Amanda Knox appeal trial begins Nov. 24
Still no sign of police interrogation videotape
It has been nearly a year since West Seattle resident and UW student, Amanda Knox, was found guilty in Perugia, Italy for the murder of her British college roommate there, Meredith Kercher, Nov. 1, 2007. Also found guilty was her boyfriend of six days, Raffaele Sollecito, and an unemployed drifter, Rudy Guede, with a long criminal history.
Knox's parents, who live in West Seattle's Arbor Heights neighborhood where Amanda was raised, maintain she is innocent of all charges. Her appeal trial starts Nov. 24, also in Perugia.
Complicating the case is the slander suit the prosecution and police have against Knox. She appeared in court Monday, Nov. 8, where it was determined there was enough evidence to try her on a separate case for slander. The case involves her statements during her murder trial in court that police mistreated her in custody while she was interrogated. Her parents face charges for speaking about this publicly.
Amanda's stepfather, Chris Mellas, is staying near Perugia and plans to remain until the appeal verdict is reached, which he believes will be in February or March.
So what will take place in court Nov. 24?
"It depends how motivated they are," Mellas told the West Seattle Herald in a telephone interview. He said there could be a jury selection and formalities to go over, or they could dive right into the case.
"All we know is to show up at 9:00 a.m. for that hearing," he said. "It could be an hour. It could be all day." He said he could not discuss the specifics of his lawyers' strategy, but did say his family and defense team were geared up for both the appeal and slander cases.
"In this particular setting I don't think you should pick and choose your battles. Every battle should be fought. That's what we're here for, to fight.
"The single most important aspect of this case is the interrogation," he said. "The court has to understand that Amanda's rights were abused, procedure was not followed and what the police did was illegal according to the Italian Supreme Court."
Early in 2008, Knox's lawyers took the issue of her interrogation all the way to the Italian Supreme Court, which ruled in Knox's favor, saying the police violated her human rights. This was due to the interrogators not reading Knox her legal rights, not appointing her a lawyer, and not providing an official English translator during the interrogation.
During her murder trial, Knox said she was slapped in the back of her head by the police interrogating her after she would answer a question contrary to what they wanted to hear. Her mother, Edda Mellas, has told the West Seattle Herald that Amanda spoke to her about the strikes to her head within a day after the interrogation. Although the interrogation itself was ruled against the police, Knox's accusation of getting struck is a separate matter, and one that will be played out in court. Puzzling is that interrogations of all murder suspects in Italy require a recording through videotape or audiotape, and no tape has surfaced.
The West Seattle Herald contacted Perugian criminal attorney, Arturo Bonsignore, who has successfully tried high profile murder cases there, but is in no way involved with the Kercher murder trial.
We asked him, "In general, when Italian police do not tape an interrogation does the judge automatically believe the police's account of the interrogation?"
He responded, "Of course. Police are God."
"So without a tape it is 'he said, she said' as far as being slapped and verbally abused, and in Italy the police always win that argument," said Mellas. "Although the Italian Constitution says a suspect is presumed innocent until found guilty, they don't like that rule."
*Late addition: In previous articles on this case the West Seattle Herald reported, after hearing from several sources, that the prosecution claimed possessing videotapes of the interrogation and had promised to turn them over to attorneys for Amanda Knox during the trial.
Essentially, there were three points Amanda made inside court Monday (Nov. 8) in her statement," said Mellas. "One, she didn't want to accuse anyone. Two, she was just trying to defend herself. And three, which I like the most, had the police recorded the interrogation, no one would be in this mess. Amanda wouldn't be in court (for slander) and neither would the police."
A different murder trial is now making headlines in Italy. The cousin of a 15-year-old, Sarah Scazzi, whose strangled body was found in a well last month, was arrested. That arrest followed Scazzi's father's arrest earlier after investigators accused him of the murder.
"The father's entire 15-hour interrogation has been aired all over Italian television," said Mellas. "Amanda has watched it, and it angers her that invariably whenever there is some crime here, they have an audio or video tape, or both, of the suspect's interrogation while hers supposedly wasn't recorded, or is not available. In Amanda's case, she wasn't the criminal. It was the police who broke the law while interrogating her. It was totally the reverse."
The West Seattle Herald has been challenged by some readers for reporting that Amanda Knox is a "current" UW student and not a "former" student. Knox, like numerous prisoners both here and abroad, is taking college correspondence courses, in German and other subjects through the UW. Also, Raffaele Sollecito is currently visited once or twice a week by a professor to help him study for his university exams. He degreed in Computer Science while in prison February, 2008, and is pursuing a second level degree in Visual Computing.
Also, we have been following the story of retired FBI veteran Steve Moore who lost his job at Pepperdine University near Los Angeles at the same time he was speaking to national media about his view that Amanda Knox was wrongly convicted. Pepperdine has so far insisted there is no connection. Moore, a counter-terrorism expert, will be returning to Seattle Nov. 18 and we hope to interview him again.