Category: N America context

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

American Lawyer Ted Simon Appointed To Help Out Italian Team On Appeal

Posted by Peter Quennell


A couple of US media websites and many in Italy are reporting that Theodore Simon is joining the Ghirga-Della Vedova defense team in Italy for Amanda Knox’s appeal.

The Press Association quotes him as follows.

Mr Simon said: “Amanda’s conviction stands as a tragic example of a wrongful conviction which requires meaningful review.  “I look forward to working with Amanda and her family and with her Italian legal team, as we approach an appellate process that is designed, capable and empowered to ‘right this wrong’ which hopefully will result in her deserved release.”

Three points here.

First, Theodore Simon came across well in NBC’s excellent second Dateline report on Meredith’s case last year when he was then more neutral and even a tad pro-prosecution.

Mr Simon then predicted an uphill fight for the defense, and he explained the real danger of a whack-a-mole defense, where all the effort is put into trying to discredit a few straw-men elements when the body of the whole remains unshaken.

Second, the Ghirga-Della Vedova team never seem to have shown any appreciation for the “help” offered from the US which has seemingly turned many Italians off and possibly made their own task harder.

And third, Theodore Simon himself now seems to have moved sharply into his own whack-a-mole mode. When another prominent US defense lawyer attempted an intervention, we pointed out the real strength of the entire body of evidence.

John Q Kelly has been invisible on the case ever since.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/06 at 06:39 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in The wider contextsN America contextKnox-Mellas teamComments here (23)

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Shoot-From-The-Hip Donald Trump Appears To Have Been Told Less Than The Full Truth

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters





Click here and here for Donald Trump’s take on the case.

An expanded version appeared on the defunct Trump University website. The discussion thread there probably contains more strident anti-Italy comments than any other, ever, on Meredith’s case.

If you live in most parts of the United States you can go a thousand days without hearing even a single a racist or xenophobic comment. For the most part that is simply not how most people talk. Many have a real eagerness to travel and learn more and student exchange schemes have really rocketed.

There are still some immigrant tensions along the border with Mexico but these days that largely is it. The racial mix in the US is very good fun, it is a huge cultural and economic asset to the country, and there is lots of nice “ethnic” food and some real fun parades. The many young European and Asian women who visit New York say it is the nicest city in the world for them, because they feel safe and welcomed and nobody hits aggressively on them.

The big foreign targets that anyone older than 20 will remember were China, Russia and the Soviet countries. Those of course faded as villains. Since then the most villainously depicted in the movies made here have tended to be Arab. And even that seems to be fading.

So the extreme anti-Italian animosity deliberately and cynically fueled by the FOA campaign is really quite an outlier. The only other demon European country in the recent period was France, when the Prime Minister said war with Iraq was a bad idea, and much of that evolved into farce rather than real hatred.

Donald Trump’s property business went bankrupt in the late 1990s and his casino business went bankrupt last year - at which time his own board forced him out for being such really bad news. He really is not now someone of consequence as oppposed to high-profile. That is, if he ever was. 

Quite why Donald Trump leaped into Meredith’s case is frankly not at all clear. He clearly knows almost none of the real facts and he seems to have little to gain.

This strident anti-Italianism he is stoking is really sad, sick news.



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another Prominent US TV Commentator Sees The Evidence Pointing Pro-Guilt

Posted by Peter Quennell

Three highly influential women commentators in the US are now forcefully arguing pro-guilt on TV.

They are legal talk-show host Jeanine Pirro (video below), legal analyst Wendy Murphy, and now conservative political commentator Ann Coulter. All three proceed from a deep understanding of the hard evidence.

The bleach purchases mentioned here were never actually proven, though Knox was seen in the bleach area of the Conad supermarket early the day after (when she claimed to be asleep), and in both Knox’s and Sollecito’s apartments, bleach did appear to have been used. 

Otherwise, pretty good.

By the way, Ann Coulter’s new book “Guilty” that you see promoted on the video is not about Amanda Knox. It is actually about liberals being too soft on defendants. To ourselves the large and rapidly growing community of those pro-justice-for-Meredith and pro the verdict and sentence seems to cross all political boundaries.

We’d say the common factors here are strong logic, hard work in really getting into the evidence (a lazy Peter Van Sant obviously hasn’t), a reluctance to be snowed, and a deep humanity toward the real victim.

Meredith. In case the FOA campaign ever forget.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Our Letter To Senator Maria Cantwell: Please Don’t Take Precipitate Action Till Full Facts Are In

Posted by Highly-Concerned Washington-State Voters


We are all regular voters who live in the Seattle area. We have signed the original of this letter to our US senator, Maria Cantwell, and sent it off to her Capitol office. 

We think we increasingly mirror a very large minority or even a majority of cool-headed but concerned Seattle-area voters who would like to see her speaking up for truth and real justice in this case.

And for the rights of the true victim.

We are not running a campaign. We don’t think Senator Cantwell needs hard persuasion. We think once she immerses herself deeply in the real facts, those facts will tell her the right thing to do.

Dear Senator Cantwell

A number of your well-informed constituents are wondering about your motivations for suddenly injecting yourself into the Meredith Kercher murder trial debate, immediately following last week’s unanimous guilty ruling for American Amanda Knox in Perugia, Italy. 

We wonder because you said you were saddened by the verdict and had serious questions about the Italian judicial system and whether anti-Americanism had tainted the trial.  But then you went on to describe how you knew for a fact that the prosecution in the case did not present enough evidence for an impartial jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Amanda Knox was guilty. 

We’re confused because it seems to us that if you had been following the case closely enough to be certain that not enough evidence had been presented by the prosecution that you would consequently have a very clear idea of how the Italian judicial system functioned and know whether or not anti-American sentiment had impacted the ruling. 

So, as a group of concerned Seattle area constituents who have been following every detail of this case since poor Meredith Kercher was murdered, we humbly offer you our assistance towards bringing things into proper perspective.

Were you aware that Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian from Giovinazzo, Bari was convicted right alongside Ms. Knox?  Mr. Sollecito received some of the best legal representation available in Italy, including senior lawyer and parliamentary deputy Giulia Bongiorno who won fame as a criminal lawyer when she successfully defended former Italian Premier Giulio Andreotti a few years ago. 

Ms Bongiorno has said nothing about anti-American sentiment having influenced the ruling against her client, nor has she complained about fundamental problems with the way this trial was run.  Instead, she is now completely focused on looking ahead to the appeal process as her next opportunity to mitigate sentences or argue for her client’s innocence. 

This should assuage some of your concerns.

But perhaps you are referring to the extra year Ms. Knox received in comparison to Mr. Sollecito’s 25-year sentence as a clear example of anti-American sentiment?  That’s a fair concern; however, in Italy the jury panel for a trial is required to submit a report within 90 days of a ruling describing in great detail the logic used to convict and sentence, or absolve a defendant. 

For example, in Rudy Guede’s fast-track trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher last year Judge Paolo Micheli issued an exhaustive 106 page report outlining the panel’s labored decision-making process, in sometimes excruciating detail.  We can expect no less for the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, and when that report is issued we will have our best look yet at the evidence that was used to convict the pair.

We suggest that you seriously reconsider “bringing” Hillary Clinton and the State Department into the debate.

Consider that State Department spokesman Ian Kelly stated that the US embassy in Rome had been tasked with monitoring the trial and had visited Ms. Knox in jail, and several embassy representatives were known to have attended the reading of the ruling last week. In addition, an American reporter based in Italy who has followed the case from the outset said last night on CNN that the trial had been monitored from the outset.

Secretary Clinton has clearly been very busy with far more critical tasks than to have maintained a personal familiarity with the Kercher murder case; however, Kelly did state that in response to recent press reports Secretary Clinton had taken time to look things over and has yet to find any indication that Knox did not receive a fair trial.  You surely realize that Secretary Clinton will not be interested making public comments regarding an ongoing legal process in a sovereign, democratic nation that is a long-time ally of the United States.

Also note that on the Italian side of the equation, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told his countrymen that he has yet to receive any criticisms of the trial from the office of the US Secretary of State and that the fierce criticism of the case by the Seattle based Amanda Knox support group should not be confused as the position of the US government. 

And Luciano Ghirga, Knox’s own Italian lawyer, has stated that he does not question the validity of the trial and that he believes it was conducted correctly. Furthermore, regarding your desire to have Clinton become involved, Ghirga concluded, “That’s all we need, Hillary Clinton involved”¦this sort of thing does not help us in any way.” 

Perhaps he is referring to the heated discussions in the Italian press these days regarding the strong criticisms of Italy’s legal system coming from a country that supports Guantanamo Bay, the death penalty, and other perceived injustices of a far-from-perfect American legal system.

As these examples demonstrate, and from your own humble constituents’ well-informed perspective, there is nothing out of the ordinary or alarming about the Meredith Kercher murder trial process.  The prosecutors and defense teams will continue to debate the evidence throughout the appeal process, just as we should expect them to. 

If you do decide to go forward with your inquiry, despite significant opposition from your constituents, we recommend that you do so only after becoming more familiar with the evidence presented during the trial, as presented by a neutral source. The family and friends of the US citizen recently convicted are probably not neutral.

If you take a good look, you will see that there are checks and balances in the Italian way of achieving justice, just as there are in the American system. In the final analysis, it is completely as Beatrice Cristiani, deputy judge for the Kercher murder trial, put it: “As far as I am aware our system of justice does not make provision for interference from overseas.”

Fully signed by all of us in the original sent to Senator Maria Cantwell


CNN’s Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom Nails Cantwell’s Ill-Informed Intervention

Posted by Peter Quennell

This is from Anderson Cooper’s nightly news show on CNN in the US.. Certainly it is one of the best.

Lisa Bloom appears at the 4 minute mark (and Barbie Nadeau after that) following Senator Cantwell’s various ill-informed charges. But in the space of less than a minute she really nails it.

Here Lisa Bloom stands up for truth, fairness to Italy, and compassion to the real victim. Meredith Kercher. .

 


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Most Important Italian Paper Balks At The Attempts In US At Intimidation

Posted by Commissario Montalbano



[Above: The Corriere Della Sera building in Milan]

The Corriere Della Sera is the Italian equivalent of the New York Times and the London Times.

It wields huge influence throughout Italy and reflects the popular mood in its reporting. It does NOT like the campaign of vilification against the trial and its outcome. Here is a translation of today’s blast by Beppe Severgnini.

The do-it-yourself verdicts and that wrongful U.S.A. cheering

Many Americans criticize the ruling, but have never followed the case. Why do they do that?

Judicial nationalism and media justice, when put together, form a deadly cocktail. We also have Reader-patriots and journalist-judges ourselves, but what is happening in the United States after the conviction of Amanda Knox, is embarrassing. Therefore it is highly worth pondered upon.

American television, newspapers and websites are convinced that Amanda is innocent. Why? No one knows. Did they follow all of the trial? Did they evaluate the evidence? Did they hear the witnesses who, moreover, testified in Italian? Of course not! They just decided so: and that’s enough.

Like Lombroso’s*** proselytes: a girl that is so pretty, and what’s more, American, cannot possibly be guilty. No wonder Hillary Clinton is now interested in the case: she’s a politician, and cannot ignore the national mood.

There are, as I wrote at the beginning, two aspects of the issue. One is judicial nationalism, which is triggered when “a passport is more significant than an alibi” as noted in yesterday’s Corriere’s editorial by Guido Olimpio. The United States tend to always defend its citizens (Cermis tragedy, the killing of Calipari) and shows distrust of any foreign jurisdiction (hence the failure to ratify the International Criminal Court). In the case of Italy, at play are also the long almost biblical timespans of our justice, for which we’ve been repeatedly criticized at the European level.

But there is a second aspect, just as serious as the first: the media justice operation. Or better: a passion for the do-it-yourself trial. It’s not just in the United States that it happens, but these days it is precisely there that we must look, if we want to understand its methods and its consequences.

Timothy Egan - a New York Times columnist, based in Seattle, therefore from the same city of Amanda - writes that the ruling “has little to do with the evidence and a lot with the ancient Italian custom of saving face.” And then: “The verdict should have nothing to do with medieval superstitions, projections sexual fantasies, satanic fantasies or the honor of prosecuting magistrates. If you only apply the standard of law, the verdict would be obvious “. 

But obvious to whom? Egan ““ I’ll give it to him - knows the case. But he seems determined, like many fellow citizens, to find supporting evidence for a ruling that, in his head, has already been issued: Amanda is innocent. In June - the process was half-way - he had already written “An innocent abroad” (a title borrowed from Mark Twain, who perhaps would not have approved this use).

To be sure, among the 460 reader comments, many are full of reasonable doubt and dislike journalists who start from the conclusion and then try in every way to prove it.

I did not know if Amanda Knox was guilty. In fact, I did not know until Saturday, December 5, when a jury convicted her. I do have the habit of respecting court judgments, and then it does not take a law degree ““ which I happen to have, unlike Mr. Egan - to know how a Court of Assizes works.

It is inconceivable that the jurors in Perugia have decided to condemn a girl if they had any reasonable doubt. We accept the verdict, the American media does not. But turning a sentence into an opportunity to unleash dramatic nationalistic cheering and prejudice is not a good service to the cause of truth or to the understanding between peoples.

A public lynching, a witch hunt trial? I repeat: what do our American friends know? How much information do those who condemn Italy on the internet possess? How much have those who wrote to our Embassy in Washington, who accused the magistrates in Perugia, and who are ready to swear on Amanda’s innocence, studied this case for past two years?

Have they studied the evidence, assessed the experts’ testimony, or heard the witnesses of a trial that was much (too) long? No, I suppose. Why judge the judges, then?

They resent preventive detention? We don’t like it either, especially when prolonged (Amanda and Raffaele have spent two years in prison before the sentence). But it is part of our system: in special cases, the defendant must await trial while in jail.

What should we say, then, about the death penalty in America? We do not agree with it, but we accept that in the U.S. it is the law, supported by the majority of citizens. A criminal, no matter which passport he has in his pocket, if he commits a murder in Texas, knows what he risks.

Before closing, a final, obligatory point: I also did not like the anti-Amanda crusade in the British media, for the same reasons. The nationality of Meredith, the victim, does not justify such an attitude.

For once - can I say it? - We Italians have behaved the best. We waited for and now we respect the ruling, pending further appeal.

I wish we Italians behaved like that with all other high profile crimes in our country - from Garlasco’s case and on - instead of staging trials on television and spewing verdicts from our couch.

***Note: Cesare Lombroso, was a 19th century Italian criminologist who postulated that criminality was inherited, and that someone “born criminal”’ could be identified by physical defects.

[Below: the distinguished Italian columnist Beppe Severgnini of Corriere]


US Overreaction: State Department (Foreign Office) Rebuts Senator Cantwell’s Claims

Posted by Peter Quennell


If Senator Cantwell or her staff come by looking for something to convince them fast please read this.

The same people who set the hapless John Q Kelly up (he has never been heard from again since that post) seem to have set Senator Cantwell up too.

Now Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that her precipitate involvement in the case seems to be hitting a brick wall.

WASHINGTON, USA - The US government said Monday it had no signs that a court in Italy failed to follow the country’s laws when it found American Amanda Knox guilty of the murder of her British housemate.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will discuss the verdict with Senator Maria Cantwell, who said it raises ‘serious questions’ about the Italian justice system, Clinton’s spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.

‘I don’t have any indications to the contrary,’ Kelly said when asked if Knox was treated fairly under Italian law. ‘We haven’t received any indications necessarily that Italian law was not followed.’

He added: ‘I do know that our embassy in Rome was very closely involved in this. They visited Amanda Knox. They have monitored the trial.’

Kelly said he preferred to limit comment as the legal process continues, recalling that Knox has the right to appeal in 45 days.


US Overreaction: Meredith’s Mother Regards Cantwell’s Grandstanding As Ill-Informed

Posted by Peter Quennell


This was just reported by Tom Wells in tomorrow’s The Sun

The mum of murdered Meredith Kercher yesterday blasted killer Amanda Knox’s supporters for enlisting Hillary Clinton in her appeal battle….

Ms Cantwell suggested the 22-year-old did not get a fair trial and expressed worries over possible “anti-American” bias in the Italian court. Mrs Clinton, wife of former US President Bill, has now vowed to meet with “anyone who has a concern”.

But Meredith’s mum Arline yesterday insisted Knox’s hearing WAS fair - and said she did not sense any anti-American feeling in the Perugia court.

Mrs Kercher, 64, said at her family’s home in Coulsdon, Surrey: “We are still getting over the sentencing. The whole thing has gone in a blur.

“Having them say they are looking to lodge an appeal was tough enough - and now this. I just do not know where they are going by getting people in high places involved.

“I was in no way aware of anti-American feeling. It was just a normal court. Everything seemed to be done fairly. It seems a bit desperate, but the Italian justice system should be the ones to answer whether it was fair or not.

“We were not exactly given special treatment. I can’t see there was this anti-American thing.”...


Monday, December 07, 2009

US Overreaction: Amanda Knox’s Own Lawyer Groans “That’s All We Need, Hillary Clinton”

Posted by Peter Quennell


This is from an earlier report by Beth Hale and Daniel Bates in the Daily Mail

Hillary Clinton has been drawn into the battle to overturn Amanda Knox’s conviction. Amid a growing U.S. backlash against the verdict, the American Secretary of State has agreed to meet a senator from 22-year-old Knox’s home state of Washington.

[Senator Cantwell] said she was concerned there had been an ‘anti-American’ feeling at the trial and said she would be raising her concerns with Mrs Clinton…

Luciano Ghirga said: ‘That’s all we need, Hillary Clinton involved. I have the same political sympathies as Hillary but this sort of thing does not help us in any way.’

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini said: ‘This senator should not interfere in something she has no idea about. I am happy with how the trial went.’

And this below is from a new report by Nick Pisa in the Daily Mail

It quotes the prosecutor as saying that the case was taken before NINETEEN Italian judges. Such caution is not an everyday occurrence in US justice, that is for sure.

Italy reacted with anger today as a transatlantic war of words broke out with the United States over the Amanda Knox murder trial.

Prosecutors involved in the case were outraged that their handling and the Italian judicial system had been called into question, while newspapers published front page editorials saying they would not take ‘lessons from America.’

It came as it emerged US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had said she would look into Knox’s case after Marie Cantwell, a senator in the jailed student’s home state of Washington, said she was ‘concerned’ about the trial.

In a front page editorial headlined ‘Passport and Justice’ Corriere Della Sera stormed: ‘Once again here we have rule number one for an American accused of a crime abroad - it doesn’t matter if they are innocent or guilty all that counts is their passport.’

Inside it continued under the heading: ‘When an American passport is as valuable as an alibi,’ and recalled an infamous incident in 1998 when a US pilot escaped justice, despite flying through a cable sending a ski gondola crashing into a mountain and killing 20 people at Cermis in the Italian Alps.

It added: ‘Amanda was tried abroad so her defence campaign have enlisted the help of the State Department. This same administration can’t close Guantanamo but it can find the time to attack the sentence in Perugia.’

Its story on Mrs Clinton’s involvement added America had been reacting as if Knox had ‘ended up in the hands of some despotic regime,’ and said: ‘America is just waiting to send a platoon of Marines over to rescue the poor girl.’

Il Messaggero also ran an editorial on its front page under the headline ‘Unacceptable Lessons’ and also compared it to the Cermis incident.

It wrote: ‘If there is any ground upon which our country will not be taught lessons on civility and respect from anyone, the United States included, then it is the penal process.

‘The United States allows the death penalty for minors in some states, as does countries where the high level of civic justice found in Italy is unheard of, such as Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen.

‘If Hilary Clinton wants to meet these “doubters” then maybe she can also find the time to look into the cases of numerous Italians held in American prisons for non existent motives and crimes they have not committed.’

There was also criticism of Senator Cantwell’s suggestions the trial was anti-American as many pointed out that ‘an Italian Raffaele Sollecito, was also jailed.’...

Knox prosecutor Giuliano Mignini also hit out at the criticism and said: ‘I am happy. In my conscience I know I have done my duty. It is never easy to ask for a life sentence.

‘That’s especially true in this case where the accused were in their twenties. I have three children who are more or less the same age. Asking for life was the right punishment for the crime.

‘I am not prepared to take criticism from the Americans on how the prosecution and investigators carried out their work.

‘The case went before 19 judges in the end at various levels from a preliminary hearing, through to three levels of re-examination (bail hearings) and all found in the prosecution’s favour.’

Here is some highly recommended reading for the Senator and (f they need it) the State Department.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And Now An Excellent Report By Andrea Vogt On America-Wide University Reforms

Posted by Peter Quennell


Andrea Vogt posts this important story on the Seattle PI website.

Ever since we posted this excellent analysis last February of Amanda Knox’s extremely unstructured and underfunded arrangements in Perugia (read also the comments), we have been waiting for the University of Washington and others to move to stop it ever happening again.

Finally, it seems, they have.

Mirroring a nationwide trend, the University of Washington is overhauling how its students and professors interface with foreign countries….

The UW study abroad experience today involves much more oversight than it did two years ago when Amanda Knox left on an unsupervised European adventure that quickly degenerated into a nightmare.

When Knox, who is on trial for murder in Italy, left her familiar U-district environs in late summer 2007, she embarked on her own independent study in Umbria with very few guidelines or institutional oversight.

She arrived in the tolerant student melange of Perugia, a vibrant college town with temptation at every turn and many paradoxes (drug deals and party plans are often made on the steps of the cathedral).

A month later, the honor student’s pub-crawling, pot-smoking college shenanigans had taken a very serious turn and she was being hauled off to the Capanne penitentiary, where she remains today, pleading her innocence as the trial and controversial accusations against her plod forward.

Once her troubles began, the university tried to offer support, but had very few official guidelines to follow for responding to the kind of complicated legal-judicial matter Knox faced.

It’s different now….

In the wake of several negative overseas episodes, officials are busy raising awareness about the positive impact the UW is having worldwide and taking steps to improve communications, regulation and emergency preparedness for its students abroad.

Compared with two years ago, international education officials are more closely tracking who, where and what study-abroad programs involve. The university has new rules:. The department chair has to sign off on the program. Insurance is required. So is a cell phone. No program money can be used to buy alcohol, just for starters.

“There’s a much more formal process now,” said Taso Lagos, a UW professor who teaches international communication and manages a study-abroad program in Greece. “With administrators that are very aware, with lines of communication open and policies in place if something happens.”...

The UW’s growing commitment to international education—- even in a budget crisis—is reflected in some developments. [UW Vice Provost for Global Affairs Stephen Hanson] was named a vice provost in January, and in the spring, the UW dedicated an entire wing of the Gerberding Hall administration building to growing an international mission and profile.

This year, a travel security and information officer is coming on board to oversee emergency response and preparedness, as is Peter Moran, a new director of international programs and exchanges who previously worked at the Fulbright Commission office in Katmandu, Nepal.

New guidelines are being put in place to streamline communications, ease financial transactions and institute mandatory training for faculty taking students abroad. The Global Support Project, a rapid-response team with one person from each branch of the central administration, takes on cross-disciplinary international challenges.

Such reforms aren’t unique to UW.

Universities across the country are examining how better to organize study abroad to meet blossoming demand from students (and prospective employers) for foreign experience. Many are turning to independent service providers whose business it is to contract housing, health care or niche risk management services dealing with legal, financial or public relations crises when things go haywire abroad…..

Though the university bore no responsibility for any of the events Knox became entangled in, media across the world continued to mention the University of Washington—whether it was because of character witnesses who were her college buddies, reports of wild off-campus parties Knox attended in Seattle or her studies while in prison.

They really should be given a name. The Meredith Kercher reforms.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

How This Cable Car In The Dolomites Hangs Over The Trial In Perugia

Posted by Peter Quennell


The Dolomites (image below) are a spectacular range of mountains east of the Alps in north-east Italy.

In 1998 a squadron of American Prowlers (image at bottom) based in Italy as part of the US NATO presence was roaring up and down those valleys, when one cut the cable of the cable car shown above. Twenty people in a gondola died when it crashed to the ground 350 feet below.

The US military has a huge presence in Italy (scroll down to “Conditions in Italy”) and good US-Italian relations are extremely important as a result. But in this case, the airmen were yanked back to the US, under NATO rules, tried by other military officers - and found not guilty of anything except destroying a videotape.

Outrage in Italy and across Europe and even in the US was intense. There have since been very, very few US interventions in any judicial process in Italy.

Now suddenly there is a new US intervention and Italian emotions are getting stoked.

If the FOA campaign ever thought the US government would spring Amanda using political pressure, they could not have picked a worse country in Europe to ridicule and try to strong-arm.




Sunday, June 21, 2009

How The Media Should Approach The Case If Justice Is To Be Done And SEEN To Be Done

Posted by Hellodalai


The American media are really playing with fire here.

This is one of the most seriously misreported cases in recent history, and a line really needs to be drawn.

Much of the media are doing no digging, consulting no Italians, repeatedly recycling discredited sources and those with a vested interest in the outcome, stating facts that are not facts, ignoring other facts that really are facts, revealing no understanding of how the Italian judicial process works, and often depicting the Italian professionals with contempt.

And so far no-one is really calling them on it.

From this perspective, I have been reading all the articles and information on this case for the past few days. I too was very disappointed in the NY Time pieces by Egan.  Rather than attempt to discuss the facts and evidence that are known so far, he painted “broad brush” strokes to argue that this trial is unfair.

The TIME magazine report just below - where the reporter basically allowed a Knox advocate to state her position unchallenged - is equally mediocre in terms of investigative and reporting quality. It was one of dozens that have done that.

Here is my own analysis of the case which I advance as the appropriate depth that EVERY reporter and print and TV analyst should aim to achieve before they start telling the rest of us what to think.

Motive

Egan points out that Amanda Knox had no motive to kill or participate in killing Meredith Kercher.

I agree that there seems to be little evidence on this issue.  One roommate testified as to tensions between Amanda and Meredith.  Roommate tensions are common, though, and rarely lead to murder.

Neither Rudy Guede, who has been convicted already, nor Raffaele Sollecito, who was Amanda’s boyfriend of less than two weeks, seemingly had motives, either.

All three were young adults who liked alcohol, music, marijuana, and sex (although Rudy has been described as a petty thief and small time drug dealer; other reports state he had no criminal convictions). None seemed likely to erupt into a murderous rage.

One of the downstairs male students testified that Guede expressed some interest in Amanda and said that Meredith was beautiful.  Sollecito wrote in a newspaper column that he was a 23 year old virgin when he met Amanda.

So Sollecito was vulnerable to Amanda’s influence.  Guede may have wanted to gain Amanda’s favor.  Add alcohol and drugs and group dynamics and - the threesome may have spun out of control.

Since the murder, Amanda’s behavior could certainly be questioned.  Who does cartwheels at a police station during an investigation of their murdered roommate?  What defendant wears a shirt to their murder trial that says “All you need is love” when the prosecution is trying to portray them as someone with out-of-control sexual behavior?

If this case rested solely on whether Amanda had a motive to kill Meredith, I would agree with Egan’s stance that the trial is unfair.  Egan seems to stop at that issue, however, and seems unwilling to examine all the evidence objectively.

DNA Evidence

One of the better reports on the case included this statement:

“But perhaps more damning even than the knife was Stefanoni’s testimony that a mix of Knox’s DNA and Kercher’s blood was found on the floor in the bedroom of a third roommate, Filomena Romanelli. While it might not be noteworthy to find mixed genetic traces of residents of the same house, Romanelli’s room is critical in this crime.

Her window was broken with a large rock that prosecutors believe was used to stage a break-in. The mixed Knox-Kercher trace was found after investigators used luminol, a substance used in forensic science to bring out blood that had been cleaned up.

In addition, Stefanoni testified that a mixture of Knox’s DNA and Kercher’s blood was found on the drain of the bidet, on the bathroom sink, and on a Q-Tip box in the girls’ bathroom.”

That is FOUR different blood samples with mixed Knox-Kercher DNA.  Yes, it does seem that the investigative methods were sloppy and not all samples may be reliable (I acknowledge that there are some problems with the prosecution’s case).

But I have yet to read even one article where a reputable DNA expert can explain why sloppy police procedures would result in four separate mixed blood samples.  I did read one explanation that Amanda bled from a pierced ear—thus providing some explanation, although weak, for why her blood may have been in the bathroom.  That doesn’t explain why her blood was in the bedroom of Filomena Romanelli (another of her roommates) or why her blood was found mixed with Meredith’s - or why her blood would be recoverable from an area that had been cleaned after the murder to eliminate evidence.

Similarly, the DNA evidence from Sollecito, found on Meredith’s bra clasp is not explained away by scientific reasoning.  True, the police left the clasp in Meredith’s room (which was sealed) for weeks and did not retrieve it, but DNA is not transferred by “flying DNA”; there is no “innocent” scientific explanation why Sollecito’s DNA (not sloughed dead cells, which do not contain DNA) would affix itself to a bra clasp worn by the murder victim after the clasp had been torn from her body.

As to the DNA evidence found on the knife located in Sollecito’s apartment,  the DNA sample from Meredith was very tiny, according to reports, and the DNA from Amanda could be explained by her using the knife at Sollecito’s apartment. (Sollecito explained Meredith’s DNA by stating she had come to his apartment for dinner with Amanda and that he had accidentally pricked her. But no witnesses have been found who remember Meredith ever talking about going to Sollecito’s apartment)

True, the knife is not the same size as most wounds on Meredith, but it is the same size as one wound. The knife showed evidence of bleach cleaning and some scratches (Sollecito’s apartment showed a lot of evidence of bleach cleaning, even though his maid did not use bleach to clean).

Clean up motives and evidence

I have yet to see a careful review of the testimony and possible conclusions that may be drawn from the known facts and circumstantial evidence, including the clean up after the murder—which, to me, are very compelling.

The neighbor has testified that she heard a very loud, long scream that night (presumably Meredith’s last), followed not long thereafter by the sounds of two to three different people running from the area (it was unusual to hear people running at that time of night).  The neighbor was 69 and could not remember exactly the date she heard the screaming, but she was firm that it was the night before Meredith’s murder was discovered.

It is not a stretch to link the screaming to Meredith, given that loud, long piercing screams are uncommon.  Also, a murderer or murderers would realize that Meredith’s scream may bring the police at any moment—so running from the crime would be expected. 

The uncontradicted testimony is that there was a fair amount of effort to “clean up” the crime scene (the defense merely claims that Knox and Sollecito were not involved). It also appears that whoever came back for the “clean up” also broke a window in Filomena’s bedroom (as mentioned, one of the two other roommates living upstairs; there were also four male students living downstairs in a separate unit), in an attempt to throw the investigating police off the scent. 

Filomena testifed that she found clothes strewn around her room the next day and that she had left the room tidy.  She testified that glass from the window broken in her bedroom was on top of those strewn clothes.  If the window was broken by someone entering the home who was intent on rape and/or robbery, then the glass would not be on top of the clothes as those clothes would not have been under the window then (Filomena also testified that she had valuables in plain view in her bedroom and that none were taken).

The evidence suggests that someone placed these clothes around the room and THEN broke the window to “stage a scene” (as there is no explanation for why anyone would have any motive to randomly take clothes and throw them around a room).

Let’s start with Guede first and the assumption that he came back to the home that night - either by himself - or with someone other than Amanda and Sollecito.

Guede’s motivation to come back to the crime scene would be to clean up the most incriminating evidence against him and to stage this crime scene to lead the police in a direction away from him.

Guede left DNA inside Meredith, bled on Meredith’s body, and left a bloody hand print on the pillow underneath Meredith’s head.  He also left feces in the bathroom toilet (the bathroom near Filomena’s bedroom - -not the “bloody” bathroom between Meredith and Amanda’s bedrooms).  He would know that if he came back to clean.  He would know that that evidence would be the strongest against him.

During this “clean up phase,” the DNA inside Meredith, Guede’s blood on Meredith’s body, the bloody hand print, and Guede’s feces in the bathroom toilet were all left untouched. 

The “clean up phase” spent a lot of time in the bathroom next to Meredith’s bedroom (it was also next to Amanda’s bedroom), the hallway, and Filomena’s bedroom, where the “break-in” was staged (it is possible at least part of this crime occurred in the bathroom, as Meredith’s blood was found on the bathroom light switch when it was in an up position - meaning it was touched when the light was on.  The bathroom had numerous droplets of her blood, some of which were commingled with Amanda’s blood.)

Despite the cleanup in Filomena’s bedroom, the police were still able to obtain DNA samples.  Guede’s DNA was not found in either the bathroom or Filomena’s bedroom.

Six bloody footprints from bare feet were identified.  One was visible to the naked eye in the bathroom and five were visible only after the police used luminol, which allows blood evidence cleaned by bleach to become visible under a special light.  The luminol did reveal five bloody footprints that had been cleaned up (one shoe print was also found under Meredith’s pillow - the print is consistent with the size of Amanda’s shoe).

None of the six bloody footprints are consistent with the size of Guede’s feet.  All six of these footprints are consistent with the size of Amanda and/or Sollecito’s feet.

Why would Guede concentrate his clean-up efforts on areas where there is little to no evidence from him and ignore the areas where there is substantial evidence of his involvement?  Wouldn’t he at least flush the toilet?

As to the staged “break-in,” would Guede be motivated to set this up?  If the police believed a “break-in” had occurred, would they then be led away from investigating Guede as a suspect?

If the police believed that a break-in had occurred, then they would focus on looking for someone who was either a complete stranger to Meredith or someone she would not readily admit to her home late in the evening if they knocked on her door unanounced.  Guede was not a complete stranger.  One of the four male students who lived in the separate unit downstairs testified that Guede sometimes came to the apartment of the four male students and met and talked to Amanda and Meredith there (the testimony is that Meredith dated one of those four male students).

The evidence suggests that Guede only slightly knew Meredith. So, Guede was not someone who could knock unannounced on Meredith’s door late at night (at least 9:30—after Meredith talked to her mother) and be readily admitted. 

Guede had no motivation to stage a “break-in” because a break-in would in no way lead the police away from his scent.  Plus, there is no evidence that Guede was ever in Filomena’s bedroom where the “break-in” was staged.  If he had participated in this staging, a footprint consistent with the size of his feet should have been illuminated by the police’s luminol.

It wasn’t.

Conclusions that jurors would normally draw from facts and the circumstantial evidence relating to the “clean up” and “break-in” point to someone OTHER than Guede participating in the “clean-up” and “staged break-in.”

Let’s now look at the assumption that Amanda and her boyfriend, Rafaelle Sollecito, were the ones who came back for the “clean up” and “staged break-in.”

If Amanda and Sollecito were with Guede when the murder occurred (accounting for the extra footsteps running away shortly after the last scream of Meredith) and then came back to get rid of evidence of their guilt, their motivation would be to clean up their blood and DNA evidence and lead police away from their scent.

As for whether Amanda bled that night, another roommate of Amanda’s and Meredith’s, Laura, testified that she saw a a mark under Amanda’s chin the day after the murder that was not there the day before the murder; Laura testified the mark was not a hickey as a hickey would have been purple and more round. 

I have read two different comments on this issue from Amanda’s father.  One stated that the mark was merely a hickey and is evidence she spent the night with her boyfriend.  Another was that a physician examining Amanda on Nov. 6th - -the murder occurred the evening of Nov. 1st - did not note a mark under the chin.  (Interestingly, the police interrogating Amanda the next day did not report such a mark, either).

I then found a photo that was posted online taken of Amanda the day after the murder.  It clearly shows a mark under her chin—and would account for her blood being found at the apartment.



[click for larger image]

If Amanda and Sollecito did the “clean up,” they would be motivated to leave evidence of Guede’s guilt and point the police in his direction.

Forensics don’t show either way whether bleach was used to clean up Meredith and Amanda’s apartment, though it was used in Sollecito’s apartment AND on the knife found in his apartment containing the DNA of Meredith and Amanda. 

The Conad store owner reported the presence of Amanda in the household cleaners part of his store early on the morning after the murder (when Amanda and Sollecito contend they were asleep) although rumored receipts for bleach were not presented at trial.

Meredith’s body, which contained Guede’s DNA and his blood (mixed with hers) was not cleaned and Guede’s feces was not flushed from the toilet.

The bathroom, which even after the cleaning, contained Amanda’s blood mixed with Meredith’s and a bloody footprint which is consistent with the size of Sollecito’s foot (trial testimony was that it was “likely” Sollecito’s footprint), had a lot of cleaning activity.

The hallway and Filomena’s bedroom, which even after the bleaching contained Amanda’s blood mixed with Meredith’s and bloody footprints, was the site of a lot of cleaning activity (these footprints were all consistent with the size of the feet of Amanda and Sollecito, but not consistent with the size of Guede’s feet) .

The “cleaning” evidence, and conclusions which may be drawn from it, point to Amanda and Sollecito as participants.

Would Amanda and Sollecito have a motive to stage a break-in?  Amanda obviously had a key to the unit and did not have to break into her own apartment.  If there was no sign of a break-in, police would probably focus on people who had a key to the apartment or friends of Meredith she would readily admit to her apartment at 9:30 at night.  If there was no sign of a break-in, police would question Amanda and Sollecito at length - and they would obviously know that.

Amanda and Sollecito had a strong motive to stage a break-in to focus police on looking for a stranger, or someone like Guede who only knew Meredith very casually.

What about the next morning?  Let’s first assume Amanda was innocent and she is being truthful when she testified that she did not come home until around 11:30 the next morning.

Amanda testified that when she came home around 11:30 a.m. that the apartment door was open, that there was visible blood in the bathroom (which would have been numerous scattered blood drops, a ten inch smear on the bathroom door, and a bloody footprint on the floor) and that there was feces in a toilet.  Amanda says that she called out for Meredith and no one answered.

She then took a shower and went to Filomena’s bathroom and used her dryer to dry her hair (this is the bathroom with Guede’s feces;  this toilet is different than American toilets in that it had a large flat area so that the standing water in the toilet did not submerge the feces) and returned to her boyfriend’s apartment.

If Amanda were truly innocent when she arrived that morning, wouldn’t she also try to open the door to Meredith’s bedroom after Meredith did not answer, even when she banged on her door more than once?  Amanda’s fingerprints were not found on the door knob and she has never testified that she tried to open the door.  Sollecito testified that when he arrived later with Amanda that he tried to open the door - and his fingerprints are on the door knob.

If Amanda were innocent, wouldn’t she text Meredith, as she did several times two days before?  Wouldn’t she call both of Meredith’s cell phones and let them ring to see if they were in her bedroom? (Phone records show she called each phone one time; one for three seconds and the other for four seconds, despite Amanda telling Filomena that day that she had called Meredith’s cell phones and that the phones just kept ringing) 

If Amanda were innocent, wouldn’t she also call out for Filomena and Laura - because she would not know for sure if they might have returned that morning (she knew Filomena had spent the night in town and that Laura was in a nearby town)?  Wouldn’t she look into their bedrooms (Filomena’s door was closed that morning, according to Amanda; Sollecito says it was open) and have noticed that Filomena’s bedroom window was broken and her clothes were strewn about? (When Amanda first called Filomena she did not mention that Filomena’s bedroom had been broken into).

If Amanda were innocent, wouldn’t she have just flushed the exposed feces down the toilet?

If Amanda were innocent and truthful, wouldn’t her hair three hours later look like it had been washed and blow dried that day?  Look again at the photo posted above.  It was taken about three hours after the alleged washing and blow drying.  Is that the hair of a woman who washed and blow dried her hair three hours earlier?

Wouldn’t Amanda have noticed that the lamp in her bedroom, which was the only source of light for that room, was missing? (Police later found it in Meredith’s room).  Wouldn’t she have immediately noticed the missing lamp when she first entered her bedroom that morning so that she would have immediately either left the apartment without taking a shower or called the police to come over? (Police and phone records show that Sollecito didnt call them until 12:54, even though the Postal and Communications Police had been at the apartment with Sollecito and Amanda since 12:26 - the Postal Police unexpectedly showed up at the apartment because Meredith’s cell phones had been found.)

People react differently to unexpected happenings and Amanda may not have done all of those things, but surely she would have done at least one of them.

If Amanda were truthful about showering and drying her hair, wouldn’t her fingerprints be in both bathrooms? (Since these activities would have occurred AFTER the clean up).  The police only found one of her fingerprints in her residence - on a glass in her kitchen.

As to this time frame, what about the recent trial testimony of Amanda’s mother that Amanda told her in their first phone call that day that she thought someone was in her apartment?  Cell phone records place that call at 12:47, some 21 minutes after the Postal Police arrived. (A nearby video camera documents that time, as does Postal Police log records;  the defense has tried to argue that the Postal Police did not arrive until after 1:00 p.m., but do not have evidence for that position.  In fact, Filomena testified that she arrived back at her apartment before 1:00 and that the Postal Police were already there.)

Postal Police testified that both Amanda and Sollecito were in Amanda’s bedroom with the door closed at 12:47 - the bedroom with no lamp or overhead light (neither Amanda nor Sollecito mentioned to the Postal Police or Filomena when they emerged from that bedroom after many minutes that the only lamp in the room was missing).

Let’s keep assuming Amanda was innocent.  Would she have come back to her apartment with Sollecito, still not having called police, and then start a load of washing of Meredith’s clothes? (The Postal Police said the washing machine was running when they entered;  Filomena, who arrived a little later, said that the washing machine was still warm and contained Meredith’s clothes.)

Amanda has testified that she got out a mop and bucket the first time she went to her apartment that day and took it back to Sollecito’s because there was water on his apartment floor from water used in cooking pasta the night before (Sollecito said, however, that the water was from a broken pipe;  Sollecito’s diary written in prison talks of a dinner of stir fry mushrooms and vegetables).

Who has water spills from cooking pasta so large that the next day it is still puddled to the degree it needs to be mopped?  Who voluntarily carries a mop and bucket several blocks to clean up water from cooking pasta the night before? (Especially a person who has been labeled in trial testimony as messy and unkempt in their cleaning habits).

If Amanda were innocent, wouldn’t she and Sollecito have called the police after Sollecito tried to open Meredith’s locked bedroom door and couldn’t open it?

Instead of calling the police, Amanda and Raffaele went outside and stood next to the mop and bucket.  Why didn’t they just put the mop and bucket back up in the apartment when they first arrived?  Why leave it outside the apartment?  Why then go back out and stand next to the mop?

If Amanda and Sollecito were innocent, that means that Guede (and perhaps one or two accomplices) murdered Meredith, then ran away, and then came back at some point and cleaned up the crime scene PARTIALLY (but ignoring and leaving the most damning evidence against him) and THEN GUEDE CAME BACK that morning after Amanda had showered and left - so that GUEDE could do a LOAD OF WASHING of Meredith’s clothes - presumably blood stained, all the while ignoring his feces in the toilet and his bloody hand print on the pillow under Meredith’s body - only for GUEDE to then leave again right before Amanda and Sollecito arrived (so the washing machine would still be running when the Postal Police arrived a short while later).

What type of person or persons would come back to a crime scene to clean it up?

The most likely person to return to a crime scene for a clean up is someone who knows that they can do a clean up with little chance of being caught. 

Guede might have known that the four male students downstairs were all away due to his occasional appearances there.  But how would Guede know that Filomena and Laura, the other two upstairs roommates, would not come back either that night or in the morning?

Amanda and Sollecito, on the other hand, would know that everyone who lived in the house would be gone and that they could do a clean up that would take some time and have a good chance of not being caught in the act.  Only the unexpected appearance of the Postal and Communications Police interrupted the mopping and cleaning (as there was still a ten inch blood smear on the bathroom door near Meredith’s bedroom and numerous visible blood droplets).

No one else other than Amanda and Sollecito, and who may have been involved, had such knowledge.   

Conclusion

     

The facts, testimony, and conclusions that may reasonably be drawn from the evidence, including circumstantial evidence (that is what juries do all the time), lead me to believe that Amanda will be found guilty.

Let any reporter or analyst run the case through their minds at this depth and then make sure that at a minimum, they keep their cool and don’t misrepresent.

When I read an article or blog in the New York Times or Time magazine, I expect thorough, well-reasoned, well-researched, investigative journalism. Judicial cases DEMAND it.

Instead, here I have found articles that IGNORED the evidence and some very mediocre journalism. What happened to journalistic standards?  Where is the public outcry against the U.S. media’s handling of this case? 

For the sake of true justice, a line now needs to be drawn.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Damage That Is Now Flowing From A Needlessly Hard-Line PR Campaign

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for Andrea Vogt’s extraordinary report in today’s online Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Added: Also, in case it scrolls away, this valuable take is copied here.

Police are investigating complaints from a Seattle woman who says she was intimidated and threatened online because of comments she made about the Amanda Knox case.

The unredacted Seattle Police Department report, obtained by seattlepi.com, names a primary suspect and quotes the woman as saying that that the suspect “is engaging in tactics meant to intimidate,” along with “the tacit consent” of Knox’s stepfather, Chris Mellas. The report names Mellas, but he is not a suspect.

According to the report, the tactics include “veiled threats” and attempts to disable a Web site dedicated to the criminal case in Perugia, Italy.

The development marks an escalation in a ferocious “blog war” that has been brewing for more than a year as Knox faced a murder charge, then went on trial. The blog war has recently become particularly vicious and personal in Knox’s hometown of Seattle.

The battle in the blogosphere has divided the online community into two factions: those who question Knox’s innocence, and those who do not. In Italy, the media have dubbed them “innocentisti and colpevolisti,” or “the innocents and the guilties.”

Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are currently standing trial in Perugia for the slaying of Meredith Kercher. Kercher, a college student from England, was studying in Italy, as was Knox, a University of Washington student. The two shared an apartment.

Seattle police Sgt. Mark Worstman has confirmed that an investigation into cyber-harassment is still open and cautioned those who are concerned for their security to consider avoiding online debates and community forums where aggressive behavior is being allowed.

When seattlepi.com interviewed him, Mellas denied any involvement and said he is not connected to and does not know the person named in the complaint. In fact, he said he and his family also have been harassed online.

“I have not approved or disapproved because I don’t have any part to play in it,” said Mellas, who is a computer-network manager at Bellevue-based real estate development company.

“There’s a bunch of idiots on both sides of this whole silly blogworld. It has degenerated beyond belief, and frankly an article that is going to highlight this is only going to make it worse. But I don’t really care, because I don’t pay attention to it,” Mellas said.

Seattlepi.com is not naming the suspect because he has not been charged with any crime. He did not respond to seattlepi.com efforts to reach him by phone or by the e-mail addresses listed in the police report.

West Seattle resident and professional translator Peggy Ganong, who moderates the discussion site Perugia Murder File under the online name “Skeptical Bystander,” complained to police two months ago, saying she was being harassed for her involvement and for comments she has posted on sites that question Knox’s innocence.

“I am supposed to somehow get behind the home team. It is as simple as that,” said Ganong, who lives just a few blocks from the Mellas and Knox families. “But I had ongoing doubts, I continued to express that opinion, and that’s when I became a target. But the fact that it has spilled over into real life, well there’s something scary and terribly wrong about it.” The sites that question Knox’s innocence and defend court proceedings in Perugia are Perugia Murder File, a discussion board co-moderated by Ganong, and True Justice for Meredith Kercher, founded last September by New Jersey financier Peter Quennell.

“The True Justice site was created because Kercher had become so intensely forgotten, as the huge and well-funded effort gathered speed to paint Knox as the ‘real’ victim,” Quennell said. Quennell said more than 20,000 people have visited his site.

A number of individual bloggers also write about the case. There are two main blogs in defense of Knox. One is Italian Woman at the Table, a seattlepi.com reader blog by Seattle freelance writer Candace Dempsey. Dempsey’s blog was initially about cooking but added true crime to its menu as the debate picked up steam.

Dempsey was one of the first U.S. bloggers to post key court documents. She is now writing a book on the case. The other defense site is Perugia Shock, the first blog about the case, which started Nov. 2, 2007. Perugia Shock’s comment threads are home to some of the most heated Knox-related exchanges online.

Perugia Shock is hosted on a California server and financed by an American firm, according to the Perugia-based blogger who covers the case and operates the site under the alias “Frank Sfarzo” (a stage name, real name Sforza).

While fans say his blog poses alternative theories rarely discussed in the mainstream media, critics say his minimalist moderation results in an out-of-control comment section where posters “out” those who wish to remain anonymous, track their ISP addresses to reveal their physical locations, pose as people they are not—someone posted as Kercher, the victim, once—and make threatening posts about each other, as well as about the major players in the case, including Knox, her family, journalists, lawyers and prosecutors.

“Sometimes I briefly let my guard down, but I try to cancel when the comments are offensive or if people request it,” he told seattlepi.com.

While Italian Woman at the Table and Perugia Murder File require registration to post, Perugia Shock allows anonymous postings. There, people who leave anonymous comments have launched threats and accusations that cut both ways. A number of women associated with this case have been attacked online, not only for their opinions, but also for real or imagined physical traits.

Ganong and Seattle trial lawyer Anne Bremner have been targeted with a particular zeal, although Bremner said the positive feedback she has received has far outweighed the catty remarks. Ganong chalks it up to the fact that they are both outspoken, albeit on different levels. Bremner has appeared regularly on national television as a legal analyst for high-profile cases such as Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson and Mary Letourneau. On this case, she has been a vocal supporter of Knox, posted a letter on Perugia Shock and often represents the ad hoc Friends of Amanda group in media appearances.

“I am not a public personality,” Ganong said, “but I do somehow represent the other side—this whole other class of people in Seattle who are not on the bandwagon and are not buying the ‘railroad job from hell”’ argument that Knox is being wrongly prosecuted. Ganong told seattlepi.com that it wasn’t just months of targeted, rude remarks that pushed her to file the report. She finally went to police after posters published her husband’s first and last name, the approximate location of their home, information about their family life, as well as shopping and personal habits, much of which had been gleaned from public-records searches, Facebook and other online portals.

Before filing the report, she repeatedly requested that the profane comments and posting of personal information stop. Her exasperated husband, a Seattle accountant, even met Mellas for a beer in a Seattle tavern to talk face-to-face about various messages that had been posted.

But Mellas said he had no control over the blogosphere and actually had much bigger things to worry about.

“I told him I have nothing to do with it. I said proceed with whatever it is you are doing, find out who it is and at that point you’ll know I am not doing anything, and it is not coming from my network either, as far as I know,” said Mellas, who helps manage a network with more than 400 computer users. “Granted, I don’t sit around all day and audit all the network traffic.”

“Those people are not going to get the answer until they get the authorities involved and get some logged ISPs and find out where it is really coming from. I hope that when they do that they make that known.”

It is not the first time Mellas’ name has surfaced in a blogging controversy, however.

Before Perugia Murder File existed in its current form, it was moderated as a message board called The True Crime Weblog Message Board by one of the nation’s foremost true crime bloggers, Steve Huff. Huff now blogs professionally for the Village Voice Media’s True Crime Report. At one point the posts became so aggressive that Huff decided to do something he rarely does—post the IP address of the person commenting. The IP traced to a block of IP addresses managed by Mellas, and Huff took him to task publicly, claiming he had written or authorized the comments himself. Mellas, however, says that his work as a network manager overseeing an IP gateway means several hundred people are using computers (and IP addresses) that are linked to his name. He said someone could easily be impersonating him, pretending he or she is associated with him or writing messages without his knowledge, since several hundred people could access the Internet using the block of IP addresses he manages. An Internet Protocol address is an identifying number assigned to computers participating in an internet network.

Huff said one of the intimidating private messages accusing him of slander was sent to him via the contact form by “Mr. Anonymous,” who claimed to own the e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The contact form captured the IP address of the sender and was traced to a block of Internet Protocol addresses managed by Mellas, Huff said. While the message could have from anyone within his large network, Huff said he believes it was sent or approved by Mellas.

A similar address, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), which is cited in the police report, was also used to send two vulgar messages to a Newsweek reporter covering the case in Perugia. The message, sent from a Blackberry device, ended with the postscript, “You sound like you were abused as a child.”

According to Ganong, the threats online and to her own personal inbox are originating from the same Hotmail and Gmail addresses.

Another Seattle area couple, Kathleen and Randy Jackson, are also considering filing police reports. Both post under aliases on the Perugia Murder File site and have been criticized for attending a recent fund-raiser for Knox. Jackson, who said she is a former victim of sexual assault, said she went to the event because she felt Kercher’s memory was being overlooked in the effort to raise money for Knox.

“It had been announced everywhere as this high-profile fund-raiser, so I wanted to go where this big news was happening and show a different side of Seattle, because I grew up there, and I was embarrassed,” Kathleen Jackson said.

But after the couple did an interview on a local Seattle television station covering the event, the negative attention grew fiercer, but oddly, just toward Kathleen, who posts on Perugia Murder File as “Professor Snape.” Randy, an educational technology professional at the University of Washington who posts as “Fly By Night,” is just as active on the forum. “Both Kathleen and I talked to the reporter, but only she’s been called out,” Randy Jackson said. “These individuals seem to more frequently target women.”

Kathleen Jackson said using an anonymous online identity allowed her to express her strong views on the case. But when other anonymous posters began speculating about where she lived and worked, she began having second thoughts.

“Now that they want to find out who we are and tell the whole world, well, why do they want to do that?” she said. “I think they are trying to intimidate us to stop posting.” Supporters of Knox also have been targeted. Participants at Italian Woman at the Table spar, but controversial comments are often resolved briskly with Dempsey’s delete key. Until she began requiring commenters to register, she says, she received chilling death threats from anonymous posters certain of Knox’s guilt. Posters have inaccurately described her credentials, said Dempsey, and “outed” personal information about her family.

After seeking advice from local police, she implemented behind-the-scenes safety measures, but has not filed a formal report. Dempsey warned that those who blog using their real name should expect to have their privacy violated on the “no-rules Internet.” “Anybody who writes about a murder case will attract angry posters who are sure they know who did it,” she said.

That is exactly what happened to Huff, who decided it wasn’t an online community he wanted to court. “I’ve been a little shocked—but not that shocked—all along at the way the Knox/Kercher case has broken down to something more akin to a pitched political argument than a debate about a terrible, violent crime and the possible guilt of one of the accused,” Huff told seattlepi.com in an e-mail. He’s been particularly surprised by the network newsmagazines’ “pro-active efforts” to smear the prosecutor while painting Knox as “some innocent pixie college girl.” “There’s some larger statement afoot in that about American views and our culture of looks over authenticity, in my opinion,” Huff said. Huff said his opinion about guilt or innocence in the case is still flexible—he can see both sides and thinks the case could go either way, but the vicious online harassment—present from the onset but particularly intense just prior to the start of the trial—prompted him to dial back his participation.

“It was so pervasive and distasteful to me that as a blogger and now as a journalist I’ve all but washed my hands of covering the case,” Huff said.

A number of individual bloggers also write about the case. There are two main blogs in defense of Knox. One is Italian Woman at the Table, a seattlepi.com reader blog by Seattle freelance writer Candace Dempsey. Dempsey’s blog was initially about cooking but added true crime to its menu as the debate picked up steam.

Dempsey was one of the first U.S. bloggers to post key court documents. She is now writing a book on the case. The other defense site is Perugia Shock, the first blog about the case, which started Nov. 2, 2007. Perugia Shock’s comment threads are home to some of the most heated Knox-related exchanges online.

Perugia Shock is hosted on a California server and financed by an American firm, according to the Perugia-based blogger who covers the case and operates the site under the alias “Frank Sfarzo.”

While fans say his blog poses alternative theories rarely discussed in the mainstream media, critics say his minimalist moderation results in an out-of-control comment section where posters “out” those who wish to remain anonymous, track their ISP addresses to reveal their physical locations, pose as people they are not—someone posted as Kercher, the victim, once—and make threatening posts about each other, as well as about the major players in the case, including Knox, her family, journalists, lawyers and prosecutors.

“Sometimes I briefly let my guard down, but I try to cancel when the comments are offensive or if people request it,” he told seattlepi.com.

While Italian Woman at the Table and Perugia Murder File require registration to post, Perugia Shock allows anonymous postings. There, people who leave anonymous comments have launched threats and accusations that cut both ways. A number of women associated with this case have been attacked online, not only for their opinions, but also for real or imagined physical traits.

Ganong and Seattle trial lawyer Anne Bremner have been targeted with a particular zeal, although Bremner said the positive feedback she has received has far outweighed the catty remarks. Ganong chalks it up to the fact that they are both outspoken, albeit on different levels. Bremner has appeared regularly on national television as a legal analyst for high-profile cases such as Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson and Mary Letourneau. On this case, she has been a vocal supporter of Knox, posted a letter on Perugia Shock and often represents the ad hoc Friends of Amanda group in media appearances.

“I am not a public personality,” Ganong said, “but I do somehow represent the other side—this whole other class of people in Seattle who are not on the bandwagon and are not buying the ‘railroad job from hell”’ argument that Knox is being wrongly prosecuted. Ganong told seattlepi.com that it wasn’t just months of targeted, rude remarks that pushed her to file the report. She finally went to police after posters published her husband’s first and last name, the approximate location of their home, information about their family life, as well as shopping and personal habits, much of which had been gleaned from public-records searches, Facebook and other online portals.

Before filing the report, she repeatedly requested that the profane comments and posting of personal information stop. Her exasperated husband, a Seattle accountant, even met Mellas for a beer in a Seattle tavern to talk face-to-face about various messages that had been posted.

But Mellas said he had no control over the blogosphere and actually had much bigger things to worry about.

“I told him I have nothing to do with it. I said proceed with whatever it is you are doing, find out who it is and at that point you’ll know I am not doing anything, and it is not coming from my network either, as far as I know,” said Mellas, who helps manage a network with more than 400 computer users. “Granted, I don’t sit around all day and audit all the network traffic.”

“Those people are not going to get the answer until they get the authorities involved and get some logged ISPs and find out where it is really coming from. I hope that when they do that they make that known.”

It is not the first time Mellas’ name has surfaced in a blogging controversy, however.

Before Perugia Murder File existed in its current form, it was moderated as a message board called The True Crime Weblog Message Board by one of the nation’s foremost true crime bloggers, Steve Huff. Huff now blogs professionally for the Village Voice Media’s True Crime Report. At one point the posts became so aggressive that Huff decided to do something he rarely does—post the IP address of the person commenting. The IP traced to a block of IP addresses managed by Mellas, and Huff took him to task publicly, claiming he had written or authorized the comments himself. Mellas, however, says that his work as a network manager overseeing an IP gateway means several hundred people are using computers (and IP addresses) that are linked to his name. He said someone could easily be impersonating him, pretending he or she is associated with him or writing messages without his knowledge, since several hundred people could access the Internet using the block of IP addresses he manages. An Internet Protocol address is an identifying number assigned to computers participating in an internet network.

Huff said one of the intimidating private messages accusing him of slander was sent to him via the contact form by “Mr. Anonymous,” who claimed to own the e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The contact form captured the IP address of the sender and was traced to a block of Internet Protocol addresses managed by Mellas, Huff said. While the message could have from anyone within his large network, Huff said he believes it was sent or approved by Mellas.

A similar address, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), which is cited in the police report, was also used to send two vulgar messages to a Newsweek reporter covering the case in Perugia. The message, sent from a Blackberry device, ended with the postscript, “You sound like you were abused as a child.”

According to Ganong, the threats online and to her own personal inbox are originating from the same Hotmail and Gmail addresses.

Another Seattle area couple, Kathleen and Randy Jackson, are also considering filing police reports. Both post under aliases on the Perugia Murder File site and have been criticized for attending a recent fund-raiser for Knox. Jackson, who said she is a former victim of sexual assault, said she went to the event because she felt Kercher’s memory was being overlooked in the effort to raise money for Knox.

“It had been announced everywhere as this high-profile fund-raiser, so I wanted to go where this big news was happening and show a different side of Seattle, because I grew up there, and I was embarrassed,” Kathleen Jackson said.

But after the couple did an interview on a local Seattle television station covering the event, the negative attention grew fiercer, but oddly, just toward Kathleen, who posts on Perugia Murder File as “Professor Snape.” Randy, an educational technology professional at the University of Washington who posts as “Fly By Night,” is just as active on the forum. “Both Kathleen and I talked to the reporter, but only she’s been called out,” Randy Jackson said. “These individuals seem to more frequently target women.”

Kathleen Jackson said using an anonymous online identity allowed her to express her strong views on the case. But when other anonymous posters began speculating about where she lived and worked, she began having second thoughts.

“Now that they want to find out who we are and tell the whole world, well, why do they want to do that?” she said. “I think they are trying to intimidate us to stop posting.” Supporters of Knox also have been targeted. Participants at Italian Woman at the Table spar, but controversial comments are often resolved briskly with Dempsey’s delete key. Until she began requiring commenters to register, she says, she received chilling death threats from anonymous posters certain of Knox’s guilt. Posters have inaccurately described her credentials, said Dempsey, and “outed” personal information about her family.

After seeking advice from local police, she implemented behind-the-scenes safety measures, but has not filed a formal report. Dempsey warned that those who blog using their real name should expect to have their privacy violated on the “no-rules Internet.” “Anybody who writes about a murder case will attract angry posters who are sure they know who did it,” she said.

That is exactly what happened to Huff, who decided it wasn’t an online community he wanted to court. “I’ve been a little shocked—but not that shocked—all along at the way the Knox/Kercher case has broken down to something more akin to a pitched political argument than a debate about a terrible, violent crime and the possible guilt of one of the accused,” Huff told seattlepi.com in an e-mail. He’s been particularly surprised by the network newsmagazines’ “pro-active efforts” to smear the prosecutor while painting Knox as “some innocent pixie college girl.” “There’s some larger statement afoot in that about American views and our culture of looks over authenticity, in my opinion,” Huff said. Huff said his opinion about guilt or innocence in the case is still flexible—he can see both sides and thinks the case could go either way, but the vicious online harassment—present from the onset but particularly intense just prior to the start of the trial—prompted him to dial back his participation.

“It was so pervasive and distasteful to me that as a blogger and now as a journalist I’ve all but washed my hands of covering the case,” Huff said.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Destructive Partying Of American Kids Leaving Italians Seriously Baffled

Posted by Fiori


George Lesser reports on a wild student scene. Click above to read his report

1) One incident: a callous and unexplainable death

In a bizarre incident, criminal charges have been filed against an American student in Florence. According to the police, she and a friend tried to trespass onto the grounds of a large, private villa.

A guard tried to stop them. There was a scuffle, and the friend received a knife wound in the leg. There was no firm indication whose knife it was.

The student and her friend walked a short distance to a public bench. He laid down, and she sat beside him. He slowly bled to death, with her sitting beside him with an unused cell phone.

Apparently she made no effort to help him, and she now claims she was so drunk she cannot remember anything.

The Italian authorities don’t know how to deal with her. Her inability to aid in her own defense is something they have not experienced.

2) And one insight into what might be going on:

A lawyer in Florence for one American college is asked about the problem.

The answer: “You think alcohol is the problem? I’ll tell you what the real problem is. They’re all on [prescription medications].

They’re all on Ritalin, or lithium, or anti-depressants, and they stop taking them, or they take them erratically.”

[And] they neglect to follow up on their referrals to local psychiatrists, raising liability concerns.

Smartening up over liability concerns? Yes, that might save some American parents some very big bucks.

And have them riding herd on behavior….


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Knox “Friends” Paul Ciolino & Co Smear Prosecutor Mignini As “An Out Of Control Maniac”

Posted by Peter Quennell





At the Salty’s hatefest in West Seattle, Paul Ciolino whipped up the crowd with a rant about Dr Mignini being “an out-of-control maniac”.

We see no proof. We check this whole point of view almost daily but we never, ever, ever get independent confirmation.  The BBC also checked it out and found zero proof of ANY of Ciolino’s wild-eyed claims.

We are repeatedly told that Mr Mignini is tough, fair, and effective, in an Italian system of justice where things are not particularly loaded on the side of the prosecution.

And that he has the reputation of being very, very caring of the victims and their families. The Kerchers have expressed their full confidence in him.

Also that Mr Mignini’s stepping-aside would probably make just about zero difference to the momentum of the case at this point.

There seems to be just too much suggestive evidence waiting to be explained, and a dozen careful judges have endorsed it as suggestive, and the strongly dominant mood in Italy seems to be one of: let us proceed.

Amanda Knox is of course very well represented by counsel. They have already shown irritation over attacks on the prosecutor.

Calling the prosecutor a maniac sure won’t be music to their ears. Is this whole PR campaign quite loopy, or what?!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Perhaps Associated Press Should Try Reporting The Odds?!

Posted by Peter Quennell

Click for larger images. Online polls on whether Amanda Knox will be found guilty. 

Gulp! The odds now [above] have become even more ominous than the odds one year ago [below]. 

Polling is by avid news followers. Probably only a small minority follow Meredith’s case specifically and seek to distort those polls

Obviously the PR campaign is doing a terrific job (!) Obviously the Associated Press is right to take it so seriously (!)


Monday, November 24, 2008

Does The Defense Campaign Really Have ANY Plan B?

Posted by Deathfish2000





[Added: This was posted in November 2008 after which the demonizers really got carried away; five years later, see how they are all in the soup]

The only ones to claim on the airwaves and in the papers lately that the defendants are being framed seem to be those who seem very out of touch with the facts as they look now.

As previously pointed out here, those very few in Perugia who actually have had access to the full tidal wave of evidence, in the still-sealed 10,000 pages, seem to go notably more quiet.

And not one of them has emerged yet to resume the cries of frame-up.

There have been three possible defenses. A mental or psychological defense, which might have flown, but which no-one has touched. A cool and dispassionate contending of known facts, and a shot at mitigating circumstances such as, it wasn’t planned, and, we were doped. And this peculiar and seemingly now failing “frame-up-of-true-innocents” defense.

The prime suspects in the case, Amanda Knox and her then flick-knife carrying boyfriend of the time, Raffaele Sollecito, now await the trial that starts in about 10 days. With prospects, frankly,  that do not now seem to be looking good at all. Plan A seems to be failing - and there seems to be no other plan.

They are jointly charged with murder, sexual violence, simulation of a crime, and theft - with Amanda Knox facing an additional charge of slander against the former employer she hurt. This was after an astonishingly cautious pre-trial phase, with the evidence being run past judge after judge and found credible again and again.

Rudy Guede was dispatched to serve his 30 year prison term for his part in the crime after opting for his separate fast track trial. His lawyer stated they had chosen that route as they believed Knox and Sollecito were conspiring to frame Guede. It seemed like it might turn out to be a smart strategy - perhaps the first in this case.

But he got no break from the judge. Why did he not - why did he get a stiff 30 year sentence?

Three possible reasons. One, the evidence is tough and very extensive,  it hangs together, and points to a truly depraved scene in the house. Two, Guede and his lawyer chose to contend some of it, but that “some” was quite marginal at best. And three, Guede chose not to come clean over what happened, even in the slightest, or to show any remorse.

Although they were not immediately taken into custody after the murder was discovered, Knox and Sollecito managed to make themselves into almost instant suspects. They themselves really knocked the pins out from under any good “they were framed” defense. Nearly a year ago now.

On initial questioning by the police as witnesses, Knox and Sollecito told conflicting stories, with Knox stating she was with Sollecito at his apartment all night.

Then Sollecito stated that Knox left around 9PM and returned at around 1AM (the period of the murder window).

In light of the failure of Alibi #1, Knox then claimed to have been in the house when Meredith was killed, and covered her ears to mask Meredith’s screams, as the kindly employer who she fingered, Patrick Lumumba, raped and then murdered Meredith.

This disarray in the alibis led to the arrest of all three as suspects - Lumumba of course was soon released though, as he really DID seem to have been framed. By Knox.

And since their arrests, Knox and Sollecito have both changed their stories several times. Knox has stated she is “confused” and suffered memory loss during the time when the murder happened. She finally reverted back to the statement she made early on, that she was at Sollecito’s all night, as the “best truth I can think of” story.

Her story would have changed again, if not for the intervention and advice of her then lawyer - fired by the Knox family for stating to reporters that Knox indeed intended to change her story again, and that Knox really must now start telling the truth.

None of this above is exactly a strong foundation on which to base a “they were framed” defense.

Knox’s mother has frequently appeared on TV in tears claiming no evidence, a position that really should have been moved away from months ago. And her father, notably in a British TV interview for Channel 4 TV, described the knife-obsessed and flick-knife carrying Sollecito a “nice kid” although he had never met him. He dismissed his flick knife and dagger collection as simply “art pieces”. Art pieces?

Equally indicative of a wrong strategy is the absence of any message of condolence to the Kercher family over the loss of their daughter and sister. Truly extraordinary. A great way to go - if you want to look callous, and by extension make your own daughter look callous. Did they get no good advice on this point, from any of their many advisers?

Since Meredith’s death, a veritable cottage industry based on the framed-innocent concept has sprung up in Knox’s home town of Seattle, with the “Free Amanda” campaign, the “Friends of Amanda Knox” and the “Amanda Defence Fund” to name but a few.

Are the Knoxes getting the financial help they say they need? It is hard to tell. The website asks for your donations of money and air-miles, and it displays images of Amanda Knox as a child, the implication being that an innocent child is not capable of such a crime as this.

Someone does seem to be doing very well. Online, you can buy tee-shirts, sweatshirts, ball caps, trucker caps, handbags, coffee mugs and teddybears all stamped “Made in the USA”. Emblazoned with an infamous image from the crime scene - the seemingly drug-addled Knox looking nervously at the camera. Tee shirts are available in any colour you like, and have “Free Amanda” printed underneath.

Who on earth invented this somewhat surreal and increasingly losing defense campaign? Whoever really though it would fly? Whoever thought it would keep Knox from a lifetime in jail - or knock even one year off her sentence if found guilty?

The strategy looks all the more incongruous when you look at the enormous contrast of the family of Meredith. The ones who really are victims in this horrific affair. 

Since the news of the senseless and tragic murder of Meredith hit the news just over one year ago, one could be forgiven for thinking that her family - the Kerchers, are nothing short of remarkable.

The inner strength and dignity they have displayed in their conduct this past year has moved so many people so much that websites like this have come to exist. To honor Meredith and the family, and to help to push back against those who would dismiss or dishonor them or make a profit from their grief.

Not once, not ever, have they lost their composure in what must be the worst situation for them to endure as a family that they have ever experienced in their lives. The loss due to a brutal moment of madness of their beloved daughter and sister, Meredith.

Quite a contrast with those who have not suffered equally, and whose campaign seems to increasingly comes across as illogical, unbelievable, and losing.

RIP to dear Meredith Kercher…



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