At the end of the Case for Innocence event organised by Friends of Amanda Knox, there was a question and answer session chaired by Tom West of the Friends.
This begins with a question about the information, made public during the final appeal of her co-accused Rudy Guede, that Knox had told her mother “I was there” during an intercepted phonecall. But it seems the panel would prefer to discuss other things. Paul Ciolino dismisses it as “fantasy”, and talks instead about how the various problems with the investigation will soon become apparent. Then there’s some discussion about how none of this should be taken as criticising the Italian justice system.
Just as West is about about to move us on to the next question, Mark Waterbury interrupts him, referring to the question actually asked. He suggests that Knox could have been saying she was at Raffaele Sollecito’s flat, rather than at the murder scene. I think this is a little weak (what Knox said was: “All I can do is tell the truth, because I know I was there. I mean, I can’t lie about it. There’s no reason to.” – I don’t think this can be taken to refer Sollecito’s flat unless the flat had been mentioned, which it hadn’t). I would have preferred him to point out simply that this is consistent with what Knox had already told the police so, although it sounds dramatic, it isn’t really adding anything new. But at least Waterbury isn’t dodging the question.
Candace Dempsey questions the credibility of the sentencing report, because it also claims, in her view implausibly, that Knox had been carrying the kitchen knife she is alleged to have used in the murder around with her. I’m not sure where Dempsey is getting her information from, but you can fact-check her yourself by text-searching the word “knife” in the English translation of the report.
The second question is about the potential for US Government involvement in efforts to free Knox. Ciolino predicts that this will happen in the future, and seems to suggest that breaking diplomatic ties with Italy and imposing an embargo on its goods would be appropriate. But he warns that the Italians will “never admit they made a mistake”. I take this to mean he doesn’t think the current appeal will succeed, although Dempsey points out that appeals can and do succeed in Italy.
Then there’s a question about DNA evidence. It seems like the evidence is now too old to retest, so will prosecutors seek to rely on previous testing? The answer is yes. Confusingly, Steve Moore refers to an old saying that “defence lawyers are gonna throw a million things on the wall and hope that one thing sticks”. You’re not supposed to be slating defence lawyers here, Steve! He says that he has confidence that Judge Hellman, presiding over the appeal, will see things as they really are.
The next questioner says that he has previously heard Dempsey saying that witnesses in the case had been paid large sums of money by newspapers. He wonders why no-one else seems to have mentioned this. Dempsey says she wasn’t talking about witnesses, but about Patrick Lumumba, who has successfully sued Knox for falsely accusing him of the crime, and about students who had known Knox at the University of Washington. There’s then some discussion of how bad some of the newspaper coverage of the case has been.
Next there’s a question about whether Knox’s lawyers know all the things that the panel knows. Moore says that they do, although he says he doesn’t speak to them. Waterburg adds that the defence did make a comprehensive case at trial, it’s just that the decision of the court “turned logic upside down”.
This is followed by a question about why no-one in the police has blown the whistle on the investigation. Ciolino puts this down to the power exercised by chief prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, a “national hero” who has sent a lot of people to prison and is “not to be messed with”.
Isn’t the whole problem for Knox trial by media, and nothing really to do with the evidence? Ciolino says that the jury convicted Knox and Sollecito before the start of the trial, because of the media coverage. He adds that the fact that jurors are paid in Italy and typically work a number of trials means that they are too close to the system and are not impartial. This may be arguable, but I actually think the way the Italian system works may have the reverse effect. The relationship between the judges and the jurors (who are actually considered “lay judges” themselves) would surely tend to mean that directions to disregard evidence or to base decisions only on facts presented are more likely to be followed. In any event, I thought we weren’t criticising the Italian system.
In passing, Ciolino suggests that the fact that Knox and Sollecito met at a classical music concert indicates their innocence. Murderers, he says, go to see the Rolling Stones. Careful, Paul. It would only take one phonecall to Keith Richards’ lawyers…
He also scoffs that the prosecution got its theory from a mystic countess who had spoken to a dead priest. This is a reference to Gabriella Carlizzi, a controversial and rather eccentric writer and blogger who died last year. Soon after the murder, she blogged that Kercher had been killed by Satanists who wanted to give Giuliano Mignini a new case to occupy him so they could go about their business without having to worry about him investigating them. This is mentioned in later reprints of Douglas Preston’s book The Monster of Florence, but even he doesn’t suggest that it was taken seriously by investigators. I’m not saying that I know for sure that Mignini didn’t base his case on this blog, just that it’s a bit of a daft thing to suppose.
There’s a question about Italian media support for Knox. Dempsey says that there is some, but that Mignini has the power to ensure that journalists critical of him never work again. Moore says that he knows of some Italian police officers who believe Knox in innocent.
An audience member says that Knox’s supporters have had great success in the comments sections of blogs and encourages others to join. This gets a lot of applause and, I have to say, it’s a great idea, see you down there. Moore compares commenters who do no not support Knox to the Westboro Baptist Church.
The panel are ssked for their predictions as to the outcome of the current appeal. Waterbury says he thinks that Judge Hellman has made god decisions so far and so he is optimistic. Moore concurs. Ciolino says that in all cases of wrongful conviction “they drag it out to save face”. On the assumption that the DNA evidence will be thrown out, Dempsey believes that there is nothing else to the case.
The last question is about how Italy might be able to free Knox and save face. Moore says he is confident that, by the end of May, some individual will thrown to the lions as a fall-guy for the mistakes of the prosecution. Dempsey’s view is that the Italian authorities will simply admit their mistake and Knox will get a payout for wrongful imprisonment, on which optimistic note the session ends and she puts on her coat to leave.