Wednesday, March 30, 2011
by Mark Waterbury, PhD., with Anne Bremner
We all remember the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen. Charlatans convinced the vain Emperor that they could weave fabric so fine, so beautiful, that only an idiot or incompetent would fail to see it. Not wanting to admit that he couldn’t see the fabric himself, the Emperor bought a pricey outfit and paraded about before his people.
The people, not wanting to be thought of as idiots or incompetents, all praised his fine clothes. They outdid one another in describing the beauty of the fabric and how perfectly it all fit together.
It was left to a child to point out the obvious: The Emperor had no clothes. Once the child spoke, the floodgates opened and everyone could admit the truth that lay before their eyes all along.
Now, at the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in their trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, we see prosecutor Giuliano Mignini’s absurd charade of guilt coming apart at the seams. The prosecutor, it seems, has no clothes either. Much of the unraveling took place in just the last week. First, a report from court-appointed independent experts who are reviewing the DNA profiling evidence on two items claimed to be critical by the prosecution, was leaked to Italian media.
The experts report that they have found nothing. No blood on a kitchen knife that the prosecution claimed was the murder weapon, not even between the blade and the handle where it would have surely been wicked up and trapped. Neither did they find enough DNA to profile. The finding that there is no DNA or blood anywhere on the knife marks the beginning of the end for that critical item of evidence.
That result was not a surprise. It was an ordinary kitchen knife that did not match the wounds, did not match an imprint left at the scene, no blood was found on it in the first round of tests with TMB, and the profiler system reported “too low” for DNA. But it had woven, like the Emperor’s invisible fabric, into apparently damning evidence with a breathtakingly simplistic line, “Amanda’s DNA on the handle, Meredith’s on the blade.” Only an idiot or incompetent could fail to see that that meant guilt.
When presented in court it was carried in its own glass case, under armed guard in a melodramatic show. It was scientific nonsense, and now everyone can see it. That knife had nothing to do with the crime. It was also the beginning of the end for the bra clasp that was literally kicked around on the floor by investigators for 47 days, dug out from under a throw rug, dropped back on the floor, then finally retrieved.
The prosecution had no physical evidence whatsoever that associated Raffaele with the crime. So, they sent a team back in after the 47 days to fetch some in the form of that clasp. We learned from that same leaked report that there is no DNA to be found on the clasp. It was claimed by the prosecution to have contamination-level DNA on it from an unknown number of sources, one of them possibly being Raffaele. But now, nothing can be found. Why? Because it seems, the clasp has been stored, for years, in a jar of liquid. Not only has any DNA long since rotted away, the clasp itself has actually rusted. Any competent forensic investigator knows that DNA samples must be kept dry or they will decompose.
This leaves us with a question similar to ones that seem to come up again and again in this case while analyzing the prosecution, their forensics experts, and the judges in the court of first instance. Were they really so incompetent as to not know this? Or could it be that the destruction of the clasp evidence was not a mistake? We may never know. All that is certain is that the clasp will go down as a kind of monument to bad evidence handling.
The prosecutor’s new clothes looked even shabbier when Monica Napoleoni, the head of the polizia unit in charge of the hotly disputed interrogations of both Raffaele and Amanda, failed to show up to testify in court. The astonished judge fined her 300 Euros. There was a recess while they tried to contact her, but she could not be found. Oops! Got the wrong day of the week? The prosecution said that they didn’t really need her after all, but she will be summoned nevertheless. It is not the first time.
Why is it that key witnesses for the prosecution seem to no longer want to appear in court? But it was the testimony of Antonio Curatollo, also known as Toto, a perpetually homeless heroin addict that most clearly laid bare the prosecutor’s new clothes. Toto had been hailed as a “Superwitness,” a role he had practice at playing since this was no less than his third appearance as a critical witness in a murder trial. The man doesn’t get around much, but a lot must go down within sight of his perch on the park bench where he lived.
Toto testified in the trial that he saw Amanda and Raffaele engaging in a heated discussion in the plaza near her home, hanging out for hours on the evening of the murder. This contradicted their alibis that they were at Raffaele’s apartment that night. There were deep problems with Toto’s testimony from the outset, but these had been papered over, and he had emerged as the single, solitary, prosecution eyewitness who the defendants were near the crime scene. He had testified that he was sure of the night and the time because people had costumes on, and there were buses taking people off to the discos.
Trouble is, the buses and costumes are recollections of Halloween night, the night before the murder took place. There were neither costumes nor buses on the night of the murder, November 1, All Saint’s Day, a more sober holiday.
In answer to a question from the presiding judge, Toto explained that although he was addicted to heroin at the time of the events, heroin was not a hallucinogen. He replied that he lived “at home” when asked about his residence, but home turned out to be Capanne prison, where he is serving a sentence for sale of Heroin. He was uncertain about what day Halloween falls on and professed not to know why he is in prison. He was clear about where he relieved himself, in the bushes near the plaza. An assistant prosecutor, Manuela Commodi, dismissed Toto’s multiple contradictions, saying that it doesn’t matter that he confused the night of the murder with Halloween, since we know where Amanda and Raffaele were on Halloween.
But the leaked report, the no-show, and the almost-childlike statements of a bewildered man have now spoken for all to hear, and revealed for all to see - the prosecutor has no case.Tweet