March 24, 2010

Amanda Knox, Winner of the Media Lottery

In Shirley Jackson’s classic short story, The Lottery, the residents of a small town participate in a lottery that no one seems eager to win.

“Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones...”

The entire town  was involved,  as if it were a square dance, or a Halloween party, but with less enthusiasm.

“The (men) stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed.”

The lottery slips were drawn from an old black box, made from shards of an even older black box.

“Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box.”

A brand new lottery box has finally been made, and it’s a beauty. It doesn’t have sides or a top, but it was surely built from shards of black boxes going back to ancient times. It is vast and varied. We’ll call it the “Media Lottery.”

When you won the lottery in Jackson’s story, your fellow townspeople stoned you to death. When you win the Media Lottery, the outcome isn’t much better. 

To see how the Media Lottery works, let’s play a little game. To keep it from becoming personal, we’ll leave you out of it. The Media Lottery has selected a winner: Your daughter. You play Parent, they place Ace Journalists. This is the object of the game: Let’s see if the Ace Journalists can write articles full of lies claiming that your daughter has a wild sex life and murderous psychological makeup, faster than you can refute them.

Here are the rules. The Ace Journalists make money telling the sensationalistic lies. Magazines, newspapers, and websites make money spreading them. The more sensational the lies are, the more money they make. And the longer your daughter rots in prison for a crime she did not commit. 

How do you like the game so far?

This may sound overstated, and I certainly don’t mean that the entire media behaves this way. After all, this is the media. There are many dedicated journalists who have worked hard on this case to get the facts straight and to present them honestly. But much of the Media Lottery game has been played every bit as badly as this in the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in Perugia, Italy. Moreover, this was done, not only by the tabloid press where it might be expected, but by much of the mainstream media as well. To show this, let’s begin with an excerpt from an article in dated December 6, 2009.

“Amanda Knox: Inside the Sex Crazed World of the American Killer Student”

Nothing sensationalistic about that. Perhaps I have overstated. Read on.

“Evil Amanda Knox was yesterday branded a ‘cold, calculating man-eater’ by a teacher who was shocked at the killer's promiscuous lifestyle. Sonia Giugliarell said the sex-crazed American was bedding FIVE lovers when she was arrested for murdering fellow student Meredith Kercher, 21. Language tutor Sonia, 41, said: ‘There was a demon inside her that nothing could control. Knox slept with different men to make herself feel important and powerful.”

To create this smear, the writer has interviewed some language tutor who barely knew “evil” Amanda, and who is apparently moonlighting as a psychiatrist, or a mind reader. Nice. But where did the tutor get these ideas? Even nicer.

Doctor’s Call
A month or so after Amanda was captured and imprisoned, she got some bad news from the doctor. Well, not a real doctor, just someone the polizia or prosecutor sent to pretend to be a doctor. This impersonator informed Amanda that she was HIV positive, carrying the AIDS virus and essentially sentenced to death. It was a lie. A shameful, baseless lie, apparently intended to break her. These same people deny using undue pressure to coerce Amanda during her interrogation.

How did Amanda  respond to this terrible lie? She did the right thing. At the request of the “doctor,” she listed every sexual partner she had been with in her entire life so that they could be notified that they might have been exposed to the AIDS virus, and could receive treatment to slow it’s advance. She also wrote about it in her prison diary, in an effort to come to grips with her fears. She’d been with about the average number of partners, but in much of the press her entire sexual history was collapsed into her two months in Italy.

In spite of Amanda’s cooperation, the polizia did not get what they wanted most, she did not list Rudy Guede, the murderer of Meredith Kercher. This was because Amanda barely knew him. The HIV lie became just another cruelty inflicted on her, one more legal and ethical violation among many. But, not to let a good lie go to waste, they leaked her diary to the press, in violation of Italian law. The article above is just one example of how this leak became a slander in the press. That article came out nearly two years after the initial leak, plenty of time for the reporter to get the facts straight, if he’d had an interest in accuracy. 

The Book of Barbie
Some of the sharpest stones thrown in the Media Lottery of Amanda Knox have been hurled by travel and dining columnist Barbie Latza Nadeau. For that reason, and because she has written a book that is just as bad, let’s look at several of her pieces.

She has almost completely ignored the actual murderer, Rudy Guede. Not much of a story there, and certainly nothing to build her career on. The real facts of the case are fairly ordinary, and far less marketable than manufactured ones. She has only paid cursory notice to the other accused, Raffaele Sollecito. But Barbie seems to have a special fascination for Amanda. One source who has watched her in Perugia called it “a hatred.”

Here’s what Barbie did with Amanda’s diary in a Newsweek online article dated July 14, 2008.

“And by her own account in a prison diary leaked to the media, she details her sexual escapades with at least seven men she'd been with in her three months in Italy before her arrest.  She even wrote that she might have HIV and then she uses a process of elimination to narrow down who might have given it to her.”

Think about this paragraph for a moment. The contempt for the truth is breathtaking. It begins with “she details her sexual escapades,” an expression designed to titillate readers. Amanda does no such thing. Her diary comprises 80 pages of clinging to hope, fighting back despair, proclamations of innocence, belief that her innocence will ultimately prevail, and pleading “please, please, please” let her regain her freedom and resume her life. It is painful and heart wrenching to read. No objective reader could go through Amanda’s prison diary and describe it as “detailing sexual escapades.”

Barbie moves on to “She even wrote that she might have HIV…” as if it were a whimsical thought, yet another indication of Amanda’s wild behavior, rather than a horrific torment, a terrible fear.

How would you feel in her position? You’re in jail in a foreign country for a murder you did not commit, facing likely conviction anyway, and spending the rest of your life in prison. But, you’ve just been told that you are HIV positive, so, your life won’t be that long. Good time for carefree sex talk.

Here is some of what Amanda actually wrote in her diary as she went through the agonizing process of trying to determine whether she might have contracted HIV:

“I had a raging headache because this is by far the worst experience of my life. I’m in prison for a crime I didn’t commit, & I might have HIV.

I don’t want to die. I want to get married and have children. I want to create something good. I want to get old. I want my time. I want my life. Why why why? I can’t believe this.

Thirdly, I don’t know where I could have got HIV from.... “

This is where Amanda tries to figure out how she might have been exposed.

“Oh please please let it be a mistake. Please oh please let it not be true. I don’t want to die.”

Judge for yourself. Look at what Amanda wrote, and how Barbie described it. Are these the words of a young woman “detailing her sexual escapades” as if it were a lark, or has Barbie Nadeau seriously misstated matters? A young woman was desperately hoping that her life wasn’t ending tragically, while Barbie hurled stones at her with a mixture of self righteous moral indignation, and glee. 

PM Mignini, Amanda’s prosecutor and the prime architect of the campaign to destroy her, was interviewed recently by an Italian reporter about the HIV lie. Here is how he evaded the issue:

Paglieri: “And let us speak of the ‘HIV.’ Amanda, while in prison was told that she was HIV positive and she was asked to make a list of her former lovers to warn them of the danger. Then she discovered that it was a "false positive" and became suspect that it was a trick.”

PM Mignini: "I did not ask anything of the kind of Amanda. We always have the utmost respect for suspects. Why should I?"

Paglieri: “Why then, was the list all over the press which helped to create a negative image of the girl as an "easy" woman?”

PM Mignini: "Nobody has created an image of Amanda as an "easy" girl. Why would I need to?"

Mignini says “I did not ask anything of the kind....” Who said he did? She was asked by the fake doctor. He further says, “Nobody has created an image of Amanda as an ‘easy’ girl.” How can he possibly make such a statement after two years of press smears on two continents? Read the media quotes in this article to decide whether anyone has created such an image.

Barbie Nadeau hasn’t limited herself to distortions fed to her by the prosecution. She also makes up her own material. In the Daily Beast on December 4, 2009 she writes about the announcement of conviction:

“At one point the stepmother of Raffaele Sollecito, Knox’s former boyfriend who was sentenced to 25 years for his part in the murder, yelled out “F__k you!”

No one else in the courtroom heard those words. Everyone else heard “Forte, Raffaele!” Italian, for “Strength, Raffaele.” That makes sense, the curse doesn’t. Were it not for Barbie’s lack of concern for accuracy, this error could have been easily checked, and corrected , simply by asking other observers.

Here’s a clever attack by Barbie, dated December 6, 2009 in the Daily Beast. 
“When the two got into the prison van at the end of each hearing, the press had bets on whether or not they got to have sex the whole way back, or whether they just talked dirty to each other through the bars.”

Imagine riding back to prison in a police van after spending the day on trial for murder. This, in Barbie’s mind, is a sexy atmosphere. The passage paints yet another nasty picture of sex-crazed fiends, and does so without any evidence. She didn’t actually say that the two had sex in the back of the van, or talked dirty, only that “the press had bets,” so it leaves no tracks. How can it be refuted?

Well, for one thing, they didn’t ride in the same van. They were transported in two separate vehicles, so the whole notion is fabricated. It states nothing factual while slamming Amanda  just the same. “The press had bets….” Which press? Can you refute this smear, faster than Barbie can tell it? 

I have my own speculation as to what Amanda and Raffaele would have said to each other if they actually had ridden back to prison together after each day in court. Through the bars of the police van, to the bars of Capanne prison. The conversation is purely hypothetical, but it would go something like this:

“I can’t believe this is happening. It just goes on and on.”
“Try to stay strong. Try to keep your spirits up. We’ll make it through this.”
“How can they believe that we did it? There’s no evidence!”
“They don’t. They’re in it to save face. Or for the fame, money....”
“Who would do that? Who would ruin our lives, our lives, just to make a fast buck?”
“Barbie Nadeau.”

Like I said, it’s purely hypothetical.

Remember Barbie’s two false options from this, each as bad or worse than the other, because this is a trick she has played before. Take a look at the title of her piece in the Daily Beast,  Dec 6, 2009.

The New Face of Evil 
Is the real Amanda Knox the sex-obsessed, cold-blooded murderer that the prosecution depicted? Or worse?”

This raises a few questions. Shouldn’t there be another possibility? Like, innocent? How is it possible to be “worse” than a “sex-obsessed, cold-blooded murderer?” Would you call this fair, balanced reporting? Could it be that Barbie is more excited about advancing her own prospects by sensationalizing someone else’s misfortune than she is about factual reporting? Is she merely determined to make the move from travel reporting into real journalism, or is she is hurling stones at the winner of the Media Lottery with real enthusiasm?

“Knox's infamy will only continue to grow as details from the trial make titillating headlines for the next year or longer.”– Barbie

For an Ace Journalist on the case, these words are golden. Growing infamy! Titillating headlines! A year or longer!  Think of all the stories, the exposure, the fame! Of course, for an innocent young woman being stoned to death by a media mob, they are less exhilarating.

A final entry from the Book of Barbie. It highlights her taste for getting it sensational, at the expense of getting it right.

2009-02-18 The Daily Beast “Sex and Murder in Italy”
Barbie misquotes Amanda’s diary as follows:

“In one entry, she describes the night of the crime: ‘That night I smoked a lot of marijuana and I fell asleep at my boyfriend’s house. I don’t remember anything. But I think it’s possible that Raffaele went to Meredith’s house, raped her and then killed. And when he got home, while I was sleeping, he put my fingerprints on the knife. But I don’t understand why Raffaele would do that.’ (This is one of several different accounts she has given of her whereabouts, earlier claiming that she was in the villa and heard Meredith’s screams.)”

Barbie wrote this in February of 2009. She had a year to get the quote straight, but failed. The quote she used is from a bad Italian-to-English translation, of a bad English-to-Italian translation (I’m not making this up) of Amanda’s actual diary entry. The real quote from Amanda’s private diary had long been a matter of public record when Barbie wrote this piece because it was leaked to the press by the Perugian authorities. What Amanda actually wrote, taken from her diary word-for-word, meant  the exact opposite of Barbie’s version.

“ So unless Raffaele decided to get up after I fell asleep, grabbed said knife, went over to my house, used it to kill Meredith, came home, cleaned the blood off, rubbed my fingerprints all over it, put it away, then tucked himself back into bed, and then pretended really well the next couple of days, well, I just highly doubt all of that."

“I just highly doubt all of that.” Amanda clearly explains that it doesn’t make any sense that Raffaele would have done such a thing. It would be impossible, and preposterous. Barbie, and others, turned it on it’s head, making it sound like an accusation of Raffaele. It served her purpose, and that purpose evidently wasn’t the truth.

Finally, Barbie refers to “several accounts” that Amanda gave, apparently  expanding her interrogation without a lawyer or translator into multiple events. But, not to sink to this same level, Barbie gives only one account. When she makes an error, even a specific, indisputable error like this one, she never seems to do anything to correct it. She has apparently never issued a retraction, correction, or clarification for a single one of her many reporting errors on this case.

A Free Press
These appalling distortions are sad, unfortunate, but, hey, the cost of doing business in a free society with a free press. Right? Perhaps, but, here’s the thing. The jury in this trial was not sequestered, they were free to read every piece of trash published. They had lots of time to do so, since the trial met, at most, two days a week.

The Italian press, working with an ample stream of leaked material gave them plenty of trash to read. Here’s an example from the Italian newspaper, The Republic, just five days after the murder.

“Amanda is a liar. For four days, she never stopped lying. And perhaps she will continue for the next few hours. At least in part. The morning the corpse of Meredith was discovered, she is "surprised" to see neighbors and police while she's "shocked" going back into the house to "discover" what happened there in her absence.

All of this was stated as fact. Amanda was labeled a “liar” just five days after the murder, making “innocent until proven guilty” seem like a quaint relic of the past. Here are some article titles from the Italian press in the days after the murder, to give a flavor for how the Italian media lottery treated Amanda Knox.

“Amanda wanted only sex"

“Amanda’s DNA on the Crime Knife” ("It's the weapon that killed Meredith,")

It has been claimed that the judges and jurors in this case were somehow immune to influence, untainted by the media, as if they weren’t human beings, and didn’t really pay attention to what they read and heard. It has been said that they were “professionals” who could rule without bias. Yet 6 out of 8 of them were ordinary citizens, not professionals, and the pattern of rulings of the professional judges has been one of consistent prejudice against Amanda and Raffaele.

It is a fundamentally different system of “justice” and a fundamentally unfair one, when the prosecutors, polizia, judges, jury, press, and stone-hurling townsfolk, are all part of the same tightly knit, freely communicating , justice inflicting community. But lest we in America feel superior, we must remember that we had something similar for many years. We called them “lynch mobs.”

The Media Mantra of Guilt

A “mantra” is a sound, word, or phrase that is recited to accomplish a transformation. Usually the change is of a spiritual nature, but here the media mantras have been recited for less lofty purposes.

Many of the public’s misconceptions about this case come from reports that, while incorrect, have been repeated over, and over again. These reports, like a spiritual mantra gone terribly wrong, have transformed two innocent young people into murderous demons. An example of this is the absolutely wrong report that Amanda  nonchalantly took a shower in a bathroom awash in blood the morning after the murder.

Here’s a mainstream media report from Vanity Fair, May 12, 2008.
“She had found the bathroom she shared with Meredith smeared with so much blood it looked as though a butcher had attempted washing up and then given up the task. Amanda was puzzled. ‘It seemed a bit strange to me for the simple reason that all us girls are pretty clean and neat, and we clean up the bathroom,’ she later reflected.”

It sounds terrible. Amanda  blissfully showered amid a vast sea of blood, a scene right out of The Shining. This has been repeated in article after article. It is nonsense. It is a kind of “mashup” that combines Amanda’s reflection on the tiny amount of blood that she actually saw, with a photograph of the bathroom when it was coated with a pink, protein visualization tool days later. In actual fact, when Amanda went to use the shower she shared with Meredith there was only a small amount of blood in the bathroom. It was almost entirely on the bathmat , where Rudy left his footprints, and a small amount he left smeared on a faucet handle. The actual scene was only mildly concerning, exactly as she described.

It’s just one example, but this single distortion, repeated many times in many venues, was enough to convince countless people that Amanda Knox must be guilty. Yet the truth might still have won out, and Amanda might now be free, or at least widely understood to be innocent, if that were all there was. But this was just one distortion among the many mantras of guilt recited. The media also reported a “cleanup” that did not happen, performed with bleach that was never purchased. It reported that Amanda was sighted with Rudy, which never happened. It said that she engaged in lurid talk with Raffaele, somehow overheard in English by a clerk who spoke only Italian, while buying sexy lingerie. The simple fact that she needed clean underwear after being kept out of her apartment for three days was not as compelling a story. 

But the most devastating distortion of all has been the endless repetition in the media of the mantra-sound bite “the knife had Amanda’s DNA on the handle, and Meredith’s on the blade.” This phrase has about as much probative value to the case as the phrase “drill, baby drill” has to a viable energy policy. First recited menacingly to Amanda by the “Capo” in Capanne prison even as he repeatedly hit on her, it was adopted by mainstream reporters and Nancy Grace alike.

A sound bite treatment of a complex technical issue, the simplistic phrase takes whole paragraphs to dispute it. Reporter after reporter has fallen for the temptation and hurled the stone, solemnly reciting the misleading, but dramatic sound bite, while ignoring the science that contradicts it.

We’ve discussed the real evidence about the knife in detail elsewhere, so, just briefly:

The knife was an ordinary kitchen knife from Raffaele’s kitchen drawer. Amanda used it for cooking. Her DNA on the handle has as much meaning as her DNA on the can opener in the same drawer. The knife did not match most of Meredith’s wounds, and neither did it match a knife-shaped blood stain at the scene. Tests showed that the knife didn’t have any blood on it. The vanishingly faint DNA profiles that appeared after exceeding the machine sensitivity limits were clearly from contamination during handling or processing. Simply put, “the knife” was not the murder weapon. It was a kitchen implement that should have been left with the can openers and spatulas.

Fifteen Minutes

Again, and again, and again, the winner of the Media Lottery has been soiled with lies, smears, and distortions that have no basis in fact. It has made for the daunting task of fighting an endless cavalcade of lurid smears with the powerful, but far less interesting weapon of the truth.

If the truth doesn’t work , even for Amanda, even for someone with family, friends, loved ones, and thousands of total strangers all pulling for her, who can it work for? How can it work for the many other “harmless, gentle soul, misplaced inside a jail,” in Bob Dylan’s words.  Have we reached the point in history where truth is no longer transcendent? Have we reached the point where all that matters is a lurid story?

Amanda  Knox is just one victim of the much broader phenomena of character assassination by the Media Lottery.  They have made millions of dollars by destroying her reputation and her life. The destruction wasn’t a senseless crime, it was driven by the profit motive.

These lies didn’t just happen on their own. They were twisted into shape from leaked information, or created from whole cloth. They were honed by experts for optimal shock and maximum sales, and smeared over the pages of both tabloid press and mainstream news by journalists, editors, and publishers. All of this was done by people. People who have sons and daughters of their own. People who should have known better.

Andy Warhol famously said “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” We may now be coming to an age where everyone will be guilty for 15 minutes. And they will spend the rest of their lives trying to prove their innocence.

Thank you to the Amanda supporters who helped research this article.
Copyright, 2010  Mark C. Waterbury, Ph.D.

March 8, 2010

Seven Deadly Sins of the Knox/Sollecito Prosecution

The following is an update of a previously posted article on

“Sin creates an inclination to sin; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts.”
The Catechism

We’ve talked about the scientific trees, DNA, Luminol, and the rest. Now let’s take a step back and look at the forest of the Knox/Sollecito prosecution. Although science can exist in a perfect void of human issues, the science in this case is shrouded in a forest of human intrigue that cannot be ignored. A strange, dark, and twisted forest, it is. 

The ordeal of prison and trial went on for nearly two years. Yet the real decision was made just a few days after the murder of Meredith Kercher. Head investigator Edgardo Giobbi determined, in his mind, the guilt of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito before he had even begun to acquire, let alone analyze any actual evidence.

He boasted of the feat on film. “We were able to establish guilt by closely observing the suspect’s psychological and behavioral reactions during the interrogations. We don't need to rely on other kinds of investigation as this method has enabled us to get to the guilty parties in a very quick time." This was achieved before he even heard of Rudy Guede. In fact, just hours after the murder, when he handed Amanda a pair of shoe covers, "As she put them on she swiveled her hips... my suspicions against her were raised.”

And, of course, these same investigators were confused by the meaning of Amanda’s enigmatic text message to Patrick Lumumba, “See you later.”  They thought it meant something like, “Let’s meet later tonight and commit a senseless, horrific crime.” It turned out Patrick had nothing to do with it. But despite this cluelessness, or perhaps because of it, deep psychological insight enabled them to perceive guilt in the complete absence of evidence. It might be called, a “thought crime.”

That is why,  two years later, even though there was still no evidence against Amanda and Raffaele, these investigators continued to fight for convictions. Their minds were made up, and they were not to be confused by mere facts.

That was the original Sin of the this murder investigation. The Sin of Pride, excessive belief in one's own abilities.

Next came the theory of the crime, a compelling story in which to wrap the guilt. This naturally revolved around a satanic sex orgy gone bad. Naturally to whom? To the prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini. There was no evidence of this. No prior history, no such discussions, no records. In fact, in the entire trial there has never been any testimony about this, nothing ever offered by the prosecution. Just leaks to the press, who continue to parrot phrases like, “sex orgy gone bad.” And just young people who, shockingly, have had sex. And one was an American. You know how they are, and a beautiful one at that.

All of that, and a coincidence of date, the day after Halloween, along with a helpful suggestion from a blogger who channels a dead person to reveal a Satan worshipping Masonic sex cult (I’m not making this up) was enough for Mignini. In his pious mind, he envisioned the same lurid evil he had confronted before, in the Monster of Florence case. With much the same result, another tremendous injustice, perpetrated by Mignini himself.

That was the second deadly Sin of this investigation. The sin of Lust, an unnatural obsession with carnal desire.

In the interrogation of Amanda Knox, the result was preordained, the only question was how long would it take, how much pressure it would require, to put the words into her mouth to seal her fate. No matter how many times Amanda said she didn’t know, that she had no idea who had done this thing, they told her that she did, and that she’d spend 30 years in prison if she didn’t say what they wanted her to say. Day after day they brought her in. Forty some hours without a lawyer, without a good night’s sleep, without an interpreter, interrogating her in a language she barely knew. How long would you hold up?

They asked her to envision the murder, asked her to picture it in her mind. They brought Patrick into it. Why, she had sent him that incriminating text message, “See you later.”  They told her that Raffaele no longer supported her when she said that she was with him that night. Suspects must always tell the truth, over and over again, without fail or variation. Interrogators are under no such restrictions. 

And so she broke, and told them what they were demanding to hear. As soon as she possibly could, she wrote that while she had said such things, they weren’t to be relied upon, “But I've said this many times so as to make myself clear: these things seem unreal to me, like a dream...”  But, for the prosecutors, hey, close enough. They had her cold. The press forever after has called this her “confession” or “false confession.”  More on the press in a future article.

What she really said in the middle of the night, what really happened, what coercion occurred, we may never know, because the prosecution will not release the recordings.

And so they committed the third Sin, Wrath, the emotion of the falsely righteous”  “ which can manifest as vehement denial of the truth.”

Witholding evidence from the defense has been a powerful, ongoing tactic of the prosecution. You can’t refute the data if you can’t analyze it. You can’t analyze the data if you don’t have it. The prosecution was finally forced by the judges to release information they had previously withheld on July 30, 2009, more than a year and a half after it was gathered. But their hoarding continues. Several critical pieces of information remain under wraps. These include:

  1. The recording of Amanda’s interrogation. The Polizia recorded everything. Phone calls, conversations, chats. It is not credible that Amanda’s interrogation was not recorded. Yet the recordings have been conspicuous by their absence. This was either incompetence for not recording, incompetence for losing the recordings, or, far more likely, the prosecution is withholding evidence that looks bad for them.

  1. The dates that DNA profiles were performed. The Knife (that doesn’t match the wounds) was collected from Raffaele’s kitchen drawer after most of the DNA containing evidence was gathered from the apartment. It is extremely probable then, that Meredith’s blood and DNA were analyzed in the days immediately before the knife DNA testing. If so, that would provide strong additional evidence that the low copy number knife result was from contamination. The Knife would have been tested in a lab environment suffused with Meredith’s DNA. Those dates remain hoarded by Stefanoni and the prosecution.

  1. Results of blood tests from Luminol reactive sites. Luminol glows are only “presumptive” of blood, and are certainly not conclusive. The next step when a glow is seen is to swab the area and use a test that is specific for blood. It was never credible that these simple tests were not done. In fact, they were performed, but were withheld, apparently because they didn’t look good for the prosecution. As Sara Gino stated "We were not told that, first of all, the prints were treated with a substance which should have indicated whether they were blood, and the result was very uncertain."

These, and other acts comprise the fourth Sin, Greed, or Hoarding of materials or objects, by means of trickery, or manipulation of authority.

In my last article, Methods of the Polizia PseudoScientifica, I made the statement, “These people mostly know what they are doing.” That was an exaggeration, for which I apologize. In fact, if you consider the drumbeat of incompetent performance they have compiled, it is clear that they only rarely know what they are doing. And those rare times are mostly when they are distorting the evidence.

1. There have been many failures in the forensic effort. Three out of four critically important computer hard drives were destroyed by the Polizei “computer experts,” Amanda’s, Meredith’s, and one of Raffaele’s. The remaining critical computer drive, Raffaele’s laptop, was merely altered by being used by the police to surf the net, destroying evidence that could have proved Raffaele and Amanda’s alibi.

2. When a murder victim is found a fundamental procedure is measurement of body temperature and room temperature as a means of  indicating time of death. These measurements need to be taken as soon as possible for the most accurate information. Every competent investigator knows this. Meredith’s temperature was not measured until 1:00 AM the day after her body was found, more than 48 hours after her death and far too long to provide meaningful information.

From Meo Ponte, La Repubblica
Professor Giancarlo Umani Ronchi:"We were asked to determine time of death," he explains, "but they had already made outrageous mistakes." First, the failure to analyze the corpse by the coroner who arrived first at the scene.

3. A surveillance camera at a bank across the street from the apartment recorded all activity on the street, and would have seen the perpetrator coming and going. Unfortunately, the Polizei didn’t get around to accessing it until the recordings had been overwritten.

For these and other actions, the Polizei have committed the Sin of Sloth, the avoidance of work.

Patrizia Stefanoni had neither the proper equipment nor the proper laboratory to perform low copy number DNA profiling, but she did it anyway. There are only a few such laboratories in the world, as it is a very new, as yet unproven technique. Her own lab was not even certified to perform ordinary DNA profiling at the time these tests were performed. (LCN DNA Part II Link). The result was that she performed tests that do not conform to any standard, any where. Now she is withholding the information about when and how those tests were performed.

And so she committed the sin of Envy, the perception that someone else has something they are lacking.

What lies behind this prosecution? Some have said that Mignini actually thinks that Amanda and Raffaele are guilty. But to believe that it is so simple would be naive. Italy is the home of an idea called “dietrologia” “the science of what lies behind” that involves seeing the real truth behind the obvious facade. Preston and Mezi give a great background on this in Monster of Florence. “Dietrologia is the idea that the obvious thing cannot be the truth.”

And what is this dietrologist’s explanation of the motivation behind the prosecution?

It is Gluttony, in the form of relentless pursuit of money, position, and power. “The chief error about Gluttony is to think it only pertains to food.” Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

There are careers to be made, and careers that could be broken, in such an infamous case. There are multi-million dollar lawsuits, all hanging on a guilty verdict. Rudy, you see, has no money. 

And so we have a feast of innocents, gorged upon by a circle of gluttons. It is a large, and festive circle, with Mignini at it’s head. There is Patrick, hoping for his half million, and Maresca, who would bring his clients tens of millions, wanting for his cut. There are those hoping for career enhancement; Giobbi, Stefanoni, Comodi and the rest. And even the ordinary polizei, who drove the unlucky pair to prison for the first time, just days after the crime, with their car horns blaring in victory.

The gluttons have only to commit two young innocents to life in prison and they will have what they desire. They have tasted fame, and they desire more. They have money, but they want more. They have positions of power, but one can never have enough power.

Gluttons are never the ones to say, “Enough!” That word must come from higher powers. From the judge and jurors? From the Italian government? The Italian people, or press? Or, perhaps, from a power, higher still?

Methods of the Polizia PseudoScientifica A Knife, a Clasp, a Glow

When one examines the methods of the Polizia Scientifica in the Knox/Sollecitoinvestigation, they appear to have been, not merely unscientific, but pseudoscientific. That means pretend science, it is not the real thing. We see this, because a consistent pattern emerged.

It was not a pattern of innocent mistakes, made under the stress of time, although there were plenty of those. Neither was it one of incompetence, for these people mostly knew what they were doing. Neither did it appear, for the most part, to be blatant framing by splashing blood, planting evidence, or manufacturing data. That type of lie would have produced clear results, and might also have  left clear tracks. These results are anything but clear. And who wants to leave tracks? Certainly not the Polizia Scientifica.

What appeared to be the pattern, the modus operandi, in the Knox/Sollecito trial is something like this: The Polizia Scientifica plucked an item from the field.  They subjected it to some sort of “scientific” testing. Then they “cherry picked” the results, and presented these selected results in the complete absence of anything to compare them with. That is, without any control experiments. This modus operandi is compatible with pseudoscience. It appears to be an attempt to create the appearance of scientific certainty, while producing absolutely unscientific results. Who were they trying to fool? The judges and jury.

“...pseudoscience is any subject that appears superficially to be scientific, or whose proponents state that it is scientific, but which nevertheless contravenes the testability requirement...”

What is this “testability requirement?” It means that if you can’t test it, if you can’t repeat the experiment to see if it happens again, it isn’t science. It is pseudoscience. Take the kitchen knife DNA. The testing performed by Stefanoni destroyed the sample. Not a trace was left. Her experiment cannot be tested, cannot be reproduced. It can never be checked to see if it was a real result, or a fraction of a flyspeck of contamination from her lab.  It was, “I did this experiment. These are the results. Trust me.”

Here’s the procedure in more detail. Follow along. There will be a quiz at the end of this chapter.

Step 1: Collect some stuff from the crime scene, or thereabouts. A kitchen knife, a clasp, a Luminal glow. No need to be picky here. It’s not the item itself, it’s the science you do to it that makes it cry “guilty.” That’s why it didn’t matter that the kitchen knife was a randomly chosen implement. A can opener from Raffaele’s drawer would probably have Amanda’s DNA on the handle, it just wouldn’t sound as impressive.

Step 2: Perform tests on the item. What kind of tests? Scientific Tests, of course. The tests need to have the veneer of impressive, and barely comprehensible science upon them. For this, DNA profiling cannot be beaten.

Step 3: “Cherry pick” the results. This means, pick the ones that support your theory, and leave the ones that don’t. Don’t like a result? No problem. Don’t report it. Discard those DNA peaks that don’t fit. Didn’t find anything that incriminates the defendant? No problem. Go back 47 days later, and pick up some more stuff from the scene.

Step 4: Present these results floating freely in an ominous air of suspicion and guilt. Leave out any kind of reference, any kind of comparison that might show how uninformative and mundane they really are. Avoid, in other words, any kind of control tests.

Now you have the impressive sounding results to support the prosecutor’s tales.

Let’s talk some more about control tests, because this is such a fundamental matter, that it is often lost in the grass. An experiment without a control is like a thermometer without a scale. You see the mercury inside, but you have nothing to compare it with. There are two choices at this point. You can understand that it is meaningless, it is data without context, or, you can point at it and make up any temperature you want.

“Scientific controls are a vital part of the scientific method, since they can eliminate or minimize unintended influences such as researcher bias.”  

Careful scientists take steps to keep their own researcher bias from influencing results. They perform double blind experiments, for instance, in which even they don’t know which specimen is which, to prevent themselves from knowing what the results “should be.” That way, when they get a result, they can trust it, because they know they didn’t unconsciously choose it.

Let’s walk through the Polizia PseudoScientifica process for three critical items.

A Knife
The kitchen knife was retrieved from Raffaele’s kitchen drawer some 5 days after the murder. It was reportedly taken to the police station, sat on a detective’s desk for a day or so, and then was mailed to the lab in Rome in an ordinary box. Hardly the kind of careful handling you would expect of evidence slated for conventional DNA testing, let alone the hypersensitive LCN profiling. The blade DNA profiling was performed by an improvised, non-reproducible, never-validated method with deficiencies described in detail in the chapters on LCN DNA. In fact we can add extremely poor evidence handling to the list of 9 deficiencies compiled there to make it 10 testing deficiencies.

The low copy number test on the kitchen knife was performed without any negative controls. In negative control tests you perform the DNA multiplication and profiling, without adding any sample to the system. Often when this is done, as if by magic, a DNA profile emerges. It has come from a minute amount of contamination from the equipment, or the laboratory. These negative controls are essential to performance of LCN work, as shown in Chapter ##. It does not appear that they were performed by Stefanoni. I have to say, “does not appear” because the documentation of what was done and what was not done has been consistently withheld by the prosecution and the Scientifica Polizei.

Perhaps even more important for the knife DNA, no control experiments were run to follow the handling of the item from the field through to the laboratory. That is, to see if other, random objects retrieved from the same drawer and handled in the same, unprofessional way, might also appear to have DNA on them. It would be interesting to hear the prosecution spinning a sinister implication out of DNA found on a can opener. Perhaps one can use canned peas for satanic rituals. Would Meredith’s DNA be found on a spoon from the same drawer? How about Filomena’s? Would the spoon then be cast as the murder weapon, whether  it matches any wounds or not?

All this is preposterous of course. But think about it. We have no way of knowing what the supposed knife DNA means, or where it came from, because no comparison tests of any kind were performed.

A Clasp
The only trace of Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA found at the girl’s apartment during the main searches for evidence was on a cigarette butt that was not in Meredith’s room. No trace whatsoever was found in Meredith’s room. No DNA, and also no footprints (see the Footprint chapter), no fingerprints, no nothing. The reason is simple. He was never in Meredith’s bedroom. Not during the murder. Not ever.

This awkward fact placed the polizei and prosecution in a difficult position. They had already declared victory in the case. They had raced Amanda and Raffaele off to prison with their horns blaring in triumph. They had posted their pictures on a wall along with mafia bosses they had captured. How embarrasing then, that when they actually got around to looking for evidence against him, they found nothing.

Faced with this total lack of evidence, the polizei sprang into action. Forty seven days after the murder, after teams of researchers had completely trashed the crime scene, rearranging everything, piling things onto beds, filling the wastebaskets with their discards, shoving furniture and carpets around on the floor, they sent another team  with a clear mission. Get Raffaele. 

What would happen to any random object left on the same floor and kicked about for 47 days? Especially an object with cloth attached , making it a virtual dust mop. It would be covered with dust, and the DNA that comes with that dust. Raffaele was at the apartment visiting Amanda on several occasions. The presence of his DNA there means nothing.

Control experiments to check for this would have been simple. The clasp was retrieved from a pile of debris, shown in the picture, left by the fastidious investigators in Meredith’s room. Testing a few other items from that pile to see if they, too, had picked up DNA dust from the floor would tell us whether there was anything special about the clasp. Of course, that wasn’t done.

So we have “Raffaele’s DNA was found on Meredith’s bra clasp,” rather than, “Raffaele’s DNA, along with DNA from lots of other people, was found at various random locations throughout Amanda’s apartment, which he visited several times before the murder.” The first phrase sounds incriminating. The second, accurate phrase, shows how meaningless this test result is without a control experiment.

The handling of the clasp when it was retrieved from the scene is shown in the linked video. The investigators, dressed in fancy white outfits, seem to play some kind of game with it. Why the outfits? They do nothing to prevent mixing contamination of the material at the scene. As shown in the closeup picture, the outfits, and their gloves, quickly become contaminated by DNA from various sources at the scene which can then be transferred to the evidence.

But contamination, inevitable as it was in a snip of fabric kicked around on the floor for a month and a half, buried under a throw rug and pulled from a pile of debris, may not be the whole story, or even the real story of how Raffaele’s DNA came to be found on the bra clasp.

Raffaele’s DNA profile was reported to be on the bra clasp, retrieved in the 47 day delayed sweep, but, interestingly, it was not on the bra itself. It was nowhere else, in fact. How could his DNA wind up clearly turning up on the clasp, but not appear on the bra? This is nearly impossible to account for if it occurred as a natural consequence of the commision of a crime. But it makes perfect sense if Raffaele’s DNA was on the bra clasp because it was put there.

Try a kind of a “thought experiment” to sort this one out. First, leave the 47 days out of it. Assume that the clasp was recovered along with everything else, a day or so after the crime. The bra in one bag, the clasp in another, etc. DNA is extracted from various places on the bra, and from the many other items retrieved from the room for analysis, and also from the clasp. They are profiled.

Raffaele’s DNA profile does not show up anywhere on Meredith’s bra. It does not show up anywhere on any of her other clothing items. It doesn’t show up anywhere, on any item in Meredith’s room, except one.. It shows up on the bra clasp. What a strange thing this is! Rather hard to believe, in fact. How could he possibly have participated in the murder, been present during a violent, protracted attack and murder, and wound up leaving his DNA on one, and only one item of evidence? How could Raffaele have put his DNA on the clasp, but not on the bra itself? It doesn’t make sense.

Now remember the 47 days. The bra clasp wasn’t just a random item. It is the prime item that was retrieved after the DNA profiling had come up negative for Raffaele on every other item. The dancing polizei proved that. It was the last hope, the only hope, for finding a trace of him. The last hope for coming up with evidence to incriminate someone who had already been declared guilty by the prosecution and the polizei. Lo! A miracle! It had his DNA on it! Wasn’t that convenient?

A Glow 
Luminol glowing footprints were found in a hallway, and some may have been Amanda’s, it is hard to know for sure because they were only compared with her feet, and found to be “compatible.” Again, no controls. Meredith, Laura, Filomena, none of the other resident’s feet were compared to these footprints. The footprints were tested for blood, and it came out negative. No blood. So, why are they important? Amanda lived there, after all.

Amanda’s DNA was said to be found in one of these footprints. Did they also test a meter away from the footprints, to see if her DNA was all over the apartment where she lived? No. That would have been another control experiment. Was the DNA actually associated with the footprint, or did it just happen to be there, because the resident’s DNA was all over their apartment, as people’s DNA usually is? We will never know. They skipped the control experiments, and presented results without any reference. It’s getting hot in here, look at that thermometer without any scale!

These are just three examples, there are many more. Enough to discern a clear pattern, that the methods of the Polizia Scientifica are compatible with pseudoscience, and are a consistent attempt to mislead the judge and jurors.

Now for the quiz:
1.  If you wanted to perform honest tests to search for truth, to learn what has really happened, would you exclude control experiments?  (Yes /No).

2. If you want to perform tests that appear scientific, but are actually intended to make an innocent person look guilty, would you perform control experiments?  (Yes/No)

3. Did the Polizia Scientifica perform control tests in the Knox/Sollecito investigation?  (Yes/No)

If you answered “No, No, No!” then you’ve got the point. If you didn’t, stop and think if you would like to be investigated with these same kinds of tactics.

The Crucible of Perugia

In medieval times in Europe, roughly one hundred thousand people, three quarters of them women, were tried for witchcraft. With charges often based on accusations from those already under suspicion, most were convicted and were burned, hung, or strangled. Thankfully, that dark era is past, and such groundless, perverse, inhuman prosecutions no longer take place. For the most part.

A conspicuous exception has drawn to a close in Perugia, Italy, where Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were tried for a murder that they clearly did not commit. Like the absurd evidence used to convict witches, their prosecution hinged on a series of deliberate distortions, half-truths, and outright lies. I’ve discussed this evidence in previous articles. Now let’s take a look now at the crucible of witch hunt justice, Perugian style. 

Medieval witch hunts didn’t just happen. They were fed by an atmosphere of superstition and fear. After a slow start, they soared after the publication of the “Hammer of Witches,” one of the first printed books. "All wickedness," Hammer tells us, "is but little to the wickedness of a woman….Women are by nature instruments of Satan.” Witches were also believed to have powers to control and coerce men. Perhaps this misogynistic insight is where prosecutor Giuliano Mignini came up with his obsession with Amanda, and the accusation that she led a “satanic sex ritual,” since no evidence of one has ever been presented.

Like the fancy garb and pretentious air of the prosecutor, this instruction manual for atrocity conferred a mantle of authority, an official air, that carried great weight in the small towns and backwaters where the most ardent witch hunts occurred. Backwaters not unlike Perugia, Italy. Perugia, you see, is no Rome.

Wikipedia calls witch trials “a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of religious extremism, false accusations, lapses in due process, and governmental intrusion on individual liberties.” This will all sound familiar to those who have followed this case.
“Evidence that would be excluded from modern courtrooms-- hearsay, gossip, stories, unsupported assertions, surmises-- was also generally admitted.” Deja vu all over again.

This trial didn’t just happen either. It was a direct result of a serious, ongoing aberration in the legal system in Perugia. An aberration that was driven by a rogue prosecutor who was himself,   convicted of prosecutorial misconduct in the Monster of Florence case, a previous, bizarre prosecution that also, coincidentally, involved satanic cults.

More Weight
A good place to start to understand the witch hunt system of justice is the case of Giles Corey, a prosperous farmer and church member in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600s. A woman accused Giles of asking her to write in the devil’s book. This same woman also claimed to have been told by a ghost that Giles was her murderer. He was therefore arrested along with three women, one of whom, terrified and desperate to gain favor with the prosecutor declared that Giles was a warlock.

As with Amanda and Raffaele, there was no evidence of any of this. How could there be? None of it was real. In a way, Giles’ guilt was established “psychologically,” just as Amanda’s was by the lead investigator, Giobbi, though that impressive sounding word had yet to be invented.

Giles refused to enter a plea, guilty or innocent. If he did he would certainly be convicted, his assets seized, and his family would lose everything. The court therefore slowly crushed him under rocks while asking, three more times, if he was ready to plea. Each time he famously replied, “More weight.” It took two days of this to kill him, and witch trial justice was served.

I Just Highly Doubt All of That
Amanda’s and Raffaele’s family’s assets have already been plundered by the process of justice. But, at age 20, Amanda did not show the resolve of Giles Corey when her inquisitors pressed her to imagine what might have happened at the murder, insisting that she knew, but was lying to them. After days of questioning, in the middle of the night, in a language she barely knew and without an attorney, she took their bait and, as suggested, pictured Patrick Lumumba committing the crime. As soon as possible, she made a written statement saying that it all seemed like a dream, that she was unsure what was real and what was imagined. Nevertheless, the witch hunters touted this as an accusation, one witch of another, and raced off to capture Patrick, again ignoring the total lack of evidence.

That accusation didn’t pan out, as it was soon proved that Patrick had nothing to do with it, but the witch hunters weren’t through with Amanda. They leaked her diary to the press, a violation of Italian law, and twisted it to their needs. Here is the original passage where she discusses Raffaele and his kitchen knife.

"Raffaele and I have used this knife to cook, and it's impossible that Meredith's DNA is on the knife because she's never been to Raffaele's apartment before. So unless Raffaele decided to get up after I fell asleep, grabbed said knife, went over to my house, used it to kill Meredith, came home, cleaned the blood off, rubbed my fingerprints all over it, put it away, then tucked himself back into bed, and then pretended really well the next couple of days, well, I just highly doubt all of that."

Scan of Amanda’s actual diary entry

Notice that Amanda wrote, “It’s impossible that Meredith’s DNA is on the knife because she’s never been to Raffaele’s apartment.” Think about this for a moment. Amanda only thought about DNA from Meredith visiting, not from being murdered. That hadn’t even occurred to her. It is a natural, human mistake. One that suggests innocence.

But here is the English translation of the Italian translation (you read that right) of that same diary entry, that appeared in much of the Italian and British press. Notice that the meaning, the exact opposite of Amanda’s meaning, is greatly improved as it met the witch hunter’s needs much better.

"That night I smoked a lot of marijuana and I fell asleep at my boyfriend’s house. I don’t remember anything. But I think it’s possible that Raffaele went to Meredith’s house, raped her and then killed. And when he got home, while I was sleeping, he put my fingerprints on the knife. But I don’t understand why Raffaele would do that."

This gave the witch hunters another false accusation to work with. They used this tortured translation to claim that Amanda had accused Raffaele, even though that was the exact opposite of what she wrote. And they spread it far and wide with the aid of a willing, gullible, gutter, press.

In Meredith’s Blood
These were just appetizers for the main course of false accusation that was about to be served. But first, let’s talk just a little more about the evidence. In a previous article we discussed the importance of control tests in the scientific method. One of the best kinds of controls is something called an “internal standard” that is, a control that is built right into the same device, or environment, so you can compare what you’re wondering about with something else that has been there, and done that. In the case of this murder, we have an excellent internal standard for whether Amanda and Raffaele were involved in the crime. His name is Rudy Guede.

If we compare the evidence left behind by Rudy with that left, or, rather, not left, by Amanda and Raffaele, we can see a stark difference. That is because Rudy committed murder, while Amanda and Raffaele did not.

“No matter how much someone tries to clean up a crime scene, something is generally left behind.... it's almost impossible to take any kind of violent action without shedding something.”

By his own admission, Rudy was present when Meredith died. He stated that he left her bleeding to death, then washed her blood off his shoes and himself, went out dancing at a local disco, and fled the country like any aggrieved person would do. If we look at the evidence he left behind, and compare it with the lack of traces of Raffaele and Amanda, we can see that the evidence solidly supports their innocence, and Rudy’s guilt.

Rudy left his DNA in, on, and around Meredith. These were not picogram traces that could have come from anywhere; they were substantial, reproducible, indisputable, evidence.

Rudy left his excrement in the toilet.

Rudy suffered a cut on his right hand during the struggle.

Rudy left footprints, in Meredith’s blood, in the bedroom, bath, and hall.

Rudy left handprints, in Meredith’s blood, on the wall and on a pillowcase.

Rudy left his DNA, and Meredith’s blood, on her purse as he ransacked it.

In contrast, there was no DNA from Amanda in Meredith’s room, despite the fact that she lived in the same apartment. There were no fingerprints, footprints, or other traces of Amanda in that room. She had no wounds on herself and left no marks on Meredith. Despite claims that her footprints were found in the hallway with luminol, they cannot be attributed to her, but could have been made by any of the girls who lived there, and could have been made at any time. Further, they did not show any traces of blood.
Amanda Knox left no traces whatsoever of presence at the scene of the crime, because she wasn’t there. 

Similarly, there was no DNA from Raffaele in the room. There were no footprints, no handprints, no other traces and he had no wounds. None. Of course, the prosecution tried to assert that there were. They grossly mismatched his foot and shoe to prints clearly left by Rudy. They dug up the bra clasp 47 days after the rest of the forensic data was collected, after it was kicked about the floor, buried under a rug, and seriously contaminated. They then declared that it, and it alone (not the bra that it was cut off from!) carried his DNA. But setting aside this single piece of grossly contaminated and quite possibly planted evidence; there was no trace of Raffaele at the scene of the crime.

Further, Amanda and Raffaele did not flee the country, even though some of her relatives pleaded with her to do so. They did not even retain lawyers, even though they should have. They thought that innocence would protect them. But innocence, in a witch trial, is merely an inconvenience.

I have promised one more false accusation, and haven’t forgotten that promise. It has come from that paragon of virtue, Rudy Guede. It would be laughable, were it not for the gluttonous appetite of the prosecution for any lie, any distortion, any false evidence to convict them of a crime they did not commit. From someone who has told lie, after lie, after lie, after committing horrific, senseless murder.

The Crucible of Perugia
Is there any hope for a just outcome for Raffaele and Amanda? Mignini  had every opportunity to establish guilt, but failed to produce more than tainted evidence, bizarre stories by drug addicts, and leaks and insinuations unsupported by the facts. Many say that the courts will rule guilty to avoid what is called “bad face,” to “save face” in English.
There is still time for the crucible of Perugia to yield a just verdict.

The appeals court judges can show the courage do what is right, not what is easiest.

They can do what is fair, not what will avoid “bad face.”

They can prove the skeptics wrong and show that they understand and value justice. 

They can acquit Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito of a crime they did not commit.