Judge Alessandro Nencini has now released the motivation report explaining the reasoning behind his court’s reconviction of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of Croydon student Meredith Kercher. As expected, the report draws heavily on previous motivation reports relating to the conviction of Rudy Guede, a man who was tried separately from Knox and Sollecito who were not represented at any stage in the proceedings against him.
Knox and Sollecito’s cards were marked in advance
Many lawyers and commentators in Italy believe that the abbreviated trial option chosen by Guede has denied Knox and Sollecito a fair trial process. This made it impossible for subsequent courts to find them not guilty despite the lack of evidence against them. Knox and Sollecito’s acquittal in 2011 could not be allowed to stand because it contradicts ‘truths’ that were first established in Guede’s trial. Since then the two former students have fought a vain rearguard action against the Italian judicial system that they were always certain to lose.
Guede was found guilty of the murder of Croydon student Meredith Kercher who was killed in Perugia, Italy in 2007. His fast track trial ended before Knox and Sollecito’s trial had even started. The Italian Supreme Court confirmed his guilty status in 2010 before Knox and Sollecito’s appeal began.
Guede on the one hand and Knox and Sollecito on the other, faced different charges covering different aspects of the same crime, and were tried in different courts which arrived at separate, contradictory rulings. Because Guede was tried first, the rulings relating to his case have trumped those of Knox and Sollecito’s trials.
The Kercher family’s lawyer, Francesco Maresca, quoted in the Huffington Post, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, emphasising that it relies heavily on the reasoning behind the long-confirmed guilty verdict against Guede, serving as a sort of thread to the latest conviction. A key element of the Guede verdict was that it held that he didn’t act alone. Conclusive evidence that Knox and Sollecito could not have been present in Meredith’s room when she died was ignored by Florence judge Nencini because it is not congruent with this prior Guede ruling. The Kercher family, acting through Maresca, accepts Nencini’s reasoning on this.
Stark contrast in quality of evidence against the defendants
Knox and Sollecito were arrested on November 6th 2007, following all night interrogations that they have always claimed were coerced and abusive. There was no evidence placing them at the scene of Kercher’s murder. Meanwhile, Guede had fled to Germany after the murder and was arrested there two weeks later.
His hand and fingerprints were found in the room where Kercher died; his shoeprints were embossed in the bloody floor and his DNA was on her purse and in her vagina. When first contacted via Skype, before his arrest, he said that he was with Kercher when she died but claimed that their relationship was consensual. He also stated that Knox was not present and he made no reference to Sollecito.
Guede secures expert legal support and his story changes
After his arrest, Italian lawyer Walter Biscotti and colleagues immediately travelled to Germany to interview Guede before he was seen by Italian police, although it is not known who arranged this or who paid. Biscotti has represented Guede ever since and appeared on the recent BBC3 documentary ‘Is Amanda Knox Guilty?’ where he attempted to cast doubt on the soundness of his client’s conviction.
Following Guede’s arrest, his story changed and he began to incorporate the presence of Knox and Sollecito into his version of the crime scenario. He also opted for a fast-track trial which meant that he would be tried separately from and earlier than the others and would face a shorter sentence if found guilty. His trial was held in closed session with no reporters present.
All the evidence that the prosecution used against Knox and Sollecito at their trials was circumstantial and was discredited, leading to their acquittal at an appeal in 2011 presided over by Judge Prato Hellmann.
How did Guede evade an obvious charge and secure acquittals from others?
Guede was charged with stealing cash, credit cards and mobile phones from Kercher, but was acquitted of these crimes though his DNA was found on her purse. He was not charged with breaking and entering her apartment through an upper window, though this was known to be a method he had used elsewhere. The police declared that the break-in was faked, without carrying out any forensic studies on the broken glass or its shatter pattern to substantiate this claim.
Knox and Sollecito were also charged with stealing cash, credit cards and mobile phones from Kercher and with faking the break-in, conveniently letting Guede off the hook for this crime. At his trial Guede was found guilty of Meredith’s murder and of ‘acting with others’ in the attack. The ‘others’ were named as Knox and Sollecito in the judge’s report following his guilty verdict. It also stated that the final and fatal blow was struck by Knox, a ‘judicial truth’ that has been confirmed in Nencini’s motivation report.
Knox and Sollecito were acquitted of the cash and card theft in 2009 by Judge Massei’s court and this acquittal has been confirmed by the Supreme Court. Massei ruled that “the theft did not exist” so we are supposed to believe that Kercher did not have cash in her room and that her bank cards were not stolen. This is an interesting ‘judicial truth’ that has not prevented internet commenters from claiming that Knox stole Kercher’s cash at a time when she had $14,000 dollars either in the bank in Italy or back home in Seattle. Sollecito had a wealthy father, ample funds and an inheritance held in trust.
Knox and Sollecito were incriminated at a trial where they were not represented
Knox and Sollecito and their lawyers were not represented at Guede’s trial and were given no opportunity to challenge the evidence presented there. Guede’s guilty verdict and the subsequent judge’s report stating that Knox and Sollecito acted with him, was later confirmed by the Italian Supreme Court, which had the effect of setting in stone this untested version of the crime .
Retired Italian magistrate, Prof. Dr. Edoardo Mori commented, “It is unusual and possibly unique to see three defendants being tried separately in two court processes where the judgment against one of the defendants precludes the possibility of a fair hearing for the others.”
Although Knox and Sollecito were acquitted on appeal in 2011, the Italian Supreme Court overturned this judgment in 2013 and ordered a new appeal hearing that was held in Florence which resulted in fresh guilty verdicts for the pair this January. The Supreme Court had highlighted inconsistencies between Guede’s guilty verdict which specifically implicated Knox and Sollecito, and Judge Hellmann’s 2011 acquittal which found the pair not guilty of murder or of the theft or faking the break-in.
The two separate judgments were incompatible. Guede’s verdict was already ‘signed off’ so Knox and Sollecito’s acquittal could not be allowed to stand.
Among other things, the 2013 Supreme Court judgment said: (1) There were multiple attackers and this must be taken as judicial truth; (2) the break-in was staged and Guede did not stage it – this too is judicial truth. The judgment also stated that the Court of Florence had the freedom to establish whether or not Guede’s accomplices were Knox and Sollecito but then spent thirty three pages implying that they were. The ‘staged break-in’ (judicial truth) had to be linked with Knox because it was alleged that she was the only one with an interest in staging because she had the keys.
First Supreme Court ruling compromises justice downstream
Following the Florence decision, Judge Hellmann, who acquitted Knox and Sollecito in 2011 said: “I remain certain that there is no concrete evidence at all against these two young people. This new sentence was on the cards – it’s tied to the decision made by the Supreme Court.” The truth of his analysis was confirmed by the Florence Judge Nencini, who said in a post-trial interview that he had to convict based upon the existing Supreme Court ruling that “several people acted together”.
Italian Supreme Court rulings have the status of an ‘Italian judicial truth’ and cannot be changed. This concept has been termed the ‘Italian doctrine of judicial infallibility’. Nencini’s motivation report is congruent with the final rulings in Guede’s separate case as was predicted.
Knox and Sollecito are now faced with a further pointless appeal to the Italian Supreme Court which has its hands tied by its own earlier judgment. This failure of due process in the Italian system should feature in their expected subsequent appeals to the European Court of Human Rights, by which time Sollecito may be back in prison and Knox, who is home in Seattle, could be the subject of an extradition battle.
Troll Warning – 16 May 2014
Ground Report allows readers to post comments below its articles. This popular feature allows trolls to attempt to divert attention away from the articles themselves. In the week since this article was uploaded, approaching 500 comments have been made, many from trolls. I cannot claim to have read them all because some are replies to earlier comments that are buried well down in the thread but I can say that I have seen none that dispute the facts laid out in the article above.
It is a factual article, not polemic. It does not argue for or against the innocence of the defendants. Therefore comments about innocence or guilt are not relevant. What it does state unequivocally is that Knox and Sollecito did not have the benefit of a fair trial process because Guede was tried first and separately and judicial ‘facts’ were confirmed during his trial and appeal process that cannot be changed within the Italian legal system.
I would like to be proved wrong but nobody has argued that my reading of the legal position is incorrect. Therefore there was no real need for Knox and Sollecito to participate in trials at all, apart from the cosmetic requirement for there to be the appearance of justice, since the outcome in the end was never in doubt.
Thanks in advance.
19 May 2014: Article edited to clarify the various charges and acquittals about cash/cards and phones. Thanks to Luca Cheli.