Knox/Sollecito appeal hearing on 30th July

July 29, 2011

Barring delays, overruns or surprises, tomorrow should see the last hearing in the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffale Sollecito before the court goes into summer recess.

On Monday, the court heard scientists Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti give a rundown of their review of some of the DNA evidence in the case. They did this with the aid of a DVD containing crime scene footage, designed to illustrate flaws in police procedure in the collection and handling of evidence, but without being questioned by the prosecution or defence lawyers. This means that the likely points of contention in relation to the review have still not been gone into and, for information about that, I refer you to my previous posts here and here.

There have, however, been two developments reported in the Italian press which may stand some sort of chance of having some sort of impact on proceedings.

The Umbrialeft website is reporting that the above-mentioned DVD played to the court by Conti and Vecchiotti on Monday has since been subjected to a court order effectively stating that it forms part of the proceedings. The report is less than clear, though, as to why this event is newsworthy. My best attempt at inter-linear decoding says that what has gone on is that the prosecution have asked for a copy of the DVD and presiding judge Hellmann has then issued the order so that they might be entitled to a copy. This would just be an administrative tidying-up in relation to something that should really have been done during the court session.

However, I appreciate that this version is irritatingly probable and mundane, so here’s a different take. Francesco Maresca, lawyer for the family of Meredith Kercher, has recently been complaining to reporters that the DNA review does not appear to have been written from a disinterested standpoint. And, in last Sunday’s Observer, an unnamed police source went further, suggesting that the experts were being “fed information” by the defence.

Now, it’s all very well for lawyers and police officers to have suspicions about the integrity of the experts, but it’s not much use to the court without evidence. So, suppose that someone paying attention to DVD presentation on Monday noticed that it contained material which did not seem to have been supplied to the experts by the court. That might be prima facie evidence of undisclosed communication between the experts and the defence, or someone close to the defence. If those circumstances were to arise, the bench may well feel obliged to disregard the DNA review.

But let’s not get carried away. The simplest explanations are usually the best and, let’s face it, were the experts crooked they would surely not make such a basic error. Still, you never know…

Meanwhile, there has been a surprise twist regarding the evidence of Luciano Aviello, the gender-nonconformist Mafioso who testified a few weeks ago that the killer of Meredith Kercher was in fact his fugitive brother. At the time, this was more or less as obvious a lie as it is possible to imagine, particularly given Aviello’s record of eight separate convictions for criminal defamation and the fact that the court heard another witness claiming that Aviello had been offered a large some of money by the defence in return for his false testimony.

So, in the face of a police investigation into this claim, Aviello now says that he was offered €30,000 (which he intended to spend on a sex change operation) by the Sollecito family and with the knowledge of defence lawyers. Quite a price-tag for the worthless garbage they got in return, but maybe the Sollecitos have better money than judgement. What is more, Aviello now claims that Sollecito confided to him in prison that Knox, but not he, was responsible for the murder.

The main reason this is unlikely to have a major impact on the appeal is that, in the absence of corroborating evidence, Aviello is clearly no more reliable as a witness than he was a couple of weeks ago. The court will need to take account that his original tale, obviously and plainly false in any case, has now progressed to being plainly and obviously false. Prosecutors will need to decide whether it is worth pressing for him to testify again. Given that there exist more credible allegations as to the dirty hands of the Sollecito family, they may wish to add pressure on the bench to wonder if there might be an iceberg below. On the other hand, they may feel that the judges and juror-judges already have the information they need, and that it would be a mistake to draw attention away from the much more important matter of their rebuttal to the DNA review.

As a side-note, something that seems clear from the reporting of this story is that Aviello and Sollecito associated with each other in prison, at least according to Aviello. But, as far as I can tell, this rather material bit of information was not mentioned in court when Aviello testified on 18 June. Surely this is something that must have been known to the defence?

Regardless of whether any of these side-stories make it into the courtroom tomorrow, it promises to be the most enlightening and important session in the whole appeal. It won’t be possible to tell immediately whether it has been decisive but, for the prosecution, a lot hangs on how convincing or unconvincing their response to the DNA review turns out to be.