Friday, May 27, 2011

Amanda Knox: Traveler’s Advisory

Mark Waterbury, guest blogger
and Anne Bremner 

NOTE: As this post goes to press, two important developments in the appeal of Amanda Knox’s wrongful conviction in Perugia, Italy, have taken place. A group of Italian legislators led by Rocco Girlanda has filed a petition with the president of Italy and the Italian justice ministry requesting an investigation into the conduct of Perugian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and others in Amanda’s trial. This important request for an investigation was read aloud before the Italian parliament.  

The second development involves a letter to the President of the United States and copied to all members of Congress that also requests an investigation, this time for failure by U.S. consular officials to fulfill their obligations to safeguard the rights of Amanda Knox under Italian law. We are co-signers of that letter, along with Michael Heavey and Thomas Wright. Details regarding these letters are being released through other outlets. The following article is intended to provide additional information in a less formal format.


Americans traveling abroad are subject to the laws of the nations they visit. Rights, that, in theory, U.S. citizens enjoy here at home do not apply. This poses problems of understanding due to language barriers and legal differences, even when the visited country has a sophisticated criminal justice system. Matters can be far more difficult in places like Iran or North Korea, where politics, religious zealotry, and corruption far outweigh any balance beam of justice. Yet, at least in those extreme cases you know where you stand--on quicksand, but with the hope that the State Department will apply pressure on the local dictator to secure your eventual release if you are wrongly imprisoned. 

As we’ve watched the unbelievable investigation, bizarre prosecution, and wrongful conviction of Amanda Knox in Perugia, Italy, we have seen a situation that is more complex and nuanced, resulting in a kind of legal limbo. The problem is that while Italy is an advanced western nation, a critical ally on many global issues, it is saddled with a justice system that looks good on paper but that is, at least in Perugia, a work in progress.

The presumption of innocence, for example, is enshrined in the Italian constitution. Knowledgeable observers say, however, “They don’t get it,” relegating this fundamental principle to an abstract irrelevance. The idea that guilt is something that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than conjectured as a possibility, is another newfangled thing that does not seem to have taken hold.   

Then there is the corruption and the lurid media environment.

From The Economist, June 10, 2010:

“…Italy is not like other countries. It is notoriously corrupt, so politics and justice overlap.”

“Something else to which Italians are largely oblivious is the routine trampling on the rights of suspects and others caught up in investigations. Information is selectively leaked to reporters before the accused come to trial, often creating a presumption of guilt that is difficult to reverse, whether in court or in the public mind. An example is the case of Amanda Knox, an American student, and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who were convicted last year of the murder of Ms. Knox’s British flatmate.”

One of us (Mark) wrote this about the trial in his recent book, The Monster of Perugia: The Framing of Amanda Knox. The following is an excerpt from Chapter 12, “Gulliver’s Travel Warning”:

“Legendary traveler Lemuel Gulliver had the misfortune to be caught in a violent storm at sea. Driven far off his course, his ship sunk, his shipmates dead and his lifeboat gone, Gulliver swam and waded till he happened upon an unknown island. Safely removed from the terrible weather, Jonathan Swift’s famous character awoke to find that he was captive and at the mercy of a perfect storm of political intrigue among a very little people, the 6-inch-tall Lilliputians.

Amanda Knox had the misfortune of having her roommate murdered while she was living abroad. The tragedy that befell Meredith could just as easily have happened to Amanda--a thought that weighed heavily upon her in the days after the murder. Having escaped that terrible fate, Amanda found herself held captive and at the mercy of a perfect storm of third world justice, corruption, and personal interests, all deeply entrenched in what is theoretically a first-world nation.

The language and culture barriers between Gulliver and the Lilliputians were immense. There had been no known contacts between their worlds, after all. He tried speaking half a dozen languages to them and got nowhere. There was an unfathomable gulf to cross, and yet... Gulliver found ways to express his respect for his captors, who recognized and appreciated his mild disposition. Soon they were won over. They fed him, freed him, they got along with him, right up until he refused to slaughter their enemies from the neighboring island of Blefescu.

Amanda expressed her respect for her captors and her confidence in the Italian justice system. She has been a model prisoner. She was paraded through the streets when arrested, she had her picture displayed beside convicted mafia dons before she was charged, she was held in prison for a year before those charges were brought, she has been demonized in much of the Italian press, and she was wrongly convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Score one for the Lilliputians.”

Amanda doesn’t seem to be blessed with Gulliver’s luck, so we thought we would check on the job the diplomats have done ensuring her right to fair treatment under Italian law by reviewing the cables that reported on the case by the United States Consul in Florence. The cables were conveniently revealed by the Wikileaks organization. We wondered how the information reported in those crucial cables compared with what had actually happened to Amanda.  

In theory, Amanda has the full support of the United States’ Department of State, which has the responsibility to ensure that American citizens’ rights under local law are respected. At least, that is what they say. In response to questions about what they were doing about Amanda’s ordeal in Perugia, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, “…it is the responsibility of our consular officials to make sure that American citizens are treated fairly under local law.” That seems clear enough.

With all of that in mind, the following is the first cable sent, in December of 2008, more than a year after Amanda was arrested after an all night interrogation by a dozen polizia detectives operating in rotation, speaking in Italian, and without being allowed an attorney. That interrogation, it was claimed, was not recorded, in another violation of Italian law.

DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY ROME
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1244
INFO AMCONSUL FLORENCE
AMCONSUL MILAN
AMCONSUL NAPLES

SUBJECT:  ARREST UPDATE:  AMANDA KNOX

1. NAME: Knox, Amanda Marie

9. CHARGES: Participation in voluntary manslaughter with aggravating circumstances of cruelty (potential maximum sentence: life imprisonment; however, in Italy “life imprisonment” equates to 30 years) ; Participation in sexual assault (possible sentence: 5 – 10 years) ; Simulated robbery (possible sentence: 1 – 3 years) ; Slander (stemming from Ms. Knox’s accusation against Patrick Lumumba ; possible sentence: 6 – 20 years) ; Possession of weapons (possible sentence: up to 1 year) ; Aggravated theft (possible sentence: 3 – 10 years)

10. PLACE OF DETENTION : Capanne Penitentiary, Perugia, Italy

12. TRIAL/HEARING DATE:  January 16, 2009

That was the first cable sent after Amanda was paraded through the streets of Perugia in polizia vehicles with sirens blasting in a macabre kind of victory dance immediately after her arrest. It was after it was ruled that she could be held for a year in prison before being charged. It was after Amanda was relentlessly demonized by a rabid press, fed a continuous stream of news leaks, lies, and innuendos from the prosecution and polizia, much of them illegal, all of them consumed by a jury that was not sequestered or enjoined against discussions in any way.

This cable, like all the rest, is a simple list of the starkest, and ultimately least informative facts about the arrest and prosecution of Amanda Knox. It is as if a lynch mob dragged someone away in full view of everyone, and all that was reported back was “Suspect was apprehended.” No mention of the white hoods, torches, or the terrified, innocent victim. Amanda Knox was in the process of the most conspicuous public lynching in decades, and yet the report gives no hint whatsoever that it was anything but justice taking its course.     

But let’s look at more cables to be sure. Perhaps they were waiting for the actual trial to report back anything of substance. A month or so after the trial began the next cable was sent:

FEB 09
1….
9….
10….
12. TRIAL/HEARING DATE:  Trial is ongoing. Hearings take place every Friday and Saturday. The court plans to follow the same weekly hearing schedule in the foreseeable future.

Friday and Saturday… two days a week. That’s it. Bus schedules go into more detail.  The next cable, three months of blatant kangaroo court proceedings later:

MAY 09

SUBJECT: Arrest Update: Amcit Amanda Knox

12. TRIAL/HEARING DATE: Trial is ongoing.    Hearings take place every Friday and Saturday.   According to Ms. Knox’s attorney, the trial is being moved to an accelerated time-table and beginning June 4, hearings will be held three times a week, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

18. ACCESS: ConOff and ConAsst visit Ms. Knox on May 14, 2009 at Le Capanne prison in Perugia, Italy.  

Note the numbers, mostly 12 or 18, denoting categories of information. There is no 1, 2, 3… in most of these particular cables, but only 10, 12, or 18. Apparently, 10 means “Where At,” 12 means, “Cursory description of the trial schedule,” and “18” means something like, “We had to skip a nice luncheon to go to some damned prison.”

It is a shame that only these few numbers were used. Diplomatic cables that briefly summarize the relentless destruction of an innocent life might benefit from using more categories. May we make a humble suggestion? How about assigning, say, 23 to “Defendant’s rights are being trampled beyond recognition,” and how about 42 for, “Prosecutor has been convicted of prosecutorial misconduct, but is still the prosecutor.” That would leave 36 to represent “Defendant has been relentlessly smeared by the world’s press,” and 78 for “The forensics were a travesty of pseudoscience.”

Three more cables follow, at roughly three-month intervals, in August, November, and December of 2009. They say nothing about the constant spread of misinformation by the prosecution, nothing about the fact that the prosecutor was under indictment for misconduct (convicted of same in January, 2010), nothing about the fact that the DNA evidence would never be admitted as evidence in any normal courtroom, and that the two star prosecution witnesses were drug addicts.   

One might argue, “So what?” Perhaps these reports are simple schedule documents, but here’s the thing. When asked about the trial after Amanda’s conviction in a December 7, 2009 briefing, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said “we haven’t received any indications necessarily that Italian law was not followed.”

I guess they weren’t paying attention. Adding insult to that injury, in response to a question that pointed out the tainted evidence, the non-sequestered jury, the problem prosecutor, Mr. Kelly asserted that “…Italy is a democratic country that has an established and transparent legal system.”

Which brings us back, full circle, to our opening point. If Amanda had been captured by a crazy prosecutor in North Korea, she might have had some support from State. In Italy, she has been on her own.

Here’s the takeaway lesson from all this: The next time you’re in a foreign country and a crazy, corrupt local prosecutor decides to make a career move by throwing you in prison for the rest of your life, you can count on your United States’ consul to dependably tick off the milestones as you rot in jail. 

Anne Bremner is a member of Friends of Amanda.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too have wondered why more diplomatic pressure isn't being applied on Italy in this case. This case is a travesty by any standard and a huge injustice to Amanda Knox as well as the Kerchers. Nice to know that somebody is doing something to keep the spotlight on this. I'm sure that the governments on both sides wishes that Amanda Knox would just sit quietly rotting away in her cell and not disturb the international relations...

michellesings said...

So, without a shadow of a doubt would this fall under the category of "Free Political Speech" if say me, or my husband, Steve Moore, just so happened to have opportunity to speak out in the media on this subject?
We kinda think so.
Steve was fired from Pepperdine University over speaking out on this case.
Just thinking this through.......any thoughts anyone?

michellesings said...

PS EXCELLENT article! Very very impressed and happy and beyond ecstatic for all of this most amazing news. :)

Jake, Seattle, WA said...

I’m sure in the beginning there was the thought that we should respect Italy’s judiciary system and simply observe.. They said they had overwhelming proof. When it became clear that Mignini and company had nothing but an overactive imagination, a constantly morphing theory and a couple samples of really hinky, compromised (possibly non-existent) DNA evidence, perhaps the thought was it would all sort itself out in court.. After all, this is a first world European court complete with rules and standards. But now, more than three years later, Amanda sits in prison, not because evidence shows she is a murderess, but because she shares a face with the fictional American assassin-slut, Foxy Knoxy.. an evil psycho killer on par with Hannibal Lector, created by the slimy tabloid press and every bit as real. Maybe US Government interference was out of place in the beginning.. but now three years later it’s obvious the system is broken and a little backroom tet-a-tet with Hillary is in order.

dougbremner said...

I think you should focus on Perugia since Italians think more in terms of regions than as a national whole. They're the ones who screwed up and we don't know a lot about other cities.

Emily said...

It's a desperate situation. I certainly would't want to have my life in the hands of any legal system other my own in Australia.

A Voice of Sanity said...

There's still no reason to regard the US system as any better than that in Italy. All the same corrupting factors apply.

A Bent Juror

Win At All Costs

Harry Rag said...

The evidence against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is overwhelming. They gave completely different accounts of where they were, who they were with and what they were doing on the night of the murder. Neither Knox nor Sollecito have credible alibis despite three attempts each. All the other people who were questioned had one credible alibi that could be verified. Innocent people don't give multiple conflicting alibis and lie repeatedly to the police.

The DNA didn't miraculously deposit itself in the most incriminating of places.

An abundant amount of Raffaele Sollecito's DNA was found on Meredith's bra clasp. His DNA was identified by two separate DNA tests. Of the 17 loci tested in the sample, Sollecito’s profile matched 17 out of 17.

According to Sollecito's forensic expert, Professor Vinci, Knox's DNA was on Meredith's bra.

Amanda Knox's DNA was found on the handle of the double DNA knife and a number of independent forensic experts - Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, Dr. Renato Biondo and Professor Francesca Torricelli - categorically stated that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade. Sollecito knew that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade which is why he twice lied about accidentally pricking her hand whilst cooking.

There were five instances of Knox's DNA mixed with Meredith's blood in three different locations in the cottage.

Knox tracked Meredith's blood into the bathroom, the hallway, her room and Filomena's room, where the break-in was staged. Knox's DNA and Meredith's blood was found mixed together in Filomena's room, in a bare bloody footprint in the hallway and in three places in the bathroom.

Rudy Guede's bloody footprints led straight out of Meredith's room and out of the house. This means that he didn't stage the break-in in Filomena's room or go into the blood-spattered bathroom after Meredith had been stabbed.

The bloody footprint on the blue bathmat in the bathroom matched the precise characteristics of Sollecito’s foot, but couldn’t possibly belong to Guede. Knox's and Sollecito's bare bloody footprints were revealed by luminol in the hallway.

It's not a coincidence that the three people - Knox, Sollecito and Guede - who kept telling the police a pack of lies are all implicated by the DNA and forensic evidence.

Amanda Knox voluntarily admitted that she was involved in Meredith's murder in her handwritten note to the police on 6 November 2007. After she was informed that Sollecito was no longer providing her with an alibi, she stated on at least four separate occasions that she was at the cottage when Meredith was killed. At the trial, Sollecito refused to corroborate Knox's alibi that she was at his apartment.

Knox accused an innocent man, Diya Lumumba, of murdering Meredith despite the fact she knew he was completely innocent. She didn't recant her false and malicious allegation against Lumumba the whole time he was in prison. She admitted that it was her fault that Lumumba was in prison in an intercepted conversation with her mother on 10 November 2007.

Anonymous said...

The Italians have plenty of sense. It is not they who are blinded by Amanda's cute charm and pretense of innocence. A legal trial was conducted. Amanda had good lawyers. The prosecutor is excellent and the charge against him is a minor one regarding paperwork about a wiretap that was a perfectly legal wiretap but that angered some interested parties who then tried to make trouble for the good prosecutor. The hysteria about Knox being railroaded is just typical bluff talk, because Knox and her boyfriend killed the supposed "friend". Knox wouldn't even bother to walk up the street with other students for her friend's vigil.

Grace Moore said...

I'm so sick of this Harry Rag character I could barf. He/she has been posting his/her distorted reality all over the internet for the past three years. I can't help but to think this person is being paid or is crazy. Why would anyone in their right mind make it their full time job to post anti-Amanda propaganda 24/7 for three years?

The evidence against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is overwhelming, blab blab blab.... gerrrrrrrrrrr

Anonymous said...

DNA has one important limitation Harry - it can tie a person to a place or an object but not to a specific time.

DNA can thus be strong proof if the suspect claims to never have had any contact with the victim or if it is found in places where it would have a limited "life"... like in a rape-kit smear for instance. But here we are dealing with a group of young people who knew each other well and interacted on a daily basis in the same locations. There will be DNA from all of them all over the place deposited over a long period of time.

The Sollecito DNA on the bra clasp for instance could have been deposited in a multitude of ways. Maybe he helped with the laundry or was near a place where it was kept. Or maybe he made a pass on Meredith at some point (he's italian after all). Apart from proving absolutely nothing the DNA in question wasn't collected until a full six week after the crime, leaving plenty of doubt with regard to contermination.

But the italian police has been hammered enough for their lack of professionalism in dealing with crime scenes. It's sufficient to say that even properly collected DNA is pretty much useless in a case like this where the victim and the suspects had close ties. We shed forensic traces all over the places where we are. That's why forensic technicians wear space suits and carefully regulates access an unprocessed crime scene... well, unless you're in Italy apparently.

If we discount all the so-called DNA "evidence" the entire case pretty much rests on Amanda's odd behavior and lies - the worst of which was the framing of an innocent guy. Ok, Amanda Knox may have been a selfish and immature young girl who was more focussed on keeping herself and her boyfriend out of trouble than the loss of her friend and room mate. She may be a total dumb and egocentric person but if that was a capital offence I know plenty of people who belongs on death row. You can start with my boss.

In any event I expect that this entire case will be flushed down the toilet once an appellant court get their hands on it.

Patrick King said...

Move on, Harry. It ain't "overwhelming." Read the reports from the independent examiners. Your evidence doesn't exist. Any plans for where you'll turn your talents when Knox and Sollecito are exonerated? I hear there's some poor kid in Florida who should be pretty easy to railroad.

Anonymous said...

Harry Rag has it right. Knox left her DNA mixed in five places with Meredith's blood, and Knox's DNA came from blood. They didn't find Filomena's or Laura's DNA mixed with Meredith's. The forensics crew from Rome knows more than you give them credit for. Only slick hairsplitters from FOA try to excise the fact that Amanda's BLOOD was there at the crime scene, and after all her washing and scrubbing, what a shame.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous...

It was shown in court through video-recordings that those samples were collected in ways that are not in line with established procedures. For instance gloves weren't changed when they should have been and several samples were collected with the same swabs. Thus there is a strong possibility for cross contermination which basically makes the samples unusable as evidence. All they prove is that both Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher had been in the house - and guess what? The both lived there!

Harry Rag said...

@Patrick King,

Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti tried to carry out new tests on the knife and bra clasp, but it wasn't possible. They will now will have to examine the procedures used by Dr. Stefanoni and her team and rely on the original results as a baseline. Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli, Luciano Garofano and Professor Giuseppe Novelli have already done this and confirmed Dr. Stefanoni's findings.

Anonymous said...

The knife is a highly questionable piece of evidence, to put it mildly.

For one it has not been verified as being the murder weapon... in fact some of Kerchers wounds couldn't have been made with it at all while others are "uncertain". So there must have been more than one knife in play or (more likely) that particular knife has nothing to do with the murder.

As far as the DNA on the knife goes, it is unimportant even if the police hadn't goofed with the sampling. Both Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher has had several legitimate opportunities to get in contact with it at other times than at the murder. So the presence of their DNA (which is still under dispute) does not tie it or Amanda Knox to the murder.

Face it Harry - they have no case and Amanda Knox is currently being held in jail for no other reason than to protect the prosecutions beehinds. If they were to release her, they'd have to admit to the world that they screwed up and gave the real murderer of Meredith Kercher a freebie.

Anonymous said...

Face it Harry - they have no case and Amanda Knox is currently being held in jail for no other reason than to protect the prosecutions beehinds. If they were to release her, they'd have to admit to the world that they screwed up and gave the real murderer of Meredith Kercher a freebie

Well said.
Right on every point.
And harry, get a life.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, you have got one point, very wrong.
Rudy, will not get a freebie.
His DNA is all over the room, and the sad thing is he raped and murder Meredith.
But in years time time, Rudy will be able to leave prison, on day release from 8am till, miday then return to prison.
Because he will work, at a job, the prison people, find him, after six months, the day release will go from,8am to 9pm.
Not bad going for a person, who has killed and raped a person, and then return to prison.
No rent to pay.
Money in his pocket.

Anonymous said...

I agree that there may be a case against Rudy Guedde.

There was so much DNA from him in Meredith's room that not even the italian police could screw it up and he didn't live in the house on a daily basis. Add to that his prior criminal history and the fact that he ran for it and had to be brought back from Germany and he is starting to look quite suspicious.

To all other than the very imaginative italian DA the idea of a lone male assailant also seems a lot more realistic than "A drug-fueled Halloween sex party where Mr Guede and Mr Sollecito held Ms Kercher down, while Ms Knox stabbed her in the throat."

Anonymous said...

The defence, had nothing, to protect, Amanda or raffaele, from these charges.
Raffaele, said that he and Amanda was at his flat, on the night, of the murder,
watching a movie, on his computer.
The police, took two computers from Raffaele, flat, took Amanda computer and also took Meredith computer.
Three of those four computers hard disc was burned.
Now the two computers, taken from Raffaele flat, would have gaven Amanda and raffaele, an alibi.
The main prosscitor, took five hours at the end of Rudy Guede trial, to close the case.
Those five hours was used to tie, Amanda and Raffaele, into the murder of Meredith.
By the way that is the first time, Amanda, Raffaele, meet their defence lawyers.
After a year in prison you would think, that the police, would have lot more, then a,iffy, bit of DNA.
So in the End the prossution had nothing but fresh air, and a judge, who was against Amanda and Raffaele from, the start.
We, now have a new judge, who is not from Perugia.
Which is good, this judge, is letting the defence, defend, and they are doing a good job so far.