Five Cassation judges were not fooled by pushers, tramps, words and conjectures

Triumph of Justice in Rome
Triumph of Justice in Rome

Frank Sfarzo reporting from Italy

I always told people to relax and keep imagination at leash, because by following a case from faraway you risk to get things wrong. I always suggested to Mignini not to believe what the cops were telling him. I always suggested to friends and colleagues not to believe what Mignini was telling them.

I always suggested to the family of Meredith Kercher and Patrick Lumumba not to invest a penny on Mignini’s theories. They didn’t want to listen. What they have now is not the millions someone convinced them they could have, but eight years of legal expenses to pay, a fortune.

People following, or I should say imagining, the Amanda Knox case from faraway, were talking about extradition.

That was the only problem that concerned the observers (certainly not in these columns): if the extradition of Amanda Knox would have been granted or not. As if she had been already convicted. As if the Court of Cassation were a pure formality. As if Cassation judges were a bunch of naive people, who had spent their lives studying for, in the end, what? Being fooled by the delusions of a crazy tramp… Or were the ones who, for some mysterious reason, needed to save the faces of their lower colleagues… Or were obligated, as all insiders guaranteed, to comply with the ruling about Guede!

I have explained why the Cassation of two years ago overturned the acquittal: not because they were a gang of mafiosi… but because an area of the knife hadn’t been tested, and, from their perspective, that had to be done.

Also, they read in the ruling about Rudy Guede that Knox and Sollecito were involved too, and, from their perspective, that hypothesis had to be verified.

We know the case from reality, not from papers, so we know that their perspective was wrong, but they ordered a new trial in, let’s say, good faith, thinking that the DNA on the knife could have been found and, after that, all other indications of guilt could have been “osmosized.”

They certainly couldn’t imagine that the lower court would have “osmosized” everything even after the DNA on the knife wasn’t found! 

So, the real injustice wasn’t done in the 2013 Cassation, but in the Florence appeal, which didn’t acquit Knox and Sollecito after that last doubt, on request of the court of Cassation, had been cleared.

Only the final result counts. What’s fun about convicting with no proof? What’s the point of celebrating for having had someone convicted? Don’t you know that there’s next Court to overturn you?

But what’s the point in convicting without proof if then there’s the Cassation again? There was full evidence that the Florence ruling was wrong and unjust. And that’s what the Cassation is there for: to correct wrong rulings coming from the lower court. I didn’t have any reason to think they wouldn’t have done it. That’s why yesterday’s verdict was nothing sensational but the natural and obvious outcome that I was expecting (see: Chris White, Daily Mail, March 23 2015).

After all the injustice suffered, even defense lawyers had lost confidence. The theory brought by lawyers and seasoned journalists, that Cassation was deemed to comply with the ruling about Guede, was for me a judicial aberration away from any logic, a superstition that insinuated itself into the minds of insiders, a professional hazard, an unnatural concept, simply incomprehensible.

Sollecito’s lawyers looked as if they were thinking the judicial system wanted to convict Amanda Knox (but why? I never saw any clue suggesting that). Therefore, to have Raffaele acquitted, it was necessary to separate the two positions and accept something from the Florence ruling: that Knox that evening had gone out (even though it was instead proven that she was at Sollecito’s house watching Amelie).

The word of the “EXPERT:” “Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were then convicted in Florence, and next year the Court of Cassation will certainly uphold it.” – Perugia Prosecutor General Giuseppe Galati (author of the appeal against the acquittal), talking to the local journalists in 2014 

It was all imagination, fears and superstitions. Supreme Court judges, instead, were waiting for them only to see if the Florence ruling was correct or was wrong, and if it was wrong they would have done the job we pay them for: overturn it.

There was still the risk that Knox and Sollecito could have found a judge like the one of the lower court, but that was at least statistically improbable. Hellmann and Zanetti, indeed, couldn’t be the only good judges in Italy, and it was time, in the course of all those infinite trials, to meet some of their kind again. Indeed it happened. The Cassation judges didn’t separate any positions, they just overturned what had to be overturned.

A victory of youth 

It was wonderful to see the five judges at work, their attention, their respect for all parties, their enthusiasm, their youth (since even the elderly ones looked as if they were young inside). They didn’t give the impression of having already decided in one sense or another, or of having left the case to the relating judge, but to have all studied it, for real. And if you study the case, and you are honest, you can only acquit, since against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, as we know, not one single indication of guilt exists. As we know, indeed, the indications of guilt were simply declared, but they didn’t exist in fact. And I had no reason to think that these judges weren’t honest. Indeed they turned to be honest in person, five men of honor, the real essence of Italy.

That unbearable urge to fight injustice 

The bit of body language you could notice was revealing. While hearing the conjectures produced by the Florence ruling, some of the five looked as if they were shaking from trying not to betray their indignation. On the other hand, when defense lawyers would explain those absurdities, they would all show interest.

You can tell they were motivated by the unbearable urge to fight an injustice, to give life back to the two unfortunate youths, and to restore the image of Italy, which had been jeopardized by a verdict that scandalized the world.

The perception abroad, indeed, was that all the injustices suffered by Knox and Sollecito were perpetrated by “Italy.” But it’s not like that; the responsible ones are specific people who don’t represent at all the spirit of a whole country.

Italy is not Mignini, not Nencini, not Curatolo, not the Perugians who were protesting in the street against the acquittal of the two youths.

The face of Italy is the judges of the first appeal, Claudio Pratillo Hellmann and Massimo Zanetti, the scientists Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti, and the ones we just met in Cassation, the president Gennaro Marasca, the relator Paolo Bruno, and the three other judges of the panel: the face of honesty, of justice, and of respect. This is the Italy that I know, the Italy I fight for.

Bruno is a bit unstable on his legs, and when I saw the youngest judge of the panel help him walk toward the chamber, I thought that that was the symbol of this historic day: the experience and the youth, the wisdom and the enthusiasm, advancing together, in Italy.