Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Claims Amanda Knox’s Confessions Resemble “False Confessions” Not Backed Up By Any Criminal Research

Posted by Fuji



[Above: Perugia’s central police station where Knox, Sollecito and Guede were all interviewed]

Meredith’s case is absolutely riddled with fabricated false myths. 

They are now found by the hundreds on some misleading websites, and they simply make experienced law enforcement and criminal lawyers laugh. 

For example “Police had no good reason to be immediately suspicious of Knox simply because the murder occurred at her residence”.  And “The double-DNA knife is a priori to be disregarded as evidence, because no murderer would retain possession of such a murder weapon.”

One of the most strident and widespread myths is that Amanda Knox’s statements to the Perugian investigators on 5 and 6 November 2007, placing her at the scene of Meredith’s murder, are to be viewed as the products of a genuinely confused mind imbued with a naïve trust of authority figures.

The apparent certainty with which many of Amanda Knox’s most vocal supporters proclaim that Knox’s statements are actual “false confessions” as opposed to deliberate lies is not supported by even a cursory reading of the pertinent academic literature regarding false confessions.

What actually are “false confessions”?

Richard N. Kocsis in his book “Applied Criminal Psychology: A Guide to Forensic Behavioral Sciences” (2009), on pages 193-4 delineates three different kinds of false confessions:

First, a voluntary false confession is one in which a person falsely confesses to a crime absent any pressure or coercion from police investigators….

Coerced-compliant false confessions occur when a person falsely confesses to a crime for some immediate gain and in spite of the conscious knowledge that he or she is actually innocent of the crime….

The final type, identified by Kassin and Wrightsman (1985), is referred to as a coerced-internalized false confession. This occurs when a person falsely confesses to a crime and truly begins to believe that he or she is responsible for the criminal act.

The first problem facing Knox supporters wishing to pursue the false confession angle as a point speaking to her purported innocence is epistemological.

Although much research has been done on this phenomenon in recent years, academics are still struggling to come to terms with a methodology to determine their incidence rate.

The current state of knowledge does not support those making sweeping claims about the likelihood of Knox’s statements being representative of a genuine internalized false confession.

As noted by Richard A. Leo in “False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications” (Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 2009):

Although other researchers have also documented and analyzed numerous false confessions in recent years, we do not know how frequently they occur. A scientifically meaningful incidence rate cannot be determined for several reasons.

First, researchers cannot identify (and thus cannot randomly sample) the universe of false confessions, because no governmental or private organization keeps track of this information.

Second, even if one could identify a set of possibly false confessions, it is not usually possible as a practical matter to obtain the primary case materials (e.g., police reports, pretrial and trial transcripts, and electronic recordings of the interrogations) necessary to evaluate the unreliability of these confessions.

Finally, even in disputed confession cases in which researchers are able to obtain primary case materials, it may still be difficult to determine unequivocally the ground truth (i.e., what really happened) with sufficient certainty to prove the confession false.

In most alleged false-confession cases, it is therefore impossible to remove completely any possible doubts about the confessor’s innocence.

The next problem Knox supporters face is that, even allowing for an inability to establish a priori any likelihood of a given statement being a false confession, the kind of false confession which is usually attributed to Knox is in fact one of the LEAST likely of the three types (Voluntary, Compliant, and Persuaded, as Leo terms the three different categories) to be observed:

Persuaded false confessions appear to occur far less often than compliant false confessions.

Moreover, despite assertions to the contrary, Knox and her statements do not in fact satisfy many of the criteria researchers tend to observe in false confessions, particularly of the Persuaded variety:

“All other things being equal, those who are highly suggestible or compliant are more likely to confess falsely. Individuals who are highly suggestible tend to have poor memories, high levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, and low assertiveness, personality factors that also make them more vulnerable to the pressures of interrogation and thus more likely to confess falsely…

Highly suggestible or compliant individuals are not the only ones who are unusually vulnerable to the pressures of police interrogation. So are the developmentally disabled or cognitively impaired, juveniles, and the mentally ill….

They also tend to occur primarily in high-profile murder cases and to be the product of unusually lengthy and psychologically intense interrogations… ordinary police interrogation is not strong enough to produce a permanent change in the suspect’s beliefs.

Most significantly, there is one essential element of a true Persuaded False Confession which in Knox’s case is highly distinctive:

To convince the suspect that it is plausible, and likely, that he committed the crime, the interrogators must supply him with a reason that satisfactorily explains how he could have done it without remembering it.

This is the second step in the psychological process that leads to a persuaded false confession.

Typically, the interrogator suggests one version or another of a “repressed” memory theory.

He or she may suggest, for example, that the suspect experienced an alcohol- or drug-induced blackout, a “dry” blackout, a multiple personality disorder, a momentary lapse in consciousness, or posttraumatic stress disorder, or, perhaps most commonly, that the suspect simply repressed his memory of committing the crime because it was a traumatic experience for him.

The suspect can only be persuaded to accept responsibility for the crime if he regards one of the interrogators’ explanations for his alleged amnesia as plausible.

Knox did not in fact claim drug or alcohol use as the source of her amnesia - rather, she claimed to have accepted the interrogators’ attribution that this was due to being traumatized by the crime itself, and she offers no other explanation for her selective amnesia:

This is from Knox’s statement to the court in pretrial on 18 October 2008 with Judge Micheli presiding.

Then they started pushing on me the idea that I must have seen something, and forgotten about it. They said that I was traumatized.

Of course, Knox’s initial statement went far beyond being that of being merely a witness to some aspect of Ms. Kercher’s murder, as the interrogators at first seemed to believe was the case.

Rather, her statement placed her at scene of the murder during its actual commission while she did nothing to avert it, which naturally made her a suspect.

In other words, in the absence of any of her other testimony which indicated that she was only a witness to the murder, her own self-admitted rationale for providing a false confession was that she was traumatized by the commission of the murder itself.

Perugia judges will be familiar with all of the above and we can be sure that they brief the lay judges on the remote circumstances and incidences of false confessions.

If I were a Knox defense attorney, I would find it to be a far more fruitful line of argumentation to argue that she was simply lying, rather than claiming the supremely unlikely provision of an actual internalized false confession.




Comments

Reading this it becomes clear just how unlucky poor Amanda was.

Firstly to have experienced the rare phenomenon of an internalized false confession (unluckier still that it was the even rarer phenomenon of an internalized ‘partial’ confession) which placed her at the scene of a crime during the commission of a murder which forensic analysis would later confirm and for which her alibi would receive no independent verification, not even from her boyfriend.

Add to this the fact that she experienced this phenomenon in a third world country with a long and documented history of framing promiscuous females for tricky murders and for whom the concept of judicial impartiality is as foreign as the entire population of its prisons….

Yes, she was very unlucky indeed.

Posted by Welshy on 01/13/11 at 04:56 PM | #

what i find most striking is all the in-depth analysis performed on everything amanda did and said but yet no one uses that same high powered perception to look at the most glaring fact.  there is no physical evidence tying amanda to the murder scene.  out of three suspects committing a lenghty violent assault and two of the three manage not to leave a trace of evidence behind.  how does any intelligent person rationalize that fact?

Posted by gskrptr on 01/13/11 at 05:30 PM | #

gskrptr - there is a wealth of physical evidence she and RS were there. You just choose not to see it.

Posted by Welshy on 01/13/11 at 06:06 PM | #

Hi gskrptr. Welshy is right. The crime scene is the house not the room and there was plenty of evidence all over there.

Do you know that Rudy Guede left very little evidence for someone who has admitted been there and touching everything? Do you know that Guede left no hairs, no saliva, no sweat, no blood, and no other bodily fluid at the scene of the crime?

Do you know that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito left plenty of DNA evidence and footprints all over the crime scene? Do you know that the motivation report clearly explains, without a minimal doubt, that more than one person was present during the murder of poor Meredith?

Read Massei and Micheli. Any one of dozens of items of evidence at the crime scene would have been enough for conviction in the US courts. A majority of murders are committed where nothing links the the killer to the immediate scene. This post makes that quite clear.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/13/11 at 10:44 PM | #

Hi Peter: One witness is out, it seems. But there is still a tons of evidence, and that the Seattle PR firm conveniently just forgets:
http://www.komonews.com/news/local/113522204.html

I am still in a kind of a shock that how can be a printed media anywhere in the USA is so one- (blind)-sided?

Posted by Hungarian on 01/13/11 at 11:31 PM | #

Hi Hungarian,

It’s completely misleading of some journalists to refer to Antonio Curatolo as a key witness, star witness or super witness. Knox and Sollecito weren’t convicted on the strength of his evidence. His testimony merely provided further confirmation that Knox and Sollecito’s alibis are false and helped establish Meredith’s time of death.

I find it astonishing that Curatolo is facing trial for drug dealing 8 years after these offences allegedly took place. If there was sufficient evidence against him at the time, surely he would have been charged and convicted of this crime years ago. I wonder if the police officers and prosecutor involved in Curatolo’s case informed the authorities in Perugia of his alleged criminal activities.

It will be interesting to see what evidence there is against him. Photographs of him talking to a drug addict in Piazza Grimana will prove nothing. Why was wasn’t he stopped and searched for drugs? It seems there is no actual evidence that he was ever in possession of heroin. It needs to be established whether Curatolo was specifically targetted by the police for drug dealing or whether he was photographed when the police were carrying out survelliance on all the people who frequented Piazza Grimana.

Presumably all the people who think Curatolo testimony should be discounted because of the allegations against him feel the same way about the convicted baby killer and convicted mobster who have been called as witnesses for the defence.

Posted by The Machine on 01/14/11 at 02:43 AM | #

@ welshy…of course there is dna traces around the rest of the house.  she lived there!  the footprints were never tested for blood nor do they now when the footprints were made and the massei report ruled out cleansing of the scene.

Posted by gskrptr on 01/14/11 at 10:43 AM | #

1/14/11

correction:  CD-Host is found at “Church Discipline” blogspot.

Posted by Hopeful on 01/14/11 at 04:37 PM | #

Hi gskrptr,

The footprints were tested for blood. Luminol was used to detect the presence of blood at the cottage and it is the most sensitive blood detection technique commonly used by forensic investigators. Luminol has been found to be five times more sensitive than TMB (Tetramethylbenzidine). This explains why the TMB tests yielded negative results.

Furthermore, forensic investigators who regularly work on crime scene can easily distinguish between the bright blue glow of a blood trace and the much fainter glow of other reactive substances.

It should also be noted that reactive substances also produce different colour spectrums. For example, it is straightforward to distinguish between blood and bleach. The luminol couldn’t have been reacting to bleach anyway because bleach dissipates after a couple of days and there will be no trace left. The luminol tests at the cottage were carried out on 18 December 2007.

You really need to get your facts straight before posting on TJMK because at the moment you’re seriously embarrassing yourself with some ignorant comments.

Judge Massei didn’t rule out that there had been a clean-up at the cottage at all. He specifically wrote about the clean-up at the cottage:

“This action of checking and cleaning was carried out, therefore, in the very early hours of the morning of 2 November.” (The Massei Report, page 386).

Your claim Knox and Sollecito didn’t leave any trace of evidence behind is complete and utter nonsense.

Sollecito left an abundant amount of his DNA on Meredith’s bra clasp. His DNA was identified by two separate DNA tests. Of the 17 loci tested in the sample, Sollecito’s profile matched 17 out of 17.

At Rudy Guede’s fast track trial in 2008, Sollecito’s lawyers claimed that their forensic expert, Professor Vinci, had found Knox’s DNA on Meredith’s bra.

The bloody footprint on the blue bathmat in the bathroom matched the precise characteristics of Sollecito’s foot, but couldn’t possibly belong to Guede.

Knox’s DNA was on the handle of the murder weapon, which was sequestered from Sollecito’s apartment. Sollecito knew that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade which is why he twice lied about accidentally pricking her hand whilst cooking.

Amanda Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s blood was found on the floor in Filomena’s room, where the break-in was staged. Rudy Guede couldn’t have staged the break-in because his bloody footprints led straight out of Meredith’s room and out of the cottage.

Posted by The Machine on 01/14/11 at 04:58 PM | #

gskrptr - as an addition to The Machine’s concise lampooning of your ill-informed assertion. Luminol detected the presence of a substance which exhibited the precise characteristics of human blood. The substances it detected were swabbed for DNA and in a number of cases a human DNA profile was extracted - this of itself is enough to prove the existence of a human biological material, so in other words - blood. It certainly wasn’t rust or fruit juice. In several instances Knox’s DNA was mixed in with Meredith’s blood.

You really do need to gain an understanding of the fundamental elements of this case before posting on a site which is frequented by people who have actually bothered to do just that. It makes you look a bit silly if you don’t.

Posted by Welshy on 01/14/11 at 05:54 PM | #

One question remains. Why didn’t Sollecito dispose of the murder weapon? It seems that when someone is trying to cover up a murder, this is the first thing they do. They clearly wanted to cover things up with the clean up. Not that I am questioning their guilt, I suppose it is a rhetorical question in this regard. It just seems to make little sense to me. Given all the facts we have learned so far,  I would say that AK and RS are possibly two of the biggest bumbling crime cover up artists in recent history.

Posted by Kazwell on 01/16/11 at 04:47 AM | #

Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to part with a favourite knife. He was stupid enough to go to the questura with a concealed weapon. Ironically he tried to assert that this was proof of innocence. “Why would I take a knife to the police station if I meant any harm?” By his and his father’s admission, knives held a life-long fascination for him. They had an awful lot to think about that night.

Posted by pensky on 01/16/11 at 05:35 AM | #

Hi Kazwell,

Of course, disposing of the murder weapon would have been on the top of my list when covering up a murder. On the other hand, there have been many killers in history who kept murder weapons and belongings from their victims as souvenir.

In this particular case, I believe Raffaele Sollecito kept the knife as a souvenir and because he was convinced he would never come under suspicion.

Posted by Nell on 01/16/11 at 10:27 AM | #

It would seem logical to make disposing of the knife a high priority. But if this was not a planned murder (and there is some evidence to suggest that they didn’t plan it), then suddenly, Raf and Amanda had a lot of covering up to do. Everything from removing blood from themselves and their clothes, to disposing of phones, acquiring cleaning products etc etc. For us, with cool and clear heads, deciding what to do and what the priority was, is easy, but when you are in that situation, possibly freaked out, with time pressure and trying to do things in secret, there is plenty of room for mistakes.

Posted by Vedantist on 01/16/11 at 04:40 PM | #

I can think of several reasons why Knox and Sollecito did not dispose of the murder weapon: A missing knife from Sollecito’s apartment might look suspicious. (Maybe it was part of a set?)  Also, if they disposed of the knife in a garbage bag or dumpster, there was always the chance that it might have been found and traced back to them.  Police go to great lengths to search garbage, dumpsters, and even landfills.  Knox and Sollecito thought that cleaning the knife with bleach would remove all traces of the crime, and replacing it in the drawer of Sollecito’s kitchen would make it blend in with all the other knives and utensils.  They did not realize that the bleach did not remove all DNA and that the super-shiny knife stood out immediately when the police searched the apartment.

Posted by CamilleGrace on 01/17/11 at 03:04 AM | #

@The Machine…I have read the Massei Report the only difference is I read it without the preconceived notion of guilt.  Page 281 begins the results of the luminol testing.  in several texts they repeat that dna was present but was negative for blood.  they also admit that it was low copy and no supportive test was done to validate the original results.  beginning on page 283 the evaluate the “cleaning”  the report admits if cleaning was done it can not determine when or by whom.  it also rules out cleaning with bleach.

Posted by gskrptr on 01/17/11 at 12:28 PM | #

Hi gskrptr,

I don’t recall the police or prosecutors ever claiming that the cottage was cleaned with bleach. Judge Massei believes that Amanda Knox was entrusted with the task of cleaning the cottage and that she did this after she had left Marco Qunitavalle’s shop.

LCN DNA testing is perfectly valid and just as reliable as any other PCR technique, if it’s performed correctly. We know that these DNA tests were performed correctly because Dr. Biondo, the head of the DNA Unit of the scientific police, confirmed that all the forensic findings were accurate and reliable.

Posted by The Machine on 01/17/11 at 02:15 PM | #

gskrptr - No, the only difference is we’ve read Massei and understood it. If you bothered to read a little further you’ll see that a negative result for blood revealed by luminol does not necessarily indicate that no blood is there.

Indeed Amanda Knox’s own defence conceded that “that in her experience there is a probabilistic relation to the number of cases in which the blood test comes out positive or negative”, furthermore the reason why there was no repeat of the tests is because Dr Stefanoni’s decision to use most of the DNA to determine indivdual profiles and “only the remainder to attempt to determine the nature of the trace”.

Luminol detected a substance which displayed the characteristics of blood, DNA was extracted from the substance which shows that it had to be human biological material, it MUST therefore have been blood.

The reference to the bleach which you cite beginning on page 283, again if you read it properly, is Massei ruling out the possibility that these traces highlighted by Luminol were caused by bleach. Massei has never suggested that bleach was used for the clean up at the cottage.

The prosecution never suggested that bleach was used. Massei does say, quite explicitly, that a clean up must have happened, and that Knox and Sollecito instigated it.

Think of the bloody footprint on the bath mat, no doubt you dispute that it belongs to Sollecito but that’s another illogical assertion, that bloody bare footprint hasn’t simply appeared on the mat - that mat can only have been reached by taking steps which should have left other bloody footprints (bloodier footprints actually because there would naturally have been more blood present on the foot) there is no trace of these other visible bloody bare footprints at all.

You really must take more care with your researching of this case gskrptr.

Posted by Welshy on 01/17/11 at 02:31 PM | #

Kazell

Sollecito’s kitchen stuff came, I believe, as part of his rental, and so his landlord could be assumed to know what ought to be present, specifically that knife. (I rent out a furnished flat myself, and, yes, I do notice when things go missing.)

In addition, Raphaele had had a cleaning lady for some time. That means that there were other people who knew what equipment belonged in his kitchen, and would then know if there was a great huge knife gone missing.

Since the knife might have been specifically missed if it had been disposed of, cleaning it and leaving it in place would seem to be a reasonable decision, thus not merely the keeping of a trophy.

gskrpt-

Concerning the cleaning of the knife…. You state, regarding the knife, that in the Massei report: “beginning on page 283 the[y] evaluate the “cleaning”  the report admits if cleaning was done it can not determine when or by whom.  it also rules out cleaning with bleach.”

On checking page 283 of Massei - looking for references to the knife itself - I find this passage does not refer to the cleaning of the weapon. What the report there is discussing are the bloody footprints in the cottage hallway.

That passage explains why the court ruled out the use of bleach as a possible source for the luminol reaction in the hallway.The discussion does not argue against the presence of bleach at Raphaele’s apartment. Rather the opposite.

Here is the discussion pages 283-4 of Massei:

“The argument concerning bleach is different: in cleaning the house, such a product might indeed have been spread about in the various rooms. But in actual fact, it was not known when and by whom such widespread and extensive cleaning, and which had involved these various rooms, had been carried out. Furthermore, no one entering the house had declared that they had noticed any smell of bleach, unlike what, on the contrary, had occurred with reference to Raffaele Sollecito’s house on the occasion of the entry there on November 6th.”

That is, no bleach at Amanda’s, but on the contrary, bleach smell present at Sollecito’s upon entry.  Concerning this smell of bleach at Sollecito’s apartment at the time of the finding of the knife, that event is also covered in Massei (p. 106):

“Armando Finzi, chief inspector of the Flying Squad of Perugia, said that on the morning of November 6 he was ordered by Dr. Profazio to perform a search of the house of Raffaele Sollecito in Corso Garibaldi (number 110). Before entering the house, they all put on gloves and shoes covers.”

“There was also the deputy chief of police Chiacchiera, Passeri, Ranauro, Camarda, Rossi and Sisani. In the house there was a strong smell of bleach. He remembered the terms following the first action that he reported at the time: “I was with my back to the door; there was the dishware drawer; I opened it. I opened the top cutlery drawer ... we had clean gloves on, new. The first thing [99] I saw was a big knife. Let me state beforehand that it was extremely clean‛.

Posted by lauowolf on 01/17/11 at 03:15 PM | #

@Welshy human biological material DOES NOT EQUAL BLOOD.  and luminol reacts the same to blood as to any other iron based material.

@lauowolf my poists have only applied to the footprints in the cottage.  i never mentioned the knife.

oh and how did they get out of meredith’s room without leaving all these so called bloody footprints.  we’ll just say they flew and i’m sure you’ll will believe that.

Posted by gskrptr on 01/17/11 at 03:44 PM | #

You can post it 4 times if you like gskrptr, it doesn’t make it any more convincing.

Luminol is a forensic technique which is used to highlight the presence of blood which is invisible to the naked eye. What other iron based material is capable of yielding a human DNA profile? Rust? Fruit juice? Turnips?

They got out of the bedroom using their feet, by walking, there are no bloody footprints because they cleaned them up. That’s what we’re saying here, that’s what Massei concludes, why are you incapable of understanding this? Do you read the first and last words of a sentence and then guess the bit in the middle? Because that’s the only reasonable explanation I can find for your continuing idiocy.

Posted by Welshy on 01/17/11 at 04:46 PM | #

“they also admit that it was low copy and no supportive test was done to validate the original results.”

Hi gskrptr, LCN is an accepted technique in some other countries and a court in the US has accepted it as valid. The resultant charts are extremely clear and all correct steps were taken to prevent contamination.

There would be no big deal here if the defense witnesses had attended the knife DNA test on the appointed day. They chose not to and instead they opened the road to tired insinuations.and wrong facts.

Seriously, we dont need them parroted here, thanks all the same. We all began looking at the case with an open mind. You don’t seem to have done so and it is making you constantly misread Massei.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/17/11 at 04:55 PM | #

@gskrptr
“how did they get out of meredith’s room without leaving all these so called bloody footprints”

How is there a bloody footprint attributed to Raffaele in the bathroom with no footprints leading up to it or on from it?
The shoe prints attributed to Rudy lead out of Meredith’s room and straight out of the cottage.

As for DNA - Prosecutors in some US states are even employing “negative evidence witnesses” to make the point that not all crime scenes yield DNA, fingerprints or other evidence.

Posted by Giselle on 01/18/11 at 05:38 AM | #

Welshy,

“What other iron based material is capable of yielding a human DNA profile?”

Sweat, skin cells?

DNA can be extracted from sweat. However see “The Iron Content of Sweat in Normal Adults” by Coltman and Rowe. The result of their tests was to conclude that “the iron concentration of perspiration is negligible.” So the luminol glow was not due to sweat but even if it had been that would still mean AK was walking around barefoot in Meredith’s blood.

Skin cells that are shed naturally are exfoliated cells but they are dead, or karatinized, cells that do not produce DNA.

Incidentally “blood cameras” are now in the process of being developed in the USA that will also be able to detect blood invisible to the naked eye and which will not have the disadvantage of smearing the trace which luminol spray can do.

Posted by James Raper on 01/19/11 at 05:50 AM | #


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