Posts Tagged ‘giu’

Amanda Knox Can Present New Evidence, Says Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman

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?

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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