I’ve followed the tragic murder case of Meredith Kercher for several years, have read many articles, watched a lot of interviews, and asked many questions about whether Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito committed this crime.
Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito
Through the lens of objectivity, there is enough reasonable doubt to question whether true justice was in fact sought out and found and whether Ms. Kercher’s memory has been honored by that justice. Rather, it seems that a set of corrupt and overzealous prosecutors and investigators have simply acted above the law and without ethics for their own personal gain.
There are several behaviors on the part of the prosecution and investigators which can be viewed as questionable and suspicious:
- The police team conducted an interrogation that resulted in a false confession by Amanda Knox, Meredith’s roommate. She immediately recanted and it was subsequently deemed inadmissible in the criminal trial by the Italian Supreme Court because she was not provided with a lawyer. The recording of the interrogation, required by Italian law, somehow does not exist.
- A “significant” piece of evidence against Raffaele Sollecito – the bra clasp – was conveniently found on the floor of the apartment 47 days after the discovery of the murder, and timed perfectly to resurrect the case after it was discovered that Rudy Guede, not Raffaele, had left a bloody shoeprint near the victim’s body.
- The hard drives of Amanda’s laptop, Raffaele’s two laptops, and a fourth laptop from one of Amanda’s roommates were all suspiciously destroyed during the forensics analysis, removing any chance of documenting the friendly relationship between Amanda and Meredith.
- Salacious stories of Amanda’s behavior before and after the murder – all works of fiction – began to appear in the European tabloid press almost immediately, including the list of Amanda’s romantic contacts. Some of this information was wholly within the control of the prison and the prosecution. The articles defamed Amanda’s character, all in the name of building the foundation for Mignini’s key motive of a sex game gone wrong.
The facts of the case will be left to be argued in the appeal. What’s most concerning is the behavior of the prosecutors and their apparent influence on the family of Meredith Kercher and their general desperation in an attempt to guide the outcome of the appeal outside the court of law.
A Brief History of Giuliano Mignini
To begin, one must keep in mind that ethics play a critical role in any fair trial. If the foundation of law is cracked, then the entire house of justice falls like a deck of cards. In this case, the lives of two promising young – and innocent — students, Amanda and Raffaele, have been buried in the debris of lies.
The ethics related to this specific tragedy were compromised from the very beginning, when Giuliano Mignini became involved in the case as the lead prosecutor and investigator. No stranger to media attention, he became famous in another high-profile case called, “The Monster of Florence,” an unsolved string of serial killings which occurred over a span of 30 years. In the Florentine case, Mignini displayed a strange fetish-like obsession with satanic cults and sex orgies, an obsession that he would display again in the case against Amanda and Raffaele.
Giuliano Mignini, keeping justice blind
Giuliano Mignini is also no stranger to setbacks and embarrassment. In the infamous Florence case, when Mario Spezi, a crime journalist, and Douglas Preston, a crime novelist, conducted their own investigation of the serial murders, Mignini had Spezi arrested on false charges and even refused Spezi his right to immediately see a lawyer. Mignini suffered the first of several humiliating defeats when a judge ordered Spezi released and the charges dropped.
Mario Spezi, imprisoned on false charges by Mignini
At one point, Mignini had 20 people indicted on charges related to the Monster case, with references to satanic cult behavior related to each of them. A judge found those charges baseless and freed all 20 of them.
Mignini suffered a third defeat when he was indicted – and later convicted – of prosecutorial misconduct during his Monster investigation. He was convicted of illegally investigating journalists who had criticized him with the "intent to harass or deter them from pursuing their legitimate profession” and ordering an illegal investigation of the former Florentine police chief Giuseppe De Donno. He also ordered illegal investigations of two officials of the Viminale (the Ministry of the Interior in Rome).
The common thread here is that Mignini – himself a convict – has a history of harassing and intimidating anyone who opposes him and his strange ideas. He has demonstrated a willingness to stop at nothing – even crossing the boundaries of legality – to “win” while completely disregarding truth, justice, law, and the innocence of the people around him.
Embarrass Me Once, Shame on You. Embarrass Me Twice…
Now let’s turn our attention to the appeal process currently underway in Perugia, the trial which will hopefully allow the truth to finally be heard. The original trial allowed Mignini to choreograph what seems to be a charade of honesty, integrity and justice, all simply a façade for his need to “save face” and redeem himself for his past failures. This current appeal has a new judge who has assigned independent forensics analysts not under the control of Mignini. The appeal has successfully discredited Mignini’s star witness and exposed his bulletproof DNA “evidence” for the shoddy, incompetent, and sophomoric work of fiction that it is.
When the new appeals judge, Pratillo Hellmann, commented that the only thing for certain in the case was that Meredith Kercher was dead, it was signaled that the truth of Mignini’s fantasy would come to light in the appeal and his case would fall apart. Mignini would have to turn to tactics both inside and outside the court to influence opinion and ultimately the final appellate verdict. He had to resort to manipulating Meredith Kercher’s family, and in true Dickensian fashion, found a willing ally in Francesco Maresca, who represents the Kercher family in participating in this questionable agenda. Maresca is playing Charley Bates to Mignini’s Fagin.
Step One: Make the Illegal Confession Heard, and Secure the Profit
Prior to the original trial, the Kercher family was encouraged to file a $12M civil suit against Amanda and Raffaele concurrently with the criminal suit. This was an interesting legal tactic on the part of Maresca and Mignini. Amanda’s forced confession, which the Italian Supreme Court deemed inadmissible in the criminal suit, was allowed in the civil suit. Mignini and Maresca had found a clever way to allow the judge and jury to learn about the confession regardless of the criminal law and affect the outcome of their conviction.
Interestingly, there was no civil suit filed against Rudy Guede, the first person convicted (and ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court) and whose DNA was the only DNA found on and around Ms. Kercher’s body. The motivation must have been strictly financial – and not for justice – since Rudy doesn’t have money to recover. Likewise, when Rudy’s 30-year sentence was reduced to 16 years, there was no loud protest from the Kercher family. It is clear the financial gain to Maresca (by receiving the legal fees from the huge civil suit) and the resurrection of Mignini’s career as prosecutor required keeping Amanda and Raffaele in jail, not Rudy Guede.
Step Two: Pre-empt the Event
The second step was to have the voice of Ms. Kercher’s family be heard at key moments in the appeal. The purpose is to refocus the world’s attention on the tragedy of the murder and keep anger within people’s minds as they consider Amanda and Raffaele’s innocence. This misdirection technique is not uncommon during times of desperation, when a party about to lose makes a public plea or announcement to sway the people ultimately influencing the outcome. This tactic is commonly used during the American Presidential elections, when there is an “October Surprise” in which something is announced to sway the voters to one specific candidate:
- In 1968, when Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey were tied in the polls, President Johnson announced the end of bombing of North Vietnam. Humphrey, who was Johnson’s Vice President, immediately surged in the polls.
- In 1992, just days before the Clinton/Bush election, it was announced that Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan’s defense secretary, was implicated in the Iran-Contra affair.
- In 2000, days before the Gore/Bush election, Carl Cameron of FOX News repeated an old news story in which George W. Bush was once arrested for drunk driving.
The prosecution seems to be employing the same tactics in the appeal of Amanda and Raffaele. In December 2010, right before Amanda was to take the stand in her appeal, John Kercher, Meredith’s father and a UK journalist, tried to redirect the focus of the appeal from Amanda to Meredith. He published a piece in the Daily Mail blasting the parents of Amanda Knox for proclaiming her innocence (a surprisingly silly argument, trying to deny Amanda’s parents the right to protect their daughter since he lost his own). He claimed Amanda’s family never expressed sympathy, a statement that itself is simply untrue:
- “Slain Woman’s Dad Slams Amanda Knox, Family,” AOLNews, Dec. 3, 2010
"We cannot imagine the agony and suffering experienced by the Kercher family at the loss of their daughter, Meredith," they said. "As parents, we cannot fathom the depth of such a loss. We continue to feel the same we have always felt and expressed when asked, the deepest sorrow for the Kercher family."
"We have always said that we would reach out to them at the appropriate time," the statement continued. "We haven’t felt the time was appropriate until, at least, Amanda’s trial and appeals have come to a conclusion."
- “Amanda Knox’s parents ‘will reach out’ to Kerchers,” BBC News, Dec. 10, 2010
But Curt Knox told the BBC they had expressed condolences whenever asked.
"It’s unimaginable the pain they must be experiencing but we also believe Amanda is innocent and we are going to do everything we can in our human power to have the truth come out," he told BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast.
"Once that truth comes out and Amanda finally comes home, we will reach out to the Kercher family to try to express our deepest condolences personally."
- “Meredith Kercher trial: Amanda Knox, the ‘shy’ former Jesuit school girl,” The Telegraph, Dec. 4, 2009
"Right now it’s a really awkward situation," she [Edda Mellas, Amanda’s mother] said. "We can only imagine what they are going through. Amanda is alive and will come home. They don’t have that. It’s devastating."
Mr. Kercher even made the amazing statement that, “its Knox who still exerts such a hold over the media.” The assertion that Amanda was enjoying the media attention is simply ludicrous.
Just a few days ago, right before the final phase of the appeal was to begin, the Italian press published a letter that Stephanie Kercher, Meredith’s sister, had sent to the appellate court expressing the family’s “anguish” over the ongoing appeal and their fear that Knox and Sollecito could be set free because of doubts over the quality of the DNA evidence.
While all of my heart’s sympathies remain with the Kercher family, I am astounded by this statement and question its motivation. If there are doubts over the quality of the DNA evidence, then there are doubts that Amanda and Raffaele participated in Meredith’s murder. Instead of seeking true justice for Meredith, this letter seems to be a display of desperation, a way to protect Mignini’s face-saving conviction and Maresca’s jackpot, which he’d collect as his share of the $12M. The Kercher’s search for justice should be satisfied in knowing that the murderer, Rudy Guede, is in prison for 16 years; their only disappointment with the case should be Rudy’s sentence isn’t longer.
These public statements appear to be orchestrated by the prosecution team; it would not be surprising for another statement to be published just prior to the closing statements and/or the verdict at the end of the month.
Step Three: Blame Everyone But Yourselves
The only stitch left holding Mignini and Maresca’s case against Amanda and Raffaele was the DNA evidence on the bra clasp and knife, and even that was being discredited by the independent review. The final step was to try to question the credentials and results of the court-appointed independent forensics experts and have Patrizia Stefanoni defend her work by taking the stand in the appeal. You may remember Ms. Stefanoni as the forensics “expert” who created the DNA analysis that clinched Amanda and Raffaele’s conviction in the first trial.
After Judge Hellmann’s independent forensics experts testified strongly against Stefanoni’s results, the prosecution responded by threatening one of the experts on the stand. When Adriano Tagliabracci was cross-examined by Manuela Commodi, Ms. Commodi threatened Mr. Tagliabracci by saying, “Don’t make insinuations that you will be sorry about later.”
Having Stefanoni defend her own work did her no good, however, as Stefanoni’s inadequate responses removed her remaining credibility.
Patrizia Stefanoni stands by her original forensics analysis
During a recent appeal hearing, in a final act of desperation, prosecutor Comodi formally requested the court allow additional tests be carried out on the DNA evidence. (Ironically, it was the prosecution team which originally vehemently opposed having the evidence retested during the appeals process in the first place.) Judge Hellmann rejected the request, saying additional testing would be “superfluous” and setting the stage for the closing arguments to begin on September 23. The verdict is expected near the beginning of October.
Ultimately, the appeal process is not meant for the victim; it is meant for the accused, to validate that the conviction was correct and ensuring true justice has been found. In this appeal, the goal is to determine whether two young and promising individuals – Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito – were rightfully convicted of a heinous crime, or were themselves the victims of an overzealous and convicted prosecutor trying to save his career. Until we know the answers to those questions, Meredith will not be given true justice.