Monday, July 25, 2011

Does the Daily Beast Look a Little Yellower To You Lately?

I am reminded of Lincoln in his second inaugural address wondering how some people could make their living from the suffering of others;

“It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces…”

I frequently wondered how Barbie Nadeau, Andrea Vogt and the tabloid writers in England could live in a house that contained a single mirror while wringing their bread from the grief of two innocent people, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. I assumed that when the truth finally came out (as it now has), that these reporters (I almost used the word journalist) who parroted unresearched and unverified prosecution smears, innuendo, rumors and lies, would come to their senses and realize that truth might save their careers. At least their careers.

I held out the least hope for the writers for the British Tabloid writers.

But now I have seen tabloid writer after tabloid writer from England come to the realization that the evidence was bad or worse, and that they had been duped, and worse, used. Several of these writers have changed the stories they write, and some did so before it would have been advantageous for them from a career standpoint. When was the last time you saw the headline “Foxy Knoxy?”  More than one of these reporters have even apologized to the families.

But not Nadeau, whose book “Angel Face,” The True Story of Amanda Knox, Student Killer” (catchy title, no?) lives or dies on Amanda’s guilt. It was written, of course during the trial, not after the trial, so Barbie most likely came to her conclusions before the trial was over. Journalistic integrity.

If Amanda is not a “student killer” then Barbie might be seen by some to have the crime reporting skills of a middle-schooler, the journalistic incorruptibility of Joseph Goebbels and the compassion of O.J. Simpson.

Today, (as dozens and dozens of DNA experts, retired FBI field agents, profilers, murder investigators, and lab staff; journalists, politicians, scientists and prosecutors have been screaming since the kangaroo trial in Perugia); the court-appointed experts convincingly and decisively deconstructed the prosecution case. (As a backhanded slap at the forensic “scientists” and the earlier court, they used real science.)

As a friend of mine recently commented, “Amanda is apparently guilty of nothing more than “stabbing” a loaf of rye bread.” Yes, the “blood” found by Patrizia Stefanoni, forensic “scientist,” was nothing more than rye bread starch. This, on a “Murder Weapon” that the coroner said could not have killed the victim. The DNA of Raffaele on the bra clasp? That of a woman. It would behoove the people of Perugia to have a forensic scientist who can tell the difference between the DNA of a woman and a man, and the difference between starch and blood. People go to jail over these kind of mistakes. Sadly, the wrong people usually do.

In a bit of journalistic gullibility not seen since Der Stern bought (and published with much ballyhoo) the “Hitler Diaries” for $7.3 million before they found out that they had been “worked” by a not-particularly-good con man, Barbie and Andrea have been “worked” by a not particularly good con-man; Giuliano Mignini, yet they seem to be irrationally reluctant to admit that the prosecutor has no clothes. I’ll be the first to admit that they are in a tough spot, albeit of their own making. What to do?

Admit your mistake and go on? Maybe. But then, ask yourself “What would O.J. do?”

O.J. might stick to the completely discredited Massei Report (the “documentation” from the earlier kangaroo court which is now being shown to be just that). Possibly referring to her WWOJD bracelet, Barbie pointed out on TV that the Massei Report is two inches thick and the DNA deconstruction report is less than an inch thick. I’m not making this up. Maybe we could decide cases in the future by weighing the prosecutor and the defense attorney; heaviest one wins.

It makes no difference that the Massei Report was completely dependent upon the DNA evidence. If the DNA evidence was starch instead of blood, and a woman’s DNA instead of a man’s DNA, then everything else falls apart. None of the other evidence (“mixed-blood,” heroin-addled witnesses-for-hire, Keystone forensics, and “accidentally destroyed” exculpatory evidence) has any basis once the DNA is gone. The rest of the report is unsubstantiated, unresearched rumor, innuendo and lies.

Don’t listen to me; listen the the dozens, if not hundreds of experts who screamed about the DNA evidence, only to be proven right today. If they were right about that, and they think “Massei” is a fraud, what do you think? In fact, the judge who prides over the appeal said on the first day after reading the Massei report, “Nothing is sure except that the victim is dead.” That in and of itself should have telegraphed to the prosecution that he believed none of it.

But Barbie and Andrea hold on by their fingernails if not to Amanda and Raffaele’s guilt, but to their careers and what’s left of their reputation. Barbie recently said that if this DNA is bad, then the DNA that convicted Rudy is also bad. Except, Barbie, that Rudy pled guilty. And his bloody fingerprints were found in Meredith’s blood on her purse, and he admits to having sex with the victim that night. The only difference is that he claims it was consensual, and not rape as she bled to death with her throat slashed.

Barbie also said, in true pedant fashion, that there is enough “circumstantial” evidence to convict both Amanda and Raffaele. Circumstantial evidence, Barbie? Do you understand the meaning of the term? There would have to be some other evidence than Amanda’s DNA in her own house, and Raffaele admitted presence in Italy on the night of the murder.

Finally, in the most disingenuous, repulsive turn I have seen so far, Barbie is apparently now building the foundation that "O.J. was acquitted, Casey Anthony was acquitted, and now Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are being acquitted.” If gullible people "buy" this, then Barbie doesn't look so stupid. The difference, of course, is that there was evidence against the other two. (Frankly, the only thing that makes me wonder if O.J. was actually innocent was Barbie’s inference that she believes that he might be guilty.) Barbie and Andrea, however, appear to be willing to cover Amanda's face with the mask of “murderer” for the rest of her life to save their own reputation. Cold-blooded. (Not Amanda; Barbie and Andrea.) 

Barbie, a word of advice: Get rid of the mirrors; they never lie..

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Bridget Bishop was the first to be hung in Salem for witchcraft.  She was a twice-widowed tavern owner, owning "an ordinary" on the road between Salem and Beverly. She served a new and powerful drink called "rum" to many of the sailors who frequented her place. The sailors also played an evil new game called "shuffleboard that upset many of the neighbors. Bridget wore bright clothes, a major offense in the eyes of the Puritans of Salem. 


A great public outcry has erupted in the United States about the not-guilty verdict in Florida.  Almost everybody seems to have an opinion on Anthony’s guilt or innocence, and most are not afraid to express them.

I want to say up front that I am not about to advocate for either the innocence or the guilt of Casey Anthony.

Once again, we have millions of people making a personal determination on guilt or innocence dependent solely on what they heard in the press.  Of these millions of people, maybe dozens were ever in the courtroom for a single day.  While Americans were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Jason Puracal, an innocent American was being held captive on trumped-up murder charges in Nicaragua, while the extent and tactics of the railroading of Amanda Knox in Italy was being exposed to the rest of the world, a great mass of the American press was focused on one case in one (obviously gut-wrenching) murder trial.  This was not any great search for justice, any great quest to honor the memory of a poor, murdered girl; this was a quest for ratings; and with ratings, for career; and with career; fame and money.

(I say this with some trepidation, because I have in the past appeared on these same shows.  And likely will not be asked again after this post). 

With the motivations enumerated above, what would advance the interests of this segment of the media?  Facts that supported Anthony’s innocence? Or sensational facts that cause more buzz?  I would postulate that anything that would work against or disprove the perceived (and reported) wanton, cold, sociopathic killing of an adorable child would tend to calm the anger and the blood-thirst of an angry population, which would hurt ratings.  It is the very anger and desire for retribution of much of the populace that causes them to watch these types of shows. This is the modern equivalent of the mob which chased the Frankenstein monster with pitch forks and torches. These are not all the viewers, but they are certainly some.

Therefore, the media has a vested interested in broadcasting salacious details of these types of cases, and a disincentive for broadcasting or exposing exculpatory information.  These news shows are not the New York Times, either.  They are shows that appeal to a different audience and are in the running for Pulitzer Prizes much the same way Animal House was in the running for an Oscar.  I have a built-in distrust of these types of shows.  I’ve seen it from the inside.

I am not saying that Casey Anthony is in reality innocent of the charges.  I am not saying that she is guilty, either.  I am saying that I haven’t seen the evidence, and until I do, I will have to trust the jury, the court and the justice system for the verdict.

Too often, there is a tendency to "follow the crowd" and make a determination of guilt or innocence based simply on what appears in tabloids, or the rumors one has heard.  This is why Amanda Knox is in prison. I am disturbed by people decrying the Anthony verdict who I know for sure know nothing about the case.  I do not want to ever make a public statement on a person's guilt or innocence until I have done my "due diligence."  I was involved in the investigation of at least one FBI Agent involved shooting.  Several law enforcement officers were at the scene of a short but vicious gun-battle.  The only one who did not shoot was the FBI Agent.  I asked several of the agents from other agencies why they shot.  Two said, "My partner shot at the guy, so I shot, too."  So I asked, "But what was the suspect doing that was dangerous? Did he have a gun? Was he shooting? What?"  The answer was disturbing; "I didn't see what he was doing, I was backing up my partner."  The agent I spoke to, I am relieved to say, said; "I didn't know why everybody was shooting. I didn't see the threat."  Sending bullets 'down-range' without knowing what's going on can kill an innocent person based on the repeated, un-examined mistake of the one officer.

I have yet to hear of a person who really understands the evidence in the Amanda Knox case say that they believe she is guilty.  Yet, during the first trial, there was no shortage of uninformed people willing to say Amanda was guilty; people who knew little or nothing about the real evidence.  I am not saying that only those who sat through the case in its entirety or had access to the raw evidence can make an informed decision.  The more evidence you have, the more informed a decision one can make. But most people were making pronouncements without any functional knowledge at all.  I actually heard someone say, "That American girl?  What's her name?  Oh, she's a witch."  She didn't even know her name.  Yet she claimed to know enough to condemn her.  Some have seen the available evidence in the Anthony case in the legitimate press and have made more informed decisions.  In the Amanda Knox case, I did the same thing.  And once I saw the actual evidence, I changed my mind about believing the jury:  Amanda Knox was framed.  I learned that I cannot always trust every jury and every justice system.  I have no idea whether Casey Anthony killed her daughter.  But it is somewhat moot, as Casey is not in prison.


In the U.S., defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty. 

There is a term in aviation called the "failure mode."  It is what happens to a particular piece of the airplane when that piece fails.  For instance, when traffic lights fail; rather than displaying green on all sides, which would be disastrous, they fail to a flashing red. When aircraft hydraulics fail, the landing gear generally falls down. When electronic engine controls fail, the engine generally goes to 3/4 power, not idle, which means you can get to an airport. It is all aimed at insuring that if something goes terribly wrong, that the best result possible happens. An example of a bad failure mode is the DC-10.  As United Airlines found out over Sioux City, Iowa, when you lose hydraulic pressure in a DC-10, the airplane is no longer controllable. 184 of 296 people died, because the failure mode was not considered. 

U.S. courts do not always default to the "innocent" position when they fail.  But they are supposed to.  So when I see a very controversial verdict and realize that the decision was made in favor of innocence, I at least have the comfort in knowing that the failure was, if it was a failure, in the right direction.

In the U.S., when the justice system fails, it fails to the "innocent" mode.  I'm glad it does. If it failed to the guilty mode, anybody who could not prove their innocence would go to jail or be executed. I almost threw a hammer through the TV when O.J. Simpson, who I believed (and still believe) killed two people, was acquitted.  But compared to Amanda Knox doing (so far) four years in an Italian prison for a murder she did not commit, that anger and frustration was inconsequential. The “failure to innocence” is a standard from Biblical times.  These are some of my favorite examples of the depth and breadth of the standard of “innocent until proven guilty,” and the greater need to protect the innocent than to punish the guilty.

On 3 October 1692, while decrying the Salem witch trials, Increase Mather wrote, "It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that the Innocent Person should be Condemned."

Benjamin Franklin wrote: "It is better [one hundred] guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer," or even better;

God: (Exodus 23:7) "Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty." Note: God says WE might acquit the guilty, but HE will not.

And finally: Abraham and God when God said he was going to destroy Sodom;

“Then Abraham approached [God] and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?  What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham bargained him down through several levels until God finally agreed to spare an entire city if it would have cost the punishment of ten innocent persons.

Abraham asked; “What if only ten can be found there?”

[God] answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

Is Casey Anthony innocent?  I believe that the prosecution was not able to prove her guilt.  If she was guilty, then that was their burden and they failed to meet it. 

 If the justice system failed, it failed in the safest mode.