Last Act For Prosecution and Closing Arguments
When court resumed on September 5 2011, the prosecution showed that they had no intention of giving up, even though their case had suffered a huge blow from the Conti and Vecchiotti report that was presented to the court just before summer recess.
Just prior to the summer break, scrambling to recover from Conti and Vecchiotti’s scathing report, the prosecution requested additional time to question the independent experts, Francesco Maresca, the attorney representing the Kercher family decided that he had more questions as well, and Patrizia Stefanoni requested the opportunity to defend herself on the stand. All requests were granted by Judge Hellmann and would be the first orders of business as the trial resumed after summer break.
Conti and Vecchiotti returned to court to take on another barrage of questions from Francesco Maresca. Maresca gave it his best shot but had absolutely no success in tarnishing the work of Conti and Vecchiotti. In fact the questions actually helped to reinforce their conclusions. Maresca kept hammering away at the bra clasp evidence, insisting that Raffaele’s DNA must have been present. When Maresca questioned why one of the tests conducted by Conti and Vecchiotti only showed partially completed results, he received a decisive response that demolished his position. Vecchiotti explained to the court;
“After examining just the first 4 markers out of 17, there were already new alleles for forming at least eight profiles so there was no need to continue to find the all of them. In fact, There were so many alleles that even my own profile was a match in 9 markers” Vecchiotti then looked at Judge Hellmann, “Your own profile, President, could likely be found in that DNA.”
Patrizia Stefanoni was next to take the stand in what would end up being a failed attempt to defend her work. Stefanoni proceeded to tell the court that her procedures were just fine regardless what anyone else thought. She decided to use plastic collection bags and, according to her that was fine. She admitted to storing evidence in the freezer of the cottage, once again, no problem. When questioned about missing data, she replied “I forgot.” No mistakes were made; she just forgot to record a few things, no big deal. According to Stefanoni, no contamination occurred and she her work was completely acceptable. At the end of the day, Stefanoni may have been the only person on earth that still held onto those beliefs.
On September 7 2011, Prosecutor Comodi would take center stage, taking one more shot at Conti and Vecchiotti’s armor, by asking the court for new independent experts and new tests to be performed on the knife because Conti and Vecchiotti got it all wrong.
After doing everything in their power to block any additional testing during the first trial, now it was the prosecution asking for additional testing. After everything that had transpired, it seemed completely unreasonable to ask for more tests. The DNA was tested by the prosecution’s experts during the first trial and then by court appointed experts during the second trial. It was clear that no additional tests were needed. The request was just a ploy to keep Amanda and Raffaele in jail for a longer period of time. Thankfully Judge Hellmann was not moved by Comodi’s performance, denying the request, giving great satisfaction to the defense and bringing Amanda and Raffaele one step closer to freedom. The prosecution’s request was the last order of business, leading Judge Hellmann to schedule closing arguments to begin on September 23 2011.
On September 23, 2011, as the closing arguments began, Injustice in Perugia was fortunate to have live updates coming from sources inside the courtroom. This was a very difficult time for Amanda and Raffaele as they would once again be subjected to horrible accusations and outright lies from a group that was hell-bent on destroying them.
Lead Prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola was the first to take the stage during closing arguments. Costagliola was overshadowed throughout the appeal by Prosecutors Mignini and Comodi, who were retained as assistant counsel from the first trial. This was Costagliola’s chance to shine but unfortunately for him, his performance was rather dull and far less than convincing.
Costagliola stood before the court and repeated the same tired lines that we heard throughout the first trial as if nothing at all had even been discussed on appeal. The disco busses that were proven nonexistent appeared again in his speech, attempting to restore the credibility of Antonio Curatolo. Costagliola completely ignored Curatolo’s embarrassing testimony where he claimed to be using heroin on the night he allegedly witnessed activity outside the location of the murder. Did Costagliola forget that Curatolo’s testimony was cut short by the judge, as he ordered Curatolo to be removed from the courtroom immediately?
No, Costagliola did not forget Curatolo’s pitiful performance; he decided to defend Curatolo instead, attempting to claim that heroin does not cause hallucinations so Curatolo’s testimony must be considered reliable. This claim is ridiculous of course but it worked during the first trial so I guess that Costagliola figured, why not try it again?
If defending Curatolo was not shocking enough, Costagliola proceeded to bring up another de-bunked accusation by telling the court that Raffaele called the Carabinieri (Italian police) after the postal police arrived, even though it had already been proven in court that Raffaele made the call much earlier (as previously discussed in the Lifetime chapter). It was mind boggling to hear updates coming from the courtroom that the same arguments were being made all over again as if it was still 2007.
Costagliola concluded his performance by informing the court that the media was responsible for the major turn of events in the case. Costagliola ordered that the media must not be allowed to influence the verdict, saying that Amanda and Raffaele had been recently portrayed in a good light. He went further to suggest that the court should rule on emotion rather than facts, by asking the court to think about Meredith’s family:
“There has been an obsessive campaign, in particular by Italian newspapers and TV, which has given a voice to the parents of Amanda & Raffaele, two young people from good families held in prison by the obstinacy of the Prosecution. I hope on the other hand that in deciding you will listen a little to the parents of Meredith.”
Costagliola’s comments were absurd, completely ignoring the enormous effect the media had on the outcome of the first trial, but paled in comparison to the egregious exaggerations the court would soon hear from Giuliano Mignini.
When it was Mignini’s time to take the stage, the public was asked to leave the courtroom which meant only one thing; Mignini would once again attempt to influence the jury with gruesome crime scene and autopsy photographs. As the photographs flashed on the big screen, Mignini complained of “Nazi-like tactics” used by the defense to discredit police experts causing Meredith Kercher to be forgotten. The truth is Mignini told the court what they already knew, Meredith Kercher was brutally murdered. Showing her body provided no proof as to who killed her. Mignini’s ploy certainly did nothing to show that Amanda and Raffaele were guilty and in my opinion was disrespectful to Meredith.
During the first trial, Mignini cherished his time on stage, rambling on for over seven hours, barking out de-bunked myths, misinformation and outright lies. As it turned out, this veteran performer felt little need to work on his act for the appeal, taking the stage once again to repeat the same tired lines, with a few additional exaggerations thrown in from time to time.
In Mignini’s world, his witnesses were still credible. Mignini defended Antonio Curatolo’s testimony, saying that it must not be overlooked, never mind the heroin. Mignini suggested that Marco Quintavalle, the store owner that claimed to see Amanda, was still credible, even though he had the color of Amanda’s coat wrong and his own employee discredited him. I know the coat color may not seem like a big deal, but when you look at the big picture, it completely demolishes the witness. The truth is Quintavalle saw Amanda on the news wearing a gray coat so when he described Amanda, he said her coat was gray. Unfortunately for Quintavalle, Amanda was seen on the news wearing Raffaele’s gray coat. Amanda’s coat is actually blue. Mignini suggested that Quintavalle saw Amanda’s black and white striped sweatshirt under her coat and he put the two colors together in his mind creating gray. Mignini’s ridiculous explanation did little to revive his de-bunked witness.
Mignini took Costagliola’s comments about the media’s role to new heights by telling the court that Amanda’s PR efforts cost her family eleven million dollars. For years, the public heard lies about the PR firm coming with a price tag of one million dollars, Mignini somehow managed to add ten million dollars to the lie.
Mignini spent twenty minutes telling the court not to listen to the support groups for Amanda and Raffaele. Without mentioning anyone by name, Mignini went on to describe Steve Moore and the websites for IIP and FOA, telling the court that we were not to be trusted. The truth is if he did not think we made a major impact he would have never mentioned us in the first place.
Mignini proceeded to stumble through many of the same vindictive talking points that he bellowed out at the first trial, as if nothing had changed, completely ignoring everything presented on appeal. I discuss Mignini’s theories in great detail in “Injustice in Perugia” so, unlike Mignini, I will not recycle that material here.
Manuela Comodi was next to take the stage, and once again she did her best to defend the work of Patrizia Stefanoni in an attempt to discredit the work of Conti and Vecchiotti; once again failing to make her case. Comodi spoke most of the day, going through her script from the first trial point by point as if Conti and Vecchiotti had not already discredited her. Giuliano Mignini was so bored with her presentation that he actually fell asleep in the courtroom.
Next came Francesco Maresca’s repulsive stunt, when he took Mignini’s ploy of showing photos of Meredith one step further, by flashing her naked body up on the video screen without warning. At least Mignini had the courtesy to clear the public from the courtroom, not Maresca; he was going for pure shock value. Thankfully, in the end, the theatrics would not work in their favor.
Finally, the prosecution ended its closing arguments, requesting that the court increase the sentence for Amanda and Raffaele. For Amanda, they wanted life in prison with six months in solitary confinement as additional punishment. For Raffaele, they wanted life in jail with two months of solitary confinement as additional punishment. Even as their case crumbled before them, their vindictive nature continued to be on display.
The prosecution failed to realize that the outcome of the appeal rested solely on the evidence that Judge Hellmann highlighted at the beginning of the appeal. Hellmann was very clear as to what he felt needed to be looked at, knowing that no other evidence carried enough weight to secure a conviction; yet the prosecution insisted on rehashing old arguments that had no relevance at all.
The Defense Speaks
On September 27, 2011, Raffaele’s attorneys were the first to speak. Raffaele’s attorney Giulia Buongiorno informed the court that the defense would only focus on the facts with no unnecessary theatrics. Buongiorno addressed the prosecution's claims that the media was improperly influencing the appeal, reminding the court that the media was horrible to Amanda and Raffaele the first time around. The negative headlines have far outweighed the positive ones, making it quite interesting for the prosecution to be critical at this point. The shift in the media during the appeal was not influenced by anything other than the actual facts of the case. Buongiorno then called out Mignini's attempt to sway the jury with photos of Meredith, saying that the photos did nothing more than to cause a distraction and did nothing to show guilt.
Raffaele’s attorneys often found themselves defending Amanda instead of Raffaele because the prosecution's case that put their client behind bars was centered on Amanda. During closing arguments Buongiorno would defend Amanda once again.
Buongiorno told the court that the case became a soap opera and Amanda was the main character. The police went looking for any details they could find about Amanda to add to their story. Looking for ex-boyfriends to build a story about her sex life and using the most incriminating photos they could find. The photo of Amanda and Raffaele kissing outside the cottage had a huge impact on the case. Amanda was the focus with Raffaele only receiving mention as her boyfriend.
Buongiorno told the court that the prosecution created a fictional character that used her beauty to control men with the power of sex, comparing Amanda to Jessica Rabbit, a character from “Who killed Roger Rabbit.” Buongiorno told the court that the prosecution described Amanda as a whore but in reality she is faithful and loving friend stating; “Yes sometimes prosecutors make mistakes, but they should stop and fix them.”
As promised, Buongiorno stuck with the facts of the case, hammering home the fact that there was no physical trace of Amanda or Raffaele in the room where Meredith was killed. She reinforced the fact that all of the evidence in the murder room pointed to Rudy Guede, telling the court that evidence showing that Guede was in the room shows that “no one could enter that room and not leave any trace.”
Buongiorno also attacked the interrogation methods used against Amanda, saying she was interrogated by "hostile" officers, which made it impossible to trust any information collected during the interrogation. She went on to highlight the DNA analysis of Conti and Vecchiotti that shredded the prosecution's case. When it was all said and done, the court appointed independent experts would be the deciding factor.
Buongiorno concluded her closing arguments by asking the jury to keep her client in mind when making their decision:
“The lives of this kid and his parents have been destroyed. You must today evaluate if - if - if these kids committed the crime.”
Raffaele’s attorney Luca Maori had the attention of the court during his closing arguments when he presented some very interesting data. As discussed in great detail throughout the course of the first trial, Amanda’s interrogation should have been recorded as required by law. Within 24 hours after the discovery of the murder, police were recording every cell phone call made by Amanda and Raffaele. Giuliano Mignini stated that he recorded the statements made by Amanda’s flat mates and other witnesses. After Amanda was arrested, her phone calls from prison were also recorded. Italian law requires that recordings be made of interrogations once a suspect is detained. Amanda was a suspect when she signed the final statement on November 6, 2007, yet the police have no recording. Mignini first claimed it was an oversight but later suggested that there was simply a lack of funds to pay for such a recording.
The data that Maori presented to the court made Mignini’s excuse look silly. Maori told the court that there have been 39,952 wiretapped calls throughout the course of the trial. This is a shocking figure that no doubt came at a huge expense. Maori explained that every single call is listened to by a live operator who has the task of taking notes detailing each call.
The notes taken for these calls provided disturbing information about the police. It appears that the operators spent most of their time insulting those they were listening too, calling family members of the accused names such as “pieces of shit” and “vipers.”
The police had the resources to wiretap 39,952 calls but lacked the funds to record an interrogation; a recording that could have very well prevented this nightmare from ever occurring in the first place. It sounds like Mignini needs to come up with another excuse for not recording the interrogation.
On September 29, 2011, Attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova was the first to speak for Amanda Knox. Amanda’s defense team had the same philosophy as Raffaele’s; no theatrics, just the facts. Dalla Vedova reiterated to the court that investigators were hasty in their conclusions leading to the wrongful convictions. Dalla Vedova told the court that Amanda underwent a very grave violation of her rights. There was no reason to suspect Amanda in the days following the murder; nothing emerged from the wiretapping, and there was no evidence at the crime scene, nothing at all.
Along with the complete lack of evidence, Amanda also had an alibi; exactly the same alibi that her housemate Filomena had. Both Amanda and Filomena were at their boyfriend’s houses and their boyfriends provided alibis.
Dalla Vedova went on to maintain that Conti and Vecchiotti had demolished the prosecution's case. “Today there's very little left,” Dalla Vedova said. “A clue is not enough.”
Dalla Vedova urged the court not to be afraid to recognize that the lower court made a mistake. “That’s exactly why we have appeals—courts can make mistakes,” he said. “Nobody is infallible.”
Attorney Luciano Ghirga was next to speak for Amanda, telling the court that Amanda was “very afraid but her heart is full of hope and she hopes to return to freedom.”
Ghirga told the court that Amanda’s “image was massacred” by the media and the attacks on her character started before the first trial ever began. Every word Amanda spoke made its way into the headlines the very next day, but not before the media had a chance to twist the meaning of her words.
Ghirga has often been emotional in his defense of Amanda and he became emotional once again during his closing arguments when he told the court that he thought of Amanda like a daughter. He appealed to the jury to put themselves in the shoes of Amanda’s family, countering prosecutor Costagliola’s please for the jury to put themselves in the shoes of the Kercher family. Ghirga stressed that Amanda’s family has never been part of any conspiracy to put pressure on the Italian courts to release their daughter, “they are parents and they deserve respect.”
As closing arguments came to a close, the court would hear rebuttals from the prosecution, allowing the prosecution’s key players to take the stage one last time, prolonging the nightmare for Amanda and Raffaele. Once again, both would be forced to sit in silence listening hurtful accusations and vindictive lies.