Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Defendants’ High-Stakes Blame Game: Key Moves By Rudy Guede Explained

Posted by Michael

The blame game

For many months now, the defendants and their lawyers, and for that matter the prosecutors, have been playing a fascinating game of three-dimensional chess.

None of the three have fully broken from the other two - so far.  But each has been making chess-like moves that seem to be attempts to make sure they aren’t the ones - or the only ones - hung out to dry.

It is even possible that Rudy Guede’s stiff thirty-year sentence was such a move, to squeeze him to come clean at the Knox/Sollecito trial - though he may not have much to bargain with any more, if the physical and witness evidence is as encompassing as it seems. 

Guede’s first story

In November 2007, shortly before his arrest, Rudy Guede had a Skype conversation with his friend Giacomo Benedetti over the Internet. It was his second, and recorded by police.

He told his friend that he knew Meredith and Amanda and he had been to the cottage on a couple of previous occasions, visiting the boys who lived downstairs. But that he wasn’t at the cottage on the day of Meredith’s murder.

Guede’s second story

This story later changed, after his arrest in Germany. It was whilst awaiting extradition back to Italy in late November 2007, that he wrote his so-called German Prison Diary.

In this diary Guede related a second version of events.

He admitted to being at the cottage the night of the murder, supposedly on a date with Meredith. But on emerging from the bathroom to the sound of screams, he was confronted by an unknown Italian male, standing over a dying Meredith, knife in hand.

After a brief struggle, the man fled, with an unseen accomplice Guede said he heard but could not see, lurking outside the cottage.

Guede’s third story

Later, in April 2008, Guede requested an audience with the prosecutor, where he gave a third account. It was essentially the same account as the second - but with key differences.

He now stated that it was Raffaele Sollecito that he saw wielding the knife in the cottage that night. And it was Amanda Knox who was the unseen accomplice outside the house, as he had recognized her voice.

A false interpretation

According to one or two Amanda Knox defense sites, this apparently damning testimony by Guede is in reality evidence for the innocence of Knox and Sollecito.

Their argument is that because Guede did not mention the other suspects in his Skype conversation, his diary, or his initial interrogation by the Italians, instead waiting until April, this serves as evidence of the duplicity of a lone-wolf criminal taking advantage of an opportunity to pass the blame onto two innocents.

However, the logic of this blame-passing argument does not stand up to close scrutiny. There was actually more going on.

RS and AK alibi problems

Amanda Knox had been arrested on 6th November, after claiming to have been in the kitchen of the cottage whilst Patrick Lumumba, the owner of the bar where Amanda worked, entered Meredith’s bedroom, and raped and then killed her.

But meanwhile, in his own interrogation, Sollecito had admitted to police that his first account (that they were together at his place all evening) had been a lie, and that Amanda had left his apartment mid-evening, not returning until the early hours of the next morning.

A court hearing then confirmed the status of Knox and Sollecito as official suspects, and denied them release or house arrest whilst the investigation unfolded. The reasons given being that there may be a flight risk, and a high potential that they may interfere with evidence and witnesses.

Case against RS and AK strengthens

From that point onwards, the case against the suspects only grew stronger, with more evidence against them emerging almost by the day. The police claimed they could place them both at the scene of the murder, and that they had what could be the murder weapon.

A large knife, found seemingly hidden in Sollecito’s apartment. Sollecito had a liking for knives, owning a collection, and admitting to having always carried one on his person since he was fourteen.

Despite Knox’s later retraction of the statement in which she had falsely accused Lumumba, their situation was steadily looking bleaker.

Rudy Guede’s new advantage

With Guede’s arrest in Germany, about three weeks after the crime, he must have known his own game could be up. Forensic evidence could link him directly to the crime scene.

At that point, he had an advantage that few suspected murderers ever have; two patsie, Knox and Sollecito, already sitting in jail and ripe for taking the fall for him.

But despite the fact that there was a case against them, and that they could not account for their whereabouts, Guede went out of his way not to actually name them.

Instead, he wove that yarn above, one that had little credibility and was widely ridiculed on the internet. Even the judge at his hearing told him his story was just not credible.

Guede still holds back

But still he avoided naming Knox and Sollecito - who if really innocent could hardly have said anything in response that would have made his situation worse. They would not have been present at the murder, and therefore, would have no counter-evidence to offer.

At that point, Guede would have had nothing at all to lose by naming them, and possibly a very great deal to gain.  So why didn’t he?

It only makes any kind of logical sense that he didn’t name names if in fact Knox and Sollecito actually were at the scene of the crime.

They would then have been able to respond to Guede’s accusations with allegations of their own, which could have jeopardised any hope he may have had of being acquitted of Meredith’s murder.

Guede suddenly reverses

So why did he suddenly change his statement, and name names, and why did he wait so many months before doing so?

The answer, it would appear, lies in a change of the tactics in this chess game being pursued by Raffaele Sollecito’s defence team.

Anxious to show that a Nike footprint found in Meredith’s room was not that of their client’s, Sollecito’s team began arguing that it was in fact Guede’s.

Other noises from Sollecito’s lawyers suggested that they were readying to point the finger at Rudy Guede as a sole perpetrator, as part of their defence strategy.

Why Guede names names

For Guede, it would not have been lost on him which way the wind was blowing. Fearing that he was going to be railroaded into taking all of the blame, he responded by naming names.

Even then, though, he did not go as far as he might have. He did not claim that he actually saw Amanda, for example, only that he heard her.

However, the move did serve as a warning shot across the bows of the other suspects.

And it was an important move in the game of chess still being played out among them.


Terrific analysis Michael. You are really very good at this. There are other such chess moves (actually, this one reminded me more of billiards!) but this is one of the best-documented and most-telling.

Tough case for the defense teams, and not much wiggle room for the remaining defendants, whether or not they split.

The notion that they are just sweet kids, framed, seems to have taken many hits now and public sympathy levels, never high in Italy or the UK, seem to be dropping.

I wonder if anyone thinks they could crack before the 16th, and go for a closed reduced-form trial with a strong dependence on psychological witnesses?

The lawyers will naturally want to press on with a full trial (public exposure for them and more fees), but might the defendants and families be better served to call it quits now on the Rudy-did-it-all line, and start wheeling the psychologists out instead?

And I wonder if the Kerchers’ wrongful-death civil suit might be tending to rule that one out for them? If the Knox-Mellas family have to admit that yes, they did send a loose cannon off to Italy, untreated, the suit could rather promptly have them in its cross-hairs.

I reckon the Kerchers’ civil suit is very much more about stopping multi-million-dollar gains from book deals than about actually receiving any payments. But it could be affecting defense strategies in this perverse way.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/18/08 at 09:01 PM | #

It always seems to me that the bleaching of the house was meant to help Amanda and Raff escape but not to help Guede as evidence about him was left.  He seems to have gone pretty lightly on them all things considered and they have not really returned the favour so I wonder how he feels now and how he will testify.

Posted by Jackson on 12/18/08 at 09:40 PM | #

It’s a classic case of escalation and who goes first. If anyone of the 3 of them makes a breakout move, run for cover, folks! It will all come pouring out. “She planned it and I though we were just here to have a few kicks.” Amanda looks the one most vulnerable to being the loser, though in some of her ramblings she sounds like she knows she is mentally lost, if not ever regretful.

Posted by Hergitay on 12/19/08 at 12:46 AM | #

And I might put some money on what pete suggested, that the families may turn and go for the short private trial. As a lawyer myself, I think the Knox family have made a big mistake, not engaging a good American lawyer to talk for them. He would have advised them properly on this. The PR show is not only a charade, it is leaving them not well advised..

Posted by Hergitay on 12/19/08 at 12:51 AM | #

This reminds me of the classic case in game theory, the Prisoner’s Dilemma’s_dilemma

But.. I don’t think that any one of the three is going to crack unless the situation changes as the trial progresses. Rudy has no incentive now, except perhaps anger and revenge if the others attack him in court, which they won’t.

I think that Knox and Sollecito and their lawyers have concluded that their best hope lies in arguing at length about each item of evidence, particularly the forensic evidence, and trying to sow doubt and confusion in the minds of the judges and jury.

They know that a fast track trial is a fast track to a 30 year sentence, like Rudy. They don’t want a quick, clean trial based on a few items of evidence and a few witnesses. They want to raise up a great fog of argument, call plenty of expert witnesses with conflicting views, over-analyze each point, make hours of speeches and arguments, and try to instill some reasonable doubt.

I think that Sollecito is the smartest as well as the weakest of the three. He also has a smart, wealthy father and the best lawyers, and is at home with the Italian legal system. Amanda doesn’t have sufficient contact with the real world to analyse the situation objectively. She will keep daydreaming about a glorious future in which she is found innocent and lives happily ever after, right up to the last moment and beyond.

If Sollecito ever concludes that there is no hope of aquittal, he will turn against Knox and hope for a lighter sentence. Of them all, he can plausibly argue that he was ‘led astray by bad companions’, which is probably even the truth. He seems like an arrogant, unpleasant, and superficial guy, but he was not the moving force behind this. Amanda apparently told her friends that she liked him because he was weak and she could do whatever she wanted with him. 

If any one of the three cracks and gives evidence against the others it will be Sollecito.

Posted by GreenWyvern on 12/19/08 at 08:51 AM | #

Fast Pete - I have little knowledge of Italian (or U.S.) civil law but I think it highly unlikely that the parents of a 20 year old could be held financially liable for her actions.

Posted by MikeMCSG on 12/19/08 at 10:37 AM | #

The Prisoner’s Dilemma for real…  good one.

GW would seem to have the right assessment of how the the long-form trial will look and on who might break. I’d be surprised though if the prosecution’s case looks iffy for too long though, or if any remaining sentiment for them stays with the defendants. The crime-scene already looks pretty horrific, and out of Rudy’s trial there were hints it could look even more-so.

We won’t know until the 16th whether the trial will be closed. That might change some things.

Rudy would seem to have no reason to crack just spontaneously. But the one reason he just might is this compulsory appeal of his coming up. Someone knowledgeable with the Italian system on the PMF board a few weeks ago said they are almost like a complete re-run of the original trial - everything is up for review, next time round in public, including the sentence, and not just the “grounds for appeal” that we are familiar with in the UK and US.

That 30-year sentence sure seems to have focussed all minds. Except, apparently, Amanda’s. As GW says, she seems to be in a dream world now. Seems to be.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/19/08 at 12:52 PM | #

“I have little knowledge of Italian (or U.S.) civil law but I think it highly unlikely that the parents of a 20 year old could be held financially liable for her actions.”

MikeMCSG makes a good point. But the general rule in the US is that everybody sues everybody over just anything!

Actually, that has faded somewhat lately. But behind the scenes in THIS CASE a lot of legal threats have been made. We have a growing list of commenters and reporters who are telling us about intimidation of this kind.

It’s enough to have put a chill on some of them. Not on us; we have not been threatened, and we have a bunch of legal tigers - sweet guys of course, ha ha! - right here in Manhattan anyway.

But if the legal threatery is affecting some of those pro-Meredith, it could also be affecting some of those pro-Knox as well.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/19/08 at 06:15 PM | #

Hergitay wrote:
“And I might put some money on what pete suggested, that the families may turn and go for the short private trial. As a lawyer myself, I think the Knox family have made a big mistake, not engaging a good American lawyer to talk for them. He would have advised them properly on this. The PR show is not only a charade, it is leaving them not well advised..”

I think it was a huge mistake to hire a PR firm, especially with a team based in Seattle. Maybe the idea from the outset has been to sway local opinion, but even that has backfired, in part due to the totally separate and probably volunteer efforts on the part of the PI reader blog. One problem I see is that the Knox/Mellas people tried to work too many angles and keep too many balls in the air, with the result that nothing has been done properly. A competent, behind the scenes, hard-working lawyer with no desire to be in the limelight probably could have done wonders for them here in the US.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 12/19/08 at 06:21 PM | #

I think Guede has been hording his cards for too long. The fast track trial has toally backfired but from his point of view there is the hint in the sentence that proper testimony may earn a reduced sentence. He’s already clocked up the maximum so he has nothing to lose. The more convincing the prosecution case against the others, the less his own cards are worth. He seems rather slow witted but if he doesn’t play them quickly he may find they have become worthless.

Like Sollecito, he may claim that he was not the prime mover and was unaware that events would become so extreme. The apparent murder weapon is linked to the others and not him. It’s curious that he didn’t use the fast track to get his retaliation in because the others had made it clear who was to be the favoured fall guy.

Sollecito has his own psychological problems but he’s still the most intelligent of the three with a formidable defense team and a pretty hard nosed father. They’ll be laying down the harsh facts for him. Shackling himself to Knox has failed and she looks reluctant to return to planet Earth. Time to find a new strategy. Once one of them turns they will be firing at each other from all directions.

At the end of all the cynical manoeuvreing and blame-passing by the trio, we can only hope that justice will be served for Meredith Kercher and her family and the truth finally revealed.

Posted by Faustus on 12/19/08 at 11:14 PM | #

Yeah Guede (and Biscotti) doesnt seem to have played an optimum game. He apparently did try at the closed trial to blame the other two entirely, but it lacked credibility.

If he’s going to deal and be useful, he really needs to talk truths. Only truths are worth anything, not spin.

By the way, one thing we are hearing from media contacts is that Mignini plays his cards very close to his chest, and he never leaks, contrary to the myths.

Posted by Fast Pete on 12/20/08 at 05:53 PM | #

Thanks Michael - excellent and illuminating analysis!

Posted by Socrates42 on 12/21/08 at 05:59 PM | #
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