One thing that took place is that Mario Alessi, serving life for the 2006 kidnapping and murder of a toddler, was called to give evidence, at the request of the defence. Alessi met Rudy Guede, convicted of Meredith Kercher’s murder in a separate trial to Knox and Sollecito, in Viterbo prison, north of Rome. His story is that Guede confided in him that Knox and Sollecito are completely innocent of the crime. Guede and an unidentified accomplice went to Kercher’s flat, having met her a few days previously, and proposed a threesome. She asked them to leave. Guede went to use the bathroom and returned to find his accomplice assaulting her. Guede duly assisted and, in the struggle that followed, Kercher received a cut to the neck. The accomplice then took the decision that it would be necessary to finish the job and, although this part is not quite clear from what I can make out, it seems as if it was Guede who then inflicted to fatal injury. Both then fled.
This is somewhat more believable than the story Guede told in court – that he had been on the toilet when an intruder broke into the flat, and emerged to find Kercher bleeding to death (the toilet part of the story is an understandable constant, because it had still not been flushed when police arrived at the flat the next day, so samples of Guede’s faeces presumably remain in a bag somewhere in Perugia). According to reporter Barbie Nadeau, the story was very convincing in court. Not having been there myself, I’m going to take her word for it. And Sollecito’s lawyer Giulia Bongiorno seemed to think that this was a “turning point” in the case. But we seem to hear that after every court date.
I don’t expect the judges and juror-judges to take the view that the case now turns on the question of which murderer’s story is least implausible. Their thought process is likely to start with the question of whether there is an reason to doubt what had been put to them.
Apart from the fact that, in Italy, Alessi’s notoriety very much precedes him, the prosecution wasted no time in informing the court that he is currently facing legal proceedings for volunteering false testimony in another case. That in itself would seem to oblige the court to ignore anything he has to say.
There were three additional prisoners brought in as witnesses to corroborate the story, but they don’t seem to have done that. One of them appears to have simply testified that his Italian isn’t good enough to have understood anything he heard in prison. The other two confirmed that Alessi had previously told them the same story, with one adding that he had also heard Guede say that Knox and Sollecito were innocent. But that’s just consistent with Guede’s official version, so it doesn’t really help the defence.
I think the court will also be wondering how Alessi’s version fits with the physical evidence. For example, if Guede and his accomplice entered the the flat as guests and fled immediately after the crime, how did it come to be that the flat had the appearance of having been broken into when the police arrived the following day?
What seems even worse for the defence is that yesterday they also called Luciano Aviello, a gangster also currently serving prison time. He claimed that his brother Antonio, a fugitive whose whereabouts are unknown, killed Kercher during a burglary. Antonio and his Romanian accomplice were supposed to burgle another house, but got the address wrong. Luciano subsequently got rid of the murder weapon and Kercher’s keys in order to help his brother out.
Aviello and Alessi can’t both be telling the truth. Their stories seem to be mutually undermining and the day may well just have been a waste of everyone’s time. So what are the defence playing at?
Well, I really can’t say I know. But one possibility is that this can be traced back to a lack of communication between the two defence teams and a lack of forward thinking by either of them. The attendance of Aviello and Alessi was asked for separately in the appeal applications of Knox and Sollecito respectively. And because Italy has vestiges of an investigative criminal justice system, calling them becomes the business of the court, not just the defence from that point. In the UK or US, the defence could just have dropped either witness without explanation but, in Italy, they possibly would have needed to justify that to the judge. And so maybe what happened is that they failed to come up with a surefire argument for discriminating between the two stories. Which is what they would have needed, because it would have made no sense questioning witnesses speaking for your own case having just lost an argument as to why they should not be called.
I’m speculating, and I’ll concede that a little knowledge of the Italian criminal justice system may be a dangerous thing.
The seemingly inevitable consequence of Alessi’s testimony is that the prosecution have now had their request for Rudy Guede to testify granted, and he will appear next Monday. This surely can’t be a consequence that the defence would have wanted, unless they seriously believe it likely that he will suddenly change his story at the last minute. And, although the prosecution will not get a free hand to ask Guede whatever they want, there must surely be a risk that they will find a way of questioning him that will end with him saying something that seems to incriminate Knox and Sollecito. Why didn’t their lawyers see this coming?
Of course, I could be mistaken and maybe there is some grand strategy at play here that I have failed to spot. But I rather suspect that what we saw yesterday is mainly some bad defending coming home to roost.