Nervous Of Cassation, Sollecito Backpedals On Foolish Rome Press Conference & Foolish Masters Thesis

Posted by Peter Quennell



Ball is now in in the court of Cassation, which is visible at top-right here

1. Sollecito Backpedals On Recent Claims

Wait long enough, and all the lawyer-mandated backpedaling may come to look like the Tour de France in reverse.

If this really was Amanda Knox on the ABC website in the last day or two, and not a hoax threat against Sollecito, Knox referring to the Nencini appeal court as “corrupt” and Cassation as “not as corrupt” with a favorable mention of the Hellmann court (which really was corrupt) is not something her lawyers would want on the public record.

If R. was accusing me of something, I would defend myself and he would lose everything and he knows it. We are working side by side. The Italian court made a mistake last time, that was not a fair trial, the judge was unfair. There is no evidence against us, we are both innocent I believe we will get a fair trial and a fair judgement this time. I am certain that the Italian Supreme court is not as corrupt as the previous court.

For the record (and it really is time Knox understood this) there has only been one trial and that was very fairly and efficiently run in 2009. Then she and Sollecito chose to appeal, the Hellmann appeal was annulled for bad law and extreme bias, and the Florence appeal (which Knox stiffed from afar) was a repeat of her own appeal fairly and efficiently run in Florence at her own request.

There will be no new trial, ever. And how does Knox know the Nencini court was corrupt? She was skulking on the other side of the planet.

Today the Italian media are reporting that the new edition of Oggi (which does not put major stories online) is carrying an interview with Sollecito, backpedaling on what are being seen in Italy as two attempts to lean on the Supreme Court. 

One attempt was his foolish study of social media as a component of his belated masters degree at the University of Verona, in which he magically concluded it “proved” he was innocent. From Oggi.

It’s hurtful to me and to the judges to think that its intent can be taken as to influence them. I wanted to make an academic experiment after discovering that, on the day when I was sentenced in Florence and in the following days, the interest in my story on social networks surged. All I did was make an analysis of site traffic, generated by the news of the sentence, including the study of the flow of comments and balance between colpevolisti and innocentisti.

Okay, except for the missing bits about the actual hard evidence, and the absence at that point of the Nencini sentencing report, and the million-dollar public relations campaign, and the raging anti-Italianism stoked by the American campaign and by the dozens of American wannabees eager to jump-start new careers off the back of this.

And the fact that maybe 95% of Italy are convinced that he and Knox are guilty. Maybe the University of Verona just couldn’t wait to see the back of him.

The other attempt was his foolish press conference in Rome three weeks ago. See this excellent post by our posting lawyer SomeAlibi showing how Sollecito trampled on his own past claims. This is the kind of thing that sharp-eyed Italian judges always notice. SomeAlibi concluded as follows:

So what was the point? Face-saving for Raffaele? Hoping to key up populist support? Fat chance in Italy, where the case has been properly reported.

An opportunity to allude to a “truth” (the best one he can think of for now – other truths are available) and say that he and his family believe Knox is innocent? Pull the other one Raffaele!

It is quite clear that several members of the Sollecito clan think that Knox absolutely is guilty and their Raffaele is still too “honourable” to tell the truth. He merely aided the clean-up perhaps. Well in that case, why hasn’t he said exactly when she came back? Was it 11pm? 1am? Was it at 5am when the music starts playing. Why won’t he or you say?

Or… was it face-saving for Bongiorno, as she faces defeat and seeks to protect her valued public persona?  Well, as much as I’ve tried, I have no idea what they thought they were doing.


2. Many Other Candidates For Backpedaling

Like Knox, Sollecito has an exceptionally damaging paper trail, all of it available online and quite obvious to sharp-eyed Italian judges. In posts and a book written exclusively for an English speaking audience, it heavy-handedly impugns the Italian justice system and those in it and how it actually works.

Here’s one example. Last January the Florence appeal court placed the 2009 trial sentencing report back at front and center. Take a look at what Sollecito thinks of its author.

Here’s another example. When his book first came out late in 2012 his father Francesco had to distance himself on Italian national TV from a claim that prosecutors wanted Sollecito to frame Knox.

And here are seven more examples from Sollecito’s book, most of them identified by our posting lawyer James Raper, of Sollecito impuging the Italian justice system. All of these come from the first few pages of the book; there are dozens more later.

That Italy is a medieval country with a primitive justice system.

It could have been Colonel Mustard in the drawing room with the revolver; instead it was Amanda and Raffaele in the bedroom with the kitchen knife. How was it conceivable that a democratic country known for its style and beauty and effortless charm—the Italy of the Renaissance and la dolce vita—could allow two young people to be catapulted to international notoriety and convicted of a horrific crime on the basis of nothing at all?

This is not remotely what happened. There was very far from nothing at all. Convictions in the US and UK regularly result based on evidence 1/10 or 1/100 of that here - sometimes from one single evidence point. Any one or several of maybe 100 evidence points here could have convicted them in a US or UK court.

Italy gives defendants every possible break, and the justice system is seriously loaded against victims and their families. Read here and here.

That the courts are the most reviled institution in Italy.

Many Italians retain a healthy skepticism about the reliability of their procedures and rulings. The courts—tainted by politics, clubbishness, pomposity, and excruciating delays—are the most reviled institution in the country.


As our Sollecito Book pages make clear again and again and again, the Italian system is remarkably NOT tainted by politics, as even the most surperficial watcher of the trials of ex Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi would know.

And on the issue of popularity we have previously posted this and this and also this.

Our Italian poster Machiavelli (Yummi), who posted our deep analysis of the appeal to the Supreme Court by Dr Galati, has provided these hard facts:

For comparison, in 2011 the percentage of Italians who declared they trust the justice system “a lot” or “enough” was 53.3%. By comparison, the percentage of Italians who declared they trust the government “a lot” or “enough”  were 14.7%, and those who trust the parliament were only 15%.

In 2012, the percentage of Italians who trust the parliament is now only 9.5%, and those who trust the Mario Monti administration are only 21.1%.

Over the eight years from 2004 to 2012 the percentage of Italians who trust the justice system was always bigger than those who trust parliament or government by at least ten points, and in some years we can see a spread of 20, 30, even 39 percentage points achieved by the judiciary over the parliament and government.

However, some cases of corruption (such as our Hellmann-Zanetti case, but also several others indicated by the Rapporto Italia 2012) do hamper trust.

The most trusted institutions in Italy above all are the Carabinieri (74% of Italians trust them) and the Polizia di Stato (71%).

Which means the most trusted institutions are precisely those law enforcement instruments which are deployed to enforce the orders of prosecutors.

That the prosecutors office and media are in a grim embrace.

The answer has something to do with the grim embrace that developed between the prosecutor’s office and the sensationalist media. Like addicts constantly looking for the next fix, each fed the other’s insatiable appetite for titillation and attention. The casual cruelty of “Foxy Knoxy” and her Italian lover became too good a story line to abandon, even when it became apparent it was overheated and unsustainable. Our suffering was the price to be paid for the world’s continuing entertainment.

WHAT grim embrace? WHAT addicts? WHAT fix? WHAT insatiable appetite? WHAT titillation and attention? This is clearly defamatory if it can’t be proven, and we can turn up no evidence that any of it is true. It has to be one of the most foolish lies in the entire book, it is so easy to disprove. These who are being accused of crimes here are career police and prosecutors secure in their jobs, and none have the slightest gain to make from false convictions.

That in the justice system speculation and hearsay run rampant

The meandering complexities of the Italian legal system, where speculation and hearsay are allowed to run rampant and time invariably slows to a maddening trickle, did little to help our cause.

Total mischaracterization. First note that by comparison with any country in the world THERE IS NOT MUCH CRIME IN ITALY.  There is some minor corruption and still some minor mafia action, but thefts and burglaries and assaults are few and murders even fewer. The main crime if you can call it such is not lining up to pay taxes.  Italy’s murder rate is 1/6 that of the United States and its prison incarceration rate is 1/30 that of the United States, so where IS all this crime about which the claimed speculation and hearsay are running rampant?

The legal process could have been fully over by the end of 2009 if (1) there was not the entitlement to two automatic appeals; in UK and US terms there was very little to appeal about;  and (2) the Hellmann appeal court had not been fixed to produce a corrupt outcome, as the displaced judge Sergio Matteini Chiari and Cassation and the Council of Magistrates have all made plain.

And compared to American police and prosecutors, their Italian counterparts are famously taciturn under their unusually firm rules. There is media interest, for sure, as there should be when there are crimes, but that also is comparatively restrained. Watch the various Porta a Porta shows on YouTube and you will see how sedate crime discussion tends to be.

The Constitution and judicial code set out to achieve the exact opposite of speculation and hearsay affecting justice, and they do so.  Creating this restraint is a primary reason for the judges’ sentencing reports and all the magistrates’ checks of investigations along the way.

This whole series of dishonest claims about the the Italian system in the preface of the book and in a later chapter have clearly not been read through or okayed by even a single Italian lawyer.

That in Italy proof beyond a reasonable doubt scarcely exists

For reasons deeply embedded in the country’s history, the concept of proof beyond a reasonable doubt scarcely exists in Italy, and the very notion of undisputed fact is viewed with suspicion, if not outright aversion.

So Gumbel and Sollecito are historians and legal experts now? It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if either were able to explain the remark. This may be an ignorant swipe at the Napoleonic Code on which the law of a lot of continental Europe is based. Ignored is that Italy carried out its own reforms to the Code in 1990 and more subsequently. Much of that reform, it should be pointed out, was procedural or structural rather than substantive law.

There are two things wrong with “..the concept of reasonable doubt scarcely exists in Italy.”

1. It is factually wrong. Italian jurists, the courts, and so on, are well acquainted with the concept as it has been a fundamental aspect of criminal proceedings in Italy as elsewhere for many decades if not centuries.

2. It suggests that Italians are not intelligent enough to understand the concept anyway. That of course is an insult to Italians.  Actually they are no less intelligent than the rest of us elsewhere who strive to understand it.

Until the 1990 Reforms the relationship between criminal and civil proceedings in Italy were governed by the principles of unity of jurisdiction and the prevailing status of criminal proceedings. Hence, if the facts were the same then criminal proceedings (to punish the guilty) and civil proceedings (to render liable the guilty for damages) were heard at the same time and still sometimes are, as in the Meredith Kercher case.

What has changed (relevant to the above quote) is that civil cases can be and are more likely to be heard independently from the related criminal cases and, where not, the standard of proof in civil cases (the preponderance of evidence or, as we usually refer to it, the balance of probabilities) is to be applied to the civil case, and the civil case only, rather than be confused with or overriden by the criminal standard of proof (beyond reasonable doubt).

Not an easy task, admittedly, to apply different standards to different tasks, based on the same facts, in the same proceedings, but Italian judges are trained to do this because that is their system. No judge would EVER confuse “beyond reasonable doubt” with “the balance of probabilities” when the issue at stake is depriving an individual of his freedom.

That the Italian judiciary has vast, unfettered powers

Few in Italian society wield as much unfettered power as the robed members of the judiciary, whose independence makes them answerable to nobody but themselves.

Radically the opposite of the truth. The paranoid claim reads like it came from ex PM Berlusconi fearful of his own conviction or one of his parliamentary lackeys such as Girlanda.

The checks and balances on judges in the Italian system are enormous, perhaps the toughest checks and balances in the world. Read here and here about them.

All of the best judges in the world are independent and they all follow a demanding career path, not elected (as ex-Judge Heavey was) under zero criteria, or appointed under the political sway of politicians. We wonder if Gumbel and Sollecito have ever heard of the US Supreme Court? Do those judges answer to anybody? No? How unfettered. 

That prosecutors can spin their cases into any shape they please.

Because the Italian legal system is almost completely blind to precedent and relies on a tangle of impenetrable codes and procedures, prosecutors and judges have almost boundless freedom to spin their cases into any shape they please and create legal justifications on the fly. Often, they are more interested in constructing compelling narratives than in building up the evidence piece by piece, a task considered too prosaic and painstaking to be really interesting.

Whoever wrote this either wasnt an Italian or a lawyer, and either way didnt have much of a clue. The entire Italian system under the post WWII constitution was designed to PREVENT what Sollecito & Gumbel claim it allows here.

There are checks and balances and reviews every step of the way. Magistrates (initially Matteini here) determine what a prosecutor may do in developing and presenting a case. Parties may appeal to the Supreme Court AT ANY TIME as Knox’s lawyers did over her second written confession - which she herself had demanded to make in front of Dr Mignini after he finished warning her of her rights.

Hard for Sollecito & Gumbel to believe, perhaps, but the defense is actually present in the same courtroom. They can raise points of order at any time. So can the defendants themselves, at any time, something maybe unique in the world.

And judges actually have minds of their own. And then there are the unique written sentencing reports, and the two automatic appeals if any parties want to pursue them.

Sollecito & Gumbel should have read the 2012 Galati appeal more closely. The Prosecution’s Appeal To The Supreme Court is available in English here.  Precedent has a section to itself - “The non-observance of the principles of law dictated by the Cassation Court in the matter of circumstantial cases (Article 606(b)) in relation to Article 192 paragraph 2 Criminal Procedure Code.”

Well, that’s precedent, via the Court of Cassation no less! How surprising from Gumbel/Sollecito that they should make that claim about ignoring precedent when in fact there it is, going right to the heart of the flawed Hellmann/Zanetti judgement on circumstantial evidence!  What else is a Code but in effect a codification, a gathering together, a rationalisation, of best law - and precedent? 

There is an absurd irony here, were they aware of it. Perhaps they are. Surely it is Hellmann and Zanetti who have displayed “a boundless freedom” in spinning the case “into any shape they please”, and who have “created legal justifications on the fly”?  As for prosecutors doing this, at least Dr Mignini followed the evidence, and American readers may recall the infamous Jim Garrison, the DA hero of Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK” but who in reality, unlike Dr Mignini, was a total and utter crackpot.

And what issue exploded the Porta a Porta TV show in Italy in September 2012? It was Sollecito’s false claim that the prosecution had secretly tried to offer him a deal if he would roll over on Knox.  NOBODY including his own father and his own lawyers confirmed him. Evidence against both was overwhelming. Nobody needed such a deal, and Italian prosecutors are highly rules-bound against ever offering such deals.

Sollecito was in effect accusing Dr Mignini of a felony with this much-repeated false claim in his book. (In her book Knox also accused Dr Mignini of a felony.)


Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/24/14 at 10:59 AM in

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