Carlo Dalla Vedova received his law degree from University of Rome “La Sapienza” in 1988, he received his Diploma...
Alexander Guttieres received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago, his Juris Doctor...
Jon Amarilio is a partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Chicago. He represents individuals, small businesses, state and...
Trisha Rich is a partner in Holland & Knight’s Chicago office, where she practices commercial litigation and professional responsibility...
Amanda Knox, the American college student charged with killing her British roommate while studying abroad in Italy, spent four years in jail before her murder conviction was overturned. Was the media’s portrayal of the murderous “Foxy Knoxy” accurate or was she just an innocent college student caught in a nightmare? In this episode, hosts Jon Amarilio and Trisha Rich speak with Amanda Knox’s lead Italian defense lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, and her media consultant, Alex Guittieres, getting a behind-the-scenes look at the trial that gripped the world.
Special thanks to One Legal for sponsoring this episode.
[NOTE: While transcribing audio issues were faced, specifically the guest speaker being accented and at places, they are marked with time stamps and have been highlighted in yellow.]
The Amanda Knox Again Edition: An Interview with the Defense Team
Jon Amarilio: Hello everyone and welcome to CBA’s @theBar, a podcast where young and youngish lawyers discuss with our guest legal news, events, topics, stories, and whatever else strikes our fancy.
I am your host Jon Amarilio of Taft Stettinius & Hollister, and co-hosting the pod with me today is my friend Trisha Rich, a partner at the venerable Holland & Knight.
Jon Amarilio: Hi, Trish.
Trisha Rich: Hi, John, thanks for having me.
Jon Amarilio: Trish, we have a truly fascinating discussion on the docket today. An interview with Amanda Knox’s lead Italian defense attorney and media consultant and commentator. It is a behind the scenes look at a legal drama that gripped much of the world for several years, would you be so kind as to introduce our guests?
Trisha Rich: Absolutely, I am really pleased to be here today and pleased to be able to introduce the two of these men who we met at a recent CBA trip in Rome and we are very excited that they’re joining us today on the podcast.
So, first, I will start with Carlo Dalla Vedova who is a practicing lawyer in Rome. He practices in the area of Corporate Law, Civil Law, Public and Private International Law and Criminal Law, and he served as Ms. Knox’s Lead Defense Counsel in her case. And I found out today when I was researching his biography that he shares my birthday, so —
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Well, I am glad.
Trisha Rich: And secondly, we have Alex Guttieres who is a native New Yorker actually but came to college here in Chicago, the second city who we would like to call it the first city and obtained his JD from the University of Miami was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1982 and then actually got a second law degree in Rome, was admitted to the Roman Bar in 1994. He is currently a member of both the Florida Bar and the Italian Bar, lives in Rome and practices in the area of civil claims, family controversies and commercial transactions, largely in the international space.
So, Alex and Carlo, welcome. We are so glad to have you.
Alexander Guttieres: Thank you so much, it’s a pleasure.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Thank you very much for the invitation. It’s a pleasure for me being part of this conference. Thank you very much.
Trisha Rich: Thank you.
Jon Amarilio: So, I don’t think, Trish, our guests are going to need too much a reminder about this case but we should probably cover some of the very basics upfront. I think our discussion today is going to have to assume a certain amount of background knowledge of the case by our listeners because we really want to get right into it, but here’s some of the very basics just to frame the discussion.
In 2007 then 20-year-old American Exchange student, Amanda Knox, was accused of the brutal murder of a British roommate, Meredith Kercher, suspicion was quickly cast on Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, I know I am mispronouncing that, I apologize guys. Media all around the world covered the story very, very closely and in the eyes of many unfairly following the conviction of known burglar Rudy Guede, for the murder Knox and Sollecito were convicted of the murder as well. Italian police and a local prosecutor pursued a narrative that Knox, Sollecito and Guede had killed Kerscher in some kind of angry, sexual, orgy or game often portraying Knox as the motivating and manipulating force behind the killing. Prosecutors also accused Knox and Sollecito among other things of simulating a burglary to divert suspicion away from them. Knox was sentenced to 26 years imprisonment, Sollecito to 25 years.
Their conviction was subsequently overturned by an Italian Appellate Court after it was discovered that the handling of the crime scene and the DNA evidence such as it was by the police was completely bungled, and I think that’s probably a kind way of putting it.
Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation then set aside the acquittal and reinstated the conviction only to later declare in a subsequent proceeding that Knox and Sollecito were innocent of any involvement in the murder, now just not guilty but actually innocent. They cited “glaring errors, investigative amnesia and sensational failures” in the investigation and the handling of the trial.
So, that’s again a 20,000 foot look at the case but it is so much more interesting than that. Trish, why don’t you lead us off, I have so many questions I know you do too.
Trisha Rich: Sure. Well, I think what would be helpful, Carlo, is if you first told us how you came to represent Amanda? How did your attorney-client relationship with her form?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yes, thank you, and we started just because we were contacted there. We are listed in different embassies here in Rome working in the International field and also with the international organization of the United Nations and so somebody from the US Embassy gave our name and we were contacted day one. So the day actually that Amanda was arrested, so that was the 6th of November 2007.
And what we normally do because this happens quite often, we coordinate, we manage being in Rome especially when the cases is outside of the court of appeal of Rome, we coordinate, we find a local lawyer and then we monitor, and of course, we will follow and inform the embassies which of course they have a duty to follow the eventual criminal and trial of any citizen and this applies for Great Britain, from Australia, from Ireland, for everybody, and that is our own and we have been doing this for years and I am a son of a father, so my father started a firm and we have some quite extensive experience in this.
In terms of criminal matters we also handle within the firm specific cases only we are not purely criminal lawyers, we are also criminal lawyers, but lately in the last years we are facing many, many involvements also because in a way the crime is becoming more-and-more international and when I am talking about cartel or trafficking and immigration and also international situation. So that’s why we were involved. The family called us, we got a lawyer in Perugia immediately the same day. Luciano Ghirga who was assisting Amanda with me all the way to the end, so for eight years the five grades.
We met Amanda on the day three. There was a confirmation of the arrest that’s required. So, there was a hearing in the prison. Amanda was arrested on the sixth — in the morning of the 6th November.
Jon Amarilio: So, Carlo, if I may interrupt, I apologize, I think that’s a great place for us to start. One of the things that struck me when I was learning more about this case was, how quickly the police focused on Amanda and her boyfriend, what explanation can you give for why they focused so intently and so early on the two of them?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Well, there’s a way of saying, when you have a very strong fact you need to have a very strong reply. This murder in Perugia was somehow without a reason and so all the authority, the police, the prosecutor, even the University because Perugia is known to be famous for the University of Foreigners, they all took this matter seriously. So, they had to show that something was going on that the murder happened actually in the town, the belated house was just outside the wall and a few hundred meters from the University, and it happened in the room of the poor victim Meredith Kercher.
So, not only in the house but in the room, which is known to be one of the safest place of all of us. And so, the police immediately took strong action, there was numbers of police officer appointed supervised by a prosecutor, and Amanda was put immediately under an examination because she was interrogated the day that they found the body. So this was the second of November, the third, the fourth, the fifth, and then during a famous night within the fifth and the sixth they arrested her.
And the reason why Amanda is because she was living with the Meredith and they were held together and the house was occupied by four girls but the other two girls were away that night, and so I think the police now that we know what was the final result — they actually made a mistake, but they put a lot of energy and they wanted to reply and to keep immediately some kind of name or some kind of solution of this possible murder and they were too fast. So, today we can say that they made a mistake, they should probably take more time and wait to make more evidence, collect more elements because the idea of the participation of the murder with Amanda, Raffaele, Rudy Guede and the poor victim which the main idea was a sex game that went wrong. Little by little it collapsed because there was no element supporting this hypothesis and the prosecutor in fact they changed the motive during the trial but the reason I think all this gave was that they closed the case too fast.
They after — the morning on the sixth, there was a press release around 3 o’clock in the afternoon announcing that the case is closed that the American girl confessed because at that time there was this word confession of Amanda and was not used anymore was a false confession, so I am sure you are aware what a false confession is, and the press release was held by the head of the police, the head of the prosecutor office, director of the university, the mayor of Perugia.
Perugia is a small town, so of course this gave a lot of responsibility to the authority and that’s why the case also became so noisy because immediately all the media, they found out that there was a Persian and so we had a great attention from the media from day one.
Trisha Rich: So just sort of to summarize, Meredith’s body was discovered on November 2nd, Amanda gets arrested four days later, you meet her — it is two days after that for the first time when she’s going into this initial hearing and then, in the meantime the police issued a press release declaring that the case had been solved. Is that generally sort of the opening sequence of events?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yes, yes, the press release is still on the social and one of the video, and it’s actually correct, yes. There was a need of giving a reply, there was such a strong fact.
Jon Amarilio: Right, there were no intense political and press pressure.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: They were very much under pressure and they simply made a mistake, this happens.
Jon Amarilio: So, this is a question for both of you guys, there was strong pressure or strong evidence I should say from my understanding of the case that emerged that Rudy Guede was actually the sole perpetrator of this murder. Is that correct? If that’s correct, what evidence was there?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yes, the main point of our defense that we brought over-and-over again and we also had that at the beginning of limited access to the document was that there was no evidence of Amanda being in the room. The girl was found on the floor with blood with two wounds on the neck and many, many blood traces on the handle of the door, on the wall, on the bed. There was no evidence of Amanda and the same applied for Raffaele.
Where Rudy Guede had a footprint with a Nike shoe, there was a circle underneath, on the blood just beside, there was a DNA that was found on the hand of the victim that was related to Rudy Guede, there was his DNA on the bra, the bra was cut with using a knife, and there was two handprint, two handprint of blood on the pillow that with the fingerprint was analyzed within ten days from the finding and everybody thought that that was something related to Amanda, Raffaele, and Patrick Lumumba because at the first stage, Patrick Lumumba was involved.
But in fact, as a result of the fingerprint were Rudy Guede, all immigrant 00:12:30 their fingerprint so there’s a database. And also there was DNA in the body because according to Rudy Guede, the version that he gave is that he had an affair with Meredith and they had a meeting that night and they actually had a preliminary intimate relation using the hand.
And then they stopped because Meredith didn’t want to go ahead and why he had to go to the toilet, while he was in the toilet, somebody has came in and killed Meredith. So this is the Rudy Guede’s version.
The first part is probably true, the second part is false.
Jon Amarilio: So, the first part — I’m curious, Carlo, so the first part that they were having sexual relations at least at the beginning were consensual. I find that very curious because my understanding of Guede’s involvement stemmed from the fact that he was a known burglar and that the window to Meredith’s bedroom was broken.
There was a dispute about whether it was broken from the inside or outside but that seemed to add up that this may have been some kind of breaking and entering or started out as a burglary crime. How does that square with the finding of his DNA?
Alex Guittieres: May I add something about the known burglar?
Jon Amarilio: Please.
Alex Guittieres: Not only was he a known burglar, but he has a history for breaking windows and breaking an entry, which was comparable to what had happened that day when the police came on the scene and Carlo, you know more about this than me, but correct me if I am wrong. When the police came on the scene they found a broken window in one of the roommate’s bedrooms.
And ultimately, one of the big issues was — was the breaking 00:14:10 was it made to look like a breaking or was there a true breaking?
Jon Amarilio: Right, so if the defense’s theory as I understand it was that the encounter between Guede and Meredith began as something consensual, how does that square with the evidence of a breaking? I just don’t understand the relationship.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: I never believed in this version that Rudy Guede brought. First of all, all the friends of Meredith, the British girls, none of them confirmed that there was an affair that were out at the day before which is a Halloween. Meredith had that relation with the boyfriend that was living on the ground floor, the villa, the small villa was divided into ground floor with four boys and the first floor was occupied by the four girls.
So the four boys that weekend they were out because it was a long weekend and they all went back home, they were from 00:15:00 as a holiday long 00:15:03.
So it is Rudy Guede that is trying to say that and nobody really believes. I think Rudy Guede had an attack. He tried to without consent from the beginning also because on the face of Meredith which was found on the floor there’s a sign of a hand very strong that was trying to keep the face and the mouth shut.
And probably with the other hand, Rudy Guede was trying to take advantage, the girl was found almost naked. So there were some pants, some jeans just beside, the underwear and the bra that was cut. So he was probably using a knife. He was arrested before, as Alex said, he had some precedent of breaking into a law firm taking the computer and also in a school in Milan, he took all the equipment and when the stay was stopped in Milan, in fact, and they found that he was always carrying one of the small knife with about 6 centimeters blade which is comparable with the wound.
The knife was never found but what is my personal experience is that he went there to rob because he knew that the house was empty, everybody was out and while he was there and he got in by breaking into the window, Rudy Guede was a basketball player, so a very athletic and the houses of one of those stone house, it’s easy to get on the first floor.
And while he was there, Meredith Kercher probably walked in, then what happened there will be a mystery, nobody will know but my impression that he attacked Meredith just because he was alone with the girl in house.
Trisha Rich: So, one of the things you just mentioned was that the knife that was used to kill Meredith was never found, but the prosecutors believed that that knife was in the house, right? They thought that —
Jon Amarilio: It was in the boyfriend’s house, Sollecito’s house.
Trisha Rich: Right, so they thought that they had it. Can you talk to us a little bit about the murder weapon?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yes, of course, the murder weapon from an evidence point of view is it’s a fundamental point of the accusation. So the sixth, the day that they were arrested, there was a search in Sollecito’s house, Raffaele lived something like 300 meters from the villa, Via della Pergola and that’s where they stayed the night.
Amanda was staying with Raffaele at night, so they went into the kitchen and they picked up one of the knife that was in the kitchen. This was a 17-centimeter knife, kitchen knife, with a blade of 11-centimeter and that was used by the prosecutor as the murder knife, as a supposed murder knife.
Jon Amarilio: Carlo, what struck me about that is that the police didn’t test any other knives that were found in any of the kitchens, right? There was an investigator if I remember correctly that just said something like he selected this knife as evidence because of his investigative intuition, something like that. Is that right?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Correct. That was the version because we asked there was another sixth knife in that kitchen and then it was analyzed with DNA and they found the DNA pretty good trace of Amanda on the handle but she always said from day one that they cooked, like the day — the night before, they cooked fish and they cut the puffed fish and she did that.
And they found a low copy number of a biological material that can also be referred to Meredith Kercher on the blade. So that was the main evidence to say that that was the murder weapon, but the murder weapon immediately lost importance because it was illogical, total, the reconstruction.
So, the idea was at that night Amanda was going around and decided to pick up a knife of that size with no reason, I mean, Perugia is a very safe place and she never went around with a knife and then they went into the house, they had this sex orgy game that went wrong but was also satanic for a while, somebody scented it was a satanic game that was never proved, there was no need, the two boys, Rudy Guede and Raffaele didn’t know each other, so how can you do a game like that with somebody that you don’t know.
And then when you kill somebody, you use it to commit a crime, and then of course, you wash it because the knife and we discovered that only in the appeal. So something like two years and-a-half later, it was also checked for blood. The DNA is also blood but for blood you have a special test which is called the tetrametilbenzidina.
Jon Amarilio: It sounds better in Italian than English, I’m sure.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: I think it’s very similar in English, tetramethylbenzidine or something, it was checked for the blood and was on negative. So how is it possible that they clean the knife so well and then what you bring back to knife, when you put it back in the kitchen, so the next morning use it for breakfast was total illogic reconstruction. No murder. The murder weapon is normally destroyed. It’s the first thing that a responder would get rid of it, so that was already illogical.
Alexander Guttieres: May I say something about one point that he raised. He said this came up on appeal and you wonder how did it come up on appeal because under the United States system nothing can come up on appeal, you have to just discuss any potential areas of law.
The reason that is is because under the Italian criminal justice system, on appeal you can introduce new evidence. If the judge is not satisfied with the evidence that is gathered at the trial level, he can reopen the case and conduct a new trial. And I think that’s important to underscore.
Jon Amarilio: I think that’s an important distinction here Alex and thank you for doing it, but that that reminds me of an interesting point that connects both yours and with the knife, which is that when, as I understand it rather, when the Appellate Court ordered retesting of the knife they found that Meredith’s DNA was not actually on it and that it was more likely DNA that the initial lab had said was positive on the knife was the result of contamination either at the lab or the crime scene.
Alexander Guttieres: Right, the DNA was unreliable. The DNA by a certain 00:21:34 who was appointed by the judge on appeal to conduct an independent evaluation, because Carlo, correct me if I am wrong, one of the big issues on trial that the court oversees at the trial level was the fact that they denied your request to conduct an independent evaluation, is that correct?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Absolutely. We asked the first grade to analyze this 548 DNA samples that they have checked by an independent and our request was refused because the scientific police lab mind that they —
Alexander Guttieres: That’s right, keep in mind that the DNA evidence that was utilized at the trial level was the DNA evidence gathered by an expert of the police in a police laboratory, correct Carlo?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yes, yes, yes.
Jon Amarilio: So Meredith’s DNA was all over the lab and it wasn’t isolated, that’s the point, right?
Alexander Guttieres: Correct.
Jon Amarilio: It could have found its way to the knife at the actual lab?
Alexander Guttieres: Correct, correct.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: The acquittal decision, they talk about lack of respect of international protocol. We have European Institute that tells you how you have to collect the items and how you have to be dressed when you do DNA and how you keep the item into custody, how you also analyze on a table with nothing else on the table, so they are talking about lack of respect of the protocol.
And also this definition of the sample related to Meredith was a low copy number, which again was a minimum quantity of biological material which was not identified that they use it and it was referred to Meredith but another four million other people and we discovered that in appeal.
So in appeal we had an independent expert team of two professors from University of Rome that had explained that is not right to say that that was referring to Meredith Kercher and also that was not repeated, all the DNA sample they have to be duplicate, to be certain.
So you take the material, you divide the material, you use the first part for the first exam and you use the second part for the second exam. This was not done with the blade, because the material was so small; we were talking about eight milligrams of material that the police decided to use it altogether because otherwise they will not even further — it was not possible to make tests, so they did not duplicate. This according to international standard, also US, you have the same. You have a manual about this, is not a test that can be used in the judicial courts.
Alexander Guttieres: I just wanted to add one thing about that, regarding the way the evidence was gathered and I followed it very carefully, there were a plethora of errors, errors that we would consider outrageous in terms of preserving the chain of custody, for example. I saw pictures of investigators, crime scene investigators that would go into the house, then go outside into the yard, into the terrace, smoke cigarettes, go back inside.
Jon Amarilio: Right. So they were tracking DNA all over the house?
Alexander Guttieres: Yeah, they were tracking — the knife that we talked about earlier, they took it out of the kitchen drawer and put it in a simple box and preserved it, just in the drawer of the police officer who gathered it. The bra clasp was found 45 days after the initial investigations in the midst of rubbish and dirt that had gathered in 45 days.
Jon Amarilio: Just to remind our listeners Alex, I am sorry for interrupting, but that was the bra clasp that was found that belonged to Meredith and had Sollecito’s DNA on it, correct?
Trisha Rich: Guede’s.
Jon Amarilio: Guede’s, but I think it had both, right, purportedly?
Alexander Guttieres: Purportedly.
Jon Amarilio: But you are saying that it had been moved around the house for weeks before that?
Alexander Guttieres: Exactly. And I mean Sollecito was — it was customary for him to go visit in those days; therefore, it’s not unusual that after 45 days and being strewn in the corner with a lot of garbage that it would have been contaminated.
But I don’t want to belabor the point, I could tell you — I could go and I am sure Carlo can too, go into a list of errors regarding preserving the evidence under chain of custody.
Trisha Rich: So there was the knife in the prosecution’s theory that this was a crazy sex game that had gone badly that ended in Meredith’s murder. Other than that, can you very briefly summarize the remaining evidence against Ms. Knox?
Alexander Guttieres: Carlo, tell them about the cartoon in support of this sex game.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yes. Well, this was tentative, at the final argument of the prosecutor first grade that took two days, there were two prosecutors, one was mainly doing the scientific elements. At the end they announced that there were going to show about a 20 minutes video that was made with the cartoons about the possible reconstruction of the fact.
And of course we opposed because we never had this before in Italy. I mean normally the final argument is all verbal, you can use some slides, but you ever make a video. So the video was in fact authorized with closed door, so no media, and it was a terrible video, a terrible video because it was done with some cartoons and one of those computer reconstruction so was not clear at all what was going on and also in a cost investigation because the video cost 170,000 Euros.
And that was never used again and that was — the video was destroyed after by the court and I think it was actually — it was like a boomerang for the prosecutor. I think they also went into a media involvement and they got, let’s say, looking for visibility also, which happened in this case, everybody looked.
Jon Amarilio: Right. There was certainly a feeding frenzy.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yeah. But other evidence, there were many evidence, just to let you know that the prosecutor brought 93 witnesses, so they had footprint, fingerprint, mixed blood, witness, the cell, they checked all the mobile of all the protagonists to see where they were, so they accompanied.
But just to give you an idea, they used, for example, a mixed blood and DNA of Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher as one of the main evidence against us and this was a sample that was taken in the bathroom and in the bidet. I am sure you are familiar with the bidet and in the sink of the bidet.
So the police, scientific, they went into the sink, they scratched and they took some biological material from Meredith Kercher and blood from Amanda. Of course, they were using that bidet. They were sharing the bathroom, the two girls. They had their monthly period of course.
And the DNA has one defect. It’s a great opportunity for all of us working in the justice system to identify a person in a place, but it cannot tell you when. It cannot be dated.
So if I use my bathroom and then my wife goes back in a week time, of course you have a mixed biological material of myself or my wife. That was a trick that was used in many other. They put fingerprint and footprint of Amanda here and there, but in her room, of course, she was living in the house and that made a lot of confusion and we had to analyze and destroy each single element one by one.
Jon Amarilio: And I have a million questions about the individual pieces of evidence, which we will get back to right after we take this quick break.
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Jon Amarilio: And we are back. Carlo, Alex, I know, again, like I said before the break, I have a million questions about the evidence itself. One of them that really sticks out to people is the presence of the fecal matter in the toilet, which as I understand it, tested positive for an identification with Guede. What explanation is there from either side as to why that fecal matter would be in the bathroom after a crime like this; it just seems so out of place?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Well, it’s Rudy Guede that gave the explanation. He mentioned that he was starting to have an intimate relation and then Meredith stopped for some reason and he had to go to the bathroom, because he just had a kebab before so he had to go to the bathroom. And while he was in the bathroom and he listened to his iPhone with music, about three songs, so about 15 minutes and he heard somebody coming in the house and some screaming, yelling and then a huge scream. So he walked immediately out of the bathroom even with the pants down and he didn’t flush the toilet, so that’s the simple answer.
And then he is telling the story that he saw a man walking out with the knife in his hand with a hat that after a year-and-a-half he started to say that maybe was Raffaele Sollecito, but it was a bit too late in his version.
Rudy Guede has been defined by the different court, also by the Supreme Court final decision has a professional liar.
Jon Amarilio: Okay.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: He told many lies. He has a criminal record, so he is pretty good in fabricating. But of course immediately when they searched the house and we are talking of the second bathroom, so not the bathroom nearby the two girls, there were four girls; there was Laura and Filomena, the two Italian girls on one side of the house sharing one bathroom and then Amanda and Meredith sharing the other bathroom. So this was the second bathroom —
Jon Amarilio: So I was just going to say, speaking of the roommates, that brings something to mind, which is that the roommates testified against Amanda and Sollecito, that if I remember correctly that Amanda had told them that she had actually found the victim’s body in the closet and that it was already covered with a quilt, whereas Amanda told the police that the door was locked and she couldn’t get in. Can you talk about that a little bit, the inconsistency?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yeah. Now, this is — it’s very technical, it’s also a small detail. Amanda and Raffaele, they made a phone call when they realized. They were at the house, Amanda went to take a shower and she found some weird situation. One was the door of Meredith closed in her room that she never closed before and she thought that Meredith was sleeping, so she went away.
Then she went back to Sollecito’s house and both together went back and they saw the window broken, saw the toilet not flushed, so they got scary and they called the police. So in that phone which is recorded by Sollecito, Sollecito was doing the speaking, he is saying we have a house with the window broken, the roommate Meredith is not here, we tried to call on the phone several times, she doesn’t reply, the room is closed, we don’t know what happened.
And the same happened because Amanda called Filomena. Filomena was sleeping with her boyfriend at the other side of Perugia. So Filomena came on the site, the police also came and together they pulled down the door, and while they pulled down the door of the room the victim was on the floor, there was a also wardrobe open.
And so the story, and what you are referring is that when Amanda after, during the afternoon, that afternoon, the body was found around one o’clock, she was trying to explain to Laura and Filomena what she — she said when the door went down we saw a foot and the police needed like everybody out and she also saw the wardrobe but she never said that the body was in the wardrobe.
So there was a miscommunication, but it’s not really important because at the end there was police there, so what happened that morning was assessed. Of course, everybody was so shocked and Amanda was crying the afternoon.
Amanda was alone with no family, with no friends, she had to go and stay with Sollecito. So Raffaele was the only person that she knew, so she actually moved. She didn’t have any dresses and she was on the phone with her mother and the father all the time and she was very, very shocked. At the same time she wanted to collaborate with the police.
So, she was actually questioned for 54 hours in four days, 54 hours altogether, the second, the third, the fourth, and then the famous night on the fifth and the sixth from 10 o’clock until 5:30 in the morning. Then at 8 o’clock she was arrested. All this happened without a lawyer, without even really understanding because her Italian at that time was not very good and there was no such data.
Trisha Rich: So, one thing I want to jump ahead a little bit too that I think will be of interest to our audience, and Alex, I am going to direct this question at you. It seems that the Italian media played a huge role in this case that’s unlike the role that media plays in criminal cases as they unfold in the United States. Can you talk a little bit about that aspect of this case?
Alexander Guttieres: Well, Carlo could tell you also about it, he was directly involved on the old adage sex cells, he has an attractive American student in a heinous crime, blood, a small provincial town that does not have a history of violence and the public clamor internationally that this brought. It was a media frenzy something that I would compare to the OJ Simpson trial basically.
Jon Amarilio: Alex, the media had access to the jury during the trial, isn’t that right?
Alexander Guttieres: Alright, now, wait a minute, there is no such thing as a jury trial in Italy, what you have are lay jurors and professional jurors standing side by side in the same trial. Carlo, would you like to elaborate on how the court works?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yeah, first of all we don’t have by standard a jury like in America for the jury trial. We normally have a single or in Court of Appeal we have three judges and in Supreme Court we have five professional judges. For some specific crime like murder we have The Corte d’Assise which is composed by eight people altogether, two professional judges, the president and the vice president, and six lay people that are chosen almost like in the State. So with no criminal records, with certain age, some experience and they have to be raised in the Court of Appeal.
Now, the role of the lay people is very limited here in Italy. So, they listen — they are like a guarantor, the trial, all the activity during the hearings are directed by the president, the vice president takes notes, he also makes 00:37:51 question and he also writes the final decision, the motivation. The decision then is taken by majority in the chamber at the end and they have the same vote, and the rule that applies is the most favorable decision applies to the suspect.
So, there is four in favor of guilty and four in favor of acquittal, the acquittal will supersede and will win. So, it is totally different role from what’s happening in America but we did have the eight judges, The Corte d’Assise at the first grade and the appeal grade, and also when we led back to Florence because we had a first 00:38:30 the Supreme Court and Supreme Court said, do it again because we have the conviction of 26 years first grade then we appealed and we got a decision for acquittal and Amanda, Raffaele were released, this happened four years after.
Alexander Guttieres: And the acquittal was appealed, and the acquittal was appealed.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, let’s talk about that. So I was confused by the course of the case procedurally, generally here you have a trial you have an appeal maybe after the appeal if you don’t like the decision you have one more discretionary appeal to our State or Federal Supreme Court and that’s the end of the case for the most part but here Amanda and you Carlo went before the Italian Supreme Court or the Italian Court of Cassation, I should say twice isn’t that right?
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yes well they need to make a codification before in Italy you can consider a decision final, you have three grades. So a first grade Court of Appeal or the Cassation or the Supreme Court whatever and it’s for us is normal. So you go there for tax issue, for a civil issue, criminal issue, administrative issue, is the same, you have three grades. It’s in the Constitution, the Constitution gives the right of a suspect to have three grades because it’s provided by let’s say the legislature that the judges can make mistake and this right is given to everybody, so to the suspect in criminal matter but also to the state.
So the prosecutor has a right to appeal an acquittal if he thinks that there is a mistake. And this is what happened after the second grade, the prosecutor appealed to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court canceled the decision of acquittal, sent back the case because this is what normally do, the Supreme Court are limited. You cannot bring witness and you cannot bring documents and is normally one hearing.
And so, the Supreme Court sent back the case again to the merit, we say merit level and we had to go to Florence, so we have to change the court of appeal because Perugia had only one section of court with the jury, and of course, you cannot go back to the same jury. We have to go to another court of appeal, so we went to Florence, and at that point, we got a second conviction, this time was 28 years in prison for participation in the murder and since that decision was still a decision of a second grade, there was still a possibility, of course for us, to appeal to go again at the third grade, which we did.
So at that time, we went back to the Supreme Court and at that point the Supreme Court after listening carefully, we had defense paper and so on, decided to cancel the second conviction of 20 years and not to send back the case but to decide the case, which is something very rare. By statistic the Supreme Court very rarely decided a case, so something like 10% of the cases get decided.
But in this case, because really there was a total fulfilling of all the review examination, witness and so on, the Supreme Court decided to put an end of this story and they have declared a final equation.
Alex Guittieres: If I may add to that, we called the final level of jurisdiction the Supreme Court or the Supreme Court of Cassation. Cassation comes from the verb in Italian lasciare, which in English means to vacate, to confirm what Carlo said normally, the Supreme Court either confirms or vacates and remands back to the lower level court.
The first time when they appealed the acquittal and the Supreme Court vacated the acquittal, it remanded back to the Court of Appeal because the Court of Appeal of Perugia has only as Carlo said one section and the rules provide that when a case is vacated and remanded, it cannot go back to the same section. It was then sent to Florence. Florence then convicted so Carlo and his team appealed the conviction this time and it was amazing because actually I have to tell you, it took me really by surprise because it was an extremely rare event to keep in mind. You went back to the same Cassation court, a different section but the same Cassation court that had already overturned the acquittal.
And what did they do? They vacate the conviction, the second conviction and they don’t remand. The reason they don’t remand, Carlo, correct me if I’m wrong is because they felt that the evidence used to convict was irremediably tainted and therefore any other trial of the matter would not have been reliable.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: Yeah, correct, yeah, absolutely.
Jon Amarilio: That explains how they could remand without a retrial, I was wondering.
Alex Guittieres: And I want to also add a comment which I think is important. We are all lawyers and is the matter of jurisdiction. There’s been a lot of attention from the United States, a lot of attention from UK, a lot of attention also from other observers in Europe, France and a lot of experts, they start to make comments but this is not correct, this is illegal, this is different.
In my place we have the double jeopardy. So especially America actually made – there was a movement through Amanda with also some political involvement, some senators they took position, also your present president was involved. He was following the case, you can fact it out.
Jon Amarilio: We don’t want to talk about him on this podcast.
Alex Guittieres: Yeah – no, we don’t.
Jon Amarilio: Let’s not go there, that’s another hour.
Trisha Rich: Yeah, I think that they are actually now fighting Mr. Trump and Ms. Knox, I think they are now at odds again.
Carlo Dalla Vedova: No, but just to tell you how media can influence a trial, a trial I think is a very important moment, we have a procedure we just keep quiet and wait for the decision where there was outside trial, there was a lot of people looking into this case.
And one of the mistakes that a lot of people made was the lack of respect of the jurisdiction. So now we know exactly what jurisdiction means so if you have a case in China, if you have a case in Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia you have to respect that law, the court, even if it’s different or even if you don’t agree. And this was not gone and this caused us as a defense lawyer abnormal problem because everybody was upset, the judge didn’t like to receive letters.
There was somebody who also asked to change jurisdiction from Perugia to go somewhere else. They wrote to the Italian president, there was a Minister for Affairs, and all this actually went out of any control and I think was a big mistake by all the people that they did it because again, we work internationally, we have cases around the world and we know how important is to respect the local laws and also the local jurisdiction, the procedure and the magistrate.
Of course, in this case we can summarize that there was a big mistake, the girl was in four years in prison for this and she will never forget this experience but still the magistrate, they did their own job, they tried to find the response of this murder, despite the mistake, and I think that this respect should have been given more also from outside 00:46:41.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, rule of law is something.
Alex Guittieres: May I say something?
Jon Amarilio: Please Alex.
Alex Guittieres: Without making any comparison of which system is better because each system is the product of a different cultural and historical evolution of the society in which this involves. There are drastic differences in the two systems. There is no question that much of the system in Italy aims to give maximum guarantee to a defendant; however, sometimes things go awry. This, in my view, was one of those cases where things grow awry.
Jon Amarilio: I know we only had a chance to barely scratch the surface today. In fact, I think we have to cut our Stranger than Legal Fiction Segment because we’ve been having such a compelling conversation. I didn’t want to cut it off.
So, I think that’s going to be our show for today, unfortunately again, I have so many more questions but this has been a fascinating discussion.
I want to thank our guests Carlo Dalla Vedova and Alex Guittieres for joining us today and what has again been a truly fascinating discussion behind the scenes look at one of the great legal dramas of our time.
I also want to thank everyone here at the CBA who makes this machine run including my co-host today, Trish Rich, our executive producer, Jen Byrne, and our sound crew, Ricardo Islas and Steve Weirich.
Remember, you can follow us and send us comments, questions, episode ideas or just troll us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @CBAatthebar. Please also rate us and leave us your feedback on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Google Play or wherever you download your podcast, it helps us get the word out.
Until next time, for everyone here at the CBA, thank you for joining us and we will see you soon @theBar.
Young and young-ish lawyers have interesting and unscripted conversations with their guests about legal news, events, topics, stories and whatever else strikes our fancy.
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