Mr. Holland's Opus

"A man's gotta know his limitations."
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Jamie Hyneman

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.

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Adam Savage
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

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lightning, the wet string would impart to the holder of the string an electrical charge 6 times the strength necessary to kill a man. 

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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.

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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.

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"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!”

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Rape-Proofed
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.

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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

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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.]
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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.
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Here, Mr. Holland, is the reason it couldn’t have been blood on the feet which made the footprints:

A Chalkboard.

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?

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A
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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.

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Amanda's alleged footprint under ambient light.
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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.
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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.

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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."
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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.

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CONCLUSIONS

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.”    

 
 

(ANOTHER) UPREDICTED 
ITALIAN EARTHQUAKE

The criminal case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is, for all intents and purposes over.

The political circus is just beginning.

April 6, 2009, 3:32 a.m.: The quaint Italian town of L’Aquila, just 114 miles from Perugia, was struck by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. 297 people died.

October 22, 2012: In an event which sent shock waves around the world, the earth moved in Italy yet again when six Italian seismologists were arrested and charged with manslaughter for not predicting the L’Aquila earthquake. Incredulous experts from around the world testified that earthquakes are scientifically unpredictable at this point in the history of mankind—a fact disputed nowhere on earth, except one Italian courtroom. The scientists were convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison—each. The main damage in this quake was to six innocent seismologists and the justice system of Italy.
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The courts in L'aquila were devastated. In more ways than one.
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Certainly, Italian ‘justice’ has a history of preying on its own good people. The Italian Inquisitions of the 1500’s and 1600’s are infamous for the persecution of people propounding scientific truth. The legendary scientist and astronomer Galileo, for example, fell afoul of the inquisition for espousing certain theories of Copernicus; in particular, the theory that the earth rotated around the sun—which it did and still does. A lot of people are unaware that Galileo died under house arrest in Italy. 1,250 other people are alleged to have been executed for similar “heresy” during this time. One would hope that nearly 600 years later, Italian justice would have improved. One would be wrong.


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Tragically, on March 26, 2013, another feudal judicial decision was handed down when the Italian Court of Cassation, the Italian equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court, failed to formally affirm the full appellate exoneration of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, regardless of the fact that their innocence is almost as widely accepted and scientificlly proven as Copernicus’ theory.

Sadly, this is not an isolated anomaly. Italy is displaying with frightening regularity a type of vendetta-based ‘justice’ many are calling ‘medieval.’ In 1999, the very same Court of Cassation which failed to accept Knox and Sollecito’s proven innocence, ruled in a rape case that women wearing tight jeans cannot be raped. This was not the decision of a little back-water town judge remember, this was the Italian Supreme Court. The logic was based on the apparently inescapable conclusion that tight jeans could not be removed from a woman by an attacker. I suppose their conclusion is that man can predict earthquakes, but it is a physical impossibility for him to remove a woman’s jeans. The court ruled tight jeans could not be removed “…without the collaboration of the person wearing them.” I’m not making this up. 


However, just this last summer, the Court of Cassation outdid themselves; they ruled that it is a crime to tell someone “You don’t have the balls.” Seriously. That this case even got to the supreme court in Italy is mind-boggling and indicative of the juvenile/macho mentality of most of the judiciary there. Their decision is incomprehensible. The court found that the phrase inherently implied “…a lack of determination, competence and consistency – virtues which, rightly or wrongly, continue to be regarded as suggestive of the male gender.” This raises a question I’m sure it would take a legal scholar and a Ouija board to answer: Would it be a crime to tell a woman  “You don’t have the balls?” One could only assume it would depend on whether she was wearing tight jeans or not.

In the Knox/Sollecito case, a prosecutor (Giuliano Mignini) under indictment (ultimately convicted and sentenced to 16 months in prison) created an incredibly complex, imagination-based case against two innocent kids in order to, according to many experts, shield himself from conviction or even further prosecution. During the Italian Inquisition of the 15th and 16th centuries, the main charges besides heresy were sorcery, immorality and witchcraft. And Mignini’s allegations against Knox?  She was a “strega” (witch) and she engaged in “satanic sex rituals.” Sounds vaguely familiar, no? Also familiar is the fact that no evidence existed to support the claims of either the inquisition or Mignini. Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mignini lied about evidence in public, violated any rule of evidence which did not support his case (in reality, nothing supported his case) and got a conviction he apparently hoped would raise no eyebrows. He was wrong.

When the case was appealed--almost automatic in Italy, where half of all cases are reversed on appeal--the first action of the appeals court was to order that Mignini’s “evidence” be reviewed by independent experts. Italy is not completely devoid of honorable justices; they are simply in the minority. The judge in this appeal had to be imported from northern Italy near Austria in the hopes that he would be free of bias. He was. He not only allowed modern science into the courtroom, he ordered it there.
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DNA which prosecutor Mignini had claimed implicated Knox and Sollecito was found to have never existed, was intentionally or incompetently attributed, or so badly read that Mignini’s ‘experts’ couldn’t even tell gender by reading DNA. The police forensic investigation in this case made the Keystone Kops look like CSI New York. In a stinging rebuke, the appellate judge and jury not only exonerated Knox and Sollecito, but declared that the evidence didn’t simply fail to prove their guilt, but that it actually proved their innocence. The two kids were released after four years of unjust imprisonment. And that is where it should have ended.

But in Italy, as opposed to most democracies, a prosecutor can appeal even a “not guilty” verdict. In Italy, a prosecutor can keep re-trying a case until he gets a conviction. This ‘2 out of 3’ jurisprudence results in a kind of “rock, paper, scissors” legal system, where even evidence as solid as a rock can be rendered moot by a single sheet of paper. Mignini appealed the ‘innocente’ verdict, and the Court of Cassation rendered a verdict as stunning in its ignorance as the failure to predict the earthquake decision.

At this moment, news outlets are providing incomplete or inaccurate information on the case. To set the record straight, I would like to point out certain facts which are true at this moment:

Amanda and Raffaele’s exonerations have not been vacated. By Italian law, they are still adjudicated innocent persons.

No retrial has yet been ordered.

Not until the Court of Cassation releases their “Motivations” document in approximately 70 days or so will any decision have the affect of law. Retrial is a possibility, of course, but so is limited re-examination of certain pieces of evidence not already reviewed by the independent authority. There is no indication that the court has in any way challenged the validity of the independent authority’s review of the main pieces of discredited ‘evidence’ which led to the exoneration in the first place.  

There is no indication that the court rejected any of the findings of the appellate court, their questions actually centering on why more of Mignini’s supposed “evidence” was not reviewed by independent sources. Still, the decision reminds me very much of the 1972 Olympic Basketball gold-medal game in which the Americans, leading the Russian team by 3 at the end of regulation, twice had the clock reset to 3 seconds by the Russian referees, until the Russians “won” on a miracle shot. 40 years later, nobody but the Russian team and referees believe that they won
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The Americans celebrate after they had won the game the second time. (They lost after the third time Russian referees inexplicably put time back on the clock.)
Absent more interference, however, any retrial would still favor Knox and Sollecito because:

A retrial would be removed from the feudal, Mignini-controlled town of Perugia, and placed in Florence. Perugia has the judicial integrity of 1963 Selma, Alabama. Knox and Sollecito's exonerations on appeal were only possible because a judge and jury were brought in from out of town due to the bias of the locals.
The city of Florence knows Mignini. They are the city that indicted him and convicted him of malfeasance, sentencing him to 16 months in prison.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, however, not a soul seriously believes that Amanda Knox will ever spend another day in an Italian prison. Double jeopardy, corrupt prosecutors, absence of witnesses or credible evidence, perjury by the police, and the requirement that Giuliano Mignini present his case in an American federal court (which actually requires evidence, truth, and fairness) make the prospect of extradition at the request of a kangaroo court the stuff of Mignini’s dreams.

 Pratillo Hellman, the judge in the Knox/Sollecito appeal stands by his and the jury's unanimous decision to exonerate Knox and Sollecito, saying that there was absolutely no evidence of the involvement of the two in the crime. He also stated that he expected that the court of cassation would overturn his verdict, due to its close ties with the prosecutor.

Ultimately, regardless of the results of this modern inquisition, Amanda will never serve another unfair day in an Italian prison. The case, therefore has significance only to certain people:

1.      Prosecutor Mignini, still trying valiantly to clear his name of malfeasance and false prosecution charges while waiting on his retrial decision.

2.      The sadly deceived family of the innocent victim who have put their faith in a crooked prosecutor and a carnivorous Italian lawyer desperate for a share of a settlement from the wealthy Sollecito family.

3.      The sadly imbalanced, anonymous, basement-dwelling anti-Knox bloggers in Great Britain and America who have drunk the Kool-Aid of the prosecutor to the dregs and are focused more on hate than justice. This case will, for several more years give imagined purpose to their otherwise sad existence.

4.      Raffaele Sollecito, who is at this writing still a citizen of Italy and vulnerable to the whims of a judiciary largely based on innuendo.

In case the reader perceives this article as an indictment of Italy or the Italian people, let me assure you that is not the case. Since the appalling ruling came down, I have received texts, phone calls, E-mails and social media communications from prominent, published Italian forensic scientists, professors, DNA specialists, criminal profilers and lawyers, decrying the decision and offering their pro-bono assistance to the Knox family. Indeed, after the exoneration of Knox in October, 2011, I spent two days with Amanda in Italy and witnessed an almost non-stop stream of Italian citizens apologizing (sometimes tearfully) for what happened to her. They hugged, they kissed and they smiled. They know what its like to live under that system. The Italian people deserve a better justice system. They deserve more Judge Hellmans.

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While Amanda is in no real danger of ever being forced to submit to the corrupt Italian justice system again, (it’s a different story for Italian citizen Raffaele Sollecito), she can’t just do what the 1972 Olympic Men’s basketball team did and simply boycott a corrupt proceeding. They refused their silver medals and did not attend the medal ceremony. 

Amanda can't do that. She has to spend money to defend her name. It’s just a shame that two innocent kids got robbed. Again. It took the Russian referees three tries to steal the honest victory from the Americans in Munich. It may take even longer for the Italians to steal Amanda and Raffaele’s “innocence.” That’s the sad part. Nobody but the Russians doubt that the Americans won the 1972 Olympic Gold Medal, and nobody but Italians, the ignorant and the malignant doubt that Amanda and Raffaele are innocent.

Why then didn’t the Court of Cassation do the honorable and right thing and affirm the appellate decision? Why didn’t they act bravely and decisively? Why didn’t they exonerate two good kids in the face of overwhelming evidence of their innocence? Why didn’t they display the --in their own words--“determination, competence and consistency” which are suggestive of their own male gender? 

Are they corrupt? 

It seems to me that they just didn't have the balls.
 
 
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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.