Monday, May 9, 2011

Help Win the Freedom of Amanda Knox

Who is Amanda Knox? She is a young American college student wrongfully convicted in Perugia Italy of murder. While there is not a shred of evidence to sustain her conviction, nor was there at trial, she was prosecuted by an incompetent prosecutor with a political agenda and history of similar misconduct. Italy is not known for an effective police or judicial system, and it clearly failed this young innocent college student.

Why should you care? First, she is a young American girl, and she could be your daughter or sister, and next time, perhaps it will be. Second, she is an innocent American facing injustice and looking at spending the rest of her life in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Lastly, she is innocent, and an injustice anywhere, as it was said, is an injustice everywhere.

We all know that innocent Americans were wrongfully imprisoned in Iran (and they also deserve our support) and God knows how many innocent people, including perhaps Americans, are wrongfully imprisoned in North Korea. But we expect that of these totalitarian dictatorship where the rule of law is totally absent. We think of Italy as a western, democratic country where the rule of law prevails. History teaches us otherwise. It is closer to Columbia or Mexico. They have great difficulty prosecuting major criminals like the Mafia, and even Judges and prosecutors who try to prosecute these criminals are often assassinated. Corruption and incompetence are rampant. Even the Italian Prime Minister seems not only to have legal problems, but to be “above the law.”

On a personal note, of all the countries I have traveled to, including Mexico, China, France, England, etc., Italy is the only country where I was the victim of crime, and within an hour of my arrival. My wallet and passport were stolen, and such thefts are a common occurrence and the police are indifferent and ineffective in dealing with this. As Mayor Rudolf Giuliani realized when he was mayor of New York City, preventing low level crimes like these, so called “quality of life” crimes, was the first step in creating a climate where more major crimes would not be tolerated. Italy has surrendered, in many respects, its efforts at all levels of effectively combating crimes.

The prosecutor in this case is clearly responsible for procuring the wrongful conviction. There is no meaningful evidence against Amanda Knox except a coerced confession. The DNA evidence is at worst, meaningless, and at best, exonerates her. There is no credible eyewitness testimony which implicates her. The key and main eyewitness has recanted. He was a homeless man addicted to and using heroin. He has recently admitted that, contrary to Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini’s statements, this eyewitness was at that time under investigation for narcotics trafficking, which investigation was coincidentally dropped [clearly in exchange for his testimony.] This alone would be grounds for a mistrial in the US [not disclosing a quid pro quo for the testimony of a witness, much less a critical witness whose veracity and even memory were clearly in doubt.]

Another key difference between the USA and Italy was that, during the trial, the Italian Press ran wild with false, prejudicial accusations which the jury was readily and extensively exposed to every evening during the trial. Even the Italian Prosecutor, who was so biased against Amanda Knox, admitted that the stories in the Italian Press were complete fabrications (of course all of which condemned Amanda Knox and falsely accused her, among other things, of being involved in satanic rituals and of purchasing bleach to destroy evidence at the crime scene.)

That the confession was coerced and false was proven by several clear and convincing evidence. First, many of the facts in her confession have been proven to be untrue. She explained that she was beaten and interrogated for something like 36 hours by a bully prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, and deprived of water. We know that people will confess to anything given the right pressure and methods.

Second, that such wrongful interrogation techniques were used is evidenced by a separate unrelated and similar prior occurrence which strongly suggests that Amanda Knox’s version of the coercion, and her explanation for a false confession, are true. A US author (living temporarily in Italy), as interviewed on May 9, 2011 on CNN, [See CNN's Coverage of Amanda Knox story] was writing a book on a serial killer in Italy. The same prosecutor outrageously accused him of being the serial killer and used the same interrogation techniques on the reporter. The prosecutor has denied he ever used these techniques. While the reporter had enough skepticism and fled Italy immediately, Amanda Knox believed, to her detriment, in the Italian system of justice. Clearly, Prosecutor Mignini lied, and does use these coercive interrogation techniques. Accordingly, Amanda Knox’s explanation in her recantation of her alleged confession is credible, and Prosecutor Mignini’s defense of the credibility of the confession, and his denial of his abusive interrogation techniques, are not credible.

Second, other wrongful investigative techniques used by the same Italian prosecutor caused him to be criminally convicted of “Abuse of Office” and receive a 16 month suspended sentence.  Italian Prosecutor Mignini was under investigation for this prior misconduct at the time he investigated the Amanda Knox case, had the motivation to, need for, and predilection to "rush to judgment" and find somebody to quickly accuse for the crime to rescue his severely tarnished reputation. Then having accused that person, he had even greater motivation to make sure the prosecution was successful He still has the same motivation to ensure that the  conviction be upheld (it is now under appeal).

If all of the above were not bad enough, prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, admitted that he effectively made a “rush to judgment” when he claimed that he knew, the minute he saw Amanda Knox, that she was involved in the murder. This was because she, among other things, kissed her boyfriend and at one point in the multi-week investigation appeared happy. Again, this is exactly the type of “rush to judgment” which often results in injustice. It is the reason the parents of Jon Benet Ramsey retained lawyers immediately. It is the reason everyone should, if ever questioned by the police in a matter where they might be a suspect, regardless of their guilt or innocence, immediately and persistently insist on exercising their fifth and sixth amendment rights to remain silent and to have a lawyer, respectively. This is true whether you are totally guilty or 100% innocent.

What should you do?

Write the Italian Embassy and Italian Mission to the UN and demand the immediate release of Amanda Knox. If you are so inclined, boycott travel to Italy, and inform the Embassy and Mission that you will do so, until Amanda Knox is free.

Here are the addresses:

Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Embassy of Italy
3000 Whitehaven Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Tel.: (202) 612-4400 - Fax: (202) 518-2151

Italian Mission to the United Nations
Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations
Two United Nations Plaza, 24th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Tel. (212) 486-9191 - Fax: (212) 486-1036

Some other links if you are interested in this story:

Update August 1, 2011

In my original post almost three months ago, I stated that, "The DNA evidence is at worst, meaningless, and at best, exonerates her. That is because I was paying attention to the evidence submitted at the original trial. Unfortunately, the Italian Jury, Judges and Italian Prosecutor Mignini (who wanted to convict Amanda Knox for his own selfish corrupt reasons regardless of the truth of her innocence) were not paying attention to the evidence.

Last week, after this poor girl has been languishing in an Italian prison for years, her case is finally having an appeal. Fortunately, unlike the USA system (and probably because Italian trials are so bad), an appeal in Italy is like a new trial. In the USA, one has to show error which really couldn't have been attacked at the original trial. Despite public perceptions, it is much harder to win on appeal in America. In fact, it is rare to overturn a jury verdict in a criminal prosecution.

In the appeal, the DNA evidence again came under scrutiny. This time, it was made even more obvious that both the results of the DNA tests and the methodology by which the DNA was collected were flawed, in other words, did not in any way prove Amanda Knox was guilty. If anything, the absence of DNA tended to prover her innocent.

Let's hope that the Italian Judicial System finally "gets it" and this poor innocent girl is finally freed and some way can be found to compensate her for the wrongful prosecution, imprisonment, and conviction she has endured, as well as the resulting financial and emotional suffering she and her friends and family have endured.

As an aside, it seems prosecutor Mignini is really out of his mind, and it seems that freedom of speech and press are selectively banned in Italy. I have heard, but not investigated, that Prosecutor Mignini has sued Amanda Knox's mother and/or brought charges against her, and has done the same thing to other bloggers and commentators. This, if true, is incredible, as he did nothing as the Italian press published, during Amanda Knox's first trial, many highly prejudicial and factually false stories about Amanda Knox which prosecutor Mignini admitted (during the trial) were entirely false but did nothing to silence the papers or correct their reporting. I think Prosecutor Mignini should replace Amanda Knox in prison when she is finally released.

We are the people who have the courage to stand up to the wrong of our country and make it right!
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    1. Nice blog David. You covered a lot of ground in a very succinct and cogent fashion and managed to hit the highlights well. In following my interest in this case, I’ve come to do quite a bit of research on false convictions. Amanda Knox is not alone. Through the work of organizations like the Innocence Project, hundreds of people convicted and serving sentences for crimes they never committed have been freed. As these organizations are only able to take on a small handful of the cases submitted to them, I think it’s safe to say that those exonerated to date only represent the tip of the iceberg. The more I read and learn the more it has become clear to me that false convictions are not random adorations, but rather result from a predictable pattern of behavior and circumstances that seem to repeat themselves in false conviction cases. Nowhere are these patterns of behavior and circumstances more evident than in the case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito - innocent and naïve suspects whose very innocence makes them inclined to cooperate with police, institutional confirmation bias that pursed a hunch to the exclusion of the evidence and common sense, false confession, false eyewitness testimony, shifting theories of the crime designed to explain away emerging exculpatory evidence, unwillingness on the part of authorities (prosecutor, police, judges, juries) to admit that the system just didn’t work and they were wrong. If following the Knox case and agitating for her exoneration puts a spotlight on these patterns, the assistance we provide to her now may well protect our own children (and each others’ children) from such abominations in the future.

    2. This is shocking. There was a documentary on the discovery channel in which it took 2 hours to coerce a false confession to murder from someone who was actually in Brazil during the week of the murder (in America). He confessed, but there was no doubt that he was innocent.

    3. I can't believe she is still in jail. Did you see how another mobster was arrested, finally, in Italy, but he had a fortified hideout, like Pablo Escobar, and the police all wore masks, just like in Columbia. You are right. Italy is becomming a failed state.

    4. I am also familiar with the story and we all should rally upon this injustice and donate money to the families of Knox and her boyfriend and boycott travel to Italy.

      Maria [an Italian American and mother of a college student]

    5. Amanda Knox is innocent. The prosecutor if guilty of prosecutorial misconduct. This is 100 percent clear!!!!!!!!

    6. It is very encouraging to see your blog and all of this work you've done. I am amazed and grateful. There are more and more people who are standing up and saying, "THIS IS WRONG". We need to keep educating people because people want to know the facts. I'm going to pass this along anywhere I can! :)

    7. CNN is airing a documentary about Amanda Knox on Saturday June 4, 2011 at 8:00 PM, 11:00 PM, and on Sunday June 5, 2011 at 2:00 AM [in the USA on Eastern Standard Time] for any one interested. The show is entitled "Murder Abroad: Amanda Knox." It may run in other countries at other dates and times.

      I haven't seen it and don't know if it is accurate or what its point of view is. Amanda Knox is clearly innocent, and most definately there is insufficient evidence to support her conviction.

      On another note, I have received many private e-mails. One of which pointedly agreed that Italy is a failed state like Columbia. I am also, for whatever reason, getting a lot of hits to this post from all over the world, including Italy. I really hope someone who is in a position to affect things in Italy is searching the Internet to ascertain US public oppinion and will take into account the tremendous outpouring of support for Amanda Knox, in this Blog, hundreds of others, as well as numerous websites, and free this poor girl. [I use the word "girl" because she is a mere college student, not in the sexist context.]

      Thanks and lets all work together.
      David M. Ginsberg

    8. Some comments about my blog appeared on another web/blog site "Free Amanda Knox." Here is the link.

    9. It is amazing that there would be so much debate about your blog on abother blog.

    10. CHH just aired another documentary on Anderson Cooper's show about Amanda Knox on July 1, 2011. It seems that the appeal is ongoing as we speak (or as I write this.) I didn't watch the entire show, as much of it was a repeat of the prior show which you referenced. But at the beginning, they said something about evidence being introduced just yesterday in the appeal [which we already knew and was one of the reasons you claimed she was innocent] which tended to prove that there was no evidence to convict her. It seemed like a positive procedural development (although we who have been following the case already knew all about this).

    11. Well, the evidentiary phase of the case is over. We shall see on Monday or Tuesay whehter my analysis at the beginning was corret. On the one hand, the motions for acquital (or whatever they are called in Flordida) at the close of the case and also at the close of the prosecutor's case seemed to indicate that my analysis was correct. The unusual and inexplicable behaviour of Jose Baez may indicate that "anything goes." We will see if he ties it all together in closing argument and does what I predicted, or wastes his argument and confuses the jury with the remaining BS he argued in his opening and the wasted evidence he put on and/or challenged.

      Some lawyers feel that a case is won or lost with jury selection. Others argue that it is won or lost in the opening. I have always believed it is won or lost at closing, although every case is is different.

      Certainly, when doing jury selection in a death penalty qualified jury, the defense is hampered in its jury selection. In reality, they should get more liberal challenges for cause and additional strikes.

      In any criminal trial, due to the proseciution's requirement of "proof beyond reasonable doubt," it is always easier for the defense to damage the prosecution's case in closing. The entire evidentiary phase can be viewed as laying the foundation for the argument that the prosecution did not meet its burden of not only proving the defendant guilty, but or proving it beyond reasonable doubt." To quote one of my favorite expressions from one of my favorite movies, "Time Will Tell."

      Does anyone know the name of that movie?

      David M. Ginsberg

    12. Lat Comment was directed to the Casey Anthony Blog post, sorry.

      David M. Ginsberg

    13. I am incredulous that the prosecutor is actually getting Court Orders shutting down certain blogs critical of him when the press, being totally free to write incriminating fiction about Knox and her boyfriend during the trial (things which even the prosecutor himself admitted were untrue) helped caused this wrongful conviction, and this same prosecutor did nothing to stop the press or even attempt to get the truth out. How terrible is Italian justice. Let him come here and try to shut down your blog and the many websites and blogs like yours.


    14. However wrong the Italian system is, I think the U.S. system has many issues too.