A Shaky Castle Of Cards At Best: The Long-Term Fight For Legitimacy Begins
Posted by Peter Quennell
A the end of the day it’s the legitimacy that counts - whether most informed people buy in - and the fight for this could play out over years.
Maybe that was on the minds of the tense Sollecito lawyers seen above after the surprise outcome was announced. Can those five judges make what seemed like a shoot-from-the-hip decision stick?
Back in 2009 the prosecution put on a very fine case, after Knox and Sollecito had failed six great opportunities in 2007 and 2008 to be let out. Prosecutors touched all the bases fast and, including what was presented in closed court, offered a very legitimate case for guilt into which a unanimous panel of judges bought.
Defense attorneys were rumored to be despondent and they never really hit a high point. Sollecito talks in his book about Maori having little conviction in him. Bongiorno was said to feel the same way and to not like Sollecito very much. Several times she was a surprise no-show in court. Ghirga was affable but uncomfortable, and sometimes he dozed off.
Was there under UK and US common law a strong case for an appeal? Under UK and US law an appeal must be requested, and a judge must decide. We have yet to read one opinion by a UK or US judge (and yes, they do write) that a case for granting an appeal was very strong.
In other words, under UK and US common law, the unanimous verdict and sentence would almost certainly have been it. All three would be serving their terms, and five years ago the whole world would have moved on.
In 2010 a clear case of judge-shopping occurred. Dont take our word for it - the senior and very experienced criminal-law Judge Chiari openly said he had been pushed aside as he resigned. He had been one of Italy’s finest prosecutors, and mentally and in terms of the law and grasp of the facts he was a giant compared to the bumbling ill-qualified Hellman, a business judge with only one other murder trial (a fiasco) in his past.
Throughout 2011 legitimacy swayed this way and that. The prosecutors began to smell a lot of rats and Prosecutor Comodi publicly said so. The chief prosecutor Dr Galati (who had just arrived from the Supreme Court) maintained that it didnt altogether matter, because he just knew the Supreme Court would throw a bum outcome out.
He was right. In March 2013 the elite First Section of the Supreme Court threw the bum outcome out, except for the part about Knox framing Patrick for which she had served three years.
The elite First Section handed the case back down to a new court, the Florence appeal court.
The Florence courts are staffed with very fine prosecutors and judges as they often handle national cases. Right now that court is handling a major investigation into national government corruption on a grand scale, Knox adulator Rocco Girlanda is one of those named.
National politicians under the gun like to knock chips off the courts given half a chance. Ex PM Berlusconi’s allies were said to have this as a fairly consistent aim. Any outcome ever in Rome which takes the Florence courts down a peg (as now) gets a lot of close looks.
Rumors abound in Rome that the president of the group of five judges and maybe one other felt the outcome of the Florence appeal court was the right one. If this is true, they may have never bought in and may now be only going through the motions with a forced grin.
The president of the court already issued an explanation of sorts. This has many in their peer group - the Council of Magistrates (which edged Hellmann out - refused him a promotion so he had nowhere to go) and all of the other judges and prosecutors in Italy - scratching their heads and wondering how in the Sentencing Report the circle can be squared.
Meanwhile on other fronts legitimacy is now on the line. Sollecito is due back in court in Florence on false claims in his book on 30 April. Knox’s calunnia trial is due to resume again shortly in Florence with expanded charges targeting false claims in her book. The Oggi trial for quoting false claims in Knox’s book has a testimony session 16 June.
The final verdict and sentence maybe cannot be wound back and their chances of serving more time for murder and a sex crime are remote. (Knox could be sentenced to more time at her second calunnia trial).
But the circumstances in which they are walking around may come to look very odd. The Supreme Court actually can be sued now for an inexplicable outcome, and made to take another look.
The President of the Italian Republic (who is the ultimate head of the justice system) can be petitioned to step in. Political parties like Beppe Grillo’s astonishingly popular Five Star Movement (said to be already snooping) have a lot of power to make things come unstuck. .
So, in the months and even years ahead, this is clearly going to be a long game, with legitimacy as the ultimate prize. Sorry, Sollecito and Knox, but it aint over till the fat lady sings.
No comments yet. No comments yet. No comments yet.