The Edmonds Daybreakers Rotary Club is known for its light-hearted early morning meetings, but the mood turned somber Tuesday as attendees listened to a presentation by Michael Heavey on the case of University of Washington student Amanda Knox, convicted in 2009 of murdering her roommate while studying abroad in Italy.
Heavey is a King County Superior Court judge, but he made it clear that he was making his presentation “in a personal capacity.” Last September, Heavey — a neighbor of the Knox family — was admonished by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for writing letters in support of Knox.
Quoting from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — “An injustice anywhere is an threat to justice everywhere” — Heavey gave a Power Point presentation outlining the case against Knox, who was convicted of killing her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison for being an accomplice to murder and sexual assault, while her ex-boyfriend Rafaelle Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years.
Heavey said that the Italian police who arrested Knox were “under a lot of pressure to find an answer” to Kercher’s murder, and that Knox and Sollecito were wrongly accused and convicted for what Italian prosecutors described as “a drug-fueled sex orgy game gone wrong.”
An appeal of Knox’s conviction — currently being heard in Italy — centers on re-examining the two main pieces of evidence presented during the trial: DNA on the kitchen knife allegedly used to slash the victim’s throat and the clasp of her bra. According to Heavey, the defense contends that there wasn’t enough DNA on the knife handle to tie it to Knox and that the bra clasp with Sollecito’s DNA had been moved around the apartment for two months and was eventually found “under a throw rug” before being examined.
Heavey believes that local drifter Rudy Guede, who had participated in other burglaries in Perugia, was the sole murderer, having broken into the cottage that Knox and Kercher shared, then murdering Kercher when she arrived home. Knox and Sollecito said they were at Sollecito’s home watching a movie when the attacks occurred.
Guede chose to have an abbreviated trial and was convicted in October 2008 of murder and sexual assault, then sentenced to 30 years in prison. That sentence has since been reduced to 16 years, Heavey said.
Italian prosecutors and the Italian media painted an unfavorable portrait of Knox and she became “universally hated” before she went on trial, Heavey said, adding that “the hearts of the people of Italy and the jury had been hardened.”
Heavey also told the audience that the Italian prosecutor in Knox’s case, Giuliano Mignini, has been convicted of four crimes relate to prosecutorial misconduct. Mark Waterbury, the author of “The Monster of Perugia: The Framing of Amanda Knox,” also attended the Edmonds presentation at Heavey’s invitation and noted that Mignini is currently threatening legal action against both U.S. and Italian journalists who are covering the appeal. As a result, The Committee to Protect Journalists has sent a letter to Mignini stating that it is “particularly troubled by the manifest intolerance to criticism.”
Heavey said that Italian public opinion Knox appears to be softening, as evidenced by a recent OGGI magazine cover (the Italian version of People) that declared her “Innocente!” “I would encourage you to get involved,” he said. “This kid is innocent.”