There is a very good reason why people continue to avidly watch any developments in the Meredith Kercher murder case – it is still very much ongoing and the pendulum, as you shall see, has now swung the other way. In about 3-4 months time, the verdict will be handed down in the appeal against the appeal. More on that further down.
The reasons that most who have followed the evidence in the trial accept she’s guilty, rather than buying the American media’s story, is:
1. Over 140 pieces of evidence were accepted in the trial, 19 justices concurred and the Supreme Court accepted that there had been more than one person involved. There was an attempt by Knox camp pundits to cast doubt on the SC stance [covered in previous posts] but the very words of the SC itself put paid to that. The trouble is, it’s easy to forget the actual words, the things established and to construct alternative arguments without them;
2. Much of the point-by-point argument from the defence has been debunked [a couple of these points are below], to the extent that the defence case is palpably based on falsehoods mixed in with fact. The methodology of the defence, currently under scrutiny by the Supreme Court, is quite unacceptably accepted uncritically by the appeal judges. Lawyer Cardiol has summarized this methodology thus:
The potentially most incriminating issues in this case [include] whether Meredith did scream just before she died, and if so when Meredith screamed. The Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito “innocentisti” members know this, but they avoid focus on it in order to minimize attention to those issues, as crucial as they are.
A key focus-avoidance ploy is to confuse the issue by isolating each element of evidence from every other element and flood discussion of each element with real and imagined reasons-to-doubt the significance of each element. By doing so, perception of the location of Reasonable Doubt, in the mind of the designated Finder(s)-of-Fact, may be displaced so far away that they conclude that Guilt cannot be reached, and that the Defendant(s) are Not Guilty beyond a doubt that is a Reasonable Doubt.
This defense ploy is being employed more and more in criminal trials, and is much employed in Meredith’s case, or as it has become, Amanda Knox’s case. The Supreme Court of course will totally ignore such legal nonsense.
There are a few things going on here at once. Let’s say that the defence needs to pin it on one person, so that the other two get off. Firstly, they ignore everything placing the other two there, they ignore the conflicting stories as to whereabouts, they ignore a scream which one of the other two mentions herself and instead, construct an elaborate tale of the breaking in through a window. By constructing this in fine detail, they bring in plausibility.
Only problem is that the investigation and the court showed that it was not physically possible for entry to the house to have occurred that way. This being so, the defence, whilst not accepting it, moves onto something else and concocts alternative scenarios based on one or two possible constructs of available evidence, e.g. on the scream.
That’s their job of course but what is amazing is that the appeal judges accepted the defence scenario so uncritically and assumed them in their summing up, even though they were not allowed to be introduced as evidence at the appeal. In fact, Hellman indicated that he had read all he’d needed to before the appeal and had no need to waste court time hearing it all again.
Pardon me – at an appeal trial on which an acquittal is riding, he does not wish the prosecution case to be presented?
The first-ever documented references to Meredith screaming just before she died came from the mouth (and hand in the case of her notes) of Amanda Knox herself. Hellmann & Zanetti do not, at first, seem to doubt that a scream was heard by witness Capezzali that night.
However, they introduce the issue of scream under the Heading Time of death, which they characterize as “extremely weak for its ambiguity, since it cannot even be placed with certainty”, as if lack of “certainty” is way-below reasonable doubt (as in “required to reach a guilty-verdict beyond-a-reasonable-doubt”), obfuscatingly merging them into each other.
Hellmann & Zanetti then cast doubt on whether any witness(es) heard any-scream-at-all that particular night and/or time, because he supposed (innocent) screams were to be heard there on many nights and at many times.
Pardon me again but it is not Hellman’s and Zanetti’s place to assume anything which has not been established in the case. This introduction of strawmen by the judges is what is currently under appeal at the Supreme Court. Here is a further example:
The calunnia section alone (2,447 words long) to do with Knox’s framing of Lumumba has more than 50 dubious statements. It is also short enough to demonstrate here the weaknesses typical of the whole report, despite this section’s secondary bottom-line significance.
The very first line of this section (beginning on page 21 of the PMF translation) typifies the tone of the whole Report.
The “spontaneous” declarations rendered by Amanda Knox on November 6, and the …….
Note Hellmann & Zanetti’s contemptuous use of quotation marks here.
On the same page Hellmann & Zanetti begin a paragraph thus: “According to the hypothesis of the prosecution…”, but then don’t go at all to state the real hypothesis of the prosecution.
This is not dispute over evidence but over dishonesty in writing up what was actually said at the first trial. Hellman sums up the prosecution case contemptuously without even admitting that case to his court:
Amanda Knox, at that point exhausted from the long interrogation, and above all demoralized by having learned from the people interrogating her that Raffaele Sollecito had, so to speak, abandoned her to her destiny, denying the alibi (Motivazione page number) that he had offered her up to then (having spent the whole night together at Sollecito s house), supposedly resorted to a final defence effort, representing more or less what actually happened in the house at via della Pergola, but substituting Patrick Lumumba for Rudy Guede in the role of protagonist: one black for another, to quote the Prosecutor.
Again, there are all sorts of things going on here. Let’s take just one aspect of the above:
“…having spent the whole night together at Sollecito’s house…” Here Hellmann & Zanetti seem to blithely assume the truth of Knox’s disputed alibi, but is probably merely repeating what her alibi was not “blithely” assuming it to be the truth. If so he should have used the proper quotation marks.
By the way, it is still a matter of contention that Knox’s and Sollecito’s versions of where she was that night are opposite and conflicting. This is not even mentioned by Hellman. It’s the use of quotation marks, not unlike the way the MSM does to avoid libel suits, which conveys the assumptions and biases. Remember that this is based on evidence not allowed to be presented at the appeal. For sheer procedural malpractice, that takes the cake.
It gets worse. It now comes to the “independent” “experts”. The Machine:
Conti and Vecchiotti never proved there had been any contamination. Alberto Intini, the head of the Italian police forensic science unit, pointed out that unless contamination has been proved, it doesn’t exist.
They didn’t visit the laboratories of the scientific police or ask about their cleaning procedures. They didn’t know that the negative tests had been filed with another judge. They didn’t know that Dr Stefanoni analysed the traces on the knife six days after last handling Meredith’s DNA or that she last handled Sollecito’s DNA 12 days before she analysed the bra clasp. This means that contamination couldn’t have occurred in the laboratory.
Conti and Vecchiotti regarded the downstairs flat as part of the crime scene even though no crime was committed there.
Worst of all, they didn’t carry out a new test on the knife despite the fact they were specifically instructed to do so and there are a number of laboratories that have the technology to carry out a test on the remaining the DNA.
Incidentally, Vecchiotti was appointed by a judge at the Cosenza court and the judge didn’t accept her findings. Other experts were appointed and they found incriminating DNA evidence that she had missed. The suspect admitted his guilt.
And step back and look at what they are contending. They have come to a piece of DNA evidence four years after the trial and say it is 1. too small a sample and 2. it is contaminated. It’s quite bizarre, not that they should say it but that the court should blithely accept it, unestablished.
Now these are procedural issues so grave that an appeal judge is bound, on procedure alone, to dismiss this contention. This is a point made in the current appeal against the appeal by Dr. Galati, in a document longer than the summing up of the appeal itself. It’s hard to convey to either the casual reader or Knox supporters that, whether or not their girl is guilty or innocent, these procedures represent a travesty and yet the media and through them, most people, hear the word “contamination” and automatically assume that because Hellman accepted the “independent” “experts” contention of contamination, then it must be so and therefore it becomes part of folk law on the case.
Yet it is demonstrably wrong. This in today from The Machine summarizes it:
Judge Hellmann specifically instructed Conti and Vecchiotti to carry out new tests on the knife and Meredith’s bra, if it was possible. They refused to do this even though it was possible.
Professor Novelli testified that there was another DNA trace on the blade that could have been tested using cutting-edge technology that it is available in a number of laboratories. The prosecution asked Judge Hellmann for a new test on the remaining DNA. He refused and in doing so he violated the procedure code which states that the opposing party must be allowed to admit evidence to the contrary if new evidence is admitted.
Incidentally, Professor Novelli also claims that Meredith’s DNA was definitely on the blade and he categorically excluded any possibility that contamination could have occurred in the laboratory. He said that 100 samples had been examined in the same laboratory room during the six days prior to the examination of the knife and after. He personally checked the results of all these tests and he did not find any contamination from Meredith’s DNA.
Conti and Vecchiotti didn’t visit the laboratories of the scientific police or ask about their cleaning procedures. They didn’t know that the negative tests had been filed with another judge. They didn’t know that Dr Stefanoni analysed the traces on the knife six days after last handling Meredith’s DNA or that she last handled Sollecito’s DNA 12 days before she analysed the bra clasp. Vecchiotti conceded in court that these procedures rule out contamination in the laboratory.
Comodi said that the gloves used by the forensic police contain starch and this explains why starch was found on the knife.
Plus an unfortunate verdict in another trial has just been handed down:
David Burgess this week was convicted in Reading of murdering Yolande Waddington, 17, some 46 years after the crime was committed, thanks to all the advances in DNA technology. Back then, he was already convicted of killing Jeanette Wigmore and Jacqueline Williams.
It puts the 46-day delay (caused by the defenses) in retrieving the bra clasp into perspective.
But not all is plain sailing. If the Court of Cassation throws out the Hellman appeal holus-bolus, then there would be no ordering of whether Meredith’s DNA was elsewhere on the blade and so it remains unresolved, to the defence’s satisfaction. So yes, it’s a double-edged sword but if you’re interested in the whole truth coming out – not one truth and the other suppressed by an appeal judge – then there are always risks in open investigations. That’s as it should be.
A word or two about Dr. Galati:
Milan and Rome are the main venues for Italy’s important business trials. Those in Perugia are small and relatively obscure.
In contrast Perugia handles very important criminal investigations for the central government when there are conflicts of interest in Rome. So Perugia was handed the very sensitive and politically explosive investigations into Rome politicians siphoning funds from the 2006 winter Olympics construction and the 2010 earthquake damage reconstruction.
This explains why Dr Galati the chief prosecutor for Umbria was transferred from the Supreme Court in January 2011 where he had been a deputy chief prosecutor and why he has a high profile throughout Italy. And why Judge Hellman, a business judge, is almost unknown outside Perugia who at times seems a little cranky with his lot in life. His co-judge Massimo Zanetti, also little known, handles civil trials.
The contention is that the Berlusconi appointees as justices in this case were bizarre to say the least and some of that summing up above shows the type of thing Hellman [or Zanetti] were indulging in. It’s almost as if they were so bad that it was meant to go the full distance – that the Court of Cassation will overturn the appeal and therefore a new trial ensues.
Read in Italian, Dr Galati’s Supreme Court appeal against the Hellman/Zanetti appeal verdict, which is some pages longer than the Hellman & Zanetti report, is absolutely scathing. Dr Galati seems almost offended to be facing what he seems to see as a childish and legally inferior piece of work.
[He] takes Hellman & Zanetti apart at three levels, as the Perugia media summarised at his press conference five months ago.
First, that the scope is illegally wide for an appeal judgement.
Second, that the DNA report by Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti (which concluded with innuendo rather than firm findings) was unnecessary at the appeal level and should never have been commissioned.
And third that Hellman & Zanetti are out of order in their subjective interpretations of trial evidence their appeal court mostly didnt look at, and trial witnesses their appeal court never saw.
Irrespective of the case itself and its whys and wherefores, this now is all about Hellman and Zanetti, two obscure judges, a case brought by a heavyweight, backed by the prosecution and the police. Therefore, for American journalists to write “when the appeal is finally confirmed and Amanda Knox’s innocent established” – pardon me for a third time but that’s simply not what is going on here.
The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceeding fine.
Filed under: Society & human issues