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 11 No court bent hoax

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.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Peter Popham Of The UK “Independent” Sure Has Drunk The Knox PR Kool-Aid

Posted by Peter Quennell




Popham’s Bias Against Italy

Among the European papers The Independent is really standing out now for its coverage of the Kercher case.

A long list of wrong and omitted facts. And a great deal of biased editorial comment masquerading as straight reporting. All the work of Peter Popham, the Independent’s Rome reporter.

Check out some of Popham’s Rome Notebook pieces, in which he comes across as contemptuous of Italy and all things Italian.

If Popham has actually published anything sympathetic to Italy in his time there, we are unable to spot it.   The Italian police and justice system seem particular targets of his scorn.

Ignored: Mountain of Evidence

By mid-year 2008 the main accumulation of evidence was complete and extremely extensive. It had already been reviewed twice by the Supreme Court and found to be strong.

A flavor of it was available to any reporter who bothered to attend the many preliminary hearings in 2008 summarised here.  To our knowledge, the lazy, opinionated and slapdash reporter Peter Popham never did.

Popham Again Channels Knox PR

Here now is Popham’s latest garbling of the real case. We put what is obvious bias in bold.

See our corrections below.

Peter Popham: A chance to redeem Italian justice

Rome Notebook: When he gives his verdict, Judge Paolo Micheli has the opportunity to redeem the reputation of Italian justice somewhat

If the prosecutors in the Meredith Kercher murder case had wanted to give the world a demonstration of what is wrong with Italian justice, they could hardly have done a better job.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have been in jail since last November….  The evidence? [only] household tiffs between Amanda and Meredith in the flat they shared. Amanda supposedly invited undesirable men back to the house. Raffaele wrote in his diary that he sought “extreme experiences” (he had apparently been a virgin till meeting Amanda a fortnight before.) Yet the girls cohabited well enough…

After allegedly killing their friend, did they flee? Not at all. Next morning they called the police, and hung around to give statements. In the absence of other suspects, prosecutors accused them of murder with an African friend. Unfortunately for the prosecutors, Patrick Lumumba had never even set foot in Mez’s flat and eventually they had to let him go.

Two weeks after the murder, scientists found bloody fingerprints on a cushion under Mez’s body which belonged to a drug dealer and serial house-breaker called Rudy Guede, who had gone on the run right after the murder. The crime, it seemed, was solved – but prosecutors clung to their original theorem, merely substituting one African for another.

When he gives his verdict, Judge Paolo Micheli has the opportunity to redeem the reputation of Italian justice somewhat. Though if he sends Guede to jail for life and frees the other two, the cries of “racist” and “American dupe” will doubtless be raucous.

Our corrections of Popham

1. The evidence is merely household tiffs? Really? What of the small mountain of damning witness testimony, luminol and other forensic evidence, and eyewitness accounts? Why does Popham make zero mention of that?

2. Hung around and called the police? Actually, the Postal Police turned up of their own accord and seemingly interrupted a rearrangement of the crime scene in progress.

3. Sollecito’s calls to the Perugia Central Police Station seem to have been made only in frantic catch-up mode - some minutes later.

4. The police messed up over Patrick Lumumba? Actually, he was fingered by a self-proclaimed eyewitness: Amanda Knox. Strongly. And not just once; several times. For which criminal slander, of course, both the prosecutor and Patrick Lumumba are now suing… Knox!

5. Rudy Guede is “a drug dealer and serial house-breaker”? Really? Is there ANY proof of that? Popham is happy to decry racist stereotypes and yet propagates them himself.

Still, it is interesting to know that Knox deflowered Sollecito. We can thank Popham for that mental image…


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Frank Sforza’s Perugia-Shock Blog: Approach With Caution

Posted by Skeptical Bystander


Frank Sforza called himself Frank Sfarzo for several years online.

Editor’s note: Both Frank Sforza and Perugia Shock are long gone, both forced of the scene for legal reasons. Sforza had losing court caes in Perugia and Seattle. But for years after this post Sforza caused considerable havoc, not least to his own family and to the populations of north-west United States, southwest Canada, and Hawaii. He conned the naive Doug Preston - not exactly a difficult feat - and was mindlessly assisted by Bruce Fischer and Chris Mellas. There are about three dozen posts in his series.

1. Meredith Case Websites

As you probably know, the complex and controversial case of Meredith Kercher is widely posted about on numerous websites in Italy, the UK and the US.

They vary a lot in their objectivity and the quality and timeliness of their information. Some appear to be little more than shills for the defendants and spend a lot of time blowing smoke and trying to brush inconvenient facts under the carpet.

Others are much more objective and really do want to see justice done and, just as importantly,  seen to be done..

The busiest forum on the Meredith Kercher case remains the True Crime Meredith Kercher board hosted as one of his sites (though he usually does not post there) by Steve Huff, a much-admired American crusader for justice.

That board has been busy since last November, in several technical iterations, and it is supported by a large community which has posted some thousands of remarks on it since early in November. (I’m a moderator and poster on that board.)

2. Sforza’s Perugia Shock

One of the several blogs of widely varying quality is Perugia-Shock, which is run by an Italian resident of Perugia named Frank Sforza.

It started out being objective, on-the-ball, amusing, caring for the victim, and widely admired.  But seemingly no longer. Recently it has wandered and the comments below the posts have become more heated.

As many Perugia-Shock readers have noticed, Frank has become quite annoyed with the True Crime board in the last couple of months, and what this suggests about Perugia-Shock is interesting and revealing.

  • Those who post on True Crime board tend to examine, analyze and discuss every piece of information pertaining to this case, and then they decide individually what it is worth. In contrast, Frank brings “scoops” to his public, which he gets from his “sources,” and to which he adds a dash of irony to make his interpretation go down easier. In his comments, he doesn’t seem to appreciate people questioning his authority, his sources or his judgement. And some posters on the True Crime board have been quite vocal and, in most cases, quite astute in their criticism of Frank’s evolving position on the case.

  • One of the criticisms of Frank’s blog on the True Crime board was the temporal (if not causal) relationship between the appearance of the Paypal button for contributions, his proximity to some of the Knox/Mellas family members, and a noticeable change in his focus. I am sure this criticism was noted, although Frank says he doesn’t read any other boards or blogs and gets all the information he needs from his own sources. The Paypal button has now disappeared - although the shift in focus has remained and even intensified.


3. Sforza’s Tilt Toward Knox

Frank’s blog now seems to have become all about Amanda Knox. I would say that two things have pushed him in this direction: Frank’s audience, and Frank’s sources.

  • The seeming role of Amanda Knox in the crime is undoubtedly what has attracted the attention to the case of much of the English-speaking world and of course a focus on Knox results in more website traffic.

  • Frank’s sources don’t seem to be what they used to be. Perhaps he has broken some important trusts. It is clear that at the beginning he was getting his information from the police and perhaps from the prosecution.

And since? Well, first there was Frank’s Biscotti phase - Mr Biscotti is the lead lawyer for Rudy Guede, one of the defendants, who seems to be under siege by the other two defendants. At this time, Frank was quite vocal about Raffaele and Amanda as suspects.

Then at some point, Frank stopped talking about Raffaele. I think it may have been after the Sollecito clan’s “trafic d’influence” activity was disclosed.

Frank’s comments about Biscotti have since turned quite negative. He recently compared Biscotti to Alan Dershowitz, a flamboyant American trial lawyer, and scoffed at Biscotti’s team of young acolytes in Perugia. What I suspect, my personal opinion, is that maybe these people are now spurning his advances - trust is gone, so no scoops from them.

4. Sforza’s Questionable Sources

The strangest turn for me came when Sollecito defense lawyer Giulia Bongiorno made her famous visit to the Kercher/Knox cottage several weeks ago, in which a demonstration was attempted that someone could have come in through flat-mate Filomena’s window.

Just prior to that visit, Frank unveiled a “scoop” about Rudy having a laptop and a cellphone in his possession when he was found in the Milan kindergarten, both stolen from a Perugia law firm by someone who had climbed through a window - just about as high off the ground as Filomena’s.

Given the timing of the Bongiorno visit, the findings that emerged from it, and the content of Frank’s scoop, one has to wonder if the source for Frank’s “scoop” was not the “smiling team” of Sollecito and Knox. (Incidentally the team is not referred to in this way any more—ever since Raffaele stopped being referred to as Daddy’s Boy.)

We can wonder too who gave Frank the Amanda Knox prison diary, and why it was published with the story of an HIV possibility included.

This certainly struck me as odd, since it was just after I myself had been offered a peek at the diary, and had been privately given the HIV story. (Incidentally, when this story was told to me, there was not a hint of anger about the diary being leaked to the press. Only the spin it got seemed cause for concern.) I declined the offer and, considering the source, did not publish the story.

Lo and behold, a photo from the diary and the HIV story were then prominently featured on Frank’s blog a couple days later!

Frank has been referring negatively to the Umbria press. He apparently feels that these papers are not reliable - because they are getting their information from the prosecutor. Or so I gathered from a comment he made on his blog. The book published by four Perugia journalists is worthless, according to Frank, and he is not happy with the True Crime board for translating and dissecting much of it.

The moral of this story? I think you are more than smart enough to work it out for yourselves. If I could offer any advice, it would be to take very lightly Frank’s put-downs of the TC Board. What does he really know about it anyway? According to him, he doesn’t actually read it!

In reality, the posters there seem to have pissed him off by seeking out multiple sources of information and making their own interpretations of it. Keep up the good work!!

5. My Own Relationship With Sforza

I formerly edited many of Frank’s blog posts for him. For those who may have missed it, I am no longer doing this editing. I think my editing was a big help to him, and I didn’t mind doing it, even though I often disagreed with him.

I especially disagreed when he posted about the falsely-accused Patrick Lumumba. Specifically Frank’s post about a money angle; I rarely advised Frank not to post something, but I thought that post reflected a personal vendetta and jealousy, and was unworthy of him.

Frank claimed this post had no bearing to the case whatsoever. So I was surprised when he posted negatively yet again about Patrick Lumumba, and yet again about money. The transcript from the December audience with Prosecutor Mignini was used to harm Patrick, not to help Amanda.

Which shows it’s sometimes possible to harm two birds with one stone…

6. And Now, Breaking News

As if on cue, Frank himself has provided support for my arguments above.

Exhibit one: His entry from yesterday is entitled Short Trial for Rudy, but the photo shows Amanda Knox and the caption reads “no, no handcuffs.”

Exhibit two: In the comments section, the Italian Woman at the table asserts that Frank is the first and only source we have for the verbatim deposition of the Albanian witness who claims to have seen the three suspects together on the night of the murder. In fact, Frank’s own source may have been TGCOM, which published the verbatim.

It was brought to the TC board immediately by Jools, and then was quickly translated and discussed by the TC board—well before Frank posted. In the comments section to Frank’s blog entry, Jools set the record straight and reproduced her original, time-stamped post from the TC board. Kermit followed up with a link to TGCOM. Both of their comments were deleted by a blog administrator.

After numerous deletions in what seemed like one angry gesture, the blog entry was disabled for comments, although someone (Frank?) noted that perhaps some of the comments had been deleted in error. Thinking that hers had been, Jools reposted her clarification under the prior entry. That too was deleted and the entry was then disabled. I can understand why Frank might want to close his blog when he isn’t there to monitor, but I don’t understand why these simple clarifications were deleted.

Is it because both Jools and Kermit indicated Frank’s source (or at least a source that had the information at the same time as or even before he did), or is it because they demonstrated that his “scoop” was not really one at all? Strange doings over there.

This may seem unimportant, but in a case where the press has been maligned for providing inaccurate information, and where certain individuals like Frank claim to be beacons of truth, they need to set the example by, well, being truthful. Or at least correcting their errors. It may be that IW did not know that TGCOM had already published, but once that clarification was provided there was no reason to delete THE TRUTH.

In fact, the posters should have been thanked for setting the record straight. But they weren’t. It is hard to trust a source that is more interested in self-promotion than accuracy. If I am wrong about any of this, I hope someone will correct me.

Exhibit three: Not directly related, but interesting nonetheless. IW claimed that all reporters had kept a respectful distance from the Kercher family at all times and had not asked questions. The entry under which she posted this claim is the same one in which Frank tells us that he asked Stephanie how Amanda Knox and her late sister got along. Before she could answer, according to Frank, her lawyer “shouted her mouth.”

This was later changed to “shut her mouth,” which is not much clearer. I still don’t understand if this means he placed a hand over her mouth, took his fingers and physically closed her lips, told her to zip it or what. In any case, at least one reporter did not keep a respectful distance and even asked Stephanie a question about Amanda Knox and her late sister.




Transposed comments


Skep,

Thanks for clearing up what has happened over at the Perugia Shock Blog.  I was a long time reader over there, and the shift to supporting Amanda Knox is SO transparent, as well as the editing change since you stopped helping him.  Take today’s entry for example.  It’s title is “Rudy Gets the Short Trial”, yet who’s picture appears with the caption “no, no handcuffs”? Amanda Knox!

To me, when you see a comment section on a blog with an inordinate amount of “comment deleted” entries, it’s time to move on, and conclude something is very wrong. That is exactly what I have done.

Tara

Posted by Tara on 09/17/08 at 02:47 PM | #

Signs of a real growth-industry here. Fame and fortune via the “Amanda Knox Was Rairoaded” route.

Slime the defendent. Slime the police. Slime the prosecutors. Slime Guede. Slime Italy.

Resulting in books galore. TV crime-chat programs nightly. A standard figure of outrage on CNN’s Nancy Grace outrage program (a wonder they have not already made it on there). Google ads on their websites by the hundred.

If this cannot be spun into a $250,000 a year income, they are not really trying.

We are The Wall here! It will go no further. A very fine piece up there for starters, Skep.

Posted by Fast Pete on 09/18/08 at 11:28 AM | #


See also the comment below added later by Bettina who had a nasty encounter.


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