Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Second Misleading New York Times Comment On The Case By Egan

Posted by Skeptical Bystander

No prizes for guessing that this is Italy’s wonderful Venice.

1. Seattle-ite Egan Gets It Bady Wrong, Again

Timothy Egan of the New York Times came back with a follow-up justification to his first post.

The cat was out of the bag at that point, of course, and the first post was being widely ridiculed as untrue and unfair both in the US and in Italy.

Egan’s second post makes me wonder if he actually even read the comments under his first post before firing off his second round. It also makes me wonder if Egan has any idea of how badly his “contribution” was received in Italy, let alone why.

Frankly, I was surprised that a “Pulitzer prize winning” journalist would make these basic mistakes and write such a shockingly bad article to boot.

I posted this NY Times comment on that second post addressed at his first piece, lamenting the number of basic factual mistakes he made, though without enumerating all of them.

From memory, there are at least five major errors in Egan’s blog entry still not corrected

1. Egan claims that no translator was present for the Nov 5 questioning. This is false. Granted, Edda Mellas and others have made this false claim on the record, repeatedly, even after the Italian police formally challenged it. (Note to Egan: check the CNN world news website once in awhile.) Finally, Edda and others had to change their tune in light of the undisputed facts, but they did so by shifting the claim from no interpreter to no “professional” interpreter. This too turns out to be false. How can Egan continue to claim that no interpreter was present when at three were called upon by the prosecution to testify under oath as witnesses to the session of questioning where Egan wants us to believe there were no interpreters? Incidentally, they—like all of the other relevant witnesses—have stated under oath the Knox was not physically abused or maltreated. Conversely and as a reminder, Knox is not testifying under oath.

2. Egan also claims that there is forensic evidence against Guede only, and not the other two suspects. This, as everyone else except official FOA spokespeople know, is false. For anyone who is interested in knowing what it is, this non-profit website would be a good place to start. It is too bad that Mr. Egan did not do more than just consult the new afterword to Doug Preston’s Monster of Florence book. In fact, Egan’s blog entry serves as a friendly review in a way.

3. Egan stated that a 6-person jury, with two judges among them, would decide the fate of Knox and Sollecito. Ii shows Egan’s sweeping and sweepingly ignorant indictment of the Italian criminal justice system. In fact, the correct numbers are 6 lay jurors and 2 judges, for a total of 8 individuals - and thereafter two automatic appeals. Does this make a difference? Only insofar as it is definitely better to demonstrate a grasp of the basics of the system one seeks to criticize. Instead of quoting Rachel Donadio, who was in fact talking about Italy’s Prime Minister, Egan would have been better off trying Wikipedia or, better still, a comparative law website. There are tons of them out there.

4. Egan states that Amanda Knox only suggested that Patrick Lumumba maybe killed Meredith Kercher. In fact, Knox did far more than that. She firmly accused him of killing her roommate, twice orally, and then three times in writing. The written statements were not coerced, and testimony from half a dozen other people (again, under oath) refutes Knox’s claim that her oral accusation was coerced. An investigation is underway, ordered by one of the two prosecutors. In fact, Knox admitted on the stand that her third written statement was not made because she was hit - it was a “gift” to the police who supposedly tortured her, whatever that means!

5. Egan failed to point out that two prosecutors are working side by side on this case. If Mignini has to step down because of the verdict in a pending matter, the case will go forward in the able hands of Manuela Comodi who is handling more than half the testimony. I hear she is clean as a whistle: not so much as a slap on the wrist during her career. Instead of just repeating what Doug Preston writes, Egan could have told us in more detail about the charge pending against Prosecutor Mignini.

2.  Enabled By Heavey, Bremner and Ciolino

Allegedly, some individuals—like Paul Ciolino, whom Egan quotes in his rebuttal (?) entry—speak of a “pattern” of misconduct, but I have been unable to find any other example of possible “abuse of office” except for the one related to the Monster of Florence case.

Wouldn’t it be great if an investigative journalist of Pulitzer prize caliber were to take the time to find out what the facts are in the longstanding feud between Mignini and Spezi, Doug Preston’s friend and associate? That would really add substance to this fake debate.

Paul Ciolino’s paid work for 48 Hours on this very case has been laughably poor. Forgive me for not taking the time to count the ways.

In a Seattle fundraiser for Knox he stated that legal experts in the US and Italy believe Mignini is “mentally unstable”.

What this really boils down to is the following: one quote in Italian by an Italian judge that was taken out of context (that’s the Italian legal expert (singular)), and statements made by two people from the Seattle legal community, Anne Bremner and Judge Michael Heavey, who have never set foot in an Italian courtroom but who happen to be members of FOA (Friends of Amanda).

Heavey, a neighbor of Knox’s, actually wrote a letter to the authorities in Italy asking for a change of venue. That letter ““ which incidentally was written on Heavey’s official Superior Court Judge letterhead—was so full of errors, and was so embarrassing to Knox’s own defense team, that Heavey is said to have written a second letter in apology.

The first letter, after being prominently displayed on Anne Bremner’s website, was then quietly removed. As if it had never existed. Never apologize, never explain, as Flaubert said. Where is that letter of apology? Why is it not displayed on Bremner’s website? Was it too written on official letterhead? As a King County taxpayer, I’d sure like to know.

Where are those Pulitzer Prize winning journalists when you need them?

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My faith in the US has been restored…well sort of! This is a good report from TIME. I just wish they’d continued.

Posted by mikeyverve on 06/19/09 at 02:08 AM | #

It seems to me that Mr Egan did read the comments under his first post, as he writes: “... Others are quick to condemn the Italian legal system. One commenter wrote, ‘I live in Italy and the incompetence, bungling and unprofessionalism of the judicial system is legendary.’ I [Timothy Egan] lived in Italy as well, and can’t speak about the system. But I do think it is very relevant that this prosecutor has a pattern of harassing people, and has raised devil motives in other cases…”

Thus Egan the “self-proclaimed honorary citizen of Italy” is again having a go at the Italian judicial system. It’s suprising how a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist can base his judgment of the complex Italian justice on Mr Preston’s opinion, and on that of an anonymous poster

Are we supposed to believe all the Italian tribunals and investigators incompetent and unprofessional just on the base of these two sources? And could the Pulitzer prize winner explain where and when has Prosecutor Mignini showed ” a pattern of harrassing people and rasing devil motives in other cases”?  Mr Mignini has already been cleared of obstruction of justice, pending prosecution appeal, and it is obvious to any non-biased observer that the charges were the consequence of a conflict of power between two prosecutors from two jurisdictions, Perugia and Florence.

About the “pattern of harassing people” this must be Mr Preston ‘s personal definition of the verb “to prosecute”.  Mignini ‘s job is to prosecute people,and if Egan call this harassment, well, I guess Mignini does have a pattern of harassing people…daily. After all, prosecuting is what he does for a living.

We are all aware that the Italian Justice system is far from being perfect: courts are clogged up, many trials last for a very long time - especially civil cases - but some go as fast as they would in any other European country, latest example the Erba murderers, who were sentenced to life after an investigation and a trial lasting about one year alltogether.

The Italian judicial process is meticulous, cautious and very attentive to details, and always pro-defendant, to the point to be considered far too lenient by many. This leniency stems from the concept of repentance and rehabilitation upon which the system is based on, versus punishment for the committed crime

Should Knox be found guilty but admit guilt and show repentance to the Court, she could probably get away with a sentence of ten or fifteen years, and with good conduct, she could obtain parole earlier than that.Basically, she could be found guilty of murder and be free in perhaps seven or eight years.

In this sense, Italian justice may be seen as unfair. But to the victim, not to the defendant.

Posted by Nicki on 06/19/09 at 02:29 AM | #

Just found this on YouTube. Was this email ever sent home by Meredith? I’d advise listening to its content rather than watching the pictures. I presume it’s just fictional. Anyone know?

Posted by mikeyverve on 06/19/09 at 02:37 AM | #

RE: Egan: A “racial component” [?] Yes, perhaps in the murder itself, the racist being AMANDA…. Must be difficult to accept the elegance, composure and fame, of Meredith, a ‘coloured’ girl.

Ive always wondered in what perverse galaxy a girl such as Meredith could credibly be interested in the unholy-gargoyle Guede portays himself as in the self-filmed You Tube video.

Seriously Egan, what was that murder scenario about?

Oh and Egan, it must be wonderful to live in a world where in every war movie ever made, the US are the good guys. What did Obama, your liberal leader, call the USA? Arrogant? Dismissive?

Few Italians from Northern Italy however would accept being subordinated into second class citizenship IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY by the antics of, quite frankly, a piece of *****.

Posted by LIBBY on 06/19/09 at 03:06 AM | #

RE: The TIME article - why is it widely accepted that the murder came about during “group sex”, or a “drug fuelled sex game” when there’s no evidence of group sex - there is only evidence that suggests that Meredith was forced into being raped by 3 people.

And is there any evidence that Meredith even took drugs? Is there any evidence, that like Amanda, she was polygamous. No. Then what “game”?!

And has anyone ever heard of the saying that rape is rarely about sex, but about power and other motives .... ?

I suspect that the press actually has very little information regarding the PRIMA FACIE aspects of this case, and to accept Knox’s spoken version as some kind of prima facie truth is utterly ridiculous.

Posted by LIBBY on 06/19/09 at 05:19 AM | #

OK - watch US media from here (Italy) and all you see are TWO factions of vested interest and opinion - Liberal and Conservative, and any story or event that happens anywhere in the world is told through the radical perspectives of those TWO factions. You only need to study the heirachy of corporate ownership and partnership for these US media organisations to understand whose partisan interests are being represented.

Amanda is a Liberal - she would have voted Democrat. So of course the Liberal media like CNN and New York Times (who are so biased it borders on idiocy) is going to back her no matter whether she’s a murderer or not, and defend her against a non-Liberal system, ie Europe, Italy.

Plus, the US media is all about teams, factions, rallies, cheer-leadering, ... fanatical, rooting bi-partisan tribal or patriotic flag waving group behaviour no matter what the subject matter.

The US media coverage of this case isnt about murder at all. If she was Sarah Palin, would she be guilty or innocent according to CNN and the New York Times? Guilty of course, and white trash to boot.

Now with CNN and NY Times on Knox’s case, if she ‘WINS’ it will be a sporting ‘WIN’ for the Liberals, and a bellic ‘WIN’ for America ... and not for justice.

And who is the USA to judge our legal system when the US legal system is about how much MONEY you have, ie Dream Team Lawyers for the rich and guilty.

Europe isnt like that. We’re a democratic Union of NATIONS. And Italy has something like 20 political parties. So you’re not going to get these ridiculous fanatical divisions of opinion in the media as you get in the US.

And like most European countries we still have diverse intellectual factions, and we are ALLOWED to criticise our own country without everyone getting anti-patriot-neuroses.

Which is why Europe is also not so easily led, even when the US does its best to influence politics and public opinion in Europe, ie US President tours before EU elections etc.

So to CNN, New York Times ... seriously when was the last time you people contributed anything worthwhile or credible to global culture?

Posted by LIBBY on 06/19/09 at 06:39 AM | #

One more comment: where would Egan rather have this trial held? In Knoxs home town of Seattle?

... a city already famous for it’s mishandling of the Cobain death, where a deadman shoots himself after being injected with enough heroin to kill a horse instantly, and who then manages to pack up his heroin kit, manages to also shoot himself in the head while leaving no fingerprints or DNA on the gun, only to be forgotten about in his own home for a week, - by his wife, by his best friend AND the inhouse babysitter, while someone else is using his credit card.

And there was NO TRIAL. (???!)

It is well documented in that case how forensic evidence was either destroyed, ignored, or given back (!!!) to the main suspect (Cobain’s wife) by Police.

In the weeks following the death 3 main witnesses end up dead. Two of the witnesses thrown under a train (an investigating Policeman and the man who claimed to have been hired by Cobain’s wife to kill Cobain for $50,000). Another person, Cobain’s love interest ends up dead in the bath!

And there was NEVER a trial.

Yes, perhaps if this had happened in Seattle, USA there would have been no trial either and the coroner would have ruled a KERCHER SUICIDE. Wow.

Way to go Seattle, USA.

Posted by LIBBY on 06/19/09 at 07:14 PM | #

Libby, please be nice to Seattle! We know that Egan let them down, but it is also home to many wonderful people and a large number of our readers here live there.

Many of the most moving of all comments about Meredith have in fact come from readers in Seattle. More than any community in the US the Seattleites have been fighting for the truth.

Some of the media is the real problem here and you could help us all by keeping their feet held to the fire.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/19/09 at 07:51 PM | #

This is an international case, and an international incident, as both women were guests in Perugia. It is good to see more than just a US/UK response. I greatly appreciate all of the Italian coverage, both in articles translated here at this site and in comments from ordinary concerned citizens like Fiori and Libby.

Here is my shout out for Seattle, and for the USA. I know many different kinds of people in Seattle (moved here 4 years ago), and have found there to be an undercurrent of xenophobia among locals who descend from predominantly “pale” populations (the Scandinavian/Teutonic). Having said that, one of my closest friends here is of Norwegian descent.

I was born in the US, to immigrant parents (an Iranian born in pre-islamified Iran and raised in Leeds! and a first generation Brit born in Scotland to Eastern European Jews.) I, as well as both parents and corresponding sets of grandparents, have experienced prejudice, and in some cases, threats of violence, in all of the corresponding countries.

I am by no means an applepie, Norman Rockwell, Disneyland, McDonald’s lovin’ American, but I consider myself fortunate to be here (especially when I look at what is happening in Iran just at the moment). I caucused for and helped elect our new President, Mr.Obama, and I’d do it again! He is intelligent enough to recognise that the USA may not get to stay #1, and surely can’t rest on it’s wilted laurels.

I wondered, through my dark brown eyes, who Amanda Knox would have voted for, and, liberal or not, whether her ultra-white, my people killed your people German-American kin would have been able to stomach voting for someone of mixed race?

Posted by mimi on 06/21/09 at 04:00 AM | #


A late night comment - its 4.45 in the morning in Firenze 😊

To me the crux of this blog is to opt for a argumented discussion about this case, and especially to reduce the efforts of FOA to highjack (right word?) the trial against Amanda and Raf. The case is complicated and non of us knows if Amanda is guilty or not, but we agree - I suppose - upon defending the right of a democratic civilized nation as Italy to bring suspects to trial for a very serious crime. And their right (and duty) to do it according to their own legal system.

The Italian legal system can of cause be improved on certain points, and likewise can the behaviour of US students visiting Europe, or the behaviour of FOA and US medias, but this is - to me - not the core issue.

The main problem is the ‘political contamination’ of this case which embeds the risk of preventing justice to be done, and what is most worrying is the catch 22 of any verdict made in this trial:

- If the court finds Amanda innocent then the (arrogant) critique of the Italian justice system and of Mignini, will be huge. Ironically, not even a non-guilty verdict will convince the critical voices in US of the profound justness of the Italian legal system. Italy in all - culture, politics, education, etc. - will be ridiculed, and hence probably produce even more arrogant and stupid behavior from the (enormous) amount of US juveniles visiting Italy, enjoying ‘being away from home’ and the great Italian hospitality.

- But if Amanda is found guilty it will be even worse: FOA and some of the large media corporations in the US will not accept the premises of any conviction, what ever it can be. They seems profoundly to lack ability to accept any other legal system than the US-system. In case of a guilty verdict, there will - most likely - be an appeal, and a new trial will not be less malicious than this.

The political and cultural implications of this murder is scaring. I dont want Meredith to be forgotten, but this is not the way to remember her.

Fiori (I’m not an Italian citizen, just living here)

Posted by Fiori on 06/21/09 at 05:57 AM | #

Hi Fiori,

Thanks for spelling it out. Regardless of how this trial ends, the bashing of Italy will continue. But I am not so surprised, many Americans have never set foot outside their home state and they truly believe that the boundaries of civilization stop within the US. Having traveled back and forth since an early age, I found it very irritating being asked if I had got all “my shots” before going to Europe, or seeing the incredulous look on people’s face when I said that Europeans - and Italians - had TV, refrigerators, freeways and even dishwashers!

In short, I think that had the murder happened in France or Spain or Germany or elsewhere in Europe the reaction of the ignoramuses would have been similar, as my US resident British friend had to reassure her American friends that people had refrigerators in the UK, and another German friend was deeply offended when asked if they had freeways in Germany (his answer was: no, we don’t, our Mercedes and BMW factories work full-time for the US market…). A couple of months ago one of the exchange students at my university told me she was so surprised to find out that her apartment had a/c and a dishwasher, she didn’t think Italy “had these technologies”, and I could go on and on…

With these premises, perhaps it’s no so surprising that many in the US are truly convinced that the Italians are not capable to conduct a murder investigation, and many have advocated “calling the FBI in” to solve the matter,  showing utter disregard for a sovereign country that is a long standing member of the G8 - alas, many Americans don’t even know what the G8 is.

Of course, the above is a generalization, as many Americans know and appreciate different cultures and ways of living and they are fully aware that America is not the only civilized and modern society in the whole world. As an educator, I ‘ve seen quite a number of students that after spending a semester abroad, have decided to stay here - of course these students are not the arrogant and stupid alcohol and drug abusers,monument-trashers who have mistaken their study abroad for an extended Spring break.

Our university works very closely with the home universities in the US and we have very strict rules: students are not allowed to drink underage even if in Italy they could legally do so, attendance is mandatory and after two absences the resident counselor will be alerted as well as the home institution. Students are monitored and if their behavior falls below standards they are expelled and return home immediately. 

Fiori, I want to thank you for posting here.As a non-American, non-Italian nor British living in Italy, yours is a true voice of understanding and fairness, which is very much appreciated.

Posted by Nicki on 06/21/09 at 01:03 PM | #

I have been in the US almost 15 years now. I’ve been asked if my marriage was “an arranged one”, if my family was poor, and very often how I did like it here with a smile showing that in fact I had certainly found paradise here. Sometimes it is just naive and maybe cute, often it is plain rudeness - even if unconscious. Friends from France (which is not my country either) were in fact introduced to the refrigerator and vaccuum with explanations for a 5 years old, and a triumphant look on the face.

It is sad, beyond being ridicule. But on such topics, it just gives you a good laugh between friends and that’s it. When it goes as far as to say on National TV that “European translators are incompetent” (I tought French for foreigners here and the previous teacher - an American - told me very proudly “Nous avons des élèves de 4 heures”, we have 4 hours old pupils, instead of 4 years old, where are the bad translators?), that the legal system abroad is stupid, that judges and prosecutors are corrupted etc… this is scary that such a xenophobic ignorance still subsist in the open…

Amanda, if not guilty of stabbing and killing, is at least guilty of keeping vital information. She knows and she does not say. Cannot they just not see that, at least?

Posted by Patou on 06/21/09 at 02:29 PM | #
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