Raffaele Sollecito’s wager

Raffaele SollecitoMore likely than not, we are now less than a day away from a verdict in the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito against their 2009 conviction for the murder of Knox’s flatmate Meredith Kercher.

Later today, the two appellants are expected to give spontaneous statements to the court, so as to – quite properly – have the last word before the judges and juror-judges go away for their final deliberations. Undoubtedly, news headlines in the run-up to the verdict will cull some finely-crafted soundbite from Knox’s speech. But the thing to watch out for, which could actually have some influence on the subsequent decisions of the court, will come from her co-accused.

The narrative of the defence lawyers regarding the murder centres on the supposition that Knox and Sollecito were at the latter’s flat at the time of the murder. The basic assumption is that they provide each other with mutual alibis. However, things are not actually as clear as that at present.

Two days after the murder, before he was a suspect, Sollecito told the Sunday Mirror newspaper that he and Knox had spent the night at the flat, but only after having “gone out to party” with a friend of his. Then, two days after that, he told the police that he had spent the evening alone because Knox had “gone out to meet some friends”. “In my previous statement,” he said,”I told you a load of crap because she convinced me of her version of events and I didn’t notice the inconsistencies.”

Those inconsistencies might seem awkward enough to explain. But a potentially thorny problem is that, although it might be assumed that Sollecito now agrees with the version of events as told by his lawyers, he has at no stage made that explicit to the court. So accepting the alibi is not straightforward.

When he addresses the court, assuming he does, he has the opportunity to set the record straight and shore up the alibi. But doing so may be problematic from another point of view.

There’s a perfectly viable logic by which the court can uphold Knox’s conviction whilst overturning Sollecito’s. That could happen, because there is simply less evidence against him, particularly if the bench decides it can’t rely on the famous bra-clasp evidence. And, as things stand, the problem of why he would vouch for Knox in a scenario where she is guilty and he is innocent doesn’t arise because, strictly speaking,  he hasn’t actually done that.

So, Sollecito and his legal team are in the horns of a dilemma. Should he stand up and corroborate Knox’s version of events? Or should he continue to exercise his right not to talk about it?

I honestly can’t say which he will do or which would be in his best interests. However, if he decides to address the issue, then he may be tying his fate to that of Knox. So if it does happen, it is probably a sign that Sollecito’s lawyers do not believe an accquittal for Knox to be unlikely.

*

Since this may be my last post before the verdict and since I can tell by the look on your face that you are dying to know, here is the best I can do in terms of a set of predictions.

Firstly, I don’t think anything at all can be ruled out altogether. However certain I or anyone else might be, there is no accounting for the fact that courts sometimes make decisions which appear irrational, either because they are or because the court has much better access to all the information than anyone who takes it upon themselves to commentate.

However, I think it will be an astounding result if both Knox and Sollecito are freed. Given that so many others are less certain, you might think I’m being bold. But you should consider three things. Firstly, a lot of what you have read about the case is made up. Secondly, there is a lot of evidence. Considerably more, as I attempted to show with this post,  than a murder conviction necessarily requires. And the various strands of evidence are independent of each other, so that there is no likely house-of-cards effect whereby the judges can pick up on something neglected by the lower court which changes the whole picture. Thirdly, without exception, the various explanations (at least, those which have any degree of coherence) of how Knox and Sollecito might be innocent, whether they are found in the media or on the Internet, share one thing in common. Even if they do not say it out loud, they always carry the implication that our unfortunate heroes must have been actively framed. One of the Sollecito’s lawyers,  Donatella Donati, was even brave enough to hint at that possibility in court this week. But it is just not a thesis that the bench can possibly entertain. Could the famous Italian sense of pride (rolleyes) have overridden all sense of normal morality in that way without anyone ever breaking rank? Not in the real world.

Sollecito’s chances of an acquittal are slightly better than Knox’s, just because there is less evidence against him. As I said above, this could be influenced by what he says in court today.

Apart from the basic question of innocent-or-not-so-much, as I suggested in this post, I think a significant increase in the sentences is unlikely, but I think a slight reduction is 50-50.

In terms of the charges other than murder, there is a charge of staging a crime scene, which logically stands or falls with the murder charge. The same might be said for the charges of stealing from the victim and illegally carrying a weapon. It should be acknowledged, though, that these convictions were somewhat inferential on the part of the trial court, so it is possible they will be overturned.

Knox’s conviction for criminal libel, for having falsely accused her boss Patrick Lumumba, will, I think, stand regardless of what happens on the murder charge. This is because she doesn’t actually deny it, because, from a pragmatic view (even though judges should not really be pragmatic in this way) she has served her time for that offence and because, even in the event of an acquittal for murder, the judges will be aware that the money she will have to pay Lumumba is small potatoes compared the riches awaiting her at home.

These are no more than my opinions, of course. You may be interested to note that numerology has decided differently.

10 Responses to Raffaele Sollecito’s wager

  1. Ed Peterson says:

    Thanks for your interest.

    We’ll see what actually happens on Monday. Should be interesting…

  2. komponisto says:

    the various explanations (at least, those which have any degree of coherence) of how Knox and Sollecito might be innocent, whether they are found in the media or on the Internet, share one thing in common. Even if they do not say it out loud, they always carry the implication that our unfortunate heroes must have been actively framed.

    I’m sorry, but this is simply not true. While some degree of active framing is a possibility, it is by no means necessary for Knox and Sollecito’s innocence. All that needs to be hypothesized are mistakes by the police and prosecution.

    As for your prediction, you’ve got that wrong too. The surprising result would be if Knox and Sollecito were re-convicted. Anything is possible, of course; but if Hellmann and his court shared your view that the “other evidence” is more than sufficient to convict, why would they have wasted all that time and money on the DNA review, only to then turn around and say, after a maximally favorable result to the defense, that the result doesn’t matter?

    On the other hand, you did get one thing right:

    there is a charge of staging a crime scene, which logically stands or falls with the murder charge.

    Indeed; see this post of mine on Less Wrong, which explains in technical terms why Massei and Cristiani’s argument that Knox and Sollecito staged the scene implicitly assumes they are probably guilty of murder (and hence they reason circularly when they attempt to adduce the supposed staging as evidence of murder).

    • maundy says:

      I think your argument is unnecessarily dressed-up, K. All said and done, it’s obviously not good logic to take as a premise the idea that Knox is unlikely to be guilty in order to prove the same thing.

      If you want to think of the verdict in mathematical terms, consider that one item of evidence with a one in ten chance of being misleading constitutes reasonable doubt. But where you have five or six strands of evidence, your 0.1 is raised to the power five or six. That’s the sum sitting in front of the judges right now.

    • brmull says:

      The flip side of your argument is why would Hellmann take the two or three weakest pieces of evidence and use them as a metric to judge the prosecution’s whole case. Especially since the instructions to the independent experts were crafted so as to practically guarantee a harsh rebuke. Such a judge would be any defense lawyer’s dream.

  3. brmull says:

    I’m with you. I think it’s more likely Guede took the cash and credit cards, and maybe the phones too. If you give them that it would result in both getting a year off. That would seem fair, but I can see how the jurors might balk at giving them longer sentences than Guede, even though that’s the law. Not being Italian lawyers we don’t know what technical issues may come into play here. I’m just looking for a fair and well-reasoned verdict.

  4. Lynden Hall says:

    It does make you wonder if Sollecito spoke first confirming his ,”I told you a load of crap because she convinced me of her version of events and I didn’t notice the inconsistencies.” what spontaneous effect it would have on Knox, would she interupt him, change her 3 month in the making speech or could the real truth be revealed in a slanging match.

  5. Lynden Hall says:

    I cannot believe justice has been serve!!

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