Tuesday, June 13, 2023

PM Berlusconi RIP: Attempted To Rattle Largely Impervious Justice System

Posted by Peter Quennell


Berlusconi was last the Prime Minister of Italy from 2006 to 2011.

He worked hard throughout to tilt the Italian justice system to his advantage, but with its 100% career staff, council of magistrates, and zero political appointees, he failed to really come out ahead.

Indirectly, he was a major influence in Meredith’s case. Sollecito lawyer Bongiorno, as the powerful head of the justice committee in parliament (she controlled the police, courts and prisons budget) worked very closely with him.

For this reason Bongiorno was a fearful figure (in most democracies such conflicts of interest are forbidden) and engineered the ill-fated appointment of Judge Hellman. He whose 2011 appeal (which almost resembled a new trial) was later annulled. Bongiorno did this by leaning upon Umbria Chief Judge De Nunzio to appoint him.

Had Senior Criminal Judge Chiari not been yanked off the appeal, it would have taken only 2-3 weeks as there was almost nothing to appeal about. And Knox and Sollecito would still be locked up.

Berlusconi himself was constantly beset by his own legal problems in later years and never permanently bent the justice system. He did, however, create the template for other elected authoritarian leaders who set about trying to overthrow democracy. Sound familiar to you?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/13/23 at 03:09 PM in Hoaxes Sollecito etc


Berlusconi gave Bongiorno the idea of asking for a paragraph 2 acquittal of ‘insufficient evidence’.  It worked for Berlusconi and it worked for Andreotti.  It is a political opt-out clause, also used for the train terrorists.

How it could be a paragraph 2 acquittal after the two lower courts upheld guilty beyond reasonable doubt should tell people everything they need to know about the integrity of that final court.

Posted by KrissyG on 06/15/23 at 07:07 PM | #

Sure thing on Berlusconi and Andreotti. I’ve been told that a paragraph 2 acquittal is appealable tho I’ve never read the law.

It would not require Meredith’s brothers and sister to do that and their opinion of Italian justice is at pretty low ebb - and their own lawyer made a terrible bungle in not appealing the Florence calunnia verdict against Perugia police HQ staff. Case can be reopened by the President and Council of Magistrates. Dr Mignini’s book is building momentum toward that. 

As he has explained, under the law the Supreme Court must refer questions of evidence back down, and had the First Chambers got the final appeal after Nencini any issues would have been addressed by him.

That the Fifth Chambers (a kind of family court with two politically appointed judges from Naples running the show) got to handle the final appeal was incredibly blatant, but most Italians presumed that not only had the mafias got their noses under the tent, Trump and the Obama administration had done so too.

As a positive result, however, the system itself did improve, as Italians know and appreciate: the Council of Magistrates ruled that no more political-appointee judges (of which there are now close to none) would ever again sit on the Supreme Court.

Learn something USA! The Italian Supreme Court is widely trusted; the US Supreme Court not so much.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/16/23 at 06:48 PM | #

Open secret in Perugia that all the defense lawyers knew there was guilt. Several like Ghirga and Maori made little attempt to hid that belief.

Did Bongiorno have anything to do with Sollecito after 2014?

She would not help him with his defense against Dr Mignini in Florence for the diffamazione in his book (which he lost), or his attempt in Genoa to sue all the judges in the case (which he also lost).

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/16/23 at 08:14 PM | #

I wish we (the US) could import the humane and effecient Italian police and justice system, lock, stock and barrel - well, with a little winding back of the automatic appeals thing. So many benefits across the country would accrue. The FBI would become the Carabinieri of course.  😊


Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/16/23 at 08:37 PM | #

The 5th Chambers not only acted outside it’s remit. It acted outside the law.

The grounds for appeal to the Supreme Court are set out in Section 1 of Article 606 of the CPPC. These delimit it’s jurisdiction.

In particular, I do not see how one can make the assertion that the DNA on the knife has no probative or circumstantial relevance, because the test was not repeated, when this can scarcely be described as a product of the application of section 1 (e) of Article 606, or any other paragraph in the grounds for appeal. Such an assertion has no provenance in the legal framework of the Supreme Court appelate process. It was both invalid, legally, and beyond the Supreme Court’s remit, a fact of which it was surely aware.

What I mean is this.

Section 1, paragraph (e), of Article 606 (grounds for appeal to the Supreme Court)  allows for an appeal to be based on any -

“ defect, contradictoriness or manifest illogicality of the judgement reasoning, when the error results from the text of the provisioning appealed, or from other documents in the proceedings specifically noted in the reasons of encumberment.”

The Independent Expert’s Report was certainly, by the terms of Section 1(e), a document “in the proceedings specifically noted in the reasons of encumberment”. However it’s conclusions would only be relevant to an appeal to the extent that there could be an error (a “defect, contradictoriness, or manifest illogicality”) in Nencini’s judgement, arising as a result. An example of such an error might be if Nencini had ignored the Report (which would be an instant defect), or if it could be shown that he had misinterpreted, or otherwise made a mistake as to, the significance or meaning of the conclusions in the Independent Experts ‘ Report, or he had failed to explain (or had, but with “manifest illogicality”) why he disagreed.

Nencini did not ignore the Report and in his handling of the issue of “repeatability” it is impossible to find such an error (and if there was one, the 5th Chambers did not specify what it was) unless, of course, one takes the view that Nencini’s disagreement with the Independent Experts is a “contradictoriness” or a “defect” in itself. But that would be absurd and clearly could not be the purpose of the paragraph. That he did not accept the Independent Experts’ conclusions could not, by itself, be an error but the 5th Chambers, in effect treating them as sacrosanct, was saying just that.

Nencini did challenge the “repeatability” issue in so far as this was intended to render 35a unreliable (Article 360 would apply anyway) and in the main did so by demonstrating that the test result was unambiguous as far as the DNA profile was concerned, and that the profile, “arrived at by methods of analysis and interpretation which were quite correct, should constitute an element of evidence that can be evaluated in the trial, just like all the many other elements of circumstantial evidence which, evaluated as a body, can give rise to the status of a proof.”

In that he was quite correct both as to a statement of fact and as to the law. No error (such as a “manifest illogicality”) there and certainly not derived from anything in the Independent Experts’ Report though it was, obviously, a riposte to it.

The 5th Chambers own dogmatic preference for the validity of the Independent Experts’ conclusion i.e unreliable if unrepeatable (which, without reference to Nencini, and in breach of it’s remit. it attempted to argue as to the merit, but as to which it failed abjectly), had no conception in and had no connection with a valid ground for appeal. The assertion that the DNA on the knife had no probative or circumstantial relevance was essentially ultra vires and hence would undoubtedly have been struck out had there been a further appeal to the Council of Magistrates. The 5th Chambers could not, as it did, act as a law unto itself.

Posted by James Raper on 06/18/23 at 04:08 PM | #

James, that is phenomenal.

If okay I’ll put it into Italian with Systran and send it to Dr Mignini. Some face to face chat could serve us really well here. You are available for Italy trips may? Unfortunately. I’m not right now, I still have several months to go on the site navigation here, and also on my main project (the website on development).

Plus I confess the Trooping of the Colour kept me glued for a whole day. Such great system talent in the UK; Brits need to get back to inventing them. Luckily I was tuned to Sky News, with actual commentary, by Alistair Bruce, like others I was not expecting King Charles on a horse in a bearskin! Alistair Bruce kept pointing him out.

Oddly, Sky News did not upload a live feed to YouTube, but someone else did, and anyone can now watch it here with the commentary.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/19/23 at 01:50 PM | #

James, I completely agree.  It is written in the Italian Criminal statutes, Article 360, as you say which spells out in black and white that where a tiny amount of DNA (for example) can only be tested once, the defence had a legal right to observe the proceedings. 

Only the defence lawyer for Sollecito and the Kerchers bothered to turn up, and neither lodged a complaint about the methodology, apparatus or possible contamination. The ensuing DNA profile, which is done by a computer printout can hardly be faked.  Fifteen pairs of alleles (almost a full profile) were indisputably that of Meredith Kercher’s.

It is mind-boggling that C&V or the Fifth Chamber could even argue about a finding that is 100% objective, scientific and as witnessed by independent expert witnesses.

Posted by KrissyG on 06/19/23 at 06:57 PM | #

Thanks Krissy. Of course I agree with you.

The notion that a repeat analysis of sample 36B could have produced a result to throw doubt on the reliability of the result of the first test is quite bogus, if somwhat appealing to the uninitiated in what we are dealing with i.e the science.

I included a thought experiment in my book, as follows -

Let us suppose, for instance, that the sample from the knife blade, 36B, had in fact been subjected to DNA analysis for the first time in 2013 (when the appeal in Florence was under way with Judge Nencini presiding). Let us divide the sample at that time into two labelled 36B(i) and 36B(ii) and let us suppose that 36B(i) had produced the (virtually complete) profile it did in 2007 but that 36B (ii) had failed to produce anything like a match with the former. It is very unlikely that separate amplifications could be the reason for this, in fact very improbable in a bio-chemical chain reaction (the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR), and even if the second amplification produced a slightly different “read” this would not entail “falsification”. In fact it is obvious that the statistical analysis software tools now in general use, and which allow for a probabilistic analysis of allele drop out occurrences, is inimical with the proposition that a different read, per se, necessarily amounts to falsification.

It helps, also, to know what is atually going on when DNA is amplified. Amplification requires an enzyme, in this case the polymerase enzyme. Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts to the various chemical reactions with amino aids (the building blocks of life) which occur in biology. The living cell is a sac containing DNA and proteins. Every protein is the combination of a specific sequence of amino acids built according to the instructions, or blueprint, encoded in the DNA. They power various organic processes, including, in the case of the polymerase enzyme, cell reproduction.This is how biological organisms grow and develop. Polymerase enzymes are to be found in all living organisms and are crucial for the first steps of protein biosynthesis. Polymerases are used to assemble DNA and RNA molecules and usually work in pairs. They link specific sequences of nucleotides to chains using base-pairing interactions. For any of this to happen the DNA sample has to be heated to a high temperature so as to denature and break the DNA double helix strands in order for the polymerase to perform it’s function and rebuild the nucleotide sequences hundreds of times over, and hence the DNA strand anew and as it was originally. Amplification is almost routine nowadays, not just in LCN DNA cases. This is because it not only restores any damaged strands but increases the quantity of DNA to be analysed in the electropherogram, thus lending greater credence to the result.

It is true that Heat stress does effect DNA integrity (obviously, that’s part of the process) and can also directly inactivate the DNA polymerase. This is why one might get a different “read” following a repeat and separate amplification of the same sample, but if it happens it does not mean that there is anything amiss with the “read” in the first test. So, in no way can the lack of a repeat amplification, given an understanding of the the underlying biology and chemistry, be used per se as a valid rebuttal of, or as a falsification argument against, the reliability of a clear and obvious one-time test result obtained using, as in this case, standard procedure and equipment readily accepted by the scientific community.

Returning to my thought experiment the only likely explanation for any real dissimilarity between 36B(i) and 36B(ii)is that there could have been contamination of 36B(i) in the lab, but not one court ever said that it thought this was at all probable.

Thanks, Krissy, for reminding everybody that there were defence experts present for the analysis of the sample from the knife and lodged no concerns about the analysis. Even Vecchiotti admitted that the lapse in time between the analysis of Meredith’s profile in the lab and the analysis of 36B was sufficient to rule out lab contamination.

@ Pete

Yes, by all means. Perhaps he could get Stefanoni to run her eye over the last bit as well?

Posted by James Raper on 06/20/23 at 10:21 AM | #

Hi James. It’s this DNA that is used more than anything else in the evidence list to hornswoggle people here and on Fifth Chambers. So yes there is good interest from Perugia, an interview or workshop in a few weeks, at a place quite convenient to you. Emailing, with copy to Krissy and an invitation to join in.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/24/23 at 05:05 PM | #

That sounds interesting!

Posted by KrissyG on 06/26/23 at 06:48 PM | #

Hi James and Krissy

Sure thing. See emails. And then ideally after any European meeting we organize the workshop long envisaged for here in NYC and hit the global media.

Chances of capturing most media and a journalism school and law school (several of the best are in Manhattan) could keep the criminal hoax in the limelight for years.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/29/23 at 04:10 PM | #

KrissyG wrote, re: the testing of the Sollecito apartment large knife: “Only the defence lawyer for Sollecito and the Kerchers bothered to turn up, and neither lodged a complaint about the methodology, apparatus or possible contamination. The ensuing DNA profile, which is done by a computer printout can hardly be faked. Fifteen pairs of alleles (almost a full profile) were indisputably that of Meredith Kercher’s.”

Not only that, but contamination could not explain the presence of Kercher’s DNA.

One of the OJ books made this point very clearly. I can’t remember if it was ML Rantala’s or Vincent Bugliosi’s book (or maybe both). But whoever it was pointed out that contamination of DNA can “muddy the waters” and make it unclear whose DNA is present. But DNA contamination will never *create* the presence of a profile of a specific person. The odds of DNA contamination resulting in the profile of a specific person are astronomically low. The odds are even astronomically lower when the profile in question is someone already intimately connected with the case. It’s analogous to the probability of monkeys sitting in front of a bank of typewriters and typing out Shakespeare.

Posted by Earthling on 06/30/23 at 10:14 AM | #

Hi Earthling

Key issue. The contamination issue is not that the DNA analysis produced something that was not in fact there i.e an almost complete profile of Meredith’s DNA. It is to do with how that DNA got there. Lab contamination or more pertinently touch transfer then enters the equation.

On the evidence, lab contamination and touch transfer can both be ruled out as very unlikely.

Meredith’s reference DNA profile was analysed in the lab on the 6th November. The knife was swabbed and the sample from the swab analysed on the 13th November. In the intervening week there were 103 other findings from samples in the case (and from other files) analysed in the lab and Meredith’s profile did not appear in any of them. That, the negative controls, and the fact that the analysis was carried out in front of experts for the defence, none of whom raised a concern about any aspect of the analysis, all make it extremely unlikely that 36B was the consequence of accidental lab contamination.

Every care was taken in collecting the knife from Sollecito’s apartment. Meredith had never been to Sollecito’s apartment so it it is difficult to see how her DNA could have been deposited anywhere there through touch transfer. Finzi, who had collected the knife, had never been to the cottage. He placed it in a new paper bag he had with him, and then the bag, with the knife inside, into a folder.

After the search had concluded he went back to the Questura with the others and handed the bag to Superintendent Gubbiotti. Gubbiotti, wearing new gloves, removed the knife from the bag and put it inside a box that he sealed with scotch tape. He specified that the box had previously contained a “desk diary” and no other items. The box was then sent, along with other findings, to the Scientific Police in Rome.

There was, given these facts, not much opportunity for the contamination of the knife with Meredith’s DNA, even though Gubbiotti had been in the party which had visited the cottage on the 4th Nov. He had worn gloves then, as they all had. Contamination (touch transfer) could, hypothetically, have occurred prior to collection of the item. Could Knox have touched Meredith, shaking hands with her, say, and deposited Meredith’s transferred DNA on to the blade of the knife? How often does one hold a kitchen knife by the blade? If one were to do this, one would think pressure would be required so as to avoid any accidents with it. On the hypothesis that this could be the case, where is Knox’s DNA? Absent. There was not even the suggestion of another profile.

But the morons scream “contamination” and “unreliable evidence”. Not a chance.

Posted by James Raper on 07/05/23 at 10:35 AM | #
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