In the western world, anonymity is rightly regarded with suspicion. Newspapers refuse to publish anonymous letters to the editor, and little explanation is needed to explain this policy. It’s also a common understanding that people in masks are generally trying to do something illicit and not get caught. The Ku Klux Klan didn't wear masks because they were feeding the homeless.
In every human being, there is a distrust of anonymity ingrained in our DNA. The U.S. Constitution as well as English Common Law looks very dimly on anonymous witnesses and anonymously provided evidence—and for good reason. Unless one is allowed to “confront the witness,” the person’s veracity, motives and integrity are a complete mystery. Anonymity is the tool of anarchy, totalitarianism and hatred.
The Internet, sadly, has revolutionized anonymity. From consequences-free porn (men no longer have to go to the back area of a video store hoping not to be seen by someone they know) to the Aryan Nations hate site "Stormfront," new and more disgusting uses have been found for anonymity, and the means to hide from responsibility have multiplied exponentially.
More and more, we are seeing large groups of anonymous people spewing hate, lies and misinformation on the Internet—baseless accusations which could take the lives of innocent people as surely as similar lies did in the Salem Witch Trials. In the Amanda Knox case, an American woman and an Italian man, both clearly innocent, are continually vilified, demonized and caricatured by individuals and/or groups too cowardly to use their own name(s) in defense of a victim they claim they would (otherwise) lay their lives down for.
Those with legitimate expertise, insight or knowledge on a case or issue would benefit from revealing their identity. Would President Bill Clinton comment on a government policy anonymously, when his very name and experience commands respect and ensures his opinions a hearing? Of course not.
The fact that a person or persons hide behind an avatar and a fanciful moniker is in and of itself evidence that they know that their real identity would compromise their credibility. In other words, if we knew who they were, we would immediately disregard anything they said. In the Knox case, it’s people like the obsessive poster “Harry Rag” who spends so much of his time spewing hate and lies at Amanda Knox and her supporters that one wonders how he(?) keeps a job, if indeed he’s one person and not a persona created by a firm hired by prosecution attorneys. The fact that “he” sent rank pornography to my wife simply because she disagreed with him leads me to believe he is more likely a sick male than a rational committee. I regularly get hate mail from these anonymous trolls on this very website. Not once has any of them discussed actual case facts. Instead, they comment on my physical appearance (a favorite of theirs) and call me the most vile names--anonymously. Which is why it doesn’t bother me.
But how do they get away with this? They get away with it only when we or anybody else give credence to a single word they utter, type or print. Regardless of their argument, their stated position or their claimed knowledge, the fact is that these entities could be anybody. They could be blogging from a half-way house for sex offenders, or from the recreation room at an inpatient mental facility. Or, they could be groups of people at a public relations firm hired by those with a financial interest in the outcome of a particular trial. Regardless of which it is, it’s time society ignored those who do not have the courage of conviction to even stamp their opinions with their own name.
Today, I begin what I hope will be a continuing series; “Short Take.” It is designed for those who have less than, say, the two days it usually takes to read through one of my regular blog articles. “Short Take” will also allow me to post more often. Depending on your view of my writing, this is either very good or horribly bad news. I will be commenting on current events, my cases, and topics I believe would be of general interest. I will also continue the approximate bi-monthly “treatise” I tend to compose on issues. Thank you for putting up with the length of these articles. For what it’s worth, in 2013 and the first part of 2014, gmancasefile.com has averaged 12,000 unique visits per month. My sincere thanks to those of you who visit.
SHORT TAKE #1: FBI Search Reveals Explosives in S.F.
This is how a crime scene search is done. Are you seeing this, Giuliano Mignini? Listen to your experts in Rome.
4:40 a.m., Hollywood, California: I just finished a CNN New Day segment on the FBI search of the San Francisco apartment of Ryan Chamberlain II and the reports that he possessed explosives. (I'll post the segment later.) Sound-bites rarely convey the entire truth of a situation and this appearance was no exception, though CNN usually gives each issue five minutes, while many other outlets spend half that time. What I didn't get a chance to say was that judging from the protocol used by the FBI Evidence Response Team/Bomb Techs, there was no significant amount of explosives in Chamberlain’s apartment at all. Not trying to defend him, I don’t know anything about him. Just commenting on what I see and comparing it to what I know.
My squads (domestic and international terrorism) worked a LOT of bomb scenes and potential bomb scenes. When we found or suspected explosives at a location, the protocol required us to FIRST assess the potential danger with FBI Bomb Technicians (Bomb Techs) and determine from them--overgeneralizing here-- "How big an explosion could this amount of explosives potentially make?" We would get an estimated radius of blast damage, then add 10-50% for extra safety, and evacuate that big an area. In an apartment building, you would have to assess whether the potential explosion might bring down the structure. If unsure, you assumed it could. Needless to say, even small bombs or explosives caches resulted in large evacuations.
The FBI Evidence Response and Bomb teams in SF evacuated nobody. Not even the people in apartments next to Chamberlain’s. And it's not because they weren't following protocol. From what I saw on news footage, this warrant search was so "by the book" it could be used as a training video. If anything, they were erring on the side of caution. As somebody trained in the discipline, I can tell you that their execution was impressive. If I was their boss, I would be beaming with pride.
So I'd have to ask what type of explosives they found there. I lean toward the conclusion that they found components which are harmless unless combined. For instance, empty foot-long lengths of threaded galvanized pipe, end caps and cans of smokeless powder—the makings of a pipe bomb. If the three aren't combined there's no danger. Maybe blasting caps? Fuses? Uncombined explosive precursors? Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer not yet mixed with diesel fuel, the Oklahoma City bomb components? The list of possibilities is almost endless.
What would really be illuminating would be to get a copy of the search warrant and find out what their probable cause was to search the apartment, and what they expected to find there--and why.
As we go farther down the road of dealing with the violent mentally ill in our society, I can’t help but recognize that when and if guns are banned (or even made incredibly difficult to obtain and keep—like in SF) people will turn to other, unregulated means to cause death and destruction. And they will find that they can cause even larger casualty counts with commonly available items such as the aforementioned fertilizer and diesel fuel, threaded galvanized pipe and smokeless powder, even fireworks and pressure cookers like those used in Boston.
We can play Whack-A-Mole by banning one weapon system at a time as each pops up and causes mass casualties (the TSA model), but American can never be made a sterile concourse. As George S. Patton famously said, “Fixed fortifications are a monument to man’s stupidity.” It’s time to concentrate on the killer, and realize that the means can never be eliminated as long as a man has a car, gasoline, a hammer or a steak knife.
'If there's no evidence against her, she's obviously guilty.'
For months we have waited for the Italian appellate court in Florence to provide its “motivations” for their startling decision to overturn the unanimous October 2011 innocent verdicts of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. The appellate court had the exact same evidence in front of them as did the court which exonerated the two, with the addition of several pieces of evidence that even further bolstered the innocence of Knox and Sollecito. But unimaginably, the Florence court (apparently at the behest of the Italian Court of Cassation) convicted them. And all it took was the suspension of natural law.
The motivation document (in Italian jurisprudence) attempts to explain the decision of the court. This document is in, and after hearing only the first assertion of the translated report, I can tell you that just that one argument has convinced me. Guilty is the proper verdict. I have never seen a more convincing, clear and irrefutable document. “Guilty” of a crime which still victimizes Meredith Kercher and her family. Guilty of a crime which is as old as mankind itself, and tears at the fabric of society: The court of Alessandro Nencini is guilty of Judicial Corruption.
The “motivation” document produced by Judge Nencini alleges that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were able to do something that no criminal in the history of mankind has ever before been able to accomplish: Selectively clean up their own invisible DNA, leaving only the DNA of the man they wished to “frame.” To do so, they obviously had to possess the power to see DNA with their naked eyes, know whose it was (something the first Italian court famously couldn’t do with microscopes), and remove only their own. And most importantly, they had to clean the DNA from a bloody room without leaving a mark where the blood had been disturbed. This is like removing the underlying primer coat from a car’s paint without disturbing the paint job itself. It’s like doing a heart transplant through a sweat gland. It’s like removing Jesus from DaVinci’s masterpiece, “The Last Supper,” without anybody noticing. Even Batman’s foes never achieved this level of sophistication. You have to give Amanda and Raffaele credit for ingenuity. Or the Italian court credit for imagination.
Here is a rough translation of the court's logic with my underlined comments.
"It has been much discussed, especially by the defense of the defendants, whether a “selective” clean-up of the crime scene is possible by the authors of the crime. This possibility was denied on the basis of the empirical impossibility of a “naked eye” to identify and select the singular traces, often invisible, to destroy. It was also excluded that someone in the cottage of Via della Pergola, on the night between November 1st and 2nd, 2007, after having committed the murder of Meredith Kercher, could “selectively clean” the traces left by the authors of the crime, destroying all of the traces of the defendants in question, and leaving at the crime scene all of those traces that would have lead investigators to Rudy Hermann Guede."
[Translation: Yes, we have heard for years that selective cleaning of DNA at a crime scene is an "impossibility," and people simply can't "see" DNA with the naked eye. We get that. But then how is it possible that Amanda and Raffaele's DNA weren't present at the place they killed Meredith?]
"The affirmation, if apparently agreeable theoretically, must be correlated with the case in question, of which there are certain peculiarities."
[Translation: Even if it's theoretically impossible, we must look at this impossibility in relation to this case.]
" It is peculiar, for example, that no traces of Amanda Marie Knox were found in the cottage of Via Della Pergola if not those which are refer-able to the murder."
[Translation: It is peculiar that no traces of Amanda Knox were found in the cottage in which she lived. That would be peculiar if the statement was true--but it's not. There were many traces of Amanda in the cottage--that were admitted into evidence. Just none in the victim's room where the murder occurred. How he can get away with that lie is a mystery.]
"The Court retains that in fulfilling its duty, it must limit itself to a reasoning that is founded upon objective facts;"
[Just not SCIENTIFIC facts]
"An argument characteristically objective that emerged procedurally was evidence that, after the murder of Meredith Kercher, selective or not, there was a clean-up of the traces of the murder, and a maneuvering of the body of poor Meredith into a position (between the armoire and the wall of the room and covered by a duvet)"
[None of which is supported by a scintilla of physical evidence or testimony]
"...that certainly doesn’t correspond with the position in which the girl died, at the end of the aggressive phase. Someone spent much time within the cottage on the night between November 1st and 2nd, 2007, altering the crime scene and destroying numerous traces."
[Without leaving evidence of doing so.]
"The evidence provided by the Scientific Police proves this incontestable truth, which the reasoning must take into consideration."
[Translation: Amanda and Raffaele, if they killed Meredith, would have left behind evidence of their presence. But no evidence of their presence was there. This is a problem. So....]
1. Either it is possible (against scientific fact) to selectively clean DNA, or Amanda and Raffaele are innocent.
2. We have already decided that Amanda and Raffaele are guilty.
3. Therefore, the only conclusion left is that it MUST be possible to selectively clean DNA from a crime scene.
Extra credit: Without using blood stains of the victim; locate 3 separate DNA profiles in this photo (identify DNA donor by first and last name), circle their location. Show your work. You have five minutes.
This "logic" is mind-blowing and simply shameful. In order to believe these court motivations, one is required to believe the impossible. This is not an unprecedented requirement in Italian courts. In 2012, a court in L’Aquila, Italy suspended reality and convicted six seismologists of manslaughter for not predicting a killer earthquake. The fact that no earthquake in human history has ever been accurately predicted did not cause the court pause. Or embarrassment. Or shame. The seismologists were sentenced to 6 years in prison, each.
There are only two explanations for arguing the impossible in the motivations: Idiocy or corruption.
I reject the idiocy argument. No human being who possesses the intelligence to study law and rise to sit on a judicial bench, could look at this crime scene and believe the argument of selective and undetectable microscopic cleaning. In fact, I suspect that Nencini, rather than being an imbecile, is quite politically savvy.
No, this is a pre-determined court decision, made in contravention of science and every piece of reliable evidence. What’s the word for that?
Why did they convict? Ah, that’s where the report’s title “Motivations” is a misnomer. For it simply tells us ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the corruption, but not the ‘why.’ Ironically, the “motivations” report ignores the real motivations of the court in framing Amanda and Raffaele. Likely, it involves embarrassment, nationalism, anti-Americanism, money, protectionism or provincialism, or a combination of several. But the ‘why’ is less important than the corruption itself.
The only “idiocy” which manifests itself in this travesty is the belief that the world will look at this decision and not instantly recognize it for what it is—thuggery. It is the kind of idiocy that allows Kim Jung Un to believe that people outside of North Korea accept that he is a beloved leader because his people sing his praises. He hopes we don't notice that they do so at gunpoint. It is the idiocy of a basic underestimation of the reasonableness of the rest of the world. It is also provincialism.
One of the court’s statements says; “It is not believable that a group sexual intercourse had started. This hypothesis is not consistent with the personality of the English girl.” That it was equally (and demonstrably) inconsistent with the personality of the American girl apparently did not matter. It just didn’t register on the court’s Richter scale. This kind of provincialism is Donald Sterling-quality prejudice masquerading as legal jargon. Don't confuse official language with truth. Al Capone gave out business cards which said he was a "Used Furniture Dealer."
The vast majority of Italians with whom I regularly correspond fight for real justice and reject this verdict, hoped it wouldn’t come, but ultimately suspected it might. Likely, they just didn’t expect that it would be this outlandish. They are doing what they can to fight a corrupt system, and I admire them. But there are limits to what you can achieve when one side has the ability to suspend scientific reality at will.
When decisions are repeatedly handed down which fly in the face of science and known fact, and innocents are imprisoned apparently to protect cronies or institutions, it results in an appearance of third-world corruption, or mafia tactics. This primitive, crude and dishonorable verdict is more evidence of a cancer undeserved by the fine people of Italy, a country which was the first to bring the hope of justice for the common man to the entire world.
This unprincipled decision has shaken, and will continue to shake to the core the world’s belief in the justice of Italy's legal system. And we saw it coming. You know, maybe the court in L’Aquila got it right after all. Maybe earthquakes are predictable.
Damage done to Italian courts by L'Aquila earthquake and Knox verdicts.
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.
The courts in L'aquila were devastated. In more ways than one.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
At Long Last, Ms. Coulter,
have You No Sense of Decency?
This is a difficult article to write. It’s kind of like being a cop and finding out that the burglar you’re looking for is your mom.
You see, I’m a lifelong Republican. I tell you this not because I want to pick a political fight, argue ideology, make you like me, or certainly make you dislike
me. I tell you this because I am having an identity crisis. For years, you see, I watched Fox News, and for a while I even listened to Rush. I thought Ann Coulter was irreverent, a little over-the-top, but generally right, though I occasionally winced at her statements.
I was a career FBI Agent, the son
of an FBI Agent. I was a SWAT team-member, a certified sniper, an undercover agent, and a helicopter pilot. I followed terrorism investigations overseas into Pakistan and Indonesia. I have (and wear) American flag lapel pins. I own guns. I haven’t voted for a Democrat for president since….well, ever. I am a member of the National Rifle Association, and I am an NRA certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor. I do not buy carbon credits. I have never even sat in a Suburu. My current car has 300 unapologetic horsepower. I love animals but enjoy a good steak.
I consider myself a Christian. I believe God loves me in spite
of my weaknesses and failures, not because of their absence. I depend on God daily to teach me, to give me guidance, and to shape me into a person who cares more about others than I do myself. I am not there yet, by the way, but that’s not an excuse not to keep trying.
And now, to my amazement, I’ve just found out that I’m a “Liberal.”
This comes as a terrific surprise to me, but if Ann Coulter says it, it must be true, as she’s never wrong. In fact, not only am I a liberal, but according to her, I’m suffering from a “psychological disorder.”
According to her, I’m also “demonic”
because I “intentionally defend the guilty and impugn the innocent,” I “side with barbarians,”
because “a fair and just system of law challenges [my] hegemony as a “judge of the universe.”
As you may understand, this has come as quite a shock to me. How did this happen? How could I have been so wrong about myself?
Apparently, this radical change happened when I discovered that an innocent person had been convicted of murder and I tried to do something about it. Maybe it happened to you, too. (If so, don’t tell Ann Coulter.)
In an article on September 7, 2011, mean-spiritedly entitled “Amanda Knox: The New Mumia,”
Coulter uses lists of long-discredited, flat-earth-society “facts” to postulate the guilt of Amanda Knox, the American College student railroaded for murder in Italy in 2007. Coulter initially branded Knox as guilty several years ago, based on Knox’s alleged purchase of bleach on the morning after the murder of her roommate. This type of American press savagery is partially why Knox is still in prison four years later. Because this alleged bleach purchase never happened: No bleach was ever found, no records of any such purchase exist, the checkout employee flatly stated that Knox was not in the store that morning; and regardless, the crime scene that Knox is wrongly accused of causing was not cleaned with bleach
. I knew these things about the bleach at the time Coulter said them, but I simply chalked it up to the fact that investigating violent crime wasn’t a hobby for me. But I was still disappointed, because Coulter and I shared some conservative political
views and I trusted her. (Now that I realize I am a ‘liberal’ I am not sure how this could have been possible.)
After Coulter’s unfounded bleach “fact” was shown to be apocryphal, she fell into a long silence about the case. I naturally assumed that she had learned that the facts on which she based her conclusion were wrong, and that she therefore changed her opinion and was weighing how to best help this innocent girl. Instead, Coulter fired back this week with a list of even more incorrect, discredited facts; an article simply breathtaking in its naiveté. The problem with this isn’t simply that people more knowledgeable about the crime than her (lawyers, FBI agents, judges, scientists, DNA experts, senators, FBI profilers, almost a dozen members of the Italian Parliament, Pulitzer-prize winning journalists and New York Times Best-Selling authors) have all come to the conclusion that Knox is innocent. The problem is that Coulter is quoting “facts” discredited over a year ago.
The other problem is that that if you disagree with her, you are evil.
Coulter alleges in her 9/7 masterwork; “Now liberals are howling that the DNA evidence was "contaminated,….”
For the readers’ edification, here is a short list of just some of the ‘liberals’ who have spoken out in favor of Amanda Knox’s innocence: Megyn Kelly, Shepard Smith of Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, Geraldo Rivera, and Donald Trump, who recently attended a tree-hugging, “pinko” rally held by a group calling themselves the “Tea Party.” In fact, a recent meeting between me and another “liberal” who believes Knox was railroaded was held at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, because both of us are inexplicable admirers of the man.
In her magnificently naïve article of the 7th, Coulter quotes more than a dozen “facts,” all of which she says proves Knox’s guilt, and all
of which have been thoroughly deconstructed. If not, the fact that the DNA evidence was false would not have any bearing on the case, and the release of Knox would not be imminent. I have no intention at this point of going point by point through Coulter’s charges, which appear to say something, but hide the real truth. I would rather argue with a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. (Or have dental surgery in Somalia.) There are only so many times I can stand to say the same thing to a stone wall. If you care to see the real facts of the Knox case, visit injusticeinperugia.org.
But what is more striking than Coulter’s incredible ignorance about the case is her startlingly bigoted assessment of anybody who disagrees with her. She leaves the intelligent reader speechless and just a little afraid.
But this shouldn’t surprise us, really. Coulter is becoming a pariah even to conservatives. Until 2001, for instance, Coulter was a columnist for National Review Online,
a sharply conservative publication. But she was fired. Why? Jonah Goldberg, editor at large of NRO said at the time; “We did not ‘fire’ Ann for what she wrote…we ended the relationship because she behaved with a total lack of professionalism, friendship and loyalty.”
Coulter’s syndicated column was dropped by the Arizona Daily Star in August 2005, because, “Many readers find her shrill, bombastic and mean-spirited. And those are the words used by readers who identified themselves as conservatives.”
It’s not simply the bigotry inherent in her statements that is disturbing. It is the propaganda-like nature of her tactics. Propaganda is defined as “Information of an intentionally misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” The best propaganda is that which has the ring of truth, but hides the salient facts. In that way, propaganda is like a bikini; what it shows appears to be important. But what it hides is crucial.
In short, propaganda is not defined so much by what it says, as by what it hides. For instance, Coulter never mentions (conveniently) that the prosecutor in the Knox case has been convicted and sentenced to prison for malfeasance, and was under indictment at the time he prosecuted Knox. His crime? The abuse of the rights of innocent suspects and random, vicious threats and accusations. You would think this germane to the conversation, would you not? But Coulter leaves that gem out. As Coulter herself said in 2002, “I don’t pretend to be impartial or balanced….”
Coulter also conveniently omits that the loss of the DNA evidence she blames on American liberals was actually at the hands of court-selected Italian (not Italian-American) DNA scholars designated as independent experts by the Italian judge. The only American officially involved in the case is Amanda Knox.
But still, it is “liberals”
who are trying to spring a ‘guilty’ Amanda. As an example; Coulter spews the following; “From Tawana Brawley, Mumia and the Central Park rapists, to the Duke lacrosse players and Karl Rove, liberals are always on the wrong side of a criminal case. A few times could be a coincidence; every time is evidence of a psychological disorder.”
Let’s be clear on this; I was outraged by the Brawley lies, I believe Mumia was guilty, and I find justice and immense peace in the fact that murderer Leonard Peltier will die in prison. But I also know from a quarter-century in the FBI that most criminal cases do not split on party lines.
As described in her (eponymous?) book "Demonic," Coulter alleges that“liberals defend the guilty and impugn the innocent not only because they side with barbarians, but because a fair and just system of law challenges their hegemony as judges of the universe.”
This hurts me now that I find that I am a liberal. And because I have friends who are liberal. It also hurts me because it’s stupid. It’s a statement that might fit some (on both sides), but as a blanket statement, it is pure bigotry. Not surprising from a woman who famously stated in the British newspaper, “The Guardian,” “[The United States] would be a much better country if women didn’t vote.”
Maybe it would be a better country if this particular woman couldn’t communicate.
What Coulter has written bears more similarity to a drive-by shooting than it does to a journalistic endeavor. Denigrating and dehumanizing those who disagree with her is really not original, it was used with flair in the early 1950’s when Senator Joseph McCarthy went on a reactionary rampage using as his antagonist not “liberals” but “communists.” But the methods were the same; if you disagreed with McCarthy, you were obviously a communist. And like McCarthy’s rampage, innocent, real people are getting hurt.
It is to the conservative movement’s shame that they did not ‘self-police’ the problems with Joseph McCarthy. I hope to become a conservative again, notwithstanding Ann Coulter’s permission. But now I know how peaceful Muslims feel about Al Qaeda. If I, as a conservative, stay silent about Coulter and other demagogues, then the ideas in which I truly believe will be viewed not on their merit, but by the people who espouse them. I don’t want people to think of Ann Coulter when they hear the word “conservative” any more than many “liberals” want be defined by Michael Moore (I hope.) I also wish that when people heard the name “Jesus” they didn’t think of politics.
Maybe Coulter’s own words will do the trick. It took Edward R. Murrow, other senators and McCarthy’s own excesses to ruin him. Murrow’s words about McCarthy seem strangely prescient in this instance: “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”
Finally though, the most appropriate rebuke for McCarthy, and again, strangely fitting for Coulter, was a moral rebuke, and came from Chief Counsel of the United States Army Joseph Welch during a senate hearing. Welch had recommended a young attorney to work for the very committee that McCarthy was using as a career springboard. But McCarthy found out that the attorney was a member of the “Lawyers Guild,” which McCarthy maintained was a communist front. He then attacked this young attorney in public, not with real facts, but with innuendo, attempting to destroy his career to further his own; a type of political vampirism. Finally, Welch had had enough. With deep emotion, Welch rebuked McCarthy during a hearing in one of the most dramatic moments in congressional history. “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us…..” “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Welch speaks eloquently for us today. Until Coulters September 7th article in which she attempts to sacrifice an innocent girl’s future on the altar of the god who would guarantee her own, I had really never gauged her cruelty and her recklessness. Amanda Knox is a fine young woman who was railroaded by a deranged prosecutor in Italy in a failed attempt to save his own career. Ann Coulter is now using that tragedy to further her own career. So now we are left with just one question;
“Have you no decency, Ms. Coulter? At long last, have you no sense of decency?”
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.