October 4, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

 This post is the second of a three part sample chapter from

The Monster of Perugia – The Framing of Amanda Knox

to be released late in 2010.

Chapter Thirteen
Through the Motivation Report
(Part II)

In justifying a guilty verdict for Amanda and Raffaele, the Court was faced with an elephant in the room: Rudy Guede is clearly guilty of the murder. He had a history of repeated break-ins; he knew that the students would have rent money, in cash, on that day of the month; he was in desperate need of money since he likely faced imminent eviction; he was known to carry large knives (and small ones too); his presence at the scene of the crime was indisputable; and he fled the country shortly after. The case against Rudy Guede was overwhelming. How then, to diminish Rudy’s role and substitute Amanda – a kid who had no criminal or violent history and no motive – as the architect of this horrific crime?

The Motivation begins this delicate process by attempting to dismiss the import of three of Guede’s previous break-ins that were testified to in the trial (there were others). These break-ins took place just in the month before he committed the murder. They were at a nursery in Milan, a law office in Perugia, and at the Tramontano home in Perugia. Incredibly, it downplayed the obvious similarities between these prior crimes and the Kercher murder while highlighting a trivial difference.

It is instructive to review these break-ins, as reported in the Motivation itself, not only as a window to understanding Rudy Guede’s criminal history but for insights into just how far the Court went in its interpretation of events to get the result they sought.

“…on the morning of October 27, 2007, a Saturday, as she entered the nursery school at via Plinio 16, Milan, of which she was the principal, she noticed coming out of her office a person whom she didn’t know, later identified as Rudy Guede…. Rudy Guede had a backpack inside which was a computer. Called at once, the police made him open the backpack, in which they found a 40cm kitchen knife. She recalled that there were other objects in the backpack: a bunch of keys, a small gold woman's watch, and a tiny hammer of the type found in buses to smash windows. The police told her that the computer had been stolen from a law office in Perugia.”

Rudy had a great excuse for breaking into the nursery school. He claimed that someone at the train station in Milan had told him he could stay there, for which service Rudy said he paid the man 50 Euros. So the police naturally let him go. I could sell bridges to clients like these.

Just 6 days before the murder of Meredith Kercher, Rudy Guede made this unlawful entry into a nursery school where he was found with a very large kitchen knife and breaking and entering tools, and was subsequently questioned by the Polizia. And they let him go on an utterly unbelievable excuse. Why?

And what about the computer that was stolen from the law office?

On the night of October 13, 2007, just over two weeks before the murder, a law office in Perugia was broken into.

“The thief or thieves had entered through a window whose panes had been smashed with a rather large stone; the glass was scattered around, and they had found some of their clothing on top of the glass…”

Rudy Guede later went to the attorneys to return the laptop that was stolen from that office, claiming to have purchased it legally. Why he did that is a mystery – one of many strange things Rudy did that seem to make no sense whatever. And why was he allowed to keep the stolen computer in the first place after being caught with it during a break-in? None of this makes sense unless there was something else going on that we don’t know about. Rudy’s relationship with the Polizia is an important anomaly, an unanswered question that we will revisit in a later chapter.

Rudy broke into the office by throwing a rock through a window, the same entry method used in the cottage break-in. There was even a grill beneath the window to climb up, just as with the cottage:

“…declared that the broken window was ‘a French window opening onto a small balcony overlooking the inner courtyard of the building; beneath it, corresponding precisely to our window, there is a door equipped with a metal grille...’”

Finally, Rudy broke into the home of Cristian Tramontano and threatened him with a jackknife when Cristian tried to make Rudy leave his home. This break-in also took place in the month before the murder. During it, Rudy “…tried to exit the house and, finding the door locked, pulled out a jackknife with which he threatened Tramontano….” P-46

Any objective person reviewing this evidence would conclude that Rudy Guede was an active burglar, that his modus operandi was varied, and included throwing rocks through windows and climbing up lattices to gain entry, and that he broke into places that were occupied and threatened the occupants with knives. Any objective person would therefore not be the least bit surprised to hear that Rudy broke into the cottage at Via della Pergola by similar means, with a more tragic outcome.

But what did the Court conclude? The exact opposite. Having passed through the looking glass of logic with the flight of the rock, the Court held fast to a tortuous path. “But how curiously it twists! It's more like a corkscrew than a path!” Alice

Clinging to the slenderest of threads, the Court observed that while Rudy was not acquainted with the occupants of the nursery school, the law office, or the home, he was acquainted with the boys who lived downstairs at Via della Pergola. This trivial distinction is given uncanny weight and cited as near proof that Rudy would not have broken into the cottage.

“Even if one accepts that Rudy was the burglar who broke into the law office of the lawyers Brocchi and Palazzoli and into Tramontano’s house, it must be observed that Rudy was not known by these, nor by the director of the nursery school in via Plinio, Milan; this situation is entirely different from the one at via della Pergola…”

Entirely different? Because he knew the people who lived downstairs? Rudy had shown no compunction about breaking into a nursery school. A nursery school. He had thrown a rock through a window and climbed into a law office. He had threatened a homeowner with a knife. The Court had even cited a number of differences between these prior break-ins, showing that Rudy didn’t always do the same thing. All these break–ins (and more, actually) in just the month before the murder of Meredith Kercher. And yet, with the twisted logic of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Court concluded that he would never have broken into the cottage because he had played basketball with the boys who lived downstairs and had met two of the girls who lived upstairs.

“It has already been stated that Rudy Guede was acquainted with the inhabitants of Via della Pergola and that he had a good relationship of friendship and fun with them (with all of the boys downstairs; with Amanda, in whom he had actually shown some interest; and with Meredith). It thus seems unlikely that Rudy decided to enter this house in the illicit and violent matter shown by the smashing of the window.”

It will be news to harassed and uninterested women everywhere that any man that tells some other men that he finds a woman attractive has “a good relationship of friendship and fun with them.” The bottom line here is that Amanda barely knew Rudy. There was no “relationship” between them, save in the lurid imagination of the court.  Yet the Motivation  says “…Amanda, in whom he had actually shown some interest…”

Rudy was a well-known harasser of women. He was “the kind of guy who would repeatedly hit on a woman, being completely clueless that she had no interest in him,” as one knowledgeable journalist told me. There is no evidence that he had done any more than look at Amanda at a gathering with many present and make a comment about her to the boys downstairs. But to Judge Massei this was enough to refer to “a good relationship of friendship and fun with them.” This is a term he applies not only to the boys downstairs, with whom Rudy did indeed play basketball, but to Amanda, whom he barely knew, and to Meredith, whom he murdered.

Amanda was lucky that she was not the one who happened to be at home that night. Rudy’s actions showed in crystal clear fashion that he was not deterred at all by the presence of occupants, he was not deterred at all by happening to know those occupants, he was not deterred at all because he had been repeatedly allowed to go free after committing crime after crime. Allowed to go free by the Perugian justice authorities.

This Court’s attempt to dismiss the possibility that Rudy committed burglary at Via della Pergola would be incredible if the Court were actually seeking justice, but it is not the least bit surprising if the Court’s actual motive was to condemn Amanda and Raffaele by whatever justification necessary while going as far as possible to spare Rudy Guede. Their objective in that case would be to cast about for some difference – some distinction – to somehow dispute the obvious similarities between his previous burglaries and this break-in.

But the Court goes on. “It is even more unlikely given that at least some of the residents of the house might have been home or might have turned up and surprised Rudy Guede… in the very act of burglary….” Remember that Rudy was interrupted in his burglary of the nursery school, in which he was caught with a knife and stolen property, but the Polizia set him free for some mysterious reason. Rudy was interrupted in his break-in of a private home, at which point he threatened the resident with a knife, but again the Polizia released him. Why would he be concerned about possibly being interrupted in this burglary when he was in possession of a seemingly limitless “Get out of jail” card? The Court knew this, it is reported in the Motivation, and yet it claimed the opposite.

Once again, one must conclude that the Court’s actions are compatible with the framing of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

Finally, in making this feeble argument, in what appears to be an attempt at misdirection, the Court devotes several pages to asserting that Rudy, having committed breaking and entering just days earlier, would have no motive to simulate a breaking and entering. “…why ever would Rudy, back just a few days after the kindergarten break–in in via Plinio in Milan, where he had been surprised by the headmistress and… have had to create the appearance of a burglary… when he had done just that recently?”

This is an attempt to assert that the burglary was faked… but Rudy did not fake it… so it had to be Amanda...  It is a classic misdirection, or straw man argument. Who has claimed that Rudy faked a break-in? The error is that the burglary was by no means faked – it was real, and Rudy committed it. This is a clumsy attempt to build support for the preposterous notion that the burglary was staged (on which the Court builds its case for conviction) and to get people to wonder, “Gosh, who dunnit?” No one staged a break in. There is no evidence for it.

But, enough nonsense. Let’s get back to Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Part III, Forensic Fairy Tales

Special thanks to Heather Coy for copy editing these pieces
Illustrations by John Tenniel, from the 1870 version of Through the Looking Glass