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.