The highest profile miscarriage of justice of the twenty first century
When historians look back at miscarriages of justice, some cases stand out. They stand out for a number of reasons, starting with the obvious: innocent defendants were prosecuted following a series of astonishing misjudgements. The miscarriages are compounded by an ignorant or malevolent media and the schadenfreude of the wider population. They acquire a life outside the courtroom and are discussed in workplaces, homes and pubs. They become symbolic. They exemplify prejudice. They inspire campaigners and they cause prosecutors and legal establishments to hunker down, circle the wagons and defend the indefensible.
The Dreyfus case
In 1894 Alfred Dreyfus, an innocent French army officer, was convicted of spying and was imprisoned on Devil’s Island in French Guiana. It took eleven years for the case to unravel and by the time he was exonerated, the government and the apparatus of the French state had been shaken to its core. Dreyfus went on to serve in the army again, with distinction. The ‘Dreyfus Affair’ is now seen as one of the most striking examples of a complex miscarriage of justice, where a major role was played by the press and public opinion.
The dingo baby case
In Australia in 1980 a baby girl, Azaria Chamberlain was snatched and killed by a dingo. The child’s mother Lindy Chamberlain (now Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton) was arrested, charged, convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Eight years later, in 1988, the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously overturned the conviction and Chamberlain was released and awarded $1.5M for false imprisonment. But it was not until 2012, over thirty years later, that a fourth inquest finally ruled that Azaria had been killed by a dingo. The ‘Dingo Baby’ case is probably the most notorious in the history of Australia. A major role in the miscarriage was played by the press and public opinion.
People are fallible. Justice systems are fallible. They make mistakes.
True justice for Meredith Kercher
Now we have the case of Meredith Kercher who was murdered by Rudy Guede in Perugia, Italy on November 1st 2007. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were charged with Kercher’s murder, wrongfully convicted and vilified across the world, just as Alfred Dreyfus and Lindy Chamberlain had been in their day. The same pattern of a flawed investigation followed by a rush to judgement is evident here as well. Meredith Kercher’s killer Rudy Guede was caught quickly. Solid forensic evidence ties him to the crime and he admitted to being with Meredith when she died. He was in the house of a girl he barely knew; a place where he had no plausible reason to be. His DNA was found in her vagina and a semen stain was found on a cushion between her legs. Murder cases are rarely as easily solved as this one.
So, how on earth could a justice system in a sophisticated Western democracy charge and convict two additional unconnected people who had alibis and against whom no credible evidence was ever produced?
Welcome to Alice in Wonderland, Italian style, where a car crash of judicial and prosecutorial malice and incompetence chased down two students and their families for over seven years.
The right to face your accuser and the right to a fair trial
It is a fundamental tenet of justice that an accused person should have the right to confront his or her accuser. This principle is at the heart of the European Convention on Human Rights and it was denied to Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito by Italy. Rudy Guede was tried separately in a ‘fast track’ process in which rulings were made that became binding on Knox and Sollecito but at which their lawyers were not present and were denied the right to challenge. Throughout his trial and appeal process Guede was never required to substantiate his accusation that Knox and Sollecito were present when Meredith Kercher was murdered. Furthermore, he was never cross-examined at any of Knox and Sollecito’s trials. His unchallenged assertion that they had been involved then became an Italian ‘judicial truth’ which was used by the Italian Supreme Court to torpedo Knox and Sollecito’s 2011 acquittal when it was appealed by the prosecution in 2013.
Sollecito’s attorney Giulia Bongiorno said it was the first time that ‘two people have been convicted of a crime when there is no evidence putting them at the scene’. And his other lawyer Luca Maori said in the Justice on Trial documentary “In most western countries, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. It can’t be the reverse. The accused don’t have to prove they’re innocent. In this case we were the ones who had to prove our innocence against non-existent evidence.”
Trial by media and the coming of age of internet hate
The twists and turns of the case transfixed tabloid newspaper readers in three countries. One newspaper, the British Daily Mail, became so obsessed with the life of Amanda Knox, that after her release from prison in 2011, it paid a photographer to stalk her around the streets of Seattle so that it could publish photos of her drinking tea, riding a bike and talking to friends. Rarely has the life of an innocent person been subjected to such relentless and intrusive scrutiny.
But print and online journalism are only part of the story. The trials of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito saw the internet mature as a medium for hate against criminal defendants. The anonymity it offers enabled an army of trolls to attack them continuously and without mercy. Websites were set-up specifically for this purpose. Far from being interested in truth or justice, their sole purpose was to invent and repeat lies and myths that were disproved many times both in and out of court.
The modus operandi of the trolls was articulated decades ago by Joseph Goebbels, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” By this means they hoped to deny two innocent people the eventual exoneration that was their right.
The so called ‘evidence’ against Knox and Sollecito ranks amongst the most bogus and risible ever presented before a court of law. The state of Italy should be embarrassed that anyone dared to argue that any of it had probative value.
Nothing of Knox or Sollecito was found in the room where Meredith Kercher died. The items that were supposed to have implicated them – a knife and a bra clasp – are scientifically worthless and logically invalid. No honest prosecutor would have dared to use them. But in this case the prosecution was so eager to convict that the list of the abuses of due process of Italian and European law is two pages long. A petition was launched demanding a thorough investigation into the denial of rights to the accused, which was presented to the US State Department. By the time of Knox and Sollecito’s final acquittal in March 2015, it had amassed 4100 signatures.
The prosecution’s lab technician and DNA ‘expert’, Patrizia Stefanoni, falsified documents and committed double perjury regarding the knife. She also destroyed the bra clasp through improper storage. Test results that should have been shared with the defence that proved that no bloody footprints were detected on passageway floors, were suppressed until half way through the first trial. In excess of 100 DNA profiles from the crime scene ‘disappeared’. Other evidence destruction and disappearance included 29 phone intercepts of Knox and Sollecito before they were arrested and Knox’s computer and camera which had photographs demonstrating her friendship with Kercher.
When this misfeasance was revealed to the court, it was ignored by the journalists who slept or joked in an anteroom. Just one of Stefanoni’s misdemeanours should have terminated the trial. Each of them should have triggered an investigation into malpractice.
If the forensic evidence presented in court was a scientific joke, the prosecution’s witnesses were no better. They tripped over their own statements and revealed themselves to be confused drug addicts and unreliable poseurs.
Investigators recorded and transcribed thousands of hours of innocent phone calls and prison visits yet apparently neglected to tape the single crucial interrogation of Amanda Knox that their case rested on. You really couldn’t make this stuff up.
This website has been carefully assembled by a team of supporters who refused to simply stand and watch while an injustice was imposed on two innocent young people, the nation of Italy and last and emphatically not least, the family of murder victim Meredith Kercher. Please read these pages. You will be shocked.
The Kerchers deserved so much more from the police, investigators and courts of Italy, but they were failed. They were owed a duty of care by the media of Meredith’s home nation, but it placed scandal and circulation figures ahead of the truth and it let them down. They are also owed an apology by the leeches and trolls who continue to prolong their misery by misrepresenting the facts of the case and harassing innocent victims.
Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito suffered for too long. The Kercher family has suffered for too long.
The Dreyfus Affair shocked France. The saga of Lindy Chamberlain embarrassed Australia. The trials of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are a stain on the reputation of Italy. Their treatment by the media, particularly in Britain, was a disgrace, even by the low journalistic standards associated with that country.
But the truth cannot be hidden. This website presents it.