Myths debunked

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Numerous myths exist about this case, some of them deliberately created by those who wish to present a particular point of view that is not supported by the evidence. Many of them have found their way into the mainstream media: at least four of those listed here are so prevalent that they have even found their way into the Wikipedia article on Meredith's murder.[1] Here the errors in these myths are corrected:


Contents

Myth: There is no evidence

Not true. Knox and Sollecito's trial lasted almost 11 months; the case file ran to over 10,000 pages;[2] dozens of witnesses were called;[3] the judges' analysis of the evidence is several hundred pages long.[4] The argument that there is no evidence is patent nonsense. See The Case Against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for a list of some of the main points of evidence.


Myth: They already have the guy

Yes and no. This was a group crime involving not only the attack but also rearrangement of the scene. In addition to Guede's traces, there is a size 7 woman's shoe print in blood on the pillowcase, Sollecito's DNA on the cut-off part of the victim's bra, and bare bloody footprints in two different sizes, both visible in the bathmat and revealed with Luminol.[5] For this reason Guede, Sollecito and Knox originally comprised a single set of defendants meant to be tried together. See the map of the proceedings here. All had the option of severing their case in favor of a fast-track trial, which Guede elected to do. He was convicted of acting in complicity with others [6], and while his conviction is commonly raised as a reason to halt the proceedings against anyone else, the fact that the conviction was for conspiracy in which Knox and Sollecito are implicated tends to be omitted. Guede's shoe prints form an undeviating path from the victim's room to the front door (See map) and while his participation in the attack is obvious there is no sign of him in Romanelli's room or evidence of anyone entering through her window. He was not charged with burglary or the simulation of the burglary -- Knox and Sollecito were. There are numerous traces attributable to Guede and there are traces attributable to Knox and Sollecito. It is therefore of no value to highlight the presence of one actor as a defense of another.


Myth: The prosecution case was based on the theory of a "satanic ritual"

Not true. This was first claimed by one of Sollecito's defence lawyers, Luca Maori, following Knox and Sollecito's commmittal hearing in October 2008.[7] The hearing was in camera, so we do not know exactly what was said during that hearing, but Giuliano Mignini, the prosecutor, has always denied mentioning a satanic ritual.[8][9] Certainly, the motivation report, written by the judge who conducted that court makes no mention of a satanic ritual as a possible motive.[10] Nor is it mentioned in Judge Massei's motivation report, relating to Knox and Sollecito's trial, so it is beyond doubt that such a motive played absolutely no part in the decision to convict Knox and Sollecito.[11] This myth is so pervasive that it is hard to believe that there is no foundation for it: however, it does not appear in the sentencing reports of any of the courts that have considered this case. It does not even get a passing mention as a prosecution theory that was rejected: it is completely absent.

In September 2013, Mignini wrote a letter to the editor of Florence Corriere, correcting their published mistakes about the prosecution case. Mignini refers to: "the scenario put forward by the prosecution in which the Meredith murder [...] was the consequence of a sex hazing to which Meredith herself did not intend to take part, and, above all, it was the consequence of a climate of hostility which built up progressively between the Coulsdon girl and Amanda because of their different habits, and because of Meredith’s suspicion about alleged money thefts by Knox."[12]


Myth: Amanda Knox's statement was false or coerced after a long interrogation

Not true. Knox's interrogation was at most two hours long, but realistically less than an hour, from 12:30am to 1:30am. Sollecito was called to the police station that night and Knox accompanied him, waiting in the hall with her homework. Sollecito was being asked about some inconsistencies in his earlier statements, causing him to now tell the police he had lied at Knox's request and the truth was they had parted company at 9:00pm and she did not return to his apartment until 1:00am. The police had been intercepting their conversations that week in which they frequently refer to a third person -- while they were unsure of the roles they felt that Knox was at least covering for someone, so when Sollecito said Knox went out, the police seized the opportunity to ask Knox about this.

They telephoned the interpreter at 11:30 to say they would require her services; Anna Donnino arrived at 12:30am. In the meantime Knox was with the police making lists of Meredith's acquaintances, drawing maps, et cetera. Likely Knox was nervous but not as a result of anything the police were doing. When Donnino arrived she was seated next to Knox at a table across from two police officers, who challenged her about her text messages. It was then that she said she was at the cottage and began to accuse Patrick Lumumba.

Because the statement had been prepared, typed and signed by 1:45am, realistically Knox implicated herself and Lumumba within minutes of learning Sollecito had withdrawn her alibi. The text message represented an easy out for Knox, a way to concede what she suspected the police already knew without admitting any wrongdoing. She, Sollecito, and Lumumba were arrested that night. It is frequently suggested that the non-existence of a recording of this interrogation proves it was abusive; in truth, the police officers, the interpreter, and Knox all relate the same sequence of events, Knox herself doing so in a conversation which was recorded.

Knox's own account of that evening, written to her lawyers a few days after the event, is also worth reading (see Amanda Knox's letters to her lawyers). She makes it clear that she and Sollecito arrived at the police station at "around 10:30pm or 11pm" and goes on to describe the things that happened before the formal questioning began, again supporting a considerable elapsed time. Although she was certainly not playing down the unpleasantness of the police questioning, she nevertheless makes absolutely no claim of being denied food, drink or toilet breaks, which are other details that people have added to myth in subsequent retellings.


Myth: Knox quickly recanted or withdrew the statement

Not true. Knox repeated this statement four hours later, and then committed it to paper the next day without being prompted: "I stand by my statements that I made last night about events that could have taken place in my home with Patrik". While she confided to her mother on November 10 that the accusation was false and completely spontaneous, neither Knox nor her mother alerted her lawyers or the authorities that she had falsely accused Lumumba in the three weeks he was held. The Supreme Court upheld her calunnia conviction, arguing that although Knox claimed to feel bad about what she had done, this conversation and her inaction proved Knox's criminal indifference to Lumumba's suffering. The court adds that there is no room for the accusation to be a consequence of youth or a misunderstanding: they note that while Knox was young at the time, she was an adult at 20 years old, a university student and from a culture which also does not allow people to falsely accuse others of crimes.


Myth: Knox's human rights were violated because the police did not give her a lawyer or an official interpreter

Not true. At around 11 pm on November 5, 2007, Knox was questioned as a witness.[13] She had a right to a lawyer if she so wished, but there was no obligation for the police to provide one. She was provided with an interpreter, Anna Donnino, who gave evidence at Knox's trial.[14] Knox signed a formal statement at 01:45 am, placing herself at the crime scene:[15] from this point she could not be interviewed without a lawyer, because she was now a suspect. The interview was therefore terminated. At 05:45 am she made a further voluntary statement. These statements were subsequently the subject of a Supreme Court ruling. The SC did not rule that her human rights had been violated, nor that the statements were illegal. In fact, they ruled that the statements made while Knox was properly a suspect but being treated as a witness were inadmissable for the murder charge, but they were admitted as evidence for the calunnia charge.[16]


Myth: The DNA evidence was contaminated or faulty

Not True The Scientific police processed approximately 400 case items and extracted DNA profiles from roughly 225. It has been commonly repeated that the DNA evidence in this case was contaminated or in some way faulty if it incriminates Knox and Sollecito, but not Guede. This boilerplate defense claim dates back to the earliest hearings, and it has failed to convince a series of courts for lack of logic or substantiation. The Hellmann-appointed DNA experts reviewed only two items out of dozens in this case, the knife and the bra clasp. In the case of the knife, the experts advanced these main complaints, in line with defense argumentation before the Massei and Micheli courts:

  • That the negative TMB test on the knife should have caused the lab technician to stop testing, because the sample was probably not blood. TMB detects blood but not tissue; as the material was lodged in a crevice it seems likely it is solid matter;
  • That lab contamination could not be ruled out, claiming that negative control tests had not been performed by the lab between items although the records of these important controls had been filed with the court years prior. Vecchiotti further conceded on cross-examination that the 6-day interval since the testing of the last Kercher item was a virtual guarantee against lab contamination with respect to the knife.[17]
  • That LCN DNA typing is itself untrustworthy, quoting a 2009 article in the Croatian Medical Journal by Bruce Budowle.
  • Finally, the experts offer that a sample tested once is unreliable, scientifically speaking, and the evidence should be excluded on this basis. For this reason of non-repeatability Judge Hellmann also declined to order the testing of the newly-discovered third human trace on the blade, since it too is estimated to be small, reasoning that if one single test is not reliable, two are no better.

Turning to the bra clasp, the reviewers affirmed Sollecito's profile on the hooks in a Sollecito/Kercher mix, but suggested that its collection during the second pass meant contamination could not be ruled out as an explanation. (During this second pass two items with Guede profiles, the purse and the sweatshirt, were also collected.) They did not explain how the passage of time in a sealed crime scene would cause the clasp to become contaminated in this way, nor did they identify a source of so much Sollecito DNA, his only other genetic trace in the house being on a cigarette butt in the kitchen, mixed with Knox's (this was removed on November 3). By way of explanation reviewer Conti only said "anything is possible." In other words, the Hellmann court held contamination to be a probable explanation for the trace on the clasp without identifying a likely route or even source. The Supreme Court, in overturning Hellmann's ruling, was especially harsh regarding the lack of logic on this point, calling it completely unmoored from scientific reasoning.


Myth: Knox was arrested/convicted because she turned cartwheels at the police station

Not true. Knox was arrested because she gave the police a statement saying that she was present at the cottage at the time of the murder.[15] The other person who she said was present (Patrick Lumumba) was also arrested. This would be standard police practice anywhere in the world. There is no evidence that Knox's strange behaviour, such as turning cartwheels, played any part in the judicial process. Judge Massei gave very detailed written reasons for Knox's and Sollecito's conviction, and there is no mention of cartwheels.[18]


Myth: Rudy Guede was a drifter and a convicted burglar

Not true. The drifter allegation is a product of the Gogerty Mariott firm. Guede had lived in Perugia since immigrating there when he was five, was raised by a well-to-do family and had his own apartment 100 metres from Sollecito's. Guede was known to the police, but never charged or had a previous conviction, however minor. All three defendants had had minor brushes with the law. In 2003 the Carabinieri found Sollecito in possession of 2.67 grams of hashish.[19] Amanda Knox had been issued a ticket and fined for a rowdy party where students were throwing rocks at passing cars.[20][21] Guede had been found in a Nursery School in Milan, where he had apparently spent the night, but had not broken in, and the police were called. They found him in possession of a laptop computer which had been stolen from a Perugia law office (which he claimed to have bought) and other items that might have been stolen property. He was questioned by police, but released.[22] A charge of possessing stolen goods was eventually brought in February 2008, by which time he was in custody for Meredith's murder. Still, if we accept the allegation of Guede's experience on its face, the illogicality of the alleged break-in becomes even harder to understand.

Myth: Guede cut a deal with prosecutors

Not true. While Knox and Sollecito have recently been alleging deals being offered or deals being made, deals of the sort Americans are accustomed to are not allowed in Italy. All three accused were initially meant to be tried together, and likely were advised of all of their options at the outset. One of these options is what's known as a fast-track trial, usually involving a not-guilty plea but with less evidence presented from either side. For this a one-third reduction in sentence is automatically granted in the event of a conviction—and life sentences are reduced to 30 years. Guede elected to sever his case from Knox and Sollecito, fearing they would gang up on him in a joint trial, and to take the fast-track option.

At Guede's trial Judge Micheli imposed a 30-year sentence, the fast-track equivalent of a life sentence, and the harshest sentence that the court could award. By the time of Guede's appeal, Knox and Sollecito's trial had been concluded, with their being given the benefit of generic mitigating factors, such as their young age—hence they were given 24 year sentences for the murder charge. At Guede's appeal, he was credited with the same mitigating factors (he is, for example, younger than Sollecito). The fast-track tariff (one third reduction) means that his equivalent sentence is two thirds of 24 years, which is 16 years. That is the sentence that he is currently serving. Under Article 176 of the Italian Criminal Code, he will be eligible for parole (libertà condizionata) when he has less than five years remaining of his sentence, which will be in 2018. Prior to that, in 2014 Guede will be eligible to leave the prison during the day on work release (semilibertà).

Guede has thus received no reductions in his sentence other than the generic mitigating factors also enjoyed by Knox and Sollecito, plus the automatic fast-track reduction of one third—an option open to Knox and Sollecito which they chose to reject.


Myth: Italy does not have a double jeopardy law

Not true. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states (in the optional Seventh Protocol, Article Four): "No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings under the jurisdiction of the same State for an offence for which he or she has already been finally acquitted or convicted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of that State."[23] An important word in this article is "final": in Italy and other countries that allow appeals, the conviction or acquittal is not considered "final" until all appeals have been heard. Italy is a signatory to the ECHR, including the optional Seventh protocol.[24] This has been incorporated into the Italian Criminal Procedure Code as Article 649.[25]


Myth: Knox's DNA was not found at the crime scene

Knox's DNA was found in a smear of her own blood on the bathroom faucet she at first claimed not to recognize and which she testified was not there the afternoon before the murder ("When you saw the bathroom for the last time, were there traces of blood in it?" "No.") Her DNA was found co-mingled with the victim's blood in five places in the bathroom, hall, and site of the staged break-in, and her profile was found in Luminol footprints the same size and shape of her feet the Supreme Court accepts were also made in the victim's blood. To the question of fixing these deposits of physical traces to a certain date, the Court comments that it is not conceivable that Knox's feet would become stained with Meredith's blood on any other occasion.

No Knox DNA was found in the victim's room. The footprint analysts did discover a size 7 women's shoe print on the pillowcase, and Knox's black reading lamp was found on Meredith's floor. Prosecutors propose, and the courts have generally agreed, that no forced entry into the home and the clear indications of the involvement of Guede and Sollecito indicates that it was Knox who gave them access to the house, and it is unlikely someone would cover up a crime they had no hand in. What happened in between is what the courts have been considering.


Myth: There was or wasn't a bleach cleanup

A few clarifications on the use of bleach as it relates to the different sites: In the very early days after the murder there was often talk of a bleach cleanup while evidence of this at the cottage gradually failed to materialize. On entering Sollecito's apartment, however, detectives were struck by a very strong smell of bleach and two bottles (one opened, one unopened) were recovered from under his kitchen sink. Knox was seen by Marco Quintavalle at his store the morning after the murder and while her features and dress fixed in his mind, he did not recall whether she'd bought anything. The clerk in the store, Chiriboga, also worked part-time as Sollecito's cleaning lady. She initially told Detective Volturno she had been instructed never to use bleach, only Lysoform, and that there was no bleach at Sollecito's apartment. After meeting with Sollecito's lawyer Maori, Chiriboga changed her story and now told Volurno she was mistaken: there was bleach after all and she had been the one to request that it be purchased. (See Volturno's testimony)

Notes

  1. The following quotations are from the current Wikipedia article on the Meredith Kercher Murder (July 2013): "The prosecutors proposed a number of possible motives for the murder including that Kercher and Knox had fallen out over issues such as the cleaning roster in their home; that the murder was part of a Satanic ritual...." [Myth 2]; "The Italian Court of Cassation later found that Knox's human rights had been violated, because the police had not told her of her legal rights, appointed her a lawyer, or provided her an official interpreter" [Myth 5]; "In Italy a defendant who has been acquitted can be re-tried for the same offence" [Myth 10]; and a section is titled "Knox's withdrawal of her statement" [Myth 4].
  2. Follain, John: Death in Perugia: The Definitive Account of the Meredith Kercher case from her murder to the acquittal of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox; Hachette UK, 2011; ISBN-10: 1444706551: "The case files filled twelve volumes and 10,000 pages"
  3. The Massei Report names at least 60 witnesses who testified at the trial
  4. The Massei Report
  5. See Rinaldi & Boemia Technical Report -- Italian for the footprint evidence, and The Bra Clasp for the DNA evidence of Sollecito on the bra.
  6. Pg 73, Cassation 2013
  7. John Follain: The Sunday Times; 19 October 2008
  8. See his email to US journalist Linda Byron, translated at perugiamurderfile.org, here.
  9. In an interview with Drew Griffin of CNN, when asked "You’ve never said that Meredith’s death was a satanic rite?" Mignini stated "I have never said that. I have never understood who has and continues to say that. I read, there was a reporter, – I don’t know his name, I mention it because I noticed it, – who continues to repeat this claim that, perhaps, knowing full well that it’s not like that. I have never said that there might have been a satanic rite. I’ve never said it, so I would like to know who made it up. This is a conspiracy, a fantasy, to my detriment though, to my detriment. Simply a sexual act. And maybe I have always said, I maintained this in the first-instance trial, there was a relationship which deteriorated between the two girls. I’ve always maintained that. I’ll tell you this because..." Translated by PMF.org
  10. See The Micheli Sentencing Report
  11. See Massei Report.
  12. TJMK, October 2013
  13. See Knox's letters to her lawyers, written a few days after these events
  14. See Anna Donnino's Testimony (English)
  15. 15.0 15.1 See Amanda Knox's statement to the police
  16. See, for example, the posting by user Popper on perugiamurderfile.org
  17. "Six days are enough to avoid possible contamination."|http://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2011/07/30/news/meredith_processo-nuovo-19812721/?ref=search
  18. The Massei Report
  19. Massei translation, p62
  20. Daily Mail, 3 December 2007
  21. The ticket issued to Knox is available at Perugiamurderfile.org
  22. Massei p.45
  23. Council of Europe website
  24. Wikipedia article on Territorial scope of European Convention on Human Rights
  25. The Italian Criminal Code can be downloaded from Legislationline.org. Article 649, Prohibition of a second trial, states: L'imputato prosciolto o condannato con sentenza o decreto penale divenuti irrevocabili non può essere di nuovo sottoposto a procedimento penale per il medesimo fatto, neppure se questo viene diversamente considerato per il titolo, per il grado o per le circostanze, ... (Anyone who has been acquitted or convicted by a final judgment or order of a criminal court cannot be tried again for the same offence, even if it is tried on a different basis in terms of classification, degree of seriousness or circumstances ...)