They Didn’t Even Bother To Frame Her
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 for murder.
She was not framed. Italian authorities presented fact after fact, finding after finding showing that she was innocent. Through it all, at each juncture, they said, “See, she’s obviously guilty.” Perhaps the most bizarre criminal prosecution in history became a 21st-century retelling of The Emperor’s New Clothes.
It could have been worse for the quirky college kid. It was worse for Earl Washington, Anthony Yarborough, and Todd Willingham, victims of American injustice. Earl and Anthony are free now, minus two decades each. Todd will never be free. His is a story whose lightest word will harrow up your soul and freeze your blood.
Police and prosecutors in Perugia did not want Knox’s whole life, just the first twenty-six years of her adulthood. They set the tabloids on her and tried to recruit her Italian boyfriend of one week: “Testify against that puttana or else.”
When the boyfriend said NO, they put him away too.
Neither subtle nor deceptive, the Perugians were as toddlers performing magic. Already famous for chocolates, the ancient city now boasted the finest, silkiest tessuti invisibili in all the world. For seven years and five months, a parade of naked emperors made a grotesque mockery of humanity itself.
In March 2015, Italy’s highest court struck its gavel: “Per l’amor di Dio, coprirlo!” Then and there, prison for Knox and her boyfriend ceased to be an issue.
The rebuke was not exactly taken to heart by the Imperatori Incorreggibili dell’Italia.
Today, they owe the boyfriend five hundred thousand euros. They won’t pay. It was all his fault, they say. He lied, they say. They know it took police five hours to convince him to sign off on two pages of nonsense, but that doesn’t matter. They say, effectively, that he should have stared down a dozen officers speaking thus: É un bel giorno per morire.
The latest judicial debacle is another abrogation of Italy’s international obligations. Italy, along with 195 other nations, is a signatory to the Official Standards for Holding Idiotic Trials. OSHIT, a little-known appurtenant to the Geneva Conventions, covers the administration of tabloid justice and contains the following legal prescription: “Lack of curves of any involved party shall be sufficient cause to assign innocent bystander status to said party.”
The sharply angled boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, clearly qualifies.
The joke could have been far less funny. Had Knox been framed in the traditional manner, she and Sollecito would still be in jail. How many decades, one wonders, would have passed before he began to curse his integrity? As it happened, the pair spent only four years in prison, and much of the world had a good, if bitter laugh.
Not everyone was so fortunate.
Twenty-one-year-old Meredith Kercher died in agony. Then her mother, father, sister, and two brothers — all deferential to a fault — were used like theater lights. Following Knox and Sollecito before them, they trusted the police, the same police whose monumental stupidity killed their daughter and sister, the same police who bragged about impegno morale while assiduously creating a fictional character called “Foxy Knoxy.”
This is a story about eight people — eight people who, if there is such a thing as justice, will one day be as famous as Amanda Knox herself. Let us begin with their names: Arturo de Felice, Rita Ficarra, Monica Napoleoni, Giuliano Mignini, Edgardo Giobbi, Claudia Matteini, Patrizia Stefanoni, and Giancarlo Massei.
Learn these names. Recite them. Breathe them in the same breath as 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl) ethane, the poison that circled the world, settled into Antarctic snow, and found its way into your blood. The damage done by DDT is healing ever so slowly as the deadly chemical agonizingly dissipates. Not so the Perugia poison. Impegno morale might as well be Italian profanity. And no one has come clean.
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 absolutely everything. He was chillingly open.
The following is a paraphrase.
She tried to tell us she was at her boyfriend’s house. We knew she was lying. We knew because we read her facial expressions and body language. Once we broke her, she saw things our way. We didn’t make an audio record, but we do have a signature.
*Felice did not actually say he and his officers “broke” Knox. He used the Italian word “crollata” — crumbled, buckled, collapsed. Felice’s exact words appear below highlighted in blue.
Camomilla Calda e Brioche Dalla Macchinetta
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 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. Nevertheless, 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. She would be imprisoned for decades and would never see her family again. Officer Rita Ficarra delivered two slaps to the back of her head: “REMEMBER!”
Knox soon found a repressed “memory.” On the night of the murder, she met her employer, Patrick Lumumba, at a basketball court and took him to her house. Meredith either was or was not present when she and Lumumba arrived. Lumumba and Meredith had sex. Knox thought she probably remained in the kitchen (unless of course she was in the bedroom plunging the knife into Meredith’s throat) where she may or may not have heard Meredith screaming. Lumumba killed Meredith, maybe: “Ricordo confusamente che l’ha uccisa lui.”
Police produced a piece of paper containing Knox’s revelations. Knox affixed her signature. Through tear-filled eyes, she watched the ensuing celebration — police officers hugging and kissing. Ficarra felt bad about hitting Knox — “I was just doing my job,” she said.
That’s Knox’s story. Millions regard another version — the tea and pastry version of the interrogation — as more likely. Knox was “trattata bene” and given “camomilla calda” and “brioche dalla macchinetta.” Officer Monica Napoleoni, testifying under oath, described the actual humane treatment.
Ficarra likewise swore 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 pretend they had proof she was a witness as a ruse to extract a signature? Did they threaten her? Did Ficarra play smack-and-sorry? Are pastries from a police station machine edible?
Sometimes truth is mysterious and elusive — sometimes not.
Here is the gentle, courteous Rita Ficarra.
Here is Monica Napoleoni, the bearer of brioche and chamomile.
Questo Ci Sembrava Un Appuntamento
It is certain that at 1:45 am on 6 November 2007, Amanda Knox crollata. Knox admits she did in fact confirm the Lumumba-dunnit theory. The nature of the interrogation is a matter of dispute as there is no recording. We do know, however, that Knox put her signature at the bottom of a document naming Lumumba as the perpetrator.
A few hours later, an extremely surprised young father was arrested.
Knox’s employer was quite possibly the least likely suspect in Perugia. Unfortunately for him, he had exchanged texts with his pretty waitress: Amanda Knox, the regazza disinibita; Amanda Knox, who performed la spaccata 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, two quarts of Meredith’s blood stained her bedroom floor.
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: “Aveva ricevuto il messaggio . . . e da qui è scaturito il tutto.” — She had received the message . . . and from here, emerged the whole.
Officer Rita Ficarra: “Questo ci sembrava un appuntamento.” — This seemed to us an appointment.
For the perspicacious investigators of Perugia, Amanda’s text was a smoking gun. Public prosecutor Giuliano Mignini used it as the centerpiece of his Decreto di Fermo — the formal arrest decree in which he laid out the “gravi indizi” pointing to murder. 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 heroic investigators knew they had her — there would be no escape for the deadly seductress.
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 extreme self-congratulation that 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. The idea that Lumumba might have been pouring drinks for customers was another blank for police — until the customers started showing up at the police station.
Soon, the events of the previous two weeks started coming together for police in dramatic and terrifying fashion, like a fire exploding through a house, or, in this case, through the police station.
On 27 October, the mentally ill burglar who tore open Meredith’s throat with a pocketknife had been arrested in Milan. The next day he was back in Perugia — strutting. Four days later, Meredith’s life ended. By the time police realized the bartender was bartending, it was too late — their newly minted murderer was on the run in Germany, three fantastically unlikely suspects were in jail, tabloids were partying in a dozen time zones, and a grieving family was in town.
Faced with disaster, Perugia police knew just what to do. They were as brave as video-game warriors, exemplars of stillness and calm. They waited. Two more weeks passed.
German police arrested the burglar who had never before killed and who now saw red every time he closed his eyes. It was 20 November 2007. In Perugia, it was a very special day. It was “Rewrite Day.” Lumumba went home and Perugian authorities revealed to the world and to Meredith’s distraught family 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 programmer boyfriend, together with the burglar, killed Meredith. To cover up their participation, Knox and the boyfriend staged a crime scene that fit the burglar’s MO. Under pressure, Knox implicated her employer 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 Kerchers bought into the Knox of Seattle story though they have always been decorous and dignified in public. Patrick, on the other hand, was an especially fierce Knox of Seattle exponent: the day he was released, he spoke out against his former employee saying she didn’t have a soul.
Perugia police, more than pleased with their Rewrite, added calunnia to Knox’s murder charge. Calunnia is Italian for slander.
Chutzpah is Yiddish for outrageous gall.
Una Nuova Sensazione
Laura and Filomena — the Italian coinquilini — knew all about chutzpah. After their roommate was murdered, they quickly pulled themselves together and retained legal counsel. Amanda Knox knew the famous proverb, “When in Rome . . . ” perfectly well, but, charmingly, did not feel the need for representation.
Knox’s willingness to answer questions sans avvocato made her irresistible. The local cops and Edgardo Giobbi and his colleagues from the Rome-based Servizio Centrale Operativo made the most of their buona fortuna. The compliant young woman 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.”
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 thought he knew, at the time, why Knox was screaming: “She was giving Lumumba’s name . . . she recalled in that moment the specific episode.”
That Knox “recalled,” while alone with Giobbi’s goons, a “specific episode” that had not happened was precisely what one would expect under the circumstances. Knox forgot that the Italian police are not like the people in her yoga classes. What she did for three straight days was the legal equivalent of handling the bodies of Ebola victims a mani nude. Sconsigliabile.
You might, now, today, feel an urge to cry, shrieking loudly so that the Knox of the past can hear you, “Quum Romae fueris, Romano vivite more!” Your words will not reach her though if they somehow could, if you had the power to send your sage counsel into the past, you would do well to fear the darkness of unknowable consequences and desist.
What happened, happened.
The gladiatorum Romani easily 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 the great Chief Arturo duly convened a triumphant international press conference where he explained to rapt reporters how he and his fellow investigatori had solved the Kercher murder before the forensics team could set up their microscopes.
While Felice was preening for the press, the blood-soaked pillow in Meredith’s bedroom was being examined. The palmprint in Meredith’s blood was already in police files. But it would take two weeks to identify it.
So, for two weeks, the nonsense gushing from official sources was all reporters had. Newsweek published Perugia’s Extreme Sex Murder.
Newsweek’s coverage made it obvious police were fooling themselves. At the press conference, Felice essentially told the whole world he and his officers had shoved a fairy tale down Knox’s throat.
Newsweek’s description of Judge Claudia Matteini’s “investigation” of the arrests painted an embarrassing picture of her incompetence as well: she and Felice were evidently a matched set.
Already Matteini is sounding like a stand-up comic who has run out of material. Reading the entire report makes it worse: it’s like driving a volkswagon on a road littered with foot-deep potholes. Matteini wrote thousands of words and the only thing she got right was that Meredith had been murdered.
Since Lumumba couldn’t come up with phone numbers for his customers and since the time stamps on his register receipts didn’t cover every hour of the evening, Matteini concluded his bar was closed (it wasn’t). Lumumba got a new phone which Matteini reasoned must have been a futile effort on his part to hide his communications with Knox (he wanted a new phone). Raffaele carried a pocketknife which must have been the murder weapon (it wasn’t). Bloody shoe prints found at the house might match Raffaele’s sneakers (they didn’t). Amanda and Raffaele had been sorpresi by the arrival of the postal police. Except for one thing — they weren’t. The two scared kids had spent the whole morning calling everyone they knew including Raffaele’s older sister, a police lieutenant.
Che cosa stavi pensando? No lawyers. Two kids questioned past midnight. No recording. No forensics. No motive! Three murder suspects with barely a parking ticket between them. Patrick Lumumba has dated receipts from 1 November. Suppose he was working all night? Se è così, la sua teoria crollare! — Matteini’s doppelgänger in a parallel universe where she is competent.
Here’s a closeup of the moron Arturo de Felice bragging to reporters about his investigative acumen. At the time, he had no idea Meredith’s death was his fault.
Here is another exquisite example of pure incompetence captured by a camera: it is respected Judge Claudia Matteini, wearing an oddly vacant expression that seems to be not just a matter of a bad photo.
Serviranno Ulteriori Valutazioni
The moron version of reality and simple logic clashed spectacularly as the forensics team completed its work and the bar owner’s customers came forward one after another. Patrick (aka Diya) Lumumba served drinks to and chatted pleasantly with a number of different people on the night of 1 November. Lumumba and his customers could not have known that a short distance away, a disturbed young man was seeing his last glimmer of sanity doused with Meredith Kercher’s blood.
While the Lumumba-dunnit theory crumbled, the forensics team identified the palmprint on Meredith’s pillowcase: it belonged to a burglar named Rudy Guede. His DNA was inside Meredith’s vagina. When he was arrested, slicing wounds were still healing on three fingers that slid across the blade the first time he tried to stab Meredith. The murder weapon, a pocketknife with a three-inch blade, was never found.
The pocketknife, at this stage, can be considered to be the same one Christian Tramontano faced in early September when he woke up to find Guede in his house. Guede brandished the knife and escaped through a window. Tramontano called police immediately and visited the police station three times in the succeeding days. Police, inexplicably, did not investigate.
As autumn turned toward Halloween, Guede turned into a hardened criminal. He stole a laptop and other electronics from a law office. He stole a gold watch from his neighbor and started a fire which killed her cat. He hit a nursery school in Milan and scored a lot of cash. On 27 October, he returned to Milan, broke into the nursery school for a repeat performance, and was caught. Meredith had five days to live.
Milan called Perugia: “We’ve got one of yours, name Rudy Guede, nailed breaking and entering, carrying stolen goods, laptop, gold watch. You know him?”
No one knows what Felice told Milan or even exactly what was the nature of the communication between the two departments. All we really know is, the next day Milan police sent Rudy Guede back to Perugia.
Rudy Guede was not charged with any crime.
Four days later, Felice’s 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 his pocketknife against her throat. She fought. Guede’s knife hit bone once. Finally, he buried it to its hilt and slashed.
Bruising on Meredith’s elbows, forearms, legs, and hips along with cuts on her hands told the story of her desperate battle. Now all she could do was grasp Rudy Guede as she fought for each breath, 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 while 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 her 6-7 pm dinner 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 students had no idea what was happening. The bar owner was confidently busting his way out of Felice’s jail with the help of customers who were practically storming the station. The tabloids had found their very own Fort Knox.
Police were busy finding Lumumba’s replacement. 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, and the Rewrite made its critically acclaimed debut. Meanwhile, Rudy’s get-out-of-jail-free card, such as it was, was quietly revoked and extradition proceedings commenced. On 6 December, Guede arrived in Perugia, again. This time he was locked up.
Eight days later, the casket containing Meredith Kercher’s body was carried into a church near her home, 10 miles south of London. During the service, Meredith was serenaded one last time by her favorite music as hundreds physically present joined millions around the world to mourn a young woman who had dreamed of becoming a journalist only to die horribly for no reason.
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, Guede was “vede tutto rosso.”
Only once before had Guede “vedere tanto sangue.”
Guede’s attack left Meredith suffocating: “La bocca piena di sangue . . .”
The “mondo brutto” of Guede’s childhood was never far away. The mother he never had he said he loved and respected along with all women any of whom, as far as he was concerned, could be a Mother, capitalized. “Rispetto molto le donne,” he wrote.
At this point, Felice said he needed “further evaluation.” The Rewrite would induce either wild giggling or solemn head-nodding. It was impossible, from Felice’s point of view, to predict which.
Ricordo Confusamente che l’ha Uccisa Lui
Yes, it’s true (sobbing), I gave Eve the apple, I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I’ve allowed the serpent to cover for me all these years and it was me all along (loud wailing).
The “incriminating” statements police had extracted from Knox and Sollecito read like hypothetical idealized examples of police coercion. They became a kind of Torah of the Carabinieri — sacred to police throughout Italy. A bit of a departure from the real Torah, the statements are a paean to mindlessness, a celebration of the reptilian brain. Ardent believers the world over kneeled in awe.
Some sported high IQ’s, like Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. Interviewed on CNN, the professor renounced his humanity: Knox said she was at the scene of the crime; Knox made a false accusation; Knox would have been convicted in the United States. The brilliant legal expert ticked off his “reasoning” on his illustrious fingers. Later, 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-in-I’m-so-confused-he-could-have-killed-me-too-maybe-he-did-maybe-I’m-dead-already . . .
*Arresting Lumumba based on this can best be described as “eating your own shit.”
Here are translations of the original documents.
Ci vediamo did not mean Knox was going to leave her boyfriend’s apartment to meet Lumumba. Lumumba’s bar was not closed for the evening. Knox did not meet Lumumba at the basketball court on Piazza Grimana at 9 pm feeling confused. Knox did not take Lumumba to her house so he could have sex with Meredith with whom he was “infatuated.” Lumumba did not kill Meredith after either threatening her or not threatening her.
OBVIOUSLY, Amanda Knox had tricked the police into arresting an innocent man!
Mignini made a brilliant deduction. The skin color of Knox’s employer matched the skin color of the actual murderer. Therefore, Knox must have pointed the finger at Lumumba because she knew the perpetrator was black. Aha!
The Kerchers accepted Mignini’s deduction. A Harvard professor, brimming with brilliance and armed with broad experience, a world-class expert, joined a chorus of millions upon millions of less well-endowed people saying, “Yes, of course.”
Four years later, the president of the second court, Judge Pratillo Hellmann, writing his motivation document, quoted Mignini’s deduction on his way to throwing out the prosecutor’s wild illogic and freeing both Knox and her forgotten boyfriend.
Un Sacco di Cazzate
Raffaele, unlike Amanda, was not asked for an accusation: his role, in Hellmann’s words, was to l’abbandona al suo destino — abandon her to her fate. Hellmann’s choice of words holds up a mirror to the surreal world Amanda and Raffaele became trapped in — theater in a Perugia police station.
It was late on 5 November 2007 when the Perugia cops improvised their little drama. The curtain rose for Raffaele’s Act 1, Scene 1: “Why are you protecting that whore?” Meanwhile, Amanda Knox sat in the waiting room like a sacrificial lamb.
Raffaele’s abandonment scene would perfectly set up Amanda’s screaming climax in Act 1, Scene 2: “We know you were there.” But Raffaele resisted. Suddenly, Napoleoni had an inspiration. The bearer of brioche and chamomile told Knox Raffaele had abandoned her already. It hadn’t happened yet, but so what?
With a well-timed assist from Ficarra, Amanda snapped like a twig. In the other room, Raffaele continued to stubbornly insist he and Amanda had been together all night. This was unfortunate, but the police had every right to be proud. Sure, the choreography was a little clunky, but so what? This wasn’t Broadway.
A couple of hours later, it all smoothed out. At 3:30 am, police handed Raffaele a typewritten document. It said he and Amanda were at her house, not his, early in the evening on November 1st; it said they went into town around dinnertime and then separated after dinner — Amanda met friends and Raffaele went home. The document said Raffaele didn’t see Amanda again until 1 am.
In fact, Knox really had been away from Raffaele’s apartment, out with friends, and had not rejoined him until 1 am. Not only that, these facts could be verified.
Except for one thing.
The timetable Raffaele had given was that of the previous night, the night before the murder when Amanda celebrated Halloween without him. The Italian computer geek didn’t grow up with a “trick or treat” tradition, so October 31st was just another day to him. He endured a few hours without his gift from God.
The innamorati were otherwise inseparable: as 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 — Raffaele was living a pleasant dream.
Now, a little more than a week after meeting Amanda, Raffaele held his life in his hands. The Halloween timetable stared him in the face. The horror of 2 November was likewise detailed in black and white type: the open door at Amanda’s house; the blood in the bathroom; the fear and confusion; the frantic phone calls; his own 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, free of detail. It was 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.
*The middle sentence became a sacred relic.
Here it is verbatim, with translation.
Exhausted, bullied, and no longer able to think straight, Sollecito read over “his” statement with bleary eyes: Halloween was on November 1st; the body was discovered; Amanda asked him to lie. It looked okay except for the funny bit at 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 nightmarish 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 post-holiday silence. NO, Amanda hadn’t asked him to lie.
But it was too late.
Over the years, police kept up the pressure — Raffaele described it as game playing as in, “let’s play six months in solitary confinement.” Police knew their case against Knox was weak — Raffaele could make it for them. Every day, Raffaele woke up knowing he could go home. His family missed him. His life was slipping away.
But he wasn’t going to budge, not again, not this time, not in four years or ten or twenty. Amanda called Raffaele a hero; Raffaele said there was no other way for him.
On the other hand, what if Raffaele’s claims about the police are lies? The day before the final interrogation, Raffaele was in the waiting room of the police station: “I want to order two pizzas,” he said. The room was wired; every word was captured and entered into evidence. Raffaele Sollecito was a man who ordered pizza smack in the middle of a murder investigation!
The next day, the man who never saw a pizza he didn’t like talked to the police for five long hours. He did not, again, order “due pizze,” but he did talk and talk and talk.
We eventually learned — at the second trial — that the Great Perugians had recorded forty thousand (39,952) calls and texts made by Raffaele’s immediate family. This was the fantastic flip side to the miraculous “vorrei ordinare due pizze” interception.
We in the admiring public swooned at the feats of the Great Perugians, champions in their Colosseum, as inspiring as Katie Ledecky in the water or Usain Bolt on the track. Today, as we listen to Queen’s We Are The Champions, we think of the Great Perugians, those magnificent maestros of recording prowess, whose marvelous instruments captured the footfall of many an errant flea to say nothing of pizza with pepperoni.
Perugian bugs are so incredibly wondrous they envelop like the LORD. As the Pharoah’s swarming soldiers were en masse swallowed up by the Red Sea, so do Perugia’s arrested souls swim in recorded INFAMY.
But ALAS! Even great champions falter now and again. And again and again.
Raffaele’s interrogation, all five hours of it, was lost forever. It went to the same place as Amanda’s two-hour interrogation. All those precious words are now but wisps of speech floating voicelessly in an infinite aether. It’s heartbreaking.
But wait! Raffaele told police he and Amanda separated on 1 November. Surely we can continue to admire the sacred text, can we not?
Why can’t we worship at this altar? He clearly said she was out!
Alas! Blasphemy is ever the enemy of sanctity.
Lumumba’s customers (you will recall) most unseemly did share their evening revelry and thus did render unto dust a great and sacred scroll. And so it came to pass, once again, that blasphemy would seize the day and words would take their toll. It was a woman named JOVANA who knew the day and who told the time in such a way that none could block their ears and none could quell their fears.
The pious watched and waited all atremble as the Great Perugia Time Warp, that timeless tale of timeless Halloween, shared the shattered fate of the not-so-shuttered bar where Lumumba’s nightly pourings had continued on and on without the wanted pause. The Halloween that moved from day to day was in just that way forced upon a dismal path, banished, crushed and broken, rendered silent evermore by the one whose name we fear, the one we call JOVANA.
It was Ms. Popovic of Serbia who raised her hand on that day and took her oath and then our breath away. It was she who dared to visit the fearsome pair all alone while in their lair. JOVANA came and went on that sacred night, on that November 1st that was not Halloween, first fearlessly at six pm then most recklessly near nine pm, JOVANA did stand near to Knox for time and time again.
And lived to tell the tale.
It was all very funny. First, Amanda’s fairy tale went out for a joyride. It crashed and burned when the bartender’s shot-tossing army came a-knocking. Then Raffaele’s prima facie gibberish landed in our backyard. It exploded when JOVANA revealed the shocking truth: Halloween was on Halloween. We laughed. But the joke was on us.
For the irrational, “Why lie if you aren’t guilty?” is a simple, beautiful question that brooks no discussion. Without audio, two signatures and some unrestrained imagination were all that was needed to liven up an otherwise dull murder. Without audio, the city of Perugia held a seven-year party lubricated by the Grappa di Silenzio.
The real Giuliano Mignini was almost that raw. He told CNN police conducted two lengthy interrogations, but recorded zero minutes of audio because of “not insignificant budget problems.”
“Why lie if you aren’t guilty?” held court for four years. To this day, Perugia’s Sherlock Holmes hangs his hat on the question. Talking to Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, Mignini ponders Amanda’s and Raffaele’s “lies” as he relishes the memory of the renown that was his: “They say one cannot be a prophet in one’s own land, but that’s not what I experienced.”
Una Regazza Molto Disinibita
Confessions beyond nonsensical. Unrecorded interrogations. Wild theories. Motiveless suspects. Nonexistent forensics. There is a pattern here, an MO. Perugia’s very own world-class nut-job was on the job.
Mignini began dreaming up bizarre theories and prosecuting random people in 2002. He is still fighting criminal abuse of office charges filed against him in 2006 (he was convicted in 2010). In 2004, journalist/author Doug Preston began covering Mignini and his theories.
Mignini had Preston arrested.
Doug 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 Netflix’s, Amanda Knox, Mignini paints an evocative self-portrait: here is a man poisoned by his own ego. “Amanda era una regazza molto disinibita,” he says solemnly as if this proves something other than his lack of fitness for his job.
Time and again, producers Blackhurst and McGinn let Mignini go on and on about the one constant in his life: his certainty that fantasies are truth.
Mignini’s “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 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 the tiniest of signals, almost certainly 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. 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
And then things changed. Like Arturo de Felice before her, Stefanoni told all.
Knox and Sollecito were well into their fourth year of incarceration when Stefanoni was finally asked by the second court to hand over the negative controls. These are the purposely blank samples that are always amplified alongside murder-most-foul breadknives, the scientific pages on which contamination telltales write their sad stories.
Stefanoni gave herself, and the whole case, 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.
Here is verbatim Stefanoni (translated) from her letter to the judge.
Stefanoni was questioned in court about the little matter of the missing data files. Here’s what she said, paraphrased.
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
*Sometimes a paraphrase is truer than truth.
Here is what Patrizia Stefanoni actually said in court during her testimony on 6 September 2011. What follows is the original Italian excerpted from page 43 of the linked document.
The entire case, a senseless murder with an obvious perpetrator turned into an international bout of insanity to cover up off-the-scale police incompetence, boils down to these sixteen words.
Knox of Seattle
Fortunately, 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, came to her and Raffaele’s rescue: they reviewed the DNA “evidence” at the request of Judge Hellmann’s appellate court.
In their report, Conti and Vecchiotti, diciamo, trashed Stefanoni, the police lab, everyone associated with the police lab, and all their ancestors. Digging into the details of the scientists’ work reveals one amazing fact: Helen of Troy has nothing on Knox of Seattle.
The Moron Queen
What appears to be a vicious, mindless attempt to destroy 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” — she said the blade of Sollecito’s kitchen knife had a positive quantification result even though it did not — “an understandable memory lapse” in his motivation report.
Stefanoni also stated in court that Meredith’s dusty bra clasp collected six weeks after the murder had only Meredith’s and Raffaele’s DNA on it. She was mistaken. Again. The bra clasp had DNA on it from Meredith, Raffaele, and several unidentified men.
Conti and Vecchiotti exposed Stefanoni.
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 was all they needed. Amanda’s DNA was in the sink. Meredith’s DNA was in the sink. Perfetto.
In his motivation report, on pages 277 – 281, Judge Giancarlo Massei “explained” in excruciating detail why finding Knox’s DNA in her own bathroom sink was, magically, evidence of murder.
Massei, of course, knew all about the science. He knew determining when DNA was deposited is impossible. He knew 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 the well of the world.
Paraphrase: We know it’s impossible with no basis in science or fact or precedent or common sense to ascribe any meaning at all to mixed DNA, but it fits our theory so well that we’re going to do it anyway.
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 and science and humanity that it defies hyperbole and cannot be intelligently paraphrased.
Paraphrase: She’s guilty. So there.
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 substances 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 an especially 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? Bleach? I don’t think so. You can smell bleach. You can probably even smell microscopic traces. Plus, I don’t know anything about housecleaning or who did it or when they might possibly have done it and if I did I wouldn’t say a word. 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. Don’t argue or you’ll be next.
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, in writing, in his own report about five footprints every single one of which 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.
Sorry, no recordings. Tee hee. We have these nice signatures. You really don’t need to see the negative controls, do you? Negative is positive! Impossible is possible! TMB testing might be wrong once and again. And again and again and again. Halloween was on November 1st. Lumumba and Guede are both black.
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 cleared (2015).
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 profeti, 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, they too are victims of Mignini and his seven helpers. Years have passed and more years shall pass. For the rest of their natural lives, five people will be burdened with Mignini’s sickening baggage. Only Meredith’s death itself is sadder.
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 was NOT the case.
How could this all have happened? Here’s Amanda Knox.
If a person’s beauty is a weapon to be used against them, we are all in Hell.
Here are the ten sacred letters A-M-A-N-D-A K-N-O-X adorning the first book of the Torah of the Carabinieri. Yes, this is the actual signature of the amazing Knox of Seattle (on your knees, fool!).
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, after a fashion.
Even though no evidence was planted by police as in a traditional framing, a few accusations are in order.
Rita Ficarra: abuse of authority, assault, perjury.
Perugia police (unknown parties): willful destruction of three hard drives.
Patrizia Stefanoni: suppression of evidence, obstruction of justice, perjury (multiple counts).
Arturo de Felice, Edgardo Giobbi, and Monica Napoleoni: conspiracy to destroy evidence (audio recordings), obstruction of justice, denial of counsel, repeated human rights violations, abuse of authority, gross incompetence.
Judge Giancarlo Massei, Judge Claudia Matteini, and Public Minister Giuliano Mignini: gross incompetence, violation of ethics, dereliction of duty.
Ultimately, Italy’s eight embarrassments wished for and got a world of credulità, one that chose not to see con artists where the weavers of fine cloth stood. That these con artists did not fool us all is small comfort — they did their damage and collected their gold and walked away unscathed and we are most definitely the worse for wear.
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 insulted the memory of Meredith Kercher who exhaled a bloody mist with her final breath NOT so that we might be entertained.
Would Meredith Kercher appreciate Diane Sawyer’s questions? I think not. Meredith 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 told police Guede broke into his house and 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 have not been put to the police by anyone with authority, moral or otherwise. Instead it’s always all Amanda Knox all the time, day and night, Amanda this, Amanda that, Amanda-what’s-that-you’re-wearing. Raffaele Sollecito is an afterthought at best, usually ignored entirely. The whole sick episode devolved into a gigantic adolescent game focused on Ms. Knox’s lovely curves. Logic, decency, humanity, intelligence, our common vulnerability, the preciousness of life, Meredith’s memory — it was all shunted aside.
By now, the Kerchers must surely have realized they were fooled . . .
. . . 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