Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Most Important Italian Paper Balks At The Attempts In US At Intimidation

Posted by Commissario Montalbano

[Above: The Corriere Della Sera building in Milan]

The Corriere Della Sera is the Italian equivalent of the New York Times and the London Times.

It wields huge influence throughout Italy and reflects the popular mood in its reporting. It does NOT like the campaign of vilification against the trial and its outcome. Here is a translation of today’s blast by Beppe Severgnini.

The do-it-yourself verdicts and that wrongful U.S.A. cheering

Many Americans criticize the ruling, but have never followed the case. Why do they do that?

Judicial nationalism and media justice, when put together, form a deadly cocktail. We also have Reader-patriots and journalist-judges ourselves, but what is happening in the United States after the conviction of Amanda Knox, is embarrassing. Therefore it is highly worth pondered upon.

American television, newspapers and websites are convinced that Amanda is innocent. Why? No one knows. Did they follow all of the trial? Did they evaluate the evidence? Did they hear the witnesses who, moreover, testified in Italian? Of course not! They just decided so: and that’s enough.

Like Lombroso’s*** proselytes: a girl that is so pretty, and what’s more, American, cannot possibly be guilty. No wonder Hillary Clinton is now interested in the case: she’s a politician, and cannot ignore the national mood.

There are, as I wrote at the beginning, two aspects of the issue. One is judicial nationalism, which is triggered when “a passport is more significant than an alibi” as noted in yesterday’s Corriere’s editorial by Guido Olimpio. The United States tend to always defend its citizens (Cermis tragedy, the killing of Calipari) and shows distrust of any foreign jurisdiction (hence the failure to ratify the International Criminal Court). In the case of Italy, at play are also the long almost biblical timespans of our justice, for which we’ve been repeatedly criticized at the European level.

But there is a second aspect, just as serious as the first: the media justice operation. Or better: a passion for the do-it-yourself trial. It’s not just in the United States that it happens, but these days it is precisely there that we must look, if we want to understand its methods and its consequences.

Timothy Egan - a New York Times columnist, based in Seattle, therefore from the same city of Amanda - writes that the ruling “has little to do with the evidence and a lot with the ancient Italian custom of saving face.” And then: “The verdict should have nothing to do with medieval superstitions, projections sexual fantasies, satanic fantasies or the honor of prosecuting magistrates. If you only apply the standard of law, the verdict would be obvious “. 

But obvious to whom? Egan ““ I’ll give it to him - knows the case. But he seems determined, like many fellow citizens, to find supporting evidence for a ruling that, in his head, has already been issued: Amanda is innocent. In June - the process was half-way - he had already written “An innocent abroad” (a title borrowed from Mark Twain, who perhaps would not have approved this use).

To be sure, among the 460 reader comments, many are full of reasonable doubt and dislike journalists who start from the conclusion and then try in every way to prove it.

I did not know if Amanda Knox was guilty. In fact, I did not know until Saturday, December 5, when a jury convicted her. I do have the habit of respecting court judgments, and then it does not take a law degree ““ which I happen to have, unlike Mr. Egan - to know how a Court of Assizes works.

It is inconceivable that the jurors in Perugia have decided to condemn a girl if they had any reasonable doubt. We accept the verdict, the American media does not. But turning a sentence into an opportunity to unleash dramatic nationalistic cheering and prejudice is not a good service to the cause of truth or to the understanding between peoples.

A public lynching, a witch hunt trial? I repeat: what do our American friends know? How much information do those who condemn Italy on the internet possess? How much have those who wrote to our Embassy in Washington, who accused the magistrates in Perugia, and who are ready to swear on Amanda’s innocence, studied this case for past two years?

Have they studied the evidence, assessed the experts’ testimony, or heard the witnesses of a trial that was much (too) long? No, I suppose. Why judge the judges, then?

They resent preventive detention? We don’t like it either, especially when prolonged (Amanda and Raffaele have spent two years in prison before the sentence). But it is part of our system: in special cases, the defendant must await trial while in jail.

What should we say, then, about the death penalty in America? We do not agree with it, but we accept that in the U.S. it is the law, supported by the majority of citizens. A criminal, no matter which passport he has in his pocket, if he commits a murder in Texas, knows what he risks.

Before closing, a final, obligatory point: I also did not like the anti-Amanda crusade in the British media, for the same reasons. The nationality of Meredith, the victim, does not justify such an attitude.

For once - can I say it? - We Italians have behaved the best. We waited for and now we respect the ruling, pending further appeal.

I wish we Italians behaved like that with all other high profile crimes in our country - from Garlasco’s case and on - instead of staging trials on television and spewing verdicts from our couch.

***Note: Cesare Lombroso, was a 19th century Italian criminologist who postulated that criminality was inherited, and that someone “born criminal”’ could be identified by physical defects.

[Below: the distinguished Italian columnist Beppe Severgnini of Corriere]


As an American citizen, I want to convey my deepest sympathy to the family of Meredith Kercher and to state that not all Americans support Amanda Knox and her family. I have followed the case from the beginning and have taken the time to read much of the evidence presented at the trial. While I don’t think that any of us will ever know the whole truth behind the attack on Meredith, it is BLINDINGLY APPARENT that both Amanda and her boyfriend were somehow involved. Even if one ignores the forensic evidence (that the Knox family is convinced is flawed), you are left with a stupifying amount of lies and manipulations by Amanda that can only be explained as an attempt to mask the truth.

I want to apologize to the family on behalf of all Americans who believe that Amanda was involved—both for our insensitive and inaccurate media display (CBS in particular)and for the Washington state senator’s contention that an intervention is warranted. Amanda is where she needs to be and should remain—in prison.

Posted by Hoppy on 12/09/09 at 12:20 AM | #

My comment is short, I’m appalled at the U.S. media and their criticism of this case. I do believer a guilty verdict was definitely in order but I was disappointed that is was ONLY 26 years.

Posted by darin992002 on 12/09/09 at 04:07 AM | #

The American media, particularly in Knox’s home state of Washington, has portrayed the situation as though all Americans believe Knox to be innocent, which is not the truth. 

I am American and everyone I have spoken with that has followed the case and studied the details feels that Knox got a fair trial.  This intense nationalism is ridiculous and gives a very bad impression of Americans to our friends abroad.

Anyone of intelligence recognizes that it was Amanda who set her own fate.  If she had been TRUTHFUL of what she did or didn’t do or know right from the beginning she may have at least earned some credibility and might have fared better.  Instead, she exhibited selfish, callous behavior, with no genuine respect or human concern about what had happened to Meredith, then changed her story so many times and tried to place blame on an innocent man, and proceeded to turn the trial into the “The Amanda Knox Show”.
No jury in any country could have judged her differently, based on her own behavior. 

I can understand that her parents wish to believe that she is innocent, but perhaps they should view the evidence in reverse, as if Meredith and Amanda were in reverse roles, so that they could objectively use intelligence, rather than familial bias, to determine whether the trial was fair. 

If they contend that Amanda didn’t get a fair trial because she’s American, then what about Raffaele?  He’s Italian, and was also convicted by the same Italian jurist panel, so what bias do they attribute to his guilty sentence?

I can only hope that time in prison makes each of the defendants eager to tell what they each know of each other’s involvement so that we can one day piece together the true facts of what happened and under what circumstances on that fateful evening.

My deepest condolences to the Kercher family for their loss and my deepest respect for their gracious endurance of the human frailties that have brought on this media circus.

Posted by Mo-in-Mass.,USA on 12/09/09 at 05:37 AM | #

I do not know if you will agree with me, but it seems to me that FOAK and friends did a huge mistake in calling the government to the help of sweet blonde innocent Amanda.

In fact, the response has been that the government had been monitoring closely the trial since the beginning, and saw nothing wrong.

Therefore it says… guilty! In their eyes also. Guilty.

What a precious help indeed. If only (for them) they had kept their big mouths shut…

Posted by Patou on 12/09/09 at 01:40 PM | #

Well-said Mo-in-Mass…American here as well, and all it takes is about a minute of explanation with any other American I speak to, and the light comes on. “Oh, she lied? Wow, didn’t know that.” I also agree that it’s pointless to beat up Amanda for being pretty, or her parents for wanting to help her, etc; they’re just dealing now with something that was set in motion years ago I’d imagine, but who knows?

One would think that we’d all be used to having 100 people (media) speak incorrectly for all of us, but it never seems to get easier to listen to. If any American media outlet—and frankly, I’ve heard a couple of them do this lately once they were sure this story had been properly milked—simply stated that Amanda not only lied but left a man to rot in jail for two weeks until someone gave him an iron-clad alibi, then POOF! the story would be over. However, they have nothing to lose by fanning the flames of jingoism, so when they’ve bothered to speak of the trial at all, it’s only been an effort to ready themselves for what they thought might be a much bigger, more sensational story IF she was set free…Believe me, they all knew.

Posted by nashvilletn on 12/09/09 at 03:31 PM | #

Thank you Commissario Montalbano for setting out the facts with such elegance and clarity!

I would expect nothing less from you: your taste in women is impeccable, your sea-side residence is idyllic, your powers of deduction incomparable…

Please come home to lunch on time, figliolo mio, the arancini are getting cold!!!

La tua mamma che ti adora!!!

Posted by Tiziano on 12/09/09 at 03:44 PM | #

Tiziano above made me smile! The “real” Commisario Montalbano is a super-cool fictional Italian police investigator. I can see why Tiziano wants him home for lunch.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/09/09 at 04:52 PM | #

I think we need to make a distinction between American media, the American government and the American people. The American media are presenting the “unfair trial, she’s innocent” story. They have clearly been influenced by the Knox PR campaign. The American government seem at this point to want to stay out of this based on Kelly’s response that they found no evidence of an unfair trial and Clinton’s statement that they will monitor the appeals process which they have been doing all along and which is standard procedure and certainly not intervention.

In my experience of comments on articles on the weekend I estimate that half or even two thirds of American posters believe Amanda is guilty and America should stay out of this. The American have not been 100% successful in misleading people.

I was very happy to see on CNN AC360 Monday night that Barbie Latza Nadau was mentioned as being present in court every day of the trial (unlike the other pro-Amanda guests on the show) and AC asked her what she thought. She pointed out that Amanda’s parents say there is not a shred of evidence against against Amanda but that is not true. The DNA knife evidence she said, was “powerful stuff”, no one ever came forward to offer an alibi of where her and Raf were on the night, so we can’t place them at Raf’s place.I also saw Edda Mellas say things that I knew were not true regarding evidence. I think I see now where Amanda’s ability to lie comes from.

So it seems the maelstrom is being produced by a few people to influence the media. And while it may seem overwhelming right now, I think it will die down soon, especially without government intervention, In fact it already seems to be dying down - I didn’t see anything on CNN last night who had something on it every night since Friday. CNN et al will be on to the next story.

Posted by Vedantist on 12/09/09 at 04:59 PM | #

Anyone notice how Edda Mellas keeps saying, “You don’t leave an innocent daughter in a foreign jail for something she didn’t do.”

If Amanda’s innocent, then why does Edda have to add in the same sentence, “for something she didn’t do”?

If a double negative makes a positive, this statement seems like her unconscious is screaming, “she did it”. Thou doth protest too much!

Posted by bedelia on 12/09/09 at 05:38 PM | #

Hi Vedantist. Thanks for that very useful take on the media and the interested American public. I think you captured it just right.

At the moment, obviously ,a lot of movement is taking place. Some who have been shrill over the miscarriage of justice have now studied the case a bit deeper now (especially here, where it is all laid out) and seem to have decided to shut up.

After we put a spotlight on New York lawyer John Q Kelly he was never heard from again. The same has happened with a number of others. The reservoir of misleadingly-briefed sock-puppets seems to be drying up.

The New York Times blogger Timothy Egan, whose rancid xenophobia and total mis-statements of the hard facts is widely known about in Italy, still keeps going, but he seems to be almost alone and he has said nothing since the verdict.

You can read here and here what Italy thinks of Timothy Egan

At the same time we are seeing many hundreds of comments on other sites (especially Seattle sites, which delight us) saying that the case is good and the trial was fair. Sanity seeps in, it seems. From the bottom up.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/09/09 at 05:56 PM | #

Did anyone read Tom Rawstorne’s article in today’s Daily Mail? If so then I would appreciate your comments. There appears to be no ‘Anti-Amanda crusade’ in the British media at present, rather the contrary. What a wonderful family the Kercher family are, united and dignified. Meredith would have been so proud.

Posted by Ann-Marie on 12/09/09 at 07:50 PM | #

Hi Ann-Marie. Yes Tim Rawstorne does seem to be bending over backward to mischaracterize the evidence strongly in favor of Knox.

The commenters below his badly researched piece are really taking him to task. A pity that he did not spend more time here just reading.

We are seeing this quite a few times now. A badly researched journalist gets much better informed by dozens of very smart readers.

That pretty well seems the swansong of most journalists on the case. Timothy Egan has not spoken up since the verdict.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/09/09 at 08:34 PM | #

Hey Ann-Marie I read the article too and thought, despite its length it was mostly hot air. I find that the comments following MSM pieces on the verdict are overwhelmingly in favour of the verdict and I (as I’m sure do others) draw a lot of comfort knowing that a large proportion of people reading these misinformed articles see through the Amanda bias. A lot people are satisfied that justice has been done, many more think the punishment was too lenient.

I found the article written by Beppe Severgnini remarkably intelligent but in a way melancholy.

Here we have a man who has followed the case over two years and who, despite his well restrained anger at the accusations flying around, is able to voice his concerns and also his defence of a very fair justice system. I for one have been deeply moved by the way the Italian people have shown such restraint and understanding towards those who have been deeply hostile towards them.

Posted by Miss Represented on 12/09/09 at 09:47 PM | #

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Or to next entry CNN’s Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom Nails Cantwell’s Ill-Informed Intervention

Or to previous entry “Amanda Knox: Behind The Hollywood Smile, A Liar, A Narcissist And A Killer”