Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Terrible Weight On The Victim’s Family Because The Italian System Is So Pro Defendant

Posted by Peter Quennell

The Italian prison population is proportionally perhaps the smallest in the western world.

Italy has an overall population about one-fifth that of the United States, but a prison population only about one-thirtieth the size of that in the US, below 100,000 as compared to 2.7 million.

It is true that Italy has a very low murder rate, and that most towns see no murders at all year after year. Even now outside the main cities many people still tend to leave their houses unlocked. There seems to be not that many crooks.

But even in light of this, two factors have resulted in sentences often amazingly light by international standards, with prison sentences under three years almost never served, and crooks often happily walk free.

  • The first factor is all the safeguards built into the post-WWII constitution to make sure that the kangaroo courts of the fascist era would never ever again reappear.

  • The second factor, now in the news,  is the manipulation of the justice system by the occasional politician over the years to soften the situations of their locked-up buddies. 

So prosecutors now have to jump through a large number of hoops and judge after judge has to check on their reasonableness. Mr Mignini noted this in court the other day when he said that 42 judges had come to see the case against Knox and Sollecito in essentially the same way he presented it. .

Defendants get to speak in court while not under oath whenever they want to. They get two automatic appeals, and verdict and sentence are not considered final until the Supreme Court of Cassation rules that way. The overturn rate on either level of appeal is not particularly high, but there seems a tendency for appeal courts to be more lenient than trial courts, though Cassation often does favor the rulings of the original trial courts.

Now Italian crime rates are creeping up, with the influx of drugs and immigrants, and majority opinion in Italy is that the system should definitely be a bit tougher. Various pro-victim TV shows and various books have shown that because of all the pro-defendant breaks, the toll on victims’ families can be really shocking.

We have posted on the pro-victim campaign of Barbara Benedettelli who is a prominent TV show hoster. She has just come out with a book telling of the sufferings of victims families in saddening detail.

One of the families she describes saw their baby snatched by defense witness Mario Alessi, who soon after killed the baby with a spade because it would not stop crying. Alessi and his wife are locked up now, but you would rarely see in the UK and the US the kind of suffering along the way that the family of baby Tommy went through.

Victims’ families may get some legal and social help but they often end up financially decimated and quite often in poor health. This seems to be the tragic predicament of Meredith’s family which their lawyer Francesco Maresca highlighted the other day.

“You will look Meredith’s family in the eyes only once,” Maresca said. “They could not always be here in court due to the mother’s health problems and siblings’ economic problems.”

In fact, he said, the family had trouble finding airline tickets for the verdict, which the lawyer contrasted with reports that the Knox family had a private jet ready to whisk the American student out of the country in the case of a not guilty finding. Knox’s family has denied the existence of such a plan.

John and Arline Kercher’s bills are said to to be pushing now toward $200,000 at a time in life when their earning powers are no longer at their peak and neither of them are in good health. They have to pay all of their own travel costs to and from Perugia and all of their own hotel bills, and also the fees of Mr Maresca and his team.

Kind attention has just been paid to their terrible plight and to the memory of Meredith by the Italian media, and also in the US and UK by Reuters and the Associated Press and Fox News and The Examiner.

But they deserve a great deal more.

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It seems all countries have the same problem, the assassins become victims during the process. In Puerto Rico, with our peculiar phrase: “AY BENDITO” every perp get the mercy and justification from the community. “Ay bendito, he had a terrible childhood, we can judge him”; ‘Bendito, he used drugs to forget his parents mistreat” and so on. Nobody says: “Ay bendito, poor family, they will never see her love one again”.

That is a beautiful photo, they are smiling and they are united; but they can’t hide his pain that you can see through their eyes.

Posted by lulupr on 10/02/11 at 02:38 AM | #

IS there some way we can send the Kercher’s money?

Posted by NCKat on 10/02/11 at 03:18 AM | #

Skeptical Bystander on PMF.Org is looking into that. I hope some airline and Perugian luminaries can at least assist the family with airline tickets and accomodation as well?

Posted by Ergon on 10/02/11 at 03:25 AM | #

Maybe a facebook fundraising page?  I think many people would be happy to help.  I believe, like Amanda, Raffaele has a fundraising web page, apparently set up by his family and friends.

Posted by Intuition on 10/02/11 at 03:53 AM | #

Skeptical Bystander has been in touch with the Kercher family representative.  I know a lot of us wanted to contribute, but we should wait and see what their wishes are.  It’s possible that they will decide not to accept donations, given how modest and dignified they have been so far.

Regarding Facebook, I think that if they had wanted to do something like that, they already would have.  I don’t think it would be appropriate for us to create a fundraising page on their behalf.  I know everyone’s intentions are good and pure, but I think we should respect their privacy and their wishes, and try not to corner them.  This is just my two cents, and I hope no one is offended by what I said.

Posted by Vivianna on 10/02/11 at 04:15 AM | #

The dignity and restraint the Kerchers have shown is amazing!  The Knox-Mellas clan, on the other hand, have chosen to live out their lives in a film loop with the pandering media:  “How are you feeling?  How is Amanda feeling? How is she holding up?  This must be your worst nightmare!”

As someone commented here recently, the media wins regardless of the verdict. With easy access to the Knox-Mellas clan, the US TV Networks can exploit victory or defeat. Video of tears and outrage may even get them higher ratings than video of a happy dance.

Posted by Sailor on 10/02/11 at 06:46 AM | #

Yes the US Networks have been truly sickening in their approach to the Knox-Mellas clan.  I can hardly bear to hear any of those people speak or to hear the interview questions, they are so completely biased.  I also find it sickening that it is always Amanda, Amanda, when it is a joint trial with Raphael. However, because he is Italian, the media do not put any attention on him. 

I feel so much for the Kercher family.  They never should have had to go through this.  Their lives are changed forever, and for the worst.  They sent a beloved child/sister off to another country for an adventure of study and fun, and within a very short time she was brutally murdered, suffered, died in her own room.  It is nearly inconceivable for any of us to imagine what they have been through. 

And then they have to see this celebrity status put on the very girl convicted of murdering their beloved daughter and hear every day how people think the trial was a farce, the prosecutor a lunatic/criminal, Italians are backward and their judicial system a joke.  I have never heard/read in the US media that 42 judges reviewed the evidence and agreed with the findings of the prosecutor.  42!

Posted by believing on 10/02/11 at 06:57 AM | #

Majestic lions among hyenas

I have no doubt that the dignity and suffering of the Kercher family will be respectfully recognised by the court on Monday. The Knox family and the media circus will show sincere humility, until the verdict. Mrs Kercher will be shown due reverence by her lawyer. They have made their views known.

One imagines that their plight is communicated to the court by their lawyers during conversations.  It would be nice to have a memorial set up overlooking the view Meredith had from her bedroom.

Posted by starsdad on 10/02/11 at 11:38 AM | #

I find it truly unbelievable that there is not only a lack of attention for the victim and her family but that they come under attack almost constantly.  Just a random quote from a comment on this article

Jay from sheffield had the audacity to comment :“Meredith’s parents in their grief should be seekers of the TRUTH. ..... Shame on Meredith’s parents, they lost their daughter, and now they are blindly willing to ruin some other young girls life because they are too angry and ignorant to look at the facts. Shame on them”

Jay is no exception, a lot of bloggers seem to have recently crossed a line where the actively blame the victims family for having faith in the court and having an opinion on who killed their daughter/sister.

This trend is rather unique, I have never heard of a case where the victims family was so publicly attacked. Why hasn’t any journalist written a piece on this, instead of mimicking the FOA hardline. Dont people get bored of hearing Amanda’s parents saying their “angel” would never hurt anybody.

Posted by carl on 10/02/11 at 11:40 AM | #

I just picked this article on the CNN website. Looks like Even if Knox is acquitted she will still have to endure sleepless nights over the next few months.

I have a very good friend in London who is a high court magistrate and he sadly predicts that she will be acquitted. Makes me sick to have to say this but we have to be prepared for the worse!

In any case please let us know re the Kerchers financial help I will write a cheque straight away!

Posted by tempusfugit on 10/02/11 at 01:13 PM | #

Perhaps Meredithe’s family would not want to accept donations. But perhaps they would accept to cover their expenses.

However what do you think about setting up a scholarship in Merediths name? Something along the lines of whatever subject she would have wished for.  Perhaps her family would be open to that idea.

Personally I would be more than willing to contribute to such a venture

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 10/02/11 at 06:25 PM | #

Emerson somewhere tells an anecdote of which I give a remembered gist:

An instructor at West Point would bring an iron cannonball to class & begin to strike it with a hammer. Maybe even a hundred times—until the cannonball broke apart.

His question to the cadets: “Which stroke broke the cannonball?”
His answer: “Every stroke.”

So also here.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 10/02/11 at 07:21 PM | #

Latest poll on verdict. 48% guilty 44% not guilty in #AmandaKnox case. Of guilty responses 68% are female.

Posted by lulupr on 10/02/11 at 07:49 PM | #

Hi Jenny.  Amanda has since retracted the statement in which she accused Lumumba, so it’s known that she had lied.  In that scenario, she’d gone back to the house with Lumumba, Lumumba went into the bedroom with Meredith, and she stayed in the kitchen, covering her ears to drown out the screams. So no, she would have known that Meredith was being attacked by Lumumba.

The whole shower thing happened the morning after the crime, and no, Meredith could not have been alive at that point.  While the time of death can’t be precisely established, it’s clear that she died sometimes between 9-12 the night before, and not later during the night or early next morning.

@Grahame - Stephanie has mentioned wanting to set up a memorial scholarship.  Clander and Itchy_Brother from PMF have been in touch with the university and mayor’s office, but nothing has been set up just yet.  They’ll keep us posted if they find out anything.

Posted by Vivianna on 10/02/11 at 08:26 PM | #

Hi Ernest

It is difficult to understand your post. The english is good. Are you referring to the statement made at the police station when she says she was asked to imagine scenarios?

Posted by starsdad on 10/02/11 at 08:33 PM | #

Hello Vivianna.  That’s good news, please keep me posted.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 10/02/11 at 09:05 PM | #

I think meaning of the story of the cannonball is that “every stroke” broke the cannonball because every strike of the hammer contributed to it breaking. And so in Meredith’s case, we hope that every piece of evidence will be considered with the result that the cannonball will break and Knox’s appeal will be turned down. Is that right ernest?

Posted by janeelisabeth on 10/02/11 at 10:30 PM | #

@lulupr,  Internet polls are very unreliable, but I take the result as somewhat of a good sign because the jury is mostly female.

@tempusfugit,  Experts disagree about the verdict just like everyone else. To my knowledge no one has presented an unassailable legal argument why Knox and Sollecito must be acquitted. One thing that does bother me is, according to Nadeau, the charges may be dismissed without a finding of guilt or innocence.

This option does not exist in the US and gives the defense another way to win. It would be very disappointing after all these years to have this be the result.

Posted by brmull on 10/02/11 at 10:30 PM | #

The same collaboration of PR and media forces that lied us into a war are at work here because it is only about ratings and profits. The Knox/Mellas show is being managed for maximum profit now.

The Kerchers are sadly expendable in such a grifter convention. Only a handful of Italians are now in a position to see that the lies and xenophobic defamation don’t succeed.

Jen in Seattle

Posted by jennifer on 10/02/11 at 10:50 PM | #


Barbie Latza Nadeau in her article writes “ …. He can absolve them completely, or let them go due to insufficient evidence, which is not the same as finding them not guilty ….” referring to the “assoluzione per insufficienza di prove” but in this case BLN (as exactly as many italians, as an excuse) is ill informed.

This kind of “half” acquittal formally disappeared in 1989 with the new penal code. Due to art. 530 paragraph 2 of the new code “.... il giudice pronuncia sentenza di assoluzione quando manca, è insufficiente o contraddittoria la prova = the judge pronounces sentence of acquittal when there is insufficient or contradictory evidence .... “ the acquittal may be only in full.

The “stunned” Kerchers are here now, can we prove to be serious, at times?

Posted by ncountryside on 10/02/11 at 11:57 PM | #

@janeelisabeth & @starsdad

Yes, janeelisabeth has it right. Every piece of evidence, every telling comment here (on this site)—it all contributes & in total it will break the iron ball.

The terms of their sentences may be shortened, & if so, Sollecito will come off better than Amanda, thanks to his attorney’s deft separation of his involvement from hers.  Under the appearance of a compliment of sorts, Amanda has been made to carry the blame.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 10/03/11 at 12:22 AM | #

I don’t like the way this is unfolding. The Kercher family remind me of that guy at the beginning of the Godfather, whose daughter is beaten half to death, and the criminals go free with no justice…

“I went to the police, like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison—suspended sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool. And those two bastards, they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, ‘for justice, we must go to Don Corleone.’

If Amanda and Raffelle go free tomorrow, someone should put the Kerchers in touch with the Italian mafia in America.

Posted by proud-american on 10/03/11 at 12:29 AM | #

Dear friends,pray pray pray.We want to
  see justice to prevail.I am very tense,like any
  of you.

Posted by Matteo_65 on 10/03/11 at 01:28 AM | #

I have a doubt, I am watching Lifetime Movie of AK, the lawyer was Giordano XXXX. I have not heard that name in the appeal, who is he? Because the film used real characters.

Posted by lulupr on 10/03/11 at 01:33 AM | #

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