Amanda Knox – Another Disturbing Parable; The Indelible Stain Of Accusation

I hadn’t weighed in on the Amanda Knox matter, not having familiarized myself with it beyond a passing news article here and there.  Also because all the Italian procedures are confusing, to say the least, for an American lawyer.

But I did make quite a study of this Italian appeals court decision recently.  It’s long, the translation is awkward and it’s not in the least bit light reading anyway, but if you’re so inclined go ahead and read.  Plan on spending a couple of hours, though.

Bottom line is, unless there is something wrong to the point of being nefarious going on in that appeals court, I would say it couldn’t be much clearer that there was no case against Knox or her boyfriend (Sollecito), and the “evidence” supporting the prosecution was a classic product of police and prosecutors deciding guilt first and then ‘finding’ evidence to confirm their decision, no matter how weak or implausible – or indeed non-existent – the evidence is.

Here are the highlights, in my view, that pretty much dismantle any idea that there was any genuine proof that Knox or her boyfriend were involved:

1.  The knife.  This was extremely important evidence for the prosecution who argued that a knife found not at the murder scene but at Sollecito’s apartment had Knox’s DNA on the handle and Meredith Kercher’s (the victim’s) DNA on the blade.  This would support a conclusion that the knife was the murder weapon and would be very damning to Knox because her DNA was on it and to Sollecito because of where it was found and whose knife it was.  Problem is, turns out Meredith Kercher’s DNA was not on the knife at all.  That changes everything.  Indeed, if that is true there is no reason to believe that it is ‘the knife’ – as in the murder weapon – at all.

2. The bra clasp. The prosecution alleged that Sollecito’s DNA was found on the victim’s bra clasp, and she had been wearing that bra prior to being fatally attacked.  Again, very damning evidence if true, it being hard to imagine an innocent reason why Sollecito’s DNA would have been there.  The problems?  First, the clasp wasn’t collected for over a month, crime scene investigators and maybe lots of others had been all over the scene and for some reason when the clasp was finally collected as evidence it was in a different location from where it was first observed, and there was no explanation for that.  On the usual chain of custody type requirements for evidence of this nature, well, let’s just say that on that basis alone this is a massive fail as evidence.  And keep in mind that chain of custody requirements are imposed precisely to avoid and/or expose contamination and/or tampering with evidence.  The second problem is that even if you didn’t have a massive fail on chain of custody grounds, the appellate court’s independent experts concluded that there was and could have been no valid determination that Sollecito’s DNA was on the clasp anyway.

3. A bloody bare footprint on a mat in the bathroom.  The prosecution argued, and the trial court found that this footprint belonged to Sollecito.  The other possibility was Rudy Guede, whom everyone pretty much agrees was the murderer, the only question being whether Sollecito and Knox were also there and participating.  Now, the truth of the matter is quite simply that standing alone, based on visual inspection and analysis of the footprint, either conclusion is nothing more than a guess.  You get your expert I get mine kind of thing. But the real problem is that you have to throw in a few other undisputed facts:  first, it is a print of a bare right foot; second that there are shoe prints in blood elsewhere in the crime scene that were initially declared by police and prosecutors to match Sollecito’s shoes but were then later conceded to match Rudy Guede’s shoes; third – and this is crucial – all of these shoe prints were of the left shoe, strongly implying that for some reason Guede’s right shoe was off, which in turn strongly implies that the bare footprint on the mat was from Guede because it’s consistent with everything else that is known and not disputed.

Now, these three things were the cornerstones – the ‘solid proof’ type stuff – of the prosecution’s narrative, the rest of the case being witnesses who claimed to have seen this or that, and questionable assertions of incriminating statements, odd  – and in the cop mind therefore incriminating – behavior and whatnot in the aftermath of the crime, and lots of smearing of Knox’s moral character.

In other words, it was the kind of case that any sensible person would think was utterly bogus unless there was some ‘solid proof’ type stuff, and the solid proof type stuff that was in fact offered all turns out to be bogus.

But there is another hard truth here.  Bogus though the case was, Amanda Knox will live under a pall of suspicion the rest of her life, involving a lurid and tawdry and indeed excruciating tale that many will believe – and judging from twitter traffic many do believe – even though in the end the tale is nothing but the product of some prosecutors’ fertile and febrile imagination with virtually no reliable evidence to support it.

So that’s my take on the Knox matter, if anyone is interested.

As a brief aside, on the somewhat more topical matter of Jodi Arias I don’t know a lot about it and haven’t followed it besides a passing glance to news reports here and there, but from what I know the jury is out deliberating.  With the caveat that I am thus largely ignorant in the matter, I can offer that it’s hard for me to see her escaping criminal liability entirely.  There is some evidence supporting pre-meditation but nowhere near enough, I think.  There is some evidence consistent with defending herself to some extent, but not to the point where she can justify killing the man after he was already down.  I’m not aware of any self-defense or ‘justification’ defense that will countenance a throat slitting coup de grace, which I understand must have occurred even under the defense version of events.  The prosecution, from what I read, thinks the coup de grace was administered by gunshot.  Either way, I’d be surprised if she was not convicted at least of manslaughter, if not a lesser murder charge.

But the Jodi Arias stuff is not really a firm or well informed opinion of mine, I just thought I’d say something about it since the jury is deliberating and as of this writing I don’t know the verdict.

 

 

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Amanda Knox – Another Disturbing Parable; The Indelible Stain Of Accusation

  1. Aren’t you smart, analyzing the decision that was annulled two months ago. You can get an idea of all the legal errors made by the appeal court by reading the prosecution’s appeal to the Court of Cassation. It was translated by volunteers at PerugiaMurderFile (.org) and can be downloaded for free there.

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    • I looked at the prosecution’s appeal. Didn’t really say much about the things I wrote about, other than that it was procedurally wrong for the appeals court to consult its own experts. I don’t know whether it was or not; but no issue was taken with the conclusions reached by those experts.

      Again, it is possible that the prosecution doesn’t have to, or maybe even shouldn’t, at this stage. Appeals have their procedures, I am sure in both countries but I have no familiarity with the Italian procedures.

      All that aside, even assuming the appeals court decision was “annulled” that would not impeach the analysis of the evidence that was in the decision. That’s what I focused on for this post, not whatever technical legal objections there might be under Italian procedures to what the appellate court did. I would not be in the least competent to comment on that.

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  2. Dr David Anderson

    This was clearly a crime within a crime, with the imprints of collective polizio-judicial psychopathy stamped all over it. And how can the Press still be ignoring the undisputed fact that Rudy Guede was detained by the police in Milan 5 days before Meredith was murdered, having broken in to a primary school? The police found in his bag a knife (stolen from the school’s kitchen), a stolen lady’s gold watch and the computer of Perugia lawyer Paolo Briocchi. The computer had been stolen 2 weeks before, also on a Saturday night, using precisely the mode of entry used 20 days later to enter 7 Via della Pergola. Criminally, Guede was set free by MIlan police on instructions from Police and Prosecutors in Perugia. Two days later he returned the computer to Briocchi’s office, saying ‘I bought this in Milan, and I have been told it was stolen from your office’! How much more evidence of criminal official misconduct can one need? Guede, a documented serial burglar, was clearly being used by the Perugian police for illegal entries.

    As in Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, evil and malicious systems don’t have to make sense. They just have to be allowed to persist because good men and women do nothing, while evil and/or naive people reinforce them. So would the Press please have the guts now to start asking obvious questions? Like the above, and why did Prosecutors Mignini and Comodi and avocato Maresca, who was ostensibly acting for the Kerchers, insist that the DNA profile on semen staining the cushion on which Meredith’s body lay, was not necessary? Judge Massei, quite irresponsibly, denied this obviously essential test when it was requested by the Defense. Don’t they want to know if it is Guede’s, or is that for some reason too dangerous a question to ask?

    In perhaps only two years from now, Guede (whose sentence was reduced to 16 years by the Supreme Court) will be out on parole, and ready to break in again. So for law-abiding Italians and others who live here or who come to study (as Amanda and Raffaele did) the answers to such questions are very important. Please would the press stop being so chicken-livered, and start asking them?

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  3. Quentin

    The main reason I believe Knox is innocent is that the prosecution failed utterly to place her at the crime scene. There were no reliable witnesses and no CCTV footage that showed this, nor was there any physical evidence. The prosecution would have you believe that Knox could have participated in a bloody murder without leaving any trace of herself at the scene and without taking any of the victim’s blood away with her. Every forensic scientist I have spoke to views this as absurd.

    The Italian justice system is the laughing stock of Europe. It is a self-appointing, self-policing, and self-serving bureaucracy, and, as one might suspect, utterly corrupt. The Italian Supreme Court is just Burlesconi in robes.

    As for the website referenced above, it is one of the “Amanda Knox hate sites” described by Nina Burleigh in Time.

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    • One thing to bear in mind about the Italian justice system is that as a whole it has obviously struggled with this case, which I think is a credit to it.

      I, for one, am not prepared to say that ours in the US is any better.

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      • Quentin

        The Italian system has some merits, but they are outweighed by tremendous deficiencies and this is well recognized within Italy. Here just for starters is an interesting take by a respected magazine: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/12/10/can_anyone_get_a_fair_trial_in_italy

        I understand perfect well that U.S. justice is imperfect. What alarms me about Italy is that they don’t seem to seek truth and justice even as an ideal. I believe in fairness, in independent judges, in even handed rulings, in the primacy of fact and reason, in lucid, compelling inductive reasoning, and in the dignity and seriousness of proceedings. All of these were sadly lacking in this case.

        The initial sentencing report (Massei report) is one of the true intellectual embarrassments of our times. Even a person who is not familiar with the case can see that it is digressive, verbose, execrably written, speculative, wildly illogical and self-contradictory. An Italian friend told me it is so badly phrased that he had trouble believing a judge actually wrote it. Of course if you do know the case well it is easy to see that the judge misstated, ignored, and at times manufactured evidence.

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        • I understand perfect well that U.S. justice is imperfect. What alarms me about Italy is that they don’t seem to seek truth and justice even as an ideal. I believe in fairness, in independent judges, in even handed rulings, in the primacy of fact and reason, in lucid, compelling inductive reasoning, and in the dignity and seriousness of proceedings. All of these were sadly lacking in this case.

          Well, Quentin, I hate to say it but your rather good grasp of what a criminal justice system is supposed to be about doesn’t apply in the US anymore than in Italy, in my experience. Much of the time there is fairness, but that’s the result of the fact that the police are most often right in the first place. After that, there is a terrible paucity of independent judges, even handed rulings, the primacy of fact and reason, lucid and compelling inductive reasoning, and as the most recent Jodi Arias fiasco demonstrates, dignity and seriousness.

          I’ll follow your link when I get the chance.

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  4. DiaaK

    One other VERY important point you left out: The knife imprint left at the scene doesn’t match the knife picked up from Raffaele’s home.

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    • Hello, Diaa(?)

      Well, I thought it was enough to point out that there was no reason at all to believe that ‘the knife’ was the murder weapon. I think the point you raise, while it may indeed be very important, is more debatable. I think the prosecution had some expert or other saying there was a match, or maybe they had some other explanation.

      In any case, you don’t get dragged into a debate about that point when there is no legitimate reason to suspect that the knife they have is the murder weapon to begin with, right?

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    • I believe that there are many faults in the prosecution so-called case. But I think that they are probably too numerous to mention in an article. I think they are probably nearly all documented in Bruce Fischer’s book ‘Injustice in Perugia’ and Dr Anderson’s ‘The Monster of Perugia: The Framing of Amanda Knox’.

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  5. I wonder if the prosecution in the Knox/Sollecito case is prosecutable. There were a lot of suggestions of prosecutorial misconduct – failing to videotape the abusive police interrogations, “accidentally” destroying 4 hard drives that might have contained exculpatory evidence, etc. etc.
    Perhaps the prosecutors and police were savvy enough to avoid any provable misconduct.

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