The wrongful conviction of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is not solely the fault of the Italian justice system. This injustice was committed by a small group of individuals that abused their power to protect their own better interests. The focus should be on those individuals. No system of law is perfect. Unfortunately, corrupt individuals exist in every system. Lead investigator Edgardo Giobbi and lead prosecutor Giuliano Mignini are the two people that we need to keep our main focus on when it comes to placing blame for this injustice. There's plenty of blame to go around but Mignini and Giobbi share the brunt of it.
The case was solved in record time, long before any evidence had been collected. When the actual truth came to light and Rudy Guede was arrested, the initial mistake could have been corrected, but fragile reputations were on the line. Careers would be made on this case and personal interest outweighed the truth.
We don't honestly think that the entire police force in Perugia was part of a big conspiracy against Amanda and Raffaele. The investigators believed they were doing the right thing because they were told by the higher ups that Amanda and Raffaele were guilty. Believing that they were guilty allowed them to justify "bending" the rules to bring the desired results. Giuliano Mignini quickly took charge. He told the police what to look for. He told them what evidence to analyze and what evidence to disregard. This is an awful lot of power to hand over to a corrupt man like Mignini.
Italy doesn't deserve a free pass when it comes to placing blame. No country that has an injustice occur in their system of law ever does. Here are a few Issues we have with the way this trial was conducted:
Italy is to blame for allowing Giuliano Mignini to continue to prosecute cases. He was currently on trial for abuse of office when he was prosecuting Amanda and Raffaele's trial.
Amanda and Raffaele sat in prison for a year before they were even charged with a crime. Their trial took another year to conclude, meeting only two days a week and taking the summer off.
According to lawyers in Perugia, fifty percent of cases are overturned or adjusted on appeal. Italy's system is severely backlogged. Official figures show that there are over 3.5 million criminal cases and 5.5 million civil cases all waiting to see a courtroom.
The jury wasn't sequestered. The jury associated with the lawyers when they went to lunch at restaurants during the trial. During court recess, jurors had lunch and coffee at the same cafe's as the lawyers and journalists did. Jurors were allowed to discuss the case and follow all of the press coverage.
The civil trial ran at the same time as the murder trial. The illegal interrogation of Amanda Knox was ruled inadmissible in the murder trial by the Italian supreme court. The civil trial was conducted at the same time as the murder trial, so the jury had the results of the illegal interrogation read to them anyway. The prosecution was able to ignore the supreme court ruling by presenting the information to the exact same jury during the civil trial. Running the civil trial during the murder trial gives an automatic presumption of guilt. Amanda and Raffaele were being sued for money before they were even given a chance to defend their innocence.
How do Italians feel about their current justice system?
Many Italians are angered by the unreliability and compromised nature of their court system.
According to a November 2009 poll by Euromedia research group, only sixteen percent of Italians fully trust the current justice system in Italy. Just two years ago, the figure was twenty eight percent. Italian civil rights groups are intense in their criticism of what they view as kangaroo courts.
Roberto Malini, president of EveryOne, a nongovernmental organization that defends ethnic minorities in jail states that Inquiries are conducted without any reliable methods. Roberto also says that tests take place solely in the laboratories of the state police. There is no independent lab, and independent observers do not have access to the police's work.
A conservative newspaper in Italy, published an interview with Marco Morin, a Venice-based firearms expert. Marco said that he didn't want to work in Italian courts.
"In the United States, federal judges must study a 637-page manual in order to be able to evaluate forensic evidence. Here, they accept everything without questioning, as long as it comes from the institutional laboratory."
Judge Francesco Cananzi, a representative of the national council of magistrates, publicly had this to say: "Here in Italy trials take place in TV, rather than in court"
The European Court of Justice routinely sanctions Italy due to its drawn-out legal processes. The current system runs very slow. A criminal trial can take five to six years. Many innocent people spend years sitting in prison simply waiting for the system to eventually acquit them.
Italy is not alone when it comes to corruption and inadequacies in their justice system. This is a world wide problem. When individuals within the various systems of law are corrupt, injustices often occur. This is exactly what happened in the case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.
Jury trials in Italy have similarities to US jury trials , but there are some stark differences. Defense attorney, Theodore Simon appeared on the Today Show, to discuss Italian justice.
This trial has highlighted several procedural differences between Italy and the US.
The prosecutor is a powerful figure in Italy. The prosecutor is connected to the judiciary. Prosecutors are not elected or appointed. Prosecutors lead the entire investigation.
Douglas Preston who knows from personal experience, how the system works, had this to say:
"prosecutors are firmly in charge. They tell the police what to look for, where to go, what evidence to analyze, what evidence not to analyze. In America, the police work independently and are specifically trained in evidence gathering and criminal investigation. In Italy, the police must do what the prosecutor tells them. As a result, many criminal investigations in Italy are botched by prosecutors who are judges, trained in the law, who have no background in criminal investigation, police work, or forensic science.”
You can be held in prison in Italy for a year before any charges are even filed against you. This waiting period is not considered time served if you are eventually convicted. The simple act of being arrested has a high presumption of guilt attached. This reasoning leads to a very high success rate in the initial ruling of guilt. This also explains the high rate of acquittals during the appeals process.
Jury trials look quite different than US jury trials. When it comes to serious crimes such as murder, eight judges hear the case, two professional judges and six lay judges. The two professional judges guide the jury as it sorts through the facts of the case. One of the professional judges acts as the lead judge and runs the court proceedings. The judge that runs the trial in court is also a member of the jury. The ruling only needs to be a simple majority. You can be sentenced to life in prison on a 5-3 vote.
Keep in mind, the six lay judges are citizens of the town that are chosen at random and are not questioned by the prosecution or the defense before they are chosen.
The Appeals Process
Amanda and Raffaele had their appeal heard at the Corte d'Assise d'Appello (court of appeals).
On October 3, 2011, Amanda and Raffaele were declared innocent on appeal and were released from prison. The acquittals were then appealed by the prosecution to the Italian Supreme Court.
On March 26, 2013, The Italian Supreme Court overturned the acquittals of Amanda and Raffaele and ordered a new trial. The appeal will be heard in Florence. Details to follow.