Thursday, August 13, 2015

Justice System Comparisons #4: How Canada And The US Shape Up Against Italy

Posted by Chimera

A joint press conference of Italian and American crimefighters in Rome

Framing This Post

A major argument of conspiracy theorists like the one dissected in James Raper’s post below is that the Italian justice system is not very good, and often cruel.

In English only (of course) Sollecito and Gumbel tried that in Sollecito’s book and maliciously and self-servingly misled Americans a lot. Doug Preston has done the same. Here we nailed some of Sollecito’s and Gumbel’s malicious claims. 

We have propagated an accurate take on Italian justice in numerous posts here. Between them they show that Italian justice IS very good, apart from occasional meddling which almost always goes nowhere. By comparison the US (which co-operates closely with both Italy and Canada) has more headaches with law enforcement and justice system (or systems) than quite a few other countries now.

My own contribution has been to show how in many ways Canadian justice resembles Italian justice and it is hard to say which is better or worse. See my past posts on this here and here and here.

This post and the next post in my series focuses on the US and Canada and some basic differences in those laws relevant to our case here.

Plus the highlighting of some notorious killers in both Canada and the United States of a kind which in fact in Italy are quite rare.

Who Makes the Laws?

One important distinction to make here:  In Canada, criminal law is the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government.  That means Ottawa makes the criminal laws, and is responsible to setting the sentences for each offence.  In a similar vein, Ottawa also can remove laws that are outdated, and amend the sentencing ranges for offences.  In the United States, murder and sexual assault are considered ‘‘state crimes’‘, and the respective states determine the laws.  This is why some states have the death penalty, and others do not.

While the American model, being state made, does in theory make the laws more closely reflect the will of the people, it makes for a very uneven set of penalties for crimes.  The Canadian model, by comparison, is uniform across all provinces and territories.

When is it First Degree Murder?

It is first degree murder when a killing is planned out.  However, many circumstances arise which are so aggravated that the government will consider them 1st degree, regardless of being intentional.  Also, depending on who the victim is, just the murder alone may result in s 1st degree charge.  This is a commonality between both Canada and the U.S.

In Canada

According to the Criminal Code of Canada Section 231(5) Irrespective of whether a murder is planned and deliberate on the part of any person, murder is first degree murder in respect of a person when the death is caused by that person while committing or attempting to commit an offence under one of the following sections:

(a) section 76 (hijacking an aircraft);
(b) section 271 (sexual assault);
(c) section 272 (sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm);
(d) section 273 (aggravated sexual assault);
(e) section 279 (kidnapping and forcible confinement); or
(f) section 279.1 (hostage taking).[12]

In The US

The individual states have differences in their laws, but they are common in that planned or premeditated killings are particularly heinous and call for severe punishment.  Most states also have what is called ‘‘felony murder’‘, which is when someone is killed during the commission of a crime, such as rape, robbery, arson or kidnapping.

Generally speaking, killing of police officers, jail guards, and court officials is also first degree murder, regardless of whether those were planned.  I am not posting the statutes for 50 states, but you get the idea.

Take the Jodi Arias case for example.  Arias, in trying to fight off premeditation allegations, claimed that she did not bring the gun (a .25 automatic) to Travis Alexander’s house to kill him.  Prosecutors allege that Arias staged a burglary in her Grandparents’ home a week before to to provide cover.

Arias claimed that the gun was actually Travis’.  However, no gun was ever recovered from the home.  So, then if it was Travis’ gun, Arias must have stolen it from his house, making it a robbery.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez argued either Arias: (a) Brought the gun to Arizona, meaning it was premeditated, and hence 1st degree, or; (b) She robbed Mr. Alexander of his gun after killing him, which makes it felony murder, hence 1st degree. 

Note: in the 2013 trial verdict, all 12 jurors thought it was premeditated, while 7 of them thought it qualified as ‘‘felony murder’’ as well.

Federal v.s. State/Provincial Prison

Under Canadian law, whether a person goes to a Provincial or Federal prison is determined by the length of the sentence.  2 years is the cutoff mark.  2 years and above, the person goes to federal prison, whereas 2 years less a day and below results in going to a provincial jail.

For federal prisoners, in Canada, they are transported to Kingston, Ontario for ‘‘classification’‘. This can take months.  Then they are usually shipped off to other prisons around the country.  For provincial prisoners serving very short sentences (3 months or less), they may just stay in the local jails, while those serving longer terms are usually sent to other provincial jails.

Under American law, the difference between state and federal prison depends on the offence.  Sexual assault, assault, and murder are state charges, while the federal system is more drug trafficking and white collar crime.  This is likely why federal prison is seen as ‘‘easier time’‘.

Death Penalty Laws

Canada currently does not have the death penalty.

Several U.S. states still do, such as California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Virginia.  This is determined at the state level.

However, do not think that all Americans are bloodthirsty, and all Canadians too forgiving or soft.  Depending on the research poll, about 35-45% of Canadians do support capital punishment in some circumstances.  This is a significant minority.  And many Americans find the death penalty distasteful, as there is the chance to kill innocent people.

Sex Offender Registry

Both Canada and the U.S. have sex offender registries.  Concerning what happened to Meredith: Knox, Sollecito and Guede would all have to register if they were ever set free.  They would be registered for life, regardless if the crime happened locally or internationally.  The reasons are the same for both countries—namely to monitor sexual predators.

One key difference: in Canada, the S.O.R is limited to police use, while in some U.S. states, the public in general can look it up.  Without getting into a debate, I imagine the difference is which concern is more pressing: (a) Letting the public have the right to know and act; (b) Concerns about becoming a pariah, and potential acts of vigilantism.

Deportation of Foreigners

If someone came to Canada or the U.S. and committed these acts, they would be deported after serving their sentence.

There have been attempts to fight deportation, claiming the home country engages in human rights abuses, but hopefully, these will become harder to pull off.

’‘Cashing in’’ on the Notoriety, or Son-of-Sam Laws

Canadian provinces have their own laws, as do U.S. states and the federal government, but in content they are almost identical.  Notorious criminals (usually killers, but not always), cannot cash in on their ‘‘fame’’ in the form of paid interview, articles, book deals or movie deals.

Any such deal would very likely be forfeited either by a government challenge, or by a lawsuit from the victims or their families.  The proceeds from ‘‘Waiting to be Heard’’ or from ‘‘Honor Bound’’ would be seized.

Classifications of Crimes

In Canada:

Minor crimes are tried ‘‘summarily’‘
Major crimes are tried ‘‘by indictment’‘
Crimes which the prosecutor has discretion are called ‘‘hybrid offences’‘

In the U.S.

Minor crimes are called ‘‘misdemeanors’‘
Major crimes are called ‘‘felonies’’

Judge Alone v.s. Jury Trial

In Canada, a defendant has the option of choosing between a judge only trial (called a bench trial), or a jury trial if facing any offence that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or more.  If the maximum penalty is 5 years or less, then it will be the judge only.  This cuts down on the amount of times jury notice is sent out.

In the U.S. (I don’t know all the cases), but there is usually more options to have the case heard by a jury.

Jury Deliberations

In Canada, jurors are sworn not to talk about their deliberations with their families, or with the press.  This ‘‘legal omerta’’ survives even after a decision and a sentence has been handed down.  In fact, it never expires.  Jurors who deliberated over cases 50 years ago cannot talk about it.  This works the same as with Italy.

This differs from the U.S., where (unless a specific publication ban is in place), jurors are free to talk and give interviews after the fact.  In fact, many jurors do give interviews after high profile cases are resolved.  If Genny Ballerini (who talked about the Florence appeal in 2013/2014), had been an American juror, it would have been okay to do.

Threshold to Getting an Appeal Heard

In all 3 countries: Canada, the U.S., and Italy, all defendants who are convicted have the right to pursue an appeal.  However, an important difference is made.

Canadian and American appeals are screened before the full appeal is heard.  They are checked for merit, and to review if their is any real likelihood of success.  This applies to both defendants seeking to have convictions overturned, and those merely seeking sentence reductions.  If the appeal appears to be baseless, it will be rejected, and the full panel of judges will not hear it.  If the appeal filed before Judge Chairi (later moved to Judge Hellmann), had been in a Canadian or U.S. court, the grounds would be so weak it would have been thrown out on review.

Italy, by comparison, automatically grants not 1, but 2 appeals to all defendants.  All they have to do is file for one.  Yes, a much lower burden, but it means that the appeals courts (and Cassation), are clogged by appeals, slowing everything down.

Makeup of Appellate Courts

Appeal courts in both Canada and the U.S. are comprised of a panel of judges.  This will usually be between 3 and 9 judges.  In Italy, the typical first level appeal is decided by 2 judges and 6 jurors (or lay judges).

Canadian, American and Italian Supreme Courts are decided by judges alone.

Agenda of Appellate Courts

Canadian and American courts are similar in that they are ‘‘paper courts’‘, not ‘‘evidence courts’‘.  They work from transcripts, not evidence or witnesses.  However, in Italy, at the lower appellate level, witnesses are heard, defendants can talk, and evidence can be presented.  It is more like another trial than a Common Law ‘‘appeal’‘.  But to be fair, an appeal to the Italian Supreme Court (a.k.a. Corti di Cassazione), is a brief hearing on the procedures, logic, and findings of the lower court, and is quite similar to a Common Law appeal.

Canadian and American appeals courts are not there to ‘‘retry a case’‘.  Rather, the burden falls on the appellant (the party appealing), regardless of whether it is a prosecution or a defence appeal.

For a defendant appealing a conviction, the burden is on him/her to show that there was significant error that led to the conviction, such as:
-Evidence admitted at trial that should not have been
-New evidence emerges that shows innocence, or impeaches a prosecution witness
-Wrong legal procedures were applied at trial
-There was bias or prejudice from the court

For a defendant appealing a sentence, the burden is to show that:
-The sentence was unduly harsh
-It is inconsistent with similar crimes and circumstances

Size of the Nation’s Highest Court

The Supreme Court of Canada has 9 judges.

The Supreme Court of the United States has 9 judges.

The Supreme Court of Italy has about 300 judges.

Consecutive v.s. Concurrent Sentences

Until very recently, the law in Canada was that all convictions a person received for acts, (or a series of acts), ran together, or concurrently.  This changed to exclude multiple murderers, and the so called ‘‘bulk discount’’ they were getting.  In the past, even serial killers would be eligible for parole after 25 years.  No guarantees of parole of course, but the possibility angers victims rights groups.

The U.S. judges have much more lattitude in handing out consecutive sentences.

Mandatory Sentencing

Canada has mandatory sentences for many offences, including: 1st and 2nd degree murder, crimes committed using firearms, child sex offences, trafficking in drugs, and fraud (if the value is over $1 million).  The trend in the last several years has been to push for harsher penalties.

  -For murder, multiple murder sentences now run consecutively.
  -The minimum for crimes using guns was 4 years, it is now 5, 7 or 10 depending on number of previous offences
  -Child sex offences was 90 days (if by indictment), now it is 1 year
  -Discretion has been removed in sentencing drug dealers to prison for the most part
  -Major fraud has a 2 year minimum.  It never used to.

America also has mandatory jail sentences, including for minor drug offences,  Too numerous to list here, but there has been pressure to reduce these sentences to curb the swelling prison population.  Except for the Walter Whites (Breaking Bad) out there, dealing shouldn’t carry a longer minimum sentence than manslaughter.

Knox’s drug dealer, Federico Martini, should be especially grateful to have been in Italy.  Rather than the 28 months he got for dealing, had he been in the U.S., it would likely be closer to 28 years.

Plea Bargaining

In both Canada and the U.S., plea bargaining is available, (something not available in Italy).  Not only does a defendant usually have the option of pleading for lesser time, but but a lesser charge.  This can cause a quick settlement, especially if one is accused of an offence which carries a high minimum sentence.

While prosecutors and defence counsel can make a deal, the judge ultimately accepts or refuses it.

Plea bargaining in a single defendant case is one thing, but it is much more controversial to make a deal to testify against someone else.  The reasoning is that the person’s story can’t help but be shaped in an effort to please the prosecutors, and that it is in essence ‘‘buying testimony’‘.  Though state standards differ, corroboration is required, as a person cannot be convicted solely on the testimony of an accomplice.  There is also the risk of a conviction being thrown out if lies are discovered.

Guede offered to testify against Knox and Sollecito, but Mignini/Comodi refused to let him.  They didn’t need him, and even if they let him, there was the chance it would blow up in their faces.

Incarceration Rate

Canada: 118 per 100,000
United States: 707 per 100,000

****Incidentally, Italy’s rate is 100 per 100,000

Note: Those topics: (a) consecutive sentences; (b) mandatory minimums; (c) plea bargaining; and (d) incarceration rate; are closely related.

Recording of Police Interrogations

It is not required in Canada to record suspect interrogations, nor (although I don’t know each state) in the U.S.  There is no law in either Canada or the U.S. that witness interviews must be videotaped, often they end merely in statements being written up.

However, most police agencies have a policy of recording suspect questionings.  There are several reasons for doing it: (a) To protect against any claim of being ‘‘roughed up’’ by authorities; (b) To protect against potential claims of being misinterpreted; (c) To provide a full record of what happened; (d) To review later, as a video may be mined for further information.

Knox claimed she was ‘‘interrogated’’ by Perugian Police, and that she was targeted.  Odd, how Rita Ficarra had no idea she would even be coming to the police station.  (Sollecito had been called—alone—to clear up his alibi).  Knox started to work on a list of ‘‘potential suspects’‘.  When Sollecito backed off on being her alibi, Knox was asked to explain.  She then falsely accused Lumumba, and placed herself at the scene.  At this point her legal status changed from potential witness to suspect, and the questioning stopped.  Knox waived her warnings, and signed those statements anyway.

In the media it is misrepresented as being a ‘‘long, brutal interrogation’’ or a ‘‘series of interrogations’‘, and Knox complains of it lasting over 50 hours in her December 2013 email.  She also accuses Rita Ficarra of assault (part of her current calunnia trial), and Prosecutor Mignini of illegally questioning her without counsel. 

Again, how could the Perugia Police be setting an elaborate trap for Knox?  She showed up that night completely unexpectedly.  See the 18 part ‘‘Knox Interrogation Hoax’’ series.

Double Jeopardy Law

Under the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms, section 11(h) says that a person who has served a sentence for an offence shall not be tried again, or a person finally acquitted shall not be tried again.  The key is ‘‘finally’‘, as in the parties don’t intend to appeal further

The 5th amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that a person shall not be put in jeopardy twice for the same offence.

The only real difference is that acquittals at trial in Canada may be appealed under very limited circumstances, such as wrong instructions at trial.  It CANNOT be a redo, but there must be a very serious legal error to redress.  Canadian prosecutors have a very high burden to meet.  Under U.S. law, a trial acquittal is the end, barring killing a witness or bribing a judge.

This does not apply to appeal courts.  In both Canada and the U.S. appellate court rulings may be appealed further.  Had Hellmann been a U.S./Canadian appeal judge, it would not be double jeopardy to challenge his ruling.

Canadian Charter v. U.S. Constitution

Italy goes out of its way to give defendants, but here is a quick comparison with the Western Hemisphere.  Sadly, as victim’s rights groups point out, criminals seem to have more rights than their victims.

The Canadian Charter, sections 7 to 14, and the U.S. Constitution, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th amendments guarantee many of the same rights to criminal defendants

Canada: illegal searches would violate section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 
America: illegal searches would violate the 4th Amendment of the Constitution

Canada: one has the right to instruct counsel without delay, and be informed of the right under Section 10(b)
America: one has the right to a lawyer under the 6 Amendment.

Canada: cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited under Section 12
America: cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited under the 14th Amendment.

Canada: one can’t be forced to be a witness against themselves under Section 11(c)
America: one can’t be forced to be a witness against themselves under the 5th Amendment (taking the 5th)

Canada: retrying for the same offence violates Section 11(h)
America: retrying for the same offence violates the 5th Amendment.

Canada: demanding unreasonable bail violates Section 11(e)
America: demanding unreasonable bail violates the 8th Amendment.

-The police obtained warrants before getting internet records, phone records, etc ...
-AK’s first 2 statements were inadmissible because she had no lawyer (even though she refused one).
-AK/RS complain about ‘‘hellish’’ conditions now, but not when the U.S. State Department checked in.
-AK only testified regarding the ‘‘calunnia’‘, but AK/RS used their ‘‘right to not respond’‘.
-AK/RS claim their ‘‘acquittals’’ should be the end, but 11(h)/5th doesn’t apply to appeals court that get further appealed
-AK/RS got multiple attempts to apply for bail

Notorious Killers In Canada

1. Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Scarborough, Ontario—This case still leaves a bad taste for Canadians.  The couple murdered 3 teens, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, as well as Karla’s younger sister, Tammy.  Bernardo was already a prolific rapist before meeting Homolka, but no one died until they got together.

Bernardo is serving life in prison and has been classified as a ‘‘dangerous offender’‘.  Homolka served only 12 years after testifying against him, in what was called the ‘‘deal with the devil.’’  Homolka claimed that she was forced to go along to help with Bernardo’s crimes, using the ‘‘battered woman’s syndrome’‘, although it has since been shown that she was a willing and enthusiastic participant.  Police speculate that there were other victims but no more additional charges were filed.

Though claiming her innocence, Knox has tried using the ‘‘I was browbeaten’’ line against Italian authorities.

2. David Bagshaw and Melissa Todorovic

Toronto,Ontario—A 15 year old girl convinces her 17 year old (almost 18) boyfriend to murder a rival, a 14 year old girl Todorovic had never met, Stefanie Rengel.  Todorovic threatened to withhold sex from Bagshaw unless he complied, and these threats went on for months.  When Bagshaw finally did kill Stefanie, he got his reward, sex.  While Todorovic never met Stefanie, Stefanie and Bagshaw had briefly dated.

Bagshaw, 4 days short of 18 at the time, lost his bid for a youth sentence, and received a life sentence.  In custody, he helped an inmate try to kill another.  Todorovic tried to claim she never meant for this to happen.  She received an adult sentence, life with a 7 year minimum in custody.  Both lost their appeals.

Todorovic was reportedly jealous Bagshaw had once dated Stefanie.  Knox was reportedly jealous Meredith started dating Giacomo.

3. Jeremy Steinke and ‘‘Jane Doe’‘

Medicine Hat, Alberta—Steinke was the 23 year old boyfriend of ‘‘Jane Doe’‘, the 12 year old who arranged to have her brother and parents murdered.  The girl cannot be named, as an adult sentence could not be imposed (she was under 14 at the time).  Given that 23 and 12 is considered pedophilia in Canada, there were concerns that the parents would have called the police.

The parents wanting to end the relationship was the apparent motive for the murders, although it is not clear why the brother, then 8, was killed as well.  The woman is currently serving the rest of her 10 year sentence in the community, while Steinke is serving 3 concurrent terms of 25 years to life.

The parents obviously disapproved of the huge age gap.  But to be fair—Raffaele Sollecito was a ‘‘kid’’ when he was 23.

4. Russell Williams

Tweed, Ontario—Williams was a colonel in the Canadian Air-Force and Commander of the Trenton Air Base.  He has since been given a service misconduct and kicked out.  In his early 40’s, he began breaking into neighbours’ homes and stealing underwear.  He later committed 2 sexual assault, but let those victims go, but committed 2 more but killed those victims: Marie-Frances Comeau (a military officer under his command); and Jessica Lloyd.

Williams plead guilty to 2 murders, 4 sexual assaults, and 88 break-ins, but will still be eligible for parole after 25 years.

A few gruesome facts: Williams suffocated Ms. Comeau by wrapping her head with duct tape, and made a video of it. 

Also, he told Jessica’s boyfriend (at the time worked under William’s command), that he didn’t have to talk to police without a lawyer.  He also dumped Jessica’s body where he knew her boyfriend hunted.  It seems likely that Williams was trying to frame him.  Perhaps Williams wanted Jessica’s boyfriend to be the one to find her, a bit like Knox wanted Filomena or Laura to find Meredith.

5. Cody Legebokoff

Prince George, British Columbia—Termed ‘‘Canada’s Youngest Serial Killer’‘, he killed 3 women: Jill Stuchenko, Natasha Montgomery, Cynthia Maas, and a 15 year old girl Loren Leslie, all by age 20.

When originally stopped, Legebokoff claimed the blood was from a deer he was poaching and had clubbed to death.  At trial, he tried to claim that a drug dealer X, and his two associates: Y, and Z did it, and that he was an unwilling participant.  That excuse failed, and he was convicted on 4 counts of first degree murder.

An appeal is pending based on the claim that the trial should have been moved elsewhere due to the publicity.  He complains it is impossible to be judged fairly.  But to be fair, he hasn’t sought out the limelight, given TV interviews, or signed any book deals.

Author’s note: I was in Prince George while the trial went on.  Yes, the town knew about it, but people still went about their lives.

Notorious Killers In The US

1. Gerald and Charlene Gallego

This couple committed a series of murders in California and Nevada.  They kidnapped women to become sex slaves.  Their victims included: Rhonda Schleffer, Kippi Vaught, Brenda Judd, Sandra Colley, Stacey Redican, Karen Twiggs, and at least 4 others.  When caught, Charlene turned against Gerald, claiming he was abuse, controlling, and had initiated everything.

In return for testifying against Gerald, Charlene was not charged in California, and only received 16 years, 8 months in Nevada.  She has since been released.  Gerald received death sentences in both states, but died before either could be carried out.  While Charlene received much more lenient treatment, there has been speculation that the sex slavery was her idea.

Since plea bargaining is illegal in Italy, neither Knox nor Sollecito could turn on each other for a deal.  They probably would have, if it was possible.

2. Douglas Thomas and Jessica Wiseman

Virginia—14 year old Jessica Wiseman arranged to have her 17 year old boyfriend Douglas Thomas murder Wiseman’s parents.  They were shot dead in their sleep.  Thomas apparently was so desparite for love that he was willing to go along with a girl who wanted away from her controlling parents.  While pledging to be with him at first, Wiseman abandoned him once he ‘‘served his purpose’‘.

Wiseman was tried as a juvenile, and released after 7 years, since she could not be held past her 21st birthday.  Thomas was executed 2 years later, after spending 9 years on death row.  This happened even as information emerged that Jessica shot her Mom, though it was never verified.  Though she was younger, it was widely viewed as unjust.

Knox, though not living with her parents, had problems in her home with the women upstairs.  Other options were available, such as moving in with Sollecito, or ‘‘re-negotiating’’ with Federico Martini, but Knox tried to solve her problem by getting rid of it.

3. Alvin and Judith Neelley

Georgia—this couple abducted a 13 year old girl, repeatedly sexually assaulted her, and injected her with Drano, hoping to poison her.  When that didn’t work, Judith shot her in the head.  Afterwards, they abducted a couple, Janice Chatman and John Hancock, brought them to a hotel to be tortured and murdered.  John was shot and left for dead, but survived, and was able to identify the Neelleys afterwards.

Judith was sentenced to death, but it was commuted to life without parole.  Alvin is serving a similar sentence.

A sick game they played, as if they were living out a fantasy.  Who else fantasizes violence?

4. Jodi Arias

Arizona—A California resident had a long distance relationship with an Arizona resident, until he rejected her.  Arias staged a break in at her grandparents’ place to get a gun,  went out of town to rent a car, got 3 5-gallon gas cans (so she wouldn’t have to stop), and turned off her cell phone (so it couldn’t be traced).  She went to Travis Alexander’s home, had ‘‘good-bye sex’’ with him, then stabbed him 29 times, slit his throat, and shot him in the head.  She then cleaned up, and went to her new boyfriend, in Utah, as if nothing happened.

Initially Arias said she wasn’t there.  Then she said 2 masked burglars did it, but she was afraid to identify them.  Next she said she didn’t know who they were.  At trial she claimed self defence, while invoking ‘‘battered woman’s syndrome.’’  The judge and jury didn’t believe her, and while she was spared the death penalty, Arias received life without parole.

Arias didn’t take rejection by Travis well at all, and neither did Knox take being stood up on Hallowe’en by Meredith.

5. Casey Anthony

Florida—Her daughter Caylee goes missing, so Casey goes partying (a bit like Guede did after Meredith’s death).  Prosecutors claim Anthony just wanted out of the responsibilities that came with being a parent.  Casey countered that Caylee accidently drowned.  Unfortunately, coroners were never able to positively determine the cause of death.

Although eventually acquitted of Caylee’s death, Casey was convicted on 4 counts of providing false information to law enforcement.  Among other things, Anthony made up a story about ‘‘Zanny the Nanny’’ possibly being involved to divert attention.  On appeal, 2 of those counts were overturned.  She is free, but keeping out of the public eye.  Anthony still has a record for lying, as does Knox.

6 Thomasdinh Bowman

Washington State—He shot another driver, Yancy Noll, in the head several times.  Bowman tried to clean up the crimescene—his car, and had his cellphone turned off.  When arrested, he denied involvement, but later changed his story to ‘‘self-defence’‘, claiming Noll attacked him in a fit of road rage.  Prosecutors claimed that this was planned, and that he had studied on how to get away with murder.

At trial, he was observed smirking and seeming to enjoy himself.  Knox likewise enjoyed the attention of her 2009 trial.  This attitude would come back to haunt him.  He was convicted of murder, and sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison.  He never expressed remorse to the family, just that he was ‘‘sorry they [the jury] didn’t believe me.’‘

Some Further Observations

Canadian and American laws are very similar in dealing with serious crime, with the focus being on punishment and deterrence.  Both countries have a bill of rights to ensure basic defendant’s rights are met, quite similar to what Italy has, but something many nations don’t offer.  Some main differences: (1) Canadian criminal law is made federally, while the U.S. states make their own laws for murder; (2) Canada has a much lower incarceration rate; (3) Canada’s sentencing laws are getting tougher, while U.S. laws are going the other way; (4) some states have the death penalty while Canada does not.

Both countries have their fair share of wackos, (pardon the non-technical term).  This is not an American problem, or a cultural problem, but a problem of having people who should not be walking freely among us.  While both countries do have ‘‘rehabilitation’’ as part of their sentencing guidelines, murder is a crime that must be punished, both to condemn the act, and to protect the public.

When faced with the prospect of a long mandatory sentence, or multiple, consecutive sentences, there is the reaction to plead out for lesser offences.  However, pleading guilty can have major implications, especially if giving someone else up for a lighter sentence.

Falsely accusing innocent people, or at least fictional people, seems fairly common by killers.  They do not ‘‘falsely confess’’ that other people did the crime, rather they ‘‘falsely accuse’‘.

Male-female killer couples occur in both countries, but almost universally, the female killer gets a much lighter sentence.  This is likely in part due to society willing to believe that the man is primarily responsible.  Also, these women have no qualms about blaming it all on the man.  The case of Knox getting a higher sentence than Sollecito or Guede seems to be an anomaly.


Acknowledgements: A thank you to Yummi, Peter Q., and Cardiol.  Your feedback has altered the direction of this series.

Posted by Chimera on 08/13/15 at 02:16 PM in Diff justice systemsItalian systemUS etc systems

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This is a thoughtful overview of U.S. and Canadian justice contrasted with Italy, a great effort. I wish criminals in U.S. did not see the court as a personal sanctuary, that we could get tough on crime in some new way, while at same time doing triage such as removing and encouraging those prisoners who do stand a chance of going straight. Determining who is salvageable is the crux. “A good diagnosis is half the cure.”

Iron bars alone are not the answer. Neither is blindness to an offender who is already hardened, who has become a brass pot that can no longer be molded.

I am for States’ rights in all these matters.

I have always been for the death penalty in cases of capital murder, including Meredith’s.

I see no benefit for a killer or his victims in warehousing him for long stints with other beasts, who only corrupt any goodness the prisoner might have once had.

The anger that develops inside a person through prolonged punishment or horrid jail conditions which can’t always be amended by cash-strapped governments, breeds more hatred and feelings of entitlement to lash out in revenge IMO and erodes the soul of a man.

Personally I would feel prison for myself to be a worse torture especially if it were extended to decades. It would be much worse than making peace with my Maker and saying goodbye to life altogether in a state of grace and forgiveness instead of dying with my fist shaking at God forty years later when I had become as angry and hateful as the worst criminal behind bars. Hardness happens from years of Chinese water torture mentally.

Execution by the State is not murder. The killer’s loved ones on the outside would be spared much anguish of soul and spirit if the State stood firm for the value of life of the innocent.

Posted by Hopeful on 08/14/15 at 01:29 AM | #

“Iron bars alone are not the answer. Neither is blindness to an offender who is already hardened, who has become a brass pot that can no longer be molded…...I have always been for the death penalty in cases of capital murder, including Meredith’s.”

I’m with you.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 08/14/15 at 04:07 AM | #

I’m American and against the death penalty.  I definitely believe it’s murder.

Posted by JohnQ on 08/14/15 at 09:51 AM | #


I’m English and I oppose capital punishment too.

In an ideal world where human justice is infallible and the right person is always convicted there may be some small argument for it, but even then…

In the real world of imperfect justice (and occasionally bent courts - with which we are all too familiar) it can and does result in the judicial murder of innocent people.

Murderers don’t doubt they have identified the correct source of their travails when they kill someone. We shouldn’t copy their conceit.

Posted by Odysseus on 08/14/15 at 10:36 AM | #

@ JohnQ & Odysseus, I’m English, enjoy civilised exchange on TJMK, but do not not enjoy submission to comparisons with murderers and their “conceit”.

The history of the death penalty definitely includes its infliction on the not-guilty.

Stricter criteria are definitely mandatory, require a standard of Proof that excludes the not-guilty,  and includes only the perpetrators of inexcusable killings.

Can we agree to differ?

Posted by Cardiol MD on 08/14/15 at 12:46 PM | #


Of course we can agree to differ.😊

I certainly wasn’t implying that you, individually, are conceited - I’m sure you’ve never killed anyone, judicially or otherwise!

The point I was trying to make, maybe lamely, is that it’s conceited for anyone to think their judgement is infallible, and the same surely goes for our collective judicial judgements.

A standard of proof that excludes the not-guilty would be wonderful! But then how about corrupt courts, advances in forensics after conviction (as in the advent of DNA analysis), etc?

Just my view.

Posted by Odysseus on 08/14/15 at 01:23 PM | #

Crime is sharply down in the US and the discussions now are about revised methods of policing, reducing still-bursting prison populations, applying advances in psychology, and…

Hmmm, where is there meaningful discussion about economic opportunity?! The rich get richer, and everybody else… By States’ rights Hopeful means bottom-up and its at local levels that much better growth methods need to be propagated. 

On these lines in today’s news not in a good way is Seattle’s Washington State on education.

Washington State Faces $100,000-a-Day Fine Until Schools Plan Is Reached…

The state’s superintendent of public instruction, Randy Dorn, applauded the court’s decision and said that the fines might achieve what previous orders by the court had not.

Washington, he said, is near the bottom of the national rankings in class size and in per-pupil K-12 funding. An over-reliance on local taxes — which is at the heart of the case underlying Thursday’s order — has created, he said, a patchwork of rich districts and poor ones. That makes the question not just one of books and teacher salaries, Mr. Dorn said, but civil rights.

It looks like a system problem at core rather than one of attitudes, in this instance things are maybe TOO local!

For modern-method growth purposes, aggregates of 1 to 5 million usually work well especially if they are networked with (and in slight competition with) other aggregates working on the same problems.

If you want to set about it, here is what is still the best-ever primer to begin with:


Posted by Peter Quennell on 08/14/15 at 02:36 PM | #

On the death penalty, the last time anyone was executed in the north-east was years and years ago, and most north-east states have abolished it. A surprise to wake up to this big spread in the NY Times then - Connecticut still (sort of) has it.

At Federal level the death penalty still exists in the north-east and the cruel Boston marathon bomber from Chechnya who crippled a number of little children seemingly deliberately has been so sentenced. Many here who cant stand the death penalty still blink at exceptions like that one.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 08/14/15 at 02:45 PM | #

@Odysseus I, individually, am conceited. I’m proud of being English, as you obviously are.

It’s not true that I have never killed any one.

I have “Pulled-the Plug” on Patients, of all ages, with irreversible brain damage, and accelerated their death in Patients who were dying-painfully of irreversible cancers….  It goes on and on.

Each one of us is the world authority of what it feels like to walk in our moccasins.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 08/14/15 at 03:25 PM | #

That’s all well and good I can agree that the death penalty in most cases is wrong. But to have seen the atrocities that I have seen it might make you change your mind.

There are people in this world who are not human. I have seen the bodies of children who have been sodomized while being slowly killed in order that their death throws will create sexual excitement for the perpetrator. Such things are committed by people who are not human and this world is a better place without them. We could always tell because at the moment of death all the muscles of the body cease to function so the anus was always left open. 

Concerning other things I have seen I could go on, but I don’t have to. The point is the death penalty in every case should be viewed in light of the crime.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 08/14/15 at 06:31 PM | #

Wow, Cardiol MD, I humbly suggest that you read my again. It did not compare you to a murderer. And I had no idea that you had killed patients. With all due respect, that is not a topic addressed in this blog post, and not one I want to discuss, sorry. As you have brought up the topic of submitting to comments, I would like to make it clear, again, that I did not compare you to a murderer. As to my position on the death penalty, we can agree to disagree, of course. I believe that Odysseus is correct. I don’t believe in the death penalty, but even if I did, nothing would make me believe that any justice system could be made to identify the guilty vs. the innocent accurately enough for me to believe in the death penalty. This case is an unfortunate example of how a justice system, no matter how rarely it happens can turn truth upside down.

Posted by JohnQ on 08/15/15 at 06:52 AM | #

I agree with the death sentence in cases where the evidence is completely solid and the crime inhuman.  I find it impossible to disagree with it when I consider what it must feel like to have your loved one raped/tortured/murdered. 

Given the overwhelming evidence against Knox and Sollecito I would be perfectly content for both of them to be executed.

Posted by MHILL4 on 08/16/15 at 01:01 AM | #

I am wondering not just how to apply the D.P. fairly, but to ensure it is ‘‘seen’’ to be fair and just.  Sad, but perception frequently trumps reality.

However, with the distortion that goes on in the media over high profile cases, how can the public be certain that the right decision is made?  Many people have been put to death in the U.S. over far less than what is against AK/RS.  There are many still in the U.S. who think Knox is innocent, just selfish and cold-hearted.

With the right P.R. team, anyone can be ‘‘innocent’’ in public opinion.  Sad, but true.  Meanwhile, other questionable D.P. cases get overlooked simply because there is no media attention.

It wouldn’t bother me either if AK/RS did received a death sentence.  But I believe that Knox did put more planning and forethought into the crimes.

Posted by Chimera on 08/16/15 at 03:52 AM | #

“The Cheshire, Connecticut, home invasion murders occurred on July 23, 2007. Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters were murdered, while Police had the house surrounded…....Hayes and Komuisarjevsky fled the scene using the Petit family car.”

They were ... arrested one block away….”

Meanwhile the house burnt down, with the raped, burnt, and murdered victims inside.

Hayes and Komuisarjevsky confessed, and were sentenced to Death (DP recently commuted to LI)

Isn’t this a standard of proof that excludes the not-guilty ?

Posted by Cardiol MD on 08/16/15 at 06:42 AM | #

I too do not support the death penalty.

But sometimes I feel that the primitive justice is rather fit for some of the primitive men (and women). I can close my eyes and say that justice has been delivered.

By the way, @Chimera, what do you think of the Nurenberg trials, conducted by the US after the WWII? I was born after the WWII but I have heard that the trial was controversial.

My only gripe about the trial of Amanda Konx and others is that justice does not appear to be done.

Posting from behind the great firewall and I hope it will reach…

Posted by chami on 08/17/15 at 03:08 AM | #

@ Chami : “By the way, @Chimera, what do you think of the Nurenberg trials, conducted by the US after the WWII? I was born after the WWII but I have heard that the trial was controversial.”

Both the Allied Nuremburg military tribunal series and the U.S. series were extensively controversial, and relevant to the DP.

Although you specifically address Chimera, and specifically refer to the U.S. series, for the benefit of the rest of us will you please clarify?

Posted by Cardiol MD on 08/17/15 at 10:07 AM | #


I know very little about the details of the trials. I am from India posting from China and both have death penalty, like in the US. I am not a lawyer but a regular scientist and a teacher in an Indian University. I failed to understand your question (specifically, the last sentence).

My point is that when politics mixes with Justice the results are often unpleasant. I suspect that some degree of political interference is also present in the present case of the Amanda Knox trial. So far there is no evidence towards it but, as lawyers say, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I strongly believe that justice is done only when it is perceived to be done. Justice is not an act of revenge: its only purpose is to bring closure.

The reason for asking Chimera is that he appears to be a lawyer and Canadian and has followed many trials closely. My German friends hate to talk about these topics. It was a political trial and not relevant in the present discussion…

Posted by chami on 08/17/15 at 04:18 PM | #


“Justice is not an act of revenge”.


Posted by Odysseus on 08/17/15 at 04:45 PM | #


I’ve done legal work over the years (civil mainly), but am not actually a lawyer.  Flattered that you think I am.  Am a woman too, not that it matters.

Regarding the Nuremburg (Germany) trials following WWII, here is my 2 cents—hope it doesn’t touch any nerves.  I believed that those Germans did deserve it, however it is hugely hypocritical considering that the Allies committed their own atrocities, many even worse than Germany or Japan.

-Stalin (USSR) wanted Ukraine back into the Union, and in fact tried to starve them into submission.
-Stalin (USSR) signed a pact with Hitler in August 1939 to divide Poland, and Eastern Europe.
-Stalin (USSR) had his many of own troops killed for retreating.
-Churchill (UK) retaliated by the bombings of London, by targeting German civilians.
-Churchill (UK), as Defense Minister, supported using chemical weapons in the Middle East.
-King (Canada) had refused Jewish refugees fleeing from Germany.
-F.D. Roosevelt (USA) ordered the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor.
-Truman (USA) ordered the nuclear bombing of Heroshima and Nagasaki.

and so on ....

Yes, Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Heidrich, et al should have been executed.  But if we are to apply the ‘‘war crimes’’ and the ‘‘crimes against humanity’’ concepts fairly and equally, then some of the Allies should be as well.

Put it this way: Should Ted Bundy be judge, jury and executioner for David Berkowitz?

Posted by Chimera on 08/17/15 at 05:09 PM | #

@ chami - I agree with your sentiments re Politics, Revenge, and that a purpose of Justice is to bring Closure.

Closure does include deterrence, even deterrence only of the perpetrator if proven using a standard of proof that excludes the not-guilty.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 08/17/15 at 05:37 PM | #


Deterrence would be a good argument for capital punishment, if it could be shown. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for the wrongly convicted) there is no evidence that capital punishment is any deterrence.

As a statistician I would quite happily consider the value of capital punishment if the figures were to show that it deterred murder. There is no such evidence.

“It is generally agreed that the data which now exist show no correlation between the existence of capital punishment and lower rates of
capital crime.” (Capital Punishment, a United Nations study, 1968.)

Also see:

R. Hood and C. Hoyle, The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective, Oxford, OUP, 4th edition 2008.

Posted by Odysseus on 08/17/15 at 06:49 PM | #

@ Odysseus - the Death Penalty Absolutely Deters those submitted to it.

The point is to-submit-to-the-Death-Penalty only those fulfilling a standard of proof that excludes the not-guilty.

The Petit case clearly identifies the guilty and excludes the not-guilty.

The perpetrators even took cell-phone pictures of themselves committing their crimes. They even bought the gasoline while holding their victims hostage.

That is a standard of proof to which we should limit application of the Death Penalty. Of course such standard is often not met but when it is we can absolutely deter the perpetrators.

Deterring others is a different issue.

Most of us already know and accept the Statistics you quote, but even they do not and cannot take into account what the future incidence would have been.
Correlation is not Causation.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 08/17/15 at 08:11 PM | #

I see your point re “cannot see what the future incidence would have been” : a serial murderer may possibly be caught and executed after their first killing, thus very effectively deterring any future recurrences from him or her. Very true.

Doesn’t persuade me in favour of the death penalty though -  but I understand your feeling on the issue. I think most people feel much the same, murder is the ultimate crime.

Posted by Odysseus on 08/17/15 at 08:45 PM | #

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