Thursday, July 28, 2011

Knox Appeal: Defense Witness Does 180 & Experts Speak

On Monday, as expected, the two court-appointed experts—Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti—explained their report, which was submitted to the court last month. Sources say that Vecchiotti & Conti might be under investigation for possible collaboration with one or several defense DNA experts. Strange comments of leaked expert reports have been coming from Knox supporters as early as March.

I personally have received several anonymous comments from people claiming to have possession of the independent expert’s report, long before it was submitted to the court, in an attempt to taunt me with the results. And, the fact that what they were saying about the results seems to be exactly what was in the report shows a strong possibility that the report was most likely transported through the hands of the experts on down to internet posters. I wonder what that chain of transportation looks like?

The prosecution will surely make a case that these evidentiary items were not objectively examined. If Judge Hellman rules in favor, the prosecution then has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court of Cassation for a ruling. We will have to watch closely to see what transpires from this.

As we’ve seen throughout this process, there have been no shortages of shocking moments. The recent bombshell came yesterday, when former defense witness, ex-mafia turn-coat, and prison inmate, Luciano Aviello (see his previous testimony HERE), testified under oath before a magistrate in Perugia that he was offered 30,000 Euros by Sollecito’s lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno (pic above), for his June 18th testimony. Furthermore, he claims that the money was delivered to him by Raffaele’s sister, Vanessa Sollecito.

You can read Aviello’s full statement at TJMK, which has been translated into English.

In his statement, Aviello claims that “everything he had declared was false: that it was false and had been agreed with Raffaele Sollecito’s lawyers in order to create confusion in the case…Aviello heavily accused Sollecito’s lawyers and sister. He said that it had been she [the sister] who had delivered the 30 000 Euros to an acquaintance of his in Naples, who was to act as a go-between. The money was to be found in an apartment in Turin which the Perugia police will check.”

But perhaps the most shocking allegation made by Aviello in his statement was when he said, “Raffaele told me that it was Amanda and that he was also there.” I actually know that it’s true that Amanda did it,” he says Raffaele had told him, “but I didn’t do it: it wasn’t me that did the murder,” Raffaele continued. You would think that this new statement from Aviello is at least news worthy. Yet, the American media has failed to print one story on his new statement.

So what credence can we actually give to Aviello’s newest statements? Well, we know that he is clearly a fearless perjurer whose credibility has never been held in any high regard. So now Aviello has sent authorities on another hunt, this time to that apartment in Turin where the 30,000 Euros is allegedly being held for him. We will have to wait and see what comes of this new investigation, but it is true that the Sollecito family did meet with Aviello in prison, according to TJMK sources.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the prosecution sent patrols to Rome and seized the DVD used by the two experts Vecchiotti and Conti to help present their findings to the court a day earlier. The DVD has been logged with the office of the clerk of the Appeal Court of Perugia and will be used by the prosecution to demonstrate that the scientific police used the correct procedures during the investigation. Prosecutor Manuela Comodi will use the DVD to question Vecchiotti and Conti at the next hearing, which is scheduled to take place this Saturday, 30 July 2011.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mentally Ill in Perugia: Amanda Knox

The Amanda Knox apologists will stop at nothing to try and convince the world that she is nothing more than a victim of an ‘archaic Italian Justice system’ and an unstable prosecutor. In the latest attempt to do so, a recent TIME magazine article headline actually asked, Could Amanda Knox Have an Autism Spectrum Disorder? Aside from the author’s clear ignorance of the case against Knox, she actually entertains the idea that Knox may have suffered from Asperger’s syndrome—a less severe form of autism—that caused both her unusual social behavior and a gullibility that triggered a false confession.

The author cites Valerie Gaus, a psychologist who has worked with hundreds of autistic people and is the author of Living Well on the Spectrum. “Everything I read would be consistent with it and it could be one alternative theory for the behavior that made her seem suspicious,” says Gaus. The author appears to base her assertions on the behavior of Knox at the police station the day that Meredith’s body was discovered. Somehow, this Knox apologist has attempted to spin the statements of Meredith’s friends—who said that they all suspected Knox after her odd behavior—into a mental disorder that somehow ‘proves’ her innocence. It is uncanny how far these Knox apologists will stretch their minds to believing in her innocence.

Let’s revisit what Meredith’s boyfriend at the time of her death, Giacomo Silenzi (who lived in the apartment below), told Nick Pisa of the daily mail in November 2007. Giacomo suspected Knox was the killer long before it was made public that she was a suspect. In fact, it seemed to be a unanimous decision of all those who witnessed Knox and Sollecito at the police station the day that Meredith’s body was discovered. Does Sollecito also have this disorder?

“I couldn't help thinking how cool and calm Amanda was. Meredith’s other English friends were devastated and I was upset, but Amanda was as cool as anything and completely emotionless,” Giacomo said. “Her eyes didn’t seem to show any sadness and I remember wondering if she could have been involved. I spoke with her English friends Robyn [Butterworth] and Sophie [Purton] afterwards, and they said the same thing. None of us could quite understand how she was taking it all so calmly. I knew that Amanda didn’t get on with Meredith, but I didn't think that would lead to Amanda killing her…If I could see Amanda, I would just ask her, 'Why? Why did she kill Meredith?'”

Were all of these witnesses in on the “so called” conspiracy to convict Knox, was Knox simply suffering from a mental disorder that made her look completely guilty to all who witnessed, or are these just excuses made up in order to justify abnormal, speculative behavior?

Dr. Coline Covington, an experienced psychotherapist who has studied at Princeton University, Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, seems to have a very different diagnosis of Amanda Knox. In a December 2009 article, Dr. Covington suggested that Knox showed signs of being a psychopath:

“Knox’s narcissistic pleasure at catching the eye of the media and her apparent nonchalant attitude during most of the proceedings show the signs of a psychopathic personality. Her behaviour is hauntingly reminiscent of Eichmann’s arrogance during his trial for war crimes in Jerusalem in 1961 and most recently of Karadzic’s preening before the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

The psychopath is someone who has no concern or empathy for others, no awareness of right and wrong, and who takes extreme pleasure in having power over others. The psychopath has no moral conscience and therefore does not experience guilt or remorse.

Most psychopaths are highly skilled at fooling those around them that they are normal by imitating the emotions that are expected of them in different circumstances. They are consummate at charming people and convincing them they are in the right. It is only when they reveal a discrepancy in their emotional response that they let slip that something may be wrong with them.

The psychopath is the conman, or in the case of Amanda Knox, the con-woman par excellence. Her nickname ‘Foxy Knoxy’, given to her as a young girl for her skills at football, takes on a new meaning.

Whether or not Knox, who is appealing her verdict, is ultimately found guilty, her chilling performance remains an indictment against her. Her family’s disbelief in the outcome of the trial can only be double-edged.”

Then there is the analysis of Professor David Wilson, one of Britain’s leading criminologists and is the author of ‘A History of British Serial Killing, 1888-2008’. Dr. Wilson analyzed Knox’s confiscated diary at one point and gave his analysis in a video on Sky News (The video has since been removed). Thankfully, I had transcribed his comments word for word more than a year ago. In his anaylsis, Dr. Wilson said:

“I have absolutely no doubt that Amanda Knox is guilty of murder. I know there’s a great deal of speculation in relation to the evidence that has been presented in the Italian courts; that it was circumstantial. But actually, it was DNA evidence that linked her, quite clearly—incontrovertibly, to the crime. I’d also say, having read her prison diaries, that this is a woman who was clearly involved with an older more experienced boyfriend who introduced her to a lifestyle—it would seem—that allowed her to bend the rules of morality that would guide her behavior, perhaps, in the United States, so that her behavior was different in Italy."

"Because this case has gone on for some two years, very early on, after Amanda Knox’s arrest and imprisonment in Perugia, I was sent her diaries that she had been keeping whilst in jail, to analyze. Having gone through those diaries quite carefully and repeatedly, I would say that a woman emerged (a picture of a young woman emerged) who was self-obsessed, who showed a lack of remorse, who was enjoying the fame and notoriety (the infamy) that had been attached to her as a result of this crime. She enjoyed the sense in which other men in the public were finding her ‘Hot’ as she [Knox] would say. There was a great deal of grandiosity in these diaries. In other words that she sees herself as a bigger personality than she had hitherto been, and she was rather enjoying that behavior. I can give you an example that talks about that grandiosity.”

“She says for example:

‘I know this sounds babyish, but if anything in the world that is unfair, this would have to be up there; not that martyrs and things don’t take the cake, but I’m innocent too. And even though I haven’t been killed, I’m not being allowed to live either.’

“So there’s: (A) the sense of self-obsession; this is all about her—the person who is missing in those statements is of course Meredith Kercher—and (B) there’s also this grandiosity; this sense in which she equates herself to that of a martyr and being martyred by this process. For me what again comes through the diaries in these early phases after her arrest is the sense in which she is still under the spell of her ex-boyfriend. And I have no doubt that his participation in creating a world in which murder could be committed, was the dominant participation.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Knox Appeal: Experts on Key DNA Evidence File Their Report

On 29 June 2011, The two court-appointed forensic experts—Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti (pictured above), both from the Legal Medicine Institute of Rome’s La Sapienza University—in the Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito appeals trial filed their report to a tribunal in Perugia (Report translated HERE). Both experts were appointed to analyze two pieces of physical evidence being contested by the defense: the knife (Item 36) and the bra clasp (Item 165B).

The experts were not able to retest the DNA on the bra clasp and the knife because there was not enough DNA to retest. So, they were then assigned to judge “the degree of reliability of the tests carried out by the forensic police on the evidence based on court documents, specifically with reference to any possible contamination.”

During the first trial, experts for the prosecution determined that a small sample of Kercher’s DNA was found on the blade of the knife and Knox’s DNA was found on the handle. Also during the first trial, experts for the prosecution—and even Professor Francesco Vinci, initially retained by Sollecito’s legal team—said that the bra clasp showed traces of Sollecito’s DNA.

In the 145-page report filed in late June, the court-appointed experts concluded that while Knox’s DNA was on the handle of the knife, the tests on the blade were “not reliable” because the correct international protocol for tests on small samples, called low copy number (LCN) DNA analysis, had not been followed. The results were therefore inconclusive, according to the experts. The experts also said that both the knife and the bra clasp had been collected and handled without following international procedures. They did not, however, explain what international protocols were not followed by Dr. Stefanoni and her staff.

In regard to Kercher’s DNA being found on the blade of the knife, the report concludes by saying, “It cannot be ruled out that the result obtained from sample B (blade of knife) derives from contamination in some phase of the collection and/or handling and/or analyses performed.” The experts, however, did not expound on, or even give any specifics on, this assertion. There was not a theory posed as to how contamination could have occurred; there was no theory posed on the likely possibility that contamination occurred (i.e. to what degree possible contamination occurred).

So, if it cannot be ruled out that contamination may have occurred; it is also safe to assume that it cannot be ruled out that contamination didn’t occur. Therefore, we appear to be right back where we started from. When first approached by police and informed that Meredith’s blood was found on the blade of the knife, Raffaele Sollecito confirmed this, claiming that he had pricked her with the knife accidentally while cooking a fish dinner for her in his apartment. It was later confirmed that Meredith had never been to Sollecito’s apartment. If we cannot trust certain scientific processes, can we at least trust common sense? Good detective work still remains the staple of any effective investigation, doesn’t it?

Yet, clearly the hardest evidence of the two to try and hold as unreliable is the bra clasp. According to Dr. Stefanoni’s report, the clasp contained 1.4 nanogram (or 1400 picograms— approximately 200 cells) from Sollecito, plenty to conduct a reliable test (the minimum for reliability using the PCR Process is typically 1 nanogram).

By claiming “possible” contamination on this item, all are confirming that it is indeed Sollecito’s DNA on the clasp, and that it got there by improper collection methods. All they are saying is that his DNA, which was positively found on the bra clasp, could have been deposited there, by forensic experts on the scene, from somewhere else within the cottage. Yes, the bra clasp was not collected until 18 December 2007.

But forensic video of all inspections show that the clap never left Meredith’s room. So, if Sollecito’s DNA was taken from an area of the cottage (crime scene) and deposited on the bra clasp at some point, which is what this contamination analysis means, then where did it come from?

In judge Massei’s report (pg. 268) he explains that a “cigarette stub” was the only other place that Sollecito’s DNA was found in the cottage. Moreover, judge Massei explains the impossibility of such a transfer (on page 274 & 275). In his report, Massei explains how the search method was conducted in Meredith’s room, which consisted of “subdividing the areas: in Meredith’s room no other object apart from the hooks [of the bra clasp] was shown to carry Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA; Raffaele Sollecito did not leave his DNA on any object that was in Meredith's room; and more importantly, none of the operators, after having touched some object which might have had Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA on it, then touched the hooks of the small piece of bra so as to make even hypothetically possible a transfer of DNA (from the object containing Sollecito's DNA to the gloves, from the gloves to the hooks).”

Remember, it is very likely that Vecchiotti and Conti do not know this. They were not appointed to be experts on the entire case and read all of the evidence; they were hired for a specific reason: to evaluate two pieces of physical evidence. Judges and members of the jury will surely take this into account. They will get the full scope of the evidence and weigh it all against one another.

In regard to the report, Kercher family lawyer, Francesco Maresca, said, “the word of the independent experts would not be the last word, and said he would raise his objections during the last week in July, when the report will be formally discussed during a week of hearings.” Maresca also asserted that the scientific police and the consultants, whose results the independent experts are reviewing, have “far more experience” than the independent experts. “I was surprised that these experts were so certain, and gave such strong, drastic opinions, given that they don’t have the same number of years of experience under their belt,” Mr. Maresca said.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 25 July 2011, where these independent experts will formally discuss their results and the prosecution will certainly provide a counter argument.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Knox Battles Lifetime; Knox’s Parents Battle Libel

Not many fireworks on this 4th of July for Amanda Knox and her parents in court. Both Amanda Knox and her parents entered separate Italian courtrooms to do battle on Monday: Amanda in Perugia’s civil court for the second hearing of her case against producers of Lifetime’s made-for-television movie about the case, and her parents fighting defamation charges for an interview that they gave Britain’s Sunday Times back in 2008 where they claiming that their daughter was abused by police during her interrogation.

Amanda arrived amidst a bevy of reporters, but side-stepped them as the van carrying her backed into a side entrance of the courthouse, concealing her from the public. Amanda’s hearing was a closed-door session that lasted just a half-hour. The session was cut-short as the producers of the movie—“Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy,” starring Hayden Panettiere as Knox—did not show up. Knox’s lawyers said in the first hearing in March that the movie had caused their client “very serious, irreparable damage,” and they are asking for more than $4 million in reparation. The judge, Teresa Giardino, did not set a definitive date for the next hearing, claiming that the court would need to contact the producers of the movie.

Earlier in the day, in another courthouse in Perugia, Edda Mellas and Curt Knox appeared in criminal court for the beginning of their trial, facing libel charges brought on by five Perugia police officers. In an even quicker hearing than Amanda’s, judge, Paolo Micheli, opened the hearing by postponing it, saying that he was recusing himself from the case. This request was made by the defense at the indictment, citing a conflict because Micheli is the same judge who indicted Knox and Sollecito in 2008. This process is sure to drag on, as Micheli set the next hearing date for 24 January 2012, at 11:00a.m., before an unnamed judge. Edda’s current husband, Chris Mellas, watched the proceedings from the public section of the tiny courtroom. Neither Curt Knox nor the police officers were present at this hearing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Proposal for “Caylee’s Law” Generating an Enormous BUZZ!

On the heals of the stunning Casey Anthony verdict, people are looking for a teachable moment or something good that will come out of the mire. Well, there might just be something good that comes out of this after all. Hours after the verdict was announced, Michelle Crowder, of Durante, Oklahoma, started a webpage called, “Create Caylee’s Law.” This new law proposal will make it a federal felony for a parent or guardian to not notify law enforcement in a timely manner if their child goes missing. Since the creation of this petition yesterday afternoon, more than a 114,000 people have signed to this virtual campaign.

With statistics showing that about 2,000 children are reported missing everyday—and in light of the recent Casey Anthony verdict—this new proposal for a law makes perfect sense. This may, however, only be logical in terms of common sense and not in law terms, unfortunately. Since criminal law usually falls under the jurisdiction of the state, each state would have to enact them separately. For this to become a federal law, congress would have to enact such a proposed legislation under the Constitution’s commerce clause, which applies to cases that significantly impact interstate commerce. Still, the proposal seems to make sense, and if enough voices are heard maybe congress can work their magic.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony Found NOT GUILTY on Murder Charges

After only 10 hours of deliberation, the jury found Casey Anthony “Not Guilty” on the counts of Murder 1, Aggravated Manslaughter, and Aggravated Child Abuse. Casey Anthony was convicted on four counts of lying to investigators. Casey immediately welled-up with tears as the first three verdicts (the most serious charges) were read.

Casey’s parents looked stone-faced as they heard the verdict, and they walked out in what appeared to be disgust moments after. Casey and her defense team held hands after the verdict was read, smiling and jubilant, as Judge Belvin Perry gave the court instructions. Jose Baez was heavily ridiculed for his closing arguments; yet, he is owed an apology by much of the media, as the jury bought his defense hook-line-and-sinker.

This is a stunning turn of events, as just minutes ago many in the media were talking about Casey Anthony likely walking down death row—now, she may walk free all together with time served. Ultimately, it was the jury who could not on the scant evidence provided by the prosecution. Each count of lying to investigators carries a sentence of one year; she has served about 3 years thus far. Casey would serve no more than a year and three months if she does any jail time at all. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning at 9am.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Los Zetas Leader “El Mamito” Arrested by Mexican Authorities

Co-founder of the Mexican drug cartel The Los Zetas, Rejon Jesus Enrique Aguilar—a.k.a. “El Mamito” (“The Mummy”)—was arrested yesterday by the Mexico City Federal Police. El Mamito was amoung the most wanted criminals, wanted by both Mexico and the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA ) had a five million dollar bounty on the head of El Mamito. According to the Public Security Secretariat (SSP), El Mamito is third in command within the Zetas, under the command of Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, known by authorities as “The Lazca” and “Z-40.” Rejon Aguilar is also suspected to have played a part in the shooting of two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents earlier this year-- in Santa Maria, San Luis Potosi, where ICE agent Jaime Zapata was murdered.

"On April 3, 1993, Jesus Enrique Aguilar Rejon, joined the Mexican Army in his home state of Campeche and in 1996 was assigned to Special Forces Airmobile Group (GAFE). "In 1997 he was assigned to the Attorney General's Office Agent 'C', commissioned the towns of Reynosa in Tamaulipas and Michael German and later in the year 1998, was sent to Saltillo, Coahuila", said the SSP.

Turf wars between the Zetas and other cartels have transformed parts of Mexico into lawless killing grounds and scared away some foreign investors. It is expected that the U.S. will request the extradition of El Mamito who is wanted in the U.S for drug trafficking under a 2008 Federal indictment in the District of Columbia.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kercher Family Lawyer, Francesco Maresca: A Force to be Reckoned With

What has thus far been lost, or more like “ignored,” by the American media is the fact that Francesco Maresca—lawyer for the Kercher family—believes that Knox, Sollecito, and Guede were all involved in the murder of his client’s daughter. This is important because Maresca represents the interests of the victim and her family. Maresca has attended all hearings and has been an active member in this case; he has also been an outspoken source apart from the police and the prosecutors involved. So this also means that the Kercher family believes in the guilt of all three as well, which they have publically acknowledged apart from their attorney.

Francesco Maresca has always been a public voice throughout this entire process. After nearly every hearing on the case, Maresca has been the most significant voice, because he remains the most independent lawyer involved in the case. Among the many hats that Maresca had to wear, he was always concerned about the dignity of Meredith and her family. Maresca implored the judge in the original trial to have the media excluded from hearing evidence that involved graphic photos and or testimony to “preserve Meredith’s memory and dignity,” and because this would be “very traumatic” for the Kercher family. NOTE: Maresca also informed the court that he had no objection to journalists hearing the proceedings, but just without video. Judge Massei made the decision that neither would occur.

And then there were the days where Maresca showed the media his animated side. After one hearing, Maresca even used sarcasm to get his point across. Speaking in regard to whether or not more than one person was involved in the killing Maresca said, “If it was only one person then that person had more than two hands.” He later answered that question much more directly: “…the attack [on Kercher] was strong, and repeated, and carried out by more than one person.”

Maresca has always been outspoken in providing his, and the Kercher family’s, view on who was involved. In his closing argument in the original trial of Knox and Sollecito, Maresca told the court that the case against Knox and Sollecito was “crystal clear,” and sufficient enough for the judges and the jury to find them guilty.

Meredith Kercher’s family remained silent during the trial, except when called to testify, and they looked relieved when the verdict was read. The Kercher family also spoke at a press conference after the trial, but they spoke mostly about the memory of Meredith. They did, however, give a glimpse into their beliefs about who killed their daughter/sister. The family praised the efforts of police, prosecutors, and jurors, and Meredith’s brother, Lyle, said, “Ultimately we are pleased with the verdict.”

And then there was the article written by Meredith’s father, John Kercher, in the UK’s Daily mail at the start of the appeals trial in which he made a strong plea for the cruel, callous, and inaccurate PR games, of Knox’s family, to stop. In it, he makes it very clear his (and his family’s) feelings of Knox’s involvement in his daughter’s murder. “To many, she seems an unlikely killer. Yet to my family she is, unequivocally, culpable. As far as we are concerned, she has been convicted of taking our precious Meredith’s life in the most hideous and bloody way.”

Overall, they remained dignified throughout the entire process, letting Maresca do the talking for them. After the guilty verdict was handed down to Knox and Sollecito at the original trial, Maresca spoke on behalf of the family regarding the decision. “The Kercher family got the justice they were expecting,” Maresca told the press. “We got what we were hoping for.” He later added, “It is a good sentence that fills the Kercher family with satisfaction. Justice was given to the family for this tragedy. These are heavy convictions for very young kids. It is a tragedy on all sides.”

Then it was Mr. Maresca who led the charge against the Sollecito family for providing local Bari TV station, Telenorba, with a crime-scene video of Meredith, which showed her lying half-naked on her back on the floor, with the wounds to her throat clearly visible. And, without any shame, Telenorba committed the ultimate taboo televised the video.

“This is an example of gross journalistic misconduct, which evidently violates all the rules of how to report a story,” Maresca said. Spurred by complaints from Maresca, a full investigation into the Sollecito family ensued. Charges were soon announced, for this and other offenses allegedly committed by the Sollecito family, and that trial is ongoing.

In a recent interview with Umbria Left regarding the previous hearing and Rudy Guede’s testimony, Maresca said, “In my opinion Guede once again confirmed the presence of all three accused at the site of the murder that night. It seems to me the truth of a co-accused already found guilty. To me it appeared absolutely clear,” Maresca concluded.

Even more recently, the two court appointed experts submitted a 145-page report filed to a tribunal in Perugia explaining their results, after examining the only two pieces of DNA evidence that the court would allow to be contested by either defense team. The conclusion that they came up with was that the DNA evidence “might have been contaminated” (I will cover this report extensively in subsequent posts).

To this report, Maresca countered that “the word of the independent experts would not be the last word, and said he would raise his objections during the last week in July, when the report will be formally discussed during a week of hearings.” Maresca also asserted that the scientific police and the consultants, whose results the independent experts are reviewing, have “far more experience” than the independent experts. “I was surprised that these experts were so certain, and gave such strong, drastic opinions, given that they don’t have the same number of years of experience under their belt,” Mr. Maresca said.