Sunday, March 22, 2015

Nencini Juror Genny Ballerini, Translated: She Misled, Oggi Misled More, UK Media Misled Even More

Posted by Peter Quennell

1. Interpretations Of The Interview

In reading the translation by Miriram these points may be worth bearing in mind. They are largely based on advice from Yummi in Italy.

Genny Ballerini comes across to Italians as someone not especially educated who is more than a bit lost on the law and the case. She herself admits she may be naive and had not followed Meredith’s case. She was surprised to end up on the jury for Knox’s and Sollecito’s “trial”. She voices no concern for Meredith or her family.

A former factory worker, she had been unemployed for some months, and she appreciated the small fee the court paid her for jury duty and apparently also a fee that Oggi paid her for the interview. She had to be persuaded by Oggi to do the interview, and she seems unaware that it may have been illegal.

The lead judge and side judge, the professionals, remained neutral and impartial and promoted no particular outcome. There were no arguments among the jury. She seems to be drawn toward Sollecito without any very logical reason. (Hmmm. Sollecito had addressed her and the others directly and he was standing right in front of her looking at her.)

She repeatedly refers to a “trial” and to previous “trials” for example “when the trial started” and “I formed my beliefs studying the three files of the previous trials. Not only. During the trial I kept a diary for every hearing”. She never once uses the word for “appeal” or wonders why there were no prosecution exhibits and witnesses.

The Oggi headline is misleading. Almost of her doubts are described in the past tense and she admits she voiced them to the other jurors early in the “trial” because things were not clear to her. She had folders of evidence to poke though; these may have related only to the appeal points the defenses had filed.

At one point she says “we discussed to reach an agreement” and at another point she says she voted against the verdict. It is not clear in what order, and she may finally have joined in a total consensus. She seems to connect the punishment to the supposed amount of evidence rather than the barbaric nature of the attack.

Please see Part 3 below for how the UK media has managed to report this even more confusingly.

2. The New Translation By Miriam

Miriam has carefully translated the original interview in Oggi for us.

“Not Enough Evidence For Such A Heavy Sentence”

On January 30th of last year, the appeal Court of Florence sentenced Amanda Knox to 28 years and 6 months of imprisonment and Raffaele Sollecito to 25 years for the murder of Meredith Kercher. 12 hours of deliberation were needed for the eight judges - two professional judges (the President Alessandro Nencini and Doctor Liliana Cicerchia)  and six Lay Judges - to wrap up that decision.  Among the lay judges was Genny Ballarini, a 48 year old,  worker from Prato. After long negotiations and courteous refusals, on the eve of the decision by Corte di Cassazione, she accepted to speak to Oggi.

Twelve hours, half a day: a lifetime for who judges and for who is judged. Without entering into detail, as not to violate the secrets of the “camera del consiglio”, what can you tell us?

We went through all the documents, drew the conclusions, in order to arrive at an agreement.

And then?

I certainly had many doubts about the guilt of the two young people. I wasn’t an upholder the defendant’s innocence, but I thought and said to the others: “The evidence we have is not enough to inflict all these years of prison. Where is the evidence to send them to prison? Maybe I was naïve, but before pronouncing such a heavy sentence I wanted to see clearly. There was not enough, according to me, to justify a such a heavy sentence: questionable proof, odd testimony and uncertain evidence”. 

And of the motive, what ideas did you arrive at?

“That of the inadequate cleaning of the house? Nonsense. You do not massacre a girl because she complained about a bit of a smell in the bathroom. Anyway, at the end of every hearing we would sit down and discuss, we would reconstruct the facts on the basis of the timing, the cell phones, the statements of the accused that indicated how Amanda and Raffaele could be at the scene of the crime. I would ask ” But is it enough to convict them?” Against Raffaele, beyond the hypothesis, remained the discussed trace on Meredith’s bra clasp. How could you not have doubts? “What was the motive that could have pushed Raffaele to participate in the massacre of that poor girl”?  I asked.

The prosecutor in the first trial described Sollecito as “depraved”, putting him inside of the erotic game ending in a tragedy and he was depraved, argued the prosecutor, because he was a fanatic of Manga, the Japanese comics that mix eroticism and violence. 

“But if he is a murderer you need to prove it!” I noted. “It is not enough to read comics or watch cartoons. And then it was the same prosecutors that reminded that Amanda was not a tranquil young lady because she once received a fine for nocturnal racket. It seemed to be, excuse me, more nonsense”.

One of the controversial points is that in that small room in which Meredith was murdered, there was not even one trace of Knox. How do you explain that?

“They claimed that Knox had removed her traces by cleaning. Who knows! Today when I think about it again I have even more doubts”, she said. When the trial started the atmosphere in the “camera del consiglio” was accusatory. Maybe I am naïve, but I had doubts. I thought: what we have in our hands it’s not enough to send them to prison for all those years.  May be Amanda was there, but she didn’t participate. I listened to Raffaele and he seem to me a fine young man, he seemed to me sincere”¦ At the beginning I had no opinion: I have never liked crime news and I had read just a bit on the case. I formed my beliefs studying the three files of the previous trials. Not only. During the trial I kept a diary for every hearing. I wrote down everything that was happening and at the end I would add my impressions.

How did you interact with the Court’s President?

He and the side Judge did not express an opinion till the end. During all those months I never managed to understand what they thought about the case.

So they did not influenced the Lay Judges?

Absolutely not. They would explain only the things that we could not understand. I understood what they thought only when the verdict was decided, but my doubts remained. At a certain point, I stressed that Rudy Guede left on the crime scene more traces than Raffaele and Amanda and yet he was given 16 years instead of 25. They explained to me that he was judged through a fast track trial, that provides a reduction of the sentence. 

And what do you think of Guede?

I think that he gave three different versions of the facts and he never said that Amanda and Raffaele were with him. How can you take into consideration Rudy to establish the guilt of the other two?

What did you think when the verdict was decided?

Right away I said that I did not agree and it was noted. On the increasing on the sentence even other Lay Judges did not agree, but it was explained to us that it could not be any different.

Did you ever fight among yourselves?

No, never.

You said that you do not like crime news and the speculations on blood related crimes? Why than did you accept to became part of the Lay Judges of a trial so complicated and a such media driven event?

I was drawn. I could only refuse only for health reasons. I accepted even for economic reasons since at that time I was on unemployment check. On the other hand they had told me that in that session, from July to September, usually the “Corte d’Assise” has scheduled trials of less importance. I would have never imagined that we were going to end up with Meredith’s murder.

You implied to economic reasons. You worked seven months from July to January with burdensome hearings. How much did you received?   

In all 1.500 Euro: 200 Euro a month! I received them from the Department of Justice seven months after the conclusion of the trial. Not much, but needed: I spent them for a sensitive surgery.

3. How The UK Press Reported This

The Mirror and Daily Mail cherrypick the most sensational claims, make them sound current rather than nearly 18 months old,  and dont publish the whole interview.

In effect they leave out almost all of the context in Par 1 above, dont explain why Italians are unmoved, and omit the essential point that this was NOT a new trial and the jury did NOT hear the case presented in depth with exhibits and witnesses as the trial jury did.

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Did both of Oggis reporters have to look so rat-like? That would be a turnoff for appearance-conscience Italians for starters.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/23/15 at 02:53 AM | #

Peter - this story still smells a bit like a plant.

-For referring to the 3 previous sessions all as ‘‘trials’‘, were none of the documents she looked at labelled either by trial or appeal court?

-She says she studied the documents, but apparently not well enough to know what proceedings they were from.

-She says that Guede left more traces than Knox or Sollecito (which implies there were some), concludes there is not enough evidence to ‘‘convict’‘.

-As you point out, she seems to think Guede should get at least as much, since there was more evidence against him (again, implying there was against AK and RS).

-She says that Sollecito seemed like a fine young man, seemed so sincere.  Perhaps it never occurred to her why Judge Nencini would invite him to testify, rather than just give speeches.

-It also doesn’t seem to occur to her that defence attorneys like to twist things and make them sound ridiculous.

-She also hasn’t appeared to realize that Bongiorno’s closing, about the accusations being ‘‘excessive’’ against Sollecito amounts to an admission and plea for leniency.

-As for Guede, he did accuse Knox and Sollecito for it. 

-And AK and RS also gave false alibis .... was she not aware of this?

This story is either: (a) Totally bogus, (b) misquoted, (c) mistranslated, (d) selectively reported, or (e) proof that the instructions given to lay jurors need to be improved, and a higher quality of jurors selected.

Posted by Chimera on 03/23/15 at 03:54 AM | #


I am not so much worried about calling these events as trials rather than appeals- in fact I would like to call them appeal trials because some facts have been disputed and these are retried once more. Trial has more than one meaning in the dictionary (tossing a coin is also called a trial, believe me!).

The thing that strikes me is that the statement “May be Amanda was there, but she didn’t participate. I listened to Raffaele and he seem to me a fine young man, he seemed to me sincere” and I think she has already made up her mind well in advance. She has already admitted that she is economically vulnerable and that is the second point.

It is rather very tiring to read legal documents- some of our students have turned into lawyers after doing a masters in life sciences- and I suspect- I hope I am wrong- she just glossed over the documents.

I am disappointed- she should have tried a bit harder to understand. Not the evidence but the crime! If she had said that Guede did it alone, I would have certainly suggested that she has been purchased!

Posted by chami on 03/23/15 at 10:21 AM | #

Thank you, Miriam, for the translation, and Yummi and Peter for the analysis.

To address Chimera’s conclusion, while it’s impossible for us to establish whether Ms. Ballerini was misquoted or her statements selectively reported, I can assure you the translation is accurate. 

I’d tend to agree that juror selection needs to be more careful and stricter criteria enforced.  I’m not sure the instructions were the issue here, but rather Ms. Ballerini’s selective understanding.  At least she admits that the professional judges were objective and willing to explain and clarify.

To me, it seems like she doesn’t differentiate between an appeal and a retrial, and that this confusion is the source of her discontent with the amount of evidence presented.  I also suspect that she didn’t take the time to properly read and process previous reports, which include the entire body of evidence and explain how the pieces fit together.

She also doesn’t seem to realize that while the verdict depends on the evidence, the sentence does not, since each type of crime has a min-max sentence established by law. 

Her understanding of the motive is ridiculously simplistic and refers to something which was never argued in court.  I don’t understand how she could read the evidence and the testimonies and not realize that Knox felt a deep-seated resentment towards Meredith, that she had a pathological need to be the center of attention, and that Meredith, unintentionally, had made her feel upstaged and marginalized.  Knox was also losing control of her finances and social environment at the same time, which undoubtedly acted as stressors.  There were several things going on at once at the time the murder was committed, and while it’s difficult to point out which individual stressor may have pushed her over the edge, her overall psychological state was not stable.

Regarding Sollecito, she disregards the evidence which places him at the scene, as well as the conflicting explanations he had supplied to date.  The nice thing about technology is that it can provide an alibi even when no one else can confirm a person’s location, and Sollecito owned enough devices to place him at his apartment had he actually been there.  She also seems unable to control her positive bias, although I don’t understand how anyone could maintain such bias at the time of the Nencini appeal, considering that Sollecito had shown his cruel, arrogant, self-entitled, and manipulative side repeatedly in both his statements and his book.

As far as Guede is concerned, the fact that she was unaware of his fast-track trial and the circumstances of his sentencing is indeed a matter of concern.  She seems to parrot some FoA talking points regarding proof of his involvement and the statements he gave.  What struck me was the same selective attitude towards evidence we have seen before: the evidence incriminating Guede is undeniable, while that incriminating Knox and Sollecito is highly questionable; his statements conflict, but theirs do not, even though they’ve produced so many accounts that I’ve lost track. 

For me, it’s pretty clear that this woman did not have a solid grasp of the case information and of the framework in which the appeal was taking place.  The fact that Nencini and his colleague were able to shepherd jurors like her without actually pushing them towards a set of conclusions is quite impressive.

The other source of concern for me is the fact that she accepted jury duty because of the financial rewards.  This raises serious questions about her decision to take part in this interview, as well as about the source of the interview fee (i.e. Oggi or FoA via Oggi).

Posted by Vivianna on 03/23/15 at 12:51 PM | #


I think the distinction between trial and appeal is pretty important, since appeals focus on a handful of disputed points and their legality.  If you go in expecting an actual trial and see only a small portion of the evidence being discussed, you might incorrectly assume that the evidence is scarce or insufficient.  This is particularly dangerous if you also happen to not have the patience or mental ability to work through previous judges’ reports.

Posted by Vivianna on 03/23/15 at 01:00 PM | #

Hi Vivianna

Extremely insightful comments. The paragraph on the state of Knox is perhaps the best short-form take I have seen.

Its indeed impressive that anyone else in that jury-room kept their cool in face of this self-importance - which mirrors the narcissism of so many others in the movement convinced they are smarter than the whole world.

If there are a couple of question we could ask her I would ask: “Did Oggi tell you they are in the legal shorthairs in Bergamo for a highly malicious quote from Knox? Either way will you testify for Oggi at their trial?”

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/23/15 at 02:52 PM | #

Yes, thanks Vivianna for your clear concise summary. Much appreciated.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 03/23/15 at 03:42 PM | #

Miriam, thank you for submitting this.  It was not meant to be an insult, my suggestion of incorrect translation.  Rather, I am trying to make some sense of this sudden turn of events.  Your work was very nice to read.

Thank you Peter.  Thank you Yummi.

Peter, it would be nice if Knox would step up for Oggi.  Afterall, their problems are the result of quoting her.  But given how she stiffed Patrick, after sending him to jail wrongfully, don’t count on it.

Chami, Vivianna is quite right, the distinction between ‘‘trial’’ and ‘‘appeal’’ or ‘‘appeal trial’’ is very important.  They are quite different, and as far as legal status go, mean very different things.

Consider these:

(1) When Knox went on Diane Sawyer’s show in Spring of 2013, Sawyer told the audience ‘‘Knox was being called back for her third trial, this time in Florence.’’ She implies Knox is on trial, but remains innocent until proven guilty.

(2) Suppose Diane Sawyer said: ‘‘The Supreme Court annulled the appeal verdict against Knox’s 2009 conviction, and she is choosing to appeal again, this time in Florence.’’  Knox isn’t on trial, rather she is guilty pending further appeals.

Statements (1) and (2) are not the same thing, at all.  Knox herself either didn’t know the difference, or deliberately lies.

Vivianna, you raise many great points.  Especially true is that Sollecito’s technology (phone, computers…) could have given him an alibi, if he actually had one.  Instead, they refute his claims.

One thing that is not in Ms. Ballerini’s interview: How did she feel about the defendants playing hookie?  Sollecito was present for parts of it, yes, but he skipped parts of his own appeal to go sunbathing in the Dominican Republic.  Knox skipped altogether, hitting the talk shows and sending this email instead.  Knox says (among other things), the judges have such poor judgement they might hand her a wrongful conviction.

Another thing not in Ms. Ballerini’s interview: How does she feel about those inflammatory blood money books?  They were in the national media, and Knox had the proceeds of hers forfeited to pay Patrick Lumumba.  So it is not like she didn’t know about them.

On a related note: Lumumba and his lawyer appeared at the Florence appeal.  Ms. Ballerini thinks Amanda only maybe was there, but didn’t participate.  Okay, then why come up with all those false accusations against an innocent person?  Innocent people don’t try to derail investigations by accusing other innocent people.  I’d like to hear her reasoning.

Speaking on false accusations: Peter recently posted the link to Andrea Vogt’s site saying that Knox is facing additional ‘‘aggravated calunnia’’ charges for false accusations of police brutality. It would be nice to know Ms. Ballerini’s reaction. Again, innocent people don’t do these things.

If anyone wants a laugh, here is something the pride of Seattle published in October 2014.

Posted by Chimera on 03/23/15 at 09:25 PM | #

Colleen Barry has written an excellent article about Internet advocacy and the online battles about the case on social media websites for the Associated Press:

Amanda Knox faces trial-by-social media in shadow of high court decision on guilty verdict

The article features comments from Edward McCall, who is the editor of the Meredith Kercher wiki website. A huge number of people will be made aware of the website and the existence of the translations of the court documents and transcripts because AP articles are published on hundreds of media and newspaper websites.

The Associated Press claims that their news content is seen by half the world’s population on any given day:

“AP news content is seen by half the world’s population on any given day. AP covers news on global, national and local levels, and then makes this content available to its members and customers for publication, broadcast and distribution.”

Posted by The Machine on 03/23/15 at 10:03 PM | #
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