Paul Ciolino is a Chicago-based private investigator, straight from central casting, who became involved with Friends of Amanda Knox after he was hired by CBS to interview witnesses in the Meredith Kercher case for the documentary 48 Hours Mystery: American Girl, Italian Nightmare, broadcast in 2009.
He begins his presentation at the Case for Innocence event by talking about an incident that took place in 2006 between writer Douglas Preston and the prosecutor in the Kercher case, Giuliano Mignini. I’ve given my take on that in this post. To summarise, Mignini indicted Preston for conspiring to pervert the course of a police investigation. Preston fled the country and so he was not tried. He claims the indictment was harassment, but it looks likely to me that there may have been at least a prima facie case against him, so it may well have been justified. I don’t think any of this has much to do with the Kercher case, but maybe it’s fair enough to go into it if goes to a real question about the fitness of the prosecutor in the case.
Ciolino depicts Mignini as being irritated by newspaper articles written by Preston’s colleague Mario Spezi which are increasingly critical of his conduct as the investigator in the “Monster of Florence” serial killer case. Mignini, says Ciolino, was “nuts”, arresting everyone and anyone on suspicion the murders at the drop of a hat (it’s true that a lot of people were arrested in the case), including dead people (really?).
I’m not well-versed enough in the details of the Monster of Florence investigation to say for sure whether this is a fair depiction or not. What I can say is that Ciolino seems to be mistaken on a key detail. Mignini was not the investigator in the Monster of Florence case. I think Ciolino may have him confused with a different “nuts” investigator featured in Preston’s book about the case, Michele Giuttari.
Ciolino’s next point is about the paucity of DNA evidence relating to the victim at Raffaele Sollecito’s flat. For him, the natural thing for Sollecito to have done, had he been involved in the murder, would be to go straight home covered in the victim’s blood. Then, says Ciolino, “I’m gonna sit on my couch and I’m gonna use my bathroom”, transferring the victim’s DNA to the new location. Seriously. This is around 95 minutes into the video.
Like Steve Moore, Ciolino seeks to paint Rudy Guede (for Knox’s defence, the real, sole killer) as a known criminal. He refers to a burglary at the house of Cristian Tramontano, which he says was carried out by Guede. Whilst it is not unfair to mention this, it should also be said that Tramontano declined to give a clear and unambiguous identification of Guede in his trial testimony and that Guede had a clean criminal record prior to his murder conviction. For me, Guede is the only person ever likely to know for sure whether he burgled Tramontano’s home.
Even most supporters of Amanda Knox, although they may seek to excuse her behaviour, don’t dispute that she did tell the police, early in the investigation, that the murder has been committed by Patrick Lumumba, her boss at a Perugian bar, who was entirely innocent. This is hard to deny, because Knox put allegation down in her own handwriting. By sleight of hand, Ciolino avoids addressing this directly. He tells his audience that Lumumba was implicated because of a series of text messages between him and Knox. According to Ciolino: “Amanda doesn’t say ‘me, Patrick and Raff raped and murdered her’. That never happened.” Well, no, I don’t suppose it did. As Ciolino stresses, as if it somehow undermines the prosecution case, there was no confession.
Just as an aside, every time I see mention of how long Knox was interrogated for on this occasion, it’s different. I think the record is 53 hours, but Ciolino goes for 19. According to statements made at trial, Knox arrived at the police station at 10.30 pm, and she was still waiting to be interviewed an hour later. At 1.45 am, she was charged and then taken to her cell. That would seem to make the maximum length of the interrogation two-and-a-quarter hours.
According to Ciolino, the police failed, following the murder, to carry out inquiries with residents in a nearby block of flats, home to a witness who said she heard a scream, Nara Capazali. If this is true, then it’s a fair point that it would be a significant error in the investigation not to go door-to-door. Ciolino has spoken to Capzeli himself and, in his opinion, she is a “crazy woman”. It is this in particular that makes him “smell a bad odour about the whole case”. Now, I’ve nothing against hunches, as long as they are recognised for what they are. But is it really so strange that police in a murder enquiry would be at least willing to talk to someone (Ciolino says he doesn’t know if she testified at trial) who heard a scream, even if she is a bit “crazy”? To me, it just seems strange that Ciolino would be troubled about it. Almost as strange as the story Ciolino goes on to tell about the detective who believed Knox was guilty because she ate pizza.
Overall, I found Ciolino’s presentation the least convincing of the five given at the Case for Innocence event. I didn’t agree with the conclusions of Mark Waterbury, but I felt that he understood what he was talking about and was straightforwardly presenting his version of the facts. But I’m not sure how familiar Ciolino is with the facts in the first place. Is his confusion about Knox’s “confession” to police a deliberate ploy or just ill-informed? Is he under the impression that Mignini was in charge of the Monster of Florence investigation, or does he see this as an excusable lie to spice up the story?
I’ll post again soon with some general comments on the presentations taken as a whole.