The forty myths that convicted Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito - Part one
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” - John F. Kennedy
Part One – Setting the scene
Introduction - there are none so blind as those who will not see
In my other articles about this case I have explained the circumstances in which this miscarriage of justice was created and how it was sustained. There was a rush to judgement, guilt was assumed and then evidence was misunderstood or manufactured to produce the desired result. Witchcraft was invoked to ‘sell’ a group sex theory; myths were created to poison the well of public opinion and confirmation bias and schadenfreude confirmed guilt in the public mind. The role of the media in accepting and disseminating prosecution spin, almost without question, until after the guilty verdict in the first trial, deserves mention. The internet war, in which commentators who were close to the prosecution spread and sustained lies, almost from day one, also deserves scrutiny. Many of them are still on the scene and continue to emit vitriol.
The comment sections of my articles overflowed with argument. People sought to retry the case and maintain that Amanda and Raffaele were actually guilty. This is pointless. The facts are clear for those who wish to understand - they are innocent. For the benefit of people who still believe in guilt and for those who would like to see every myth knocked down in one place, I summarise here the forty myths that combined to railroad two innocent people and despoil the memory of a fine young woman who was the victim of a lone attacker. I respectfully suggest that anyone who still believes in guilt should take the time to read more widely about the case with an open mind. If you still doubt the truth after that, I am afraid there may be no hope for you.
The nightmare begins
The tragic murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy in 2007 immediately placed the police and prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, under intense pressure. A foreign student had been killed in her own home in a city full of foreign students. Was there a serial killer abroad? Would he strike again? What would the inevitable media frenzy do to the reputation of the city as a safe place for students and visitors? Catching the killer fast was an economic imperative as well as a matter of justice for Meredith and her family.
Mignini’s fears were confirmed when most of Meredith’s friends fled back to England as soon as they could. Only the American, Amanda Knox, the dead girl’s flat mate, was determined to stay to help the police find the killer and to be there to comfort Meredith’s parents when they arrived to formally identify the body. Amanda was young, she was naïve and she trusted the authorities. Her humanity and decency and that of her friend Raffaele Sollecito, was to rob them of four years of their lives.
The fake, fake break-in
There were few leads. The police immediately decided that the break-in that preceded the murder had been faked and therefore it was an inside job. This error completely derailed the subsequent investigation and led inexorably to the framing of the two innocent students. By focusing on those nearby and arresting someone quickly, the police hoped to reassure the public and restore calm. Almost anyone would do. There would be time to uncover or fabricate the necessary incriminating evidence later. Luckily for them, the real killer - Rudy Guede - fled to Germany, so there would be no additional murders in Perugia by his hand.
It is possible, even likely, that the police knew within days that Guede was the culprit. He was a local petty criminal who had already been caught and released several times in the weeks leading up to the murder. He had established a pattern of scaling walls and breaking into homes and offices through upper windows, which was exactly what had happened at Meredith’s home. Calling the break-in ‘fake’ could even have been a strategy deliberately deployed by the police to draw suspicion away from him. He was also known to carry knives – in one case a carving knife – and stole high value items that were easy to carry and fence – like money, jewellery, laptops and mobile phones. The crime had Guede’s signature all over it. It is inconceivable that the Perugia police did not suspect him immediately.
Inexplicably, he had already been arrested and released without charge several times. Why this was allowed to happen is unclear. Was he an informer or was he stealing to order for the police? Was he being protected by a local business interests? Question marks remain over the relationship between Guede and the Perugian authorities, both before and after his eventual arrest.
A suspect was required to substantiate the theory that the crime was an inside job, but who was there? Two of Meredith’s flatmates were Italian, were trainee lawyers, were away from the cottage at the time and had arranged their own legal representation immediately. They knew how Italian justice works and they made sure that they couldn’t be railroaded. That left Amanda. She was foreign. She was young and naïve. She did not have a lawyer. She barely spoke Italian. She had been in the flat before the murder was discovered. She might have interfered with the crime scene before she knew there had been a crime. She could be manipulated. She was ideal.
Within a day of the murder, the concept of a satanic group orgy crystallised in Mignini’s mind. He was attracted to lurid fantasies and his imagination quickly went into overdrive. FBI profiler John Douglas explained his approach:
“The prosecution had a theory from the beginning and continued with it – despite the facts. They discounted evidence that didn’t support their theory. Their theory was a threesome murder and they let this theory guide them. The prosecution allowed theory to rule over evidence.”
The flatmate who stayed
Amanda was the flatmate who stayed. She was conveniently foreign and had no links to Perugia. If she could be charged and convicted this would draw attention away from the area, away from local police incompetence and away from any questions that might be raised about their failure to deal with Guede when they had the chance. With luck he would keep his head down and the truth about the ineptitude of the Perugian police would never surface.
By Sunday, November 4th, after being briefed less than 24 hours after Meredith’s body was discovered, John Follain of the London Sunday Times was able to report:
“Police investigating the murder of Meredith Kercher, the British exchange student who had her throat cut in Italy, believe that she knew her killer and were focusing their inquiries on a "narrow" field of suspects. . . Police . . . have not ruled out the possibility that her killer was a woman.”
Mignini had briefed him. The scene was already being set. The net was closing.
Amanda and Raffaele were closely monitored and their phones were bugged. They were called in for questioning every day to tire them out and confuse them. They were required to repeat endlessly what they were doing on the night of the murder so that minor inconsistencies in recall could be exploited. Amanda barely spoke Italian so her attempts to clarify her statements could later be interpreted as changing her story. This would become significant. When phone tap intercepts revealed that Amanda’s mother Edda Mellas was due in town, Mignini decided to strike. He arranged to interrogate the pair overnight and brought in a specialist team from Rome, whose normal job was to break Mafia suspects. They were booked in for the night before Edda’s arrival.
What happened next is well known. The overnight interrogation secured a confused statement from Amanda that was used as a pretext to arrest Patrick Lumumba, a bar owner for whom Amanda worked part time, as well as Raffaele and Amanda herself. The police claim that no recordings exist and there was no independent interpreter. Both suspects were refused lawyers despite repeatedly requesting them. This eventually led to the Italian Supreme Court throwing out Amanda’s interrogation statement, but not before the damage was done – the trio remained under arrest. Lumumba was later to sue Amanda for slander even though the interrogation during which he was named had been ruled inadmissible because it was illegally obtained.
A man of honour
Police attempts to persuade boyfriend Raffaele to abandon Amanda failed. He was told that if he was prepared to testify that he was unsure whether or not Amanda had been with him all night because he was asleep, he would be released and charges against him would be dropped. He refused. He knew that they had been together at his flat through the night on the evening of the murder he and was not prepared to save his own skin by betraying his friend.
Raffaele explains in his book, ‘Honor Bound’:
“I don't think the prosecution or police ever seriously thought of me as a murderer. They had one overriding reason to arrest me, throw me into solitary confinement, and threaten me with life imprisonment, and that was to pressure me into rolling over and testifying against Amanda. The police made that pretty clear on the night of my arrest. Stop protecting that cow, that whore, they said, or we will make your life a living hell. On this they proved true to their word”.
The price he paid for his honesty and decency was four years in prison.
At this point, Mignini and the police had almost nothing – a confused ‘vision’ from Amanda – not an admission of guilt – that had been bullied out of her and was soon to be ruled inadmissible in court. There was no physical evidence to tie any of the suspects to the crime and there was no murder weapon. There was no evidence that any of the suspects had even been in Meredith’s room. When police asserted that a footprint in her room matched Raffaele’s shoe, his family were eventually able to prove that it did not.
The ‘evidence’ collecting begins
This provoked the famous expedition, some 46 days after the murder, when the police returned to the flat to retrieve the ‘incriminating’ bra clasp. Until then it had been kicked around the floor gathering dust. The press was told that Raffaele’s pocket knife was the murder weapon, but this was another example of police duplicity and was quietly forgotten. A random knife had been removed from Raffaele’s apartment but it was too big to have caused Meredith’s wounds and did not fit the outline of a blade that had been left on a sheet. The low copy ‘DNA’ found on the blade - claimed to be Meredith’s - was eventually proved to have been lab contamination and bread starch.
Guede reappeared, after being arrested in Germany. His DNA was all around Meredith’s bedroom and on her body. His role in the murder could no longer be ignored and it was obvious that he was the sole perpetrator.
Mignini refused to accept this. He had presented a group attack scenario to the world’s media and he wasn’t going to let it go. He desperately needed more evidence, particularly on Amanda, whom he portrayed as the ringleader. So the myth spinning began. For Mignini’s scenario to remain in play he needed to create a false persona for Amanda – to turn his fantasy into reality. The girl next door needed to be recast as a sick, amoral, murdering pervert. Amanda and Raffaele would be portrayed as heavy drug users when their only sin was occasional marijuana use. No evidence of the use of any other drug was presented in court because there was no other drug use.
Mignini’s project worked – at least for two years until he secured the conviction of Amanda and Raffaele in the first trial – then, as more people began to recognise his monstrous conceit, it gradually fell apart.
A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on
Mignini’s myth machine began immediately. Every opportunity was employed to misrepresent Amanda to the media. Journalists from the UK and USA, as well as the Italian domestic press, were swarming all over Perugia by this time. There is no ban on pre-trial publicity in Italy so Mignini was happy to brief the press on a regular basis, often with manufactured stories that had no basis in truth. He was a master of the dark arts. He knew, only too well, that two phenomena would come to his aid and assist his purpose – confirmation bias and schadenfreude. You can read about them here: http://www.groundreport.com/Opinion/Internet-hatred-the-new-pastime-of-the-mob/2942445 They served him well. Most of the myths would not be used in court but they would take on a life of their own on the internet and would be repeated for years.
Many continue to reappear to this day. Notorious internet troll Harry Rag, also known as The Machine, compiled a list of the most blatant lies and proceeded to paste them on every available discussion board where the case was mentioned. He was so prolific that he probably deployed a team of helpers to ensure that no Kercher story lacked a Rag comment. He deserves his share of the ‘credit’ for the wrongful conviction of 2009.
The range and number of myths is staggering. There can be no doubt that they tainted the jury in the first trial. Their purpose was to destroy any perception that Amanda might be a normal, innocent girl caught in a nightmare. No opportunity was passed up. Any snippet that could be twisted to make Amanda seem unpleasant was used. The object was to comprehensively trash her character while she was in prison and was unable to defend herself. It worked.
Within days Amanda and Raffaele’s MySpace pictures were in every newspaper. Miginini’s satanic group sex orgy theory was presented as fact. Even the Italian interior minister Giuliano Amato, weighed in at news conference:
“It’s an ugly story in which people which this girl had in her home, friends, tried to force her into relations which she didn’t want”.
This statement conferred the imprimatur of government on Mignini’s absurd vision - so much for the presumption of innocence.
The media dances to Mignini’s tune – or else!
Mignini’s control over the media was total. Everyone printed what he wanted to see. Anyone who stepped out of line was threatened or had defamation charges filed against them. Undoubtedly this discouraged fair reporting of the case. Twelve suits against journalists, family mambers and lawyers were initiated. The details are here:
http://www.injusticeinperugia.org/Mignini.html . Only one Italian commentator of note dared to speak out against Mignini and his tactics: Frank Sfarzo. Mignini ordered his blog to be taken down and arranged for police to attack him and then claim that he had assaulted them. The police also asked doctors to declare him insane to silence him but they refused. His blog was reinstated on servers outside Italy and is still there today. Mignini might be in a small pond, but he is a very big fish.
A miscarriage of justice is predicted, two years out
London Times writer Magnus Linklater presciently commented on November 14th, barely two weeks after the murder:
"How any of the three suspects so far arrested in Perugia can expect a fair trial, should a case against them ever be brought, is almost impossible to imagine. Furthermore, the clear-headed analysis of evidence has already been polluted. As each new discovery is publicised and every new theory widely aired, the public pressure for action grows, and the hand of the investigating authorities is forced. Although the judge is meant to be wholly independent, with the task of weighing the police evidence against the claims of defence counsel, even he cannot expect to remain immune to the overwrought atmosphere in which his inquiries are held. Trial by press conference is not the best means of ensuring that justice is done - but that is what we are witnessing.”
The most notorious murder of the twenty-first century so far
Linklater was righter than even he could have imagined and his observation was made well before Harry Rag was out of first gear. Poor, dead Meredith Kercher’s story was soon to become the most notorious murder in internet history and the most written about of the twenty first century. An average girl from suburban Seattle became world famous simply for being the flat mate who stayed.
Good lawyers and judges and, one hopes, good juries employ reason and logic to sift away smear and innuendo, leaving behind evidence and proof. These provide the rationale for the verdict. Journalists, commentators and online trolls have no need of such niceties. On the contrary, irrelevant gossip and manufactured rumour is precisely what drives them forward.
Justice did not prevail
It is easy to prove that every myth that was used to poison public opinion against Amanda and Raffaele was a lie. The absence of evidence made myth spinning vital. The stakes were high. Even the ‘evidence’ presented in court turned out, on closer examination to be myth, either accidentally created by the police or willfully misrepresented by them.
FBI profiler John Douglas again:
“These two individuals – Amanda and Raffaele, for them to commit this horrific crime and leave the crime scene that way – it was a massacre – and then hours later, be back at the crime scene, just doesn’t fit. These were two young people who couldn't fathom what had taken place. (It was so surreal) they thought they were going to stroll in and out of there and justice would prevail. But, it didn’t happen that way. Justice did not prevail.”
Every accused suspect has to suffer smears and innuendo. Rumours and myths are spread by the media and the internet. It may be possible to counter them in the eventual trial. One or two myths may not pose too great a problem, but forty? Who can counter that many? With the world’s press going full steam ahead from day one – Amanda and Raffaele were doomed.
In Parts Two and Three I will list and rebut the myths.
Link to Part Two:
Link to Part Three:
Tags: Amanda Knox , Raffaele Sollecito , Giuliano Mignini , Frank Sfarzo , Magnus Linklater , Rudy Guede , John Douglas , John Follain , Harry Rag , Giuliano Amato
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