Amanda Knox Guilty Again

Hot off the presses.  (We followed this a little, such as here and here.)

Don’t really know how they could have reached this result.  If memory serves one of the judges said something to the effect that “the knife” and the DNA tests on it would be dispositive, and my understanding is that the testing didn’t yield an inculpatory result.

But I guess we wait 90 days to see what kind of evidence and reasoning, if any, underlies this second conviction.

Quite an ordeal.

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21 Comments

Filed under wrongful convictions

21 responses to “Amanda Knox Guilty Again

  1. Jessie

    Well, of course it surprises you, John, because you refuse to acknowledge the evidence. If you recall, I don’t believe those two killed Meredith Kercher either, but I don’t deny the evidence exists (though some of it I don’t think was valid and other pieces I think were misinterpreted).

    When considering what the court was looking at, I don’t see how anyone could be shocked by the verdict. And this time, Guiliano Mignini’s got nothing to do with it. He not only wasn’t involved in these proceedings, but the judges in Florence seem mildly contemptuous of him. He’s butted his nose into their jurisdiction before and they seem to think he’s kind of a rube.

    My bet on the motivation report is that the DNA will take a backseat to the ransacked bedroom and the implausibility of Knox returning to the cottage and not noticing the blood. (That latter one, like everything else in this case, has been exaggerated in both directions by the partisans — the guilters act like the place was awash in gore and the FOAKers act like it was only a few speckles. In reality, there were streaks of blood around the bathroom light switch and visible bloody footprints headed out the door.)

    Oh, and I finally did find an impartial website — a blog by an American attorney living in Italy. Unfortunately, she only wrote a couple posts about it around the time of the original Massei report. She doesn’t take any position on guilt or innocence, but she summarizes the evidence nicely, as she’s able to read Massei in the original Italian:

    http://bleedingespresso.com/2010/07/amanda-knox-conviction-motivazioni-della-sentenza.html

    I do think the whole thing is sad. Because I believe Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are innocent. I finally got around to reading their books. I was struck by how much Knox emphasized that, if it could be proven she let the killer in the house, she’d have been facing serious prison time, despite not committing the murder.

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    • Jessie! Nice to see you again.

      Now, the suggestion that I refuse to look at evidence. I mean, really.

      I didn’t read any books on the matter, so you’ve got the drop on me. But the idea that AK needed to have a scenario where she didn’t let RG in the flat or she would face “serious” prison time would lend support to your theory, as I recall it. It puts a little more weight on the idea of a staged burglary, and provides a basis to believe that AK and RS engaged in some machinations and story coordinating for that reason, not because they were guilty of murder.

      So, you know, I do look at evidence.

      But here’s the thing you have to consider from the lawyer’s point of view, and I think I might have pointed this out to you before. Presence at the crime scene + government accusation = guilty verdict almost every time, in any justice system on earth. Throw in the barest hint of guile on the part of the accused at any time, before, during or after, and guilty is a virtual certainty.

      So the problem with your theory, if I’m representing AK, is that it makes the case indefensible.

      One other thing that has come up here and there on this blog: the so-called “alibi” defense. When I think of an alibi defense it means unassailable video or documentary proof that the defendant was elsewhere. “I was with my boyfriend and he’ll swear to it” is far too weak to use, because if you don’t make a proposed alibi stick it is devastating. An alibi is an extremely dangerous defense.

      I appreciate the link and will check it out as soon as I can.

      Thanks again for returning and offering your insights.

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      • Jessie

        Good to be back :-) I always enjoy chatting with you. And I always learn something from it, too — can’t beat that!

        But….no….to be honest, in our previous conversation, I didn’t feel that you were giving all the evidence a fair shake, tending to accept something more readily if it bolstered the defense narrative, even if an alternative explanation is more plausible. (Note the distinction here between “guilt/innocence” versus “prosecution/defense narratives.” They aren’t the same thing.)

        For example, let’s go with one I just mentioned and that I think may carry some weight in the Florence motivation report: Knox’s story about what unfolded the morning after the murder. She says she went home around 9:30-10 to get a mop, pack some clothes, and take a shower. They had a day-trip planned to nearby Gubbio and, the night before, Sollecito’s pipes had burst, but he didn’t have a mop.

        She gets to the house and the front door is open, but that’s not of much concern because none of the doors in the cottage latched shut unless they were locked with a key. She takes a shower, noticing “speckles” of blood on the faucet, but thinks that might be from her ear piercings or from one of the girls having “menstrual problems.” After her shower, she notices a splotch of blood on the bathmat. She goes to her bedroom and gets dressed. When police asked why there were no footprints between the bathroom and her bedroom, she said it’s because she “scooted” on the bathmat. When she goes to dry her hair, she sees the feces in the toilet.

        She then returns to Sollecito’s and mentions by-the-by that something seems amiss at home (in one of their tellings, she came back in a panic, but initially they said she didn’t even mention it right away and found it more odd than concerning). So, they return for a look-see and find the ransacked bedroom. Just as they’re about to call the police, the police show up, having found Kercher’s cell phones. (There’s debate as to whether Sollecito called the carabinieri before or after the postal police showed up, but I’ve never found that debate relevant one way or the other.)

        I don’t recall if this specific story was one of the ones that you previously would dismiss as, basically, uninterpretable, but there’s all kinds of problems with it that understandably created many questions for the police. For one thing, the blood wasn’t just “speckles.” There were visible bloody footprints in the hallway, a large streak of blood on the bathroom light switch, a small streak on the Q-tips box, a long droplet on the bathroom door, and some diluted blood in the bidet. Plus, the speckles and the footprint on the bathmat.

        Her story is nonsense, even if we don’t stop to ask why they abandoned their day-trip to check out something at the house that wasn’t all that alarming in the first place. Or, how did Sollecito not notice at least the bloody footprints? It’s one thing to not notice something when one isn’t looking for it, but when they returned, they were looking for something amiss.

        Their whole story doesn’t make sense and it didn’t make sense to the police. That’s the kind of thing where you tended to throw up your hands and say, in effect, “Well, we just can’t know, so it can’t really be interpreted to mean anything.” Yet there’s DOZENS of these incongruous stories all throughout this case. That’s why the prosecution appealed to have the entire case reviewed, not just the DNA.

        I do understand why “present at the scene but didn’t commit the murder” would be a difficult position for a lawyer to defend. But, then, “not anywhere near the scene at all” doesn’t seem to have done them a shit’s worth of good. It proved easy to convince the American press there was no evidence, but that evidence was still in front of the Italian courts.

        The alibi problems are a little different than what you’re saying here. I don’t think very many of the kids had a solidly confirmable alibi. The roommate who was in Rome might have had some paper trail of being in Rome, but most of them had only their word and the word of the people they were with.

        Where Knox and Sollecito got into trouble is their alibis conflicted about half a dozen times, both with their own previous versions and with each other’s versions. Some of those contradictions are understandable or relatively minor; others aren’t. They initially said they had eaten dinner around 8, which gels with Sollecito’s father calling at about 8:45 when they told him a pipe had burst while they were washing the dinner dishes. Then in a later telling, they said they ate dinner around 11, which raised suspicion because the time of the murder had just been reported in the press — an 8:00 dinner wouldn’t give them an alibi, but an 11:00 dinner would.

        The whole alibi problem culminated on the final night when Sollecito told police that Knox did leave his place for a few hours that night, but he had agreed to tell them “a lot of rubbish without thinking about the inconsistencies.” Police then took his statement to Knox, at which point she melts down, giving them the story that she was there while Kercher was murdered, huddled in the kitchen with her hands over her ears.

        I think they were finally telling the police what actually happened at that point. At the very least, that version is far more credible than either the prosecution or defense narratives. Whether it would have done them any good in court? Well, it’s hard to imagine at this point that it could have done them any more harm.

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        • >>I think they were finally telling the police what actually happened at that point.<<

          This is where I think you're going wrong.

          AK does not just "come up" with this stuff. It's the product of an interrogation. In fact, the shifting details are exactly what the interrogation is designed to produce, the theory being that the guilty will find themselves trapped, then break down and confess. And it is true that the guilty might do that. But it is also true that the innocent might.

          So what happens is that you have the interrogator saying: I really want to help you prove your innocence, but you see if you ate dinner at 8 you would have had time to commit this murder. Maybe you ate dinner later? Like 10:30 or 11:00? That would mean that you couldn't have done it.

          So then the kid goes along with the questioner but it's all bullshit, and of course the questioner already has the next step planned where he shows them something that proves they could not have had dinner at 11, which he never really thought in the first place.

          I once knew of a guy that said he wasn't there, and then he admitted he was there but had no gun, then admitted that he was there and had a gun but didn't do the robbery, then admitted that he was there, had the gun and did the robbery but he didn't shoot the guy then admitted that he was there, had the gun, did the robbery and did shoot the guy. The cascade of ever more damning admissions is the signature of the interrogation technique, not an indicator of ever more reliable information.

          I have absolutely no confidence that AK went back to the flat at all, no matter how many times she might have said so under questioning. She saw feces in the toilet and didn't flush it? Close to impossible. And at this point it is possible that even she doesn't know, being unable to distinguish between stuff she confabulated to please her questioners and what really happened. I tend to think that whatever she said first was closest to the truth, not what she said last after all the manipulation and calculation.

          I don't blame the cops for using the techniques they are taught, and I think there are times, maybe the majority of times, that it leads them to the truth.

          But sometimes you just have to step back from all the details a bit. You have a good and sufficient explanation for Meredith Kercher's murder: Rudy Guede. Nothing further is required, although of course it is possible that there is more.

          You talk about things not making sense. What sense does it make for AK and RS, two apparently normal and peaceable young people, to become involved in the murder of AK's roommate? You would practically have to begin entertaining such lurid scenarios as as a sex game gone wrong, and to that extent I guess I can’t blame Mignini. Otherwise you have a scenario that’s almost impossible to believe ab initio.

          Can you completely rule it out? Of course not. AK was Meredith Kercher’s roommmate, and Meredith Kercher was murdered in the flat they shared. That is cause for suspicion. That is cause for police to interrogate her.

          But once you run her through the interrogation ringer your job is hardly over. You have to look for some corroboration that isn’t a bunch of gibberish that you elicited from AK in predictable fashion, because you know, or should know, that it’s all bullshit.

          “She bought BLEACH!”

          Now this is classic. What a wonderful incriminating cap for the narrative. Oops. There’s a receipt, and it doesn’t indicate she bought bleach. Well, receipts in Italy don’t always show everything! Now we’re into the risible and desperate, we’re clinging to our narrative and we’ll get our corroboration no matter how many footnotes it takes to explain how, exactly, what appears to be no corroboration whatsoever in fact is.

          Plus, we dig up some village idiot witness who will swear he saw her buy bleach. We could dig up 10,000 just like him, but you know that would be overdoing it. We already have our man!

          We found the MURDER WEAPON!!! It has the victim’s DNA!!!

          Oops. It doesn’t have the victim’s DNA. Oops. It doesn’t match the wounds.

          Time to give it up. You have damning admissions, the product of an interrogation that is designed to produce…damning admissions. You have the suspect’s DNA – all over her own apartment. You’ve tried to corroborate these things with more reliable evidence and failed – the only things you have been able to come up with are either meaningless or even less reliable.

          Plus, you have a wholly adequate explanation for Meredith Kercher’s murder – that is, Rudy Guede did it.

          You’re right that this is not a “no evidence” case. But this is a garbage evidence case. People shouldn’t be convicted on garbage evidence, but they are

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          • I should add: when I used “you” in the last comment, in most places I was referring to the generic “you”, not you personally.

            Upon re-reading that did not seem clear to me.

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          • Jessie

            The trouble with your overall point here is that you’re conflating established facts that are in no dispute, with things that appeared in the tabloids but were never any part of the legal case. Yes, Knox returned to the cottage the next morning and did not flush the toilet. This is in no dispute by anyone. It wasn’t something she said under questioning; it was discovered in real time by numerous parties including the police and one of the other roommates.

            Bleach, on the other hand, was never even in front of the court — no one claimed any of the defendants bought bleach; there was no receipt for bleach; there was no bleach found in any of their apartments. You might be able to find a guilter who is convinced about the bleach (guilters will believe anything), but as far as the court was concerned, the bleach never happened.

            So one place to start is isolating the facts that aren’t in dispute. If you start mixing those together with tabloid headlines, the end result is bound to be absurd and that makes it hard to respond intelligently to the rest of this.

            Is “Rudy did it” an adequate explanation? That’s where I disagree with you, at least as far as the defense version of “Rudy did it.” There’s basically three problems with the standard “Rudy did it” contention:

            –He liked Meredith Kercher and, in fact, was known to have a crush on her. So to buy the defense narrative, we would have to accept that Guede’s first reaction when interrupted in a burglary was not to run away, nor to make excuses (he was acquainted with everyone in the cottage and known for showing up uninvited and making himself at home), but to sexually assault and violently slaughter a girl he knew and liked. That’s hard to accept and tinged with racism — it’s so easy to believe a young black man was hairtrigger violent, but middle-class white kids couldn’t possibly be. Yet Guede had no more motive to kill a girl he liked than Knox had a motive to kill a girl she liked, and none of them had any history of violence.

            –The second reason is one I don’t personally believe, but it has been a sticking point in the courts. The medical examiner suggested that Kercher may have been killed by more than one person, based on the extent of her injuries, lack of defensive wounds, and lack of DNA under her fingernails. Obviously, those are not findings the medical examiner would expect in that situation. There were even odd bruises on the sides of her elbows that led him to believe someone had restrained Kercher while she was being assaulted. I don’t doubt the ME’s work or his testimony, but I think the courts ascribed too much certainty to it. There are many cases of violent assaults carried out by only one person and the lack of defensive wounds could just as easily suggest that her interaction with Guede did not begin violently, but took an unexpected violent turn — however, that would contradict the “burglary interrupted” defense narrative. (It’s considered blasphemy to say this, but I even think it’s possible Kercher had some consensual sexual contact with Guede that turned violent when she didn’t want it to go any further and tried to stop him.)

            –And the third reason: That break-in was as fake as a three-dollar bill. There’s a whole list of reasons why, some more persuasive than others, but even the first cops on the scene — who weren’t the investigating department — took one look at the ransacked bedroom and didn’t believe a break-in had occurred, long before police had any suspects in mind. The evidence it was faked is quite strong, ranging from the difficulty of scaling the outside wall, to the way the bedroom was turned upside down haphazardly (e.g. clothing flung all over the room, but small valuables in plain sight), to the idea that someone climbed through a small window of broken glass without leaving one speck of fiber, hair, skin, blood, or any other evidence at all of entry — none. The break-in is just not plausible and, without it, the “Rudy did it/burglary interrupted” scenario, and the entire defense narrative, fall apart completely.

            Does that mean police were then forced to entertain some bizarre “sex game gone wrong” theory? Of course not! In my opinion, the biggest failure of the police was not the investigation and evidence collection, but the conclusion they drew from the evidence that, if all three were at the scene, all three must have committed the murder — especially when they had one of the parties TELLING them she was there while someone else did it. It’s not as though police weren’t handed that very scenario by an eyewitness. They even believed it for a while, but as soon as one piece of it proved false (the identity of the killer), rather than conclude that maybe Knox couldn’t identify Guede, they instead turned to the idea that she was trying to throw suspicion off her own guilt for murder. That’s an absurd leap.

            The difficulty in discussing this case is the sheer number of evidence points. Taken in isolation, any one or two or more of them don’t mean much. By itself, I would agree that Knox’s statement to police is pretty meaningless — though to be clear, it was NOT a confession. She never once confessed to taking any part whatsoever in the murder. All she said is that she was there when someone else did it, which she repeated a couple of times beyond the immediate pressures of the interrogation. It’s only when her statement is factored in with a host of other evidence points that I believe she was trying to tell police the truth when she made that statement.

            And, for that, they arrested her, which only bolsters the idea that she would be held criminally liable for merely being the one who happened to let the killer in the door. How could she ever tell the truth again after that? The police virtually forced Knox and Sollecito to grab onto “we weren’t there” and cling to it for dear life. When that’s contradicted by other reliable evidence…..then things take a turn of Shakespearean proportions.

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            • Jessie, I’m sorry if it seems I’m conflating or confusing things. That is not my intent.

              Nevertheless, I do not – can’t really – accept the proposition that everything AK “admits” to is beyond dispute. Quite a bit is made of the fact that AK related a whole bunch of stuff in an email when she was not being questioned and “under no pressure” although of course this email is sent “to everyone” a few days after her roommate had been murdered and she was under, at the very least, intense suspicion. In other words, the idea that she was “under no pressure” is fatuous. I quote the very first sentence of the email as it appears on a “guilter” site:

              This is an email for everyone, because id like to get it all out and not have to repeat myself a hundred times like ive been having to do at the police station.

              So her roommate is dead and she is quite aware that she is a suspect at this point. She’s already been intensely interrogated. The police mind games have been underway for days and she is already so confused about what happened and when that there isn’t one single fact related in this email that is beyond dispute, including the whole account of her return to the apartment the next day. In fact the events as related in this email have the unmistakable character of details that were suggested to her by police in the feigned attempt to “exonerate” her, when of course the police had already decided she was guilty. She then just goes along with all the suggestions and already, at this point, she probably can’t distinguish the largely confabulated account from the true facts.

              So to start with, you throw out everything she says. It’s not only not “reliable evidence”; it’s pretty much all worthless. And in case you think this is not a fair way to begin, this phenomenon of highly detailed yet completely fabricated and false accounts in confessions has been demonstrated over and over again coming from people who weren’t guilty at all, such as the Central Park Five. It’s a known potential consequence of the interrogation technique.

              Now, Rudy Guede. I can understand the reluctance to run just with him because he’s the only black guy in the whole scenario and it could seem selective and racist. But the fact of the matter is that he’s fully implicated in the killing by evidence that truly can’t be disputed. I agree that he had no discernible motive either, but in his case that doesn’t overcome the abundant reliable evidence implicating him, whereas with respect to AK and RS the lack of motive simply dovetails with the lack of reliable evidence implicating them in the first place.

              And I’m also going to have to stand by my take on the ransacked room. Could be a burglary. Could be a “staged” burglary – more likely by RG than AK & RS but that’s another subject – and could be a ransacked room for no particular reason or no reason that anyone will ever know. “Staged” burglary is a possibility, and that’s all. And even if it is, RG could have done it.

              I wonder, if you threw out everything she said, as I do, would you still conclude that she and RS were there when the poor girl was murdered?

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              • Jessie

                Well, now there’s an interesting question: Would I think Knox was at the scene if I exclude all of her statements (to anyone, police or otherwise)?

                Yeah….I’d still have to conclude that she was present at some point either during the murder and/prior to the discovery of the body, based on at least the hallway footprint turned up with luminol. It’s consistent with only Knox’s footprint, not with any of the other girls’ (they were all brought in the first day for fingerprinting, footprinting, DNA samples, and questioning). And we can reasonably conclude the footprint was made in blood — all other substances reactive to luminol can be ruled out and the substance contains both Kercher’s and Knox’s DNA. (That’s only a summary, but for a number of reasons, this footprint is probably the most difficult piece of forensic evidence to explain in any way unrelated to the murder.)

                The only trouble is, if I’m excluding all of her statements, I’d be much more likely to then think Knox committed the murder. A bloody footprint is hard to explain innocently — at least if it’s taken in isolation. That’s why I’m not sure this mental exercise is the best approach. What people say is an important part of investigation. Sure, people have their unreliabilities. They forget things or remember them wrong, they sometimes intentionally lie, but what people say is still important. To my mind, Knox’s statements are exonerating because they provide context to the other evidence. Trial-watchers in general are fond of saying, “The evidence speaks for itself.” But evidence doesn’t speak, only people speak. And only people interpret.

                Another area where you and I disagree: The police had “already decided” Knox was guilty. What we know of the investigation doesn’t back that up, at least not at first. Their first suspects were the boys downstairs, in particular Kercher’s boyfriend (who was out of town at the time, but reportedly so afraid of being fingered for the murder that when he returned to Perugia he refused to leave the train station until he had a lawyer who would meet him there). Intimate partner violence is a reasonable starting point for the police when a young woman turns up murdered.

                By concluding a priori that police fingered Knox from Day One, that puts a spin on the evidence collection (and the entire investigation) that doesn’t appear to have been there. When did they actually begin to suspect Knox? Hard to say for sure. They initially tapped her phone because they thought she had some idea who did it, not because they thought she did it herself. Even at her arrest, they were arresting her for letting the killer in the house, not for committing the murder herself. So I would say the first point where we can really conclude that they suspected her of murder was when they discovered that her statement pointing to her boss was untrue. That’s when they made this insane leap from “she was there” to “she wielded the knife.”

                As far as Rudy Guede: I don’t think it’s racist to conclude that he did it — he obviously did it. But I think there’s an internalized racism at play in the ease with which we can accept that Guede would behave like a violent animal, with no real motive and towards someone he liked. The absurdity of that is clear when we’re talking about white kids, but when it comes to the black kid….well, that’s what we’re constantly told young black men do by nature, right? That aspect has no effect on what actually happened, but it’s had a large effect on how we perceive what we think happened. I imagine, as a defense attorney, this is something you’ve been up against a lot.

                Ransacked bedroom: I’m curious, first, why you dismiss this so easily (the problems with it as a genuine burglary are overwhelming — how do you get rid of all of them?) and, second, how do you see it as more plausible that Guede would randomly trash one, but only one, unrelated room in the house, going so far as to run outside for a large rock and then come back inside? I’m not talking about what’s possible, but about what’s most plausible. It’s technically possible that a third party came along after the murder and trashed the bedroom, but it’s not very plausible.

                Let’s assume for a moment, for the sake of argument, that it wasn’t an actual burglary. We could then assume that Kercher herself let Guede in the house — she was acquainted with him, he hung out with her boyfriend, and he did apparently need to poop real bad. So I can accept that as a method of entry. But now we don’t have “burglary interrupted” as a precipitating factor, so now the murder is even more random….he just out of the blue attacked this girl for no reason at all? That’s even weaker than burglary interrupted.

                Then we’ve got the problem of him sticking around the scene after the murder to commit all kinds of mischief. Not just the ransacked bedroom, but Kercher’s bra was removed and the blanket placed over her after she had stopped bleeding (most likely, she was already dead). None of these three kids are the BTK Killer, yet this scenario has Guede sticking around the scene for anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour to tamper with the scene for, again, no particular reason and when we can reasonably assume that he would want to skedaddle as fast as possible.

                To give this argument the greatest benefit of the doubt that I can, maybe Kercher lets him in, there’s some kind of consensual sexual activity that she attempts to stop, and it plays out in the same way as my theory, but without Knox present. Except then we’ve got things like the bloody footprint mentioned above, Guede’s bloody footprints headed out the front door, no evidence of Guede anywhere in the ransacked bedroom, a spot of Kercher’s blood with Knox’s DNA in the ransacked bedroom….and the whole theory would seem to collapse in on itself. I could overlook one or two of those things, but not all of them.

                Nevertheless, I am, as always, interested in your thoughts :-)

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              • I think we’ve hit on the real disagreement. You’re putting a lot of weight on the footprint and I put zero weight on it. It may be reasonable to conclude that it was made in blood; but it may also be reasonable to conclude that it wasn’t, and there was at least one guy commenting here (Chris Halkides) that claimed to have some expertise on the whole DNA thing that supported the latter.

                So if you throw that out and also AK’s shifting accounts, what do we have?

                A terrible scene with a lot of confusion and a couple of kids in a bit of an after-drug-use haze completely unprepared to account for themselves under such circumstances and people are understandably very upset, including the police who also understandably suspect everyone in the vicinity that might have had an opportunity or a motive. And predictably the two kids don’t account for themselves very well and then the suspicion turns to accusation and then the ball gets rolling and they just look for stuff to confirm what they already think, or think they think.

                I don’t want to put too much on the police here. It’s the system’s job to sort these things out in the end, not theirs. But both in Italy and here, the police get invested and they are a force to be reckoned with and the systems don’t do a very good job of resisting them even when it becomes apparent that the whole thing is irrational. And to me this is a case in point.

                There’s plenty of reason to be suspicious of the victim’s roommates, just on the face of it. And if they don’t give a good account of themselves that’s another reason. But that’s really all there is, and there’s no way that should be enough. Yet here we are years later and the debate rages on. A CNN article said that it all depends on what you want to see, which is bullshit. There is reason to be suspcious, but in the end no reliable evidence of guilt as far as AK and RS go.

                Now, I can’t explain why Rudy Guede did this, but then I can’t explain murder at all. And I simply don’t know what to make of the ransacked bedroom. I can see a situation where he and Meredith got a little bit sexual but she didn’t want to go further and something snapped, I suppose. It still makes no sense to me, and I agree that this violent act seems to be out of character and anomalous.

                Prediction: Italy and the US will strike a deal where they don’t ask for extradition, and then because AK won’t be imprisoned they’ll do some machination and let RS go, too because that would be incoherent otherwise. Nobody in the upper echelons of the Italian justice system really thinks AK and RS are guilty but there’s too much invested in their guilt now to go back to zero. In other words this situation will be resolved politically, truth be damned. I object to it because I think the truth is important, and particularly important when for some reason powerful interests want things to be other than they are. My view is that things are as they are, and yielding to powerful interests when they’re wrong just because they are powerful interests is the stuff of war and tragedy and sin and death.

                But at the same time, the senselessness of what happened to Meredith Kercher is in some perverse and objectionable but nevertheless understandable way balanced out by the senselessness of what has happened, is happening and will continue to happen to AK and RS. It’s a wrongful symmetry, but it’s still symmetry.

                Maybe that’s the best we can do much of the time. We live in the fallen world, not paradise.

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              • Jessie

                I’m trying to think how to say this delicately….why would you believe the word of a partisan you don’t know about a subject that you don’t understand?

                Maybe in my own way, I’m a partisan too, but the behavior on both sides is bizarre and both sides are willing to be intellectually dishonest to advance their rigid positions. So a trump card of, “Well, this guy who seems to know what he’s talking about sounded persuasive,” is disappointing. I won’t name names, but there are guilters who are extremely persuasive too. There’s a cadre of them on both sides, going around the Internet evangelizing their positions, gaining converts among those inclined to lean in their direction. These people are weird and they’re willing to lie.

                The debate, as it were, really only exists in the US. The Knox family hired a mid-level PR agency, for which they’ve been criticized — unfairly, in my opinion. The kind of intense international media they were dealing with isn’t something anyone would be prepared to deal with. At least celebrities sign up for that shit. They needed someone to help them deal with it.

                But the PR agency did what it does best: messaging, messaging, messaging. And the message was, “There is no evidence. This is the railroad job from hell. This would never happen in America. The Italian legal system is backwards and medieval.”

                It was a propaganda campaign and maybe that’s what sparked my intense interest in this case. Their message smelled like propaganda, and when you start reading the original documents in the actual case (albeit mostly translations unless you speak Italian), much of the reporting on it in the American press is blatantly bullshit — in some instances, things the defense never even claimed. But it did work and the partisans were born.

                It’s an interesting object lesson in how the press functions. And a dismaying lesson, since almost no American media attempted to find out if the message was actually true. If they didn’t guarantee positive coverage, their access to the Knox family was cut off and the “no evidence/Italy bad/USA! USA!” message made for a compelling storyline. It ceased to matter whether it was true. No would watch if they delved into explaining the Italian rules of procedure, only if they could get Edda Mellas to cry on television. I’ve always felt awful for Edda Mellas. Her agony is so undisguised that it’s hard to watch….but it does rally the troops and the press has used it for their own ends. The Italian rules of procedure, which might actually be educational? Nobody cares about that shit. (It would be fascinating to learn, but I barely understand the rules of procedure in my own country!)

                Unfortunately, I think Italy will request extradition. The Florence court is utterly convinced of her involvement in the murder. And I can understand that, given what they’re looking at. Even where I think they’re wrong (e.g., the autopsy report suggesting multiple assailants), I get why they think what they think.

                Then add in a PR campaign that has understandably offended Italians, coupled with a European belief that Americans can get away with anything, and I think Italy will fight tooth and nail to pull her back over there and put her in prison.

                Using the word “Shakespearean” to describe it was maybe more accurate than I realized….

                Like

              • Jessie! You’re underestimating me.

                >>I won’t name names, but there are guilters who are extremely persuasive too.<<

                A fair reading of what I wrote would tell you that I assumed that. I’m sure there are experts who can tell you that the footprint belongs to AK (disputed) and that it was made in blood (disputed). We’ll never get to the end of that dispute. Indeed, we haven’t gotten to the end of it. I’m only being even-handed, applying the same sort of scrutiny to prosecution arguments about evidence that I would to the defense. Look at it this way. For a long time the Innocence Project would only take on cases where DNA evidence could prove innocence. They were a limited number of cases. The gardener is accused of killing the lady of the house in the garden. The gardener says he wasn’t there at the time, although he was there a lot. There’s DNA from him and her in the garden, and no one else’s. What does that tell you in that context? Nothing.

                You have AK’s DNA in her own house. Big deal. Then you have some expert telling you that it shouldn’t be in the exact place they found it; you get another expert telling you it could easily be there. That conflict is not difficult to resolve, and you don’t have to believe either one. The experts cancel out and you default to AK’s DNA in her own house. Next.

                I suppose we could all do graduate work in biochemistry and whatnot. And after we all have our Ph.D’s, I can guarantee you the conflict still won’t be resolved other than how I have resolved it. There are limits to the human ability to discern.

                The question becomes, what do you default to? I don’t know = innocence.

                Now, I’m not going to call you naïve, but there are stories about bite mark experts that made a career out of shilling for prosecutors and getting guilty verdicts that later turned out to be wrong and their testimony utter bullshit. So another thing you have to factor in is that the prosecution is in a much better position to obtain tailor made experts than the defense, and I’m sure this is as true in Italy as it is here.

                So if you’re not sure because you don’t have your Ph.D yet and you feel the conflict on DNA science must be resolved one way or another, even then you have to resolve against the prosecution anyway.

                So like I said, just forget about all the DNA crap.

                Of course, if the victim’s DNA had been on the knife that would be a different story, right?

                I’m trying to cut the police a break here. I think in a lot of ways they did a good job and there’s enormous pressure: from the media, from the victim’s family, from international concerns (UK, US, IT). I mean it’s just a mess. A sane person would steer clear of the whole thing if he could, and so you’re likely to get a Mignini in there because he’s a weirdo who likes this kind of thing, and isn’t afraid to be responsible, like most sane people would be.

                And PR firms don’t make any difference at all. Whether here or in Italy, we lawyers, unlike the police, are completely immune to public relations concerns and are utterly objective and rational. They determine this about us on the bar exam, and when they scrutinize us for character and fitness.

                LOL

                Like

              • Jessie

                Uh-oh….I’m really sorry if I caused offense, I didn’t mean to!

                I suppose I’m just puzzled by the idea of anyone taking the partisans seriously. I understand (clearly I do!) how people got so absorbed by this case, but I don’t understand the glassy-eyed certainty of most of those following it. I called them “evangelical” earlier and their behavior really does have a religious feel to it. I just can’t take anything they say seriously because both sides are far too invested in maintaining what they are absolutely certain is the truth. That’s a pretty good way to NOT get at the truth of anything.

                Actually, I think I am naive. I’ll cop to that. Or maybe it’s more charitable to say my default position is optimism about human nature. Just take my theory of the case: It revolves around almost all the parties — cops, judges, defendants, witnesses — basically telling the truth and acting with more or less good intentions. There is a certain naivete to that. I’m just skeptical of stories with clear-cut heroes and villains.

                You’re actually the only person I’ve ever discussed this case with, online or off. I’m not even sure how that happened….you struck me as a person not inclined to get mentally stuck in one position and the conversation just wound around to Amanda Knox. But I’m not sure I have seen you apply any scrutiny to the defense case. You certainly make a good argument for how a miscarriage of justice might have unfolded without resorting to the partisan stuff. But I can’t recall you ever questioning anything about the defense’s position. I’m curious how you would.

                Otherwise, I’m not sure where else to go. You want me to throw out all the defendants’ statements, so I gave that a whirl (and wound up thinking it’s an unwise approach, at least categorically).

                Now you want me to throw out all the forensic evidence (which is hotly debated, yes, but rarely in any way that requires technical knowledge — the footprint that started this, for example, has three common arguments against it, none of which are scientific and all of which are easy to dismiss).

                We’d probably both agree that behavioral evidence is, at best, of limited value. Emotional reactions are worthless as evidence (“she didn’t cry enough,” etc.) Eyewitnesses vary widely in their reliability.

                So, what types of evidence do you accept? Shy of the culprit being caught in the act on videotape, and even then there’s no guarantee. We just had a case locally of a brutal attack caught on a security camera. The defendant was acquitted. He’s a cop. Sadly, I was not surprised and I doubt you are either.

                Like

              • Well you ask some very good questions. Let me take on a few of them and maybe come back to it later.

                It’s likely that every lawyer will defend a case differently to some extent and that is especially true of me. I am probably considered unorthodox. I accept, for example, that there’s a credibility deficit and that if I offer evidence of the same or even arguably better quality than the prosecution that a jury will believe the prosecution’s evidence and not mine. My evidence has to be unassailable to be believed. I see no reason to fight the unfairness of this because it’s an unwinnable fight.

                So, more than other lawyers I would construct a defense only around propositions that I could prove so cleanly that the other side won’t even bother trying to refute it. So here, for example, if it was really important to demonstrate when and where AK was with RS, I would abandon all hope of doing that unless I had video tape or documentary corroboration and would focus my attention elsewhere, to something I could definitively prove, as a key component of a defense. If all I had was AK’s and RS’s testimony, I’d assume I’d lose on the question, and of course it would then be utter folly to make it a key point in the defense.

                There is scientific evidence and then there is scientific evidence. I’m skeptical of almost all of it, including fingerprints.

                The best kind of evidence is a document or, yes, a videotape that is contemporaneously made with the event it establishes, and is the product of a source that has nothing to do with the matter in controversy. When the prosecution produces a video made at the automatic teller with the suspect using the victim’s credit card to withdraw the cash, that is extremely reliable proof and the inference of guilt is inescapable. And if the defense produces evidence of similar quality to establish a fact, same thing.

                Uncorroborated witness testimony? Meh. Maybe yes, maybe no. The worst is “The defendant told me he did it.” evidence from jail cell mates, friends, family, whatever.

                I’ll have to return to some of this later. Ugh.

                Like

              • I haven’t focused on the defense contentions because I have my own take on the evidence I’m aware of, and whether it matches what the defense is arguing is not important to me in commenting here. Of course I might do things differently if I was actually defending the case. You’re a fair minded person and I haven’t been convincing you, so maybe in your case if you were a juror it would be better to address the points the defense is addressing here.

                Which brings us to another critical point. What you argue can also depend on what kind of jury you think you’ve got. You have to stay flexible enough to change gears at the trial if you think a jury would be more amenable to an argument you otherwise wouldn’t make.

                The biggest problem here is that it’s too easy to make a case against a roommate who can’t absolutely establish that she wasn’t there. Every little discrepancy implies guilt, every little evidence point no matter how weak adds up. If the defense is in the position of having to swat down 500 things, and most of them can’t be swatted down definitively – say, footprint evidence – you’re explaining too much and the case looks stronger than it really is, because in these circumstances finding 500 things is easy.

                That’s why the tell tale signs of overreaching are important, in my opinion. The “murder weapon” that isn’t. They were looking for things to confirm what they already “knew”, and 490 times it’s going to be easy and you can’t quarrel with it but those few times it’s screwed up tells you there wasn’t enough scrutiny being applied. We hope the system applies the scrutiny later to make up for that, but all too often it doesn’t.

                None of this means the police were dishonest or lying, and in this case at least I don’t fault the Italian justice system, comparatively speaking. The same thing would have easily happened here, in fact has happened here. I commented a lot on the Jodi Arias case. The prosecution used “gas cans” taken along for a drive in the desert to imply guilt. It was ridiculous, but convinced a lot of people who were prepared to be convinced, as most jurors are when we’re talking about being convinced that the defendant is guilty.

                What it boils down to is that leveling the official accusation is a fateful step. Even when people are exonerated they remain guilty in the minds of many, many people. There is nowhere near enough circumspection about leveling charges in Italy or here, and I’m sure that’s true of most places. Which is why defense lawyering is so important. It’s the only real check the system has.

                Like

              • In a disturbing development, it appears there’s some pressure on RS to turn on AK. Of course if he did that at this point it would be transparent garbage, not that many won’t figure that he finally came clean, since they were convinced of guilt anyway. Ugh.

                Like

              • Jessie

                Ultimately, you don’t need to convince me of much because I already believe they’re innocent. So if I were your juror, it doesn’t matter that I find the footprint believable because the prosecution still has to prove the person attached to that foot committed the murder. The footprint helps establish only one element of the prosecution’s case (presence at the scene). It doesn’t even establish presence AT THE TIME of the crime, let alone commission of the crime.

                Perhaps the best argument against the footprint would be the idea that she got blood on her feet when she returned for a shower the next morning. However, you want to throw out all statements the defendants made, in which case we’d be throwing out the idea that she did, in fact, return for a shower the next morning. Dismissing their statements seems more and more like a bad idea. A lot of their statements can be used in their defense. If she’s running around barefoot after a shower and there’s blood on the floor….well, there you go.

                I still don’t really buy that argument and it contradicts other defense claims (e.g., the amount of blood outside the bedroom was not enough to be noticeable), but it seems a lot stronger than trying to claim all the forensic evidence is hooey, and certainly stronger than the FOAKer claim that no evidence exists at all, which prevents them from even separating the obvious nonsense from the more colorable stuff.

                However….now that you mention it….I might be persuaded by what we could call a “nonsense by association” argument: Since the knife is so clearly ridiculous, then how can we trust any of the forensics? I’m just not sure that would work because the real problem with the knife isn’t the forensics, but the sheer absurdity of the idea that they carried around a butcher knife, killed someone with it, then cleaned it up and stuck it back in the drawer to make supper.

                One seeming difference in the Italian system (I say “seeming” because it’s a matter of Italian rules of procedure that I don’t know about or understand, but this is my impression) is they don’t appear to exclude evidence prior to trial. There’s clearly a discovery process, but then they seem to just bring it aaaalllll in and let the court sort it out. So rather than a judge deciding at a pretrial hearing that Olive Guy wasn’t credible, Olive Guy was allowed to testify and then the judge and jury decided he wasn’t credible — they actually laughed aloud at his testimony and there’s never been another word about him since.

                This would offer advantages to both sides. You wouldn’t have to worry about a key piece of evidence being deemed inadmissible. You wouldn’t have to, say, wait for the other side to bring in a particular piece of evidence before you could address something related to it. But it does create the “500 points” problem you mention. The Knox family’s American attorney said as much before he began representing them. When he was merely a commentator on the case, he said the defense would have to avoid “playing whack-a-mole” with the evidence and instead produce an alternate narrative, but he’s now taken up the “no evidence exists” party line. I have to think this blanket denial of the evidence has done them more harm than good.

                In any case, I wouldn’t believe a word printed by the Daily Mail. They’ve been a major source of the crap that floats around in public opinion (kisses and cartwheels and bleach….tabloid garbage that was never a part of the actual case). In Florence, Sollecito’s defense asked to separate the two defense cases and it was denied. I don’t see any reason to think that wasn’t merely a procedural request and a procedural denial. But maybe we’ll find out when the motivation report is issued.

                Like

              • Notably, the main reason you think it’s a mistake to disregard the details of AK’s statement(s) to police is that it leaves you with no explanation for things like the footprint. But then I don’t count the footprint either, so for me that particular problem doesn’t arise.

                Of course some, or most, or maybe even all of those statements may be true. The point is that you can’t rely on them being true because of the circumstances under which they were given. The way I analyze evidence, for better or worse, is that I disregard evidence that seems to me to be unreliable.

                I’m not always right about that. There are times I think something’s unreliable and later I find something to corroborate it and then it turns out to be very reliable.

                Corroboration is big with me. Independently corroborated evidence is infinitely more valuable than evidence that has no independent corroboration.

                Take the Sephora Davis matter, if you recall that. The account given by Adrian Paige that Sephora was passed out and not driving the car is corroborated by medical records generated by a hospital at the same time treatment was rendered. Among other things. The account given elsewhere by Adrian, and accomplices Shaun Theriault and Eric Harder that Sephora was awake, driving and a willing participant has no independent corroboration at all. That makes resolving the dispute extremely easy, so easy there shouldn’t be a trial over it. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

                When you have the phone company reporting a phone call from or to AK’s phone or RS’s phone or Meredith Kercher’s phone you know – as much as you can know anything – that that phone call occurred. Records like that can be extremely valuable to investigators, and indeed to lawyers. Records like that have in fact been extremely valuable to me.

                I suppose my perspective may be skewed by my experience, especially with the Sephora Davis matter but also with other cases I have had, that the truth is often far more complicated than what your client is telling you, that the expectation that the client has a complete picture of what, after all, happened to them personally is often surprisingly wrong-headed.

                The police (and many others) give statements from suspects talismanic significance: they have the power to exonerate or damn like nothing else. But that’s just not the way it is.

                Like

              • Jessie

                Well, no, that’s not exactly my position….. I don’t think suspect and witness statements should be categorically dismissed, because they’re important to a thorough investigation. There’s many risks in that, especially in things like interpreting non-verbal cues. Cops — I would say especially good cops — often don’t realize how intimidating their mere presence is. The ones who are good at their job aren’t constantly trying to intimidate people, so they don’t realize that they do. Innocent people may look “shifty-eyed” or “guilty” or “hiding something” just because a cop is talking to them. Factor in that Knox was from a different culture and we can easily double that. It still doesn’t mean her statements are worthless and, strategically, some of her statements help her.

                That doesn’t leave me with no alternative explanation for the footprint. I just offered one: blood on the floor when she took a shower the next morning. I still trip over the idea that there would have been enough blood on the floor outside the murder scene to produce a fully-formed footprint. (And combined with her DNA in Kercher’s blood in the ransacked bedroom….damn, Knox was one unlucky girl….) But it’s still an alternate explanation worth entertaining.

                Phone records…..oy! The prosecution really ran with those. I do agree with you that those are the sorts of evidence that can be corroborating, as far as they go. But interpretation is no less of a bugbear. For example, Knox and Sollecito turned off their cell phones the night of the murder….*cue up the Twilight Zone music*…..AT THE SAME TIME! *gasp*

                And that proves what exactly? They were afraid they might accidentally answer their phones in the middle of the murder? “Sorry, Mom, you caught me at a bad time. I’ll have to call you back. I’m right in the middle of killing my roommate. Toodles!”

                And then….*more Twilight Zone music*….they turned their phones back on early the next morning AT THE SAME TIME. Is that mind-blowing or what? It “proves,” you see, that they didn’t sleep late like they said they did. (Do I need to point out that one can roll over in bed, switch on both cell phones, and go back to sleep?)

                There’s several other instances where the prosecution claimed their phone records spoke against them, but there’s none that I consider to have any meaning one way or the other. In a few instances, the location of the cell tower pings contradict where they said they were when they placed the call. But other than trying to cast them as liars, none of it has any bearing on whether they committed the murder, or were at the scene, or were at Sollecito’s place smoking a bong.

                So I think the tangible, rock-solid feel of that sort of evidence can be misleading. Sure, we can assume the cell phone records are true, but the interpretation of them can take one into wild flights of fancy that make a witness statement, soberly assessed, potentially more reliable as evidence.

                Like

    • Okay I looked at the linked article. Ms. Fabio writes well and is suitably hard minded and systematic, so I agree with you her opinions carry weight. But just a couple of things.

      I think she was reacting a bit to the aspersions cast at the Italian justice system. I agree with her that a lot of criticism directed at the Italians on this is completely unfair, especially since I found the acquittal “motivazione” (?) thoroughly persuasive.

      But she’s putting all this stock in the DNA evidence. And the truth is, I don’t care in the slightest what any expert said at the trial. For the prosecution, at least, DNA evidence is only even relevant if the person isn’t supposed to have been where it is found. So, RG’s semen found on MK’s body – if in fact that occurred – would be relevant because it shouldn’t be there. If RG was MK’s boyfriend, however, that renders the finding irrelevant.

      AK’s DNA in her own living space is irrelevant. And the reason this is an entirely fair way to treat it is, put the shoe on the other foot. If the prosecution proves the accused’s DNA is present in a place where it shouldn’t be, implying guilt, and the defense produces “experts” to explain that it really isn’t the accused’s DNA or that the collection was contaminated, or raises a million other contortions or objections, no one buys it. We only buy delving into the nitty gritty and producing experts when the prosecution’s case depends on it. I don’t apply a double standard. Indeed for that very reason I would have been convinced by MK DNA on the knife blade, a place where it would have no other reasonable explanation for being.

      Once you throw out all the DNA evidence – and I would also throw out the bra clasp, for reasons we went through earlier – you’re left with suspicious behavior and a “confession”, which has no solid corroboration. The suspicion remains, then, forever. Which is tragic.

      But there is a complete failure of proof beyond it. That was the point of the acquittal memo, and I agree with that at this point. But I’ll wait to see if there is anything we have missed. The new report of guilt is supposed to be out within 90 days and I’ll certainly consider anything it has to say.

      Like

      • Jessie

        Yes, those Bleeding Espresso posts do address a lot of the American complaints about the Italian justice system. But the whole FOAKer party line rests on a medieval Italian justice system railroading the poor innocent American girl. Otherwise, we’d have to believe that either everyone in Italy is stark raving mad, or that they had some basis — even if a misguided one — for charging and then convicting the pair.

        I disagree that Fabio is focused on the DNA though. For one thing, she takes no position on the validity of the evidence she summarized. And she only summarized the Massei evidence related solely to Knox — if it involved Sollecito, she left it out. So, for example, the bra clasp isn’t on that list, nor the staged burglary, nor the footprint on the bathmat, nor the cell phone records, etc. So it’s certainly incomplete…..but there’s just not much out there on the Internet that isn’t ridiculously partisan.

        (The guilter party line rests on the idea that the Italian authorities could, literally, do no wrong. In some cases, the guilters accept evidence that even the courts rejected, such as — I’m not making this up — a witness who claimed that Knox, Sollecito, and Guede jumped out of a trash bag in the middle of the street, threatened him with a knife, and he fended them off by throwing olives at them. The court actually LAUGHED at that….but lots of guilters take it as gospel!)

        So it’s not fair to say Fabio’s putting a lot of stock in the DNA evidence, which she may not even believe. I think it’s possible to discuss the case without even getting into it. But, like the witnesses, not all the forensic evidence is equally persuasive or equally able to be dismissed. Finding Knox’s DNA in her own sink fits the principle you’re talking about — we would expect to find Knox’s DNA in her bathroom sink. It’s much harder to explain why Knox’s DNA would be in a spot of Kercher’s blood found in the roommate’s ransacked bedroom. And it’s virtually impossible to explain why Knox’s footprint, made in a substance reactive to Luminol that happened to contain Kercher’s DNA, would be found in the hallway.

        There’s only so many times one can say “anything’s possible” or “that doesn’t prove anything” before it starts to ring a little hollow.

        Like

  2. Jessie

    I also forgot to mention: As far as the knife as dispositive….no, a lot of the trial-watchers applied that to the entire case, but the court wouldn’t have even been allowed to. The whole reason the case was sent to Florence was that the highest court agreed that the second court (Hellman) wasn’t legally allowed to isolate the case to only a couple of elements, primarily the DNA. So Florence was effectively ordered to look at all elements of the case, but agreed to order this new sampling.

    There was a bit of a trick in there for the prosecution though, and I’m curious if it will play any role in the motivation report. In a way, the prosecution couldn’t lose on that test. If they found Kercher’s DNA…..well, in that case, even I would have accepted that they’re guilty. If they didn’t find it and the court accepted that result….it’s the same method used to identify Kercher’s DNA in the original testing. So the prosecution could use it as a backdoor means of trying to undermine the argument that the first test should be excluded based on the infinitesimally small sample and no double test. (Mind you, I don’t buy any of that reasoning. I think the first test was simply wrong — that’s the whole purpose of double-testing — and the knife in question was not the murder weapon.)

    But, no, the court didn’t and couldn’t have based its decision on the knife test results. That’s why I suspect the motivation report will give DNA only secondary consideration.

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