Posts Tagged ‘Giuliano Mignini’
What will Amanda Knox’s lawyers say on her behalf when they deliver their closing argument Wednesday? I am predicting that they play it fairly conservatively, and that they don’t try to oversell the defense. They will tailor their arguments to the judge and jurors and not the world stage. We will have to wait and see, but here are a couple of themes that I am predicting they focus on.
No Motive (Women don’t commit rape)
We are accustomed to the outlandish sort of crimes that occur on T.V. shows, but in reality but the fact remains that women don’t commit rape. There are many technical rules that apply in a court of law, but that doesn’t mean that you have to check your common sense at the door. Women don’t rape. Italian women don’t commit rape. American women don’t commit rape. Women aren’t committing the rapes that are happening in the Sudan right now. It is not in their nature. It is usually committed by men – acting alone.
What a “Not Guilty” Verdict Means
All a “not guilty” verdict means is that the government, for whatever reason, hasn’t proved their case. It doesn’t mean the police did a bad job. It doesn’t mean that Amanda is “innocent”, and it doesn’t mean she is a perfect person. A “not guilty” verdict doesn’t amount to putting a halo over Amanda’s head. It just means that there is a doubt. And if there is ever a doubt in any case, it is this one. We don’t send people to prison for life unless we are absolutely sure.
I am not expecting that the defense team will attack the police and prosecutors too aggressively. It is a trial lawyer’s job to attack the thoroughness, the fairness, and sometimes the professionalism of the police during a trial if need be. But during the closing argument it is best to tone it down and be a little more magnanimous. It is sometimes best to credit the police for the things that they did do correctly. Jurors generally feel loyal to to the police on many levels, and are dependent on them for public safety. They are slow to buy off on a world view where the police are dysfunctional to the level outsiders have seen. I am sure that many of Knox’s supporters would love to see a blistering attack on the police, and to see them called out on their misdeeds. However, if Knox’s lawyers push that too hard, then it becomes an issue of national pride, and the next thing you know we are at the supreme court in Rome.
It is sometime acceptable to try a riskier strategy to try to shake things up, but this is when you feel you are not succeeding and you have nothing to lose. I guess you saw that with Giuliano Mignini last week. But to be honest, that man is so erratic, it is hard to say what he is thinking. The closing argument of Patrick Lumumba’s lawyer Carlo Pacelli was just plain odd. Not to be upstaged by Mignini, Pacelli called Amanda Knox a “witch of deception”. I am not sure if he is just trying to get some publicity, or if he thinks that is good lawyering. Doesn’t he know that we sometime refer to this case as a “witch trial” already? Isn’t he just proving our point?
What do you think? What arguments do you think Amanda’s defense team should advance?
Today during his closing argument, prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola vouched for the credibility of known heroin addict Antonio Curatolo, who claimed during the criminal trial that he saw Knox and Sollecito near the crime scene the night of the murder.
Curatolo’s testimony unraveled during the appeal when Curatolo’s story grew more implausible as he claimed buses were running and students were congregating on a night when the buses were not running due to the disco being closed. During his closing argument, Costagliola apparently minimized the effect of heroin use on a person’s perceptions and credibility, which led Perugia Shock blogger to sarcastically write:
Heroin doesn’t give hallucinations … your perceptions won’t change. You can work the same if you take heroin. You can follow a class without any problem. You can work at the assembly line. You can manage your clients’ money. You can operate on your patients. You can sit on the directors’ board. You can sit in court to testify, or to judge people. It doesn’t give you hallucinations. So, why do people take it if it doesn’t give them not even a bit of hallucination?
In the U.S. the testimony of known drug addicts is so troubling that courts often will issue an “addict instruction” to the jurors cautioning them to be careful in considering the testimony of an addict. The instruction usually goes like this:
The testimony of a drug addict must be examined and weighed by the jury with greater care than the testimony of a witness who does not abuse drugs. An addict may have a constant need for drugs, and for money to buy drugs, and may also have a greater fear of imprisonment because his or her source of drugs may be cut off.
I noticed the prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola also asked the jurors: “As you make your decision, I wish that you jurors feel a little bit like the parents of Meredith Kercher…”. For what it is worth, in the U.S. these sort of put-yourself-in-the-victim’s-shoes type of arguments are considered prosecutorial misconduct, and are banned in courts.
Not to be out done by Costagliola, Mignini himself made some pretty outlandish statements today, comparing the Amanda Knox defense claims to Nazi propaganda. Mignini argued that the defense committed: “…slander, slander, slander in the hope that it some of it will stick. It’s worthy of the noted propaganda minister of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.”
Who was impressed by all this nonsense? Pretty much just Barbie Nadeau, who headlined her article as follows: “Knox Appeal Hits a Snag – Since her appeal began, Amanda Knox has appeared to be sailing toward an acquittal—but the prosecution’s powerful closing argument today could alter her fate once again.” Is she kidding? Apparently in the mind of Barbie Nadeau, the jurors said to themselves: “Hmmmm…. maybe we shouldn’t acquit. Mignini DID have a pretty good point about our war-time allies the Nazis.”
Lastly, Mignini made reference Rudy Guede and argued: “Don’t let the poor black guy be the only one to pay the price for this murder.” The best response to this was by EdLancey in the comment section of Nadeau’s article. He wrote: “Have you ever heard a more disgusting comment, the poor girl’s room was covered in his [Guede's] bloody footprints and semen, and this lunatic tries to play the race card.”
I think Amanda Knox has a 91.5% chance of being set free this month when her appeal is concluded. That is my expert opinion as a practicing criminal lawyer who has followed this case closely. In other words it is just a wild-ass guess. But as everyone just powerlessly sits and wait, this “percent chance” question seems to be what everyone is asking. I have seen this “percent chances” question asked in blog forums and also in the comment section of Murder in Italy‘s Facebook page yesterday. Ultimately, all any lawyer can do is try his or her best to convince the judge or jury. There are no assurances of outcomes. Oftentimes, people will study the slightest thing judges or juries do in order to divine what result will be reached.
For example, it was generally viewed as a good sign when Judge Pratillo Hellman denied the prosecution’s request to have the DNA re-tested again. However, I suppose one could interpret this as meaning the judge believed the prosecutor’s case was sufficient without the DNA, and wished to spare the prosecution the trouble and delay. I have a feeling that when closing arguments begin on September 23rd, the lawyers will pretty much feel that they have made many of their points already.
One of the other things I wonder about is what sort of life Amanda Knox will have if she is freed and returned home. Surely that would be a good day to look forward to, but Mignini’s injustice has already done irreparable harm to Amanda and her family. My experience has been that individuals cleared of serious allegations experience a short “high” upon their release, but later dwell bitterly on their mistreatment when they reflect on time lost, legal bills, and the torment on their family members. In my opinion no sort of court victory will be complete without Giuliano Mignini being held to account and without reform in the Italian criminal justice system. While the press in the U.S. has been more fair to Knox, Americans too can be cruel. Mignini’s attacks and half-truths have reached our shores as well, and not just by the Lifetime T.V. network. It seems Giuliano Mignini should face separate criminal charges for how he has handled the Amanda Knox case. My expert opinion is that upon Knox’s acquittal, Mignini has a 96.2% chance of never practicing law again.
What do you think about the latest developments in this case?
Ready for some fair press coverage about Amanda Knox? After all, it is not just the Italian and British tabloids that suck. The Lifetime Network’s movie about the trial was pretty bad, and the coverage on the network news is hardly insightful. So check out the new Rolling Stone article about the Knox trial by Nathaniel Rich. The article is entitled: “The Never Ending Nightmare of Amanda Knox.” If you want to pick it up at the news stand, look for the new issue with Katy Perry on the cover.
The article debunks a lot of the myths about Knox, her family, and her personal life. The article contains interviews with Knox’s friends who visit her regularly, and share what Knox is thinking and how she is holding up. The people who know Knox described her as a naive kid, with few self-preservation skills or street smarts, that she would talk to strangers, and always assume that people were good and fair. So we see how that could be a problem in the Italian criminal justice system. The reporter obviously spent a lot of time camped out in court, and bumped into Candace Dempsey there last month. As an American lawyer, I found Rich’s observations about the Italian court interesting. He writes: “…[T]here is never order in the court, the lawyers and defendants constantly interrupting the proceedings with groans and catcalls and wild gesticulations, while the press in the gallery yammers away like the kids in the back of the classroom.” Rich doesn’t really set his sites on Giuliano Mignini so much as the evidence in the case as a whole. The reporter does fault the Italian police officers who first arrived at Knox’s apartment. The first officers on the scene did not have much experience, and he compares the investigation to something out of Scooby-Doo. The article contains an interview with Giuliano Mignini, and that probably was not easy to arrange. The article doesn’t mention any questions posed about Mignini’s own criminal conviction, or the frivolous slander charges Mignini has brought against Knox’s parents.
The funny thing about what Mignini says is that many of his opinions about Knox seem to be based on her demeanor, which I find really superficial as I have complained about before.
I am interested in what you think about this article or the case in general. Post your comments below.
The case against Amanda Knox was further weakened yesterday when Italian jail inmate Luciano Aviello testified and contradicted Giuliano Mignini’s theory of the case. Luciano Aviello is a mobster from Naples that is serving a 17-year sentence for racketeering. Luciano Aviello tried to contact Italian authorities numerous times to give them the information that he had on the death of Meredith Kercher. He was ignored, but was called to the stand yesterday by Amanda Knox’s lawyers to testify in her appeal. Luciano Aviello testified that his brother Antonio Aviello returned home with a knife one day, covered with blood, and confessed to the crime. These sort of jail-house witnesses always pose a problem for any judicial system, whether in Italy or the U.S. However, there are ways to test the credibility of such statements. Usually, such witnesses are produced by the prosecutor, after he or she agrees to give a lenient sentence. Since Luciano Aviello was called by the defense, we know that there has not been any such inducement. The timing of the statement is also important. Here Luciano Aviello consistently reported his concern to authorities but was apparently ignored. The track record of a witness is also important. In this case Luciano Aviello has been used repeatedly by prosecutors to testify against other mobsters, but only when he speaks in Knox’s defense is he deemed to lack credibility. Luciano Aviello claims that he and his brother were living in Perugia at the time of the killing, and this should probably be pretty easy to confirm or refute. Luciano claims that his brother described the killing as resulting from a botched burglary. It would be interesting to hear if Antonio Aviello has a criminal record for other such burglaries. Luciano Aviello has always claimed that he buried the knife used to murder Meredith Kercher near his home, covering it with earth and lime, along with the keys to the house. As pointed out by an Italian writer, the strange thing is that the keys to the victim’s apartment were not ever found. At Amanda Knox’s first trial, the defense team was not allowed to produce this testimony. This is an issue that American criminal courts wrestle with too. U.S. courts do not always allow defense attorneys to call witnesses to state that others have confessed to the crime. Such testimony is sometimes considered hearsay, and is governed by evidence rule 804 which requires that the evidence be corroborated before it is presented to a jury.
Additionally, a fellow inmate of Rudy Guede, Mario Alessi testified yesterday that Rudy had confessed to him that Knox and Sollecito had nothing to do with the crime. Rudy Guede denied ever speaking to Alessi, but other detainees corroborated that they had spoken. Usually what police look for when considering such statements is whether the witness knows of some crime-scene detail that a person would only know if they were at the scene of the crime. However, in this case the police seem to have leaked out all the details of the offense to the press.
What do you think? Could Antonio Aviello have committed the offense? Could he have been with Rudy Guede on the night of the offense? The press is treating the testimony of Luciano Aviello and Mario Alessi as contradictory, but is it really that inconsistent? If Antonio Aviello has committed a sexual assault, would he really want to admit this to his brother? Doesn’t it make more sense that if he wanted his brother’s help that he would have described the homicide as a botched burglary?
Well for the last two years, we have relied on the blogging and journalism of Frank Sfarzo on his site Perugia Shock to follow the Amanda Knox case. Not anymore. With the stroke of a delete key, Google Inc. caved in to a questionable Italian court order requiring the removal of the blog. (For more information, check out the story in the West Seattle Herald.) After all his years fighting the corruption of Giuliano Mignini, all that is left of Frank’s blog is a fine red mist. When I first read the news, it didn’t exactly make sense because Google can’t really delete websites, it can only remove the pages from its index. But then I remembered that Frank’s blog is hosted on blogger.com, which is owned by Google. Google could not take the same steps against blogs hosted independently, like this blog for example. But am I the only one who is surprised by this step that Google has taken? It seems to be part of a larger trend where Google seems to be going down the drain. Google has been complicit in censorship by the Chinese government in the past, not to mention that the Google search results have been losing the battle against spam the last couple of years. No wonder Google’s stock has been tanking recently. And in particular, Google seems to let itself get pushed around too much by the Italian government. Remember the Google execs that were convicted last year because they hosted a video the Italians found offensive? Or how about last month, when Google was forced to manually fix its autosuggest algorithm because the Italian public was too often searching for the names of Italian politicians with the term “crook” at the end? Maybe the U.S. State Department needs to step in here. What if an Iranian court ordered Google to remove a site that criticized Ahmadinejad? Would google remove that site? Because I could point them to about 10,000.
Take a look at Google’s Blogger content policy here. In what way did the Perugia Shock site violate these policies? I love how the Google policy states: “It is our belief that censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.” What a joke. I think if Google will cave in to censorship orders of foreign governments, then they have a legal duty and obligation to tell blog writers of this fact at the outset. That way bloggers such as Frank Sfarzo can chose to select other blogging platforms at the very beginning.
The interesting thing about the decision by Google, is that they did not remove all the Perugia Shock posts from their Google index, either in the American Google or the Italian Google.it. So the the cached pages still exist online, see here for example. These cached pages won’t last very long, however, because the search engine will quickly re-index the pages within a few weeks. I heard a rumor from other Amanda Knox supporters tonight on Facebook that Frank Sfarzo might be working right now as we speak on converting his old blog onto a WordPress blog. Let’s hope he does so.
Those following the harassment of Frank Sfarzo by Italian authorities might not be surprised by the news. We have seen the thuggish way that he has been treated by Mignini. But I am still shocked that an American business would be cowed into complying with the court order without a fight.
Like Michelle Moore said on her website a few minutes ago, this step that the Italian court has taken will ultimately hurt Giuliano Mignini and help Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. How much longer are we going to allow this nightmare to continue?
The harassment of journalists covering the Amanda Knox case has continued in Italy leading the Committee to Protect Journalists to write to the Italian President. On April 19th, the group complained in particular about the treatment of independent blogger / journalist Frank Sfarzo at the hands of the Squadra Mobile led by Italian prosecutor Guiliano Mignini.
Frank Sfarzo, who writes the blog Perugia Shock, complained of being routinely assaulted and threatened by the police in Perugia. The police tried to prevent him from entering the court during the trial of Amanda Knox, seized his cell phone, and rummaged through his notes. The Squadra Mobile raided his house last September and arrested him, bringing him to the police station where they presented him to an Italian psychiatrist, insisting she declare him insane. To help make their case for insanity, the police cited excerpts from Sfarzo’s reporter’s notebook on the Kercher murder case. Sfarzo reported: “They told the doctor that I was pathologically obsessed with the case, that I was so fixated on it I must be insane.”
This kind of reminds me of the human rights violations of Soviet-era Russia. One of the tactics used by Soviet authorities to was to confine their critics in mental hospitals. By declaring dissidents “insane”, the Soviets could hold them indefinitely, and since no criminal charges were filed, there was no need for a potentially embarrassing public trial. Russian psychiatrists were bullied into being complicit in this practice. Luckily, the Italian psychiatrist who examined Sfarzo was not intimidated, and told the Italian police to take a hike.
The other latest news on the case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito pertains to the appeal they have proceeding. Antonio Curatolo, a witness from the first trial, was back on the witness chair again recently. Curatolo testified in the first trial that he saw Knox and Sollecito in town on the night of the murder of Meredith Kercher. This contradicted the defendants’ story that they were at home. But recently, while testifying at the appeal, Antonio Curatolo didn’t seem so sure he had the night right and indicated that he may have been thinking about the day after. See the blog post by Candace Dempsey. At the appeal it was also brought forth that Curatolo was a transient who is addicted to heroin. At the time of his testimony, Curatolo was incarcerated for dealing heroin, thus casting doubt on his veracity. I am not sure how it works in Italy, but in the U.S., courts are often wary of testimonies from witnesses like Curatolo. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that it is sometimes appropriate to instruct a jury as follows: “If a witness is a narcotics addict, there are additional reasons why his or her testimony should be considered with great care. An addict has a constant need for a supply of drugs and for money to support his or her habit, and may also have an abnormal fear of imprisonment in which his or her supply of drugs might be cut off. There are special circumstances which you may consider in weighing testimony of this kind. You of course may give the testimony such weight as you think proper, after considering all relevant circumstances.” See United States v. Burrows, 36 F.3d 875 (9th Cir. 1994). Maybe such an instruction in the case of Amanda Knox would have prevented the Italian jury from giving too much weight to Curatolo’s statement.
What do you think about these issues?
Americans are really starting to wonder about Italy. This seemingly mild-mannered NATO ally is the birthplace of the renaissance, and the Roman Republic is a cultural antecedent to all Western democracies.
Italian soldiers have fought along side the U.S. in Afghanistan, and the country remains a popular tourist destination for Americans. The U.S. public just hasn’t had any negative views toward Italy since well, you know, that whole World War II Mussolini thing. But now, the American public is just quietly watching with bewilderment as the Italian legal system spins out of control in this whole Amanda Knox fiasco.
I was just dumbfounded last November when Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini charged Amanda Knox with slander. But today the newspapers were filled with the story that Amanda Knox’s parents have been charged with slander. The news today was that Curt Knox and Edda Mellas have both been charged with the crime of slander in an Italian court for repeating their daughter’s complaints of police mistreatment to a British newspaper. In November, I addressed Amanda Knox’s slander charge and wrote: “As a lawyer, and a former American prosecutor, I have seen some pretty petty moves pulled by prosecutors. However, this “slander” charge I think would top them all.” Little did I know as to what was to come. The biggest problem I see with this prosecution, is how in the world can you charge someone with slander when they did not profess to have any independent knowledge of the occurrence? All that Curt Knox and Edda Mellas did was relay complaints that their daughter made about being cuffed in the head by the Italian police during an all-night interrogation. If the parents are being charged with slander, then why isn’t every newspaper in Europe being charged with slander for reporting the same information? The reason is because the Italian prosecutors are completely out of control, they do whatever they want, and the Italian justice system is so dysfunctional that it doesn’t seem to have even the most elemental checks and balances that you would expect in any free country.
Well it is nice to hear some good news on the Amanda Knox case for once. Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman ruled that Amanda Knox can present new evidence of DNA testing deficiencies on her pending appeal. See story. The judge appointed two Italian college professors to do an independent review of the DNA evidence. The appeals case of Amanda Knox and Rafael Sollecito is providing an interesting glimpse into the appellate courts in the Italian legal system. If you are like me, you probably haven’t been terribly impressed with the Italian trial court so far, but the appellate court is making some interesting decisions. The trial court in the Knox case made no effort to sequester the jury, admitted questionable evidence, dragged the case out for ever, and permitted the prosecutor Guiliano Mignini to grandstand to the media despite his own recent criminal conviction. But then comes the appellate court, providing a glimmer of hope to Knox and Sollecito.
Maybe it is time to give credit where credit is due, and explain how the Italian appellate courts actually appear to be capable of giving Amanda Knox more rights on appeal than she would have in her home State of Washington. As a criminal defense lawyer in Washington, I can tell you that the appeals courts are extremely reluctant to second guess the decision of a judge or jury that convicted a defendant. The courts of appeal in Washington overturn convictions in less than 5 percent of cases. I have read that in Italy about 33 to 50 percent of convictions are reversed. In U.S. courts the appellate judges often find that the trial court committed error, but they usually decide that it was “harmless error” and often won’t overrule a lower judge unless he or she showed a “manifest abuse of discretion.” Additionally, U.S. appellate courts would never allow the testimony of new witnesses to appear before them. Rather, if the appellate court deemed the new testimony that important, the appellate court would send or “remand” the issue back to the trial court to be resolved. Having the lower court attempt to “correct” a problem when the lower court messed things up to start with usually doesn’t work. The back and forth takes time, and a lawyer sometimes faces hostility from the original judge for having to re-open the case. Additionally, the appeals in the U.S. are heard strictly by judges, whereas in Italy, the presiding judge is apparently still joined by jurors. As pointed out by Candace Dempsey in her blog, Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman is thought to be inclined to take an independent view insofar as he is from Northern Italy. I am not exactly a scholar of Italian culture, but I know enough to say that the Northern Italians are not always reluctant to make criticisms about how things are run further south.
Anyway, here is a video about this case.
In other news about the Amanda Knox case, I read that Candace Dempsey’s book Murder in Italy was nominated for best true crime book of the year. Please vote for her book here before 12/31/10.
What do you think about the appeal? Do you think that she will be treated more fairly in this process?
Well if you weren’t yet convinced how dysfunctional Italy’s criminal justice system is, you have to be convinced now after reading the morning papers today. Despite the fact that Amanda Knox has been sentenced to 26 years for murder, prosecutors are seeking additional prison time and additional charges for “slander”. See story. The lawyers allege that Knox besmirched the good reputation of the Italian police when she explained that police slapped her on the back of the head during their 14-hour, all-night interrogation.
As a lawyer, and a former American prosecutor, I have seen some pretty petty moves pulled by prosecutors. However, this “slander” charge I think would top them all. In this country, I don’t ever recall anyone being charged with criminal slander. Sure, it is something you can sue for. But to be charged with a crime? Almost unheard of.
I have to admit, part of me is glad these charges have been filed. Why? Because the frivolousness of these charges is really something that everyone will agree on. Even those people who believe Knox is guilty of murder have to admit that this charge is really silly. If the Italian prosecutors really believed their murder conviction would be upheld, then why would they worry about getting more time for slander charges? The truth is the prosecutors are probably nervous about the conviction being overturned. Additionally, are the Italian police such a sensitive bunch that their “feelings were hurt” by allegations that they slapped an arrestee? Are the Italian police so much different from all other police of the world that they never ever manhandle suspects? It is laughable that the Italian prosecutors are really trying to get the world to believe that. The Italian police admit that they interrogated Knox for 14 hours without food or sleep, and that they did this by working in teams against this one girl. That in itself is abusive and coercive. Does any more “slander” really damage the reputation of the Italian police? The so-called “confession” that Amanda Knox made to the police was the result of the police repeatedly insisting that she committed the crimes. Using an universal interrogation trick, the police insisted that Amanda “imagine” what happened if she had committed the murder, and Amanda complied.
Aren’t people allowed to public criticize the government in Italy? (I guess not – remember how Giuliano Mignini tried to bring defamation charges against the West Seattle Herald?) The image of the Italian criminal justice is going from bad to worse with this new “slander” charge. Let’s see if Amanda’s defense lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova can try to get these charges dismissed. You really have to wonder about the wisdom of Judge Claudia Matteini in bringing these charges.
Am I the only one who thinks these charges are ridiculous?
See my past posts about the Amanda Knox case beginning the summer of 2009.