Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Italy’s Unpopular Politicians And Mafia Fellow Travelers Versus Its Popular Law Enforcement

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters

[Above and below: several of over 100 car bombings Italian police and prosecutors were killed in]

1. On The Pro-Justice Side…

This puts the faux Nencini “end-of-civilization-as-we-know” crisis into some sensible context.

The Italian system doesn’t exactly come out badly compared to say that of the US. Surprise, surprise: See here who agrees.

Comparatively speaking, Italy has a much lower crime rate than the US, a much lower murder rate, a highly professional un-elected police hierarchy, a much smaller court system, and a miniscule number of prison cells.

The mafias are now mostly backed into small pockets..

For reasons to do with Italian history pre-WW II the system keeps politicians very much at arms length.

Almost every other justice system in the world comes under the Prime Minister’s or equivalent’s control, and it his or her party that appoints the judges. The Italian system comes under the separately-elected and non-partisan President of the Republic.

All judges and all prosecutors follow a career path laden with checks and balances, learning exercises and tests. (At this the highly-competent and impartial Dr Mignini excels and he will soon be the attorney-general of a region.)

The system is extremely pro-defendant - probably the most pro-defendant in the whole world. See this article and this article for proof.

The number of Italians who are in prison at any one time is proportionally only about 1/5 that of the United States. Take a look.

It is not like everyone in Italy is impatiently waiting for the fatuous posse of Preston, Heavey, Fischer & Moore to turn up and save them from themselves. There is no problem there.

Our Italian poster Machiavelli (Yummi) who reported for us on the Cassation and Nencini appeals has assembled these facts on what the Italian population actually thinks. 

For comparison, in 2011 the percentage of Italians who declared they trust the justice system “a lot” or “enough” was 53.3%. By comparison, the percentage of Italians who declared they trust the government “a lot” or “enough”  were 14.7%, and those who trust the parliament were only 15%.

In 2012, the percentage of Italians who trust the parliament is now only 9.5%, and those who trust the Mario Monti administration are only 21.1%.

Over the eight years from 2004 to 2012 the percentage of Italians who trust the justice system was always bigger than those who trust parliament or government by at least ten points, and in some years we can see a spread of 20, 30, even 39 percentage points achieved by the judiciary over the parliament and government.

However, some cases of corruption (such as our Hellmann-Zanetti case, but also several others indicated by the Rapporto Italia 2012) do hamper trust.

The most trusted institutions in Italy above all are the Carabinieri (74% of Italians trust them) and the Polizia di Stato (71%).

Which means the most trusted institutions are precisely those law enforcement instruments which are deployed to enforce the orders of prosecutors.

(My source is “Rapporto Italia 2012” by EURISPES).

More evidence of this popularity.  And even more.

2. On the Anti-Justice Side

In the past decade both corrupt politicians and the mafias have been remorselessly rolled back.

The Perugia Prosecutor-General’s Office being close to Rome and notoriously hard to bend was given national jurisdiction over the corruption of the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 2010 rebuilding following a huge earthquake.

The Florence Prosecutor-General’s Office being close to Rome and notoriously hard to bend was given national jurisdiction over the corruption of the contracts for the high-speed rail links that pass through Florence and on.

But attempts of corrupt politicians and others to meddle in this case go on and on and on.

Knox and Sollecito may think it is for pure love of them. Think again. There are unsavory parties on the anti-justice bandwagon who if it suited them would disappear Knox and Sollecito in the blink of an eye.

Politics played a part in ex-MP Rocco Girlanda, a Berlusconi poodle, accessing Capanne Prison multiple times to slobber over Knox. As a member of the Justice Committee under former Berlusconi-party MP Giulia Borngiorno’s sway (hows THAT for a conflict of interest?) Girlanda (1) petitioned the President for Knox, (2) tried to cut the national police wiretap budget, (3) tried to get Perugia prosecutors investigated, (4) repeatedly appeared on TV and in other media to make false allegations, and (5) chaired several US/Italy “liberation” meetings.

Sollecito lawyer Giulia Bongiorno has been wearing her member-of-parliament hat to stir up the (essentially toothless) Ministry of Justice against Judge Nencini. And to try to get the Council of Magistrates to give her client a break (Good luck with that - they wont move.)

The mafia backseat drivers (known about in Italy but not reported in the US) are there in a minor but pervasive way. Their roles were summarised in several places including this post here.

It is odd, to say the least, to see such self promoting reformers of the Italian system as Preston, Heavey, Fischer and Moore happily carrying water for the mafias.

So What We May Expect

Judge Nencini is a seasoned mafia fighter, and he is also a seasoned fighter of politicians who are corrupt and try to bend the system their way. But his record is very clear. Attack him for murky end - and he does not exactly back down.

From the point of view of Sollecito’s prospects, this faux storm looks like another huge wrong move.

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Excellent report examining the Knox and Sollecito PR campaign by The Week columnist Andrea Vogt.


Posted by True North on 02/05/14 at 10:05 PM | #

Hi Peter and thanks. I already read Andrea’s great article.

I so appreciate

Posted by Bettina on 02/05/14 at 10:28 PM | #

Interesting, Pete.

“The most trusted institutions in Italy above all are the Carabinieri (74% of Italians trust them) and the Polizia di Stato (71%).”

That seems exceptional. I’m sure it’s considerably more than in England or UK. And I’m also sure that the Italians would only do so with good reason.

Very well said to Andrea Vogt, too - as usual. Interestingly, the Knox news has now completely disappeared from our newspapers.

Nothing after the brief (inaccurate) mention of the Judge.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 02/05/14 at 10:49 PM | #

Very interesting Pete. I’m sure that everyone learns a lot from your posts - you clearly have a rare overview of Italian politics and justice (which is fascinating and scary at the same time), and world affairs in general.

It’s very helpful that you show the big picture -  something the pro-Knox crowd don’t seem to have the intelligence or patience to allow into view - and that vantage point brings great respect for the integrity of the brave people (with notable exceptions) in the Italian judiciary.

It’s very strange in the 21st century to find there are enclaves of very primitive people hiding out in the U.S., the self-styled most modern nation on earth, acting so willfully and pathetically dumb, like they’ve never ventured further than their hometowns, literally and intellectually, let alone traveled overseas.

(Hilariously these are probably exactly the same people who darkly threaten, at every downturn in the fortunes of their mad heroine, that they will henceforth never visit Italy on vacation - to which the most appropriate response is “Italy have asked if they can have that in writing”).

Posted by Odysseus on 02/05/14 at 11:00 PM | #

That letter to the Guardian is great. I’m really starting to think the tide is turning.  Some brief spasms of outrage from the usual suspects, but perhaps considered opinion is starting to filter through, leading to a less biased view of the case….

Posted by Ceylon on 02/06/14 at 02:48 AM | #

yes…I was heartened to see in a latest poll that, in the UK, only 13 out of a hundred believe AK is innocent.
(according to this poll, 51% think guilty, with the rest ‘don’t know’).

British people do not take kindly to being taken for a ride, by ‘spinning’ etc. The ordinary Brit has a strong sense of justice/injustice - it’s a kind of tradition. (“we are tolerant, but don’t push us too far”)

I think there would be fury here if extradition were to be requested and declined. It would definitely damage UK/US relations.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 02/06/14 at 12:35 PM | #

The post might help to put the unprofessionalism of Michael Heavey in context and explain how he got away with it with only a rap over the knuckles.

There are a lot of brave talented competent judges in the US even if they got there by being politically appointed or locally elected.

But there is no direct equivalent of the Italian quality control system that one sees for judges and prosecutors including the gruelling career paths described in the post above and all of the second guessing by the magistrates.

The only real controls in the US are the discipline bodies and the court of appeal system and perhaps the electorates if they are educated in the right things.

If you think about it, what we saw in Michael Heavey when he was a Superior Court judge was an elected judge (in the southern part of the greater Seattle area) with a dubious skill-set again and again lecturing more competent, trained and monitored prosecutors and judges.

And they all practice in a highly demanding system that Heavey could probably not have got even an entry-level job in.

Preston, Fischer abd Moore too dont have even an ounce of the relevant qualifications for the campaign on which they are embarked.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/06/14 at 02:55 PM | #

Hi Odysseus

Thanks a lot. Anyone here can (and should) learn to see in systems; and ideally in a future word every kid gets a few days training in it in high school.

We have long talked about aspects of the Italian and American justice systems (their sub-systems) and if one zooms out as I tried to do a little, root causes can become much clearer.

Sometimes we have talked about the (present failure in) productive (business and economic) systems and I think a lot of that (and the celebrity culture) is behind the seething anger in parts of the USA (what took it so long?!!) surfacing now against all the wrong targets on the internet.

Some cultures seem to have their people growing up with a natural advantage in this. The great quality control revolution (TQM) of the 1990s came about because some Americans woke up to systems via the fact that workers in Japan car and electronics factories had been tweaking their systems 1000 times or more (with help from American experts!) over several years. And via this route Japanese industries were eating the lunch of US industries.

Unfortunately, there is a terrible tendency. The “right” systems which start out providing high performance all tend to lock up after a while and actually hold the effort back or grind it to a halt. (The way round this is to totally start over; clean sheet of paper.)

To some extent one can see this locking-up tendency in the Italian justice system and its sub-systems: it is grinding everyone down through a surfeit of caution, without fast and equal justice for all being the outcome.

However its way worse in other countries (and justice systems are low priority everywhere as they are not seen as productive; plus they have politician-lawyers meddling) and the US police/justice/penal system is the one I would suggest to tweak first. NYC is pioneering that.

Obviously, pretenders like Preston, Heavey, Fischer and Moore would have no role here. They should be kept away or made to hit the books for a few years. Then start at entry level.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/06/14 at 03:41 PM | #

One small addition to the above. The blame game spirals out of control all over the world when systems dont perform and people dont “see” them and understand that is what causes most bad things to happen.

From a UN perspective I soon learned that there are a lot more bad systems than bad people, and systems should be checked before people are blamed

There are various systems at the family, school, university and community levels that went wrong or didnt exist in Seattle that allowed Curt Knox and Chris Mellas to avoid anger management, Amanda Knox to be bullied at home, get on drugs at college, party all the time, and head off to Perugia underfunded and un-enrolled in anything serious, and with the only firm intent that of hitting the party scene.

If her parents or UW had forced her to enroll in courses that would actually have resulted in some credits, and made sure she was properly funded (or set up with a work visa), I have no doubt Meredith would be alive today and the three perps would never have become famous.

UW pretty well admitted this liability/system weakness by quietly overhauling its exchange-student systems. When someone like Knox heads off todat they are (1) totally locked into a support system or (2) totally on their own with no UW role whatsoever.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/06/14 at 05:06 PM | #


I also truly appreciate your elucidating posts and comments…putting things in a wider and also global context.

It is so true about the futility of just blaming, when things have gone wrong.
We need to discover the underlying causes (which may be combined from several deficient systems), and set about improving those systems, checks and balances, for the future.
‘Lessons will be learnt’, people say, after investigations into tragedies. Let’s hope so.

In counselling, when anger and blaming begins, it is a sign that there is a lot of un-entangling to be done.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 02/06/14 at 07:31 PM | #


You are absolutely correct to say that when you reach the top, the end, the way to prevent the last lock up, is to start over again.

In biological systems, the system regenerates. Whether it is for plants or animals, humans or rats, we give up bad genes and propagate good genes. The only way nature can figure out a bad gene is by testing it out in the field.

The basic philosophy of the “use by date”. But sometimes I feel bad just to discard my old clothes even. And I agree that it is a painful process. Even for nature.

Posted by chami on 02/06/14 at 07:48 PM | #

Hi, Chami, speaking of testing in the field, Amanda Knox has been tested in the field and failed (actually, she tested herself and failed, which is worse, because she had no idea where the limits were, thank you, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, and thank you, Mrs. Teacher or whatever your name is, for letting this one slip by, probably because you thought she was “cute”).

Beautiful people have died. Others are scarred/traumatized for life. The system should be strong enough to protect the others who didn’t fail from toxic trash like Knox, Sollecito, and Guede (in that order).

If we encourage defective material like Knox to function as if nothing happened, it will contaminate more humans it comes in contact with, and ruin more lives (by the way, take a look at that poor idiotic boyfriend of hers, he’s already a scary character).

Biologically it will always be a fight, we are compassionate beings, for sure, but when it comes to survival, I guess all the bets are off.

I don’t want to have to adapt my life to the life of thousands of violent, lying Knox clones, goody-goody people who want that can always visit the prisons where these criminals are locked up.

Posted by Bjorn on 02/06/14 at 09:09 PM | #

The tide has turned folks…

Well done Lindy McDowell

Posted by Spencer on 02/06/14 at 10:44 PM | #

Peter is right. When they cover up for Amanda Knox, they are covering up a lot of social problems in America. So by fighting for the truth of this crime, we are also fighting to uncover a lot of problems in the American society.

Posted by janenewyork on 02/07/14 at 02:24 AM | #

Think I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating…the weird thing about this case isn’t Knox and Sollecito…it’s the army of enablers eager to defend them, make excuses for them, and slander innocent people like the Kerchers and Patrick Lumumba…

Posted by Ceylon on 02/07/14 at 02:33 AM | #

The photos make me very sad.
That the FOA low-life types slander the Italian judicial system so freely is farce added to tragedy.
It is nice to see their attempts to corrupt the process losing traction.

Posted by lauowolf on 02/07/14 at 03:06 AM | #

More to the point these enablers are guilty of being accessories to murder because by helping these two convicted killers they continue to aide and abet these two in their attempted escape from justice.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 02/07/14 at 07:03 AM | #

They are now saying being an American a political offense in Italy, and Amanda Knox may be able to fight extradition based on this. Read this:

Posted by janenewyork on 02/08/14 at 02:25 AM | #

They are now saying that being an American is a political offense in Italy, and Amanda Knox may be able to fight extradition based on this. Is it not very absurd? Read this:

Posted by janenewyork on 02/08/14 at 02:27 AM | #

Hi, janenewyork, it’s very hard to make out Longhini’s point about Art. 5 of the extradition treaty.

Amanda Knox killed Meredith Kercher as a political act? The Italian request for extradition should not be honored because murder is a political offense? Doug Longhini is confused.

Posted by Ergon on 02/08/14 at 03:25 AM | #

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Where next:

Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page

Or to next entry The Hubristic, Meanspirited PR Campaign: What Sort Of Life Has It Left Knox And Sollecito Now?

Or to previous entry Defense Dirty Tricks: Did We Just See Yet Another One, An Attempt To Compromise Judge Nencini?