“Amanda Knox is just one person. She is not a war or an oil field. But in a spectacle that has unfolded before the eyes of the world, the rights, under Italian law, of that one American citizen have been trampled on beyond belief. The ongoing neglect of American consular officials in Rome to address this injustice sends a high profile message—our government officials are too busy taking care of business, to take care of our people.”—Mark Waterbury, Michael Heavey, Thomas Wright and Anne Bremner. May 2011.
Amanda is the Seattle-native, University of Washington honors student, who was wrongfully prosecuted for the death of her roommate Meredith Kercher. Innocent of all charges, she was nonetheless found guilty in 2009, despite the Perugian court’s flagrant and repeated violations of Italian law. Her friend and co-defendant is Raffaele Sollecito, a native of Bari, Italy, also an honors student with no prior history of violence. Both are tied to the crimescene with tainted evidence and questionable witnesses. In reality, they were a half-mile away when Rudy Guede brutally murdered Meredith Kercher. His DNA was all over the crimescene. All over Meredith. Only his.
Meredith Kercher’s family is also a victim of this debacle, despite this awful predicament, they are never far from our hearts. Exonerating Amanda and Raffaele will be true justice for Meredith and we hope will bring peace to her family.
The opening quote is from a letter to President Obama and all 535 members of Congress. The signers represent Friends of Amanda, the Seattle-based advocacy group, and they are hoping that the White House will take a lead in investigating the American Embassy in Rome. Michael Heavey, acting in his capacity as a private citizen, is a King County Superior Court Judge and a former Washington State Senator. Dr. Mark Waterbury is a scientist and engineer who specializes in anti-counterfeiting technology. His analysis of the DNA evidence can be found in his book “Monster of Perugia-The Framing of Amanda Knox,” a fact-driven judgment of Amanda and Raffaele’s arrest and trial. Thomas Wright, a screenwriter and filmmaker, is founder of Friends of Amanda and Anne Bremner is a Seattle attorney and spokesperson for Friends of Amanda.
They and others have worked since 2007 to bring the judicial wrongdoings to the attention of the American government and the world at large. This letter highlights the legal failures of the American Embassy in Rome whose ball-dropping failed to adequately address US Citizen Amanda Knox’s plight. And they have drawn attention to the failure of the Italian Supreme Court to protect the rights of Italian Citizen Raffaele Sollecito. It’s shocking to see the US and Italy fail their citizens at a very elemental and obvious level. No one cared about these kids, except for their families and friends, and our systems just ground over the top of them.
The letter to the President states that Article 111 of the Italian Constitution and Article 104 of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure were broken by the Perugians. The American Embassy in Rome is required to be aware of Italian law as outlined in 7 FAM 415.1.4 of the US Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). www.state.gov/m/a/dir/regs/fam/
7 FAM 011a states that "The US Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad HAVE NO GREATER RESPONSIBILITY than the protection of US citizens overseas.” It cites Article 5 of the Vienna Convention Consular Relations (VCCR) that consular functions include: “(a) protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, both individuals and bodies corporate, within the limits permitted by international law.”
The American Embassy in Rome willfully ignored a number of FAM statutes and stood by as the Perugian court broke several laws in the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure. Embassy officials should have been aware of a complaint against Perugia’s PM Giuliano Mignini by another American, filed a year and a half earlier. Douglas Preston was detained and interrogated by the PM in 2006 for writing a book about an Italian serial killer, the Monster of Florence. He remembers an embassy staffer telling him, “We can only send you addresses of lawyers and report the incident.”
Mignini’s detention of another, more vulnerable, American should have been a Red Flag.
Ultimately, as the layers of deceit and corruption by the Perugians have been peeled away, it was glaringly apparent that Amanda and her friend Raffaele Sollecito, both innocent students, were utterly failed by Italian and American safety nets. The American embassy, the Italian police, the University of Washington and the University of Foreigners never questioned the bazaar theory being put forth by the Public Minister; instead they filed their reports and left the helpless young adults to a horrible fate.
In late 2007 and early 2008, American Embassy officials did not protest, repeatedly, on behalf Amanda. They are required by law to do so, as verified in 7 FAM 412 and 7 FAM 426, but there were no protests lodged after Amanda’s illegal interrogation even when it was learned that she was denied access to the American Embassy, food, water, and bathroom breaks, as well as, reporting being slapped in the back of the head and mentally abused. They did not protest when she was denied access to an accredited interpreter and a lawyer. They did not protest that her interrogation was not recorded, illegal under Italian Law. Or when the Perugians leaked a steady stream of information breaking their own ‘judicial seal,’ the duty to not release information about an accused that would create public criticism. Thereby breaking yet another law.
US officials did not protest when PM Mignini demanded solitary confinement for a young woman with no prior history of violence. They did not protest when the Perugians paraded Amanda through the streets of the city in a shameless act of braggadocio. They did not protest when a prison official, costumed as a physician, tricked Amanda into giving up personal information regarding sexual partners by telling her she was HIV, a callous and blatant lie, causing her more emotional harm.
During the 2008 preliminary hearing, PM Mignini claimed that “the crime was a sexual and sacrificial ritual in accordance with the rites of Halloween.” Again the consulate did not raise any alarms although this statement is blatantly irrational and completely unsubstantiated.
Consulary reports in 2009 show a threadbare account of what was happening to Amanda at the hands of the Perugians during her original trial, although the press was having a hay-day broadcasting the lurid account of the prosecution while ignoring the defense.
Are these not Red Flags?
These points represent violations of a number of laws in the Italian Constitution, Italian Criminal Code and US State Department Foreign Affairs Manual and no protest lodged. It is alarmingly apparent that there are serious issues to be raised with the failure of the American Embassy in Rome to protect US citizen Amanda Knox.
Apparently a Public Minister that detains two Americans in less than two years is commonplace to the staffers at the embassy.
Both Italy and the US adopted the aforementioned Vienna Convention in the 60’s; it is the protocol for international members who host consulates. The Foreign Affairs Manual is a reflection, reiteration and expansion of much of the Vienna Convention. Italy’s laws are referenced on the US Department of State’s website. Italy’s judicial system works well, when it’s working, just like the US judicial system. The US judicial system is based on many of Italy’s 2000-year-old principals. We both have systems in place to help our citizens in a respectful and humane way.
So why did both countries ignore so many Red Flags?
Amanda and Raffaele’s plight has highlighted the danger everyone is in. Every American abroad. Right now. I personally know hundreds of Islanders and university students who have traveled to the far reaches of our beautiful little planet. I’m 100% sure that you do too. They have had thousands of wonderful experiences and we have delighted in their stories, but the Law of Averages caught up to Vashon and proved It Can Happened Here. It proved that we need to talk about safety abroad, especially with our students. It proved that our embassies might not lift a finger to help us, even if we fill out their online forms. And although we want to trust and help public officials, perhaps our first lesson needs to be “ no matter what happens, leave first and answer questions later.” Each citizen must have ‘emergency exit’ travel plans.
But what can you do? Look at your hands, there is power in those pinkies. Send a letter (The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20500) or an email (www.whitehouse.gov/contact) to the White House. Let President Obama know that you support the efforts of Friends of Amanda. Let him know how the plight of these innocent students has affected you. These letters, these emails arriving in the company of each other will get noticed. Recent efforts on Facebook have already generated several hundred emails but we need more.
Send a powerful message that will draw attention to the American and Italian laws that were broken when Amanda and Raffaele were targeted, interrogated, arrested, tried and imprisoned. Innocent university students whose lives are being swept away by callous, corrupt, selfish people. You do have the power and influence to help these poor kids, but only if you speak out and keep speaking out, like the proverbial squeaky wheel. Let the Loud Crowd be the loudest squeaky wheel that DC has ever heard. And parents should be asking universities for stricter regulations regarding what a student should do when dealing with the police of any country; for the price you pay, your student’s safety should be the top priority.
In recent appeal news, Amanda and Raffaele had another day in court on June 18 as five prisoners claiming to have information about Rudy Guede were heard. They claim that Guede said that Our Kids were not present when Meredith Kercher was killed and that he is remorseful for involving them. Italian prisoners who write a letter to the court claiming to have knowledge of a case must be heard and the claim investigated. The original trial judges would not hear the claims, in essence breaking the law. Judge Hellman heard these prisoners despite Prosecutor Maresca’s protests. Maresca is an associate of PM Mignini and well known for his courtroom theatrics.
June 25th Judge Hellman will be asking for the review of the DNA evidence and we hope the report from the experts in Rome will be complete. Everyone is anxious to hear what they have to say about the documents from the original DNA tests, the same documents that the prosecution was compelled to give up after a three-year battle to keep them from the defense; another broken law. We expect to hear that pages are missing, information is blacked out and my dog ate my DNA report, but we hope that the documents will convince the experts that the original testing was flawed. The best case scenario is if the court throws out the DNA evidence connecting the kids to the crime, this one act may clear the way for dismissal of all charges. Judge Hellman will rule on the case in the Fall.
July 8th the Showbox at the Market, in Seattle, will host a benefit for the AmandaDefenseFind.org featuring three local rock bands. For more information about “Music for Amanda’ visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/180335.
The kids are understandably nervous right now and messages of hope or a funny card is a wonderful distraction, however, please do not mention the trial. Their addresses are:
Amanda Knox, Casa Circondariale Capanne di Perugia, Strada Pievaiola, 06100 Perugia Italia
Raffaele Sollecito, Casa Circondariale de Terni, Via Delle Campore 32, 05100 Terni Italia
So there is a lot happening right now, when you see our friends give them a hug and tell them you are praying for Amanda. Many good people are trying very hard to free her and Raffaele. They need your support. And please remember this is Italy we are talking about, not Iran. We can make an impact on this case if we work together.
Let your fingers do the talkin.