Breaking news: Damning implications of translated Nencini Report have been incisively commented upon by Selene Nelson and Chelsea Hoffman with many others in US and UK media now absorbing. Interest will peak late March when Italian Supreme Court rules on the RS/AK appeal against the Florence appeal court findings

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good Reports By Seattle PI And Daily Beast On Mignini Summarising The Evidence Presented At Trial

Posted by Peter Quennell

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[Above: The indomitable victim’s proponent Giuliano Mignini preparing for court today with Giancarlo Costagliola]


Click the image above for Andrea Vogt’s report on Mr Mignini’s afternoon in court. Tough points Mr Mignini made:

“They know the truth because they were at Via della Pergola along with Rudy,” said Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini said emphatically, pointing to Knox and Sollecito in his last remarks to the court. “Not only the young man of color should pay.”...

[Mr Mignini] sometimes seemed to obsess on small and bizarre details, but at other times showed an incredibly effective use of courtroom oratory. Just before showing the jurors gruesome autopsy photos of Kercher’s wounds, for example, he told them softly how he would never forget “the wide open eyes of the victim and the composed, immense pain of her parents.”

He reminded the appeals jurors that it was not a U.S. court, but rather one in the Italian republic and urged them to ignore “improvised detectives who give their superficial opinion from 10,000 kilometers away.”...

[Mr Mignini] went over all the witness testimony, described how a break-in in the apartment Kercher and Knox shared had been staged and frequently cited Knox’s own statements on the stand during her first trial, especially on the topic of a large drop of Knox’s blood on the bathroom faucet and mixed traces of blood and DNA of Kercher and Knox in the bathroom.

Highly worth reading the entire thing. Barbie Nadeau covers the same ground equally well in the Daily Beast and notes that today could be the final scene changer. The embattled Sollecito defense counsel Giulia Bongiorno was reduced to making this preposterous claim:

Sollecito’s attorney Giulia Bongiorno told reporters that Mignini was desperately clinging to old arguments because the independent experts’ report had demolished two key pieces of evidence : a knife and a bra clasp.

Demolished?! The independent experts didn’t retest the DNA material with modern techniques when they could and should have and they even admitted that was Meredith’s DNA profile the scientific police had produced the first time around.

They ended up looking weak and evasive. Hardly the silver bullet Bongiorno wants.

By the way, no sign of Mr Mignini being fazed by the presence (surely unhelpful to Knox and her lawyers) of the muddled “ex FBI agent” Steve Moore whose bizarre and often defamatory takes on the case and Italian justice officials we have again and again shown to be wrong.

Perhaps Mr Mignini should ask Steve Moore to publish his own detailed resume. So far, all requests for it have been stonewalled.

Posted on 09/23/11 at 09:22 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Umbria’s Attorney General Giovanni Galati: A Tough New Presence In The Courtroom

Posted by Peter Quennell

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[We are told that this is AG Giovanni Galati at the recent justice info system announcement]


Italian media note that the defenses are up against quite a powerhouse prosecution team.

The media have observed that Giovanni Galati, the new Attorney General of Umbria, is in the court to give his full support to the case made by his colleagues.

He was formerly a a Deputy Attorney General with the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome and will know everything there is to know about winning appeals.

He is sitting next to his Deputy Attorney General, Giancarlo Costagliola, the lead prosecutor for the appeal.

Posted on 09/23/11 at 12:29 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Fourteenth Appeal Session: Italian Media Describing Very Tough Prosecution Opening

Posted by Peter Quennell

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First good report on the opening remarks by Mr Costagliola is from RAI News:

Hard, harsh, and direct. The [Deputy] Attorney General Giancarlo Costagliola this morning attacked head-on the findings of the independent DNA experts in the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the murder of Meredith.

Moreover the homeless man who claims to have seen Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito not far from the murder house on the evening of 1 November 2007, when Meredith Kercher was killed, is ‘“credible and reliable”...

Costagliola described the skill of the original DNA experts of the Court…The Attorney General also spoke of the “absolute certainty” of the analysis of traces of DNA detected by experts of the Court on the knife found to be the murder weapon. “A re-examination of the DNA by the prosecution was refused [by Judge Hellman] although it was the first request put to the Court.”

“Denying the presence of the DNA of Meredith Kercher, and Raffaele Sollecito on the knife and bar hook is a falsification of scientific reality” said the prosecutor, still attacking the expertise of Professors Vecchiotti Carla and Stefano Conti, which questioned the work of the forensic team…. “Professors Vecchiotti Carla and Stefano Conti had refused without any reason to analyze traces highlighted on the knife, which in 2007 were not analyzed because ‘there was no machinery suitable “.

“I want you to decide, you judges, if you feel a little for the parents of Meredith Kercher, a young, discreet and serious woman who these “good” kids from good families are prevented from living.”...

For Costagliola “there was an almost obsessive campaign by the media, the press and television that made the audience feel a bit like everybody is parents of Amanda and Raffaele, two kids from good families kept in prison because of the fury of a prosecutor.”.’

La Nazione reports that Mr Mignini in his opening remarks observed that he will never forget Meredith’s staring eyes. He’ll remember them for the rest of his life. He pointed out that 22 judges had already agreed with his reasoning.

And from a long report by Phoebe Natanson of ABC News:

Italian prosecutors argued today that American student Amanda Knox should be kept in prison and displayed a series of bloody crime scene photos, including gruesome close ups of murder victim Meredith Kercher’s wounds.

The bare knuckle tactics by the prosecutors comes on the final leg of an appeal by Knox, 24, and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 27, who were convicted in 2009 of killing Kercher. There has been growing speculation that Knox and Sollecito could win their appeal and be freed because court appointed experts have raised damaging questions about the prosecution’s DNA evidence.

Knox , serving a 26 year prison sentence, today seemed to reflect that hope that she could be released, as well as the worry that her hopes could be crushed. She appeared tense and anxious as she entered the courtroom in Perugia, Italy, for the start of summations. She barely smiled at her family who have gathered in Perugia for what they hope will be a final time.

As Knox walked in, her mother Edda Mellas was heard to say, “It looks like Amanda isn’t sleeping well.”...

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini presented the court with a slideshow of photos that included pictures of bloodstains in the house as well as photos of Kercher’s slashed body. The blood-filled pictures included close-ups of the wounds…

[Prosecutors] also appealed for the jurors to not be swayed by the press coverage that has been critical of the prosecution’s handling of evidence and what is perceived to be a growing sentiment for Knox and Sollecito. Mignini called it “media clamor,” and added, “This is not a media fiction… This case has to tried and decided here.”...

“Don’t commit grave error..it would be unforgivable,” Mignini warned. “It’s not just about the knife and the bra clasp. There are lots of other things.”

Posted on 09/23/11 at 11:13 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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How Things Seem To Be Stacking Up As The Appeal Summations Get Under Way

Posted by James Higham

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[Above: the media presence in court before the trial started in January 2009]

Cross-posted at TJMK’s invitation from my own website Nourishing Obscurity.

The interview with juror Jennifer Ford on the Casey Anthony outcome was quite fascinating because her decision was based on something we’ve been arguing about for a long time – circumstantial evidence. 

There’ve been classic cases at Orphans of Liberty where expert testimony described actual evidence found and tested and what conclusions were drawn from that.  When you get up to 12 or 13 experts all saying exactly the same thing and some of those were actually on site, then what do you conclude?

Against that, you have that comment that “circumstantial” is usually all you have in a murder.  By definition, the murderer does not oblige by taking snapshots or videorecording the event.”  Often he or she does everything in their power to cover it up.

It’s all very well for a Columbo to waltz in and cleverly trap the murderer he’s fixed on but in most cases, it’s the result of painstaking work building exhibits and other evidence which fits together.  True, when the police try too hard, you can get frame-ups. But what the pro-Knox machine are making out – that “a stream of lies” has come out of Mignini’s office, while conflating that with his provisional conviction over another case - concluding from that that Knox is innocent, they’re open to challenge.

Sorry – it doesn’t work that way.  Mignini has not been officially charged but has only been accused by the Knox camp of failure in his investigation and as for that other case, here’s what the Times said:

Mignini was convicted by a Florence court of exceeding his powers by tapping the phones of police officers and journalists investigating the still unsolved “Monster of Florence” serial killings between 1968 and 1985.

Phone tapping. Getting at the truth by any means possible.  The Knox defence, of course, has not used this separate issue but the Knox parents media machine has and it’s landed them in a slander trial, following this case.

Mignini was most surprised, in fact, that this conviction came up now, during the Knox trial.  Why now?  Who then is Judge Hellman?  Is there anything in his appointment?  You’d have to say no but keep it at the back of the mind.

Coming back to Jennifer Ford, what struck me was how tough it was for her because they did not have absolute final proof.  They did have so much evidence of what happened – the car trunk, the remains in the swamp and so on, the forensic evidence, so much so that it was pretty much a foregone conclusion, unless some other person or persons unknown had come into it.

Yet they did not convict, on the grounds that the prosecution had not finally proven, i.e. they didn’t have Casey Anthony at the scene, through an eyewitness, actually doing the murder.

In the Knox case, they have far more.  The Supreme court has unequivocally said there were three people and what’s more has named each of them.  On forensics alone and ignoring the conflicting evidence given by the defendants for now, the independent experts conceded that was Knox’s DNA on the handle and Meredith’s on the tip, as well as the mixed blood which neither side seemed to run with.

The independents – who seemed hardly that – did not destroy Dr. Stephanoni who waded in and presented exactly how the tests had been conducted, the one on the knife done in a one-off, with a member of the defence present who saw Meredith’s DNA appear.

Then you get to the other evidence:

(a) Why did Amanda admit to her parents in a recorded conversation that she was very very worried about that knife?

(b) Why did she concoct that fantasy about Sollecito’s having (maybe) put the knife in her hand while she slept & pressed her hand to give her fingerprints to the handle? And Sollecito and the bra clasp,  in conjunction with his footprint on the bathmat.)

(c) Why did Sollecito explain to the police that he had accidentally pricked Meredith’s hand while cooking?

And so on.  The tapped conversations.

Edda: Like I said, the lawyers believe that they are doing it on purpose, because they sure have nothing, so they are trying to put pressure on like when they interrogated you to see if you would say something more and so you have to keep calm and do not say anything to anyone.

Amanda: Yeah, when I was in the room with him I said what? … (Laughs) and then when I returned to my bedroom I was crying. I’m very, very worried for this thing about the knife… because there is a knife from Raffaele …

Curt: Well, here, here, here are the facts… we talked yesterday with the lawyer and asked him about the knife. Every time that they have to review an item we have an expert there that will review it with them. This is an example of… this knife of which they are talking about, they have never notified anything about the knife.

Edda: So, it’s bullshit!

Amanda: Is it bullshit?

Edda: It’s bullshit. [Curt cuts her off.]

Amanda: It’s stupid. I can’t say anything but the truth, because I know I was there. I mean, I can’t lie on this, there is no reason to do it.

Curt: Yeah, yeah, so what you have to do is not to talk about anything with anyone. Don’t write anything.

I don’t see that as confession, by the way, but it’s not necessary for it to be.  There is so much else.

There is Sollecito’s story about Meredith pricking her finger on the knife.  That alone raises so many questions of foreknowledge.  The body was moved.  Who moved it?  What has that to do with lack of DNA in the room it had been moved to? And the Knox camp’s major point – there were no fingerprints of anybody in the room where the body was found.

Precisely – there weren’t.  Not one.  What do you make of that?  And why was Knox at the Conad store next morning [two witnesses, including the manager]?

Lumumba – knowing her accusation was wrong, Knox let him languish in jail as the accused.  If she explains nothing else, how does she explain that, if she’s innocent?  You tell me how an innocent person would act?  If you say she was alone and scared, she wasn’t.  She had Sollecito with her and they were hugging and kissing, giving one another support.

Meredith’s phone.  It was taken.  Why?  They had their own phones.

The Knox camp never addresses these.  They only zero in on the DNA on two items and raise doubts on those. Fair to an extent.  Yet they never address the points just raised.

Meanwhile, the media really is culpable in all this. Tthere’s been so much written which point blank denies evidence which actually came out. 

Then we have my situation.  I wrote a reply at the First Post to the commenters and though other comments sympathetic to Knox were published, mine was not [it required moderation].  Make of that what you will.  I’ve written to First Post to complain but there’s been no response as yet.

If she walks, the prosecution will, of course, immediately file grounds for the appeal and that will take another year or more, but after the slander trial, she would for now be a free agent.  And don’t forget that the Sollecito family trial is also coming up.  Obviously they’d get Knox back to the States as quickly as possible and then that might be the end of it. Italy might never get her back on the witness stand again. This must weigh on the minds of the judges.

The most damning part, in my eyes, are the conflicting stories. Note even in the appeal, they never put the defendants on the stand – they’ve kept them well away.  The danger has been that if Sollecito had dropped Knox in it to save himself, her team would have had to tear at Sollecito and do the prosecution’s work for it. 

It’s not a cut and dried affair but it’s certainly at the stage where there are no credible alternative scenarios for the crime which anyone has been able to come up with, not from either side. 

The defence has based its entire appeal on the DNA being too little to test – something the prosecution claimed anyway would be the case after two years – with the original testing using up so much of the DNA – and on faulty procedures by Dr. Stephanoni and team.

The odds, with Judge Hellman having two votes, the other judge and the six jurors one each, is that to acquit, the defence has to have established gross negligence in the investigation. 

Judge Hellman, apparently is like Massei who leaves no stone unturned.  He might well look at the totality of the evidence and while he has not admitted some critical evidence for the prosecution, the reason could well be that he already accepts that and only wants to look at what the defence has brought, to see if it changes anything.

If Knox walks, it will be a major boilover, which negates the entire investigation and calls the Italian investigative authorities and the court system into question.  There’s no doubting it would be a massive coup for the Knox camp and the media machine who’ll claim their part in the victory.

If she gets 30 years, it would surprise many and would indicate a certain anger on Hellman’s part and possibly of the judiciary as a whole.  That doesn’t seem indicated so far and the defence have made a reasonable case on the only evidence they can attack.  There would not be a “retribution” factor here.

More likely is that the sentences will be upheld, with possibly a reduction of some form, although one pundit asked, “On what grounds a reduction?”  Fair question.  That’s where you would put your money, particularly as the defence did not seem to lay the sort of groundwork for a complete acquittal.

There is the possibility that Judge Hellman, in his desire to show the world the impartiality of Italian justice, accepts the defence case and wishes to rap the forensic team over the knuckles for sloppiness, which has not been established as yet.

There are ways Knox could walk and if she did, that would be a huge travesty, let alone what it does to the Italian investigative and justice system.  For us, it would be a body blow because here, finally, was one case where the power of money to buy a PR firm and to dominate the media did not win. 

Alternatively it could be a case where, with so many perpetrators walking free these days and with courts failing to impose proportional penalties, just this once an appropriate punishment was meted out.  In a way, that would be one small victory for justice and as it doesn’t involve execution and as there is one more appeal left after this anyway, it is less critical than the Troy Davis case.

Finally, Knox has much to answer for, aside from the questions from Meredith’s murder.  There is Lumumba, there is her alleged slander (with her parents) on the investigators, there is her allowing all blame to fall on Rudy Guede – there seem some very nasty things she has done. 

Even if she does not go down for the murder, as I’ve stated before, she surely needs some time inside for all these other things.  To walk completely free would be a travesty.

Posted on 09/23/11 at 10:10 AM by James Higham. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Overview Of What The Italian Media Are Saying In Advance Of The Final Appeal Sessions

Posted by Peter Quennell

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As usual, Meredith and her family and the prosecution are being given much more space than in the USA and UK.

Italian media and the Italian public are generally cognizant of the fact that no final verdict for this level of crime can be issued except by the Supreme Court. In effect what Judge Hellman’s court will issue is a provisional finding, and Sollecito and Knox may not know their final verdict and sentence for a year and a half.

That is, if the Supreme Court does not bounce the case back to the lower courts for reconsideration of some aspect as quite often happens - that happened in the case of defense witness Mario Alessi’s wife though her final sentence was not greatly affected.

In that event a final outcome could take even longer. 

Libero News reports (as we of course knew) that the prosecution will be seeking a more severe sentence and looking to exclude the mitigating circumstances that Judge Massei allowed.

Il Secolo reports the same thing, with no quotes from the defense teams. Prosecutors Giancarlo Costagliola, Giuliano Mignini, and Manuela Comodi will all present parts of the prosecution argument. Ms Comodi will rebutt the independent experts’ report on some of the DNA.

Il Secolo also mentions that that the court has accepted that Guede has confirmed Knox’s and Sollecito’s presence at the house. Unclear where this comes from but usually it is impossible to be sure what was weighted heavily until the sentencing report comes out. No evidence is rejected in the Italian system; it is all carefully weighted instead. .

And many media sites are reporting in Italian a statement by Meredith’s mother. Here from Comments is a translation by our Italian poster ncountryside.

My daughter Meredith was killed while she was in the safest place: in her bedroom. Who killed her knew her well, but her confidence had been betrayed. For me it is inconceivable that should have happened.

My daughter was killed in her home. Not in a park, not in a street. Her body was not found in a garden.

I had talked with her the day before the murder. She was happy. She promised me that she would be back to celebrate my birthday. She had bought the chocolate that she wanted to give me.

During these four years I have never stopped thinking about her. And it is as if I always had her near me.

She loved Italy, She was fascinated by Perugia.

I do not care about the names of those convicted, I do not care whether they are called Rudy, Amanda and Raffaele. For me it’s just that my daughter was killed by someone who at first instance was found guilty and convicted.

In that trial there was much strong evidence, I am wondering what is happening to it now. They tell me that some may no longer be valid but they are two items, what of all the others? What has changed from the first trial?

I accepted the ruling of the Court of Assizes, and I accept what will be decided by the Court of Appeal and all the others will have to do like me without any distinction.

I want justice done for my daughter.


Posted on 09/22/11 at 11:56 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reflecting On Andrea Vogt’s Fine Report “Knox: Innocent Abroad Or ‘Getting Away With Murder’?”

Posted by Skeptical Bystander

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Cross posted from my personal blog. Please click the image above for Ms Vogt’s new piece.

In this intelligent and well-written piece, Andrea Vogt wonders aloud how Italians would react to an acquittal of the Seattle woman who was convicted in December 2009 of taking part in the killing of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. She notes that an acquittal would be cause for celebration in Seattle.

It would certainly be cause for celebration among those who have taken up the cause and believe in Knox’s innocence despite the compelling evidence of her involvement in this horrific crime. But the fact is, most people in Seattle are simply not that interested. And among those who are, the consensus is certainly not that an innocent abroad got railroaded.

If it seems so, it’s because the local media has dutifully followed the lead of the national media and adopted the “innocent abroad” narrative concocted by David Marriott, whose PR firm was hired to manage Knox’s image shortly after she was arrested. In Seattle, Meredith’s murder has been played as a human interest story in which only the local protagonists matter. Meredith was British; it is assumed that Seattleites could not possibly give a toss about her.

Hence, local coverage has favored news of fundraisers for the accused local woman and then for the convicted local woman. Questions from local journalists to her supporters (family) have ranged from “How is she holding up in prison?” to “How is she holding up in prison?” And since there is no guilter movement, local or otherwise, except in the minds of a few shrill locals, there has been no local coverage of the movement’s “activities”. How can a non-existent movement have activities?

I have met many people in West Seattle who quietly shake their heads in disbelief at Steve Shay’s coverage for the West Seattle Herald. Yesterday, someone who works at a local business said “you’re skeptical bystander” when she handed me back my credit card. She told me she was a long-time lurker who reads perugiamurderfile.org and TJMK every day for information about the case. There are many people like her in Seattle.

I found it amusing, though sad, to read the comments that follow Andrea Vogt’s thoughtful piece for the First Post. Naturally, loud vocal supporter “Mary H” (this is her online pseudonym, and hiding behind it may be one reason she is so loud on the internet) was quick to condemn Vogt for merely pointing out the obvious. Mary H (fake name) asked Andrea Vogt (real name) how she could sleep at night!

It ain’t that hard, Mary, when you have the courage of your convictions and when you stand by the facts rather than getting sidetracked by the cause.

The fact at hand is that many people—in Seattle, in Italy, and elsewhere—would come away from an eventual acquittal with the feeling that justice had not been done for Meredith Kercher and her family and that at least two of those responsible for her death had gotten away with it. Mary H and others may not like to hear this, but it is a fact. And no amount of shaming on the part of Mary H or anyone else is going to make a bit of difference.

Yesterday, a lawyer friend and I were musing about what would have happened had this case been tried in the US. Many Knox supporters have said, repeatedly, that it would never have gone to trial here. My lawyer friend agreed, but for a different reason than the one implicit in this view (i.e. that there is supposedly no evidence).  He said

I don’t think the case would have gone to trial in the US. First, they would not have had to stop questioning her when they did. They would have artfully gotten her to waive her Miranda rights. They would have told her they can’t help her unless tells her side of the story, been very sympathetic initially and built up her confidence that she could talk her way out of it. They would eventually hone in on the inconsistencies, and when she finally cracked there wouldn’t be a lawyer there to stop her. The death penalty would have been on the table, and her only sure way to avoid that would be to plead guilty in exchange for life.

He also thinks that this would not have been such a high-profile case had it happened in Seattle.

Let’s wait and see how this court weighs the two contested items in the overall scheme of things. As a poster on PMF (another lawyer) wrote last night, it all boils down to this: How many pieces of evidence… ‘consistent with, but not conclusive of’ guilt can stack up against someone before, as a matter of common sense, it is no longer reasonable to believe they are innocent?

Posted on 09/21/11 at 11:44 PM by Skeptical Bystander. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Several Cautious Overviews Of The Possibilities In The Final Sessions Of The Appeal

Posted by Peter Quennell

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[Above: the central London area of Southwark where Meredith was born]

We note that Andrea Vogt is reporting on the prospects from Coulsdon in south London where Meredith grew up and went to school.

Hellman and his lateral judge, Massimo Zanetti, will guide a jury of six civilians toward a decision. If there is disagreement, the matter could go to a secret vote. Each juror has one vote, Zanetti has one vote and Hellman has two.

The jury members have free reign to fashion their decision as they please. They could acquit, convict or also choose to convict on lesser charges, reducing sentences, or even opt to release Knox from prison but order house arrest with electronic monitoring in Italy as the case moves on to the final phase in Court of Cassation.

If there is a full acquittal, Knox would go from court to Capanne penitentiary and after two hours of signing papers, walk out of prison a free woman.

“It is common for Italian courts of appeal to review sentences, and I would not be surprised if the two defendants in fact receive a more lenient sentence, also given the final outcome of Guede’s trial,” said Stefano Maffei, who teaches criminal procedure at the University of Parma.

But it ain’t over untill it’s over, though, given Italy’s automatic two levels of appeal where the prosecution too can advance grounds. The Supreme Court Of Cassation will hear the final appeal next year. As Tom Kington notes in the Guardian.

Mignini claims he is “satisfied” with the disputed forensic work, finds the triumphalism of the Knox camp “questionable”, and also has a new legal argument up his sleeve.

“The legal code states that any review of evidence must be requested immediately, not two years later.”

If the couple are acquitted, he added, the verdict could yet be annulled if Italy’s high court decides the recent DNA review was illegal.

Judge Hellman of course refused a prosecution request for a re-test of the DNA material which Judge Hellman’s consultants had failed to do. That could be appealable too.

Mr Mignini also believes that the Supreme Court made a mistake in disallowing Knox’s first written statement implicating Patrick Lumumba and placing herself firmly at the scene with facts no-one who wasn’t there could have known.

His reasoning is that Knox ASKED to write out this statement. Mr Mignini merely observed while she went ahead and he asked her no questions, and so she did not need to have a lawyer present for that.

So far the Supreme Court has been firmly on the prosecution’s side except for the above, and the court specifically noted a taped conversation in Capanne Prison where Knox appeared on the verge of a confession (one of several times where she seems to have come close).

Her parents interrupted her, apparently, the court thought, to stop her dropping herself even further in the soup. Seeming proof that her parents have all along known of her guilt is suggested also by their not passing on that Knox said to them that Patrick had been framed.

And suggested also by this hot potato of a post by Finn MacCool.

Posted on 09/19/11 at 11:32 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Slate’s Katie Crouch Comes Across Like A Callous And Ill-Informed Sock Puppet

Posted by Peter Quennell

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Slate’s sneering self-promoter Katie Crouch seems to forget that there is a real victim here. Like Lis Wiehl she seems to find Meredith’s death one huge joke.

For a slightly trapped Umbrian tourist with a 16-month-old on her hands, this case seemed a gift. Finally, something to talk about in my broken Italian with the locals! Do you think she’s guilty? My pension owner, a jolly man with two kids, said yes, definitely. Hadn’t I been to college? It was an orgy with a knife! An American expatriate friend over cappuccinos at Sandri’s: Guilty. It’s a known fact that the girl had sex with three men in two months. Need we say more?

She seems to rely only on ill-informed gossip from bar-flies to conclude that Amanda Knox is innocent and, yes, she should be set free. Even a remotely competent reporter would have managed to find out and report on these basic facts.

  • Italy’s is one of the most cautious and painstaking justice systems in the world. It is so careful and so reluctant to conclude guilt that its incarceration rate is less than one-sixth that of the United States. Italy has less than 100,000 prisoners behind bars. The US with a population less than five times that of Italy has 2.7 MILLION.

  • Part of every trial and appeal process in Italy as required by the constitution is an exhaustive report explaining every verdict and sentence. In this case there are FOUR such documents amounting to nearly 700 pages. Two for two trials and two for Guede’s two appeals. One of those is by the Supreme Court and it confirms three people attacked Meredith on the night.

Had Katie Crouch read Judge Micheli’s sentencing report for Rudy Guede (linked to in our right column) and Judge Massei’s sentencing report for Knox and Sollecito (linked to in full and summary above) here’s betting she would never have concluded as she did.  These claims for example would never have been made.

After naming Knox and Sollecito as co-killers, Guede’s time was reduced to 16 years.

Rudy Guede has never named Knox and Sollecito as “co-killers”. He named them as the only two killers, only once, to their faces, in the appeal. His sentence was automatically reduced solely because he opted for the fast track process which Italy allows. It was not a reward and he did not testify at Knox’s and Sollecito’s trial.

During the trial, Knox and Sollecito were accused of planning and carrying out a sex crime that ended in the slow sawing open of the victim’s throat…. Then there was the prosecutor’s theory of a bullying four-way sex game gone wrong.

The sex crime idea is not so farcical as Katie Crouch suggests. Meredith had been sexually molested, and her body had been re-arranged some time after her death to point to a sex attack. It was reasonable that the prosecutor put this to the court. Judge Micheli named Knox as the probable initiator in sending her to trial. Judge Massei named Guede as the probable initiator. Guede, Knox and Sollecito were all convicted of a sex crime. Two trials and two appeals have all concluded that three people had to have participated in Meredith’s attack.

For one thing, during her interrogation, Amanda named her boss, a bar owner named Patrick Lumumba, as the killer, and herself as present in the cottage. But Lumumba had an airtight alibi of tending his bar, Le Chic, that night. Why this bogus accusation implicating herself?

This is fully explained by Judge Massei. The interrogators were checking Knox’s recent calls and Lumumba’s name came up. Knox was in an apparent panic at the time as she had just been told that Sollecito had just destroyed her first alibi. Naming Lumumba (which she did not recant until he was released) was an apparent panic attempt to create another.

Meredith Kercher’s blood was on the murder weapon, a knife found in Sollecito’s kitchen. But no it wasn’t, the experts who testified at the appeals said.

This is simply incorrect. The scientific police expert who conducted the original test invited defense experts to be present. One did appear, and he witnessed Meredith’s DNA profile emerging from the machine.  One prosecution witness at the appeal said there was enough material for a retest and the prosecution asked Judge Hellman for this. After a consultation with the jury he said what they had heard already was enough.

OK, well, what about the fact that Knox bought bleach at 7 in the morning after the murder? Wait, but she didn’t. A witness later said her co-worker was coerced into saying that by a reporter. (Plus, after a violent diaper emergency, I myself can tell you that no store in Perugia is open at seven in the morning.)

This is an absurd mis-statement of the relevant evidence. The manager of the Conad testified that Knox was waiting for the store to open when he arrived. Nobody testified that she bought bleach. The real significance of this evidence is that it destroys Knox’s claim that she slept in until after 10:00.

I got up at 5 in the morning and crept to the cottage where the murder happened, staring in the window that the prosecutor argued no one could climb into, meaning the killer had to have keys. But the window didn’t look that high. I could probably climb up there.

A tall and very agile defense staff member tried this and after getting his hands up to the windowsill he had to give up. Judge Massei describes extensively the evidence below the wall, on the wall, on the window sill, and in the room itself to prove that nobody entered by that route. The only DNA found in the room was Knox’s mixed with Meredith’s DNA. No DNA of Guede or any other possible perpetrator was found there.

Knox and Sollecito turned off their phones that night not so they couldn’t be tracked, but because they didn’t want their parents bothering them during sex.

They had never simultaneously turned off their phones before. Sollecito’s final alibi has it that Knox was away from his place for four hours which is hardly conducive to a claim that they were having undisturbed sex.

Knox named Lumumba as the murderer because it was 5 in the morning and she’d been interrogated all night in a language she didn’t, at the time, understand very well.

It was not 5 in the morning. She made the claim soon after midnight and then repeated it in writing at her request for Mr Mignini. At the witness interview (which she volunteered for and could have refused) she had a translator present. Knox mentioned the translator in her testimony at trial.

She had only been in Italy about six weeks, and she hadn’t had any food or water for hours.

Knox herself confirmed at trial that she was given refreshments and treated well. Her own lawyers have never backed up such claims or filed an official complaint. For making claims of abuse against the interrogators both Knox and her parents face calunnia suits by those who consider themselves defamed.

Amanda’s DNA is mixed with Meredith’s blood on the bathroom sink because she brushed her teeth every day.

Not even Knox herself made that absurd claim. Katie Crouch should read this post on the various traces of mixed blood which the defenses have kept well away from disputing.

The knife the police had didn’t match Meredith’s wounds because it wasn’t the right one.

A defense witness at trial conceded that the large knife did match one of Meredith’s wounds. Good grief. Is there ANYTHING that Katie Crouch did get right?

Posted on 09/16/11 at 12:21 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A New Book Explains The Unfruitful Emergence Of More And More Conspiracy Theories

Posted by Peter Quennell

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Conspiracy theorists have dismally failed to come up with a plausible alternative theory of how Meredith died.

However, they do keep trying. So do the proponents of literally hundreds of other conspiracy theories, constituting vast amounts of effort probably better spent elsewhere - conspiracy theorists very rarely achieve very much, or do well economically, or rise to the top jobs.

The articles here and here look with skepticism on the 9/11 conspiracy theories which on the tenth anniversary of the twin towers coming down have been pushed hard by the various factions.

Now a new book “The Believing Brain” explains the mental makeup that disposes people to so eagerly believe the worst of our fellow man or our governments: One review in the Wall Street Journal..

In Mr. Shermer’s view, the brain is a belief engine, predisposed to see patterns where none exist and to attribute them to knowing agents rather than to chance—the better to make sense of the world. Then, having formed a belief, each of us tends to seek out evidence that confirms it, thus reinforcing the belief.

This is why, on the foundation of some tiny flaw in the evidence—the supposed lack of roof holes to admit poison-gas cans in one of the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers for Holocaust deniers, the expectant faces on the grassy knoll for JFK plotters, the melting point of steel for 9/11 truthers—we go on to build a great edifice of mistaken conviction….

Mr. Shermer offers a handy guide for those who are confused. Conspiracy theories are usually bunk when they are too complex, require too many people to be involved, ratchet up from small events to grand effects, assign portentous meanings to innocuous events, express strong suspicion of either governments or companies, attribute too much power to individuals or generate no further evidence as time goes by.

The increasingly shrill posts appearing daily on the website Ground Report seem to mark pretty high against that list. Could the Evil Mignini have engineered even this?

Oops. Another conspiracy theory in play.

Posted on 09/14/11 at 10:05 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, September 12, 2011

As We Long Predicted Knox Will Not Face Cross Examination When It Really Matters

Posted by Peter Quennell

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Majority opinion in Perugia has long inclined to the view that the right perps were convicted back in December 2009.

It is very hard to see the six jury members (the lay judges) bucking that trend without being given a great deal more red meat for them to convince their friends and neighbors (and for that matter most of Italy) than they have now.

And Judge Hellman has a reputation similar to Judge Massei’s for making sure all the bases are covered and for not arriving at trial or appeal outcomes based on a few outlying contradictory “facts” or a mere whim. He too has been given very little that is new.

Putting Knox and Sollecito on the stand now would seem the last best shot at taking care of that.

But there is no sign that either defense team has been eager to see their clients speak out at any time, and Knox was even publicly warned early on not to do so.

The teams quite possibly winced now and then (along with many others) at Knox’s performances in past spontaneous declarations and in her stint on the stand in July 2009 which did not really go over at all well.

See here and here and here.

Kermit in this December 2010 post explained the risks Knox would face on the stand. Kermit helpfully included 150 cross-examination questions to drive home the stark point.

So. Knox and Sollecito. Trapped by poor legal and PR strategy between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Posted on 09/12/11 at 09:18 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Conspicuous By Their Absence Now: Legal Commentators For Sollecito And Knox

Posted by Peter Quennell

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There is a marked sharp contrast now between how various reporters without legal backgrounds and various real lawyers are seeing the state of play in the appeal.

The post below shows how flavor-of-the-month reporters like Nick Pisa are still reporting happy talk from Knox and her entourage, while, within their professional constraints, we see more and more lawyers realisng Sollecito and Knox really are cooked.

Half a dozen of the main posters on TJMK who are lawyers (they identify themselves as such when they post) have explained how tough is the real case. Various Italian lawyers continue to offer us insights and tips from Perugia and Rome.  And we continue to see maybe half a dozen lawyers a week getting in touch by email or signing up, a trend that shows no sign of fading out.

In contrast all of the lawyers and legal commentators who were once suggesting the process in Perugia had taken a wrong turn have gone quiet, and no new legal voices for Solllecito and Knox are speaking up. The CNN legal shows devote almost no air time to the appeal, and Geraldo Rivera, Dan Abrams, John Q Kelly, Lis Wiehl and others have wound down their commentaries to brief equivocations or nothing at all. 

Ted Simon who is believed to be still on the Mellas-Knox payroll seems be operating only from very deep cover. Knox’s own lawyers pass on the (to us sad) happy talk from Capanne while themselves sounding very cautious and down.

And the former lawyer and political commentator Ann Coulter who does us the peculiar favor of including us in her definition of right wing is starkly declaring that the increasingly small number of increasingly shrill non-lawyers for Sollecito and Knox really should get a life.

By now, the only people who believe Knox and Sollecito are the usual criminal apologists and their friends in the American media.

Serial smearer and evidence incompetent Steve Moore as one of the usual criminal apologists?! That has to hurt.

Posted on 09/10/11 at 09:20 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Fourteenth Appeal Session: Judge Hellmann Consults Jury And Concludes They Have Enough To Wrap Up

Posted by Peter Quennell

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Judge Hellman took the jury into chambers for half an hour yesterday and they decided not to delay matters for a further DNA review.

Final arguments will therefore take place later this month (dates in our right column) and a verdict on the appeal could be announced by the end of the month.

Defenses didn’t ask yesterday to put their clients on the stand, no further impromptu remarks from the defendants were made, and no defense request for review of the very damning mixed blood traces was advanced.

Our Italian lawyers are not rating chances of a full acquittal above one or two percent. They believe the groundwork for that has simply not been laid.  The judges and jury dont have what is needed to upend the detailed outcomes of two trials and two other appeals. And the Italian system is nothing if not very cautious and lacking in surprise. 

The Supreme Court has accepted that THREE attackers had to have been present on the night. Not the slightest evidence of any perps other than the three put on trial has been advanced. No scenario has been offered in court for Guede having committed the crime on Meredith alone - in fact Guede accused the other two of being there right to their faces in court.

Free-lance reporter Nick Pisa (image above) who we often quote on the occasions when we think he’s got it right reported yesterday in the Daily Mail that Prosecutor Comodi expressed frustration with the judge and predicted an acquittal due to bias.

This is not confirmed by any Italian source and Ms Comodi is simply reported there as saying she had expected the request for further tests to be turned down and the defendants COULD still walk. Nothing more.

TJMK main poster Will Savive offered this explanation for Nick Pisa’s apparent serious mistake in a comment on our previous post.

ABC News is also reporting that they spoke to Comodi after the session and it is a big difference than what Pisa wrote.

In fact, it is ABC who has claimed that they interviewed her. According to ABC, Comodi informed them that there is “a possibility” that Knox and Sollecito could win the appeal. There is also a possibility that the sun will fall from the sky, so it is all in the context and translation of how she said it. Then ABC quoted her as saying, “I would find it very serious if they were set free.”

FOX News also reported Comodi speaking out. Sheppard Smith put Comodi’s alleged quote on the screen and it read word for word what Pisa wrote. FOX has been decent, in my opinion, thus far on reporting on the case, but Sheppard and his two cronies today were amateur at best and clearly not educated on the case.

It is very likely that Pisa twisted her quote to fit his agenda and make news; I wouldn’t be surprised!

HOWEVER…

The Seattle Times has the best piece on it I think.  In their article they write the interview as going like this:

COMODI: We did our job. I am convinced by what I have said. I am fully convinced of their guilt and I would find it very serious if they were set free. Today’s decision could lead one to think that there is more of a possibility that they be set freed.

So in essence, she never said that there is a possibility, in her opinion. She said that the hearing today “could lead one to think that there is more of a possibility that they be set freed.” It seems as though only Pisa is reporting it the way he did.

The Seattle Times included this: “Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga warned that the court’s rejection of new DNA testing was not equal to a positive outcome of the whole appeals trial.”

As discussed at length on PMF (link just below) the present Knox PR hype is very reminiscent of the hype just before Judge Massei’s blunt and unequivocal verdict was read out.

Posted on 09/08/11 at 08:41 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Thirteenth Appeal Session:  It Looks Like The Defenses’ Last Best Shot Might Have Fallen Short

Posted by Peter Quennell

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Tuesday’s was an abbreviated court session because of a strike in Perugia.

It emerged in the time remaining that the DNA that was remaining on both the bra clasp AND the knife might have been re-tested if Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti had not come up with some contentious quibbles for not proceeding.

The prosecution may now call for those tests to actually be done, by a new set of independent experts. Hard to see this amounting to pivotal either way any more, and Judge Hellman might simply move the court on.

Seemingly no grounds left now for Judge Hellman to live up to the PR-instilled rumor that he is about to deny Meredith her justice.

The Italian reporting today as usual leaves the English reporting in the dust. It conveys a picture of more of the same tough rebuttal that we were seeing yesterday. There are some quick translations on PMF via the PMF link at the bottom of this post. .

Amanda Knox looked increasingly down today as she absorbed the trend in the testimony, and at one point she slumped on the table seemingly asleep. Serial over-promising by her suffocating entourage hasn’t done her any good.

Mr Mignini believes that at several points Amanda Knox wanted to confess and to pay her dues. Surely better this than a Caysey Anthony or OJ Simpson situation with their attendant huge overtones of illegitimacy.

Posted on 09/06/11 at 11:06 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, September 05, 2011

Twelfth Appeal Session: Prosecution Start To Undermine The Independent Experts’ More Tenuous Claims

Posted by Peter Quennell

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[Above: Dr Stefanoni head of the Scientific Police’s Rome DNA labs with her prosecution interrogator Ms Comodi]


Monday’s Italian reporting suggests that Dr Stefanoni is coming across as highly competent and very objective.

Her team’s DNA handling and testing seems to have cut no corners. Her testimony will spill over into Tuesday.  The AGI News Service describes Dr Stefanoni on Monday running through her procedures and precuaions and denying that contamination could have taken place.

She hit point by point on all the complaints made by the consultants of the Assize Court of Appeal at Perugia about the police work in the context of scientific investigations into the murder of Meredith Kercher. She strongly defended the specialist work done by her laboratory. Stefanoni has categorically ruled out a possible contamination of the findings, pointing out that “the contamination is not ‘a thing that comes out of something abstract.”

The expert then recalled that the DNA of each operator that operates within the laboratories of the scientific police is ‘duly filed and that any possibility of contamination, whether by a person or from sample to sample, is tested on a regular basis. Dr Stefanoni also described how the “wet samples” collected on the first day of the murder investigation were kept in the refrigerator of the house and then brought to Rome.

And La Nazione in describing the same testimony adds that the defenses are taking quite a gamble in their all-or-nothing approach where a full acquittal seems increasingly unlikely and where the prosecution are asking for tougher sentences for Knox and Sollecito based on a waiver of Judge Massei’s mitigating circumstances.

The huge volume of evidence not being re-examined in the current appeal (about 95% of all evidence including a majority of the forensic evidence) is highlighted in many of the reports. Rudy Guede’s direct accusation of Knox and Sollecito to their faces in one appeal session is also recalled.

No mention of the position of the no-nonsense Supreme Court of Cassation position but that gorilla has to loom large in Judge Hellman’s mind. Judge Hellman does not have the final word on this appeal in Italian law, and a final outcome may take another 18 months. And if there is any funny business suspected, appeals can always be made to Cassation instantly.

In light of these two circumstances, the defense teams are still much more pussyfooting in Italian in the appeal court than the shrill PR claims in English-language media, while still not making the smartest move in Italian courts when defendants seem cooked and evoking some sympathy for them.

Knox’s best chances seem to be falling between those two stools.

Posted on 09/05/11 at 11:00 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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In Good Italian Meredith’s Family Remind Italy Of Who Is The Real Victim Here

Posted by Peter Quennell

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Stephanie Kercher writes an open letter (two of Meredith’s family are conversant in Italian, and Meredith had been fluent on arrival in Perugia) to Judge Hellman.

She questions the very strange slant of the DNA report in which Greg Hampikian seems to have had a suspect role.

The letter is very widely quoted from in the Italian media which has been highly sympathetic to Meredith and generally left cold by the antics of Knox, Sollecito, and their entourages.

CNN carries one of the few English-language reports. Generally a good one though it omits that Rudy Guede accused Knox and Sollecito to their faces in appeal court.

No English version was issued to our knowledge, and this is our main poster Tiziano’s translation, from TGCom.

In the last week we have been anxiously awaiting and in great agitation at the opinions being spread around about the original DNA tests.  It is extremely difficult to understand how the evidence which had been acquired with care and presented at the first grade trial as valid can now risk becoming irrelevant.

How can a quantity of DNA evidence be considered of little importance when the same experts do not give precise answers on the quantity which ought to be taken into consideration?

Furthermore, it should be remembered that both the parties, the prosecution and the defence, engaged their own respective teams of scientific experts in the first level trial, in addition to the consultants of the Scientific [Police] in Rome.

The [representatives of the] defence seem to be focussed on and to base themselves heavily on these two pieces of DNA evidence, but we want to remember for a moment who this case is about: my sister, a daughter brutally taken away from us almost four years ago and still not a day goes by when we can find a little peace or to put an end to all this.

All those who read this document or who are following this case, please remember our beautiful Meredith.  Her blood mixed with other samples spread around the bathroom, along the corridor and in Filomena’s room, and also so many other bloody prints.  Remember too all the other evidence which has been presented up till today in this trial, 10,000 pages of evidence.

We still have confidence in the Perugia police and all our trust in all those people from the court and the investigations.

We ask that Appeal Court weigh up every single piece of evidence, scientific and circumstantial, together with every witness heard and that [the court] do this independently of every other source of information and [independently] of the media.

In the midst of all the frenzy created by the media, Meredith has been forgotten, she is no longer with us, yet everything that should be for her and [done] in order to understand what really happened that tragic night. 

We have not forgotten her, and we will continue our struggle in order that justice be done with the continuing support of our lawyer Francesco Maresca and of his colleagues, the Police, the Public Prosecutor, the prosecution and all those taking part in this in Italy and also all those who in all the world still think of us and of Mez.

We would like to have the possibilty of working with Universty of Perugia on a project which would offer an annual place to a student in memory of Meredith.  Meredith loved Italy and its people and wanted to immerse herself in Italian culture.  We are well aware of the impact that all this has had on the city and we think that this is an appropriate way to commemorate Meredith in the beautiful place for which she left us to come and study.

Please do not let it be that Meredith died in vain, her courage and her strength continue to struggle and we shall look for justice so that she may rest in peace.  She did not stop struggling that November 1st, and we shall not stop now.

Stephy Kercher

 

Posted on 09/05/11 at 08:12 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, September 03, 2011

An Overview Of Modern Thinking On The Criminal Mind

Posted by Ergon

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[Above: an image of the influential researcher Dr Abram Hoffer]
l

Introduction:

The question of criminality has been much in the news lately, as wild gangs of youth rampaged through British cities, and wild gangs of feral financial speculators rampaged through the world’s economies.

As a scientist I wonder about the pathologies involved, and as a spiritual person I wonder about root causes.

So this is about where we are going as a society. Are we descending into criminality, and is the problem getting worse? I also wonder about the connection between criminality and mental illness.

In the course of trying to find a treatment for my own children’s Autism, I came to the following conclusion: conventional medical science has no clue about the causes or effective treatment of mental illness.

Therefore I had to range further into alternative medicine to find solutions, and serendipitously, I did. Yet, when my son’s autism reversal was confirmed by psychologists, no one seemed to want to know how. Neither the media, nor the conventional establishment.

Never mind. My findings were presented, for free, to various alternative medical doctors and clinics, reported in journals and books, and confirmed by them. The protocol has great possibilities in the treatment of other neurological illnesses. It is possible to reverse brain disease.

At my clinic in Toronto as well as other countries, I treated hundreds of young people with Autism, ADHD, Aspergers, and other psychological disorders, using holistic medical methods alone. Many of them went on to have normal lives; most improved significantly. And, when I have the time, I will write a book about this journey, and share it with everyone.

Which I already did in fact.  See here. But this is by way of background. I do not claim to have cures, or answers; I’m a searcher for knowledge, which I wish to share with others.

The question:

So: Is there such a thing as a criminal mind? This was a question much pondered as the new field of psychology came into being. In opposition to religious belief that crimes were caused by man’s original state of sin, and provoked by deadly sins like avarice and lust etc., it tried to define abnormal behaviour as a function of upbringing and environment.

It was only later as research into the nature of the brain emerged that new theories were formed; could neurological deficits explain criminal acts? Along with other suppositions of nurture and nature, addictions and abuse?

The answer:

According to these studies yes there is..

The release today of a study by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showing than 64 percent of local jail inmates, 56 percent of state prisoners and 45 percent of federal prisoners have symptoms of serious mental illnesses is an indictment of the nation’s mental health care system. It is both a scandal and a national tragedy.

The figures are worse than those generally believed in the past, in which estimates of the total number of inmates with mental illnesses have been approximately 20 percent. The study reveals that the problem is two to three times greater than anyone imagined. What is even more disturbing is the number of these inmates that have served prior sentences, committed violent offenses, or engaged in substance abuse.

This is not an ideological statement, nor is it an attempt to avoid the serious problem of crimes in society. We have to have a system of laws and justice, and we have to protect the innocent. But the present system of crime and punishment doesn’t work, either.

So, how do we measure the criminal mind? Could there possibly be genetic, neurological, behavioral or even, physiognomic markers? I was 10 years old when a gentleman took one look at certain bumps on my head and said I “was very perceptive; could look at a scene and see what others could not"Cool, and this was my introduction to phrenology.

This was where 18-19th century researchers sought to determine racial and emotional differences through the study of skull size, shape and protuberances. And yes, they did believe the criminal’s head was different than that of normal people. This later became the field of craniology and craniometry as scientists tried to avoid making unsavory determinations.

The scars left after World War II by these atrocious programmes of research meant that the study of human skull shape and size fell into disrepute. Human variation, the core subject of anthropology, was increasingly explored through genetics and other biological markers, and became functional and adaptive in orientation rather than a search for racial affinities.

In recent years, however, the introduction of new computer-based techniques of measurement, and the greatly enhanced power of statistical analysis, has meant that there has been a resurgence of interest in this subject, and, stripped of its non-Darwinian and racist past, the study of the human head remains a topic of major importance.

So now, scientists are using cranial measurements to determine mental illness as shown here:

Recently, Harvard researchers reported that children with autism have a wide range of genetic defects, making it nearly impossible to develop a simple genetic test to identify the disorder. Now, University of Missouri researchers are studying 3-D imaging to reveal correlations in the facial features and brain structures of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which will enable them to develop a formula for earlier detection of the disorder…

When you compare the faces and head shapes of children with specific types of autism to other children, it is obvious there are variations. Currently, autism diagnosis is purely behavior based and doctors use tape measurements to check for facial and brain dissimilarities. We are developing a quantitative method that will accurately measure these differences and allow for earlier, more precise detection of specific types of the disorder,” said Ye Duan, assistant computer science professor in the MU College of Engineering.

Then you have “The Criminal Brain-Understanding Biological Theories of Crime”, by author Nicole Hahn Rafter, New York University Press (October 2008)

What is the relationship between criminality and biology? Nineteenth-century phrenologists insisted that criminality was innate, a trait inherent in the offender’s brain matter. While they were eventually repudiated as pseudo-scientists and self-deluded charlatans, today the pendulum has swung back.

Both criminologists and biologists have begun to speak of a tantalizing but disturbing possibility: that criminality may be inherited as a set of genetic deficits that place one at risk for theft, violence, and sexual deviance.

If that is so, we may soon confront proposals for genetically modifying “at risk” foetuses or doctoring up criminals so their brains operate like those of law-abiding citizens.

Wow. Now this really frightens me, to see scientists, once again, barking up the wrong genetic tree, but there you go any way.

Brain Injury as a factor in crime:

Alternative physician Dr. Russell L. Blaylock:  Vaccines, Depression and Neurodegeneration After Age 50

Previously, it was thought that major depression was secondary to a deficiency in certain neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly the monoamines, which include serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. While alterations in these important mood-related neurotransmitters is found with major depression, growing evidence indicates that the primary culprit is low-grade, chronic brain inflammation.

In addition, we now know that inflammatory cytokines can lower serotonin significantly and for long periods by a number of different mechanisms.

I would agree with him there, since it has been my observation that mental illness is often accompanied by inflammatory disorders or auto-immune illness. I also believe the changes in vaccine schedules may have led to increased neurological deficits and genetic damage passed on to subsequent generations, but that is an argument for a separate article. I do not blame vaccines alone, as I will explain here.

There is research that shows criminal minds and behavior issues are often accompanied by brain damage.

Brain injury is a condition that involves microscopic damage to brain tissue that can only be seen in life through the lens of the patterns of the injured person’s life. Chris Henry, the former NFL wide receiver whose autopsy results confirmed he was living with brain damage, may have finally made that clear.

“Limbic Abnormalities in Affective Processing by Criminal Psychopaths as Revealed by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging” by Kiehl, et al, (PDF)

Results: Compared with criminal nonpsychopaths and noncriminal control participants, criminal psychopaths showed significantly less affect-related activity in the amygdala/hippocampal formation, parahippocampal gyrus, ventral striatum, and in the anterior and posterior cingulate gyri. Psychopathic criminals also showed evidence of overactivation in the bilateral fronto-temporal cortex for processing affective stimuli

The brains of autistic individuals show similar defects:

The two research teams have noticed an intriguing abnormality in the brains of the small group of autistics they have examined: The cerebellum, a portion of the brain involved with muscle coordination and the regulation of incoming sensations, contains fewer neurons known as Purkinje cells. There are also preliminary indications that growth in parts of the limbic system, which oversees emotion and memory, is arrested while autistics are still in the womb

Likewise in schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.

New research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or other of the two illnesses..find that thousands of tiny genetic mutations – known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – are operating in raising the risk of developing the illness.

“Early Signs of Psychopathy” argues that signs can show at an early age.

A twenty-five year study, published this month in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, demonstrates that, as early as the age of three, there are temperamental and physiological difference between those who show psychopathic tendencies as adults and those who don’t.

Not only do psychopaths lack emotions of conscience and empathy, but research has shown that these individuals consistently display certain aspects of temperament including a lack of fear, lack of inhibition and stimulus seeking behavior.

A lack of a hormone that affects empathy:

We’ve long accepted that hormones can make you amorous, aggressive, or erratic. But lately neuroscience has been abuzz with evidence that the hormone oxytocin—which also acts as a neuromodulator—can enhance at least one cognitive power: the ability to understand the gist of what others are thinking. In this week’s Mind Matters, Jennifer Bartz and Eric Hollander, two leading researchers in this area, review the many and surprising ways in which oxytocin seems to influence both our openness to others and our understanding of them.

For inherently social creatures such as humans, the ability to identify the motives, intentions, goals, desires, beliefs and feelings of others is not a nicety but an essential skill. We must understand “where others are coming from” not only to pursue our individual goals but also to facilitate social harmony more generally. Specifically, we need to recognize that other people can have thoughts, beliefs, desires and feelings that differ from our own…

And it may be this that drives psychopathy, or the criminal mind.

Cleckley in Psychopathy: Two lengthy checklists of psychopathic, or anti-social personality disorder:

Cleckley’s original list of symptoms of a psychopath:

1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
3. Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms considerable poise, calmness, and verbal facility.
4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.
5. Untruthfulness and insincerity
6. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
8. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience
9. Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness incapacity for real love and attachment.
10. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.
11. Lack of any true insight, inability to see oneself as others do.
12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness, and trust.
13. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking—vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks.
14. No history of genuine suicide attempts.
15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.
16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way, unless it be one promoting self-defeat.

Hare in The Psychopathic Personality:

A psychopath can have high verbal intelligence, but they typically lack “emotional intelligence”. They can be expert in manipulating others by playing to their emotions. There is a shallow quality to the emotional aspect of their stories (i.e., how they felt, why they felt that way, or how others may have felt and why).

The lack of emotional intelligence is the first good sign you may be dealing with a psychopath. A history of criminal behavior in which they do not seem to learn from their experience, but merely think about ways to not get caught is the second best sign.

The following is a list of items based on the research of Robert Hare, Ph.D. which is derived from the “The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, .1991, Toronto: Multi-Health Systems.” These are the most highly researched and recognized characteristics of psychopathic personality and behavior”:

1. glibness/superficial charm
2. grandiose sense of self worth
3. need for stimulation/prone to boredom
4. pathological lying
5. conning/manipulative
6. lack of remorse or guilt
7. shallow emotional response
8. callous/lack of empathy
9. parasitic lifestyle
10. poor behavioral controls
11. promiscuous sexual behavior
12. early behavioral problems
13. lack of realistic long term goals
14. impulsivity
15. irresponsibility
16. failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
17. many short term relationships
18. juvenile delinquency
19. revocation of conditional release
20. criminal versatility

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Is it becoming a rare quality among young people? It certainly seems to be declining in society.

Emotional intelligence “is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Mayer & Salovey, 1993: 433). According to Salovey & Mayer (1990), EI subsumes Gardner’s inter- and intrapersonal intelligences, and involves abilities that may be categorized into five domains:

Self-awareness: Observing yourself and recognizing a feeling as it happens.

Managing emotions: Handling feelings so that they are appropriate; realizing what is behind a feeling; finding ways to handle fears and anxieties, anger, and sadness.

Motivating oneself: Channeling emotions in the service of a goal; emotional self control; delaying gratification and stifling impulses.

Empathy: Sensitivity to others’ feelings and concerns and taking their perspective; appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.

Handling relationships: Managing emotions in others; social competence and social skills.

And according to Goleman (1995: 160), “Emotional intelligence, the skills that help people harmonize, should become increasingly valued as a workplace asset in the years to come.”

The last words belong to the educators, of course.

Howard Gardner (July 11, 1943 - ) American Psychologist and Educator

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) proposes that intelligent behavior does not arise from a single unitary quality of the mind, as the g -based theories profiled on this Web site suggest, but rather that different kinds of intelligence are generated from separate metaphorical pools of mental energy.

Gardner derived this conceptualization of intelligence in part from his experiences working with members (of) extreme populations, in which certain cognitive abilities are preserved (often to a remarkable degree) even in the absence of other, very basic abilities. For example, some autistic savants display extraordinary musical or mathematical abilities despite severely impaired language development and social awareness. Likewise, individuals with localized brain damage often demonstrate severe deficits that are circumscribed to a single cognitive domain (Gardner, 1983/2003).

And Piaget, who inspired me many years ago: Jean Piaget (August 9, 1896-September 16, 1980) Swiss Biologist and Child Psychologist

Definition of Intelligence:  Intelligence is an adaptation…To say that intelligence is a particular instance of biological adaptation is thus to suppose that it is essentially an organization and that its function is to structure the universe just as the organism structures its immediate environment” (Piaget, 1963, pp. 3-4).

Intelligence is assimilation to the extent that it incorporates all the given data of experience within its framework…There can be no doubt either, that mental life is also accommodation to the environment. Assimilation can never be pure because by incorporating new elements into its earlier schemata the intelligence constantly modifies the latter in order to adjust them to new elements” (Piaget, 1963, p. 6-7) (Including, imo, ‘criminal intelligence’)

Major Contributions:

The Theory of Genetic Epistemology.  Piaget also believed that intellectual development occurs in four distinct stages.

The sensorimotor stage begins at birth, and lasts until the child is approximately two years old. At this stage, the child cannot form mental representations of objects that are outside his immediate view, so his intelligence develops through his motor interactions with his environment.

The preoperational stage typically lasts until the child is 6 or 7. According to Piaget, this is the stage where true “thought” emerges. Preoperational children are able to make mental representations of unseen objects, but they cannot use deductive reasoning.

The concrete operations stage follows, and lasts until the child is 11 or 12. Concrete operational children are able to use deductive reasoning, demonstrate conservation of number, and can differentiate their perspective from that of other people.

Formal operations is the final stage. Its most salient feature is the ability to think abstractly.

It is my opinion that emotional intelligence development also follows these four distinct phases. This is where nurture and nature come into play, and any trauma, abuse, neglect, that occurs during these phases can lead to an emotional stunting where the child is unable to progress to the next stage of development.

In the same way, a positive home and school environment can help children grow to be more harmonious members of society, once you adjust for any biological and neurological deficits. Early recognition and treatment is key…

Having worked as a volunteer in the public school system, I can tell you what teachers and educators have been telling me for years: the number of learning disabled and emotionally disturbed children is increasing exponentially..

Is it just me, or does it seem like the world has become an increasingly disharmonious place lately?

But the last word might well come from a book written by a Norwegian judge, Jens Jacob-Sander:  The Criminal Brain: A View from the Bench…  Exploring the Criminal Mind

What goes on in the minds of criminals? This question raises perennial philosophical issues about human behavior in general and criminal conduct in particular. Do criminals act the way they do because of how and what they think and feel? And, are these internal forces of thought and feeling caused by the states of their brains, which in turn are predetermined by biology, chemistry, and genetics? Is the problem, in short, what used to be called bad blood?

Or, are the thoughts, feelings, and actions of criminals caused by external factors such as parents, education, and other influences in the environment that mold and shape malleable brains, which, in turn, give rise to the criminal personality? In other words, is the real culprit for criminal behavior what used to be called society?

With the emergence of brain science over the past 50 years, including brain imaging technologies and the study of brain chemistry, perhaps we can return to these profound questions with new hope of making progress toward answers.

At the present time, although some scholars of brain science lean heavily toward a reductionistic biological determinism, others call attention to the plasticity of the brain and its capacity for change. Even if we cannot ever uncover a single satisfactory answer to how the criminal mind works, perhaps we can begin to diminish the devastation caused by criminal behavior.

An exploration of the criminal mind might yield insights, ideas, and innovative hypotheses worthy of serious consideration and further study. It might also provoke us to reconsider how we think about the questions we ask about the causes of criminal behavior. Instead of polarizing the discussion by pitting determinism (biological or social) against free will as mutually exclusive explanations of criminal conduct, we might discover that biological predispositions and habits of thought can be influenced by education, cognitive retraining, and behavior modification. Whatever our current state of knowledge, isn’t it worth our effort to try to formulate better theories and more effective forms of intervention?

That daunting task has been undertaken in a new e-book titled Exploring the Criminal Mind and subtitled Advances of Brainscience and Mental Procedures of the Criminal Personality: A Unified Brain-Mind Theory. The author and publisher, Jens-Jacob Sander, is a judge in the Norwegian Courts of Justice, located west of the city of Oslo. Judge Sander tells us in the foreword to his book that it grew out of his frustration with trying to understand the criminal mind while he was engaged in a major international fraud-hunt in 1989 that, although successful, was apparently hampered by the lack of adequate information and insights about criminal minds.

Perhaps we can return to these profound questions with new hope of making progress toward answers, indeed.

Posted on 09/03/11 at 11:01 PM by Ergon. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, September 02, 2011

Nina Burleigh: View From A Broad Who Doesn’t Seem To Like Broads Or Being Abroad

Posted by Peggy Ganong

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In Burleigh’s shoddy book on the murder of Meredith Kercher, she gets the victim’s birthday wrong. But that’s not all she gets wrong. From what I can tell, Burleigh simply skips over much of the key evidence in favor of gossiping about and criticizing other journalists who have covered the case.

She is particularly hard on female journalists, which is odd given that she prides herself on being a modern feminist. I find it very telling, for example, that she indicates what Barbie Nadeau and Andrea Vogt’s husbands do for a living (one works for the UN and one is a university professor), but does not see fit to provide us with any information on what the wives of any of the male journalists do.

The implication is clear: these two “females” took up writing as a sort of hobby after trailing behind their menfolk to Europe. Worse, Burleigh notes that though they are both American born, they are more European in “style” and “craft” which, aside from being absolute nonsense, remains unsubstantiated by any analysis whatsoever. It amounts to saying “they’re sooooo European”. What does that mean?

Well, once you know that Burleigh is a relentless and mindless cheerleader for the superiority of all things American, it becomes clear that what she means is that they are inferior journalists because all things European are inferior to all things American. Burleigh also claims that what she calls Nadeau’s “cosmopolitan speech affect” is an attempt to hide her Middle American roots (in Burleigh’s words, her “rural South Dakota accent”). She says the “statuesque redhead” Vogt looks like she could play the role of Brenda Starr.

In other words, Burleigh is trying to suggest that these two are imposters, merely playing at journalism by dressing up like a cartoon journalist or putting on airs and trying to talk like a big city slicker instead of a sharecropper.

In fact, Vogt has been a working reporter for fifteen years, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in journalism, is trilingual and has published in English, German and Italian. I don’t know much about Nadeau’s academic training, but she currently writes on a variety of topics for both Newsweek and the Daily Beast. And the excellent Christopher Dickey thinks quite highly of her.

Meanwhile, back to Burleigh and her seemingly endless supply of sour grapes. At one point in her book, she mentions an Italian female reporter, but only to comment on her boots! One starts to wonder what she has against women, especially her professional peers.

Her male peers do not get a free pass, either, at least those who work in that dreadful country Italy where, according to Burleigh, freedom of speech does not exist. She criticizes foreign journalists based in Italy, basically calling them a bunch of cowards, so fearful of the Mafia that they confine themselves to writing about la dolce vita—food, wine and bunga bunga. This is absolute bollocks, of course.

John Follain, who has covered the case for the Times, has written two books about Italy in the fifteen or so years he has lived there: one is about the Mafia, while the other takes on the Vatican. Vogt investigated the White Supremacy movement in Idaho and has written an excellent book about it, not without exposing herself to danger. As for Nadeau, she has covered Italy’s garbage crisis, and in one gritty, unforgettable article for Newsweek describes walking through some of the most dangerous Mafia neighborhoods.

All three have been viciously attacked by Knox supporters. Meanwhile, Nina Burleigh is happy to fixate on what her fellow journalists are wearing and eating and drinking. Come to think of it, when she was a correspondent in France, she was obsessed with complaining about and criticizing French women, probably for not instantly recognizing her innate superiority.

It is too bad Burleigh opted to focus on this kind of crap instead of actually discussing much of the real evidence against Knox and Sollecito. Frankly, hers is the most disappointing and surely the nastiest book on the tragic murder of Meredith Kercher that has been published to date. After reading what Burleigh wrote about Nadeau and Vogt, I was left wondering why she has such an ax to grind with them.

Is it because they are at least a decade younger than she is? Is it because they live in Europe and she doesn’t? Is it because they are fluent in foreign languages and she isn’t? I really don’t know, but the book sure has a bitter stench to it.

The good news is I didn’t even have to buy it. In fact, I don’t want to be seen reading it in public. Thanks to Google books, I was able to find many of the offending passages on line. In addition, I can discreetly skim at my local bookseller’s. All in all, I have found it a pretty dull exercise. The book is glib, superficial and gossipy. One walks away feeling dirty and sad, wondering where one would be placed within Burleigh’s social and class hierarchy. Hopefully at least a hair above middle class.

I almost forgot to mention the pièce de résistance in Burleigh’s sliming of the two female journalists who did not roll over for the Knox family PR supertanker. Burleigh also asserts that these two small-town American imposters, after acquiring their polished “style” and “craft” by living in Europe, were “appalled” by the way AK and her family “flouted” Italian mores, implying that this snobbery tainted their reporting.

While I recall both journalists providing good analysis of how and why some of the antics of AK and her family were not good strategy under the circumstances – for example, AK’s decision to turn up in court one day wearing an over-sized “all you need is love” t-shirt or her sister Deanna’s choice of courtroom attire on July 4 (red-white-and-blue hotpants outfit) – I have never read anything suggesting they personally disapproved of or were appalled by the American and her family.

Since this snide and non-sourced aside appears on the same page as Burleigh’s claim that Nadeau tried to hide her “rural” accent with a “cosmopolitan speech affect”, it is fair to say that Burleigh’s real goal is to discredit them as objective reporters. It is almost as if she - Burleigh - were taking dictation from Doug Preston! And if Burleigh finds this to be a sexist remark, then I suggest she take a long, hard look in the mirror.

In the same section of the book, Burleigh describes John Kercher as a tabloid reporter and notes that neither he nor his family even “attempted” to learn Italian, relying instead on their lawyer to tell them what was going on.

Yes, you read that right: Burleigh thinks that the grieving Kercher family should have set aside their grief and contacted Berlitz straight away! And she implies that it is a mistake to rely on their legal counsel for information or advice. (At least Italy gives the victim’s family a legal voice.) I guess Burleigh would prefer that the Kercher family turn to people like Amanda’s stepfather Chris Mellas, or the various profiteers riding the PR supertanker: David Marriott and Doug Preston to name just two. This is apparently what Burleigh did.

It is clear from what I have read that Burleigh is not concerned with the victim Meredith Kercher or her family. She seems more interested in passing judgement on those she considers inferior in station to herself (just about everyone),complaining about life in Italy and taking pot shots at other journalists. My guess is that deep down she likes Italy about as much as she liked France, which is to say not much, maybe not at all. Burleigh is that quintessential Ugly American. I saw early signs of it in her reporting on this case for Time.

Incidentally, she did not begin until June of 2009, when the trial was well under way and almost two years after the murder itself. I had never heard of Burleigh, so I decided to have a look at her earlier work, especially that on life in France. I truly was flabbergasted by her utter inability to cope in a strange land.

She took an instant dislike to the French in general and was unable to understand the culture, in part because she was unable or unwilling to learn the language. I find it ironic – and appalling – that she faults the Kerchers, of all people, for not learning the language of the country where their daughter/sister was murdered when she herself could or would not learn the language of the country she was residing in under happy circumstances.

Is it class or gender or nationality that Burleigh most has a problem with?

Hard to say, since she seems to have a sense of superiority that encompasses all three. Speaking of disapproval, Burleigh treats the Knox women and Meredith’s British friends in the same haughty, catty manner as she treats her professional peers. In fact, she refers to the Knox clan collectively as “a hair on the low side of middle class”. I guess from the throne upon which she has placed herself, Burleigh is able to make these fine distinctions and, in addition, finds it necessary.

And how about this fine value judgement on page 33? “Amanda was the sole member of the gaggle of menstruating, jealous, bitchy, angry, loving, needy females around Curt who could keep her emotions in check”. I’m not making this up; Burleigh actually wrote those words. One pictures hapless Curt surrounded by the seven dwarves (Jealous, Bitchy, Angry, Loving, Needy, Bloody and Amanda).

While I believe that Amanda Knox was rightly convicted for her role in Meredith Kercher’s death, and though I have been critical of her family’s decision to hire a PR firm that has attempted to manipulate public opinion, I certainly think they are entitled to a little more respect and empathy than this. Speaking of entitled, that is how Burleigh herself comes off throughout this book.

Moving on to Meredith’s British friends, Burleigh dismisses them en masse with this tightly packed bundle of sexism and stereotyping: “tweedy peaches-and-cream complected sylphs who moved as a pack”. How Burleigh would even know how they moved is beyond me, since she was not covering the case in the days or even months that followed this brutal murder. Perhaps, if they did stick together, it was for mutual comfort. That’s what the little people do, Nina.

Italian women are not spared either. In addition to her fixation on a local reporter’s boots (perhaps because she could not read her work?), Burleigh describes Police Chief Monica Napoleoni’s style as “part dominatrix, part donatella Versace with a badge” and another Italian policewoman as a “thick-bodied woman”. Nina’s motto: When in Rome and unable to follow what’s going on, focus instead on making disparaging comments about the way other women look.

Burleigh pretentiously dedicates her book to the victims of sexual violence, an odd choice since she does little more here than perpetuate the sexist and sexual stereotypes that underlie this phenomenon. I am all for supporting the victims of sexual violence and will do so by not buying Burleigh’s nasty piece of work, which adds nothing to our knowledge of the case anyway.

Anyone who really wants to read a good book on the murder of Meredith Kercher should try Darkness Descending and/or Angel Face, both out for some time now. In addition to these works, John Follain, who has lived in Italy since the mid-90’s and covered the case from the outset, has a book coming out soon. I seriously doubt he will be focusing on women’s boots.

Posted on 09/02/11 at 08:21 AM by Peggy Ganong. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
Archived in Diversion efforts byThe Knox-MellasesMore sockpuppetsReporting on the casePoor reporting
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