Breaking news: (1) Italian news service ANSA reports: The date of 25 March 2015 is fixed for the Supreme Court hearing on the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of Meredith Kercher. Dealing with the proceedings will be the Supreme Court's Fifth Section with Judge Paolo Antonio Bruno as the reviewer. (2) Skeptical Bystander of PMF dot Org reports this: "Since we now have a date for the Cassation hearing, I am pleased to announce that the very final touches are being put on the Nencini report (nearly 350 pages!) and it should be published by the end of this week."

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Friday, November 22, 2013

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

Posted by Peter Quennell

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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 10:50 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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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

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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..


Saturday, March 23, 2013

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

Posted by Fly By Night

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


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

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 Galati argues that the consultancy should never have happened at appeal level, that its methods were slipshod and out of date, that its conclusions were mainly innuendo that left the prosecution case untouched, and that the consultants should not have refused to test a remaining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

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

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

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

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

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


Brief History of DNA Testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Logic and Science on Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Conclusions

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

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

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

Posted on 03/23/13 at 05:05 AM by Fly By Night. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reasonable Doubt In Italian Law: How Sollecito, Hellmann, And Zanetti Seriously Garbled It.

Posted by James Raper

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Above: Sollecito’s lawyers. Is he too thick to understand them? Or are they incompetent and giving him bad advice?

Certainly as compared to the incredibly high legal standard of the Galati Appeal, it appears that the accused, their lawyers, and Hellmann & Zanetti are all seriously outclassed.

Hellmann and Zanetti at first appeal trial, and Sollecito in his absurd book, all seriously garbled one fundamental concept in Italian law that they ABSOLUTELY need to get right if they are to have any sway with the Supreme Court.

Incredibly Sollecito’s own lawyers Bongiorno and Maori are listed as assisting him with the book and allowed this lunacy to fly.

Here is Raffaele Sollecito in Honor Bound.

For reasons deeply embedded in the country’s history, the concept of proof beyond a reasonable doubt scarcely exists in Italy.

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

Oh, really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second here is Judge Zanetti at first appeal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What in fact was Hellmann saying? Let us consider.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Re-hearing Curatolo

3. Hearing from Aviello and Alessi

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

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

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

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

Posted on 01/24/13 at 10:22 PM by James Raper. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Giulia Bongiorno Loses A High Profile Case Watched All Over Europe And May Soon Lose Another

Posted by Peter Quennell

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Crime fascinates Italians but unfortunately (or fortunately) there isnt that much of it in Italy.

The real national pasttime is soccer as the thousands of YouTubes and Google images and news reports and hundreds of blogs attest. The case Giulia Borngiorno has just so publicly lost concerns the coach Antonio Conte (image below) of the crack Turin club Juventus. 

The Juventus coach Antonio Conte is set to miss the whole of the Serie A season with the defending champions after losing his appeal against a 10-month ban over a match-fixing scandal.

Conte, who led an undefeated Juventus to the Italian title in his first season in charge, was banned on 10 August for failing to report two incidents of match-fixing in the 2010-11 season when he was coach of Siena.

The Italian federation (FIGC) said in a statement on Wednesday that Conte, whose hearing was heard on Monday, had lost his appeal.

Giulia Bongiorno seems to have a tendency to be a sore loser. La Gazetta del Sporto quotes her “the dog ate my homework” excuse thus:

Giulia Bongiorno said — “We were not given the opportunity to defend ourselves to the full. This is a violation of constitutional rights which go far beyond these issues. Negotiating sentences is becoming very attractive for those who falsely turn state’s evidence,” said Giulia Bongiorno, Antonio Conte’s legal representative.

“If you examine Carobbio and find him not credible, and if you take one of his crutches away (the charges regarding Novara v Siena, Ed), the other one will collapse too, because Conte is being charged with the same thing for Siena v AlbinoLeffe. Carobbio is a bit like Jessica Rossi at the Olympics, and the only clay-pigeon missed is Novara v Siena. And our intention was not to obtain a reduction in the sentence, if it had been we would have negotiated.”

This is the most public case Bongiorno has lost since the Andreotti mafia-connection appeal in 2002. She was on the defense against Prosecutor Dr. Sergio Matteini Chiari.

This is the same Dr. Sergio Matteini Chiari who as the highly competent head of the Umbria courts’ criminal division was first nominated to preside over the Sollecito-Knox appeal.

Giulia Bongiorno, who did some very odd things during the trial and appeal to ensure winning, at least one of which is being investigated, is also the powerful head of the justice committee in the parliament.

Is that the mother of all conflicts of interest or what?! We know of no parallel in any other country and it seems highly unconstitutional. Nevertheless, despite all the caution of the Italian justice system, this conflict is allowed to persist.

In November 2002 Prosecutor Chiari won his prosecution appeal, and the ex-PM Mr Andreotti was sentenced to 24 years (later reversed by the Supreme Court).

Giulia Bongiorno was widely reported as collapsing in court at the verdict, and seemed to take it very hard.

Fast forward to 2010.  Suddenly Giulia Bongiorno is about to face Dr Chiari once again, as a judge in what was to be a very tough appeal. Under UK and US law, she would have had to be the one to step aside, or not even take the case back in 2008.

But she didn’t step aside.

Instead, all of a sudden, lo and behold, her nemesis back in 2002 is yanked off the 2011 appeal trial, and seemingly demoted to head the childrens’ branch of the court. Meanwhile, labor judge Hellmann is in effect promoted, into being the lead judge in the murder appeal.

Who made the call from Rome that fixed this suspicious judge rearrangement? Rumors around Perugia suggest that maybe it was made or inspired by the head of the justice committee in the parliament. 

True or not, the seriously out-of-his-depth labor judge Hellmann joined the seriously out-of-his-depth civil judge Zanetti - and produced an appeal verdict and reasoning the chief prosecutor of Umbria Dr Galati sees as a complete fiasco.

Contending with the myriad illegalities of this reasoning is for Dr Galati like shooting fish in a barrel. Bongiorno may soon be facing yet another big loss if Cassation accept his prosecution arguments.

As they say, always be careful what you wish for. Wishing for Hellmann might have been a bridge too far.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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

Posted by The Machine

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[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 08/22/12 at 09:39 PM by The Machine. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Dissecting The Hellmann Report #3: How Zanetti & Hellmann Bizarrely Try Discredit Witness Curatolo

Posted by Cardiol MD

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[Stone steps Meredith and all three accused maybe used on the night; left and at bottom, where witness sat]

Under the first post in this series dissecting The Hellmann Report, one of our percipient commenters suggested this:

The next portion in the series should likely be about the witnesses, I hope, and there we can marvel at Hellmann’s discourses on the functioning of the human memory.

Was our commenter ever right!

On page 32 of the PMF English language version of “Sentence of the Court Of Assizes Of Appeal Of Perugia (Presided Over By Dr. Claudio Pratillo Hellmann)” this is written:

The presence of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in Piazza Grimana between 9:30 PM and 11:30 PM on November 1 was, in fact, reported solely by the witness Curatolo, whose reliability this Court very much doubts for the following considerations.

In the first place, the deterioration of his mental faculties, from his way of life and his habits. revealed by his answers before this Court in the course of his testimony (hearing of March 26, 2011) resulting from his way of life and his habits

Realisation of what Hellmann/Zanetti were “constructively” doing there stunned me. They are exposing both a lack of logic and prejudice against a witness.

A necessary logical preamble to my realisation goes as follows:

    1. Massei had stated that Antonio Curatolo’s declarations have “been established to be reliable” [MASSEI p.358 of 397 [28th of 42 total Curatolo references]].

    2. Hellmann/Zanetti stated that “..this Court does not recognise the statement made by the witness Curatolo as credible… [Hellmann/Zanetti p35 of 95 [5th of 18 total Curatolo references]]

    3. In American common-law appellate courts do not rehear the facts of the case. Appellate courts focus on questions of law, NOT on questions of facts as their trial-courts do.

    The American appellate judges don’t presume to supersede the people who were there, and who watched the witness’s demeanour and surrounding activity, in 4-D (3-D + Time), with sights, sounds, cadences, pauses, pronunciations, intonations, and yes, …smells, in addition to, and supplementing, the 2-D pieces of paper, containing only the words they apparently spoke, but not containing the way they spoke them, let alone the scene before the court.”

    The American appellate judges want only to know whether the law was applied accurately.

    Those American appellate courts overrule a trial court decision only if a very important legal error was made in the trial court.

    In some cases, the American appellate court judges might believe that the outcome of the trial court should have been different, but if no legal errors were made, they will not overrule the lower court.

    The American appellate judges make their decisions based only on legal arguments of how the law should be applied and interpreted.

    Our learned English & Welsh Common Law (E&W) correspondent has explained to us that E&W law permits Appellate introduction of fresh evidence, which could include new evidence re rain and buses, although Massei had already considered evidence on those subjects.

    E&W Law would not have allowed Appellate re-examination of Curatelo.

    4. As we all know, and have discussed in some detail, Italian law is significantly different but Dr Galati is apparently outraged by the conduct and Motivazione of Hellmann/Zanetti.

    Dr Galati has lodged a strongly-worded Appeal of Hellmann/Zanetti’s verdict, alleging that the scope of Hellmann/Zanetti was illegal and that they tried to run a whole new appeal trial.

    Galati indicated in the appeal to Cassation that the Hellmann/Zanetti reveals “contradictoriness/contrariness and demonstrates manifest illogicality in the grounds for the judgement/reasoning report”…

    See also my previous post on the definition of “unreliable” [in the Hellmann Report] with reference to the witnesses Antonio Curatolo.

Although I can identify no specific reference by Dr Galati to the specific issue re Curatolo I wish to address, this one should have been included:

    i. “the deterioration of his mental faculties”, apparently between Curatelo’s testimony at the Massei hearing of March 28, 2009, and Curatelo’s the Hellmann/Zanetti hearing of March 26, 2011.

    ii.Suppose Curatolo’s faculties really did deteriorate during those 2 years; maybe he was injured in an RTA, had a stroke, or developed a dementia.

    What on earth has that got to do with Curatelo’s testimony back in 2009? It’s possible that Hellmann/Zanetti were implying that Curatolo’s “deterioration” was part of a continuum, and that as bad as he was, in their opinion, in 2007, 2009, and 2011, he had been, and still is steadily getting worse.

    If that is their implication they would be committing 2 cardinal errors of logic – the interpolation error, and the extrapolation error.

    Of course, giving their words their plain-meaning, Hellmann/Zanetti could be implying acceptance of the Massei’s statement that Curatolo’s 2009 testimony was reliable – but they obviously do not intend to imply that.

    iii. Maybe Hellmann/Zanetti can get away with dismissing Curatolo’s testimony to Massei “presuming to supersede the people who were there, and who watched the witness’s demeanour and surrounding activity, in 4-D (3-D + Time), with sights, sounds, cadences, pauses, pronunciations, intonations, and yes, …smells, as well as the 2-D pieces of paper, containing only the words they apparently spoke, but not containing the way they spoke them, let alone the whole scene before the court. ”

    I hope not, but with this “deterioration” allegation, there is no apparent (even an inadmissible one) professional expert opinion in evidence, and with Hellmann/Zanetti’s gratuitous cause-and-effect theory: “resulting from his way of life and his habits ”, Hellmann/Zanetti overstep, and reveal their ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence.

    Finality, in Anglo-American common law, is the concept that certain disputes must achieve a resolution from which no further appeal may be taken, and from which no collateral proceedings may be permitted to disturb that resolution.

    Does Italian law really allow this 2-years-later Appeal-rehash of witness testimony and criticisms, on the grounds that the witness’s memories have faded since he first testified? I hope not.

    Isn’t it normal for memories to fade with the passage of time?

    Does that fading justify dismissal of the original testimony?

    A principle of Anglo-American Common Law deeply embedded in it - Finality - would be out-of-the-window if lawyers could just keep repeating their questions until the witness gives them what they want.

Between their substitution of “certainty” for “reasonable-doubt” and their would-be eternal-postponement of finality Hellmann/Zanetti could shoot their legal system out of the courts.

Hellmann/Zanetti’s treatments of Curatolo’s testimony, alone, is a disaster. They should be thrown-out.

Hellmann/Zanetti’s subtext seems to be that Curatolo is merely an ignorant, illiterate, bad smelling, unkempt, dirty, ugly-old-tramp, daring to testify as to what he observed, to the detriment of two knowledgeable, educated, sweet-smelling, tidy, clean, attractive, young, innocent children.

Isn’t it far more certain, Hellmann/Zanetti seem to think, that the testimony of Curatolo is false testimony, and that the false testimony of these charming young children is not really false testimony because the Devil Prosecutors made-them-say-it.

If I analysed that whole section it would be very long.

If you are not yet familiar with them,  you should read in conjunction with this series the posts by one of my lawyer colleagues on TJMK. James Raper, explaining the strength of the prosecution case and how hard it is to challenge legitimately.

See here and here. Also here by another of my lawyer colleagues, SomeAlibi.


[Below: witness said he and perps sat on benches at left; Meredith’s house far left, steps far right]

Posted on 08/02/12 at 11:34 AM by Cardiol MD. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dissecting The Hellmann Report #2: How Judges Zanetti And Hellman Tilted The Legal Playing Field

Posted by Cardiol MD

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The Calunnia section of the Hellmann Report is about 4 pages in a 94 page document and it covers the Knox framing of Lumumba.

The Calunnia section was used in the first post of my series (“Dissecting The Hellmann Report #1: Highlighting Representative Examples Of Its Many Bizarre Quirks” ) to demonstrate the weaknesses typical of the whole report

Following publication of that post, it was kindly brought to our attention that the contributions of Assistant Judge Zanetti were so extensive - the report is said to be argued and written throughout in his style, and far from Judge Hellmann’s - that it should be called The Hellmann/Zanetti Report.

Post #1 exemplified, among other defects, some Orwellian DoubleThink from Hellmann/Zanetti:

Early in Calunnia, on Report page 22, Hellmann/Zanetti attribute Knox’s inconsistent, and incriminating, often illogical, falsehoods and behaviours, to Knox’s confusion caused by prosecutorial oppression, from which, by unspoken implication, guilt cannot be inferred, Hellmann/Zanetti informs its readers.

However, on page 23, still in Calunnia, Hellmann/Zanetti admonishes the reader not to infer any implication of guilt from the Knox falsehood that was the very subject of Calunnia, because the falsehood “is in fact not at all logical”.

The two relevant passages, using very convoluted language, “constructively” argue:

  • Firstly, that if Knox uttered any falsehoods (including illogical falsehoods) it was because of prosecutorial oppression, is not evidence of guilt, and,

  • Secondly, that if Knox uttered any illogical falsehoods, with or without prosecutorial oppression, it was because Amanda would not say anything illogical if it was easier to tell the truth than to tell something illogical, and is also not evidence of guilt.

Among the specific defects in the Hellmann/Zanetti Report, exemplified in its Calunnia section were the Report’s ploy of flooding the discussion of each evidentiary element with real and imagined reasons-to-doubt the significance of each element.

Report #1 also mentioned the issue of whether Meredith did scream just before she died, and if so when Meredith screamed.

Hellmann/Zanetti’s endemic use of the word “certain” revealed a biased perspective, as if “certain” (as in “beyond doubt”), is Hellmann/Zanetti’s equivalent to “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

This post in my series, “Dissecting The Hellmann Report #2”, focuses on the whole Report’s constructive substitution of “certain” for “beyond a reasonable doubt”:

First we take into account a semantic quirk: In the English language the word “certain” is used in multiple senses. In the Italian language, its Italian-equivalent the word “certo” is used in a much narrower sense.

Generally, when absence-of-doubt is intended, a verb-sense is used e.g. “It is certain”. In contrast when a figure-of-speech-sense is intended an adjectival or other modifier-sense is used e.g. “…a certain smile…”.

The Hellmann/Zanetti English translation-draft uses both of these senses.

It uses the figure-of-speech sense 12 times, but where the absence-of-doubt sense is constructively intended, it uses forms like “certainly” (41 times), “certain” (36 times), and “certainty” (11 times), for a total of 88 times.

Other ways of expressing certainty are also used.

Judge Zanetti is the one who made “opening statements” variously reported to have been “…nothing is certain except the death of Meredith Kercher.”,  or “… the only fact that is objectively certain, indisputable and that has not been discussed is the death of Meredith Kercher”. 

Neither version of Judge Zanetti’s “opening statements” appears in the Hellmann/Zanetti English translation-draft, although the draft does include references informing the reader that the report contains an error (see footnotes 2 & 3 in the draft, on pp 18 & 19)

The Chief Prosecutor, Dr Galati, both in his Appellate Brief for the Supreme Court and in his oral statement at his press conference, excoriated Judge Zanetti for his start-of-trial remarks:

The second-level [first appeal] judges appear to have shown “a sort of prejudice” with the “infelicitous preamble of the judge [the author], who is supposed to be impartial”, when he declared that “nothing is certain except the death of Meredith Kercher”, which to the others [Mr Galati and Mr Costagliola] is nothing more than “a resounding preview/forecast of the judgement” and a “disconcerting” affirmation.”

Here are some examples, emphases are mine :

Page 12 – “It is clear that if, for the sake of argument, the DNA found on the clasp is actually Raffaele Sollecito’s, this [piece of] evidence, while yet remaining such, is of particular significance: and the same can be said for the DNA found on the handle and on the blade of the knife seized at Raffaele Sollecito’s house, provided it is certain that this is actually one of the weapons used by the aggressors.”

Hellmann/Zanetti’s 1st explicit use of the idea of certainty, in the printed document, using a qualified “provided it is certain”

Pages 16-17:

...About the footprints, they observe that those recovered from the inside of the residence reveal the presence of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito at the scene of the crime. These are prints that in the scientific view cannot be classed as usable for positive comparisons but, however, are useful for negative comparisons, in the sense that, based on these prints one cannot reach a certain identification [23] but one can, however, arrive at a certain exclusion on the basis of the compatibility, or not, of these prints with a specific subject.

The Scientific Police (Inspector Rinaldi and Chief Inspector Boemia) were able, thus, to exclude that the footprints could be attributed, in contrast to the shoe prints, to Rudy Guede, while they were judged compatible with the characteristics of Amanda Knox (imprints recovered from her room and from the corridor) and of Raffaele Sollecito (imprints recovered from the small mat in the bathroom and in the corridor).

Hellmann/Zanetti here argue that the idea of ‘certainty’ is asymmetric (my paraphrase), it may not justify certain inclusion, because of its mere compatibility, but it may justify certain exclusion because of its incompatibility. 

This is valid and historically well-accepted; Massei had already said so.

Pages 20-21:

And so, the re‐examination of the outcomes from the first instance trial, and the subsequent acquisitions [of evidence] during oral argument in the current appeal, do not confirm the hypothesis that more than one person was necessarily involved in the crime.

This hypothesis, as appears from a reading of the December 22, 2009 judgement, was shaped by substantially accepting all the arguments presented by the Prosecution and in particular holding the following items to be certain:

– that the DNA, recovered by the Scientific Police from the bra‐clasp in the murder room, be attributed to Raffaele Sollecito and that this DNA had been left behind precisely during the occasion of the murder; [28]

– that the DNA, recovered by the Scientific Police from the blade of the knife seized in Raffaele Sollecito’s house, be attributed to Meredith Kercher and that it had been left behind during the occasion of the murder;

– that the wounds present of the body of Meredith Kercher, by their number and their directions, as also by their various characteristics (length of wound, width, etc.), could not have been occasioned by a sole aggressor but by multiple aggressors;

– that the absence of defensive wounds on Meredith Kercher’s hands and arms confirm the necessary participation of more than one person in the aggression; – that the ingress into the interior of the via della Pergola apartment had been allowed by the only person who, in that moment – apart from Meredith Kercher – had the means of doing so, that is to say, by Amanda Knox, the Court of Assizes of Appeal having held that the ingress through the window, by means of breaking of the glass, was no more than a mise‐en‐scène to falsely lead the investigations towards unknown authors of an attempted theft.”

Hellmann/Zanetti here lay a reasonably neutral factual-foundation, before launching their attack.

Page 30. re [42] Defense-witness-statements of Alessi, Aviello, Castelluccio, De Cesare, Trincan:

….If these testimonies cannot be considered as evidence in favour of the present accused, this does not mean, however, that they can be considered – as argued by the prosecution – as circumstantial [evidence] against them. That these witnesses decided to report such circumstances, hypothetically in favour to the accused, either spontaneously or solicited by others is of no importance; it is certain that there is no evidence to maintain that it was the present accused, (who did what?) arrested a very few days after the event and, therefore, held in prison for years, to plot such a plan, so that the unreliability of [43] these witnesses cannot be considered as confirmation that the defendants provided a false alibi.

Hellmann/Zanetti here slip-in an unnecessary, incomplete, assertion to protect the false alibi. It was already obvious that those witnesses were brought-on in defensive desperation to distract, and didnt seem important to the issue of the false alibi, one way or the other.

[Added: Cardiol edit of 7 Aug. 2012: Until the translation by PMF of the first half of Galati’s Appeal reached me on 6 August after writing this, most of us did not realise that Hellmann/Zanetti had improperly omitted, selectively & deliberately, Aviello’s statements which in fact are crucially important, not only to the issue of the false alibi, but also to the issue of AK/RS’s very guilt. Therefore I retract the “didnt seem important” above.  Hellmann/Zanetti’s “slip-in” seems deliberately incomplete, to protect their own criminal misconduct.]

Page 49:

3. Taking into account that none of the recommendations of the international scientific community relative to the treatment of Low Copy Number (LCN) samples were followed, we do not accept the conclusions regarding the certain attribution of the profile found on trace B (blade of knife) to the victim Meredith Susanna Cara Kercher, since the genetic profile, as obtained, appears unreliable insofar as it is not supported by scientifically validated analysis;

Hellmann/Zanetti here buy into the questionable DNA testimony (“not supported by scientifically validated analysis”) of Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti, whose consultancy is called ‘illegal’ in the Supreme Court appeal of Chief Prosecutor Dr Galati.

More to follow in the next posts in my series. 

If you are not yet familiar with them,  you should read in conjunction with this series the posts by one of my lawyer colleagues on TJMK. James Raper, explaining the strength of the prosecution case and how hard it is to challenge. See here and here.

Also here by another of my lawyer colleagues, SomeAlibi.

Posted on 07/24/12 at 11:35 AM by Cardiol MD. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, July 21, 2012

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

Posted by The Machine

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[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 09:51 AM by The Machine. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, July 20, 2012

Dissecting The Hellmann Report #1: Highlighting Representative Examples Of Its Many Bizarre Quirks

Posted by Cardiol MD

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[Above: Judge Hellman. At bottom: Judge Zanetti, who may have written the sentencing report]


Milan and Rome are the main venues for Italy’s important business trials. Those in Perugia are small and relatively obscure.

In contrast Perugia handles very important criminal investigations for the central government when there are conflicts of interest in Rome. So Perugia was handed the very sensitive and politically explosive investigations into Rome politicians siphoning funds from the 2006 winter Olympics construction and the 2010 earthquake damage reconstruction.

This explains why Dr Galati the chief prosecutor for Umbria was transferred from the Supreme Court in January 2011 where he had been a deputy chief prosecutor and why he has a high profile throughout Italy. And why Judge Hellman, a business judge, is almost unknown outside Perugia who at times seems a little cranky with his lot in life. His co-judge Massimo Zanetti, also little known, handles civil trials.

Read in Italian, Dr Galati’s Supreme Court appeal against the Hellman/Zanetti appeal verdict which is some pages longer than the Hellman & Zanetti report, is absolutely scathing. (The team will have the PMF translation ready soon.) Dr Galati seems almost offended to be facing what he seems to see as a childish and legally inferior piece of work.

Dr Galati takes Hellman & Zanetti apart at three levels, as the Perugia media summarised at his press conference five months ago.

First, that the scope is illegally wide for an appeal judgement. Second, that the DNA report by Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti (which concluded with innuendo rather than firm findings) was unnecessary at the appeal level and should never have been commissioned. And third that Hellman & Zanetti are out of order in their subjective interpretations of trial evidence their appeal court mostly didnt look at, and trial witnesses their appeal court never saw.

As a lawyer in the common-law systems of the US and UK I have read plenty of equivalent arguments by judges which logically and legally and objectively almost always hit a very high plane.

On the Hellman & Zanetti report I have to agree with Dr Galati. This seems a dismally inferior piece of work.   

To me this document reads like the work-product of a naïve freshman law student in appellate procedure class submitted with no reasoned presentation of facts and evidence as a defendant’s brief, instead of as the official report of a Regional Court Of Assizes Of Appeal submitted in the name of the Italian People with a sober presentation of Facts and Evidence and a reasoned Explanation of Conclusions.

In my view and surely Dr Galati’s it deserves no more than an F.

The Hellman/Zanetti report is emotional and hyperbolic, but it is neither persuasive nor professional. Its faults are so densely packed that any TJMK series fully analyzing them would need more space than posting of the full Hellmann/Zanetti Report.

The calunnia section alone (2,447 words long) to do with Knox’s framing of Lumumba has more than 50 dubious statements. It is also short enough to demonstrate here the weaknesses typical of the whole report, despite this section’s secondary bottom-line significance.

The very first line of this section (beginning on page 21 of the PMF translation) typifies the tone of the whole Report.

The “spontaneous” declarations rendered by Amanda Knox on November 6, and the …….

Note Hellmann & Zanetti’s contemptuous use of quotation marks here. 

On the same page Hellmann & Zanetti begin a paragraph thus: “According to the hypothesis of the prosecution…”, but then don’t go at all to state the real hypothesis of the prosecution.

Instead, Hellmann & Zanetti glide smoothly into preposterous ‘straw-man’ sophistry in which he attributes to the prosecution his own speculative and prejudiced conclusions, instead of the hypothesis the prosecution did submit:

Amanda Knox, at that point exhausted from the long interrogation, and above all demoralized by having learned from the people interrogating her that Raffaele Sollecito had, so to speak, abandoned her to her destiny, denying the alibi [30](Motivazione page number) that he had offered her up to then (having spent the whole night together at Sollecito s house), supposedly resorted to a final defence effort, representing more or less what actually happened in the house at via della Pergola, but substituting Patrick Lumumba for Rudy Guede in the role of protagonist: one black for another, to quote the Prosecutor.

This Court does not share the hypothesis of the prosecution.

Actually this (Hellmann & Zanetti) court misrepresents the hypothesis of the prosecution as argued above.

...exhausted from the long interrogation, and above all demoralized” These do not need further comment.  They are Hellmann & Zanetti’s own biased edits, disguised as prosecutors’ hypotheses.

...having spent the whole night together at Sollecito’s house…”  Here Hellmann & Zanetti seem to blithely assume the truth of Knox’s disputed alibi, but is probably merely repeating what her alibi was not “blithely” assuming it to be the truth. If so he should have used the proper quotation marks. 

So do Hellmann & Zanetti sympathise with Knox’s demoralization at the denial of her false alibi?  How do they explain the apparent conflict between ‘more or less what actually happened’ and ‘spent the whole night together at Sollecito’s house’?  See later.

…representing more or less what actually happened in the house at via della Pergola…”  Here, Hellmann & Zanetti begrudgingly seem to acknowledge that Knox was present in the house at via della Pergola, but later will disavow any guilt on Knox’s part, except for her calunnia offence.

Continuing on the first page of his report’s calunnia section, Hellmann & Zanetti state:

The obsessive length of the interrogations which took place day and night and were conducted by several people questioning a young and foreign girl, who at that time did not understand or speak the Italian language well at all, ignorant of her own rights and deprived of the advice of a lawyer, to which she would have been entitled since she was……

...obsessive length…” This seems too obviously inappropriate to need further comment. The interrogations themselves were actually quite short.

...took place day and night… ” This is factual, but hyperbolic; included for both dramatic implication and dramatic inference.

...young…”  Youth is a mitigating factor in Italian law, so Hellmann & Zanetti’s reference to Knox as ‘young’ is not an irrelevancy, but they do allude to the youth of the persons involved over three times more frequently than Judge Massei did.

...foreign…” This is also relevant because Knox was not fluent in Italian, although an interpreter was provided.

…ignorant of her own rights…”  This is true in almost all criminal cases, but there are no signs here that Knox’s rights were trampled on.

…deprived of the advice of a lawyer, to which she would have been entitled…”  She was only a witness at this point so a lawyer was not required under the Italian code.

My understanding is that Knox was in fact informed that she had the right to the advice of a lawyer, was offered such advice, but declined it. So “deprived” again smacks of the Hellmanian or Zanettian hyperbole-for-dramatic-effect.

There are many other dubious statements in Hellman & Zanetti’s calunnia section. Here are a couple of typical ones:

….Amanda Knox, who had no reason at the beginning to be scared, entered into a state of stress and oppression as a consequence of the interrogation and the way it took place.

The dispute, yet to be resolved with a reasoned explanation by the Hellmann & Zanetti Court, was whether Knox and Sollecito were guilty or not guilty.

Here, Hellmann & Zanetti have already assumed Knox’s plea of Not Guilty to have been proven, though they have offered no reasoned explanation for such assumption.

Guilty or Not Guilty, Knox actually did have every reason to be scared, merely because normal Discovery-Procedures can be scary; other members of the group of Discovery witnesses were scared too. (I use “Discovery” in the sense of legal disclosure, including but not restricted-to the discovery-of-Meredith’s-body.) 

If Guilty, Knox had additional real reason to be scared.

It is in fact not at all logical to assume that Amanda Knox, if she had actually been an accomplice [concorrente] in the crime, could hope that giving Patrick Lumumba’s name……could have somehow benefited her position….

Hellmann & Zanetti’s sophistry consistently requires the reader, elsewhere, to attribute Knox’s inconsistent, and incriminating, often illogical, falsehoods and behaviours, to Knox’s confusion caused by prosecutorial oppression. Some of those falsehoods were used by Knox very obviously in the hope of benefit to Knox. 

But now, Hellmann & Zanetti inconsistently require the reader to believe that it is not at all logical to assume that Knox could hope to benefit from one of her falsehoods.

But of course Knox could hope to benefit from one of her falsehoods.

Elsewhere in its Calunnia section (page 22 of the translation) Hellmann & Zanetti had already argued, that

….the fact that the caresses, simple signs of tenderness between two lovers, could have been a way of comforting each other…..

Here, Hellmann & Zanetti are deceptively implying that lovers comforting each other, having (only) an innocent construction, excludes the existence of a factor additional to love, namely that of a guilty-pair afraid of exposure as a guilty-pair.

The potentially most incriminating issues in this case are whether Meredith did scream just before she died, and if so when Meredith screamed.

The Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito “innocentisti” members know this, but they avoid focus on it in order to minimize attention to those issues, as crucial as they are.

A key focus-avoidance ploy is to confuse the issue by isolating each element of evidence from every other element and flood discussion of each element with real and imagined reasons-to-doubt the significance of each element.

By doing so, perception of the location of Reasonable Doubt, in the mind of the designated Finder(s)-of-Fact, may be displaced so far away that they conclude that Guilt cannot be reached, and that the Defendant(s) are Not Guilty beyond a doubt that is a Reasonable Doubt.

This defense ploy is being employed more and more in criminal trials, and is much employed in Meredith’s case, or as it has become, Amanda Knox’s case. The Supreme Court of course will totally ignore such legal nonsense.

The first-ever documented references to Meredith screaming just before she died came from the mouth (and hand in the case of her notes) of Amanda Knox herself.

Hellmann & Zanetti do not, at first, seem to doubt that a scream was heard by witness Capezzali that night.

However, they introduce the issue of scream under the Heading Time of death, which they characterize as “extremely weak for its ambiguity, since it cannot even be placed with certainty”, as if lack of “certainty” is way-below reasonable doubt (as in “required to reach a guilty-verdict beyond-a-reasonable-doubt”), obfuscatingly merging them into each other.

Hellmann & Zanetti then cast doubt on whether any witness(es) heard any-scream-at-all that particular night and/or time, because he supposed (innocent) screams were to be heard there on many nights and at many times.

Hellmann & Zanetti stated that their Court had “no real reason to doubt” that a scream occurred at night in the general vicinity of Meredith’s house NOR to suspect that witnesses who testified that they had heard a scream had not heard a scream.

What Hellmann & Zanetti claim that they do doubt is that the scream witnesses testified to having heard occurred at a sufficiently specified definite time, or that the scream they said they heard had actually occurred on the night of Nov. 1-2, 2007, and that even if such a scream did occur it is not “certain” that the scream was Meredith’s scream.

Hellmann & Zanetti’s use of “certain” reveals a biased perspective. It is as if “not certain” is now Hellmann & Zanetti’s equivalent to “not beyond a reasonable doubt.

A well-known saying goes “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck.”

Applying the evidentiary-item-isolation-ploy to that saying, multiple doubts are introduced as to each item, with the intended result of promoting enough doubt to exclude it, too often successfully.

This could be called the Ugly Duckling Effect, after H.C. Andersen’s Fairy Story – here Hellmann & Zanetti seem to want us to conclude that Amanda Knox is a swan, and is not really an ugly duckling.


[Below: Judge Zanetti at left probably wrote the report that Judge Hellman may not have liked]

Posted on 07/20/12 at 02:05 AM by Cardiol MD. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

This Formidable Prosecution Appeal To The Supreme Court Is Placed On The Agenda Next March

Posted by Peter Quennell

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The Associated Press once again reveals its strong systematic anti-Italy bias in reporting the scheduling of the appeal.

Its headline on the report it sent out to thousands of its owners the media outlets reads “Amanda Knox Case: Acquittal Appeal Set For March By Italy”

Huh? That is the guts of the thing?

Well, hardly.

First, defense chances are slim, as there is no question that Knox did point falsely to Lumumba. On tape she even admitted that to her own mother, and her various explanations on the stand at trial simply dropped her in it some more.

That defense appeal could be dismissed in a sentence or two. It is simply grandstanding.

And second, vastly more importantly because this could lead to a complete retrial back in Perugia the AP headline and story should have fully explained the real 80,000 pound gorilla in the room.

This is the appeal that the Chief Prosecutor for Umbria Dr Galati has filed. The Associated Press has never told the global audience either what is in the prosecution appeal or precisely who Dr Galati is. Not even a hint.

Dr Galati was a Deputy Chief Prosecutor at the Supreme Court and is one of the most powerful and experienced in Italy. Why was he not quoted in the AP’s story?

Here is the real story of his appeal that the Associated Press doesn’t seem to want the global audience to know. First posted here back on 14 February when Dr Galati called his press conference on the appeal. 

Italian lawyers are already remarking that Dr Galati’s appeal as summarised below is as tough as they ever get.

In their view the Hellman report reads more like a defense brief than a balanced appeal-court outcome in a murder trial. Both judges were put on the case on mysterious instructions from Rome, suggesting that the minister of justice had perhaps been leaned on - the judge pushed aside was extremely annoyed.

Both Judge Hellmann and Judge Zanetti, while undeniably good judges in their own fields (business and civil), are vastly less experienced at criminal trials than either Judge Micheli or Judge Massei. The entry in the Italian Wikipedia describes them thus.

Although the Assize Court of Appeal was to be chaired by Dr. Sergio Matteini Chiari, Chairman of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal in Perugia, in circumstances not well understood Dr. Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, who chairs the Labor Chamber of the Court, has been called on to preside over the appeal court,

The judge to the side of the main judge, Dr. Massimo Zanetti, came from the Civil Section, and both had had limited experience with criminal trials both rather remote in time (only the cases of Spoleto and Orvieto).

Judge Hellmann’s announcement of the verdict on the night was very odd, suggesting he had been outnumbered and was embarrassed. Remarks he made the next day seemed to confirm that. The weak sentencing report is said to be not his work, and was written by Judge Zanetti.

The Supreme Court of Cassation could insist on a complete new appeal trial or a partial new trial in Perugia if it accepts any of Dr Galati’s arguments at all. His appeal statement appeal is in three tiers, and a reversal could be ordered at any tier..

1. The Hellmann Court’s wide scope was illegally far too wide

Italian judicial code is very clear on this. They MUST stick to just the appealed items and not wander all over the map. Judge Zanetti was quite wrong at the start to declare that everything was open except the fact that Meredith had been murdered. 

2. The DNA consultancy by Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti was illegal

Defenses had every chance to attend the Scientific Police testing the first time around. It was a slippery dodge to skip those tests and then slime them. They had every opportunity at trial to throw aspersions. They are not meant to shop around.

3. There are many problems of wrong logic, evidence, and witnesses

The Massei trial sat through weeks and weeks of skilled prosecution presentations of the evidence including the forensic evidence and the many witnesses. The Hellman court got to see almost none of this and heard mostly from the defense.

This translation is from Umbria24 by our main poster ZiaK.

Meredith case: the prosecution appeals to Cassation: the acquittal verdict should be “nullified”.

For the Chief Magistrates of the [Umbria] Prosecution, “it was almost exclusively the defence arguments which were taken heed of”

By Francesca Marruco

The first-level conviction verdict was “complete and thorough” while the verdict of the second-level is “contradictory and illogical”.  For this reason, the General Prosecution of Perugia asks the Cassation to revoke or invalidate it.

“We are still extremely convinced that Amanda and Raffaele are co-perpetrators of the murder of Meredith Kercher” said the Chief Prosecutor of Perugia, Giovanni Galati and the Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Giancarlo Costagliola.

Verdict that should be revoked

“The second-level verdict should be annulled/revoked….  There are precise reasons for revoking it”, Mr Galati went on to say. In the Hellman reasoning report on the verdict with which the second-level judges acquitted the ex-boyfriend and girlfriend “there are so many errors, and many omissions. There is inconsistency in the grounds for judgement, which brings us to nothing.”

“It is as if they had ruled ex novo [anew] on Meredith’s murder” added the Deputy Prosecutor, Giancarlo Costagliola, “basing their decision solely on the arguments of the defence.”

“Normally the appeal judge evaluates the reasoning procedure of the first-instance judge and compares it to new elements. But this one missed that out altogether: there is no comparison between the checks carried out in the first and second instances. Only what was carried out during the appeal was evaluated.”

Only defence arguments were taken heed of

For the magistrates, in fact, the second-level judges “took heed, almost exclusively, of the arguments of the defence consultants or the reconstruction hypotheses that were largely to the benefit of the defense theses”.

The prosecutors who authored the appeal [to Cassation] also criticized the “method used”. “The first-instance verdict”, they wrote, “was summarized in just a few lines”,

“The verdict [which we] challenge completely ignored all the other aspects which corresponded with the accusation’s hypothesis, all the aspects which, on the contrary - as was seen in the reasoning report of the first-instance verdict - had been rigorously pointed out and considered by the Assizes Court [trial court] in its decision.”

“In examining the individual [items of] evidence, the challenged sentence has fallen into consistent procedural error in the weaknesses and evident illogicality of the grounds for its decision.”

Prejudice by the two appeal judges

For the General Prosecution magistrates, the second-level [first appeal] judges appear to have shown “a sort of prejudice” with the “infelicitous preamble of the judge [the author], who is supposed to be impartial”, when he declared that “nothing is certain except the death of Meredith Kercher”, which to the others [Mr Galati and Mr Costagliola] is nothing more than “a resounding preview/forecast of the judgement” and a “disconcerting” affirmation.
 
The ten points of the appeal

The reasons for the appeal to Cassation which Perugia’s General Prosecution presented today against the acquittal verdict of Amanda and Raffaele are based on ten points of the second-level verdict.

The first is the lack of grounds for the decision, in the decree of 18 December 2010, to allow the forensic testimony/expert witness in the appeal judgement.

The second, in contrast, concerns a contrary decision: 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”.

The other points deal with the decision by the Appeal court of Assizes of Perugia to not hear the witness Aviello, also the definition of “unreliable” [in the Hellman Report] with reference to the witnesses Roberto Quintavalle and and Antonio Curatolo, also the time of death of Meredith Kercher, also on the genetic investigations.

As well as the analyses of the prints and other traces, also the presence of Amanda and Sollecito in via della Pergola, also the simulation of a crime [the staged break-in], and also the exclusion of the aggravating circumstance of the crime of “calumny”.

Missing assumption/acceptance of decisive evidence

In the appeal to Cassation there is also mention of the “missing assumption/acceptance of a decisive proof”

In other words, of that proof [presented at trial court] which consisted of “the carrying out of the genetic analysis on the sample taken from the knife by the experts appointed by the Court during the appeal judgement, who did not carry out the analyses of that sample, thus violating a specific request contained in the [orders given to them] when they were assigned to the expert-witness post”

“In the second-level [Hellman] verdict”, the magistrates said, “the judges sought to refer to this in their own way, by speaking of an “experimental method” by which these tests/checks could be carried out.

But this is not the case”, said Deputy Chief Prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola: “Dr Novelli [the prosecution’s DNA consultant at appeal] spoke of cutting-edge technology, not of experimental methods”.

Posted on 07/19/12 at 03:45 PM by Peter Quennell. 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

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[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 02:37 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, April 30, 2012

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

Posted by James Raper

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[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 04:33 PM by James Raper. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Weighing The Ten Points On Which The Umbria Chief Prosecutor’s Supreme Court Appeal Is Based

Posted by brmull

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[Above: the Supreme Court of Italy seen from the south-east across the River Tiber]


The Chief Prosecutor and Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Umbria base their formidable appeal on ten points repeated here from ZiaK’s excellent translation below.

The reasons for the appeal to Cassation which Perugia’s General Prosecution presented today against the acquittal verdict of Amanda and Raffaele are based on ten points of the second-level verdict.

The first is the lack of grounds for the decision, in the decree of 18 December 2010, to allow the forensic testimony/expert witness in the appeal judgement.

The second, in contrast, concerns a contrary decision: 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”.

The other points deal with the decision by the Appeal court of Assizes of Perugia to not hear the witness Aviello, also the definition of “unreliable” [in the Hellman Report] with reference to the witnesses Roberto Quintavalle and and Antonio Curatolo, also the time of death of Meredith Kercher, also on the genetic investigations.

As well as the analyses of the prints and other traces, also the presence of Amanda and Sollecito in via della Pergola, also the simulation of a crime [the staged break-in], and also the exclusion of the aggravating circumstance of the crime of “calumny”.

1. I agree that the appointing of the independent experts was unjustified, because they were essentially just another opinion, a sort of tie-breaker, applying 2011 standards to 2007 evidence, who were revealed to have pre-existing biases about the questions posed to them.

Independent experts should be a piece of evidence, not a final arbiter. I know the Kerchers opposed the appointment of these experts (I don’t know about the prosecution) so clearly they weren’t a consensus choice, as is preferred whenever independent experts are employed.

2. I agree that if Conti and Vecchiotti were allowed to judge the scientific police by 2011 standards, then the court should have allowed testing using highly sensitive 2011 technology. Furthermore Dr. Stefanoni was left to defend her work against the academic experts, without any back-up from Dr. Novelli who is more than a match for the independent experts in terms of credentials.

3. I’m on the fence as to whether the court should have recalled Aviello to discuss why he had recanted his testimony. I don’t know what the legal procedure is when a witness recants while the trial is still underway.

4. I strongly agree that the decision to recall the man in the park, Curatolo, and then determining that the old man’s memory was unreliable four years after the fact, was completely inappropriate. Curatolo’s testimony at the first trial was more than adequate. Nothing was learned from this exercise except that his memory has become worse with time (whose hasn’t?) and that he subsequently got in trouble with the law, which is overly prejudicial.

5. If the court insisted on recalling Curatolo to try to assess his reliability, they should have done the same for the store owner Quintavalle. Instead he was deemed unreliable based on a cherry-picked selection from his 2009 testimony.

6. On the time of death, I’m one of those who believe Hellmann got it right, but it has no bearing on the defendants’ guilt or innocence, since they have no alibi for either time. I look forward to the prosecution’s argument on this.

7. I agree that Hellmann’s decision to accept the defense explanation for the footprints was arbitrary and not justified by his motivations report.

8. The luminol traces in Filomena’s room were improperly determined to be footprints. They were then lumped in with the footprints in the hall without any separate attempt at explanation.

9. I agree that the Court’s determination that the defendents would not lie about being at the cottage, simply because they were “good kids” is outrageous. (In the U.S. you can’t use character evidence to decide innocence or guilt, and doing so would mean a mistrial. I’m not sure about the situation in Italy.)

10. I agree Hellmann’s explanation for the simulation of a crime was a sham, in which he accepted all of the defense arguments and showed no curiosity at all about whether this scenario could actually happen. The court had clearly made up its mind about the case already and decided to just shove the staged break-in, a crucial part of the case, under the rug.

***

*The prosecution also wants to add “aggravating factors” to the charge of calumny. This is a freebie. I don’t know if it will have any bearing on the appeal.

**The fact that Hellmann seems to have applied the “reasonable doubt” standard to individual pieces of evidence, when this should only apply to the case as a whole, seems like a huge basis for appeal. I’m glad to see the prosecution bringing this up.

Posted on 02/15/12 at 07:47 AM by brmull. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Perugia’s Excellent Umbria24 Posts Details Of Dr Galati’s Extremely Tough Supreme Court Appeal

Posted by Peter Quennell

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Italian lawyers are already remarking that Dr Galati’s appeal as summarised below is as tough as they ever get.

In their view the Hellman report reads more like a defense brief than a balanced appeal-court outcome in a murder trial. Both judges were put on the case on mysterious instructions from Rome, suggesting that the minister of justice had perhaps been leaned on - the judge pushed aside was extremely annoyed.

Both Judge Hellmann and Judge Zanetti, while undeniably good judges in their own fields (business and civil), are vastly less experienced at criminal trials than either Judge Micheli or Judge Massei. The entry in the Italian Wikipedia describes them thus.

Although the Assize Court of Appeal was to be chaired by Dr. Sergio Matteini Chiari, Chairman of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal in Perugia, in circumstances not well understood Dr. Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, who chairs the Labor Chamber of the Court, has been called on to preside over the appeal court,

The judge to the side of the main judge, Dr. Massimo Zanetti, came from the Civil Section, and both had had limited experience with criminal trials both rather remote in time (only the cases of Spoleto and Orvieto).

Judge Hellmann’s announcement of the verdict on the night was very odd, suggesting he had been outnumbered and was embarrassed. Remarks he made the next day seemed to confirm that. The weak sentencing report is said to be not his work, and was written by Judge Zanetti.

The Supreme Court of Cassation could insist on a complete new appeal trial or a partial new trial in Perugia if it accepts any of Dr Galati’s arguments at all. His appeal statement appeal is in three tiers, and a reversal could be ordered at any tier..

1. The Hellmann Court’s wide scope was illegally far too wide

Italian judicial code is very clear on this. They MUST stick to just the appealed items and not wander all over the map. Judge Zanetti was quite wrong at the start to declare that everything was open except the fact that Meredith had been murdered. 

2. The DNA consultancy by Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti was illegal

Defenses had every chance to attend the Scientific Police testing the first time around. It was a slippery dodge to skip those tests and then slime them. They had every opportunity at trial to throw aspersions. They are not meant to shop around.

3. There are many problems of wrong logic, evidence, and witnesses

The Massei trial sat through weeks and weeks of skilled prosecution presentations of the evidence including the forensic evidence and the many witnesses. The Hellman court got to see almost none of this and heard mostly from the defense.

This translation is from Umbria24 by our main poster ZiaK.

Meredith case: the prosecution appeals to Cassation: the acquittal verdict should be “nullified”.

For the Chief Magistrates of the [Umbria] Prosecution, “it was almost exclusively the defence arguments which were taken heed of”

By Francesca Marruco

The first-level conviction verdict was “complete and thorough” while the verdict of the second-level is “contradictory and illogical”.  For this reason, the General Prosecution of Perugia asks the Cassation to revoke or invalidate it.

“We are still extremely convinced that Amanda and Raffaele are co-perpetrators of the murder of Meredith Kercher” said the Chief Prosecutor of Perugia, Giovanni Galati and the Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Giancarlo Costagliola.

Verdict that should be revoked

“The second-level verdict should be annulled/revoked….  There are precise reasons for revoking it”, Mr Galati went on to say. In the Hellman reasoning report on the verdict with which the second-level judges acquitted the ex-boyfriend and girlfriend “there are so many errors, and many omissions. There is inconsistency in the grounds for judgement, which brings us to nothing.”

“It is as if they had ruled ex novo [anew] on Meredith’s murder” added the Deputy Prosecutor, Giancarlo Costagliola, “basing their decision solely on the arguments of the defence.”

“Normally the appeal judge evaluates the reasoning procedure of the first-instance judge and compares it to new elements. But this one missed that out altogether: there is no comparison between the checks carried out in the first and second instances. Only what was carried out during the appeal was evaluated.”

Only defence arguments were taken heed of

For the magistrates, in fact, the second-level judges “took heed, almost exclusively, of the arguments of the defence consultants or the reconstruction hypotheses that were largely to the benefit of the defense theses”.

The prosecutors who authored the appeal [to Cassation] also criticized the “method used”. “The first-instance verdict”, they wrote, “was summarized in just a few lines”,

“The verdict [which we] challenge completely ignored all the other aspects which corresponded with the accusation’s hypothesis, all the aspects which, on the contrary - as was seen in the reasoning report of the first-instance verdict - had been rigorously pointed out and considered by the Assizes Court [trial court] in its decision.”

“In examining the individual [items of] evidence, the challenged sentence has fallen into consistent procedural error in the weaknesses and evident illogicality of the grounds for its decision.”

Prejudice by the two appeal judges

For the General Prosecution magistrates, the second-level [first appeal] judges appear to have shown “a sort of prejudice” with the “infelicitous preamble of the judge [the author], who is supposed to be impartial”, when he declared that “nothing is certain except the death of Meredith Kercher”, which to the others [Mr Galati and Mr Costagliola] is nothing more than “a resounding preview/forecast of the judgement” and a “disconcerting” affirmation.
 
The ten points of the appeal

The reasons for the appeal to Cassation which Perugia’s General Prosecution presented today against the acquittal verdict of Amanda and Raffaele are based on ten points of the second-level verdict.

The first is the lack of grounds for the decision, in the decree of 18 December 2010, to allow the forensic testimony/expert witness in the appeal judgement.

The second, in contrast, concerns a contrary decision: 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”.

The other points deal with the decision by the Appeal court of Assizes of Perugia to not hear the witness Aviello, also the definition of “unreliable” [in the Hellman Report] with reference to the witnesses Roberto Quintavalle and and Antonio Curatolo, also the time of death of Meredith Kercher, also on the genetic investigations.

As well as the analyses of the prints and other traces, also the presence of Amanda and Sollecito in via della Pergola, also the simulation of a crime [the staged break-in], and also the exclusion of the aggravating circumstance of the crime of “calumny”.

Missing assumption/acceptance of decisive evidence

In the appeal to Cassation there is also mention of the “missing assumption/acceptance of a decisive proof”

In other words, of that proof [presented at trial court] which consisted of “the carrying out of the genetic analysis on the sample taken from the knife by the experts appointed by the Court during the appeal judgement, who did not carry out the analyses of that sample, thus violating a specific request contained in the [orders given to them] when they were assigned to the expert-witness post”

“In the second-level [Hellman] verdict”, the magistrates said, “the judges sought to refer to this in their own way, by speaking of an “experimental method” by which these tests/checks could be carried out.

But this is not the case”, said Deputy Chief Prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola: “Dr Novelli [the prosecution’s DNA consultant at appeal] spoke of cutting-edge technology, not of experimental methods”.

Posted on 02/14/12 at 10:26 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Typical Of Dozens Of Cool Italian Reports On Mr Galati’s Appeal - This One By Cronaca

Posted by ziaK

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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 01:03 PM by ziaK. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Italian Report That Prosecution Appeal Against Knox-Sollecito Appeal Verdict Could Be Filed Tomorrow

Posted by Peter Quennell

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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 02/13/12 at 05:26 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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