Friday, November 18, 2011

Facts Of Melania Rea’s Stabbing Death In Italy Last April Are Also Proving Hard To Get Straight #1

Posted by Peter Quennell





In Italy the rates for murder are low by global and European standards. It has the second lowest murder rate in Europe, more than Norway’s but less than Britain’s, France’s, Sweden’s or Finland’s.

Puzzling murders are very rare. Only a very small fraction of Italian murders are of women and and at least two-thirds of those are simple, obvious crimes by by husbands or other relatives or boyfriends.

So at any one time few puzzling cases involving the deaths of young women, which seem to cause special outrage, are in the news or on Porta a Porta or the other TV talk shows. Meredith’s death was one of the rare exceptions, and that certainly drove the police and prosecutors to go the extra mile.

Melania Rea’s death is another. She was killed in April in very strange circumstances about 90 minutes south-east of Perugia. Her murder and investigation and Meredith’s seem to have several points in common, included the dogged sorting-out of an apparent cover-up.

Melania, 29, and her 30-year-old husband, Salvatore Parolisi, came from a town between Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples, where Melania now lies buried (image of her funeral below).

Corporal Parolisi was an instructor in the Clementi army barracks in the town of of Ascoli Piceno, where many female soldiers are trained. (Images of barracks and female soldiers training below).

Parolisis claimed to the police that on 18 April he was on a picnic with Melania and their 18-month-old daughter in a park on the south side of Ascoli Piceno,. He said Melania went off to look for a restroom and did not ever come back.

Two days later, an anonymous telephone tip from a phone-booth in a town nearby to a park called the the Mountain of Flowers, 10 kilometers south of Ascoli, led to the finding of Melania’s body in that park. The location is close to an army shooting range, and Parolisi later said that he and Melania had visited that park just 10 days before.

The police initially concluded that Melania’s body had been moved there after her death,  and so the jurisdiction for the case is the Carabinieri’s and local police’s back in Ascoli. 

The autopsy concluded that Melania had died slowly from loss of blood. She had suffered 32 stab wounds, some post-mortem, all of them shallow and possibly inflicted by someone not particularly strong.

There was extensive bruising to her face, and a syringe was stuck in her chest. There was no sign of sexual violence,

Self-infliction was immediately ruled out. A serial killer was briefly considered, as the nature of the victim and the crime and the condition of the body all resembled the vital facts of a serial killer’s victim called Rossella Goffo

No DNA or other physical evidence connected Melania’s husband to the crime. His story sounded sincere and it mostly hung together. After some initial questioning he was allowed to leave the barracks, and to return to his town near Vesuvius.

There both his own family and Melania’s family gave him a lot of public support. But then Parolisi (image in bottom two shots here) was recalled to Ascoli for more questioning, and the case began to get complicated.


























Posted on 11/18/11 at 09:37 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Other legal processesItalian unrelated
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (38)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Italian Lawyers Strategically Timed Strike This Week Causes Postponement Of Knox Calunnia Case

Posted by Peter Quennell





The legal action for criminal slander against Amanda Knox brought by those she claimed maltreated her at an interrogation (not by Mignini) is postponed to mid-May 2012.

This has the effect of putting the court dates past the release of the Hellman sentencing report due latest at year’s end and the filing of the grounds for appeal before the Supreme Court of Cassation due six weeks later.

The main lawyers union in Italy has chosen this week for their industrial action to protest the recent history of extreme political pressure by ex-PM Berlusconi’s party on the justice system, resulting in among other things the underfunding of the police’s forensic operations.

The lawyers’ union also has a long list of requested legal reforms which has long been stalled in the parliament. Lawyers are not expected to be alone in making their bids forcefully in this period as the Italian public sector budgets shrink.

Amanda Knox’s position on the calunnia charge seems weak as she herself at other times said she was treated well, she cannot identify who she claims hit her, and she has no witnesses corroborating her story and up to a dozen denying it.

Her own lawyers filed no mistreatment complaint and very publicly in a media crowd said no hitting ever happened. Knox has already served a three year sentence for criminal slander against Patrick Lumumba.

Most trials for calunnia, a serious charge due to the personal damage inflicted, result in conviction.

Posted on 11/15/11 at 05:18 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The wider contextsItalian contextKnox-Mellas team
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (91)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Italy Really Lucks Out With An Exceptional President And Now An Exceptional New Prime Minister

Posted by Peter Quennell

Italy already possesses in President Napolitano one of the more popular and effective presidents in the world

Now President Napolitano has handpicked Dr Mario Monti to succeed PM Silvio Berlusconi, starting out perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Dr Monti is the president of one of Italy’s premier business schools in Milan, and he has twice been elected a European commissioner.

Other heads of government and stock and bond markets around the world seem increasingly optimistic that Italy can now manage to pull out of its nosedive. Italy’s austerity package as mandated by the EC has already been passed by the upper house in the Rome parliament.

Below is the only video (a few months old) we can spot in which Mario Monti speaks in English at length. And here in Business Insider is a short balanced assessment of Italy’s new prospects.

So. Fingers crossed but the trend looks promising. Enjoy your very overdue retirement, Mr Berlusconi. Keep out of prison…

Posted on 11/11/11 at 11:06 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The wider contextsItalian context
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (23)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Why The Analysis Of Evidence, Open Questions, Scenarios, And Bigger Issues Won’t Go Away At All Soon

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Raffaele Sollecito, facing Meredith, giving his weak best shot at explaining what “really” happened]


Poor David Marriott. He seems to be embarked on some mind-numbing attempts to try to correct a real mess that is very largely of his own making.

The campaign’s demonization of Italy and the police and prosecution and objective media and internet supporters of justice seem to have painted Knox and Sollecito into an impossible corner. Media sources are telling us that a large minority in the US and UK and a large majority in Italy believe RS and AK still have explaining to do, and that the open questions are far from going away. And that new people have begun digging. 

Innocent people when freed from prison are expected to be putting themselves out there brightly on TV almost daily, showing us how seriously attractive and compelling they are, and putting to bed the many open questions. And their online buddies would be presumed to be equally warm and compelling.

Instead, Sollecito’s major appearance on Italian TV last week consisted of a narcissistic hour-long whine which answered none of the tough questions and seems to have won him no new converts. And Knox is giving the appearance of remaining very tightly chaperoned and deeply tongue-tied while the weeks before she actually speaks out turn into months.

Both families seem extremely jittery about what bad things could happen if the two ever connect up again. Perhaps especially if unscrupulous media arranged for the conversations to be bugged. And their online supporters seem as over-the-top as ever - perhaps more-so if they feel they deserve some quality time with Amanda. 

The hard evidence and open questions and scenarios we continue to explore on PMF and TJMK are not driven by a hatred of AK or RS.

No very popular websites flourish for years based mostly or entirely on hate. Here on TJMK we very rarely post exclusively on either AK or RS and we post far more often on the much more exceptional person that was Meredith. All of us think the slamming of Italy has been unfair, and the huge majority of our posts concentrate directly on the hard evidence and scenarios and open questions and wider contexts affecting the case.

Our takes on possible motive and psychology continue to presume that Judge Micheli essentially got it right (and Judge Massei who may have blinked rather less-so): that what culminated in Meredith’s cruel death started out as a vicious hazing, for any of various possible reasons: jealousy and competitive rage, fear of being displaced as a waitress, an argument over drug-dealing in the house, use of skunk cannabis or cocaine which causes psychotic episodes, an argument over theft of money, an assumed Halloween night snub, untreated mental illness, and so on. And that the forced-sex aspects were most likely to pour on the humiliation and to aid the cover-up.

Lawyers posting on PMF and TJMK and some others who don’t but talk with us are suspecting that Judge Hellman, in his blunt refusal to allow the prosecution any DNA re-testing, in his jury briefing, in his garbled announcement of the appeal verdict, and in his contradictory comments in the next several days, may have made enough legal mistakes for a 75% probability that the Supreme Court will insist on a major revisiting of the case or even a complete new appeal trial.

We now have on PMF and TJMK over 1,000 pages of translation which is absolutely vital for people in the US and UK to understand the case as Italians have always seen it. That includes both the Micheli and Massei sentencing reports. The massive hard evidence and massive suspicious behavior and highly contradictory alibis and literally hundreds of open questions are described under the various headings in our right column.

And the many scenarios in which prosecutors, judges and our own posters have sought to create a complete narrative to explain what resulted in Meredith’s death are all set out here. In the last few days, many of our members have been doing a terrific job in the comments, filling out some of those scenarios.

Yesterday one of our commenters, Martin, added a post-liberation scenario as his take on what is really going on, and he okayed us to post it here.

I’d like to take a brief moment to parse the present situation and the reports that come to us from various sources, and to consider the message behind the headlines and beneath the surface. We have photos and abundant reports of the Defendant with her latest victim in Seattle. Both her absence of moral restraint and her familiar pattern of seeking immediate gratification remain unchanged. The familiar pattern is aptly described by Sollecito:

“She lived her life like a dream, she was detached from reality, she couldn’t distinguish dream from reality. Her life seemed to be pure pleasure; she had a contact with reality that was almost non-existent.”

The message that she sends to Sollecito is “stay away”; or, if you do come for a brief visit, I am not interested in anything romantic because I already am with someone else; so sorry. There briefly was the possibility that she would fake the continuing romance with Sollecito for the purpose of a TV appearance and profit, but those offers never came in.

And why is she so eager to get out of the houses of her parents? While they attained some form of victory, it is pyrrhic in nature. Though they have the admiration of many, the bankers who have loaned them money for their PR firm, their legal dream team, and for other purposes, are not all smiles; they are, after all, businessmen who have made loans and now want a return on their loans, and they want it now. Pressures have been rising within the households, money is low, and offers are not pouring in as expected. She wants out of the houses.

So, what of her new lover? Beyond sending a message to Sollecito and escaping from the unpleasantness of her home life, she is with him to ride out the pending legal appeal and quite possibly is considering having a child with him, although she will tire of him quickly; if he has a friend on the face of the earth, he should advise him to get away, and fast. She may want a child because in her mind she may think it would make it more difficult for the US to agree to deport her if she has a child, in the event that her conviction is reinstated. However, if the present verdict of not guilty is sustained on appeal, the present boyfriend will become history.

There are yet more reasons for these events. Even among some of her supporters, it’s beginning to sink in that she does not have clean hands. She has kept a low profile among the Cult in Seattle. Among the hundreds of supporters who dug deep into threadbare pockets and worked hard for her, at least a few of them have begun to ask questions. Why hasn’t she come clean with them as to exactly what was her role, how did things actually unfold, what really happened?

And some of them have begun to figure things out and now are feeling taken advantage of. Watch out for the wrath of a man or woman who discovers that their bona fides have been taken for a chump. There are a few of these people out there, and if they ever hook up with one another, or even decide to come out singly, there will be serious trouble. Foxy already knows that she must do what she can to avoid this eventuality, and so she is doing all that she can to stay away from them, to lay low, and to pretend she’s very, very busy. And this means that the best option for her is the safety of a familiar romance, back to school and, I think, the real possibility of surreptitious planning for a child.

There is a reasonably good chance that her conviction will be reinstated on appeal, and she knows it. The evidence remains, hard blood evidence, and overwhelming circumstantial evidence remains, evidence proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.  And now the DNA may be able to be retested with newer and more accurate methods. If the criminal conviction is not reinstated, there may be civil claims with a good chance of succeeding, in one forum or another, that will drag on for years. There is no statute of limits on murder, and, there may be no double jeopardy in Italy.

The sharp sting of the photos of Foxy with her newest Boy Toy alone won’t push Sollecito to do it, but there are purely practical reasons that may make it compelling for him to confess. At some point, Sollecito may find it in his best interest to come clean and to cut a deal with prosecutors to spend 3 or 4 more years in prison so as to be able to pay his penalty and to lead a clean life thereafter. If he doesn’t confess, this will drag him under for the rest of his life. Italy is a much smaller fishbowl than the US, and Italians overwhelmingly feel there is culpability; he may come to see that he will be unable to escape without a just penalty.

If Sollecito confesses, which logic and evidence suggest that he and his family would be wise to consider, he will be seen as an honorable man and will be able to hold his head high.


Posted on 11/09/11 at 08:59 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedNews media & moviesMedia newsAmanda KnoxKnox-Mellas teamMore hoaxers
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (100)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

With Less Than 1/4 Of Italians Polled Supporting Him PM Berlusconi May Be Toast Later Today

Posted by Peter Quennell


Breaking news. Stocks jump in Europe and the US on the news that PM Berlusconi has told the President of the Italian republic he will soon resign.

PM Berlusconi let it be known several weeks ago that he had agreed with his coalition partners to be gone by this Christmas.

Global stockmarkets liked that as there has for a while existed a premium built in to his going. But several days ago he was reported as having done a U-turn, and was now intent on hanging on.

Not least so he can keep one step ahead of Milan prosecutors who have lined up three cases against him. And Perugia (yes Perugia) prosecutors investigating his close buddies for milking contracts for the 2006 winter Olympics and 2010 earthquake rebuild. 

Today there will be a routine budget vote in the Italian parliament - but Mr Berlusconi has attached to it a vote of confidence in himself. This is from the investors’ website The Street.

Italian politics remains in the spotlight. The Italian bond market’s off-the-run 10-year yields are currently at 6.591%. The Italian government will submit a routine budget for Parliament to vote today, with Berlusconi attaching a confidence vote to a failed budgetary outcome. From there, if the government fails to reach a majority of 316 votes for a confidence vote, Berlusconi will be forced to resign his post.

Ahead of the vote, speculation about the prime minister’s imminent departure is rife and markets have welcomed the prospect. In Italy’s fragmented political landscape, his departure would not necessarily mean that austerity measures will pass quicker.

If the Berlusconi government falls, the first choice would likely be to see if a new coalition government can be formed with the existing parliament. This is likely to be supportive of risk appetite in the short term, but it would end quickly if a coalition could not be formed and the fall in the government were to lead to elections. This would ultimately delay the passage of the austerity measures and sap business and investor confidence even further.

Nevertheless, from here the best outcome for market sentiment in is likely to be a resignation of Berlusconi followed by the formation of a new government from the existing parliament.

And this “et tu Brute” report was just posted online by the National Post.

Silvio Berlusconi’s closest coalition ally Umberto Bossi told him to resign on Tuesday in what could be a mortal blow to the Italian prime minister.

Bossi, head of the devolutionist Northern League, said the 75-year-old media magnate should be replaced by Angelino Alfano [image below] secretary of the premier’s PDL party.

“We asked the prime minister to stand down,” Bossi told reporters outside parliament.

Odds are Mr Berlusconi will be gone today later today or very soon and there will be national elections within six months. Hopefully the incessant political meddling with the Italian justice system, which we suspect affected the Perugia appeal verdict, will then cease.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is said to have favored Berlusconi’s short-term survival, but these days irritated markets speak louder than politicians’ words.

[Below right: Mr Angelino Alfano, Mr Berlusconi’s most likely immediate successor]

Posted on 11/08/11 at 11:04 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The wider contextsItalian context
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (10)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Meredith’s Perugia #30: Naples Where Meredith On A School Holiday First Got Deeply Hooked On Italy

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters


Posted on 11/06/11 at 11:40 AM by The TJMK Main PostersClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Concerning MeredithHer Perugia
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (27)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Stephanie Kercher’s Open Letter In Remembrance Of Her Sister And Closest Friend Meredith

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters




For us, this has only ever been about Meredith. She had been in Perugia for eight weeks and I had moved away from home only three weeks previously. We had stayed in touch updating each other with the exciting new things we were doing.

I had just got home from a training course when Mum called me, her voice trembling, relaying news that a 21-year-old English girl had been found under a mattress in Italy.

Trying to calm Mum down I began calling Mez on her mobile. I ended up leaving a voice message explaining what had happened, telling her to be safe and to call me as soon as she could.

I finished, as always, saying “I love you”. I even emailed her the news page so she knew what I was talking about… Little did I know I was already too late.

Dad’s was the next voice I heard. Through tears he told me the name he had been given by a newspaper was Meredith. I cannot remember what I thought – it was a mixture of disbelief and sheer pain. I did not know what to think or do and then my body just sunk.

When I arrived at Mum’s the pain in my chest was unbearable as I was told the few details of what had happened – the broken window, her door locked on the inside.

Thoughts and scenarios were racing through my head faster than I could comprehend and I collapsed into my parents’ arms, filled with the fear Meredith must have endured that night.

We stayed up all night watching the news, waiting for any concrete information. The Halloween photo of Meredith was the first to appear and I spun round to Mum and said ‘That’s not Mez! That’s not Mez, Mum!’

I was adamant it was not my little sister, but Mum stroked my hair and painfully submitted that it was.

I cried all night until I could barely see or breathe, everything just felt so empty. From the moment we received the call I knew we had to go and look after Mez.

We were told she was in a room with flowers either side of her and Mum said we had to go as soon as possible because she did not want to leave Meredith on her own. I cannot begin to imagine how my parents must have felt, I just know how numb I was and how Mum’s strength pulled us together.

We began our journey to identify her and bring her home. Arriving in Italy was surreal, everything happened so quickly. I still remember looking at Meredith lying there so still, no breath to be taken, a crisp white sheet pulled up to and over her neck.

She seemed peaceful, yet she bore a look of determination, of courage marred by defeat. It was a look that let us know how hard she had fought to be with us – and for that I am eternally grateful.

From that moment we knew we had to fight for her, too, not only for justice for her, but every day for ourselves, for her.

Others have given us the strength to continue since November 1, 2007 and we’d like to thank everyone around the world who has supported us and given us hope.

This is testament to a truly special sister, daughter and friend. She really did touch so many lives with her selfless compassion and loyalty, and continues to do so now.

Nothing was ever too much trouble for her. Mez never knew how effortlessly beautiful she was or how much of an impact she had on people. This was a quality of hers, which enabled her to make others laugh, help others when they needed someone, and become someone to aspire to.

She held such an incredible presence that the void she has left us with is noticeable every day. Marking the fourth anniversary of our loss, we now live without reason. No motive was found.

It is difficult to find any reason to want to hurt her and it terrifies me to think she may have left us that night not knowing either.

We still hope justice will prevail and, in the darkest times, the support given to Meredith and us as a family reminds us of why we are still here.

We are working with friends and colleagues to start a Trust Fund in Meredith’s name to help with the case and eventually support anyone else who may tragically find themselves in our position, so that her fight may continue and help others.

On November 1 at 9pm I will light a candle for my sister, may she rest in peace.

Posted on 11/02/11 at 01:07 AM by The TJMK Main PostersClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Concerning MeredithHer memoryHer family
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (67)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

So Many Millions Recognise That Meredith’s Qualities Were Very Special And Much Needed

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters

[The 18th century Venetian composer Albinoni’s Adagio is added at the suggestion of main poster Earthling]


Today is the fourth anniversary of Meredith’s sad, inexplicable and totally unneccesary death.

Please click here for a collection of memorial videos that main posters and members really like. Several poems have arrived in the emails. We’d like to post these in Comments below, with any poems you might want to add and any links to further videos.

The things that we do know about Meredith are impressive, and they suggest that she was on a fast track to doing great things.  Her father John Kercher’s book to be called simply “Meredith” will be published next April.

This is from a previous post before the Hellman court reverted the situation to “sorry Meredith but we have no answers”.

Meredith really hit the ground running in Perugia. She had dreamed of it for a long time.

She bonded immediately with her two nice Italian flaltmates, who were both working in town, and soon with the neighbors downstairs. Within days she had an “instant crowd’ of the girls from Leeds and other UK universities.

She liked the house, liked the clubs, liked walking Perugia, liked the culture and the fun festivals in Perugia. Her first encounters with her new boyfriend downstairs, an Italian musician, were said to be shy and sweet.

And she was focussed and already working her tail off. She had won a well-funded Erasmus grant and although she wanted to work a little, she had no worries about money.

She arrived with an excellent command of Italian after two years of hard study at the European Studies school in Leeds, and at the Università per Stranieri she was clearly going to excel.

She was also studying politics and economics at the main university, which was very close, and she seemed set to go very far. Her eyes were already set on the powerful international bodies in Brussels.

Judge Massei’s report is a brilliant piece of work by an amazing legal talent (Judge Massei is the top judge in Perugia and Umbria) and one gets the sense that he hit such a high plane as he was writing it as a tribute to Meredith. She deserved this, nothing less.

His report is now making many people say to themselves “how could this have happened?”

And also, what might have been…



Posted on 11/01/11 at 02:21 PM by The TJMK Main PostersClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Concerning MeredithHer memory
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (27)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Outcry In England At Evidence And Jury-Briefing Requirements Which Make Convictions Much Harder

Posted by Peter Quennell





In this post on the CSI Effect we touched on the disturbing declines in convictions throughout much of the world. It is possible that more and more murderers are walking free.

In many countries now the playing field is becoming noticeably tilted against prosecutors and police. One factor may be a growing suspicion of governments which seem to have been captured by the very rich. One factor may be declining budgets as those same governments get more and more into debt. One factor may be TV shows and live court coverage which allow everyone to think they know best.

Especially when narcissistic defendants (many crime-doers are exceptionally self-absorbed which helps in putting on a great defense) twiddle peoples’ heartstrings and cause them to lose their cool.

Another major factor may be legal precautions carried to extremes which go way back and almost grind prosecutors into the dust. In Italy we have described the ultra-cautious legal system at length in posts such as this one and also this. 

On Friday in western England Vincent Tabak was found guilty of the murder of Joanna Yeates and sentenced to life in prison which will see him behind bars for at least 20 years.

The defence the jury heard was that he was a shy awkward boy with girls and when he tried to kiss Joanna Yeates (who in fact did not even know his name) he held her mouth for a bit, without her struggling - and suddenly she was dead.

The verdict was something of a squeaker. Now it has come out that the jury was never told things about him that seem highly relevant to the understanding of Tabak and what he did. 

First a description of something that happened at trial in Saturday’s Bristol Evening Post.

Vincent Tabak had a secret fetish for strangulation porn that showed women being held by the throat and assaulted by men.

Films portraying blonde women being throttled during sex or tied up and bundled into car boots were found on his laptop computer and were planned as a trump card for the prosecution during his murder trial.

But Mr Justice Richard Field ruled it would have been prejudicial for jurors to hear such evidence.

Nigel Lickley QC put forward a failed application to the judge in the first week of the trial at Bristol Crown Court, before the jury was sworn in.

Mr Lickley said: “They concern the defendant’s interest in porn, but in particular porn depicting violence towards women with their tops raised.

“There are also violent images of women being held by the neck, then being sexually abused by men.

“We submit that these images have a real significance and explain why the defendant held Joanna Yeates by the neck and killed her.

“We submit that it is the case he developed a sexual pleasure from it and that is because he viewed this material.

“There is sexual activity between a man and a woman – often bound and gagged…. It is a fact that the women are held by the throat often when gagged – as a means of control.”

Another article in Saturday’s Bristol Evening Post describes other key things that the jury never got to hear.

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones, who led the murder inquiry, attacked Tabak for being “manipulative” and devising a “cunning” plan in a bid to cover his tracks.

He said: “It has taken ten months to bring this investigation to a positive conclusion, and to provide Joanna’s family and Greg with some closure….

Ann Reddrop, of the Crown Prosecution Service’s complex case unit, branded Tabak a “cunning, dishonest and manipulative” man.

She said: “He was cunning and dishonest towards his girlfriend with whom he maintained a normal relationship, and towards his former landlord, about whom he lied to the police and which in part led to that person’s arrest for the murder.

And get this - shades of Ted Bundy and many other psychopathic killers who played cat-and-mouse with media, police, prosecutors and jury.

“He was manipulative of the police by virtue of his own in-depth research on the internet to keep one step ahead of the investigation prior to his arrest and then made very selective admissions surrounding the circumstances of Jo’s death which sought to cast her in an unfavourable light – even when he was giving evidence to the jury.”

One of many similar comments in the UK media is this one in the Daily Mail..

I am glad we have juries but this trial has once again raised issues that many people find hard to comprehend.

Should this evidence have been admissible? Mr Justice Field said that although Tabak’s choice of viewing was reprehensible, it was not valuable enough to outweigh the prejudice it would cause his defence.

There are those who say this is justice at its exemplary best; that criminal trials are often based on negotiations between lawyers and judges about what evidence can be put before a court.

Then there are the rest of us who are left somewhat mystified by the methods used by the legal establishment to ensure justice.

Post-verdict statements by Joanna Yeates’s parents and her boyfriend were much more hard-line than this. And they were among the “lucky” ones who saw their harmer locked up.


Posted on 10/30/11 at 01:39 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Justice systemsUS etc systemsThe wider contextsEurope context
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (49)

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Famous Black Widow Confirms What MP Girlanda Told Us First: Italian Prisons Are Pretty Nice Places

Posted by Peter Quennell




Florence is 70 miles north of Perugia along a winding roller coaster of an autostrada which everyone drives at great speed.

If you take more than 1/2 an hour you are a sissy. (Just kidding.) The global luxury goods empire House of Gucci with stores in New York, Shanghai, and many other main cities was founded in Florence in 1921.

In 1998 Maurizio Gucci the grandson of the founder who was then aged 46 was executed by a hit man in Milan.

He had sold financial control of the empire he had managed to greatly expand to a Bahrain group in 1993 and then turned to doing other things. That included several girlfriends or mistresses which greatly distressed his wife.

Patrizia Reggiani was subsequently tried for initiating the hit and she was sentenced to 29 years which was reduced on appeal to 26. Nick Squires in the Daily Telegraph picks up the story from there.

Patrizia Reggiani has been in jail ever since being convicted of the killing in 1998. More than a decade later, she was the prospect of day release from Milan’s San Vittore prison, if she will accept a menial job such as working as a waitress.

But the 63-year-old, whose extravagant tastes included spending 10,000 euros a month on orchids, told a court in Milan: “I’ve never worked in my life and I’m certainly not going to start now.”

Her peremptory refusal of the day release deal echoed one of her more famous quotes: “I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle.”

Instead she intends to serve the rest of her 26-year sentence in her jail cell, where she reportedly lavishes affection on a collection of pot plants and a pet ferret.

She will continue to be allowed to make twice-monthly visits to her ageing mother, who lives in a lavish palazzo in central Milan – a reminder of the cosseted lifestyle Mrs Reggiani used to enjoy.

A not-unpopular figure in Italy, she may soon be depicted by Angelina Jolie in a new Ridley Scott film to be called “Gucci” with Leonardo di Caprio as the hapless Maurizio. 

The description of Patrizia’s prison life comes with no surprises. If you are going to be a prisoner anywhere in the world, Italy does seem the place of choice. .

The prison population is very small (proportionally only 1/6 that of the US) and prisoners often get their own bathroom and even a kitchen attached to their cell. They can watch TV and walk outside (in many prisons cell doors are kept open all day) and get their hair done professionally and attend rock concerts and plays. They can learn a trade if they lack skills, study for a degree, and even work on a computer all day.

Knox and Sollecito are believed to have done all of these things. Not least because the Italian MP Rocco Girlanda often visited Knox in Capanne and publicly told us all so. Mr Girlanda regularly visited to inspect conditions and then he declared Knox to be very well off. (He in return ended up with enough material for a book which nowhere depicted prison life as hell.)

These sob-stuff stories on torrid life at Capanne suddenly emerging from Seattle sure smack of an instant rewrite of history. Perhaps Angelina Jolie could check them out.


[Image at bottom: the Gucci museum in Florence which recently had a celebrity opening]








Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TJMK’s Review Of John Follain’s Very Meticulous Book On Meredith And Her Case “Death In Perugia”

Posted by James Raper



[Platform behind the train at the main railway station is where Meredith first set foot in Perugia]


“Death in Perugia”  by John Follain is 433 pages long, about the same length as “Darkness Descending” There is a lengthy list of acknowledgements. The blurb on the cover reads “Uniquely based on four years of reporting and access to the case files, Death in Perugia takes readers on a riveting journey behind the scenes of the investigation, as John Follain shares the drama of the trials and appeal hearings he lived through.”

The final section (from Nov 2010) is devoted to Knox and Sollecito’s appeal (with mention of Guede’s final appeal) and is relatively short – just fifty pages, but it does succeed in redressing much of the misreporting of the evidence heard during the appeal, leaving the reader as bewildered as ever about the acquittal verdict.

Indeed the book ends quite suddenly, but appropriately, with the words of Judge Hellmann – “Maybe Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito also know what happened that night, because our acquittal verdict stems from the truth which was established in the trial. But the real truth can be different. They may be responsible, but there isn’t the evidence.”

This book amply contradicts the notion that there isn’t the evidence.

I have to say, though, that given that the court hearings contained many days, if not weeks, of testimony by, and cross-examination of, experts, particularly in relation to the DNA evidence, and that this was also covered at great length in the Massei Report, I was initially surprised that this was covered so little in the book.

It is not that he ignored it but there is no layman’s introduction to the subject of DNA, no explanation nor mention of PCRs, electropherograms, FRUs, polymerase chain reactions, peaks, drop ins and drop outs, stutters etc. The author steers clear of delving into a science which perhaps he, and no doubt most of us, do not really understand and are glad to be spared.

He concentrates more on character, events and outcomes, on what was said, written and reported. These include his own author interviews, including with Amanda’s parents and stepfather, prison officials and guards, the prison chaplain and prison inmates, and the Kercher family. He had access to the 10,000-page files of the prosecutor’s investigation, Amanda Knox’s taped meetings with her family in prison, her diaries, and a complete set of the verbatim transcripts of the first 11 month trial, much of which he attended including the appeal trial.

In particular Follain had a 6 hour interview with Sophie Purton and corresponded by e-mail with Amy Frost.

Follain states that his aim was to write an objective account, and in that he has succeeded.

Content is delivered in chronological order without editorial analysis. Topics - my own favourites being the staged burglary, the manipulation of the crime scene, and Amanda’s blood on the faucet in the small bathroom - are not given special treatment or explanation. To have done so could in any event give rise to a charge of advocacy. The reader is left to form his own judgement

Some people might argue as to whether it is a balanced account. Of course he has had to be selective with the material available and that is obviously a matter of choice in which some bias may arise. 

For instance he gives some prominence to the relationship between Meredith and Amanda and to Amanda’s’s behaviour at the police station as seen through the eyes of Meredith’s English girlfriends, discussion between them afterwards as to Amanda’s’s behaviour including her behaviour during the trials, and their reactions to the acquittals.

None of the English girlfriends has any doubt as to Amanda’s involvement in the murder even if they cannot figure out motive and exactly what happened. Sophie Purton obviously found everything very stressful, including giving evidence when, she says, she almost fell to pieces. If the prominence given to these girls’ accounts and observations is a bias it should be remembered that they are witnesses in their own right and -  given that Curt, Edda and Chris were constantly in front of TV cameras and giving interviews to the press asserting Amanda’s innocence, whilst the Kerchers were not – giving the girls a say is both illuminating and provides some balance retrospectively.

There are many interesting nuggets of information in the book. Just referring to a few of them hardly does justice. The following struck me.

Amanda appears to have admired Laura for her strong personality as well as her guitar playing, and days after arriving back at the cottage in late September after her short trip to Germany she copied Laura by having eight piercings done in one ear and three in the other, all in one go. The speed with which Amanda had copied Laura’s piercings surprised Meredith. “Amanda’s a bit obsessed with Laura. She got herself the same piercings Laura had, and they’ve only just met!” Meredith told her friend Sophie.

Meredith, who was already in residence when Amanda arrived, was quick to include Amanda in social activities with her English girlfriends, but despite this act of inclusion it appears that Amanda started to become resentful at not being the centre of attention and to accentuate her own difference would often insist on speaking in Italian to them or singing loudly and unexpectedly. Indeed a feeling gradually developed amongst the English girls, and with Filomena and Laura, that Amanda was, well, a bit weird. [Did Amanda end up blaming Meredith for this?]

As in prison, Knox kept a diary on arrival in Perugia. The pages for October had however been ripped out.

At the police station –  ““Oh Amanda, I’m so sorry!” Sophie exclaimed as she instinctively put her arms around her and gave her a bear hug.  Amanda didn’t hug Sophie back. Instead she stiffened, holding her arms down by her sides. Amanda said nothing.  Surprised Sophie let go of her after a couple of seconds and stepped back. There was no trace of emotion on Amanda’s face. Raffaele walked up to Amanda, and took hold of her hand: the couple just stood there, ignoring Sophie, and gazing at each other.”

“Robyn was also shocked to see the way Amanda translated the word “minaccia” (threat) for Raffaele when Meredith’s friends talked about an English media report of a threat made before the murder [the bomb threat to Mrs Lana].  Robyn saw Amanda repeat the Italian word minaccia to Raffaele several times, her face up close to his. She would say the word, then kiss him, then repeat it, then kiss him again and then they both laughed.”

“Amanda was the first to have her fingerprints taken and came back complaining that her hands were dirty……….Amanda suddenly raised her eyes to the ceiling and shouted vehemently: “Those fucking bastards!” Sophie and Samantha stared at each other bewildered.”

It emerges that Amanda was being bugged by the police almost from the start. When she and Raffaele arrived together at the police station on the 5th November they were deliberately placed together in a room with a microphone in a cardboard box on top of a cupboard. However the microphone picked up only part of their conversation – they often dropped their voices and the noise from a nearby playground made it difficult to hear what was being said.

As to the taped prison conversations there is, disappointingly, no further context to the “I was there” business. Indeed it seems that Amanda and her parents were aware from early on that their conversations were being bugged. On several occasions Amanda raises her voice to repeat “ I am innocent, I am innocent” for the benefit of the hidden microphone, and Edda, on one occasion, is recorded as mockingly saying “Testing, testing, anyone there?”

Four pages are given to Comodi’s cross-examination of Conti and Vecchiotti, to surprisingly good effect I thought, although Comodi became exasperated with them on more than one occasion.  For instance (C & V having agreed that Meredith’s profile was on the knife blade but, since the test could not be repeated, this was unreliable in their opinion) –

“Vecchiotti said she had no idea that Stefanoni had carried out the so-called negative tests intended to exclude the possibility of contamination. The tests had been filed with an earlier judge, and Judge Pratillo Hellmann later admitted them as evidence at the trial.

Nor did Vecchiotti know that Stefanoni had analysed the traces on the knife in her laboratory six days after last handling Meredith’s DNA.

“Are six days enough to guarantee that a test tube doesn’t come into contact with another test tube?” Comodi asked.

“They’re sufficient if that’s the way things went,” Vecchiotti replied stubbornly.

“You can’t cast doubt on everything the forensic police write!” Comodi fired back.”

And a final, rather depressing quote –

Mignini “felt the DNA review had very probably persuaded the court – assuming it needed persuading in the first place – to cast doubt over his entire case. [He] had looked into the chances of America ever extraditing Amanda to Italy if she was acquitted and then found guilty when the case went to the Supreme Court for a second appeal. Officials told him that yes, there was an extradition treaty between the two countries, but no, America would never send Amanda back.”

“Death in Perugia” is a significant addition to anyone’s overall knowledge of the case, and for this reason I urge anyone interested to buy and read it. But with the appeal court’s Motivation Report and the second appeal still pending, it is premature for it to lay claim to being the definitive account.

What it does do is leave the reader disturbed with aspects of the verdict.

Posted on 10/26/11 at 11:37 AM by James RaperClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: News media & moviesGreat reporting
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (51)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Casey Anthony And Sollecito/Knox Outcomes Spark A New Discussion Of The CSI Effect

Posted by Peter Quennell



That seems a good explanation of the so-called CSI effect in the Fox Kansas City video above.

Many crime shows such as the BBC mysteries and the Law & Order series and spinoffs show investigators solving their crimes in the old-fashioned way. Lots of witness interviews and alibi and database checking, and walking around and loose ends and lying awake at night puzzling. And often there’s a big stroke of luck. 

But if you watch the very popular CSI Las Vegas series and its spinoffs in Miami and New York, and the various clones on other networks, you will see something very different indeed.

When those shows first began airing worldwide in the late nineties, the producers explained that audiences increasingly appreciate learning something new when watching a show, and it is true, one sure can load up on the trivia.

But you will also see the US equivalent of Dr Stefanoni and her forensic team in those shows, roaming far beyond the narrow crime scene, interrogating witnesses and checking alibis and finding a lot of non-forensic evidence, and even at times drawing guns.

Most unreal is that, time and again, the forensic evidence testing is clearcut and takes just a few minutes and instantly clinches the case.

  • There are several articles like this one and this one on whether the Casey Anthony jury was affected by a shortfall in the starkness of the forensics when the behavioral evidence seemed so strong.
  • There are several articles like this one and this one on whether the appeal verdict outcome in Perugia might be affected in the same way.
  • There are many articles like this one and this one and this one and especially this one saying there is a tough added burden on investigators and juries without a commensurate improved outcome.

With conviction rates declining in the US and Europe, professionals are taking a scientific look at whether the CSI Effect is one big cause of that decline.

At the macro level in the US this writer doubted that the CSI Effect is fatally unbalancing takes on the wider evidence. The same conclusion was reached in this first major study at the micro level.

But the belief in the CSI Effect continues. Articles like this one on an Australian site talk of a backlash against too many acquittals. Some articles like this one argue that maybe lay juries are out of their depths.

The graph at bottom (which we’d like to see updated) showed how the US Feds are still winning juries over and maintaining amazingly high conviction rates.  And at state level and lower, judges and lawyers are also taking countermeasures.

In Ohio and many other states prosecutors and judges are acting against a possible CSI Effect in their selection and briefing of juries. And an NPR report came up with these findings.

Some states now allow lawyers to strike potential jurors based on their TV habits. Judges are issuing instructions that warn juries about expecting too much scientific evidence based on what they see on TV.

In the field, Shelton says death investigators sometimes run useless tests, just to show they went the extra CSI mile.

“They will perform scientific tests and present evidence of that to the jury. Even if the results don’t show guilt or innocence either way, just to show the jury that they did it.”

This is coming at a time when death investigators in America have no resources to spare. An investigation by NPR, PBS Frontline and ProPublica shows some states have already opted not to do autopsies on suicides, others don’t autopsy people who die in traffic accidents, and many don’t autopsy people who die over the age of 60.

But Murphy, the Clark County coroner, expects things to get worse.

“You know, we’re in budget cuts right now. Everybody’s in budget cuts. Las Vegas is no different than anybody else. We’re hurting. We’re going to feel that same crunch as everybody else,” he says.

One of Zuiker’s great disappointments is that, for all its popularity, his fictional Las Vegas crime lab didn’t generate more political support to fund death investigation.

“I’ve done my job. You know, we’ve launched three shows that cater to 73.8 million people a week and is a global phenomenon and the largest television franchise in history. We hoped that the show would raise awareness and get more funding into crime labs so people felt safe in their communities. And we’re still hoping that the government will catch up.”

The jury is still out on what really swayed the Perugia appeal jury. Their sentencing report is due out in the New Year. They sure didnt look at very much except for a small fraction of the DNA.

Which leaves us with a big question. How did Judge Hellman brief his jury? Did he warn against the CSI Effect? We’re told this might be his first DNA case, so Cassation will surely look closely at that.



Posted on 10/24/11 at 01:09 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedPolice and CSIEvidence & witnessesDNA and luminolOther legal processesThose elsewhere
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (41)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Knox Public Relations Manager Starts Premature Crowing Years Before Legal Process Ends

Posted by Skeptical Bystander




Fake News By Marriott™

Click on the image above and you will be taken to the lies-filled world of Marriott.

Now that the supertanker has pulled into port, the story about the creation of the narrative can finally begin to be told. We live in a world that needs an endless supply of stories. Just ask Scheherazade - whatever gets you through the night is alright.

In the world of Marriott as Button notes the media operates on the assumption that the American Public can’t remember further than the day before yesterday.

And in the business journal treatment of the Marriott PR Triumph (aka The Snow White Job), someone has forgotten that the script a month ago stated that there was no PR campaign and anyone who believed there was one was nothing but a guilter and a hater.

But now all that is swept aside.

Now Mr. Marriott, who looks like a cross between Colonel Sanders and a dumpling, can lumber up to the stage and accept kudos from one and all. After all, he was hired three days after Knox was arrested, for financial terms neither side will disclose.

Let’s look at how the business journal spins the yarn:

Marriott was as important a player in [Knox’s] ordeal as anyone in the courtroom. As Knox’s publicist, beginning three days after her arrest, Marriott worked to convince the international public that she did not murder her British roommate while studying in Perugia.

“Hiring him was one of the smartest things we ever did,” said Curt Knox, Amanda’s father.

The partnership between the Knox family and Marriott illustrates the potential of a public relations campaign to shift sentiment — and possibly even influence a verdict.

Like I said, if you have the right publicist, anything is possible! The right publicist can make water flow uphill and, once that has happened, can advise you on the best way to make the money you will need to pay more for his services.

That’s the phase we’re in now, folks. If you ever get in trouble, this is the guy you want working for you, feeding chicken shit to the masses and calling it chicken delight.

More from the Business Journal version of The Story:

Then, there’s the need for money. Curt Knox and Amanda’s mother, Edda Mellas — they are not married to each other — have each said they’ve drained their retirement funds, taken out second mortgages and accrued credit card debt to pay for Amanda’s defense. So, in this new phase, lucrative media deals will be a consideration.

At Marriott’s downtown Seattle office, he fields inquiries from book agents, screenwriters, news shows and movie studios. All want the Amanda Knox saga for their own. Some are offering big bucks. Marriott and the Knox family will be considering the offers, Marriott said — likely in a couple of weeks.

“There will be financial opportunities,” Marriott said. “I’ll be there to walk them through the opportunities.”


Who Is Behind Repeated Attempts To Make False Claims Of Kercher Suit Against Knox Go Viral?

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Jeanne Sager tweeted and posted “Delusional Kerchers Think Amanda Knox Owes Them $12 Million”]


Is somebody trying very hard to juice the fast-ebbing sympathy for Amanda Knox? Who after three weeks has still not started to explain?

The UK’s Sun (see Google hit below) seems to have been the first to swallow and publish the malicious claim about the Kerchers. Quickly yanked.  The UK’s Daily Mail ran a similar report on the malicious claim on the same day. Quickly yanked.

Several other second-tier media websites ran the false story very briefly, and then they yanked it.

Oblivious, the hack reporter Jeanne Sager of The Stir put the malicious claim on steroids with her post “Delusional Kerchers Think Amanda Knox Owes Them $12 Million”. She added some shrill ugly opinions of her own.

It was finally yanked along with hundreds of hate comments Jeanne Sager had managed to provoke.

And here we ago again. The daily surfacing of the malicious claim. This time TWICE in the Christian Post by their reporters George J. Wienbarg and Ravelle Mohammed.

The Christian Post’s corrections page is here. Both posts have Facebook commenting open below.

[Below: Believed to be the George J. Wienbarg who wrote one of the misleading reports]


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The President Of The Italian Republic Lights A Small Fire Under The Prime Minister

Posted by Peter Quennell

[This post was edited Friday to replace an image with this new video report from Rome]

As they are from separate parties, etcetera, etcetera, they are known to not see eye-to-eye.

We posted here on one role of President Giorgio Napolitano. The ultimate enforcer of the Italian constitution with special reference to the justice system.

On the whole he sides with Cassation and with victims and against political meddling. .

He is also entitled to speak out on Italian politics and the management of the economy. The prime minister seems to be moving on the lines his European partners and global markets would like - but only verrry slowly because of his sea of political and legal troubles.

The president has just drawn attention to this. See this video and report from the BBC.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has expressed his frustration at his government’s failure to cope with the country’s worsening debt crisis.

Despite pressure from Italian business and the European Central Bank, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has repeatedly delayed announcing measures to stimulate economic growth.

Speaking ahead of an EU summit, Mr Napolitano said the government had a responsibility to end the delays and take decisive action.

One of a bunch of monkeys has just been lifted off Mr Belusconi’s back. The New York Times reports that a Milan judge has decided not to indict him for tax fraud.

That leaves “only” three pending trials in Milan and his party’s battle with the legal system (which most Italians respect more than any other public institution) is not likely to cool any time soon, even if it is not the most popular or saintly of wars.

Mr Berlusconi takes quite a whack in a polemical new book The Liberty of Servants: Berlusconi’s Italy by the Italian writer Maurizio Viroli . The American monthly Foreign Affairs has an extended excerpt. 

Global stockmarkets are already awarding the pending Italian economic measures a small plus. In the stock chart below (set for one year) the red line is the American index (average), the green line is the German index, and the blue line is the Italian index.

Click for a larger image.  You can see the Italian uptick in the past several weeks. If you want to follow this chart dynamically in future, save this Yahoo Charts link. You can adjust the time period to suit you.

Italian stocks do remain down 60% from this time three years ago. That could change fast if the current measures work. On global stockmarkets Italy often outperforms Germany and Japan.


Posted on 10/20/11 at 10:10 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedThe wider contextsItalian context
Permalink for this postTell-a-FriendComments here (3)

Page 52 of 115 pages « First  <  50 51 52 53 54 >  Last »