Mignini Fiddled While Rome Burned

My wife just pointed out the ironic contrast between Amanda Knox prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. While Mignini reaped the rotten fruits of his distorted moral play against Amanda Knox, a million demonstrators took to the Roman streets asking for their corrupt leader’s political head. An excerpt from an Agence France-Presse report:

Former minister Rosy Bindi said she took part as a “simple citizen” and not as a representative of the Democratic Party (PD).

“It is significant that a large part of the country is reacting against and getting angry at a prime minister who doesn’t want to be judged and isn’t solving problems,” she told AFP.

Antonio di Pietro, a former anti-corruption judge and now leader of the Italy of Values party, denounced “the Berlusconi government’s great electoral, political, judicial and media swindle”.

Participants ranged from film director Nanni Moretti, who condemned Berlusconi’s domination of Italian television, to ecologists opposed to a planned bridge across the Straits of Messina and immigrant defense groups.

Protesters shouted “mafioso” at effigies of the billionaire prime minister, referring to a Mafia hitman who testified at a trial in Turin that his boss alleged Berlusconi had aided organised crime.

In league with the Italian mafia, Berlusconi recently vowed to strangle his detractors:

If I find out who is the maker of the nine seasons of ‘The Octopus’ and who has written books on the mafia, which give such a bad image to Italy across the world, I swear that I will strangle them.

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Knox, Knox. Who’s There?

Injustice.

If you have a daughter or son in college who may spend a year studying abroad, you’re likely shaken over the Amanda Knox case.

Perugia prosecutor Giuliano Mignini is himself under investigation for serious transgressions regarding abuse of power, which includes heavy-handed tactics against journalists. Florence prosecutor Luca Turco recently called for his judicial colleague Mignini to be jailed for ten months, according to a report in Britain’s The Daily Mail.

In fact, weigh in with most any American journalist who covers the case — Vanity Fair’s Judy Bachrach and West Seattle Herald’s Steve Shay, who appeared recently on CNN or Seattle Times reporters — and you’ll discover disturbing practices of jurisprudence. It becomes clear that the fathers of Perugia, a conservative city in central Italy, had it in for a free-spirited American who simply didn’t act like the locals. Couple that with a veracious tabloid press, an unvetted jury that is permitted to read and view all manner of whacky media accounts, and you have a formula for disaster. Oh, throw in the fact that the defense was not permitted to challenge suspect DNA evidence with its own experts. Talk about having the jury stacked against you.

At this point, the Knox family and Washington State Sen. Maria Cantwell are making entreaties with the state department via Hillary Clinton. The appeals process will likely commence in October. The likelihood of an appellate turnover Italian-style depends on who you talk to. I spent time in Italy as a college student. While I didn’t run up against the law, I did run into a bureaucracy that makes Washington look like a walk in the park, and I was just registering my Fiat 500.

Hopefully, appeals and pressure from the U.S. State Department and European diplomats will help tip the scales of injustice.
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‘In the Heat of the Night’ Italian Style: the Amanda Knox Verdict

Fast forward to the past, the American South of old: small town justice, small town sheriff, justice by prejudice. Only now it’s Perugia, the conservative, provincial Italian town, and the victim is Amanda Knox, the “angel faced” American college student plowed under by a railroad of bad press, bad judgment and bad practices in jurisprudence.

Here are a few good sources for this disturbing story:

  1. Vanity Fair contributing editor Judy Bachrach, who lived in Italy for four years and covered the Knox trial gavel to gavel. As she explained last night on CNN, the small-town Italian justice system derives directly from “the ancient inquisition.” The Knox prosecutor is himself the subject of an inquiry regarding other recent heavy-handed practices. Also, the Italian trial system is devoid of jury vetting and defense challenges to evidence, among other primitive processes.
  2. Such Knox family members as aunt Janet Huff. Huff has an astute understanding of the Perugia phenomenon, which includes gross prejudices fueled by a paparazzi-style Italian tabloid press that distorted innocent behavior and drew false conclusions from the get-go. See Huff’s video statement.
  3. West Seattle Herald reporter Steve Shay, who draws the same conclusions as Bachrach and Knox, from his independent investigation. He commented last night on CNN, with Jim Moret who was sitting in for Larry King.

Meanwhile, as Knox’s family pursues the painful appeals process overseas, Maria Cantwell, a U.S. senator from Knox’s home state of Washington, issued the following statement:

I am saddened by the verdict. I have serious questions about the Italian justice system and whether anti-Americanism tainted this trial. I will be conveying my concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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Manson Family: Still Evil After All These Years

Like Forrest Gump, I seem to be placed in historic moments. In the wee hours of the morning of Aug. 11, 1969, the Los Angeles Police stopped my travel companions and me. We were on our way out of town in my 1948 Cadillac hearse. It was the morning after the LaBianca murders, and just two days beyond the Sharon Tate massacre.

They searched the 22-foot-long vehicle and checked out its hirsute occupants. At the time, we had no idea why they had stopped us. They released us, to continue on our way to, oh yeah, Woodstock.

Our path through history had also taken us through Eureka, California the morning the Apollo 11 crew took their first giant step for mankind just a month earlier. My post “Moon Landing is Backdrop to Song” captures the irony of that moment.

Actually, we all seem to be reliving these events as 40th anniversaries abound. But this post isn’t my “On the Road” chronicle. It’s about the Manson clan and their quest for freedom.

My take is simple: no. No parole. No freedom. No leniency. Not for Susan Atkins. Not for Leslie Van Houten.

I’ve never been big on the death penalty, but I’m sorry the Manson team wasn’t fried. Their original death sentences were commuted to life behind bars, when the Supreme Court struck down death penalty laws in 1972. Consequently, now the families of Sharon Tate, her murdered friends and the LaBiancas must suffer the pain of further hearings, of impassioned pleas for mercy from the famous and the infamous, and of the possibility that one or more of the clan — specifically Atkins and Van Houten — could be set free.

True, Atkins, 61, is paralyzed and has terminal brain cancer. According to CNN, in her 1993 parole board hearing, Atkins said Tate:

asked me to let her baby live. … I told her I didn’t have any mercy on her.

But, according to Time.com (Time Warner owns CNN), Atkins really said:

Look bitch, I don’t care about you. I don’t care if you are having a baby. You are going to die and I don’t feel a thing about it.

The latter account is just a tad bit different in the evil department. Maybe Atkins’ reinvented, kind persona just “can’t handle the truth.”

Sharon’s sister, Debra Tate told CNN this spring that Manson family members convicted of murder should remain behind bars. She said the slayings were:

so vicious, so inhumane, so depraved, that there is no turning back. The ‘Manson Family’ murderers are sociopaths, and from that, they can never be rehabilitated. They should all stay right where they are — in prison — until they die. There will never be true justice for my sister Sharon and the other victims of the ‘Manson Family.’ Keeping the murderers in prison is the least we, as a society who values justice, can do.

Meanwhile, Van Houten continues her request for release. Her latest supporter is filmmaker John Waters. In a recent piece on Huffpost, he says, believe it or not:

I have a really good friend who was convicted of killing two innocent people when she was nineteen years old on a horrible night of 1969 cult madness. Her name is Leslie Van Houten and I think you would like her as much as I do.

CNN’s Erica Hill featured Waters on a show earlier this week. He pitched his latest book, “Crackpot,” and attempted to explain his friendship with Van Houten. CNN’s AC360 is doing a weeklong special on the Manson murders.

Water’s sense of justice is misplaced at best. Maybe he’s just trying to reclaim his past celebrity. He’s always courted the outrageous, so why should his appeal hold, uh, water.

So I’ll think of the victims of the Tate-LaBianca murders on this anniversary and forget once again the evil clan who took their lives in such cruel fashion. Then, I’ll move on to celebrate Woodstock as I did when I pulled away from the Los Angeles police back in 1969.
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