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.
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.