Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ugly Americans Part II: Fox News, CBS News and Sen. Cantwell

By Michael P. Tremoglie
Tremoglie's Tea Time Blog

The American liberal mainstream media, ordinarily lauding European culture, has been in overdrive trying to discredit the guilty verdict of Amanda Knox, a Seattle college convicted, by an Italian court, of murdering her British roommate in Perugia, Italy. They present the defense case in detail with only a cursory rendering of the prosecution's case - and then only in a negative light.

However, it is not only the liberal mainstream media defending the convicted killer. Conservative media icon Fox News Channel has entered the fray.

The December 7 edition of the Bill O’Reilly show featured Peter Van Sant, a CBS news reporter, who is most zealous in his desire to clear Knox.
Van Sant – who, coincidentally, is also a native of Seattle - said unqualifiedly that Knox was innocent.

Yet, his investigation, complete with private detective and DNA experts, is still nothing more than a recitation of the defense claims. What he told O’Reilly, who believed him completely, was that: the prosecutor is overzealous and corrupt; the DNA evidence was corrupted and the chain of custody broken; the circumstantial evidence is unreliable; the jury is prejudiced against his client; the interrogation by the Carabinieri was brutal and the confession coerced.

By the way, this last claim – about the Carabinieri - is inaccurate. Knox was not interrogated by the Carabinieri. She was interrogated by the police.
One has to wonder if O’Reilly and Van Sant know the difference between the police and Carabinieri.

Inaccuracies about the Italian criminal justice system have been routine in the reportage. Media keep referring to jurors. Italian courts do not have jurors, such as those used here in America. Indeed, with the exception in the Corte D’Assise, which was the one used in this case, there are no juries in Italy.
The Corte D’ Assise is more of a mixed tribunal. The “jurors” in the Knox case were the two judges and six “Giudici Popolari,” who are lay people. Together they decide the guilt or innocence – as opposed to America, where the jury determines guilt or innocence independent of the judge.
The Knox lawyers are simply practicing Criminal Defense Attorney Tactics 101. They are formulaic. They have been used before. For example:

1- The defense attorneys in the O.J. Simpson case said the DNA evidence was corrupted and unreliable – just as the defense lawyers in the Knox case are claiming.
2- The defense attorneys in the Scott Peterson case said that circumstantial evidence is not sufficient to convict – just as the defense lawyers in the Knox case are claiming.
3- The defense attorneys in the Mumia Abu Jamal said the prosecutor and the jury were bigoted against Abu Jamal – just as the defense lawyers in the Knox case are claiming.
Not only is the American media trying to interfere in this case, so are liberal politicians.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, (D. –Wash.), is getting Hillary Clinton involved. She said, “The prosecution did not present enough evidence for an impartial jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Miss Knox was guilty.”
When asked if she read the transcript, her press aide replied that they have been communicating with the Knox defense team. They also admitted they have not contacted the prosecution nor have they read the transcript.
Cantwell’s office did say they are pursuing this through the European Union. Their claim is that the “trial procedure did not follow the strictures of the European Union due process aspects - regarding jury sequestration.”

Professor Marco Ventoruzzo is member of the faculty of the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law. He is a legal scholar in Italy and the United States.

“There is nothing about this trial that impressed me as being unfair,” he said.

Regarding the issue of sequestration he said, “Italian courts have sessions spread out over a period of time to lessen the heat of the moment, unlike American trials, which are done in a short period of time. Italian trials - because of their long duration, of sessions being months apart - incorporate safeguards against the effects of emotions. So sequestering is not that important.”
Cantwell’s intervention is unnecessary. Italian judges are required, unlike their American counterparts, to write their reasons for conviction. These reasons can be appealed. If the appeal is granted, the whole trial is redone – again different from an American appellate process.
By some metrics, the Italian system is vastly superior to the American. The Italian crime rate is a fraction of what America’s is. This is due, in part, to their criminal justice system – which contains mechanisms that we should consider adopting here.

The interference by American journalists and politicians in the Amanda Knox case is reprehensible.

Italy is a sovereign nation. Liberals have complained vociferously about American jingoism and cultural imperialism. They should not violate their own standards and impose American legal culture on Italy.

If the court erred, then the appeals process will determine that it did. The Italian system is perfectly capable of dispensing justice – for everyone including the victim.

Something we here in the United States have not quite figured out how to do.

1 comment:

  1. "The defense attorneys in the Scott Peterson case said that circumstantial evidence is not sufficient to convict."

    They said no such thing nor would they. If the police had found REAL circumstantial evidence - such as a big stain of Laci's blood on the mattress, in the truck, in the warehouse, or in the boat - I would lead the charge to convict. What they found were a couple of microscopic drops of Scott's blood, hardly surprising for a man who works with tools. The stuff they brought out didn't go to his guilt - all of the actual evidence went to his innocence. THAT is what is not enough to convict.