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Jack comments on The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom - Less Wrong

42 Post author: komponisto 13 December 2009 04:16AM

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Comment author: Jack 13 December 2009 12:00:49PM 6 points [-]

Can you make explicit your intuitions? What experiences in particular lead you to think this?

Comment author: brazil84 13 December 2009 12:37:20PM *  1 point [-]

Well I've learned as an attorney that in general when people engage in a big or concerted effort to conceal, destroy, or manipulate evidence it's usually because the evidence is (or is perceived to be) damaging to their interests. Here, it seems pretty clear that Amanda Knox staged a break-in to her residence. Why would she do that if she were not involved in the murder?

At a minimum, she must have known before the police came that her roommate had met with serious misfortune. And how would she have known that if she had not been involved in the murder?

Similarly, it seems pretty clear that Knox attempted to manufacture an alibi by spinning a web of lies. Which is difficult to do nowadays since there are various electronic forms of evidence (cell phone records, internet records, etc.) to catch you up, which appears to be what happened.

I suppose it's possible she did all of this because she was innocent but still afraid the police would put the blame on her. But that doesn't make much sense since she could have easily pointed the finger at the African.

Comment author: Jack 13 December 2009 03:31:01PM *  5 points [-]

I'm pretty sure everyone agrees that if it is the case that Knox staged a break-in, knew before the police came that something happened to her roommate or tried to manufacture an alibi by spinning a web of lies then she is likely guilty. And we probably don't need experience as attorneys to tell us that. The question is whether or not the evidence in favor of those things outweighs the absence of physical evidence or any motive, and the fact that female college students don't commit many sexually motivated throat slittings. What evidence for the former exists and how that evidence should be interpreted doesn't appear to be a settled matter. At this point I'm not clear on what was misinformation and what wasn't. But even if a break-in was staged we have no particular evidence tying Knox to the staging. And the so-called "web of lies" is hard to distinguish from the tale of a scared and confused girl abused by police. She must have known something bad had happened to her roommate? This is big news to a lot of us, explain.

Comment author: brazil84 13 December 2009 03:55:27PM *  4 points [-]

"I'm pretty sure everyone agrees that if it is the case that Knox staged a break-in, knew before the police came that something happened to her roommate or tried to manufacture an alibi by spinning a web of lies then she is likely guilty."

I'm not sure if that's true, since the original poster did not really address the staging issue. There is a lot of evidence one can consider, and each of us can make our own judgment about what evidence is more important and what evidence is less important.

Anyway, let's break things down a bit, since your 3 "ifs" are not logically independent.

  1. Do you agree that if Amanda Knox staged a break-in, then she was probably involved in the murder?

  2. Do you agree that the evidence does in fact suggest that a break-in was staged?

  3. Do you agree that if a break-in was staged, the likely perpetrator (of the staged break-in) was somebody who had lawful access to the residence?

Comment author: Jack 13 December 2009 04:37:57PM 1 point [-]

1, Yes. 2. Whoever was in there appears to have made some effort to make things look like a burglary (that is the best explanation for the strewn clothes and the fact that nothing was missing). But that doesn't mean the window breaking was staged. I find the argument that the window as inaccessible and that the glass was on top of the clothing unpersuasive. I don't know if forensics got good photos of the glass, how much there was or if we're just relying on the word of the roommate. 3. If the window breaking was staged then it was likely done by someone with lawful access- that could be Knox, someone with Knox's key, Sallecito, Guede invited up by Kercher, one of Kercher's friends, the landlord etc.

Comment author: brazil84 13 December 2009 09:40:33PM 0 points [-]

I'm a little confused by your answer to number 2. It sounds like you basically agree that somebody tried to stage a break-in. No?

Comment author: Jack 14 December 2009 01:23:54AM 0 points [-]

Someone staged a burglary. It isn't necessarily the case that the broken window is part of a staged burglary rather then a way some intruder actually got in. Perhaps the murderer came in through the broken window but knew the victim and thought that making it look like a burglary would send the police in another direction.

Comment author: brazil84 14 December 2009 02:31:03AM *  1 point [-]

Well that's an important point. As others and I have mentioned, there is a small universe of people who would have had much incentive to stage a burglary. And that universe includes Amanda Knox and her boyfriend.

(Further, without knowing anything more, Kercher's roommate(s) would be the strongest suspects of such a staging. Because (1) only a roommate wouldn't have to worry about another resident showing up and discovering him or her; and (2) a roommate would have the strongest incentive to try to point the police somewhere else. For example, if a casual acquaintance broke in through the window and murdered Kercher, what would that person have to gain by staging a burglary? In effect, they've already engaged in a burglary anyway.)

Anyway, if somebody from that limited universe of suspects is hiding something and can't account for his whereabouts at the time of the murder, it's pretty likely that they were involved in the staging/murder.

Comment author: Jack 14 December 2009 07:26:21AM 1 point [-]

The universe of people who would have incentive to stage a burglary consists of just about everyone but actual burglars. If the police think that the murder is part of a botched burglary that throws them off the scent of stalkers, sex criminals and people romantically connected to Kercher (along with anyone who lived there or could plausibly have been invited in). Guede, in particular doesn't appear to be the brightest guy around. It seems more that plausible to me that he thought staging a break-in would help his case. He left physical evidence everywhere so on the fly he came up with the story of an anonymous attacker entering while he was in the bathroom. Then he breaks the window to try and create evidence consistent with his story. He doesn't flush the toilet for the same reason.

Or maybe the intruder went through Kercher's belonging looking for incriminating evidence-- love letters say-- and then made a mess of the roommates room to cover the search up.

Obviously I don't have any particular reason to privilege those scenarios but they seem to me about as plausible as two students without criminal experience or evident motive committing a rape-murder and not leaving any physical evidence behind. Remember, a rationale for staging a break-in doesn't have to be flawless. It just has to have enough surface sensibility that it would seem worth doing to Kercher's murderer/s.

Comment author: brazil84 14 December 2009 09:53:31AM 0 points [-]

"The universe of people who would have incentive to stage a burglary consists of just about everyone but actual burglars."

It seems to me there is a distinction between having any incentive at all and having much incentive. To be sure, it's possible to dream up lots of scenarios where someone who is a stranger or near stranger would stage a burglary, but that's just not realistic in my opinion.

Anyway, earlier I asked you the following question:

Do you agree that if a break-in was staged, the likely perpetrator (of the staged break-in) was somebody who had lawful access to the residence?

Am I correct in assuming that your answer to this question is "no"?

Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 04:32:42PM 1 point [-]

The idea of a staged burglary came from Mignini and was unsubstantiated. Since then, it has been debunked. He claimed it was staged due to two shards of glass on clothing. Those shards close up were revealed to be polka dots.

Comment author: brazil84 15 December 2009 05:50:44PM 0 points [-]

Well do you agree that one of the bedrooms had clothing and such strewn around it while the owner of the room testified that the room had been left orderly?

Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 04:33:22PM 0 points [-]

The only evidence was a broken window. He provided the unbased theoretical narrative (as usual).

Comment author: kodos96 14 December 2009 06:20:50PM 0 points [-]

This assumption that at least part of the burglary/break in was staged seems to me entirely unjustified. The only thing I've heard offered to support it is that the broken glass was on top of the strewn clothes, but seriously that doesn't prove anything... maybe the clothes were just strewn across the room innocently... maybe the glass just happened by chance to end up on top at the end of the clothes being mucked about with.... theres an infinite possible number of explanations that don't involve anything being staged.

And as to the assertion that it was staged since it looked like a burglary but nothing was stolen, thats simply not true: kercher's two cellphones were stolen, at a minimum (any number of other things might also have been stolen, but just not noticed missing, due to their owner not being around to point them out)

Comment author: Jack 14 December 2009 07:26:45PM 1 point [-]

Sorry, the clothes were strewn across the room innocently? By whom? For what possible reason? If the girl who lived in the room hadn't said anything about the matter I'd assume she was just messy. But that wasn't her testimony. The matter of the glass on top of the clothes depends on how much glass was found on top of the clothes. But I agree that it could have happened even if the window was broken first.

The two cell phones weren't being stolen isn't evidence that someone broke to steal them since they ended up tossed in someone's garden and not sold to someone. Something else might have been stolen but 1) the roommates and the family of the victim are probably capable of making a good accounting of Kercher's valuable possessions. Presumably this was done by the police, though their competence is definitely suspect at this point. And 2) it is improbable that someone breaking in to steal things would only happen to steal those things which belonged to the person they also killed and only those things her family and friends wouldn't notice missing.

The story that actually explains that a burglary without missing property is that the thief entered, was surprised by Kertcher, killed her (and raped her?) and then panicked and decided not to steal anything for fear it would implicate them.

Comment author: rmattbill 15 December 2009 12:35:01AM 1 point [-]

And let's not forget, that many stranger-on-stranger rapes are burglaries and crimes of opportunity.

Comment author: kodos96 14 December 2009 11:35:57PM 0 points [-]

"Sorry, the clothes were strewn across the room innocently? By whom? For what possible reason?"

I haven't seen the crimescene, I'm only speculating of course. But does the fact that some friends describe her as a neat person really preclude any possibility whatsoever that she might have had some clothes strewn about? Maybe she was a neat person who cleaned up her room once a day or so, but just hadn't gotten to her daily cleaning session yet that day when the crime occurred. Or maybe her friends were just being nice by describing her as neat. Or maybe any of a million other things. The point is that there are so many possible explanations for this that it has no evidentiary value - it's just noise, to paraphrase OP

Comment author: McJustice 03 January 2010 12:30:38AM 0 points [-]

I have not seen any evidence for a staged break in in Filomena's bedroom. And none was presented that was believable. A video was shown that appeared to show out of focus bits of glass on a dress... the idea being that the room was ransacked first and then glass fell on top from a staged window break. The problem with the blobs in the video was that they were not glass but polka dots on a an article of clothing as shown by other pictures of the same things. There is only Mignini's claim that it was based on the notion that nobody could have climbed in the window as well as him probably not liking it much since it did not fit his multi-person satanic orgy murder theory. And it is impressive that the alleged stager was so clever they managed to get glass only inside the room along with the rock... and as for nothing missing. Rudy liked to take money, phones, laptops and other things... From the burglaries we know of ( and allegations that he rifled through girls purses at Discos besides hassling the girls as well) he did not seem to take bulky items or valuable items like jewelry that could be fenced. We are not told what he did not take and cannot judge the value or utility of stealing them. He evidently did not find money there but he did later steal Meredith's rent money since his bloody fingerprints are on her purse. He did have money to spend at the disco and to flee to Germany and survive there for 2 weeks and the assumption is that it was Meredith's.

He may have been interrupted by Meredith coming home and after that had little interest in going back to a room he had already searched and did not find any money or items he may have wanted. After getting Meredith's money and raping her body and cleaning up (and he had over 2 or 3 hours to do all this) it is understandable he had less interest in rummaging through the other bedrooms and left to go to the Disco. He apparently stank according to the people who say him there so evidently did not go to his own flat first to shower.

Comment author: Unknowns 13 December 2009 03:35:40PM 1 point [-]

The only evidence we have that she was abused by police are Amanda's own statements, which were also contradicted by the police. Given the multiple contradictions in her stories, her claims about the police might or might not be true, but are certainly not strong evidence of anything at all.

Comment author: Alicorn 13 December 2009 03:40:49PM *  7 points [-]

What are the circumstances under which we might expect the police to admit to abuse? I doubt their lack of confession there is strong evidence for anything either.

Comment author: Jack 13 December 2009 03:53:20PM 7 points [-]

This is one reason why police record interrogations, to avoid people making false accusations of coercion to get out of confessions. Alas, first we were told the tape had gone missing. And then later told no tape had been made at all! We don't even have a transcript of the interrogation, just a signed statement Knox obviously didn't write herself. It really is a shame they lost the tape, er, I mean, that no tape was ever made. Then the Italian police could show the world that she was lying all along!

</sarcasm>... You're right of course that Knox isn't reliable. But coerced false confessions are fairly routine as I understand it and the police have every incentive to lie.

Comment author: McJustice 03 January 2010 12:49:52AM 5 points [-]

It is odd that after 4 days of taping all their phone calls and also the interviews during that time that they completely forgot to record the big one the night of the 5th & 6th. The one where Mignini was orchestrating the proceedings, and Giobbi was in the next room (presumably working his pseudo-science Behavioral Analysis Interview demeanor magic interpretation of the whole thing. 36 police were in the room along with Mignini...they all signed as witnesses... the typewritten Italian police legalese "spontaneous confession" doc.(why so many? to keep her company?) Mignini running out of time (he knew from the telephone calls that Amanda's mother was coming and that she might possibly get Amanda to the US embassy or out of the country. they had no grounds to hold her... they needed a confession and they knew they could get one and they did. The police had the investigator's hunch leading them to believe that they had a guilty person to break down... even though there was no physical evidence. And that was the problem they had the theory before any evidence and seem to have been stringing the interviews along while they waited for the strong evidence they were convinced was there... and yet no DNA, no fingerprints... nothing... but they were so sure... Giobbi the mindreading expert from Rome and Mignini the famous Prosecutor and the policewoman duo were so convinced and they set the tone and the rest of the police believed them... nobody was trying to railroad innocent people Miginini and the rest took off running based on a gut feeling and pseudo science. (and add to that an African hair sample and a misinterpreted text message from an African)

The police do tend to cut corners when they are convinced a person is guilty... that is when they can justify putting the screws on and they if they were really sure about someone they could make you or I or anyone seem "unreliable", a person who changes their story... a liar...

Comment author: Unknowns 13 December 2009 04:06:28PM 0 points [-]

In this case, much of the "coerced false confession" was independently corroborated by other witnesses and evidence, while her original alibi was proven false (i.e. by computer and cell phone records.) This would tend to support the police. Although I agree with Alicorn there there isn't much strong evidence either way in regard to how the police treated her.

Comment author: Jack 13 December 2009 04:44:03PM 6 points [-]

The false confession consisted of Knox's semi-hallucinated memory of her boss killing Kercher... who couldn't possible have done it. The police coerced that particular confession because they saw Knox's text message to him. That fact alone is enough to render the interrogation suspect. I don't recall reading that Knox confessed details which could reliably be confirmed independently. But I may have missed that.

Comment author: pataz1 16 December 2009 11:57:31PM -2 points [-]

Here's the counter-argument; Knox was voluntarily in the station when Sollecito was being questioned. They hadn't risen to the official level of 'suspect' yet. They started questioning Knox when Sollecito said Knox wasn't as his place for some of the evening. She started providing a statement against the bar owner; they still had her as a 'witness' instead of a 'suspect.' Even the written statement that was inadmissible against Knox was still initially a statement against the bar owner.

All very rational. :)

Comment author: Unknowns 13 December 2009 05:42:51PM 0 points [-]

http://www.truejustice.org/ee/index.php?/tjmk/comments/our_take_on_the_case_for_the_prosecution_4_amanda_knoxs_multiple_conflictin/

This link suggests that she testified to some things that were independently confirmed. Even regarding the confession about her boss, there doesn't seem to be much evidence that this testimony was coerced (although it was surely untrue.)

Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 04:36:23PM 2 points [-]

Her alibi was not proven false. Where did you read that her alibli was proven false? Just curious.

Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 04:35:21PM 3 points [-]

Other evidence of mistreatment are Raffaele's and Patrick's prior statements of similar treatment. They said it before the defamation claim by the police, which by the way, was made much time after the incident and was the day before the closing arguments by the defense.