Hot tip for media: Ask Knox why she left Patrick Lumumba locked up for a full two weeks, though she was captured telling her mom Edda Mellas she'd lied about him. Despite Knox's myriad false claims, police did NOT make her do that - or make her write the noon 6 Nov "memoriale" while alone which does not exculpate Patrick. Also see all of this (very long read).
Category: Florence 2014+

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Real Catastrophe For The Defenses That Was The Chieffi Supreme Court Ruling

Posted by Machiavelli




1. Overview

On Tuesday March 26, nine judges of the Rome Supreme Court of Cassation led by the respected Dr Chieffi quashed the previous acquittals of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of Meredith Kercher.

The Supreme Court annulled almost the entirety of the 2011 Hellmann-Zanetti appeal verdicts, declaring the appeal outcome completely invalid on five of the six charges. The Court only upheld the sixth charge which made definitive Knox’s conviction for calunnia for which she had been sentenced to three years.

Calunnia is the crime of maliciously placing false evidence or testimony against an innocent person, something the Italian Criminal Code considers not as criminal defamation but as a form of obstruction of justice, a more serious offence. 

Worse for Knox, the Court annulled a part of the appeal verdict which had dropped the aggravation known as continuance, the aggravation that acknowledges a logical link between the obstruction of justice and the murder charge.   

2. First reactions

Once the dust has settled, the defendants and pro-Knox and pro-Sollecito supporters and defences may finally realize how severe a defeat has been dealt to their side. 

Most American journalists were completely unprepared for and very surprised at the outcome. But most Italian commenters and a very few others elsewhere considered the outcome quite predictable (the criminologist Roberta Bruzzone for example hinted so in written articles, so did Judge Simonetta Matone, as well as John Kercher in his book, and many others too).

This really is a catastrophe for the defences. A complete annulment of an acquittal verdict is just not frequent at all. They do occasionally occur, though, and this one appeared easily predictable because of the extremely low quality of the appeal verdict report. 

For myself I could hardly imagine a survival of the Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti outcome as being realistic.

I previously posted at length on the Galati-Costagliola recourse (that is an important read if you want to understand all angles of the annulment). I argued there that a Supreme Court acceptance of the verdict would have so jeopardized the Italian jurisprudence precedents on circumstantial evidence that it would have become impossible to convict anyone in Italy at all. 

The previous appeal trial obviously violated the Judicial Code as it was based on illegitimate moves such the appointing of new DNA experts for unacceptable reasons.  It contained patent violations of jurisprudence such as the unjustified dismissal of Rudy Guede’s verdict on a subset of the circumstantial evidence. Hellmann-Zanetti even “interpreted” the Constitution instead of quoting Constitutional Court jurisprudence.

They omitted a number of pieces of evidence, literally “forgetting” them or dismissing them without providing an argument (they should have, being an appellate trial based on the previous findings and arguments of the lower court). The appeal trial had obvious illogical contradictions on a macro level, such as the contradictory putting together of the conviction for calunnia and the acquittal on the murder charge (ignoring a logical link required by statute without introducing any reason at all). 

The Hellmann-Zanetti verdict was also based on an illogical processing of all pieces of evidence (such as the dismissal of Nara Capezzali’s evidence without logical reason, even after calling her “credible,” and that of Quintavalle; and attributing the bloody footprint to Rudy Guede on the basis of some ludicrous reasoning).

The appeal verdict basically ignored the concept of “a contrario” evidence, like concluding that the luminol footprints are probably not in blood but in some other substance and not related to the murder (despite failure to indicate any alternative substance nor any reasonable scenario).

The verdict was also biased with open prejudice in favor of two of the suspects in assuming they would be unlikely to even socialize or hang out together with the third, based on social or racial discrimination (two whites from good-looking families are called “good fellows” while the third is “different”). 

Beyond the glaring, major faux pas in procedure, the verdict’s low quality, unlawfulnesses, and hypocrisy in its reasoning tended to be pervasive and obvious through all its paragraphs, and possibly this also could have caused an aura of distrust toward the work of the Hellmann-Zanetti court. 

One could assess the strikingly low quality of the appeal verdict especially by comparing it to a sophisticated recourse such as the 100-page Galati-Costagliola Supreme Court appeal. While nobody could anticipate with total certainty the Supreme Court decision between the Galati-Costagliola appeal and the Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti appeal verdict, to good legal eyes the outcome would be as uncertain as the result of an England versus San Marino football game!

EACH of the eleven single mistakes, plus EACH of the six “method” mistakes pointed out in the Galati-Costagliola recourse could by itself have been a sufficient cause for the annulment of the acquittals.

The redundancy of reasons and remarks by Cassation sheds light on the judgment shortcomings from many different angles, and all the reasons presented for the recourse were certainly assessed by the Supreme Court. 

But on the practical side, most probably the Hellmann-Zanetti verdict did not even survive beyond the first mistake. The appeal verdict most likely crumbled completely from the very beginning on reason #1, the illegitimate appointing of new experts by Hellmann-Zanetti to re-examine the DNA.   

But even given that the defences’ defeat could be foreseen, I never expected the defeat to pervade to this extent.

I thought the appeal verdict might be quashed entirely and a new appeal would start from scratch. But the Supreme Court went further and decided to “save” only the parts of the verdict that were unfavorable to Knox, and declared her conviction for calunnia definitive.

Meanwhile, the Court accepted the Calati-Costagliola reason #10, and quashed the part that denied a logical link between calunnia and murder.
 
The Supreme Court thus sends Raffaele Solecito and Amanda Knox back to appeal trial, but this time Amanda Knox will enter the trial as a felony convict with a definitive criminal record, which ““ the Supreme Court hints ““ is to be considered logically linked with the charge of murder. 

Moreover, judges in the appeal that will come next in Florence will have to follow the decisions set by the Supreme Court. Since the Supreme Court’s motivations report has not been issued yet, we still don’t know what points exactly Cassazione will make. But we can expect that several arguments used by Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti that were “needed” to acquit Knox and Sollecito will be now declared illegitimate. 

This might mean that we will not see for a second time such faulty reasoning as “Knox’s statement can’t be used as evidence of lying because it is not true.” It may not be possible to dismiss the verdict that found Guede guilty of concurring in murder “with others” from the set of evidence just because it was “weak.” It may not be possible to deduce the time of death based only on declarations of Rudy Guede. 

We also may not have a chance to again see an expert declaring that contamination is “likely” on the sole basis that “everything is possible.” We also may not have another judge attributing footprints without talking about any measurements.






The Supreme Court session began on March 25, and it is only a rare event that a Cassazione session extends over into two days.

The first criminal division of the Supreme Court ““ scheduled to decide on this case ““ was a five-judge panel presided over by Dr Severo Chieffi. His name never did sound like a particularly favorable omen for Knox and Sollecito. Dr Chieffi is a 70-year-old judge, known for being the author of a famous 2008 verdict which definitively closed a notorious criminal case (“the first time a Cassazione hearing attracted massive live media attention”), a verdict among the most quoted in jurisprudence which is known as that “on reasonable doubt.” 

Dr Chieffi and his nine-judge panel explained reasonable doubt as to be intended as an “a contrario” concept, the concept used to formulate a logical reasonable alternative. That verdict pointed out the concept of “reasonable” and also stressed that the nature of evidence is “logical”. “Reasonable” depends only on the plausibility of alternatives, not on how conclusive or reliable single pieces of circumstantial evidence are, and a piece of evidence does not require any specific “physical” element or conclusive quality.   

The rapporteur judge was Dr Piera Maria Severina Caprioglio. The rapporteur judge goes through the papers of the whole trial and summarizes their content to the other panel judges; the rapporteur and the president are the two who physically write the report (it may sound like irony that both judges have the adjective “severe” in their name). I was told Dr Caprioglio was a rather stiff judge, known for her scrupulosity in procedure matters, and she is also a specialist “and hard liner“ about sexual crime (maybe that’s why she was chosen by Dr Chieffi as the one to do the research on this case). 

At the Supreme Court there is also an office known as the Office of Procurator General, which has more than 50 magistrates. The Procurator General appoints a magistrate (normally called the “PG”) to study cases and to make arguments on all cases dealt with in Supreme Court sessions. The PG is considered “neutral” in the sense that their office represents no party only the “precedents” of the court. While the rapporteur makes a description of the case, the procurator makes arguments about the recourses submitted by the parties. 

At 10:30 am on Monday, Judge Caprioglio begun her 90-minute speech summarizing the case. She detailed legal events that led to the first Massei-Cristiani verdict, and then the appeal trial led by Hellmann-Zanetti and their verdict. 

She sounded rather neutral; hers was a sheer summary with no comment attached. Nevertheless, it sounded most ominous for the defences: right from Dr Caprioglio’s speech, in fact, Knox and Sollecito’s attorneys understood that they were going to lose. 

This is because Dr Caprioglio devoted half of her rapporteur time or more to detailing Massei’s first degree trial and verdict, explaining the arguments and evidence used by the Massei court. Such attention was itself ominous to the defences. 

A main basis of the Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti verdict is in fact a series of denials about the work of the lower court, in which plenty of evidence was simply ignored or dismissed without dealing with the first degree conclusions; while the strategy of Giulia Bongiorno was to entirely “replace” the details of the evidence set with a self-made narrative, quite unattached to actual trial events, which somewhat “worked” as rhetoric and in the media.

Yet Dr Caprioglio was not yet the biggest problem facing Knox and Sollecito. The defence was about to face a pincer front, because the Procurator General’s offices did not appreciate the appeal verdict at all.

A bomb went off with the speech of Procurator Riello which followed next. 

Dr Riello recalled the points of recourse submitted by Galati-Costagliola, which may sound technical or subtle to those unaccustomed to them. Dr Riello endorsed the radical censures made by Galati-Costagliola and made clear his own view in an overview of the whole verdict. His arguments had the subtlety of an anvil. 

To summarize, he basically maintained the appeal judges had conducted an appeal trial as if they were idiots, and followed the paths of logic, procedure and law like sailors without a compass.
 
Seen from the point of view of the Procurator General, their way of conducting the appeal trial itself was like a journey through a dreadful series of unlawful steps, decisions informally taken without deliberation, and arbitrary and unjustified ordinances. The court simply “lost their way.”

In the body of their findings, it seems they understood almost nothing about the evidence ““ in particular about how circumstantial evidence works. They did not deal with the findings and arguments of the first instance court as they should have, as if they didn’t exist, and they trivialized the previous legal material. 

In fact Dr Riello sounded almost sarcastic; outraged by the incredibly amateurish work of this appeal court, he tended to detail the merit of questions and was interrupted by the president asking him to stick to the discussion on the table. 

At the close of his speech, he called the appeal verdict “a rare concentration of law violation, a monument to illogicality.” He said “the judge of merit lost their way in this trial.” Dr Riello noted “they fragmented, they parceled out the pieces of circumstantial evidence.”

He implied not only incompetence but a kind of disingenuous attitude: “The Court employed a fair dose of snobbism for trivializing the first degree verdict, reducing it to four elements. A very imprecise and superficial synthesis.”

He went beyond the criticism expressed in the Galati-Costagliola appeal when he described an obvious bias of the appeal court “not in just a few passages of the second instance verdict ““ it’s as if the defendants should benefit from a kind of anthropological and cultural immunity, in relation to the events.”

He criticized Pratillo Hellmann’s dismissal of Amanda Knox’s handwritten memoir, and recommended that a new appeal trial must in part be based on that statement as “it is a usable document”; and he stressed that in his opinion “the scream heard by Amanda is a significant datum, of great importance.” The behavior claimed by Knox on the morning of November 2, 2007 in his view was “chilling” and her taking a shower in a cold bathroom is a “chilling detail.” 

Dr Riello concludes by saying: “These are all conditions for not letting the curtains close on an upsetting and extremely serious crime for which the only culprit found up to the present day is Rudy Hermann Guede, who has been addressed through a Lombroso-style assessment, either calling him a thief, a criminal or a drifter. He didn’t confess and he was not convicted by another court for concurring in a crime together with others, maybe with ‘ectoplasms.’” (A reference to Cassation’s previous decision that he did commit the crime with others, but Hellmann-Zanetti identified no other people; hence ‘ectoplasms.’)

The Prosecutor General also dealt with the DNA experts’ report which defined the previous results as “unreliable.” He implied that the report and its language were used as a pretext by the defences “as a tombstone, while in fact it is not.” It was used as a tool to focus the trial on the DNA and steer it away from the whole evidence set, to “bury the set of pieces of circumstantial evidence which all have their vital value.”

The rhetoric of the defences aimed to “blame everything on those involved in the scientific police who are almost depicted as bunglers; however they are not brigadiers playing with toy chemical sets, they are in fact a highly qualified department and they do employ cutting-edge technologies.”

A severe legal bashing like the Riello speech is not at all common at the Cassazione. As I heard the news on the radio, law experts commented that the event was unusually serious, and they hinted that its consequences may lead to the setting of a historic jurisprudence precedent.

Francesco Maresca ““ who brought his mentor Vieri Fabiani with him ““ endorsed the recourse points and made points similar to Dr Riello’s. He pointed out that a major flaw of the appeal trial was to focus on two DNA instances as if the case was based on them. The court appointed experts to review items with no legitimate basis, they provided an inconsistent explanation for their steps, and then they refused to analyze and introduce further evidence, totally contradicting themselves and also violating the code.

Their criteria for choosing which piece of evidence to discuss or review were totally contradictory, and their series of steps egregiously violated a series of procedural conditions that any court is supposed to follow.

The analyzing of the knife DNA sample and bra clasp sample as pieces in isolation is a sort of device that serves a defence made-up narrative; the focus on “disputed” items and the re-make of a narrative about legal events is simply a defence strategy which is aimed at the media rather than official court proceedings. For the Kercher family, the evidence points to the guilt of Knox and Sollecito beyond reasonable doubt. 

The evidence, explained Maresca, consisted of numerous pieces of evidence and reasoning, that were simply not dealt with by the appeal court. The whole process was “non-transparent” and the result is also contradictory given that Knox is indicted by her own words on the crime of calunnia.

Maresca explained that the appeal verdict is riddled with many flaws and errors in the merit of the facts which cannot be assessed by the Cassazione court, but there are also patent violations of law which are “strong and obvious” and of the most serious kind.






Then it was the defence attorneys’ turn. Giulia Bongiorno knew she would need to apply the full power of her best rhetorical skills: she pointed out a factual error in the recalling of Prosecutor Riello and threw herself head-first into the merit of the evidence. 

She even made FOA-style overstatements on the number of Guede’s DNA instances: “So many genetic traces of Rudy Guede were found in the bedroom of the murder, Amanda and Raffaele’s DNA would have been found too if they had been there.” (Her claim is false: in fact, only four samples yielding Guede’s DNA were found in the bedroom, and some were very scant.)
 
Bongiorno focused on investigation mistakes and complained that Raffaele Sollecito “was put in jail because of a shoe print found beyond the duvet which covered the body, a print that was attributed to Guede.” She also commented on Knox’s handwritten memoir and again put forward the claim ““ already rejected by all the judges of all instances ““ that the statement should be “not usable” because there was a “blackout” of defendant guarantees. Apparently, Bongiorno did understand that the most dangerous threat, and the actual battleground, would be about the danger of having Knox now definitively convicted for calunnia. 

Bongiorno said “we do not want to put the scientific police on trial” but then said the point defence demonstrated was that they made “an infinite series of errors.” In fact, Bongiorno’s speech largely consisted of the well-known defense stance of pointing the finger at a list of supposed wrong-doings by the police.

Bongiorno’s argument of pointing out supposed “police mistakes” would probably ring true to Knox’s Amarican supporters, who may find these arguments convincing and effective. 

In fact, it was obvious that Bongiorno’s position was extremely weak, and that her arguments were not going to have any effect. The weakness of Bongiorno’s arguments was obvious from the start because she backed into arguing the case only on the merit of investigation techniques. 

Her arguments would maybe resonate effectively with uninformed spectators, but they had already failed in those courts that were legitimate, and they have no consequence from a legal standpoint. Talking about supposed mistakes during the investigation and supposed bad behavior of police are good to build a narrative for journalists, but they would have zero effect on expert judges. 

I think she knew she was going to lose, but besides being a lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno is also a smart public person, and she plays in the public arena as well as in a court of law at the same time. Her technical stances are all wrong, but she knows she will be remembered well for her good-looking performance. 

The president did not interrupt her, showing due politeness toward the defence attorneys. But no attorney would convince the Supreme Court by simply saying “we demonstrated that the investigators made mistakes.”

In order to seek to obtain some positive effect, she should have argued in favor of the Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti appeal verdict on points of law, and put forward arguments for their legitimacy; for example, an argument in response to point #1 of Galati’s recourse claiming that the appointing of DNA experts was unmotivated.

Luciano Ghirga and Carlo Dalla Vedova had to take care of their own recourse against the conviction for calunnia on the false accusation of Patrick Lumumba. Their line of defence on this point was the same ““ and could be nothing else ““ than what they maintained though all the previous instances. Dalla Vedova deals with the handwritten note where he understands “Amanda says she is confused, she does not care about what she said.”

They reintroduced the myth that “she had been interrogated by the investigators for 54 hours.” They explain ““ almost a paradoxical argument ““ that the document was “a defensive paper” while then becoming one of the elements on which the charge of calunnia was built. They stressed that “she wanted to cooperate” with the investigation and that “she was a friend of Meredith.” 

A failure of their arguments was easily predictable because their recourse was built on points that had already failed at lower instances. Some time ago before this appeal, I posted this criticism of the Ghirga-Dalla Vedova recourse on Knox’s calunnia conviction to the Supreme Court:

Pages 3-11: The first argument is about the non-usability of the evidence for the crime of calunnia.

Such an argument is basically the re-proposal of the same argument that had been already dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2008, and subsequently by Massei-Cristiani in 2009 and also by Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti. Therefore, it is an especially weak argument. Ghirga-Dalla Vedova do attempt to use it again at the Supreme Court because it is what they have.

Just like Giulia Bongiorno will likely recall it too, just like she attempted to request of nullification of Stefanoni’s testimony on procedure grounds before Massei, which was rejected again by Hellmann-Zanetti (the Knox supporters have such a spun perception of the proceedings, they apparently don’t see how some basic defensive claims were rejected by all judges).

Pages 11-14 complete the first argument, addressing the further requirements of the crime of calunnia (maliciousness and voluntarity). 

Basically, this point contends that the false accusation was not voluntary or not malicious. The only usable point in my opinion in this reasoning consists of one line, which recalls that Hellmann-Zanetti did not acknowledge the aggravation of continuance for the crime of calunnia. But this point has no consequence because it is a weak point in Hellmann’s verdict itself which violates jurisprudence and logic itself.

The other claims at this point are basically useless; they attack the Hellmann verdict in a way peculiar to the prosecution appeal with an opposite stance. But in fact “not knowing” that someone is factually innocent obviously cannot be extended to an absolute meaning; Hellmann is illogical on that, because he dismisses the logical link with the murder without explanation. 

Pages 14-18 speak about the alleged “extreme exhaustion” of Knox in order to exculpate her of her confusion and falsehood.

This argument tends to be a stronger attempt to use some of the contradiction in Pratillo Hellmann-Zanetti, using as a starting point the fact that H-Z did state that Knox was allegedly under excessive pressure. They convicted her for calunnia nonetheless. I think this argument won’t go too far, for two reasons.

First, because it’s basically on the merits; it quotes the whole writing of Knox and requests the SC to directly re-assess the sincerity of her words, something which the SC are unlikely to do.

Second, because while on the one hand there is a contradiction in H-Z as they accuse her of calunnia but do not use her writings as an evidence of lying on the other crime, and they reject the continuance despite the obvious link between the calunnia and the murder, on the other hand the contradiction addressed by Ghirga is weaker. There was in fact no factual finding about “excessive pressure,” neither in the H-Z appeal trial nor in previous Massei testimonies.

As for jurisprudence, pressure and “psychological alteration” itself is not enough to cause a loss of mental faculties to understand and will. Basically, most crimes are committed in a state of psychological stress or alteration, and people are responsible for themselves notwithstanding. The faculty to understand and will is not a psychological condition; it is something that affects the cognitive and decisional functioning of the brain on more basic functions, and requires a medical assessment.

So there is no way the argument of Ghirga-Dalla Vedova can overturn a conviction for calunnia based on an argument of psychological conditions: they have no basis; and there is no consistent ground to assert “excessive pressure” either. 

Pages 19-20 is a very short argument about two articles of the code that Ghirga puts in in relation to a case of defensive rights. 

This is an argument I am unable to assess clearly. This point basically claims Knox is somehow protected by the law because of an extension of her rights of defence. I have the feeling this point is wrong, because the boundaries of the right to defend oneself are already fixed and limited by a SC ruling of 2008, and because Article 51 only applies to what she declared as a defendant, but not to what she declared as a witness.

Pages 20-22 is only about the sentencing and not about innocence; it claims that, anyway, even if Amanda is guilty of calunnia, the punishment was too stiff and this severity was not logically motivated by Hellmann. This point is the only that could stand, in my opinion.

After the hearing of March 25 ““ which was the ninth case the Supreme Court panel dealt with that day ““ the panel deliberated for six hours, then adjourned the hearing and scheduled the final decision for the following morning.

The question whether to annul the verdict entirely, or to confirm the calunnia conviction, might have been the cause of some of the extra time needed. 

When the Supreme Court has to deal with scheduled cases the relator puts a mark ““ between 1 and 8 ““ indicating the difficulty of the case: 1 is the easiest and 8 is very complex. 

Almost all recourses are below 3, while a case like the one on the Narducci investigation a week earlier, involving Mignini, could have been closer to 8. The difficulty of this case is unknown. But because of some sensitive jurisprudence involved and because of the articulation of the recourses, this could have been around 6 or higher.

After retirement of the court, and adjournment to the subsequent day, at 10 am on March 26, the court’s dispositivo was the following:

ENDING THE RESERVATION FROM THE HEARING OF 03-25-2013, [THE COURT] DECIDES AS FOLLOWS: ANNULS THE IMPUGNED VERDICT, LIMITED TO THE CRIMES UNDER CHARGES:  A) (INTO WHICH CHARGE C) IS ABSORBED), B), D), E), AND TO THE AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCE UNDER C.P. ART. 61 NO.2 IN RELATION TO CHARGE F), AND REMANDS [THE CASE] TO THE CORTE DI ASSISE DI APPELLO OF FLORENCE FOR A NEW TRIAL. REJECTS THE APPEAL OF AMANDA MARIE KNOX, WHOM IT SENTENCES TO THE PAYMENT OF COURT COSTS AS WELL AS REIMBURSEMENT OF EXPENSES INCURRED IN THE PRESENT PROCEEDINGS BY CIVIL PARTY DIYA LUMUMBA, IN THE AMOUNT OF 4000 (FOUR THOUSAND) EUROS, IN ADDITION TO I.V.A. AND C.P.A., PLUS GENERAL EXPENSES ACCORDING TO LAW.

Thus, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are sent back to appeal trial in Florence on all charges related to the rape and murder of Meredith Kercher (a, b, c, d, e). And Knox is definitively declared guilty of the obstruction of justice charge known as calunnia, while the argument denying any logical link between the calunnia and the murder is quashed.

Resources used

The article above draws in part upon a translation into English of news information published by various Italian press sources, which our readers may like to look at directly. A good coverage of the case ““ including Riello’s speech ““ was broadcast by RaiNews 24 and they also have a lot of information on the website. Online updates were provided by Televideo. Commentaries and discussions were hosted on Radio1 - GR Rai. Dr Riello’s comments were reported by Il Fatto Quotidiano and Style.it. There were reports on Libero Italy.it. Also details and chronicles were reported at the end of the day by Il Giornale dell’Umbria. Coverage and the quotes for March 25 were provided by AGI. The dispositivo official document was obtained and published by Andrea Vogt.

 


Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Overview From Italy Of The Galati-Costagliola Appeal To The Supreme Court Of Cassation

Posted by Machiavelli





1. About Dr Galati

Dr Giovanni Galati is the Procurator General of Perugia, and one of the two magistrates at the highest function currently working in the Region of Umbria.

Until early 2011 he worked in Rome as a Procurator General at the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome. His life and career had nothing to do with Perugia. A native of Calabria, he spent the last and most important part of his career in Rome, and moved to Perugia only quite recently.

Working as a deputy chief prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Cassation, he developed an expertise as a “cassationist” magistrate. That means specialized in legitimacy issues, and in this role he handled several high profile cases. Among them was the recent one of Salvatore Cuffaro, the former governor of Sicily, now in jail.

Cuffaro was convicted for having favored the mafia and was sentenced to seven years. The governor was found guilty by the appeal court, but Galati impugned the sentencing by the Supreme Court on one specific aspect: while he agreed Cuffaro was guilty, he considered there was only evidence of common crime, while the lower courts failed to provide the legal requirements for proof of the aggravating circumstance of the mafia-related kind of crime.

In Galati’s opinion, Cuffaro was still corrupt and a criminal, and the difference may seem like a minor detail. His conclusion was not to overturn the verdict, but only to reduce the aggravating circumstance and shorten the prison term. Galati made the point and won, the Supreme Court cut one and a half year off Cuffaro’s prison term.

One thing to note is that the majority of Galati’s recourses are appeals in favor of the defendant. The Prosecution General, the office that brings cases to the Supreme Court, deals with procedure and legitimacy issues. Its aim is to ensure consistency and quality of work of the criminal courts.

It does not deal directly with the merit of evidence, but in fact, since the assessment of the evidence is a matter of internal logical consistency and consistency with trial actions, as well as respecting of procedure and of Supreme Court jurisprudence, the scrutiny of the lower court’s process obviously indirectly involves an assessment of the quality of evidence, and on the quality of the lower court’s reasoning on all factual points.

Giancarlo Costagliola was of course the lead prosecutor for the Hellmann-Zanetti appeal.


2. About the appeal

The Galati-Costigliola appeal is a 112-page document, with citations in an appendix to each chapter remanding to trial documents (technically the cited documents have to be considered included in the submission). The Supreme Court of Cassation however will have the entitlement of going through the whole trial documentation.

The Galati-Costagliola Appeal to the Supreme Court immediately looks different in quality and content from the previous court documents that we have seen up to now on the case. As we read it in Italian, it looks well written (except for a few grammar mistakes in the Latin parts) and stylistically homogeneous.

It dedicates extensive parts to the philosophy of law, and it includes several quotes of Supreme Court jurisprudence in the introductory and conclusive chapters.

It is an unusual appeal. Contrary to most appeals submitted by Galati as Procurator General, this one does not raise objections simply on parts of the sentencing, conclusions, or points of reasoning. Instead it attacks the verdict in its entirety. It attacks indeed all logical points and conclusions, including the part about calunnia, for which Knox was found guilty. And it goes even beyond.

Besides disputing the single points on the merit, it contains an explicit and more general attack on the whole appeal court’s approach to the case, against the general quality of their reasoning and their handling of trial and procedure, as well as against even their behavior even before the beginning of the trial discussion. There is an introductory part, and one conclusion part, which are dedicated to this kind of general criticism toward the entirety of the judges’ work.

At the beginning the document presents the summary of the ten reasons for appeal which, in Galati-Costagliola’s opinion, fatally affect the legitimacy of the judgment.

The ten questions of merit are the following:

1.  The illegitimacy of Hellmann’s admission of new expert witnesses (Vecchiotti and Conti). The appointing of new experts violates the code. Galati-Costagliola clearly explains why, using both Supreme Court jurisprudence and Criminal Procedure Code. It addresses and shows the multiple instances of lack of reasoning in Hellmann’s explanations on the point, the “contradictory nature of reasoning” and its “manifest illogicality” in light of the law.


2.  The failure to acquire elements of evidence. Galati-Costagliola focuses specifically on the rejection of witness testimonies, above all 1) the refusal to again hear the witness Aviello, and 2) the refusal of new tests on the knife. These decisions were taken in violation of Articles 190, 238 paragraph 5 and 495 paragraph 2 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and in violation of Article 606 (c) and (d) of the Criminal Procedure Code. There is manifest illogicality of the judgment on the point.


3.  The establishing of the unreliability of the witness Quintavalle. The method declared to assess reliability of the witness violates the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court on the topic, and the insufficient reasoning violates Article 606(b) and (e) of the Criminal Procedure Code.


4.  The establishing of the unreliability of the witness Curatolo. The reasons expressed are illogical, prejudicial, and violate the Criminal Procedure Code.


5.  The claimed timing of the death of Meredith Kercher demonstrates a manifest illogicality in the reasoning, contains an unfounded assessment, and is manifestly in contrast with other court documentation of the case. The internal and external inconsistencies of Hellmann’s statements on the topic constitute a violation of the Criminal Procedure Code.


6.  The genetic investigations: coverage of this topic in Hellmann’s sentencing report demonstrates deficiency in the reasoning, and inconsistency and illogicality [Article 606(e) Criminal Procedure Code]


7.  The analysis of the prints and traces (stains) demonstrates deficiency in the reasoning, and a contradictory nature and illogicality in the reasoning [Article 606(e) Criminal Procedure Code]


8.  The presence of Knox and Sollecito at Via della Pergola on the night of the murder: misrepresentation of the evidence presented is demonstrated and illogicality of the reasoning [Article 606 paragraph 1(e) Criminal Procedure Code]. Violation of procedural rules and illogicality of the reasoning [Article 606 paragraph 1(b) and (e) Criminal Procedure Code] are demonstrated.


9.  The staging of the break-in (simulation of a crime): demonstration of deficiency in the reasoning and manifest illogicality of the same [Article 606(e) Criminal Procedure Code]


10. The exclusion of aggravation in the calunnia offence: the contradictory nature or manifest illogicality of the reasoning is demonstrated, also defects resulting from internal and external inconsistence with the court documents of the case: starting with the declarations by Patrick Diya Lumumba, and those by the accused, Amanda Knox, and the contents of the conversation between the latter and her mother on 10 November 2007 [Article 606(e) last part, Criminal Procedure Code].

However, the ten reasons listed above are not all of Galati-Costagliola’s arguments. Their explanations cover the core (80%) of the Hellmann-Zanetti sentencing document. But even before entering into these reasons on the merit, Galati-Costagliola make a preliminary point, a “premise” to the whole document.

The “premise” takes twenty pages and this alone is telling about the gravity of the criticism Dr Galati is going to make throughout the whole appeal document.  The premise warns the readers (the judges of the Supreme Court) that in fact there is a problem of quality pervading the whole of Hellmann’s and Zanetti’s work which affects deeply their reasoning and conclusions on multiple occasion and in multiple concurring ways.

He makes clear that his criticism of Hellmann is methodological, and he points to the trial as a whole from the roots, far beyond the single topic of errors exposed in the appeal.

The “premise” of preliminary points, a short essay in itself, has its own summary of six points, each one to explain a typology of recurrent error committed by Hellmann and Zanetti. In the premise Galati explains four of the types of error, while the last two are discussed in the further chapters together with some of the points on the merit.

These are the six types of error:

1.  One error “of method” affecting the logical process is the “petitio principii”, which Galati-Costagliola addresses as a recurrent, structural and pervasive method of reasoning used by Hellmann-Zanetti.

It is “begging the question”, a kind of empty circular reasoning. This is demonstrated in several chapters and points. For Hellmann-Zanetti’s reasoning, Galati-Costagliola reserve the names “paradoxical”, “disconcerting”, “useless”, “circular”, and worse in this same tone.


2.  The failure to apply the inferential-inductive method to assess circumstantial evidence. This is a key point based on jurisprudence and is in fact a devastating general argument against Hellmann-Zanetti:

The appeal to Cassation’s jurisprudence on the circumstantial case originates from the fact that the Assize Appeal Court did not deploy a unified appreciation of the circumstantial evidence and did not examine the various circumstantial items in a global and unified way.

With its judgment it has, instead, fragmented the circumstantial evidence; it has weighed each item in isolation with an erroneous logico-judicial method of proceeding, with the aim of criticizing the individual qualitative status of each of them ..


Dr Galati accuses the appeal court of focusing on the quality of some pieces of circumstantial evidence, instead of their correlation to each other as the Supreme Court always requires. .

The appeal judges, in actual fact, deny that the probative reasoning and the decisive and cognitive proceeding of the court is to be found in the circumstantial evidence paradigm of the hypothetico-probabilistic kind, in which the maxims of experience, statistical probability and logical probability have a significant weight.

The court must reach a decision by means of the “inductive-inferential” method: it proceeds, by inference, from individual and certain items of data, through a series of progressive causalities, to further and fuller information, so arriving at a unification of them in the context of [13] the reconstructed hypothesis of the fact.

This means that the data, informed and justified by the conclusions, are not contained in their entirety in the premises of the reasoning, as would have happened if the reasoning were of the deductive type “¦ (..) A single element, therefore, concerning a segment of the facts, has a meaning that is not necessarily unambiguous.

Dr Galati cites and explains further:

The Perugia Court of Appeal has opted, instead, precisely for the parceled-out evaluation of individual probative elements, as if each [14] one of them must have an absolutely unambiguous meaning, and as if the reasoning to be followed were of the deductive type.

This error emerges from the text of the judgment itself, but the gravity of the error committed by the Court in its decision derives from the fact that even the individual elements had been acquired by the cognitive-decisioning process in a totally partial manner, isolating the sole aspect that allowed the recognizing of doubts and uncertainties in the element itself..

So Galati-Costagliola concludes ““ and this by now is obvious ““ that the Hellmann-Zanetti court followed a “deductive only” paradigm on pieces in isolation, instead of the “inferential-inductive” paradigm prescribed by Supreme Court requirements (1995).

Moreover, Hellmann-Zanetti applied a deductive paradigm of assessment only to some cherry picked aspects of the single isolated pieces of evidence, overlooking other qualities of the single piece (an example ““ my own ““ is the possible “contamination” of the bra clasp found on the floor in the murder room.) Ordering an assessment of the quality of any element as if it was a proof in isolation from the rest of the evidence is itself unlawful.

But Hellmann”“Zanetti also picked out of the evidence one aspect alone, for example it points to the theoretical possibility of contamination by touching from gloves, but does not consider the negative check results from the possible contamination sources. The interpretation of X-DNA from the bra-clasp by Vecchiotti in the conclusion is worded as if to ignore the results on the Y-haplotype, and so on.

So even single aspects/qualities of isolated items are further isolated from other aspects by Hellmann-Zanetti, and are assessed without looking for a relationship to the context. This is a core violation of the basics of jurisprudence in cases based on circumstantial evidence.


3.  Refusal to acquire documentation as evidence: the definitive Guede verdict. Hellmann-Zanetti refused to acquire the documentation and to consider it a piece of evidence, without any backing from procedure jurisprudence and without providing any justification.

By doing this the Hellmann court was again violating the legal boundaries. The Galati-Costagliola appeal considers this as one more type of violation, the refusal to attribute any kind of probative value to the definitive verdict on Guede, thus violating Article 238 of the Criminal Procedure Core, and bringing up a manifestly illegitimate justification. The violation is quite egregious under the code.


4.  Failure to assess and to weight key elements, among which is Knox’s written “memoir”. This is a severe violation of article 237 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The usability of Knox’s “memoir” as well as its probative value were already established by the Supreme Court itself, and it was admitted into the process. Hellmann-Zanetti fail to provide the slightest logical explanation for changing the established assessment and disregarding that evidence.


5.  The failure to acquire possibly important pieces of evidence. Galati-Costagliola are focused mainly on two points: 1) the knife, and the refusal of having it further tested for DNA; 2) the refusal to hear Aviello after his retraction of his claims.

We know that, while the testimony of Aviello might be just not credible because of his proven unreliability, and while some may argue that thus his testimony was not “decisive”, the testing of DNA found on the knife would be a piece of evidence for sure.

But the Procurator General points out that the refusal to hear Aviello is part of a severe violation, because the Hellmann motivazioni accepts his retraction statement, considering it thus reliable, but throws out some parts of it and refuses to hear him as a witness.

So the Galati-Costagliola appeal statement includes quotes of some shocking lines from Aviello’s interrogation, to show the heavy nature of it that cannot be thrown out without assessment

A twisting of words - like “cutting-edge” which becomes “experimental” in Hellmann’s reasoning - is the illogical justification for Hellmann-Zanetti forbidding a further DNA test. The motivation is obviously bogus, and Galati backs the point with quotes from Novelli’s tehnical explanation.


6.  Galati-Costagliola address a pervasive violation, claiming it recurs multiple times in the document: a violation of a kind called “misrepresentation of the evidence”.

This is when the judge omits aspects of the pieces of evidence that would contradict their conclusion, expressing an obvious cognitive bias. The appeal describes this violation in different chapters (5,6,8) as occurring in the process of assessing different pieces of evidence, including witness reports, wiretappings, and other items.



3. My own assessment of the Galati appeal

As you can guess from the summary above, the appeal is rather strong, and explains many heavy implications in Italian jurisprudence so that it would be difficult for the Supreme Court to reject it. 

Difficult not only because the kind of objections raised by Galati-Costagliola are devastating to Hellmann’s legitimacy (in fact it’s even more, they tend to form a picture of manipulation of the trial); and not only because Hellmann’s verdict appears to be devastating to jurisprudence generally, so much so that it would become impossible to rule on guilt in many other cases; and not only because a verdict that puts together the conviction for calunnia (a felony crime with malice) and the acquittal for murder, has a contradiction on a macro-level.

But also diificult because the same office of Cassation has already issued another definitive verdict, on the Rudy Guede case. They acknowledged that Guede did not act alone, and the Supreme Court themselves even obtained independently some elements of evidence of this, which had not been considered by the previous judges.

Accepting Hellmann-Zanetti and rejecting Galati would equate to cancel Guede’s verdict. It would require a re-write of the entire process from scratch.

Galati-Costagliola shed light on many points in good order, so I tend to be optimistic and confident in the strength of the appeal.

However I also believe there could have been something more, to make it even more strong. There are a few points ““ in my opinion - still missing, which I would have added. Four points that I miss are the following:

1.  There is no mention about the analysis ““ or the lack thereof - of Knox’s lies, aka the inconsistencies in her story, her “mop-shower” alibi version, what she told prior to her false accusation. There was a partial analysis of this area of evidence in Massei, who only mentioned her lying about her behavior before Meredith’s closed door.

But a lot more could have been brought out, so many contradictions and so sharp, to demonstrate that her recollection was entirely fictional. The entire topic disappeared in Hellmann’s logic and Galati-Costagliola does not hit on the point. I think this obliteration of key evidence should have been a battlefield for the appeal, I think it could have been linked to the error of misrepresentation of the evidence.


2.  Galati-Costagliola misses one point of criticism on the bathmat footprint assessment. It does make a point objecting to the manifest illogicality of Hellmann’s reasoning on the footprint analysis. But there is one point more where it could hit, one external inconsistency that could have been highlighted:

Hellmann-Zanetti’s illogical reasoning on the footprint is based on a false assumption. Not only it has no basis in the acts of evidence but it is proven false. It is that Hellmann excludes Sollecito on the basis that the print was “inked” by stepping on a flat surface (proven false), and attributes it to Guede, on the opposite assumption that it was produced by immersion. I note that Galati does not address directly this introduction of false premises.


3.  The appeal deals only partly with the Vecchiotti-Conti report controversy. It points to Hellmann’s contradiction on “contamination” of the knife and their failure to indicate any path for any contamination in general. But it does not say much about the bra clasp (it implies however that Sollecito’s DNA was found).

Vecchiotti’s report is unacceptable when it comes to the DNA chart: it acknowledges that Sollecito’s DNA was on the clasp after all when it comes to the Y-haplotype, but in the autosome-chromosome analysis attempts to create confusion by applying principles that are incompatible with Supreme Court guidelines on evidence analysis. Also Vecchiotti desecends into inconsistency and shows her real cards when she attempts to figure out contamination paths for how Sollecito’s DNA had arrived on the clasp.

However, I think the SCC might have all the material on this point in the attachment documents from Galati.


4.  One missing point important to me is that Galati-Costagliola does not point out the prejudicial and racist stance declared at the beginning and at the core of Hellmann’s reasoning.

Other parts are maybe more outrageous and more directly offensive to other people and other intelligences, but the racist Hellmann’s reason to me is the most disgusting.

It is a shame that a judge of the Republic is allowed to write things like this. Hellmann-Zanetti write that it is itself “unlikely” ““ it would require a very special proof ““ that Guede and Knox/Sollecito could have just met and done something together because they are “different”, while Sollecito and Knox are “good fellows”

Hellmann-Zanetti could have legitimately used the argument that it was likely for Guede to have committed a crime alone because he had a police record. They could have used this argument, but they did not use it. Their wording was totally different. I think we can guess what the reason is why they didn’t use this argument. It would have been extremely weak.

There is a logical connection between a theoretical break in and the theft in the law firm; this logical connection is equal to (in fact much weaker than) the logical connection between a staged break in and a roommate. But there is no logical connection between crimes like a theft of a laptop in an apartment and assaulting, torturing and killing a woman: thousands, in fact hundreds of thousands, of common thieves, in Italy, do not rape and do not kill anyone.

You cannot use the criminal record of Rudy Guede as a basis for claiming it is “likely” that he could commit a crime of this kind alone. That’s why Hellmann-Zanetti didn’t use it.

Instead, they used prejudice, the racist card: instead of trying to explain why it was likely that Rudy could have done it alone, they decided to claim that it was unlikely that they would find themselves together, because they are “good fellows” (and “different”).

As you can understand, this has nothing to do with Rudy’s criminal record.

By the way, Hellmann-Zanetti know that Knox had been knowing Guede long before she became friends with Sollecito, they already knew that Knox and Guede have been seen together on more than one occasion in more than one place, and even that Guede in fact attended the cottage and was friends with other people in the cottage. In fact they knew Guede and Knox used to attend the same places, house, roads and pubs.

They also knew that both Sollecito and Guede attended Piazza Grimana and the drug circle (which is the square in front of the school where Amanda had her language classes), that they lived 150 meters from each other, walked every day the same road; and ate at the same bars.

It was also known that not only Guede alone, but both Knox and Sollecito had questionable aspects in their personalities, so that these 20-years olds were not exactly expressing a profound stability in their lives.

They knew details like: leaving university, abandoning a job after one day, public disturbance fines, drunk parties, pouring beer glasses on the heads of unknowns, flirting with clients, relational problems with roommates and other girls, bringing several men at home causing arguments with roommates, collecting violent porn, heavy drug abuse over the years, knife collecting, a possible suicide mother, a lonely childhood and introverted character under the attention of a college director, memory voids.

Nobody is perfect. These details do not mean someone is guilty of anything. But what exactly is, in Hellmann-Zanetti’s mind, the “difference” of these personalities that makes these two be so obviously “good fellows”, as opposed to Guede, to the point that it is “extremely unlikely” that they can be found together, despite the fact that they attend the same places every day?

Who can tell me what is the possible reason of this difference?

Maybe there could be a relation with the fact that in Italian “good fellows” ““ “bravi ragazzi” means, in the subtext ” my family” as opposed to the other who is an outsider.

To my eyes this reasoning of Hellmann-Zanetti turns them into individuals who deserves no respect, they gain with this the most justified contempt, they should be treated like pigs: they practically wrote “they can’t be around together with Guede because they are our friends” while “he is out”.

Two bastards dirtying my country by wearing the robes of judges. I find this disgusting. It is unfortunate that Galati-Costagliola overlook this point.



4. The Galati appeal: my final thoughts

It is not possible to understand in depth the 10 points of merit from my short summary, which in fact is just a list. By reading them, I think they show their inner logical strength. I found only one weakness, that is in one of the sub-sections of point 5, where Galati-Costagliola discuss about Guede’s skype call.

I feel it’s remarkable that I couldn’t find any other questionable point (I am rather severe).

Reason 8 appears made of several points each with a different topic. They didn’t seem especially important to me as pieces of evidence, however they exist and are part of Galati-Costagliola criticism of Hellmann’s reasoning.

Reason 9 is effective but I would have used much more extensively the elements of evidence available and place them in line before the judge’s faces. Galati-Costagliola prefer to direct their objection to the inconsistence of Hellmann-Zanetti.

The part where Galati sounds more outraged is Reason 10, about the Calunnia. In this part in fact Hellmann sounds most “FoA” and offensive. In fact I think I have never read before a Cassation recourse so scathing as the Galati-Costagliola document seems to be on the Hellmann’s report.

Reading through the whole Galati document in Italian, you come upon expressions addressing the lower court’s work (repeatedly) with terms like “grave error” and “grave behavior”, you find also “disconcerting shallowness”, or the accusation of “ignoring the law”.

In the C&V report section Galati-Costagliola have some sarcastic lines such as: “how is it now they suddenly have become experts?”. In other parts you read the word “prejudice” or “obvious bias”, some of the parts of the Hellmann-Zanetti report are called “offensive” and “gratuitous”, and you also encounter the term “insinuation”.

Galati-Costagliola devolve significant attention to their method error in logic called “petitio principii”.  Now, in the traditional scholarly logic, there is a list of thirteen kind of typical “logical errors” divided in three groups: the errors of the kind “fallacia in voce” (due to misusing words in their meaning concepts) , “fallacia in re” (about getting facts wrong in the direct logical use of them) and “fallacia in deductione” (error in inference process): there are four types of “fallacia in re” and five types of “fallacia in deductione”.

The “petitio principii” (implicit circular reasoning) is one of the five types of “fallacia in deductione”.  Galati-Costagliola focus on this and on another case of “fallacia in re” called “corax”, but in fact in Hellmann-Zanetti there are also severe cases of logical errors of other kinds of “fallacia in deductione” and of the kinds of “fallacia in re”. Which may not matter too much.

This was my final thought.  I hope this can help readers to gain a rough idea of what the Galati-Costagliola Appeal to the Supreme Court looks like, its structure, its kind of arguments, and assess its qualities.

If the Supreme Court of Cassation accepts the appeal, I would consider the battle for justice in this case as won. I know that the Kerchers may need to see the end of the whole process. But to me, the fact of having the Galati-Costagliola appeal means itself half victory achieved.

This document, as you know, was issued by the highest magistrate in Umbria and what will remain in history is the forcible assertion that Knox and Sollecito are murderers beyond any doubt as expressed by Dr Galati in this document and elsewhere, as well as his outrage for the disgusting Hellmann-Zanetti trash-verdict.

This stance will never go away.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Excellent Sunday Times Report On The Many Killer Questions The Second Appeal Next Year Might Answer

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Rome: St Peter’s and Vatican in foreground; Supreme Court large white building in right background by River Tiber]


It really ain’t over until it’s over, and knowing the hyper-cautious Italian justice system, maybe not even then.

Now the drama moves to Rome.

Before any verdict and sentence in the case can become final, under Italian law and the constitution the verdict and sentence must be endorsed by the Supreme Court of Cassation.

If either the prosecution or defenses demand that issues be looked at by Cassation (as we know, the prosecution will) Cassation will do so, and it may punt the case back down to the first appeal court to re-examine questions or even run a complete re-trial at first appeal level.

At Cassation level the prosecution is likely to have at least five advantages.

    1) A confusing Hellman sentence report seems likely which won’t be able to dispose of the Massei and Micheli reports because the Hellman court did not re-examine all issues

    2) Cassation’s ruling on the final appeal of Rudy Guede which points to three perps, and Cassation’s general tendency to side with trial courts against first-appeal courts.

    3) The likelihood that only the prosecution will file issues for consideration by Cassation and not the defenses and so the prosecution will dominate all proceedings.

    4) Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito and entourages seem unlikely to be there in person for the Cassation hearings or a retrial, and emotive factors would be less in play.

    5) The Italian media and Italian public opinion and increasingly UK and US opinion seem to be taking the position that the Hellman appeal decision was unsatisfactory.

Two days ago, the Sunday Times ran this fine analysis below by their reporter on the case, John Follain, of the open issues that will be facing Cassation and possibly again facing the lower appeal court. 

With a dozen books out John Follain has by far the largest and most impressive book publishing record of any reporter on the case.

Publishers Hodder and Stoughton have announced that his book Death in Perugia: The Definitive Account of the Meredith Kercher Case will be released first in the UK later this month - on 25 October.

KILLER QUESTIONS; The acquittal last week of Amanda Knox only deepens the confusion surrounding the murder of the British student Meredith Kercher. John Follain, who has investigated the case for four years, unpicks the evidence How could one man pin Meredith down and inflict those injuries?

By John Follain in Perugia.

They may have been coached to hide their true feelings, but the expressions of the judges and jurors were an open book. Surprise and shock registered on the faces of the appeal tribunal in Perugia as they watched a video taken by the forensic police who searched the whitewashed cottage where Meredith Kercher was murdered.

That summer’s day in the medieval, vaulted Hall of Frescoes was the pivotal scene of the 10-month appeal trial of Amanda Knox, 24, and Raffaele Sollecito, 26 “” the moment that freedom suddenly became possible, if not probable, for the former lovers.

The rotund, bespectacled Stefano Conti, one of two specialists in forensic medicine appointed by the court to review two crucial traces of DNA evidence, gave a sardonic running commentary on the behaviour of the Roman scientific squad searching for clues in the cottage. They failed to use clean protective gloves to handle each item of evidence or biological sample, Conti pointed out. They passed Meredith’s bra clasp to one another before placing it back on the floor where they had found it. The officer who picked up her bra wore no gloves at all.

As the senior appeal judge, Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, recalled last week after acquitting Knox and Sollecito of sexually abusing and murdering Meredith, the DNA review was “the most difficult moment” of the trial.

“The prosecutors understood that their case was at risk, and it was at that moment that the trial became a battle with no holds barred,” he said.

The courtroom fight over this international cause célèbre ended with a sobbing Knox being rushed out by guards and flown home to a heroine’s welcome in Seattle.

But, far from resolving the mystery of how and why Meredith died, the acquittal has fuelled the unanswered questions over her fate. Are we “back to square one”, as Meredith’s brother Lyle said after the verdict? What are the mysteries still to be resolved? And will we ever know what truly happened? MEREDITH, a 21-year-old language student from Coulsdon, Surrey, was found lying virtually naked, her throat cut, in her bedroom in the house she shared with Knox and two other young women on the afternoon of November 2, 2007. “Case closed,” an overoptimistic police chief proclaimed just four days later.

The investigators thought Knox had handed them the keys to the mystery. Under questioning she placed herself at the crime scene on the night before the body was found. She had been in the kitchen, with her hands over her ears, she said, while Patrick Lumumba, a Congolese bar owner for whom she worked as a waitress, killed Meredith.

Police promptly arrested Lumumba, Knox and her boyfriend. But Knox later went back on her testimony, insisting she had been with Sollecito at his flat all night.

Investigators were forced to release Lumumba after witnesses testified he had been working at his bar on the night of the murder. Knox and Sollecito stayed behind bars.

Forensic evidence then prompted the arrest of another African immigrant, Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast drifter. Part of his palm print was on a cushion under Meredith’s body, his DNA was in her body where he had apparently groped her sexually, and his DNA was mixed with hers in drops of blood inside her shoulder bag.

The prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, accused Guede, Knox and Sollecito of killing Meredith when she resisted their attempts to force her into a sex game.

Certainly, there appeared to be compelling evidence that Knox was lying. She had tried to frame Lumumba. The defence now claimed that an intruder had broken into the cottage and attacked Meredith; but the break-in had clearly been staged. Amateurishly, a room had been ransacked before the window into it was smashed “” the glass lay over the strewn clothes instead of under them. Was this to cover Knox’s tracks? There were mixed traces of Knox’s and Meredith’s blood in the bathroom and another room. Bloody footprints had been left by Knox and Sollecito in the bathroom and in the corridor. Knox had behaved bizarrely at the police station after the murder, kissing and caressing Sollecito and doing yoga exercises. Sollecito had said he spent much of the murder night on his computer, but this was disproved by experts.

Still, this was all circumstantial evidence rather than proof. The Rome forensic police came to the rescue of the prosecution team. They reported that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade of a kitchen knife found at Sollecito’s flat “” and Knox’s was on the handle. This was believed to be one of the murder weapons.

Forensic pathologists said Meredith’s wounds had been caused by two knives, pointing to more than one killer. The team from Rome also reported that Sollecito’s DNA was on Meredith’s bra clasp. (Only much later would it emerge that the police had retrieved this from the bedroom floor a full 46 days after first spotting it.) The case rapidly became a sensation. The prime suspect was an intelligent and alluringly pretty American, only 20 at the time, who, reporters joyously discovered, had been nicknamed “Foxy Knoxy” back home in Seattle. That this was for her skills on the soccer pitch was lost in the rush to find out more.

Dozens of witnesses and expert consultants passed through Perugia’s Hall of Frescoes during the first trial, which lasted for much of 2009.

Knox was portrayed by the lawyer for the bar owner, Lumumba, as an unscrupulous and manipulative she-devil, and by her defence team as “a wholesome girl” wrongly accused.

The prosecution case was that Kercher, a hard-working young woman from a modest background, had become exasperated by Knox’s slovenly and promiscuous behaviour as a housemate.

She had remarked to her father that “Amanda arrived only a week ago and she already has a boyfriend”. She told friends that Knox left a vibrator and condoms in the bathroom and brought “strange men” to the cottage. Investigators leaked Knox’s diary, in which she had listed seven sexual partners, three of whom she had slept with after her arrival in Italy, including a man she had met on the train on her way to Perugia. On Facebook she had put down as her interests: “Men.” Unable to prove exactly what had happened on the night of the murder, Mignini offered a plausible scenario based on Meredith’s 43 knife wounds and bruises.

He suggested that an argument between Meredith and Knox escalated when Guede and Sollecito joined the American “under the influence of drugs and maybe of alcohol” in trying to force Kercher into a heavy sex game that ended in murder. The sensational 11-month trial ended in guilty verdicts and jail sentences of 26 years for Knox and 25 years for Sollecito.

Some months later, in August 2010, I met Knox briefly in Capanne women’s prison, which is a short drive from Perugia. She had cut her hair and looked younger and more frail than during her trial. She wore a red Beatles sweatshirt, black leggings and silver nail varnish.

When I arrived, she was pushing a trolley down a corridor.

A guard explained that her job was to collect orders from other prisoners for small goods they could buy: newspapers, cigarettes, coffee, magazines and “” at that time of year “” strawberries. We were allowed to talk for only a few moments, but a guard told me: “She’s pretty well. Amanda’s confident that the future will bring freedom for her. She doesn’t break down in tears. It’s nothing like the night of tears after the verdict, when we had to comfort her.”

I was told she had been reading “” in Italian “” the 427-page summary by the two judges at her trial, who had dissected the inconsistencies in her evidence.

This summary included the judges’ own reconstruction of what might have happened on the night of the murder, based on the evidence that had been put before them.

They suggested that Knox, Sollecito and Guede had arrived at the cottage at about 11pm. Knox and her boyfriend had gone to her bedroom to have sex, and, excited by a situation “heavy with sexual stimulus”, Guede had walked into Kercher’s room wanting to have sex with her.

Kercher rejected him “” she was tired, and had a new boyfriend anyway “” but Knox and Sollecito intervened to assist him. According to the judges, they were probably drugged on hashish and seeking “erotic sexual violence”. Forcing Kercher to yield to Guede was a “special thrill that had to be tried out”.

They suggested Sollecito cut Meredith’s bra with a small knife he always carried “” collecting knives was a hobby. As Guede sexually assaulted Kercher with his fingers, Sollecito stabbed her in the neck. Kercher screamed “” a neighbour heard her “” and Knox stabbed her in the throat with a kitchen knife, the judges argued. She took several minutes to die as she inhaled her own blood.

THAT was the lurid and damning case that Knox had to fight when she returned to the Hall of Frescoes last November for her appeal.

Her demeanour had changed. Gone was smiling and self-confident “Foxy”, whose manner may have helped secure her conviction. After three years in prison, Knox was much more demure.

The appeal hearing began auspiciously for her when the deputy judge remarked: “The only certain and undisputed fact is the death of Meredith Kercher.”

The comment prompted prosecutors to complain that the court had already made up its mind, but it was a portent of what was about to be revealed.

The appeal court’s decision to grant a defence request for an independent review of two items of DNA evidence “” the kitchen knife and the bra clasp “” proved devastating for the prosecution’s case.

The two experts “” Conti and Carla Vecchiotti, from La Sapienza University in Rome “” said the DNA trace on the knife blade could not be attributed to Meredith because it was too slight. They said Sollecito’s Y chromosome was on the bra clasp, but it could have been the result of contamination by police mishandling of the evidence. From then on, the prosecutors fought a losing battle to discredit Conti and Vecchiotti.

Outside the courtroom the Knox camp’s media offensive exploited the experts’ conclusions.

Knox’s family “” her mother, father, stepfather and friends “” had come well primed for battle. Homes had been remortgaged and funds raised.

With the help of a PR company in Seattle, they dominated prime-time shows on the leading American TV networks, dramatically influencing public opinion there “” so much so that the prosecutor Mignini thundered in court that he had never seen a convict hire a PR firm to prove her innocence.

Mignini himself was a key target. In what appeared to have been a turf battle with prosecutors in Florence, he had been given a suspended 16-month prison sentence for abuse of office after tapping the phones of police officers and journalists in a separate investigation into a serial killer. It was a reflection of the fragmented and politicised condition of the Italian justice system.

The prosecutors tried but failed to switch the focus away from the forensic evidence by introducing Guede, the third party to the murder. He had been prosecuted separately because he had opted for a “fast track” trial that offers a lighter sentence as an incentive. Jailed for 16 years for murder, he had appealed to the Supreme Court in Rome “” Italy’s highest court “” which confirmed his conviction, ruling that Guede had sexually abused and murdered Kercher with “unidentified accomplices”.

This was an insight into the mystifying processes of Italian law. How could justice be served by trying Guede separately? Why had he not been brought to give evidence at the first Knox trial? Why were his accomplices “unidentified” when Knox and Sollecito had been convicted of joining him in the murder? The answers lay in the fact that his supreme court appeal started just after Knox’s appeal began in Perugia “” and the two cases overlapped, a bizarre way of seeking out the truth.

Once Guede’s Supreme Court appeal had been dismissed he was summoned to the witness box in Perugia, where his contribution was damning yet so limited that it did not sway the judges and jury.

Rather than taking him through the events of the killing, Mignini read out a letter in which Guede had written of “the horrible murder of a ... wonderful girl by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox”. Challenged by one of Knox’s lawyers, Guede stood by the letter, saying: “It’s not as if there is my truth, and the truth of Tom, Dick and Harry. What there is is the truth of what I lived through that night, full stop.”

A lawyer for the Kerchers detailed the injuries Meredith suffered, arguing it would have been impossible for Guede to hold her down, sexually assault her, try to suffocate her, try to strangle her and wound her with more than one knife.

But it was too late. The appeal panel of judges and jurors had made up their minds. A juror confided after the “not guilty” verdicts had been delivered that the court had decided to acquit because of doubts over the forensic evidence, and because it saw no motive for the murder.

Pratillo Hellman explained: “To convict, the penal code says you have to be persuaded beyond every reasonable doubt. The smallest doubt is enough to not condemn.”

But he added enigmatically: “Maybe Knox and Sollecito know what happened that night, because our acquittal verdict stems from the truth which was established in the trial. But the real truth can be different. They may be responsible, but there isn’t the evidence… So, perhaps they too know what happened that night, but that’s not our conclusion.”

The judge’s comments earned him a new nickname, which investigators texted to each other delightedly: “Pontius Pratillo”, after Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of responsibility for the execution of Jesus Christ.

The prosecution scored one potentially significant victory. The court found Knox guilty of slandering the former bar owner Lumumba by initially claiming he had killed Kercher. It sentenced her to three years in prison, but released her as she had spent almost four years behind bars.

“That’s absurd, absurd,” Mignini fumed. “Knox accused Lumumba to throw the police off her tracks. Why else would she accuse him?” IN PERUGIA, at least, the prosecution can count on overwhelming backing. After the verdict, a crowd several thousand strong massed outside the courts, amid jeers at defence lawyers and chants of “Assassini, assassini!” (murderers, murderers) and “Vergogna, vergogna!” (shame, shame). In bars across the picturesque city, and on the main cobbled street, Corso Vannucci, many dissected the case for days afterwards “” the consensus was that Knox and Sollecito were at the cottage when Meredith died, but no one agreed on what role they played.

For the Kercher family no outcome could have been more bewildering. As Knox flew home, Meredith’s mother Arline, her brother Lyle and her sister Stephanie spoke to me.

“It almost raises more questions than there are answers now,” Lyle said, “because the initial decision was that [the murder] wasn’t done by one person but by more than that. Two have been released, one remains in jail, so we’re now left questioning: who are these other people or person?” Did they believe that Knox and Sollecito were guilty? “In a way we have to believe what the police say because they are the ones compiling the evidence,” Arline replied. “We haven’t a clue. I think that’s what he was saying. It’s the police “” it’s their job.”

“It’s difficult for anybody to make a valid opinion on any case, not just this one, unless you’re a trained expert,” Lyle echoed. “There are forensics, detectives, psychological profilers and so on, who are trained to do this and read the information and draw the hypotheses from that, which of course no lay person really is. So if that’s the conclusion they come to, then we’re happy to stand by that.”

“We have to accept, don’t we, just like now we have to accept this,” Arline said.

“And that’s why it’s so disappointing, because we don’t know,” Stephanie added.

It is not over for the Kerchers.

Last week’s acquittal is far from the last word on the case. The judges have 90 days to draft a report explaining the reasons for the verdict. Then the prosecution and the defence will have a further 45 days to lodge a new and last appeal. Only rulings by the Supreme Court are considered definitive in Italian justice.

Guede’s lawyers said he would appeal for a new trial if the Supreme Court confirmed Knox’s acquittal “” on the grounds that it would contradict the Ivorian’s conviction for killing Meredith alongside unidentified accomplices. “So I’m supposed to be Meredith’s only assassin?” Guede is reported to have told a prison visitor. “I’m supposed to have struck that poor girl with a knife 40 times? I confessed my responsibilities and I accused those who were in the house with me.

“I’m in prison, and the others are free and happy at home. If it wasn’t them in the house that damned evening, who are the other accomplices supposed to be? The money made available to Amanda and the media strategy helped to free her.”

Many investigators and lawyers admit privately that the Italian judicial system may simply never come up with a full and convincing explanation of Meredith’s death.

Italian justice is agonisingly slow. Judges and lawyers attend several trials in the same week, with the result that the appeal trial saw 20 days of hearings over no fewer than 10 months. It is also full of safeguards for defendants, including long preliminary hearings enshrined in the post-war constitution to eradicate the caricature of justice delivered by the courts under Mussolini.

Many of the most notorious cases in Italy’s post-war history have yet to be resolved in court. Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire prime minister, is embroiled in a string of corruption, fraud and sex offence investigations and trials, and claims that leftist prosecutors are plotting to oust him.

This week Berlusconi will push through parliament a bill banning publication of phone and other intercepts before a case reaches trial “” a measure that has become a priority for him, as investigators are expected to release within a few weeks dozens of intercepts of reportedly embarrassing conversations between Berlusconi and a convicted drug dealer.

In such a climate Italian justice itself is on trial. The truth of what happened to Meredith Kercher may emerge one day, but it’s no safe bet that it will do so in an Italian court of law.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Amanda Knox’s Supporters Obtain Rome Embassy Cables About Knox, Prove Of No Help

Posted by True North


The American Embassy in Rome above, and the State Department in Washington below.

Ninety-nine percent of the reason why countries put embassies in other countries is because they really want to get along.

The US and Italy in fact do get along, extremely well, and there are thousands of transactions between the two countries every day. Thousands of Americans live in Italy, and millions of Americans are of Italian descent.

At the request of the US Administration, the Italian government recently put a large contingent of Italian troops in Afghanistan.

Under the US Freedom of Information Act,  any American citizen can request and usually obtain astonishing amounts of official documentation, far beyond what can usually be extracted from the bureaucracies in most other countries.

Occasionally this information has embarrassed the department concerned, or the party in power in the Congress or the White House. But usually the documents are innocuous and without drama. Conspiracies simply never show up.

The blogger History Punk on his website Historiographic Anarchy has posted some cables (pdf format) from Rome to Washington, which report periodically on the Rome Embassy’s monitoring of Amanda Knox in Capanne Prison and her trial and appeals in Perugia.

As we would expect, these cables are extremely mundane. They were sent by a middle-level official in the consular section of the Rome Embassy to the Italy desk in the State Department.

They report carefully on the careful Italian legal process, and they never remark on anything wrong. No charges or claims or complaints are relayed from Amanda Knox. There is no talk of any anti-Americanism. No instructions, questions or comments are cabled from Washington in return.

One cable was not released. It was marked confidential and the contents are unknown. Here’s a guess at its contents: “Please keep those xenophobic ranters on a chain - they are doing the American cause in Italy no good at all”. 

My first post here on TJMK and proud of it. This is a good fight I join.



Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Andrea Vogt Asks Some Useful Questions Concerning The Legal Process

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click here to read all of this well-researched report on the Seattle P-I website.

After presenting an overview of the system similar to those posted here by Nicki and Commisario Montalbano Andrea Vogt asks two experts on the system these questions.

Do jurors have to find Knox guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

Yes. The concept of proof beyond a reasonable doubt has long been a part of Italy’s justice system. It was formalized and passed into law in 2006.

Knox’s defense lawyer Luciano Ghirga said his team will remind jurors that, even after more than 40 hearings, everything is still in doubt.

The court’s ruling (which is not called a verdict in Italy) is made by an eight-member jury: six laymen and two professional judges. They will vote, and the majority rules. In the case of a 4-4 tie, acquittal overrules.

Could Amanda Knox have plea bargained?

Knox maintains her innocence.

However, while not completely analogous to plea bargaining, Italy does have a similar alternative to trial, also a part of the 1988 reforms. The alternative is not applicable for serious crimes, such as murder, punishable by more than five years in prison.

Suspects who cooperate fully with the police, however, may become eligible for a bundle of mitigating circumstances that would lower prison sentences. A judge may also choose to apply aggravating circumstances to increase a sentence.

Negotiation on the evidence—in which both sides agree what can be admitted—is also available when defendants choose a fast-track trial, as did Rudy Guede, sentenced to 30 years last year for his role in the case for which Knox is on trial. Guede is appealing his conviction.

Why does the figure of prosecutor seem so powerful in Italy?

The prosecutor is a powerful figure in Italy connected to the judiciary, not elected or appointed. While there is a career separation between judges and prosecutors, the qualifying examination and training are common, That has made judges and prosecutors close both culturally and professionally.

In the U.S., prosecutors are appointed in federal system and typically elected in the state system, hence it is common to hear cases referred to as The State vs. X.

In Italy, protections were put in place precisely to prevent the state from pursuing or persecuting, hence the independence of prosecutors.

As a result, prosecutors haven’t shied away from taking on politicians. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, for example, faces a series of criminal procedures in the courts.

That independence , some argue, is precisely the protection needed as a check against government power, and without it, corruption could not be exposed, said Maffei. But others argue that prosecutors wage their own political battles. using their independence to attack political opponents.

Another major difference: the prosecutor supervises the investigation rather than letting police handle it.

Further, he or she also has no discretion over the decision to seek charges. There is a constitutional principle of mandatory prosecution. If there is sufficient evidence to build a case against a defendant, a prosecutor must seek an indictment.

In the U.S. prosecutors can and do drop cases for such reasons as workload or because the defendant has agreed to help with a criminal investigation.

Was it legal for Knox not to have an attorney present when police questioned her?

Yes and No.

Amanda Knox’s interrogation falls into a gray area of the law because she came voluntarily to the police station and was being interviewed in the beginning as someone who could become be a witness, not a suspect.

Then, in the course of questioning by police in November 2007, she blamed Patrick Lumumba for the slaying, and said she was present at the scene of the crime. Lumumba was innocent. Knox has since denied she knows anything about the slaying and says she wasn’t in the flat the night Kercher was killed. Limumba is suing Knox for slander.

The law is very clear: A suspect must not be interrogated without a lawyer.

Once a suspect, an interrogation must be interrupted, the suspect read his or her rights to remain silent and be provided a lawyer. Italian law does not allow waiver of one’s right to counsel. Even if a suspect doesn’t want a lawyer, the authorities are required to appoint one.

If a suspect’s freedom of movement is hindered, the interrogation must be videotaped.

In Knox’s case, a video or audio recording of the entire police interrogation (authorities have denied that any such recordings exist) could identify when police began treating Knox as a suspect and what procedures were followed.

In fact, Italy’s Supreme Court has already said that some of her early statements may not be used against her because they were made without an attorney present.

 


Page 6 of 6 pages ‹ First  < 4 5 6