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 9 Mignini v Knox hoax

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Knox PR Campaign: Have The Dishonest Talking Points Now Become A Trap?

Posted by The Machine



[David Marriott of a Seattle public relations firms]

Marriott’s dishonest campaign

David Marriott apparently manages (see sample press release) the message and media relations for the campaign to enhance Amanda Knox.

The main thrust of the PR campaign seems to be that there’s no evidence against Knox, or the evidence is tainted, they are holding the wrong person (or already have the right person), and there’s no need to have a trial…  but those rascally Italians just won’t let her go.

Marriott’s nasty campaign already seems to have most of Italy backed off (the Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito legal teams both included), and to have lost most of its traction in the UK and New York.

Many good PR gurus think it is very sleazy. Even in Seattle, there are now those who speak out against it.

Not exactly what we’d call a big win.

True, people accused of a cruel and depraved murder do not normally have a PR campaign making their case. Normally they have a lawyer out front - preferably a very good lawyer, who can contend with evidence as it comes out, and appear on the talk-shows and news to explain what really happened.

And true, the PR campaign was launched almost instantly after Knox had already come out with suggestive actions and statements which seem to implicate her in the crime which do not want to go away.

So the campaign was maybe handicapped right from the start.

But still, public relations guys we know are scratching their heads over this one.

Ten obvious public relations lies

Why run a campaign which, time and time again, has taken loud positions not 5 degrees away from probable truth - but a full 180 degrees away? And therefore very hard to quietly back away from?

Each of these ten false claims and mantras below - still not put to rest, although last week was not a good week for them - have been incessantly propagated, some for nearly one year. 

Each of them now seems to be an albatross around the necks of the Seattle defendant and her team. The danger now is that, as the media find ONE false claim fake, they will start to question all of them, and feel that they have been lied to.

Again, not exactly what we’d call a winning stance.

False claim 1: Amanda was beaten or “smacked around” by the police during her questioning

Amanda herself may have started this false claim when explaining to family why she incriminated herself. Although Mr Knox wasn’t present when Amanda was questioned by the police, he has frequently repeated this claim when interviewed by the media.

Reality 

Amanda gave two very different accounts of where she was, who she was with, and what she was doing on the night of the murder. She also accused an innocent man of Meredith’s murder.

This is highly incriminating and poses a real problem for Amanda’s defense and family and supporters. 

However Amanda’s lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, confirmed that Amanda had not actually been beaten or “smacked around” at Rudy Guede’s fast-track trial last October: “There were pressures from the police but we never said she was hit.”

Mr Knox has not acknowledged the admission of his daughter’s counsel or apologised for accusing the Italian police of brutality. The false claim continue to mislead people, with posters on Internet website still maintaining that Amanda’s confession was beaten out of her. 

False claim 2: Amanda was interrogated for 9 hours/14 hours/all night

Jon Follain in The Times quoted the parents in an interview proclaiming: “On November 6, five days after Meredith’s murder, Knox was interrogated by police for nine hours until she signed a statement at 5.45am.” 

Juju Chang claimed it was “an all night interrogation” on ABC News. Jan Goodwin stated in her article in Marie Claire magazine that:“After her arrest, Amanda was detained by the police and interrogated for 14 hours.”

Mr Knox repeated the claim that Amanda’s interrogation last all night, and that it lasted 14 hours, on a recent Seattle TV station King5 interview.

Lexie Krell wrote in The UW Daily on 16 January 2009 that: “The Italian Supreme Court has already thrown out Knox’s original statement on the basis that she was denied a lawyer during her initial 14-hour interrogation.”

Reality 

We know that Amanda was on the phone with one of her Italian flatmates at around 10.40pm, asking if the living arrangement could continue in spite of Meredith’s death. The police questioning had not begun then.

And according to the Italian Supreme Court, Amanda’s questioning was stopped at 1.45am when she became a suspect. So Amanda was questioned for only approximately 3 hours and then she was held as a suspect.

There never was an all-night interrogation, and it certainly was nowhere remotely near 14 hours in length. 

It seems there may be a simple and straightforward explanation why Amanda suddenly admitted that she was the cottage when Meredith was murdered and implicated Lumumba:

She was informed that Raffaele Sollecito was no longer providing her with an alibi that she was with him all the night of the murder.

False claim 3: Knox’s confession to being at the murder scene was thrown out.

This was the spoken confession at the end of the claimed 14 hours which Knox claimed she finally came out with only because she was knocked about.

Reality 

True in the narrow sense. But one of Amanda’s statements in which she admits to being at the cottage on the night of the murder was not “tossed” out by the Italian Supreme Court. 

Her letter to the police is almost identical in content to the statements that were not admitted as evidence. This incriminating letter was admitted as evidence last Friday.

False claim 4: Meredith wasn’t sexually assaulted.

Jan Goodwin claimed in Marie Claire: “There is also no indication that Meredith was subjected to sexual violence…”

In his unprecedented letter to Italy’s justice minister, Judge Michael Heavey stated that it was not true that: “Sexual violence was perpetrated against the victim”

Jonathan Martin claimed in The Seattle Times. “An autopsy found no evidence Kercher had been raped or had sexual contact with anyone except Guede.”

Reality 

Rudy Guede was found guilty of sexually assaulting Meredith on 30 October 2008. Sexually assaulting. And Judge Micheli in commiting Knox and Sollecito to trial graphically describes how the physical evidence points to a kind of gang rape. 

The claim that Meredith wasn’t sexually assaulted is not only untrue, it’s deeply offensive to Meredith and her poor family. By claiming that there was no sexual assault, the likes of Judge Heavey and Jan Goodwin are insinuating that Meredith consented to sexual activity with Rudy Guede.

False claim 5: The double DNA knife has been essentially ruled out.

The DNA on the blade could belong to half of the population of Italy or there is only a 1% per cent chance that the DNA on the blade belongs to Meredith.

Reality 

Forensic expert Patrizia Stefanoni has consistently maintained that Meredith’s DNA IS on the blade and Amanda’s DNA is on the handle of the knife found at Raffaele Sollecito’s apartment. 

This result was confirmed as accurate and reliable by Dr Renato Biondo, who is head of the DNA Unit at Polizia Scientifica, Rome.

Patrizia Stefanoni and Dr Renato Biondo are highly respected, independent forensic experts with impeccable credentials.

False claim 6: The crime scene was totally compromised by the police or analysts

Many of Amanda Knox’s supporters who seem to have no relevant qualifications or expertise in forensic science have claimed that the crime scene was compromised or violated. One vocal supporter analysed a police break-in downstairs on TV and offered it as proof that the crime scene upstairs had been compromised.

Reality 

This claim has been vigorously refuted by the forensic police. They claim that they have followed international protocols throughout. They recorded the investigation as it happened, changed tweezers when they needed to, and duly informed the defence of every finding.

Independent forensic expert Renato Biondo stated: “We are confirming the reliability of the information collected from the scene of the crime and at the same time, the professionalism and excellence of our work.”

False claim 7: The European press gave Amanda Knox the nickname Foxy Knoxy.

This is a part of the larger “UK and Italian tabloids have crucified her” meme for which actual evidence online is very hard to find..

Reality 

European newspapers, including the quality newspapers, have occasionally called Amanda by the nickname she herself called herself by on her MySpace page.

False claim 8: Amanda has never ever before been in trouble

Paul Ciolino has stated: “I was stunned that this was why he suspected Amanda and her boyfriend were involved in the crime,” he says. “These two kids, never in trouble, classic middle-class college students — it’s ludicrous that they were implicated.”

Reality 

Amanda Knox was charged for hosting a party that got seriously out of hand, with students high on drink and drugs, and throwing rocks into the road forcing cars to swerve.

The students then threw rocks at the windows of neighbours who had called the police.

The situation was so bad that police reinforcements had to be called. Amanda was fined $269 (£135) at the Municipal Court after the incident - Crime No: 071830624.

Incidentally, anyone who has recently tried to gain access to the police report has been denied access. It seems strange that a police report into a “routine” incident has seemingly now been hidden from the public.

False claim 9: Amanda hasn’t lied or if she has, she has only lied once

Amanda’s mother claimed in a recent interview with Linda Byron on Seatlle TV’s King5 (6 January) that Amanda has maintained she told the same story for over a year when she was asked whether Amanda had lied. She had previously stated that Amanda had only lied once.

Reality 

Amanda has given multiple alibis and told different stories repeatedly. Amanda herself apologised to Judge Paolo Micheli for lying about Diya Lumumba’s role in the murder. Amanda’s conflicting statements to the police seem to indicate that she lied to them several times. 

False claim 10: The prosecutors have been widely leaking information to the media

Amanda’s family and supporters have frequently made this claim. The biological parents claimed in their interview with Linda Byron on King5 that the international media frenzy had been fed by leaks by the prosecutors. 

Deanna Knox claimed on the Today Show that Amanda is the victim of an anti-American bias: “It’s because she’s an American,” she told Matt Lauer. “They don’t really like her there because she’s a pretty girl and they see her as some target that they can get to, because she’s from a different country.”

Reality 

In Italy Prosecutor Mignini is widely known for not leaking. Many of the so-called leaks were information put out in the course of the many hearings. The evidence in this case has in fact long been like an iceberg - all but a tiny fraction of it has remained out of sight, as the startling revelations last Friday and Saturday went to show.

Media sources have mentioned that many of the leaks have in fact come from defence sources. Fellow TJMK poster Skeptical Bystander was offered access to Amanda’s diary, not by the prosecutors, the police or prison guards, but by somebody close to Amanda herself.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Knox “Friends” Paul Ciolino & Co Smear Prosecutor Mignini As “An Out Of Control Maniac”

Posted by Peter Quennell





At the Salty’s hatefest in West Seattle, Paul Ciolino whipped up the crowd with a rant about Dr Mignini being “an out-of-control maniac”.

We see no proof. We check this whole point of view almost daily but we never, ever, ever get independent confirmation.  The BBC also checked it out and found zero proof of ANY of Ciolino’s wild-eyed claims.

We are repeatedly told that Mr Mignini is tough, fair, and effective, in an Italian system of justice where things are not particularly loaded on the side of the prosecution.

And that he has the reputation of being very, very caring of the victims and their families. The Kerchers have expressed their full confidence in him.

Also that Mr Mignini’s stepping-aside would probably make just about zero difference to the momentum of the case at this point.

There seems to be just too much suggestive evidence waiting to be explained, and a dozen careful judges have endorsed it as suggestive, and the strongly dominant mood in Italy seems to be one of: let us proceed.

Amanda Knox is of course very well represented by counsel. They have already shown irritation over attacks on the prosecutor.

Calling the prosecutor a maniac sure won’t be music to their ears. Is this whole PR campaign quite loopy, or what?!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Honest, Accurate TV Coverage Has Been HIGHLY Overdue

Posted by The Machine



[Above: Anne Bremner blows smoke]

NBC have shown the other American television networks how to make an objective documentary about the case.

I know that a lot of work went into making the NBC Dateline programmes with over 40 hours of tape shot for both stories. I hope the the likes of CBS News and ABC News now follow suit.

And that they always - always - remember this: Meredith Kercher’s murder was exceptionally brutal and sadistic. Specifically:

  • She was sexually assaulted and viciously teased with a knife for many minutes before the final stab.
  • And after the torture, she died a slow and intensely painful death, clutching her neck with both hands.
  • She might still have been saved - but a conscious decision was made that she wouldn’t be.
  • And this was then followed by two days of apparent glee on the part of the two defendants.

The news channels have to get their coverage right from now on. The case is precedent-setting in several ways, and far too important for the media to play fast and loose with the facts.

Hints of anti-Italy xenophobia have abounded in the American commentary. Such abysmal coverage would never have happened if this was an all-American case - the real victim would be there front and center, not a defendant with a notably odd history.

The parents of the prime suspect should not be allowed to dictate the content of the documentaries and news reports. The media have a duty to report objectively and not be used as vehicles for the Amanda Knox PR campaign. Some of the documentaries on the case have been essentially free advertisements for Amanda’s PR company.

I hope any future documentaries don’t include an interview with Curt Knox talking with great authority about Amanda’s interrogation despite the fact he wasn’t actually present. Amanda’s lawyer has already stated for the record that Amanda wasn’t hit by the police, so Curt can’t repeat that false allegation.

Juju Chang of ABC won’t be able to repeat the wild claim that the double DNA knife has been essentially ruled out after Patrizia Stefanoni confirmed that Meredith’s DNA is on the blade of the knife and Judge Paolo Micheli accepted it as evidence.

Rudy Guede was convicted of the sexual assault of Meredith, which means that the deeply offensive and untrue claim that there was no evidence of sexual assault can’t be repeated.

Instead of Anne Bremner analysing the wrong crime scene and ranting about Italian incompetence in a desperate attempt to discredit the investigation, the documentary makers should interview somebody who is actually an expert in forensic investigations.

Renato Biondo would be the best person to interview. He provided independent confirmation that the forensic investigation was carried out correctly, following international protocol. The only person guilty of incompetence was Anne Bremner.

It is always highlighted in documentaries that Amanda’s confession was thrown out by the Italian Supreme Court. However, they never mention that one of Amanda’s statements in which she admits to being at the cottage when Meredith was murdered was not thrown out by the Italian Supreme Court.

Her note to the police on 6 November is almost identical in content to the statements that were not admitted as evidence.

And Amanda Knox was not given the nickname Foxy Knoxy by the European press. It was a nickname she used herself on her MySpace page.

It’s wrong that inconvenient and incriminating facts are airbrushed out of these programmes. There has been a deliberate attempt to mislead and manipulate the general public.

The media should always have an ethical commitment to the truth, and they should never forget that it was Meredith who was the real victim of this terrible crime.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case. Well done, NBC, for breaking the mould.

Now CBS News, ABC News, and other television networks owe it to Meredith and her poor family to get it right, the next time they cover the case.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“They Were Held For A Year Without Even Being Charged!!” How Italian Justice REALLY Works

Posted by Nicki



[Above and at bottom: the Italian Supreme Court Of Appeals}

A misleading mantra

This frequently quoted claim above is maybe the most mindless and misinformed of all the mantras on the case.

Much of the US media and some of the UK media - sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes with reserve - has parroted the claim that Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox were “held without charges” for nearly a year.

Perhaps bringing to mind the notion of two innocent bystanders to the crime being arbitrarily arrested? Locked up in cockroach-infested jails by abusive police? Led on by an evil prosecutor with endless powers up his sleeve, and nothing at all to slow him down? Lost and forgotten by any judges in the case?

Well, good luck with that one, if it’s designed to sway the process.

It irritates just about everybody here in Italy, the judiciary and the media included. And it is doing the defendants no good at all.

Negative stereotypes like these really should not be applied to a country that is one of the founding members of the EU, of NATO, and of the European Council, and of the G-7, G-8, OECD, and United Nations (the non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2007-2008).

So for media reporters and commentators, please let us get the facts straight. Once and for all?!

Origin of Italian jurisprudence

Italian jurisprudence developed from Roman Law. It was shaped in the course of history to become a modern and very fair system. Judicial powers are subjected to a very complex and extremely pervasive set of checks and balances, which really assure maximum protection of every citizen’s rights.

Comparing the US and UK common law system - a model founded on non-written laws and developed through judicial proceedings - with this system which arose from the Roman Law model - based on a written civil code - is really like comparing apples to oranges.

They were both conceived to protect individual’s rights at a maximum level, while seeking justice for the victims. But with entirely different processes.

One is not necessarily better or worse. But there are legal experts who think the Italian system is distinctly fairer - much more weighted toward the defendants. In the US and the UK the prosecutor usually has to make it through only one pre-trial hoop. In Italy the prosecutor has to make it through a whole row of pre-trial hoops.

Legal status of a witness and a suspect

Let’s see what happens in Italy to the legal status of a person who, while considered a “persona informata dei fatti” which means “a person who could yield useful information” in relation to a brutal murder, suddenly becomes a suspect in the eyes of the police.

If while interviewing the “person who could yield useful information” the suspicion arises that such person could have played an active role in the crime, their status then turns into that of a suspect. The police can then detain that suspect up to 48 hours.

Those 48 hours are the period within which a prosecutor - if he believes that the evidence of guilt is meaningful - can request a validation of the arrest by the Judge of Preliminary Investigation (the GIP).

If the judge agrees with the prosecutor that a serious indication of guilt exists, a warrant for the arrest is issued by the judge, and the person’s detention is thus validated.

Immediately, as soon as the status of “person who could yield useful information” status changes into the status of a suspect, the suspect person has a right to legal counsel. This legal counsel normally immediately appeals for the release of the suspect.

Subsequent hearings by different judges

Thus setting in motion what can be a LONG sequel of hearings - for which in US and UK common law there is no such equivalent. Each hearing is headed by a different judge. This judge examines prosecution and defence arguments, and decides if the suspect may be released on any of these bases:

  • Seriousness of the clues presented by prosecution

  • Likelihood of repeating a similar crime

  • Likelihood of fleeing the country during the ongoing investigation

  • Danger of tampering with, or fabricating evidence

If every one of the defence appeals fails, in front of a number of different judges, in a number of different hearings, and the investigation is officially closed, the suspect then goes on to a pre-trial hearing.

Once again here, yet another judge rules either to clear and release the suspect by rejecting the submitted evidence, or to send the suspect to trial on the basis of that evidence, thus making the charges official.

Judicial decisions on bail, house arrest, or jail

Now that the charges are official, the judge can decide if the defendant must await trial under house arrest, or in freedom, of if the defendant must remain in jail.

If the judge, based on their knowledge of the crime and the defendants, estimates that the chances of re-offending or fleeing the country are high, the suspect must remain in jail.

So nobody in Italy can be detained without a reasonable suspicion, a long series of judicial hearings (any one of which could set them free) or eventual official charges.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have not in fact been incarcerated for over one year due to zealous police or a bizarre prosecutor or the complicity of a number of judges throughout the process.

They have been incarcerated because an articulate and balanced process of law has officially and very fairly established there are strong indications that they willingly participated in the vicious murder of Meredith Kercher.

Failure of defenses to persuade judges

Their own lawyers have put up a tough fight for Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox throughout the judicial process.  But they have simply failed to convince the judges throughout that process.

One that actually seems strongly weighted in their favor.




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