Did Guede’s Separate Trial REALLY Impact Negatively On The Other Two, As Fred Davies Etc Claim?

Posted by James Raper




1. Summary Of The Complaints

I want to write about the separate trials of Guede on the one hand and Knox and Sollecito on the other.

This feature has often been criticized by the apologists for Knox and Sollecito, and I was surprised to learn just recently that their gripe seems to have some support in learned establishments in the UK! Ahem.

The gripe concerns the Fast Track trial of Rudy Guede, and the consequent Supreme Court confirmation of his conviction, with the apologists arguing that these had an adverse and unfair effect upon the proceedings in which Knox and Sollecito were involved. It is based on the simple fact that Guede chose to be tried separately, this being seen as an unfair complication for the administration of justice in the Italian justice system.

There are a number of complaints that the usual apologists have regarding the separate trial of Guede. Most of these are in fact fantasies as I will address.

These complaints, or constant refrains, which some apologists fondly thought could form the basis of a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in due course, can be summarised as follows -

    1.  That the proceedings concerning Guede established various tenets the most important one of which was the multiple attacker scenario, and that this unfairly affected Knox and Sollecito bearing in mind that their defence was based on the Lone-Wolf scenario.

    2.  That the evidence in the Guede proceedings could never be effectively challenged by the Knox and Sollecito camps.

    3.  That, in consequence of which, Knox and Sollecito had virtually already been convicted by the judiciary by the time of their own trial.

    4.  That Guede was allowed to give evidence against Knox and Sollecito at both his own trial and at the Hellmann appeal hearing without effective cross-examination. Had this been the case the defence would likely have exposed and demonstrated his sole responsibility for the murder of Meredith Kercher. Indeed had he been tried together with Knox and Sollecito this could well have happened at the Massei trial.

    5.  That Hellmann was right to give no probity value to the content of Guede’s sentencing and the subsequent annulment unfairly allowed material that was prejudicial for the aforesaid reasons into the Nencini Appeal.

    6.  That Guede was induced into electing for a separate trial with the promise of a reduced sentence should he be convicted - this being to prosecution’s advantage re the case against Knox and Sollecito.


2. How Overall The Complaints Are Wrong

I think that we know what fast-track is by now, so I will not dwell on that. Guede’s trial was over relatively quickly. It lasted a month and likely consisted of about 3-4 hearings. There were just a few witnesses called.

The judge, Micheli, in addition, dwelt on all the evidence in the investigative file including witness statements and forensics. This was because Guede was charged with murder “in complicity with others” and because Micheli also had to make the decision whether or not to commit Knox and Sollecito to stand trial as the other accomplices.

Before I address whether or not there could be any justification at all for the apologists’ above complaints I would like to mention that learned quarter to which I referred at the outset.

I recently stumbled (with the help of the apologists’ website) across the Criminal Law and Justice Weekly website.

I was surprised to learn that various articles had been appearing on it under the heading of “The Brutal Killing of Meredith Kercher - A critical examination of the trials and subsequent appeal hearings of Rudy Hermann Guede, Amanda Marie Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.”

Lexis Nexis ( publishers and distributors of legal material to the legal profession in the UK)  describe Criminal Law and Justice as….”the leading weekly resource for criminal law practitioners and all those working within the courts and criminal justice areas.”

The articles are by an F. G Davies, described as a Barrister and listed in Anthony and Berryman’s Magistrates Court Guide as a Deputy Justices Clerk, North Cambridgeshire, in England. He is also a contributor and specialist editor to Justices of the Peace Law Reports.




Online image associated with an annual legal-fees guide which FG Davies edits


Here are two quotes I picked out relevant to this post about separate trials.

“This supports the writer’s contention made earlier that the holding of separate trials for co-accused was wrong in principle and law because the prosecution were alleging that at all three defendants committed the crime acting in concert”

And:

“It provided Guede with a golden opportunity to minimize his part in the attack upon and murder of Meredith Kercher, loading the blame on to Knox and Sollecito who, by this time were suspected to be chief architects of the attack.”

It is of course perfectly true that in the anglo-saxon world Guede would not have had the choice to elect for trial separately from his co-accused. It might have made for a very interesting trial for everyone concerned if he had stood trial together with Knox and Sollecito, but for reasons I will explain later I doubt it, or that Knox and Sollecito would have gained any advantage from it.

Indeed separate trials had rendered a very specific advantage to the Knox and Sollecito camps in that Guede had already been convicted when Knox and Sollecito stood trial, a fact that their PR campaign and followers have drilled home at every conceivable opportunity.

But what on earth does it mean to say that “the holding of a separate trial [for Guede] was wrong in principle and law”?  .

Whose law? Whose principles? Just how deeply does the Deputy Justices Clerk delve into the respective systems of justice (and particularly the Italian one) for a comparative evaluation?

Certainly on the basis of a quick read of his articles I would say that he hasn’t delved very far at all. In fact I will go further and say that despite that he is capable of a detailed review of various aspects of the case he pretty much shares the same hostility and concerns based upon parochialism and ignorance to be found on the usual apologists’ websites. So I will try to put him and the apologists right on how the Italians cope, as a matter of law, with any evidential difficulties that separate trials can throw up.

However, let’s start first with the assertion that the fast-track trial “provided Guede with a golden opportunity to minimize his part in the attack upon and murder of Meredith Kercher, loading the blame on to Knox and Sollecito”? Is that true?

Guede admitted that he was present at the scene of the murder and he has always minimized his part in the attack, in fact denying that he had any part. This is all to be found in his statements pre trial. He would have minimized his part even if he had been tried with his co-accused and had given evidence. Given that he was not believed anyway, it is difficult to detect wherein lies the golden opportunity of a fast track trial.

It is also difficult to envisage what cross examination formula (and the point of it) would have been available to the Knox and Sollecito defence teams as to Guede’s minimal role or otherwise given that Knox and Sollecito maintain that they were not there and thus are hardly in a position to dispute Guede‘s version.

Did Guede load the blame onto Knox and Sollecito?  The answer to that is that he did directly implicate Knox but not Sollecito. Again this is all to be found in his pre-trial statements and interviews with the police and investigating magistrates. Whilst on the toilet he had heard the doorbell ring, Meredith call out “Who is it?“ and later say “We need to talk” followed by another woman’s voice, which he thought was Amanda, replying “What’s happening?“ He had also claimed to have seen, through Filomena’s bedroom window, a female figure with flowing hair and had recognised the shape as being that of Amanda Knox.

It might be useful at this point just to pause and remember when Guede could have been cross-examined on this by the Knox and Sollecito defence teams.

Guede was called to give evidence during the Massei trial but declined to give evidence. Not surprising given that he was appealing his own conviction at the time. This was heard two weeks after the conclusion of the Massei trial.

He then appeared at the Hellmann trial by which time he already had a definitive conviction. On this occasion he did respond to questioning and I shall look at this a little later.

3. The Specific Mistakes In Each Complaint

Let us return now to the apologists standard refrains as I listed them at the beginning.

1.  That the proceedings concerning Guede established various tenets the most important one of which was the multiple attacker scenario, and that this unfairly affected Knox and Sollecito bearing in mind that their defence was based on the Lone-Wolf scenario.

One might also add the staged break in and some others as well which were all considered by Micheli and endorsed by Massei.

However as at the conclusion of the Massei trial Guede’s first appeal was still extant and the Supreme Court’s definitive reflections on the multiple attacker scenario were still a year off. Nothing had been written in stone at that point. If the multiple attacker scenario became a tenet of the case then it would be more accurate to say that it became so because of Massei joining up with Micheli.

But let’s also take in the second refrain to consider alongside the first at this point.

2.  That the evidence in the Guede proceedings could never be effectively challenged by the Knox and Sollecito camps.

This really is pretty rich. So what? Knox and Sollecito were not on trial there. And what to make of the Massei trial which of course is when Knox and Sollecito then wheeled out their big guns; the expensive lawyers and experts in telecommunications, forensic pathology, forensic DNA, ballistics and footprint analysis?

The Massei trial may have taken its time but it was nevertheless (unlike Guede’s trial) a full blooded adversarial trial of first instance, lasting a year, with the prosecution producing each and every one of it’s witnesses for rigorous cross-examination by the defence.

It was Massei that confirmed the multiple attacker scenario on the basis solely of that evidence and with scarce a mention of Guede’s sentencing report. It is lame to argue that Massei was in any way constrained by Micheli’s reasoning on the matter though his judgement was indeed available.

However Massei did make the following observation -

“……the reconstruction of the facts leads to the unavoidable conclusion that he (Guede) was one of the main protagonists (writer’s note: no concession to Guede’s chances on appeal, then?); thus it is not possible to avoid speaking of Guede in relation to the hypothesised criminal facts. The defence of the accused in particular have requested the examination of texts concerning only Rudy, and have demanded the results, specifically concerning Guede of the investigative activities carried out by the police in particular. In fact they have expressly indicated Guede as being the author, and the sole author, of the criminal acts perpetrated on the person of Meredith Kercher.”

So here we see the defence making the running on Guede (without Guede being present as a co-accused to dispute anything) to include any and all evidence as to his alleged criminal background with the precise purpose of bolstering the Lone Wolf scenario, all of which was duly evaluated by Massei.

[One might think, in addition to the above, that Guede would have had cause to complain about the indictments for Knox and Sollecito, in that both were indicted, and subsequently convicted, with the crime of murder “in complicity with Rudy Hermann Guede”, although he still had two appeals left and theoretically (though not realistically) it was still possible for him to be acquitted of the crime. However the drawing up of indictments in separate trials, and how the judiciary would deal with an outcome such as above (which I don’t think would be difficult) would be a topic for another discussion.]

3.  That, in consequence of which, Knox and Sollecito had virtually already been convicted by the judiciary by the time of their own trial.

This is so lame by any objective standard, but it is amazing just how often this particular drum is beaten. However our Deputy Justices Clerk would probably subscribe to this. He develops an argument akin to this which he terms the Forbidden Reasoning (echoes of Preston’s “The Forbidden Killer”?) which is basically that Micheli made a number of errors which were then compounded in subsequent hearings.

4.  That Guede was allowed to give evidence against Knox and Sollecito at both his own trial and at the Hellmann appeal hearing without effective cross-examination. Had this been the case the defence would likely have exposed and demonstrated his sole responsibility for the murder of Meredith Kercher. Indeed had he been tried together with Knox and Sollecito this could well have happened at the Massei trial.

The evidence that implicated Knox I have already mentioned. It is not entirely decisive in that it is not a solid ID of Knox at the crime scene. At the Hellmann appeal Guede added this in an exchange with Knox‘s lawyer -

DEFENSE ATTORNEY DALLA VEDOVA—And therefore, Mr. Guede, when you wrote verbatim that it was a “horrible murder of Meredith a lovely wonderful young woman, by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox” what do you mean exactly? Have you ever said this?
WITNESS—Well, I… this, I’ve never said it explicitly, in this way, but I’ve always thought it.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY DALLA VEDOVA—And so, it’s not true.
WITNESS—No, it’s very true………………………………..............  So if I wrote those words it’s because I’ve always had them inside of me. It’s not up to me to decide who it was who killed Meredith, in the statement that I made in my trial, I always said who was there in that home that damned night, so, I think I’m not saying anything new……

In another exchange, this time with Bongiorno, Guede makes it clear that he is not planning to answer any further questions about what happened that night but this is because he has already stated (statements and recorded interviews etc), and stands by, all that he has to say about it.  Thus all that is taken into evidence perfectly properly. The matter is then left to rest by the defence.

Indeed it is difficult to conceive what further effective cross-examination could have occurred in this situation because clearly Guede would have responded with exactly the same answer each time.

The above exchanges also show just why it is unlikely that there would have been any fireworks had Guede been tried with his co-accused.

Guede would not have been obliged to give oral testimony any more than were Knox and Sollecito and in the event that he had done so (and I think it would have been in his interests to do so) his evidence would not only have been the same but it would have been subject to the same limitations, which would have been zealously protected by his lawyers, that had protected Knox when she gave oral evidence.

On due consideration it might have been a somewhat tetchy affair for the lawyers but it would not have been in the interests of any of the respective teams of lawyers for there to have been any surprises such as Guede moving from beyond what he had already said in pre-trial statements to a solid ID of Knox from the witness box. That wouldn’t have particularly helped Guede as it would have affected his credibility even further. They all had prepared positions to protect and Guede’s presence would be neither that much of an added threat nor an advantage for Knox and Sollecito.

5.  That Hellmann was right to give no probity value to the content of Guede’s sentencing and the subsequent annulment unfairly allowed material that was prejudicial for the aforesaid reasons into the Nencini Appeal.

Now we are into the law, Italian law that is, and how it coped with separate trials of co-accused.

By this time Guede’s conviction, remember, had been ruled as definitive by the Supreme Court.

This is what Hellmann said about that -

“……. in truth, this judgement, acquired pursuant to article 238 and so utilisable under the probative framework only as one of it’s evaluative elements pursuant to article 192.…………….. already appears in itself a particularly weak element, from the moment that this judgement related to Rudy Guede had been carried out under the fast track procedure.”

It will be useful to consider some of Galati’s observations in the prosecution’s appeal submission and we can do this because the Supreme Court agreed with him.

This is what the Supreme Court said -

“The submission on the violation of article 238 …….is correct. Even though (Hellmann) obtained the final judgement pronounced by this court against Rudy Guede, after properly considering that the judgement was not binding, it has completely “snubbed” the content of the same, also neutralizing it’s undeniable value as circumstantial evidence on the presupposition that it’s profile was particularly weak, since the judgement was based at the state of proceedings without the enrichment acquired as a result of the renewal of the investigations hearing arranged on appeal, In reality, the court was not authorised at all, for this reason alone, to ignore the content of the definitive judgement.”

The enrichment referred to would of course have been the Independent Expert’s evidence (subsequently debunked by Nencini) and the Supreme Court also added that in any event article 238 was not impaired at all by the fact that the first instance trial was fast track.

At the end of the day this was just poor argument by Hellmann but it was symptomatic of the many flaws that underlay much if not all of his reasoning for acquittal.

More importantly for me and in addition to the foregoing the Supreme Court delivered a withering criticism of Hellmann’s understanding of circumstantial evidence and how to evaluate and treat it in its broad spectrum.

However, how can and what elements contained in the separate trial of one co-accused have any probative weight in the trial of the others?

Galati puts it like this. The Supreme Court’s rulings -

“have now settled definitively regarding the interpretation according to which finalised judgements can be acquired by the proceedings, as provided for by the indicated law, but they do not constitute full proof of the facts ascertained by them, but necessitate corroborations not differing from the declarations of the co-accused in the same proceedings or in a connected proceeding………………………………......
Naturally this confirmation is not directly used for the purpose of proof but as corroboration of other circumstantial pieces of evidence or of evidence already acquired, not very different from what happens when declarations of collaborators with justice corroborate each other.”

In the event the only material from Guede that really seems to me to have hitherto been extraneous to the first instance trial of Knox and Sollecito was the inclusion at the Nencini appeal of Guede’s partial ID of Knox at the scene and his evidence as to Meredith’s missing money, which were corroborative of elements of evidence that had appeared at the Massei trial; in the case of the missing money for instance, the missing credit cards and Filomena’s testimony that at a meeting shortly before both the murder and the day the rent was due Meredith had told her that she had the cash to hand and was prepared to hand it over there and then.

No such money was found at the crime scene. One suspects that these two elements would have been more prominent at the Massei trial, and have been motivated more attentively, had the three been tried together. In the event Guede’s partial ID of Knox was not even mentioned by Massei and Knox and Sollecito, in the absence of any evaluation of Guede’s evidence, were acquitted (not even motivated at all in fact) of the charge of theft in relation to the money and the credit cards.

Given the foregoing I would argue that Knox and Sollecito derived an advantage rather than a disadvantage from the separate trials.

Furthermore I would argue that the material from Guede’s separate proceedings was not particularly damaging given the overall context of the evidence already directly available from the trial of Knox and Sollecito (which received some but in truth did not require much corroborative confirmation from Guede’s separate trial) and which in itself was sufficient to found a verdict of “beyond reasonable doubt”, but it did supply some useful insight into a motive when of course Hellmann had found none and Massei had supplied a rather improbable one.

6.  That Guede was induced into electing for a separate trial with the promise of a reduced sentence should he be convicted - this being to prosecution’s advantage re the case against Knox and Sollecito.

Needless to say this is what you get from desperate and deluded minds. Guede’s lawyer has explained why his client took his advice and the decision was perfectly rational and in Guede’s interests. Guede was entitled to a third off his sentence from choosing fast track though I am no fan of that. Furthermore I have explained why no particular advantage accrued to the prosecution from this choice other than that it probably foreshortened the time that a full trial of the three would have taken.


Posted by James Raper on 07/30/15 at 04:00 PM in

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