Rudy Guede, the least famous person to have been convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, testified today in the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. Naturally, there had been great interest in what he might have to say, and an outside change that his testimony could have provided a turning-point in the case. But, in the event, Guede doesn’t seem to have been keen to steal the show, and he offered nothing new. I think the court will be minded to put what he had to say into a mental box, along with the rest of the witness evidence from the two most recent hearings in the appeal, and forget about it.
In a nutshell, Guede’s story is that, on the night of the murder, he had been engaged in some heavy petting with Kercher at her flat. He went to the toilet and returned to find Kercher with her throat slit and two people making their getaway. He saw a figure which he believes to have been Sollecito and heard a voice which he believes to have been Knox’s. This is similar to the story Guede told at his original trial, but the voice he heard is a feature that had developed somewhere along the way. In fact, he didn’t mention his belief that Knox and Sollecito were present at his original trial, although it is consistent with a letter he sent to the NewsMediaset agency last March.
As I suggested in my last post, this is not the type of story that the court will find easy to accept. It fails to acknowledge Guede’s role in the crime, so to do so would be to go against a settled verdict which is supported by the highest criminal court in Italy. So it by no means places Knox and Sollecito on a spike, unless the court find it so convincing that they are simply bound to accept it.
Is that likely? Well, the story does sort of fit the physical evidence. But that doesn’t necessarily make it true. The idea of a romantic liaison between Guede and Kercher would be convenient. However, Guede initially claimed to have gotten to know at a Halloween house party. He had, presumably, seen pictures of Kercher in Halloween dress in the media. But these were not taken at a house party – she had spent Halloween in a nightclub.
Perhaps a bigger problem is that Guede story necessitates Knox and Sollectio arriving at the flat and committing the murder within a very short timeframe. This seems implausible unless the crime was pre-planned, which is not a version of events supported by any other evidence.
In any event, Guede was not called as a witness to the crime, but specifically to answer an accusation, made by his fellow prisoner Mario Alessi, that Guede had confided in him to having committed the murder with an unnamed accomplice and without the involvement of Knox or Sollecito. Guede denied that such a conversation had ever taken place. So, one convicted murderer’s word against another. Given that Alessi is being investigated for volunteering false testimony in another case, it would seem not unlikely that the court may just ignore the whole thing.
They may, though, be asking themselves what has motivated Guede to accuse Knox and Sollecito, even if they can’t accept his story wholesale. What explanation could there be for that other than that he really believes (or knows) that they were involved?
The court also heard today from two cellmates of Luciano Aviello. He appeared last week to claim that his brother, a Mafioso fugitive, had been responsible for the murder. Today’s witnesses claimed to have been told by Aviello that Sollecito’s father had promised him a large amount of money (perhaps €70,000, perhaps €150,000) in order to pay for a sex change operation, in return for giving evidence that would “muddy the water” in his son’s case.
This is a pretty much superfluous additional reason to doubt a story that never seemed plausible in the first place. It shouldn’t, however, be taken as proving corruption on the part of Sollecito senior, since it could alternatively be the case that Aviello is a fantasist (or, I suppose, it could be that the prosecution have paid Aviello’s cellmates, but let’s not overcomplicate things). On the other hand, I don’t think the defence have covered themselves with glory by embarking on this fairly pointless succession of prisoner witnesses. In so doing, they have allowed a situation where an allegation that witnesses have been paid is not surprising. If it is something the court takes even slightly seriously, this may affect the credibility of almost anyone testifying for the defence, including anyone who testified in the first trial.
And that’s pretty much the story of these last two sessions, I think. Unmitigated bad news for the defence. But, as they lick their self-inflicted wounds, they may be consoling themselves with the thought that it could have been worse. If, for example, Guede had given a more compelling version of events. As it is, with regards to the main issues of the case, we are more or less where we were just over a week ago.
In other words, we are waiting for the results of the expert review of the DNA evidence in the case. The deadline for that is this Thursday, but it won’t be public until the next hearing on 25 July. So, only a few weeks of leaks and conjecture to go.