(ANOTHER) UPREDICTED 
ITALIAN EARTHQUAKE

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

The political circus is just beginning.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No retrial has yet been ordered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are they corrupt? 

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

Jonas Salk (and Other Insensitive Bastards)

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          During the four year fight for justice for Amanda Knox, a question was repeatedly put to me and others (by people who mistakenly thought Amanda guilty): “Why are you defending Amanda Knox? Why not somebody else?” “Why defend (as it was recently put to me specifically) a middle-class white girl?”  The unavoidable, undeniable insinuation being, of course, that there are more “worthy” people to defend than the middle class, whites, and women.  It’s frankly a question which belies a certain bias, a certain hatred and a certain ugliness.

          By the logic of that question, Emergency Operators should always answer the line with, “9-1-1, what is your emergency…..race, and social status?” In actual fact, many of these questioners put even more of a fine-point on the question, noting that Amanda was “American” and “attractive.” Certainly, I’m not arguing that Americans are worthy of justice, that’s simply absurd. But “attractive” has me stumped. Again, should calls for help be accompanied by headshots? (“My GOD that girl is ugly, roll the fire trucks!” Or, “I don’t know, the green eyes work just too well with the auburn hair, there’s really nothing we can do.”)

          The question as to why anybody would come to the defense of a young white woman whom society considers attractive, is itself is so biased, so race-based, so economically prejudiced, so ignorant that one despairs for society.

          The question says more than it asks. It says that the worth of a person is still judged by their race, color, social status and nationality.

          Aren’t we yet as a people so far beyond this (at least philosophically) that such hate speech can be recognized for what it is? Do intelligent people really believe that people not “of color” or poor are less deserving of care, love, rescue, freedom? The concept is simply the 1960’s Selma, Alabama sickness – reversed.

          I understand, maybe as much as anybody who has not experienced it directly, that there has been—and continues to be--terrible injustices based simply on the fact that a person is black, or brown or poor. As a young FBI Agent, I surveilled and attempted to infiltrate the Aryan Nations white supremacist organization in Idaho in the mid 1980’s when they were at their peak strength. As a white man, I saw an opportunity—and a responsibility—to do what I could to stamp out this type of hatred. I witnessed cross-burnings, I investigated race- and religiously-based murders, and I heard the seething, irrational hatred of bigots. After my identity as an FBI Agent was discovered, I was very nearly killed. But I helped put dozens of white men away (most for life without parole) for hideous crimes against people simply because they were Jews or non-whites. I spent two years investigating and prosecuting a man who machine-gunned day-care children because they were Jewish, and who shot a dark-skinned Filipino postal worker twice in the head because he was "non-white." (He got 600 years, but is eligible for parole in 540 years.) I’ve been there; I’ve seen it. I've examined the lifeless, bloody corpses of the victims and watched their relatives weep.

           But even in the midst of my disgust and anger at the acts, I can tell you one thing; reverse bias is not the answer. The question as to whether a white woman is equally worthy of rescue from injustice is almost as obscene as the question as to whether black woman should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus.

          Of course, the response of the questioners might simply be that they were not questioning Amanda’s worthiness, but the motives and bias of those working in her favor. (This question is easily refuted by the fact that they never questioned why we would help Amanda’s Italian male co-defendant.) But even the inference of bias among her supporters is grossly naïve and in itself bigoted. One might just as well ask why Amanda’s parents came to her aid. One might also ask why Dr. Martin Luther King chose to help blacks in America instead of blacks in South Africa. Was it self-serving? Did he care less about African blacks? Was he simply provincial?  I don’t think so. I think he saw a need close to him and was called to something he saw with his own eyes.  John F. Kennedy popularized a phrase that applies: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” One may argue convincingly that Dr. King’s efforts sped the end of apartheid. The nearness and familiarity with the victim(s) is also the reason that most initially came to Amanda’s aid. The movement consisted of friends, relatives, parents of school friends, family friends, and other Seattleites who viewed Amanda as “one of their own.” Others had either experienced similar injustices, or had careers, experience or interests which intersected with the case.

          I would point out that many of those involved in Amanda’s defense were also involved in other cases, many of which involved people of color. As an example, I am currently involved in the case of the wrongful imprisonment of a man of Indian descent, and others were involved in the unsuccessful attempt to prevent the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.

          Dr. King, a man I deeply admire, wrote in 1963 from a jail in Birmingham, Alabama,“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” King would not wonder if Amanda was equally worthy of rescue. Nor would he question the motives of people who were seeking justice in any arena.

          Bias against a victim because they aren’t poor or “of color” is not a correction of a problem, it is not “balancing the scales,” it is simply revenge. If Martin Luther King’s vision of a society of complete equality was a great “dream” for which to strive, then revenge is simply the nightmare of a society far from that goal. It undoes everything the man stood for and stands in stark opposition to his dream. It amounts to no more than reversing the polarity of the bigotry. Sound waves are one of the few entities, philosophies or bits of matter in this world that can be eliminated by simple reversal. Bose has made a successful business selling “noise-cancelling” headphones. These devices sense a sound wave, reverse it, broadcast it, and thereby cancel it out. The only people who have ever made a living by continuous reversals of prejudice are coroners on the West Bank and arms dealers. Those who would deny justice to a person because they weren’t “of color” or "poor" are just as depraved as those who would deny justice to someone because theywere.

          To say the least, it is ironic that almost to a person, the people who ask this question are always the very same people who decry the fact that in the Kercher murder, a “black man” was being “blamed.” It really isn’t the Amanda Knox supporters who are “blaming” a black man, it is science. The DNA of African Rudy Guede was inside the sexually assaulted victim. The appeals court confirmed scientific findings that his bloody footprint was found on a bathmat, and his bloody handprints were on the victim's purse, which obviously have deluded some people into thinking that a person of color is capable of murder. Remember, nobody knew that the fingerprints and the DNA belonged to a black man when they were collected or tested.

          The question; “Why a middle-class white girl?” might simply imply that persons should be helped in order of need; that no person should be helped until all who are “less fortunate” than they are first helped.  If a car flipped in front of you and caught fire, would you first check to make sure no more serious accidents were happening nearby, or that the people in a similar accident were less socially disadvantaged than “your” victims? Another vexing question would be whether someone could be helped with her 26 year sentence until everyone with 27 year or longer sentences had already been helped.  To do otherwise would be gross insensitivity.

          One of the greatest examples of this type of self-serving, short-sighted insensitivity was, of course, that selfish bastard Jonas Salk. A polio vaccine?! Are you kidding me? A vaccine for (rich) people who don’t even HAVE the disease? He could have used his genius, his time, and the money he spent on polio to find a cure for cancer! Cancer! People alreadyhad cancer and were dying by the thousands. Even if you got polio, there were ‘Iron Lungs’ so you didn’t have to die. But if you got pancreatic cancer, it was over. You could not find, and still cannot find, an ‘Iron Pancreas.’ So while Salk selfishly worked on his vaccine, tens of thousands of people died of a disease more deadly than polio. What a waste. Why, Jonas? Why did you work on polio and not on something more important?

          And what about that ‘Iron Pancreas?’ In 1959, at a time when the world desperately needed (and still needs) an ‘Iron Pancreas,’ a device was created which did nothing except regulate the beats of a working heart; and it was called the “pacemaker.” What’s ironic is that pacemakers already existed, but they were bulky machines. This one was simply an internal, portable pacemaker so that the wearer could enjoy a better quality of life, and it was invented by one Dr. Wilson Greatbatch, who apparently didn’t care about people with cancer either. No one knows how much money was spent on this device which couldn't cure cancer or serve as an artificial pancreas. Cancer vs. better quality of life for people who eat too much cholesterol so they can go golfing? Really?

          Don’t get me started on Dr. Greatbatch.