Raffaele Sollecito’s computer experts clearly showed at trial that investigators chose to completely overlook data retrieved from Sollecito’s computer. This negligent computer analysis adds to the growing list of alleged misconduct cited in the long drawn out Meredith Kercher murder case.
The Meredith Kercher murder case has been one of the most controversial cases of recent times. Meredith Kercher was murdered in 2007, in a hilltop cottage in Perugia, Italy. In a series of missteps, police initially arrested a slightly different trio than the three that would eventually be charged for the crime. On November 6, 2007, Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, and Patrick Lumumba were taken into custody. The police put forth a wild theory of a sex game gone wrong committed by three perpetrators, declaring “case closed,” before any forensic evidence had been completed. When crime scene evidence came back pointing solely to another man, Rudy Guede, the police squandered an opportunity to correct their hasty arrests based on a rush to judgment. Instead, in an attempt to save face, they simply removed Lumumba from their theory and plugged in Guede.
Events that followed would prove to be equally as shady as the initial arrests. In the seven years that have passed since Kercher’s murder, Knox and Sollecito have been convicted, exonerated, and then convicted again. Throughout the course of three trials, multiple reports of egregious police and prosecutorial misconduct have continued to fuel the controversy.
The evidence against Guede
was overwhelming. Guede’s DNA was found on and inside Kercher’s body. Police matched a fingerprint to Guede that was set in Kercher’s blood on a pillowcase underneath her body. Guede was well known to police. In the month prior to Kercher’s murder, he had gone on a crime spree, which included other break-ins similar to the cottage. Shortly after the murder, Guede fled to Germany. He was caught trying to board a train without a ticket and was extradited back to Italy to face murder charges. He opted for a separate trial from Knox and Sollecito, resulting in a guilty verdict. His conviction was finalized by the Italian Supreme Court (ISC), and he is currently serving a lenient 16-year sentence.
Knox and Sollecito have been locked in a legal battle that continues to this day. Both were convicted in 2009, and then were declared innocent on appeal and released in 2011. Their successful appeal would have meant the end of their legal troubles had the case been tried in the United States, but Italy’s justice system allows acquittals to be overturned. That is exactly what happened in this case. The ISC overturned the appellate level acquittals, sending the case back for another trial. This may come as a shock to Americans because the ongoing trials in Italy would be viewed as double jeopardy in the U.S. system.
Knox and Sollecito’s second appeal trial was heard in Florence, Italy, by Judge Alessandro Nencini in 2013. Sollecito's experts presented vital computer evidence
at the Florence appeal that supports Knox and Sollecito’s claim that they spent the evening at Sollecito’s apartment on the night of Kercher’s murder. Expert analysis shows a human interaction on Sollecito's computer at 9:26 p.m. on the night of the murder, when Sollecito opened a 23 minute cartoon called “Naruto.”
Evidence shows that Kercher was murdered shortly after arriving home for the evening. The timeline of events provides a reasonable estimate for time of death. Witness testimony confirms Kercher’s arrival home shortly after 9 p.m., and cell phone records show that her stolen phone was no longer at her home at 10:13 p.m. Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, the appeals court judge that exonerated Knox and Sollecito, recognized the significance of this evidence, estimating that the murder occurred within this allotted time-frame.
In a secretly recorded Skype conversation before his arrest, Guede told his close friend, Giacomo Benedetti, that Kercher screamed at 9:20-9:30 p.m., making it impossible for either Knox or Sollecito to have participated in the murder.
Prosecutor Alessandro Crini acknowledged the computer evidence showing that Sollecito opened the Naruto cartoon at the Nencini trial, but made a poor attempt to discredit the evidence by oddly suggesting that Knox and Sollecito ran off to the cottage immediately after loading the movie, arriving by 9:30 p.m. Judge Nencini took it one step further than Crini did when it came to sidestepping the evidence by choosing to outright ignore all computer and phone evidence that supported Knox and Sollecito.
Disagreements between prosecutors and judges should come as no surprise to those that have followed the case over the years. Every prosecutor and judge that has attempted to implicate Knox and Sollecito has had a completely independent theory of the crime.
At the first trial heard by Judge Giancarlo Massei, Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini suggested many motives, including, hate, drugs, theft, and a sex game gone wrong, all with the hope that something would stick. Massei discarded Mignini’s theories, concluding that Knox killed her roommate “without any animosity or feeling of resentment,” and that the attack resulted from “casual contingencies.” Massei suggested that Knox and Sollecito were in Knox’s room being intimate when they heard Kercher being attacked in her room. Massei irrationally theorized that Knox and Sollecito joined in on the attack instead of helping Kercher fend off her attacker.
At the Nencini trial, Prosecutor Crini suggested that the murder occurred based on an argument over an unflushed toilet. Nencini discarded Crini’s theory, concluding that the murder occurred because Kercher was angry over the theft of money, resulting in an argument between roommates. Nencini gets into trouble with his theory because he completely contradicts Massei, who exonerated Knox and Sollecito for theft. That decision was finalized by the ISC.
The wide range of opinions from those attempting to secure convictions against Knox and Sollecito over the course of three trials should not go without scrutiny. The absence of logic in their reasoning should certainly be scrutinized as well. Let’s take a look at the prosecution’s theory at the Nencini trial. In order to believe Crini’s theory as presented in court, you have to believe that Knox and Sollecito dashed off to the cottage for some unknown reason, immediately after starting to watch a cartoon on Sollecito’s computer. Somewhere along the way they would have had to spontaneously team up with local criminal, Rudy Guede, even though, according to Guede, he was already at the cottage on a date with Meredith. If you believe that Knox and Sollecito started watching a cartoon only to storm off, then Crini’s theory leaves only thirty minutes for the violent murder and sexual assault to have taken place before Kercher’s phones ended up in another location receiving communications from a cell tower that does not service Kercher’s residence.
Keep in mind that Crini’s limited time-frame would include a fight breaking out over an unflushed toilet, a brutal murder, and then phones being stolen from Kercher’s room and transported to another location. Of course, if the Naruto cartoon was watched through to 9:50 p.m. by Knox and Sollecito (when it concluded), then the window for the two to commit the murder with Guede narrows down to ten minutes leaving another ten minutes for the phones to be transported to their new location.
There is no doubt that the computer evidence poked holes in Crini’s theory. Judge Nencini was left with little choice other than to ignore the evidence completely when attempting to justify his decision to convict.
Raffaele Sollecito's computer report was prepared by Alfredo Milani in collaboration with Doctor Antonio d’Ambrosio, Doctor Engineer Andrea Chiancone, Doctor Paolo Bernardi, Doctor Emanuele Florindi, Doctor Marina Latini, and Doctor Engineer Valentino Santucci, from the University of Perugia.
The report is a scathing critique of the work performed by the Postal Police while conducting their investigation. The report not only supports Knox and Sollecito’s claims, it also highlights the mentality of those attempting to condemn the two. Investigators limited the scope of their investigation, looking only to convict, instead of seeking out the truth. They only examined files on Sollecito’s computer for November 1 and 2, never considering that the files could have been altered at a later time. Similar shoddy investigative work has been highlighted throughout the case, from failure to conduct thorough DNA testing
, to only comparing footprints
at the scene with their suspects, ignoring others that lived in the cottage.
Let’s take a look at what was ignored. Log files of some applications, particularly the VLC log files and the keyboard log files, which illustrate important activities during the period of interest, were not mentioned. Screensaver logs showed that the computer was active without interruption through to 5:36 a.m. on the night of November 1, on November 2, when the VLC crashed, followed by a human interaction at 5:41 a.m., and then the playing of music to 6:22 a.m. These neglected details further support Knox and Sollecito’s claim that they were together at Sollecito’s on the night of the murder.
The computer report also shows that there was no effort made to maintain the integrity of the laptop and hard drive after the computer was seized and impounded. There was a human interaction on Raffaele Sollecito's computer at 10:04 p.m. on the night of November 5, while Sollecito was absent and under interrogation with the police. The windows server log shows the computer was used on the morning of November 6 and again in the afternoon while Sollecito was in custody. In fact, there were alterations on more than 520 files after the impounding of the laptop which changed the dates of important files like that of the Naruto cartoon.
It is also important to note that four computer hard drives were destroyed by electrical shock while being handled by the police, and to date, it is unknown who destroyed them or when they were destroyed. Data from Kercher's computer was later recovered but not from Knox's which could have provided photographs showing her friendship with Kercher.
The police negligence revealed by Raffaele Sollecito's experts joins a laundry list of disastrous police work highlighted in this case. Some key examples include; improper evidence collection
, suppression of lab data
, cover-up of contamination
, and the failure to test a possible semen stain
found at the crime scene where a sexual assault had taken place.
The most egregious act of misconduct and outright abuse of power may very well have been committed by Italy’s highest court. The reasoning behind the ISC’s decision
to overturn the acquittals of Knox and Sollecito, sending the case back to the appellate level, was troubling to say the least. Their decision was based on the ruling in Rudy Guede’s trial. Guede opted for a Fast-Track trial, separate from Knox and Sollecito. Guede’s story changed like the wind as he worked to give himself the best opportunity for leniency. After seeing Knox in news reports before his arrest, Guede initially claimed in a recorded skype conversation with a friend that Knox was not present at the crime scene. He would later change his tune, as he crafted his storyline to match the necessary theory needed to please the court and lessen his own punishment. When it was all said and done, the Guede trial court concluded that multiple attackers committed the crime, naming Knox and Sollecito as perpetrators. This ruling was signed off on by the ISC without stipulation when they finalized Guede’s verdict.
Therefore, the multiple attacker scenario, including Knox and Sollecito, became a judicial truth in the eyes of the ISC. Any future ruling contradicting that decision would no doubt be rejected by the ISC. For this very reason, Knox and Sollecito's acquittals were annulled, sending their case back to trial, along with specific instructions
laid out by the ISC directing Nencini to convict.
The problem is that Knox and Sollecito had absolutely no representation at Guede’s trial. They were convicted in the eyes of the ISC in a trial that they were not part of. With their decision, the ISC stripped Knox and Sollecito of their rights to a fair trial granted to them by Italian law.
Knox and Sollecito have now appealed their guilty verdicts to the same high court that wronged them, with a decision expected in March of 2015. It needs to be noted that the Italian Supreme Court varies greatly from the U.S. Supreme Court. Italy’s high court is composed of more than 350 judges, meaning that Knox and Sollecito do have a chance of receiving a reasonable ruling from a completely new set of judges.
For over seven years, the Italian authorities have refused to see what the evidence is clearly telling them. Rudy Guede murdered Meredith Kercher and he acted alone. The Italian justice system has worked tirelessly to protect faulty guilty verdicts at all costs. We see the same mentality time and time again in the U.S. justice system as well. It is time for Italy to stop this circus and admit they made a mistake.