Friday, October 01, 2010

1 October 2010: Seattle PI’s Italy Based Reporter Andrea Vogt On Where Everything Stands

Posted by Peter Quennell

Former crack prosecutor Judge Chiari who once took an ex-Prime Minister down

Overview Of This Post

Another of those very useful roundup reports from Andrea Vogt, which contains some new points of real interest.

1) On Judge Sergio Matteini Chiari

When Bongiorno steps into the appellate courtroom to defend Sollecito, the judge will look familiar. Respected magistrate Sergio Matteini Chiari represented the prosecution during the controversial Andreotti appeals trial a decade ago in Perugia over the mafia murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli. Biscotti also defended a Cosa Nostra mafioso in that case.

Biscotti and Nicodemo Gentile, who represented Guede, have picked up a number of other high-profile Italian cases while awaiting Guede’s supreme court trial, scheduled for Dec. 16. The duo also represent the family of a murdered transvestite embroiled in a political scandal, as well as the family of a young girl gone missing from Taranto in August.

2) On the RS & AK appeal

The Knox and Sollecito appeal is scheduled to commence late in November.

Knox’s attorneys are soon expected to file “motivi aggiunti” or “additional motives” for appeal. That can include new evidence or witnesses defense attorneys think should be considered. The lead prosecutor—a substitute sitting in while a while a permanent replacement for the position is considered—will be joined by the two public ministers who originally prosecuted Knox and Sollecito; Giuliano Mignini and Manuela Comodi.

“We did not request to be involved,” said Mignini, reached by this week. “In fact we thought we had wrapped up our duties with the conviction in the first trial. But when we were asked, we gave our availability.”

The appeals trial process will differ in many ways from the first trial. Only the makeup of the court—six lay jurors and two professional judges—remains the same. It will likely proceed much faster because the court is mostly debating Judge Massei’s judgment, not rehearing witnesses or re-examining evidence, though the court can specifically request to rehear key witnesses and the Knox and Sollecito defense teams have filed requests for an independent evaluation of certain pieces of contested evidence.

3) On possible outcomes from the appeal

On appeal, the case is once again wide open, as the court could do anything from giving Knox a harsher life-in-prison sentence to turning over her conviction.

“The court can review all the same evidence presented in the first trial, but simply decide that there is reasonable doubt, that they don’t believe it,” explained University of Parma criminal procedure professor Stefano Maffei.

The court also can agree with prosecutors, who are also appealing the 26-year-sentence and asking for life, and give her even more prison time. Or, the court can agree with the murder conviction, but find that mitigating factors outweigh the aggravated ones, which leads to a one-third reduction in sentence.

That is a most likely scenario, court observers such as Maffei say, especially since more than 18 Italian magistrates have reviewed the evidence in the Knox case and come to the same conclusion of culpability, which somehow ingrains the decision into the judiciary. For reasons that are sociological rather than legal—such as good behavior, political pressure, changed public opinion or prison crowding—sentences in Italy are often reduced on appeal.

“The tradition in this country remains that the court of appeal is usually more lenient than the court of first instance,” Maffei said.

4) On Amanda Knox’s slander trial

Knox will leave the prison for the first time in months [today] Friday. She’ll be shuttled in a police van into a protected side entrance to the courtroom, far from the media, which won’t be allowed into the closed-door hearing where “mostly technical” issues will be discussed.

She is charged with slander for accusing the Perugia police of hitting her as she was being interrogated the night before her arrest. During the course of the questioning, police became suspicious and turned up the heat over the course of several hours. Knox testified that they called her a liar and cuffed her on the back of the head twice while urging her to tell the truth. Multiple police officers and two interpreters who were in and out during the questioning deny such abuse took place and tell their own gentler version of how the night unfolded.

Unless one side produces audio or video of the questioning—which police and prosecutors have said does not exist because Knox was just a witness, not a suspect, when questioning began—it is likely to remain her word against theirs.

The presiding judge Friday (Claudia Matteini, the same judge who signed Knox’s original arrest warrant in 2007) could decide to hold an abbreviated trial, where everything is done behind closed doors and only documentary evidence is presented. She could decide there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial (or not). She could also simply choose to archive the case without passing judgment on its merit. Francesco Maresca, who represented the victim’s family during the Knox trial, represents the police in the case.

Here is our own take from trial reporting and the Massei Sentencing Report on what actually happened in the witness interview that night. Amanda Knox was thrown by Sollecito cutting her loose. (He has never since provided her cover.) But she did not confess - far from it. She fingered Patrick Lumumba. And as a suspect, she always had a lawyer present in subsequent interrogations. 

More in the report too, on the movies, the books, and what it is really like to be serving one’s time It sounds punishing.


Interesting news from Seattle:

Former FBI agent who says Knox is innocent is fired

Knox won’t get new judge in slander trial

Posted by Hungarian on 09/30/10 at 08:50 AM | #

I find it preposterous that in many countries, including the one I live in, the effective jail term for murderers is approximately 15 - 20 years, even though it is referred to as ‘life’. Many of these murderers are unimaginably evil and commit vicious murders with apparent glee. In the case-in-point these two murderers may get their sentences reduced to 17 years, more or less. This may reduce more with good behaviour, etc. The third’s time has been dropped to 16 years already. This hardly seems fair, when the victim’s life was cut short in the prime of her youth, when she could have lived for another 80 years and contributed richly to the society she lived in. How is this justice? The Americans get it right in several of their States, where huge sentences are imposed for brutal murders. What is fairness and leniency, when viewed from the victim’s corner? We live in a harsh world. After due process, consequence for harsh actions should be equally harsh.

Posted by Terence on 09/30/10 at 01:13 PM | #

Thanks Hungarian. Always appreciated. We will be posting soon on Steve Moore, whose problems are only going to get worse.

There is no problem with the judge, Judge Matteini, in the slander trial. She has an excellent reputation and was in no way associated with the case before her now. And Linda Byron has it wrong, she was NOT the judge that ruled Knox should be tried for murder, that was Judge Paulo Micheli.

As Michael points out on PMF, Judge Matteini only confirmed Knox’s arrest and remand to custody, and later denied her appeal for house arrest. If judicial warnings in light of the psychological tests that Amanda could go to excess had been heeded, Amanda would have been pulled back from the brink, rather than continuously egged on, and there might have been no case to face now.

Reading the comments below those two pieces is highly recommended. There is the usual shrill libelous anti-Italian hate speech from TonyDelBalzo and PhanuelB who each post on the web many times daily. Hate speech is a crime in this country. Those who propagate hate speech tend to end up being watched these days. We have heard from someone in Congress that hate speech against Italy has gone up 4-5 times since this case began, and Italy has become one of the most reviled of countries. There is now at least one investigation, as we have already posted.

There are also (more) commenters speaking up in a much more informed and confident and very calm way about the real Italy and the real facts of the case. Commenter Romulus and others regularly drop off links to TJMK and PMF which helps us a lot in fighting the Knox money and hate machine. Thanks guys.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 09/30/10 at 02:59 PM | #

By Storm Roberts (Innai)

Additionally, with regards to Judge Matteini for the slander trial, when the defence raised the issue of her involvement (in the very early stages) of the legal process against Knox for murder, Judge Matteini passed the question of whether or not she should withdraw from the slander trial to a higher level and the answer came back that she was not in anyway unsuitable to sit in judgement on the slander trail. 

In the UK life rarely means life, minimum tarrifs vary - there is a full life tarrif, however I think that there are only a handful of prisioners serving such terms.

Posted by Nolongeramember on 09/30/10 at 06:02 PM | #
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Or to previous entry Knox Slander Hearing Adjourned: Her Lawyers Make It Sound Like She Might Crack - Too Late?