In late 2007, after the death of Meredith Kercher, the media and Italian police told us there was a mountain of evidence proving Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were the murderers. Bold claims about a “Double DNA” knife that had been cleaned with bleach in an attempt to destroy evidence, a DNA laden bra clasp, an eyewitness account putting Amanda and Raffaele near the crime scene, and an ear piercing scream solidifying the prosecution’s believed time of death put forth as unassailable evidence. This evidence all sounded credible to the judge and jury in the first trial, but on appeal the evidence is all but disappearing.
Giangavino Sulas, a journalist for Oggi, one of Italy’s largest magazines, has written an article highlighting important new information that has sent the prosecution’s case against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito into a free-fall.
In just a few paragraphs, Sulas dismantles the prosecution’s entire case, beginning with the shredding of the prosecution’s key witness, Antonio Curatolo. Sulas describes that in the last few years in Perugia, Curatolo helped police resolve two heinous crimes thanks to his timely presence on the spot where they occurred. This “star witness” would come through yet again for the prosecution in a major case, but this time it was the trial against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. He testified that on the night of November 1, 2007, from 9:30 pm until 11:30 pm, he witnessed Amanda and Raffaele in Piazza Grimana (a square overlooking the crime scene) speaking animatedly. But during his testimony, he stumbled repeatedly, often confusing dates and times, but his contradictions were overlooked and his testimony was deemed reliable.
The court of appeals was much less forgiving of Curatolo’s blunders. During questioning, he once again became confused about what night he was attempting to recall and tied his memory to the presence of shuttle buses at that hour carrying young people to the various discos outside of Perugia.
But the presence of the mini-buses was a detail that didn’t fit. In fact, the owners of several discos arrived in court to state that on the evening of November 1, the evening after Halloween, the discos were closed and the mini-buses were in the garage. If Curatolo’s confusion wasn’t enough to discredit him, he also told the court that he used heroin daily and was most certainly high on the night in question. The prosecution was left to sit silently watch their only eyewitness crumble on the stand.
Another witness mentioned by Oggi is Nara Capezzali. Capezzali helped to prove the prosecution’s case the first time around by pinpointing the time of death to an ear piercing scream that she claims to have heard. Oggi reports that Nara is hard of hearing and suffers from serious mental illness that has caused her to be hospitalized in a psychiatric ward. Although she was basically discredited during the first trial due to the distance of her residence in relation to the crime scene, there were still some who wished to believe her testimony. Oggi put an end to those wishes.
Just as damning to the prosecution’s case, Oggi discusses the credibility of the forensic evidence. During the first trial, the prosecution claimed to have the murder weapon, a common kitchen knife collected from Raffaele Sollecito’s kitchen. The jury was told that Amanda Knox’s DNA was on the handle and Meredith Kercher’s on the blade. However, Carla Vecchiotti and Sefano Conti, 2 experts from the University of Rome, were appointed by appeals court judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann to examine the DNA evidence. These experts have found that there was never a sufficient quantity of biological material to establish genetic profiles of any use for an investigation.
Giuliano Mignini, the lead prosecutor in the first trial who has been retained to assist in the appeal, was quick to claim: “We knew then that the available amount of material was so small that the testing conducted by the police would be the only one that could be performed, because they used all the material that was found.” With this explanation, Mignini failed to understand that actual words of the independent experts: “On that knife, there never was enough biological material in enough quantities to obtain genetic profiles.” This disturbing analysis concludes that there was never enough material to test, which in turn, completely invalidates the results of the first trial.
In yet another blow to the prosecution’s case, the experts also noted that there was no trace of bleach on the knife, meaning the knife had never been washed, in an attempt to destroy evidence, as maintained by the forensic police. The knife had nothing to do with the crime, leaving the prosecution without a murder weapon.
Further investigation discovered yet even more disturbing facts. The experts analyzed the bra clasp, said to have Raffaele’s DNA on the hooks, only to find it totally covered in rust and impossible to analyze. Why wasn’t the clasp stored properly? How could these investigators have been so careless?
The bra clasp is one of the most suspect pieces of evidence in this case. The prosecution went out looking for additional evidence against Raffaele because other evidence had crumbled. It was originally thought that Raffaele left a shoeprint in the murder room set in Meredith’s blood. When this print was shown as belonging to Rudy Guede, the prosecution was left with nothing to prove Raffaele’s presence at the crime scene. They needed evidence in a hurry, so in a desperate move, investigators headed back to the cottage on December 18, 2007, 46 days after the discovery of the murder. On this day luck would belong to the investigators, as the discovery of the bra clasp would provide the much needed evidence they desired.
Why wasn’t this vital piece of evidence collected during the original search of the cottage? The clasp was originally photographed November 3, 2007, during the initial collection of evidence 6 weeks prior, but the investigators neglected to collect it. The clasp was photographed in several different places over that course of time finally making its way under a dirty rug. When the clasp was eventually tested, it was found to have LCN (Low Copy Number) levels of Raffaele’s DNA along with the DNA of 4 unidentified people. The mystery DNA on the clasp proved it had been contaminated. Raffaele had been to the cottage several times so finding his DNA in the cottage was no surprise. The truth is the DNA profile wasn’t conclusive, leaving Raffaele’s defense team to suggest that the DNA profile was not a match for Raffaele. The evidence presented by the defense in the first trial discredited the clasp, due to the negligence of the investigators, there is nothing to re-test, just rust. The clasp has now been deemed useless. Keep in mind it was the only evidence linking Raffaele to the crime scene.
With witnesses discredited, and evidence proven useless, what’s left to convict Amanda and Raffaele? As soon as the independent experts present their findings in court, the judge should move for an immediate dismissal of all charges. The prosecution’s case has completely disintegrated, leaving absolutely nothing left to convict. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are innocent.
Oggi magazine (similar to People magazine in the US) has done an excellent job of reporting on this case in Italy. Giuliano Mignini, filed defamation charges against Oggi magazine and Giangavino Sulas because he didn’t like the fact that Oggi was exposing the truth. During the first trial Mignini filed at least 12 lawsuits in an attempt to silence his critics from further damaging his already tarnished reputation. Shortly after the first trial ended, Mignini was convicted for misconduct regarding another case.
Oggi should be honored to be the recipient of one of Mignini’s lawsuits. I applaud Oggi’s courage, refusing to bow to pressure, demanding that the truth be told.