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Amanda Knox Case and The Norfolk Four Highlight Irreparable Damage Caused By Wrongful Convictions

The Norfolk Four

Michelle Moore-Bosko was raped and murdered in 1997 in Norfolk, Virginia. Michelle was the wife of William Bosko of the United States Navy.

Five men were convicted of the crime. Four of these men, Joseph J. Dick Jr., Derek Tice, Danial Williams, and Eric C. Wilson, were wrongly convicted. Dick, Williams, and Tice were convicted of murder and were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Wilson was convicted of rape and served 8 1/2 years in prison. All four men were serving in the U.S. Navy at the time of their arrests. These men have become known as the Norfolk Four.

Omar Ballard was the fifth man convicted. All evidence suggests that he is solely responsible for this crime. He is the only man whose DNA was found at the crime scene. Forensic evidence led to only one attacker. Ballard confessed that he committed the crime alone and that no one else was involved. He continues to stand by those statements.

The convictions of the Norfolk Four were secured using confessions made by the men. All four claim their confessions were coerced, stating they were threatened with the death penalty if they did not confess. Lead detective Robert Glenn Ford had a history of extracting false confessions from suspects. Ford’s investigation began with Danial Williams, a neighbor of the victim. After a nine-hour interrogation he confessed to the crime. Unreliable information obtained from Williams pointed to additional suspects. Ford’s investigation led to a snowball effect of false confessions. Ford attempted to link seven people to the murder and was successful in getting four of the seven to confess. All four confessions were false. All four men are innocent.

When the real killer came forward in the Norfolk case, refusing to admit any mistakes, the authorities went back to the drawing board and created a situation where all five must have been involved in the attack. Never mind the fact that the testimony of the four sailors did not match the evidence at the scene, they confessed to the crime, so they must be guilty.

Richard Leo is an associate professor of law at the University of San Francisco and a well-respected expert on the subject of false confessions. He described the damage caused by false confessions in an interview with Frontline: “It’s almost impossible to reverse the damage a confession does, even if given by an innocent person … It’s like a train going downhill.” Leo was so sure that the confessions in the Norfolk case were unreliable that his findings led him to write a book about the case titled “The Wrong Guys.”

The family of Michelle Moore-Bosko was left in shock by the campaign to free the four sailors. They had already sat through an entire trial that portrayed the four as guilty. One of the sailors even stood up in court and apologized to the family for his part in the murder. How can this family be expected to accept the fact that the accused are innocent? How are they supposed to believe anyone after they have been dragged through this nightmare? The victim’s mother, Carol Moore, had this to say in a 2008 interview with the Washington Post: “All the PR has been for them.‭ ‬But nobody came to help us, there’s no help for the victim’s family.”

Prosecutorial misconduct in the Norfolk case has prevented the family of Michelle Moore-Bosko from ever finding any sense of closure, proving once again that wrongful convictions cause irreparable damage.

Amanda Knox

Meredith Kercher was a college student  murdered on November 1, 2007, in Perugia, Italy. Three people were tried and convicted for the murder, Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Guede. Knox and Sollecito were exonerated on appeal on October 3, 2011. Guede’s conviction was confirmed by the Italian Supreme Court and he is currently serving a sixteen year sentence.

Much like the Norfolk case, the Kercher investigation took a wrong turn when investigators used inaccurate information obtained from false statements obtained during an interrogation. After a long interrogation Amanda Knox signed statements implicating an innocent man while placing herself at the crime scene. Arrests were made based on the information provided during the interrogation. This information led prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini,  to present a fantasy of a group sex game gone wrong to the public. He made these bold claims long before any of the forensic evidence had been tested.

When the real killer was discovered in the Kercher case, refusing to admit their mistakes, the authorities simply removed one of the wrongly accused (Patrick Lumumba), and plugged in the actual killer, Rudy Guede, keeping their multiple attacker story-line intact.

In both cases, the authorities should have been stopped in their tracks by the developing information. Both cases should have been given an entirely new perspective.

Of course Amanda Knox never confessed to committing any crime, but the prepared statements that she signed placed her at the scene of the crime so they served the same purpose as a confession for the prosecution.

In both cases, the families of the victims were left to struggle with the phenomenon of  false confessions. It is a subject that many have difficulty believing. How could anyone possibly incriminate themselves if they were innocent. It’s a valid question, and one that has been written about extensively by experts like Richard Leo in the Norfolk case and and Saul Kassin in the Knox case.

Saul Kassin is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and Massachusetts Professor of Psychology at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Like Leo, Kassin is a well-respected expert in false confessions.

Saul Kassin reviewed the Amanda Knox case for the defense on appeal. He concluded that Amanda’s confession should be treated with caution.

“Looking at this case as a whole, it appears that Amanda Knox was immediately identified as a suspect and presumed her guilty.  After three days of denials and interrogations,‭ ‬she is said to have given a confession embodied in two statements. During these sessions Ms.‭ ‬Knox did not have an attorney present and the statements taken were not recorded. As a factual matter, both statements were incorrect, raising questions about the process by which they were taken and Ms. Knox’s mental state at the time.

Basic psychological research shows that lay people and experts have a natural tendency to interpret ambiguous evidence according to existing beliefs. Studies (as well as real life cases in the U.S.­) also specifically show that the presence of a confession, because it creates a strong belief, can contaminate latent fingerprint judgments, eyewitness identifications, and interpretations of other types of evidence. In light of these research findings, the courts would be advised to review the case against Ms. Knox with a full awareness that the confession itself and the perceptions and evidence it may have influenced—should be treated with caution.”

John Kercher’s recently released book “Meredith” is a good example of the damage caused by wrongful convictions. Kercher stated that he wrote the book as a tribute to his daughter because he feels that Meredith has been forgotten, while the spotlight has remained on the accused for the past four years.

While I can certainly understand Kercher’s frustration, I cannot agree with the belief that Meredith has been forgotten. In fact her name has remained in the news for the past four years for very unfortunate reasons.‭ ‬If the murder investigation had been handled properly, her killer, Rudy Guede, would have been in custody very early on and the world may have never heard of Meredith Kercher. Meredith’s case would have sadly been just one of the many other unfortunate murders that have occurred in the world. As an example, 150 people have been murdered this year in the city of Chicago alone. I cannot name one of them. That is the sad reality of the world we live in.

Roughly twenty five percent of Kercher’s book details Meredith’s life, providing touching memories from a grieving father that lost his daughter in a horrific manner. Kercher dedicates the rest of the book to the details of the crime, questioning the innocence of Knox and Sollecito.

I have no intention of dissecting Kercher’s entire book but I do feel that it is important to point out the glaring errors that are presented as facts. John Kercher has the right to his own opinion, but he does not have the right to print factual errors that implicate innocent people. The members of the Injustice Anywhere Forum noted 35-40 errors in the first read. Sadly, Kercher has relied on the wrong people for information and he has been let down at every turn. The chapters that detail the case come right out of the prosecution’s playbook from the first trial. Kercher spends very little time going over the details of the appeal that corrected the egregious errors leading to the wrongful convictions of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. There are many details that Kercher misrepresents that have been well known facts for years leading up to the publication of his book.

Kercher claims the alibis provided by Knox and Sollecito changed repeatedly over the course of the first three days. The coerced confessions came from a single night of questioning. their stories only changed one time during that single night.

Kercher claims there was a bloody footprint attributed to Sollecito in the murder room. The truth is that the authorities claimed the print belonged to Sollecito early on. The print was later proven to belong to Rudy Guede. This fact was respected by prosecution and the court during the first trial.

Kercher claims that Sollecito phoned the police after the Postal Police arrived on the day the murder was discovered. The Postal Police were the first police to arrive at the cottage that day.. They arrived to investigate two cell phones that were found in a nearby garden. The Carabinieri (Italian Police) arrived shortly after the Postal Police. The prosecution claimed that Knox and Sollecito were surprised by the arrival of the Postal Police. Sollecito stated that he had already  called the Carabinieri before the Postal Police arrived. Sollecito’s statements were supported by a security camera across the street that confirmed the arrival time of the police. This accusation against Sollecito has long been refuted and the explanation was accepted by the court that Sollecito’s call was made before the police arrived.

Kercher claims that Patrick Lumumba said he was not badly treated by the police. Lumumba changed his story over time. Kercher makes no mention of this.  Kercher writes for the Daily Mail, a tabloid that printed an interview with Lumumba where he clearly states that he was roughed up while in custody. I do not know why Kercher has chosen to ignore this interview.

Kercher claims that Knox was arrested and given a criminal conviction in the United States before going to Italy. This is false. Knox received a noise violation (ticket) for a party that was too loud.

Kercher claims the police talked to Rudy Guede in Germany on Facebook. The truth is it was Skype, but that error is not important. The egregious error comes when he claims that Guede mentions a second person during that conversation. The truth is that Guede does not mention a second person until months later, after he had seen all of the news reports and was able to mold his story using facts that he had learned from the press. This is an important piece of misinformation to point out because it is intended to lead the reader to believe that Guede did not act alone.

Kercher claims that bleach was bought the morning after the murder by Knox. He even mentions evidence of bleach receipts. The truth is there were no receipts for bleach ever presented at trial and no receipts exist. It was proven that the bleach found in Sollecito’s apartment was purchased months earlier. The accusations of a bleach purchase have long been refuted.

Kercher claims that the alleged murder weapon was removed from the crime scene. The weapon that investigators tried to link to the crime was retrieved from Sollecito’s kitchen, not the crime scene. The knife was completely discredited on appeal. The court appointed independent experts found starch on the blade, not blood.

Kercher claims that the bra clasp was not retrieved until 47 days after the murder because it was not visible to investigators during their initial search. It is apparent that he has not viewed  the crime scene footage because the clasp is in full view in the video. The investigators simply failed to collect it.

Kercher repeatedly mentions that Knox’s blood was mixed with Meredith’s blood. This is absolutely false. There was no evidence of any kind showing mixed blood. Meredith’s blood was found mixed with residual DNA from Knox taken from surfaces in a bathroom that Knox used daily. Crime scene videos show improper collection procedures.  The investigator is seen wiping large areas using the collection swab like a cleaning rag, essentially mixing everything on the surface right on the swab.

Kercher misrepresents key evidence in an attempt to incriminate Knox in this excerpt: “Vital pieces of evidence for the prosecution also came from the footprints that were found in the cottage. Knox’s prints had been found in the hallway and in Filomena Romanelli’s room.”

The truth is that none of the luminol stains were ever positively matched to anyone. Investigators never took sample prints from the other residents in the cottage. The stain found in Romanelli’s room was a shapeless blob, not a footprint. The stain in Knox’s room matched a woman’s foot but was not a match for Knox. The source of the print found in Knox’s room is unknown. The undated luminol stains tested negative for blood and there is no proof that the stains had anything whatsoever to do with the crime. They were most likely made by one of the residents coming out of the shower with wet feet at a time prior to the murder.

It is unfortunate to see that Kercher looked to the website True Justice for Meredith Kercher (TJMK), as a source for information. He mentions several times in his book that he is grateful for the translations that TJMK provided. I understand his gratitude in that regard. The language barrier has been a problem for many that have followed the case. The problem is that TJMK has spent the last four years viciously attacking anyone that disagrees with their belief that Amanda Knox is guilty. I highly doubt that Kercher would approve of their behavior if he was made aware of their activities. It is apparent that Kercher has not followed the websites closely, because if he had, he would have thanked TJMK’s partner site Perugia Murder File (PMF) for the translations. TJMK has not translated anything. You can read more about the activities witnessed by those who operate PMF and TJMK in the Injustice in Perugia blog post  “The Truth Behind The Hate Campaign Against Amanda Knox.” It is disappointing to see Kercher clearly using TJMK as a reference (“The Machine” is a regular poster on TJMK and also posts endless misinformation about the case online using another pseudo name ”Harry Rag”).

John Kercher: “I learned that if bloodstains show up under luminol, but not to the naked eye, it is a near certainty that a crime scene clean-up has been attempted.”

The Machine: “If bloodstains show up under luminol, but not to the naked eye, then it is almost a complete certainty that a crime-scene clean-up has been attempted.”

It was deeply disappointing to see Kercher associating himself with a group like TJMK but the truth is that he has others that support his position as well. Some journalists are locked into the same misinformation campaign. I wrote an article titled “The Architects of the Foxy Knoxy Myth” that details the horrendous reporting seen in this case. John Follain also wrote a book about the case that contains the same misinformation. You can read more about Follain in my article “Prosecution Lackey John Follain Claims to Give Definitive Account of Amanda Knox Case.”

The Kercher family may never find peace due to the incompetence of the authorities in Perugia, Italy. John Kercher believes that multiple attackers killed his daughter. He believes what his sources have told him. He has blocked out numerous experts that have clearly stated that Meredith was attacked by a single person. He has blocked out the entire appeal. How can anyone blame him for these beliefs when the authorities in Perugia have pushed this misinformation for so long?

As a parent, I can relate to John Kercher when he says his daughter would have never been overpowered by one attacker. I understand how badly he must want to believe that. Meredith is his child. He wants her to be remembered as a strong person that would have fought for her life.

We know the truth. This was a brutal crime but not a complicated one. Meredith Kercher was attacked when she came home during a burglary in progress. Meredith sustained a gaping neck wound and was incapacitated very quickly by her attacker, Rudy Guede. I cannot blame John Kercher for wanting to remember his daughter as a strong person. I cannot question a man’s beliefs that has lost his child in such a way. John Kercher has earned the right to be irrational. He will forever be broken by this tragedy. The authorities in Perugia, Italy, failed to bring justice for John Kercher. Most importantly, they failed to bring justice for Meredith.

Injustice Anywhere recognizes that irreparable damage is caused by wrongful convictions. If wrongful convictions are a result of misconduct, those responsible must be held accountable. Unfortunately that is rarely the case in the United States. A recent study conducted by the Innocence Project (in conjunction with other innocence organizations) shows that prosecutors in the U.S. are rarely disciplined for misconduct. You can read the article here.

Unfortunately the authorities in Perugia, Italy who wrongfully convicted Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have not been disciplined for their misconduct and remain in office to continue harming innocent families.

Thankfully the Norfolk Four detective Robert Glenn Ford was convicted in October 2010, on unrelated extortion charges of accepting payments from criminal suspects in return for favorable treatment. Ford is a perfect example of a bad seed. It is people like Ford that must be stopped. Ford should have been fired for past wrongdoing long before he had the opportunity to interrogate the Norfolk Four. Some positions of power should not come with second chances.

Look at all that could have been avoided if the two cases mentioned in this article would have been investigated properly. Four additional victims were created in the Norfolk case and the family of the victim has been forever left to question what happened to their loved one.

If the Kercher case had been properly investigated, Knox and Sollecito would not have lost 1427 days of their lives, websites like TJMK and PMF that prey on innocent people would have never been created, the media would not have been handed salacious headlines to fuel a smear campaign against the wrongfully accused, and the Kercher family would not be forever left to question what happened to their loved one.

Please visit Injustice Anywhere today. Please learn more about wrongful convictions. Much more needs to be done to put an end to this epidemic.