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Slander Trial Begins for Amanda Knox

Curt Knox, Amanda’s father, was back in Perugia for the beginning of her Slander trial and for a hearing on her continuing Appeal.   She and her friend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted for the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher in 2009 and they have repeatedly asserted their innocence. "She is holding up as well as you would expect for a person who has been in prison for three-and-a-half years for a crime she didn't commit.  She still has faith that the Italian Justice system will seek the truth in her appeals trial,” said Curt.  “She goes through a variety of emotions, from anger to anxiety to crying to calm.”

Curt will be in Perugia for a couple of weeks to visit Amanda; he said several of her friends from the United States had been to visit her throughout her imprisonment, which is keeping her spirits up.  Their devotion has not been lost on the Perugians and many locals have told the family that they know Amanda is innocent.

On May 17, 2011, the first hearing in Amanda’s slander trial was adjourned until November 15 after “a brief hearing devoted to procedural matters,” said her lawyer, Luciano Ghirga.  Amanda claimed she was slapped and put under pressure by police when she was questioned in the aftermath of Meredith’s slaying.  During the Illegal Interrogation she said police repeatedly called her a "stupid liar" and one officer slapped her in the back of the head twice.  Police denied misconduct and filed charges saying her comments were slanderous.  Curiously Amanda said that only one female officer slapped her and she testified to that in court, but eight police officers, male and female, are suing her for slander.

The Knox family has also filed a complaint because PM Giuliano Mignini is prosecutor as well as offended party for the slander trial and they want it moved to Florence or Rome.  "The case is supposed to be tried in a different jurisdiction (than Perugia) where he can be a party and not be bolstered by his colleagues in his office," Amanda’s stepfather, Chris Mellas told the West Seattle Herald.   Mignini’s involvement in the slander case will be determined in October.  If Amanda wins her appeal she could be home before then.  Fingers crossed!

Amanda’s parents, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, are due to appear in court on July 4 for their own Slander Trial.  The police are also suing them for repeating Amanda’s claim of “being slapped twice in the back of the head” to England’s Sunday Times during a 2009 interview.   Neither the reporter nor the Times are being sued it appears that only Amanda’s family is targeted, evidentially in an effort to cut her off from support.

July 4th is also the beginning of the defamation suit against Lifetime Network’s made for TV movie which found it’s way into Italy; such media during an Appeal is illegal under Italian Law.  After it’s release a ‘laundry list’ appeared online citing some 30 factual errors that supported the prosecution’s version of events and painted Amanda and Raffaele in a negative light.

Amanda’s lawyers are taking Lifetime to task for “stealing her life.”  The movie was not sanctioned or supported by either the Knox or Sollecito families and Lifetime was repeatedly asked to not film in Italy or to air the movie during the appeals.  All requests were ignored.  When it did air, we realized that Lifetime had used two of the most damaging reporters as their sources.  Nick Pisa, of the Daily Mail, is the English reporter who hacked Amanda’s My Space page and destroyed her childhood nickname Foxy Knoxy.  Recently Pisa was quoted on the Today Show saying, “The House of Cards it’s built on is slowly collapsing, it looks like it will collapse in a very spectacular fashion.”  It is bittersweet to hear him finally speaking the truth.  Barbie Nadeau is a freelance reporter who wrote a novella based on the prosecution’s sordid tale. 

May 21st was another hearing for the Appeal and Amanda spoke to the court, first thanking them for listening to the experts, then choking back tears as she said,  "I am innocent and have been in jail for more than three-and-a-half years.  It is very frustrating and mentally exhausting for me, but nothing is more important than finding the truth after prejudices and many mistakes.  I remember the first days when I was free and when I was being questioned as a witness and then eventually as a suspect.  I remember I was young and I didn't understand what was happening.  The most important thing is that I do not want to stay in jail unjustifiably for all my life."

Curt said, "The independent experts have made requests for specific information from the forensic police related to the DNA testing of the knife in particular and this data is not being provided.  Amanda is not afraid of the truth, it will be interesting to understand why the forensic police are not willing to provide the independent experts the information they feel is necessary in order to provide a fully reviewed final report.  I know Amanda is upset about continuing to stay in prison but is thankful to the court for the full evaluation.”

The trial is stalled as Judge Hellmann argues with Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, who did not show up in court.  In a handwritten note on April 4, he compelled her to release the original DNA data and she has refused.  The Knife and Bra Clasp are at issue and the police have denied the defense access to the documents for over three years.  "The experts asked the forensic police to hand over information essential to their report. They still haven't received it and will therefore request a 40 days extension," said Carlo della Vedova, another of Amanda’s lawyers.  "It's not the first time we've asked for the police to hand over this information.  They weren't able to find any DNA on the knife blade at all, and it wasn't possible to repeat the test on the bra clip.  It had been kept in a wet bag and had completely disintegrated.”

Prosecutors have maintained that Amanda’s DNA was found on the Knife's handle and that Meredith’s DNA was found on the blade. They say Raffaele’s DNA was found on the Clasp of Meredith’s bra.

The Defense says those DNA traces were inconclusive and that they might have been contaminated when they were collected and analyzed. 

The two court-appointed experts could not retest the miniscule traces and are now assessing the reliability of the original tests.  After obtaining the 40-day delay to collect all the documents, the experts from La Sapienza University will conclude their investigation by June 30 and report their findings to the court on July 25.

Chief of Homicide Monica Napoleoni, who missed a previous court date, was asked to produce missing records of witnesses who contradicted the testimony of Superwitness Antonio “Toto” Curatolo.  Toto is the heroin addict who lives on a park bench in the piazza above Amanda’s apartment and claimed to see them watching the house the night of the murder.  But previously on the stand he described Halloween to the court six times, telling of costumed students getting into disco buses.  November 1st, the night of Meredith’s murder, is a national holiday and no buses were running.

To his credit Judge Hellmann decided to hear new witnesses in June that were rejected by Judge Massei in the first trial.  Several inmates from Viterbo prison, where Rudy Guede is being held, came forward to tell the court that Guede claims Amanda and Raffaele were not at the apartment the night of the murder and that he feels some guilt for blaming them.  Mario Alessi, a convicted child murderer, and other convicts have written letters claiming to know who really killed Meredith Kercher and wanted to give evidence.  The existence of these letters has been known since the early days of the trial, but the Judge Massei, in the original trial, ruled them as inadmissible.  By law when a person offers testimony the court is obliged to pursue, record and verify the information and this was not done in Alessi’s or the other prisoners cases.  Another broken law, one of many by the nefarious prosecution. 

In a bazaar twist, one of many in this case, Judge Hellmann will make a decision whether or not to hear another convict witness.  Tommaso Pace sent the court and the defense a three-page handwritten letter, dated May 6, that said Meredith was the victim of a ‘hit’ over a $100,000 drug debt.  It is not unusual for convicts to create stories to get out of prison for a day or to curry favor and judge Hellmann’s hesitancy regarding Pace is evidence of his caution with this new story.

In other news, Frank Sfarzo, the Perugian blogger who became number twelve on Mignini’s defamation ‘hit list,’ (Amanda is number one) found help outside of Italy to save his blog, Perugia Shock.  Sweden, US, Canada and Britain all helped to restore the informative blog that was deleted by Google on Mignini’s order.  Frank, in the meantime, is trying to stay out of the way of the police as he gets ready for his own slander trial and will resume blogging as soon as possible.  We wish him well and hope he is able to stay safe.

Here in the US, the State Department is making news as copies of Unclassified memos regarding Amanda’s case are making the rounds on the Internet and CNN, the Today Show and local networks have produced excellent coverage of the Slander and Appeal.

Bob Graham of The Sun interviewed Mignini in his Perugia office and asked the Public Minister to explain why Amanda left no DNA in Merdith’s tiny bedroom.  He shrugged and produced his latest bizarre theory (number six I believe), "Amanda might theoretically have instigated the murder while even staying in the other room." 

Mignini’s theories over the years have ranged from a Drug Fueled Orgy Gone Wrong to an attempt to steal Meredith's rent money, but the 62-year-old prosecutor has failed to support his views with any credible evidence.  Graham continues, “At the end of our interview, Mignini smirked and asked that details of what he said “remain here in his office.”  We are glad Bob didn’t listen. 

The Sun interview also points out a crucial point, one that the defense has continued to draw attention to, “both the police and prosecutor failed to follow strict Italian legal rules and laws.  The entire police investigation - directed by Mignini - has been a clumsy affair” and that Mignini “chose to go with the parts of the testimony (the False Confession) that suited his case.”  The False Confession was "half fact, half fiction” Mignini admitted.   Again, well done Bob Graham.

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