April 15, 2010 6:15 AM, By Doug Longhini
CHICAGO, Ill. (CBS) Amanda Knox, convicted of murder in Italy last year, has been photographed countless times and her image featured in news stories across the world.
Yet, there is an alarming photo of the American student few have seen. The framed photograph isn't troubling for what it shows. It's shocking because of where, and when, it was ultimately displayed.
A wire service photographer took the original shot on November 3, 2007 in Perugia, Italy. That was a day after British student Meredith Kercher was found murdered in the bedroom of a house she shared with Knox.
The photo shows Knox, dressed in a navy blue V-neck sweater, talking with a group of law enforcement agents in the driveway of the crime scene house. The young American is gesturing with both hands, but the photo isn't a compelling action shot. It is a simple image of police listening to a potential witness.
Nonetheless, this Amanda Knox photo found its way to Rome. It was enlarged, neatly laid out on white matting paper, and put in an attractive wooden frame. Amazingly, it was then hung on a wall in the headquarters of the Italian forensic police in what can only be called a hall of shame - a photo gallery of many of Italy's most notorious criminals who the police had brought to justice.
That was long before Knox was actually charged with murder.
"I could not believe my eyes when I saw the picture," says CBS consultant and Chicago private investigator Paul Ciolino. "There's a photo of Amanda Knox, an honor student from Seattle, hanging along side of photos of Italy's most vicious killers, kidnappers and mafia kingpins. It was unbelievable. I mean, the girl hadn't even been charged with a crime at the time, yet she'd become one of the big trophy criminals they'd bagged."
Ciolino saw the photo display for himself when he was at the Rome forensic police headquarters in February 2008.
The Italian Constitution affords those in Italy the same right the American system of justice protects -- a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
"If that is the case," asks Ciolino, "then why is Amanda's picture up on the wall? Looks like she's been singled out as guilty from the start. Especially when you consider there were no trophy photos of her co-defendants, Rudy Guede or Raffaele Sollecito, hanging in the hall of shame. It's just her."
The Roman forensic police literally nailed Knox to a wall just three months after she was arrested and eight months before she was formally charged with any crime.
To Ciolino, it's a case where one picture really is worth a thousand words. He notes, "This is the forensic police after all; the scientific cops. Their main job is to be objective. Ask yourself, were they? Amanda's hall of shame photo screams bias against this young American girl. She never stood a chance."
This is a new series of articles from Crimesider. More articles will be added as they become available. This series is hard hitting and to the point. The truth needs to be told and no one tells the truth better than Crimesider.
No one can say Italian prosecutor Giuliani Mignini lacks a flair for the dramatic -- he's maneuvering to play a role in future proceedings involving Amanda Knox, despite legal obstacles.
"Perugia II - The Appeal" is scheduled to premiere this fall to a packed courtroom in Italy. It promises to be just as engrossing as "Perugia I - The Trial," last year's top reality "whodunnit."
As in Perugia I, the sequel casts American student Amanda Knox and her former BF Raffaele Sollecito as innocent victims of an Italian justice system that approximates Alice in Wonderland more than The Good Wife. Devotees of the story will be relieved, the plot remains the same: "Who murdered Knox's roommate, Meredith Kercher, in November 2007?"
Currently in production, Knox and Sollecito appealed their December 2009 murder convictions last week. Knox is serving a 26-year prison sentence and Sollecito, a 25-year term. The prosecution also appealed. It's seeking life sentences for both defendants.
All the appeals will be argued before a new, not yet appointed, appellate judge and jury. The appellate trial is expected to last 8 to 10 days and begins as early as October.
Giuliani Mignini Some fans may hope that Giuliano Mignini reprises his role as lead prosecutor allowing him to take his ultimate-fighter combat style to the next judicial level. Certainly, Mignini's skillful use of questionable evidence and a cast of shaky eyewitnesses - some literally pulled from detox facilities - kept everyone glued to their seats in Perugia I.
And few can forget Mignini's remarkable improv performance in the 2008 prequel; Rudy Guede: Break-in Artist to Slasher. (The Ivory Coast national got 30 years, then appealed it to 16.)
In that trial, the always inventive Mignini tried to convince a judge that British student Meredith Kercher was the victim of a satanic murder masterminded by her demonically motivated roommate, Amanda Knox. Mignini did everything but talk backwards in an effort to convince the court that Kercher's murder was a ritual killing carried out as part of a dark, demonic ceremony called Halloween.
Not since fellow European Max Von Sydow played the role of Father Martin in the 1973 occult classic The Exorcist has an audience seen such a fantastical portrayal of a self-styled avenger pitted against imagined forces of evil. The only element missing from the prosecutor's otherwise head-spinning performance was Mignini, himself, levitating before the judge's eyes.
The tagline for the trailer to The Exorcist warned, "Something beyond comprehension is happening... A man has been called for as a last resort... That man is The Exorcist."
Will "that man" again be Giuliano Mignini in Perugia II?
Amanda Knox (AP Photo, file) A first reading of the script, says no. Italian law precludes a person from acting as both a trial prosecutor and an appellate prosecutor on the same case. The rule means to prevent over-zealous prosecutions. But it may not hold back Mignini.
In an exclusive interview with CBS News' Crimesider last week in Perugia, Mignini described a legal loophole that may allow him to be part of the appellate prosecution team that faces off against Knox and Sollecito later this year.
Mignini says the case against Knox and Sollecito is very complicated so the new appellate prosecutor may want his help. Italian law only prevents Mignini from being the lead appellate prosecutor. It won't stop him from being part of the prosecution team, if duty calls.
Mignini told Crimesider that if asked he would serve, saying he considers it his job to do so. So like the fictional prosecutor in A Tale of Two Cities, Mignini might again, "spin the rope, grind the axe, and hammer the nails into the scaffold" in the case against Knox and Sollecito.
Since Perugia I closed last December, Mignini's star has fallen. In January, he was convicted of abuse of office in an unrelated case in Florence. Sentenced to 14 months in prison, he remains free pending appeal. He also continues to work as a prosecutor.
So Perugia II - The Appeal could be just the right comeback vehicle for the disgraced officer of the court.
Giuliano Mignini is balding and has an unfortunate weakness for corduroy sport coats. Yet he does bring to mind the Terminator in one respect: like it or not, Mignini may, indeed, be back.
Doug Longhini, who reported this story, is an investigative producer for 48 Hours | Mystery. He has been covering the Amanda Knox case since November 2007. Giulia Alagna contributed to this story from Perugia, Italy.
April 23, 2010 7:54 AM, By Doug Longhini
CHICAGO (CBS) The Monster of Florence was a serial killer who murdered eight lover's lane couples in the Tuscan hills surrounding Florence, Italy in the 1970's and 1980's. Debate continues to this day about the real identity of the Monster.
In October 1985, Dr. Francesco Narducci was found dead near a lake outside of Perugia, Italy. The doctor died of an overdose of Demerol, it appeared to be a suicide. The death was seemingly unrelated to the Monster cases.
Nonetheless, in 2001, Perugia prosecutor Giulano Mignini decided that Narducci's death was part of the Monster of Florence case. Mignini claimed Narducci was a member of a satanic sect that killed women for body parts to be used in black masses, and the wealthy Perugia doctor was the keeper of those body parts. Mignini claimed Narducci was killed to keep him quiet.
Even though all the Monster's victims were shot with the same gun, Mignini told a court that it wasn't the work of a single serial killer. Rather, Mignini described an elaborate conspiracy of 20 people, including government officials and law enforcement officers, who made up a secret society behind the Monster killings.
Mignini indicted the 20 people and charged them with the concealment of Narducci's murder, and laid out a hard-to-follow plot that included body doubles and featured Narducci's body being swapped - not once, but twice!
If all of this sounds hard to believe, it is. Tuesday, in a preliminary hearing, Perugia Judge Paolo Micheli threw out the case against the 20. The judge found there was no solid evidence to back up Mignini's claim that Narducci was murdered, let alone the victim of a satanic sect.
"Mignini's malicious and completely unwarranted accusations ruined many lives and impoverished the defendants and their families," Douglas Preston, the author of "The Monster of Florence," told Crimesider. Added Mario Spezi, Preston's co-author in Italy, "The great question is: How was it possible that Mignini was able to pursue a case that everyone knew was crazy?"
Those who follow the case of Amanda Knox, the American student convicted of murder in Perugia last December, will find much of this familiar.
Giuliano Mignini was the prosecutor in Knox's case. Mignini argued, at one point, that Knox was demonically motivated when, he says, she killed her roommate, Meredith Kercher in November 2007.
Just like the court in the Monster case, the judge in the Kercher case threw out Mignini's demonic motive, saying there were no facts to prove it.
Late Tuesday evening, when the 20 defendants were freed of all charges, they celebrated in front of the courthouse, opening bottles of champagne.
Though happy about the ruling, Douglas Preston says, " I find it hard to celebrate." Preston points out that Mignini, himself, was convicted of Monster of Florence related charges in January. The Perugia prosecutor and his chief investigator were convicted of abuse of office while pursuing the case.
Add to that the fact that in the past two years, Mignini has hurled satanic charges against 23 people. With Tuesday's dismissals, and his failed arguments in the Kercher case, the Perugia prosecutor is 0 for 23 on the satanic tally board. Yet he remains in office. A fact neither Preston nor Spezi can understand.
"Why are people afraid to stop him?" wonders Mario Spezi. "Why was he allowed to work on the Amanda Knox case and present his crazy ideas?"
Good questions, still begging answers.
April 22, 2010 11:38 AM, By Doug Longhini
a website detailing the wrongful conviction of Amanda Knox & Raffaele Sollecito