The errors in Ryan Ferguson’s message on the case against Amanda Knox

ferguson headerThe US recently released Ryan Ferguson, who had been in prison for a decade for the murder of Kent Heitholt. Ferguson and his supporters claim he was “wrongfully convicted” (a term that these days seems to only mean “someone who has amassed a vocal following”). Ferguson’s supporters say that he was found innocent, which isn’t quite accurate. Ferguson was released when an appellate panel declared he did not receive a fair trial, and overturned the conviction. The attorney general could have decided to prosecute again, but has not at this time (Huffington Post, Nov 2013).

Ferguson claims to have read Knox’s book while in prison. He recently posted about the case against Knox and Sollecito on a Facebook page for his supporters. Ferguson claims that the media got the case about him wrong and tries to pass along information about the case against Knox and Sollecito. Ferguson, however, pushes information about Knox’s case that has been proven to be misleading or false. Below are quotes from his message and the corrections to Ferguson’s information.

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Is admonished Judge Heavey (ret) preparing to mislead congress AGAIN?

heavey letterhead

On May 16, 2011, Judge Heavey (ret) apparently sent US President Barack Obama a letter regarding the Amanda Knox case.  This document was retrieved from the King5.com news site as search result for “Amanda Knox.” The subject of Judge Heavey’s letter was “Re: Failure of Rome Consular Officials to protect the rights of U.S. Citizen Amanda Knox.” The letter (PDF) was written on letterhead “From the chambers of Judge Michael Heavey.”

The Judge charged that the State Department absolutely failed to look out for the rights of Amanda Knox. Nowhere in the letter does Judge Heavey actually address any of the evidence in the case. Ten times in his letter, he charges consular officials failed to take action when they should have. However, many of his points are false or misstate the events. In many instances, Judge Heavey is proven wrong by statements from Amanda Knox herself.

This letter, full of errors, was carbon copied to Members of Congress AND the Secretary of State (at the time, Hillary Clinton).

These mistakes would have known at the time Judge Heavey wrote his letter by using the interviews and documents available at that time.  This did not stop Judge Heavey from writing an error-laden letter to the President and Congress. These errors are detailed below.

Additional signatories to the letter (on letterhead from “from the chambers of Judge Michael Heavey”) include Friends of Amanda representative Thomas L. Wright, and author of “The Framing of Amanda Knox” Dr. Mark C. Waturbury.

heavey 2

Judge Heavey was admonished for using court resources and stationary as a part of his advocacy in the Amanda Knox case, as well as his public speeches while he was a sitting judge.  The admonishment only covered the letters written to Italian court officials and prosecutors, using court stationary and court staff. The letter he apparently sent to Obama and congress was not included in the admonishment.

The following is a point by point review and rebuttal of Judge Heavey’s letter.

Admonished Judge Heavey’s Letter to Obama and Congress

The letter opens up with a summary of the argument- that this case was a prosecutor’s vendetta against Amanda Knox, and that her rights were violated, and Consular officials did nothing. The letter is arranged as a series of points, which are discussed below.

Point number one:

Judge Heavey writes: “Amanda Knox was arrested for the murder of her roommate after an all-night interrogation […]. The Perugian Police denied her food and water, cuffed her on the back of the head, and, most importantly, prevented her from sleeping.”

However, Amanda Knox was not the one called into the station. Raffaele was; and they went right after having dinner! A UK based paper had published the day before an article with quotes from Raffaele. Raffaele said he and Amanda went to a party on the night of the murder. Police were likely calling in Raffaele due to the conflicting stories. Amanda’s “interrogation” didn’t start untill at least 11pm. Police have testified she was offered food and water. She went to sleep after signing her second statement, at 5:45 am. There was a break between signing her first statement at 1:45 am and signing her second statement at 5:45 am.

Amanda Knox:

“Around 10:30pm or 11pm Raffaele and I arrived at the police station after eating dinner at the apartment of one of Raffaele’s friends. It was Raffaele who the police called, not me, but I came with him to the Questura anyway while he was to be questioned for support, as he had done for me many times.” –Amanda Knox, letter to lawyers, 9 Nov 2007

“I signed my second “spontaneous declaration” at 5:45 AM […]. I asked permissions to push two metal folding chairs together, balled myself into the fetal position, and passed out, spent. I probably didn’t sleep longer than an hour before doubt pricked me awake… ”  –Amanda Knox, Waiting to be Heard

To this day, Raffaele Sollecito has not corroborated Amanda Knox’s alibi in court.

Point number two

Judge Heavey writes: “When a witness becomes a suspect, the police are obligated to appoint a lawyer”

Prosecutor Mignini was interviewed by CNN ten days before Judge Heavey wrote his letter. In the interview, Mignini describes the questioning of Amanda:

“And thus her interrogation as a person informed of the facts was suspended by the police in compliance with Article 63 of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure [c.p.p. – Codice di Procedura Penale], because if evidence appears that incriminates the person, the person being questioned as a person informed of the facts can no longer be heard, and we must stop. “Everyone stop! There must be a defense attorney [present]”. And thus the police stopped and informed Amanda” –Prosecutor Mignini, CNN interview, May 6 2011 (Ten days prior to Judge Heavey’s letter)

Thus, it was known on national television in the US what the sequence of events was. This did not stop Judge Heavey from writing an error-laden letter to congress.

Point number three:

Judge Heavey writes: “Article 141 of the CCP requires  that every interrogation of a person in custody (for any reason) must be fully recorded by audio or audiovisual means”

However, Amanda Knox was not in custody during most of her questioning on Nov 5th & 6th. She was only at the station because Raffaele was called:

“It was Raffaele who the police called, not me, but I came with him to the Questura anyway while he was to be questioned for support, as he had done for me many times. ” –Amanda Knox, Letter to Lawyers, 8 Nov 2007

Point number four:

Judge Heavey writes: “Amanda spoke little Italian, yet was not allowed to have an interpreter to assist her with understanding the questions put to her, the charges against her, or anything else.”

Two sources refute Judge Heavey’s point- official court records of the questioning, and Amanda Knox’s own statement on trial and in her book:

Court documents

“assisted by the English-speaking interpreter Anna Donnino” -Signed 1:45 AM statement.

“assisted by the English-speaking interpreter Anna Donnino” –Signed 5:45 AM statement.

Amanda Knox:

November 2nd: “…they brought in an english-speaking detective for hours two through six.”  –Waiting to be Heard

November 4th: “AK: So, it seems to me that Laura and Filomena were there, but they had arrived with other people, while I was in the car with the police and an interpreter, that’s it.” –Trial Testimony

November 5th/6th: “The interpreter, a woman in her forties, arrived at about 12:30 A.M.” –Waiting to be heard

Point Number five:

Judge Heavey simply engages in a character assassination of Prosecutor Mignini: “[…] Mignini was well known in Italy for a bizarre theory […] under investigation for abuse of office […] previously driven American journalist, Douglas Preston out of italy[…]”

Judge Heavey, Dr. Waterbury, and FOA representative Thomas Wright conclude point five with: “Consular officials knew Mr. Mignini was prosecuting Amanda Knox. They knew he had been charged with abusing his office. They knew of the bizarre theory that he pursued, from which the charges arose. They also knew he was under tremendous pressure to achieve some vindication to save face. Why did consular officials do nothing?”

Importantly, the charges against Prosecutor Mignini were overturned.

Point number six:

Heavey and others raise the satanic ritual myth quoting Prosecutor Mignini as stating at the October preliminary hearing, “the crime was a sexual and sacrificial ritual in accordance with the rites of Halloween.” This only source for this quote is a defense lawyer for Sollecito. Amusingly, Judge Heavey then turns around and uses this metaphor himself: “these and other statements should have shouted to consular officials that Amanda was a defendant in what had become a witch trial, being prosecuted by a delusional prosecutor. Why did consular officials do nothing?”

———————————————————-

Consulate communications

Despite Heavey’s claims, US consular officials WERE monitoring the case, as revealed in FOI-released documents requested by journalist Andrea Vogt. She released these documents in a May 2013 post on her website. 

This is clear: consular officials regularly visited Knox and tracked case developments. The following diplomats’ names appear on the cables: Ambassador Ronald Spogli, Deputy Chief   Elizabeth Dibble and Ambassador David Thorne, U.S. Embassy Rome.

The US Embassy cables that were released were dated: Nov, 07; Dec 08; Feb 09; May 09; Aug 09; Nov 09; Dec 09. No other documents were released.

Consular staff visited Amanda Knox on November 12 2007, and noted her lawyers had already visited with Knox.

The charges against Amanda Knox as stated by the US Embassy were:

  • Participation in Voluntary Manslaughter with aggravating circumstances of cruelty
  • Participation in sexual assault
  • Simulated robbery
  • Slander
  • Possession of weapons
  • Aggravated theft.

embassy

Queens Supreme Court (New York) admits LCN DNA testing results

A seemingly unrelated ruling in the Queens Supreme Court, released on Feb 8th 2010,  presents difficulties to supporters arguing for Amanda Knox’s innocence. Knox supporters have claimed that results from a new type of DNA test entered into evidence in the Italian trial would not be accepted in US courts. However, it is this same type of DNA test that the Queens Supreme court issued its ruling on, a ruling that allowed results from the new DNA test to be admitted to the Queens trial. The testing is performed on a very tiny amount of DNA material and is called Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA testing, The Queens ruling establishes that results from LCN DNA testing can be entered in as evidence, and is the first challenge to LCN DNA testing in a US court.   While the Queens ruling is only applicable in that jurisdiction, it does establish precedence and an argument for LCN DNA test results to be accepted at other trials in America. 

 The DNA test results presented at the Knox trial were key evidence that directly implicated Knox as participating in the murder. The victim’s DNA was found via LCN DNA testing on a knife found in the apartment of Knox’s boyfriend, and Knox’s DNA was found on the handle of the knife through a regular DNA test.  Based on this, Knox was also found guilty of transferring a murder weapon, which added additional time onto her sentence.

The Queens ruling cites “Frye vs. the US” (1923) to determine criteria for acceptance; Frye “requires the proponent of new or novel scientific techniques to establish by sufficient evidence the general acceptance and reliability of the technique within the relevant scientific community”. The Queens ruling is that the LCN DNA procedure passes this test, and actually isn’t even a “new or novel” technique; merely a refinement of a generally accepted technique. It further states that while the defense may argue critiques of LCN DNA testing (interpretation issues, transferrence issues), these arguments “do not affect the admissibility of the evidence for trial purposes pursuant to Frye”.

The Queens Supreme Court is one of 62 in the state of New York, and is similar to circuit courts elsewhere. The highest court in the state of New York is called the “Court of Appeals”.

References more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/queens/queens_judge_case_use_jamaica_new_dxCMIjWlJqXITqrEmE1bPP#ixzz0iJBbzkN1

Ruling:

http://www.denverda.org/DNA_Documents/Megnath.pdf

The case status March 29th

At the beginning of March, the reasons for the jury’s decision was released in print in Italy. This is a 400+ page document that outlines the evidence and the reasoning for the finding of guilt against Knox & Sollecito. There are at least two teams working on english translation of the document.

Further posts on the evidence have been on hold pending the availability of translated information.

Quoted evidence in the TLC documentary:

witness- saw knox & sollecito outside

first call to police, disputed by defence.

touched briefly on problematic alibis.