A night at the Red Zone

hqdefault

On October 20, 2007, England played Australia in the rugby world cup final in Paris. Meredith was watching the match with her British friends in a pub. Helen, one of her friends, recalls that evening:

One of my favourite moments occurred on Saturday, 20 October, which was on the nigh of the rugby World Cup final. We all went to a bar called Shamrocks to watch the game, and, despite England losing miserably to South Africa, Meredith did her best to keep our spirits up. She entered into some friendly banter with the guys in front of us, and every time South Africa scored, she would come out with a witty one-liner. Much hilarity ensued. (1)

Also present in the pub was Rudy Guede, who lived nearby and recalled seeing Meredith that evening.

flyerLater that night after the match, Meredith, one of her British friends, and Amanda all go to the Red Zone night club just outside of Perugia along with boys who lived downstairs, Marco and Giacomo. A DJ from New York, Quentin Harris, was spinning that night. He has appeared frequently at the Red Zone, stating it his “favorite club to play.” In Amanda’s view:

Red zone took up an entire warehouse. It was the largest, most over-the-top dance club I’d ever been to… we were listening to the music and laughing, getting up to dance every now and then. It must have been 102 degrees, and I was sweating, dripping. (2)

While they were at the club, Rudy Guede stopped by their house to visit, but found nobody at home. Guede had recently received an invitation from the boys downstairs for dinner. When he didn’t find anyone at home this evening, he went looking in town for anyone. When he didn’t see anyone at the basketball court, he stopped by Le Chic to ask Amanda were everyone was, but Amanda was not at work.  The next night, Sunday, Guede stopped by the boy’s place downstairs for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, and he found out from Giacomo that everyone had been at the Red Zone. (3)

Guede was not a stranger nor a “drifter,” as he had an apartment nearby. Guede first met Marco a year prior, and they played basketball the court near the house along with  Giacomo. In late September 2007, the Giacomo and Marco had been in the town center with Amanda and Meredith and ran into Guede, and everyone went back to their place downstairs. Giacomo recalls that Guede expressed an interest in Amanda and asked if she was seeing someone. On that occasion in September, Guede ended up falling asleep on the toilet, but then moved to the couch and slept there. (4)

At the Red Zone Meredith and Giacomo began their relationship. Meredith had not been with anyone in Italy up to this point.  Amanda also connected with someone this evening who she calls “Bobby,” who stays with her in her room upstairs:

This was the first time I’d invited a guy into my bed since I arrived in Perugia. We went to my room and had sex. then we both passed out.  (5)

DJ Quentin Harris mixes it up at the Red Zone on that evening:

 

1: Meredith, by John Kercher

2: Waiting to be Heard, Amanda Knox

3: Prison Diary, Rudy Guede

4 Testimony, Marco Marzan

5: Waiting to be Heard, Amanda Knox

5 Guede’s Diary in Germany, Late November 2007

Florence appeal proceedings

 

Advertisements

A visit to Perugia, Pt. 2

Stranieri

Universita per Stranieri di Perugia and the road leading up to the apartments of Sollecito also Guede

Perugia was the final stop on a trip I took to several sites in central Italy. The last time I was in the country was several years prior, long enough ago that I haven’t had to understand spoken Italian and had some difficulty understanding what people were saying. When I first landed in Rome I had difficulty making out almost anything, but over the week and a half before I got to Perugia it started coming back to me and I was able to get around, order, understand the train announcements, and get the sense of what people were saying.

 

When I was in Rome I looked for books on the case, thinking that it wouldn’t be difficult to do and there may be some local books I wasn’t aware of. I stopped by a bookstore and asked a store assistant, giving the names of the people in the case and asking about “caso meredith,” the label given in the newspaper headlines every time there was an update. The first staff person I asked had little recognition when I said the names of the defendants and the victim, even when I wrote them down. We went to a second assistant at the checkout who recognized the names, but could not recall any specific books. The first assistant checked in the system and found one book (I think I recall it being Raffaele’s), but we couldn’t find it in the store.

In the US, due to the media cheerleading for Knox, there is at least some name recognition when you mention her name (though most people would look at you blankly if you said “Meredith Kercher”). In bookstores they definitely would be able to know the case, if not be able to recall specific books. And this was even before the current phase of popularity for true crime, due in part to the successes of the podcasts Serial and My Favorite Murder.

Guede article

Guede declares his innocence

Unfortunately I did not find any books while I was traveling in Italy. The only media I encountered on the case was a brief mention of Rudy Guede in a magazine I was reading while in a cafe in Perugia,  where Guede declared his innocence. Despite the lack of media I was still able to understand a bit of the Italian perspective while visiting Perugia.

 

I spoke to a shop clerk in Perugia about the case. After asking about some unrelated books, we started speaking in English and I asked if I could ask a few questions. I said I was visiting the town, since I had been following the case for years. I asked about the Netflix documentary, which had been released three months prior.  The clerk was unaware that the documentary had come out, but recalled when some filmmakers came to town a few years prior saying they were going to do a movie on the media reporting around the case; the clerk was surprised that the movie focused on Knox.

Security

Signs for security cameras in town

Even nine years later, I saw the difficulty and pain the case had on the clerk and the town. The clerk spoke of the negative media attacks on Perugia that were published internationally. The negative media publicity changed the town, and they felt this every time the media came to town to report on the trial and the case.

 

In my conversation it was clear to me that in Perugia, this isn’t a trial about Amanda Knox. Perugia remembers the death of Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student who was brutally murdered in a house she shared with three other girls.  Perugia remembers the death, but they also feel the judgment of the international media on their city. The city is still recovering from both.

 

Fountain christmas

Perugia, just north of Piazza IV Novembre

 

 

 

A visit to Perugia, pt. 1

Via dell’Acquedotto

A year ago, I traveled to Perugia, Italy. I’ve been to Italy on many past occasions. When I was in college I decided to go on my own to a town in Italy and take language lessons-like Amanda, except for me it was Florence. I was not on a program arranged through my school- I had a semester off and decided to go. My original interest in Italy was not completely out of the blue, as I I had met and briefly dated an Italian woman while I was visiting England one year. The trip to Perugia was my third or fourth trip to Italy. On past trips I stayed primarily in the north, visiting Venice, Pisa, Trieste, Bologna, and, of course, Florence. This was my first time south of Florence.

Perugia Mini-Metro

Researching online, I wasn’t really able to understand how to get to Perugia by train. To get there from Rome required a transfer, and then the Perugia train station was some ways outside of the town center. Arriving by train, the first impression is of anything but a “medieval town,” which the English language media loved to call it. The buildings and the city looked quite modern- and sprawling.  The vision we get of Perugia throughout this case is really of only the city center- the older part of town on the top of the hill. I recalled Amanda’s story of having to walk a long way, then hitch a ride, to get into town, and I wondered where she actually got off the train, because luckily, there is the mini-metro to take you from the station, under the center of town to the other side, where its a short walk to the city center. The mini-metro opened in January 2008, four months after the girls arrived in Perugia.

Yes, this “medieval village” has its own little metro rail! Its cute; its self-driven, and the cars spend the day traveling from one end of the track to the other. There’s an automated turntable at either end of the track that spins the car then sends it back the other way. Interesting fact- if you instead ride the metro away from the city center to the end of the line, you arrive right next to the Questura!

View of Perugia, looking north along the historic town center. In the valley at the top is the house; the British girls lived center-right; Raffalle and Rudy lived in the upper left

I started following this case about nine years ago, and during that time I’ve looked repeatedly at the the online maps like Google and Bing. But even reading the descriptions and seeing the maps, I still don’t know if I was quite prepared for the city. I really didn’t fully understand the topography from those maps, although with Google’s 3-d view its easier to see now.  The main road along the top of the hill running south to north is primarily a pedestrian-only way. Its somewhat like an upside down J. At the north end, going down the hill takes you to the nook in the valley where the four girls lived. On the inside of that J (on the right in this photo)was Patrick’s Bar, Le Chic, and where Meredith’s British friends lived.  The path Meredith took home on the night of the 1st was on the street that circles the hill, which made a lot more sense once I was there walking the streets: the easiest path from the British girls house to the house Meredith and Amanda lived in was not up and over the hill, but around the short end of the “j”.

One thing I was immediately struck by as I took this route is that there is a grade school almost right above the house. The plaza behind the grade school is the one with the metal stairs directly above the parking garage right next to the house! Meredith would have walked past the school on her way home her last night. The nearness of the grade school to the house in which Meredith was murdered surely worried local residents, and I would not be surprised if we learned that the proximity to the school, AND to the center of town, increased the pressure on the police to solve the murder.

From the house you can walk almost directly up the hill straight into town, and its an uphill walk!  I did this walk several times during the time I was there as I was getting a feel for the town. As I spent time walking around town, I reflected both on my own impressions of the town and the events and stories of both Meredith and Amanda when they first arrived. Over the next weeks, I will be looking how my trip to Perugia helped with understanding aspects of the case.

While I saw these sites, though, I also got to know the city center for my own. I ate some great pizza, I hung out and talked to one of the wine bar owners, I shopped in the bookstore.  Perugia is a lovely place, and I hope to get back there again soon.

While I traveled I didn’t get too much of an opportunity to speak to people about the case. I was surprised when I stopped in a bookstore in Rome to ask about books on the case, I didn’t get an immediate recognition from the clerks. I spoke to two or three people, and finally found one that had a recognition about the case, but then they had to look up in their computer if there were even actually any books written.

The other conversation I had was in Perugia… and that will be in my next post.

Perugia metro and apartment buildings

See “Amanda Knox” producer Stephen Morse’s shocking comment about the Kercher family

Here’s what we know: Sometime in late 2010 or early 2011, “Amanda Knox” directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn hooked up with Stephen Robert Morse and decided to create a documentary on Knox. Morse and Blackhurst went to Perugia in September of 2011 when Knox’s first appeal was heard. It appears that McGinn may have been with them, and that they connected with journalist Mario Spezi (who had previously been arrested by prosecutor Mignini for interfering with an investigation).

The Kercher family was represented at trial by their lawyer, Francesco Maresca. In Italy, the civil suit happens at the same time as the criminal suit, so Maresca was there to represent the Kerchers in their civil suit against the defendants for Meredith’s death. As a part of the original conviction in 2009, the Kerchers were awarded damages.

Knox’s defenders frequently attacked the Kercher family and their lawyer, Maresca, for the damages awarded to the Kercher family. Knox’s defenders claimed Maresca and the Kercher family were driven by the monetary damages awarded to the Kerchers.

Producer Stephen Morse, while covering the appeals, joined in these attacks on Meredith’s family, claiming the Kerchers were blinded by money.  While covering the appeals, Morse stated his belief the DNA evidence would result in an acquittal. Three days later, while waiting for the verdict, Morse claimed the Kerchers were ignoring evidence. In a tweet (still available Sept 2016), Morse charged the Kercher family with being driven by money:

“i feel for the kercher family but they cannot ignore dna evidence simply because they were awared an 8 figure civil victory. ” –Stephen Robert Morse, 3-Oct 2011, 7:57 am.

For US readers, this is similar to claiming the Nicole Brown family was only out for money when they filed their civil suit against O.J. Simpson.

Two of the Kerchers- Meredith’s father John and her brother Lyle- have previously spoken about the symbolic nature of the damages, and that they do not care about the money awarded. In 2009 Lyle told the Guardian “It’s not the case that this has ever been about us seeking money, which is why we’ve been reluctant to do much media stuff throughout. That money will never really change anything in that respect.”

Meredith’s father John Kercher spoke to the Sun  after the Hellmann appellate court overturned the trial conviction. He spoke out against potential book and movie deals for Knox and Sollecito:

Kercher explained that their civil claim- and an £8million damages award made when Knox was convicted – were symbolic in Italian law. “I find it distasteful that Knox stands to make millions from what happened to Meredith. I don’t think anyone should make money out of it – not us, not them,” he said.

“How would any parent feel if their daughter’s murder was to be turned into a movie for people’s entertainment?”

“We would not take a single cent from Amanda Knox,” Kercher added.

Nobody has asked yet how much Netflix is paying Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn, and producer Stephen Robert Morse for the rights to add the “Amanda Knox” film to Netflix’s library on September 30th, 2016.

 

Shocking! Producer Stephen Morse attacks credibility of journalist Nick Pisa years before Pisa appears in Morse’s documentary!

Stephen Morse, a producer for the Netflix documentary “Amanda Knox,” has on several occasions expressed his criticism of Nick Pisa and the Daily Mail. On at least two occasions Morse accused Pisa and the Daily Mail of deliberately lying. Morse writes in one of his twitter posts from 2011 that he confronted Pisa on the “lies” published by the Daily Mail.

According to Morse and one of the directors, the three of them started on the film in 2011. Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito had been convicted at the trial level, and their appeal to the Hellmann court was scheduled to be heard in late September of that year.

Morse traveled to Italy in late 2011 to cover the trial and provided twitter updates. His belief in Knox’s innocence shows in his tweets. It seems that one of the co-directors of the “Amanda Knox” documentary, Rod Blackhurst,  was also in Perugia at this time.

During the appeal hearings, Producer Stephen Morse provided the first evidence of his criticisms of Pisa and the Daily Mail. He claims that citations to ‘fraudsters’ would be better than citing Nick Pisa and the Daily Mail:

pisz

Several days later, Morse confronted Nick Pisa in Perugia. While the details of this confrontation are not known, it is clear what Morse though of Pisa. His tweet uses the hash tag “#nickpisashitjournalist”; which reads “Nick Pisa Shit Journalist.” Morse writes the he confronted Pisa on the “lies” in the Daily Mail, which Pisa denied:

morse-pisa

A year later Morse repeated his claim that the Daily Mail and its reporters printed lies:

morse-daily-mail

In 2014, three years into working on the “Amanda Knox” documentary, Morse continued his criticism of the Daily Mail on his blog. Morse wrote that Knox was innocent, which he found out upon arriving in Perugia in 2011. Morse wrote of his desire to see Knox “free from the hatred that has already been lofted upon her for years.”

“In the narrative of Amanda Knox, Amanda has been portrayed as the bad guy, especially for people in the United Kingdom, who saw the trashy, headline-driven press in The Daily Mail, The Sun, and The Daily Mirror that target “working class” citizens of that former empire.” -Stephen Morse, 24 Feb 2014

In a now-deleted blog post, while in the middle of working on the film, Morse describes his desire for a rehabilitation of Knox’s image in the media:

“Amanda has responded with strength and intelligence to the people who have created hateful Facebook groups against her, like Perugia Vi Odia (Perugia Hates You), and it is my hope that one day her world will be free of the misplaced hatred that has already been lofted upon her for years.” -Stephen Morse, 24 Feb 2014

In recent reviews of the documentary, its clear Nick Pisa does not come across as sympathetic in the documentary. The Guardian writes that Nick Pisa becomes “a one-man symbol of how shameful that coverage became.” (Guardian, 15-Sep 2016). The Daily Beast writes “The filmmakers put much of the onus on tabloid reporters like Nick Pisa” (Daily Beast, 18-Sep 2016).

It leaves the question: did Nick Pisa know that this documentary was being produced by the person who confronted Pisa in Perugia in 2011 and accused Pisa and the Daily Mail of lying?

Netflix has attempted to distance Morse from the documentary, claiming the title “producer” was only honorary. But the film that will be broadcast across America on September 30th by all reports reflects the published views of producer Morse during the time he claims he was producing the “Amanda Knox” documentary.

Coincidence?

I think not!

 

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.

Continue reading