Gemelli Court Decision on Amanda Knox's 2008 Appeal (English)
[From the Diritto.it site, without the Diritto legal commentary.]
REPUBLIC OF ITALY
IN THE NAME OF THE ITALIAN PEOPLE
THE SUPREME COURT OF CASSATION
FIRST CRIMINAL DIVISION
Comprised of the Most Honorable Justices
Dr Torquato GEMELLI – President
Dr Emilio Giovanni GIRONI – Member
Dr Maria Cristina SIOTTO – Member
Dr Umberto Zampetti – Member
Dr Margherita CASSANO – Member
has pronounced the following
on the appeal lodged by
(1) AMK born on X
against the Order of 30/11/2007 Liberty Tribunal of Perugia
having heard the relation made by the Counsellor Margherita Cassano
having heard the conclusions of the Prosecutor-General Dr S Consolo who has prayed the rejection of the appeal
HAVING FOUND IN FACT
1. With the order of 30 November 2007 the Perugia Court, as constituted under Article 309 Criminal Procedure Code, rejected the submission to review lodged by AMK and, as a consequence, confirmed the precautionary prison custody measures disposed in her matter on the 9th November 2007 by the GIP of the same Court in relation to the offences of aggravated wilful homicide in company and in sexual assault by a group, committed on the day of 1 November 2007 against MSCK.
2. According to the reconstruction put forward by the judges of merit, on the 2nd November 2007, around 12:35, the State Police, to whom had been signalled the discovery in the garden of a house of two mobile phones, both resulting to be in the service of the American [sic] citizen MSCK, intervened at an apartment in Via della Pergola in use by Ms K and AMK and two Italian women. At the place were found AMK and her boyfriend RS, the which declared they were expecting the arrival of the Carabinieri, called by them after having discovered that the window of one of the rooms of the habitation presented with broken glass.
The crime scene inspection immediately carried out inside the apartment led to the discovery in the bedroom occupied by Ms K, locked under key, of the body of the woman, which, at the level of the head, was immersed in a lake of blood, was dressed only in two tops pulled above the breast and was covered with a blanket. Beneath this latter was found the print of a shoe in haematic material, collected, besides in the room of the offence, also in a small bathroom adjacent to the same. In a second bathroom, used by the two Italian lessees of the apartment, were found faeces and other natural biological residues. The autopsy immediately carried out permitted the establishment of the cause of death, collocatable around 22 hours of the day of 1st November 2007, to have been due to a haemorrhagic shock from vascular lesions to the neck from an edged blade and that the instrument used to restrain her was constituted of a pointed instrument capable of penetration and with a sharpened profile capable of cutting tissue.
The victim’s body did not present unequivocal signs of sexual assault even though there were found things of some medico-legal interest, in the sense of the observed anal dilation of two-three centimetres, the discovery of minute ecchymoses on the posterior part of the anal ring (otherwise compatible with situations of constipation) and, above all, mauvish marks on the inner face of the labia minora, suggestive of a sexual rapport carried out with haste and occurring a little before the death.
3. The Court had found that grave indicia of guilt as against the suspect were constituted by the following elements:
(a) the autopsy results and the medico-legal report;
(b) the discovery of a knife with dimensions of 14cm for the handle and of about 17 for the blade, seized from inside a drawer of cutlery located in the kitchen of the home of S, carrying, on the handle, traces of DNA referable to Ms K and, on the blade, traces of DNA ascribable to the victim;
(c) statements made by persons informed of the facts, FR and LM, housemates of the victim, who without contradiction excluded that the seized knife were part of their apartment’s endowment and made mention that Ms K, on the day of the fact, was wearing a top, which has not yet been found;
(d) outcome of the technical tests carried out on a pair of shoes, N brand, size 42.5, property of S, evidencing a perfect correspondence between the aforesaid footwear and the print found at the location of the homicide, as well as on the door of the Via della P apartment which did not present signs of forced entry;
(e) results of technical tests carried out on the palm print found on the pillow on which the victim had been placed and resulting as belonging to RHG, a citizen of the Ivory Coast, nicknamed ‘the Baron’, known to AMK;
(f) presence of RHG’s DNA on the vaginal swab taken from the cadaver during the autopsy and on the fragment of toilet paper taken from inside the larger bathroom of the apartment, where faeces had been found, resulting as being from G;
(g) outcome of biological tests carried out on the blood found in the apartment’s small bathroom, in use by the victim and Ms K, which permitted the establishment that to the victim were attributable the bloodstains present on the mat, to Ms K those found on the washbasin, and to both of the women the blood traces found on the bidet;
(h) statements made by the American [sic] citizen RCB, the which, having returned home to her country a few days after the fact, referred to the Authorities that Ms K, while waiting to be interviewed by the Police on the morning of the 2nd November 2007, had told her of having seen M’s body on a wardrobe (or reflected on a wardrobe) with a blanket on top of her and of having seen her friend’s foot after a police officer had opened the door, circumstances conflicting with the modality of intervention at the apartment;
(i) statements made by the friends of MSCK, the which without contradiction said that the woman had spent the afternoon of the 1st November 2007 in their company and had left their house in the company of SP, who, reaching her own domicile in Via del L around 20:55, had parted from the victim, whose apartment in Via della P was less than 10 minutes’ distance from Via del L;
(1) statements made by FR and PG, contacted by A after ascertaining that the front door of their house was open, that there were blood stains and that the window of MSCK’s room presented with broken glass
(m) statements made by S on the 2nd, 5th and 6th November regarding his movements both alone and with AMK between the day of 1 November 2007 and the following 2 November, in regards to what was found inside the Via della P apartment, to the call for help to law enforcement, not to mention the reference to the search for strong emotion contained in various of his writings posted on his blog;
(n) statements made on 6 November 2007 at 1:45 by Ms K which indicated L, entranced by M, as the author of the murder after a sexual relation with the victim;
(o) spontaneous statements made by Ms K on 6 November 2007 at 5:45 from which it emerged that L and M had gone to her room, that, at a certain point, M had started to scream, such that A, so as not to hear, had put her hands on her ears, that maybe S was also present in the house;
(p) contents of the account written by Ms K which repeated having heard M scream, to having removed herself into the kitchen and of having blocked her ears with her hands so as not to hear her friend’s scream and of having seen blood on S’s hand during the dinner that had taken place around 23:00 hours on the day of 1 November 2007 in S’s apartment;
(q) contents of a recorded conversation in prison on 17 November 2007 relating to a discussion between Ms K and her parents in the course of which the woman, amongst other things, said “It’s stupid, because I can’t say anything different, I was there and I can’t lie about this, there is no reason to do it”;
(r) tests carried out on the computer and on the mobile phone used by S, from which it emerged that, contrary to the defensive stance of the suspect, his computer had not been used during the night and had been activated only at 5:32 on 2 November 2007 and that, likewise, his mobile phone also had been off during the night and had been first used at dawn on 2 November 2007.
The Re-examination judges concluded recognizing, for continuing the precautionary custody measure, the continuance of all the typologies of precautionary requirements mentioned under Article 274 Criminal Procedure Code.
4. Against the cited order there has been submitted an appeal to Cassation, through her lawyers, by AMK, the which, also by means of a defence memorandum, alleges:
(a) violation of Article 309 paragraph five Criminal Procedure Code with reference to the omitted transmission to the Re-examination Court of the statements made by the suspect RHG arrested in Germany in the execution of a European Arrest Warrant, constituting, contrary to what was adopted by the Re-examination Court, an element favourable to the suspect, relevant for the indication of the author of the offence, identified as an individual of the male gender and, contrary to what was held by the Court, fully usable, given the basis of their acquisition into evidence under Articles 22 and 28 of the law on international judicial representation in criminal matters of 23 December 1982;
(b) Violation of Article 250 paragraph seven, and 357 paragraph two, Criminal Procedure Code, being placed at the foundation of the custody order and of the subsequent provisioning by the Re-examination Court, which indicative elements, the statements made by Ms K on 6 November at 1:45, without defence safeguards, the “spontaneous statements” made at the time of 5:45 hours, are not classifiable as such, given the procedural status invested on her in the meantime, all acts fully non-usable inasmuch acquired in patent violation of Article 63 Criminal Procedure Code;
(c) Violation of law, deficiency and manifest lack of logic in the reasoning with reference to the picture of circumstantial gravity, having regard: (a) to the personality of the suspect, a young foreigner with unblemished record, with a perception of reality altered by cannabis use, a substance which also may have been influencing her excessive and dreamlike behaviours; (b) to the seriously lacunose character of the translation of passages of the suspect’s hand-written account, analysed in a partial manner; (c) to the not unambiguous reading of the contents of the recorded conversation of 17 November 2007 between the suspect and her parents in prison; (d) to the non-probative nature of the DNA traces found on the seized knife, of the suspect’s blood stains on the mat and basin in the small bathroom of the apartment occupied by, amongst others, the victim and Ms K;
(d) lack and manifest illogicality in the reasoning with reference to the considered circumstantial value, as against the suspect, of the results of tests carried out on the vaginal swab and on the knife in custody, with an un-reasoned devaluation of the considerations put forward by the defence;
(e) lack and manifest illogicality of the reasoning, distortion of the fact with reference to the considered presence of the suspect on the location of the fact and to her contribution purportedly made to the consummation of the offence;
(f) violation of law, deficiency and illogicality of reasoning as to the configurability of the precautionary requirements, given:
(1) the absence of a specific danger in evidentiary acquisition even in the light of investigative developments which have evidenced Ms K’s extraneity to the commission of the offence and have allowed the acquisition of statements by fellow-suspect G;
(2) the lack of an objective risk of flight in the light of international cooperation between Italy and the USA which would permit, once the suspect’s responsibility has been definitively ascertained, full judicial cooperation;
(3) the lack of danger of repetition of the offences.
Observes as of law.
The appeal is unfounded.
(1) With reference to the deduced violation of Article 308 paragraph five for omitted transmission to the Re-examination Court of elements appearing favourable to the person placed under investigation (in the type of statements made by G to the German Judicial Authority in the ambit of European Arrest Warrant procedure), this Bench observes as follows.
For “elements in favour of the person placed under investigation” must be understood to mean those objective results, of probative value, suitable for being of positive influence in the evaluative complex of the custody picture (Cass., Sez. IV, 22 giugno 2005, rv. 231749) and in the concrete usable for exculpating the suspect (Cass., Sez. I, 26 settembre 2000, Corrente, rv. 217611) and not information that resolves itself into mere reformulations of the prosecutorial hypothesis or in the advancing of alternative hypotheses (Cass., Sez. Un. 26 settembre 2000, Mennuni).
In line with this interpretative stage there are to be excluded from the enumerated elements appearing favourable and as a consequence obligated to be transmitted to the Re-examination Court, under Article 309 paragraph five Criminal Procedure Code, statements made, as in the case under examination, in the ambit of an extradition procedure against the fellow-suspect who limits himself to giving his own defensive version and to affirm his own extraneity to the facts, without however releasing the other accused subjects from the same crime. It is, therefore, under this profile that the defence petition does not merit granting, it is rejected, rather, by the Re-examination Court on the basis of the erroneous assumption that RHG’s statements were unusable through omission with respect to due process, in reality assured by the German Judicial Authority, which – in conformity with the principles contained in the decision-framework of the Council of Ministers of the Union of 13 June 2002, relating to European arrest warrants and the handover procedure between member States (2002/584/GAI) – have, amongst other things, pre-emptively made the suspect informed: (1) of the European arrest warrant and its contents, even to the ends of allowing him to consent, if necessary, to the handover; (2) of the right to legal and interpretive assistance during the procedure.
2. With reference to the second appeal ground by the defence, the Court observes that circumstantial statements are characterized by a different usability regime under a subjective aspect. In the case in which these originate from a person against whom there already is sustained circumstantial evidence as regards the same crime, that is to a crime connected with or tied to the one attributed to a third party, the same cannot be used not only against themselves, but neither in relation to co-accused in the same crime (or of those accused of connected or related crimes).
The regime of absolute unusability under Article 63 paragraph two Criminal Procedure Code is, instead, to be excluded in the case in which the declarant, whether called to respond, in the same or another matter, for a crime or for crimes attributed to others, which have no procedural ties with the one for which they are being proceeded against, with respect to which the person assumes the character of witness.
In fact, in the first case, due to the close connection and interdependence between the fact itself and the other one, there arises the necessity to also safeguard the declarant’s right to silence; in the second case, the declarant’s extraneity and indifference with respect to the facts in cause renders them immune to possible sanctions carried out by the investigative bodies (Cass., Sez. Un. 13 febbraio 1997, Carpanelli).
On a par with these principles, the statements made by AMK at 1:45 on 6 November 2007, – at the end of which the interview was suspended and the woman was placed at the disposition of the relevant judicial Authority, revealing circumstantial evidence against herself –, are usable only contra alios, while the “spontaneous statements” from 5:45 are not usable, neither against the suspect nor against other subjects accused of participation in the same crime, inasmuch as they were made without due process safeguards by a person who had formally assumed the status of suspect.
On the contrary, the account written in English by Ms K and translated into Italian is fully usable, under Article 237 Criminal Procedure Code, since it is a document originating from the suspect, who had been its spontaneous material author for a defence purpose. The disposition under examination allows attribution of probative relevance to the document not only as regards it and its representative contents, but also in the strength of its particular ties, which tie it to the suspect (or accused), thereby illuminating the review of admissibility which the judge had held to be in operation.
(3) The fourth, fifth and sixth grounds of the petition also lack merit. The circumstantial evidence picture specifically concerning AMK is based, in the first place, on the autopsy results, evidencing multiple contusions and ecchymotic areas on various parts of the body (nose, lip, oral cavity, cheek, mandibular and submandibular region, upper and lower limbs, inner face of labia minora, abdomen, dextral latero-cervical region), an ample dilation, in the order of two to three centimetres, of the anal ring with the presence of small ecchymoses, a large wound, disposed obliquely, in the caudal-lateral sense, fully diastased, with sections of underlying tissue right to the cartilaginous layer in the left latero-cervical region, the complete sectioning of the upper right thyroidal artery, the fracture of the hyoid bone in proximity of the left median. The medico-legal tests, carried out after the necroscopic examination of the body of the victim, permitted the confirmation that the cause of death, around 22:00 hours on 1 November 2007, is ascribable to meta-haemorrhagic shock from the vascular lesion on the neck from an edged blade, occasioned by a pointed implement, capable of penetration, and with a sharpened edge able to cut tissues. The anal dilation, the observation of minute ecchymoses on the posterior part of the anal ring and, above all, the mauvish marks on the inner face of the labia minora, are suggestive of a sexual rapport carried out hastily, before the victim had had time to produce adequate lubrication, occurring in a time period proximate to that of the observation, but in any case before death, by reason of the ecchymotic lesions and their colour.
The impugned provision highlights that the complex of these medico-legal conclusions assumes a particular evidential value, in the event that place in correlation with other elements: (a) the statements made by the friends of MSCK, who without contradiction stated that the woman had spent the evening of  November 2007 in their company, had started to dine with them from 18:00 hours onwards and had left the house in company with SP, who, reaching her home in Via del L around 20:55, had parted from the victim, whose apartment in Via della P was less than ten minutes’ walk from Via del L; (b) the outcome of the search effected at the house of RS, romantically linked to AMK, which permitted the discovery and seizure in the apartment’s kitchen, from the cutlery drawer, of a knife, having an approx. 14cm long blade and 17cm handle. The knife, not forming part of the inventory of the house occupied by AMK, MSCK and two Italian women (cf on the matter, the statements made, as persons informed of the facts, by FR and LM), presented traces of DNA on the handle attributable to AMK and on the blade traces of DNA ascribable to the victim.
Weighing against the suspect, in the opinion of the judges, there are, in addition, even in their mutability, statements by RS, who, after firstly having claimed to have remained home all evening and night with his girlfriend, stated, afterwards (cf. Interviews of 5 and 6 November 2007) that, at a certain time, Ms K had left and had come back to his house at only around one in the morning. The judges of merit have underlined the strict correlation found between the interviews given by S on 5 and 6 November 2007, and the following further elements: (a) statements made by citizen RCB, who, returning to her country of origin, referred to the relevant Authorities the confidence received on 2 November 2007 from AMK regarding the position of the victim’s body and its condition, circumstances that, contrary to the stance of the suspect, she could not have been able to perceive on the occasion of the intervention by the police at the apartment, an intervention that unfolded in a way irreconcilable with the version furnished by Ms K to the friend; (b) statements made by persons informed of the facts FR and LM, who said that Ms K, the day of the fact, was wearing a top, which has not been found since.
The impugned provision, with logically reasoned argumentation, observes that the content of these declarative acts appears even more significant when evaluated also in the light of the written account produced by the suspect, containing relevant references to M’s scream on the night of the fact, to her reactions, consisting of huddling in the kitchen with her hands over her ears, to the presence of a man, to traces of blood noted by her on RS’s hand during the dinner that took place at 23:00 on 1 November 2007.
Under the same lens appearing imbued with unequivocal circumstantial value is the contents of the recording, effected on 17 November 2007 inside the prison where Ms K found herself restricted to and between the woman and her parents, in the course of which there was pronounced by the accused the following words: “It’s stupid, because I cannot say anything else, I was there and I cannot lie about this, there is no reason to do so”;
These elements must, in their turn, be inserted into a larger circumstantial evidence context, cross-correlated by the identification of a print left in haematic matter present on the scene of the crime from a sports shoe, held to be compatible, by its dimensions and configuration of the sole, with the type of footwear brand “N” used by the suspect and by the failure of the alibi put forward by the young man, being demolished by the technical investigations that were carried out, by which, as he asserted, he had interacted with his computer in the hours in which, according the medico-legal reconstruction, the criminal fact would have occurred, just as also remained demolished that the young man had received a phone call from his father at 23:00, it resulting, instead, said call had occurred at 20:40. From the same perspective, light has been shone, with precise and logical reasoning, on the circumstance that in the course of the evening of 1 November 2007, almost at the same time, telephonic traffic for AMK and RS ceased, after the latter had received a call on his mobile phone from his father at 20:40, of which reference has been made earlier and, in addition, that S, contrary to what was by him stated, did not spend the night of 1 and 2 November 2007 sleeping, it having been ascertained that the computer and mobile phone at his disposal were reactivated at dawn on 2 November 2007.
The judgment reasons, further, on the concourse aspect of the consummation of the homicide and sexual assault, on the basis:
(1) of the outcome of the technical tests carried out on the palm print found on the pillow on which the victim had been placed, and it results as belonging to RHG, known to AMK;
(b) of the presence of RHG’s DNA on the vaginal swab taken from the cadaver during the autopsy and on the fragment of toilet paper collected from inside the larger bathroom in the apartment, where there had been found faeces, resulting to have been G’s;
(c) of the outcome of biological tests carried out on the blood found in the smaller bathroom of the apartment in use by the victim and by Ms K, which permitted the finding that the blood stains on the mat were referable to the victim, those found on the basin to Ms K, and to both the women the blood traces found in the bidet.
The Court, with thorough and logical reasoning, has illustrated, with full reference to the factual circumstances – inasmuch such are unreviewable in this seat of legitimacy – the reasons for the attribution of pregnant circumstantial value to the elements above recalled, proving the presence on the scene of the consummation of the homicide and sexual assault of AMK, RS, RHG (these last two both known to Ms K), has explained, with articulate and logically correct reasoning, the reasons for which they cannot find agreement with the defence deductions in terms of erroneous interpretation and reading of the recorded conversation of 17 November 2007, of the account written by Ms K on 6 November 2007, of the results of biological and medico-legal tests, of the unreliability of the technical investigations carried out on the computer and mobile phone belonging to S, and has at length examined, including in the light of aspects formulated by the defence, the entire case file, explaining the reasons of its unequivocal value.
So, the argumentative development of the judgment reasoning is founded on a coherent critical analysis of the circumstantial evidence and on its cohesion in an organic interpretative framework, in the light of which the attribution to said elements of the requisite of gravity appears supplied with adequate logical and judicial plausibility, in the sense that they have been considered drivers, with a high level of probability, with respect to the theme of investigations concerning the responsibility, amongst others, of AMK, as to the crimes put against her.
From which, given the evaluation carried out the Re-examination Court on the level of inference of the circumstantial evidence and, therefore, on the more or less demonstrative character of the same in terms of probabilistic qualification of guilt even if not of certainty, it has to be highlighted that the impugned order exceeds the threshold of legitimacy demanded by this Court, whose bench cannot hold itself back from a checking of the respect of rules of logic and of conformity with legal canons which govern the appreciation of grave indicia of guilt, as prescribed by Article 273 Criminal Procedure Code for the ordering of provisions restricting personal liberty, without being able to draw on the intrinsic consistency of the evaluations reserved to the judges of merit.
4. Unfounded, finally, are the censures formulated by AMK’s defence, on the matter of custody requirements, the Re-examination Court having correctly evaluated them, with reference to the parameters to which letters (a), (b), (c) of Article 274 Criminal Procedure Code apply the extreme gravity of the crimes carried out, having had regard to their nature and their method of consummation, the negative personality of the suspect, which emerges from the outcomes of the investigations and from the served case conduct, the specific and binding requirements relevant to the investigations in relation to the clear and present danger for [evidence] acquisition and probative genuineness, considering the necessity for completing the testing and of proceeding with the gathering of other means of declarative proof, the outcome of the handover to Italian authorities, of RHG, as well as allowing corroborations to be made, also permeates the current contrast between the different versions so far furnished of what happened, the clear danger of flight, taking into account the foreign citizenship aspect of the suspect and of the penalty of more than two years’ imprisonment, impacting on the outcome of the recognition of her criminal responsibility.
5. Refusal of the appeal leads in law to the appellant ordered to pay procedural costs.
The Registry will provide for its carrying out as prescribed by Article 94 paragraph 1-ter, and actuating provisions Criminal Procedure Code.
FOR THESE REASONS
Rejects the appeal and orders the appellant to pay procedural costs. Disposes transmission via the Registry a copy of the provision to the Director of the penitentiary institution per Article 94 paragraph 1-ter, and actuating provisions Criminal Procedure Code.
So decided in Rome, in Chambers, 1 April 2008.
DEPOSITED IN THE REGISTRY 21 APRIL 2008