Posts Tagged ‘Marty Tankfell’

AMANDA KNOX – DOES SHE SUFFER FROM FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME?

May 1, 2020

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Knox claimed at her trial she suffered from false memory

AMANDA KNOX – DOES SHE SUFFER FROM FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME?

In her testimony at the trial for the Aggravated Murder of Meredith Kercher, co-defendant Amanda Knox claimed her initial accusations and confession to being at the crime scene were based on faulty memory due to coercion by the police.  For example:

AK:

According to me, it depends on the situation. I can only talk about my own experience, which was, that I had to, forced myself — because they told me that I had to remember something else — to recall something else, so I forced myself so hard, that I was trying to imagine the reality that I had apparently forgotten, and I got confused as to whether the things I had imagined were really memories or just imagination. Because they were fragmentary. They were just images of things I had seen in my life, for example Piazza Grimana, that I saw every day, Patrick, whom I saw almost every day. These things, which were fragmented, I didn’t know if they belonged to that evening, to that sequence of events, or that line of reasoning. I didn’t know, and not knowing what was reality and what was my imagination, this was the state of confusion.

She had made a voluntary statement a few days after the murder claiming she had been present at the murder and had witnessed from another room Meredith’s harrowing screams and hearing thud.  DNA, blood, luminol and subsequent circumstantial evidence after the murder of 2 Nov 2007 meant Knox was charged, together with Sollecito a few months later in the following year.

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Knox’ signed statement

Knox gave several reasons for having claimed to have been present at the murder and for naming Patrick Lumumba, whom she knew to be innocent and was subsequently convicted for criminal calunnia and served three years for it.  She has never paid Lumumba the damages she was ordered to pay by the court for his wrongful incarceration as a result of her criminally malicious claim

One reason was that the police had coerced her by slapping the back of her head, interrogated her ‘for 53 hours’ – a claim she maintains today, even though police records show she was only at the police station of her own free decision for a couple of hours before she made the startling claim, totally unexpected by the police, who correctly immediately terminated the witness interview.

In her testimony she claimed further, she had experienced a ‘flashback’:

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Prosecutor G Mignini cross-examining Knox on her claim she had a false memory

Another reason was that the police had told her Sollecito had withdrawn his alibi for her – which he had and has never reinstated it – and that she was threatened with thirty years in jail.

The third reason, which she uses as a PR meme in her various tours of Innocence Project events is that she suffered from ‘false memory’ syndrome and even teamed up with psychologist Saul Kassin, whose pet subject this is.

An early open advocate of Knox, Nina Burleigh rushed out a book to present Knox’ side of the story.  It was Burleigh who introduced the theme of Rudy Guede as ‘a drifter’ and claims he was aged ‘twenty-seven’, when in fact he was twenty at the time.   To help Knox with her case Burleigh introduces the idea – which Knox latches onto – of False Memory syndrome, caused by being under duress.

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Saul Kassin

In The Fatal Gift of Beauty by Nina Burleigh p 234  Burleigh cites Saul Kassin as a proponent of false confession.  She draws attention to the case of Barry Laughman, 24, who in 1990 was ‘falsely convicted’ of the murder and rape of 85-year old Edna Laughman in 1987.

laughman newsclip crop

Laughman was legally categorised as a ‘moron’ and when told his fingerprints had been found at the scene, he confessed and it wasn’t until later that his blood sample DNA was ‘excluded’ by a left-over sample years later.

laughman's fingerprint

At the time of his interview Laughman was not told that all the police had at the time was a whorl fingerprint and was led to believe they had his prints.  35% of the population has whorl prints.

There had been three finger marks on Miss Laughman’s arm and Laughman was seen to have had an injured pinky finger, leading police to note that he was only able to grasp with three fingers.

This syndrome, Burleigh implies, is also why Knox ‘falsely confessed’, because the police (a) used the same Reid technique as had been used against Laughman way back in DNA prehistory in 1988, when matching blood type analysis was the norm rather than DNA testing and (b) because Italian police applied a good cop/bad cop method of interrogation, called the Reid Technique  Thing is, at that stage, Knox was not a suspect and the police were still at an early investigation level.  Knox had attended the Questura of her own accord to keep Sollecito company, who had been called in.

‘On September 8, 1987, Troopers Holtz and Blevins requested that Plaintiff and his father return for more questioning. When Plaintiff and his father arrived, Trooper Holtz took Plaintiff into an interview room alone. At the time of this second questioning, Plaintiff was twenty-four years old with an IQ of 69-71, which was lower than 97.5 % of the population. He was classified as “a moron” under then existing mental health classifications.

Under current mental health classifications, Plaintiff would be considered mildly retarded.

After approximately an hour of interrogation, Troopers Holtz and Blevins claim Plaintiff confessed to the rape and murder. Although Trooper Holtz had a tape recorder, Plaintiff’s confession was not recorded. Rather, Trooper Holtz is heard reading the confession statement to Plaintiff and asking whether it is correct. Plaintiff’s voice is only heard on the tape saying “yes.” https://casetext.com/case/laughman-v-commonwealth

So, is Burleigh claiming Knox, too, like Laughman, is technically a ‘moron’ – the offivial legalese of the day – and easily manipulated into essentially lying?  She states in her book, ‘After sixteen years in prison DNA evidence finally proved Laughman innocent, and he was set free’.

laughman newsclip

Newspaper report of the day

On June 20, 2003, the motion was granted and the DNA evidence was ordered to be tested and compared to samples taken from Plaintiff. In a report dated November 5, 2003, the DNA analyst concluded that, “Barry Laughman is excluded as a source of the DNA obtained from this sample.” [ibid]

Can Burleigh reasonably claim this is an equivalent case to that of Knox or Sollecito?  The reason for its inclusion in her book and her self-professed advocacy of Knox, it seems, is to underline Saul Kassin’s theories about why someone would confess to something so incriminating as being present at a heinous crime scene.  So here we have the launch of one of Knox’ key PR memes:  she only named Patrick Lumumba and described being present herself whilst Patrick raped and murdered her room-mate…because of (1) false memory and (2) the Italian ‘good cop’ in the form of Anna Donnino making sympathetic noises about how trauma after an accident can affect your memory.

Barry Laughman’s case, whom Burleigh cites as an example of false memory

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Barry Laughman

When Barry Laughman was a small boy, he injured his pinky finger. At the time, it didn’t seem like a life-threatening injury. But it would eventually turn out to be very serious indeed.

In 1987, when Laughman was 24, a female neighbor was found murdered. The police quickly zeroed in on Laughman after noticing that he couldn’t bend his little finger. The victim had been found with three small bruises on her arm, as though someone had gripped her with only three fingers. This seemed to match Laughman’s damaged pinky.

Laughman had an IQ of 70 and was mentally the equivalent of a 10-year-old child. He eventually agreed to confess after police trooper John Holtz told him that a fingerprint found at the crime scene had a whorl pattern, as did Laughman’s fingers. Holtz wasn’t lying, but he neglected to tell Laughman that whorl fingerprints are extremely common, found in 25–35 percent of the population. In reality, Laughman’s specific fingerprints were not found at the scene.

Armed with his confession, the prosecution secured Laughman’s conviction. A short time later, DNA testing became standard practice and defense attorney Mark Beauchat mailed key evidence samples to anthropologist Mark Stoneking for testing. According to Beauchat, Stoneking called him to say that he couldn’t perform a conclusive test and then never returned the evidence. According to Stoneking, he was never able to carry out a test, because Beauchat only sent the evidence from the crime scene and ignored his request for a sample of Laughman’s DNA to compare it to.

Communication apparently broke down between Stoneking and Beauchat after this, with Beauchat believing that the evidence had been lost or destroyed, when Stoneking had actually taken it to Germany with him. It only resurfaced in 2003, when investigative reporter Pete Shellem tracked Stoneking down. (In his defense, Stoneking told Shellem that he “had no idea what the case was about.”) DNA testing quickly cleared Laughman, albeit almost a decade after it should have.

https://listverse.com/2016/04/10/10-convicted-murderers-who-confessed-but-didnt-do-it/

PCR/DQ Alpha DNA testing was done in 1993 by Cellmark Diagnostics. It tested the vaginal swabs collected from the victim, but the results were inconclusive.

Kassin, in the course of his studies as a psychology student, became interested in the works of Stanley Milgram, famous for his experiments which showed that people will often just ‘obey authority’ (Milgram’s own interest aroused by the phenomenon of German Third Reich prison camp guards obeying orders to perpetrate acts of extreme crimes against humanity).  Kassin’s interest moved to criminal psychology and he was intrigued to find out why some people confess to shocking crimes they did not commit, as in the early example of Marty Tankleff:

tankleff

Marty Tankleff

 In one of the most striking examples, Marty Tankleff, a Long Island teenager, came to breakfast one morning in 1988 to find his parents stabbed on the kitchen floor, his mother dying and his father in a coma. Detectives thought Tankleff was not sufficiently grief-stricken, so he became their prime suspect. After hours of getting nowhere, a detective said he had called Tankleff ‘s father at the hospital and that the injured man said Tankleff had committed the crime. (In truth, his father died without regaining consciousness.) Shocked beyond reason, Tankleff confessed. He spent 19 years in prison before a growing body of evidence set him free.

Exonerated or Vacated?

However, when one investigates further the reasons for the above apparent ‘exonerations’ (Laughman, Tankleff) we find that they are more as a result of ultra-persistent defence advocates, such as those active in US Innocence Projects.  Laughman was cleared because the early blood sample had deteriorated and a defence advocate pursued a scientist who still had a residual sample he took to Germany who, eventually, under pressure from the advocate, in 1993, claimed the DNA ‘excluded’ Laughman.  This is curious wording and tells us little.  Does it mean it is someone else’s DNA or more likely, it failed to identify any DNA or enough DNA loci up to legal standard due to poor quality?  We are not told.   In the case of Tankleff, his case was vacated according to Wikipedia, for reason of:  “The issue in this case is not whether there is evidence, but whether there is sufficient evidence.”  

Is Evidence Insufficient without DNA Proof?

‘Insufficient evidence’ is, of course, the unusual final verdict for Knox and Sollecito, rather than a straight forward not guilty,  when their convictions were annulled, in 2015.  So, who then, did kill Edna Laughman and Marty Tankleff’s parents?  No-one knows, is the answer.   The confessions of the two that they committed the crime at the time, together with a fingerprint in the Laughman case and a blood spot in the Tankleff one counts for nothing.

Of course it is better to see a guilty man go free than an innocent man punished for a crime he did not commit.

Ten Million Dollar Settlement

The area of legal jurisdiction opposed Tankleff’s claim for compensation after being freed, although he won in the end.  Knox and Sollecito have received zero compensation as they were not actually exonerated.

A prosecutor and detective who worked the case plan to argue against the settlement before it’s approved. They believe the jury got it right.

“Tankleff has argued for years that his confession was coerced, but he has never even attempted to explain the incriminating blood proof, which even his lawyers admitted to a federal appeals court ‘was self-evidently damning’ evidence of Tankleff’s guilt,” said Leonard Lato, a former prosecutor represented Suffolk County in Tankleff’s appeal.

 

The Advance of DNA Testing in Criminal Trials

The progress of science cannot be halted and DNA identification has helped courts in that there is a further source of evidence to access.  If there is an error in the collection phase of forensics, as in the Laughman case, when the blood sample taken in 1988 had deteriorated by 1993 and with the advances in DNA testing, no legal standard match could be found come 2003, should this make the entire trial and conviction void, given the other evidence of fingerprint, three-finger bruising, blood spots and explicit confessions?

With every pro comes a con:

  • Does a lack of DNA evidence prove a person is innocent?

  • Should a confession count for nothing in a court of law?

  • If an error is made in forensic testing does that void a trial?

  • Is there any genuine evidence for Saul Kassin’s false memory syndrome?

It would appear to be the case that the public and the press are now demanding definite DNA evidence of guilt rather than the current legal standard of ‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’ based on all of the evidence in a fair trial.  In other words, is a lack of a strong DNA trail grounds for ‘insufficient evidence’ despite the presence of other evidence, such as a confession, luminol footprints or fingerprints, as in Knox’ case?

Can a detailed confession to a crime be even proven to have been ‘false memory’?

 

 


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