Wednesday, November 24, 2010

1st Appeal Session: A Roundup Post On Points of Significance In The Italian, UK And US Reporting

Posted by Peter Quennell

The full cycle of court session reporting usually takes quite a few hours, so new items will be added periodically at the bottom of this post.

1) Andrea Vogt in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on the court dates.

Presiding judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman (with assistant judge Massimo Zanetti) swore in the jury of five women and one man, then promptly made his first decision: hearings just once a week—on Saturdays—to accommodate Sollecito’s high profile attorney Giulia Bongiorno (a key Italian parliamentarian and head of the justice commission who recently revealed she is several months pregnant).

Lead Prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola noted it was out of the ordinary to build a trial around one lawyer’s personal and political engagements, adding that while everyone wants Bongiorno’s pregnancy to go forward regularly, “we must also ensure the trial goes forward regularly.”

But the judge said in order to start the trial “in a serene atmosphere,” he would grant the request, and fixed hearing dates for Dec. 11, 18 and Jan. 15….

2) Andrea Vogt in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on the defense strategy for the appeal.

Knox’s appeal is built largely around a request for an independent review of forensic evidence (in particular the DNA evidence from the knife that prosecutors say was the murder weapon)...

The appeal also cites a lack of motive,and a series of inconsistencies in witness testimony. Put together, that lawyers say, the arguments establish reasonable doubt.

In particular, the appeal introduces new questions about the reliability of testimony of Antonio Curatolo, a homeless man who placed Knox and Sollecito near the scene of the crime the night of the murder.

Sollecito’s appeal also includes an evidentiary review (in particular of the DNA found on the victim’s bra clasp) but also aims to introduce new evidence, such as pillow stains not tested by forensic police, and expert testimony about Sollecito’s computer mouse, whichlawyers say proves he was home when prosecutors claim he was at the murder scene.

3) Andrea Vogt in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on the outcome possibilities.

Prosecutors are also appealing the extenuating circumstances granted to Knox and Sollecito, in hopes that they’ll be handed down a life sentence.

Under Italian law, anything can happen in the appeals process, from complete acquittal, to conviction on lesser charge such as manslaughter, to an even harsher sentence if convicted again.

4) Andrea Vogt in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on changes to Knox’s mood and PR strategy.

Knox did not appear the same carefree Seattle girl who in her first public court statement giggled as she explained that her rampant rabbit vibrator was just a joke, or who would often turn to smile and wave at friends and family during courtroom breaks.

Three years in the Capanne penitentiary have taken their toll—the gravity of her situation has set in, and recent months have been particularly fraught with tension and worry.

“She feels the weight of all of this on her shoulders,” Ghirga said. “She has lost some faith.”

Her family’s approach has also changed. In sharp contrast to the criticisms directed at the Italian judiciary during her first trial, Knox’s stepfather Chris Mellas, told reporters outside the courthouse that the family had “full faith in the Italian justice system,” adding that “after all, Italy’s judiciary has a long and rich history.”

“Amanda is happy to finally get this process going, we have a new jury and new judges. Unfortunately we have the old prosecutor, but you can’t have everything.”

Yet that most controversial figure, prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, was not even present in court. Only co-prosecutor Manuela Comodi donned the black robe to help lead prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola.

[Below: Broadcast media equipment outside the court last night mixed in with the seasonal funfair in the piazza]

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/24/10 at 06:35 PM in Trials 2008 & 2009Hellmann 2011+


saw the brief footage on BBC of the entrance into court. amanda looked stressed, but raffaelle seemed serene and my first thought was that he may have some sort of card to play.

Posted by mojo on 11/24/10 at 09:32 PM | #

Douglas Preston is giving his two cents again.

Posted by Janus on 11/25/10 at 03:01 PM | #

notable is this at the end of the article

Douglas Preston is the co-author of The Monster of Florence, a non-fiction book chronicling the case of an Italian serial killer. Mignini, also one of the prosecutors in the Florence case, is criticised in his book.

agenda, mr. preston?? lol

Posted by mojo on 11/25/10 at 07:33 PM | #

He’s a funny chap, Mr Preston.

I have read the Monster of Florence. To be fair it was a good read though I was far from convinced that he had unmasked the monster, as he tried to claim. Clearly Mr Preston has an axe to grind with Mignini and the italian justice system, and perhaps with some cause, but his experiences have completely skewed his objectivity as far as the Meredith Kercher murder is concerned. He automatically equates Amanda’s experience with his own. Innocents abroad. But that is naive and ignores the evidence. However it must help to boost the sales of his own book.

There is an “Afterword” in my edition of his book (2009). He reports that an addict had been found, covered in blood, in Grimana Square in the early hours of the morning following the murder screaming “I killed her. I killed her.”

Once again Mr Preston has uncovered the real murderer.

The incident however is true. The story was uncovered in February 2008 by a reporter for the Umbrian Journal when covering an unrelated story at a local hospital to which the addict was sent for treatment. This was an embarrassment for the police as they had not checked the local hospitals. The authors of “Darkness Descending” take up the story.

The reporter’s editor contacted Mignini with the information. Mignini could have suppressed this but said “publish” and the story appeared the same day.

So no, Mr Preston, Mignini did not suppress the information though Commissioner Profazio did request the editor to kill the story in later editions. And no, Mr Preston, Mignini and the police did not fail to investigate the story. The matter was handed to the Carabinieri to investigate.

It turned out to be a red herring. The addict had had an argument with his girlfriend and stabbed himself in a drug fuelled rage and then spent the early hours wandering around shouting abuse at her on his phone in a bid to get her to let him back into her flat

It does indeed seem highly unlikely that he could have had anything to do with Meredith ; all the evidence for instance.

I haven’t heard Preston flog this angle lately. His tack now is that it was Guede acting alone.

However there is a coincidence. The description of the addict as given by the hospital staff, at any rate as to his clothing, does bear some resemblance to the description of Meredith’s attacker’s clothing in Guede’s statement. White head warmer or beret and dark/black jacket or coat.

We may get disclosure of the Carabinieri report in to this incident during the appeals.

Posted by James Raper on 11/25/10 at 11:00 PM | #

We have posted a dozen or more times on the lunatic claims of Doug Preston and even now that does not cover all that we know. More detailed past TJMK posts on all of this can be found here and here.

Kermit’s Powerpoints comparing Mignini and Preston are a real classic.

Mignini is in fact an excellent prosecutor who is widely admired and the citizens of Perugia are very lucky to have his protection - and they know it.

Doug Preston turned up in Italy uniquely unqualified to investigate any crime and speaking little or no Italian. He got way out of his depth with Mario Spezi in his unwanted and unrequested amateur interference in the very difficult MOF case.

Years before Mignini ever became tangentially involved in the MOF case (after a mysterious drowning in Lake Trasimeno), the murders were already widely believed to be guided by a mysterious satanic cult which existed and probably still exists in Florence.

Preston was suspected of using a false name and planting false evidence, the intention of which seemed to be to draw attention AWAY from the mysterious MOF sect.

No wonder Mignini gave him the fright of his life which sent him off back to the US squealing.

He then wrote a highly inaccurate book which has had repeated revisions to more and more demonize Mignini. The afterword on Meredith’s case is end-to-end absurd as James shows, and everyone in Perugia knew that guy in the square was raging on about his girlfriend months before Preston’s afterword was added.

So in terms of actually solving REAL crimes Preston is batting zero for two.

Why was Mignini found guilty of the “abuse of power” charge? Which by the way just about every good Italian prosecutor runs into sooner or later?

You have to laugh. He actually caught on tape a prosecutor in Florence pulling out his hair that he was being constrained from investigating the Florence MOF cabal!! It was THAT selfsame embarrassed prosecutor who who launched the prosecution, and in Florence he played against Mignini with a stacked deck.

Mignini’s other investigations all related to this - to, in effect, who was working for the cabal to try to hide its very existence. Guess what? A clear majority of the Italian books on the MOF take the opposite view to Preston’s and none take his hairbrained position.

Was Preston not so incompetent or corrupt as an investigator and so very dishonest as a real-crime book writer (the inaccurate afterword is still there)  he could have realised that Mignini’s side was the right side to be on and the resultant book would have made them BOTH look good.

The check from the cabal must have been a big one…

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/25/10 at 11:36 PM | #

Douglas Preston writes in the above linked article from Janus:

“In the year since Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher, public opinion appears to have swung in Knox’s favour both in Italy and abroad.”

It would be interesting to know where he gets his information from or how does he measure the support as increasing, decreasing or constant?

My impression is exactly the opposite of what he writes. After Amanda Knox’ conviction most supporters vanished and those who still supported her became very silent as well after the full English translation of the Judge’s Motivations Report was made available to the public for download. Now there are only a few left who comment regularly on the case, sometimes even insulting the Kerchers or ridiculing them. Maybe that is what Preston is referring to? Because these comments indeed have increased since the guilty verdict.

Edda Mellas and Curt Knox also mention here and there that there is “growing support” without giving any further details.

Someone with the name of Jeff Dearman filed a petition with Amnesty International and he was seeking 1000 signatures to “free Amanda Knox”. Only 434 persons worldwide signed his petition. I am pretty sure this number already includes all family members, family friends and the “vocal supporters”. Bottom line: they couldn’t convince anybody.

Posted by Nell on 11/26/10 at 05:19 AM | #

Hi Nell. As you suspect, Doug Preston is making this up. In effect, he is simply lying. The Guardian made no attempt to check whether his claim was true. Italian run a very impressive system and the investigation and judicial process have been fair and very painstaking. NOBODY is ashamed of the outcome.

The prosecution jumped through a number of hoops and the judges were always tough. All the defense lawyers had every opportunity to make a complaint and none of them ever did. At trial the prosecution did a terrific job and the defense was slow, halting and indecisive.

Preston seems to know next to nothing about how the Italian system works. Very few convictions are fully overturned, as many posts here already explained, and the MANDATORY appeal process is written into the Italian Constitution - it implies NOTHING about the quality of trial outcomes.

Italy has proportionally only 1/8 repeat 1/8 of the population behind bars that the US has. This is hardly a sign of police or judicial over-reach. Does the idiotic Preston know THAT? 

Oh and only three or four dozen attended Girlanda’s presentation of his book. Not exactly a mass movement.  If newspapers really cannot do better than they have in this case, is there any point to trying to save them? Shame on the Guardian for this crap.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/26/10 at 06:49 AM | #

Hi Peter,  I completely agree. What bothers me most is that people like Doug Preston and Steve Shay don’t even seem to try doing their job correctly.

They simply don’t care what crap they write. I have had a look at the West Seattle Herald a few days ago, looking for information about the outcome of the fundraiser and I was shocked to see that a user with the name “westseattleherald” and Steve Shay himself comment now in the comment section under his own article to lecture people who criticise him.  I have never seen anything like it before.

The people commenting regarding the quality of his article not only had many supporters (a few dozens of likes each, while the Amanda Knox supporters and Steve Shay get between 0 and 7), they also expressed themselves more eloquently than Steve Shay. After all, he blends in perfectly with the family he defends.

Posted by Nell on 11/26/10 at 11:21 AM | #

Awwww it seems that Preston is still very much angry with Mignini and the Italian authorities for interfering with his wannabe detective stint years ago in Italy during the writing of his book with Mario Spezi ‘The Monster of Florence’ which more appropriate title should be ‘The amateur investigators of Florence’.

This boring and ridiculous book dealt more about him and his co author various run-ins with Italian law enforcements as well as their determination with misrepresenting the Italian legal system while “investigating” the case rather than revealing anything substantial or conclusive about the killer(s) or the victims. No proof just theory.

Just like in his book it is obvious in his The Guardian’s article that Preston couldn’t care less about the facts and proofs which caused Knox to be where she is. He seems to have his own theory about the case and I don’t think is he even interested in whether Knox is released or not. It’s all against Mignini and the Italian legal system!

The Italians interfered with the writing of Preston’s book which ended up being an embarrassing turkey and he is obviously still very angry. It’s merely the same old bs that occurs anywhere/everywhere as he is desperately trying to expose those who hold some power as incompetent idiots to make them pay for his embarrassment.

It’s time he moved on! I suggest that Instead of wasting his time playing detective and writing nonsense he should maybe write a book about anger management.

Posted by tempusfugit on 11/26/10 at 02:50 PM | #

Make a comment


Where next:

Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page

Or to next entry More On Motive: Some Of The Cases Of “Nice” Girls Who Killed With Little Or No Motive At All

Or to previous entry 1st Appeal Session: Kercher Lawyer Maresca Says Verdict Perfect, Seems Optimistic This Soon Over