Home » Cases on Appeal » AMANDA KNOX AND RAFFAELE SOLLECITO — THE SCIENCE SAYS INNOCENT

AMANDA KNOX AND RAFFAELE SOLLECITO — THE SCIENCE SAYS INNOCENT

Italy doesn’t need new obscurantism from Courts

Written by Frank Sfarzo

People in the law are very good at the law, but we realized how difficult it is for them to have a real comprehension of scientific facts.

The first judges received those two tests, which declared DNA on the knife, or on the bra clasp, and that became something insuperable for them. They believed so much that that was a scientific proof of guilt that they started to transform everything that was exonerating of Knox and Sollecito as an indication of guilt against them. The footprint of Rudi Guede became the footprint of Sollecito, some old footprints became footprints left during the crime, and so on…

With a professional window-climber like Guede around, what had the great investigator guessed? That the broken window was a simulation!… And the first judges believed even that…. They even gave value to the impossible testimony of a heroin addict and trafficker, the life criminal Antonio Curatolo…. So, Knox and Sollecito were murderers because they smoked a joint… But the heroin dealer and user at the last stage was a reliable witness…. It would be funny if it weren’t tragic.

It must be a kind of occupational hazard — judges receive a piece of paper with a presumed scientific proof written on it, and would not even consider a doubt or an option; defense lawyers would not be able to explain in the right way those doubts and options; and plaintiffs, working for their own interest, would take advantage of the situation, fueling the idea of the real existence of a scientific proof of guilt….

Knox and Sollecito were acquitted in a real trial, and that constitutes proof of the existence of a doubt. A court of Cassation, then, should update the jurisprudence, and rule that when you are acquitted the story ends there, just as it is in any system based on reasonable doubt (as the Italian system is now)

I was there not only for the investigation, but even for the trial. And I saw why the judges Claudio Pratillo Hellmann and Massimo Zanetti acquitted Knox and Sollecito. Certainly not because the CIA paid them… but because Hellmann and Zanetti brought the drug dealer Antonio Curatolo into court, and it was evident to them, and to everyone who was there, the criminal, the crazy and the liar that Curatolo was. Hellmann and Zanetti also gave the knife and bra clasp to scientists to examine, and scientists explained the principles of the science, and made clear in court that those two DNA tests were not reliable. Did Hellmann and Zanetti understand? Yes. The trial –a real trial, certainly not the flash-trial to Rudy Guede– scrutinized everything, and made clear that against Knox and Sollecito there was absolutely nothing.

So, what was true out of that mountain of indications of guilt that the investigators were daily revealing to us at the beginning? Nothing.

I was in a convention last summer with the Giornale dell’Umbria journalist Giuseppe Castellini. He said that the cops had told him that Knox and Sollecito were caught running the washing machine, and then it came out that it wasn’t true. But what wasn’t true — only the washing machine story? It wasn’t true the washing machine, it wasn’t true the bleach receipt, it wasn’t true the tossed sweatshirt, it wasn’t true that Knox knew how Meredith had been killed, it wasn’t true that Sollecito had precedents of aggression, etc., etc., etc…… Nobody thought they could be lying, but, today, every reporter is able to remember at least one particular piece of false information that was given to him or her as a revelation to publish. That’s why all reporters of the case changed their minds — not because someone paid them…. but maybe because, sooner or later, everyone realized they had been daily fooled.

Maybe the idea was to use the media to create a general idea of guilt, and that judges would follow the public opinion they had previously influenced (a classic idea). But then there’s the trial…

The trial heard the scientists, and the scientists made it clear that there was not scientific proof of guilt. Therefore, after the dismissal of the DNA “evidence,” the footprint could be given back to its legitimate owner, and all other presumed indications of guilt could be seen for what they really were: indications of innocence.

What happened then? The following courts, when everything started again, returned to the rule against science. Only at that point we understood that Hellmann and Zanetti were an exception, two judges of extraordinary modernity. They are also people of law, but they didn’t have a problem in understanding the reasons of the science.

And that’s what Italy needs on March 25th — another exception, another enlightened judge who will have the whole panel follow the principles of science, and close this embarrassing judicial aberration. Possible? Very possible. Time, indeed, helps.  The scientific community, in the meanwhile, has expressed itself at length about the case, and made clear that those two DNA tests mean nothing. Defense lawyers as well have finally started to use the right concepts, and we have in fact seen the common sentiment changing.

 Aren’t you a fan of Curatolo?

The prosecution will continue to accuse, of course, and the plaintiffs will continue do their jobs. But by now you wouldn’t find an independent observer in Italy, not even of the most conservative kind, to show their face while maintaining that those two tests are proof of guilt. Who wants to be backward? Who wants to run against the scientific community and for the drug dealer? We couldn’t find anyone with an identity (masked people, maybe; magicians, Satanists, card readers and people in a mystical crisis, just those of “Toto’s” kind…).

Or, who wants to say that Hellmann and Zanetti, or even just the observers who have spoken about the case, were corrupted, when, how, by whom, and with how much? We couldn’t find anyone to say that (but, if there were, we’re available to publish their statement under verified identity).

EXTRA REASONS FOR SOLLECITO

Sollecito’s lawyers took advantage of the position taken by the scientific community and have filed an additional appeal, making it clear that the DNA tests regarding the knife and bra clasp are the result of contamination.

A contamination, the most natural phenomenon, the most simple concept: you wear gloves, you touch something, then you touch something else, and you will have transferred onto the second thing what was on the first. Not to mention the lab contamination, always possible. That’s how you recognize a contaminated item: there will be no blood on it, nor a bit of skin, but only DNA. As we have always explained, when there’s blood it’s the murder weapon, when there’s skin it means that you grabbed that thing. When there’s only DNA it’s CONTAMINATION.

Was it so difficult to say?

A return to the ways of reason

Sollecito’s defense had an irrational moment in Florence and after Florence; they thought that the knife wasn’t their business since it had only Knox’s DNA on it. In a press conference Sollecito’s lawyer had said that there was nothing against Raffaele because nobody had seen him outside of his house. A moment of dreaming — she had forgotten little details, such as that the knife was “Sollecito’s knife,” and that the main witness of the case claimed to have seen Knox and Sollecito.

It was good, then, seeing Sollecito’s lawyers return to the ways of reason, and attacking, besides the bra clasp, Curatolo and the knife.

In the appeal they quoted Peter Gill’s book, Misleading DNA Evidence, and were able to explain the simple concept of contamination. Explain, discern, distinguish. It’s a great moment, the moment of comprehension. And when the comprehension arrives you realize it, it’s evident to everybody.

That’s why, while reading how the appeal document explains the contamination on the knife and bra clasp, or how impossible Curatolo’s testimony was, you have the feeling that judges, this time, can’t avoid understanding.

A good job. But then…

There are other arguments brilliantly outlined in the appeal, such as the underlining of all the mistakes in the Florence ruling (Guede’s shoeprints in the room, for instance, which, per the Florence ruling, became Knox’s footprints…); or explaining why Guede had attacked Meredith as soon as she returned home (an excellent explanation, a result of the phone activity, which Bongiorno always gave, even though this time they added something that doesn’t match); or why the footprint on the mat was Guede’s (the extravagant previous hypothesis they proposed, that he had blood in the shoe, was turned into an acceptable one: that he walked on his heel. They are getting closer to my hypothesis — that he dropped a blood-soaked towel on the mat and stepped on it, printing his foot on the mat); or why the luminol footprints came from a housecleaning activity that occurred in the days before the crime; or why it’s proven that Sollecito called 112 before the postal police arrived.

As for the destroyed hard disks of Sollecito, Knox and Kercher, the appeal document repeated twice that it was an accident, as if they were the ones who had to justify it (it was actually three accidents, plus Filomena’s hard disk, which they forgot to include, so, four accidents….).

But there were more pages in the appeal, too many pages.

If you have brilliantly explained the contamination, why do you have to maintain that the interpretation of the result was wrong, or even that someone with the same Y-chromosome of Sollecito could have touched the bra clasp? Well, they maintained it, again. Unlike the one about contamination, the one about the Y-profile is an example of a fake explanation, of the kind that is not evident, that people wouldn’t believe. It is, indeed, theoretically possible, but it’s not reasonable to think that someone with the same Y-profile of Sollecito got into just that room and touched just that bra clasp.

They could have simply mentioned the mere possibility, but putting it in the appeal at that length was a mistake, it raised doubts on what was until that point a real explanation, the one about contamination.

Magnanimity needed

Sometimes you need to take decisions, to select, and to explain things in a synthetic way. The appeal document, instead, maintained all hypotheses as equal — the contamination, the wrong interpretation, and the existence of someone with the same Y-profile. So they will again receive the same objection about that. And Raffaele Sollecito can only hope that the judges will not give importance to contradictions like this.

To dismantle Curatolo, the appeal document mainly used the argument that he provides an alibi to Sollecito and Knox.

Instead of demolishing Curatolo alone, though, Sollecito’s lawyers wanted to complicate their lives, and they also wanted to attack Capezzali and Monacchia. But what is the problem if the two ladies heard a scream? The ladies can be contested about the details, about the time, and it’s easy to do. But the fact that they heard a scream says nothing against Sollecito or Knox. Actually, as we have seen, the scream proves Sollecito and Knox innocent, since by putting together all testimonies of that evening we understand that it occurred before 10 pm, when according to Curatolo, Sollecito and Knox were in the square.

The appeal document does mention the witnesses who didn’t hear a scream and didn’t see Knox and Sollecito: Formica and boyfriend, plus the broken car people (they forget the crucial Dramis sisters. That’s already an improvement since in the Florence appeal they had written that the Dramis sisters had heard the scream, too…). But, instead of using those witnesses against Curatolo or in favor of the Curatolo-provided alibi, the appeal uses them against Capezzali and Monacchia. So, they make it more difficult for themselves: instead of having to prove that one witness lied –which, due to the kind of person he was and the crazy things he said, was extremely easy– they are trying to prove that three witnesses lied, that the two ladies invented having heard a long and terrifying scream! At the same time, they maintain that the scream could have really occurred, and came from people in the street not related to the crime. So, again, they don’t choose, they put everything in the melting pot.

However, the document remains the most effective appeal seen so far, and a judge who wants to help will certainly be able to put order into what is provided by the defense and get to the right conclusions. But the defense has to be lucky and meet a judge who wants to help.

Save-my-ass bound

In the second half of the appeal Sollecito’s lawyers again run their famous separation strategy, the one seen in the press conference and in the media campaign. That’s unfortunate, since it doesn’t appear to be effective.

I couldn’t believe that they quoted from the statements signed by both Knox and Sollecito in the police station. They were the ones who, quoting Saul Kassin, had explained that Knox’s statements, the so-called “confession” (what confession, if she signed that the murderer was someone else?), was not reliable. They were the ones who obtained Sollecito’s statements, too, to be not admitted in the trial. And now they quote from all those statements! And for what? To demonstrate that Raffaele Sollecito always said that Knox had gone out that evening. It’s no longer a mistake he made at the time, as he explained to us in his book. Now, according to the appeal, it can be true that Amanda Knox had gone out that evening.

They quote from Knox’s memoriale too; they pick all the sentences in which Knox appears to say that she was out and avoid those in which she says that she had been watching Amelie together with Sollecito (from 6:30 to 9:10 pm). If she wrongly remembers something, now, it’s “a lie.” When Sollecito doesn’t remember, it’s because he smoked weed… “Acquit me because I smoked a joint,” a very particular defense. Will he find such an open-minded judge in Cassation? It’s not exactly the place where many 1968 ex-hippies ended up, but you can never know…

The appeal even embraced the impressive prosecution theory that Knox exchanged one black man for another black man!

So, again, they don’t make decisions, they maintain both hypotheses, that the statements are unreal and that they are true, that they are not admissible and that they are admissible…

And what do they use to demonstrate that Knox could have gone out? The Florence ruling, the ruling that they aim to destroy! In other words, the ruling is wrong, but when it says that Knox went out it may be right…

So, they kind of ally themselves with the ruling that convicted Sollecito, and with the prosecution. With their best enemies.

But, can it really be said that Knox was outside when she received Lumumba’s message? Let’s see.

The problem of the wrong geolocation of Knox’s text message, already solved in 2007

So, the Sollecitos are so happy that the Florence ruling claims that Knox was out when she received the text message from Lumumba (on the grounds that her cellphone hooked the tower of Perugia-center, not of Perugia-Garibaldi). Instead of including this interpretation among the mistakes in the Florence ruling, Sollecito’s defense decided to use it for their purpose of separating Raffaele’s position from Amanda’s, and eventually having only her convicted.

I remember that we had to face this problem in the first days of the case, when the great prosecutor convinced the arresting judge that the murderer of Meredith Kercher was Patrick Lumumba… To confirm that claim, the prosecutor’s phone consultant provided the data showing that the cellphones of Lumumba and Knox had hooked the tower of Perugia-center, which was the one best serving Piazza Grimana (the cottage), and not, respectively, for Lumumba the best tower for the pub (where he was saying he was) and for Knox the best tower for Sollecito’s house (where she was saying she was). When it then was proven that Lumumba was, instead, at the pub, and Knox in Corso Garibaldi (in or nearby Sollecito’s house), it became clear that their cellphones had hooked the tower that was half-way between them. That’s how the network works. All things that the Florence judge couldn’t know, having missed that analysis in 2007. That’s why he could resurrect those old phone data of Knox (without those of Lumumba, which are not in the trial) and could interpret them in the wrong way. Bongiorno also wasn’t with us in 2007 (she will step into the case way after Lumumba exited it). And that’s probably why, instead of contesting the wrong interpretation from the Florence judge, she’s relying on it.

Interesting that in order to give faith to the Florence version, Sollecito’s lawyer has to forget another witness. Jovana Popovic, the woman who provided proof that Amanda Knox was in Sollecito’s house at 5:45 pm, and that a “visibly happy” Amanda Knox was again in Sollecito’s house at 8:40 pm, certainly with Raffaele Sollecito. Which matches exactly with what Knox always said –in her memoriale, for instance– that she had left the cottage at 5 pm, together with Sollecito, to go watch Amelie, and, with what the defense proved, that Amelie was watched at Sollecito’s house between 6:30 and 9:10 pm.

Everything matches perfectly; we indeed know as well why Knox appeared so smiling and pleased to Popovic at 8:40, since she wrote about it before the witness Popovic came out: because she had just received Lumumba’s text that freed her for the night, and she started jumping on the bed for the happiness of having to not go to work. So, Popovic, the witness who provides a confirmation of Knox’s version, but of Sollecito’s version too, is totally forgotten, not mentioned at all in the complex of Sollecito’s appeals.

 Sollecito’s defense made a huge effort, hundreds of complicated pages in the appeal… a media campaign… all spent in the attempt to convince judges that Amanda Knox could have gone out that evening.

What a pity that this monumental work, this huge investment, can be thrown away in one second, simply by remembering the witness Jovana Popovic, and the “the Amelie of Seattle,” as Bongiorno herself was calling Knox when she knew that, that evening, Knox convinced Sollecito to watch Amelie together. That’s indeed where Sollecito and Knox were that evening, watching Amelie. Unless Sollecito watches chicky movies alone… or, unless we want to hypothesize Knox as a spinning top, that one moment is at Sollecito’s house, next moment is in Perugia center, and in another moment is again at Sollecito’s house…. Why not? It’s possible. If someone were dropping her here and there with a helicopter…

Talking seriously, we were there at the beginning and we know, as seen above, why the cellphone “geolocation” is wrong.

So, never mind if Sollecito doesn’t remember now, never mind the “lies” that he now says Amanda told him, never mind the sentences his defense go around picking from papers: the fact that Amanda Knox was with Raffaele Sollecito at Raffaele Sollecito’s house IS PROVEN.

It’s not our business, we only analyze, but, as we can see, the separation strategy doesn’t work. Actually it provides a good laugh. Until you read about contamination you think, “They will be acquitted.” When you then read all that useless reasoning, all that endless quoting of illegal statements, aimed to separate what can’t be separated, your thought becomes: “Good luck.”

But maybe Sollecito will meet a very comprehensive judge, who, with an act of magnanimity, will give value only to the right arguments, will pretend not to have noticed the contradictions of an appeal half perfect and half suicidal, and close this absurd case, at least for him (even though, as we have seen, they are not separable at all, and considering their position as one, it’s easier for a court to rule that they are both innocent).

Good luck to Sollecito, to Knox, and to Italy, which doesn’t need a new obscurantism to jeopardize its image.

  • Noel Dalberth

    A fictional story glamorized by placing Amanda as the assasin when there is no evidence to even suggest she possibly participated. An illegal interrogation. The jumbled testimony by Curatolo and perjured testimony by Quintavalle which shouldn’t have been admissible or even considered. Throw in sloppy forensics, contamination & a quest to obtain a conviction at any cost and you have a collosal nightmare. I would hope when seeing this laid out
    before them, these judges confirm what we all know. Amanda & Raffaele are innocent.

    • Fredly

      Do Massei and Nencini even agree on time of death? We know they don’t agree on motive and murder weapon (Sollecito’s pocket knife for Nencini and Guede’s for Massei).

      • Noel Dalberth

        Its clear to me that Nencini cherry picked just enough to differentiate from Massei.

  • CorruptionInPerugia

    The defense should have focused on the Hellman and Zanetti Acquittal facts.

    Frank your description of the Sollecito appeal doesnt sound good, especially coming from someone like you who is more aware of the Italy perspective.

    Using the Hellman/Zanetti acquittal facts is using the systems own paperwork, not outsiders yelling about opinions. To me letting the system paperwork speak on its own would have been more powerful for the Higher Courts to accept the acquittal, the Italian Systems own “reasonable doubt” verdict, a fact the Italian Courtroom and its lay judges released them says it all, and with more clarity for the Judges who are too busy to understand.

  • Fredly

    How about Massei’s absurd argument that it could take food 7 hours to begin digesting to the duodenum? How about 6 picograms being the new low threshold for low copy DNA, even though the “expert” had no training in low copy testing?

  • Niteangel

    Frank makes some very interesting points, and brilliant analysis as always. I too was deceived to see that Raffaele used details that were either debunked (the towers, geolocation), and others that shouldn’t have been admissible at all to begin with (both their signed statements from Nov 5/6 2007). I too noticed the fact that he says he “doesn’t remember” because he smoked pot, yet Amanda, who also smoked pot, is supposed to remember everything from that evening, something is not quite right here. I too noticed that by undermining Amanda’s alibi he undermines his own. I understand that being in Italy, the possibility to be put in prison is very real for him, as there is no ocean between him and the Court room and Italian police, but to rely on such details, either debunked or inadmissible (or should have been) to, as Frank says “save his ass”, while throwing Amanda under the bus, is simply not something I was expecting from the guy who wrote a book called “Honor bound”, and of whom I had such a high opinion. This said, I believe that they are both 100% innocent, and I hope the Court will take the only possible, and honest, decision: Acquittal (or drop the charges altogether). My heart goes out to them and I wish them good luck. And thank you Frank, what can I say, you’re the best.