Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Donald Trump Wants to Boycott Italy until Amanda Knox is Free

Real Estate mogul Donald Trump writes in his Trump University blog today:

What’s really going on over there? Nothing has been made clear -- except that Amanda Knox is now in an Italian prison for perhaps her whole life. Is that the easy solution? One solution is to boycott Italy until they decide to get serious and let her go.

continue here..

Personally, I think these calls for boycotts are quite silly because they won't accomplish anything. Furthermore, Americans gladly buy plenty of of products from China (along with borrowing enormous loans) even though the human rights abuses there are staggering. Regardless, maybe he can help as an advocate for her and ease some of the defense costs that Amanda's family has been burdened with. So there you have it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom


Followup to: You be the jury: survey on a current event

All three of them clearly killed her. The jury clearly believed so as well which strengthens my argument. They spent months examining the case, so the idea that a few minutes of internet research makes [other commenters] certain they're wrong seems laughable

- lordweiner27, commenting on my previous post

The short answer: It's very much like how a few minutes of philosophical reflection trump a few millennia of human cultural tradition.

Wielding the Sword of Bayes -- or for that matter the Razor of Occam -- requires courage and a certain kind of ruthlessness. You have to be willing to cut your way through vast quantities of noise and focus in like a laser on the signal.

But the tools of rationality are extremely powerful if you know how to use them.

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's not about Italy

(Jim Lovering)

She was, is, and always will be innocent, but the system refused to see that. Her persecutors, with help from a frenzied media, turned a wholesome, fresh-faced American girl into a sexually depraved monster. They constructed a cartoon caricature so far from her real nature that it would be laughable if not for the fact that her life and her freedom were at stake.

The idea that she would commit the crimes for which she was charged is ridiculous to anyone who really understands the nature of sex crimes and sex offenders. But reason did not prevail in this case. Instead, public authorities looked to their own interests and reputations. Their goal was to win at any cost. To compensate for evidence that was weak and contrived, they whipped up hysteria inside and outside of the courtroom. They fed the worst impulses of human nature. They made the public hate her.

And when the long trial reached its conclusion, Margaret Kelly Michaels was convicted.

It happened in 1988, in a US court in the state of New Jersey. Michaels was convicted on 115 counts of child sex abuse and sentenced to 47 years in prison. She was absolutely innocent. The US criminal justice system, with all its supposed protections, reached a verdict that was absolutely wrong.

Hers is far from the only case. There are countless others in the US. In DuPage County, Illinois, police and prosecutors in the Jeanine Nicarico murder case schemed and connived for over a decade to keep two innocent men in jail, long after they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt who the real killer was.

In Wenatchee, Washington, a psychopathic police detective named Robert Perez conducted a witch hunt that put more than 20 innocent men and women behind bars. It took years for a team of lawyers, working pro bono, to clean up the mess Perez created for no better reason that to glorify his malignant ego.

And for most of that time, Perez had the citizens and institutions of Wenatchee thoroughly behind him. Like the lead prosecutor in Perugia, Giuliano Mignini, Perez was a shrewd operator. He knew how to manipulate the public and play to their emotions.

The case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito does not reflect a problem unique to Italy. It reflects the shortcomings of human nature. It shows how badly any justice system can err when local authorities reach the wrong conclusion in public and then try to save face at all costs.

These cases take time to unravel, but eventually, they do. In the end, Kelly Michaels, the innocent men in the Nicarico case, and the innocents of Wenatchee Washington were all vindicated and set free. Someday the world will understand that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are likewise the victims of an injustice. I have no doubt that the Italian public, led by brave individuals like Frank Sfarzo of Perugia Shock, will play the lead role in bringing that understanding to pass.

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell Clarifies Position in Amanda Knox Trial

Today on the Stranger Website (a Seattle weekly alternative newspaper), the Stranger asked Cantwell 4 questions:

1. Does Senator Cantwell believe that Amanda Knox is innocent?

2. How closely did the senator follow the trial?

3. Can you describe further what she means by her suggestion that "anti-Americanism" may have tainted the trial? (The other two convicts in the case are Italian and African.)

4. What does she plan to say to Secretary of State Clinton when she meets with her to discuss the Knox case?

Here answers to these questions are linked here.

Madison Paxton, one of Amanda Knox's best friends also has a featured article in the Stranger this week called "She Didn't Do it".

The Magical Bra Strap Found 47 Days Too Late

This video looks into the circumstances surrounding the discovery of Raffaele Sollecieto's DNA on a Bra Clasp that was collected from the crime scene 47 days after the murder of Meredith Kercher.
It is an addendum to the video "Unassailable Evidence".

Saturday, December 5, 2009

May they find peace

(Jim Lovering)

Meredith Kercher's parents and siblings have behaved impeccably ever since her death. They have spoken rarely, and when they have done so, they have chosen their words carefully and tactfully.

Meanwhile, those of us who are certain of Amanda's innocence are mixed up in a raucous debate. We are outraged, and we are mobilized. We're going to get Amanda out and exonerated.

But by doing so, do we add to the pain felt by the Kerchers, who support the prosecution? Do we create the impression that we think the death of their daughter is secondary in importance to Amanda's freedom?

These are concerns I take seriously. I believe Amanda is going to come out of this ordeal with her head high and her exuberant personality fully intact. She has a great future ahead of her. Meredith does not, and I am deeply conscious of that essential fact whenever I write or think about this case.

I am also conscious of what I believe is the worst kind of bad faith on the part of the Perugian authorities. Giuliano Mignini and his associates have fed the Kercher family an account of what happened that is even more painful than the truth. The evidence at the crime scene shows that Meredith was ambushed in a lightening attack by someone she barely knew. It left her unconscious within a few minutes. It was a terrible death, a monstrous injustice, but it was nothing like the protracted ordeal that Mignini laid out in the trial, in which Meredith was taunted and tortured by someone she thought was a friendly housemate.

Another irony of the case is that the prosecutor, in a futile attempt to make his narrative hold water, has presented Meredith as someone whose behavior was confrontational and irritating. But that is nonsense. Amanda told the truth at the trial, when she said that Meredith was never anything but nice to her. If she and Amanda disagreed, it was a trifling matter for both of them. Both were busy making the most of a year in a foreign country and had no time or reason to sit around and brood.

In 1980, an Illinois seminary student named Steven Linscott lived in an apartment building where a young woman was killed. He foolishly told the police about a dream he had on the night the murder took place, and he was accused and convicted of the murder on the basis of no evidence whatsoever. Eventually the conviction was overturned, and he was released.

Linscott has written extensively about his ordeal. He fit the experience into the framework of his religious beliefs, and turned it into an odyssey of spiritual growth and understanding. One aspect of the case was that the the victim's family believed Linscott to be guilty. Linscott accepted that. He understood that they needed that belief.

I do not doubt that the Kercher family desperately wants the peace that will come with seeing this case fade from the headlines. Sadly, they are not going to get such closure for some time. But that is not the fault of Amanda Knox or Raffaele Sollecito. It is the fault of officials who are too proud and self-interested to admit a mistake. Over time, however, their mistake will be examined in minute detail until the whole world understands. Such is the nature of these cases.

In the mean time, my heart goes out to the Kerchers. Their conduct has been above reproach. They are entitled to whatever opinions they wish, and I hope they find peace in the end.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A farcical end

(Jim Lovering)

The trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito has ended the way it began, as a sad joke at the expense of everyone who cares about justice. Let's go back and summarize the main points of the crime for which Amanda and Raffaele have now been convicted. The story, per Mignini, runs like this:

Seething with resentment over household chores, Amanda recruited two love-sick puppies to restrain Meredith and plunged a huge kitchen knife into her neck, causing her death. Puppy number one ran away leaving a great deal of physical evidence at the crime scene; puppy number two stayed with Amanda to clean the place up and therefore left almost no physical evidence.

A judge and jury evaluated this account and decided that its truth is not in doubt. Then, having reached this conclusion, they imposed their sentence: 26 years of imprisonment for ringleader Amanda, and 25 years for puppy number two, Raffaele.

This begs the question: why did puppy number one, Rudy Guede, get a longer sentence of 30 years after sparing Italy the cost of a full trial? Isn't the fast-track process supposed to result in a reduced sentence? And if Rudy was a follower, whereas Amanda was the ringleader and the one who actually wielded the knife, shouldn't her sentence be more severe than his?

It seems clear that when the time came for them to serve the aims of justice, this judge and jury cowered before two opposing masters: Mignini and Truth. Their improbable verdict is the result.

I feel terribly sad for Amanda. My heart also goes out to her family. They are good, honest people who in no way deserve to be dragged through this ordeal, which has been financially ruinous and has exposed them to a steady stream of sniping that is as ignorant as it is malicious. It is all deeply unfair.

But, at the same time, I also think they are going to pull through this. Amanda has shown herself to be a resilient young woman. She is suffering now, but she will step out of prison in full Beatles regalia and scoop up the best opportunities that come her way. And there will be many. Curt and Edda will have plenty of happy times, grandchildren, the whole nine yards. It's all written in their future.

But for another family, the heartache will go on, bleakly, year after year. What is Meredith Kercher's family supposed to make of this verdict? Will they convince themselves it is the outcome of a process in which an impartial court, protective of their interests as victims, has weighed the evidence, gotten to the truth of the matter, and brought them justice?

Maybe they will. People badly want answers when something tragic happens in their lives. But I have to think they will be haunted by doubt. And for good reason. This verdict brings no truth or justice. It is nothing more than a craven accommodation to a provincial cabal. The sooner it is undone, the better for everyone, except perhaps those who orchestrated it.

Knox and Sollecito Found Guilty

Nick Squires: Amanda Knox Trial, the Unanswered Questions

26 years for AK, 25 for RS. Appeal is automatic.

The footnote that is Rudy Guede

Frank Sfarzo on Sky News:

Statement from Maria Cantwell:

I am saddened by the verdict and I have serious questions about the Italian justice system and whether anti-Americanism tainted this trial. The prosecution did not present enough evidence for an impartial jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Knox was guilty. Italian jurors were not sequestered and were allowed to view highly negative news coverage about Ms. Knox. Other flaws in the Italian justice system on display in this case included the harsh treatment of Ms. Knox following her arrest; negligent handling of evidence by investigators; and pending charges of misconduct against one of the prosecutors stemming from another murder trial.

I am in contact with the U.S. Ambassador to Italy and have been since the time of Ms. Knox's arrest. I will be conveying my concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I have also been in touch with the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC.

Awaiting the Verdict

Keith Miller on NBC

UPDATE: Verdict will be at 6PM Eastern, 3PM West Coast time

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Last Day of Closing Arguments

AP Video

And in case anyone forgot, the Italian police don't need evidence, they can tell if you are guilty just by looking:

Anderson Cooper: The Case in Pictures

Sky News Blog: Is Perugia the New Salem?

Well, it will soon be judgement day for Amanda Knox and Raphael Sollecito. Their trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher is due to finish on Friday or Saturday.

It's very difficult to read what the verdict will be. But many Italian legal experts say it has been a trial by media. The evidence used by the prosecution has certainly at times been hysterical and laughable.

There've been moments when it's felt like you were sitting in a sixteenth-century court in early modern Europe with an alleged witch on the stand. Take the prosecutions summing up yesterday for instance.


Frank Sfarzo:

Maresca defended the fake B & E theory, recalling that there's even dust on the little window below the broken window. And if Rudi was drunk how could he have been so good at breaking and climbing?

Donati for Sollecito, though, recalled the presence of glass in Meredith's room and in the corridor. And even, most probably, under Rudi's shoe (the famous Y-shaped sign of the pre-trial).
New York Times:
In a trembling voice the day before a jury is expected to begin deliberating her fate, Amanda Knox, 22, thanked her family and friends, the jurors and even the prosecutors who have accused her. “They are trying to do their work even if they don’t understand,” she said in Italian nearly perfected during her time in prison.
ABC News:
"I have thought in these days about what I wanted to say and I had a question, which I wrote down, that a lot of people have asked me: How can you stay so calm?" Knox said to the jury in the Italian she has improved during her years in prison. "The first thing to say, is that I am not calm."

A canary in a very dark coal mine

Tim Egan pulls no punches in his latest article about the persecution of Amanda Knox. "What century is this?" he asks. "Didn’t Joan of Arc, the Inquisition and our own American Salem witch trials teach civilized nations a thing or two about contrived sexual hysteria with a devil twist?"

The sad truth is that virtually the entire world, including the United States as well as Europe, remains in the Dark Ages when it comes to criminal justice. DNA evidence has shown that mistakes are far more common than most prosecutors and judges would care to admit. In the US, more than 200 prisoners have been freed because DNA tests have proved their innocence. By any reasonable estimate, thousands more innocent people remain behind bars. Most are poor and uneducated with little chance of ever gaining a reprieve.

In that respect, Amanda is lucky. Whatever the court decides to do in the next few days, she has a growing army of supporters who know she is innocent and will champion her cause until the day she walks out of prison. And that day will come. My hope is that prominent writers like Egan, by taking a stand on Amanda's behalf, will help raise public awareness that wrongful prosecution is a pervasive problem, even in civilized nations.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tim Egan Revisits the Amanda Knox Case

From Tim Egan of the New York Times:
In just a few days, a verdict is expected in the trial of Amanda Knox, the 22-year-old Seattle exchange student on trial in Italy for the throat-slashing murder of her British roommate two years ago. Her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, is also being tried.

The trial in the Umbrian college town of Perugia has dragged on just short of a year. As this week’s closing arguments showed once again, the case has very little to do with actual evidence and much to do with the ancient Italian code of saving face.

In closing arguments, Knox was described as a “Luciferina” and “a dirty-minded she-devil.” Preposterous, made-up sexual motives were ascribed to her.

continued here

Defense Closing Arguments: Day 3



Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Frank Sfarzo, Amanda Knox's Lawyer's Thunders and Moves:

It was a strange inquest for Luciano Ghirga, full of strange coincidences. When the Amanda-Patrick association collapsed, DNA of the victim magically appears on a crystal clean blade. WhenRaffaele's footprint in the room fades away, his DNA materializes on a bra clasp.

continue here...
NowPublic, SMKovalinsky (Supporters of Amanda Knox Speak on Facebook):
"One of the closing statements of Magnini before the prosecution rested, was that it would be insane for a person to shower, as Knox did, in a blood spattered bathroom. His implication: Ms. Knox was able to do so, because she was not shocked by the blood, being full aware of the murder. This YouTube tells quite a different story; hopefully, the defense team has shown this to the jury in Perugia, Italy."

continued here for full recap of Ghirga's closing arguments.
West Seattle Herald:
Immediately after Ghirga concluded, the prosecutor addressed the court. He asked to give his rebuttal right away, an unusual move. He was already scheduled for the following morning, but witnesses say he was visibly shaken. The judge allowed it.

Within a few minutes of his address all the power went out in the court room and he was forced to stop. However, the power was restored about 10 minutes later, and he continued for two hours.

Nick Pisa, Daily Mail:

Defence lawyer Ghirga described the 'clash between women from the Perugia flying squad' and his client.

He said: 'They had it in for her just because she had condoms and a vibrator in her beauty case.'

He added that as a result Knox "had suffered as a result of this antagonism."

Mr Ghirga also described how officers had questioned Meredith's then boyfriend Giacomo Silenzi about their sex life and said it was 'outrageous and something we would never have dreamed of doing.'

He also added how 36 officers had been present during Knox's final questioning at the police station and he added: 'All those people signed the charge sheet and there was just one poor Amanda.'

Mignini's attempt to slow Ghirga's significant momentum revealed a glimpse of professional rivalry between the two men -- who are facing one another in several other large trials playing out in the city -- with each one claiming to be more Perugian than the other.

"I am Perugino," Ghirga said at one point, taking issue with details of the prosecutor's murder reconstruction. "How can he put forward a hypothesis so contorted?

"The prosecutor is right about one thing, you should not forget the victim, Meredith," he said. "And there is one thing the prosecution should have done for Meredith, and that is a rigorous investigation done well from the beginning."

"How could someone come up with the hypothesis, a completely distorted one, and in the crime scene put Rudy against Rafaele in order to humiliate the smirking Meredith?" he asked. "How could someone conjure such a thing?"

He attacked the way police and prosecutors had treated Knox, giving them a symbolic "red card" -- a referee's sign in soccer that a player is being expelled from the game for breaking the rules.
"Amanda is asking to have her life back. Give Amanda her life back by clearing her of all charges," Ghirga said, raising his voice and fighting back tears at the end of his three-hour long remarks.
"This is a privation of the right to defense of a person who was at that moment effectively a suspect, and," he said with his voice rising to a shout, "we will not accept it. It is a very serious omission that we cannot bear - something we did not know how to explain to her and her parents."

Ghirga said prosecutors leaked investigative documents that were to be kept secret, and he repeated charges that the blade of the alleged murder weapon did not match the cuts on Kercher's throat.

Mr Ghirga denounced allegations made about the character of Miss Knox.

He said: "The deductions made about Amanda outside of the courtroom, I don't accept them."

He also pointed to inconsistencies in the prosecution's case and said the alleged motive behind the killing had changed.

"First it was (Miss Kercher's) refusal to participate in a sex orgy, then it was an economic motive."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Defense Closing Arguments: Day 2

ABC NEWS: Forensic Expert Elizabeth Johnson



Ann Wise, Abc:
"The motive is fundamental," attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova told the jury in Perugia, Italy, where Knox has been jailed for the last two years. "But today the motive has been changed at the last minute."

Richard Owen, Times Online:
"Carlo Dalla Vedova told the six jurors, all Perugia residents, that there were “more doubts than certainties” in the case against Ms Knox, 22, and Raffaele Sollecito, 25, her former Italian boyfriend who is also charged with murder."

"The truth comes out in a trial, and we have been patiently waiting for this moment, especially Amanda Knox, who has been sitting in jail with patience and determination, waiting to get her life back," said Carlo Dalla Vedova, of Rome.

"Amanda Knox never should have been arrested. And everything that has happened since then has been part of an attempt to maintain an accusation, that, bit by bit, has disintegrated."

It began with "psychosomatic" observations of one powerful cop, he said, Edgardo Giobbi, the former director of the violent crimes division of the central operations unit in Rome, who on "investigator's instincts" suspected Knox from the beginning.

"Immediately after the crime, they focused attention on her," said Dalla Vedova. "They started recording her conversations. They were quick to say 'case closed,' but it was a mistake the police made in the beginning, then they couldn't let it go."

The Bloody Bathroom Fallacy (What Amanda Knox Saw)

This is actual crime scene video of the bathroom at Via della Pergola #7 taken within hours of the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Contrary to reporting and popular belief, the bathroom looked relatively normal; there was nothing so out of the ordinary that Amanda Knox would suspect that a murder had been committed in the room next door. She simply took a shower as she did every day. (Even on chilly mornings).

At the end of the footage a photo that was leaked to the press as an actual "crime scene photo" is shown. This photo was reprinted throughout Europe without the caveat that it was chemically enhanced to turn pink with exposure to protein, any protein, and the belief was born that Amanda had showered in a bloody bathroom. Consequently public opinion was inflamed against her.