Monday, March 28, 2011

Sixth Appeal Hearing: Andrea Vogt On The Testimony Of The Witness In The Square

Posted by Peter Quennell

[Above and below: north side of Piazza Grimana showing the benches where Mr Curatolo normally sits]

Click here for Andrea Vogt’s report for the Seattle PI from the appeals court.

One of the case’s most colorful and controversial characters, Curatolo, 53, has spent many a day sitting in the small public Piazza Grimana square near the university where college students come to play basketball, buy hashish and hang out….

When questioned by prosecutors, he said he remembered seeing Knox and Sollecito having “an animated discussion” in the square, which overlooks the villa where Kercher’s body would be found the next day. It was not raining that night, he said, when asked about the weather. The following day the Carabinieri came around to ask him if he had seen anything, he recalled, and he had watched as forensic crime scene investigators worked around the house.

“Are you sure that the day after you saw those two discussing in an animated way you were questioned by the Carabinieri and saw the police at Via della Pergola in their white suits?” asked Mignini.

“Very sure,” Curatolo said. “As sure as I am that I am sitting here.”

But minutes later, in questioning by Sollecito’s lawyer Giulia Bongiorno, Curatolo also said he had seen young people in masks and getting on buses to go to the discos. The distinction is important because Halloween was Oct. 31 and there were likely students in costumes, getting on shuttles to go to the discos on the outskirts of town.

Kercher, however, was killed on the evening of Nov. 1, 2007, which is All Saints Day, a somber holiday in Italy, when it is less likely there were any festivities.

“I think it is clear that he does not have a lucid memory,” said a member of Knox’s legal team, Maria del Grosso, after the hearing. “And I think it was demonstrated today that he is not a credible witness.”

However, prosecutors and the lawyer for the Kercher family, Francesco Maresca, maintained the testimony was in line with previous statements.

“He repeated exactly what he said during the first trial. We still believe he is reliable.”

Good neutral report, as you’d expect, from Andrea Vogt who is the American reporter most consistently in the courtroom. All the other reports in English seemed to include a lot of fluff from the defenses.

We’ll have an analysis post on this hearing and the DNA testing in Rome later today or tomorrow.


Below: Mr Curatolo’s preferred benches are at the far left there. If Sollecito did watch the gate of the house on the night he’d need to be to the far right there. The gate can easily be seen from there.


It looks like we will be having a busy few days of posting. The next post is on the Kercher family’s civil involvement in the Sollecito family criminal trial for releasing an evidence tape showing Meredith unclothed which resumes in Perugia in a month.

Then a long one one on the 80,000 pound gorilla (the Supreme Court agreement that three did it) and how it is still right there in the courtroom despite any minor pinpricks last week, and on how the defenses seem to have zero strategy for dealing with it other than ignoring it and hoping it will just go away.

Also posts on the besieged Wikipedia entry on the case, on the events of the night of 6 November when Knox was interrogated as a witness, and on Will Savive’s new book which is strong on the physical evidence.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/28/11 at 05:46 PM | #

I must say, Peter, I am looking forward to the promised posts over the next few days. The Knoxophiles are jubilant right now, and it’s making me a tad nervous. Whenever Knox’s spirits rise, mine fall. PMF’ers are cheering me up a little (I’m a reader there, not a poster) and I’m sure I’ll be reassured by the posts in the next few days.

As for “Bruce Fisher”‘s little wikipedia campaign…words fail me. What a laughable excuse for a man he truly is.

Posted by Janus on 03/28/11 at 09:54 PM | #

Thanks Janus. We are hearing that the prosecution are very buoyant. Be assured those were the defenses’ last best shots. They have nothing more coming up in the appeal to inspire them.

They know they have not landed anything like a knockout blow and are now faced with this choice: who will we put on the stand and subject to cross-examination?

Amanda or Raffaele or Alessi or Aviello?  Any one of those could sink their defense in the face of five minutes of cross-examination by the prosecution.

And if they are not put on the stand that looks extremely bad too.

By the way as Skeptical Bystander noted in another comment here, the “Bruce Fisher” Wikipedia takeover has already gone haywire. Founder Jimbo Wales thought he was dealing with a real person behind that campaign.

Now he has admitted he could obtain no bio or personal details of this Chris Mellas puppet or puppets. What a surprise.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/28/11 at 10:22 PM | #

I think the shop keeper who saw Knox outside his shop so very early the morning after the murder, heading to the cleaning supplies part of the store, is a more telling witness than Curatolo. This shop keeper had absolutely no reason to lie or be mistaken. He testified he was absolutely sure he saw Knox.

Does anyone know any college students who get cleaning products at 7:45 am? Especially Knox, who was known to be a slacker about cleaning?

Despite the Knox/Mellas noise machine in the media, there is a whole year’s worth of evidence to sift through, and with Guede’s appeal denied, it doesn’t look like Knox or Sollecito will be seeing daylight for many years.

Posted by giustizia on 03/28/11 at 10:30 PM | #

One of more stupid arguments by the pro Knox bunch concerning Curatolo as a witness is that he couldn’t have seen the gate of Merediths house. The proof they put forward is that someone went on ‘Google Earth’ and found the square in question where Curatolo always sits and said from the Google camera angle that it was impossible to witness the gate from his usual bench. This is the usual “tripe’ that comes out of Seattle and elsewhere and some people with the IQ the same as their shoe size believe this nonsense.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 03/29/11 at 02:15 AM | #

Thanks a lot for the tip Grahame. There is a new link now in the post to a shot of the gate from the fence behind those trees in the images.

It was of course RS that was said to be checking out the gate periodically and not Mr Curatolo.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/29/11 at 05:03 AM | #

This may sound strange to some but I feel that Mr Curatolo has proved one thing and that is he is not a liar.  A person who makes a story up would never have said about Halloween masks.

Mr Curatolo has genuinely tried to remember events from the top of his head that are now 3 years+ old,  and as everybody knows events start to merge and memories play tricks My honest opinion is that no eye witness account for or against at this stage has much value.

I do though agree with Giustizia about the shopkeeper.  It is clear in the Massei report that the Judge and Jury were very impressed with him.

Posted by JHEA on 03/29/11 at 09:18 AM | #

Hi all

I haven’t posted in a while [I was reading the Massei report] and I can’t see how anyone could read that document and come away believing that they are anything but guilty, however I can’t help feeling that they will get off on a technicality - e.g. the bra clasp wasn’t stored properly. Remember, they only have to prove reasonable doubt! Like Janus, when the Knox’s are up ... I’m down.

I read somewhere last week [it was a pro-knox post] who say that the defense have a rebuttle document which knocks down every argument put forward by the Massei report. I haven’t heard about this document anywhere else ... has anyone here?

@giusstizia - I think the only one likely to take the stand is Knox .. we all know how she loves the spotlight!!

I’m mid-way through the Guede document produced last week. Excellent work.

Posted by Allison on 03/29/11 at 10:50 AM | #

Does anyone know whether the prosecution will put Guede up and whether he would be more willing to speak out now that his appeals are over?  The news reports mention the next appeal date as 21 May.  Have they decided to dispense with 16 April?

Posted by thundering on 03/29/11 at 03:01 PM | #

Thundering, I read somewhere that Guede’s lawyer wants to take his case to the ECHR - on what grounds, I have no idea and would be surprised if he could! But if that is the case, it means he has another appeal and will not be testifying….

Posted by Giselle on 03/29/11 at 08:45 PM | #

Hi Thundering. Yes the 16 April appeal court session has been canceled. The DNA report is due to be submitted one week before that and to be discussed on 21 May.

Guede probably feels little compulsion to speak out now. He offered to testify during the 2009 trial and Mignini was simply not interested. The Lone Wolf theory has pretty well gone off the radar now that the Supreme Court indicated it has no credibility. And he is safe enough where he is.

Giselle is right. It was Guede’s lawyer Biscotti who said he’d try to take the case to the European Court on Human Rights after Cassation issued their finding - almost in the blink of an eye. Here was our post.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/29/11 at 08:57 PM | #

Hi Peter and Giselle.  Thank you for the clarification - I must have missed the AV article (I think I was travelling at that time in December).  So we just have to sit back and wait now whilst all the other nonsense rages on and on ....

Posted by thundering on 03/30/11 at 01:50 AM | #

Maybe not this time and maybe too long of a period for the public….but sometime in the future one of the murderers will lay out the truth and all three’s participation. In the meantime the side cases come and go what with the families and appeals and we have to watch (and more importantly the Kerchers have to watch)the never ending carnival act. These three murdering losers keep up their stories meant to smoke screen the public and their own supporters. In the meantime the public knows all three were involved and have to wonder exactly who did what. And Meredith is still dead.

Posted by friar fudd on 03/30/11 at 12:20 PM | #

A couple of days ago one of my neighbors said to me, “Hey Will, did you hear: Amanda Knox is getting out of jail in May [2011]? I heard it on the news.”

Criminologist Casey Jordan, also said that “Amanda and Raffaele may walk free in May.”

The 26 March 2011 hearing was definitely a win for the defense, but was it as big of a win as the American media, Knox’s family, and even my neighbor make it seem?

Let’s start by noting that Curatolo had not even come on the radar until the trial started; he was not a part of the six preliminary hearings that led to a decision to try Knox and Sollecito. There was plenty of evidence to send them to trial before Curatolo emerged.

“He [Curatolo] basically blew the whole prosecution’s case right then and there,” Knox’s sister, Deanna Knox, told “Early Show” co-anchor Chris Wragge. So now we are getting our legal commentary from Amanda’s little sister? This time in the case is reminiscent of a time in the original trial when Knox’s family and the American media showed the same type of optimism in the case, just before Knox’s conviction.

The fact is that Knox and Sollecito’s appeal appears to be solely based on the knife, the bra clasp, and Antonio Curatolo’s testimony. Nonetheless, neither defense team seems to be contesting any other evidence in the case.

• What about the bloody barefoot print on the bathmat that is compatible with Sollecito and is in Meredith’s blood?

• What about the 5 spots in the house that were mixed with Knox and Kercher’s DNA (Some were mixed with the blood of them both)?

• What about the plethora of lies told by Knox and Sollecito, including that they told the postal police (who arrived at 12:30pm) that they had already called 211 (when they didn’t call 211 until 12:54pm)? And let’s not forget that make-believe party that Sollecito claimed he and Knox attended on the night of the murder with that make-believe friend.

• What about the staged break-in?

• What about Mr. Quintavalle, who said that Knox was in his store at 7:45a.m., the morning after the murder—when she claimed that she didn’t wake up until 10:00a.m., that morning?

• What about Knox’s written confession?

• What about the bloody shoe print found on the pillow under Kercher’s body, which experts claimed was compatible with Knox?

• What about the other 2 footprints, revealed only by luminol (1 attributed to Knox and one to Sollecito)?

Frankly, it’s ludicrous to think that Knox would win the appeal solely based on these pieces of evidence; it is like saying that she was convicted based on only these evidentiary items, which Knox supporters would like to have you believe. So if it is ruled during the appeal that the knife is discredited or held unreliable as the murder weapon and Curatola’s testimony is not reliable then there is still sufficient evidence to convict the pair.

If the bra clasp, however, is held as unreliable—and this does not mean by the independent experts, necessarily, but by the judges and jury members—then the case looks a bit better for Knox and Sollecito, particularly Sollecito. Yet, there is still a lot of evidence against them.

It is also important to note that during the original trial one of the judge’s witnesses, forensic expert Mariano Cingolani, testified that the knife did not match one of the two knife wounds on the right hand side of Kercher’s neck. However, he also cautioned that “no firm conclusion could be drawn without knowing the position of Kercher’s neck during the attack or the elasticity of her tissues.”

Best case scenario, in my opinion, Knox’s sentence will be reduced a couple of years if the knife evidence is held as unreliable—which would still be considered a big win, because I strongly believe that she was involved. This is unlikely, however, as Guede’s sentence was reduced from 30yrs to 16yrs upon appeal.

Guede’s sentence was reduced primarily because of Knox and Sollecito’s trial—the Italian Supreme Court ruled that there was more than one person involved in the crime, and they implicated Knox and Sollecito in their ruling; thus, diminishing Guede’s role and sentence as a result.

Hypothetically speaking, if Knox and Sollecito “walk” then Guede gets only 16yrs for killing Meredith Kercher. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that I am: Knox and Sollecito’s sentences should both stand at the end of this appeal. In any event, May 21 (date the experts will give testimony) will be another circus-type event in Italy’s trial of the century.

Posted by willsavive on 04/01/11 at 11:35 PM | #

Welcome to Will Savive! I noticed that he had registered on TJMK. This promises to get interesting.

Will is a criminologist living in the New York area and he has written “The Study Abroad Murder which is very much in a a “just the facts ma’am” style. One of the Amazon reviewers said: “Savive is quickly becoming a juggernaut of the true crime industry.”

We are going to start excerpting from it starting tomorrow. It already has several five-star reviews on Amazon and it is going to be even harder than usual for the conspiracists to take down the content here.

Maybe this is the one Jimbo Wales of Wikipedia should be reading.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/02/11 at 02:41 AM | #

Hi willsavive.  Forgive me for being obtuse but I am unsure what you mean when you say that a reduction of 2 years for AK and RS would be a ‘big win’.  Do you mean for the defense or the prosecution?  I am also unclear why RG’s sentence reduction makes it unlikely.  Would it be possible for AK/RSs’ sentences to be reduced by that amount, too?  If it is finally decided and agreed by all appeals courts that all three were equally culpable would that mean there is a possibility that all sentences would be reduced by so many years?  Sorry for all the questions.

Posted by thundering on 04/02/11 at 07:52 AM | #

Hey Thundering,

No prob. for all the questions, I welcome them—if I can add any insight to the case it is my pleasure.

It is my understanding that the sentencing that Guede originally received was 30 years—24 for murder and 6 for sexual assault. The appeals court had reduced Guede’s sentence to 24 years—after finding the mitigating circumstances to be equivalent to the alleged aggravating circumstances, and thus re-applying the reduction for the [fast-track] trial to the maximum penalty for a non-aggravated murder—and cut one-third off of the 24yrs as is customary when defendants opt for a fast-track trial.

Knox and Sollecito were given 24yrs as well. Knox and Sollecito both received an extra year for simulating a burglary at the scene and Knox got an extra year for falsely blaming Lumumba for the murder—26 Knox and 25 Sollecito.

So, when I say that “best case scenario,” that Knox and Sollecito may get a sentence reduction, I am basing it on the knife evidence being seen as unreliable. I know that both were charged with “transporting the murder weapon,” but I am unsure how many years that this actually accounted for, since all three received the standard 24 years. So, I am basically hypothesizing the “best case scenario reduction” if the knife is seen as unreliable by the judges and the jury. And I mean it would be a “big win” for the defense, obviously, to get any sort of reduction.

As far as it being held that all three were equally culpable, I don’t think that is the case. Just read the Italian Supreme Court’s decision on this page. Even though they state that their decision is based solely on the culpability of Guede, they infer, many times to Knox and Sollecito—both directly and indirectly. For instance, the report says that the crime scene “was altered by persons other than Guede.” Moreover, I think one of the more telling statements in the Supreme Court’s decision, regarding true culpabilitiy is as follows: 

“In the view of the appeal court, according to the more credible version of events, due to the presence of clear signs attributable to Knox and Sollecito inside the house, the two could have entered the house together with Guede, where an escalation of sexually motivated violence against poor Meredith took place, after which an attempt was made by Knox and Sollecito, the only ones interested in doing so, to simulate a theft, and an attempted or consummated rape, and then in feverish progression a murder by the “phantom” thief. It would have been in the interest of Sollecito and Knox to remove possible traces of their presence.”

Posted by willsavive on 04/02/11 at 10:03 AM | #

Hi willsavive.

Thank you for your reply.  Yes, I see they all got the 24 years and then there were differences for aggravated or mitigating circumstances.  If you factor all of that in then the sentences will come out differently. 

In ‘truth’ the real difference in responsibility would, I imagine, lie in the extent of malicious intent or motivation which in this case appear difficult to establish. 

If one takes the act of killing Meredith itself and disregards (for the moment) all the rest of the evidence, perhaps that is the only point at which one could say that all three bear equal responsibility? 

Thanks again, willsavive!

Posted by thundering on 04/03/11 at 05:06 AM | #

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