Headsup: The first 8 episodes of the RAI/HBO production "My Brilliant Friend" about a supreme alpha-girl and her "moon" of a best friend airing in 60-plus countries are proving amazingly endearing. So many colorful elements of evolving post WWII Italy on display. Yes, some violence too, but peanuts compared to say New York in that era. A real must-see.

Series Those elsewhere

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Italian Tanker Is Still Held In South India Pending… Not Clear Precisely What

Posted by Peter Quennell





Our previous post described an Italian tanker held and two Italian soldiers in custody for shooting two Indian fishermen they thought were pirates.

Several times since. it seemed that whatever evidence can be assembled would be unveiled preparatory to a trial, the Italian crew would explain fully what happened, the soldiers might be charged, and the ship released to go on its way once the Italian owners paid a large bond - which, a while back, they did.

But lawyers acting for the family of one of the fishermen at the last moment sued to stop the ship on the point of leaving because they claimed they did not trust the owners to pay up - even despite the bond having been lodged in the amount (30 million rupees) that the family itself had demanded.

Now tempers seem to be rising in all directions, and as Sreedhar Pillai observes it is not simply Italy v India.

What has been most surprising is the appalling way both countries have handled the sensitive issue, each one not without its own hidden compulsions, and the public stance each country was obliged to take.

For the new Italian Prime minister Mario Monti , there were more compelling matters to attend… However the way the Italians have come out without a convincing and straightforward explanation of what happened has not helped the matter or enabled the Indians to react helpfully to solve the issue.

Besides, the Italian authorities have also failed to grasp the political compulsions under which the Indian government had to act in this matter.

For a start, Kerala, which is the last place people still believe in communism, has a party which lost the recent election with slim margin and has an interest to politicize every issue in order to win a crucial local election held in March. The ruling congress party with slim majority and allegations of corruption with the central government which they lead couldn’t afford to let the legal path take its own course.

That Kerala has a sizable Catholic population didn’t help, with Kerala Bishops facing accusation of taking up for a Catholic foreign country.

Although never mentioned publicly, the most sensitive reason for the stiff Indian stance is nothing but the Italian origin of Sonia Gandhi, presiding over the Congress Party, currently ruling India and several states including Kerala as the major coalition partner.

Hmmm. So in the Italian media one can now find hard comments like “the ship was trying to avoid piracy, but seems to have wandered into it anyway” and in the Indian media one can find comments ranging from “hang the murderers” to “the lawyers for the family are being opportunist”.

Today it is announced that the soldiers are remanded without charges for yet another 14 days. Meanwhile the owners of the Enrica Lexie have sued at the Indian Supreme Court level to get their ship back.

We may hear whether this is agreed to tomorrow. Sadly, the real pirates at the root of all this must be laughing.


Posted on 04/16/12 at 10:07 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Friday, April 13, 2012

French National Florence Cassez Appeal Fails Before The Mexican Supreme Court

Posted by Peter Quennell





Florence Cassez heads back to prison to continue her 60-year sentence.

If your first exposure to Florence Cassez is to her sweet face (image below) your reaction might be “sweet girls like Florence simply don’t do crimes” and to mobilize to press for her release.

But as in the case of Amanda Knox the devil really is in the details. Time and again, new readers have come here, many lawyers included, and encountered all of the mountain of details, and in effect responded once they were on top of them “those involved in Rome and Perugia really did know what they are doing”.

Not to mention those vital details lost in translation.

The French national Florence was living on a ranch outside Mexico City owned by her boyfriend when he kidnapped and held a family for ransom. (He is not yet convicted.) The kidnapped family, largely blindfolded, didnt see her, but several say they heard her voice and they suffered from her mistreatment.

Why would they make that up? Florence never really has explained how she could be living right there on the ranch and not have the slightest idea of what was going on. Or explain who “the other woman” was that the kidnapped family kept encountering.

Sentences for kidnapping are very harsh in Mexico as it has had far too many in recent years. The sweet face and 60 year sentence and the family of Florence and President Sarkozy and the notion of a process run wild made for a compelling mix of tragedy on French TV.

Not to mention those vital details lost in translation.

So far, though, to no avail. The Supreme Court have just ruled that the sentence must stand. This may not be the end of it as several irregularities have been conceded but if she is to see freedom in her lifetime Florence still has explaining to do.

Various public opinion polls say 65 to 74 percent of Mexicans think Cassez is guilty and many express resentment at French pressure to win her freedom….  [And] many believe any violation of due process was not serious enough to let Cassez go free.

How rarely do countries appreciate other countries leaning on their legal system. It’s not likely to happen again, soon toward Mexico as much as toward Italy.






 

Posted on 04/13/12 at 04:18 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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In Close Parallel To Amanda Knox, Casey Anthony Faces Court Action For Falsely Fingering Another

Posted by Peter Quennell



Both recent images. Above the plaintiff Zenaida Gonzalez; below the defendant Casey Anthony


Amanda Knox provisionally got off on the main count (the murder of Meredith) but anyway was sentenced to three years (which she served) for fingering Patrick Lumumba.

Casey Anthony definitively got off on the main count (murdering her infant daughter Caylee, see previous posts) but anyway was sentenced to some time in prison for time-wasting and expensive misleading of the police officers.

She received no sentence for falsely fingering a nanny, Zenaida Gonzalez, for making off with Caylee, and as she had never even met Zenaida Gonzalez it is unclear how she came up with Zenaida’s name.

The Orlando Sentinel reports an issue is whether or not Anthony identified Gonzalez specifically enough when she talked to her parents when they visited her in jail.

Anthony’s attorney said details offered by Anthony did not match Fernandez-Gonzalez and clearly showed Anthony wasn’t talking about her. Gonzalez’s attorneys say she still was damaged as the only person with that name interviewed by investigators.

Fernandez-Gonzalez had never met Anthony. Investigators believe Anthony may have seen the name on an apartment rental application.

During Anthony’s trial last year, her attorney Jose Baez said Anthony made up the story about the babysitter and that Caylee truly drowned in the family pool. Anthony was acquitted of murder and other serious charges.

Nevertheless, yesterday a judge in Orlando, Florida, ruled that Zenaida Gonzalez may sue Casey Anthony for defamation of character, and the case is scheduled for January 2013.

In Amanda Knox’s case she absolutely did know Patrick Lumumba, her kindly employer who gave her a job without a work permit, and she and her mother let him languish in prison for several weeks.

Pretty hard to look worse than Casey Anthony, but in her cruel act of framing Patrick, Amanda Knox certainly does.



Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two Victims Ride High - With No Thanks To The Conspiracy Theorists

Posted by Peter Quennell





Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart with the sustained help of their appealing families are right now two of the most admired women in America.

Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped from California’s beautiful South Tahoe area (image below) in 1991 and kept captive east of San Francisco through late 2009. Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her north-east Salt Lake City home (image below) in 2002 and sprung from her captors in March 2003.

Both girls seem to have been affected by the Stockholm Syndrome, Jaycee Dugard by way of the physical abuse of her captors, and Elizabeth Smart perhaps by way of the religious claims of her male captor, though she claims it was only the physical abuse.

Both women put on a very determined and self-confident performance on the witness stand, and both saw their captors put away for good. It may have been tougher for Elizabeth Smart because she had to endure years of argument over whether her male captor was mentally competent. The jury agreed with prosecution witnesses that he was simply putting on a skillful act and they returned a very quick guilty verdict.

Jaycee Dugard wrote a fearless and unflinching best-seller about her experience. Similar books have been written about Elizabeth Smart, who was married to a Scotsman a few days ago (bottom image) amid reports that said they looked like royalty.

Both have been interviewed frequently on American TV, with Elizabeth Smart pushing back strongly against CNN’s Nancy Grace. Both want to raise awareness of female kidnappings.

Jaycee Dugard’s kidnapping happened when the internet was in its infancy and the conspiracy theories targeting her family were mild and did not slow her mother’s determination. Elizabeth Smart’s parents however were really targeted by the conspiracy theorists, and rants against both her father and herself became absolutely endemic.

Any comparison between these two and Amanda Knox here? We dont see it. Most of the internet abuse has flowed from Knox’s own “supporters”. They have too often made demented personal attacks which absolutely cannot help her with Perugia’s top prosecutor, or the Supreme Court which she soon faces.

And many months since she returned home after the first appeal court released her, she still has not had the courage to face the TV cameras, or to do other than announce a book which sounds like a work of fiction.

Learn something from these two, Amanda Knox. Get classy. Or understand why you and yours will never be widely admired.




Posted on 02/29/12 at 03:15 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Watch Out David Marriott! Your Feeble Efforts To Market AK May Land You One In The Eye…

Posted by Peter Quennell





It seems Casey Anthony may have seized control of her own PR and dumped her lead lawyer for not landing her a megabucks deal.

Her lead lawyer was Jose Baez (image above) who may not yet have been fully paid for getting her off minus the convictions for lying to the cops. Early on, Jose Baez compared her to Amanda Knox who now also appears to be struggling for a megabucks deal. Clearly not much synergy there.

Casey Anthony’s need for money to pay her bills and set herself up after her probation period ends (she is now confined to a hideway in Florida) are said to be considerable. For example she owes the State of Florida about $100,000 toward their investigation costs for so often leading them astray.

Last month it was reported that her latest pitch was for $500,000 to $750,000 for a first interview - and that most TV networks had already passed.

Casey Anthony seemed to have had a short shelf life. A few days ago it was conjectured that Jodi Arias may now be edging out Casey Anthony in the notoriety stakes. Jodi Arias has just been accused of shooting her ex-boyfriend and also stabbing him 27 times.

But in this context - perhaps coincidence, perhaps not - two video diaries by Casey Anthony suddenly surface and promptly they go viral. The first one is below. This is Diane Dimond’s report about this in the Daily Beast.

It only took six months—to the day—for Casey Anthony to catapult herself back into the nation’s consciousness. Six months after the verdict in her notorious murder trial, Anthony’s visage flooded computer screens worldwide.

Viewers were fascinated by her suddenly short blonde hair, her oversize reading glasses, and her self-absorbed four-minute soliloquy during which she mentioned herself more than 40 times and uttered not one word about her dead baby girl, Caylee, or her family….

It’s confirmed that it is Casey Anthony on the video. One of Anthony’s criminal-defense lawyers says she kept notes and a video blog as part of her “continuing therapy.” But Cheney Mason steadfastly maintains it wasn’t Anthony who let it loose on the Internet… 

Mason was part of the team that successfully defended the young mother during her murder trial and, according to two sources, has now displaced Jose Baez as the media spokesperson for Anthony—apparently at her request.

People close to both men report a recent major falling out among all the parties—between Baez and Anthony, between Baez and Mason—sparked by Anthony’s displeasure at Baez’s inability to win her a TV, book, or movie deal.

Anthony apparently gave Baez until the end of the year to come up with a deal, and absent that anointed Mason as her official liaison. Just how involved Baez will be in Anthony’s future affairs isn’t known, but his unhappiness with the situation has supposedly caused strain around his law office. As one person close to this story who did not want to be identified put it, “Jose is on the outs now. Cheney is in.”

There are many unknowns about the videos. While Anthony gives the date of the v-blog as October 2011, there is no way of knowing exactly when she spoke into her webcam, immortalizing herself.

She could have done it after the first of the year as part of a new self-directed publicity plan—a way to test the waters about a possible rebranding of her image.

Whoever leaked the two videos, whether it was Casey Anthony intent on rebranding herself or another who pirated the videos (Diane Dimond reports the various theories), it may have worked to Casey Anthony’s advantage. Radar Online has just reported this:

Casey Anthony’s web videos have caused a renewed interest in the notorious ‘Tot Mom’ and RadarOnline.com has exclusively learned that a website has offered her an enormous sum for her first post jail sit down interview.

Nik Lamas-Richie, founder of the website The Dirty, has offered Casey Anthony a whopping $350,000 for an interview, according to a source close to the situation.

This is the website referred to. Better take a look, Mr Marriott.  But not too close.

Posted on 01/10/12 at 09:26 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

UK High Court Convicts Two After 18 Years When Defense DNA Contamination Claims Lose Traction

Posted by The Machine



Gary Dobson and David Norris have been found guilty of murdering Stephen Lawrence in 1993 by a jury at the Old Bailey.

There are some parallels between this case and the Meredith Kercher case: the police were accused of making a catalogue of errors and the defence lawyers claim forensic evidence was contaminated.

Gary Dobson was acquitted of Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1996. However, the Court of Appeal quashed the acquittal. The case against David Norris collapsed before it reached court.

It’s heartening that Dobson and Norris have been finally brought to justice. Forensic scientists used advanced techniques which were not available to the original investigators to recover bloodstains, clothing fibres and a single hair belonging to Stephen Lawrence from the clothes of the suspects.

Rosalyn Hammond from LGC Forensics explaining in today’s Telegraph:

Their convictions come after a five-week trial during which forensic evidence linking the two to the murder was shown to the jury.

The discovery of the fibres, blood and hair on the clothing was the evidence upon which the trial was based. A spot of Stephen’s blood was found on the collar of Dobson’s jacket, while hairs belonging to Stephen were found on Norris’ trousers.  As well as the blood spot, fibres from Stephen’s clothing were found on clothing taken from the homes of Dobson and Norris.

At one point in the 1990s Dobson contacted the Metropolitan Police to ask for the return of his clothes. But, after considering his request, Scotland Yard declined. Even today the force retains the clothing of all of the suspects so that they can be tested as forensic techniques develop.

A further criticism could be laid at the door of the scientists who failed to discover the blood spot in the 1990s.  But experts pointed out that even if it had been discovered then, it would have been useless as DNA testing had not yet developed enough to be able to clarify that such a small stain was blood belonging to Stephen Lawrence.

The tiny stain found on Dobson’s jacket is believed, by forensic experts, to be the smallest piece of forensic evidence upon which a trial has ever been mounted.

The decision to base the prosecution against Dobson on such a small piece of evidence was a risk, however. After his conviction was quashed, the current law allows only one further attempt at prosecution. It meant that if he was found not guilty, Dobson could never have been charged again.

The Italian Supreme Court should order another appeal trial on the grounds that the court consultants Vecchiotti and Conti failed to carry out a newly available test on the knife. That was despite the fact they were specifically instructed in their initial instructions to do so.

Also that Judge Hellman late in the appeal arbitrarily denied the prosecution request for precisely that test of the DNA without any good reason.

The prosecution grounds for their appeal to the Italian Supreme Court due this month are expected to repeat this request and we can see no grounds that could allow the Supreme Court to deny it. There are a number of laboratories that have the technology to carry out a test on the remaining DNA on the knife.

The requested test on the knife should go ahead.


Posted on 01/03/12 at 02:53 PM by The MachineClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Casey Anthony And Sollecito/Knox Outcomes Spark A New Discussion Of The CSI Effect

Posted by Peter Quennell



That seems a good explanation of the so-called CSI effect in the Fox Kansas City video above.

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.

The graph at bottom (which we’d like to see updated) showed how the US Feds are still winning juries over and maintaining amazingly high conviction rates.  And at state level and lower, judges and lawyers are also 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.”

The jury is still out on what really swayed the Perugia appeal jury. Their sentencing report is due out in the New Year. They sure didnt look at very much except for a small fraction of the DNA.

Which leaves us with a big question. How did Judge Hellman brief his jury? Did he warn against the CSI Effect? We’re told this might be his first DNA case, so Cassation will surely look closely at that.



Posted on 10/24/11 at 12:09 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Norwegian Public Safety Forces Ill-Equipped To Stop Possible Worst Shooting Spree in History

Posted by Peter Quennell

The latest death toll estimate at Lake Utoya and Oslo is 98 dead. The gunman was firing for one and a half hours.

Apparently there was no security presence on the island. And the Associated Press has the first report on why such a delayed response from an under-equipped police force to stop Anders Behring Breivik from more killing.

Police arrived at an island massacre about 1.5 hours after a gunman first opened fire, slowed because they didn’t have quick access to a helicopter and then couldn’t find a boat to make their way to the scene just several hundred yards (meters) offshore.

There is a minute by minute description of the growing horror on the island here and a Norwegian politician has posted a first-hand account of how so many others died and she survived here.

Intensely sad and disturbing - and in the land of the Nobel Peace Prize. We don’t support public institutions at our real peril.

Posted on 07/23/11 at 05:40 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

French Divided Over French Woman In Mexico Jail: Take A Hard Noisy Line Or One Quiet And Subtle?

Posted by Peter Quennell





You’d be surprised - or maybe not - at how very rare it is that publicly impugning another country’s legitimacy and competence really pays off.

Good governments and good international lawyers and good public relations experts all very rapidly move to take negotiations quietly behind the scenes. Though that may not guarantee the outcome they want, it usually results in some wiggle room and softening.

But the opportunity for this passes very fast.

We have only ever seen a hard line out of the unblinking Italian courts in Meredith’s case, up to and including the Supreme Court of Cassation in their rejection of Guede’s final appeal. The hardline PR seems to have hit a wall. And Amanda Knox (in the calunnia trial) and her biological parents (in theirs) and the family of Raffaele Sollecito (in their perversion of justice trial) all seem to have hit their own individual walls.

It is hard to see what the hardline PR campaign for Amanda Knox has achieved other than that equal and opposite Italian hard line.  After a very silly start the Knox family legal advisor Ted Simon seems to have tried to get away from all that, and to move things behind closed doors.

Florence Cassez’s case is very well described in the Wikipedia entry.

Now 36, she moved to Mexico from France in 2003, ended up with a Mexican boyfriend who was decidedly bad news, and in December 2005 was arrested for her part in kidnapping three people for ransom.

Kidnapping is huge in Mexico, and along with the wars over the supplying of Americans with drugs, it comes top of most people’s most-feared list. 

In line with the Mexican government’s efforts to try to stamp out all the kidnapping, Florence Cassez was given a very harsh sentence. It is now set at 60 years. There are dozens of French and Spanish-language reports and YouTubes on the case.

She has had one appeal which failed and right now she serves out her 60 years.

Almost without exception, Mexicans feel it was a well-proven case and that Florence Cassez’s claims that she did not not know what was going on right under her nose when three captives were being held by her boyfriend on the same ranch rang hollow at her trial.

France has been more divided.

There are some who think she did it and must pay the piper for her crime. There are some who think a softer line might have helped. And there are some, like President Sarkozy, who have taken a very hard line. They seem to have upset Mexico’s president and senior officials and not influenced the judges at all.

France has no sentence longer than 20 years for kidnapping-related crimes so the Mexican government has closed the door to her returning to France and serving out her sentence in prison there.

After more time passes and presidential elections happen in Mexico and France, the deadlock might be broken, and the case could be reviewed and Florence Cassez’s fate become something different.

But for now she has only her “friends” to thank. 





Below: two of the few videos with English commentary or subtitles, both pro-Florence Cassez, the first some years old, and the second early this year.


Posted on 07/21/11 at 10:28 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Friday, July 08, 2011

Jury Sequestration Coming Under Fire From Those Who Question The Casey Anthony Verdict

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above and below: The jury’s Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando; there are more images here].

The jury was imported for the Casey Anthony trial from a Gulf of Mexico town 100 miles west.  They stayed in this hotel for nearly seven weeks.

Now they are rather defiantly starting to speak out (see the ABC News video posted below) to explain that, given big gaps in the evidence against Casey Anthony, and the dubious scenario presented (that she put the baby she loved to sleep with chloroform and duct tape in the trunk of her car while she went off to have a good time), they did what they had to do: unanimously vote no on the charges of murder and manslaughter.

There seem to be no signs that during the trial a hue-and-cry media had any pro-guilt effect on their thinking - in Tuesday’s post we suggested that if anything it seemed to do quite the opposite.

But it is now being suggested that while staying all together in this hotel the 20 jurors became just a little too chummy.

The former Los Angeles prosecutor Marcia Clark, who is critical of both the verdict and the prosecution, argues in the Daily Beast that jury members themselves are signaling that their sequestration was a very big factor.

I’m going to start by saying that, for those who thought the jury came back awfully fast—less than eleven hours spent in deliberation, you should now wonder what took them that long. Because from the very first vote, this jury was already close to a unanimous verdict of acquittal - at least as to murder: ten to two for not guilty. That’s an impressive show of solidarity for a first vote. And it shows they were almost unanimously inclined to acquit right from jump.

It’s the fact that this jury was already in sync in a case that posed so many debatable issues is what’s so noteworthy. And it has everything to do with sequestration. This jury was sequestered for more than two months. When jurors are forced to spend day and night with each other, apart from their families and friends, they become a tribe unto themselves. Because they only have each other for company, and because most people prefer harmony to discord, there’s a natural desire to cooperate, to compromise in order to reach agreement. And they have no safe retreat. If they disagree with their fellow jurors, they can’t go home to a husband, a wife, a friend, where they can regroup and marshal their energies. Make no mistake about it, sequestration is no picnic and I have sympathy and respect for the jurors who put up with that incredible hardship.

But we can’t ignore the mental and emotional impact it has on the jurors—an impact that likely thwarts the whole point of drafting twelve individuals to decide a defendant’s fate. The point of having twelve jurors is to have an array of differing points of view. The belief is that people of different backgrounds and experience will naturally bring a variety of attitudes to bear, and thus produce a more balanced view of the evidence. What one juror doesn’t get, another one does, and each of them sees different aspects to each witness and piece of evidence. The idea is for them to share differing views and reach a greater understanding—not to have them shave off their square corners so they can all roll together.

Unfortunately—and psychological studies bear this out—a group that is kept together for any length of time becomes more and more alike, more in sync, as time goes on. (By the way, this phenomenon is also in play with regard to proximity to the defendant. The longer the jury is in contact with the defendant, the less sinister he or she appears. In this way, familiarity with Casey Anthony turned her from a potential murderer to an abused, perhaps disturbed, but certainly nonthreatening, child.) Add this phenomenon to the natural desire to avoid contentiousness and seek harmony and you can see how individuality begins to erode in a sequestered jury.

Now add to that the psychology of group dynamics—a subject well known to trial lawyers and jury consultants. In every group there will be leaders and followers. Listening to Juror Jennifer Ford, who was very likely a leader, it became abundantly clear that the leaders on the Anthony jury were cheerleaders for the defense.


Posted on 07/08/11 at 10:49 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Jennifer Ford Is The First Juror To Speak Out On The Casey Anthony Acquittal

Posted by Peter Quennell

Posted on 07/08/11 at 09:30 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Interesting Tilts Of Marcia Clark And Alan Dershowitz Toward Educated, Informed Italian-type Juries

Posted by Peter Quennell



Neither of these heavy hitters are saying to abolish the common-law system of not placing professionals in the jury room.

Or for that matter to swing over to a semi-professional and seemingly less error-prone system like Italy’s, where the judges stake their own reputations on their verdict and the written explanation that must follow.

But both found the Casey Anthony non-guilty jury verdict a bit peculiar, and Alan Dershowitz specifically suggests that semi-professional jury systems (like Italy’s) tend to be more accurate. 

Above, the former prosecutor Marcia Clark commenting a couple of weeks ago on why the media boosted the Casey Anthony trial into such a “fry her” phenomenon. And here in the Daily Beast she comments on why that media angle had no sway over the jury.

For one thing the evidence and scenario had some major gaps. And for another:

[American] jury instructions are so numerous and complex, it’s a wonder jurors ever wade through them. And so it should come as no surprise that they can sometimes get stuck along the way. The instruction on circumstantial evidence is confusing even to lawyers. And reasonable doubt? That’s the hardest, most elusive one of all. And I think it’s where even the most fair-minded jurors can get derailed.

How? By confusing reasonable doubt with a reason to doubt. Some believe that thinking was in play in the Simpson case. After the verdict was read in the Simpson case, as the jury was leaving, one of them, I was later told, said: “We think he probably did it. We just didn’t think they proved it beyond a reasonable doubt.” In every case, a defense attorney will do his or her best to give the jury a reason to doubt.

“Some other dude did it,” or “some other dude threatened him.” But those reasons don’t necessarily equate with a reasonable doubt. A reason does not equal reasonable. Sometimes, that distinction can get lost.

Former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz went deeper into jury principles on the Piers Morgan interview show on CNN last night.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, if you want justice, don’t look to the criminal law system. That’s not its job. Its job is not to produce a just result. Its job is to produce a legally correct result.

We have a system that says better 10 guilty go free than one innocent be wrongly confined. If you have a 60 percent likelihood a person did it, you must acquit. If you think he probably did it, you must acquit. If you think he almost surely did it, you must acquit.

We acquit lots of guilty people, and that’s the right thing to do. When we convict an innocent person, that’s the wrong thing to do. That’s our system of justice. Many people don’t like it. Many people think the opposite, that we have too much popular justice, too much dependent on elected prosecutors, elected judges, elected officials.

The French, for example, don’t understand our stem with a case that’s going on now with the rape in New York. They don’t understand our system. They say it’s much too popular. In France, there’s a professional system. They have professional judges, professional prosecutors, professional jurors.

We’ve opted for a much more democratic system, and it means that in the end you’re going to be dissatisfied with a lot of verdicts. Just don’t expect too much from our legal system. Don’t expect truth. Don’t expect justice, because that’s not what it’s supposed to give you.

It’s supposed to give you a legal process that only convicts if admissible evidence proves the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If you don’t like that system, I’ve got plenty of other systems for you that are more accurate. The Chinese system, the military justice system, the Russian system. Many European systems. But the American system errs on the side of freeing the guilty instead of convicting the innocent.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Casey Anthony Verdict Not Guilty Despite Three Years Of One-Sided Media Presuming Guilt

Posted by Peter Quennell





One thing that LA Times headline above means is that media bias against the defendant made not one whit of difference.

The seriously ailing CNN network’s Headline News channel (legal anchors Nancy Grace and Jane Velez Mitchell) have very stridently promoted the notion that Casey Anthony probably killed her toddler Caylee almost nightly for three years, to drive up their viewership ratings.

It had zero effect on the Florida jury. Now Headline News looks like a toothless tiger, and one prone to dangerous mistakes.

The jury studied the evidence and made up its own mind (in 11 hours) and so that is that. Mainstream media is outraged but looking puny. Here is a scathing comment from the defense lawyers saying they got it seriously wrong.

Anthony’s defense attorney, Jose Baez, said this verdict proves, “You cannot convict someone until they’ve had their day in court.”

A second defense attorney for Anthony, Cheney Mason, blasted the media in a statement, saying, “I hope that this is a lesson to those of you who have indulged in media assassination for three years, bias, and prejudice, and incompetent talking heads saying what would be and how to be.”

The few early media reports about “Foxy Knox” are like a candle to the blowtorch of this seeming never-ending pro-guilt commentary.

The usual couple of examples waved around are from the UK. In fact Italy saw next to no anti-Knox commentary, and one of the ways Italy looks rather fine in the Knox case is their media have been so restrained.

Read the Massei Report 10 times and you will be lucky to find one sentence that suggests “The media made us declare her guilty”.  It just didn’t happen. The jury studied the evidence and made up its own mind (in a few hours) and so that is that.

In contrast to the Casey Anthony trial, the full spectrum of evidence in the Knox-Sollecito trial is very strong and even redundant, violence obviously was done (no signs of violence were found on Caylee Anthony) and there are no other likely scenarios or perps.

Okay, media guys. For starters, report the facts from Perugia correctly. And do some translation - or read ours. Surely that cannot hurt more than this.

Posted on 07/05/11 at 06:54 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Friday, June 10, 2011

US Kidnapping Victim Gets Justice After 8 Years Despite Defense + Perp Groupies Gaming The System

Posted by Peter Quennell

A 14-year old Mormon girl, Elizabeth Smart, was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City on June 5 2002.

On March 12 2003 she was found alive with her abductors on the streets of a town about 18 miles from her home. Her abductors were Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Ileen Barzee.

A couple of weeks ago,  Mitchell was finally handed two life terms at trial.

It sure was a strenuous process getting there.

The defense had great success over the years in lining up a number of mental health specialists to say he was not well in the head, and should of course be committed to their institutions rather than prison where, presumably, they would cure him.

Elizabeth Smart and her family and the cops and prosecutors and many or most of the American public never ever bought Mitchell’s insanity act for a moment. There grew to be a small mountain of evidence that he was faking it. He was observed to turn on and off bizarre behavior whenever it served him..

But many others, some naive do-gooders and some very nasty  did buy Mitchell’s act. And in the video at bottom you can see how the defense tried to argue that Elizabeth Smart herself was not REALLY affected by her ordeal and so Mitchell should get a break on the length of his sentence.

In this case Wikipedia has an excellent and impartial account of the psychological testimony. The defense portion of the trial, which ultimately failed to convince the jury:

Many stipulations were presented and many lay witnesses where called covering Mitchell’s alleged sanity and his alleged insanity. The defense relied most of all on the testimony of two mental health professionals, Dr. Paul Whitehead and Dr. Richard DeMier. Dr. Whitehead is the clinical director of the forensic unit at the Utah State Hospital and studied Mitchell extensively since his arrest in 2003 and concluded that Mitchell suffered from a delusional disorder which made him both incompetent to stand trial and not responsible for his crimes. Dr. DeMier testified that Mitchell suffers from both grandiose and paranoid delusions which he characterized as bizarre however he offered no opinion as to what Mitchell’s mental health was at the time of the crimes between 2002 to 2003 because he only analysed his mental state as of 2008.

And the prosecution portion of the trial which won the jury over.

A total of seven lay witnesses were called to testify on December 3, 2010 regarding Mitchell’s cruelty and religious beliefs including his two former step daughters who testified that Mitchell abused them long before he claimed to be “Immanuel” or a prophet…  A US Marshall who escorted Mitchell into the courtroom each day testified that Mitchell only sings inside the court room. The officer also said that Mitchell spent his time in the nearby holding cell following proceedings, napping or exercising. Mitchell’s behavior outside the courtroom changed only when his wife Wanda Barzee testified with Mitchell standing as close as possible to the monitor, not moving during the duration of her time on the stand….

The prosecution’s last witness was Dr Welner, a forensic psychiatrist from New York City, who spent more than 1,600 hours working on a report on Mitchell…. Dr Welner testified that Mitchell does not suffer from a mental illness, but rather pedophilia, anti-social personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder adding that to know Brian Mitchell is to be fooled by Brian Mitchell. Amongst other things he testified that Mitchell would abandon his revelations when it suited him which showed they weren’t sincere and that Mitchell used blessings to control his wife and used threats and force as a way to control Elizabeth Smart.

A life sentence eight years in the making. Nice to see a prosecution stick to its guns and achieve justice, despite such strenuous attempts to derail it.

Posted on 06/10/11 at 09:21 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Another US-Italian Case Shows The Utter Futility Of Trying To Strongarm The Italian Justice System

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Father Michael McCarty and baby Liam McCarty. Below: Mother Manuela Antonelli.]

Italy and the US get along exceptionally well on the political, economic, military and cultural fronts.

They get along on the justice front too, if neither side tries to pull the rug out from under the other. This case and this case are festering instances of where the Italians did not think the Americans played quite fair.

Typically therefore the US State Department likes to take any mutual justice matter below the radar. Way, way below the radar.

Despite what Knox conspiracists like Steve Moore and Candace Dempsey and “Bruce Fisher” may think, their rabid campaign is only making any effective intervention by the State Department that much more unlikely.

Knox family advisor Ted Simon and US Senator for Washington State Maria Cantwell seem to have been told that or figured it out. The Knox-Mellas family seems to have cooled it on the surface in recent month, even if Chris Mellas appears to sustain support for his hardline internet faction just below that surface.

Michael McCarty is a New York photographer who publishes fine art prints, and Manuela Antonelli was a producer and reporter for Italian TV. They were married in New York’s Central Park in 1992, eight year later their son Liam was born, and some time after that they divorced.

In 2007 in the midst of a nasty custody battle in New York between Manuela and Michael over Liam, Manuela suddenly took off with Liam, then aged six, and headed back to her home country of Italy. Once the custody of Liam was awarded by a New York judge to the father, a governmental legal campaign began to try to get Liam and his mother back.

From the Examiner.

Antonelli had made numerous allegations of abuse against McCarty but investigations by the NYPD, New York District Attorney’s Office, Children’s Services, and numerous court-appointed mental health professionals all found the accusations to be “unfounded,” “baseless,” and “false.”

Antonelli was diagnosed with severe personality disorders and was determined to be an unfit parent. Sole legal and physical custody was awarded to McCarty, an order was issued that Liam not be taken out of the United States, and a judicial finding of parental alienation was made against the mother….

In Italy, Manuela Antonelli was also diagnosed with psychiatric problems, and Liam was placed in an orphanage, and later in the custody of an Italian uncle in Rome, where he is now. At one point early on, Manuela briefly snatched Liam back.

Italy usually takes the position of the mother getting automatic custody, or at minimum having easy access to her children. If Liam is returned to New York, his mother Manuela would get neither, so the Italian judicial approach has been very cautious on this one. More-so because she is clearly unwell.

In 2009 the American campaign to get him back suddenly became very public and quite nasty, with several US TV networks jumping on the bandwagon and contributing to an emotional campaign. Video examples of this can be seen here and here and here.

Rather suddenly, that public campaign went quiet again, and the State Department very gently got back into the act of trying to get Liam back to New York and Manuela extradited back to the US to face charges.

The latest news is that both the Italian judicial position and the mood of the Italian public have moved over to conceding that Liam really should be sent back to New York to his father. The question of the extradition of the mother remains open.

The case remains much in the Italian news and many online comments remark scathingly how very unhelpful in all this the rabid Knox campaign has been. 




Posted on 04/15/11 at 07:53 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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