Headsup: The first 8 episodes of the RAI/HBO production "My Brilliant Friend" about a supreme alpha-girl and her "moon" of a best friend airing in 60-plus countries are proving amazingly endearing. So many colorful elements of evolving post WWII Italy on display. Yes, some violence too, but peanuts compared to say New York in that era. A real must-see.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Guede’s Grounds For Appeal Sound None Too Convincing

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for La Nazione’s report in Italian. Nick Pisa of the Daily Mail filed this report in English.

In lodging the appeal against his conviction and sentence (mandatory in Italy) his lawyers have offered no new exculpatory evidence.

Just claims that the other two did it, that an argument over Meredith’s stolen money was the motive, and that he was in the bathroom at the time.

Guede’s DNA was of course found right there at the scene of the crime, in Meredith’s room, and on Meredith’s body.

Considered in the context of the awesome detail of Judge Micheli’s report the grounds for his appeal sound almost laughable.

This is all being taken by some of the court analysts that Guede has nothing to bargain with that the prosecutors don’t already know.

And that they have great confidence in the strength of their case against Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox.

Enjoy your 30 years in the slammer, Rudy Guede. You might even have saved Meredith’s life by calling for some help.

And you didn’t. It appears, in fact, that you chose not to.

Posted on 03/09/09 at 10:00 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Trials 2008 & 2009Guede appeals
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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Meredith’s Perugia #6: Scenes Around Her Fine Old University

Posted by Peter Quennell

Click the small rectangle at lower right here for a full-screen version - recommended.

The School for Foreigners shows up early in this video, and the old Roman viaduct directly behind and below.

Founded as an institution separate from the University of Perugia (it was one man’s post-war vision) the School was assimilated into it for administrative reasons back in the 1990s

Meredith was enrolled in the School for Foreigners for her advanced Italian classes, and in the Department of Politics for her study of European politics. Both in the old city.

Knox was enrolled only at the School for Foreigners - she seemed to be intending an easy few months. Sollecito lived in the old city, at its extreme north-west tip, but his Department of Computer Sciences is down in the newer part of Perugia, perhaps two kilometers further west.

We believe Meredith had good French and some German as well. She would have traveled easily around Europe and probably become a true international citizen.

Previous Perugia series in tribute to Meredith. Previous Leeds University scenes. and below, a first video.

Posted on 03/07/09 at 09:06 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Concerning MeredithHer Perugia
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Friday, March 06, 2009

Patrick Lumumba Seeks Damages For His Time In The Big House

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for the story.

Knox is being tried on a charge of calunnia for her false implication of Patrick (see an explanation of calunnia at bottom). Patrick was of course the owner of the Le Chic bar, now closed because of the heap of trouble that his former waitress Amanda Knox dropped on his head.

He was held in Capanne Prison for about two weeks as a suspect, after she alleged (voluntarily, in writing) that she had seen him in the house on the night of the crime. And heard Meredith’s screams as he committed the murder.

Might he perhaps not have been so ticked if she had recanted the accusation any time in the next two weeks? Maybe. Maybe not. But Knox might easily have done. Nobody was pressuring her to do otherwise.

This seems an open-and-shut case. The evidence is all there. So Knox lives and learns. We hope.

Explanation of calunnia

The charge of calunnia (art. 368) has been commonly translated as “slander” in the English/US media. This translation is incorrect, however, as calunnia is a crime with no direct equivalent in the respective legal systems.

The equivalent of “criminal slander” is diffamazione, which is an attack on someone‟s reputation. Calunnia is the crime of making false criminal accusations against someone whom the accuser knows to be innocent, or to simulate/fabricate false evidence, independently of the credibility/admissibility of the accusation or evidence.

The charges of calunnia and diffamazione are subject to very different jurisprudence. Diffamazione is public and explicit, and is a more minor offence, usually resulting in a fine and only prosecuted if the victim files a complaint, while calunnia can be secret or known only to the authorities. It may consist only of the simulation of clues, and is automatically prosecuted by the judiciary.

The crimes of calunnia and diffamazione are located in different sections of the criminal code: while diffamazione is in the chapter entitled “crimes against honour” in the section of the Code protecting personal liberties, calunnia is discussed in the chapter entitled “crimes against the administration of justice”, in a section that protects public powers.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Powerpoints #11: Countering The Spin By The Defenses On The Recent Cottage Break-in

Posted by Kermit





Click here if you have Powerpoint or the Powerpoint Viewer program loaded. If not here is the Viewer download.

TJMK is getting a reputation for cool, precise, painstaking, and illuminating examination of the evidence made available.  We have frequently wanned others not to jump the gun or to mischaracterize known evidence when so very much of it is not yet in the open.

Just over two weeks ago, on 18 February, the Italian police discovered that in recent days intruders had broken their way into the girls’ apartment in the house on Via della Pergola.  The intruders had entered through the kitchen window to the north, opening onto the balcony.

This strange happening sparked many concerned questions, especially in Italy. For example, was the break-in perhaps related to the crime of 1 November 2007 and the trial now underway?

Nobody knows as yet. Police investigations continue. But it is just possible that it WAS related to the case. And if it was, there seem to be several possibilities as to why:

1) Proof of easy access for burglars?

The break-in could have been a demonstration of how a thief could very easily make his way into the cottage, similar to the notional “lone wolf” attacker that Raffaele Sollecito’s lawyer Ms Bongiorno has been promoting as the real perpetrator of the crime.

2) Proof of contamination of DNA evidence?

If an undetected thief could have entered the cottage between 2 November 2007 and the date when the bra clasp with Raffaele’s DNA was collected in mid-December, that could be an explanation for the unlikely DNA contamination which the defence teams claim might have occurred.

3) Modification or removal of remaining evidence?

The break-in could have taken place with the object of modifying or removing some remaining evidence which the police have not yet collected, evidence which may soon become significant for example in the course of a confession by one of the defendants or Rudy Guede..

4) A threat or message to the police?

The fact that during the break-in some knives in the cottage were arranged in a suggestive manner, and one was placed on a police envelope (apparently brought in by the intruders and unrelated to the previous evidence gathering) might point towards the intruders making some threat to the police, or trying to send some message to them.  This possibility becomes a bit more significant when one considers that the break-in occurred just before the resumption of the trial, when the 12 police investigators who were involved in the crime-scene investigation were all just about to give their testimonies before the court.

5) Unrelated possibilities to explain the break-in?

Perhaps it really was some sort of satanic rite. Or a prank or a hoax. Or it might simply have been some itinerants getting in to spend a night out of the extreme cold.

Defense spin has been attempted along most of these lines, to suggest that the prosecutors and crime scene investigators really did botch the investigation.

The most outlandish of all claims was in the blog section of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. That, because the perpetrators of this break-in quite easily got in through the KITCHEN window it proves they easily could have got in through a BEDROOM window. And this despite the facts that:

These Powerpoints here set out to demonstrate that there is no possible parallel between this THEORETICAL break-in through Filomena’s bedroom and the ACTUAL break-in through the kitchen window.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cartwheels Or No Cartwheels? You Be The Judge

Posted by Peter Quennell



[above: examples of cartwheels, not by Amanda Knox]

The ever-careful and supremely objective Steve Shay has another scoop!

This below is Mr Shay’s report to gullible Seattleites (if there are any left) in the, ah, very well-edited West Seattle Herald:

“Amanda accompanied Raffaele to the station where he was then interrogated by Monica Napoleani, the Perugia chief of homicide. Amanda was there to support him, as he had supported her before, when she was interrogated,” said Chris Mellas. Chris Mellas is the husband of Edda Mellas, Amanda’s mother. Both live in West Seattle.

“She was actually sitting alone in a separate room waiting for her boyfriend, and Napoleani said in court Friday (Feb. 27) that when she went to get some water she walked by the room where Amanda was and saw Amanda ‘doing the splits.’ She said she thought this was ‘odd behavior,’ and that Amanda should have instead appeared to be mourning the loss of Meredith.

The tabloid press further sensationalized her statement by changing ‘the splits’ to ‘cartwheels,’ and the mainstream press ran with that. ”

“Amanda does yoga to calm herself down and relieve stress, and she told her father and me that’s why she was doing the splits. Also, in those four days she was in mourning over Meredith, which followed her outrage. Six hours after the discovery (of the body) she was like, ‘Let’s find the bastard who killed her.’”

Meanwhile, back here in the real world….  This was the actual report from the BBC News:

Meredith Kercher murder suspect Amanda Knox “turned cartwheels” in the police station after the killing, a police witness told a court in Perugia, Italy.

Former flying squad chief Domenico Profazio said he had to tell Ms Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito their behaviour was “not appropriate”.

From Seattle’s own Post-Intelligencer

They were always together, Napoleoni said, and did not want to be separated. While police questioned Sollecito, Knox waited in a side room where policewoman Lorena Zugarini, also present at Knox’s questioning, said she saw Knox doing a cartwheel and the splits. Zugarini said she told Knox it was “not the right place” for such activities.

From the UK’s Sky News:

Ms Napoleone also described Knox’s unusual behaviour at the police station where she had been taken for questioning. She said: “She had complained that she was feeling tired and at that stage I told her that she could go if she wanted.” “She said she wanted to stay, Sollecito was also at the station at the time and she said she wanted to wait for him.

“A few minutes later I walked past a room at the police station where she was waiting and I saw Amanda doing the splits and a cartwheel. It was around 11am on November 5th.

From the UK’s Daily Express:

The exchange came as Inspector Ficarra, of the city’s Flying Squad, described 21-year-old Knox’s bizarre behaviour after her arrest following the killing in 2007.

“I was in the elevator and when I got to the floor where the Flying Squad department is the door opened and I saw Amanda doing floor exercises,” he said.

She was doing the splits, cartwheels and arching herself backwards, pressing her hands on the floor. I said to her, ‘What on earth are you doing? Is this the right way to behave?’

From the UK’s Independent:

Chief Inspector Monica Napoleoni told the court where the pair are on trial for murder how, at the police station as they waited to be first questioned, Mr Sollecito and Ms Knox “appeared completely indifferent to everything, lying down, kissing, pulling faces and writing each other notes. They were talking to each in low voices the whole time – it was impossible that they were behaving like this when there was a dead body in their house. It seemed strange to everybody”. Ms Knox had also “turned cartwheels and done the splits,” she said.

From the UK’s Daily Telegraph:

Ms Napoleoni recalled thinking that Miss Knox and her boyfriend seemed “indifferent to everything” when they were called to a police station in Perugia for questioning on Nov 5, 2007. It was there that the American turned cartwheels and did the splits.

And the last word, as always, from the London Times:

Ms Napoleoni said she and other officers had seen Ms Knox “doing cartwheels and the splits” while Mr Sollecito was being questioned and she was waiting her turn. Ms Napoleoni said she found this “very strange”. She said Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito “had a bizarre attitude throughout - they were laughing, kissing and pulling faces at each other.

Pehaps Chris Mellas and Steve Shay and Ken Robinson of the West Seattle Herald should discover the tubes of the internet.


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trial: Wrap-Up On The Testimony For This Week From Officers Who Questioned Knox

Posted by Nicki




1.Monica Napoleoni

Today’s hearing resumed with the deposition of Ms Monica Napoleoni, the head of Perugia’s homicide squad, which had been halted yesterday.

Some of her statements were extremely touching and sad. For example, she reported on the text messages that were found on Meredith’s phone from her parents who, having heard on the news broadcasts that a British student had been murdered in Perugia, wanted to make sure that their daughter was fine. [A heartfelt comment on this by reader TT on the post below this one]

Ms Napoleoni also described what she saw when she entered the murder room and leaned over Meredith’s lifeless body. She reported that Meredith body had been cut about so ferociously that it was very hard for her to even look at the wounds.

Ms Napoleoni also talked about a female shoe print that was found next to the pillow near Meredith’s body, a footprint of a size compatible with Knox’s.

During cross-examination, Sollecito’s defense showed Ms Napoleoni pictures of the cottage rooms taken while the search by the Flying Squad and Scientific Police was taking place. She pointed out that shoe covers and gloves were always being worn by everybody present.

In one instance on December18th when the bra clasp was found and sequestered “whole overalls were used by everyone, since the scientific police were at work”.

Ms Monica Napoleoni confirmed the impartial handling of Knox on the night of 5-6 November which she briefly witnessed, and also confirmed that she witnessed “Knox‘s gymnast show” and improper behaviour of the couple during the course of investigating such a tragic event.

2. Rita Ficarra

Ms Rita Ficarra, the officer in charge of the Perugia Flying Squad, reported about the night between November 5 and 6, when the two defendants were interrogated and later arrested in the wee hours of November 6th.

Knox turned up at the police station, although she hadn’t been asked to, “because Sollecito had been requested to be interviewed and she was accompanying him” Ms Ficarra said.

She was not required to stay, and could have gone home any time.

“I encountered her in the waiting room doing splits, cartwheels and bridges. She was showing off her gymnastic capabilities”. Ms Ficarra added that she reproached Amanda, and asked her to quit her inapt behaviour, as in addition to her gymnast show, Knox kept French-kissing, stroking and hugging Sollecito.

Ms Ficarra felt that was very inappropriate behaviour to be going on in a police station while waiting to be heard concerning a gruesome murder.  “Everybody else was terrified” Ms Ficarra said “except for Amanda and Raffaele, who seemed indifferent, were smirking, and kept on French kissing.”

Ms Ficarra then described Knox’s interrogation and the false accusations against Patrick Lumumba.

Ms Ficarra testified that when Knox was asked about Mr Lumumba‘s text message to her on the night from his bar, “she started crying and wrapping her hands around her head, she started shaking it, and then she said: it was him…Patrick killed her”.

At this point, Ms Ficarra said “I stopped the interrogation and informed the judicial authorities”. Ms Ficarra stressed that “Amanda was never mistreated” and that “she had a chance to rest, go the bathroom, and eat”.  She insisted on writing out and signing statements both then and after being warned of her rights. She declined to have a lawyer present. 

Ms Ficarra’s deposition continued: “After Knox was notified of her arrest – in English - she asked for a pen and paper, saying: I’ll give you a present“. Ms Ficarra added “Knox asked me to read what she was going to write before she was taken to jail, because she wanted me to have a clear idea about what had happened”.

Ms Ficarra maintained that “Knox was never subjected to threats or violence…. she was treated firmly, but with cordiality”.

3. Knox and Sollecito

As Andrea Vogt reported, Knox and Sollecito both made impromptu declarations during today’s trial session.

Knox made a very brief statement in Italian, claiming “They did offer me drinks and food, but they started treating me as a person only after I made those declarations”. She did not elaborate any further.

Sollecito’s declaration took more time. He claimed that during his interrogation on the evening of November 5, he asked to make a phone call to his father but was denied it. He then asked for permission to call a lawyer, but he was not allowed to do so. He did not report any mistreatment or any physical or psychological abuse from the police.

4. A comment on this.

It should be noted that when Sollecito asked for a lawyer’s assistance, he had not yet even become a suspect. His status was still that of a “person knowledgeable about the facts” who is not legally entitled to insist on a lawyer being present. 

Not an actual suspect. Simply a person who could possibly yield useful information to the investigators. So why would someone who is being heard as a “helper” be so concerned about getting a lawyer? If he really had nothing to hide?

The next trial dates are March 13 and 14, 20 and 21, and 27 and 28.


Trial: Nick Pisa Of On-The-Ball Sky News Reports On Saturday Morning

Posted by Peter Quennell

Posted on 02/28/09 at 08:50 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Trials 2008 & 2009News media & moviesGreat reporting
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Trial: Nick Squires Reports On The Saturday Morning Testimony

Posted by Peter Quennell




Overview

This below is part of the testimony this morning from the crime scene investigators. Click above for the full story.

We will be posting a wrap-up, if possible tonight, with a lot more detail from the Italian media.

This below is part of the testimony this morning from the crime scene investigators. Click above for the full story.

Officer Chiacchiera and Officer Napoleoni

A police officer, Marco Chiacchiera, told the court that no record was found of a telephone call that Mr Sollecito claims to have received on his apartment landline at 11pm on the night of the murder, Nov 1, 2007.

The Italian IT graduate maintains he was in his flat that night but cannot remember if Miss Knox spent part or all of the night with him.

Miss Knox, a University of Washington student from Seattle, initially told investigators she was in the house when Miss Kercher was killed and covered her ears against the victim’s screams. Later, she said she was not there and claimed her earlier remarks were made under pressure from the police.

Another police officer, Monica Napoleoni, who heads Perugia’s murder squad, recalled discovering Miss Kercher’s body, semi-naked and partially covered by a duvet, in her bedroom.

The British student’s eyes were open, she said, and her blood-soaked bra was on the ground near her feet.

Ms Napoleoni recalled thinking that Miss Knox and her boyfriend seemed “indifferent to everything” when they were called to a police station in Perugia for questioning on Nov 5, 2007. It was there that the American turned cartwheels and did the splits.

Amanda Knox’s father is reported as responding that she was a yoga enthusiast, and it was not unusual for her to break into a yoga pose in the middle of conversations.

Posted on 02/28/09 at 08:04 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedPolice and CSITrials 2008 & 2009
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Trial: Andrea Vogt Reports More Of The Details Introduced Friday

Posted by Peter Quennell




Introduction

Click above for the full report. From Andrea Vogt, a highly objective reporter, one of only two or three Italian-speaking American reporters actually attending the trial.

1) Knox at the police stationz: Officer Profazio and Officer Napoleoni

Giacinto Profazio, who supervised the investigation, said he had to tell the suspects at one point [at the police station] that it was inappropriate for Knox to sit on Raffaele Sollecito’s lap.

The couple was kissing, making faces and acting increasingly annoyed at investigators’ questions, said Monica Napoleoni, the head of Perugia’s homicide squad… “I took particular notice of their behavior because it seemed impossible that these two kids were there kissing when the cadaver of their friend had just been found,” Napoleoni said.

Police also emphatically defended their handling of the Meredith Kercher murder investigation, refuting allegations that Knox and Sollecito were mistreated during questioning in November 2007.

Investigators were firm, she testified during the six-week-old murder trial, but “absolutely” did not use violence—a claim Knox has made.

“She was given a drink more than once,” Napoleoni said. “She was given a hot chamomile tea; she was offered breakfast. Amanda was treated well.”...


2) And at Meredith’s house and Sollecito’s apartment: Officer Napoleoni and Officer Chiacchiera

Police and defense lawyers clashed over key forensic points, including whether or not the crime scene was contaminated, how the murder weapon was identified, luminol-enhanced footprints compatible with those of Knox and Sollecito, Knox and Kercher’s blood found in the bathroom, and most contentiously, Kercher’s bra clasp with Sollecito’s DNA on it.

Both Napoleoni and Marco Chiacchiera, the first investigating officer to arrive, said the crime scene didn’t jibe with the lone burglar theory put forth by the suspects. For example, the room had been messed up before the window had been broken, Chiacchiera said.

The 10-pound rock found inside the room would have been difficult to throw from the ground, more than 10 feet below, he said.

“The fact that this girl was semi-nude with a wound of that type, in a pool of blood in her own room with the door locked, and then with the rock and window like that—well, progressively, the analysis of all the investigative elements made us suspicious,” Chiacchiera said.

Investigators’ suspicions deepened once phone records arrived, he said, because there was a void of calls from 8:30 in the evening until the next morning on both their phones. In months prior, records showed phone activity until late in the night. In addition, Sollecito had told police his father had called him at 11 p.m., but phone records showed no such call….

Even the smallest details became points of [defense] contention, such as why investigators took into evidence the Manga comics Sollecito kept near his bed, which Chiacchiera described as “a cross between pornography and horror,” but took no notice of a nearby Harry Potter novel.

Posted on 02/28/09 at 05:19 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedPolice and CSITrials 2008 & 2009Massei prosecutionNews media & moviesGreat reporting
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Friday, February 27, 2009

Trial: Lot Of Evidence Introduced In First Pass In Afternoon Session

Posted by Peter Quennell


This was testimony from the crime-scene investigators who searched Meredith’s and Sollecito’s apartments on the day after the crime.

The UK press and the Associated Press (the main source for reports in American media) have not yet updated their stories beyond those linked-to below.

But the Italian press is reporting testimony from the officers who found the knife in Sollecito’s apartment which may have Knox’s and Meredith’s DNA on it (see Nicki’s post Monday on the knife and other DNA below).

Also there was testimony on the phone records which seems to indicate Knox’s and Sollecito’s mobile phones were turned off almost together around mid-evening on the night of the murder. There is a record of Sollecito’s being turned on again at daybreak the next morning, but apparently no record of when Knox’s phone was turned back on.

Also introduced this afternoon was the first of the testimony on the finding of Meredith on the floor of her bedroom (see Brian’s post Wednesday on this sad and apparently very telling scene).

There was crime-scene-officer testimony also on the finding of the large rock in Filomena’s bedroom. The defenses are reported to have put on a spirited show here, and to have again argued the possibility that an intruder could have got in via Filomena’s window.

Crime scene officers testified that a ready-made much-easier break-in route existed, by way of the balcony and the windows and balcony door out back.

On Sunday, our poster Kermit will be putting up new Powerpoints showing why this route is so viable. And again but even more-so how absurd Filomena’s window looks as a preferred point-of-entry.

Posted on 02/27/09 at 12:47 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedPolice and CSIEvidence & witnessesCellphone activityTrials 2008 & 2009
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Trial: Nick Pisa Of On-The-Ball Sky News Reports Early Testimony

Posted by Peter Quennell

Hmmm. Many officers testifying = weakness of the case? That seems a stretch.

And in the accompanying article on Sky News, Nick Pisa reports one officer’s testimony.

Mr Profazio, who now leads the narcotics division in Rome, told the court how he had been on holiday at the time of the murder, but immediately returned to work.

“I was away when I had a phone call from colleagues telling me that there had been a terrible murder. The body of an English girl had been found with her throat cut,” he said.

“I immediately headed back to Perugia and got to the scene at the same time as the forensic officers from Rome.

“A window was pointed out to me, which was broken and which was said to have been the point of entry, but I thought it was strange as it would have needed a superhuman effort to climb up to it.

“I noticed that there was a much easier way into the house at the back, via a terrace and a boiler, there was a chair and table on the terrace and it would have been a lot easier to get in this way.”

He also told the court how both Knox and Sollecito’s mobile phones had been switched off “practically at the same time” between 8.00pm and 8.30pm the night of the murder.

Mr Profazio also told the court that a search of Sollecito’s house had discovered a 30cm kitchen knife which was given to forensic experts for examination.

Posted on 02/27/09 at 08:24 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesCellphone activityTrials 2008 & 2009News media & moviesGreat reporting
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Trial: Nick Squires Reports On The Friday Morning Session

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for Nick’s report. Some perhaps-overdue seriousness is now setting in, it seems.

The 21-year-old American student, in jeans and a purple cardigan, appeared more sober and downcast than on previous occasions as she was led into court in Perugia, where she and her Italian ex-boyfriend are on trial for murdering the Leeds University student.

As soon as she sat down she bowed her head and appeared to start crying, after greeting her father, Curt Knox, with a nervous smile.

She was comforted by her translator, a uniformed prison guard and one of her lawyers, who patted her gently on the back. Her demeanour was in marked contrast to previous hearings, when she smiled and joked with her lawyers.

Posted on 02/27/09 at 08:07 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Trials 2008 & 2009Amanda Knox
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cutting Through The Confusion Over Knox’s Status In Perugia

Posted by stewarthome2000



[Shots: School for Foreigners; bottom shot from above Meredith’s house]

The media have now repeated countless times that Amanda Knox was on a “study abroad program”.

In fact, as these things are defined, she was not. It is precisely that she was NOT on a study-abroad program that she was able to adopt a lifestyle that seems to have led her to where she is now.

To go on a study-abroad “program” means that you attend an organized and SUPERVISED curriculum and agenda, most often with peers, faculty and/or at the very least a local administrative staff person assigned to periodically look after the participants’ behavior and well-being.

In fact the University of Washington does not even have a study abroad “program” in Perugia. It merely suggests to UW students that the Universita per Stranieri is a possible destination and place for students to go on their own, and if asked helps out with some administration.

Knox took the “non-conformist” path to study abroad. I recall reading that she did not want to go on a program so as to not follow the group, so to speak. So she did study abroad, but cheaply, and outside an organized program by the University of Washington. She was basically in Perugia on her own.

This is characteristic of at least two type of people, those who are adventurous, exploratory and want a true full-immersion experience into the cultural side of the host country (usually Italian majors), and those who want to be untethered and to have total freedom and no one to answer to so they can do as they wish.

Her casual attitude to her studies and other strong hints in her behavior and writings suggests that she was the latter type.

And presumably her biological parents understood all of this and signed off on it, even before Amanda Knox ever left Seattle.

Parents especially should know that if Knox had attended a UW-operated or US-University run study abroad program with supervision, her attendance in class would have been monitored, and any behavior that would upset roommates may have been reported.

In these programs for the most part there are strict housing rules such as no overnight guests, let alone bringing guys home to sack up with. Most of the time roommates will complain on the spot or get back to the American administrators that they have an out-of-control roommate bringing guys home, drinking excessively, or doing drugs.

In addition, programs with the proper supervision have enough of a presence to let the participants know that someone is at least checking up now and again. And as a result they watch their behavior.

Furthermore, in well-run programs, students are given significant preparation about living in the specific host country and city with pre-departure materials and perhaps meetings, talking with ex-participants, and attending an extensive multi-day orientation where staff and even local police lecture them about the many pitfalls of living in a foreign and new environment away from home.

They are reminded that the laws are different in other countries, and more importantly that there are some bad people walking the streets. They are told to enjoy themselves and learn, but also to be careful, stay alert, stay out of trouble, and so on.

I myself work in study abroad and we know what unleashed unsupervised colleges students get themselves into. We are trained to look for potential problems and we visit all students accommodations at least once per month and speak with everyone there.

We have open-door counseling and professionals with years of experience on staff. We watch out for all our students regularly… we know what behavior to look for, and when to intervene, at least most of the time.

Yes, it costs more to attend the Universita per Stranieri or any overseas university through a US-college or US-university monitored program with local on-site staff and supervision.

But the situation Amanda has created, or at least found herself in, is much less likely to happen to students on a supervised and accredited study abroad program.

Let’s face it, at the age of 20, 21, or 22, many young adults are still really more or less kids. Naive and vulnerable, especially those who have yet to explore their “wild side”, they sometimes see this as an opportunity to make up for lost time.

This is exemplified in the fact that many pass out from drinking in the days after they arrive. Bottom line, they need guidance, and no more so than when they are 8000 miles from home and on their own.

Knox took the “I am too good to go on study abroad program with fellow students” route and the cheapest way overseas.  And it is not proving so cheap anymore.

Her biological parents really should have known better. All parents should either make sure the students are mature enough, or make sure they have a structured environment that can assist them while abroad. It is well worth the extra cost and peace of mind.

So the media should please get this straight from now on.

  • Amanda Knox was NOT on a study abroad “program” while in Perugia.  She was at most “studying abroad” as that term is used very loosely.
  • She took a leave from the University of Washington to study Italian at what is essentially a glorified language school which anyone can attend.
  • She was totally unsupervised in a high-risk situation where it would have seemed obvious to any supervisor that she was looking to break away.
  • And she most likely would have had a very difficult time getting any credit for her studies from the University of Washington at the conclusion.

So. The worst possible deal for any student abroad. The parents signed off in advance.  It seems to have exploded on Knox. And poor Meredith died.







Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Understanding Micheli #4: The Staged Scene - Who Returned To Move Meredith?

Posted by Brian S




1. Where We Stand

Just to recap. Judge Micheli presided over Rudy Guede’s trial and sentencing and the final hearing that committed Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox to trial.

Late January he made public the 106-page report that explains the thinking behind both actions. These posts are examining key areas of the report so that we too may decide on the rationales.

2. The Final Position Of The Body

Why this matters so much is that if the evidence holds firm, all by itself it will prove that there was a major rearrangement of the crime scene, to try to throw investigators off the trail.

This is as near to an 80,000 pound gorilla in the room as we are likely to see in this trial. And it may even be on the trial agenda for this coming Friday and Saturday.

Reports by the crime-scene investigators and Dr Lalli are summarised in Judge Micheli’s report. They describe the detail of the scene discovered in Meredith’s room. The investigators measured and photographed the position and state of everything, including blood, as it was in the room before anything was moved.

Amongst the items noted was a white bra. Some parts were soaked in blood, particularly the right shoulder strap and the outside of the left cup. They also noted that a portion of the backstrap with its clasp fixings was missing. Meredith herself was lying on her back midway between the wardrobe and the bed, without her jeans, a pillow under her buttocks and her top rolled up to reveal her chest.

Following this survey, Meredith’s body was then turned and moved by the investigators. This revealed the other items on which her body had lain. A tennis shoe, a white sheet from the bed and a blue zipped top, all with blood stains. Also a green bath towel and an ivory bath towel, both soaked in blood, and underneath the pillow was the missing clasp section of the bra back-strap.

Judge Micheli notes that Amanda’s defence claimed that “the small round spots of blood” apparent on Meredith’s chest indicated that she was not wearing her bra when she was killed. He agreed that it was likely that these spots fell from Meredith’s gasps for breath as she lay on her back after she had been stabbed. However, he could not agree with their conclusion that her bra had been removed before this time, as similar small round spots were also found on Meredith’s bra.

Micheli reasoned that this indicated that Meredith was still wearing her bra as she gasped for breath, but that her top was rolled up and the bra moved also. Thus indicating the sexual nature of the original attack, but also allowing the small round spots to fall on both chest and bra. Furthermore, other blood evidence involving the bra indicated that it wasn’t removed until some time after Meredith had died.

He said that Meredith’s bra was found by investigators away from other possible blood contamination on the floor, near to her feet. Photographs of Meredith’s body show clear white areas where the bra prevented blood from falling onto Merediths body. These white areas corresponded to those areas where blood was found on her bra. This was particularly true in the area of the right shoulder strap which was soaked from the wound to Meredith’s neck.

Micheli said that evidence showed that Meredith had lain on one shoulder near the wardrobe. She lay in that position long enough for the imprint of her shoulder and bra strap to remain fixed in the pool of blood after she was moved to the position in which her body was finally found. Photographs of blood on her shoulder matched the imprint by the wardrobe and her shoulder itself also showed signs that she had remained in that position for some time.

Based on all this, Judge Micheli concluded that there could be no doubt that Meredith’s body was moved away from the wardrobe and her bra removed quite some time after her death.

Neighbor Nara Capezzali had testified that people fled from the cottage within a minute of Meredith’s final scream. There was no time for any alteration of the crime scene in those very few moments.

Judge Micheli asks in his report, who could have returned later and staged the scene which was found? Who later moved Meredith’s body and cut off her bra? He reasons it could only be someone who had an interest in changing what would become a crime scene found at the cottage. Who else but someone who lived there, and who wanted to mislead the coming investigation?

It couldn’t have been Laura, she was in Rome. It couldn’t have been Filomena, she was staying with her boyfriend. It was very unlikely that it was Rudy Guede, all proofs of his presence were left untouched.

The culprits ran from the cottage in different directions and there is no reason to believe they met up again before some or one of them returned. Judge Micheli stated that, in his opinion, this just left Knox who would seem to have an interest in arranging the scene the police would find.

Bloody footprints made visible with luminol in Filomena’s room contain Meredith’s DNA. This indicated to Judge Micheli that the scene in Filomena’s room was also staged after Meredith was killed.

In Micheli’s opinion the scene in Meredith’s room was probably staged to point the finger at Rudy Guede. All evidence related to him was left untouched, and the pillow with a partial palm print was found under Meredith’s repositioned body.

But whoever later arranged that scene in Meredith’s room also unwittingly indicated their own presence at the original sexual assault. Who else could have known that by staging an obvious rape scene, they would inevitably point the investigators towards Rudy’s DNA which they knew could be found in Meredith?

Micheli asks: Seemingly, who else could it have been but Amanda Knox? And this in part is why she was committed to trial, for her defense to contend this evidence.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Understanding Micheli #3: How Damning Is The DNA Evidence Coming Up?

Posted by Nicki





Probable answer? Pretty damning.

Judge Micheli has had two very important roles. He presided over Rudy Guede’s trial and sentencing, and he presided over the final hearing that committed Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox to trial.

Late January, Judge Micheli made public the 106-page report that explains the thinking behind both actions. These posts are examining several very key areas of the report so that we too may choose whether to buy into the rationales.

The trial to establish the truth about the murder of Meredith continues next Friday. As we’ve reported, various human witnesses have already been heard from: the Postal Police who discovered Meredith’s body, Meredith’s two Italian roommates, and her seven British friends.

Coming up soon is a more silent witness, one very important to both the prosecution and the two defenses: the DNA evidence.

Specifically the DNA belonging to Meredith, Knox, Sollecito, and Guede which was found at the scene of the crime, and on the suspected murder weapon found, apparently hidden, in Raffaele Sollecito’s house.

Traces of Meredith’s DNA have been found on a knife compatible with the wounds that caused her death. Amanda Knox ‘s genetic material was identified on the knife handle. DNA belonging to Sollecito has been found on the clasp of the victim’s bra. And more DNA showing Rudy Guede’s genetic profile was found on the victim’s body and elsewhere in the house.

In summary, the biological sources and locations where DNA belonging to the three defendants was found are these:

  • Guede’s DNA (from epithelial cells) was found inside Meredith, on toilet paper, on the right side of Meredith’s bra, mixed with Meredith’s DNA on the her purse zip, and on the left cuff of Meredith’s light blue sweater
  • Sollecito’s DNA (from epithelial cells) was found on Meredith’s bra clasp, mixed with Meredith’s DNA, and on one cigarette butt found in the kitchen
  • Knox’s DNA (from epithelial cells) was found on the knife sheath, and close to the blade junction. It was not possible to ascertain both the haematic and epithelial source of Meredith’s DNA on the knife blade, due to the scarcity of the sample. But Judge Micheli noted that reasonable doubt persist that blood could have been present also.
  • Other significant biological traces belonging to Meredith - for example, DNA originating from the blood-trace footprints revealed by luminol found in Filomena’s bedroom, as already reported at trial.

Claims of contamination and “poor matches” of the DNA samples were raised by the Sollecito and Knox defenses, although not by Guede’s. The DNA expert Dr. Stefanoni’s arguments in reply to the defenses’ claims are summarized in Judge Micheli‘s report.
 
Dr Stefanoni reported that the locus ascribable to Meredith and identified on the knife blade shows readings of 41 and 28 RFU. Conventionally, RFU values lower than 50 can be defined as low. But she maintained that the profile matched Meredith’s by explaining that there is no immediate correlation between the height of the peaks obtained by electropherogram and expressed in RFU, and the reliability of the biological investigation.

In fact “even if statistically - in most cases - the RFU data is directly proportional to the possibility of a certain interpretation of the analysis result, on the other side many cases of high peaks of difficult interpretation exist (because of background noises), as well as low peaks that are objectively unquestionable, hence the need to proceed to the examination of data that is apparently scarce, but that mustn’t be considered unreliable per se.”

*The use of multiplex PCR and fluorescent dye technology in the automated detection and analysis of short tandem repeat loci provides not only qualitative information about the profile - i.e. which alleles are present - but can provide also quantitative information on the relative intensities of the bands, and is therefore a measure of the amount of amplified DNA.”

So if on one side Dr Stefanoni admits that the RFU readings are low, on the other her experience suggests that many cases of unquestionable matches exist showing readings lower than 50 RFU, and this appears to be the case with Meredith’s DNA sample on the knife.

Contamination in the laboratory is categorically excluded by Dr Stefanoni. The samples were processed with maximum care in order to avoid any contamination during lab procedures. Contamination during the collection phase is excluded by Judge Micheli, as the samples were collected by different officers at different times in different places (example Via della Pergola at 9:40am on Nov 6. 2007, and Sollecito’s apartment at 10:00am, on the same day, by a different ILE team).

As for Sollecito’s DNA found on the bra clasp, the match is unquestionable, according to the lab reports. Samples from crime scenes very often contain genetic material from more than one person (e.g. Rudy Guede’s DNA has been identified in a mixture with the victim’s DNA in a few places), and well-known recommendations and protocols exist in order to de-convolute mixed samples into single genetic profiles.

So if the lab reports indicate that unquestionable biological evidence of Sollecito’s DNA was found on the bra clasp, at the present time we have no reason to believe that these recommendations weren’t followed and that therefore the reports are not to be trusted.

As to cells “flying around” depositing themselves – and their DNA content - here and there around the murder scene, there have been some imaginative theories advanced, to say the least.

The reality though is that although epithelial cells do shed, they don’t sprout little wings to flock to one precise spot, nor grow feet to crawl and concentrate on a piece of evidence. There needs to be some kind of pressure on a surface in order to deposit the amount of biological material necessary to yield a reliable PCR analysis result. A simple brushing will not do. 

As a matter of fact, Dr Stefanoni agreed with Guede’s defense that Guede‘s genetic material found on the left sleeve of Meredith’s blouse was minimal; and this was because the DNA found there belonged to the victim and was not a mixture. In the situation where there is a clear disproportion between quantitative data of two DNA’s coexisting in a biological trace, the PCR will amplify the most abundant DNA.

As agreed by Dr. Stefanoni and Guede’s defense, the conclusion here was that on the left sleeve there was plenty of Meredith’s DNA but very little of Guede’s. (This was used by his defense to deny that Guede had exerted violence on Meredith’s wrist).

After listening to the arguments of the prosecution and the defenses, Judge Micheli provided reasons why he rejected the contamination claims and ruled that all the biological traces identified as reflecting Sollecito’s and Knox’s DNA are admissible as evidence. He arrived at the conclusion that the DNA evidence is sound and, considered along with the non-biological proof, he decided there was more than enough evidence to order Knox and Sollecito to stand trial. 

Regarding the biological significance of the traces, we are now looking forward to hearing the Knox and Sollecito defenses’ counter-arguments.  But as we understand it now, the DNA evidence for the trio having all been involved in the murder seems pretty damning.


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