Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Two Great Cliff-Hangers In This Week’s Proceedings

Posted by Peter Quennell

[courtesy AP: Ms Knox last Saturday when the Kerchers were in court]

These will have the press corps pouring into Perugia in record numbers tomorrow

  • Will Amanda Knox actually get up and testify, or conclude differently as the appointed time approaches?
  • Will Amanda Knox once again claim to have been at Sollecito’s place all of the night which he contradicts?

She also faces a very tough time with these issues and these issues and for that matter these issues.

Andrea Vogt has excellent reports on the possibilities in last Sunday’s Independent and yesterday’s Seattle P-I.

The situation does seem to be fraught with downsides and, we presume, upsides.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/10/09 at 06:56 PM in Trials 2008 & 2009Amanda Knox


Is this a prosecutor’s dream come true?

To my knowledge, in the past when Amanda has spoken on her own behalf she was not challenged by the prosecution.  Friday will be different.  On Friday, she will be asked to reconcile discrepancies in her statements.  She will not be a sworn-in witness so it is not clear which lines of questioning will be allowed but the prosecutor will certainly try to impeach her.  If she is a psychopath, things could get knarly.

You’ve all seen it many times on crime shows.  On cross examination, the witness offers some testimony, for example, the fact that she has never been married.  The lawyer then asks to offer into evidence a marriage certificate.  Reducing the credibility of a witness in this fashion is known as impeaching the witness.  There are special rules that apply which allow the attorney to ask questions not normally allowed.  To discredit a claim made by the witness, the prosecutor could, for example, enter new evidence not presented previously during the prosecution phase of the trial.  The jury is then instructed to use the evidence only as it reduces the credibility of the witness but to ignore it when otherwise considering the guilt or innocence.  That’s expecting a lot.

One characteristic of a psychopath is the ability to lie with facility.  This does not mean the ability to spin a yarn or to make up a good story.  Most of us can do this.  It also doesn’t mean that the lie is particularly bad (a boldface lie).  When asked a question when the truth is not going to yield a desirable outcome, most of us will pause a little, maybe lift our eyes upward, as we weigh the consequences of the lie.  Someone who can lie with facility speaks the lie as fast as they would the truth and with the same conviction. 

The problem, of course, is that without the pause there is no weighing of the implications of the lie.  There is little checking for consistency.  In social situations this can easily be maneuvered around by saying something along the lines of, “Aw, I was just jokin’”.  Guede adjusted his story to meet the facts as they emerged.  Amanda now also knows the evidence against her and she’s had plenty of time to create a story to match it.  She will be on stable ground here as the Judge and jury weigh her statements against those put forth by the prosecution.  This is a good reason to only have one of the two defendants testify.  They can’t trip each other up.

Cross, on the other hand, is going to be a minefield for her.  Not only will the prosecution point out discrepancies but they will challenge her on them and she will be under pressure to correct them.  She will be up against a trial lawyer’s strong suit.  Mignini will be trying to impeach her.  If she steps on one of his mines, she will probably step on many – and he’ll be laying even more as she speaks.

Other incendiaries include her basking in the attention and notoriety she is getting.  Additionally, she is a creative writer.  Who can say what this might lead her to say if she strays from the straight and narrow.

I give her credit for doing this but I certainly don’t envy her.  I can’t say that I have ever done anything tougher myself.  I wouldn’t eat for two days, just as a precautionary measure. Btw “can you smoke on the witness stand?”  I’d bring a carton, of Luckies.

Arnold Layne

Posted by Arnold_Layne on 06/10/09 at 09:31 PM | #

Why in her email of Nov.4 to family and friends did Knox say she went home to get her mop to clean up a pasta spill at Sollecito’s. Solecito said it was needed due to broken pipes.

Why in the same email did Knox say that Meredith’s door being locked was no cause for concern when the other flatmates said it was never locked. And if it was always locked why did Knox later in the email say it was a concern. It is both contradictory and nonsensical.

She should be questioned about every one of her lies so the jurors get a comprehensive picture of deceit.


Posted by jennifer on 06/10/09 at 11:46 PM | #

The email would be a great starting point because it is full of inconsistencies. My understanding is however that they’re not allowed to use it. Is that right?

It reminds me of a Few Good Men when Downey takes the stands and gets rumbled about what time he’d actually returned to barracks. I know this isn’t a movie but have the prosecution been holding something back from trial that they can use to catch Amanda out?

Her defence attorneys will have trained her well though and will have thought about everything the prosecution could throw at her. It will be very different doing it for real though.

It’s so huge this testimony. The case could be wrapped up in one day. If she slips up she’s pretty much sealed her fate. If she does strikingy well then she’ll get the jury on her side and questioning the prosecution’s physical evidence.

I just hope the reason she’s doing it in Italian isn’t so that she can use her understanding of the language as an excuse should she say something she wished she hadn’t. I think she should be made to testify in her own language.

Posted by mikeyverve on 06/11/09 at 12:56 AM | #

My concern is the actual amount of evidence. There is so much to get through, surely they will have to pick and chose a little which evidence is brought up. It seems impossible that they can get through the whole lot. And it would take so long. I just worry that, whilst we have had plenty of time to sift and weigh the fine detail of this case, the jurors will have less time to reflect and work it all out, especially if it is not ALL presented.

What is the situation here? Will she just remain on the stand until the prosecution have done what they consider enough? Or will she be called back next week?

Posted by TT on 06/11/09 at 01:24 AM | #

Will they be able to cite Amanda’s Nov. 4th email in court? Does anyone know?  I hope so…

I just went back and re-read it, and there were a number of things that struck me as odd.

1) I don’t believe the story about going to get the mop to clean up water spilled at dinner the previous night.  I’m sure Raf owned towels!  Couldn’t they just soak the water up with a few towels?  A mop isn’t really necessary.  Why leave the floor wet all night?  If Amanda was really transporting a mop to a fro from his house in the late morning as she says, I would think someone would recall seeing a girl walking around outside with a mop…not exactly a small item.  It’s not a site you see every day.

2) Amanda claims that Laura’s door was open, but Filomena’s was closed.  So it should seem to Amanda that there is a possibility Filomena is at home sleeping at that moment.  After discovering the blood in the bathroom and junk in the toilet, Amanda claims she became worried and went back to Raf.  Why wouldn’t she try Filomena’s door to see if she was around to ask her about these issues?  According to her email, she didn’t try knocking on Meredith’s door at this point either.  If she was that concerned about the strange state of the house, it would make sense for her to try to alert any roommates that may be there, even if she had to wake them.  She further shows her lack of concern by proceeding to walk to Rafs (rather than calling right away) and doesn’t tell him about these things until AFTER they have mopped the floor!!!

3.  What kind of person doesn’t notice big smears of blood on your bathmat until AFTER getting out of the shower?!?!  It’s a pretty obvious mark on the bathmat.

4. If I came home to my apartment (I have 2 other roommates who each have boyfriends) and found crap in one of the toilets, I would flush it, not let it sit there.  That just seems strange to me to leave it there…Although apparently, Amanda was known to not flush herself, so maybe it wasn’t so strange to her.  I guess it makes sense to leave it there, though, when you know it belongs to another perpetrator who you hope will get the full blame for the crime the police are about to discover.

Posted by chira385 on 06/11/09 at 05:36 AM | #

Hi chira385. The email is certainly in the 10,000 pages of documentary evidence before the court. Under Arnold’s scenario (top comment) the prosecutor might ask leading questions on the lines you suggest (good ones) and then whip the email out and confront Knox with her statements.

Finn’s piece linked to above is based on the email which shows how peculiar it is and how damning it might become.

I expected there would be a copy of it on the PMF board but I am not seeing it there. A question of copyright or privacy was raised at one point to suppress it. I will email the PMF moderators and see if they can point us to it if it is public.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/11/09 at 07:01 AM | #

Hi TT. Yes Knox could be on the stand for a very long time. We dont know of any way to limit it before all the parties have put all their questions. It could spill over, some other parts of the trial did.

On Thursday morning we should have up a new Powerpoint show by Kermit on all the possible questions that just the prosecutor alone could want to ask.

The Kercher family has said that above all they want the TRUTH of what happened, and Mignini has a good reputation for an intense caring for victims and their families - am intensity we like, and what got him into a legal situation with a less-caring prosecutor in Florence.

He is likely to go at Knox hard for this reason, and may want to provoke wedges with Sollecito and have him scrambling to his feet as he is allowed to do.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/11/09 at 07:26 AM | #

Peter et al,

A blog by Timothy Egan, who lives in Seattle, just appeared on the New York Times online. It relies on the usual heavy-handed, distorted slant on the case against Knox that attempts to discredit the Italian criminal justice system and the prosecutor.

Additionally, it has the outrageous title of “An Innocent Abroad.” The tone of the piece reflects that kind of arrogant, despicable pandering to the notion that someone who is American, white, blue-eyed, etc., can’t possibly be responsible for a murder.

Obviously, the blog is timed to sway public opinion on the eve of Knox’s testimony. I have copied my comment below. I would like to encourage TJMK readers to comment on Timothy Egan’s blog, as well, in defense of the real “innocent,” Meredith Kercher.

Comment posted on Timothy Egan’s New York Times blog, “An Innocent Abroad,” dated June 10:

This opinion piece is just that, “opinion,” and an appallingly misinformed opinion it is. It doesn’t appear that Mr. Egan has read the facts of this case and the substantial evidence against Knox. The evidence against Knox includes DNA evidence analyzed by one of the world’s leading DNA experts—a woman who was brought in to identify bodies in the aftermath of the tsunami when no one else was able to do so.

No, he sounds rather like a mouthpiece for the PR firm hired by Knox’s family to skew public opinion against the Italian criminal justice system.

Why does he assume that Knox is “an innocent?” Is it because she is white? because she is from a middle class family? because she has blue eyes and a pretty face? because she is American? The last time I checked, these facts of birth and appearance don’t exonerate someone from the possibility of committing murder.

If Knox is so innocent, why doesn’t she have a credible alibi for the night of the murder? If Knox and Sollecito are so “innocent,” why were they discovered by the police the morning after the murder standing at the door of the Knox/Kercher residence with a mop and pail of water they had used to clean up the crime scene?

And finally, if she is so innocent, why did she accuse an innocent man of killing Meredith Kercher? She first tried to pin the blame on one African man, Patrick Lamumba. Was she thinking along the lines of Mr. Egan, that young and white is equated with innocence and black and male implies guilt? Now the defense team, against all indications that Meredith Kercher was viciously tormented and murdered by more than one attacker, is trying to suggest that Rudy Guede, who has admitted to being at the Knox/Kercher residence that evening, is the lone murderer. Is Rudy Guede, an African immigrant, a better suspect for the murder of Meredith Kercher because he is also a black man?

This tactic by the “Friends of Amanda Knox” crew and by the defense team smacks of racism and flies in the face of reality based on the evidence in this case.

Let’s remember who the real “innocent” is. The real innocent is Meredith Kercher, the young English woman who was brutally murdered in her bedroom on the evening of November 1, 2007.

Posted by wayra on 06/11/09 at 07:32 AM | #

Hi mikeyverve. Arnold (top comment) thinks traps will be set. “I know this isn’t a movie but have the prosecution been holding something back from trial that they can use to catch Amanda out?” Yeah there seem points in the 10,000-plus pages of evidence that were skimmed over or regarded as superfluous on the first pass. We think the email could be whipped out at some point. Defense might try to have it disallowed, but hard to see on what grounds right now.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/11/09 at 07:34 AM | #

Does anyone think that AK will really take the stand?  I think she is trying to gain support by stating she wants to get the “truth” out.  This is just a stratagem on her part.

Of course, testifying in Italian is a great way to have attention (sociopathic) and being able to fall back on having an imperfect understanding of the language will be her excuse.

She will be able to say “I testified and told the truth” but “I didn’t answer all the questions because I didn’t understand”.

Bless Meredith’s family, they have grace even within reach of their daughters’ murderers.

Posted by BARBM on 06/11/09 at 07:51 AM | #

Great post by wayra above. Preston keeps recycling his message via various friends with megaphones. His only source seems to be his friend Spezi.

Pete, please delete the inappropriate comment by jkirschb. He can’t control himself, apparently.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 06/11/09 at 09:43 AM | #

Agreed Skep- please can the irrelevant comment by jkirschb go? It made my stomach clench instantly to think I was joining in a board where someone could actually think it was a good point to make when the things that girl might have done are actually sick and depraved- why not fancy a paedophile in that case? Mira Hindley looks ever so pretty to me- NOT.

Posted by Ginny on 06/11/09 at 02:03 PM | #

Hi Skep and Ginny. The emails in also took exception to the comment as being at odds with our tone and mmember agreement, and irrelevant to the case, so it is now hidden.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/11/09 at 02:42 PM | #

Welcome to New York Times readers over here now because of Timthy Egan’s bizarre piece in the online Times.

Meredith was a truly remarkable girl, and jealousy of that sheer outstandingness may have been part of the motive.

We sure hope you stay on here, and support Meredith’s cause.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/11/09 at 03:18 PM | #

I will be pleasantly surprised if she lasts on the stand beyond 10 minutes. 

I just don’t see her entertaining questions from anyone other than her attorney.

They will want to keep it short and her looking sweet. It’s time to cast the Babbling Curse…

Posted by Professor Snape on 06/11/09 at 03:21 PM | #


I do think she might go back after the testimony and say about some of her statements “Oh that’s not what I meant to say…must have been a misunderstanding because of my Italian.”  However, I don’t think she can use that as an excuse to not answer questions…especially multiple questions.  It would really make her look dumb for wanting to testify in Italian without having a firm grasp on the language.  If she truly doesn’t understand a question, she can ask her interpretor who has been with her this whole time, or ask for further clarification in Italian.  Similarly, if her answers in Italian are confusing, I would think the prosecution could ask her to perhaps clarify in English.  Are there any rules about being restricted to testifying in only one language?  What if part way through the Italian gets to be too much?  Can she switch to English?

Posted by chira385 on 06/11/09 at 04:16 PM | #

Apologies all for the tedious and very untimely software problem.

We were receiving 50-100 hits every SECOND which looks like it may have been a deliberate attack.

There;s been a lot of tests and analysis done. If the site does not soon go up to full speed, we may have to power down for an hour tonight to upgrade all of our software.

Apologies again, and thanks for at least trying to read.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/11/09 at 09:53 PM | #

The comments on the Egan piece in the NY Times are interesting.  About half come right out and tell him that his article/op ed or whatever you call it is a hopelessly biased, poorly researched example of what journalism should not be.  Barbie Nadeau’s article for Newsweek demonstrates both good knowledge of the case and conflicting evidence/arguments as well as a neutral position vis a vis Knox’s guilt or innocence. 

Some of the comments on the Egan article suggest that, by taking exception to Egan’s plain bias and ignorance, people objecting to the article are abandoning the concept of someone being innocent until proven guilty.  Ironic, in that most of the commenters objecting to the piece simply want Knox (and the Kercher family) to have their day in court and for the result to take into account the evidence supporting guilt as well as the arguments against.  Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me that Knox really has no direct or circumstantial evidence to rebut the prosecution case.  Rather, she and her counsel will argue that the prosecution theory is flawed, that the abundant circumstantial evidence of her involvement and bizarre behavior are insignificant and that the physical evidence against her was contaminated or improperly collected.  They will also have to explain away her repeated contradictory statements/lies to the police and in her other emails and statements.

Most of the comments agreeing with Egan are predictably and frighteningly xenophobic and for the most part made by people with little if any knowledge of the facts of the case or the evidence offered to date.  They proclaim that Italy, Italians and their justice system are primitive and corrupt—a position that, when taken by an American, shows a lot of nerve given the Abu Gharib/Gitmo situation and the fact that this country under Bush eviscerated an awful lot of civil rights and detained a lot of people without formal charges or trial.  They also buy into a not so subtle (and disturbing) suggestion in Egan’s piece that the cute white girl from the U.S. is most certainly innocent and that the “bad black guy” did it.  Brings to mind a lot of cases in this country (most recently the Bonnie Sweeten case) where a white person falsely accuses a black person.

The one thing I do question to some extent though is why the prosecution would rely on someone as lead prosecutor who has some (albeit unrelated) issues with respect to past cases and possible criminal exposure/conduct related to one such case.  Its a non-issue vis a vis what the evidence will or will not prove, but it creates a major talking point for the FOA.

Posted by Sierra1049 on 06/11/09 at 11:36 PM | #

For those who don’t understand the Knox PR organization, see Miss Represented’s brilliant essay on the Egan shilling of their cause in today’s NY Times.:

Posted by jennifer on 06/12/09 at 12:44 AM | #

Ugh, it took me an hour to wade through the Egan article and comments.  That guy seriously sold a piece of his soul for that article.  I’m serious when I say that the NYT dropped today.  Either he didn’t research ANYTHING about the case or he was paid off to write those talking points.  I believe the latter.

Equally disgusting are some of the comments expressing outrage about an ongoing trial but no outrage over the murder of Meredith.

Posted by Jumpy on 06/12/09 at 08:44 AM | #
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