Posts Tagged ‘Amanda Knox’

New Book on Amanda Knox Addresses Sensationalistic Media Coverage

I just finished reading Murder in Italy by Candace Dempsey, a book about the murder trial in Italy of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.  The book is disturbing in its coverage of the media in this case, particularly of the British and Italian press.  Candace Dempsey is an award winning writer and blogs for the Seattle PI.   In her book, Dempsey documents several efforts by British tabloid Daily Mail to pay UW classmates of Amanda Knox for stories about her.    The British tabloid alleged that after Amanda Knox found out her roommate had been murdered, she went out on a shopping spree for lingerie.   In fact, she had to buy new underwear because the police cordoned off her apartment.   Nevertheless, the Telegraph quoted an Italian shopkeep as offering the opinion that she did not show remorse in the right way.  This seems like one of those stories that was paid for.  In other instances, the Italian authorities improperly took the diary of Amanda Knox and leaked it to the press.

The British and Italian tabloids that wrote these sensationalistic stories seem to ignore a classic rule of journalism, i.e. the two source rule.  Under the two source rule, a journalist would seek corroboration from a different source for scandalous allegations like the above.   The journalistic codes of several American tabloids in the U.S. operate the same way.  I remember being contacted a while ago by the National Enquirer about a murder case I was prosecuting.  They interviewed me for about ten minutes, and declined my offer to send down court documents to back up what I claimed.  “That won’t be necessary” I was told.   The paper than ran a story based on what I said alone.   I do remember that the reporter often would try to get me to say sensationalistic things.  The reporter, who had a British accent incidentally, would say, “I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but that sounds outrageous!”.  When I just answered “uh-Huh”, he just repeated the same “question”, but I never took the hint and said “outrageous” for him, which was what he apparently wanted.

Much of the bad press coverage mentioned in Candace Dempsey’s book didn’t even seem intentional, rather it was just sloppy.  For example, the tabloids printed a supposed excerpt from Amanda’s diary, that read as follows:

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 is possible that Raffaele went to Meredith’s house, raped her and then killed her.  And then 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.

In reality, Candace Dempsey explains that this excerpt was a bad translation of English to Italian, and back to English.  The actual text of the diary was:

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 into bed, and then pretended really well the next couple of days, well, I just highly doubt all of that.

In another instance of bad translation, Amanda Knox’s childhood soccer-field nickname “Foxy Knoxy” was translated by the Italian press as “Volpe Cattiva”.  Volpe meaning fox, and Cattiva meaning bad, wicked or naughty.

In the U.S., we learn in school that irresponsible journalism is just the price we pay for having a strong first amendment, and a free press.  But in Italy, you have to wonder, because the freedom of the press is much more limited.  The Italian courts are still full of criminal liable charges which would be unconstitutional in the U.S. under the Supreme Court decision of New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964. In fact Amanda Knox is now facing criminal libel charges in Italy for maintaining that she was hit in the head by Italian investigators when they pressured her to confess during an all-night interrogation. We should also recall how much harassment Italian journalist Mario Spezi has faced from the police.  See here.

In light of the Italian government’s strict control of the press, why were the false stories about Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito allowed to continue?

Judge Michael Heavey Answers Complaint He Abused Office By Speaking Out On Amanda Knox Case

Last summer, I wrote a post about the Amanda Knox case, and mentioned how King County Superior Court Judge Mike Heavey was among the local people trying to help Amanda.

Judge Michael Heavey

I wrote that Judge Heavey wrote to the to the Italian council that regulates judges to protest the leaks from the prosecutor, police and prison officials to the tabloid press.  Well, I read last month in Mary Whisner blog last month that the judge was accused by the Judicial Conduct Commission of violating judicial ethics rules by writing that letter.  The complaint alleges that Heavey misused the prestige of his office by advocating for Knox and criticizing the Italian authorities prosecuting the case.  The complaint alleges that Heavey may have violated the state rule that judges “should not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others.”  Apparently, what real irked the commission is that Heavey wrote the letter on official court stationary.  In Heavey’s response that he filed with the commission, he seems to concede that he should not have used official stationary.  Judge Heavey’s daughters attended the same school as Amanda Knox.

My question is this:  Since when can’t judges (at least in their private capacity) write letters to speak out on civil rights abuses overseas?  If the judge had spoken out in defense of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, I don’t think the judicial conduct commission would have cared.  Maybe when the country is a fellow NATO country things are a little different.  Also it should be pointed out that Judge Michael Heavey made it very clear that he was writing the letters not as a judge but as a father.  Doesn’t that make a difference?  Let’s buy Judge Heavey some of his own stationary at Office Depot, and then maybe the CJC will dismiss the charges. 

For prior posts on the Amanda Knox case see here, here, here, here, and here.

Candace Dempsey Releases Book on Amanda Knox

If you are in Spokane Thursday night, you may want to swing by Auntie’s Book Store at 7 p.m. to hear Candace Dempsey read from her new book Murder in Italy The book is about the case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito who were convicted in December of the murder of Meredith Kercher.  Amanda Knox was an American student from the University of Washington at the time, and Meredith Kercher was visiting from England.  The story made international headlines, and the conviction was controversial particularly among U.S. legal experts.

Candace Dempsey certainly knows her way around Spokane, having formerly worked at the Spokesman-Review.    Lately Dempsey has been blogging about the case for the Seattle PI.  I have not read the book yet, but I have it ordered from Amazon.  I won’t be able to make it on Thursday, but someone let me know how it goes.

Speaking of good books.  I just finished reading the book The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold.  (O.k. I admit it, I didn’t actually “read” the book, I listened to it on Itunes).  I also rented the movie too, again on Itunes.  Both were good, and you may want to check them out.

I will let you know about Murder in Italy after I read it.  Right now, I am waiting with all the other Amanda supporters to wait for the Italian appeals court to review her case.  I am still optimistic.

The Latest Criminal Justice News from Italy – Franscesco Di Stefano and Bella Swan

I read in Italia! recently a story about reputed mafia boss Francesco Di Stefano, who fooled the Italian authorities into releasing him from prison due to health problems.   Francesco Di Stefano, who was serving a 30-year sentence, pretended to be suffering from anorexia and “post-traumatic paraplegia”.  He apparently faked the paraplegia and went on a crash diet until he was down to 84 pounds.  The Italian prison released him to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest at the residence of his wife in Bologna, in northern Italy.  The mafia boss then fled and was missing for sometime.  He was later found by police driving around down in  Sicily in a sports car.  When asked why he was not in a wheelchair, he is claimed to have replied: “It’s a Miracle!”  You have to at least admire the force of will that the man would have to have in order to bring his weight down to 84 pounds.  The man was only 36 years old.   This sort of thing would never happen in the U.S.   The system here is real hard-nosed about releasing even the very sick from prison.  I just don’t recall it ever happening.  I know when many states enacted mandatory life sentences and abolished the parole system, many people wondered if someday the prisons would start looking like nursing homes.  I anticipate this will be a budget issue some day.  I have blogged in the past about such budget issues, see here.  Usually in American prisons, the staff has significance experience in handling inmates with serious medical problems.  however, local jails are a different story.  Usually the staff of local jails are in a hurry for sick inmates to be released or sent off to prison.

Speaking of Italy, am I the only one who thought of Amanda Knox during the  Volturi scene in the movie Twilight: New MoonAn American girl pleads for her life, minus the blue berets The movie’s heroine,  Bella Swan, travels to Italy and is greeted by the Volturi, the governors of the vampire world.  It just seemed a little too familiar to see this charismatic American girl struggle to understand a foreign process and plead her case on why she should be set free.  And Bella Swan and Amanda Knox are both from Western Washington!  I haven’t seen any other blogger make this comparison, so let me know if I am crazy on this one.

Amanda Knox, Giuliano Mignini, Rudy Guede Revisited

I haven’t blogged about the Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito murder charges since my November 30th post.  At that time, the trial was still pending and I was pretty optimistic about an acquittal.  We know, of course, that the two were convicted shortly thereafter of murder.  In the days following the conviction, the supporters of Amanda Knox explained what the average person can do to help.  Besides making a financial contribution (see site), one supporter explained that an average person can help keep public attention focused on the case by continuing to visit news sites that cover the case.  The logic is that if the media sees that the public is still reading about Amanda Knox’s case, then the media will still cover it.  The fear that Amanda Knox supporters had was that the media would soon lose interest in the case.  Maybe this fear was partially unfounded.  As we know the Amanda Knox case is still big news.  Here is a run down of the latest:

  • * Italian Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini is convicted of abuse of his office for an apparent illegal wiretapping he did on an unrelated murder case.  He is sentenced to a 16 month suspended sentence.  This can only help Amanda’s chances on appeal.  For a prosecutor to be convicted of a crime related the performance of his job duties is extremely rare.  For example, Mike Nifong was only disbarred for railroading the Duke lacrosse players – he was not charged with a crime.
  • * Donald Trump publicly criticizes the prosecutor and questions Amanda Knox’s conviction.  (See video).  (Yeah, not everyone likes Trump, but you can’t beat him in terms of drumming up publicity.)  Trump also wrote how he felt on his blog.  Did you know he blogged?  I had no idea.  Other than his posts about Knox, the blog is a real snoozer.  It mostly consists of a bunch of information on real estate.
  • * Amanda Knox’s family goes on Oprah.  Somehow I missed this.  It was probably the only time in my life that I would want to watch Oprah.  You can see part of the video here.  (You have to watch the 30 second commercial first).
  • * Mario Alessi, the cellmate of Rudy Guede gives a statement that Rudy Guede admitted he acted alone.  Rudy Guede was earlier convicted of killing Meredith Kercher.

So, right now, we just wait for the Italian appeals courts to do their thing on Amanda Knox’s case.  I read somewhere after the conviction that in Italy the Italian appellate courts reverse about 1/3 of Italian convictions.  I would guess that Amanda Knox’s chances are even better than that.  I honestly feel that, as a former prosecutor, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were unjustly convicted.  I often hear Italian officials criticize the American bloggers as speaking out of turn because they did sit through the trial.  I think that the trial should have been broadcast so that it could have been observed by outsiders.  It would be nice to have seen the whole trial, but the unfairness of the trial is clear from just watching from the outside.  You don’t have to watch the whole trial to see that the prosecutor’s claimed motive was preposterous.  You don’t have to observe the trial to see that the media coverage was sensationalistic and that the jurors were not sequestered.  You can tell from the scene photographs that a shoddy job was done on evidence collection.  You can see from reading Amanda Knox’s “confession” that the statement was really no confession at all, and would not have passed muster in any American court.

For earlier posts I wrote about Amanda’s case, see here, here and here.

Issue of Demeanor Raised In Amanda Knox Case

In Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, the  narrator, Meursault, is being tried for the murder of a man he encounters at the beach.   At his trial, the prosecutor makes much of Meursault’s demeanor, and the prosecutor focuses on irrelevant information like Meursault’s failure to properly show grief at his own mother’s recent funeral. I read this book back in college and did not understand what Camus was driving at.  However, as a practicing criminal defense attorney, I think of this often whenever the authorities or the news media comment that the accused does not show proper remorse.  I always thought it was basically understood that people grieve in individual and often unpredictable ways.  When I worked as a coroner, I sometimes had the unpleasant task of having to inform people that their family members were dead.   You just never knew what reaction you would get.

A prime example of unfair media coverage on grieving might be the American college student Amanda Knox on trial for murder in Italy.

Amanda wrote to classmates: "After a year I at least have learned to respond to the negativity of my current environment as peacefully and calmly as possible..."

"I at least have learned to respond to the negativity of my environment as peacefully and calmly as possible..."

The British tabloid alleged that after Amanda Knox found out her roommate had been murdered, she went out on a shopping spree for lingerie.  See link.  In fact, she had to buy new underwear because the police cordoned off her apartment, and she was not able to get in to retrieve even her personal effects.   Nevertheless, the Telegraph quoted an Italian shopkeep as offering the opinion that she did not show remorse in the right way.  During her trial, an Italian reporter wrote: “Amanda Knox faces life in prison if convicted of killing Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student who was her roommate in picturesque Perugia in central Italy. However, her breezy behavior in hearings over the last three months has set tongues wagging in Italy and abroad.”  Well, the story was picked up by the AP and reprinted in the U.S. – see site and photo.  As you can see from visiting the story Knox is indeed smiling in some of the pictures.  Do people really believe that a defendant will not smile at all during a trial that lasts ten months?  In the photo it is clear that court is not even in session.  I do not view the photographs as inconsistent with what we know about Amanda Knox.  First let’s look at the photographs everyone is talking about:

Amanda Seven amanda two
Amanda Six Amanda Three
Amanda five ITALY-MURDER

Now that we have seen the photographs, let’s talk about what we know about Amanda Knox.    Amanda is young and probably like a lot of young people she is capable of being overly optimistic. Amanda Knox very likely believes that being innocent alone will suffice, and that she should just be herself.  I have found that in my practice, the demographic of young/white/suburban/middle-class sometimes brings a naivete to the process.  Poorer people, and sometimes ethnic minorities, will more often recall a negative experience that they or a family member have had with the justice system, i.e. they are aware of the system’s flaws.   It could be that in Amanda Knox’s mind, no amount of prosecutorial misconduct, no amount of sensational news coverage, and no amount of tainted DNA evidence will lead to a break down in the truth finding process.

A second thing to remember is that in most of the pictures Amanda is smiling at the guards.  Although most guards tone it down in court, guards are usually quite talkative with inmates.   This surprises a lot of people, and surprised me when I was a young prosecutor.   This is partly human nature when you spend over a year in close contact with a person.  But additionally,  a guard that gets to know the inmate is practicing good safety.  A guard’s job is dangerous – developing a good read on an inmate and learning his or her baseline or normal behavior, and constantly watching for signs of shifts in mood or mental instability is simply something that is taught in corrections academy.   Look again at the photographs above.  I see in those six pictures what I often see in my practice as a criminal defense attorney.  That is, guards skillfully watching and interacting with a woman in their charge.  And oh yeah, you might notice the guards stifling their smiles a bit more when the cameras come out.  They do that in the U.S. too.

I believe that there are significant cultural differences between the way Americans and Italians view their governments.  Amanda Knox testified at her trial: “I am innocent and I have faith in the Italian legal system.”  To many Italians, this statement (combined with a nonchalant smile in court) is iron clad proof that Amanda Knox is crazy.   Italians, as a whole,  are just not enough naive to say what Amanda said.   But Americans often are – and sometimes we are that way about our own court system too.  In this country, a view of government that is too skeptical is somehow unpatriotic.

Amanda Knox and her family both seem to have a lot faith in the jury.   The best case scenario for Amanda Knox acquits her of all charges and returns her to the U.S. this month.  However, will the same daughter come home that the Knox family sent off over a year ago?   Amanda Knox’s demeanor is probably a comforting sign to her parents Curt Knox and Edda Mellas.

As a former prosecutor I was deeply troubled by Giuliano Mignini’s failure to produce any motive in this case.  Consider the closing argument of the Italian prosecutor.  He surmises that Knox wanted to get back at Kercher (the victim) for saying she was not clean and for calling her promiscuous.  He argued: “Amanda had the chance to retaliate against a girl who was serious and quiet… She had harbored hatred for Meredith, and that was the time when it could explode. The time had come to take revenge on that smug girl.”  See story.  I really have a hard time with that.  What college kid gets along with their roommate perfectly anyway?   Does he really expect a jury to believe that Amanda Knox (who has  no criminal history) stabbed to death her roommate because she was “smug”?   While there are times in our life that we might feel tempted to slap a smug person, Amanda Knox’s record shows no propensity for violence.   Stabbing someone to death is not an “entry level job”; the people who perpetrate such crimes have worked their way up to such deeds by committing school yard fights, animal cruelty,  brandishing weapons, unlawful threats, etc.   Giuliano Mignini described what he called “an unstoppable crescendo of frenzied violence,” “…which began with Knox and Sollecito trying to take off Kercher’s clothes and threatening her.”  See story.   Female on female murder is extremely rare and makes up only 2% of the homicides in this country.  See source.  Giuliano Mignini’s explanation as to motive is pure conjecture, and just does not have the ring of truth.

What do you think about this case?  Do we have prosecutors of this caliber in the U.S.? Think of the college kids that you may know, would you expect them to act much the same way?

Amanda Knox Trial, Why Americans Should Worry

Italy has a modern criminal justice system with a long history.  The general area of Italy in which Amanda Knox is being tried is near the birth place of Renaissance Humanism, the movement that gave new force to notions of rationality and the importance of maintaining human dignity.  And in the classical period of Ancient Rome, Cicero argued before juries in a manner emulated by the legal advocates of today.  For Americans, a trial in Italy does not cause the same fears that would be caused by a trial in Iran or Syria, for example.  Amanda in Trial Nevertheless, Americans should have grave concerns for Amanda Knox and the fairness of her trial in Perugia.  My uneasiness with the trial is not that it is being conducted in an aberrant or unusual foreign manner.  Rather my concern is that the case is too much like American trials that have been chaotic or have yielded unfair results.

Back in 1892, when Italy was still finishing its unification, the United States was suffering through its first media circus surrounding the murder trial of Lizzie Borden.   The landmark press coverage of that murder trial was so fraught with prejudgment of the facts, that people still today assume Borden’s guilt.  Borden was found not guilty.  Whether it is trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, or of O.J. Simpson, the public is aware that the criminal justice system can be twisted or contorted under the weight of media attention.

Paul Ciolino, an investigator with the Innocent Project explains the trial of Amanda Knox: “This is their O.J. Simpson trial — it’s that big.”  In fact, it may be worse.  There has been information leaked out to the tabloids in this case in ways that I have never seen or heard of.   Amanda Knox kept a diary that was improperly copied and circulated to the tabloids.  The subject of the sensational tabloid press coverage has been covered in articles by the UW Daily.  Washington Senator Maria Cantwell wrote to the Italian ambassador in the U.S. expressing concern over Amanda Knox’s trial.  Cantwell expressed concern that “confidential information about her case was leaked, resulting in false and misleading media reports.”  King County Superior Court Judge Mike Heavey took the unusual step of writing to the Italian authorities on the subject of Amanda’s trial.  Judge Heavey complained to the council that regulates judges in Italy and asked for a change of venue.  He also complained about the leaks from the prosecutor, police and prison officials to the tabloid press.

A lot of the unspoken concern comes from the particular Italian prosecutor in this case, Giuliano Mignini.   Many Americans have been slow to criticize him.  In an August interview with the Seattle-Times, Amanda’s parents indicated that they did not wish to criticize the investigation for fear of angering the Italian prosecutors.

Guiliano Mignini, the Italian prosecutor of Amanda Knox, has raised eyebrows with his tactics in the past, and has been charged with the crimes of obstruction and illegal wiretapping in the past.

Guiliano Mignini, the Italian prosecutor of Amanda Knox, has raised eyebrows with his tactics in the past, and has been charged with the crimes of obstruction and illegal wiretapping in the past.

Earlier this year, Giuliano Mignini announced that he was bringing a defamation lawsuit against a West Seattle community newspaper repeating critical comments made by Knox’s supporters.   The article, by the West Seattle Herald used to be available here, but has apparently been taken down.  Giuliano Mignini told the BBC he started the legal action because the newspaper quoted some of Knox’s supporters that said Mignini is “mentally unstable.”  The same article quoted Knox’s supporters as accusing Mignini of using Amanda’s trial to “improve his own dicey reputation and further his career.”

Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini reminds me too much of North Carolina prosecutor Mike Nifong, who was disbarred over his misconduct during his prosecution of members of the Duke lacrosse team.  In that case the bar association said that Nifong manipulated the investigation to increase his chances of winning election.   According to the bar investigation, he committed “a clear case of intentional prosecutorial misconduct” that involved “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.”

With Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, people have questioned his judgment and good sense long before Amanda Knox was charged with murder.  American author Douglas Preston went to Italy to write a book about a serial killer in Florence several years ago, and found out firsthand how Mignini operated.  Preston wrote about his firsthand account in his book entitled Monster of Florence.   Douglas Preston became the target of a police investigation himself, along with his Italian journalist friend Mario Spezi.  Writing about Mignini, Preston describes how the prosecutor would selectively leak information to the media, while seeking to bar reporters from publishing different accounts of the facts.  Preston describes how he and his colleague, Mario Spezi, pursued a version of events that differed from official accounts, and that Giuliano Mignini had Spezi jailed for 23 days for obstruction of justice.   The Italian court of appeals (or Tribunal of Reexamination) later stopped this and ordered Spezi’s release.  Douglas Preston describes how more than one person was convicted of murder in the underlying case, and later had their convictions overturned.  Preston describes how under prosecutor Mignini’s leadership the investigation “…would become a monster in its own right, consuming all in its path, engorged and distended with the many innocent lives it had ruined.”  This is what is happening in the Amanda Knox case according to a recent Newsweek article.   The magazine concluded: “Regardless of the verdict, the trial of Amanda Knox has ruined the lives of almost everybody involved in it.”

For more background on her case, visit

For more background on her case, visit

Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini is really a criminal defendant by his own right.   Mignini has been charged with obstruction of justice and illegal wiretapping in prosecuting the “Monster of Florence” case.  At Mignini’s first pretrial hearing on January 16th, 2008, the Italian public minister of Florence, Luca Turco, declared that Mignini was “on a crusade in thrall to sort of delirium” and “ready to go to any extreme defending himself against anyone who criticized his investigation.”

There is not a lot the American legal community can do except wait for Italy’s complex legal system to sort this out.  A verdict is not too many weeks off, and the world is bracing itself for a decision that will be an international bombshell either way.   American lawyers grimace at the chaos in Perugia, and can’t help but see a reflection of  our own system in the mess.

(For earlier blog posts on the trial of Amanda Knox and Rafael Solicito, see here, and here.)

Amanda Knox Trial Drags On

Do you remember the O.J. Simpson jury trial that took an unbelievable 8 1/2 months to complete?  Well, the trial of Amanda Knox, an American student accused of murder in Italy, just passed that 8 1/2 month mark and may take as many as 10 months to complete.   Along with her Italian boyfriend, Amanda is accused of killing her British roommate Meridith Kercher.

UW student Amanda Knox defends a charge of Murder in and Italian courtroom

Amanda Knox, a UW student from Seattle, is currently defending a charge of Murder in an Italian courtroom.

The trial began on January 16th, 2009 in the town of Perugia, Italy.  Knox was studying in Italy for her junior year.  She is a student at the University of Washington in Seattle.  I wrote about the charges she faced early last summer in an earlier post.  At that time I did not anticipate that the trial would still be pending come fall.

Prosecutors say Kercher was killed during a sex game with Knox, her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and a third man, Rudy Hermann Guede, who was convicted of the murder last year.  According to the Italian prosecutors, Sollecito held Kercher down, while Knox threatened her with a knife. They allege Guede tried to sexually assault Kercher and then Knox fatally stabbed her in the throat.

I kind of wonder what is taking so long with this trial.  In the O.J. Simpson trial, the cause of the delay seemed to be endless “sidebars” or private meetings between the lawyers and judge.   In this case, there seem to be endless breaks.  In the summer, the court took nearly two months off before this case resumed.   In addition, the court only conducts the trial a couple of days each week due to the other cases that are going on.  In Italy, the jurors and judges also have a right to have certain witnesses recalled to the stand to testify over again.  In this case, over a 100 witness have been called.

Amanda's parents have spent much of their money on Amanda's defense.  For more information visit

Amanda's parents have spent much of their money on Amanda's defense. For more information visit

I often wonder about what the delay is with certain trials that I hear about on the news.  As a young prosecutor, I called in the assistance of an assistant attorney general to help me in a murder case involving three people shot in the head.  The attorney warned me of the complexity of the trial, and indicated that it might take two weeks.   In fact, the case ended up taking only 5 days, from the opening statements to the verdict.  It seems in Ferry and Stevens County the judges accomplish a lot in each trial day.  The judges start early, and work late, and it is seldom that other cases interfere in the scheduling of an important murder trial.   I have found in bigger counties, the trials are sometimes interrupted by other business.

If I were the attorney for Amanda Knox in Italy, I would worry about everything the jury would forget from the beginning of the trial to the end.  The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that taking extended breaks in the presentation denies the defendant the right to a fair trial.   In the U.S., the 6th Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right of the accused to a “speedy and public trial.”   In Herring v. New York, Supreme Court expressed concern over a delay of “two days — a period during which the judge’s memory may well have dimmed, however conscientious a note-taker he may have been.”

UW Student Charged with Murder in Italy

Amanda Knox, a University of Washington student, is currently standing trial for Murder in Perugia, a city in central Italy.  Amanda Knox, like many college students, opted to spend her junior year overseas.  She shared an apartment with four young women, including Meredith Kercher, a British student.

Amanda with her family.  (Used with permission of

Amanda with her family. (Used with permission of

Amanda Knox, was dating an Italian man, and when she returned from his home on November 2nd, 2007, she found no sign of her roommate Meredith.  Amanda tried to call Meridith’s cell phone but did not receive an answer.  Amanda noticed a few droplets of blood in the shower.  Getting concerned, Amanda called her boyfriend (Raffaele Sollecito) over.  Amanda, and her boyfriend noticed a broken window, and noticed that the door to Meredith’s room was locked.  They called the police.  The police arrived, forced open the door, and found Meredith Kercher dead with cuts to her throat under a duvet.  The police questioned Amanda and Raffaele, and the two gave consistent accounts of their whereabouts for the days prior.  Later, under pressure from police, Raffaele told the police that Amanda left his apartment for several hours.   Under pressure, Amanda described a dream to the police about overhearing Meredith’s screams while she tried to cover her ears with a pillow.   Amanda’s supporters take the position that the statements were made under duress and she told the police what they wanted to hear even though it was not true.  Amanda Knox was kept up all night, claims to have been hit, and was denied an attorney and professional translator.

Amanda in her home in Seattle prior to leaving for Italy

Amanda in her home in Seattle prior to leaving for Italy. (Used with permission of

The police linked a man named Rudy Guede to the murder because his DNA was found in Meredith’s body and his bloody hand print was found on a pillow underneath the body.  The police eavesdropped on Rudy Guede’s phone calls and heard him say that Amanda had nothing to do with the killing.  Later, under pressure from police, he indicated that Amanda was present at the time, but denied that the two killed Meredith.  Rudy Guede admitted that he had relations with Meredith that stopped short of intercourse.  Based on the evidence, Rudy Guede was convicted of sexual assault and murder.  Rudy Guede changed his story to implicate Amanda and Raffaele in the killing in some sex game gone wrong.  Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are currently pending trial. The Italian police detectives have testified that they found DNA evidence of Amanda’s footprint in Meredith’s blood in the apartment, and traces of Amanda’s and Meredith’s intermingled blood in several locations there.  No murder weapon has been found, but the police said an eight-inch kitchen knife at Raffaele’s house bore traces of Meredith’s DNA near the tip and Amanda’s the handle. It should be no surprise that the knife would have Amanda’s DNA on the handle considering how much time she spent at her boyfriend’s house.  The DNA of Meredith, according to several outside experts, was of such small amounts, and was available only after numerous enhancements in the testing, that it could have belonged to numerous individuals.  Additionally, the knife did not match the bloody outline of a knife at the crime scene.  Experts have already testified that the knife in question could not have made at least two of the three cuts found on Meredith’s throat.

Ambiguous DNA evidence, and statements made to police under pressure,are often how wrongful convictions occur here in the U.S.  According to the Innocence Project, a variety of factors can contribute to a false confession during an  interrogation.  Many cases have included a combination of several of these causes. They include:

  • duress
  • coercion
  • intoxication
  • diminished capacity
  • mental impairment
  • ignorance of the law
  • fear of violence
  • the actual infliction of harm
  • the threat of a harsh sentence
  • misunderstanding the situation

Do you ever hear stories on the news where an inmate is determined to be innocent of a crime that occurred years ago due to the use of a DNA test?  When we look back on those cases, in 25% of those cases a person ended up confessing to a crime that they did not commit.

Many experts in the U.S. have questioned the fairness of the trial.  Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times columnist Timothy Egan wrote “The case against Knox has so many holes in it, and is so tied to the career of a powerful Italian prosecutor who is under indictment for professional misconduct, that any fair-minded jury would have thrown it out months ago.”  (See this opinion piece about Amanda Knox)

King County Superior Court Judge Mike Heavey is among the local people trying to help Amanda.   Heavey took the unusual step of writing to the Italian council that regulates judges to protest the leaks from the prosecutor, police and prison officials to the tabloid press.  According to a Seattle Times article he wrote “Amanda Knox is in grave danger of being convicted of the murder because of illegal and improper poisoning of public opinion and judicial opinion.”   He continued: “I respectfully submit that the prosecutor’s office, police and prison employees have made illegal and false statements … These false reports have wrongfully poisoned the well of public opinion against Amanda.”

Amanda Knox’s parents have spent all their retirement funds and their equity in their home paying for a team of defense lawyers, forensic experts, and investigators to help defend their daughter.  Amanda Knox testified in her own defense on June 13th, and a verdict should not be too far off.   The jury consists of two judges and six local citizens.  Unlike juries here in Washington, a conviction need not be unanimous.  Rather a simple majority may convict.

For more information, See

Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
Law Office of Steve Graham
1312 North Monroe Street, #140
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 252-9167
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