Friday, April 13, 2012

French National Florence Cassez Appeal Fails Before The Mexican Supreme Court

Posted by Peter Quennell

Florence Cassez heads back to prison to continue her 60-year sentence.

If your first exposure to Florence Cassez is to her sweet face (image below) your reaction might be “sweet girls like Florence simply don’t do crimes” and to mobilize to press for her release.

But as in the case of Amanda Knox the devil really is in the details. Time and again, new readers have come here, many lawyers included, and encountered all of the mountain of details, and in effect responded once they were on top of them “those involved in Rome and Perugia really did know what they are doing”.

Not to mention those vital details lost in translation.

The French national Florence was living on a ranch outside Mexico City owned by her boyfriend when he kidnapped and held a family for ransom. (He is not yet convicted.) The kidnapped family, largely blindfolded, didnt see her, but several say they heard her voice and they suffered from her mistreatment.

Why would they make that up? Florence never really has explained how she could be living right there on the ranch and not have the slightest idea of what was going on. Or explain who “the other woman” was that the kidnapped family kept encountering.

Sentences for kidnapping are very harsh in Mexico as it has had far too many in recent years. The sweet face and 60 year sentence and the family of Florence and President Sarkozy and the notion of a process run wild made for a compelling mix of tragedy on French TV.

Not to mention those vital details lost in translation.

So far, though, to no avail. The Supreme Court have just ruled that the sentence must stand. This may not be the end of it as several irregularities have been conceded but if she is to see freedom in her lifetime Florence still has explaining to do.

Various public opinion polls say 65 to 74 percent of Mexicans think Cassez is guilty and many express resentment at French pressure to win her freedom….  [And] many believe any violation of due process was not serious enough to let Cassez go free.

How rarely do countries appreciate other countries leaning on their legal system. It’s not likely to happen again, soon toward Mexico as much as toward Italy.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/13/12 at 10:18 PM in The legal followups


There are 100 kidnappings a month that get reported and an unknown number that don’t. The police paraded Florence as an example to try to quell the wave, which helped in Mexico but not in France.

Denzel Washington made a movie in Mexico City about a kidnapping and how he as a hired gun took care of the perpetrators. It was extremely violent. Again Mexicans may have appreciated the highlighting though it probably didnt do wonders for tourism.

The evidence against Florence is almost as detailed as against RS and AK here, though of course it is described in Spanish. It’s real hard to see how Florence simply knew nothing of what was going on right under her nose.

It seems more typical of France to just pay up than let these things fester. Taking it so public must have closed that option off. Hostile PR never works out well in the long run. No wonder Marriott took down his absurd pat on the back so quickly.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/13/12 at 11:58 PM | #

I personally would like to remind Amanda Knox and Raphael Sollecito that the science of forensics is an on going endeavor with advances all the time. Any evidence no matter how small or how old will soon be able to be used. There was a time of course when there was no such thing as DNA. Therefore if I was both Knox and Sollecito I would be very worried since there is no statute of limitations upon murder and there is an extradition treaty in place Italy to the US. Hope they can’t sleep at night.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 04/14/12 at 04:03 AM | #

The attitude toward Florence Cassez in France kinda resembles the attitude in the US and UK toward Amanda Knox.

Many would simply reflexively want her out (“those meanie Mexicans” or the equivalent in French of) but those who have really studied the evidence are troubled and not wanting justice subverted.

President Sarkozy has cvome to look like a toothless tiger on the issue. He was already wildly unpopular and he will almost enevitably be gone after the next election which is due soon.

Sarkozy’s plight:

This is France’s “Year of Mexico” and to the anger of the Mexican president and much of Mexico and many in France President Sarkozy proposed to dedicate it to getting release of Florence and normal due process be damned.

Public international confrontations between countries carry a very high risk of everybody losing on both sides which is why the UN and other international bodies in part exist - to work things out behind the scenes.

The Knox campaign was in effect an attempt to hijack US foreign policy toward Italy by a private group, and unhelpful anger against the other country has been raised in both countries. Every American and Italian is paying some price, and officialdom in the Italian legal system a high one.

The American Ambassador in Rome (David Thorne) is not a professional diplomat. He is a businessman from Massachusetts and a strong friend of a former Democatic senator (John Kerry). He was appointed by President Obama and he has been photographed having fun on a night out iwith Hillary Clinton.

In this shot he is on the left.

There are strong rumors that he might have played a role in the Knox case, maybe by passing on a “take it easy on her” message to someone in power such as the minister of justice, possibly because of a request from Senator Cantwell directly, possibly because the Knox-Mellas family sat with him in Rome.

Political appointees do tend to stick their necks out more than career diplomats and they often act naively and get themselves in trouble.

Media investigators may sooner or later be able to firm up those rumors about Ambassador Thorne, which would at best sideline him from now on, and could at worst present a real headache in his re-election campaign for President Obama.

A large majority of Italian-American politicians in the US do not appreciate what has been going on, and seeing their country of origins slimed by redneck thugs in the American media.  They would have no real qualms about throwing Knox back under the bus.

In effect pro-Knox efforts via politics and diplomacy from now on are likely to be toned way, way down, and the Knox book (if it proves possible to write one that passes the giggle test) seems likely to be very restrained.

This aint over till the Italian Supreme Court rules and justice for Meredith should take its course.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/15/12 at 02:32 PM | #

Amen to that Peter

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 04/15/12 at 02:52 PM | #

OT but related to Meredith’s case Meredith Kercher’s family ‘received no help from Foreign Office

Posted by mojo on 04/15/12 at 05:25 PM | #

Posted by Miriam on 04/15/12 at 06:50 PM | #

@ Grahame – I too hope they can’t sleep at night, but am still worried about legal-loopholes possibly remaining, even if Hellmann is officially rejected.

Amanda Sorenson, an American-Sicilian wrote, re Knox @

“… an eventual ruling reversing her acquittal (on the appeal requested by the prosecution as the ‘Terzo Grado’) would not result in her extradition to Italy because the relative treaty makes it clear that neither the United States or the Italian Republic can claim extradition for an act that is not considered a crime in the other signatory nation. In the United States the ‘Terzo Grado’ judgement revoking an acquittal and release is viewed as a legal procedure tantamount to a second trial for the same crime and therefore double jeopardy…”

Under the European Convention on Human Rights, as I read them, optional Seventh Protocol to the Convention, Article Four, says, apparently confirming a double-jeopardy rule:

“No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings under the jurisdiction of the same State for an offence for which he or she has already been finally acquitted or convicted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of that State.”

Member states who signed-on to this Article Four (which include Italy) may however, also as I understand it:

“implement legislation which allows reopening of a case in the event that new evidence is found or if there was a fundamental defect in the previous proceedings.”

If Amanda Sorenson is right, even if Hellmann is officially rejected and Knox is ordered back to Italy a double jeopardy loophole may still get her off the hook.

If new DNA evidence was both incriminating and admissible (e.g. not excludable under a statute of limitation) there could be “TJMK”.

The issues may hinge on:

1.  the official’s interpretation of: “..already been finally acquitted or convicted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of that State” and

2.  Whether Italy has implemented:

“…legislation which allows reopening of a case in the event that new evidence is found or if there was a fundamental defect in the previous proceedings.”

Posted by Cardiol MD on 04/15/12 at 07:41 PM | #

As far as I know, French media has not reported the details of the case, nor has it made, as a whole, any very strong stance over her innocence or her culpability (but I might be ill-informed).

Over French radio, when Cassez’s appeal was rejected, only the voices of her mother and of her lawyer were heard, along with their mention of a judge of the supreme court having been intimidated into voting against her release - which is what is expected from a suspect’s family. The speaker never said whether she was or wasn’t guilty.

I think it would be a mistake to think that, like in Knox’s case in America, French public opinion is swayed toward her innocence by media reporting. In reality nobody cares about Florence Cassez’s fate and/or innocence - beside her family.

Another difference with the USA, maybe, is that it’s deeply ingrained in the French mind that media coverage is not “the Truth”, but instead “what this peculiar channel thinks worth hearing about”, and that only fools will absolutely trust media reporting.

As for Sarkozy’s efforts in the case, he’s not well liked at all, so even if he had secured her release, that would only have been seen in France as a self-serving hypocritical political ploy, to make us magically forget everything bad about him, and absolutely not as the rightening of a wrong done by Mexican Justice. It would not have meant that she’s in fact innocent, but that he’s bought her release via a secret deal. Sarkozy may well tell everyone that Cassez is not guilty, nobody will believe him over judges, even foreign ones.

Posted by Sylviane on 04/15/12 at 08:01 PM | #

I assume that the court have access to full documents that we do not. What we read is only some opinions that are often difficult to decipher and perhaps intelligently biased. However I am worried to death that the judges and juries are only human…

Say it with flowers,
Or say it with mink,
But whatever you do,
Don’t say it with ink!
    —Jimmie Durante

Posted by chami on 04/15/12 at 09:45 PM | #

Thanks Pete,

I suspect that her “sweet face and 60 year sentence and the family of Florence and President Sarkozy and the notion of a process run wild”, will eventually win the day for her. It’s an unbeatable combo we’ve seen win before, hard evidence just can’t compete with it

Posted by Spencer on 04/16/12 at 11:57 PM | #

Hi Sylviane.

The view from France is really appreciated. It sounds genuine that media prone to support Sarkozy and/or the official view would try to rustle up a storm, while most of the French nation sits by cynically. Gotta love em, even though at any one time half of them seem to be in NY!

We receive French news here in the US mainly via France24 which is carried daily by many cable systems. Check out their dozens of videos for the pro_Florence slant they have taken.

You will see that some French human rights organizations have also leaped in. As in the Knox case, they pick holes in how the bust was handled, but Florence still has plenty of ‘splaining to do.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/17/12 at 02:35 AM | #

Oh what a lovely looking young woman (very French) surely she could not possibly be involved in a horrible kidnapping in Mexico. I mean you can tell by just looking at her that she is all sweetness.

Just like Amanda Knox with her freshly scrubbed complexion. What are they thinking.

Posted by mason2 on 04/17/12 at 02:45 PM | #

Hi Mason,

It’s hard to believe that anyone could be so stupid, but Paul Ciolino thinks Jesuit-educated high school girls who are honors students are incapable of participating in orgies and murder and Doug Preston claimed that he could tell Knox and Sollecito were innocent by looking at their photographs. These two clowns both appeared on the CBS documentaries about the case.

Posted by The Machine on 04/17/12 at 04:12 PM | #

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the links… I didn’t know that France24 existed, since I haven’t had a TV set for more than 10 years now. Internet is far more interesting, and not having a TV in the house gives me more time for and with my children.

Don’t take too seriously French cynicism. The people murdered in Toulouse, we care about them, a lot. Trayvon Martin, we care about him, just like we cared about Rodney King - and about Malik Oussekine, murdered in France in 1986. But Florence Cassez, no.

Normal French citizens, those who can’t afford trips to New York, have plenty of problems right now, and whatever Florence Cassez has or hasn’t done doesn’t grip the country, however media would love to spin it (to distract from important matters or to make money). Her pretty face, the involvement of HR organizations, over here it’s not enough to make a martyr out of her.

Things that happen far away to adults who are friends with bandits, even if they have a sweet face, even if they are French, it’s not interesting. Before discussing whether she’s innocent or guilty, any French person will tell you that she was looking for trouble by having such friends, and of course she got in trouble, and getting in trouble with the law abroad is really not a smart move.

French people do not expect that their nationality will be an automatic free-from-jail card. Though some French people can behave very badly abroad (I tend to avoid them), they still know that their persons are not *that* important to the world. Something many Americans seem to fail to realize.

There won’t be any French uproar about Florence Cassez as long as she won’t risk the death penalty, because it doesn’t exist in France.

And if she ends up to be released, it won’t be considered as a major win for whatever politician who will obtain it. We know that released people are always paid for by secret deals. I don’t think she is *that* interesting to French politicians. Maybe if there were 2 or more girls… I think she’ll be slowly forgotten and she’ll stay in Mexican jail for at least 10 years more, and then be discreetly released.

Posted by Sylviane on 04/19/12 at 02:04 AM | #

Since the appeals court didn’t allow re-testing using highly sensitive 2011 technology, is there a chance that in a retrial new evidence gathered from even newer technology will be inadmissible?

Posted by Spencer on 04/20/12 at 11:07 PM | #

Hi Spencer,

Judge Hellman told Conti and Vecchiotti to carry out new tests on the bra and knife, if it was possible. It wasn’t possible to carry out new tests on the bra, but it was possible to carry out a new test on the remaining DNA on the knife using the latest technology. Conti and Vecchiotti didn’t carry out the test even though they had been specifically instructed to do so.

Chief Prosecutor Galati claims that Judge Hellman acted illegally in appointing Conti and Vecchiotti because it was against procedure code and against Supreme Court jurisprudence. This wasn’t the only violation of procedure. Once Conti and Vecchiotti had introduced new point concerning the DNA evidence, the prosecution should have been allowed to introduce evidence to the contrary. Judge Hellman refused allow the prosecution to do this. This is apparently a major violation and could cancel the legitimacy of the appeal.

Chief Prosecutor Galati has made it crystal clear that Judge Hellman acted illegally and did not apply Italian law correctly. I’m confident that the judges at the Italian Supreme Court will revoke or invalidate Hellman’s verdict. I believe Knox and Sollecito will be reconvicted. If the knife is retested and Meredith’s DNA identified, it should make the decision to extradite Knox easier.

Posted by The Machine on 04/21/12 at 12:08 AM | #

The Machine has it exactly right. NONE of the US or UK media have ever carried what is in these two posts which will be confirmed by the translation coming soon of the document explaining Dr Galati’s appeal grounds to the Supreme Court.

We’ve noticed that the Knox conspiracy theorists and PR shills are becoming even by their standards very shrill and are assuming they realize how much the dice are loaded against their very amateur, time-wasting diddling.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/21/12 at 01:46 AM | #

Hi The Machine,

Thanks for the clarification,.

Fingers crossed that the judges on the Supreme Court don’t also act illegally, and that justice can prevail.

Posted by Spencer on 04/22/12 at 01:00 PM | #

Posted by Helder Licht on 01/24/13 at 02:01 PM | #

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