WHO WILL STOP THE TANKS?
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
Days before the horrible shots rang out, thousands of Chinese who sought nothing more than freedom converged on Tiananmen Square in Beijing to demonstrate for, among other things, the freedom to speak. They knew what they risked that warm June in 1989; it wasn’t police who showed up to disperse the group, it was soldiers and tanks. But the demonstrators did not disperse. In the end, hundreds or even thousands of these brave souls were shot and machine-gunned into silence. One man, however, galvanized the world with his selfless resistance. He will forever be known as “The Tank Man.” The photo of this man standing in front of a line of tanks, stopping their advance on the Square, somehow made everyone in the world a little stronger and braver.
The bravest people in the world are rarely found in governments, in the courts or even on the legal bench. The people who reside in such places are often those who have become most adept at swinging deals, of “give and take” and of compromise. No, the bravest men and women are most often found in Gulags, North Korean labor camps, or Chinese reeducation “centers.” Or in front of firing squads—or tanks. These people are in those places not just because of what they said, but because they refused to ‘unsay’ it. Most could have capitulated and remained, if not free, at least safe.
Like millions of people throughout history who refused to betray their faith, their ideals or their countrymen, they knew that when you betray the truth, you betray not just yourself, but all those who share that truth and have fought for it shoulder to shoulder with you. They echo the truth spoken by Benjamin Franklin two hundred years ago;
“He who would trade liberty for some temporary security,
deserves neither liberty nor security.”
I would add:
“He who would trade anybody else’s liberty for some temporary
security, deserves neither liberty nor security.”
From newspapers, from op eds, from Italian victims and from international judicial review bodies we hear that there is tyranny today in Italy and it resides in the judicial system. This is the same system that recently sentenced six seismologists to prison for failing to predict an earthquake—a feat that science still regards as impossible.
This is the same judicial system that exonerated a man for the rape of an 18 year old girl because she was wearing tight jeans, which the court opined could not have been removed without the girl’s assistance. Therefore, the rape, I mean sex, had to be consensual. This was the decision of the Italian Supreme Court, not a college fraternity ethics committee. The decisions of the courts, the inconceivable reasoning, and the contorted logic validates the general perception that the Italian judicial system is largely an archaic, byzantine, misogynistic 'good-old-boy' network which depends on coercion, superstition and political deals to achieve their ends. Few people with knowledge of the Italian system (and who are not a part of it) would dispute that statement. There are, of course, notable exceptions and honorable judges, but as a rule, ‘Italian justice’ is a contradiction in terms. It remains that way because nobody has yet stood in front of the tanks.
It is not politically expedient for the Italian judicial system to endorse the truth of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s innocence, because it will expose police and judicial misconduct, perjury, and evidence tampering. It will, they believe, embarrass “the system,” and hurt national prestige. (Not realizing that their current strategy is devastating their global credibility.) While Knox remains safely (or so it is hoped) ensconced in a country where evidence and rule of law win out in the vast majority of cases, Sollecito remains under Italian control, awaiting his fate. And Sollecito is apparently the system's best hope of saving face.
Sollecito has, of course, steadfastly held to the truth that he and Amanda were together the night that burglar Rudy Guede slaughtered Meredith Kercher, stole her money, keys and phone, then danced and bought drinks with her money until 4:30 a.m. before fleeing to Germany—again using Meredith’s money. The Italians need Sollecito to say Amanda wasn’t with him the night of the murder; or have him at least allow the possibility she might not have been with him. Though he has steadfastly stated that she was with him, it seems like so little to ask. But it could steal twenty two years of an innocent woman’s life.
During four years in prison, Raffaele never wavered in his dedication to the truth and to his and Amanda’s innocence. This was bravery, this was honor. After his exoneration, Raffaele co-wrote a book entitled “Honor Bound,” in which he defined his unfailing defense of Amanda and the truth as “honor” in the face of extortionate pressure to change his story. The pressure came both from the Italian judicial system and his family to turn on Amanda and lie; destroying her “alibi” in return for his freedom. According to Raffaele's own book, since the first days of the horrible case, his family has chosen the easy way out--capitulate to the corrupt prosecution, perjure yourself and escape.He never did so. I have always admired him for that and always will.
While working on “Honor Bound,” Raffaele stayed in my home with my family and me for a short time. He is a delightful, gentle, intelligent young man and we enjoyed his visit, as well as visiting with his family. At that time, we thought the horrendous ordeal was over and that tyranny had been held at bay by truth, honor and bravery. But now the Sword of Damocles over Raffaele’s head has returned. In a stunning move, the Italian courts overturned the innocent verdicts of Sollecito and Knox (something legally impossible in most western or otherwise civilized nations), and are now -- according to well-placed sources--pressuring Raffaele to separate his defense from Amanda’s. The purpose is obvious; once separated, they can use Raffaele against Amanda. And this time, there are indications that Raffaele’s strength to resist may be waning. After all this time, why lose courage now? I might have an insight.
In 1996, I was diagnosed with cancer. I went through a year of particularly rigorous chemotherapy that was almost miraculously successful. In the years that followed, though, I had to face the threat of possible renewed chemotherapy, and not once did I believe I had the strength to go through it again. Returning to chemo is much more psychologically difficult than starting it the first time—because after the first time you know what you’re in for. I decided that the only reason I would endure chemotherapy again was for the benefit of my family. Returning to prison is likely the same. What was “doable” for Raffaele once, is likely inconceivable to him now.
Now, many in Raffaele’s family, two aunts and a sister in particular, have turned on Amanda (and her supporters) with inexplicable malice and ignoble vitriol, apparently in hopes of trading the freedom of their innocent loved one for the freedom of someone else’s innocent child. Raffaele remains largely silent in Amanda’s defense and the defense of his own supporters against the lies of his family, and one wonders whether he has the strength left to continue to fight the tyranny of the Italian judicial system or his family. Ironically, the women in Raffaele’s family seem to have taken control of him, while simultaneously complaining that he was easily manipulated by a woman.
Certainly, though my wife, my family and I have suffered dearly as a result of our defense of Amanda and Raffaele, I cannot claim to have as much at risk as he does. I am often asked what I would do if I was in his situation. I can tell you truthfully that I don’t know. But I can tell you equally truthfully that I know what “right” is, and what I hope I would do: Fight the tyranny, not just for himself, not just for Amanda, but for the hundreds and thousands who come after him. Raffaele was incarcerated partially because in the decades before his unjust persecution, others capitulated rather than risk the consequences of fighting the tyranny—and they bear partial responsibility for what happened to him. Absent adherence to what is right, the tyranny gains strength from the capitulation of others. It is a vampire which feeds on fear.
But really, the question of what I or anybody else would do in the same situation is a red herring. It’s a misdirection intended to change the subject from the topic of “what is right,” to “what is excusable.” The difference between the two is immense. Ultimately, one doesn’t have to be in someone’s shoes to know what is right or wrong. In fact, frequently, being a healthy distance away endows one with a clearer vision of right and wrong. When the Titanic was sinking, some men dressed as women to board life boats. At the time, some men were able to rationalize that atrocity. Whether or not others would have done the same thing has no bearing on whether the act was right or wrong.
We build monuments to those who stand up to tyranny and injustice. We do so not simply in admiration of their character but because they made the world better. These are people who went to jail—or died, because they refused to be complicit anymore in the tyranny and injustice under which they were forced to live. Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, are among that group. No monuments are raised to those who capitulate. Their memory lives on only as cautions against human failure.
Whether Italian judicial pressure and the threat of more than twenty years in prison ultimately causes an innocent man to implicate an innocent woman in a crime with which neither had anything to do, remains to be seen. But if it happens, it doesn’t change the truth, it simply weighs Italy’s justice system a little lower in the muck. In 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated because of his fight for freedom and equal rights for African Americans. The year he died, he summed up his decision not to accept injustice;
“A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men
purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.”
When a person capitulates to save themselves from incarceration, only half of that person remains free. That part of themselves that houses weakness and self-interest escapes prison and remains with them forever. Their courage and their ideals, however, hear the doors to the prison clang behind them, never to return. In nations where this is allowed to happen, the innocent fill the prisons, and the guilty roam the streets. Still, I do not believe Italy has any intention of imprisoning Sollecito for a crime most rational people understand was committed by Rudy Guede, alone.
I, at least five other retired FBI agents, many DNA scientists and dozens of other subject-matter experts have seen the evidence in the Kercher murder and know the truth. In reality, it's not a complicated case. Only the investigation was (unnecessarily) complicated. The evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Raffaele and Amanda are completely innocent and while I hurt for Raffaele, I will never, never turn on the truth. I will champion Raffaele and Amanda's innocence and oppose what I know to be lies, regardless of the reason(s) they are told or who tells them.
It was such wonderful times celebrating the “Not Guilty” verdicts with Raffaele, his family, and those who put their lives and livelihood on the line in Raffaele’s and Amanda’s defense. But, as Dr. King once again so perfectly summed-up,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands
in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of
challenge and controversy.”
The Raffaele I know would never betray the truth. In his heart, in his soul, he is an honest man dedicated to what is right and what is true. The Raffaele I know would never cede control of his life and future to his family and his lawyer. But every man has his limits. It is his choice now to either to rise to the occasion and fight injustice, or cave to blackmail and become part of it. I remember going to dinner one night, just Raffaele and me, and he mused aloud, “Why do [the Italian courts] get away with things like this?” I responded then as I do now; “Because people allow them to. Because people give in to extortion.”
It is now, ultimately, that Raffaele faces his denouement. I maintain my confidence in his character. Regardless, the world will soon learn whether he still has the courage to step in front of the tanks, or whether he has become an obsequious extension of the four women in his life and his father. If the latter is true, the answer to how the Italian courts "get away" with injustice will be found in his own mirror, and we will all watch in horrified sadness as honor is bound.
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.
'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.
AND THE FAMILIES OF VICTIMS:
A DELICATE BALANCE
With the recent discovery of evidence of the possible identity of vehement, frequently malicious, and obsessive anti-Amanda Knox blogger “Harry Rag,” I think it is prudent to discuss, with great respect and care, the issue of ‘victim families.’ This article, however, will not take sides on the claims and counter-claims of the identity of Harry Rag.
In the FBI cases that I investigated, supervised, or on which I assisted, the family members of dozens upon dozens upon dozens of victims had to deal with the tragic and unfathomable loss of their children, their brothers and sisters and/or other relatives. I dealt personally with many of those grievously wounded souls and my heart still goes out to them for their bravery, their strength and the sheer will it took for them just to get out of bed every day.
However, regardless of any law enforcement officer’s empathy for the victim’s family, absent their role as potential witnesses, family members should never, ever be allowed to become actively involved in the investigation and prosecution of suspects. Why? For the same reason a doctor should never operate on his own child: Potential lack of both perspective and emotional detachment.
The American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) Code of Medical Ethics states that physicians should not treat themselves, “or members of their immediate families.” The American College of Physicians Ethics Manual states; “Physicians should avoid treating….close friends or members of their own family.”
Why? Is there any doubt that the doctor would give his or her best effort? Do they fear that the doctor in such a situation would scrimp on care? Cut corners? Obviously not. Then why the prohibition? That answer is found in the dichotomous relationship between reason and emotion. In short, emotion can lead to mistakes; tragic and irreversible mistakes. Emotion may arise from the consideration of logic, but logic rarely, if ever, derives from emotion.
As a teenager, I worked at a store with a fine man named Joe Perez. Joe had three children he adored. One Saturday afternoon, Joe and his wife took the kids to the lake. All three kids went swimming, but one of them began to have trouble getting back to shore. Joe saw the child in difficulty and streaked into the water to save him. But Joe couldn’t swim. A lifeguard pulled the child to safety then went back for Joe, but he had already drowned. Joe is my hero for his emotion, his bravery and love of his child. But his lack of detachment kept him from waiting for a lifeguard, and doomed that very same son to grow up without the awesome father that Joe was. Joe’s best intentions hurt everyone he loved.
The only thing that can give a victim’s family any measure of comfort—even if tiny in comparison to their overwhelming loss—is a kind of closure; the finding and the punishing of the person who hurt their loved one. And this is where involvement in an investigation by a victim family is the most problematic. Their need for closure is sometimes as urgent as our need for the next lungful of air. It frequently causes them to fixate on the first suspect and be reluctant to accept evidence that might clear that suspect. Why is that?
Anybody who has raised ducks know that upon hatching, new ducklings will bond to the first biological entity they see, believing it is their mother—unless immediate and forceful action is taken. This phenomenon is called “imprinting.” They will choose humans, dogs, cats, or even (in lab tests) inanimate objects, as their “mother.”
People imprint, also. Many men and women imprint on their “first love.” If that first love was a thin, redheaded young woman, a man may find himself dating a lot of slight, redheaded women throughout his life. A recent study even postulates that many people even “imprint” on the type of computer they first used. Mac users stay Mac, and PC users are PC people—and discount or ignore evidence which might prove them wrong.
According to unimpeachable source Wikipedia:
"Imprinting is the term used in psychology and ethology to describe any kind of phase-sensitive learning (learning occurring at a particular age or a particular life stage) that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behavior."
Family members who learn that their loved one has been murdered have entered “phase-sensitive learning” much the same way as newly diagnosed cancer patients. Both are going to learn a lot about subjects they never hoped to. It is in this type of critical phase that “rapid” imprint occurs, frequently “independent of the consequences of behavior.”
In some cancer patients, you see this in steadfast refusal to undergo standard, “best-chances” treatment in favor of unsubstantiated “cure” claims of holistic medicine or quack cures.
The families of murder victims frequently “imprint” on the first suspect in their loved-one’s killing. They immediately foist all of their loathing, their vengeance and as much pain as they can on that suspect, and I can tell you from experience, they hold on to that “suspect as the killer” with all their might. They do so because changing their minds means giving up the closure they had obtained, and taking back some of their cruel pain, their loathing and their vengeance. And if the investigator was the one who leaked the name of the first (now discredited) suspect, he or she owns some of the family’s pain. It is simply cruel to allow the family to live through the ups and downs of a typical investigation.
Do all victim families imprint or lack detachment? Obviously not. Sometimes the duckling is right. But the duckling will never know for sure, and the consequences of being wrong are deadly serious.
There have been many, many instances in which the police have leaked the identity of the suspected killer to victim family members, who then found and killed the suspect. In 1984, a man named Gary Plauche gunned down (as TV cameras rolled) the accused molester of his 11-year-old son as he was returned to Louisiana to stand trial. Once again, emotion trumped reason. Loss certainly does not authorize vigilantism.
It’s not impossible for the once-imprinted to change their beliefs. Carol Dodge, the mother of murder victim Angie Dodge, initially believed that the man that the police arrested for the crime, Christopher Tapp, was guilty of the murder. She spoke of how just looking at Tapp filled her with revulsion and loathing. But now, years later, after further evidence has surfaced, Carol no longer believes that Tapp is guilty. It’s not because she suddenly established a relationship with Tapp and felt sorry for him, it's because she knows that as long as Christopher Tapp is in prison for a murder he did not commit, her daughter’s murderer has gotten away with it.
Another problematic phenomenon of involving the victim’s family is their sudden “expertise” in forensics and criminal investigations. In an attempt to feel less helpless and even come to grips with the investigation, they study, they learn and they frequently attempt to insert themselves into the case. I can empathize. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, I learned more about medicine in the first six months than I have learned in the rest of my life combined. As much as I felt like an expert—and could even give myself injections, etc.—I was fooling myself if I believed that I was a doctor. I realized my mistake when I began arguing with my oncologist about treatment after I had studied on the Internet. His response brought me back to reality: “A doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”
But why does all this matter today? It matters in light of the possible identity of angry blogger “Harry Rag,” and the resultant (potential) involvement of at least one member of the family of murder victim Meredith Kercher in the repeated trials of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.
First, such involvement might explain why in a murder case where three individuals were brought forward by the Italians as suspects, two are hated and one ignored, and the one who is ignored is the only one who admits (literally) that he had Meredith’s blood on his hands. Why is the hate for the suspected killers aimed at the most unlikely suspect, Amanda Knox, while the most obvious suspect, Rudy Guede is ignored? Because Amanda was the first arrested, the first publicly humiliated, and the imprinting was fait accompli by the time Rudy was arrested weeks later. By the time the evidence of Amanda and Raffaele’s innocence surfaced, the damage had been done.
As Mark Twain famously said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
Secondarily, it matters because of an anonymous individual who calls ‘himself’ (if we are to believe his claims of being male) “Harry Rag.” After years of literally obsessive and hateful rants (interspersed with rare moments of civility and debate), I discussed Harry’s posts with a psychologist friend of mine who opined that he had never seen someone “not directly related to the victim” who maintained such a vociferous and personal interest in the crime.
Recent revelations do apparently give credence, if not proof, to the belief of many that Harry Rag is in reality a member of the immediate family of Meredith Kercher; namely, her brother John Kercher, Jr., an employee of the BBC. ‘Harry’ has done nothing to disprove the allegations except to offer denials entirely unsupported by evidence. His refusal to end such speculation by simply identifying himself is particularly perplexing, and if he is not John Kercher, Jr., equally damaging to the people he attempts to defend.
However, if Harry Rag is indeed a member of the Kercher family, it would very well illustrate the validity of ensuring detachment between victim families and the legal system. If Harry Rag is a Kercher, then he has been attempting to influence public opinion without the ethical obligation of disclosing his very personal emotional involvement and potential bias regarding the case. He has claimed investigative and scientific prowess above and beyond career investigators and forensic scientists.
If he is not a Kercher, then “Harry Rag” owes it to that family to end the speculation and spare the family the embarrassment of being linked to his boorish ramblings.
Harry Rag has not been a spectator, nor do his actions meet any definition of “dignified silence.” Indeed, he has tried to professionally harm those who believe Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito innocent by—among other actions—contacting their employers and making malicious claims. He has engaged in some of the most obscene, hateful and undignified communications I have had the displeasure of witnessing on the Internet—much of it addressed to my family.
If it is ultimately proven that Harry Rag is a member of Meredith’s family, then he should be afforded sympathy, understanding and forgiveness for his actions. He has sustained a loss none of us can fathom and would wish on no person.
But loss is not license to engage in any behavior a person wishes.
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.
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.