The Nencini Papers

Day 1

30 September 2013

As the opening of the Appeal hearing looms, listed for 30 September 2013, in Florence, Knox  is reported widely as saying she refuses to attend.

“”I was already imprisoned as innocent person in Italy,” Ms Knox said to NBC. “I just can’t relive that.”  [BBC News]

She claims it is ‘common sense’ not to return.

Given that extradition can take years to effect, this is the best strategy for someone who is guilty and wants to string things out.  We saw the same phenomenon recently, with a British man, Phillip Harkins, wanted in the USA for felon-murder who managed to stave off extradition for 14 years.  24 at the time, Harkins tactic was to apply to the ECHR claiming a breach of his Human Rights.  Finally, he was extradited to stand trial in 2017 with a promise he would not be executed if found guilty.  [Guardian]

Then, of course, there was the case of Shrien Dewani who held off extradition to South Africa for three years, claiming mental health problems.  By the time of the trial, the key witnesses, the jailed South African perpetrators, were unable to remember events correctly, contradicting each other and causing the South African judge to throw the case out.

There were reports that Knox’s lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova had pleaded with Knox to show up in court, in the belief it makes a better impression on the court.  In March, the Supreme Court had ordered the appeal to be held again, having expunged the egregious acquittal verdict of Hellmann and Zanetti earlier, which saw Knox flee to Seattle immediately afterwards.  Of course, there was no way she was going to be turning up in Italy again, any day soon.

To conceal the motive of the expectation she would lose, as even the defence were predicting, Knox tells newspapers her reasons are high-minded and a fight against injustice.  She also claims she hasn’t got enough money for the trip. Her supporters claim there is no way the US State Department will allow her extradition.

To underline her high priniciples, of being indignant by the idea that the Kerchers consider her to be culpable in their daughter’s murder, Knox yet again declares she wishes to visit Meredith’s grave, less than two weeks before the hearing is due.

‘Contact the Kerchers? I haven’t yet tried. There is this abyss of pain that separates us, that has grown during the trial, I haven’t had the courage to cross it. Millions of times I’ve thought about it and millions of times in my own way I haven’t done it because I am scared that they will think it a legal strategy or a media one.


‘I don’t want them to think of me like that. I read what they said about the trial, about Meredith. I’ve read John Kercher’s (Meredith’s father) book. I was absorbed and annihilated by the trial, by prison. 


‘I still don’t have the strength to cry, to digest the loss of Meredith. I would like to meet them, one day I would like to go with them to the grave of my friend.


I don’t want to impose myself on their pain, I hope that I can meet them halfway, even if for now it is too early, they still think I am guilty and that is something that hurts me a great deal.’  [Daily Mail]


“The greatest closure would be for the Kerchers to take me to Meredith’s grave,” she said in an interview with ITV’s Daybreak last week. [Daily Telegraph]
The Kerchers respond angrily, telling her to ‘stay away’ form Meredith’s grave.  Sister, Stephanie retorts, ‘Her grave is now her safe place to sleep in peace and be with us and we hope that is respected by all.” [ibid]


Knox seems strangely blind to the inappropriateness of her demand and its poor timing.  Either that, or she is cruel and defiant, knowing full well the effect of her words.  An innocent person, wrong accused, would surely just want to walk away from it all, one might think.  An angry person might want to provoke an argument with the object of her ire.


In addition to Knox’s media campaign, Raffale, too, has launched one, making an ‘exclusive video’ for OGGI, whilst his father makes the talk show rounds.


Andrea Vogt comments wryly that Knox is featured in a number of ‘exclusive interviews’ in the very same UK tabloids she complains of sensationalising her case.


On the opening day of the hearing, Sollecito is lying on a beach in the Dominican Republic.


This then, is the backdrop leading up to the Appeal hearing.


Day 1 30 September 2013


The hearing opens at 9:45. It is well away from Florence’s tourist attractions, in a bland suburb called Justice Palace.   There are six lay judges, of whom six are female, including one professional judge, and two lay alternates and four men.  They are not true jurors as in the UK or the USA sense, with voting rights, but rather, are there to act as ‘witnesses of the people’ and to raise objections as they see fit.  They are adorned in robes and sashes across their chests in the colours of the Italian flag: featuring three equally sized vertical pales of green, white and red, with the green at the hoist side, i.e., at the top.


The presiding judge is Alessandro Nencini, a large well-built man with a deep baritone voice. He is aged 58, and is the President of the Second Chamber of Appeal of the Court of Florence. He is assisted by Judge Luciana Cicerchia, who is President of the Court of Assizes.  In Italy, the junior judge writes up the motivational report and the presiding judge signs it off.


Present today are the lawyers: Luciano Ghirga and Carlo Dalla Vedova, representing Knox, Giulia Bongiorno and Luca Maori for Sollecito, Alessandro Crini for the prosecution, Francesco Maresca for the Kerchers, and civil lawyers Carlo Pacelli for Patrick Lumumba, Letizia Mangini for Tattanelli – the owner of the cottage – and Viera Fabiani for the Kerchers.  Patrick Lumumba is present as a witness.


The Kercher family are not present, due to the ill health of John and Arline, but have been asked to write a letter to read out to the court, but which Raffale’s lawyer objects to.  However, Nencini rules that the letter is admissible.


Sollecito’s father, Francesco is here in person and is seen writing copious notes.  He has told the press his son will make an appearance at some point.


Nencini spends fifty minutes summarising the main issues of the hearing: the facts leading up to the case being remitted back to the second instance appeal court as lodged by the prosecution and upheld by the Chieffi Supreme Court, when it expunged Hellmann’s acquittal, together with a summing up of the case so far against Rudy Guede, tried separately and convicted, serving a sixteen year reduced sentence in Viterbo.


Nencini then requests the defence applications, of which they have several, and grants their request to have the imputed murder weapon, a kitchen knife, to be re-tested for the Kercher DNA on the blade and the Knox DNA on the handle.   In addition, for another sample on the knife near the handle to be tested, which independent, court-appointed, experts, Conti & Vecchiotti had declined to do in the Hellmann hearing, claiming it was ‘too low copy’.


In Italy, an Appeal court is allowed to revisit facts found at the trial, but is limited to what is allowed under the accepted points of law of the appeal application.


Nencini dismisses the defence application to retest the bra clasp, which had a full profile of Sollecito’s DNA and another to test what the defence claim was a sperm stain on the pillow found underneath the body, on the grounds there would be no way of knowing when the stain occurred.  The defence had not requested this at the all-important trial stage because, as Sollecito states in his book Honor Bound his defence team – meaning himself on his instructions – were afraid it would be revealed as Sollecito’s.


The defence also applies to hear a witness, which is granted, who is a prison inmate named Luciano Aviello, a small time Mafiosi with numerous convictions.  He claims his brother, Antonio, is the real killer and had hidden the knife in the garden.  His testimony is due to be heard again, as the police had not investigated the claims at the time.


Nencini also accepts an application for photos of Sollecito’s fingernails to be submitted as Maori claims his fingernails would have been too short to tear off Meredith’s bra and leave his DNA on the clasp.


Bongiorno requests that Meredith’s cell phones be tested and this is dismissed.


After a break, Crini sums up the prosecution’s points of appeal, mainly, focussing on the contradictions and illogicality of the reverted Hellmann Court and the soundness of the original Massei court’s ‘Guilty’ verdict.


Maresca for the Kerchers makes his opening submissions in support of the prosecution and dismisses the defence claims as a rehash of old settled arguments.    She witnessed loud screams on the murder night.


Then, I think that you are trying – in some ways – to dress with a new dress that which is vice versa, evidence, or at least assessments, of strong, consistent, robust clues that the first degree judgment has offered in its motivational fabric and then the Cassation … today the Supreme Court puts it to you as you like it.

 It is said, “Just new guesses because” – for example, for the solicitous defence – “Capezzali” – the famous head, marvellous lady, that all of us who have heard in the hearing for long hours – “is untrustworthy.” 

Eh, but the First Instance Court in Perugia says something different; The Cassation, you know, says something different about the Capezzali’l {Court transcript]


Pacelli opens for his client Patrick and comments that it was Knox who first mentioned the harrowing scream.


But let me remind you that Amanda Knox, sitting on the scene of the crime, giving details that only those on the scene of the crime could know, is the first to talk about screaming. It’s Amanda Knox.’ [Court transcript]

Other applications dismissed during a two hour retirement to chambers are, one to hear Rudy Guede again, as a witness, other witnesses the defence claim are unreliable, not to re-examine ‘selective cleaning of the scene’, nor to hear new experts regarding the time of death, nor to hear new scientific experts for the defence.


The court is then adjourned until 4th October, when Aviello will testify and the RIS – the Rome Scientific Police – would be given the mandate for testing the knife.


Nencini has made it clear in a newspaper interview it is not within his remit to criticise ‘the experts’, but rather, to assess the legal rectitude of the trial court’s decisions (Massei) which led up to their (‘Guilty’) verdict.  This is something which the Chieffi Supreme Court had found Hellmann patently failed to do.


The appeal courts function is to assess that the correct legal protocol was followed and whether the merits court decisions – and the judges have wide-ranging powers – fall within the range of ‘reasonable’, even if another court might have found differently.


In Italy, an appeal court can reassess specific facts, and in this case the facts that will be re-examined are the DNA sampling on the knife.  The trial, as it were, is to be extended to hear Aviello’s testimony.  This is a puzzling choice of ‘star witness’ for the defence, given his reputation as a compulsive liar.  So much so, one judge quipped he was ‘five times a liar’.

In addition, Aviello had alleged that Bongiono had tried to bribe him by offering to pay for his sex-change operation.


It is hard to imagine anyone will believe Antonio – now missing on the run from jail – is the real killer.


Apart from the applications upheld today, all of the other facts found in the first instance trial stand, and cannot be overturned.


Additional Sources:









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