Mr. Holland's Opus
"A man's gotta know his limitations."
Many of you may be familiar with the wildly popular Discovery Channel reality show, “MythBusters.” It’s a show in which two very clever guys, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, and their very clever 'build team' take on myths, urban legends, rumors and old-wives tales and endeavor to prove them true, possible or false; or as they say, “Confirmed,” “Plausible” or “Busted.” Using elements of scientific method, they empirically test well-known urban legends to determine their validity.
For instance, in one episode they disproved the myth that Benjamin Franklin ‘discovered’ electricity by tying a key to the string of a kite flown in a thunderstorm to facilitate it being hit by lightning.
Using medical and electrical instrumentation, they determined that if the key on a kite was indeed hit by
lightning, the wet string would impart to the holder of the string an electrical charge 6 times the strength necessary to kill a man.
In another, they disproved a myth with which I was familiar. When I lived in New York City as a child, my parents took me up to the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building to see the view, and of course I wanted to throw a penny off the building. I was warned by my mother, “If a penny falling from the top of this building hit somebody in the head, it would kill them.” I had never thought of that. Not being an ace at physics when I was 5, I took mom’s word for it. Shaken at my brush with manslaughter, I pocked the penny with great relief. Imagine my surprise when “MythBusters” were able to prove that the terminal velocity of a penny falling from that exact distance was incapable of causing more than a bruise.
It's hard to give up pre-conceived notions and myths you have bought into. So hard that many people simply refuse to accept evidence that proves they were wrong, rather than admit their mistake and go on with life. This kind of denial is sad when it has to do with something as simple as the old wives tale of the fatal falling penny. When the denial results in hatred, threats, and attempts to punish the innocent, it borders on criminal. Apparently, like ‘The Force’ in Luke Skywalker, this type of denial is strong in the Amanda Knox hate groups.
As an example; I know a little bit about surgery. I’ve seen it on TV. I’ve read about it in books. I’ve even had surgery performed on me. But I don’t do surgery and I never will. That’s because I have learned enough about it to know that it is a vast, complicated undertaking and even as a fairly intelligent guy, I know I don’t know enough about surgery to keep from killing anybody I operate on. I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know.
I’m guessing that the members of the Amanda Knox hate groups on the Internet would have no qualms about trying surgery. (On someone else). These malicious groups—and I can only assume that Mr. Holland is a member based on his statement—don’t know what they don’t know. It appears that because they have watched “CSI” or any number of “Sherlock Holmes” films, they feel that they have the knowledge and skill to be investigators. In the words of the immortal Jeremy Clarkson, “What could go wrong?” A lot.
"What could go wrong?"
"WHAT COULD GO WRONG?"
Forensics is not as easy as it seems. After graduating from the FBI Academy 30 some years ago, I felt I was a pretty good investigator. I was wrong. It was not until I had been investigating for a decade that I felt I that my experience was adequately rounded. In contrast, dozens of arm-chair Kercher murder investigators who have likely never missed a “Murder, She Wrote,” are dismissing the conclusions of dozens of DNA experts, forensic scientists, FBI agents, judges and pathologists, and damning two innocent young people based on their own amateur read of “evidence,” of which they have no understanding.
It reminds me of MythBuster Adam Savage’s catchphrase: “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”
Recently, I was provided with evidence of exactly this type of denial; a couple of weeks ago, I received a comment on my April 13, 2013 article “(Another) Unpredicted Italian Earthquake.” This comment was so important and so illustrative of the problems involved in Amanda’s case that I felt it deserved not simply an answer, but an article.
The article in question outlined the fallacies of the Italian Supreme Court (famous for their recent ruling that women in tight jeans cannot be raped, as men cannot remove their pants without their consent), which failed to ratify the appellate exoneration of Amanda Knox. A Mr. Wayne Holland differed with me and wrote:
“Amanda’s DNA was found in 5 spots mixed with murdered woman’s blood. Bloody footprints were found using Luminol.
How soon you forget. Philomena’s floor had a mixture of Knox’s blood and Meredith’s [victim’s] blood. Even if Knox had innocent drips from pierced ears, it’s almost mathematically impossible that her blood or DNA would be mixing with a murder victim’s blood in so many locations, yet Knox claims she wasn’t even there.”
This might appear to a casual reader as innocent discussion. Except for the fact that every single assertion of Mr. Holland’s Wild Opus is an absolute lie or a complete misunderstanding of the truth—and was proven to be so several years ago. I would call the allegations simply false, except that when one utters or writes something they know (or should know) to be completely and utterly false or intentionally misleading, it is a lie. It is possible that Mr. Holland is simply grossly ignorant of the facts. But it is hard to dismiss this without comment, because Holland claims no expertise in the science of forensics, yet feels the right to make conclusions based on (particularly bad) forensic science.
An acquaintance of mine was one of the small team that turned-around The Walt Disney Company in the early 1980’s. He became president of one of the Disney companies and I am fortunate enough to call him a friend and reap the benefit from his wisdom from time to time. He once passed on to me an adage I try to live by, “It’s important to know what you know. But it’s more important to know what you don’t know.”
MR. HOLLAND'S ACCUSATIONS
So what was it about Mr. Holland’s statement that was so wrong? Let’s break it down for simplicity into your individual statements. To adequately respond to these statements, I’ll have to provide some background on forensics to the reader (and hopefully to Mr. Holland.)
THE MYTH OF THE MIXED BLOOD/DNA
Amanda and Meredith's sink.
1. “Amanda’s DNA was found in 5 spots mixed with murdered woman’s blood."
This statement is akin to the question, “Do you still beat your wife?” It sounds very sinister, but means absolutely nothing.
· The victim in the murder was the roommate of Amanda Knox, Meredith Kercher.
· Amanda and Meredith shared a bathroom.
· It is a scientific certainty that the DNA of Meredith Kercher and Amanda Knox were coating the sink, sink handles, shower, toilet, bidet, etc., of their own bathroom.
· The person who sexually assaulted Meredith and slashed her throat cleaned Meredith’s blood off their hands in the bathroom shared by Meredith and Amanda—this is undisputed. (The DNA of a local burglar was found inside Meredith’s body)
· That Amanda’s DNA would be in the sink and every part of that bathroom is an inescapable scientific fact.
· That the two would be mixed would be unavoidable.
To find blood in that sink, bidet, etc., NOT mixed with Amanda’s DNA would be highly suspicious. If, God forbid, Mr. Holland, a neighbor was murdered in your neighborhood while you were out for the evening and they broke into your home to wash the blood off in your sink, the police would find the victim’s blood mingled with the DNA of Wayne Holland. Is that evidence that you murdered anybody? Of course not. Sadly, you do not know what you do not know.
THE MYTH OF THE 'BLOODY FOOTPRINT'
2. "Bloody footprints were found using Luminol." [For the sake of conjecture, I’ll assume Mr. Holland mean that footprints of Amanda, in Meredith’s blood, were found at the murder scene—otherwise, his statement has no relevance.]
Footprints alleged to be Knox's
Regardless, in no place in that house were the footprints of Amanda Knox found in anybody’s blood. That’s a lie, and I suspect you know it, Holland. A significant problem with Holland’s statement is that even the prosecution disagrees with him. The chief forensic investigator and prosecutor Giuliano Mignini’s accomplice, Patricia Stefanoni, stated in court that bare footprints which appeared to match Amanda Knox’s were found by Luminol, insinuating that the prints were made in blood. And she perjured herself to do it. At first, Stefanoni asserted under oath that no testing had been done to determine whether the footprints had traces of blood in them. Then, months later, documents surfaced in court which showed that testing had been done for blood, and the tests were negative. No blood. Perjury certainly, but no blood.
So what we have are Amanda Knox’s barefoot prints in her own apartment. Not a very astounding find. The revelation of “no blood” occurred in July, 2009. It is astounding that almost four years ago, Holland is unaware of the truth.
Here, Mr. Holland, is the reason it couldn’t have been blood on the feet which made the footprints:
As this photo demonstrates, when very distinct shapes and lines are erased from a chalkboard; they become completely indistinct and unreadable. While you may not know what the erased shapes, numbers or letters on a chalkboard were, you can certainly tell that they were there at one time. An erased chalkboard is not devoid of chalk, it is simply devoid of chalk arranged in any readable pattern. The chalk is easy to detect.
This is a perfect analogy to what a latent blood cleanup looks like. When blood is cleaned up, it does not disappear (at least as as far as invisible irons and copper compounds are concerned.) Though not visible to the human eye, it is still detectable by Luminol. If not cleaned up, the blood is visible and in a detectable shape, much like writing on a chalkboard. When cleaned, the blood, like chalk, "disappears," but does not go away. The only thing that is irretreviably erased is the pattern of the previous imprinting, whether it be writing (chalk) or a footprint/handprint (blood). Follow so far?
Here's a test: Which of the following chalkboards have been erased, A or B?
Of course. "B" has been erased. We know that because we can't see any lettering or recognizable shapes on it. Though what might be chalk is still visible.
· Had the footprints been made in blood, (especially as clear and complete as they were) they would not have been ‘latent,’ that is—invisible to the naked eye. Blood does not dry to invisible. Dried, bloody footprints are visible with the naked eye—as were all of the shoe-prints of Rudy Guede (the known burglar) throughout the house. But the footprints were not visible. That’s why it took Luminol to find them.
Amanda's alleged footprint under ambient light.
Dried blood on the same tile floor several feet away.
As you can see from the photo on the left above, the footprint which the prosecution believes was Amanda's was absolutely invisible except under Luminol examination. The bloody floor on the right is the exact same tile with dried blood on it the same day, only a few feet away. So, if 'Amanda's' footprint had been made in blood, it would have had the appearance of the photo on the right, and would not have dried invisible--even in Italy.
The prosecution, and Mr. Holland, want you to believe that it was Amanda's footprint--in blood--but cleaned with bleach to make it invisible. Certainly, there are times when a cleaned bloody footprint or handprint will be visible in their original shape after cleaning--but only on completely porous surfaces such as carpet, cloth or wall paint.
What would it look like on glazed tile or porcelain? Check out the Luminol photograph of a cleaned crime scene below.Then, look again at the chalkboard. Mr. Holland's allegation is simply silly. But that's not because he is unintelligent, it is because he doesn't understand forensic science or investigations.
· If the footprint was not made in blood, what caused the Luminol reaction? Easy. Bleach. Bleach reacts so similarly to blood under Luminol examination that it is used to train forensic investigators. The bare foot prints in question are coming from the direction of Amanda’s shower, which was stocked with bathroom cleaners which contain—wait for it---bleach! Again, if Amanda Knox showered in that bathroom, then walked out barefoot to her room and NO bare footprints were discoverable by Luminol, then THAT would be suspicious. Ultimately, Mr. Holland’s statements prove only one thing: That he is terrifically naïve of forensic science. Sadly, this is a naiveté endemic to the anti-Knox groups.
How would the victim's blood get from one room to the other? Talk about your unsolvable mysteries!
THE MYTH OF THE 'MIXED BLOOD'
3. “Philomena’s [sic] floor had a mixture of Knox’s blood and Meredith’s [victim] blood. Even if Knox had innocent drips from pierced ears, it’s almost mathematically impossible that her blood or DNA would be mixing with a murder victim’s blood in so many locations, yet Knox claims she wasn’t even there.”
This one’s a ‘whopper.’ Holland is alleging that Knox’s blood and the victim’s blood were found intermixed in the room of Filomena (not “Philomena”, Mr. Holland), another roommate. This is simply a lie. At no point in the trial was anybody ever able to provide a single piece of evidence to suggest that Amanda’s blood was in Filomena’s room. Never. Didn’t happen.
It is, however, Meredith’s blood in Filomena’s room. How did Meredith’s blood get into Filomena’s room? Check out the photo. This is an actual photograph of one of the police forensic “investigators” standing in Meredith’s blood. I personally watched two hours of unedited videotape of the forensic investigators collecting samples throughout the house. I repeatedly saw police officers in Tyvek ‘bubble suits’ step INTO the victim’s wet blood, then walk throughout the house, outside the house, then back into the house. It’s amazing that Meredith’s blood wasn’t found in the homes of the investigating officers. Had they checked, I believe they might have found it there. I should have called this, "The Myth of Polizia Scientifica Competence."
The allegation that Amanda’s blood was anywhere in any quantity is also problematic, as Amanda’s entire body was examined several days after Meredith’s murder for cuts and injuries and not a single one; cut, scrape or injury—or even a healing wound—was found which would have released blood. So…..if it was Amanda’s blood, where did it come from? This is a question that has been debunked so many times its almost laughable. Yet, like the Loch Ness monster photo, some people still believe it to be authentic.
There is also, sadly, another way that the blood from the victim could have found itself to anywhere in the house--especially to places where the "Polizia Scientifica" felt evidence might be: Their tools. Follow the travels of this ruler from place to place to place. It starts in the victim's blood, then travels to alleged footprints of Amanda, then to every room in the house and to every piece of evidence. And no, there is not a shred of visual or testimonial evidence that the photographer used more than one photographic ruler of that shape and size. He brought one, and by God, he used it.
I did not challenge the accuser’s statements to embarrass Mr. Holland or to simply expose his naiveté about investigation, forensics, evidence or the actual facts of the case. I did it to illustrate to readers the reckless, irresponsible and completely ignorant propaganda being spewed by people motivated by innuendo, hate, and mob rule. This is the type of forensics and evidence evaluation which were handy to those burning witches. It boggles the mind why they so hate Amanda Knox—and not the man who raped and murdered Meredith Kercher; Rudy Guede.
The irony here is that one of the old saws the Knox-haters keep trotting out is the one about Amanda “accusing” an innocent man of the murder. The story, like the rest, is apocryphal at best, but what actually happened was that Amanda, a 20 year old girl in Italy for only a few weeks, was interrogated by Italian police for 53 hours over five days. The last 6-8 hours occurred overnight, from 10 pm until 6 am, during which time she was refused food, water, coffee or bathroom breaks.
They screamed at Amanda, verbally abused her, threatened her, slapped her in the head when she didn’t give the correct answers, terrified her, and told her she would never see freedom or America again. So finally, after enduring this all night, at the insistence of the police, she wrote a confused, contradictory and inadmissible statement about a ‘dreamlike’ vision of a man killing Meredith. A specific, innocent man the police had 'suggested' to Amanda--by name. So yes, Amanda accused an innocent man. She did so with all the evil intent of a frightened bank teller handing a wad of the bank's cash--to a man who holds a gun to her head. She did so with all the evil intent of American fighter pilots, who after similar treatment in North Korea and North Vietnam, signed "confessions" admitting to intentionally bombing innocent women and babies.
So what of Mr. Holland and his ilk? They wax pedantic on Amanda’s accusation of an innocent man; all the while doing the same thing: Accusing innocent persons of murder. Ironically the very same murder.
Amanda’s accusation came at the end of a week of terror from a confused, abused, frightened, and coerced girl. That’s why she did what she did. The people who accuse her? They do so because of ignorance, hatred, xenophobia, pride and malice.
In conclusion, Mr. Holland, I offer you only the advice of a great American; Mark Twain:
“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.”
Amanda Knox; An Innocent Girl
Finally Goes Home
I met Amanda Knox for the first time a few days ago, following her release from an Italian prison after serving four years for a crime she did not commit. I am grateful that I had not met Amanda before I got involved in the case.
Not meeting Amanda prior to my involvement in the case probably saved me from prison time myself. Had I known her personally, I do not know if I could have waited for the agonizingly slow wheels of Italian justice to free her. Amanda, you see, turns out to be a truly spectacular person; even more intelligent than I had expected, even more empathetic than she had been described, and even more gentle than I had anticipated. More and more, the fact that she of all people was targeted by a malicious, psychologically-challenged rogue prosecutor raises the level of irony to almost absurd levels. So at a time when I should have been feeling only relief and gratitude, I had to fight a seething vicarious anger at four years taken from a good person. Amanda herself seems to bear no malice, and wonders only how anybody could believe she did what prosecutor Giuliano Mignini charged her with.
The events of the last week have washed over me like a tidal wave, and I have not caught up with the emotion, the reality or the impact of what took place. I do not feel that I am ready to write at length about the events in Perugia last week, but I wanted to communicate a few thoughts in the meantime.
The most beautiful part of the “Not Guilty” verdict for Amanda and Raffaele came in the way Italian law demands that a verdict be couched. In Italy, a person can be found not guilty for two reasons (and I paraphrase the language):
1. Not guilty due to insufficient evidence. (Not guilty)
2. Not guilty due to the fact that the person did not commit the crime. (Innocent)
The first option is a passive statement, but the second is a positive declaration ofinnocence, not simply lack of guilt. It says not that the prosecutors failed to meet their burden, but that the evidence proves that person charged did not commit the crime. It is not simply release, it is full exoneration. That is the verdict Amanda and Raffaele received: Not guilty because the evidence proved that they did not commit the crime.
In a piece in Wednesday’s International Herald Tribune, New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Timothy Egan wrote, “There was no way, based on forensic evidence that was a joke by international standards and a nonexistent motive that played into medieval superstitions, to find Knox and Sollecito guilty….” The claim of the prosecutors that there was a trace of the victim’s DNA on the blade of a knife used by Amanda to cut bread was, “….nearly laughed out of court by an independent panel of [DNA] experts.” The independent experts did find something on the blade, though: Bread Starch. (Rye). Out of nowhere.
It must be pointed out that Amanda’s exoneration did not come from an American court. The U.S. State Department (God knows) didn’t do anything to help her. The U.S. government abandoned her in a despicable, cowardly way, frankly. No, the exoneration of Amanda and Raffaele occurred in an Italian court. A court in the same Italian city in which they were first convicted by a judge who, if he is not corrupt, has not even a basic understanding of evidence and the rule of law. The kids were exonerated in the same courtroom in which the first trial was held. By a jury of Italians, not Americans. Jurors who wore sashes in the colors of the Italian flag. They were once again prosecuted by the same prosecutor (who is still appealing his own prison sentence for corruption). Only the judge was different. And this judge demanded evidence. And this judge demanded justice. Judge Pratillo Hellmann made Italy justifiably proud. I have been in more Federal Courtrooms in the United States than I can count. The controlled, careful and fair manner in which Judge Hellmann conducted this trial was, if anything, superior to what I have come to expect even in a U.S. federal court.
In Italian law, after a not guilty verdict, a defendant already incarcerated in prison obtains their release several hours later at the prison. Only very rarely will a judge order that a defendant be “released immediately.” On those rare occasions that this occurs, according to Italian attorneys I spoke to, it is considered a ‘slap’ at the prosecutor(s). Judge Hellmann ordered that Amanda and Raffaele be “released immediately.” The immediate release was an obvious signal of the judge’s extreme dissatisfaction the prosecution.
Following the verdict, a crowd of over 1,000 Italians formed around the courthouse, and a cheer went up when Amanda’s sister Deanna spoke of her release. Many times in Perugia, I experienced an indication of the overwhelming Italian sentiment of Amanda’s innocence. Italians would learn that I was involved in the case, and I would find that my drinks had been paid for, unrequested desserts came to the table, and strangers came to encourage or to hug me. People who spoke no English would walk past and cross their fingers in the “good luck” sign, smiling. The Italian public had figured this one out.
At the end, the Italian (legitimate) press was vociferously in Amanda’s corner. Immediately following the verdict, I looked over at two of my newfound friends in the Italian television media, and tears were rolling down their smiling cheeks. The prosecutor Mignini tried to couch this trial as racism (the actual murderer was black), and then as nationalism (big, bad America trying to step on poor little Italy). But in doing so, he only managed to prove the truth of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s immortal 1775 quote: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Insightfully, the judge, the jury and the Italian public chose to disregard his attempts at jury nullification and decided this case on fact rather than jingoism and prejudice.
Sadly, the vindictiveness of a corrupt local system is not easily escaped. About half an hour after the initially popular verdict, a “spontaneous” anti-Knox demonstration began outside the court. In a striking bit of serendipity, the “spontaneous demonstrators” just happened to have megaphone with them that night, and all knew what they would chant. Though in jeans and polo shirts, the demonstrators (all men between their middle-20’s and late 40’s) bore startling, almost eerie individual resemblances to the dozens of policemen who had originally signed the warrants against Amanda and Raffaele, and who had been in court that night in a “show of solidarity.” Many of those officers are the same ones suing Amanda for claiming that she had been slapped in her interrogation. (The required tape of the interrogation of prisoners in Italy is inexplicably absent. Go figure.)
After the ‘impromptu’ demonstration, the men began individual fist-fights with Italian Amanda supporters, (I counted at least five such fights) and generally shamed the town of Perugia at a moment when the city deserved to be basking in the glory of the world spotlight. I want to point out here that the people of Perugia are good, honorable people, by and large. The Carabinieri (military) police in the town are honorable and professional. But the local police and the local prosecutor ruthlessly run the town. As an example, while we were in Perugia, five people were arrested---in the courtroom---by the local police. All for criticizing the prosecutor in some way or another. My wife was one of those arrested, and awaits a decision as to whether she will be charged with “contempt” which carries with it a possible three-year prison sentence.
The relief I feel at Amanda and Raffaele’s release is indescribable. I also feel additional relief that on-line Amanda-haters are by and large a thing of my past. We had dealt with them until now only to counter their hateful propaganda in front of an uninformed public. Now, it’s not even important to answer them because truly, nobody cares about what they say anymore.
They and others who refuse to accept this Italian court verdict (while arbitrarily accepting the first court’s verdict) are already receding into insignificance, and even the echoes of their hateful diatribes and death threats are fading into the ether. I do not think that they will ever be convinced of Amanda’s obvious innocence, nor do I think they are done spewing propaganda. Frustration produces anger, and like an infant who throws a tantrum when put down for a nap, I assume they will make a lot of indiscriminate noise that does nothing but irritate those around them. But they can now be grouped by society with those who claim to have been kidnapped by UFO’s, doubters in the moon landings and 9/11 conspiracy theorists. As one of my favorite philosophers, Stan Marsh of “South Park,”once said to Eric Cartman about such conspiracy mongers: “25% of society is crazy.” This is truth, and it is truth that the anti-Amanda crazies will continue to validate. But now they have been refuted by the same justice system they touted for years, and eventually, like the child put down for a nap, will become distracted and move on to other things. They will soon be looking for new things and people to hate. (Though those of them who crossed the lines of civil and criminal behavior will soon find that they have not been forgotten and that legal redress waited only for Amanda’s repatriation.)
What remains is to ensure that this does not happen again. As Egan said, “Perhaps the tide from Perugia will lift other boats.” For this to happen, though, pompous prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, forensic perjurer Patrizia Stefanoni, and mind-reading detective Edgardo Giobbi (and others), must be prosecuted for their corruption. The judge who rubber-stamped the lies in the first trial, Massei, must also be called to the bar of justice—or back to law school. That is what will occupy some of my time for the next few years, I’m sure. But for right now, I am in the mood to bathe in the warmth of the freedom of Amanda Knox. The sunshine of the justice she obtained should warm the entire world.
At this moment, I find that the word “elation” is woefully inadequate to describe my emotions. Euphoria might be a closer word, but euphoria eventually fades. As long as I live, I will remember that late night in the courtroom when two innocents were rescued from a cabal of evil men.
Posted from Florence, Italy, September 28, 2011
The Perugia Witch Trial continues…..
Well, the façade is down. No more trying to hide it. This is a witch trial. These are not my words, but the words of Carlo Pacelli, an attorney fighting to obtain monetary damages from Amanda Knox. Pacelli finally said (in court, on record) what everybody already knew the prosecution thought:
“Amanda Knox is a witch!”
Like the Salem inquisitions and other publicly sanctioned murders, the initial trial was based on rumors, lies, accusations, and a “confession” obtained from (psychological) torture techniques that the prosecutors in Salem would have killed for. Finally, any and all evidence clearing an innocent person was intentionally disregarded.
Patrick Lumumba is suing Amanda Knox for €80,000 for implicating him in the murder, a statement the detectives forced and beat from her after an overnight foodless, sleepless interrogation, using techniques developed by the North Koreans to brainwash U.S. pilots during the Korean War. (See injusticeinperugia.com for details.) Being sued for something you were forced to do is kind of like being rammed by a drunk policeman, then being ticketed for littering because the body of your passenger is on the freeway.
So, at least it’s finally out in the open and we can go on, confident that, at least we understand each other.
In other news:
On September 28th, 2010, Pepperdine University and I parted company, at their request. I am no longer at liberty to discuss why. (But it was not a mutual decision. Pepperdine and I settled "out of court" the lawsuit I subsequently filed. I can't speak for Pepperdine, but I am very satisfied with the resolution of the suit.)
At Pepperdine, I shared responsibility for security of their worldwide campuses and the students that studied there (including those in Florence, Italy). In a magnificent display of God's sense of irony, today I find myself in Florence, Italy.
When something you initially perceive as bad (or really bad) occurs, remember that it could be God intervening to change your course for the better. I believe this is the case with my change of direction one year ago today. I have not felt so fulfilled, at peace, and certain I was on the right side of an issue in my life. It might be the best bad thing to ever happen to me, and that's saying a lot. Pepperdine is a fine, even spectacular university and I hope and pray that they flourish all over the world. Their students are among some of the finest people I have ever met.
So, today, in Florence, Michelle and I will celebrate God's provision for us, not mark a somber occasion.
1. “Courtesy in behavior or speech”
Last week, I posted my response to the Ann Coulter 'drive-by op-ed' on this blog, and later that week, on groundreport.com. Since then, it has received more than 3,500 views. I am gratified at the response, but suspect it had much more to do with the name Coulter than it did with the name Moore.
Less gratifying, unfortunately, were many of the comments I received about the article. If you read the article, you may remember that my hypothesis was that people should be judged one at a time, and not by any group with which they are affiliated. Affiliation with a group is not tacit endorsement of everything done by everything in that group. I am a Christian, but I don't endorse abortion clinic bombings; or for that matter violence of any nature in the name of God. Nobody wants (or deserves) to be judged by the actions of everyone in a group they belong to, or worst of all, a family into which they were born. That's prejudice, bias and sometimes hatred.
While I did not tally up the 'for' and 'against,' in the comments, it appeared to be about two-thirds in favor of the article, and the remaining one-third.....well, they hated my guts. With the exception of one or two actual attempts to debate the subject matter, the rest (50 or so) were simply personal attacks. And not just on me, but on my wife, too! Where did that come from? The bottom line, however, is that the dissenters on this article either didn't read the article, or are heroically trying to prove me right. They also illustrate why I have elected not to receive comments on my articles on this blog. [Changed now, he got braver. -administrator]
I present some of the more entertaining (and less threatening or vulgar) comments, solely to strengthen the hypothesis of my article. Enjoy.
“Moore can go on over to Red China and enjoy retirement with his Commie peers” (Is California an acceptable substitute?)
“Not only do you not speak Italian, but you have never even been to Italy.” (True. I do not speak Italian. How I ever thought I could investigate a crime is beyond me. Good thing the FBI never asked. As far as never being in Italy, several airlines owe me a refund.)
“We know you are not very well educated, Mr Moore” (This is not my fault, private universities are not what they used to be.)
"You and your eccentric wife….. are useless, publicity-obsessed clowns." (We are not useless.)
Shut up, Moore - you fat clown.(I thought you had to be tall and intelligent to get into the FBI.) (You do. I got a waiver.)
"....moronic, delinquent three-year-old...." (You forgot about the part in the article where you disagreed with me. You know, what I'm wrong about?)
"Shut up Michelle - you Moron." (Apparently, one reader felt that a pro-Steve poster was actually Michelle. It wasn’t.)
"Don't forget that as well as Mr Moore's extensive career and military credentials, Jesus would also like him for a sunbeam." (That hurts, as it obviously came from a Baptist. Or a Nirvana fan.)
"You are raving…... Calm down and find a job." (I was excited until I found out the word wasn't 'ravishing.')
"Wasn't smart enough to go to EITHER med school or law school." (Again, an obvious requirement for investigations or opinions. Not sure if I was or was not smart enough. Never applied to either. I did get a congressional nomination to the Air Force Academy. Again, education failed me.)
"...Pilot that became a campus security guard..." (I just always wanted to ride in golf carts)
"I feel sorry for your shallow intellect." (Mom? Is that you?)
"What, are you a Communist now that you're out of the FBI, which you infiltrated." (Confused. Did I infiltrate the communists or the FBI?)
"You are a self-destructive nut without a cause.....mercurial madness...." (The "mercurial madness" allegation made me really mad. Then, it didn't. Then it did again.)
"Are you trying to kill your own mother?, what an opening to your crappy opinion piece." (How is that tin-foil hat working out for you?)
"You gonna plop on your fat behind. Roll down the hill, baby…." (Stop looking at my butt.)
"You've always hated women. Now it's Ann Coulter alias your Mom. Maybe Mom and Ann both have gunsafe fuller than yours, that the problem?" (Mom's gun safe can't hold a candle to mine.)
"When are you going to turn on Michelle and Megan(sic)?" (Michelle is already turned-on by me. Meg will always see me as just "dad." But thanks for the gross question.)
"Steve was reassigned as a pilot and is awfully young to have "retired" from the FBI." (Awwwwww.....shucks. Thank you.)
"I feel genuine pity for the man and hope that he can find effective treatment." (Doctors have determined that the most effective treatment for me involves hand-rolled cigars and single-malt scotch. I accept donations care of injusticeinperugia.com. I KNOW some of you are from the UK. Give 'till it hurts.)
"You are clearly beyond educating, Moore. Find yourself an easy job and leave the serious stuff to clever people." (I'm looking into politics.)
"Mr Moore and his wife lost every single shred of credibility outside of the US bible belt when they said they were doing God's work….[they] should be ignored immediately due to their over reliance on myths and 2000 year old fairy stories. If you want to get any respect back Steve, start listening to reason as opposed to God or your wife." (Remember, ignore Steve because he believes in God, not because of facts. Obviously, nobody who believes in God can be competent. I sincerely hope your next airline pilot doesn't believe in God.)
"Go read some Richard Dawkins, Phillip Pullman and Douglas Adams then laugh at your bible and start living your life without fear of someone who doesn't actually exist." (Let's bet on the whole 'existence of God' thing. No money, we've already got more than that riding on it.)
"To begin with you say you are a career FBI agent. OK so why is it, given your age, you are no longer employed by the FBI?" (How old do you think I am?)
"You state that you have all these qualifications. (Helicopter pilot etc;) So how come you are not gainfully employed ferrying workers out to oil rigs in the gulf?" (Have you ever been to Morgan City, Louisiana?)
"An undercover agent! How exciting, and how long did you sit in the car wearing a suit as a disguise while eating donuts?" (Not sure if Apple Fritters are officially donuts.)
"A certified sniper. Congratulations upon being able to hit a barn from the inside..." (I think you are unclear on the concept....You don't happen to live in a barn, do you? Would you mind terribly standing next to one?)
"Thank God your wife is working, probably at MacDonalds (sic)." (So that's where you've been Michelle?)
I'll finish with something that will (regrettably) enrage some of my new "fans:" A closing analogy which mentions both guns and God.
When I was on SWAT, my son once asked me what I would do if a gang-banger tried to shoot me with a machine gun. (That's the gun part)
"I would thank God," I said. (That's the God part)
"Why??" He asked, incredulous.
The answer was very simple. Once the trigger is pulled, a machine gun is about as controllable as a fire hose (which is frequently manned by two fire fighters.) Unless a person is highly trained, machine guns cannot be effectively aimed once it starts firing. And firing at 800 rounds a minute, they will empty themselves in about two seconds. So all the bullets go over your head, and the shooter is unarmed almost immediately. The shooters who concerned us were those who were careful, deliberate, held a gun properly and seemed to know what they were doing.
The individuals who responded to my article are like those machine-gun-toting gang-bangers. Their 'weapons' apparently made them feel powerful, yet ultimately, their responses were un-reasoned, out of control, and completely ineffectual. I'm almost disappointed, because the facts are on my side, and I'd kind of like to debate them.
And Michelle, please bring home a Big Mac. Combo. And Super-Size it.
What Blinded Justice?
jus tis [juhs-tis]
The quality of being just, impartial and fair.
“Do the accused have a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty?”
“Do the accused have the right to defend themselves in court?” If you believe they do, then read on. (If you believe they don’t, keep surfing.)
It stands to reason that if a person has a right to a trial, then they have the right to all the appeals and other legal processes allowed under their system of justice.Meredith Kercher, a beautiful, and by all accounts vivacious, intelligent and special woman was brutally murdered in November of 2007 in Perugia, Italy. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were arrested for the crime before the results of any physical evidence examinations were received. This is not my opinion, it is the statement of the police themselves: “We knew she was guilty of murder without physical evidence,” Chief Investigator Edgardo Giobbi embarrassingly admitted on TV, in a scene awkwardly reminiscent of Ashlee Simpson’s lip syncing scandal on Saturday Night Live. Much as Ashlee’s humiliation began when her tech people cued up the wrong song, Giobbi’s began when the evidence finally arrived and showed he had cued up the wrong “murderer.” The DNA of a burglar known to carry a knife (and unknown to Amanda and Raffaele) was found in the victim. But that didn’t stop the embarrassed police/court. They convicted Amanda and Raffaele on what most worldwide observers now consider contrived or even planted evidence. Then they passed the Kool Aid around and everyone drank.Not surprisingly, both Knox and Sollecito appealed their conviction.
Then, something incredible happened. John Kercher, the victim’s father, appeared to decry the fact that Amanda and Raffaele were given an appeal. He used his press contacts to post article after article in the British and Italian press complaining of the burden and the pain the appeals process was having on their family. To which, I have to ask:“What’s the point?”Certainly, a decent, honorable man like John Kercher was not advocating that Amanda and Raffaele don’t or shouldn’t have the right to their legally-guaranteed appeal. So what was his reasoning? Was he simply cathartically emoting in the press? Or was there another reason? The statement was not made when the appeal wasannounced; the statement by John Kercher was released by the press at the beginning of the appeal, and the timing therefore feels somewhat calculated.
I tread carefully on the thin ice of questioning the statements of bereaved people. I have not endured the pain that has been foisted on the Kerchers and pray to God I will never have to. I respect and admire the dignity with which they have dealt with the tragedy. I pray for them. I ache for them. I do not think they should be criticized. However, this does not mean that their statements are sacrosanct or should not be examined for the sake of justice for Meredith and for Amanda and for Raffaele. Frankly, and I think this point has been largely ignored, if one has to make a choice between; A) Ensuring that all people involved in this case get the full measure of justice to which they are entitled, or B) Protecting the Kerchers from further pain, justicemust prevail, as distasteful as it is to think of Meredith's family going through more pain.
Disagreeing with the Kerchers, even publicly, is not disrespect. While much has been written about the Kerchers' "dignified silence" in this case, it should be noted that while they have been dignified, they have not been silent. Especially, they have not been silent at strategic moments, frequently in the weekend prior to important court proceedings. Tomorrow, the final stage of Amanda and Raffaele's appeal begins, and true to form, a statement has been "leaked" to the British press from a member of the Kercher family. This statement was from a letter written by Stephanie Kercher decrying the deconstruction of the prosecution case. But the letter, curiously, was not written to the prosecutor in the case. It was written (according to the Daily Mail, who got a copy of the letter) to their attorney, Francesco Maresca. Maresca is not simply sitting by and monitoring the case, but is actively cross examining defense witnesses, unusual to say the least. Maresca will also take a share of any of any collectible part of the multi-million Euro settlement awarded to the Kerchers. “Collectible” is the operative word here. Not surprisingly, the letter was “leaked to the press.”
In this letter, Stephanie pleads; “Please don't let Meredith's death be in vain.” But candidly, if Meredith’s own innocent friends are convicted for her murder, her death will not only be in vain, it will become a by-word for injustice. But Meredith’s death does not have to be in vain, it will in some way give greater light to the world in the long run if:
1. Judicial systems around the world learn from the corruption, the travesties, the ignorance, and the attitudes in this small courtroom in Perugia.
2. More innocent people are cleared and more guilty are convicted because of this case.
3. People learn not to pre-judge cases before a trial starts.
4. Justice becomes even a little more “blind” as a result of this case.
The Kerchers are good, decent people who have suffered more than humans should have to. But in their grief and their pain lie the reasons that the family members of victims are not allowed on the jury that tries the suspects in their case.FACT AND EMOTION DO NOT MIXJustice is blind for a reason. Only in the penalty phases can the pain and grief of the family be taken into account. A trial is not about retribution. A trial is about the finding of facts. Emotion is corrosive to facts. Mixing emotion with fact degrades fact, not emotion. If emotions are allowed to influence fact in a trial, all is lost. And this is the reason that the involvement of victims’ families are always against their own best interests.
Again, Stephanie Kercher’s statement is the best example of this problem:“The defence seem to be focusing on these DNA aspects but we want, for a moment to remember who this case is about: My sister, a daughter brutally taken away four years ago, and a day does not pass when we do not think about her and can bring this to an end”Look at the statement. She decries that the defense is focusing on facts; DNA (physical evidence), and she begs us not to concentrate on the evidence, but that her sister is dead and they need closure. “Please,” she seems to be asking, “don’t pay attention to the evidence, listen to our emotion, end our pain.” I have dealt with bereaved families dozens of times, and they are without exception devastated with grief and hoping for the pain to end and closure to arrive as soon as possible. The hard truth is that quick justice usually brings no closure. And this case is possibly the greatest example of the truth of this axiom. Justice must be blind. Blind not just to the suspects, but to the victims. Justice cannot take into account anything but the facts, or else the victims themselves are once again victimized, even if the victims themselves beg for Justice to peek from below her blindfold.
The Kerchers would have had some peace and closure by now if the investigators and forensic personnel had lived up to their responsibilities and the trust given them by the people of Italy. They would have closure if the attorney they hired, Maresca, had no financial interest in an outcome in which a wealthy person was convicted instead of an indigent person. They would have had closure if Judge Hellmann presided over the first case.
If fingers of blame are to be thrust out for the Kercher family’s extended agony, they should be pointed at Rudy Guede, the man who murdered their daughter. At Giuliano Mignini, who saw in this case a chance to cynically resuscitate his shattered career. At Patrizia Stefanoni, whose gross incompetence, (or worse) deprived Amanda, Raffaele, Meredith and the Kercher family true justice. The right of the wrongly accused to appeal their sentences is not, and has never been the cause of the Kerchers’ pain, it has been the result of the police and prosecutors’ malfeasance which made an appeal necessary. Had the police and Mignini gotten this right the first time, had waited just a few days for the physical evidence, Rudy Guede would be in prison for a long, long time, and the Kerchers would have had closure almost three years ago.
The Kercher family has the right to speak. They have been through an unimaginable hell since November 2007. But the world has the right, and frankly, the duty, to look past the statements of grieved family members—whoever they may be--to see beyond the darkness of the agonized cries of a family so wrongly victimized and toward the light five hundred years of legal experience and wisdom, of common law that was written in the blood of victims of criminals and victims of vigilantes. The legal traditions of England, Italy and the United States are the products of hundreds of years of trial and error, and they must not be, cannot be, discarded or disregarded simply due to the emotion implicit in a single case. It has been said that fences are only needed when the cattle are pushing against them. The legal system is a fence which must hold to the facts when emotion pushes against it.
They courts and the juries have the obligation to look dispassionately at the evidence, and not at the victim or the grieving families, because the family will be grieving whether the real murderer or a wrongly accused person is in the dock. The fact that a victim’s family is grieving has no probative basis in a court of law. Only a reasoned, dispassionate analysis of real evidence will bring true justice to Meredith Kercher.IT’S NOT ABOUT MEREDITH NOW.The original case was about Meredith. The prosecution had ONE shot to find the right perpetrator and secure justice for Meredith and her loved ones. They couldn’t get it done. Justice was ‘a bridge too far.’ Wrong persons, no justice. The corruption and the sick avarice and hatred of the court of first incidence denied Meredith "true justice." Done. Over. Tragedy. You cannot resurrect justice for Meredith any more than you can resurrect Meredith herself. Meredith died in November, 2007, and any hope of justice for her died in December 2009.
The APPEAL has to do ONLY with Amanda and Raffaele. Justice for them has not died. Meredith should never be forgotten. However, the appeals courtroom is not the place to keep her memory alive. Frankly, a courtroom in any murder case is the one place in which the murder victim loses all their privacy, dignity and humanity. Tragically, the evidence tells us that justice for Meredith is a lost opportunity. She was murdered by a man who appears to have made a deal with the prosecution for leniency in return for testimony he knew to be false. By some accounts, Meredith’s murderer could be on the streets again in just three years.
Women in painful labor say and do things at which they later marvel, frequently regret, and sometimes laugh at. Anybody who has “coached” a woman through labor knows that extreme pain does not lead to reasoned statements or cautious actions. Care for the Kerchers. Ache for the Kerchers. Pray for the Kerchers. But carefully evaluate what they say—and when they say it. It is our duty, not just to Amanda and Raffaele, but to Meredith.
Bridget Bishop was the first to be hung in Salem for witchcraft. She was a twice-widowed tavern owner, owning "an ordinary" on the road between Salem and Beverly. She served a new and powerful drink called "rum" to many of the sailors who frequented her place. The sailors also played an evil new game called "shuffleboard that upset many of the neighbors. Bridget wore bright clothes, a major offense in the eyes of the Puritans of Salem.
A great public outcry has erupted in the United States about the not-guilty verdict in Florida. Almost everybody seems to have an opinion on Anthony’s guilt or innocence, and most are not afraid to express them.
I want to say up front that I am not about to advocate for either the innocence or the guilt of Casey Anthony.
Once again, we have millions of people making a personal determination on guilt or innocence dependent solely on what they heard in the press. Of these millions of people, maybe dozens were ever in the courtroom for a single day. While Americans were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Jason Puracal, an innocent American was being held captive on trumped-up murder charges in Nicaragua, while the extent and tactics of the railroading of Amanda Knox in Italy was being exposed to the rest of the world, a great mass of the American press was focused on one case in one (obviously gut-wrenching) murder trial. This was not any great search for justice, any great quest to honor the memory of a poor, murdered girl; this was a quest for ratings; and with ratings, for career; and with career; fame and money.
(I say this with some trepidation, because I have in the past appeared on these same shows. And likely will not be asked again after this post).
With the motivations enumerated above, what would advance the interests of this segment of the media? Facts that supported Anthony’s innocence? Or sensational facts that cause more buzz? I would postulate that anything that would work against or disprove the perceived (and reported) wanton, cold, sociopathic killing of an adorable child would tend to calm the anger and the blood-thirst of an angry population, which would hurt ratings. It is the very anger and desire for retribution of much of the populace that causes them to watch these types of shows. This is the modern equivalent of the mob which chased the Frankenstein monster with pitch forks and torches. These are not all the viewers, but they are certainly some.
Therefore, the media has a vested interested in broadcasting salacious details of these types of cases, and a disincentive for broadcasting or exposing exculpatory information. These news shows are not the New York Times, either. They are shows that appeal to a different audience and are in the running for Pulitzer Prizes much the same way Animal House was in the running for an Oscar. I have a built-in distrust of these types of shows. I’ve seen it from the inside.
I am not saying that Casey Anthony is in reality innocent of the charges. I am not saying that she is guilty, either. I am saying that I haven’t seen the evidence, and until I do, I will have to trust the jury, the court and the justice system for the verdict.
Too often, there is a tendency to "follow the crowd" and make a determination of guilt or innocence based simply on what appears in tabloids, or the rumors one has heard. This is why Amanda Knox is in prison. I am disturbed by people decrying the Anthony verdict who I know for sure know nothing about the case. I do not want to ever make a public statement on a person's guilt or innocence until I have done my "due diligence." I was involved in the investigation of at least one FBI Agent involved shooting. Several law enforcement officers were at the scene of a short but vicious gun-battle. The only one who did not shoot was the FBI Agent. I asked several of the agents from other agencies why they shot. Two said, "My partner shot at the guy, so I shot, too." So I asked, "But what was the suspect doing that was dangerous? Did he have a gun? Was he shooting? What?" The answer was disturbing; "I didn't see what he was doing, I was backing up my partner." The agent I spoke to, I am relieved to say, said; "I didn't know why everybody was shooting. I didn't see the threat." Sending bullets 'down-range' without knowing what's going on can kill an innocent person based on the repeated, un-examined mistake of the one officer.
I have yet to hear of a person who really understands the evidence in the Amanda Knox case say that they believe she is guilty. Yet, during the first trial, there was no shortage of uninformed people willing to say Amanda was guilty; people who knew little or nothing about the real evidence. I am not saying that only those who sat through the case in its entirety or had access to the raw evidence can make an informed decision. The more evidence you have, the more informed a decision one can make. But most people were making pronouncements without any functional knowledge at all. I actually heard someone say, "That American girl? What's her name? Oh, she's a witch." She didn't even know her name. Yet she claimed to know enough to condemn her. Some have seen the available evidence in the Anthony case in the legitimate press and have made more informed decisions. In the Amanda Knox case, I did the same thing. And once I saw the actual evidence, I changed my mind about believing the jury: Amanda Knox was framed. I learned that I cannot always trust every jury and every justice system. I have no idea whether Casey Anthony killed her daughter. But it is somewhat moot, as Casey is not in prison.
In the U.S., defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty.
There is a term in aviation called the "failure mode." It is what happens to a particular piece of the airplane when that piece fails. For instance, when traffic lights fail; rather than displaying green on all sides, which would be disastrous, they fail to a flashing red. When aircraft hydraulics fail, the landing gear generally falls down. When electronic engine controls fail, the engine generally goes to 3/4 power, not idle, which means you can get to an airport. It is all aimed at insuring that if something goes terribly wrong, that the best result possible happens. An example of a bad failure mode is the DC-10. As United Airlines found out over Sioux City, Iowa, when you lose hydraulic pressure in a DC-10, the airplane is no longer controllable. 184 of 296 people died, because the failure mode was not considered.
U.S. courts do not always default to the "innocent" position when they fail. But they are supposed to. So when I see a very controversial verdict and realize that the decision was made in favor of innocence, I at least have the comfort in knowing that the failure was, if it was a failure, in the right direction.
In the U.S., when the justice system fails, it fails to the "innocent" mode. I'm glad it does. If it failed to the guilty mode, anybody who could not prove their innocence would go to jail or be executed. I almost threw a hammer through the TV when O.J. Simpson, who I believed (and still believe) killed two people, was acquitted. But compared to Amanda Knox doing (so far) four years in an Italian prison for a murder she did not commit, that anger and frustration was inconsequential. The “failure to innocence” is a standard from Biblical times. These are some of my favorite examples of the depth and breadth of the standard of “innocent until proven guilty,” and the greater need to protect the innocent than to punish the guilty.
On 3 October 1692, while decrying the Salem witch trials, Increase Mather wrote, "It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that the Innocent Person should be Condemned."
Benjamin Franklin wrote: "It is better [one hundred] guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer," or even better;
God: (Exodus 23:7) "Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty." Note: God says WE might acquit the guilty, but HE will not.
And finally: Abraham and God when God said he was going to destroy Sodom;
“Then Abraham approached [God] and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham bargained him down through several levels until God finally agreed to spare an entire city if it would have cost the punishment of ten innocent persons.
Abraham asked; “What if only ten can be found there?”
[God] answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
Is Casey Anthony innocent? I believe that the prosecution was not able to prove her guilt. If she was guilty, then that was their burden and they failed to meet it.
If the justice system failed, it failed in the safest mode.
The Malicious Cowardice of
cow·ard[kou-erd] –noun 1. a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person.
Cowards, it has been said, are “those who refuse to engage in a good or righteous struggle or those too frightened to defend their rights or those of others from aggressors.”
In the last two years, I have had the distasteful experience of reading and listening to anonymous “experts” who have made it their business to keep two innocent kids in an Italian prison. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are believed by most, including nearly the entire fourth estate, to be innocent and victims of a horrible, possibly intentional miscarriage of justice.
During their ordeal, a handful of vociferous, malicious Internet posters have dogged these two and anybody on the web who had the audacity to proclaim their obvious innocence. I, too, have experienced their vitriol. One poster, in fact, allegedly posted that it was his life’s goal to “bring Steve Moore down” because of my advocacy for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. (Subsequent investigation proved him to be an impotent poseur.)
Certainly, people on the Internet can differ on causes and beliefs, and that’s one of the wonderful things about it. People of all persuasions can discuss and advocate. But the debate can have a dark side. When I worked domestic terrorism cases in the FBI, I would arrest people who had bombed synagogues or attacked people of ethnic minorities. They would frequently ask me as I was stuffing them in the back of an FBI car; “Since when did it become a crime to believe one race is inferior?” I would always tell them the same thing. “It isn’t against the law. But killing
someone because you believe that crap is against the law.” The fact that there are people who (though misguided) post about their belief in Amanda and Raffaele’s culpability, this is not the problem. It is a problem because the rhetoric of these anonymous posters has become malicious and personal. It is still not wrong to disagree with people on the Internet. But when you make it your business to try and harm them or their family financially or otherwise, you have crossed a line. Internet trolls, for those who are new to the genre, are posters who purposely and deliberately attack others on a forum or post with fallacious arguments, frequently ad hominem or straw-man attacks.
These “trolls” (Urban Dictionary: “Troll--One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”
) from the anti-Amanda Knox side hide behind on-line pseudonyms. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think that using pseudonyms on-line are always wrong or offensive, especially during on-line debate. When people are discussing opinion or debating facts that others have provided, pseudonyms are fine. But when one purports to be providing new “facts,” and attributes these facts to their own investigation or expertise, then pseudonyms are suspect at best and cowardly at worst.
Pseudonyms are fine when one is not claiming to have special knowledge of a subject which would influence others. But, if someone claims to be a lawyer close to a case, a confidant of someone “in-the-know,” or a subject-matter expert, for instance, then a pseudonym is no longer appropriate. If someone claims to be someone “in-the-know” but refuses to provide bona-fides, then that person should be disregarded. No one walks into a courtroom, swears to tell the truth, and when asked their name says, “bluedawn5.”
This is the reason hearsay is not allowed in courtrooms. This is the reason newspapers do not accept unsigned letters to the editor, this is why unsigned allegations sent to police departments are most frequently ignored—its usually not an informant, it’s an angry ex-spouse. Anything is easy to say and lie about when you are not forced to put your name beside your statement. Poseurs can claim an expertise as, say, “former United States Senator” then assert the possession of inside information to influence a political debate. But absent proof, this person is just as likely to be a sweaty, fat, 40 year old posting from his mother’s basement in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Standing behind what you say is in many ways an act of confidence, of bravery, and of nobility. When the signers of the Declaration of Independence set their hand to that marvelous document, they were indeed signing their lives away if they lost the war. Signing it was treason. Signing it took guts and courage. Everyone used their real name. Boldly. And not one signed the document, “fatherofthecountry4.”
In the Amanda Knox case, many qualified, bona-fide, subject-matter experts have come forward using their actual names (!) to advocate for Amanda Knox. Michael Heavey, a sitting judge; Maria Cantwell, a United States Senator; Anne Bremner, attorney; Mark Waterbury, scientist and author; Paul Ciolino, a well-known investigator; Douglas Preston and Bruce Fisher, authors; Peter Van Sant, a CBS journalist; Michael Scadron, a former prosecutor for the United States Department of Justice; and myself, a retired FBI Agent. Each of us (and many more) came forward using our actual names and identities and have been subjected to scathing criticism and harassment bordering on criminal acts. But we knew the job was dangerous when we took it. The difference between the malicious posters and the aforementioned experts is that the people who have lent their names have all had careers and/or experience which gave them valuable insight into the Kercher murder investigation.
But the trolls and others have tried to have people fired from their jobs at least four times--simply for voicing their opinion that the evidence clears Amanda Knox. Free speech does not apply to their causes. They tried to have a professor in England fired, a journalist in Seattle, a judge in Seattle, and others fired. Why? For having the audacity to speak what they consider truth. But if it’s not the trolls'
truth, then it must be stopped. Books must be burned.
I became involved in the Amanda Knox case when I realized upon examining the evidence that Knox had been railroaded, and that the evidence actually cleared her and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. I began to speak out. If I had done so under a web pseudonym: “fbiguyreally;” I would have and should have been laughed out of the discussion. Instead, so that my expertise could add to the discussion and be taken seriously, I volunteered my name, my resume and my bona-fides to major networks and newspapers, including CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX News. They in turn vetted the information I had provided with the FBI in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, according to the FBI.
Yet immediately, a group of nameless trolls began questioning my credentials
. People who refused to identify themselves by name or occupation began to question who I said I was, and cast doubt on whether I really was an FBI Agent. This from people with dignified names such as ‘harryrag,’ ‘fast pete’ and ‘somealibi.’ At the same time, all three of these particular trolls claimed to have inside information and/or expertise on the case. But they would not identify themselves except for the “somealibi,” who claims to be an attorney. (This claim was investigated and is in serious doubt.) “Fast pete,” it turned out, appears to be a certain 70 year-old accused serial-liar for whom no employment records can be found for the last 20 years; and who was recently threatened with arrest by NYPD for stalking young women. Likely the nickname was given to him by his wife.The final poster, “harry rag,” has not been identified as of yet, though he is by far the most prodigious anti-Knox & Sollecito poster (but is strangely silent about Rudy Guede, the only accused who is not appealing his conviction, and who has admitted his involvement.) He claims to have inside knowledge on the case and speaks with great passion on the matter, but again, refuses steadfastly to identify himself, which raises the question of either his veracity, his motivation or his real concern. All three trolls attack others personally and professionally; demonstrably lying and threatening. One common theme of theirs seems to be sexual. My wife, who has also identified herself by name, has received some of the most disgusting pornography E-mailed from harry rag, and has been the subject of vile sexual suggestions and requests from harryrag and others associated with them. She has been called every name in the book by harry, fast pete and others.
These “honorable debaters” claim to be doing what they do for the sake of the victim in this case; Meredith Kercher. Meredith by all accounts was a beautiful, talented, popular and creative woman who was murdered and sexually assaulted by a burglar. But if one cares so little about finding the real murderer of Meredith that they aren’t even willing to use their real names, it is fair to ask whether the person (poster) even exists (many people have multiple pseudonyms), whether they are paid by another, or whether they even care.
How much passion can someone have about any cause or person when they are unwilling to even risk associating their own names with their statements? I would not care to have a friend who would not defend me without having a paper bag over his head. That person isn’t really a friend, that person cares much more about himself that he does about others. I hope harry rag has people he cares more about than he obviously cares about Meredith Kercher, because he doesn’t seem to be willing to go out of his way to support her. No, he hides behind a name. “With friends like that….” No, whoever he is, harry apparently does not have the concern and/or bravery inside himself to defend Meredith using his own name. Meredith fought for her life with bravery and nobility. She deserves better than friends who show the white feather.
There is a difference between fear and cowardice, of course. On the night of April 10, 1912, everybody on the Titanic was terrified. But people like Wallace Hartley, the ship’s bandleader, and his entire band, spent the rest of their lives not searching for a lifeboat, but playing music to ease the pain and the panic of the passengers. That was bravery. That was noble.
Sadly, many men of “noble birth” did what they could to displace women and children in the lifeboats. One 21 year old passenger named Daniel Buckley testified in the official U.S. inquiry of the sinking that he had somehow boarded a lifeboat that was full. When the Titanic crewmen found that men were aboard this lifeboat, they drew their pistols and ordered the men off at gunpoint so that waiting women and children could board before the boat was lowered. Buckley testified: “I was crying. A woman in the boat had thrown her shawl over me and told me to stay. They did not see me, and the boat was lowered down into the water.”
So he sat in the lifeboat crying, pretending to be a woman, wearing women’s clothing so that he could live at the cost of the death of a woman with a child. He was so unwilling to face danger or death, that he not only placed his wellbeing above the wellbeing of others, but he engaged in deceit to do so—so that others (the crewmen) could not enforce societal and maritime law.
Daniel Buckley assumed a different identity so that he could achieve an illegitimate goal. By not identifying themselves, or claiming that they are something that they are not, Internet trolls are also assuming a different identity, for equally duplicitous purposes. This is epic cowardice. But instead of taking the place of a woman and child who would ultimately die, they are going after two innocent kids. The difference, of course, is that Daniel Buckley’s life depended on it, so one can almost understand his failure.
What’s in it for the trolls?
According to the dictionary, to presume is:
1. To act overconfidently; take liberties.
2. To take unwarranted advantage of something; go beyond the proper limits:
3. To take for granted that something is true or factual
Possibly the greatest example of the perils of presumption is the Chicago Daily Tribune, November 3, 1948. The editors, apparently wanting to scoop everybody, put the interest of the paper (scooping others) and the interest of themselves (career boost) above the interest of the public, whom the press is assumed to serve, and printed a headline about a “fact” that they knew was not a fact when they printed it. And it never became fact.
In doing so, they became the absolute symbol of the worst mistake a “news” organization can make. The photograph of Harry Truman holding the “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” headline is likely the most humiliating moment the Tribune ever experienced, and continues to experience. It is a black mark on their credibility and their heritage.
Stand by, it’s about to happen again, and I’m giving you advance notice.
It’s not the Trib this time, it’s a well-funded but poorly-regarded web page called “The Daily Beast.” The site displays every bit of the integrity and nobility of purpose that its title would have you believe. It appears to feed on sensationalism and makes its bones off of others misery. Lately it seems to be majoring on the Casey Anthony trial, the Anthony Weiner debacle and a 51 year old TV star who married a 16 year old. If you’re off to check out those stories now, quit reading here. You’re not going to “get” this article, or even care if you did.
The DB is a relatively new start-up and is desperately trying to establish itself. It needed an OJ Simpson case or similar mud in which to wallow and boost readership. It got what it wanted with the Amanda Knox case in Italy. The DB came out early and loud for Knox’s guilt. This before any guilt was established. Much like the Trib’s headline, Knox’s guilt will not ever be established, because it is not factual.But the Beast rode the story of Knox’s guilt like a disposable horse. An innocent American girl, 20 years old was just what the DB needed. They twisted and crafted and “questioned” Knox’s statements, the prosecutor’s “evidence,” rumors, innuendo, and outright lies into a case against Knox. They literally fomented hate against her. They could use her misfortune to make their own fortune. To this end, one of their contributors, Barbie Latza Nadeau, spent “every day” in court and absolutely skinned Knox alive in the press. Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted on the “strength” of the most heinous, contrived, secret and illegal proceedings this side of a gulag. It worked out for the beast. Knox was convicted.
But wait. Knox had appeals coming. In Italy, nearly 50% of those convicted on their initial trial are exonerated on appeal.
But this ‘unbiased’ “journalist” Nadeau then cashed-in on Knox’s tragedy with a book, which was published before Knox’s appeal even began. It is entitled, “Angel Face: The True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox.” Everything would be coming up roses for Nadeau and the DB except for one painful, irritating fact that will not go away. Knox and her boyfriend had nothing to do with the crime, and the appeal is revealing this. The world is discovering their innocence. Bad news at beast.
The evidence is falling apart. The prosecutor and the police have been shown to have lied. The chief forensic officer at the scene perjured herself in court. The DNA evidence will soon be shown to be a farce, or worse, planted. CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, CNN, Oggi Magazine in Italy, a Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist, forensic experts, law enforcement experts, attorney’s, judges, U.S. Senators and at least 11 members of the Italian Parliament have figured this out. Many British newspapers have now come to the realization that Amanda and Raffaele are innocent. Even the British Tabloids, who led the propaganda tsunami that did so much to convict two innocent kids, are now openly suspicious of the case and the prosecutor.
Is the beast the only news outlet that hasn’t figured this one out yet? Or is this a strategy?
We should have a little sympathy for them. They are stuck between a rock and a very hard place. They didn’t just crow about Knox’s guilt, they built a business on it. They published books. They tied their wagon to that horse, and now that horse is panting and dying. They published their own “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” headline. And the world is about to wake up in the morning and find that Truman is president.
I have personally watched the changes in heart of journalists who initially believed in Knox’s guilt and reported that. Many printed or broadcast even more incendiary items than the beast did. And in each case that I’ve seen, when these journalists realized the truth, they changed their position. And they did so in writing or on the air. It was understandably embarrassing for some. But these were people for whom truth was more important than ratings.
Even Nadeau has at times tried to back away or distance herself from her stance in the press, but the title of her book, “The True Story of Amanda Knox, Student Killer” puts the axe to the roots of any claim of even-handedness this “journalist” has.
In what can only be termed a startling “all or nothing” defense, the beast is clinging to Amanda Knox’s guilt as a means to save their business and what is left of their integrity. As late as this week, Barbie referred to Amanda Knox in “The Beast” as “…the Angel Face student-killer…” No other media outlet is now referring to her conclusively as a ‘killer.’ This is all or nothing. If Knox is exonerated, her life will be saved, but the beast—if it survives--will forever bear the scars of their malignant ignorance. If Knox is found guilty, the beast wins and an innocent girl loses a significant part of her life. This latter scenario is best for the beast’s business model obviously.
This is journalistic bunker mentality. They have a chance to save themselves, but they are going “all in.” This is a game of chicken, but the facts are already known. Who now has to bank on an epic miscarriage of justice for their survival?
The beast of course. It's not a risk for them, they presume that they're right.