Friday, December 19, 2008

Meredith Dateline Documentary: New Standard For All Others?

Posted by Peter Quennell

[click for larger images]

We think so. We think other TV networks would be foolhardy to now step back from NBC’s very high standard.

This is the Dateline documentary reviewed here by Skeptical Bystander on Monday. Now we have been through it almost frame by frame, and we continue to be impressed.

NBC clearly gave this one a big budget. It filled the entire hour. Meredith was very much respected in the script and the images of her. NBC flew camera teams to Seattle and Perugia, along with the precise, well-informed reporter, Dennis Murphy. The photography and the production values were excellent. There were a number of new images, and new tape-recordings of Amanda Knox. And the three consultants - Richard Owen, Clint van Zandt, and Theodore Simon - were all really on top of the case.

Now for our take on what it all means.

Richard Owen is the Rome correspondent for the London Times, with many Perugia stories to his name. Clint van Zandt is a much-in-demand crime analyst, formerly with the FBI. And Theodore Simon is a Philadelphia defense lawyer, who has defended Americans in foreign trouble and commented before on the case.

These are what they regard as the strengths of the prosecution’s case.  Meredith was known to have not liked Knox bringing strange men to the house, and to have had other differences. The several defendant alibis do not coincide. The Knox murder accusation against Lumumba not only did not help, it hurt. The break-in theory is very dubious. Knox and Sollecito kissing outside, the underwear purchase, and other post-crime behavior, all look very fishy.

The DNA on the hidden knife is very compelling. As Clint Van Zandt put it, the knife, the DNA, and its hiding make a nice prosecution package. The bleaching of the house and the footprints showing up under luminol, if linked to anyone, could almost be conclusive by themselves. As could the blood drops on the bathroom drain. The witchcraft angle as a motive, van Zandt remarked, was almost a bridge too far, but the prosecutor does have to attempt to offer a theory of how these otherwise normal kids could commit the murder.  Theodore Simon thinks the prosecutors evidence made public so far is daunting. The defense could argue a faked robbery, and a moved body, and contamination, but eventually it could become like whack-a-mole, and all of their arguments could lose force.

Only old and very familiar arguments were advanced for the defense case. Dennis Murphy noted that for a year now, Europeans have been sold a sexy heartless icon. Knox’s father said her first alibi/confession was “all but water-boarded out of a terrified young woman” and the prosecutors had been heartless, feeding one juicy morsel after another to a voracious tabloid press. He claimed the knife was found in the knives draw in Sollecito’s kitchen (not our understanding) and the DNA on the blade could be that of half the people in Italy (nor is that). And all the evidence at the crime scene had been contaminated by careless police work. The hostility of the Knox-Mellas couple for the prosecutor shone through. And an old clip showed Anne Bremner remarking (of the wrong apartment) “thou shalt not destroy evidence at a crime scene, and this appears to be the case here”.

Recordings are heard, some in Amanda Knox’s voice, and some in others, of her claims about her arrest and interrogation. Also of her dreams and denials as recorded in her diary in her first weeks in jail, when she was clearly feeling betrayed by Sollecito - this is the diary she later handed to prosecutors.

Criticisms? We have some. An image of the duvet with Meredith’s foot showing is used repeatedly. The NBC take on the case was not up-to-the-minute, and some of the clips and claims seemed old. No psychological angles were explored. The documentary did not mention the independent expert verification of the forensic evidence, or the caution of the Italian legal system, or the dozen judges who have verified the impact of the evidence. And it did not mention that most of the 10,000 pages of evidence have still only been seen by a very few.

But it finished well. Dennis Murphy remarked that we should remember the prosecutor has already convicted Guede with his sex-game argument. And that the Guede judge said the other two are implicated, which does not bode well for them at trial. And that courthouse observers, including Theodore Simon, are predicting an uphill fight for the defense.

If you click on them, all of these screen-captures open up larger in Acrobat.

Below: Dateline’s reporter Dennis Murphy in Perugia

Below: The two nice images of Meredith used repeatedly

Below: Reporter Dennis Murphy in the early-on Seattle segment

Below: Two shots of World Cup, now out of business, where Knox last worked

Below: One of the entrance gates of the University of Washington

Below: Seemingly resigned friends of Knox, giving personal testimonials

Below: Reporter Dennis Murphy at the gate of Meredith’s house

Below: Two fresh images of Perugia, representative of the many used

Below: Richard Owen, the London Times Rome correspondent

Below: Clint van Zandt, the former FBI profiler and evidence analyst

Below: Theodore Simon, the defence lawyer for Americans in foreign trouble

Below: Patrick Lumumba, looking happy and relaxed, with Dennis Murphy

Below: Zack Nowack, an American, who felt Amanda Knox was too impulsive

Below: Three new shots of Rudy Guede, Raffaele Sollecito, and Amanda Knox

Below: The biological parents of Knox trudging along, seemingly resignedly

Below: A computer image of the bedroom - even here, Meredith’s foot shows

Below: Filomena’s broken window; not considered a feasible break-in route

Below: Murphy and Van Zandt discussing the possible murder weapon

Below: The Perugia police chief demonstrates the fatal stab with a knife

Below: Meredith’s and Knox’s unexplained blood on the bidet drain

Below: Murphy and van Zandt discuss the seemingly damning footprints

Below: The Knox rape short story, perhaps indicative of an attraction to violence

Below: Knox and Sollecito happily buying lingerie together in Bubbles

Below: One claimed inflammatory European headline (it seems true)

Below: Transcript of a Knox recording complaining about interrogation

Below: Murphy describing the Knox-Mellas hostility toward the prosecutor

Below: Murphy and van Zandt look at disputed police break-in downstairs

Below: The Japanese manga comic that might have influenced Sollecito

Below: A woman’s voice reading from Knox’s early 2008 prison diary

Below: Fresh image of Capanne jail, with the Perugia heights in background

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Thanks for posting, Pete, I hadn’t seen this until now. Agreed it is a well balanced report and of a higher standard than what we have seen so far. Even Edda got to cry!

What was lacking for me was the pointers to Knox’s character and her true regard for her “friend” Meredith that was in evidence on her blog.

Nobody ever seems to mention the images of a half naked Frederico she posted for all her friends to see back home that were quickly removed after her arrest and the fact that on describing her new housemates she mentions Filomena and Laura on her blog but there is no mention of Meredith for some reason.

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 12/20/08 at 11:14 AM | #

Very much agreed, Deathfish, I also wish the psychological angles would get more exploration. We’ll have a post soon, maybe several, listing odd behaviors, starting in Seattle. There are a lot, more than most realize. They do seem indicative of a lot of attitude - or something deeper.

We’d like to email the Dateline crowd with the link to this post and to Skep’s earlier review. I’m appreciative that they did some back-tracking from an effusively pro-Knox position, with Meredith nowhere in sight. I think most of the national exposure Anne Bremner has had on the case (which is actually very little) was on NBC. She’s been out of sight for maybe two months, except on Frank’s Perugia Shock blog. If anyone spots her, please tell us? Her remarks on Frank’s blog made people wince! Really behind the curve.

You’d have noticed our focus has been all-American in the past few days. It was for tactical reasons pre-trial, and we here really appreciate our European friends here like you, Michael, Kermit, Machine, Nicki, and so many others. Half our readers are in Europe; nearly a fifth are here in New York; and the Seattle readership actually is growing now. We’ll have a credible press summary up soon to help reporters to get up to speed faster.

Readership should jump further soon, with the trial coming up, and with some internet-search measures now the site is more loaded with material.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/20/08 at 04:54 PM | #

On the defence claim: “the prosecutors had been heartless, feeding one juicy morsel after another to a voracious tabloid press”.

Our media contacts strongly dispute this and we just got another email in. They are telling us that Mignini plays his cards very lose to his chest, and that he never leaks, contrary to myths.

Evidence of course came out in each of the hearings, and the Italian media got shots and video through their own sources. But this all goes no further than is typical in a high-profile American case.

And the defenses teams and families and PR campaigns have been leaking and propagating myths very hard for nearly a year now.

Mignini actually seems to get a great deal of respect.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/20/08 at 06:00 PM | #

I first thought Miss Kercher’s murder was a solo crime by Mr. Guede. Yet the Prosecution keeps talking about a sex party gone bad.  Why? Perhaps we are missing a puzzle piece that the Prosecution has. What if Miss Kercher told her Mother on the phone, right before the assault, that Miss Knox was doing RG and RS in the next room.  I suggest Miss Kercher became increasingly angry as the threesome frolicked, knocked on Miss Knox’s door and said some statements that ignited the situation. I do not believe Miss Kercher realized the psychologically twisted individuals she was dealing with.

Posted by Greggy on 12/20/08 at 06:20 PM | #

Greggy -not sure about the phone call but otherwise those are the lines I’m thinking along.

Posted by MikeMCSG on 12/20/08 at 06:54 PM | #

Hi Greggy,
Almost word for word what I suggested a while back.

After I’d said this I was accused of being some sort of sex case myself by members of the Knox defence camp!

The guy Frederico who I mention above, is the guy Knox boasted to friends in emails she sent back home that she’d had sex with him on the train travelling to Perugia.

She had never met him before, he was middle aged and couldn’t speak a word of english.
He took Knox and her sister out for a meal and then back to their place where Knox’s sister went to bed leaving them alone for Knox to take the shots I mention above during a dope smoking and whatever session.

Of course the Knox camp deny this totally - it simply didn’t happen.
Quite a contrast to the behaviour one would expect from a private Jesuit school educated “perfect” student they would have us believe.
Her sexual behaviour and habits are very relevant to this case in regard to the sexual assault the prosecution believe Meredith suffered at the hands of these people before being murdered.

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 12/20/08 at 07:17 PM | #

I agree with you both. The more I learn about this case, the more it seems that the collision of Knox and Sollecito’s naive extreme-seeking personalities incited the crime.  I don’t think the murder would have occurred if they hadn’t met. It almost like they met and built themselves a folie a deux, feeding off of each others’ delusional state, hashish, and sex. And then you add in the angry man of the street, Guede. Combine those three elements together, and an angry Miss Kercher may have unknowingly ignited a Kerosene. Perhaps Knox and Sollecito are claiming amnesia because they can’t live with what they did if they do remember.

Posted by Greggy on 12/20/08 at 08:12 PM | #

Very compelling scenarios, Deathfish and Greggy.  You think Sollecito was ready for a menage a trois with RG? And what of Sollecito’s strange (and very incriminating for AK) first statement?

“Raffaele Sollecito’s statement begins at 10.40 pm on Tuesday. “I’ve known Amanda for a fortnight. She’s been sleeping at my flat since the evening we met. On 1 November, I woke up at about 11 am. I had breakfast with Amanda and then she left. I went back to bed. I got to her place at 1 or 2 pm. Meredith was there but she left in a hurry about 4 pm without saying where she was going. Amanda and I went into town at 6 pm or so but I can’t remember what we did. We were in the town centre until 8.30 or 9 pm. At 9 pm, I went home on my own while Amanda said she was going to Le Chic because she wanted to see some friends. That’s when we said goodbye… I [late evening] surfed the net for another two hours after dad called and only stopped when Amanda got back, at about 1 am, I suppose. I can’t remember what she was wearing or if she was wearing the same clothes she had on when she said goodbye before dinner. I can’t remember if we had sex that night. The following morning, we got up at about 10 am and she told me she wanted to go home, have a shower and change. She left at around 10.30 and I went back to sleep. When Amanda left, she took an empty carrier bag, saying she needed it for her dirty washing. She came back about 11.30 and I remember she had changed her clothes. She had her usual bag with her”.

I dont think the menage a trois was actually a menage a deux (Knox and Guede) with Sollecito brought on board only for the clean-up phase, after Guede had taken off like a rabbit. But maybe just possible. Might explain what seems like suppressed anger RS now seems to have toward AK.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/21/08 at 06:17 PM | #

If it really was a menage a deux (and the fact that she had been sleeping chez Sollecito for two weeks so why move any action involving Sollecito to her own bedroom may be one indicator) the spoark could perhaps have been either noisy open-door sex, or drug-dealing coupled with stealing Meredith’s money.

The notion though that Meredith had had enough and was not going to take it any more (sex with strange men, or drug dealers coming by) as the igniter seems to work though.

Especially if AK knew she had just lost her job at
Le Chic - but if she had lost it, why was that not in Patrick’s text to her? I think he had not yet completed the planned firing or hiring, and his words on NBC suggest this.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/21/08 at 07:47 PM | #

Knox had mentioned “the most beautiful black man I have ever seen” to her friends back home.

Guede mentions in his diary about smoking dope in the boys’ apartment downstairs and Knox looking at him in a certain way.(of course the Knox defence deny she was there and this never happened) and was pure fantasy dreamed up by Guede in his diary.

The reason they deny this of course is that it is key for the prosecution if they are to prove the defendants knew each other beforehand - as Knox and Sollecito still maintain they never knew Guede. Knox herself is on record as stating to police that she only met Guede “3 or 4 times” but never knew him all the same!

The most neutral of observers would see a pattern here, as the Knox supporters routinely and simply deny things that incriminate her.

Although Knox had been with Sollecito less than a fortnight, it is known she had sex with at least one other guy, who I believe is a witness now.

Sollecito is known to have voiced his doubts regarding Knox’s loyalty towards him when she did actually leave him that evening to go “see some friends.”

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 12/21/08 at 08:48 PM | #

They met on October 25th, Sollecito confirmed it in court when he made a short statement to Judge Micheli, and his lawyer Ms Bongiorno confirmed it to the press as well. So, from the 25th Oct to the date of the murder is ONE WEEK that they knew each other.

The other guy she had sex with, is a cousin of one of the downstairs guys, he is number 6 on the pull-out list of seven, number 5 on the list is probably Frederico the guy on the train. Among all of these one night stands/pull outs/with or without… she still manages to have her US boyfriend JD.

Posted by Jools on 12/22/08 at 04:13 AM | #

Respect Jools, but on looking at her list of bedpost notches in the time she was in Perugia, I can see eight.

I find it strange that her boyfriend DJ (David Johnsrud) gave his blessing to her having sex with any man she wanted to.

A bit strange. I personally could not live with that but that is what I am like.

I am still with the same lady I was with in my early 20’s (my wife) so call me old fashioned, but I think this doesn’t really add any value to a relationship.

A bit strange.

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 12/22/08 at 03:04 PM | #

Thanks Fast Pete - this is brilliant! I’ve been wanting to see the full Dateline documentary for some time now & couldn’t get hold of it.

Now that I have watched it, I can see what you mean by it’s being examplary in terms of staying objective (where possible), sticking with the facts, and getting expert analysis on the case & evidence.

I do, however, have my own reservations: what, for example, would you make of the fact that in certain sections of the documentary where both Meredith & Amanda are discussed, and individual photos of both of them are posted on the screen (one next to the other), the photo they chose of Amanda was (from 2nd November) one in which she looks geuinely perplexed, confused, and innocent; whilst the photo they chose of Meredith - ineterestingly - was one in which she is dressed as a vampire, with her black cloak cover sticking out from behind the sides of her head, making her look devil-ish. Call me paranoid, but out of all of Meredith’s beautiful pictures that portray her innocence & charm, they also chose this particular vampire one as soon as the documentary started - the fist picture of Meredith that the viewer sees, and which sticks in one’s mind, is therefore, not one which portrays innocence, nor one that begetts sympathy. If you think I’m reading too much into it, look also at the section where the alleged knife is introduced. There, again, when discussing Amanda’s DNA being on the handle, that very same confused-looking, innocent child-like Amanda picture is posted on the screen, and when they state that Meredith’s DNA was found on the blade, again we see a vampire devil-ish looking Meredith popping up against a sympathy-begging Amanda!

Sure, there are other images of Meredith that are shown during the programme, but after the damage is done - the vampire one seems to have been a favourite with the producers.

There is also the section of the documentary which discusses the Italian Media frenzy & the how Amanda was targeted. Here, there is a picture of Italian tabloid signs, with names (plus logos) of different news papers & companies reporting on the event. Again, look closely at that image where someone thought it perhaps a joke or a hint to crop the picture such that it reads “La Nazi” instead of saying “La Nazione”. I could go on since the documentary gives plenty more examples, but I think you can see my point.

I agree that the documentary, in comparison to what’s gone before, is by far the most objective - this is something to be celebrated & praised. But I certainly would’nt go as far as calling it examplary, or standard-setting. Although magnificently sugar-coated and concealed, a certain bias in favour of Knox seemed to be seeping through the lines of the documentary, such that I couldn’t possibly call it a ‘model’ of objectivity.

Posted by Socrates42 on 12/22/08 at 04:34 PM | #

I’m finding Deathfish’s line of thinking - that sexual flaunting and jealousies could have been in the mix - increasingly compelling.

Does notch eight read like it was Guede? If Meredith walked in on a menage-a-deux (Guede and Knox) and that was the spark, would Knox have listed him as the eighth man? Given her oddities, I guess the answer is yes! But not a very smart perpetrator if she did.

Re DJ, I’m inclined to think the Euro-Kox was in significant ways different from the Ameri-Knox he knew. Jesuit-educated girl shrugs off all constraints and reinvents herself as [you decide].

Her Berlin experiences seemed to me telling. For example, in showing she’d act impetuously and cause hurt without noticing it (her uncle) and then backtrack hard to get back to being persona grata again.

My guess is she put DJ on a real roller-coaster.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/22/08 at 05:09 PM | #

Thanks Socrates42. You think the producer or editor are sending subliminal signals? Could be! Good thing for us to watch in the future. It’s now on the checklist.

I’m rather sorry that the Meredith-as-vampire images exist, and that they were probably her last. I’d rather they weren’t used, and we’ve only posted this one which people dont always notice is a costume. But I’ve also observed those images in the context of a lot of well-meaning stories online.

I’ll watch again and make screen captures of what you puzzle over and see if they amount to an interesting post.

New standard doesn’t of course mean definitive timeless standard, more like the one to beat the next time around. To get them to definitive we have to be encouraging now and then!

The next piece might be the new 48 Hours by CBS TV. Given how far out on a limb their last piece put them, this should be really interesting.

Posted by Fast Piece on 12/22/08 at 05:46 PM | #

“New standard doesn’t of course mean definitive timeless standard, more like the one to beat the next time around. To get them to definitive we have to be encouraging now and then!”

Yes, Fast Pete. Very true! and I should perhaps try and excercise a little charity! You’re right, overall they did a good job of the documentary.

As for the menage-a-deux between Knox & Guede - where does this leave Sollecito? What about his DNA in the crime scene? Why on earth would he want to mop-up after Knox’s infidelity? Doesn’t make sense…  What do you / does everyone else think?

Posted by Socrates42 on 12/22/08 at 07:36 PM | #

I see Sollecito as a virginal easily manipulated individual in the hands of Amanda Knox.
The picture I see is of Knox being very sexually aggressive, in more ways than one.

Sollecito the little boy, experiencing sex for the first time in his life was putty in her hands.
He was just a temporary toy for her.

He certainly has issues, as for example the authorities noted that as a person he pretends to be a little boy lost - asking for help like a little boy, but it is all fake.

As for your take on imagery, I do look at things like that myself as I used to work for BBC TV in London for a couple of years when I was in my 20’s.

There is a particular image of the two of them outside the crime scene in which she is looking into his eyes and she seems to be saying “you’ve got to back me up here”.
Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think so.

But as a person I think he is weak, easily manipulated and certainly carrying mamma issues around with him.

Couple this with his obsession with knives and his love of violent manga comics (which routinely picture violent rape and murder) you have quite a mixture when you put all the three of them together.
An accident waiting to happen - and it did.

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 12/23/08 at 04:07 AM | #

Not entirely with you on Sollecito, Deathfish. I think if he was as weak and manipulable as that he would have coughed by now. For all the speculation about Amanda being the ringleader she’s actually the only one who’s shown any sign of cracking. Didn’t Mignini claim he’d got her to the point of confession before her lawyer intervened ? She’s also reported to have said “I can’t do this anymore” in a bugged phone call to Sollecito - it would be very revealing to know what his reply was.

Posted by MikeMCSG on 12/23/08 at 11:54 AM | #

Hi MikeMCSG,
They both now are puppets to their advisors.
For instance, if Knox’s crying mother and cuckold father had not intervened I believe she would have definately coughed by now,or as soon as the dope wore off and reality dawned in a really nice smelling police cell.
Edda Mellas says they don’t discuss certain things due to recordings made on previous visits to her prison.
Got something to hide?

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 12/23/08 at 02:32 PM | #

This is speculation, but in my view of the motivations behind this murder, I tend to disagree with Sollecito as a puppy participant.  A puppy would have cracked by now, taken a plea bargain that would given him a lesser jail sentence, and assigned primary blame for the murder to Knox and Guede. No, I see him as a person with slightly twisted values and delusional, yet functional and charming enough, that few noticed and passed it off as a by-product of too much hashish smoking.

Sollecito always carried a knife because he felt inadequate and less macho than the typical Italian man. He needed to meet someone who shared his borderline personality disorder to commit this crime and that was Miss Knox. Within a week, they had built their own delusional world of ideas and sharing extreme experiences (i.e, nearly a Folie a Deux). Knox was in charge of the relationship and Sollecito didn’t like that. Sollecito was starting to grow weary of Knox, since she can’t tell the truth and is a promisicious adventuress. So when Knox suggested a three-way with Guede as an extreme experience, he went along. Not as a puppy, but as a way to degrade his high image of her and get some sort of control back of himself and the relationship.

So on that night, we have Knox, angry at being ignored by Miss Kercher; Sollecito, angry at himself and Knox’s flaws; and Guede, angry at his position in life. There is loud knocking on Knox’s bedroom door during their escape through the flesh. A very angry British girl is hurling insults and has had enough of this shit. Boom!

Posted by Greggy on 12/23/08 at 04:46 PM | #

Deathfish and Greggy seem right, the perps’ psychology looks to be the wild card in the case now. The 80,000 pound gorilla of a wild card, in effect.

The hard evidentiary facts seem almost a given now, as the lawyer Theodore Simon confirms in the NBC piece - several months ago he was not so sure; now he is making the whack-a-mole remark about it all.

Knox seems to be lost in her world and if it ain’t all just an act, she might come to blab without planning to or seeing consequences. 

Sollecito seems more and more angry in his own cell, and might become a real fireball of denial and accusation when he get his own turn.

And Guede… well, unless he is thinking his appeal will get him right off, he might already have made The Deal. That’d put anyone in a poetic mood.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/23/08 at 06:00 PM | #

Deathfish, Greggy & Fast Pete - Thank you for sharing your thoughts; I found them very interesting. Yes, that makes perfect sense viz. the bit about the three being extremely volatile, emotionally & psychologically unstable, then the circumstancial “Boom”! The prosecution want to hear a motive, a pre-planned murder scenario. A lot of times though, murders are not pre-planned - I think this case may be one of them.

As such, Theodore Simon was right when he said (about the prosecutor’s manga/vampire theory) that sometimes there are dots which are not meant to be connected….and if we try hard to connect them (when they’re not supposed to be so) we risk losing credibility of the evidence that DOES implicate the perpetrators, because the evidence becomes overshadowed by a not-so-plausible ‘motive’ theory.

Posted by Socrates on 12/24/08 at 04:20 PM | #

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