Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were arrested on November 6th 2007. After a year in prison they were indicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher.
On November 7th 2007, the day after the arrest, the Italian Minister of the Interior, Giulia Amati, declared that they were guilty. Their photographs were then placed on a ‘wall of shame’ at Rome Police Station, alongside pictures of convicted Mafia gangsters. This top level condemnation from the government emboldened the media. News coverage continued on the basis that they had already been convicted.
Keep taking the tabloids
Within hours of Meredith’s murder, journalists flocked to Perugia. As soon as Knox and Sollecito were arrested, coverage went into overdrive. In the early weeks of the investigation, The Times of London was posting as many as three stories a day on its website. Everything that the police told reporters was published as truth. Many ‘facts’ turned out to be lies. None of this mattered. A good story doesn’t have to be true.
The presumption of innocence is the principle that a defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, which has to collect and present evidence that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant does not have to prove anything. This principle is a cornerstone of justice in most advanced countries.
Except in Italy
Soon after Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were arrested, Judy Bachrach wrote an article for Vanity Fair magazine. She quoted ecclesiastical judge Count Neri Capponi who informed her that things would not go Knox’s way. “Our system stems from the Inquisition and also from medieval law,” he explained. What this means, in effect, is that justice in Italy “is based on the supremacy of the prosecution. This nullifies the fact—written in our constitution by the way—that you’re innocent until proven guilty.”
When someone you know is accused of a serious crime, you immediately reassess everything you think you know about them. If you scarcely know them, you will probably go along with whatever the police and prosecution say. If you know them well, you may be surprised. You may even know them so well that you refuse to believe that the accusations can be true.
If you know them, well, – so, so; not too well, but more than a little, you are still likely to be swayed against them. The British girls knew Meredith quite well; Amanda, not so much. Some had never met her. In the circumstances, their behaviour is understandable.
(This article was first published on Ground Report – 21 August 2012.)
This is what happens when police get tunnel vision. They shoot the arrow, then they draw the target. They lose their objectivity and that’s why we have juries. – Raymond Kelly
Many religious fundamentalists, both Roman Catholic and Protestant still believe in the reality of evil and witchcraft. This means that a man like prosecutor Mignini has no difficulty in seeing the work of the Devil in a crime scene and can conjure up an unlikely scenario, untroubled by minor inconveniences like evidence and criminal profiling. It also means that, with God on his side, it may be easy for him to believe that the ends justify the means. After all, someone who rises to the top, perhaps because of a ‘superior’ ability to convict criminals, will not permit dissent when he pronounces. Thus have magistrates, judges and civic leaders behaved though the ages.
Witches are often outsiders
Witches are often outsiders, not well known to the local community and unable to easily call on character references. On the other hand, local petty criminals are often part of the townscape. Their parents and teachers will be known. Their descent into criminality will have been observed, but as locals, they may be allowed some slack.
This has been a tough article to write. There was a murder that need not have happened. The police may have been at fault. They had the chance to keep the culprit in custody for other crimes, before he killed. They failed. Then two innocent people were accused. The media supported a witch hunt. The victim’s family was cruelly misled. So it goes.
The family of Meredith Kercher has suffered a double tragedy. First they lost Meredith, who was murdered by burglar Rudy Guede on November 1st 2007. Then they lost seven and a half years of their lives, shackled to a failed justice system that pursued two innocent people in and out of prison, in addition to successfully prosecuting and convicting Guede.
The acquittal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito last Friday surprised everyone. The Supreme Court’s decision respected the facts of the case but most observers had become so jaundiced with the workings of Italian justice that few expected such an outcome.
What was in the minds of the judges as they deliberated for ten hours? What do we think they knew and what factors might have influenced them?
On March 25th the Italian Supreme Court will rule for what could be the final time on the Meredith Kercher murder. This bizarre case has now transfixed three countries for seven years since a prosecutor obsessed with conspiracies and witchcraft constructed a fantasy around three people when only one – Rudy Guede – was Meredith’s killer.
After being falsely accused, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito served four years in prison, but were released following a successful appeal in 2011. No credible witnesses have linked them to the crime and the forensic evidence has been discredited by international experts, including Professor Peter Gill, the pioneer of low copy number DNA technology. Sollecito’s attorney Giulia Bongiorno said it was the first time that ‘two people have been convicted of a crime when there is no evidence putting them at the scene’. Continue reading →
It’s not easy to frame innocent people. Mistakes are made. Witnesses fail to get their stories straight. Fraudulent evidence is noticed. Real forensic experts from elsewhere point out what is wrong with it. Criminal profilers explain why the suspects are unlikely to have been involved. The whole shambolic nature of the enterprise is unpicked and revealed for the fraud it is.
The mass media may not pay attention to this. Newspapers like a simple narrative and for them the prosecution story may be fine. We have all heard the expression, “Don’t believe what you read in the papers”, but you don’t know how true it is until you or somebody you care about is in the news. It pays to be sceptical of every source. Check facts and verify statements. Don’t trust the messenger.
Acting on these principles, a group of innocence campaigners have built a website. It covers the Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito Case in detail. Please read it. You will learn how Meredith Kercher and her family have been failed and continue to be failed by Italy.
I was asked to provide a case summary, or overview. I had no hesitation in doing so. The creators of the site have done a fantastic job. They have the facts at their fingertips and they are set out clearly. Please use those facts when you talk to your friends. Every journey starts with a single step. Start here:
“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell
The battle to control the past reaches the next phase on March 25th when the Italian Supreme Court is expected to rule again on the innocence or guilt of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. In its previous incarnation in 2013 it overturned Judge Hellmann’s acquittal of the pair and ordered that the conviction should be reinstated at a further second level trial. This was duly done in Florence last year by Judge Nencini.
Who controls the past controls the future
For the Supreme Court, the events that happened on the evening of November 1st 2007 in Perugia are no longer relevant. The fact that Rudy Guede murdered Meredith Kercher is beside the point. We are looking at the Italian concept of judicial truth here, not reality. George Orwell understood the importance of controlling the past as he explained in his dystopian novel, ‘1984’. The truth of Meredith Kercher’s death is in the past. The only person who is still alive and who was there was Rudy Guede and we are unlikely to hear from him on the subject. He has been effectively silenced by a tightly controlled judicial process that minimised his role as lone murderer by implicating others for his benefit.
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