Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We can never stop this insanity, can we? Certainly not if the rational "experts" perpetuate it.

I do not want to get sucked back into the Amanda Knox insanity. I really don't. It is supposed to be over. But somehow that case has seriously gotten under my skin because it is the nuttiest, scariest travesty I have ever seen. The cadre of internet trolls dedicated to spreading outright lies to convince people she's guilty. The way so many of these untruths have made their way into the cultural zeitgeist, so even respectable news outlets report them without realizing their falseness. How many news reports, for example, talk about the DNA on a knife without ever mentioning that the knife does not match the victim's wounds or the bloody imprint of a knife left on her bed? (Never mind that the "DNA" was actually starch, most likely from bread.) I cannot think of any case ever that has involved so much and such widespread false information. And such a committed group of people engaging in a coordinated effort to spread that false information. They spread the lies so far and so fast, it's impossible to fight it. So I wasn't going to blog about it again. I was going to be done.

Until I saw this story on CNN.com today. And now I have to give Alan Dershowitz a tongue-lashing. (A keyboard-lashing?) Because I expect more of an attorney. I expect more of any attorney, really, but especially someone who has established such a reputation, has defended criminal cases, holds himself out as an expert, and makes part of his living by being someone the public can turn to for reliable analysis of legal matters.

With his reckless comments on this case today,  he has utterly failed in his duty to provide reasonable analysis based on a thorough review of the matter at hand. I have previously complained about these legal pundits who don't bother to educate themselves before expounding far and wide. It's irresponsible, to put it nicely. But it seems to be exactly what Dershowitz has done because there is no way any credible, rational criminal lawyer can research this case and find the evidence supporting conviction "pretty strong." For crying out loud, the appellate trial (the first appeal in Italy is a full, fact-finding trial complete with jury, not at all like our appeals) didn't just find her not guilty; they affirmatively found her innocent. That's a pretty good indication the evidence against her is something other than "pretty strong."

I also find it beyond frustrating when people with experience in criminal defense act like it's so shocking and such clear evidence of guilt that she was badgered in an overnight interrogation in a foreign country to give a rambling, incoherent statement that maybe she imagined being in the kitchen and could in that imagining see the suspect the police identified for her being there. The very morning after this interrogation when she got away from that police pressure and got some rest, she immediately wrote that none of that seemed real and she was sure she and Raffaele hadn't been there. To anyone with criminal defense experience, the garbled statement she gave (which, yes, unfortunately implicated an innocent man) is a textbook coerced statement. That imagining language, the hypothetical stuff, the "maybe you had a dream" stuff is the hallmark language found in false statements. (Read John Grisham's "The Innocent Man" or Robert Mayer's "The Dreams of Ada.") False confessions, including false implications of others, aren't uncommon. They are found in 25% of innocence cases, sadly. Because it's remarkably easy to get a sad, tired, confused, frightened person to say what you want them to say, regardless of that statement's truth or the consequences of making the statement. I really expect someone of Dershowitz' caliber to know and understand these things.

I'm truly ashamed of Dershowitz for these comments. I'm ashamed of every legal pundit who is refusing to call this absurd spade of Amanda Knox's persecution the absurd spade it is. There is no virtue in refusing to come to the only logical conclusion a dispassionate review of the evidence can lead to. But if you aren't willing to engage in a thorough, dispassionate review of the evidence, you don't have the right to spew your opinion as if it's worthy of credibility because of your expertise.

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