November, 2007. On the ancient stone streets of Perugia, tabloid newspapers came to life and danced with one another like the broomsticks in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Amanda Knox had been imprisoned.
She was not framed. Italian authorities instead created a modern, real-life version of The Emperor’s New Clothes, threw in a little Monty Python, and asked us — and a grieving family — to go along with it.
They didn’t try to fool anyone.
The worst happens. Earl Washington, Anthony Yarborough, and Todd Willingham spent 60 years and more imprisoned and innocent. The tale of Todd Willingham will harrow up your soul and freeze your blood — if it doesn’t, you may not be human.
You may wish to open the door to Todd’s jail cell. You cannot, ever. You may think nothing could be worse than this and you may be right. On the other hand, the Knox case might change your mind.
Amanda Knox went to prison as a tabloid-fueled gag. Police had a strong desire to keep her locked up for the first 26 years of her adult life and they enlisted for this worthy endeavor the aid of her boyfriend of one week. He said no so they put him away too.
It was all done in broad daylight.
In March 2015, Italy’s highest court told the emperor to please get dressed. Nothing changed. As of February 2017, the Italian courts won’t even compensate the boyfriend. This despite the fact that even by the impossibly low standards set by this case he was an innocent bystander: no curves, no catchy nickname.
But it gets worse still.
The bitterest dregs here are poison. Twenty-one-year-old Meredith Kercher died in agony. Then, her mother, father, sister, and two brothers — each one of them deferential to a fault — were used like theater lights to illuminate an international farce. Today, five people will live out the rest of their lives without their beloved Meredith all the while believing she died because Amanda Knox was looking for a cheap thrill.
The book is closed, the poison still flows, and the person whose stupidity killed Meredith has been promoted.
Die ich rief, die Geister,
Werd ich nun nicht los.
[I summoned them, the Spirits,
I will now never be free.]
— Goethe, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
On 7 November 2007, the chief of Perugia’s police force, Arturo de Felice, told an international crowd of reporters everything. The following is a paraphrase.
She tried to tell us she was at her boyfriend’s house. We decided she was lying. We based our decision on facial expressions and body language. We know we’re right. We demanded Ms. Knox see things our way. We broke her. We broke her boyfriend. We did not record the interrogations. We have signed documents. We have a scenario. We know exactly what we’re doing.
*Felice did not actually say he and his officers “broke” Knox. He used the Italian word “crollata” — crumbled — to describe Knox’s reaction to the interrogation.
Circostanza Richiedeva un Rimprovero
On 1 November 2007 at 9 pm, Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student, arrived home to what should have been an empty house in Perugia — her American roommate, Knox, and two Italian roommates were away. But the house wasn’t empty. Within a half hour, Meredith lay on her bedroom floor, her throat slashed. Blood filled her lungs and she drowned before she could bleed to death.
The next morning, Knox and Sollecito discovered something terribly wrong at Amanda’s house and made a series of frantic phone calls. Soon, several people arrived at the house, deeply worried: Meredith was not answering repeated cell phone calls; the door to her bedroom was locked. The first police to arrive didn’t think the situation warranted breaking down the door. Someone unofficial smashed it open anyway and discovered the body.
In the succeeding days, police zeroed in on Knox. They questioned her, watched her stretch in the waiting room, and tapped her cell phone. Finally, after midnight on 6 November, interrogators told her they knew she had been at her house the night of the murder and if she didn’t remember, she would be considered an accomplice and imprisoned for decades. Officer Rita Ficarra delivered two slaps to the back of her head — “REMEMBER!”
It wasn’t long before Knox “remembered” meeting her employer, Patrick Lumumba, at a basketball court at 9 pm and going with him to her house where Lumumba first had sex with and then killed Meredith. At this point, the interrogators celebrated, hugging and congratulating one another and Rita Ficarra apologized — “I was just doing my job.”
But that’s Knox’s story. Many people regard another version, the tea and pastry version of the interrogation, as more likely. In this version, Knox was “trattata bene” and given “camomilla calda” and “brioche dalla macchinetta.” This was Officer Monica Napoleoni’s sworn testimony.
Ficarra likewise said Knox was treated with “gentilezza e cortesia.” Knox was allowed to sleep and was given breakfast. At certain points, Ficarra admitted, Knox was “trattata con fermezza e severità,” but this was only because “circostanza richiedeva un rimprovero” — circumstances required a reprimand.
Was she minacciata — threatened? “No.”
What about schiaffi — slaps? “No, assolutamente, no.”
What really happened? Why did Knox say Lumumba killed Meredith when she knew he was working that night? Did police really lie to her? Did they really theaten to lock her up for decades? Did Ficarra really hit her and then apologize? Are pastries from a police station machine ever worth eating?
Sometimes truth is mysterious and elusive. Sometimes not.
Here is the gentle, courteous Rita Ficarra.
Here is the kind bearer of brioche and chamomile, Officer Monica Napoleoni.
Questo ci Sembrava un Appuntamento
It is certain that at 1:45 am on 6 November 2007, Amanda Knox was at the police station in Perugia where she crumbled or collapsed or buckled (“crollata”). She then signed a document confirming the Lumumba-dunnit theory. An extremely surprised Patrick Lumumba was arrested a few hours later.
Knox’s employer may have been the least likely suspect in all of Perugia if not all of Italy, but, unfortunately for him, he had exchanged texts with his pretty waitress. Knox, the uninhibited girl; Knox, who performed splits on command; Amanda Knox, Meredith Kercher’s beguiling coinquilina.
Meredith was still alive when Amanda ominously texted her boss, “Ci vediamo più tardi” — we’ll see each other later. One hour later, a young woman’s life ended.
Lumumba’s original message was nowhere to be found. However, Amanda’s full reply, “Certo. Ci vediamo più tardi. Buona serata,” remained on her phone. Police connected the dots.
Officer Anna Donnino explained the reasoning process: “aveva ricevuto il messaggio . . . e da qui è scaturito il tutto” — she had received the message . . . and from here, emerged the whole.
Ficarra clarified: “questo ci sembrava un appuntamento” — this seemed to us an appointment.
For the investigators of Perugia, Amanda’s text was the smoking gun. Public prosecutor Giuliano Mignini used it as the centerpiece of his Decreto di Fermo — the official arrest decree. The text message, Mignini wrote, “conferma” that Knox was with Lumumba when he killed “la vittima.”
Mignini and others involved in the investigation suspected Knox from the beginning. Seeing the text, seeing that the clever-but-not-quite-clever-enough Knox had not entirely covered her tracks, the ever-vigilant investigators knew they had her — there would be no escape for the deadly seductress.
Suddenly stampeding like a herd of corybantic bulls, police quickly broke the pretty waitress, arrested the nonplussed bar owner and the geeky boyfriend too, and then and there commenced a Dionysian orgy of such extreme self-congratulatory excess that it surely — if records for this sort of thing are kept somewhere — broke every record in the book.
“CON PROFESSIONALITÀ E IMPEGNO MORALE, HANNO RISOLTO IL CASO.”
(Arturo de Felice, Chief of Police, Corriere dell’Umbria, 7 November 2007)
Stupid is as stupid does. The mystery of the idiom, see you later, was a trifle deep for the local talent. Knox’s signoff, buona serata, likewise failed to register. Lumumba’s habit of pouring drinks each night? Well, he could take some time off for a quick little murder, couldn’t he?
When Lumumba’s customers started showing up at the police station patiently explaining that Lumumba had been tending his bar all night, police realized they had made a small mistake. But they didn’t release Lumumba just yet.
Timing is everything.
The mentally ill burglar who tore open Meredith’s throat with a pocketknife had been nailed in Milan on 27 October. Milan police released him without charge; the next day he was home in Perugia, untouchable. Now Meredith was dead, the burglar-turned-murderer was on the run in Germany, three unlikely suspects were in jail, the tabloids were dancing in the streets, a grieving family had come to town, and “stupid” didn’t even begin to describe the responsible parties.
Perugian authorities — virtuosos all — improvised.
Two weeks passed. The maniac was caught. The day had come. The time was right. It was “rewrite day,” 20 November 2007. The bartender was released. Police now revealed to Meredith’s family and to the world the horror of Knox of Seattle.
Amanda Knox was a cold-blooded killer who had fooled the gentle purveyors of baked goods with her vile Lumumba accusation. Looking for a thrill the night after Halloween, she let a local burglar into her house. She and her boyfriend, together with the disturbed young man, killed Meredith. To cover up their participation, Knox and her boyfriend staged a crime scene that fit the burglar’s MO. Under pressure, Knox implicated Lumumba in a futile attempt to keep police from discovering the truth.
Millions believed this. Millions still believe it, including Meredith’s family and Patrick Lumumba. The day he was released, Lumumba spoke out against his former employee, saying she didn’t have a soul. Amanda’s lies, he said, had stained him forever.
Perugia police, pleased so far with their rewrite, added calunnia to Knox’s murder charge. Calunnia is Italian for slander.
Chutzpah is Yiddish for outrageous gall.
Una Qualche Nuova Sensazione
Laura and Filomena — the Italian coinquilini — knew all about chutzpah. After their roommate was murdered, they pulled themselves together and retained legal counsel the next day. Amanda, of course, knew the proverb, “When in Rome . . . ” perfectly well, but, charmingly, did not feel she required representation.
Knox’s willingness to answer questions sans avvocato was irresistible both to the local cops and to Edgardo Giobbi and his friends from the Rome-based Servizio Centrale Operativo: Knox was interviewed repeatedly over a three day period.
It was, Giobbi tells us, “una investigazione squisitamente di natura psicologica” — an investigation of a purely psychological nature. “We were able to establish colpevole (guilt) by particular observation of reazioni psicologica.”
The American student had no chance. During the final interrogation, Edgardo Giobbi waited down the hall behind a closed door while his fellow professionals broke Knox like she was the wine goblet at a Jewish wedding: “I remember clearly great wails, great cries, great emotional howls.”
Edgardo Giobbi told the court he had a pretty good idea why Knox was screaming: “She was giving Lumumba’s name . . . she recalled in that moment the specific episode.”
That Knox “recalled” — alone with Giobbi’s goons — a “specific episode” that had not happened was precisely what one would expect under the circumstances. What Knox did was the legal equivalent of handling the bodies of Ebola victims a mani nude.
Today you might cry, shrieking loudly so that the Knox of the past can hear you, “Quum Romae fueris, Romano vivite more!” But your words do not reach her though if they somehow could, if you had the power to send your sage advice into the past, you would do well to fear the darkness of unknowable consequences and desist.
What happened, happened.
The gladiatorum Romani broke the hippie-kid from Seattle and brought Giobbi her signature on a silver platter. They then marched to Lumumba’s house, awakened the innocent man, and took him at gunpoint from his wife and baby. Hours later, the bewildered bartender said something along the lines of, “What?! You think I killed Meredith? Are you nuts?”
The sun set, the sun rose, and Chief Felice convened his triumphant international press conference where he explained to rapt reporters how he and his fellow professionals had solved the Kercher murder before the forensics team could set up their microscopes.
While Felice spoke, the blood-soaked pillow in Meredith’s bedroom was yielding a palmprint already in police files. It wouldn’t be identified for two weeks.
Meanwhile, in its 14 November 2007 issue, Newsweek published Perugia’s Extreme Sex Murder.
We forced her to confirm our theory, but we can’t let you hear the recording because then you would know we shoved a fairy tale down her throat. — Chief of Police Arturo de Felice to the international press if you read between the lines.
The interrogation was not recorded and no lawyer was present; it is inadmissible. You have no forensics. Your suspects have no criminal history. If Lumumba’s bar was open, la sua teoria crollare. — Investigating judge Claudia Matteini to police in a world where suspects are innocent until proven guilty.
No one read between the lines. Matteini’s report converted the police theory to fact: the three suspects wanted to try “una qualche nuova sensazione” — violent sex. It all fit together: Lumumba’s bar had been closed for the night, the boyfriend’s pocketknife was the murder weapon, and Knox let the two men into her house using her key.
Here’s Arturo bragging about pinning Meredith’s death on Knox.
Here’s Claudia applying her reasoning powers to the police report.
Serviranno Ulteriori Valutazioni
An epic clash between the moron version of reality and simple logic ensued as the forensics team completed its work and the bar owner’s customers came forward. Patrick (aka Diya) Lumumba served drinks to and chatted pleasantly with a number of different people the night of 1 November. Lumumba had no idea that a short distance away, a young man was seeing his last glimmer of sanity doused with Meredith Kercher’s blood.
The palmprint on Meredith’s pillowcase belonged to Rudy Guede. A swab taken from Meredith’s vagina contained Rudy Guede’s DNA. Upon his arrest in Germany, three of Rudy Guede’s fingers showed partially healed wounds where his pocketknife had slipped during the attack.
At this stage, it can be considered correct that the murder weapon was the same knife Rudy Guede pulled on Perugia resident Christian Tramontano in early September. Tramontano reported the incident, but police did not send an officer to Tramontano’s home. When he went to the police station, he was told to wait in a long line of people. He returned to the police station three times before giving up.
Over the next few weeks, Felice’s little project broke into two buildings in Perugia. On October 27th, Guede was arrested in Milan while burglarizing a nursery school. Milan called Perugia: “We have Guede in custody and we have items from two previous burglaries.”
No one knows what Arturo de Felice told Milan or even exactly what was the nature of the communication between the two departments. All we really know is the Milan police put Guede on a train bound for a beautiful city full of college students.
Rudy Guede was not charged with any crime.
Five days later, Felice’s big mistake punched Meredith Kercher in the face and/or threw her face-first into furniture and/or grabbed her forcefully around the mouth and nose, tore a plug of hair out of her head, and repeatedly pressed a pocketknife against her throat. Meredith fought. Guede finally plunged the knife to its hilt and slashed without cutting the jugular.
Bruising on Meredith’s elbows, forearms, legs, and hips along with cuts on her hands told the story of her battle. Now all she could do was grasp Rudy Guede as she fought for each breath, as she fought to hold on to her most precious possession, her life.
Meredith’s clothing was blood-soaked and she was near death when Guede exposed her breasts and vagina. During the beloved daughter/sister’s last ten minutes, a deranged child with the strength of a grown man molested her and blood poured into her lungs. When she exhaled, a red mist floated into the room and tiny droplets of aspirated blood settled on her bare skin and on the furniture.
Meredith Kercher died of suffocation in Perugia, Italy at approximately 9:30 pm on 1 November 2007: the autopsy indicated death within three hours of dinner (6-7 pm) with friends. Once she was gone, Guede covered the body and looked for money. He left more DNA on Meredith’s purse, took her cash and credit cards, and, two days later, fled the country.
Guede was in Germany. Knox, Sollecito, and Lumumba were in jail. The young students had no idea what was happening. The bar owner was confidently, and legally, busting his way out of Felice’s jail with the help of customers who were practically storming the station. The tabloids were lining their pockets as if someone had left Fort Knox unguarded.
Meanwhile, police were busy: on 16 November, they identified the palmprint; on the 19th, one of Guede’s friends exchanged Skype messages with him from the police station. On the 20th, Guede was arrested, Lumumba was released, the rewrite made its debut, and Guede’s get-out-of-jail-free card was canceled. On 6 December, Rudy Guede was again put on a train returning him to Perugia. This time he was locked up.
Eight days later, a young woman who had dreamed of being a journalist was laid to rest near her home, 10 miles south of London. The young woman whose life had been cruelly taken from her was serenaded by her favorite music and mourned by hundreds physically present and millions around the world.
Guede mourned too. In his prison diary, written in Germany, he called Meredith “un fiore dolce e profumato” and “un angelo splendente.” Of himself he said, “non merito di vivere.”
Through closed eyes he was “vede tutto rosso.”
Only once before had he “vedere tanto sangue.”
Guede’s attack left Meredith suffocating: “La bocca piena di sangue . . .”
The “mundo brutto” of Guede’s childhood was never far from his thoughts. The mother he never had, he tells us, he loves and respects along with all women any of whom could, as far as Guede is concerned, be a mother: “rispetto molto le donne.”
With Guede in custody and the horrific crime solved, it was beyond obvious that Amanda and Raffaele were innocent. That didn’t matter to the ever-present Felice who said, with utmost seriousness, “Serviranno ulteriori valutazioni” — we will need further evaluation.
L’abbandona al suo Destino
Police had three signed statements — two from Amanda, one from Raffaele. The three statements were such obvious products of police coercion that they read like bad fiction. (Writing teacher: “No statement taken by real police would be so transparent; start over.”)
And yet the three statements became a kind of Torah of the Carabinieri — treated as sacred texts not only by the police but also by throngs of believers in and out of Italy.
Some sported high IQ’s, like Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who gleefully listed Knox’s “admission” that she was at the scene of the crime amongst the reasons she would be convicted were she tried in the United States. (Then he got nasty.)
Here’s the esteemed professor being interviewed.
Here’s the hysterical Knox being interrogated.
Yes-yes-I-remember-now-oh-my-God-I-let-Lumumba-into-the-house-I’m-so-confused-I’m-so-scared-he-could-have-killed-me-too . . .
*With this paraphrase, I tried to capture the ridiculousness of Knox’s actual statements. But there is no substitute for the real thing.
The original documents were in Italian. These are translations.
Ci vediamo did not mean Knox was going to leave her boyfriend’s apartment to meet Lumumba any more than it meant Lumumba’s bar would be closed for the evening. Knox did not meet Lumumba at the basketball court at 9 pm feeling confused; Knox did not let Lumumba into her house maybe before or maybe after Meredith arrived; Lumumba did not have sex with Meredith while Knox seems to have stayed in the kitchen; Lumumba did not kill Meredith after maybe threatening her or maybe not threatening her.
However, the skin color of Knox’s employer did match the skin color of the actual murderer. So Mignini now topped Felice. He said Knox accused Lumumba because she knew the actual perpetrator was black.
The Kerchers, along with the highly intelligent, extremely experienced, always well-informed Harvard professor and millions of other, less well-endowed people, accepted this.
Four years later, the president of the second court, Judge Hellmann, writing his motivation document, quoted Mignini on his way to throwing out the prosecutor’s wild illogic and sending Knox home to Seattle.
Hellmann eventually concludes that the interrogation of Knox happened exactly as police said it happened: they insisted she implicate Lumumba and she complied.
Judge Hellmann knows whereof he writes: his choice of words is a window into the surreal world in which the lovers found themselves — theater in a Perugia police station. Raffaele had to, as Hellmann puts it, l’abbandona al suo destino — abandon her to her fate — so that the show go on.
It was late on 6 November 2007 when Perugia cops improvised their little drama. The curtain rose for Act 1, Scene 1: “Why are you protecting that whore?” Thus began the long process of breaking Raffaele Sollecito. Meanwhile, Amanda Knox sat in the waiting room like a sacrificial lamb.
The abandonment scene would perfectly set up Amanda’s screaming climax in Act 1, Scene 2: “We know you were there.” But wait! Raffaele was resisting. So Ficarra, Napoleoni, and the rest turned to Amanda. Napoleoni had an inspiration: the bearer of brioche and chamomile decided to jump the gun just a bit and tell Knox Raffaele had abandoned her before it actually happened.
It worked. With a well-timed assist from Ficarra, Amanda snapped like a twig. Great. But in the other room, Raffaele continued to insist he and Amanda had been together all night. This was frustrating for the gentle police officers, but really, their improvisation was going quite well. Sure, the choreography was a little clunky — it was bound to be. This wasn’t exactly Broadway.
No matter. A couple of hours later, it was all smoothed out. At 3:30 am, police handed Raffaele a beautiful typewritten document. It said he and Amanda were at her house early in the evening on November 1st; it said they went into town around dinnertime; it said they separated after dinner — Knox met friends and Raffaele went home. Raffaele didn’t see Amanda again until 1 am.
Knox really had been away from Raffaele’s apartment, out with friends, and had not rejoined him until 1 am. This was easy to verify. Except for one thing.
That was the previous night, the night before the murder when Amanda celebrated Halloween without Raffaele. The Italian computer geek had not grown up with a “trick or treat” tradition, so October 31st was just another day to him; thus, he endured a few hours without his gift from God.
The innamorati were otherwise inseparable: Amanda basked in the glow of a young man’s first love — un colpo di fulmine Raffaele called it, a lightning strike, in Italy, love at first sight — and Raffaele lived a very pleasant dream.
Now, a week after meeting Amanda, Raffaele held his life in his hands. His timetable for Halloween was staring him in the face in black and white; it was being used for the night of the murder. The narrative smoothly shifted to the horror of 2 November as Raffaele had experienced it: the open door at Amanda’s house; the blood in the bathroom; the fear and confusion; the frantic phone calls; the attempts to break down Meredith’s bedroom door.
Coiled at the end of the document lay the coup de grâce: a single sentence devoid of context, standing alone, with no detail, no support. It was a beautiful sentence, a sentence in more ways than one as it rested quietly, sandwiched between minutia.
The police arrived. I’ve been lying to you at Amanda’s behest. I heard Amanda talking to the police.
*If you are intelligent, the lack of context of the middle sentence makes it funny. If you are not intelligent, then it is sacred text.
Here it is verbatim, with translation.
Exhausted, bullied, and no longer able to think straight, Sollecito read over “his” statement with bleary eyes: the Halloween timetable, the events of the terrible morning, the funny bit at the end. It looked okay — except for the end. He objected.
Suddenly, he says, the police, previously aggressive and harsh, became his best friends. His new pals told him it would be okay, they really needed him to sign the statement as written. He fell for it.
Exit, stage right. But you can’t go home.
Vorrei Ordinare due Pizze
Four long years followed. Can a signature strangle you? Can it haunt you? Raffaele tried to explain. Amanda went out on Halloween, NOT the next night when the city was filled with restful post-holiday silence. NO, Amanda hadn’t asked him to lie.
Over the years, police kept up the pressure — Raffaele later described it as game playing. One of their “games” was six months in solitary confinement. Raffaele refused to cooperate.
Police knew their case against Knox was weak and they knew Raffaele could make it for them. Raffaele understood this as did his entire family: the police wanted Knox, not him. He knew he could walk. But what kind of freedom would it be?
No. He wasn’t going to budge, not again, not this time, not in four years or ten or twenty.
If Raffaele Sollecito isn’t a hero, there is no such thing.
On the other hand, what if Raffaele’s claims about police games are nothing but filthy lies? Can we not know the truth? Just the day before the interrogation, Raffaele, you were in the waiting room of the police station. You said, in Italian, on the phone, with Amanda right next to you, “I want to order two pizzas.” Shazam! The room (and your phone) was bugged. Every word was captured, turned instantly into evidence. You, Raffaele Sollecito, were ordering pizza in the middle of a murder investigation!
The next day, Raffaele, you talked for five hours. You didn’t order pizza, but there is a recording — there must be. We needs must hear it! We lament deep within our hearts, we shout from balconies, from rooftops even: wherefore art thou lost audio?
We in the public eventually found out — at the second trial — that the maestros of Perugia had recorded forty thousand (39,952 actually) calls and texts made by Raffaele’s family. This was the magnificent flip side to the legendary “vorrei ordinare due pizze” interception. We in the adoring public swooned with awe at the feats of the great Perugians, true champions in their Colosseum, displaying recording prowess easily as inspiring as Katie Ledecky gliding through the water or Usain Bolt exploding out of the blocks.
The urge to drop to bended knee becomes overwhelming.
You must listen now, dear reader, to Queen’s We Are The Champions. Is it not a fitting dedication to those beautiful Perugians whose marvelous instruments captured the footfall of many an errant flea to say nothing of pizza with pepperoni? I daresay such wondrous consistency has never before been displayed by creatures who bear the burden of mortality. The fantastic power of the great Perugian listeners with their omnipresent bugs is — dare I say it? — of biblical proportions.
Indeed dearest Raffaele, the bugs envelop as does the Lord. As the Pharoah’s swarming soldiers were en masse swallowed up by the Red Sea, so the teeming arrested souls in your city are awash in their recorded infamy. How then, my Raffaele, how can we not have heard each and every word from your youthful lips on that fateful day? Again, I say, shouting overloud so that all can hear my pained lament, “Wherefore art thou lost audio?”
Alas! Alas! Even our most heralded of champions, those whom we admire most, those to whom we raise our glasses in adoring toast, even . . . they . . . must . . . inevitably falter now and again.
And again and again.
In the end, Raffaele’s “Amanda was out” bombshell took its place as the perfect match for Amanda’s “Lumumba dunnit” revelation: precious words forever lost in the aether, gone . . . gone . . . gone.
In the land of Giuliano Mignini, Italy’s own Sherlock Holmes, interrogations may or may not be recorded, bar owners serve with one hand and murder with the other, wild guesses are like goddesses to be worshipped, and then, just when you think you’ve seen the worst, Halloween falls on November 1st!
Faced with the Halloween gambit and drawing her sword as Lumumba’s customers had done, Raffaele’s neighbor charged to the rescue. Her name was Jovana Popovic — she was a Serbian living in Italy to study medicine. She visited Raffaele’s apartment on the night of the murder — twice: Ms. Popovic spoke directly to Knox both times. She gave her testimony at the first trial. No one questioned Popovic’s reliability as a witness.
The “Popovic problem” was simply improvised away. Mignini had ordered that the temperature of the body not be taken upon discovery, so no firm time of death had been established. Mignini simply adjusted the assumed time of death forward, setting aside the autopsy evidence and relegating Popovic to irrelevancy. Mignini continued undeterred.
Una Regazza Molto Disinibita
Unrecorded interrogations. Motiveless suspects. False confessions. Impossible theories. Gross incompetence. There is a pattern here, an MO. World-class nutjob Giuliano Mignini was on the job.
This case was not the first Mignini meltdown. Three years before, in 2004, he decided he didn’t like the way author Doug Preston was covering an old murder case Mignini had likewise turned into an absurd farce with his nutty theories. Mignini figured he would let Preston know who was boss. Preston told 48 Hours about his chilling experience facing the lunatic of Perugia.
Preston is arguably tougher than Knox, but the bat-shit crazy public prosecutor and his minions did a number on the American author anyway.
Preston and his family left Italy immediately.
In the Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox, Mignini himself lets the truth be known. “Amanda era una regazza molto disinibita,” he says with perfect self-assurance. His self-portrait is beautiful really: a man poisoned by his own ego. Time and again producers Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn heard from Mignini of one overriding constant in his life: fantasies are truth.
Speaking of fantasies, Mignini spoke of his admiration for Sherlock Holmes. Italy’s brilliant criminal logician did not mention Monty Python, however. He should have. One day, whoever wrote the Burn the Witch skit may sue Mignini for plagiarism. If I am on the jury, I will find in favor of the plaintiff.
Mignini’s “nero per nero” logic, as wondrous as anything Sherlock Holmes with a lobotomy might have thought of, deeply convincing to millions and millions of people, was nevertheless not quite enough for a conviction, even in Italy.
Enter Patrizia. The great Patrizia Stefanoni, almost as scary as Mignini himself, would remedy the situation, take care of the unfortunate deficiency of evidence.
Police took a clean kitchen knife at random from Sollecito’s apartment and didn’t put any blood on it. Remember, framing was a no-no. They tested the knife and found no blood (TMB test), no DNA (Qubit fluorimeter), and no human residue (“species specific” test) on the blade.
Knox’s lovely hands had used the knife to cut bread. But it was what you might call a “triple negative” knife. That was bad: police needed a “double DNA” knife if they wanted to gaze into Knox’s clear blue eyes forever. Her finely sculpted DNA was on the handle, which was nice. Unfortunately, finding Kercher’s DNA on the blade would be a bit of a hurdle.
Police had nothing and they weren’t prepared to tamper with the evidence. What to do, what to do?
Again and again, the police lab had amplified Kercher’s DNA. It was an important part of the investigation, after all. Fifty samples or more underwent chain reaction. Each molecule gave rise to millions as PCR worked its unique magic. The fruit of a modern miracle, PCR-created, highly concentrated DNA is the key to forensic genetics. The super-concentrate does, unfortunately, have a tendency to become airborne.
And now, Amanda Knox, we’ll see about those splits you did at the police station.
Yes, a little amplified DNA goes a long way. Even a completely blank negative control, which should return nothing, will sometimes come back positive, with the tiniest of signals, when it is amplified using compromised equipment. So far, the police had nothing, but they had nothing to lose.
Police lab technicians used PCR to amplify the triple negative knife. A million times nothing is usually nothing. On the other hand . . . Bingo! The electropherogram matched Meredith Kercher. Of course, it was an extremely tiny signal, probably meaningless laboratory noise (aka contamination) but that didn’t matter. The monkeys were flying.
Back in the 1980’s, Peter Gill and others invented modern forensic genetics. In his 2014 book, Misleading DNA Evidence: Reasons for Miscarriages of Justice, Gill first presents a number of case studies in which well-meaning police, lab technicians, and judges were fooled by what looked like hard evidence, even to experts. Gill saves the flying monkeys in the Kercher case for the last chapter. Dr. Gill chooses his words carefully, but the final chapter of his book makes it quite clear the Kercher case is special: There was nothing to fool experts.
Police worshipped the triple negative knife with the beautiful Kercher-matching electropherogram; it had its own bodyguard. The Kercher family did not talk to Peter Gill; they still haven’t. The prosecution wielded their amoral lab technician who intoned the three magical letters D-N-A for them. The judge hid behind his robes. The prosecution was confident.
In court, Patrizia Stefanoni swore up and down that as far as she knew there was no contamination at all in her lab, ever. She explained in detail the careful procedures that were followed. All controls were performed; contamination risk was minimal. The robed man gave l’ultima parola: “Dr. Stefanoni’s testimony rules out that any laboratory contamination could have occurred.”
And that was that.
I Dati Grezzi Non Sono Disponibili
Stefanoni may not have been lying; we can prove nothing. On the other hand, let us say this: Ms. Patrizia isn’t getting anywhere near le porte del paradiso, ever.
Because four years later, when Stefanoni was finally asked by the second court to hand over the negative controls — the purposely blank samples that are always amplified alongside murder-most-foul breadknives, the scientific pages on which contamination telltales write their sad stories — she gave herself away.
No, I’d really rather not show you those. It’s such an awful lot of trouble. You don’t really need to see them, do you? Of course you don’t.
*She got away with this. She was not forced to turn over the data. She was not held in contempt or disciplined in any way.
Here is verbatim Stefanoni (translated) to delight the discerning reader.
Stefanoni’s epic evasions come from the letter she wrote to Judge Hellmann whose order she was flouting. Stefanoni was questioned in court about the little matter of the missing data files. Her testimony is priceless.
Let us say — diciamo — we’re not giving them to you. Ask all you want, moscerini insignificanti. Amanda Knox may get out of prison, but as for the negative controls — non vedranno mai la luce — they will never see the light of day.
*Stefanoni could have said it with these words; she would have still gotten away with it.
Here is Stefanoni’s testimony of 6 September 2011, verbatim, in the original Italian, with translation (page 43, Perito = Expert).
Dumped into the same black hole that hid Stefanoni’s raw data from public view was the recording of the interrogation. Knox was questioned in Perugia by expert interrogators who “knew” what had happened in Meredith Kercher’s bedroom one horrific night, but who couldn’t find l’interruttore on their own equipment.
Immaginare! It was il pulsante rosso all along!
Arturo de Felice and his staff and Patrizia Stefanoni and her staff have rooms specifically designated for convulsioni isteriche di risate.
Knox of Seattle
Not everyone is amoral. Amanda’s college years had passed her by when Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti of the University of Rome, real scientists, finally came to her and Raffaele’s rescue: they reviewed the DNA “evidence” at the request of the second court led by Judge Hellmann.
In their report, these specialists provide a wealth of careful scientific detail some of which is reproduced below. Looking at the forest, though, as opposed to the trees, Conti and Vecchiotti, diciamo, trashed Stefanoni, the police lab, everyone associated with the police lab, and all their ancestors.
The scientists’ stark statements, read with even cursory attention, tell us one amazing fact: Helen of Troy has nothing on Knox of Seattle.
What appears to be a vicious railroading of two innocent people could, theoretically, have been a long series of honest mistakes. Judge Hellmann, bless his heart, called one of the most egregious Stefanoni errors “an understandable memory lapse” in his motivation report. Who are we to disagree?
Stefanoni also stated in court that Meredith’s bra clasp collected six weeks after the murder had only Raffaele’s DNA on it. The bra clasp had DNA from Raffaele and several other men: multiple DNA traces had transferred to it while it sat in Meredith’s room week after week gathering dust; the traces could have come from any man who had ever been to the house. Conti and Vecchiotti caught Stefanoni’s “mistake.”
But Patrizia Stefanoni has nothing to worry about.
Since Judge Hellmann is the best the Italians have in the impegno morale department, it seems reasonable to expect that the woman whom I call, “The Moron Queen,” shall be safe in perpetuity from any unfortunate scrutiny.
Here she is in all her glory.
Police didn’t tamper with Sollecito’s clean knife and they didn’t plant any of Knox’s DNA in Meredith’s bedroom. A swab from the sink in the bathroom Amanda and Meredith had been sharing would do just fine. Amanda’s DNA was in the sink. Meredith’s DNA was in the sink. You can guess what they found.
In his motivation report, on pages 277 – 281, Judge Giancarlo Massei “explained” in excruciating detail why finding Knox’s DNA in her own bathroom was evidence of murder.
Massei knew all about the science. He knew determining when DNA was deposited is impossible. He knew any all the DNA in any sample is automatically mixed together. But “mixed DNA” just sounded too good: it had to be used.
Here is Massei pissing in your ear.
Paraphrase: We know it’s idiotic with no basis in science or fact or precedent or common sense to ascribe the slightest meaning to mixed DNA, but it fits our theory to do just that.
For human beings, the loss of a young woman whose dreams of a beautiful life dried red on the floor of her bedroom leads us to ask, “How could this have happened?”
For Giancarlo Massei, mixed DNA found in a shared bathroom used by an innocent person suffering in prison leads him to ask, “How can I exploit this?”
For human beings, a mentally ill burglar with a get-out-of-jail-free card ripping open Meredith Kercher’s throat is a horrific tragedy.
For Giancarlo Massei, the slightest sacrifice of status as he pursues his career within Italy’s judicial system is a horrific tragedy.
Maybe no one ever told Massei he was expected to be a human being. Or maybe “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was a true story and Massei is some sort of copy.
Massei, or whatever took over his body, concluded its discussion of mixed DNA with a statement so far outside the bounds of reason that it defies hyperbole.
Paraphrase: If she killed her then she would have left mixed DNA in the sink so since there was mixed DNA in the sink that means she killed her.
Giancarlo Massei has the same scruples as the king in Edgar Allan Poe’s Hop-Frog.
Perhaps the most grotesque part — no small accomplishment — of Massei’s long tribute to mindless evil appears between pages 282 and 284 of the motivation report.
The floor of Knox’s house was treated by police with luminol. Luminol is sensitive to microscopic amounts of many different subtances and some of Knox’s bare footprints appeared. The footprints were tested for blood in case Knox had murdered Kercher, stepped in her blood, and tracked it all over the house.
The tests for blood were all negative. For anyone else that would take care of the footprint “evidence,” but this is Knox of Seattle we are talking about. Here’s what Massei said about the negative tests (page 282).
Paraphrase: Negative is positive.
Next, Massei needed to show that other luminol-sensitive substances, such as household bleach and other cleaning agents, could be ruled out as the reason Knox’s footprints had been found in her own house.
With several paragraphs of word play, inane complication, and incoherent gibberish, Massei explained why the footprints had to be blood: reading through it is like having a sock stuffed into your mouth.
Here’s a painful sample from page 283: “It was not known when and by whom . . . cleaning . . . had been carried out. Furthermore, no one entering the house had declared that they had noticed any smell of bleach.”
Paraphrase: Housecleaning? Really? More like murder. You can smell bleach. Who cares if luminol can detect microscopic traces? Bleach is smelly. It really is. Plus, I don’t know about anything about any housecleaning and if I did I wouldn’t tell you. Am I making myself clear? Have I written enough yet? You know we’re going to find her guilty so why even bother to read the reasons? She’s guilty because she’s guilty and the footprints are blood because no one proved they are bleach. Any questions?
The test for blood (TMB or tetramethylbenzidine) is extremely sensitive — a few cells gives a positive result. In Italy, however, TMB isn’t a blood test at all; it isn’t even a chemical — it is an acronym for “Trial My Butt.” In Italy, the judge has full authority to ignore science and scientific reasoning and even to reverse the innocent until proven guilty standard. Jurors can advise, but have no power to prevent violent departures from reason and/or humanity.
Here’s what the thing named Massei, who may have been a human being at one point in his life, concluded about five footprints that tested negative for microscopic traces of blood.
The Star Trek episode, “I, Mudd,” tells us where logic went in the Massei court.
The 1978 movie, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” captures some of the horror.
A Family Forsaken
In a case that stretched from 6 November 2007 when Knox and Sollecito literally signed their lives away to 27 March 2015 when the Italian Supreme Court finally tossed the whole thing out with the day’s trash, the eight embarrassments — Massei, Stefanoni, Mignini, Felice, Giobbi, Ficarra, Napoleoni, and Matteini — who turned Kornbluth’s Marching Morons story into reality, who could have arisen, fully formed, out of an Edgar Allan Poe tale, never tried to fool anyone.
Negative is positive, right? The impossible is possible, right? What negative controls? What recordings? Halloween, November 1st — what’s the difference? Lumumba, Guede — what’s the difference? We have signatures.
That was a murder case.
One outraged shout from a member of Meredith’s family would have sent the whole naked gang of authority figures scurrying. Imagine it. Imagine the derisive laughter emanating from millions of chests. Imagine a world ringing with ridicule as if the globe were a giant bell. Or imagine the reality — Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito listening as a judge found them colpevole.
The starry-eyed computer geek and the sexy yoga practitioner might have spent decades in prison but for the intervention of a single judge. They were jailed (2007), tried and convicted (2009), tried and released (2011), convicted but not jailed (2014), and finally definitively exonerated (2015) by the Italian system.
In spite of the judgment ultimately handed down by Italian jurists, Italian scientists, and human beings all over the world, we can say with some certainty that the eight prophets, Massei, Stefanoni, Mignini, Felice, Giobbi, Ficarra, Napoleoni, and Matteini, eight prolific fountains spewing forth from the bottomless evil of pure stupidity, sleep soundly each night, night after night, as if reposing by the soft gurgling of a gentle stream.
Millions more too sleep each night rocked to unconsciousness by that self-same gurgling, taking in the mindlessness and taken in by it by virtue of their own credulità.
If you’ve read this far, you are likely NOT among the forsaken. Sadly, the Kercher family, all five of them, remain in the ranks of the fooled, denied closure, tortured with uncertainty all these years, and now, quite probably, burdened with Mignini’s rank baggage for the rest of their lives.
Ode To Massei, by Thor Klamet
Morons do so enjoy dropping science like a load of bricks.
But wait! We can do that ourselves, just for kicks.
The Great Judge Massei will be our gracious host;
he’ll tell us all that Knox is a very shapely ghost.
How else could she commit a grisly murder and leave no trace?
Indeed, science can never prove that that was NOT the case.
How could this all have happened? Here’s Amanda Knox.
Here she is again.
Female beauty is a wonderful thing. But if we drop our humanity, if we allow others to drop their humanity, if we permit a person’s physical beauty to become some kind of weapon to be used against them, an excuse to harm, to violate, then we take ourselves straight to Hell.
Here is the sacred ten-letter text, the actual signature.
The Raffaele Sollecitos and the Amanda Knoxes and the Anthony Yarboughs and the Earl Washingtons of the world and even the spirit of Todd Willingham must someday hear that monstrous injustice shall never happen again. We wait for that day. And as we wait, our humanity struggles in a quicksand of doubt, thrashing, frightened. If the Kercher family cannot declare the treatment of Knox and Sollecito inhuman, if even they who have the most reason to see do not see, then what kind of creatures are we?
It ended, but what did we learn?
Amanda Knox was not framed. Nevertheless, I wish to make the following accusations. Rita Ficarra: assault, perjury. Perugia police (unknown parties): willful destruction of three hard drives. Patrizia Stefanoni: suppression of evidence, multiple counts of perjury. Arturo de Felice, Edgardo Giobbi, and Monica Napoleoni: conspiracy to destroy evidence (audio recordings), denial of counsel, repeated human rights violations. Judge Giancarlo Massei, Judge Claudia Matteini, and Public Minister Giuliano Mignini: gross incompetence.
Ultimately, the eight embarrassments wished for and got a world of credulità, a world that failed to see con artists where the weavers of fine cloth stood. That these con artists did not fool us all is only a small comfort — they did damage and collected their gold and walked away unscathed.
Judge Pratillo Hellmann, president of the second court, obviously could not save Meredith, but he at least prevented her tragic death from snowballing into two more tragedies. Here’s to the lonely voice of reason and here’s to Meredith, may she rest in peace.
The insane farce carried out in Meredith’s name also spread its poison to Raffaele’s sister. Vanessa Sollecito was a lieutenant in the police force in Rome when Raffaele was arrested. Her bosses told her she could not speak publicly about the case. She complied. Then her bosses told her that even privately believing her brother was innocent was “contradicting” the police. Then they said she had the wrong “attitude.” Then they fired her. Her article in Cosmopolitan tells the story.
Everything you have just read — Vanessa’s story excepted — was well known and well documented when Diane Sawyer interviewed Amanda Knox in 2013. Nevertheless, Ms. Sawyer played the “objective reporter” and asked Knox a series of idiotic questions that kept the “mystery” alive and, in my view, insulted the memory of Meredith Kercher who did NOT exhale a bloody mist with her final breath so that we could be entertained by attractive television personalities spouting nonsense.
I do NOT think Meredith Kercher would appreciate Diane Sawyer’s questions. I can’t know this, of course. Still, if Meredith could speak to us, I think she might possibly have some questions for the POLICE: (1) “Why wasn’t Guede locked up after being caught burglarizing a school in Milan with loot from two previous burglaries on his person?” (2) “When Christian Tramontano complained that Guede had broken into his house and had pulled a knife on him, why wasn’t it investigated?” (3) “Why are you using my death as an excuse to ruin the lives of Amanda, Raffaele, and Vanessa, three people who would never hurt me or anyone else?”
These questions don’t get asked by anyone who matters. It’s all Amanda Knox all the time. Raffaele Sollecito is a mere afterthought. The entire sick episode was a gigantic adolescent game that was, absurdly, idiotically, mostly about Ms. Knox’s lovely curves.
By now, the Kerchers must surely know that they were used by the police . . .
. . . that the Emperor has no clothes.
But who can tell the world and be heard? Not Amanda Knox. Not Thor Klamet.
The Kerchers and only the Kerchers have the moral authority to set the world straight.
Meredith is gone. Did rationality and decency die with her? — TK
The debate is tonight. I’m shaking in my boots.
Hillary can’t say anything. She can’t say we need a secure border, deportation when appropriate, and a sensible guest worker program. She can’t say the path to citizenship issue should be dealt with later. She can’t say the people and the Congress have every right to offer or deny citizenship as they see fit to people who came here as guest workers.
It’s not politically correct to say it, so she can’t say it. The republican position on immigration and especially Trump’s position has always been and is now outrageous nonsense. But add in a shot of political correctness and suddenly both sides look ridiculous.
Take Kelly Osbourne (please). She made some stupid comment about “who’s going to clean Trump’s toilet if he kicks out illegal immigrants” (paraphrased). She was vilified. But she was right. Illegal immigrants are here because citizens with money are hiring them to do low-wage jobs. We benefit from the importation of cheap labor; we are dependent on the cheap labor; we created the current mess; reasonable regulation would be win-win. Where was the focus? Oh yes, KO used the wrong words, how awful.
If we fall for Trump’s plan and keep playing immigration policy as a giant PC-fest, Hillary will lose. Calling Trump a racist and championing the path to citizenship is exactly what he wants. Trump is turning the whole election into a class at Trump University and we’re letting him do it.
Black Lives Matter is another great place for Trump. Hillary can’t criticize them, not even a little bit. She can’t say we need more police departments to be models of racial sensitivity and professional policing and community involvement like the Dallas police department. She can’t follow that up saying Black Lives Matter often pursues a narrative that tends to separate police from the communities they serve. President Obama said this (more or less), but even he couldn’t do direct criticism. Hillary Clinton can’t say Black Lives Matter needs to work on its message.
Clinton would be vilified if she uttered a single word of criticism of Black Lives Matter. And that is perfect. It’s perfect for Donald J. Trump, soon to be 45th President of the United States. Black Lives Matter does need to work on its message, but only Trump can say it.
Blacks have been shut out of the white economy and are still largely segregated. The result is black poverty and black crime. Black people die by the dozens every day. Black people who are murdered are usually murdered by other black people just as white people who are murdered are usually murdered by other white people.
Let’s do some numbers. About the same number of whites and blacks are homicide victims each year. About the same number of whites and blacks are killed by police each year. About the same number of unarmed whites and unarmed blacks are killed by police each year. These statistics are very easy to check. In fact, more whites than blacks are killed by police each year although the numbers are in the same ballpark — small compared to the number of homicides.
There is a higher crime rate in the black community largely a result of the higher poverty rate. The thousands of additional shooting deaths that result from poverty (I believe a cause and effect relationship can be established in this case) is hundreds of times more significant than any policing problem will ever be, but Clinton will hardly be able to mention it because it might involve criticizing Black Lives Matter.
Trump, on the other hand, is already all over it. He claims that blacks under his presidency will be better off because he will focus on the real problems. He is a con artist, but since Hillary isn’t even allowed to mention real problems without a thousand politically correct qualifiers, I’m afraid she won’t be able to counter him should he choose to press his advantage.
Political correctness is self-destructive. Watching Kelly Osbourne apologize to her fellow left-wing super-progressives was like watching a group of cannibals chewing each other’s arms off. It is unspeakably sad that even Barack Obama can only criticize Black Lives Matter obliquely. Clinton is the only thing standing between the country and a con artist and she’s muzzled by political correctness.
Think about what political correctness does in the online wild west world. Look at Leslie Rasmussen. Her childhood friend, Brock Turner, raped an unconscious woman at a party. After he was convicted, Leslie wrote a private letter to the judge saying essentially, “I can’t believe he would do something like that; he’s such a decent kid; the drinking and partying at college is so toxic; go easy on him.”
Now her career is destroyed. After all, Leslie was supporting rape culture, right? Look at the connection she made between alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct. Being drunk doesn’t give you the right to rape someone, but Leslie Rasmussen thinks it does, doesn’t she? She sure does — in the mindless world of political correctness.
Letters like Leslie’s are solicited as a routine part of sentencing. People who know the convicted criminal can give the judge an idea about whether the person is likely to re-offend. Leslie doesn’t know exactly what happened — no one does, not even the victim and the perpetrator. So Leslie lamented the dangers of alcohol-fueled partying. Who doesn’t? But she didn’t choose her words as carefully as she might have. She didn’t know the political correctness nazis would read her letter. Therefore she must die?
The letter was leaked and Leslie Rasmussen was promptly hacked to pieces by the online mob. Her band’s gigs were cancelled; her music career was damaged perhaps beyond the point of repair; she’s 20 years old and in despair. The people who cancelled her gigs have every right to do so, but they also have every right to ignore the mob’s insane lust for the blacklist (remember the blacklist, the vile right-wing weapon?).
All of this viciousness in the name of political correctness is rendering decent people powerless and thoughtful (but imperfect) people speechless. Real issues can’t be safely discussed. Clinton can utter platitudes and must otherwise watch every word like a hawk. Enter Trump.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is trapped in a politically correct box with Donald Trump sitting on the lid. We built the box and put her in it. What will be the result of our collective folly?
We shamed KO; we destroyed LR. Why? Because they used words incautiously. It’s as if they were dancing wildly in a puritan church 400 years ago. Nice work. Next thing you know the modern-day puritans will look on in horror as President Trump goes to Italy and parties with Silvio Berlusconi. Mark me.
Tonight the sulphurous and tormenting flames will lick at my elbows and singe my brows as I hear a tale whose lightest word will harrow my soul and freeze my blood. Political correctness will give Trump the debate and the election. Mark me.
On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. – H.L. Mencken 26 July 1920 in the Baltimore Evening Sun
P.S. I watched the first debate. My worst fears were unfounded (so far). Clinton crushed him. Trump did not press his immense political correctness advantage. She was lucky. This time. Tonight is the second debate. I shiver anew.
P.P.S. I don’t mind being wrong.
P.P.P.S. The polls are tightening. I’m having difficulty breathing. I’m telling you, political correctness is not good for the progressive movement. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but she’s warming up her voice and there’s a fat con artist who steals from architects spitting distance from the presidency.
P.P.P.P.S. President Donald J. Trump. Bully, con artist, self-centered groper. NOW will someone listen to me? Are you SURE political correctness is the way to go?
P.P.P.P.P.S PA just called for Trump. Women voted for him. Hispanics voted for him. Even blacks voted for him.
He was the most well-read man in England with a vocabulary that dwarfed that of even other professional writers. But, so far as anyone knows, he didn’t own any books or write any letters. He had two daughters who never learned to read or even write their names presumably because they grew up raised by their illiterate mother in their bookless house while daddy William went to London, two days’ ride from his native Stratford and, to paraphrase Bloom, “invented humanity” through his characters’ theretofore unheard-of introspection. Meanwhile his family remained in his home town, fed and housed, but starved of the intellectual stimulation that animated their illustrious relative.
This great genius of humble origins spent time in both London and Stratford during a 20-year period starting in the early 1590’s. He was associated with a London acting company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (aka the King’s Men), as an actor (1595) and later as an investor (1603). Presumably, he wrote the plays that bear his name and earned money from the performances although there is no direct evidence for any payments made to Shakespeare for plays or manuscripts.
The problem is, the man with the right name and the connection with the actors left no other trace of his writing career except for the bylines. No one ever claimed to have met the great author, Shakespeare. The people who published his plays and poems left nothing: they didn’t record payments to him, no autographed books remain, his publishers didn’t send Shakespeare letters or receive letters from him; they didn’t even write to their friends about him, as far as anyone knows. Shakespeare was the greatest writer in England, but seemed to be nobody in particular at the same time. Even in his home town of Stratford, no one seemed to know he was a celebrity; they wrote about him, but not about his famous works.
According to Diana Price, during Shakespeare’s lifetime, about seventy documents connected to Shakespeare the man were produced and still survive. They show Shakespeare was an actor and theater investor; two say he was a tax dodger; one that he was a grain hoarder; another claims he was dangerously violent; none mention writing.
By way of comparison, Price collected data for twenty-four other, less famous, Elizabethan writers: Jonson, Nashe, Massinger, Spenser, Daniel, Peele, Drayton, Chapman, Drummond, Mundy, Marston, Middleton, Lyly, Heywood, Lodge, Greene, Dekker, Watson, Marlowe, Beaumont, Fletcher, Kyd, and Webster.
Every writer Price looked at penned letters or wrote inscriptions in books or received payments for writing or left behind manuscripts or was mentioned as a writer by people who knew him personally. Most left behind several pieces of evidence connecting them personally to their craft. Ben Jonson is at the top of the heap in this respect: he left behind a personal library of more than 100 books, a number of handwritten manuscripts, numerous letters, more than a dozen records of payments for his writing, as well as several inscriptions in gifted copies of his books. Shakespeare, despite the fact that he left behind more documents than anyone except Jonson, left us nothing about writing.
By my count, using data from Price’s book, for a typical Elizabethan writer, roughly half of the suviving personal documents from his lifetime would be expected to be directly related to vocation, to writing. That means for Shakespeare, we happened to go seventy-for-seventy documents NOT related to his status as the greatest writer in England which, from a probabilistic perspective, is the same as flipping seventy tails in a row. The odds are approximately 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 against.
But it could happen. You can actually have a decent chance of flipping 70 tails in a row, if you are willing to flip coins continuously for 400 trillion years which is about 30,000 times the age of the universe if you believe current estimates. That is, if you had been flipping coins constantly since the time the universe began, your chances of having succeeded by now would be microscopic. There is good news however: you’ll most likely flip your 70 tails long before the monkeys finish typing Shakespeare!
But seriously, what the calculation above means is that if you (1) believe the 50% expected to be writing-related statistic and if you (2) don’t count acting as writing-related and if you (3) don’t count documents produced after death, then, statistically speaking, you can take it as proved that Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare.
I do not consider the above an especially strong argument because there are too many ifs needed to make it work. Still, it is an interesting way to try to get our minds around the authorship issue.
Samuel Clemens argued fiercely that the apparent lack of a personal connection with the literary world in London was absurd if Shakespeare was the most famous writer in the country. When Shakespeare of Stratford died in 1616, no one noticed: there was no funeral, no burial in Westminster Abbey, not so much as a whisper of mourning for the greatest writer in the English language who had ever lived. There was just a long, detailed will that didn’t mention a single book.
Mr. Twain/Clemens puts some actual Shakespeare next to what is on the gravestone. This is a wonderful illustration of the difference between poetry and doggerel and is a slap in the face if you believe, as Twain does, that Shakespeare himself composed the lines on his gravestone. Why would the greatest poet ever put garbage on his gravestone? Maybe he thought it would be funny.
Bottom line: Twain doesn’t think the contrast is funny; he thinks anyone who believes Shakespeare of Stratford was the great author is an idiot.
I agree with Mark Twain. Shakespeare of Stratford was one person and Shakespeare, the man with inside information about Queen Elizabeth’s court, was someone else. However, it wasn’t Twain’s arguments that convinced me, or for that matter, the “inside baseball” argument.
Diana Price makes the “Where are the records?” argument as well as it can be made and I do think my “statistical impossibility” argument inspired by her work is cute. But these arguments don’t convince me either.
Sir Derek Jakobi and Mark Rylance, the noted Shakespearean actors, also have their doubts about authorship. They made a video that is worth watching just to get a feel for what these two brave souls are up against. They don’t go into much detail in this brief discussion, but they do hit some key points.
As these two renowned actors explain, experts in the field, such as the eminent James Shapiro at Columbia University, routinely say there is nothing to discuss, that we should not study the authorship question at all because it is such nonsense. Ironically, this is a very convincing argument that, in fact, Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare.
It’s convincing because of the great lengths people like Shapiro have to go to in order to counter arguments made by people like Jakobi and Rylance.
For example, Shapiro argues that Shakespeare’s death actually WAS noticed. He explains that seven years after Shakespeare of Stratford died, the First Folio was published and this should be considered a response to his death.
Sputtering arguments like Shapiro’s and desperately nonsensical commentary saying that, for example, Polonius in Hamlet is not a viciously accurate caricature of the great Lord Burghley even though the connection was noted 150 years ago, are every bit as good and twice as funny as “Blest be ye man that spares these stones.” Sometimes I think Shapiro and his ilk know perfectly well what the truth is, but are hoping you never do.
This reminds me of a famous (probably apocryphal) story about evolution.
Every mainstream argument I’ve ever heard (and I’ve read whole books of them) has solidified my opinion. Shakespeare’s works indicate that the was as steeped in the art of falconry as Clemens was in the culture of riverboats. The plays were clearly written by a nobleman for commoners did not practice falconry. Nor did they travel in Italy.
Still, the plays are fiction and one must be careful using fiction for biography. So even this argument doesn’t convince me. So far the most convincing argument is that the experts can’t come up with answers to people like Mark Twain and Mark Rylance that are even coherent. That coupled with clear indications of nobility in the fictional works make me very suspicious.
Still, fictional works and bad arguments from experts don’t constitute hard biographical evidence. The sonnets are another matter, however.
Almost everyone I’ve ever spoken to about Shakespeare sees, regards, and understands the sonnets simply as wondrous poems that Shakespeare wrote. This is the truth, but not the whole truth. The sonnets were written in the first person, addressed to a young man, covered personal matters, and discussed real events that took place in the early 1590’s through the early 1600’s. This simple fact has been known and discussed for centuries.
Yes, “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day” was written to a particular (real) young man. It consistently amazes me how few people know this. Wordsworth famously wrote of the sonnets, “with this key, Shakespeare unlocked his heart.” But actually, he unlocked a great deal of plain old biography too.
This particular sonnet doesn’t tell us much, just that the author loved the person he was writing to and had the idea that his love would live forever in the “eternal lines” of great poetry. Many people think of this sonnet as a classic declaration of romantic love, but of course, context is everything. The other sonnets provide context. For now, despite that fact that Shapiro and others are fond of ignoring the sonnets or claiming that they are impersonal (!), we thinkers can get keep one thing clear in our minds: the sonnets are letters.
Mainsteam scholars have been discussing the sonnets and their relationship to a real person and real events since at least 1817 (Drake) and probably before that. It is only when one brings up authorship that the discussion flies off the rails. The sonnets, some of the most personal poetry ever written, have, to the amusement of Rylance and Jakobi, actually been mindlessly labeled “impersonal” by various experts. To this, there is a simple and appropriate response: The professor doth protest too much, methinks.
By 1598, a dozen or so Shakespeare plays and poems had been published; the name Shakespeare was famous. The sonnets/letters had NOT been published. That year, a man named Meres praised the author’s writing generally saying, among other things, “witness his sugar’d sonnets among his private friends.” This is the first known reference and it is crucial: the sonnets were kept private.
What read as private letters and what obviously were private letters remained so until Thomas Thorpe published SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS in 1609. Though closely held for all those years, the author clearly did intend for the sonnets to be published. They were to be a “monument” to his beloved, a way to grant immortality, even — this sentiment we find woven throughout the lovely missives.
In what follows, we will read the sonnets as written whether the mainstream likes it or not. No code-breaking is required to reach the conclusion that Shakespeare of Stratford is an extremely unlikely authorship candidate. The sonnets are frequently rather direct, their meaning crystal clear.
The real person to whom the sonnets are written is commonly referred to by scholars as the “fair youth” despite the fact that his identity has been known (technically, strongly suspected) for at least of couple of centuries. The author of the sonnets insists the boy marry and make an heir, waxes poetic about the beauty of the boy’s mother when she was young, forgives him for deciding not to marry, later forgives him for the mistake that led to ignominy, prison, and a death sentence, and finally exults with unalloyed joy when his “love” is eventually released upon the Queen’s death in 1603. It was dead easy for scholars to figure out who the “fair youth”was because there were so many not-at-all-subtle clues.
Our “fair youth”, Shakespeare’s “lovely boy,” the lucky fool who was released from the Tower after the Queen died, was Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, the same young Earl to whom Shakespeare’s two epic poems were dedicated and the only person ever to receive a Shakespeare dedication. The epic poems that first tell of the connection between Shakespeare and Southampton introduced the Shakespeare byline in 1593 and 1594 to a waiting world; fame followed in short order and proceeded to last forever.
First bit of Shakespeare biography: The author and the Earl of Southampton were close.
Shakespeare, whoever he really was, begins his letters to the teenaged Earl by calling him a “tender churl” as he admonishes the high-born young man not to waste his “content.” Later in the series, the author speaks to us and to the boy with great emotional force as he dwells upon aging: he laments his own advancing age but takes comfort in the youth of his subject. Finally, this man who loved Southampton so dearly signs off in the 126th sonnet with an emotional farewell that opens with “O thou my lovely boy . . .” and closes with a warning about the inevitability of death as only Shakespeare can deliver.
Shakespeare, in the sonnets, the man as opposed to the writer, provides advice, love, and unconditional support for his lovely boy during a crucial part of the young nobleman’s life.
Already, there’s major trouble for the traditional attribution. There’s no evidence Shakespeare of Stratford ever so much as met Southampton, much less knew him intimately. The man from Stratford was a commoner nine years older than Southampton who first came to London around 1592 when Southampton was a teenager. He is a singularly unlikely addresser of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton.
Nevertheless, let’s see if we can shoehorn Shakespeare of Stratford into the first three sonnets.
First sonnet: “From fairest creatures we desire increase,” Shakespeare tells Southampton. Don’t bury your “content,” don’t be wasteful, “tender churl.” You, my young man, have reached the time in your life when we expect great things, not least of which is an heir. Don’t “make a famine where abundance lies.”
Do as I say, churlish Earl.
The second sonnet warns of time’s inexorable march: “When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,” you’ll understand how important it is to have children, my boy. When you get old you’ll want children so you can be “new made when thou art old and see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.”
Forty winters does a number on you says the 20-something commoner to the teenage nobleman, so get with the program.
In the third sonnet, Shakespeare waxes poetic with misty memories of the boy’s beautiful mother: “Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee calls back the lovely April of her prime.”
When Southampton was born, Shakespeare of Stratford was 9 years old and had never been to London. The nine-year-old Shakespeare, though he might have been impressed had he ever laid eyes upon the Countess of Southampton in the lovely April of her prime and might have held fast to the memory of so great a personage, did not, alas, have the opportunity to feast his young eyes on such a delightful vision.
Increasingly desperate explanations don’t do much for me. I’m already quite suspicous at this point, though not fully convinced any more than you are. My suspicion deepens as the age of the writer, clearly a generation removed from Southampton, is revealed again and again and again throughout the sonnets.
Sonnet 22: “My glass shall not persuade me I am old, so long as youth and thou are of one date.”
Sonnet 73: “That time of year thou may’st in me behold, when yellow leaves or none or few do hang, upon those boughs which shake against the cold, bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang . . .”
Sonnet 126: “O thou my lovely boy,” beware of “nature” and of “time’s fickle glass.” “Fear her” and remember that “her audit (though delayed) answered must be.”
The writer of the sonnets so far seems to be an older peer of Southampton, a fellow nobleman who can give his lovely boy advice. We have our suspicions at this point, but we don’t really know. We don’t know, that is, until we read Sonnet 125.
Here, the author directly states that he is, in fact, nobility. He writes, “Were it aught to me I bore the canopy with my extern the outward honoring . . . ”
This is a near-disaster for the mainstream, almost a coup de grâce to the traditional theory. If you bore the canopy during a royal procession, but your true loyalties lie elsewhere, with Southampton, you are most certainly NOT a commoner from Stratford.
But maybe we’re misinterpreting the reference to bearing the canopy. Maybe a commoner was just imagining how it would be if he were to bear the canopy. After all, he said, “Were it aught to me . . .” So maybe it was hypothetical.
Fine and dandy. Desperate in my opinion, but fine and dandy. You’ve yet to be convinced, but perhaps your mind is open, perhaps you will admit a sliver of doubt tickling your skeptical mind. Let us keep reading.
As far as the mainstream theory is concerned, we’ve gone from “not so great” after reading the first three sonnets to “Houston we have a problem” after reading the aging sonnets all the way to “uh-oh” upon seeing the canopy sonnet.
But it could still be Much Ado About Nothing.
Next stop: catastrophe.
The great author brimmed with confidence that his letters to Southampton would ultimately take their place amongst the greatest writing of all time. He said his sonnets would outlast “tyrant’s crests” and “tombs of brass.” Not having any truck with modesty, he declared, simply, “such virtue hath my pen.”
Okay, so he knew what he could do. So what?
As the sonnets flowed from the genius’s pen, the epic poems had been printed and reprinted, the plays had become popular, and the name Shakespeare was famous. Shakespeare wanted to honor Southampton forever and ever — “Your monument shall be my gentle verse, which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read . . .” Again, he knew what he was writing.
“Your name from hence immortal life shall have . . .,” says the supremely confident author. These sonnets will last forever says the man who knows he posseses supreme talent, who has witnessed the virtual overnight success of his two epic poems.
Here’s what comes next: “. . . Though I (once gone) to all the world must die.”
Did you get that? Though I (once gone) to all the world must die.
Smoking gun in Sonnet 81. (Be nice. Don’t say, “Thor Klamet, I’ve read Shakespeare and you are no Shakespeare.” A rhyme’s a rhyme and will be for all time.)
But seriously, “I am writing under a pseudonym,” would have been an equally clear way to get the point across, but not as poetic.
Even this doesn’t give the mainstream pause. It’s as if a tornado has just blown your house away and you are smiling and saying everything is fine. I might admire your sense of perspective though I’d be concerned about your sanity.
We have now pretty well shot down the traditional theory that some young commoner who apparently never met Southampton was absolutely, positively Shakespeare. The author went so far as to state outright in a personal letter that he was writing under a pseudonym!
Even so, maybe we’ve misinterpreted everything. Maybe, a 20-something commoner writing under his own name wrote to his friend Southampton and we’re guilty of code-breaking and over-interpretation to fit a predetermined conclusion. “Though I (once gone) to all the world must die” might mean, “I’m just a lowly author and a commoner, who cares about me, you’re the subject of these lines, a great Earl, you will be remembered, the writer is nothing, a mere afterthought, especially a commoner like me.”
After all, the next two lines say, “The earth can yield me but a common grave, When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.” Maybe he’s just saying he’s a commoner.
And he didn’t actually, literally, say, “I am writing under a pseudonym.” So you still have a right to be skeptical. If you are so, then good for you. After all, if the Shakespeare thing is true, it’s the greatest hoax ever perpetrated, so it is proper to demand overwhelming evidence.
Doubts aside, it does begin to feel a little like beating a dead horse at this point. There are no books, letters, or manuscripts, no personal literary contacts, even his neighbors in his home town knew nothing, his own children couldn’t read his work; the actual writer was a man steeped in falconry who could write personal admonishments to a young earl, who represented himself as a middle-aged nobleman; even though he said his writing was so great it would last forever and even though he knew the name Shakespeare was already famous, he nevertheless implied his name would be lost to history.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I (once gone) to all the world must die.
It could be confimation bias causing me to see these lines as a smoking gun, but honestly, I don’t think the horse is even quivering at this point. But we will press on just the same. In fact, what we will do is shoot the already-dead horse once more. There is another bullet in our smoking gun.
When the sonnets were finally published, the lucky publisher included a dedication wishing Southampton the same “all happinesse” Shakespeare had wished him in one of the epic poem dedications as well as the same “eternitie” the sonnets themselves were promising. Here is the dedication, completely apropos, written by the man who held the original, handwritten copies of the sonnets in his trembling hands.
Like “all happinesse” and “that eternitie,” the “our ever-living poet” phrase is, appropriately, Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare.
Here is a Shakespearean eulogy: “. . . our scarce-cold conqueror, that ever-living man of memory, Henry the fifth. . .” intoned over the dead body of the former King in Henry VI Part 1, Act 4, Scene 2 (First Folio version).
So the publisher’s dedication for Shakespeare’s Sonnets is not just any eulogy, it is a Shakespearean eulogy.
That’s the bullet. Shakespeare the commoner was still living in London in 1609; he moved back to Stratford the next year and did eventually die, but not for another six years. Thomas Thorpe clearly knew whether or not the famous author was dead when he wrote his dedication/eulogy.
The only way out is to argue that “ever-living poet” isn’t a eulogy and I wouldn’t want to have to make that argument. So I feel for the mainstream, I really do. They have made that argument many times and they continue to make it. They have little choice.
But it doesn’t hold water.
The gun smokes anew, the body of the horse begins to decay, and the mainstream thinks it’s still mounted in the saddle galloping along with the wind in its hair. Where’s a good psychotherapist when you need her?
Nevertheless, you can hold your nose and ignore the decaying horse and argue that “ever-living poet” might not be the eulogy it appears to be. You can note that Southampton’s initials were H. W., not W. H., and that as an Earl, Henry Wriothesley should not be addressed as “Mr.”
Or, you can argue that even if the sonnets were personal, they weren’t necessarily personal to Shakespeare. Maybe they were commissioned by an older nobleman who was close to Southampton. Maybe Shakespeare was writing about someone else’s pathos. All or any of this is possible.
These arguments should be, nay, must be, made. But that’s not what the ivy league professors say. They say there is not even an issue to be delved into, the authorship question should not even be discussed or studied at all except as an example of mass hysteria. And I say again, Methinks they dost protest too much.
If (1) Shakespeare was, in fact, forty when he wrote “when forty winters shall beseige thy brow,” if (2) he knew Southampton’s mother personally in the “lovely April of her prime,” if (3) he ever actually “bore the canopy,” if (4) he truly believed his name would be lost to history when he lamented, “Though I (once gone) to all the world must die,” if (5) Thomas Thorpe referred to Shakespeare as “our ever-living poet” as a eulogy, if any ONE of these things is true, then Shakespeare of Stratford didn’t write Shakespeare.
I believe ALL FIVE of these things are true simply because the sonnets don’t make sense otherwise. We are human, we understand context. The sonnets have context. The writer was a fellow nobleman, a generation removed from the lovely boy. If this is not true, there is no context and if there is no context, there is no humanity. Shakespeare’s Sonnets are nothing if not human.
“He was a genius” doesn’t explain away context. It is likewise inconceivable to me that the sonnets were written for someone else, i.e., that they were commissioned, someone else’s pathos. So I’m stuck with Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare. As unlikely as it sounds, I’m stuck with it.
But if Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare, he was set up as the apparent author. Why do that?
Why have a conspiracy to make it look like Shakespeare the illiterate commoner was Shakespeare the great author? Why hide the real author? Why weren’t the sonnets published sooner with a direct connection to Southampton and with the real author’s name? For that matter, why not include the sonnets in 1623 when all the plays were compiled into the famous First Folio when the number of published plays was doubled at a stroke? Where did all those unpublished plays even come from? Why would Queen Elizabeth and King James go to so much trouble to hide the true author and make it look like it was Shakespeare of Stratford? How did the whole thing even get started?
Was Shake-Speare chosen as a pseudonym to match the name of an obscure actor and confuse everyone or was it a coincidence that someone had a name to match the pseudonym? Was there some advantage to using a front-man instead of an ordinary pseudonym?
Some time after Shakespeare died in Stratford in his bookless house, a monument was erected implying he was a great thinker; it makes an interesting brother to the gravestone with the doggerel that Mark Twain made fun of. Shakespeare’s Stratford origins were alluded to in the preface to the First Folio written by Ben Jonson in 1623. These bits of hard evidence setting up Shakespeare of Stratford as both an actor and great author for the first time, years after his death, were, conspiracy theorists say, the beginning of the great hoax.
But why? What was going on? We read the sonnets as written, fine. We become suspicious, fine. But then what of the post-death alleged conspiracy — the monument and the preface to the First Folio? What the Hell?
The outline of an answer is easy enough to sketch though far from definitive. Shakespeare’s dedicatee from the two epic poems, Southampton, was a controversial figure as you already know. But you may not know the half of it.
The young woman the young man was implored to marry in those first sonnets happened to be Lord Burghley’s grand-daughter: the great Lord had commanded this marriage take place. Since Burghley was the Queen’s closest advisor and the most powerful man in England, his grandchild wasn’t someone you refused lightly.
Shakespeare told the young man, “From fairest creatures we desire increase, that thereby beauty’s Rose might never die” and then went on for 16 more sonnets imploring the stubborn Earl, his tender churl, to marry Burghley’s grand-daughter and make an heir. It did no good. Marrying into Burghley’s family would have increased the scope of Southampton’s powers greatly. He was a fool to refuse, but refuse he did. We don’t know why.
The word “Rose” in the second line of the first sonnet quoted above was mysteriously capitalized and italicized in the original publication just as it is here. No one knows why.
Ten years or so after the stubborn Earl refused to become a member of Burghley’s family, the Queen lay dying. Southampton, now a strapping 20-something, and his ally, the popular Earl of Essex, and a dozen or more men now attempted to gain access to the expiring Queen. The Tudor Rose dynasty seemed to be coming to an abrupt end. Elizabeth had no acknowledged children. No historian believes the flirtatious Queen was actually a virgin and it is considered quite possible that she had one or two illegitimate children, but these bastard offspring, if they existed, would not have been eligible to inherit the throne, not without a lot of powerful backing. As things stood in 1601, there would be no continuation of the Tudor bloodline and there was no clear succession. The uncertainty was frightening for much of the public throughout Elizabethan England.
The two Earls seemed to have good timing although it is by no means clear what they intended to do once they gained access to her majesty’s bedchamber. Presumably, they had a plan to try to control the succession. It didn’t matter, because Essex and Southampton were in over their fool heads. Fools and their heads are soon parted, as you know.
Burghley, who had been secretly planning the succession for years, outsmarted the Southampton-Essex amateur hour and had them and their lot arrested and tried for treason. All were convicted of course, the outcome of the trial never being in doubt. Essex, despite his popularity, had his date with the axeman, though it was a little on the brief side as dates go. Some lower-ranking members of the conspiracy did not fare so well as the pretty young Earl: they were tortured to death.
But not Southampton. He was sentenced to die and watched his friend die, but, as he waited fretfully in the Tower of London, his sentence was mysteriously commuted to life in prison. There is no formal record of the legal proceeding that allowed this extraordinary thing to happen, but it did happen. No one knows how or why.
The sonnet-writer was chronicling these events and may have had inside information. Sonnet 87 has both a happy and resigned tone as if a big decision has been made. It says to Southampton, “The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing” which could mean a lot of things. In the same sonnet, we are told of a “great gift upon misprision growing” and we find out that this gift “comes home again on better judgment making.”
What is being released? What is the charter of Southampton’s worth? Why the legal term, misprision? What was the better judgment?
Misprision of treason means you knew about treason, but didn’t report it. This is a legal term that was common in Elizabethan times. Misprision of treason was a crime, but not a capital crime. If you love Southampton, this is obviously a “better judgment” than plain old treason. Something about Southampton’s “worth” may have led Queen Elizabeth to spare the young fool.
Maybe. This sonnet is not nearly as direct or clear as “Though I (once gone) to all the world must die.” All we know for certain is that Southampton was not executed.
Southampton was not only not executed, the convicted traitor was in fact released after the Queen died. As soon as King James I had safely ascended the throne, Southampton felt the warmth of the sun on his face. Shakespeare, or rather the actual author, who we can now surmise cannot possibly be the young commoner named Shakespeare, celebrates this event in the famously ebullient Sonnet 107, the poem most clearly linked to Southhampton, not only by crazy conspiracy theorists, but also by mainstream scholars for centuries.
After the “mortal moon” (Elizabeth) suffers her “eclipse” (death), Shakespeare’s “true love” who was “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” in the Tower now “looks fresh” as “peace proclaims olives of endless age” (James has peacefully acended the throne) and the “sad augurs mock their own presage” (people who predicted a civil war now look silly).
Whoever wrote this was pretty happy about the turn politics had taken. Meanwhile, Southampton began his second chance at life though without his great friend Essex.
Some people think Southampton’s idea that he could control the succession together with the mysterious pardon plus Shakespeare’s enigmatic mention of “beauty’s Rose,” make everything perfectly clear: Southampton was obviously Elizabeth’s son, a possible heir to the Tudor Rose dynasty if he were ever acknowledged. If he had married Burghley’s grand-daughter, beauty’s Rose might indeed never have died.
According to this theory, Southampton had refused to marry Burghley’s grand-daughter, so he didn’t have the great man behind the idea of continuing the Tudor Rose dynasty; meanwhile, Elizabeth, for her part, wasn’t keen on dropping the virgin Queen thing, acknowledging Southampton as her son, and letting him become King. On the other hand, she wasn’t going to kill her own son even though he had been convicted of treason. This is called the “Prince Tudor” theory.
If Southampton was really Elizabeth’s biological son — he wound up in the royal household because his supposed father died when he was very young — it would explain the fact that he committed treason but lived past 30 anyway and would also explain why he thought he could get away with trying to barge into the Queen’s bedchamber with armed men. It would also explain why the sonnets were too hot to handle — if they told of a possible heir to the throne, they were political dynamite.
Without exhuming bodies and doing DNA tests, we will never know the ins and outs of the succession battle that took place in the early 1600’s. All we really know is that Essex didn’t fare very well. We also know that Burghley was not to be trifled with.
The craziness of the Prince Tudor theory drags us in like a siren, beckoning, offering more goodies. Crazy begets crazier. Hold on to your hat.
The father of the girl Southampton was supposed to marry, Edward de Vere, may be the most likely writer of the sonnets if you believe the Prince Tudor theory. He was a brilliant and dashing nobleman and happened to be one of the Queen’s lovers (contemporary eyewitness account) AND had married Burghley’s daughter. If he was also Southampton’s father, then the plot thickens considerably and the context of the sonnets begins to make sense.
The boy was being asked to marry his half-sister. This could explain his refusal.
But could Edward de Vere really be Shakespeare? In a word, yes. One connection is the First Folio. In 1623, only 18 plays had ever been published. A big part of the canon, including many of the most important plays, existed only in manuscript never having seen print. Suddenly, the First Folio, a massive project, appears, beautifully printed. Now there are 36 plays, preserved for posterity. How was this accomplished?
Well, the First Folio was dedicated to the Earl of Montgomery, who just happened to be married to Edward de Vere’s daughter. Montgomery probably bankrolled the project (hence the dedication) while his wife, Oxford’s daughter, presumably supplied the manuscripts. This is the same daughter who was supposed to marry Southampton in the early 1590’s, the same daughter whose hypothetical hand was presented so beautifully in the first 17 sonnets, the “marriage sonnets” as they are still called today.
The connections continue. Oxford’s brother-in-law visited Denmark and the court at Elsinore for six months in 1581-1582 and produced a handwritten, unpublished document upon his return to England. The document mentioned two courtiers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Of course, that could just be a coincidence.
Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford is the reason traditional scholars have to embarrass themselves trying to argue Polonius is not a caricature of Burghley. The relationship and the animosity between Polonius and Hamlet is an almost perfect parallel to the historical conflict between Burghley and Oxford. The minute you admit Polonius is Burghley and accept Oxford as an authorship candidate, the autobiographical nature of Hamlet becomes virtually impossible to refute. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the tip of the iceberg. And that’s just the one play.
Oxford was known as incomparably brilliant and received during his whole life an unprecedented 1000 pound yearly stipend from the Queen that was continued by King James. There was no official reason for the stipend. Think about that. Meanwhile, here are some signatures to ponder.
As countless non-mainstream academics and reputable intellectual leaders in many areas, even including the living descendant of the great Lord Burghley himself, regularly point out, the sonnets and other evidence create an eminently reasonable case that Shakespeare of Stratford may have been cast by the powers that were (Elizabeth, Burghley, James) as a front-man in perhaps the greatest and most successful hoax of all time.
The Prince Tudor – Edward de Vere theory is another matter, of course.
If Shakespeare was really Edward de Vere and if he was really Southampton’s father and if Southampton was really the last member of the Tudor Rose dynasty, then Sonnet 33 is pregnant with meaning, literally.
When Shakespeare says, “Even so my Sun one early morn did shine, With all triumphant splendor on my brow, But out alack he was but one hour mine . . . ” what is he talking about? The weather?
Who was “Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace”? Was it the s-u-n sun setting? Or was it the Queen herself of necessity hiding her belly full with Edward de Vere’s bastard s-o-n son.
According to this admittedly cryptographic analysis, Edward de Vere got to hold his son, who would become the Earl of Southampton, for just one hour before the “region cloud” (the Queen) “hath masked him from me now” (took him away).
Code-breaking, of course, is not especially reliable. Still, if you decide Southampton was probably the Queen’s son, it fits perfectly to make Edward de Vere his father and author of the sonnets. So “O thou my lovely boy . . . ” would be taken as from father to son. The sonnets, then, would be a monument written the Earl of Oxford, the Queen’s former lover, to his son who might have become King and elevated the brilliant spendthrift Oxford to royalty in the eyes of history.
This is the full crazy theory. It is built out of “beauty’s Rose” in the first sonnet (code-breaking) and “Sunne” in the 33rd sonnet (more code-breaking). Though the code-breaking embellishments must be regarded as questionable, the foundation is reasonably solid: (1) Shakespeare does appear to be a pseudonym for an older nobleman very close to Southampton (sonnets); (2) Southampton did try to control the successsion and was spared despite being convicted of treason (historical fact); (3) the Queen did have an affair with Edward de Vere (contemporary eyewitness).
For all of this to really hold together, the biography of Edward de Vere would have to fit with the plays and poems. The appearance of the names Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as a pair in de Vere’s life is my favorite connection in this regard and is, in fact, merely the tip of the iceberg. A number of biographies of the Earl of Oxford have been written at this point and the relationship between his life and the plays is nothing short of astounding.
Rylance and Jakobi note wryly that the connection is so strong that whoever wrote the plays had to have known all about Oxford’s life. Hmm, I wonder who it could be?
Another example: Oxford at age 30 got Anne Vavasour, one of the Queen’s nubile ladies-in-waiting, pregnant at age 18. The Queen chucked them both into the Tower (along with the infant!) for this transgression. Vavasour’s and Oxford’s people fought in the streets as a result of all of this and the battles were finally stopped by the Queen a la Romeo and Juliet.
The connections between Oxford and the plays go on and on and on (and on). I would say the case has been made by the Oxford partisans incredibly convincingly. They may even have proved it by now; I don’t know enough to say precisely how convincing it is, only that it has convinced me.
I have never seen an argument for ignoring the sonnets worth repeating. The best I’ve seen is that the sonnets may possibly have been commissioned and this would explain them. But there is not one tiny shred of evidence that the sonnets were commissioned. Thus, ignoring the sonnets qualifies as irrational.
It is possible (50-50?) that Edward de Vere was Shakespeare and it is even possible that he and Queen Elizabeth were the parents of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, the “lovely boy” of the sonnets who was spared by the Queen and released from the Tower after her death despite his act of treason while the Queen (his mother?) lay on her deathbed.
But we’ll never know any of this with any kind of certainty as long as brilliant mainstream scholars — they really are brilliant once they open their minds — continue to be held in the tight grip of irrationality.
The reaction to the Turner case has, in general, been the usual combination of hysterical, irrational, and harmful. Everyone understands that the perpetrator should be punished and no one, not Leslie Rasmussen, not anyone, supports rape culture. Unfortunately, the hysteria surrounding this case and the mindlessness that seems to be de rigueur these days has hurt many people, including the victim herself.
In case you’ve been living in a cave, Brock Turner is the white, wealthy, absurdly privileged Stanford swimmer who decided to use an unconscious (comatose, actually) woman’s body to help himself masturbate one night at a campus party. He put his hands where he wanted and was grinding away on top of the victim in the early hours one morning when a couple of bikers noticed the movement, realized Brock’s “partner” was unconscious, and then held the pretty drunk pretty-boy until police and an ambulance arrived. The victim woke up three hours later with an intravenous tube in her arm and no memory of anything that had happened.
Brock’s thin story — he and the victim were engaged in consensual, barely conscious sexual activity when she suddenly passed out completely — was not believed by the jury. No one is questioning the verdict. Even Brock and his family have given up claiming innocence. Brocky-boy was sentenced to six months and was released after just three months because he didn’t rape anyone while he was in jail (good behavior). Brock can now enjoy his September as a free man if not as a college student. But there is a lot more to this story than a light sentence. Trigger warning: The story is not 100% about rape.
Every 4 years, a medium-sized college with 2,000 or 3,000 students is selected at random and every student in every major, every freshman, every sophomore, every junior, every senior is summarily executed. That this dark image is not literally true is beside the point: just because people are dying quietly doesn’t mean they aren’t dying.
But wait! Drinking deaths are things that happen to other people, right? If you are reading this, that is undeniably so. Still, have a look into Shelby Allen’s eyes and see if you don’t feel the grim specter of our favorite social poison tap you on the shoulder.
Skull-crushing car accidents, alcohol poisoning (“I thought she was sleeping it off”) and other nightmarish consequences remove from the rolls of the living upwards of a hundred thousand people in the U.S. alone every year, year after year. More than a million people will seek treatment for alcohol abuse this year — they will be the lucky ones.
100,000 dead. How does this carnage translate to colleges, exactly? We don’t know, exactly. You may wish to do some statistics and translate the overall number of deaths to the college student demographic; please let me know what you come up with. My niece recently lost her friend to alcohol — instant translation for me.
Is it 600 students a year? Or is it the 1800 cited by a National Institutes of Health website? Again, I don’t need to know. Shelby’s dog misses her and even the best case scenario is terrible news; that’s enough for me.
Imagine a whole college of Shebys dying every four years. Imagine the funerals. Imagine parents burying their children. On the other hand, you don’t have to imagine anything. You can go to the funerals. So go. If, for some reason, you don’t believe me, if you aren’t sure college drinking is a real problem, go to the funerals. You’ll never have enough time to attend them all, but it’s worth a try.
Back to the night in question. The soon-to-be-victim of a terrible crime was slurring her words into the phone with her deeply alarmed boyfriend on the other end. The man was beside himself because he didn’t understand a word she was saying. “Find your sister,” he told her again and again. But her sister had left the party to help a friend who had been — you guessed it — drinking too much.
Now the woman who could no longer speak hung up and wandered outside. She collapsed near a dumpster. She wasn’t unconscious, comatose is a more accurate descriptor. No one thinks this absolves Mr. Turner nor does anyone think it qualifies as an extenuating circumstance nor does his own intoxication make him any less guilty. But. Are you prepared to say alcohol wasn’t involved at all? I certainly hope not.
A young, wasted woman lays on the ground, drowning in alcohol, without an intravenous tube in her arm, without a friend or a doctor or a heart monitor. Her blood alcohol punches a dangerous multiple of the legal limit. The gibberish delivered to her worried boyfriend fades — just an ephemeral disturbance in the ether.
If your blood alcohol hits three or four or five times the legal limit (for driving) and there is no one there to measure it, do you still die?
As it happened, the two bikers saw the movement of Brock’s energetic hips. They did not see the victim. She was most likely invisible to them as they cycled in the dark. Human eyes are, after all, attuned to and exquisitely sensitive to movement. Without Brock’s desperate grinding, the two men might have rolled on, unknowing of proximate tragedy and unable to offer help.
But they didn’t roll on; they saw and they intervened. The police arrived. The victim vomited but did not wake up. Soon delivered to a hospital bed, the woman whose speech centers had been compromised didn’t stir for three hours as saline dripped into her bloodstream. Imagine her surprise when she finally opened her eyes, when she saw the tube in her arm and took in the strange surroundings. How did I get here? Am I okay? Will I survive?
What if Brock Turner hadn’t raped her? What does the alternate history look like? We’ll never know. She might have died. You want irony? There’s irony. Does this mean we have to think of Brock as a hero? No, of course not. If Brock had ejaculated into his jeans, he probably would have got up, stumbled home, and perhaps read with horror the next morning about a dead body found by a dumpster. The biker-heroes, Peter Jonsson and Carl-Fredrik Arnt, might well have saved Brock Tuner from himself in addition to saving the victim.
And what about the general public? As usual, we are NOT heroes. We think we are but we aren’t. We don’t deserve medals or self-administered pats on the back. We deserve nothing but scorn. Truth be told, we’re a ship of fools, mindlessly wandering where-ever the wind takes us.
Consider this. We the people guaranteed that the victim of this terrible crime would suffer a long one-year trauma. Instead of a sensible system where Brock Turner can show remorse, do his time, pay some money, do probation, and do public service, we’ve set it up so that he is told, “defend yourself or your life is forfeit.”
Suppose he pleads guilty. He still gets a lifetime as a felon, a lifetime on the sex offender registry, and a lifetime ban from USA swimming. Like far less privileged youth who commit crimes and do their time and are nonetheless forever tarnished, Brock Turner too will have trouble getting a job for the rest of his life: he’s a convicted felon for the next ten thousand years. That’s how we do things in America.
It’s lose-lose-lose across the board and for what? For one brief hit of vengeance.
Fight or else. That’s our message. It probably took some lawyer all of 30 seconds to convince Turner to plead innocent. Then the victim had to spend a year making her argument: “NO, if I drink to the point of coma, call 9-1-1; do NOT rape me. Is there any part of that you need repeated?”
It must have been agonizing for her. In our lust for vengeance, we destroy the perpetrator and we go so far as to hurt the victim too. But even that’s not enough. The long knives want blood.
Leslie Rasmussen offered an opinion in a letter to the judge. She said she knew Brock Turner and she regarded his story that he was making out with the woman when she passed out in the middle of the encounter as not just plausible but likely. Echoing the president of Vassar College who worried, “Two drunk kids, both out of it. Is it always the male at risk [for a sexual assault charge]?” Rasmussen argued that drunken sexual activity may or may not be rape. Ms. Rasmussen also criticized the heavy-drinking party culture at colleges saying it can lead to terrible mistakes committed by ordinary, otherwise decent people.
Rasmussen’s letter is not perfect or perfectly sensitive; who of us is perfect in all that we say, in all that we write? Must we destroy her? Please read her whole letter and please, if you like long, gleaming knives, let them be wall decorations.You can argue, of course, that Rasmussen has it wrong, that while alcohol and impaired judgment and misunderstandings may sometimes contribute to horrifying events, it is actually a lack of respect for women as human beings baked deeply into our culture that makes rape so common. You can argue further that the evidence indicates Turner did, in fact, commit rape and should therefore face substantial prison time. I would personally argue along those lines.
But even though I disagree with some of what she said, I can’t imagine attacking Leslie Rasmussen in such a scary and personal way, taking from her her right to express herself, and demanding she and her band be shunned. It’s barbaric. How could this have happened to us? Who are we that we would do this? The behavior of the online mob was a million times worse than any of the phraseology in Leslie’s imperfectly-worded opinion.
I know, we’ll respond to a horrific rape by hurting three more people! Great idea! Is this the new normal?
Misguided weaklings who think they are helping women by choking off discussion of this serious issue gave us nothing but more violence and cruelty when they cancelled scheduled appearances of Rasmussen and her band. Some of these people positively dripped with that old, easy-to-recognize self-righteousness spewed by mindless witch hunters through the ages: We will not tolerate the support of rape culture.
We want, no, we demand, a culture in which women are respected, in which no man would even be able to imagine ever committing rape. So what do we do? We show monstrous disrespect for Leslie Rasmussen. We don’t consider the context of her (private) letter, her position as a childhood friend of the perpetrator, or the inevitable uncertainty about everything that happens that is a part of life that we must all accept. No. We destroy her. This is the exactly the kind of gross disrespect that created rape culture in the first place.
What were we thinking?
Rasmussen has of course prostrated herself and apologized for having an opinion about the dangers of alcohol-fueled college life (she didn’t mention alcohol-fueled college death). But her apology may not save her music career.
And so Brock Turner’s dick now claims a whole host of victims besides the woman he raped and besides himself. A woman in Ohio with the same name as the “real” LR apparently found herself targeted by the online mob as well! What a godawful mess: the victim, the perpetrator, a musician, the musician’s two sisters, a random woman — all are fair game for the righteous witch hunters.
Political correctness as fascism: the left-wing goes so far around it becomes right-wing. That’s where we are. Mob-mentality reaction helps no one, not women, not rape victims, not future Shelby Allens, no one. In a rational, decent world, we would be discussing our casual acceptance of almost drinking oneself to death. We would ask ourselves why we can’t find a way to bring sane, sensible justice to a perpetrator. Why must we sacrifice even the victim herself in our thirst for vengeance?
Who will ask such questions? No one. If you step out of line one millimeter, you shall be shouted down and forced to spend the rest of your life apologizing. So there’s no discussion at all. And that is literally deadly.
As a semi-professional cynic, I like to brag about how I am never, ever surprised regardless of the feats of absurdity exhibited by humans and by instututions made of humans. But I must admit defeat. Vassar, that prestigious college in NY, has got my number.
A Strong Woman
Mary Claire Walker transferred to Vassar as a sophomore in 2011. A strong, confident woman, she was also a superb student and a fine athlete. She made friends and found a boyfriend too. One of her friends was Peter Yu, a freshman. She and Peter were both on the crew team and, as college chums will do, they confided to one another their romantic interests.
One night in February 2012, Mary Claire and Peter were hanging out together at a team party. Mary Claire had just broken up with her boyfriend and she told Peter. After the party, the pair, already drunk, walked arm in arm to a nearby drinking spot where they drank more and made out some. The would-be lovebirds made phone calls to their roommates to see if they could negotiate the guarantee of some precious privacy. The roommates couldn’t be reached but Mary Claire and Peter made their way to his room regardless. The two drunk athletes climbed four flights of stairs, split up to visit the bathrooms, and met at Peter’s room; Peter’s roommate wasn’t there. So far so good.
First the Oral Sex
Peter felt a little embarrassed. He was a virgin and he told his friend this would be his first time. Peter was also a little shy about how his body looked. Mary Claire kindly reassured him saying she knew what to do and that he looked fine. She decided a little oral sex would be a good start and she took on the role of teacher. Peter, a top student in more formal settings, was a quick study. Mary Claire complimented him on his technique expressing surprise that he would be so adept his first time. “Did you learn this on the internet?” she asked. Better and better.
According to court documents filed many months later in what became a bitter dispute between Vassar College and Peter Yu, Mary Claire Walker outfitted her “student” with a condom and took his virginity. Neither Vassar nor Ms. Walker deny Peter’s version of events. The court documents also reveal that Peter’s roommate showed up while Peter and Mary Claire were engaged in sexual intercourse. The interloper left immediately, but the interruption caused Mary Claire to rethink what she was doing: She no longer wanted to have sex with Peter. She talked about her previous relationship, lamented its demise, got up, got dressed, and walked out as she of course has a perfect right to do even if it isn’t the nicest way to treat your virgin friend.
So much for that magical first sexual experience.
A Brief Aside
Mary Claire’s extensive communications with Peter after their sexual encounter are a monument of kindness and caring: she had hurt her friend and felt terrible about it. Her messages (most of which were sent to Peter via Facebook) are described and quoted below and can be read in full in public court documents. Ms. Walker was evidently a responsible young adult.
A year after Ms. Walker took full responsibility for hurting her friend, Vassar officials produced a new and bizarre account of her drunken sexual episode. Peter was suddenly NOT a hurt ex-virgin who watched his first lover walk away in the middle of sex; he was a now drunk man who took advantage of his friend who was so drunk she could neither consent nor resist.
Vassar says Mary Claire changed her mind. She eventually decided, according to Vassar officials, that actually she was “in shock” and “in denial” when she wrote to Peter in the weeks following their interrupted intercourse. According to Vassar officials, Mary Claire ultimately realized that she had written the messages “out of fear” although no threats or hostility from Mr. Yu was in evidence or even alleged.
Mary Claire’s wild change in perspective is, to put it mildly, suspicious. When you read her Facebook messages, it becomes clear (I think to anyone) that her reversal is so extreme that it implies manipulation. Human beings, in my experience, do not dramatically shift their entire view of reality unless they are being influenced from without, usually by multiple authority figures.
Don’t take my word for it. Here are the facts taken from court documents. Mary Claire’s detailed, extensive, unequivocal, crystal clear Facebook messages are quoted below. I did not cherry pick: it’s all there. Perhaps you’ll read what follows and find that you disagree with me though I don’t see how.
A Woman of Character
The day after their encounter, Mary Claire and Peter discovered that two people had noted Ms. Walker’s drunken condition and had reported their concern that Peter might be taking advantage of his friend. Mary Claire immediately communicated to Peter her firm belief that “you did nothing wrong” as well as her clear intention to “stand up for you” should it become necessary.
But Mary Claire wasn’t just powerful ally, she was an empathetic friend too. She went out of her way to explain to Peter that her lack of interest in pursuing a relationship with him wasn’t due to anything he had done; she just wasn’t ready for another relationship so soon after her breakup. She then explicitly apologized.
“I led you on,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
But even that wasn’t enough. “I had a wonderful time,” she assured the rejected freshman. “I don’t think less of you,” she said kindly.
Unless you have a heart of stone, you cannot fail to be impressed, upon reading Mary Claire’s messages, with her simple human decency and maturity. Almost a year later, Vassar officials ascribed all the messages to “fear” without any explanation.
Vassar would never present any evidence indicating Peter had ever caused anyone to be afraid of him nor would they present any evidence that he had done anything at all to make Mary Claire afraid. Not only was no such evidence ever presented, no one, not Vassar, not Mary Claire, not any witnesses, even made any unsubstantiated claims that Peter ever did or said anything remotely threatening. The phrase, “out of fear,” would simply be thrown around like some kind of bizarre incantation that explained the unexplainable.
The person who Vassar claims later realized she had been writing out of fear, told Peter via Facebook that she “should have known better” than to drink right after breaking up with her boyfriend. Indeed, the introspective young woman overtly took full responsibility for what happened. “I did not treat you very well,” she said. Her own actions she called “disrespectful.”
“I never, ever meant to hurt you,” was an especially heartfelt part of Mary Claire Walker’s consolation to her friend who had lost his virginity with her. Yes, she made a mistake. But she did everything she could to make it right — until Vassar officials got their grubby hands on her.
My high opinion of Ms. Walker is based only on the Facebook messages, but they speak volumes. Unfortunately, when faced with authority figures with their own strong motivations, even the best of us can be influenced and pushed and coerced.
Mary Claire is obviously a strong, confident, kind, empathetic, ethical, sensitive, thoughtful, introspective, and caring young woman with a powerful sense of personal responsibility. She’s an amazing 21st century young woman who couldn’t quite stand up to malicious older adults determined to turn her mistake into a deeply anti-feminist political statement infantilizing all women while denying that a young woman can ever be mature and responsible and powerful.
People like Mary Claire Walker often attract scum determined to bring them down. Half the time these useless weaklings, acting in concert, succeed in their inveterate desire to keep their own low level as populous as possible.
I obviously have a pretty low opinion of certain Vassar officials although, as you’ll see, the president of Vassar herself shares my concerns.
Enter the Time Travelers
I can’t explain the details of what Vassar did in a rational way. It makes so little sense to me that I had to come up with a fantasy to explain it: Some people from the 1940’s traveled more than 70 years into the future, passed themselves off as modern people, and got jobs at Vassar. Nothing short of that can explain Vassar’s outrageous behavior.
In 1940 in the the United States, a woman could never become an adult. No matter how old she was, she would always be, to a certain extent, a child, not fully responsible for her actions. So Mary Claire Walker, a modern adult woman who appeared to be as responsible as any adult male ever was, was an impossibility as far as the time travelers were concerned.
Almost a year had passed. It was very nearly too late to file any sort of sexual misconduct complaint against Peter. Vassar has a one year statute of limitations on such complaints. But the tight timing actually worked out rather well for the time travelers.
Under the influence of the time travelers, Mary Claire tossed aside everything she had written to Peter and created a brand new narrative that made no sense whatsoever — this is how we can identify a narrative created by people who weren’t there. Nonsense is the telltale.
So Mary Claire had NOT led Peter on. Actually, she didn’t remember what happened. She had NOT mistreated Peter either. Actually, Peter had taken advantage of her drunkenness and she, Mary Claire, had been “unable to resist.” Finally, she had NOT been disrespectful to Peter. Actually, Mary Claire now said, she had been “helpless.”
The revisionism went on and on. Mary Claire had suddenly NOT had a wonderful time and now did NOT think Peter did nothing wrong. Needless to say, she was NOT going to stand up for him, just the opposite in fact. All she could say now, a year later, was that she didn’t remember much because it was “fuzzy.”
But wait! There’s more.
After their sexual encounter, Mary Claire Walker invited Peter Yu to come to her and her parents’ home for dinner. The invitation was a text message and was not saved, but Mary Claire doesn’t deny sending it. Did she invite him to her home “out of fear”? Is this Vassar’s claim? Do Vassar officials all have Ph.D.’s in making ridiculous claims while keeping straight faces? What is going on here?
Peter the Rapist
We don’t know what really happened. How could we? For all we know, Peter’s account of the night in question is entirely fabricated. Peter’s account wasn’t contradicted by Mary Claire or by anyone else, but then again we don’t have video do we? All we have are Mary Claire’s Facebook messages which are quite clear, but which do not contain a minute by minute account of events.
So Mary Claire may or may not have made the “my how quickly you learn” comment about Peter’s supposedly brilliant oral sex technique. Mary Claire may or may not have called her roommate to see if she could arrange for some privacy where she could take the young man’s virginity. I think these things happened, but we have only Peter’s word and Mary Claire’s “I don’t remember,” to go on.
Suppose Mary Claire had successfully contacted her roommate. Suppose the sex had taken place on Mary Claire’s bed. Would Peter have still been kicked out? Probably not. I doubt even the grubby little Vassar officials could have stomached going that far, but I may be underestimating them.
I can just imagine Vassar investigating Peter’s alleged sexual misconduct. “Do women ever want to have sex with virgins?” they would ask. “Could she really have had ‘a wonderful time’ having drunken sex with a virgin?” Obviously Peter’s virginity makes him more likely to be guilty of taking advantage of his friend. Obviously.
Maybe it’s just as well they didn’t bother with an investigation or even an attempt at appearing to be fair. Vassar ignored Ms. Walker’s Facebook messages, avoided questioning the young woman, reached a foregone conclusion, and unceremoniously kicked Peter Yu’s sorry butt out of their precious college without a second thought. The whole process took all of 18 days: Vassar is a model of efficiency.
I note here that Vassar’s president, Catherine Hill, has given the college’s policies and their appropriate application some real thought and has expressed concern that the policy essentially just says that any drunk woman is considered unable to consent. Since this policy has never been and would never be applied to a man, Ms. Hill is rightfully concerned: It is very scary. Two drunk kids, both out of it. Is it always the male at risk [for a sexual misconduct charge]?
So it’s not like everyone at Vassar is a dirt-dwelling grub. But Ms. Hill’s clarity of thought didn’t help Peter.
Now tossed out on the street, as it were, the high-achieving student who was no longer a virgin found that he had been blacklisted at every other top school from coast to coast. Gotta love that! Meanwhile Peter’s bewildered parents received a massive bill from Vassar for the balance of his sophomore year tuition.
Peter is now attending a fine college you have never heard of.
Good Luck with the Lawsuit, Dude
Of course, Peter is suing Vassar for discrimination — a team of New York lawyers took his case (while rejecting many similar but less outrageous cases). The New York lawyers are not claiming a time traveler invasion at Vassar, but they might as well be. No man has ever filed a complaint against a woman at Vassar for taking advantage of his drunkenness, so how can you prove Vassar wouldn’t take such a claim seriously? How can you prove Vassar is treating men and women differently?
Here’s the simple answer: You can’t.
Of course, Peter himself could, theoretically, have been the first man to claim he was too drunk to consent and, if his complaint had been ignored, he could then have claimed discrimination. Unfortunately for Peter, there’s a one year statute of limitation on sexual misconduct complaints.
Mary Claire’s complaint was timed to perfection. Both parties were violating Vassar’s official policy by having sex with a drunk person, but only one complaint would ever be filed.
You see, Vassar officials made sure Mary Claire filed her complaint exactly on the one year anniversary of her taking Peter’s virginity. So by the time Peter found out about the complaint against him, it was too late.
It’s beautiful when you think about it. Satan is grinning from ear to ear. Yes, the clock had run out on Peter Yu! Talk about being totally screwed.
Peter’s civil lawsuit against Vassar has been about as successful as his sex life. Judge Ronnie Abrams made things perfectly clear in her statement dismissing the case: If a man at Vassar got drunk and slept with a virgin woman and walked out on her and then apologized profusely for leading her on and then, a year later, tried to have her kicked out for taking advantage of him, and if this abused man was ignored by Vassar and the dangerous woman who used to be a virgin was not prosecuted simply because she was a woman, then, and only then, would there be a basis for a discrimination claim. Therefore, for the moment, Peter Yu has no case.
Got that? Peter and his lawyers said they vehemently disagree with this “logic” and are appealing.
What of Mary Claire?
Peter will be fine. He’s not at a name school, but that won’t matter. He’s a brilliant student and will get a great education anyway. He’ll avoid drunk women and probably casual sex in general and he’ll find success and happiness for his own reasons and maybe also just to spite the invaders from the past who tried to ruin his life. Good for him.
I wish I could say the same for Mary Claire. She didn’t say much at Peter’s hearing; she mostly just cried. That’s not the Mary Claire who wrote heartfelt notes to Peter.
I care about you and I never ever meant to hurt you and we were both drunk. — Mary Claire to Peter, April 2012.
I felt helpless and wrote the Facebook messages out of fear. — Mary Claire’s modified story as told by Vassar officials, February 2013.
Her change of heart is not just suspicious: it’s grotesque. What happened to Mary Claire Walker between April 2012 and February 2013? Who is responsible? I suspect Vassar is liable.
New Male Buddy System
Women have been using a buddy system for decades to protect one another at social gatherings that involve a lot of drinking. Men should do it too. It’s simple: when you see your friend about to leave the party with a drunk woman, you stop him.
“Dude, she’s drunk.”
“So am I. Whatever.”
“Dude, she can’t consent. You could get screwed.”
“That’s the plan! And she just gave me a hickey for god’s sake.”
“Dude, it doesn’t matter, she might not remember tomorrow. Or she might change her mind a year from now.”
“No way, she’s a friend of mine. She totally wants to hook up, she’s standing right here nodding her head and smiling. So back off.”
“Dude, it’s way too dangerous.”
“But, my good friend, facing danger is an important part of growing up!”
“Dude, she could text you the next day she had a wonderful time and they can still kick your ass out. The risk level is off the charts here my friend. Sorry.”
“But . . . but . . . can’t I face just a little danger?”
The landscape has changed for men and this isn’t all bad. Encouraging men to scrupulously avoid even the appearance of taking advantage of a drunk woman has benefits especially considering the prevalence of sexual misconduct on college campuses. On the other hand, women are obviously NOT made safer when we kick men like Peter Yu out of college. Also, denying a woman’s self-proclaimed full responsibility is a nightmare for scenario for feminism: women MUST be allowed to be adults. I don’t know any other way to put it.
Actions taken at Vassar and other colleges perpetuate the pernicious idea that women are perpetual children. By ignoring Mary Claire Walker’s own sense of personal responsibility and kowtowing to the time travelers, Vassar has delivered a big fat backwards kick to women everywhere.
No one at Vassar said, “Mary Claire, from your Facebook messages it looks like you are an adult who got drunk and made a mistake. Is it possible that’s exactly what happened?” Instead, we were treated to another installment of the woman-as-perpetual-helpless-child meme. The fact that a woman can be incapacitated by alcohol and/or overpowered by a larger, stronger male does NOT mean she is a vulnerable infant in every situation no matter what.
Unless we want to go back to the 1940’s, we must affirm an adult woman’s absolute right to get drunk and have bad sex. It’s truly bizarre that this even needs to be said.
Repeat After Me
This is what seems to have happened. Vassar officials convinced Mary Claire that she needed to complete a special project to pass their required “Helpless Female 101” course. Repeat after me: “You were taken advantage of.” Repeat after me: “You are a child.” Repeat after me: “You are helpless.”
Ms. Walker gave in and completed her special project. She became a victim (perhaps a lifelong victim) and the young virgin she hurt was kicked out of Vassar a year to the day after surrendering his virginity.
Mary Claire had expressed herself strongly, clearly, and repeatedly: her Facebook messages are utterly unambiguous. At the hearing, all the poor girl — her adulthood having been cruelly taken from her by Vassar officials — could do was cry hysterically and say she had been helpless.
WHAT HAPPENED? It seems obvious. Vassar should answer for their manipulation of the young woman. Even worse, Mary Claire’s father is a professor at Vassar and he was right there with a front row seat for the whole sordid mess. He allowed Vassar officials to destroy his daughter. Peter Yu will be fine. But what of Mary Claire? How will she recover? Who will help her?
Professor Walker and the Vassar officials are not evil people. Have they lost their minds? Maybe.
In Kornbluth’s great short story, humanity arrives at a future in which most people are so stupid they believe everything the tabloids tell them. A few million intelligent people remain; they must live out their lives surrounded by billions of morons whose stupidity and violence represents an ever-present danger.
We’re live in Kornbluth’s world today. Millions sincerely believe Amanda Knox is guilty. Amongst them is a Harvard law professor. A large fraction of the Italian judiciary could be characters in Kornbluth’s story.
The story has a happy ending; unfortunately, the modern day crystallization of Kornbluth’s dark vision appears horribly permanent. To soothe myself, I made a list of the seven most moronic antics in the Knox case.
Here it is, The Marching Morons by Cyril Kornbluth — the 100% true to life version.
7. The Psychological Method
Patrick Lumumba was known throughout Perugia for his gentleness. But one of his employees was the stunning Amanda Knox. When Knox’s roommate, Meredith Kercher, was murdered by a deranged maniac, police focused their attention on the quirky but compelling young woman. They eventually came up with a really brilliant theory: Knox and Lumumba had together murdered Meredith.
The physical evidence in the case had yet to be analyzed, but that had never stopped a group of morons before. Police openly bragged about how they used what they called “the psychological method” to quickly solve the case. “We don’t need to rely on other kinds of investigation,” one officer helpfully explained.
Chief Moron Arturo de Felice and at least 11 other officers used a classic tag team interrogation technique to break the distraught Ms. Knox who had hardly slept in the days since finding her roommate dead. Terrified and “howling,” as one of the officers put it, she confirmed their Lumumba theory. Knox even (briefly) believed it herself.
The great thing about morons is they don’t know they’re morons. At a triumphant press conference the next day, the idiot Felice actually laid it all out for the international crowd of reporters: “Initially the American gave a version of events we knew was not correct. She buckled and made an admission of facts we knew were correct and from that we were able to bring them all in. They all participated but had different roles.”
Yes, of course. Patrick Lumumba was not the kind family man he appeared to be: not at all; he was actually a psychotic killer. Officers arrested Lumumba that same night; the sweet hippie kid from Seattle who trusted everyone, especially police, went straight from the interrogation room to a jail cell; Knox’s bewildered Italian lover was also arrested and jailed. And so police had, in custody, the three least likely suspects in Perugia.
You know the guy who loses his keys in the woods but searches under the street lamp because the light is better? Well, it happened in Italy. Meredith’s other two (Italian) roommates lawyered up immediately following the murder; they knew better than to trust the police. Knox, on the other hand was an easy (and lovely) target.
Today, the Knox confession is gospel to millions of morons all over the world.
6. See You Later for a Quick Little Murder
Arresting the three least likely suspects in a city has to be some kind of moron high water mark for murder investigation. As word of the amazing arrests spread from Italy to England to the United States, witness after witness came forward patiently explaining to dumbfounded police that Mr. Lumumba had been in his bar all night serving drinks just as he was every night, night after night. After all, he was a bartender. Hmm.
Since they had neglected to measure the temperature of the victim’s body (!), they did not have a precise time of death. So they kept Lumumba, Knox, and Knox’s fantastically unlucky boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, imprisoned. After all, Lumumba might have slipped out of his bar at some point, murdered Kercher, and might then have returned, serving drinks, bantering with customers, smiling and laughing, and setting up his alibi. Clever fellow.
Knox went back to the story police had so forcefully rejected — she had been at Raffaele’s apartment all night getting high and having sex. Raffaele himself, who had been a lonely virgin a week before, simply couldn’t believe the whole thing wasn’t a bad dream.
But the morons were committed at this point so they stuck to their guns.
You see, Lumumba’s text on the night of the murder to his beautiful young waitress — “slow night, don’t come in” — and her reply —”okay, see you later” — had convinced the imaginative officers that the Congolese bar owner and the American student must have been conspiring. So they made Knox say so.
Police told Knox she had repressed her “memory” due to shock. If she didn’t “remember” what they wanted her to remember, she would never see her family again, they told her. A couple of slaps to the back of the head from officer Rita Ficarra did the trick. Knox suddenly had what she called a “vision” about her and her boss Lumumba paying Meredith a visit on the night of the murder just as police suspected. Amanda’s “vision” became the “facts” police “knew were correct.”
The moment the weepy college kid signed their little paper, police celebrated, hugging one another in a charming display of camaraderie. But now Lumumba was spoiling all the fun. He claimed he had been at his bar all night. Even worse, he could prove it. No one said being an Italian cop was easy!
Lumumba’s lawyers eventually documented a minute-by-minute account of his activities the entire night and police had to let him go. The innocent businessman returned home, but was unable to reopen his bar.
Meanwhile, the forensics people did their jobs. Someone had left a complete handprint with a clear fingerprint in the victim’s blood on the wall. The fingerprint was matched to Rudy Guede, a habitual burglar well known to police. Guede had fled to Germany. He was quickly found by German police and extradited to Italy.
Knox, the winner of the world’s least believable confession award, and Sollecito, winner of the unluckiest computer geek in the universe award, remained in jail. Police apparently couldn’t bear to admit their outrageous mistake. So they tweaked the story a little and, in the process, filled tabloid hearts with joy for thousands of miles in every direction.
5. Amanda Knox: Controller of Men
Kercher had been murdered by a troubled drifter with a terrible abuse history going back to childhood. Rudy Guede was burlarizing her apartment when Meredith came home at 9 pm and surprised him. They would have recognized one another as they had seen each other around town. At some point he attacked. Guede stabbed her in the throat twice with a pocket knife which hit bone, slipped, and sliced his fingers. Guede, an extraordinary athlete with mental problems, was obviously quite dangerous, but he had never killed before and didn’t really know how. His minor injuries had not yet healed when he was caught.
Kercher could not defend herself against Guede. His third stab plunged the knife to its hilt into the soft part of Meredith’s throat. The deranged man slashed sideways tearing open a gaping wound. Two liters of Meredith’s blood poured all over Guede and onto the floor saturating Meredith’s clothing. Kercher went down, still alive, but drowning in her own blood, feebly struggling. As she died, she exhaled a bloody mist while Guede removed her blood-soaked clothing and sexually assaulted her.
All of these details were determined by the Italian forensics team. Once they had identified Guede, the police had his friend contact him via Skype from the police station. “She was clinging to me very hard,” Guede told his friend. Guede claimed she had been attacked by someone else and that he tried to save her. But this did not explain why his DNA was found in her vagina.
Police knew Rudy Guede well. He had broken into at least three buildings in the two months prior to his murder of Kercher. He was caught in Milan in a building he was in the process of looting and he had on his person stolen goods from two previous burglaries. Milanese police arrested him and confiscated the loot, and let him go. No charges were filed. Most rational experts assume the kid-gloves treatment was due to Guede acting as a police informant. We’ll never know. Five days later Meredith Kercher drowned in her own blood while Guede molested her.
We don’t know why Guede wasn’t jailed for the burglaries. We do know that Arturo and his friends will never be topped. They will simply never, ever be topped unless something happens that is beyond imagination. Guede didn’t just burglarize buildings in the months before he killed Meredith. Let’s talk about a man named Christian Tramontano.
During his crime spree, Guede invaded a home in Perugia where he pulled a knife on the resident. Christian Tramontano called the police. Christian Tramontano visited the police station three times. Christian Tramontano did NOT report that Guede had by his side his trusty accomplice, a sweet hippie girl from Seattle brandishing a kitchen knife. He tried mightily to get the attention of the police, but apparently suffered from an unfortunate lack of female curves.
On 1 November 2007, Guede’s life of abuse and abandonment, of desperation and poverty, hit rock bottom. The mentally ill 20-year-old, who apparently possessed some sort of get out of jail free card, left a nightmarish scene in Meredith’s bedroom and went dancing. Yes, he went dancing. Witnesses at the dance club later reported an odd body odor exuding from the first-time murderer. Two days later, the athletic burglar from Ivory Coast who had transformed into a monster fled to Germany where he slept on trains for a few days.
Guede’s DNA was found not only inside Meredith’s body, but also on her clothes and in her purse. No other DNA on the scene was found by the police lab other than the victim’s. Perugia police engineered Guede’s release from a Milan jail. A visiting student lay brutally murdered. Guede was in custody and there was enough DNA evidence to convict him of being the Devil.
Case closed? Of course not. It was time for MAJOR ass-covering. And don’t forget how pretty Amanda was back then. She’s behind bars, terrified. Let’s keep the party going.
The Perugia morons now knew the truth: Knox, Sollecito and Lumumba were all innocent; even worse, they had been protecting the killer. To non-morons this probably seems like the ultimate crash and burn. It wasn’t. In fact, for the Perugia police force, it was actually no problem at all.
In the new “news” story fed to the tabloids, the teary-eyed beauty now sitting in a jail cell was actually a dangerously clever adversary whom police had outwitted using their amazing psychological techniques. The tantalizingly flexible Knox — she had performed a split at the behest of an admiring officer — had fooled the decent and honest police officers when she said “yes, sir” to their idiotic Lumumba theory.
That’s right. New story. Reset everything. Here we go.
Knox convinced her virginal Italian boyfriend — she had broadened the computer geek’s horizons just six days before — to assist her and the deranged Ivorian, also in her thrall, in the brutal murder of her beautiful British roommate whom she hated. Later, under questioning, she desperately substituted an innocent black man for the real black perpetrator in an last-ditch attempt to evade the tightening net of brilliant police work that had ultimately uncovered the shocking truth.
Moron’s everywhere smoked from the tabloid pipe — it was legal ecstasy.
The Knox confession remains exhibit A for the moron crowd: Amanda was in the house when Meredith died — the yoga aficionado had outright admitted it to police in the wee hours one morning and that’s all you need if you are a moron. The confession as a whole — with every single word written in Italian and consisting of 100% utter nonsense without the slightest relationship to any of the facts of the actual murder — was a real charmer for the morons. Knox signed the document. She had not only admitted to being present, she had even gone so far as to accuse an innocent man — her boss, Patrick Lumumba — of murder and cruelly ruin his life.
The police — who were almost as flexible as the delectable Knox herself — took the opportunity to charge the jailed beauty with slander.
Yes, really. They also conveniently claimed they had forgotten to turn on the recording equipment in the room where Knox was interrogated. But they were lying. The recording equipment in that room was on all the time. While waiting in that very same room, Knox and Sollecito had been recorded again and again. When the two hungry kids talked about getting some pizza after they were done at the police station, they were recorded. The first thing the police did after the murder was to tap their cell phones; every call was recorded. All of Knox’s later conversations with her family and her lawyers while imprisoned were recorded. And forty thousand (40,000) calls made by Sollecito’s family members in the succeeding years as the endless legal battles went on were also recorded.
In fact, just about the only thing the Perugia cops are good at is recording conversations. Of course they recorded Knox’s “confession.” They just couldn’t release it. Arturo and his bright boys and girls were bright enough to know what would happen if anyone actually listened to their little game of “let’s make the pretty girl say what we want her to say.” For all anyone knows, the recording may still exist.
Much of the world blithely went along with the Perugian brainiacs. In Boston, a Harvard law professor nodded his head in agreement. In England and in Italy, the tabloid photographers polished their camera lenses and buttoned up their designer shirts. Morons by the millions stood impatiently in line to purchase the latest photo spread of the hot young murderess.
Even Meredith Kercher’s own family went along with the same morons whose gross incompetence (remember, Guede had pulled a knife on a Perugia resident in addition to the multiple burglaries) had killed their beloved daughter and sister.
4. The Presumed LCN Sample
As joy spread across the tabloid universe, police tested a large kitchen knife taken from Sollecito’s apartment and found no DNA of any kind on the blade, no human residue on the blade, and no blood on the blade. The triple negative result presented no difficulties whatsoever for the prosecution and the knife took its place as the central piece of physical evidence in the case.
If you’re not a moron, you may need to pause here and re-read that last paragraph (there are no typos, read it again). The thought process of a moron can have a wonderful simplicity to it that is almost artistic, but it does take time and effort to fully appreciate this particular kind of art. Do read it again, you’ll be glad you did.
Ready? Okay, I’ll tell you how they did it. You may want to sit down if you aren’t sitting already. If you’re sensitive like me, you may want to find someone you trust and hold his or her hand. Okay. Here we go. Hold on. It’ll be over quickly. I promise.
Negative = Positive.
Yes, that’s it. The perfect solution. It is a thing of beauty, is it not?
Negative = Positive was the brainchild of the Moron Queen, Patrizia Stefanoni, who looked at the three negative tests on the most important piece of evidence in the most important trial of her career and “accidentally” wrote the word “positive” on a form due to what the second court diplomatically called an “understandable oversight.”
Now the great Queen Patrizia could do PCR. PCR on a negative sample is the standard test for contamination in a genetics lab — even the slightest contamination shows up clearly on a blank sample magnified by the magic of PCR. “Negative controls” are used routinely in all labs — advanced labs with reverse pressure and ultraviolet decontamination and low-end labs like Patrizia’s — to check for the ever-present contamination. A microscopic spec of dust carrying DNA can easily contaminate a sample even in advanced labs with careful technicians.
So a negative sample doesn’t always come back negative after amplification. Just because the knife tested negative three times doesn’t mean it would always be negative. Patrizia’s approach was brilliant in its simplicity. Call the negative sample positive, amplify it using PCR, hope to get a tiny signal, say your lab doesn’t have contamination, and, above all, make absolutely sure that under NO circumstances, including a court order, do you release negative controls done by the lab technicians since the contamination will show up there as well of course. Then all you have to do is keep a straight face as you take away someone’s life. Easy as pie if your name is Stefanoni. After all, even though the knife DNA was contamination, it was obvious Knox did it; just look at her.
And so it came to pass that the great Queen Patrizia strode into the courtroom with her fashionable boots and her mane of thick black hair and stated clearly and unequivocally that contamination simply doesn’t occur in her lab. The tiny signal she got from the negative sample that matched Meredith’s DNA was therefore not contamination and the original triple negative result must have been wrong. The great Patrizia had in fact made a very fortunate mistake in classifying the negative sample positive because the amplification result proved that the sample had actually been positive all along and the kitchen knife, far from being used to cut bread, was actually part of a murder most foul.
The Stefanoni gambit created a wondrous Kornbluthian phrase, never before uttered in a courtroom: “presumed LCN sample.” Let us parse this wondrous phrase. The knife swab was presumed to be a sample that, if only it had been analyzed more accurately, would have registered as LCN (meaning extremely tiny) rather than as triple negative because it must have really had blood on it even though it seemed not to. And there is one and only one forensics genetics lab in the world that never has contamination — the one controlled by the great Queen Patrizia.
No one before had ever had the balls to even try to introduce a negative sample as evidence, withhold the negative controls, and claim that contamination simply was not an issue. The Knox defence didn’t have access to the lab data so they couldn’t get their hands on the routine negative controls that are automatically run. Stefanoni released only the data she chose to release.
And so the Massei court became the first court in history to find someone guilty based on a DNA sample that started out negative, became positive only after amplification, and was presented with no control data to back it up.
In the U.S., the initial negative result would immediately disqualify the sample and it would not be admissible at all, much less become a lynchpin in a murder conviction. Peter Gill, the inventor of modern forensic genetics and probably the world’s foremost forensic geneticist, said in his book that the knife sample gave a “classic” contamination signal. But Knox was put away anyway.
Knox once said of her beauty, “I’m not that pretty . . . I’m not Helen of Troy.” But she is. How many women can say they turned negative into positive? Launching a thousand ships was nothing.
Years later, when the second court repeatedly demanded that Stefanoni finally turn over the negative controls, she repeatedly refused, stating that the court had all the information it needed and issuing veiled threats to institute one of Italy’s ubiquitous slander suits over the court’s vile insinuations that she was hiding something.
The second court asked two of Italy’s top geneticists (not morons) to examine the DNA evidence — such as it was. The independent experts noted the triple negative result and the likely contamination and the unfortunate lack of negative control data. They provided the most concise characterization of Stefanoni’s negative-equals-positive-no-negative-control charade on record: “incomprehensible.”
And that was that. The moron judge was over-ruled by an honest judge and Knox boarded a plane where, in the exhuberance of her deliverance, the emotional young woman, now fluent in Italian, kept forgetting to speak English to her parents.
Peter Gill is, like the Kerchers, a British citizen. Peter Gill, like every other geneticist in the world, regards the Knox case as a grotesque miscarriage of justice. If a rational word is spoken and there are only morons there to hear it, does it make a sound?
No. The Kercher family still, to this day, believe Knox is a vile murderer. Will they ever see the light of day? Will they ever realize the Perugia police first killed their daughter by releasing Guede and then cynically used them to railroad Knox and Sollecito? Are they stupid or just gullible?
The fact is, without the support of the Kercher family, the case against Knox and Sollecito would never even have gone to trial. Had they declared the police case absurd from the start, their moral authority as the victim’s family would have carried the day. Arturo de Felice, Giuliano Mignini, Patrizia Stefanoni, Rita Ficarra, and the other morons would have been laughed out of town.
But it was not to be.
3. Anything is Possible, Mr. and Mrs. Kercher
Having lost their daughter to a deranged maniac with a pocket knife and no money, the Kerchers wanted to believe their daughters death was something less horribly banal. So they believed the knife story concocted by police morons.
The kitchen knife police took from Sollecito’s apartment was much too large to have been the murder weapon, so it didn’t actually matter whether the lab found anything on it because the wounds on Meredith’s throat were obviously made by a pocket knife, not by a large kitchen knife. But Amanda’s lovely hands had cut bread with Sollecito’s knife meaning her beautiful DNA was on the handle.
The “presumed LCN sample” gambit turned water into wine for the prosecution: Meredith’s DNA was officially on the blade of a big kitchen knife randomly selected from amongst the many kitchen knives in Sollecito’s drawer. Amanda on the handle, Meredith on the blade: done deal, likelihood be damned.
The too-large knife was inches from being the official murder weapon. But it was way too big. What to do?
No problem. We cannot in fact say all three wounds on Meredith’s throat were caused by a pocket knife. Theoretically, the final slashing wound that opened up Kercher’s throat before she drowned in her own blood could have been made by any sharp object — from a broken bottle to an axe to a pocket knife to a carefully-wielded kitchen knife.
Police told Meredith’s grieving family that two knives must have been used on their beloved’s throat with the assailants switching from the small pocket knife that made the first two, non-fatal wounds to the too-large, randomly selected, triple-negative-but-really-positive kitchen knife. Yes, in the middle of the assault, the assailants switched knives and carefully made a pocket-knife-sized slash with a large kitchen knife. It’s possible. Knife switching happens all the time. Well it could, theoretically happen. Besides, Meredith’s DNA was found on the knife blade after the three negative tests were ignored and the sample was amplified anyway. So there.
Morons everywhere believe and still believe this bushwah wholeheartedly. The Kerchers follow along, ever gullible.
2. Every Horror Movie Needs a Bloody Shower Scene
The oops-we-forgot-to-record-it confession confirming the nonsensical police theory and the gigantic triple negative knife that magically became positive in the lab that doesn’t release control results even when the court requests it have their places as true derring do in the annals of morondom. But the Perugia police may have set unbreakable records in this case. They may have found a low point in public stupidity that makes a good case for rivaling what you might see in a Monty Python sketch.
I know, it’s hard to believe. Read on.
Amongst the weaponry employed by Italian police officers are such diverse elements as phenolphthalein, cameras, and tabloid reporters. The Perugian Inquisition gave the gullible public and Meredith’s family a real treat when they treated Knox’s bathroom with phenolphthalein and waited a few hours. The bathroom now appeared to be covered in blood. Get out the camera. Now we have a weapon to wield against the beautiful Amanda.
And wield it they did.
The police made no statements whatsoever about their psychotic little photograph. They simply released it to the press. Morons were, as you might expect, rapturous, but in no danger of overdosing as there is no known limit to the stupidity a moron can ingest without ill effect.
The picture of the “bloody bathroom that Amanda Knox showered in after the murder” even made it onto a CNN newscast, proving once again that morons lurk everywhere.
Perhaps the best of Monty Python Comes to Perugia is not the Spanish Inquisition sketch, but the witch scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “We did do the nose. And the hat. But she’s a witch.”
Worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.
1. Logic is a Wreath of Pretty Flowers Which Smell BAD
When grotesque stupidity lurks under a judges robes, be afraid.
Knox left footprints in her own house. The footprints, needless to say, tested negative for blood. In fact, ALL tests to determine Knox’s involvement in the murder were negative except for the stand-up-to-a-dozen-police-officers-in-a-foreign-country psychological test which she failed.
But a thousand negative chemical tests would not sway the great Judge Massei. He is a man with the courage of his convictions! As part of his 400-page decision he wrote that negative tests don’t matter. Here it is word for word from page 282 of the English translation:
“It must be noted that the negative result for blood does not necessarily indicate that no blood was present.”
The best part of this is that Judge Moron is entirely correct! He gets 100 percent on his moron exam. It is indeed true that the fact that a scientific test is negative for blood does NOT mean there was no blood. Indeed, there might well have been blood. We don’t know and will never know that Knox had NOT stepped in Kercher’s blood and had NOT tracked it all over her house. Maybe she did. In fact, Amanda Knox might be guilty, guilty, guilty even if a million chemical tests come out negative.
Morons do so enjoy dropping science like a load of bricks.
But wait! We can do that ourselves, just for kicks.
The great Judge Massei will be our gracious host;
he’ll tell us all that Knox is a very shapely ghost.
How else could she commit a grisly murder and leave no trace?
Indeed, science can never prove that that was NOT the case.
Our hero, Dr. Massei, explained the damning evidence against Knox with such wonderful clarity and detail: a sample swabbed from a large area of the girls’ bathroom sink which they had shared for weeks did in fact contain DNA from (guess who?) both girls — shocking evidence of murder; Knox’s footprints in Knox’s house tested negative for blood, but might really have been positive if only the test had been more sensitive; the knife tested negative three times, but if PCR shows a faint signal and Patrizia says there is no contamination that’s good enough — who needs negative controls?; the experienced and athletic burglar named Rudy Guede would have found it so terribly difficult to climb a few feet up a wall and so Knox had obviously let him in — the defence video showing someone scaling that very wall in less than three seconds is irrelevant; finally, and most important, Knox’s transparent attempt to implicate poor Patrick Lumumba and fool the honest police who just wanted the truth implicates her — we don’t need a recording of the interrogation.
Massei distorted no facts and made no false statements; he simply confiscated Knox’s twenties and thirties and explained himself in full detail.
The Massei decision is, in fact, a beautiful document, perhaps more beautiful even than Amanda Knox at her most alluring peak. It is as fine an example of a self-refuting document as exists since reading it once is more than enough to convince non-morons that Knox and her absurdly unlucky virgin are innocent beyond a shadow of doubt. No defence team was needed at all. If only Kornbluth were here to see the reality of his vision: 400 pages of pure word play trying to pass itself off as a legal decision.
Case closed. Those were the beautiful words uttered by the world class idiot Felice at his frighteningly mindless press conference in 2007 when the terrible loss of Meredith Kercher was still fresh. Today, the Italian Supreme Court having vacated Knox and Sollecito’s convictions in their shocking move on Friday 27 March 2015, the not-quite-so-delectable Amanda Knox lives and writes relatively quietly. I note here, sadly, that Kercher’s family members — John and Arline and Stephanie and Lyle — were unhappy that the whole absurd case was put to rest and have thus been formally inducted into the panoply of morons where they will most likely remain for eternity.
I’m so sorry for all concerned, including the survivors.
It is painful, even excruciating, to realize that my fellow humans may lack empathy, embrace cruelty, and/or renounce rationality. Somehow our ability to put innocent people in prison after a careful process involving highly trained scientists, police, lawyers, and judges and leave them there or even kill them (Todd Willingham, Earl Washington, Anthony Yarbough and many others besides Amanda Knox) is worse than anything else we humans do; even a war in which 50 million die is not, in some ways, quite so unreasonable as Yarbough spending 20 years of his life in prison or Willingham being executed or Washington’s confessions to numerous crimes (including giving Eve the apple) being believed.
Knox, with her case followed by millions and, at length, spawning books, BBC documentaries, movies, comments on news sites, comments at the same level from Harvard professors (maybe Dershowitz should write for the tabloids), and widespread incredulous outrage from human beings, has created a whole new class of injustice in which it’s not just the system failing us, it’s whole nations, whole peoples. Perhaps this is why I, without good reason, think about the Knox case so much even though others have suffered more.
As an exercise, I posted comments on a news site in which I argued that Amanda and Raffaele were guilty. I did this to the best of my ability but did not stoop to leaving out crucial facts or making up nonsense. I tried to argue powerfully, eloquently, and honestly, but did not entirely eschew the occasional low blow. Of course, when one does this, it reads as nonsense. Nevertheless, I did learn something. The mindless people – not stupid people as they do not all have low IQ’s as Dershowitz proves – who believe in the modern-day Perugian fairy tale have, I think, an extremely simple set of beliefs: first, no one would tell police, under any circumstances whatever, that they were present at a murder when they were, in fact, not; second, once you have what amounts to a confession, all other evidence may be interpreted from the standpoint of guilty until proven innocent. Indeed, Massei’s verdict overtly reverses the usual standard of justice. This is assuming, of course, that at least some of the people who say they believe Knox is guilty actually do believe this and are not simply monsters who know she is innocent. Maybe they just think it’s all a big game. Who knows?
What follows below are two comments I posted on news sites where the typical commenters are, for the most part, “people” who cause me to doubt what species I belong to.
Knox and Sollecito are obviously deranged but dangerously clever. They used a kitchen knife to make a wound that looked like it came from a pocket knife and then they cleaned the kitchen knife exceptionally well and then used it again for cooking and just tossed it into a drawer with half a dozen other knives. They probably figured no one would test a knife that didn’t seem to fit the wound. But they thought wrong. The investigators not only zeroed in on the correct knife right away, but they also didn’t stop after three tests on the knife came up negative for blood, for anything human, and for any type of DNA. Thank goodness they broke international protocols and did the amplification procedure anyway on the apparently-clean knife. Their positive result matching Meredith’s DNA obviously does NOT mean the lab was contaminated; in fact, it means Knox and Sollecito didn’t clean the knife quite well enough. The pair of murderers left at least one cell from Meredith on the knife which the PCR procedure amplified into the DNA equivalent of a billion cells which were then analyzed and matched to Meredith (it was a perfect match, absolutely unassailable unless you believe the contamination theory).
And thank goodness for the persistence of the Perugia cops. They knew Knox was lying and they knew she and Lumumba had killed Meredith. They explained this at the post-arrest press conference: “Initially, the American gave a version of events we knew was not correct. She buckled and made an admission of facts we knew were correct and from that we were able to bring them all in.” Later police explained that they used what they called the psychological method to solve the crime, essentially studying Knox’s behavior and reactions to identify her as the killer. They clearly succeeded and they are clearly a formidable investigative team.
It was just a matter of breaking Ms. Knox. Once they got her to admit that Lumumba had sex with Meredith and then killed her, they were able to arrest both the Congolese bar owner and the Seattle native Knox. Later the cops were able to nail Knox for slander when they found out that actually the bloody handprint belonged to Rudy Guede who removed Meredith’s blood-soaked jeans and then sexually assaulted her while she was choking to death on her own blood (the blood on the front of her jeans and Guede’s DNA in her vagina make it clear that the fatal wound preceded removal of the clothing). Knox was there of course (as she admitted) and knew what really happened, so she was obviously purposely misleading the police when she described the sexual assault and the murder in the wrong order. Really Knox should have gotten two extra prison terms for her vile slander: one for saying Lumumba raped Meredith and one for saying he killed her. It’s a good thing Knox’s boss had enough customers that night to give him a minute-by-minute alibi completely covering the time that Knox, Sollecito, and Guede spent murdering poor Meredith.
If only the cops had collected the bra clasp early on when they first picked it up. If they hadn’t left it lying around for so long (46 days, come on guys!), they would have been able to identify all four (or five or six or more) of the male DNA signatures on the bra clasp and arrest ALL of the people who were involved in Meredith’s murder. We’ll never know exactly how many people committed this murder because of this serious oversight on the part of the cops who otherwise did a terrific job except for a few mistakes: not taking the body temperature of the victim when she was discovered, not taking proper care of the computer hard drives they took into custody, and, worst of all, allowing the bra strap itself to degrade so that it cannot be retested to 1) confirm Sollecito’s presence in the room and 2) identify the rest of the gang. When I think of all the murderers who are still at large, a whole deranged group who murdered that poor girl for fun, it makes me sick.
The true genius of the pair of murderers we do know about is the cleanup job they did or seemed to do. What most people don’t realize is that they didn’t simply clean up their DNA and leave Guede’s. They clearly planned the whole thing from the beginning. They undoubtedly both wore gloves and probably caps too to prevent any hairs from them from becoming part of the crime scene. They must have purposely let Guede do most of the dirty work and they undoubtedly thought that no one would believe that they could have killed Meredith without leaving any DNA behind (except for the bra clasp which they probably figured the police wouldn’t bother collecting – and they were almost correct).
This explains why they acted in such an obvious way, kissing each other at a murder scene(!); they thought their DNA trick would prevent anyone from suspecting them no matter how they acted. But they didn’t realize that the Perugian police would see right through their plan. The police and forensic investigators weren’t fooled, they didn’t focus on the lack of DNA at the scene AND they kept at it with Sollecito’s kitchen knife until they got a positive result AND they collected the bra clasp eventually AND, most important of all, they broke Knox who obviously isn’t nearly as tough or smart as she thinks she is.
Most importantly, we have to thank Judge Massei and the rest of the panel for finding them guilty in the first trial. Faced with the luminol footprints that tested negative for blood, he could have just left it at that, but he realized that luminol reacts to blood and, just because one test seems to show that there was no blood and just because the luminol print could, theoretically, be bleach or fruit juice, doesn’t mean you have to discount this evidence. Also, he knew that the swab taken in the bathroom sink that showed Meredith’s and Knox’s DNA mixed together could have been explained away because Knox used the bathroom. But Judge Massei, looking at all the evidence together, was able to conclude that the luminol footprints probably actually were blood and that the swab with the mixed DNA in the bathroom probably actually was a result of the murder. Of course, these things alone might not have been enough for a conviction. The key for Massei was seeing the big picture, from Knox’s admission that she was present when Lumumba raped and murdered Meredith all the way to the luminol footprints and the mixed DNA in the sink.
And, for the record, all police interrogations are a little harsh. It doesn’t mean all confessions should be ignored. Even if one of the cops gave Knox a smack in the back of the head to jog her memory (this cannot be proven and there was no bruising or any identifiable injury at all), it wouldn’t matter. She obviously needed a little help to do what she needed to do and tell the police what happened.
I really don’t see why everyone thinks I’m being sarcastic. People who agree with me that Knox was there think I’m really a Knox supporter and Knox supporters are complimenting me. It’s surreal.
I think Knox was there because she said she was there and I believe her. It’s as simple as that. I don’t believe the backpedaling she’s done since her statements at 1:30 am and 5:45 am on 6 November 2007.
She said, and I quote, “I do not recall whether Meredith was there or arrived afterward. I struggle to remember these moments, but Patrik had sex with Meredith with whom he was infatuated, but I do not recall whether Meredith had been threatened beforehand. I recall confusedly that he killed her.”
That statement speaks for itself. Her other statement about 4 hours later reads in part as follows:
“I cannot recall how much time they stayed together in the room but can only say that at a certain point I heard Meredith screaming and I, frightened, covered my ears. Then I don’t remember anything anymore, I am very confused in my head. I do not recall whether Meredith was screaming and if [I? she?](*) also heard thuds [tonfi] because I was involved, but I was imagining what could have happened.”
Again, this is pretty clear and stands on its own.
I realize that Lumumba didn’t (and would never) kill anyone. He’s a gentle, decent man. But he never admitted to being present when Meredith was killed. Guede did admit this as did Knox. I realize also that no one had sex with Meredith and that the brutal attack came before the sexual assault.
Here’s what I think happened: Probably Knox let Guede in, helped him subdue Meredith, slashed her “friend’s” throat with the kitchen knife while Guede held her down (or perhaps it was the other way around), then helped him remove Meredith’s bloody jeans, and then watched in fascination as he fingered Meredith’s vagina as she was dying. Knox, of course, was smart enough to wear gloves. Feeling a little guilty about having helped to murder her housemate and “friend”, she covered the victim’s body. This is something the police, who spoke at length about the psychological method they use to solve crimes, realized that only a woman would do.
The fact that Knox twice says she was confused and says “do not recall” or “I was imagining” or “I don’t/struggle to remember” seven times in the above excerpts doesn’t mean we should ignore her confession. She confessed. Period. She, like Guede, is obviously a very confused person with many serious issues.
It’s true that her confession doesn’t fit in some ways with the actual crime as it happened and it’s also true that experts say that confessions that get the details wrong may be false confessions. But Knox did get a detail correct. As others have pointed out here, Knox said the victim screamed and that she (Knox) covered her ears. That seems like a pretty precise detail to me.
Once a Knox supporter (I used to be one but I changed my mind) realizes that the confession should be taken for what it is, it is easy enough to realize that the other evidence, such as the kitchen knife, should not be discounted.
Without the confession, the fact that the knife was tested for blood (TMB) and this test was negative and that it was tested for anything human (“species-specific test”) and this was also negative and that it was tested for DNA of any kind (Q-bit fluorometer) and this was a third negative would lead me to doubt the knife evidence. But the police knew Knox had confessed. They knew she was guilty, so they did the PCR amplification in spite of the three negative tests and did get a positive match to Meredith Kercher’s DNA (there is no question about this match as others have pointed out).
As Italian jurists have repeatedly explained, an “osmotic” evaluation of the evidence, in which each piece of evidence affects the evaluation of each other piece of evidence so that the evidence may be seen as a whole, allows us to conclude that the DNA found as a result of the PCR amplification was NOT due to contamination and was in fact on the knife from the beginning despite the three negative tests.
And suppose it was contamination after all. Knox supporters should remember: she confessed to being present when Meredith died.
NOTE: The second comment actually received a neutral response from a guilter and it showcases I think the power of scenarios. When you just make up what might have happened, as is legal in Italian courtrooms, you encourage all concerned to suspend disbelief as if watching a movie. The result: reality and logic go out the window.