Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Evolution Of The Wikipedia Article On The Murder Of Meredith Kercher

Posted by Gwaendar

It’s been mentioned by several Seattle media outlets - but none nationally - that the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (above) was considering somehow intervening to tilt the article on Meredith after “Bruce Fisher” started an online petition.

This post looks at how articles evolve under various checks and balances and the prospects for Jimmy Wales if he can indeed have any effect on the editing process - set up so that even he essentially can’t. 

1) The principles of Wikipedia

Wikipedia, the online Encyclopedia that anyone can edit, is and has always been a fascinating case study on the strengths and weaknesses of Crowd Sourcing.

Its arcane and often byzantine rules that have evolved over a decade are often difficult to follow, and have produced an environment with a steep learning curve, one that renders submission of new articles very difficult for novices - a situation often commented upon in the media.

For all their complexity, Wikipedia’s core rules provide a framework sustaining over 3 million articles today just for its English edition. It has its flaws, but in the grand scheme of things it works out quite well for the majority of articles.

Wikipedia’s English language website is right now the eighth most visited in the world and there are various versions in other languages.

2) How Wikipedia articles are built

Any article must stand on two core concepts, neutrality and verifiability.

  • Neutrality implies that the topic is described in as objective manner as possible, covering the relevant aspects while giving each the due weight they deserve.
  • Verifiability is the embodiment of an implicit compact between Wikipedia and its readers, the assurance that we aren’t just making things up. This is illustrated by the statement “Wikipedia is about Verifiability, not Truth”.  To that effect, any claims in an article must be verifiable through external reliable sources - If nobody made a claim before it appeared on Wikipedia, it will eventually be removed as “Original Research”.

For a source to be considered reliable, it must be either peer-reviewed or reported by a media outlet with a solid track record for fact checking and accuracy. In the final section of this piece, we will look at the shortcomings of that policy.

The three core content policies, “Neutral Point of View”, “Verifiability through Reliable Sources” and “No Original Research” are summed up in another guideline, the often misunderstood and maligned concept of Notability.

In Wikipedia-speak, Notability isn’t an indication of fame or importance, but refers to the notion that an article’s subject has been noted by others - that is, commented upon by multiple third party reliable sources in a non-trivial manner so that it is possible to verify that a Neutral Point of View is being maintained and no Original Research finds its way into the article.

Last but not least, articles involving living people are subject to particular considerations, called “BLP”  (Biographies of Living Persons), here to ensure Wikipedia is particularly careful to avoid libel. The smearing of the prosecutor, or the portrayal of Guede as a lone wolf when the judicial truth established by the Italian courts makes him one among three participants are both violations of the BLP policy.

3) Consensus: How conflicts are ironed out

As appears evident, those policies are put to the test everytime an article addresses a contentious issue.

Quite often, the available reliable sources present multiple sides of a same story. The requirement of Neutrality is often confused with the notion of balance (the simple representation of all sides of an issue). The challenge arises when it becomes necessary to determine what weight to give to a specific point of view.

For example, the population’s sentiment regarding nuclear power generators today can be presented in two different manners by a news organization interviewing people in the street: presenting three persons extremely worried about nuclear power, and three persons expressing confidence in the technology.

It is a balanced presentation, but if 90%  of the population is actually worried, the presentation doesn’t give the appropriate weighting to the issue, whereas interviewing 5 worried people and one unworried would have been closer to the reality.

In order to determine what an article should contain and to what extent, volunteers will often discuss matters and reach a consensus on an article’s talk (or discussion) page.

The English Wikipedia is home to a multitude of regular and occasional contributors hailing from every single country and culture of the globe. For this extraordinary melting pot to work out, participants in any discussions are expected to, first, assume that other participants are acting in good faith, second, treat each other with respect, and third, to accept that a compromise will have to be found that may not match their personal convictions.

The blogosphere and comment forms of newspaper reporting on the Murder of Meredith Kercher are packed full with contributors who believe that bullying and intimidation, outlasting and outshouting the opposition will win over other people.

Needless to say, this attitude is frowned upon in Wikipedia, and it is the reason why several contributors sympathetic to the Knox cause have been blocked from editing over the past two years.

In determining consensus, Wikipedia operates in a manner combining civil law and adversarial prosecution: arguments are heard based on established policies and guidelines, and prior decisions on similar situations are not taken into consideration.

The final call is usually made by an uninvolved editor who will review all arguments and try to determine what the strongest arguments representing the existing policies. This is also transient, as it is accepted that consensus can change and prior decisions can be revisited later on.

4) A little history of the Murder of Meredith Kercher article

Originally created as an article on Amanda Knox in late 2007, it was swiftly renamed to its present title and started to grow. And as the controversy around the case grew, more and more editors turned up trying to ensure that it presented “the Truth” as they understood it.

The FOA core arguments are familiar to readers of TJMK, of course: Amanda Knox was railroaded by the kangaroo courts of a third world country, a victim of rampant anti-americanism, by a corrupt and insane prosecutor and a brutal police force who convicted her out of thin air.

During early 2010 in particular, the regular Wikipedians trying to maintain a neutral coverage were subjected to heaps of abuse from some particularly aggressive Knox supporters.

After numerous reports on the administrative noticeboards, uninvolved admins stepped in, tried to get these users to conform to the acceptable norms of discourse, and eventually blocked them after they demonstrated their inability to do so.

At that stage, the FOA crowd started organizing their activity: a certain PhanuelB showed up and started arguing, supported by a string of new users who had never edited on anything else before.

This lasted for another three months, until PhanuelB got himself banned for the same atrocious behaviour, along with several of his supporters, while the others vanished without a trace at the same point. They all came back once, when a discussion was started around some content PhanuelB had intended to turn into an article before he got banned.

Through all this, the article has undergone several stages. In Spring 2010, it was a long laundry list of prosecution arguments countered by defense arguments - balanced certainly, but essentially useless. In early Summer, the article underwent a rewrite that almost halved its size and tried to prune much of those arguments.

At regular intervals, the article had to be protected due to excessive edit-wars, and is currently still “semi- protected”, that is, locked off to new accounts and anonymous contributors.

From the point of view of a Wikipedian without direct stakes in the case (I am an editor) the article was certainly perfectible,  but did a reasonable job at presenting the main facts of the case, the judicial situation at present, and the nature of the controversies surrounding the case.

5) The FOA appeal to Jimmy Wales

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales has abandoned most of his leadership functions over the course of the years, but still carries the prestige attached to his name.

The Open Letter published by “Bruce Fisher” was swallowed line, hook and sinker, and Wales entered the Murder of Meredith Kercher article rather like an elephant in a china shop,  essentially accusing established editors who had laboured for years to try and maintain the article of having conspired to suppress and censor other points of view.

His point is aided, obviously, by the scores of media coverage generated by the Knox PR campaign, in publications and reports matching the letter of a “Reliable Sources”. See, there is a loophole in the policy in the sense that anything appearing on, say, CNN, is considered Reliable because CNN is a network with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy.

As CNN’s own disclaimers state, though, opinions offered by people appearing on their talk shows are explicitly not endorsed by CNN. But the loophole in policy doesn’t address this nuance, and this is mostly where Wales is trying to give much more prominence to the Knox story.

Fortunately, Jimbo is also increasingly seen as out of touch with the rest of the Wikipedia community, and in practice enjoys no particular privileges. Concerns have been raised on his manner of refusing to hear to the other side of the story.

The article’s talk page is unlikely to quiet down for a while.

But while the FOA perspective is given additional weight at present, the aspect that Wales hasn’t acknowledged is that the article, at the time of this writing, has not just minimized certain aspects of the arguments presented by the Knox PR campaign, but conversely toned down much of the debunking of those same claims.

At this stage, neutrality can be preserved or even improved by providing additional sources.

The sentencing reports for instance are what is qualified as a primary source and can only serve to verify the letter of the courts’  decision. More valuable are media reports or scholarly works (in any language, by the way) that analyze and comment on Massei and its critics.

It is important however to remember that polite discourse is required. If a contributor is subjected to personal attacks, it is better to request politely but firmly that the attack be struck or redacted and move on. Treading lightly and arguing on content with conviction rather than condescension will help guarantee that any contributor can at least be heard.


Gwaendar has been a wikipedia editor for several years.


Posted by Gwaendar on 03/29/11 at 03:36 PM in News media & moviesMore hoaxers


I’m curious as to why there is no mention in the Wikipedia page of Meredith’s blood found mixed with Amanda’s DNA in Filomena’s room?

Posted by rexfelis on 03/29/11 at 04:34 PM | #


That’s Welsh or Irish isn’t it? There was never anything in The Murder of Meredith, certainly not in it’s pruned down version, that even a partisan could find objectionable. Thank you for doing a great job and may Wikipedia continue to thrive with you as an editor. I use it constantly.

Poor Jimbo. An elephant in a china shop describes it perfectly. And of course he can’t verify who Bruce Fisher is - well none of us can really. So that’s not a good start.

Posted by James Raper on 03/29/11 at 05:31 PM | #

Knoxophiles truly have no shame. They’re a disgusting bunch of people. I’ve just been “debating” with a couple of them on facebook (hardly the best forum for intelligent debate with people who know what they’re talking about, of course). When you try to speak logically, they switch to illogical. And if you follow them and switch to illogical, they go to logical.

Jimbo Wales seems to me to want to be fair, but I think it’s a shame he was hoodwinked by a small clique of sweaty acolytes, who can’t see the wood for the trees.

Posted by Janus on 03/29/11 at 06:28 PM | #

@rexfelis: That part was in the article until the rewrite that took place in late Spring 2010. The editor who drafted the rewrite was focused on removing much of the bloat at that time, and he left this (and many other forensic details) out.

I think it’s mostly due to editorial judgement here, and each individual will have a different set of criteria on what he sees as the essentials element of the case and what is ancillary and could be left out.

Interestingly, to the best of my memory, nobody ever mentioned this particular point ever again, whether in discussing the drafted rewrite or once the text made it to the main article.

BTW, if you go back to the article history between 16 May and 16 June, you’ll notice where the admins screwed up: the draft and its entire edit history was merged into the main article, so you have two parallel articles evolving for a month, the bloated version at around 140k in size and the draft that shrunk from that same size and then grew back to around 77k. Not easy to see, at places, what was the live article back at that time and what was the separate draft.

@James Raper: it’s actually a variation of a name from Brittany, but yes, the celtic / gaelic roots are definitely there 😊

I don’t want to take undue credit about the Kercher article, though: I’ve observed it from time to time with the fascination that high internet drama tends to produce, but I never edited that article myself.

@James, Janus: I think where Jimbo got led astray is that there are hundreds of Reliable Sources promoting the Pro-Knox views. One of the weaknesses Wikipedia has is a complete lack of accounting for the effect of wide ranging PR and astroturfing campaigns.

I mean, in the grand scheme of things, look at it from someone completely new to the case’s perspective: at the first glance, the notion that large portions of media coverage have been influenced by a small group of advocates for over three years sounds itself like a crazy conspiracy theory.

There’s also the larger issue of just how reliable the US media is nowadays. I think it is no accident that Al Jazeera pretty much gets top recognition in terms of covering the events in the Middle East. Al Jazeera is today what CNN was during the first Gulf War.

From an outside perspective, one of the major trends in media over the past decades or two is the shift from information to infotainment. Where in the past any press outlet would have a mix of content around 5-10% editorial and 90-95% reporting, editorials have grown in proportion quite a bit in print media, but really gone completely overboard on TV. And editorializing (or punditry) isn’t subject to fact checking - it’s either a talking head or a guest spouting off their opinion. But this isn’t widely acknowledged as an issue.

So for a Wales or for many editors, the good old NYT is still equivalent to the Guardian, and CNN is as good as the BBC. All considered equally quality sources. Excluding some is taken as an evidence of bias or even censorship. Truth to be told, though, you just have to watch an hour or two of CNN and BBC World to notice the difference. There just isn’t a contest anymore.

And there is the root of the problem today.

Posted by Gwaendar on 03/29/11 at 07:35 PM | #

well now, that was certainly worth waiting for. thank you Gwaendar for that illuminating explanation of the specific case of the Meredith Kercher page, but also how wikipedia works.  i do hope you will keep us updated on any new developments.

Posted by mojo on 03/30/11 at 11:59 AM | #

I usually get to work about 6:20 am, this gives me a chance to do my mail and organise my day. This morning having done my usual paper work I had some time on my hands and out of curiosity, I went on the Seattle blog page concerning Amanda Knox.

There I found a long write up by Bruce Fisher (TM Incorporated) trying to sell their book. Upon reading some of the blogs that came later, the first thing that almost leaps of the page is the level (or lack) of intelligence there. Of course there are some posts that try to be impartial, but but these are instantly shot down by some very childish name calling. To the level of children in a playground arguing about nothing at all except winning.

In contrast this page dedicated to the memory of Meredith is so far above the childish hysteria emanating from Seattle that there is just no comparison. It is as though by name calling they seem to think it will make a difference. So let me congratulate every contributor here for staying on the side of common sense insight and politeness.

Sadly this observation says a great deal about the pathetic education system in Seattle and the gullibility of some of its populous. The best they can do and their only concept is “He who shouts loudest wins” which is a damning observation no matter how you look at it.

Therefore, and to paraphrase a long ago headline on True Justice for Meredith Kercher, It continues to be the ‘Amazing Shrinking Knox Support syndrome.’

Sincerely Grahame Rhodes

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 03/30/11 at 04:40 PM | #

Very interesting. More and more I’m seeing Knox supporters trying dirty new methods to get out their lies.

They even turned up at a social network for writers (http://www.writerface.com) to spread the misconceptions about Knox. Here’s a couple of links as examples to Knox supporters, including one of the Seattle PI lot, Candice Dempsey:



Dempsey is trying to sell her book as well “Murder in Italy” at the same time. Note how she bills her book on Amazon.com as “Eat, Pray, Love gone horribly wrong”. These Knox supporters really are sickening.

Posted by proud-american on 03/31/11 at 03:18 AM | #

It is interesting to note that:

- Within two days of writing his Open Letter “Bruce Fisher” has tried to get his book into the article

- Candace Dempsey has herself come to the article’s talk page to defend her credentials. Launching a bizarre accusation that mistakenly linked a regular wikipedia contributor to a poster on PMF didn’t exactly help her credibility with the already skeptical crowd

The tireless self-promotion of those two persons (or persona) certainly does not speak too well for the purity of their motives.

What has always irked me in many Wikipedia disputes is that to so many people involved in a content issue, the ends justify the means. Many of the Pro-Knox brigade are quick to cry foul when some of the other side expresses sourness or worse, but will keep turning a blind eye to any offenses committed by those they perceive as being on their side (that observation is valid for both parties on the Kercher article BTW).

Assuming for a moment that even prior to the FOA open letter, the article could have done a better job representing the pro-Knox media coverage in the US, it is worth pointing out that the three contributors who have hurt the Knox side of the story most since 2010 are PhanuelB, PilgrimRose / Zlykinskyja / Yoyohooyo and Wikid77. Their absolutely obnoxious attitude is the primary reason why every contributor who wanted, in good faith, to expand the coverage, was not really made welcome.

The most absurd aspect of the whole Wikipedia article’s long and controversial history is that all those people smart enough to solve a crime from the comfort of their American armchairs, despite not having access to the evidence under seal, reading technical and legal documents in a language they do not speak, analyzing court processes under a judicial system they are not familiar with and do not understand, have never been able to understand that the way Wikipedia works, nobody could ever have blocked them if they stopped behaving like a bunch of knaves more interested in winning an argument on a talk page at any cost than improving an article.

As an admin once famously stated, “If you suspect an admin is just looking for a pretext to ban you… don’t give him one”. Much easier than to account for differences between civil and common law, juries and lay judges, or adversarial and inquisitorial prosecution, you’d think, but apparently the FOAkers don’t get that.

And Jimbo Wales does the same thing. Never since his intervention has he used the prestige attached to his name to ask for people to stop attacking each other. Smears posted on the talk page against the prosecutor, the Kercher family, and attacks against users who have left Wikipedia are left standing - Jimbo turns a blind eye to the toxic editing climate his intervention has restored.

Posted by Gwaendar on 03/31/11 at 03:34 PM | #

Once again the group that supports ak although dwindling must prove again how scummy they are willing to be.

Posted by friar fudd on 04/01/11 at 01:13 AM | #

When I first started to become interested in this case, really from the very beginning. I was primarily interested not so much with the evidentiary aspect which is overwhelming but with the psychological one. Why and what created the total politicization on both sides of the discussion? To my amazement upon asking questions or disputing the obvious, the question of my sanity/birth/intelligence pro tem: was called into question. Never before in my experience has this happened anywhere else.

This peaked my interest to a great extent so I started to respond in kind by given the people who so rudely wanted to shoot me down in flames a basic question. The first thing I noticed was ‘They’ never answer a question at all but rather responded with either a question of their own or ask where I got my information from. PhanuelB by way of example is notorious for this.

Finally and most important, the point and the observation I wish to make is simple. Amanda Knox has very simply become the thing that motivates American society more than anything else in American Life. She has simply become a commodity for making money.

These people, in spite of their screams to the contrary, are so obviously in it to make a buck words fail me. You may find this difficult to take but if you examine Candice Dempsey/Bruce Fisher/Steve Shay et-al it’s all the same thing.

After the trial is over and Amanda Knox and Raphael Sollicito go to jail for the majority of their lives these people will simply find some another method of getting that most important American commodity namely, ‘Ready cash’ This is their modus operandi to fulfill their very shallow lives. It’s sad and it’s wrong and it does nobody any good at all including Knox’s parents by the way who have been taken to the cleaners financially by these these people who in most societies would be classed as criminal or at the very least beneath contempt.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 04/01/11 at 04:46 AM | #

As a long-standing contributor to the talkpage of the article, I got sent a suggestion by email that it should now be renamed “Monkeys Go Crazy”.

Whilst Jimmy Wales clearly is sympathetic to Amanda Knox, I think he does genuinely believe that he has acted in Wikipedia’s best interests. The trouble is that he seems to have identified those best interests by considering whether the content of the article matches his hunches about the case or not. It will be interesting to see how it develops, because it’s an unusual level of intervention from him.

At the moment, the article is sailing slowly but steadily towards Fisherville. I think there is a thing about Wikipedia, though, that things can only get so much worse before they start getting better again.

It also seems clear that Jimmy’s initial accusations of censorship and abuse of administrator powers (committed by what might be called either “anti-Knox” or “normal” editors, depending on your perspective, a clutch of whom have resigned in response) are never going to be substantiated.

Instead he seems to have shifted focus to looking at the detail of the case. This is good from the point of view that he is bound to realise that it is more complicated than he first imagined, but also bad because he seems to be taking the approach that editing should be fair to both “sides”. It would, of course, be better as a factual account of the subject matter, blind to whether Frank Sfara or Peter Quennell has the best take.

The main historic problem with the article is that no light has been allowed into it unless it has bounced several times around the internet first and been proposed by Free Amanda Knox, with other editors moderating. That looks unlikely to change in the immediate future. But, for now, the Knox camp have greater representation and a special mandate.

In spite of his hamfisted entry into the article, I think Jimmy does have a chance to improve things if he is able to take a step back and think about what it is that has gone wrong in terms of process rather than whether or not he likes the article content. We’ll see.

Posted by FormerIP on 04/01/11 at 05:31 AM | #

I have been following this issue since Jimmy was reported to be interested in it.  The Talk Pages have become a virtual jungle.  Proposed edits want to delve into the mysteries of the Italian justice system, RFUs, window glazing, and spurious claims made by food and travel bloggers.

This is nowhere to be found on other WP articles on notorious murders.  There are ample WP pages on DNA evidence, various systems of justice, and audiometrics.  They’re unnecessary to understand the murder and how and why the three accused were arrested, charged, and convicted.

The idea that a media controversy over a pretty routine murder conviction requires an extensive and painful picking over each minute detail of the crime is unsupportable and frankly a little silly.

To his credit, Jimmy has decided since 26 March 2011 to refrain from intervening and to read both Nadeau’s and Dempsey’s books before attempting anything further.  I think he was tempted by some of the media controversy and thought there might be some kind of deep doubts about the validity of the process that sent RS and AK to prison.  Once he finishes those books, I doubt he’ll continue in this belief.

In the meantime, it is truly amusing to watch the monkeys go crazy.

Posted by Stilicho on 04/01/11 at 10:48 AM | #

Looking back over the history of the WIkipedia article and, particularly, its talk page, it is apparent that, every so often, a bunch of opinionated FOA supporters turn up and try to change the article to reflect what they believe to be true. The usual pattern is that they quickly get themselves banned from Wikipedia.

This is not because people disagree with their views, but because they have absolutely no commitment to the Wikipedia project and can’t be bothered to understand its rules about such things as “assuming good faith” (of other editors), “no personal attacks” (on people you disagree with) and “consensus”. They generally find Wikipedia’s rules unnecessarily constraining: if you are simply “right”, why do you have to get consensus with other people who are simply “wrong”?

The current situation is unusual, in that Jimmy Wales himself seems to have encouraged a group of partisan people to edit the article. And he’s done it in such a way that at least three long-standing editors have resigned in protest (editors who between them have edited several thousand Wikipedia articles and have donated thousands of hours of their personal time to Jimmy’s project). We watch developments with interest!

Posted by SteveW on 04/01/11 at 12:56 PM | #

I think I must have been an incurable optimist. I knew there were endless warriors on all sorts of articles from nationalistic and religious to pseudoscience and even this. However, I believed that was a sort of inevitability given the set up of wikipedia, and there were only so many neutral people who can try and sort out disputes so these things go on and on. What I didn’t realise was that the co-founder of the whole thing would step in and try and use his influence to push an article the way he wanted. I hope that once he calms down a bit he might realise he was hoodwinked into it, but I doubt he’d own up to that.

Fact is - every single time this article was brought to one of the admin boards or someone previously unacquainted with the article took a look they could clearly see the rampant POV pushing going on from one side. The admins involved were commended for trying to keep the article on the right track. When wikid77 was banned for a bit no independent editors objected to it at all. Now jimmy boy has come in and effectively said that all these people who were trying to sort out the mess were in the wrong. He has been incredibly aggressive with anyone disagreeing with his approach with numerous unwarranted accusations.

Well I’ve had enough. It’s bad enough that there aren’t effective systems stopping POV pushing, but I don’t want to be involved with it when the figurehead encourages it and castigates those who have worked so hard to maintain something approaching an encyclopedic article.

Posted by bobby on 04/01/11 at 02:16 PM | #

Jimmy Wales hasn’t done anything with the article or the Talk Page since he promised to read the books first.  That was on 26 MAR 2011 and he hasn’t been back since.

I agree that he whipped up the frenzy but he hasn’t lied about stepping back, which is more than may be said for the FOA insurgents.

Presently, one Knox advocate has been cited for several violations of WP policy in the Administrator’s Noticeboard and will likely be blocked.

The system does, in fact, work.

Posted by Stilicho on 04/01/11 at 10:10 PM | #

Actually, Jimmy has been back to the article talkpage.

While I’m here…

...maybe truejustice has the rights to an image or two that could be released under CC-BY or similar for use on Wikipedia.

Just a thought.

Posted by FormerIP on 04/02/11 at 02:54 AM | #

Thanks Former IP. A lot of images here are our own and we certainly could check this out.

Anyone who goes to Google Images and enters any key name in the case will find that a large number of images have been thumbnailed by Google from this site.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/02/11 at 03:53 AM | #

I have no particular axe to grind, except a healthy suspicion of people in high places, and a wish not to see people falsely condemned. To me it is, however, obvious that Perugia has a highly pathological and uncontrolled polizio-judicial system; and I can assure you that this belief is shared by most native Umbrians I have met. My wife and I live in retirement only 30 miles from Perugia, I am a British citizen of the EU (and therefore live here as of right) and I pay Italian tax. And I have over the past 16 months become highly informed of the evidence both of the murder itself, and the behaviour of all parties - the accused; the police; the prosecutors and judiciary; and the media.

I have attended all sessions of the appeal, and formed a good impression of the two new judges, and of the attentiveness of the jury. Fortunately Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman and his colleague come from outside Perugia, which has a dangerously incestuous internal legal apparatus. I believe that there is better than an even chance that judges and jury will be rational and impartial, and that the case will be overturned and two completely innocent youngsters freed. I say ‘better than an even chance’, not because of doubts as to their innocence, but because of the tendency for professionals, when push comes to shove, to close ranks. I have seen this repeatedly in Medicine, and it happens in the Law too.

It is surely not in the interests of the memory of Meredith Kercher to see the innocent condemned and imprisoned. So I suggest your vehement contributors should now take a back seat, and give the Court of Appeal in Perugia a chance to come to a rational decision on whether Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are really guilty beyond reasonable doubt.  And, parenthetically, if not who is. We all surely owe that to the memory of Meredith, as well as to justice for the accused, one of whom says she was Meredith’s friend.

Posted by DavidCAnderson on 04/02/11 at 06:14 AM | #

David, just to prove how we all have all got it so horribly wrong, not to mention those maniacs in Perugia,  please answer these questions And these questions And these questions Thanks a lot in advance.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/02/11 at 07:47 AM | #

Hi David,

You wrote a rambling post about the case on The Guardian website which was absolutely riddled with factual errors. Before your libellous post was promptly deleted by one of the moderators, I copied it and will address the numerous inaccuracies here.

1. You claimed that the police in Perugia were “willfully incompetent” without offering any evidence to support your opinion.

2. You stated that Mignini was “mentally dodgy”. Again, you failed to provide any any proof to support your opinion.

3. You claimed that Raffaele Sollecito had an “impeccable track record”. This claim is contradicted by a number of facts.

Sollecito was monitored at university after being caught watching hardcore pornography featuring bestiality.

“...and educators at the boy’s ONAOSI college were shocked by a film “very much hard-core…where there were scenes of sex with animals with animals” at which next they activated a monitoring  on  the  boy to try to understand him. (p.130 and 131, hearing 27.3.2009, statements by Tavernesi   Francesco). (The Massei report, page 61).

He had a previous brush with the police in 2003.

“...Antonio  Galizia, Carabinieri [C.ri] station commander in Giovinazzo, who testified that in   September 2003 Raffaele Sollecito was found in possession of 2.67 grams of hashish. (The Massei report, page 62).

Mignini stated at the trial that Sollecito and Knox ran with a crowd who often used stupefying drugs.

“He also hinted that Knox and Sollecito might have been in a drug-fueled frenzy when they allegedly killed Kercher. He outlined the effects of cocaine and acid, and told the judges and jury how Knox and Sollecito ran with a crowd that often used these “stupificante,” or stupefying drugs.” (Barbie Nadeau, The Daily Beast, 20 November 2009).

Barbie Nadeau reported in Angel Face that Sollecito had reminisced about the incredible highs he had experienced under the influence of heroin and cocaine.

It’s quite clear that Raffaele Sollecito was a drug addict with a serious habit and he had unnatural, stomach-churning sexual proclivities.

4. You claimed that Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede had “never met before”.  You don’t know this.

5. You stated the police “initially nailed the wrong black man, so we’ll pin that on Amanda…”

According to the corroborative testimony of multiple witnesses, including her interpreter, Amanda Knox voluntarily accused Diya Lumumna of murdering Meredith. Knox repeated her false and malicious allegation against Lumumba on three separate occasions. She didn’t recant her accusation the whole time Lumumba was in prison despite the fact she knew he was completely innocent. She admitted that it was her fault that Lumumba was in prison in an intercepted conversation with her mother on 10 November 2007.

6. You bizarrely claimed that the police “changed the times of phone calls to fit the police’s story…”.  Yet again, you didn’t substantiate your claim.

It is an indisputable fact that the telephone records contradict Amanda Knox’s and Raffaele Sollecito’s accounts of what happened on 1 and 2 November 2007.

You and nobody else has ever provided a plausible innocent explantation for the numerous lies that Knox and Sollecito told before and after 5 November 2007. Lying repeatedly to the police will always be considered a clear indication of guilt.

7. You stated that the police “rubbished the crime scene” without offering any proof of this.

Dr. Renato Biondo, the head of the DNA unit of the scientific police, reviewed Dr. Stefanoni’s investigation and the forensic findings. He confirmed that all the forensic findings were accurate and reliable.

He also praised the work of Dr. Stefanoni and her team: “We are confirming the reliability of the information collected from the scene of the crime and at the same time, the professionalism and excellence of our work.”

8. You claimed that the police “got the footprints wrong”. One bloody footprint - not footprints - was wrongly attributed to Sollecito early on in the investigation. However, this error was corrected by Dr. Rinaldi and Chief Inspector Boemia.

The footprint evidence against Knox and Sollecito is highly incriminating.

The bloody footprint on the blue bathmat matches the precise characteristics of Sollecito’s foot, but couldn’t possibly belong to Rudy Guede. This is damning evidence.

Knox’s and Sollecito’s bare bloody footprints which were revealed by luminol in the hallway is also damning evidence.

9.You claimed that the police “falsely claimed they had bleach receipts”.

How do you know this false?

According to Barbie Nadeau, the police found a receipt for bleach which was dated 8.15am 4 November 2007 in Sollecito’s apartment. Unlike you, she attended every single public court session and has actually read all the 10,000 pages of the prosecution’s file.

10. You stated that the police went back to collect specimens for DNA analysis 46 days later as if this somehow invalidates any DNA evidence that isn’t collected immediately. The reason why the police didn’t go back to the cottage sooner is they had to agree a date with the defence teams. Dr. Stefanoni was aware that the bra clasp was missing shortly after the forensic evidence had been collected.

The fact the bra clasp wasn’t collected immediately is irrelevant. The cottage was a sealed crime scene. Contamination is always theoretically possible. There is no greater greater likelihood of contamination just because the clasp wasn’t collected immediately. It is not unusual for people to be convicted of crimes years afterwards on the strength of DNA evidence. As you are well aware, Ronald Castree was convicted 32 years after he had murdered Lesley Molseed.

11. You stated that the police “picked a knife from a drawer in Raffaele’s flat at random.” This is simply not true. You are just regurgitating a FOA myth. Armando Finzi testified that he believed the knife was the murder weapon because it was compatible with the wound as it had been described to him.

12. You’ve regurgitated another popular FOA myth by stating that the knife “doesn’t even fit the wounds…” and revealed your complete ignorance of the basic facts of the case.

The prosecution experts, multiple defence experts and Judge Massei in his report have all agreed that the double DNA knife did match the large wound on Meredith’s neck.

“On these matters, the considerations already made must be recalled, which led this Court to evaluate the outcome of the genetic investigation as reliable, and this knife as absolutely compatible with the most serious wound.” (The Massei report, page 375).

Barbie Nadeau reported directly from the courtroom in Perugia that multiple witnesses for the defence, including Dr. Carlo Torre, conceded that the double DNA knife was compatible with the deep puncture wound in Meredith’s neck.

“According to multiple witnesses for the defense, the knife is compatible with at least one of the three wounds on Kercher’s neck, but it was likely too large for the other two.” (Barbie Nadeau, Newsweek).

He (Dr. Carlo Torre, defence expert) conceded that a third larger wound could have been made with the knife, but said it was more likely it was made by twisting a smaller knife. (Barbie Nadeau, The Daily Beast).

13. You claimed that the police “resorted to false witnesses of the most implausible kind”. The testimony of the prosecution witnesses who were accepted as reliable by Judge Massei stood up to scrutiny. They are infinitely more credible than Knox and Sollecito who gave completely different accounts of where they were, who they were with and what they were doing on the night of the murder. Knox’s and Sollecito’s alibis - all three of them - were demonstrably false.

14. You stated that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were subjected to “cyclical interrogation”. You weren’t present when they were questioned.

On what evidence are your basing this assertion on?

15. You claimed that Knox and Sollecito were subjected to an “overnight” interrogation. This is complete and utter nonsense. Amanda Knox was questioned from 11.00pm to 1.45am on 5 November 2007. Her questioning was stopped at 1.45am when she became a suspect. She wasn’t questioned again that night.

16. You stated that Amanda Knox was “refused legal representation or a lawyer”.  As I’ve already pointed out, you weren’t present when Amanda Knox was questioned, so you’re not in a position to give an authoritative and definitive account of what happened. You are foolishly and naively relying on the word of a compulsive liar who has lied repeatedly to the police, her family and friends.

17. You claimed that Amanda Knox was questioned “without a proper translator”.

How do you know that Dr. Anna Donnino isn’t a proper translator?

Do you actually know what her qualifications and experiences are?

18. You stated that the police “failed to analyse the DNA of semen stains on the pillow…”

How do you know this stain was a semen stain?

There is absolutely no proof that there was a semen stain on Meredith’s pillow. Yet again, you’ve made an assertion without offering any proof. I’m astonished that a doctor would adopt such an unscientific approach. You come across as a doddery and gullible old fool who has no idea of what he’s talking about. Please read the official court documents like the Massei report before embarrassing yourself further in public.

Posted by The Machine on 04/02/11 at 02:36 PM | #


¨So I suggest your vehement contributors should now take a back seat¨

This wonderfull site is a backseat by nature and vehement contributions are desirable, when needed.
The contributors here are not back seat drivers anyway!

Posted by Helder Licht on 04/02/11 at 03:10 PM | #

Dear Mr Anderson,

Welcome to this site.  It would be interesting to know whether this is your first visit or whether you have been reading on it before.

You say that you have become highly informed of the evidence.  If that is the case – good.  We can then have an interesting discussion – providing it covers all of the evidence.

The behaviour of “all parties” – save that of the accused which is naturally, of course, relevant   -  is in my opinion secondary to the evidence.  However I have to say that I doubt that you have at all understood the evidence.

You say that you have no axe to grind.  Well, I have to say that your talk of a “highly pathological and uncontrolled polizio-judicial system” and “dangerously incestuous internal legal apparatus”  does not sound to me as if you have no axe to grind and of course I have read your article “Italian Pride” in the Independent on Sunday.

That article made it clear to me that your entire approach to the case of Amanda Knox - at least at that stage -  was informed by your experience with the case of the unfortunate Stefan Kiszko.

That was indeed a hauntingly tragic and defining moment in the development of the English criminal legal system.
In your article you began by describing Amanda Kox’s conviction as a travesty of justice and you spoke of her “confession”  expressing your concerns that this had been extracted in circumstances similar to that of the Kiszko confession, but thereafter hardly any space was given by you to the evidence against Amanda Knox.

Instead you spoke of the Kiszko case in depth and in particular of the shocking disregard by the police and prosecution – and to some extent the defence lawyers   - for any normal standard of probity, diligence and fairness, all of which was quite true. As you pointed out amending legislation came into force to correct the systemic errors that had contributed to that.

There are, however, so many points of divergence in the facts of the two cases that they are not worthy of comparison, certainly not so as to draw any conclusion that Amanda Knox will be exonerated on appeal.

To outline these many differences is not to draw any conclusion as to the result of the appeal. That is in the hands of the appeal court but I would be stunned if her conviction were to be overturned.

Kiszko’s conviction was based on a false confession and the evidence of three teenage girls who falsely testified that they had seen Kiszko expose himself. The latter could not even be construed as corroborative evidence for the confession.

There was, of course, the failure of the prosecution to disclose the presence of semen on the victim’s body and that was evidence in favour of Kiszko rather than evidence against him, and this was all before the introduction of forensic tools such as luminol and DNA testing.

The Kiszko case was a travesty but was all about that confession which, it seems, still haunts you to this day.

Neither of us will know whether there was any exonerating evidence in favour of Amanda Knox which the police have failed to disclose.

As to Amanda Knox’s confession, that was no confession at all and, in my opinion, without the wealth of corroborative evidence that there was, it would have had no probative value in placing her at the scene of the crime
I am not going to spend time on the multiple points of evidence against Amanda Knox by way of contrast. We, on this site, are familiar with them.  I am not even going to suggest that you read the Massei Report.  You are an educated man and it has to be assumed that you have. Yet in your article you said that Amanda Knox should never have appeared in court because of abuse of power, and because of the flimsy and unreliable evidence.  Without mentioning the evidence that is just a mantra with which we are all too familiar from the likes of Steve Moore and Bruce Fisher. The statement is self -evidently rubbish and laughable.  I am surprised that you ever associated yourself with this nonsense.

You proudly state that you have attended each of the appeal sessions. This by itself in no way qualifies anybody to be highly informed of the evidence and I wonder why in fact you mention this. Does being able to see Amanda Knox in the flesh somehow confirm her innocence for you?

You are a medical man. I am a lawyer and I have great respect for the medical profession, my late father and my eldest brother both being consultant haematologists. Both professions, in different ways, deal in evidence. Each case has to be looked at on it’s own merits. The difference, I would suggest, is that I have formed my opinion, in this case, on the evidence in this case, whereas you appear to have, to a large extent, formed your opinion as a result of the evidence, or rather the lack of it, in an entirely different case which has poignant significance for you.

Am I right in thinking that a doctor would never confuse his diagnosis of a particular patient with that of another patient unless the symptoms were exactly the same?

I am astonished frankly that you have allowed anger and emotion to replace reason and objectivity, shown such evident bias, and that your opinions are so obviously shaped by being in cahoots with the pro-Amanda websites which peddle such enormous falsehoods. You have not aged at all well in your retirement.

Don Quixote comes to mind.

Yours sincerely

Posted by James Raper on 04/02/11 at 11:55 PM | #

Once again, I don’t think it appropriate to say anything other than to repeat:........
‘.... your vehement contributors should now take a back seat, and give the Court of Appeal in Perugia a chance to come to a rational decision on whether Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are really guilty beyond reasonable doubt.’ 

That surely is only fair? Or am I missing something?

Posted by DavidCAnderson on 04/03/11 at 12:37 AM | #


Yes - you are missing the fact that the vehement contributors to pro-Knox websites haven’t heard similar exhortations from you. And incidentally, I am not vehement.The Court of Appeal will come to a rational decision whatever vehement comments are made on the internet.

Posted by James Raper on 04/03/11 at 12:56 AM | #
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