Italian prosecutors are like flat earthers

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January 21, 2014 by AK

The third trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito continues in Florence. Back in 2011, the defense and the independent experts demolished every bit of the prosecution’s “evidence”. The judge wrote a motivations report that addressed all the relevant issues in a straightforward way and left little doubt of the two young people’s innocence.

Unfortunately, the asinine March 2013 ruling by Italy’s supreme court quashing the well-argued acquittal appears to be taken at face value by the judge presiding at the current trial. The SC did not bother to honestly discuss the arguments of the appellate judges and the defense; instead, it either ignored their opinion altogether or misrepresented it. It also attempted to criticize an academic with 30 years of forensic science experience while claiming that heroin does not impact memory.

Appreciating the entire extent of the SC’s dishonesty, however, requires familiarity with the whole case, including the appellate judge’s ruling – which, I repeat, the current judge seems to be lacking.

One enormous problem with this trial is that in the Italian system, no evidence can be struck off the dossier and there are no standards of acceptable evidence. For example, the court-appointed experts demonstrated that the DNA analysis by the police lab had been so seriously flawed that its results should not be accepted – they are simply junk. In the Anglosphere, this evidence would have been banished from the courtroom for good. But in Italy, the prosecutors have just brushed off the criticism and are arguing that the court-appointed experts were simply incompetent.

Likewise, no matter how convincing the defense arguments were in 2011, it is forced to reiterate them – to a judge unfamiliar with the full background of the case but is using the essentially mendacious SC report as the guidebook. It’s like geocentrists and heliocentrists arguing all over again, before an arbiter who has Ptolemy as his handbook. The Ptolemeans have had five centuries to refine their argument whereas the Copernicians haven’t progressed much since 1700AD. We’re all fans of the Flat Earth Society as long as it is harmless.

One good thing is that – even as the judge denied most of the defense’s requests – the new DNA tests on the knife (which does not fit the wounds anyway) did not yield the victim’s DNA. I was skeptical about the Carabinieri’s integrity, but the two officers who ran the tests turned out to be published forensic DNA experts and did things properly, in sharp contrast to the police lab. (But it was merely by chance the victim’s DNA was missing from the blade – I suspect the knife was contaminate at the police lab in 2007.) Likewise, the witness called by the prosecution to show he was “bought” by the defense reiterated his earlier statement that his brother committed the crime.


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