meredith, Francesco Maresca, complained on Monday that a request endorsed by Judge Hellman for them to make sure to use European resources on the state-of-the-art of low-count DNA testing had been ignored.

A note on Italian law here. If the prosecution or defense come to believe that an element of the appeal is not being thoroughly and objectively examined they are entitled to appeal instantly to the Supreme Court of Cassation for a ruling.

Amanda Knox’s defense already took that route, before she ever went to trial, to request that her statement made without counsel present in the wee hours of November 6 2007 should be put aside. The Supreme Court so ordered.

We are sure Judge Hellman will want only the full truth and he may put all parties back on the stand. Still, the power of upward appeal is available to the prosecution in both these instances.

Posted on 07/27/11 at 06:35 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tenth Appeal Court Session: Might Today’s Testimony Give Sollecito More Of An Advantage Than Knox?

Posted by Peter Quennell





As expected the Italian reporting is a lot cooler and more dispassionate than that in English. The prevailing attitude is one of let us wait and see.

There are at least three good reasons for this.

Italians sat through the trial and the talk shows on television in a way that other nationalities didn’t and saw it as a fair and open process where the prosecution did an excellent job and the defenses were often pretty bumbling. And several times in the past two weeks the nationally respected DNA expert Luciano Garofano has cautioned the nation that juries should not over-weight forensic evidence in comparison with all the rest.

Also Mr Maresca was shown on national TV after today’s hearing saying this:

In my opinion, they have not worked in a completely non-partisan way. Next Saturday we will explain to the judges who have not followed the whole discussion [in the 2009 trial] all that was presented in the first trial of experts’ findings.

In their review they have responded to only the requests of the defence and not of the prosecution, and I don’t know if an [impartial] expert should do this. In the expert’s report they have not even referred to a single request from the prosecution.

Still, after her dismal misfires over the testimony of Alessi and Aviello and Rudy Guede, Sollecito lawyer Giulia Bongiorno might tonight have some reason to be a bit pleased. At least until the end of next Saturday when she will have sat through a fierce rebuttal.

Today’s testimony clearly showed that the handling of the bra clasp has its problems - though the prosecution will point out that there is still no scenario for precisely how Sollecito’s DNA was present and pressed so hard into the clasp if he did not do it himself.

Knox’s position seems much more problematic.

She was the only one to have a reason to rearrange the crime scene, she was the one to finger Patrick Lumumba for no obvious reason if she was not guilty, she placed herself at the scene in her several so-called confessions, and her pattern of phone calls remains very incriminating. Those mixed-blood traces in the bathroom and corridor and Filomena’s room are of Knox’s blood mixed with Meredith’s, not Sollecito’s,  and those appear to be her footprints revealed with luminol on the floor.

If the bra clasp evidence is discounted after next saturday, what physical evidence would then tie Sollecito to the house at the time of Meredith’s death?

Pretty well only the footprint on the bathmat which (for reasons we have never understood) the Knox camp has spent years discrediting. And Sollecito cut Knox adrift on 5 November 2007 when he presented an alibi in which he was at the house all night whereas she wasnt. He said at the time Knox had lied.

She was the one seen at the Conad supermarket at a time when she said she was asleep. And her phone was shown at the trial to have been elsewhere on the night Meredith died.

Stefanoni probably has her best shot in rebuttal in maintaining the knife evidence as credible, because at least one defense witness observed her one-time-only testing and saw Meredith’s DNA profile appear in front of his eyes. Her methods were not out of line with low-count DNA practices elsewhere in Europe, and the American comparisons seem suspect and irrelevant.

We still agree with the Supreme Court of Cassation’s finding at Guede’s final appeal that the forensic evidence in Meredith’s room and on her body points overwhelmingly to three assailants having been present.

But the appeal court might just buy the notion that there were actually only two.

Giulia Bongiorno has often gone her own way in defense of Sollecito (for example in calling Alessi and Aviello) and she is nationally respected for presiding over the justice committee in parliament. And the Sollecitos are said to not like the Knoxes and Mellases very much.

So in light of today’s bra clasp evidence she might now be tempted to bet the bank and put Sollecito on the stand. To claim he was not present when Meredith died.

Posted on 07/26/11 at 02:06 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
Archived in Those officially involvedPublic evidenceDNA and luminolTrials 2008 & 2009Hellmann 2011+Amanda KnoxRaff Sollecito
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Monday, July 25, 2011

Tenth Appeal Court Session: Italian Reporting So Far Good, First English-Language Reports Misleading

Posted by Peter Quennell


Italian media are reporting flatly and evenly that the court session has begun. Some have asked to use quotes from our posts on the suspect report.

First English language reports are less impressive. Peter Popham of the UK Independent which has been a major propagator of false facts in the past has already posted this:

There has never been any forensic evidence placing Amanda Knox at the scene of Ms Kercher’s murder.

Actually there has been. Plenty. Various mixed-blood traces in the bathroom, corridor and Filomena’s bedroom, and several footprints in blood. All these the defenses generally keep well away from, as there simply seems no innocent way to explain them.. 

More misreporting can be presumed and we will add any additional examples here or in comments below.

Francesco Maresca, the lawyer for the victim and her family, made a strong statement before the start of the court session. Here it is from TGCom in part:

The family of Meredith Kercher, the British student murdered in Perugia, is feeling “a lot of concern” about the latest developments in the appeal process. This was conveyed by their lawyer Francesco Maresca.

The new findings are considered “slight, but perhaps still too much, given the wild atmosphere in which they have been advanced, in contrast to the evidence that was seriously and carefully developed and presented by prosecution forensic scientists.”

“As to the objections of the new experts, they are familiar. We know them by heart and they have already been presented… The Kercher family is surprised at the categorical nature of Conti and Vecchiotti’s assessment.”

He added that “there is much other proof that shows the guilt of the two accused parties.”

Posted on 07/25/11 at 05:35 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is the Conti-Vecchiotti DNA Review Defamatory? Stefanoni Believes So and May Sue

Posted by Peter Quennell


This looks like really bad news for Amanda Knox and Raffaelle Sollecito. The last straw.

TJMK main poster Fly By Night already described in great detail how suspect and heavily biased is the Conti-Vecchiotti report.

He predicted fireworks by the Scientific Police and prosecution expert witnesses who were seriously and without proper bases impugned. He predicted the fireworks would start tomorrow in court. 

But already the fireworks have begun. The Guardian’s Tom Kington (who himself has often seemed to show a pro-Knox bias) reports quoting the UK’s Sunday paper The Observer: 

A prominent forensic scientist, whose DNA evidence helped to convict the US student and her former boyfriend, has vowed to overturn the findings of an independent report that says much of her work in the case was unreliable.

Written by two independent experts from Rome’s Sapienza University, the 145-page DNA review rubbishes the work of Patrizia Stefanoni, the police forensic scientist who found Knox’s and Kercher’s DNA on a kitchen knife at Sollecito’s house and identified DNA belonging to Sollecito on a torn bra clasp found beside Kercher’s semi-naked body.

The report claims Stefanoni ignored international DNA protocols, made basic errors and gave evidence in court that was not backed up by her laboratory work, rendering the knife and bra strap worthless as evidence. But Stefanoni has vowed to fight back during three hearings devoted to the DNA reviews.

“I am angry about the false statements in this report and ready to come to court to highlight the past record of these experts,” she told the Observer. “I am also looking into taking legal action against them. What international DNA protocols are they talking about? The Italian police is a member of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI), while they are not.”...

After discovering there was no DNA left to check on the knife or the bra clasp, the experts retraced the steps taken by Stefanoni, concluding that the DNA trace of Kercher on the blade was so weak it could not be reliably matched – or was at best the result of contamination – and quoted Stefanoni admitting in court she should have double-tested her result to be more convincing.

Stefanoni claimed she had no need to repeat tests since the experts for the defence were on hand to witness her work. “And it was good enough to show it was Kercher’s DNA,” she said. “A small amount, but good quality.”...

The experts quote numerous US police and FBI experts on the risk of low DNA results and poor evidence handling, prompting one Italian police source to claim they were being fed information by Knox’s defence team. (Emphasis added.)

More attempted manipulation behind the scenes that now turns out to be heavy-handed overreach? Good luck to Judge Hellman tomorrow. He appointed the two “independent experts.” And he already almost lost control of his court once.

He will already be getting anxious to protect his good name before the Supreme Court. Unlikely now to buck any trends.


Posted on 07/24/11 at 04:15 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Might Come Up In The Final Days Of The Current Appeal

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters


There have been nine appeal hearings since last November and there might be a further half a dozen.

Court will meet on July 25 and 31 and August 1. Then will come the August break, and then further hearings and an appeal verdict. At the last hearing on 27 June, Judge Hellman assigned the next three court dates for the DNA report and its rebuttal.

The only other sure thing accepted for discussion is the prosecution’s intention to revisit the mitigating circumstances Massei allowed and argue that they should be disallowed and the sentences of RS and AK increased.

The judges and jury have available to them not only the Massei and Micheli reports but all of the 10,000 plus pages of evidence from both trials plus all the court transcripts.

Our main posters James Raper, a lawyer, and Kermit will be posting a Powerpoint presentation after the DNA court sessions which will explain all of the tough questions that are still lurking in plain sight.

If the appeal court is to overturn the original verdict Judge Hellman would have to convince the Supreme Court of Cassation that Massei, Micheli, Guede’s first appeal judge and the Supreme Court itself that they all got it wrong and that the evidence suggests there was either only one perpetrator or another two.

But the existing evidence including the mixed blood, the mismatched alibis, and the strange pattern of phone calls does not fit either scenario.

Each of the discussion items in the appeal so far seem to have been quasi-disappointments for the defenses, and Giulia Bongiorno seemed to signal that at the June 27 hearing when her frustration over the failure of either Alessi or Aviello to convince became obvious.

Guede on the stand saying that Sollecito and Knox murdered Meredith had to have been a hard blow, and there would be no reason obvious to the court why he would lie.

Our Italian lawyers think the defense on appeal has been misconceived and too hard-line, too zero-sum-game, not very smart.  In the appeal hearings Knox and Sollecito have not had the opportunity to exercise either any innocent charm or any show of repentance, and Knox’s statement on 11 December blaming a whole lot of others could have seemed to the jury rather unpleasant.

Our lawyers don’t see an acquittal in the cards barring some huge surprise, such as Sollecito or Knox getting up on the witness stand and surviving withering cross-examination in convincingly putting across one or other of their alibis.

If they don’t get up on the stand, the judges and jury are meant to not make anything of that. But they surely would wonder why.

Posted on 07/19/11 at 02:09 PM by The TJMK Main Posters. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Analysis Suggests The Conti-Vecchiotti DNA Review Is Weak, Tendentious, Cites Non-Existent Standards

Posted by Fly By Night


Background

In light of the huge fanfare two weeks ago over the release of the court-ordered independent expert review by Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti (image above, more in post below) on the forensic science methods and findings of Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni as part of the Knox/Sollecito appeal, we start this analysis of that report by summarizing a few hard facts:

  • The DNA samples currently under review by the court are NOT the only DNA samples used to convict Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.  In fact, the five mixed samples (not just DNA – there was the fresh blood of both women in four of them) of Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher constitute the strongest, most damning physical evidence of the case. This is why they have not been subjected to independent review during the appeal, along with the great majority of the evidence Judge Massei and the jury considered in convicting Knox and Sollecito of the murder of Meredith Kercher.

  • In reviewing the findings of Dr. Stefanoni, Technical Director/Principal Biologist with the Polizia Scientifica in Rome (image below), the expert report is also critiquing the findings and opinions of an entire well-regarded forensics agency along with the personal views of many prominent forensics experts. They include Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli, and the nationally prominent General Luciano Garofano who in support of Dr. Stefanoni’s own open descriptions have provided lengthy statements describing in great detail their reasons for agreeing with Stefanoni’s methods and findings.

  • The use and acceptance of LCN DNA analysis techniques in the USA lags behind that of other countries in the world, as documented in the numerous publications on the topic now seen in US professional journals.  Enhanced typing methods for LCN DNA are routinely relied upon in forensic DNA laboratories across Europe to provide sound evidence for courtroom arguments.  So the expert report’s overbearing reliance upon AMERICAN sources including the controversial opinions of Bruce Budowle (image below) of the University of North Texas, in questioning Stefanoni’s LCN DNA testing techniques, is highly questionable. Budowle has been strongly criticized by a number of distinguished researchers including Theresa Caragine and John Buckleton for his non-scientific opinions and for allegedly engaging in unethical practices and maintaining serious conflicts of interest.

  • Claudio Pratillo Hellman, the judge presiding over the Knox and Sollecito appeal trial, appointed Vecchioti and Conti to provide an independent assessment for the court regarding the handling and analysis of several pieces of evidence that played a role in the conviction of Knox and Sollecito.  Using the expert report as a focus, on Monday July 25th these independent experts will appear in court along with various expert witnesses for the prosecution, the defense teams, and the Kercher family to discuss the only pieces of DNA-related evidence that have been subjected to review in the appeal trial. They are (1) the DNA on the kitchen knife accepted by the Massei court to be the murder weapon, and (2) the DNA on a bra clasp torn from Meredith’s body.

The findings of the expert report itself in all their 145 pages of depth appear to boil down to two primary debates: (1) Issues surrounding the 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.

The Expert Report

When the supposed findings of the independent expert report were first leaked, international media ballyhooed them as a sure sign that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito would soon be cleared of murder charges, claiming that the prosecution’s DNA arguments had now been shown to be based upon substandard DNA testing practices, and that the evidence might have been contaminated.  Knox herself was said to have sung and danced with joy upon hearing the news.

But a closer look at actual contents of the report, and its supporting documents, suggests that such celebrations are premature and ill-advised.  The expert report exists to serve only as the focal point for upcoming courtroom arguments, including arguments over the validity of Dr. Stefanoni’s claim to have identified Meredith Kercher’s DNA on the blade of the kitchen knife.  The report explains why a complete repeat of the testing Stefanoni performed on both the knife and bra clasp was not possible and how DNA on the bra clasp had deteriorated beyond testability. 

The expert’s attempts to perform repeat tests on the knife were unsuccessful in identifying cellular material on the blade. This was not a surprise, considering that Stefanoni had previously reported that additional testing would be impossible due to the minimal amount of DNA originally found there.  The expert’s testing did, however, firmly conclude that Amanda Knox’s DNA was located on the handle of the knife.

The expert report will steer upcoming courtroom debates towards a complete review of Stefanoni’s crime scene management practices, the DNA analysis methods she employed, and the reasoning and protocols she used to reach her conclusions.  The expert report provides one of several frames of reference for these debates and in part focuses upon criticisms not only of Stefanoni’s use of LCN DNA testing techniques to identify Kercher’s DNA on the knife blade but the entire LCN DNA analysis methodology itself.  As noted above, Vecchioti and Conti confirmed the presence of Amanda Knox’s DNA on the handle of the knife but suggest that the very small sample of Meredith’s DNA located on the blade, identified by LCN DNA testing, is the result of contamination.

The Potential For Contamination

Contamination of evidence might occur in the evidence collection phase of an investigation, or it might occur as the result of improper laboratory testing procedures once a sample has arrived securely at the forensic laboratory.  Before digging deeper into laboratory contamination potential, including associated LCN DNA analysis issues, we first take a look at the expert report’s evaluation of evidence collection protocols and the potential for contamination in that phase of the criminal investigation.

The expert report attempts to establish that international standards for crime scene management practices exist. However, their approach raises the same question raised by the assignment of Bruce Budowle, a controversial and opinionated LCN DNA commenter, as the foundation for their DNA analysis critiques.  Namely, why does the expert report find it necessary to over-rely upon inappropriate and highly questionable American resources to support its most critical arguments?

As strange as it may seem, the Italian expert report references quite a few relatively obscure, and often outdated, editions of American resources. They include the State of Wisconsin Crime Laboratory Manual, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Handbook, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Evidence Guide, the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory Manual, the New Jersey State Police Evidence Manual, and even introductory college textbooks covering criminal investigations at the level of “please wash your hands.”

If the intent of the expert report was to establish that a standard set of international protocols exists, and then to compare that set of protocols to protocols used in the Meredith Kercher murder case, then why not cite the international body that establishes and upholds such standards, if that body actually exists?

Instead, the approach taken by the expert report only serves to underscore the notion that there may, in fact, be no such thing as international standards for evidence collection and handling.  What the report actually establishes is that they are citing from a selected list of extremely diverse regional “best practices” manuals in support of theoretical and abstract concepts or points.  In doing so the expert report authors its own set of ad hoc “international standards” as it moves along. 

It would have been far more effective to put the focus on creating an objective and fair analysis of the real-world crime scene management procedures employed in this case, and then comparing and contrasting those findings with the successful, or unsuccessful, management practices of other similar case-study investigations providing appropriate citations from relevant literature along the way.

As a result of the independent experts’ approach, the contamination risk concerns cited in the expert report during the evidence collection phase appear to be largely a rehash of arguments over protocol that were thoroughly vetted during the course of the trial itself, such as how often investigators changed their gloves.

What we are left with is a report that only theoretically suggests that contamination cannot be ruled out, while completely failing to provide concrete examples of precisely when and how contamination could have entered into the evidence management chain.  For the appeal, this will result in a repeat of the same attacks upon investigative methods and processes, and all of the related arguments, that the court entertained during the trial, albeit this time with a new judge and jury.

The expert report apparently confirms that Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA was found on the bra clasp in an amount that would be difficult to attribute to contamination.  Dr. Stefanoni found about 4 nanograms of Sollecito’s DNA on the bra clasp, which is a substantial amount of DNA considering that research suggests that contaminated samples usually contain sub-picogram amounts of DNA, or around 1000 to 10,000 times less DNA than attributed to Sollecito on the bra clasp.

That fact that Raffaele’s DNA on the clasp appears to be mixed with additional DNA should NOT lead to conclusions that his profile cannot be effectively isolated and identified, or must be the result of contamination.  In fact, Italy’s premiere forensic science expert Luciano Garofano testified that Stefanoni’s analysis of the bra clasp was “perfect.”  It is also not plausible to suggest that contamination is the source for Sollecito’s abundant DNA on the bra clasp in the absence of significant environmental traces for Sollecito anywhere else in or around Meredith’s home, or in the Rome laboratory for that matter.


LCN DNA Testing

LCN is a DNA profiling technique employed when available DNA is limited to very small quantities.  A DNA sample might be as small as a millionth the size of a grain of salt, amounting to only a few cells of skin or sweat left in a fingerprint.

Using LCN testing techniques the small sample can be successfully evaluated and attributed to an individual.  LCN DNA testing has been in use since 1999 and is rapidly gaining worldwide acceptance in both legal and forensic science communities.  For example it has now been used in more than 21,000 cases in the UK since being approved for use in criminal cases in 2008, following a period of stringent testing and evaluation.

The increased sensitivity of LCN testing techniques does increase the potential of contamination to impact analyses of small DNA samples in the laboratory.  Since LCN techniques can accurately amplify DNA samples having as little as just a few cells it has been suggested that even breathing on such a small sample has the potential to render the resulting profile useless.  Contamination is particularly problematic for LCN samples because both sample and contaminant DNA are amplified, resulting in a complex mixed profile with related stochastic effect impacts. 

But, as evidenced in the expert report itself, Dr. Stefanoni is well-versed in the appropriate methods for dealing with these concerns, since she is quoted as already having admonished the court experts Vecchioti and Conti for not making use of a fume hood to ensure the absence of contamination as they conducted their retests on the evidence.

In recent years numerous professional publications have addressed the scientific, technical, and legal issues surrounding LCN DNA sample testing, outlining the stochastic effects and artifacts such as peak imbalances between alleles and loci, as well as allele and locus drop-out, or allele drop-in, along with making a variety of suggestions for both avoiding contamination and making error-free evaluations of stochastic effects. 

On the basis of these publications, including the proceedings of the biannual world congresses of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, it is clear that enhanced typing methods for LCN DNA are now routinely in use in forensic DNA laboratories across Europe.  This is strong evidence that the scientific community is now actively engaged in an effort to document all LCN DNA methods in use and is working towards developing standard biostatistical tools for evaluating LCN DNA typing results. 

It also appears as though the USA is lagging behind other regions in research, practice, and acceptance in this discipline.

In this relatively new field of study it is not surprising that researchers have yet to establish anything approaching standards for LCN DNA testing and analysis.  Even so, this has not prevented the results of LCN DNA testing from being successfully and routinely introduced as viable evidence in courtroom arguments. 

For example, on February 8, 2010, Judge Robert Hanophy of the Supreme Court of Queens County, New York ruled that results of LCN DNA testing, as performed by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York City, is now generally accepted as reliable in the forensic scientific community, it consistently yields reliable results, it is not a novel scientific procedure, and it is therefore admissible at trial (People v. Megnath, Supreme Court of New York, Queens County, 2010 NY).

Although the current Wikipedia article on the topic maintains that LCN DNA has only been adopted for evidential purposes in the UK, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, this unreferenced claim stands in ignorance of the fact that inquisitorial court systems in numerous European countries do not typically require formal publication and peer review of analytical methods in scientific journals as a justification for their methods. 

And as we have seen in the current Knox/Sollecito trial, in Europe it has become customary to have independent experts attempt to convince the court of the validity, or invalidity, of the LCN typing results that have been presented in a trial.  To be successful, it is essential that an independent expert provide the court with evidence of expertly-conducted retests of available evidence, relevant citations of appropriate research, and meaningful evaluations of protocols employed in outlining their objective and balanced set of opinions for the court. 

In this regard, it appears that the independent expert report for the Knox/Sollecito appeal has completely missed the mark.

Their report gives the strong impression that Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti were overtly attempting to invalidate the findings of Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, the Polizia Scientifica in Rome, and the wealth of supportive testimony provided in court during the trial.  The tone of their report strongly indicates that they have lined up with Sollecito defense experts Adriano Tagliabracci and Valerio Onofri of the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Ancona, and Knox defense experts Sara Gino, Walter Patumi and Carlo Torre from the University of Turin.

We will see in court on the 25th if they are really across the figurative aisle from the prosecution witnesses Dr. Stefanoni and Dr. Giuseppe Novelli, a highly esteemed professor of biomedicine at Tor Vergata in Rome who is considered to be the “father of police forensics” in Italy, along with the expert witnesses for the Kercher family Professor Torricelli, and Dr. Emiliano Giardina, who is a colleague of Professor Novelli at Tor Vergata University.

This appears to establish grounds for a formidable courtroom battle if all experts can provide solid grounds for their opinions. However, the Kercher’s lawyer Francesco Maresca was already quick to point out that those on the prosecution’s side of the aisle have substantially more practical experience and years of work in the forensic science field.

An in depth reading of the expert report uncovers allegations that Dr. Stefanoni has not followed internationally established forensic science management standards and that in doing so she has committed analytical errors, such as the misattribution of peaks in her bra clasp DNA analysis.  What the report fails to mention, however, is that no such standards exist and that there are currently multiple perspectives from which a scientist might argue their case regarding the proper interpretation of DNA data, as evidenced in any sampling of current forensic science journal articles. 

For example, the expert report cites a 2006 International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) publication as an example of a standard for determining which stutters should be considered as alleles in the assessment of mixed DNA samples.  But this alleged “standard” stands in contrast to direct testimony from Dr. Stefanoni while defending her lab protocols in comparison to the ISFG “recommendations” which she claims in no way qualify as authoritative standards.  The difference between recommendations and standards is a critical distinction in scientific fields.

A closer look at this discrepancy reveals that in 2007 Dr. Stefanoni and her immediate supervisor, Dr. Renato Biondo, hosted a meeting in Rome of the European DNA Profiling Group (EDNAP) in which these same 2006 ISFG recommendations were discussed.  At that meeting papers were presented from the UK and Germany that contested a number of the ISFG recommendations that the expert report now attempts to establish as mandatory standards. 

In the midst of this ongoing debate over ISFG recommendations, it is quite remarkable that the expert report, citing that 2006 ISFG document, chooses to assert that Stefanoni made erroneous interpretations of chart peaks simply because her interpretation of the data did not respect the controversial ISFG recommendations. 

The experts report consequently admits that they confirmed Stefanoni’s awareness of the ISFG recommendations, and that she expressed a personal view that they should simply be viewed as “guidelines.”  Yet they STILL insist on continuing to label her conclusions as erroneous since she did not “correctly” and “explicitly” adhere to the ISFG “recommendations.”

In light of all this, it is highly unlikely that Judge Hellman will dismiss Dr. Stefanoni’s knowledge and expertise on this matter as readily as Vecchioti and Conti have in their expert report.

An in depth analysis of the expert report also indicates that the citations from scientific journals are incomplete and often “cherry-picked” to directly support specific criticisms brought against Dr. Stefanoni’s methods. 


For example, the expert report appears to base its entire argument against Stefanoni’s reliance upon LCN DNA analysis techniques upon one paper, authored by Bruce Budowle et al entitled “Low Copy Number Typing Has Yet to Achieve General Acceptance.”  The expert report then goes on to cite a paper by Gill and Buckleton where these authors appear to support a few claims made by Budowle (image above) in his article, but the report completely ignores the fact that Gill and Buckleton then go on to air strong criticisms of many other claims made by Budowle.

In fact, in 2010 John Buckleton and Peter Gill authored a scathing criticism of Bruce Budowle’s entire “Low Copy Number Typing Has Yet to Achieve General Acceptance” article; the very article that the expert report relies exclusively upon in bringing Dr. Stefanoni’s methods into question.  In their article, published in Forensic Science, Buckleton and Gill state:

[Budowle’s] article is not peer reviewed. The proceedings of the ISFG Congress are prefaced by the message: “the manuscripts were neither reviewed nor edited in detail.  The articles reflect the opinions of the authors.”

It contains neither new data nor any novel scientific findings. Rather it represents public advocacy and is an expression of alternative opinion by the three authors concerning observations that are largely common ground. There is a place in the scientific literature for advocacy but it must be soundly based on proven facts.

We have some considerable difficulty in actually determining just exactly what the authors are indeed advocating. This is because of their inconsistent use of terminology and inconsistent recommendations. In our opinion, the views presented are inadequately precise, demonstrate a lack of appreciation of underlying principles and are not aligned with broader scientific opinion.

The title of the paper appeared to have one eye on future Frye or Daubert hearings and again we question whether such a title has a place in the learned literature. It takes upon itself, inappropriately, the role of gatekeeper of what constitutes “general acceptance” (The Frye test).

The article itself appears to be a rather inappropriate continuation of a debate arising from a court case in New York (People v. Megnath). Again we would question whether this journal is the correct forum to air this debate.

In other words, Buckleton and Gill are suggesting that Bruce Budowle acted unethically by publishing his non-peer reviewed opinions in a professional journal for the purpose of using the article to support his work as a paid consultant, and as an expert witness in court cases such as People v. Megnath in New York. 

Incidentally, Budowle was unsuccessful in advocating his opinions as an expert witness for the defense in People v. Megnath in his battle with Theresa Caragine of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York over her submission in court of data obtained using LCN DNA testing techniques.

Theresa Caragine herself authored a powerful rebuttal of Budowle’s article claiming that when Budowle’s “opinions” were published he failed to disclose that he had, in fact, been retained by the defense counsel for Mr. Megnath, and that he had already testified as a paid expert witness regarding the opinions he expresses in the journal article that the expert report relies heavily upon in attempting to substantiate its points.  And even though Bruce Budowle’s opinions had previously been delivered as a paid expert witness in a judicial setting, he made the claim of ‘No Conflict of Interest’ when applying to publish this non-peer reviewed article.

Caragine’s remarks go even further in criticizing the Budowle et al LCN DNA article by pointing out that it is not even a research article, but a non-peer reviewed submission that had purportedly been presented in the context of the 23rd Biennial Worldwide Conference of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, 2009 in Buenos Aires. 

Caragine claims that, while Budowle had in fact submitted a similar paper at that meeting, it was not under its current title, nor did it have the same the list of authors, and the abstract submitted to the conference organizers for their selection process does not align with the content of the paper now cited in the Italian experts’ report submitted to the court in the Knox/Sollecito appeal.  In her rebuttal, Caragine strongly questions whether or not such a circumvention of all standard principles of scientific publishing is in any way acceptable or appropriate.

Conclusions

In light of all of the above, the upcoming July 25th court hearing in the Knox/Sollecito trial should be considered as anything but a foregone conclusion.  The rationale behind the exuberant remarks noted in recent press releases regarding content allegedly favorable to defense efforts and anticipated impacts appears to be baseless. 

For an Italian report, it gives the appearance of being remarkably Amero-centric, and we find it ugly and unprofessional that the expert report chooses to attack Dr. Stefanoni and her colleagues by citing nonexistent international standards and by relying upon extraordinarily questionable resources in doing so. 

The report’s final conclusion that contamination cannot be completely ruled out is remarkably weak considering that there are relatively few real-world cases in which contamination of evidence might be completely ruled out.

It becomes clear, then, that well informed prosecution interrogators will have no problem in identifying and attacking the report’s multiple weaknesses.  We should expect Dr. Stefanoni and the prosecution’s team of experts to present precise counter arguments for the challenges expressed in the expert report, strongly defending the forensic science capabilities of Stefanoni and her team.

Posted on 07/13/11 at 03:10 PM by Fly By Night. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti In Perugia Seen Enjoying Their 15 Minutes Of Fame

Posted by Peter Quennell








Posted on 07/13/11 at 02:00 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Sentiment Runs Deep In Perugia For Meredith But Not At All For Sollecito, Knox, Or Guede

Posted by Peter Quennell


Here are two examples of how the sentiment for Meredith stays alive.

The Perugia lawyer and law professor Francesco Bastianelli often comments online pro-Meredith and pro-prosecution. He first became active in irritation over the Perugia-Seattle twin cities arrangement, reacting to the disparaging comments in the Seattle media about Perugia.

He was pushing for the twin-cities thing to be abolished.

With the comment “that sucks” he linked a couple of days ago to a cynical disparaging post on how the defense lawyers are fattening their lot in life by way of this case. The post is on a Perugia blog called Pulchritudo Est Veritatis Splendor (Latin for “Truth is Beautiful”).

The Pulchritudo post is kindly translated below by our main poster Jools.

inCERTAINTY

I know a few things about the process that is celebrated in my city to shed light on the Kercher murder:

I know what were my impressions in the immediacy of the news;

I know that the President of a parliamentary commission [Bongiorno] should be acting as President of the commission, and not requiring fees up to 5 zeros to attend yet another show-trial, and forcing a whole tribunal to do court hearings on Saturdays and having to pay extra respective fees to judges, clerks and ushers;

I know there’s a convicted man in the final phase (we want to call him a murderer) for “complicity in murder” (but in complicity with whom?);

I know that lawyers in Perugia have been slaughtering each other in order to join the defence team, go on TV, and be the posers in front of the cameras of CNN;

I know that lawyer Bongiorno [beforehand] disclosed the results of the [DNA] experts that had to be secreted;

I know that five relatives of Raffaele Sollecito and two journalists, in adjournment after adjournment of court, thanks to the statute of limitations, will never be held accountable for the [Telenorba] broadcasting of the infamous video of the forensic police;

I know that DNA evidence has become “the only evidence” and “the key proof” only just now that it is in favor of the defendants. But what about other “evidence” that came out during the course of the trial;

I know, in the end, that in case of acquittal the same tribunal will be giving birth to an aberrant sentence with two people acquitted, and acquitted despite their peculiar behavior over a murder that was vociferously committed in the room right next to the room that one of them happens to live in.

Posted on 07/02/11 at 03:27 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

DNA Report Already Dead On Arrival? Francesco Maresca Etc Don’t Think It Is Very Good

Posted by Peter Quennell


The New York Times redeems itself a little with an okay story on the report. It includes this:

The lawyer for the Kercher family, Francesco Maresca, countered that the word of the independent experts would not be the last word, and said he would raise his objections during the last week in July, when the report will be formally discussed during a week of hearings.

He said that the scientific police and the consultants who carried out the original tests had far more experience than the independent experts appointed by the court.

“I was surprised that these experts were so certain, and gave such strong, drastic opinions, given that they don’t have the same number of years of experience under their belt,” Mr. Maresca said.

Our Main Poster lawyer Tom M emailed this.

Maresca makes sense.  The referral was not for the purpose of making a legal judgment about the two pieces of evidence, but to report on the techniques employed and the procedures followed. At the end of the first trial there were X number of DNA expert witness reports; now there are X+1 expert reports and this latest one only muddies the water. 

It does not make the judges’ task easier as far as these two items are concerned.  Unless there is something in their analysis that is considerably more persuasive than what the previous defense experts said, AK and RS really haven’t advanced the ball, it’s just that now they have, I don’t know, say 3 expert reports instead of 2 that criticize the LCN and say it could be contamination.

One thing that needs to be looked at is whether legal standards and scientific standards are at odds.  Italian law places the burden of proof on the party that asserts something.  “Can’t rule out contamination” may be a true scientific statement, but does it supplant legal doctrine?  I don’t think so. 

Also, while scientific protocol call for repeatability, Italian seems to provide where the amount of material to be tested is so small that only one test can be performed, others are notified and invited to attend to observe and to raise objections.  I think the law is within its rights to do this, even though the pure scientist would not.

That of course is what happened. The defense experts were all invited to come witness the one-time-only testing of the knife but failed to show. The knife test would not even be under review if they had showed. No wonder the prosecution sound ticked.

There are also quotes in the New York Times from others who expected more and better than they got. 

Other accusers of Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito said that the DNA was just one piece of evidence in the case that they built against them, based on various testimonies, their lack of an alibi and what prosecutors say is other damaging physical evidence, which has not been reviewed. During one interrogation, Ms. Knox allowed that she was in the house when Ms. Kercher was murdered, an admission she later retracted, saying she had spoken under duress.

“The first jury decided looking at a wide range of evidence, the DNA was only part of it,” said one prosecutor, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. “Everything else still stands.”

And Italian poster Yummi on PMF posted this:

I am reading the report. The report brings in a lot of interesting information about the details of the DNA findings on these two items.

However, I fail to find the conclusions about the bra clasp convincing. In this report, the final issue of contamination is considered in the abstract, as well as criticisms on Stefanoni’s work.

In the abstract means, the conclusion on the probative value is given without an assessment on how likely a contamination might occur on that one specific profile of that contributor, which is Raffaele Sollecito.

The same report infers there was environmental contamination of the bra clasp, on the basis of the presence of a plurality of male contributors (at least two). But fails to give weight to the outstanding difference in the peaks hight/areas (amount of DNA) between these third parties, on one hand, and Sollecito’s DNA on the other: the amount of DNA prsent is very diferent in the two cases.

There is a very big difference in the amount of DNA from these contributors - Sollecito on one side versus others, his contribution really very large compared to others. I don’t know why the report fails to notice this.

The report also criticizes the “interpretation” given by Stefanoni, as said, of the DNA chart on the bra clasp. But, in fact, in the end the report acknowledges that both autosomic and Y haplotype DNA of Sollecito are present on the bra clasp (p.135):

So there is no doubt Sollecito’s DNA was on the bra clasp in large amount.

The same report cites failure of meeting interpretation standards for the bra clasp DNA. But acknowledges that there are no agreed standards for the assessment of stutters and alleles on mixed profile traces.

Posted on 06/30/11 at 05:34 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
Archived in Public evidenceDNA and luminolTrials 2008 & 2009Hellmann 2011+
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