Amanda Knox Latest News: Harassment of Frank Sfarzo, and Witness Antonio Curatolo Changes Story

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.

Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini continues to try to silence those who question the fairness of the trial of Amanda Knox, an American college student convicted of murder in Italy.

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.

I won’t recount all the well-documents efforts by Italian prosecutor Guiliano Mignini to silence his critics, but have blogged about them here, here, and here.

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?

4 Responses to “Amanda Knox Latest News: Harassment of Frank Sfarzo, and Witness Antonio Curatolo Changes Story”

  • Susan K:

    I can’t really tell from the Italian news reports how well it was known at the time that Antonio Curatolo struggled with drug addiction. However, I think the greater point is that Curatolo has apparently testified in a total of 3 murder trials including the Meredith Kercher case. High profile cases sometimes just attract wierdos off the street who are looking for their 15 minutes of fame.

  • Evergreen:

    Now, supposedly at the request of Mingini, Google has pulled the plug on Perugia Shock. He tried to do the same once with the West Seattle Herald, the circumstances were different with that, being an American Paper’s website, on American Soil. So there was probably legal ground for what Google did in Italy on Perugia Shock, especially if the servers were in Italy.


    Our 1st Amendment needs to be strengthened for the electronic age. It was written in a time when the newspaper was the common means of communicating news, and delivered via the mail. Seeing Mingini’s tactics playing out, is more proof that it needs to be strengthened.

    Also, the judge in the appellate trial’s patience is wearing thin, with the prosecution continuing to withhold evidence.

  • I’m not actually that familiar with these news but reading it here, I realized that blogging/writing online has a bigger impact that I have thought. Anything that you write can make or break your personality, your career, everything in your life, if you’re not careful with what you post on the net.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
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