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Preaching to the Choir

September 5, 2011, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s appeal trial for the murder conviction of Meredith Kercher reconvenes after summer break and we expect to see the prosecution’s rebuttal continue. At the end of July we left off with the prosecution foot-dragging for an entire day asking inane questions to the independent experts who had reviewed key pieces of the DNA evidence from the Trial of First Instance in 2009. To the disappointment of Amanda and Raffaele’s family and friends, the maneuvering left the judges unable to rule on an end to the appeal, so they ordered a continuance leaving the kids in prison for yet another summer.

The prosecution was also caught trying to submit a falsified document on the last day of court in July, the Negative Control Test. This is a common test done to assure that equipment is not contaminated with biological material in-between evidentiary runs. Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, who collected and processed the original DNA evidence, testified in both the trial of first instance and the appeal that this test was NOT done, yet the prosecution tried to pull a fast one using a poor quality photo copy. They tried a number of tricks in July and we fully expect to see more in September. Islanders hope that Judges Claudio Patrillo Hellmann and Massimo Zanetti will continue to exemplify professionalism and not yield to any misbehavior on the part of the prosecution, as demonstrated by the judges in the trial of first instance.

The prosecution’s behavior is transparent; they need more time to perfect their next implausible scheme be it trying to discredit the court’s experts or the creation of ‘new’ evidence or some equally smarmy act of sedition.

In contrast the defense has been professional and patient. At the beginning of the appeal, last fall, the defense was pleased when the judges ordered the independent review and again when they demanded that Dr. Stefanoni release her original DNA evidentiary report to the court appointed experts, Professor’s Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti of the University of Rome. Access to a review and the report has long been denied to the defense, a breach of Italian law. In July the expert’s conclusions were released and there was a sigh of relief as they agreed with the defense on every point.

The DNA collection and processing was a shoddy mess and the report highlighted more than 50 departures from international protocol.

The fickle press is slowly beginning to focus on the truth of this case, that two innocent college students were framed for the murder of a third, while the real killer is swept under the rug and his 30-year sentence halved. Why are the Perugians so lenient toward the obvious killer and so oblivious to the innocence of Amanda and Raffaele? And why do people believe their crazy theories?

The Perugians have proved they don’t care to find out who the real Amanda is, or her family, so their speculations are foolish.

Anyone who knows the Knox and Mellas families will tell you that they are honest and hardworking, that they don’t deserve the cruelty dished on them by strangers. We were saddened that the media treated Curt and Edda’s divorce as if it were a diamond the size of a soccer ball, while ignoring the fact that Meredith’s parents were also divorced. Imagine how difficult must it have been for them to suddenly be thrust in the spotlight together, yet they maintained their dignity, despite the cruel things that were being said about their oldest daughter and themselves. They had to be in shock and you know they were mad as hell; after all, Amanda has essentially been kidnapped. Yet all anyone has ever seen is solidarity, concern and love from Curt and Edda and their spouses; they make a great team.

Amanda is a very lucky girl to have four loving parents at her back and in the great scheme of things, imho, it was meant to be this way.

Their circumstances have not robbed them of a sense of humor and you find yourself euphoric while among them; it is very easy to understand how Amanda has remained serene and centered throughout her ordeal. I’m glad she is coming home to these people; they will help her ease into her New Normal. As a distant Island ‘cousin,’ I knew of them only through my family and didn’t know what to expect when I met them for the first time. I came away with an acute sense of their compassion for the Kercher and Sollecito families and how interconnected we are through Vashon and West Seattle; connections we would have never known if Amanda had not been kidnapped.

So it’s with certainty that I say the Knox and Mellas families are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Whatever behind-the-scenes-family-drama they have, I Just Don’t Care, I think they are entitled to it in light of present circumstances and every time I see them I come away with admiration. This entire family deserves the utmost respect for handling this crisis in such a manner, they are the epitome of teamwork and anyone would be lucky to have them for a support system. The only ‘issues’ I have ever seen within their family structure are just like thousands of other folks I know, and love, here in the Puget Sound.

You know, The Cool People.

I invite you to look at Amanda through THIS lens, her family and friends. Not the prosecution’s POV, which has been crammed down our collective throats for nearly four years.

The Amanda that Seattle and Vashon know. The Amanda who is so boringly, normal that the international media took their blood money home because they couldn’t find anyone to pay for dirt on her. The Amanda that is so mundane that there exists only a couple of online examples of her alcohol use, how many 20-somethings can say that? The Amanda that so many Islanders love. Story after story of how ‘she played with my kids’ or ‘babysat my kids’ or ‘helped me.’ Stories of Amanda and her family’s athletic, musical and artistic accomplishments, she and her Dad have wings on their feet you know. She worked several jobs to earn money to study abroad, the smart kid with vision and drive, but still found time to pose for a friend’s photography project. Stories of her compassion for all living things, buying a cup of coffee for a stranger in distress. Waiting for her murdered friend’s family so they didn’t have to be alone. She is the National Honor Society and University of Washington Dean’s List scholar that everyone is proud to know.

The Perugians made too much out of "quirky." As if visitors to a foreign land have never been thought of as quirky by the locals. Amanda is a child of the Pacific Northwest and "Admired" is how her friends know her. Her real friends, not strangers with an agenda looking to make a buck.

Strangers have also insulted our home; they have alluded that Arbor Heights is nothing more than a gravel pit, that Amanda lives in the slums. Obviously they have never been here or they would have noticed the spectacular view of Vashon and the East Passage from nearly every street and thousands of homes in the neat as a pin neighborhood with a happy and vibrant community. They have never wandered Vashon’s tree lined roads or played at KVI Beach.

Never a discouraging word, that is one of the amazing things I have seen in four years of intense scrutiny focused on this family. Friends of the Knox and Mellas families are bearing witness to an undeniable fact; these people exemplify normal people who had normal lives and are now being forced to cope with extraordinary circumstances. They are kind people who have always been concerned for the Kerchers; Edda has reached out through the media many times to Merdith’s grieving family, only to be met with silence. So they wait politely for the day when the Kerchers are ready to speak to them.

Islanders are also standing with our friends; you have donated cash and airline miles to the and joined the national effort to alert the White House and State Department about our concerns for Public Minister Mignini’s aggressive behavior toward Americans and the safety of Americans abroad. Thank you for each and every prayer, but please, don’t stop yet. And you have kept the updates going, I didn’t start out to write a column about Amanda’s case, I only meant to write a couple of articles outlining what had happened to her. I was heartbroken that her own community was just as misinformed as the rest of the planet, but you wanted more and who am I to refuse my friends?

What was missing was the Defense POV and I found myself surrounded by the people who could help me clearly spell out the technical parts. It was my early research that disintegrated any lingering doubts I had about her involvement, but I didn’t understand the other relationships because the Perugians had intentionally muddied the waters. In conversations with her online advocacy groups, Friends of Amanda and Injustice in Perugia, my questions were answered and I noted that the caliber of the people who came to the aid of the Knox, Mellas and Sollecito families was another reflection of their character.

The resumes of the folks involved blanket the fields of law enforcement, the judiciary and the sciences with networks that include Congress and NASA. The vast majority are volunteers from the Puget Sound (a lot) and all around the planet. All willing to help regular people like me. It’s been a privilege to have access to these people and I found them to be honest, kind and very willing to explain Low Copy Number to the laywoman who only knew about Haplogroups.

Impressive don’t you think? All these exceptionally smart professionals speaking out for a girl who some say is the murderous, sexually perverted femme fatal mastermind of an act of Satanism?

In 2007, before she left, Amanda was nothing less that a nice, smart kid preparing for a year abroad, something that thousands of Puget Sound kids have done and are doing right now. I’ve known hundreds of Island kids who went abroad and Amanda is just like many of them and I have to say that Curt and Edda remind me of the parents of such kids.

Raffaele is the same way, a nice guy that any parent would be glad their daughter brought home. Especially in light of the fact that this young man, a virtual stranger to Amanda, stayed by her side until her mother could arrive. Unfortunately the Perugians had other plans. His family is in court with Amanda’s, six angry parents standing together for their innocent children. And despite this sad situation, I am struck by how much alike Raffaele, Meredith and Amanda are, nice kids from good families whose lives were forever altered by Rudy Guede and a few Perugians.

What I saw happening, and continuing to happen, is a cadre of writers who have some odd need to smear Amanda and her family. All I can take away from the rehashing of the Perugian POV or the armchair psychologist’s analysis is that they’re just plain mean. It’s obvious that they are not ‘investigative journalists.’ When the world catches up, they will know what we have always known, these are decent people and good parents, and when Amanda comes home the public’s Imaginary Amanda will evaporate and be replaced by the Real Amanda, someone Puget Sounders have known all along. If this weren’t so tragic I’d laugh, the Perugians thought they had a devil, instead they persecuted an angel and in doing so, they have harmed three innocent families with their ridiculous dramatics.

Poetic justice. That is what I want for Meredith, Amanda and Raffaele. Poetic Justice.