Debunking Gladwell’s Analysis of Amanda Knox: #7 “Look into my eyes…they’re not objective evidence”

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“I was angry.”

“I was angry…thinking about what Meredith must have been through.”

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“I think everyone’s reaction to something horrible is different.” She’s right!

Why is it that when her housemate was murdered, Knox forgot to feel afraid. A murderer was on the loose and she wanted to carry on studying as if nothing had happened. Why?

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“I did a split [in the police station, while Sollecito was being interrogated as a murder suspect]. It felt good to know I still could…”

What happened to the exhausting and abusive 53 hour police interrogation?

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“The lead investigator had doubts about Knox from the start…”

Oh, weren’t they justified?

In the Jodi Arias case friends of Travis told the detective to look into Jodi Arias.

Oh, weren’t they justified?

In the Chris Watts case friends of Shan’ann told the detective to look at Watts’ phone; to check the well site…

Oh, weren’t they justified?

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“Her behavior was completely inexplicable…”

Not quite. Not so fast…

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“Quirky people aren’t criminals…”

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“The Amanda Knox story deserves retelling because it happens all the time…?

Oh really? When last were you randomly accused of murder, and then you went on to make a killing, earning a $4 million jackpot deal for your story about how you – and your boyfriend [who got $1 million for his book] – were falsely accused.

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“There is no trace of me in the room where Meredith was murdered…”

All things being equal, if you were perfectly innocent, wouldn’t you have noticed Meredith had gone silent early on, tried to get hold of her and found a way to break down her door? Why is it that there isn’t a trace of you? Why is it that you were there that morning – you admitted you were – and yet there’s no evidence of you?

“There is no trace of me in the room where Meredith was murdered…”

No, just on the murder weapon, and did you forget your reading lamp on the bloodstained floor of Meredith’s bedroom? And why would a trace of your boyfriend’s DNA be on Meredith’s bra if you weren’t in the room? And how come Meredith’s bra was cut, and Meredith stabbed, and your boyfriend was a knife freak, he was carrying a knife in his pocket on the night he was arrested. If there was no trace of you, but Meredith was assaulted – including a sexual assault – why is there this fantasy rape story where a brother directs his brother to commit a rape? Why are there psychological traces of you within the scene?

“You’re trying to find the answer in my eyes…”

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Debunking Gladwell’s Analysis of Amanda Knox: #5 “Most of us aren’t very good at lie detection…”

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“Most of us aren’t very good at lie detection…”

Does this apply to true crime?

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“There may be a handful of “super-detectors”…

Yes there are, and folks like Joe Kenda [AKA Homicide Hunter] and John Douglas [AKA Mindhunter. Profiling isn’t a skill you’re born with, it’s one that’s honed, although one does need a knack for pattern-recognition and attention to detail.

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“What was Amanda Knox’s problem?”

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“Knox was confusing…”

It was pretty clear what was going on. Knox liked attention.

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“Knox was actually a bit of a misfit…”

No kidding. By the way, get this – most criminals are.

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“Mismatched are confusing and unpredictable…”

Unpredictable behavior is nevertheless predictable. df89950d148a48c56382be04e6d0bf2c

 

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Debunking Gladwell’s Analysis of Amanda Knox: #4 “The police investigation was shockingly inept…the prosecutor obsessive and wildly irresponsible.”

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“The police investigation against her was revealed as shockingly inept?”

Is that why resources were summoned from Rome?

“The analysis of the DNA evidence supposedly linking her and Sollecito to the crime was completely botched.”

Supposedly? Knox wasn’t convicted because the DNA evidence was botched, she was acquitted because of dubious claims of contamination. Were it not for these claims, Knox wouldn’t be able to trumpet the supposed lack of evidence linking her to the crime.

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Knox’s current narrative relies on the public and the media having a short memory, and of not being informed about the details of the prosecution and defense. Including this one:

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“Her prosecutor was wildly irresponsible, obsessed with fantasies about elaborate sex crimes…”

This reminds one of the West Memphis 3. “Satanic panic got them convicted”- not them.

“It took eight years…for Knox to be finally declared innocent…”

Strange, how come she only served 4 years in jail of a 26 years sentence? Jodi Arias trial and Oscar Pistorius fizzled through court rooms for several years. Steven Avery case is ongoing – apparently.

“When Knox was freed from prison, a large angry crowd gathered in the Perugia town square to protest her release…”

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At 01:32 in the trailer for OJ Made in America you see and hear a small woman screaming at OJ in an airport:

“YOU UGLY MURDERER, YOU UGLY-ASSED MURDERER!”

Was she wrong?

What about the crowd baying for the blood of Casey Anthony, and Chris Watts. Are they wrong?

“The Amanda Knox case makes no sense…”

Well, it does make sense. But it requires a long attention span, and it requires the stamina to wade through the four separate hearings. Most people don’t have that kind of focus, even those – especially those – enthralled by the defendant.

Knowing about Knox’s backstory as a poor girl from a broken family helps.

Knowing about Sollecito’s backstory, as a rich boy from a broken family helps.

Knowing about Meredith’s backstory, as a balanced, hard working, well-mannered, well brought up child in a mixed family, helps.

Knowing about the Ivorian’s background helps.

“Let me give you the shortest of all Amanda Knox theories…Her case is about transparency.”

Actually it isn’t. It’s about PR. It’s about lost in translation. It’s about playing people for fools using both sides of the fiddle. First you rubbish the DNA experts, then you pretend there was no DNA and count on the media to collaborate in your PR induced collective amnesia.

The Judge was a civil Judge. Knox case was his first or second criminal case. He didn’t understand blood evidence.

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Let me give you the shortest of all Amanda Knox theories…

This is the problem. But it’s not the first time Gladwell has been accused of oversimplifying, and being reductionist. There’s effective thin-slicing, and then there’s cutting things too finely. Gladwell commits the latter sin with his loosey goosey interpretation of Amanda Knox. It’s not an interrogation, it’s simply an opinion, and it’s woefully under-informed and mis-representative of the basic history of the actual case.

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But if we’re going to insist on being reductionist, how about this. What if there is an explanation for Knox’s ongoing – in fact – infinite capacity for oddness, and goofiness…?

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Knox had an unusually strict, regimented, sheltered life. Sheltered is a word Gladwell uses as he tries to make the point that he can’t explain the Amanda Knox case in hindsight. In his view it’s “completely inexplicable”. It’s not!

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Amanda Knox seems to playing the narrative now that she’s suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 12 years after the crime, when for the past decade, she’s become infamous for not showing any signs of trauma, for not acting emotional at the time.

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Even at her own murder trial, Amanda Knox always seemed to be smiling, as if she was enjoying being the center of attention, and regardless of why that was. Knox was conceived out of wedlock, an inconvenient fact her parents tried to cover up.

More: Look at me: why attention-seeking is the defining need of our times – The Guardian

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Debunking Gladwell’s Analysis of Amanda Knox: #2 Almost every line, practically each sentence is misleading

It’s astonishing just how off track Malcolm Gladwell’s precis is of the Amanda Knox saga. It’s as if someone [from the Knox camp naturally] provided him with an abstract, and Gladwell recycled it verbatim, and uncritically, from head to toe. Because it reads as Classic Apologia.

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“But Rudy Guede was not the exclusive focus of the police investigation…”


On November 20th, the Telegraph reported on Guede arrested “on a train near Mainz”, the capital of  the Rhineland-Pflaz region after an “international manhunt”.

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The article adds:

He was allegedly on his way back to Italy to turn himself into police. An unnamed friend, known only as Alberto, worked with police to persuade Guede that the longer he remained abroad, the guiltier he would seem. Guede confirmed that he was aware he was the target of a manhunt and said he wanted to talk to police to clear his name.

He wrote: “I know that [I am a suspect]”. He added: “The reson [sic] I want to talk with police man, cause the news give at me a wrong profile.” During a three-hour conversation on Skype, the internet telephone service, Guede is alleged to have told his friend that he was sleeping on a barge on the Rhine, and that he had slept in empty train carriages while in Germany.

Guede was unaware that police were listening into the conversation. Five days before the murder of Miss Kercher, Guede was discovered to have broken into a nursery school in Milan, where he had spent the night. He was armed with an 11-inch kitchen knife. He told police he had to “protect” himself against thieves.

Miss Kercher, 21, from Coulsdon, south London, was found in her house in Perugia with her throat cut on Friday November 2. Guede allegedly told his friend: “I was not there that night. If they found my fingerprints, it means I had left them there before. I had been in the house before, but not on the day of the killing. I knew Amanda and I knew Meredith, but I did not kill her.”

…he was stopped just after 7am on a suburban train near Mainz for not having a ticket. He told the police that he was wanted in Italy in connection with the killing of Miss Kercher. He will now appear before a judge and be extradited to Italy within the next week. He is wanted on suspicion of murder and sexual assault.

…a pair of Nike sports shoes were found which may be similar to a footprint inside Miss Kercher’s house. Guede’s arrest led to the release of Patrick Diya Lumumba, a 37-year-old Congolese bar owner, who has always maintained his innocence. Mr Lumumba spent 13 nights in Capanne prison after he was accused of the murder by Amanda Knox, Miss Kercher’s flatmate. Knox, 20, and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 23, are still in custody as suspects. While the police are certain they have a case against those now under arrest, the motive and circumstances of the killing are still unclear. More than 30 officers have worked non-stop on the case since Miss Kercher was discovered.

The way Gladwell frames it, Rudy Guede should have been the exclusive focus of the investigation. They should have pursued him, found him, arrested him and that should have been that. What Gladwell conveniently leaves out, and almost all the Knox Apologists invariably redact out of this case, is that Knox falsely implicated her boss in the crime. She claimed she had gone with her boss to the villa and heard him with Meredith in her room. Whatever anyone may say of these claims, or the circumstances in which they were made, Knox’s accusation led to the arrest of Lumumba, and what’s more, based on the merits of the accusation, it placed her at the scene of the murder based on her own version. And, as a result of this version, it contradicted Sollecito who had first said Knox was with him all night, then that he couldn’t be sure if she’d gone out after 23:00, and then that she’d never gone out.

Coming back to Gladwell’s narrative, he implies that it would be reasonable and fair for the police to focus on Guede only, and not on Lumumba, Knox, Sollecito or anyone else for that matter.

So were the police supposed to ignore Knox’s confession? Were the police supposed to ignore Guede’s assertion – during his long Skype chat – that Amanda had been present, as well as an Italian guy who insulted him, and assaulted him with a knife? Furthermore, Guede had admitted he’d been in the house previously and knew Amanda Knox. So why had she implicated her boss if not to purposefully misdirect the authorities away from someone who implicate her?

It should also be noted that the police didn’t arrest anyone immediately. It took around five days for the first arrests to be made, and this was after extensively questioning everyone who was known to have visited the villa, including a list of Knox’s boyfriends, and all of the roommates, upstairs and downstairs, as well as all of Meredith’s friends.

It was after this exhaustive approach that they noticed things weren’t adding up with Knox and Sollecito. As such Sollecito was brought back for a second interrogation and Knox decided to tag along. At the time Sollecito told the police he was having dinner and would come to the station when it suited them. It was during this interrogation that Sollecito was searched, and found to be carrying a knife, and also when he said he could no longer vouch for Knox’s whereabouts. Of course the moment he did that, he also lost his alibi.

Meanwhile, as Sollecito was being interrogated, Knox was behaving oddly in the hallway. According to her she was doing the splits. According to others she was doing cartwheels. The Italian authorities were appalled by her attitude, especially since Knox was supposed to be the person closest to Kercher, and ought to have been the most effected – the most traumatized by events. Instead, she seemed to be the least traumatized.


“[Guede] wasn’t more than an afterthought in the tsunami of media attention that followed the discovery of Kercher’s body…”


Again, Gladwell glosses over the relevant facts. Guede requested a fast-track trial. Because of this, and because no reporters were present, Guede was able to dodge a lot of the publicity surrounding the case.

By October 2008, less than a year after Kercher’s murder, Guede’s trial had concluded. He was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in jail, however this sentenced was lowered to 16 years on appeal. By contrast, Knox and Sollecito’s trial hadn’t even begun – theirs would only start three months later, in January 2009.


“The focus was instead on Kercher’s roommate. Her name was Amanda Knox.”


Gladwell apparently can’t understand why the focus was ever on Kercher’s roommate.  But there are a few ridiculously obvious reasons why Knox became the focus of the investigation.

For starters, Sollecito provided five contradictory versions of where he was during the night of the incident.

1. In the first version he and Amanda went for a walk from her cottage before heading to his apartment for dinner. They watched a movie while making and eating dinner, spent the night on the computer and slept until about 10:30 a.m.

2. The next day Sollecito provided a similar account to the Sunday Mirror, but added a detail. He said that they went to a party before going back to his apartment.

3.  Sollecito gave the cops a third account: “Amanda and I went into town at around 6 p.m….I don’t remember what we did. We stayed there until around 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. At 9 p.m. I went home alone and Amanda said that she was going to Le Chic because she wanted to meet some friends.” In this version, Amanda returned to his apartment at 01:00.

4. In his prison diary Sollecito said he “presumed” Amanda had done some grocery shopping before returning to his home around 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., where they smoked more pot. He doesn’t remember what time he ate, but was certain he ate with Amanda. He remembered surfing the Internet, maybe watching a film, and that his father called him. He thinks Amanda went out to a pub where she often worked, but didn’t recall for how long. On the other hand, he said he remembered Amanda told him later that the pub was closed.

5. At the end of the 2011 appeal Sollecito again stated that Knox was at his apartment that night. While he repeatedly said he spoke to his father around 11 p.m., there is no phone record of that call and there was no indication of any activity on his home computer after 9:10 p.m., when a movie on the computer ended and it seems there was not even any interaction with the laptop at that time. Furthermore, at 5:32 a.m. experts testified that someone unsuccessfully attempted to play an MP3 file on his computer followed by two more failed additional attempts. The individual switched to iTunes and played an MP3 file. If true, both he and Amanda did not sleep until at least 10 as they both have claimed.

Source: ABC News.

Even during the Guede trial, the evidence at the scene didn’t match his version of events. According to Wikipedia’s generic version of this aspect:

The court found that [Guede’s] version of events did not match the forensic evidence, and that he could not explain why one of his palm prints, stained with Kercher’s blood, had been found on the pillow of the single bed, under the disrobed body. Guede said he had left Kercher fully dressed. He was found guilty in October 2008 of murder and sexual assault, and sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment. Judge Micheli acquitted Guede of theft, suggesting that there had been no break-in…

It’s fascinating that Guede was both implicated in a break-in and acquitted. Why? Because he was known to break in to other places, and perhaps someone who knew him, or knew this, knew how to frame him. In any event, the crime scene implied a break-in, and yet nothing of value was stolen. There were laptops in each of the four women’s rooms, and yet none of them were taken, not even Meredith’s.

And so, if there was no break-in, it meant the break-in was staged, and who would do that?

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“She came home one morning and found blood in the bathroom…”


Gladwell describes the vital elements of the crime in the most vanilla detail imaginable. Knox didn’t come home “one morning”, she went to her home early, by herself [on a holiday], and then returned to Sollecito’s home carrying a mop. Knox was well-known for being slovenly and untidy in her own home, and this was the reason she sometimes argued with Meredith too, and yet on the night and morning surrounding Meredith’s murder, the washing machine is fully loaded, and Knox even wants to clean Sollecito’s apartment, and what’s more, early in the morning during a long weekend.

Gladwell also implies that – just as Knox did – the blood she encountered in the house was no big deal. According to Knox she saw blood, basically shrugged, had a shower, and then headed back to Sollecito with the mop.

In episode one of our analysis we saw that Guede’s shoeprints and other blood traces were pinkish instead of red, and in many cases transparent. One way to explain his near invisible shoeprints leading out of Meredith’s room to the front door could be that they were mopped up. Though Knox claimed Sollecito had had a plumbing catastrophe that night of all nights, it’s conceivable that the mop was stained with blood and needed to be disinfected or destroyed, and that’s why it was removed then from the villa to Sollecito’s flat. We also know when the police visited Sollecito’s apartment, it smelled strongly of bleach.

In Knox’s version of seeing the blood, she claims she thought Meredith was having her period, and also that her own blood – from a recent ear piercing – may have dripped onto the bathroom faucet [or tap], and thus mixed with hers. In this “suggestion” Knox admits the possibility that her own blood mixed with Meredith’s blood, and in her version, this is entirely plausible because they lived together.

In her email to friends of family Knox provided the following dubious account:

…it was after i stepped out of the shower and onto the mat that i noticed the blood in the bathroom. it was on the mat i was using to dry my feet and there were drops of blood in the sink.Fullscreen capture 20190926 205018 at first i thought the blood might have come from my ears which i had pierced extrensively not too long ago, but then immediately i know it wasnt mine becaus the stains on the mat were too big for just droplets form my ear, and when i touched the blood in the sink it was caked on already. there was also blood smeered on the faucet. again, however, i thought it was strange, because my roommates and i are very clean and we wouldnt leave blood int he bathroom, but i assumed that perhaps meredith was having menstral issues and hadnt cleaned up yet.

Despite her denial in the email, as it turned out, the blood on the bathroom faucet tested positive for Knox’s blood. It’s possible Knox had bled from a neck wounded inflicted by Meredith’s flailing fingernail.

Besides this trace, five traces of Knox’s DNA were found mixed with the victim’s at the crime scene. Including this one.

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As you can see, even in this image the blood is dilute, transparent and barely visible. If someone cleaned it up, especially at night, they may have not realized it was still barely visible. This is the same view from further away.

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It’s in this very specific area that Knox’s goofiness is recruited to explain behavior that makes no sense, and also made no sense when her Italian roommate Filomena Romanelli found out about it. Knox, arriving home and finding blood [blood she claimed didn’t belong to her], simply took it in her strike, had a shower and trotted off again without a care in the world.

At the time Knox was showering, Meredith was lying dead in her bedroom, just a single door away down the hall. All Knox needed to do was knock on the door and ask if Meredith was okay. But because Knox is “goofy” she didn’t react to the blood in the house like most people would. Instead, what she seemed to be doing, was cleaning. Was this part of that goofiness too?

We get a wonderfully descriptive account from Knox herself of this moment in Waiting to be Heard. It paints a vivid portrait, but fails to explain why knox didn’t simply knock on Meredith’s door to find out if she was okay, or call out to her, or call her on her phone.

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In Sollecito’s book Honor Bound he admits they ate fish for dinner, but says nothing about cutting himself. He does write at some length about Knox being an idiot when she encountered the blood in the bathroom.

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Where do we draw the line between goofiness and reasonable suspicion? How about the fact that Knox was bleeding to begin with? How about the fact that when Meredith was bleeding [on the night of her murder], so was Amanda Knox. That’s one heck of a coincidence.

Knox wrote [a]  letter at 11pm on the day of her arrest, asking for sheets of blank paper and a pen while in custody…She said she had not asked her boyfriend, Sollecito, to provide her with an alibi, and instead said that at one point, she recalls him with “blood on his hands”. However, she said she thought it was blood from a fish they had cooked for dinner.

Source: The Telegraph, 22 November 2007

Interestingly, Sollecito claims he accidentally cut Meredith.

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More: Tests on knife found near Meredith’s house

So now we have Rudy Guede and Amanda Knox who were both bleeding on the night of the murder. And Sollecito admits he cut Meredith with a knife [“accidentally”]. So why wouldn’t you have three suspects?

END OF PART 1


“She and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, called the police.”


Amanda Knox never called the police. Sollecito called his sister, who was a policewoman, and she advised him to call the police. When the first call was made, and the substance of the first call, and the second call should also be acknowledged.

First 112 Call:

SOLLECITO: Hello, good day, listen … someone has entered the house breaking the window and has made a big mess and there is a closed door…No, there’s no theft… they broke a window… there is a mess… there is also a closed door… a mess.

Second 112 Call:

SOLLECITO: Yes hello, I called two seconds ago.

POLICE: Someone has entered the house and broke the window?

SOLLECITO: Yes…They didn’t take anything, the problem is the closed door, there are bloodstains.

POLICE: There is a closed door. Which door’s closed?

SOLLECITO: [The door] of one of the flatmates who isn’t here and we don’t know where she is.

POLICE:And there are blood stains outside the door of this flatmate who’s not there?

SOLLECITO: The blood stains are in the bathroom.

 

 


“The police came…”


The postal police arrived first, investigating a report that cellphones had been stolen. The time that the carabinieri arrived is still a matter of some dispute. What’s not in dispute is the time of the calls. The first was made at 12:51:40. Even if Knox’s account is true, that she visited the villa at around 10:00, it means it took them more than three hours after seeing blood and the broken window to call the police. Someone else who found cell phones in their garden that morning took less time to call the police.

It has also been speculated that Sollecito made the first call either after the postal police arrived, or when he saw them approaching.


“Kercher dead in her bedroom…”


Kercher wasn’t just dead in her bedroom, she was found naked with her legs open in a starfish position, and with her buttocks propped on a pillow. Just as the burglary appeared to be staged, so did Kercher’s body.


“Within hours they added Knox and Sollecito to their list of suspects.”


This is not only misleading, it’s being very “economical” with the facts of this case. Knox and Sollecito were interviewed like everyone else, and only after several days, arrested. Their arrest was contingent on their own dodgy, dubious and doubtful statements, statements that ultimately implicated each other, themselves and others. If there was nothing to hide, an alibi ought to have been simple, just as it had been for everyone else.

Gladwell is incorrect to use the word “hours” – it took at least five days to arrest Knox and Sollecito, and if anything, they found Sollecito more suspicious than she was, which is why they summoned him to the police station on November 6th, and not her.

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“The crime, the police believed, was a drug-and alcohol-fueled sex game gone awry…”


How on earth did the police get that crazy idea?


“[The game] featured Guede, Sollecito and Knox…”


A staged burglary, so why not a staged sexual assault? Guede had said he left Meredith with her clothing on, and yet she was found naked. Also, blood had spattered onto her bra, and yet her breasts had no blood on them. Did the rapist forget to undress Kercher, or did he undress Kercher only after she was dead?

Why would someone stage a sexual attack? Well, if the obvious suspect was a female housemate, what was the obvious way to exclude a female as a suspect?


“The three were arrested, charged, convicted, and sent away to prison…”


Well, four were arrested, one because of Knox’s slander. Knox and Sollecito were convicted not once, but twice, and when Knox was acquitted, she was unable to sue for compensation for an unjust sentence, because she had been convicted on the slander charge and on staging the crime scene charge [obstruction of justice].


“…every step [of the prosecution] was chronicled obsessively by the tabloid press…”


Is the Telegraph tabloid press?

Is the Daily Beast tabloid press?

Is the New York Times tabloid press?

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END OF PART 2

Debunking Gladwell’s Analysis of Amanda Knox: #1 “Rudy Guede [the black guy] did it”

The chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s book TALKING TO STRANGERS dealing with Amanda Knox is Chapter 7 of 12 chapters, in Part 4 of 5 parts. As the chapter itself admits, it’s a “short” explanation of the Amanda Knox case. And that’s the problem. In a case spanning four years and four separate hearings [between November 2007 and October 2011], five pages hardly does the Amanda Knox case justice.

I’ve written six books on the case, with two to go. That’s two trilogies. This blog post on it’s own [and it will be one of several on the same subject] is likely as long if not longer than Gladwell’s chapter on Knox. It’s impossible to give this case a fair airing in a single “short” chapter. Even in that chapter Gladwell provides other cases, including Bernie Madoff and someone he refers to as “Nervous Nelly”.

And Gladwell* admits at one point:

I could give you a point-by-point analysis of what was wrong with the investigation of Kercher’s murder. It could easily be the length of this book…But instead, let me give you the simplest and shortest of all possible Amanda Knox theories. Her case is about transparency.

Gladwell is an expert at thin-slicing, and arguably a craftsman at keeping things short, sweet and succinct. For my part I’ve bought, read and enjoyed several of Gladwell’s books.

The problem here, dealing with this particular subject matter, is that brevity becomes reductionist. Short becomes not only simplistic, but grossly oversimplified.  What Gladwell’s done here is basically taken the veneer of the mainstream media version of Knox’s story, the generic Wikipedia version, and adopted it seemingly at face value. He may have Googled a few other sources, and did some background reading, but then figured, he’s figured it out, let’s stick to the basics and not confuse the audience.

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True Crime sets a high bar for truth-telling, and though Gladwell means well, it’s questionable whether he succeeds in clarifying the Knox case or contaminating it even more than it already is.

Bear in mind, his book isn’t a book on the Amanda Knox case, it’s a book about something else, and the Amanda Knox case is just one short chapter on the way to making his points about effective discourse with strangers.

In this series True Crime Rocket Science will evaluate Gladwell’s assertions on Knox. In itself, Gladwell’s “thin-slicing” of the Knox case is fortuitous – it’s an excellent summary of the mainstream narrative and what’s wrong with it. It also shows how in our haste to make our “expert” opinions known, we are tempted to cherry pick the low hanging fruit that suits our own confirmation bias. True crime can’t be rushed, and complex criminal cases shouldn’t be treated like a convenience store for civil intertextuality.

You get intertextuality within crimes, and that’s one thing, but there be dragons when you start to assume murder suspects are innocent and they are then recruited as part of a PR effort to promote some sort of cerebral agenda.  It would be like conflating Stephen Avery with the plight of the poor – just don’t do it. Leave true crime out of it. It’s a separate discipline.

If Gladwell is a cognitive specialist, the Amanda Knox case is the epitome of a case, and a character, that is anything but cerebral.

From Vocabulary.com:

Cerebral people use their brains instead of their hearts. 

I don’t mean that the case itself isn’t challenging, I mean the personality and the character of Amanda Knox, as it relates to the Murder of Meredith Kercher, is anything but cerebral. Knox’s book Waiting to be Heard is exhibit A in confirming someone who was trying to live it up, as most students do.

Chocolate festivals, sex, Halloween parties [and not being invited to them], boyfriends [and being passed over by someone you fancy living downstairs in favor of her housemate], smoking marijuana and then stepping the recreational drugs up a gear.

The most cerebral aspect of Knox’s existence in 2007 was Harry Potter. She read it in English, German and at the time of the murder, was trying to read The Deathly Hallows in Italian. Even in her choice of boyfriend, Knox selected Raffaele Sollecito because he resembled her hero Harry Potter.

Instead of carrying a wand and being interested in magic, Sollecito was a knife freak, who was into violent manga and cocaine. In today’s parlance we’d think of the young Italian as an incel. He was closer to an Elliot Rodger than Harry Potter, and Knox herself – loud, boisterous and promiscuous – was no Hermione.

This is what I mean by “the personality and the character of Amanda Knox, as it relates to the Murder of Meredith Kercher, is anything but cerebral.”

But let’s deal with the cool intelligence of Gladwell as he writes about the case. We’ll assume, as a thought leader, he became a scholar of the case, and we’ll test his application of his research through the prism of True Crime Rocket Science.

Worth playing for? 

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1. Someone was caught = case closed?

It seems ridiculously obvious doesn’t it? The black guy did it, so what’s the fuss about Amanda Knox anyway?

This is what’s known as being reductionist in true crime. Similar arguments have been made against the West Memphis Three, the three youths accused of brutalizing, torturing and murdering three eight-year-old boys. Why did three youths have to be guilty? Why couldn’t it be just one, or for that matter, anyone? Curiously, one of those youths found guilty and then acquitted in the West Memphis  Three case appeared on the same stage to proclaim his innocence as Amanda Knox.

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Interestingly, in the West Memphis Three case, one of the main challenges to the prosecution’s case is also a black person as a “possible alternate suspect”.

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It should be noted, in the trials of Amanda Knox, as well as those of the West Memphis Three, Knox and Damien Echols both were charged with two sidekicks, and both received the harshest sentences. Both were implicated as ringleaders within a trio of suspects.

So Gladwell’s very first sentence in his chapter implies that because some person was caught and charged, Knox is off the hook. In theory, he could have stopped at that sentence and gone on to the next chapter.

There are many cases involving accessories to murder, one of the most famous – but never proved, nor tested in a court of law – was JonBenet Ramsey. JonBenet’s parents were found by the Grand Jury to be accessories after the fact to the a third party.

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So even that case involves a potential trio – of accessories and a perpetrator. I could go on, but let’s get back to Gladwell. Nowhere that I can see, does Gladwell provide the most obvious thin-slicing. What’s the first thing one does when establishing the possible involvement of a potential suspect? What’s the first and best way to exclude a potential suspect of a crime? You find out whether they have an alibi. It’s not rocket science. And so you need two pieces of information. When did the victim die, and where was the suspect at this estimated time of death?

2. True Crime 101: Be Precise About Time of Death

I love the way Gladwell uses the most indirect language to the skirt around this issue. He doesn’t write: “At 22:11 Rudy Guede murdered Meredith Kercher. At that time, Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito to were – WHERE EXACTLY?”

Instead Gladwell uses pretty clumsy English – for him.

“On the night of…Meredith Kercher was murdered by…”

Murdered by? I’m not sure when last I’ve heard those words. X murdered Y. It’s never a case of X was murdered BY Y.

By being this vague about the timing, Gladwell’s also vague about the date. November 1 was a holiday in Italy. It meant, on that day, most of the students in Perugia where Knox was attending college were away, visiting their parents over a long weekend. This meant it was only Knox and Kercher in the house, no one else. They were the only expats. And what do university students – especially expats – tend to do over long weekends?

In his next sentence, Gladwell juxtaposes mountains of speculation [what’s argumentation?] and controversy with the certainty of Guede’s guilt. Yes, Guede’s guilt is certain. He left his feces in the toilet bowel, and a bloody handprint on the wall above Meredith Kercher’s bed. He also left a series of shoeprints when he bolted from Meredith’s room down the hall and out the front door.

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And this is where the rubber of True Crime Rocket Science hits the road. Look at the image of Guede’s shoe trail. What do you see? You don’t see anything. If you’d entered the house, as Knox claimed she did, at face value you wouldn’t see any blood. That’s a problem.

3. Where’s the blood, and why is so much of it a washed-out pink?

The original crime scene in Meredith’s bedroom was a bloodbath. Meredith throat was gashed deeply in two places, and she was also cut or stabbed seven times and had sixteen bruises on her body.

As Knox herself said: “She fucking bled to death…” When that happens, there’s a lot of blood. And there was. Arterial blood sprayed everywhere, and yet the crime scene had a weird combination of thick pools of blood, and pinkish transparent streams of diluted blood.

There was also a weird combination of the grotesqueness of the crime itself, and the fact that Meredith’s murderer had thoughtfully placed a duvet over her body, then closed the door behind him [or her], and locked it.

Somewhere in Gladwell’s “mountains of controversy” there are a few good reasons. Thin-slicing the evidence around Guede, we see if he was the only murderer, and if he beat a hasty retreat, then why did he fail to leave clear shoeprints in Meredith’s blood? He’d left a finger smear on the wall, and clearly more blood had to have sprayed onto his trousers and pooled onto the floor, so it was more likely he’d leave a trail of shoeprints. So why aren’t they there? Why, instead, are there various other footprints and shoeprints laid into the blue bathroom mat and in a shoe Guede didn’t even own?

So we have a situation here where it appears someone spent time cleaning up the crime scene – not only inside Kercher’s room, but in the hallway. Guede’s shoeprints left in Meredith’s blood were mostly wiped away, but not completely. Why weren’t they clearly visible, bright, and solid? After all, blood in a situation like this, where someone’s neck is cut open, is thick and scarlet. Think about Nicole Brown. So much blood flowed out of her it traveled down the garden path and dripped onto the sidewalk.

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We won’t go into detail here about the blood evidence, or the mixed DNA traces, but it’s extensive. There’s an orgy of evidence.

4. “I wasn’t there” vs “Of course my DNA was there, I lived there”

Knox often refers to this aspect dismissively, saying there’s no evidence of her in the crime scene. She seems to be referring to Meredith’s room when she says that. As if the crime scene begins and ends inside Meredith’s room.

From EW.com:

Knox’s lack of DNA in Kercher’s room was no fault of her own. According to Knox, cleaning DNA is not one of her specialties. “That’s impossible. It’s impossible to see DNA, much less identify whose DNA it is.”

It’s not impossible to see DNA. If blood is lying on the ground, DNA is in that blood lying on the ground. If you clean up the blood, you clean up the DNA.

<> on September 29, 2011 in Perugia, Italy.

When asked about her DNA in Meredith’s blood elsewhere in the house, Knox is equally dismissive.

“Of course my DNA was there. I lived there! We lived together for months…”

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5. Shady Character/s

Now let’s deal with Guede. Gladwell accuses Guede of being a “shady character” but doesn’t explain why. He mentions Guede having a “criminal history”, but doesn’t say what for.

So let’s answer that. Guede was drug dealer. He was said to be involved in several break-ins, but these were so petty, even when he was caught, the police didn’t press charges. More pertinently, Guede was a fairly frequent visitor to the house where Meredith, Knox, and the Italian boys downstairs lived. He played basketball with the guys, and sometimes smokes joints with the girls. On at least one occasion Guede got so high he fell asleep in the bathroom of the villa.

Gladwell is right to observe that Guede had been hanging around the house, but he should be more explicit that he also hung around inside it. On one occasion he went out clubbing with them. In this scenario, where Guede is a fairly frequent companion to the residents of the villa, it suddenly becomes less preposterous that there might be a crime involving more than one person.amandaKnox_2142321a

We’ve also got to link Guede to Knox’s Italian boyfriend. How do we do that? Actually, it’s pretty simple. How did one link Guede to any university student?

Guede was drug dealer.

In July 2014 the Telegraph reported on a cocaine dealer who Knox met on a train and had sex with, while her younger sister was traveling with her through Italy [and just prior to her commencing her studies in Perugia]. Guess what? This cocaine dealer wasn’t Rudy Guede, it was someone else.

Amanda Knox was reportedly having sexual relations with a cocaine dealer…Reports of Ms Knox’s drug dealing connections were not mentioned at her murder trials in Italy, but the Italian crime magazine Giallo has reported that in January 2008, police investigators wrote that she had had a relationship of a “supposedly sexual nature” with a man they refer to as ‘F’, who had sold drugs to the US student.

Giallo wrote that ‘F’ was a psychology student from Rome who met Ms Knox on a train from Milan to Florence and shared a joint with her. His number was later found on Ms Knox’s cell phone and Giallo said he had been in contact with her frequently, before and after the slaying of Ms Kercher.

Source: The Telegraph.

What we have here is a precedent for Knox and Sollecito to require the drug peddling services of Guede. And if he was a shady character, and they were actively using his services, what does that say about their characters?

When Gladwell refers to Guede hanging around the house Knox stayed in, why was he hanging around? Well, what about to do his trade with them, as he was doing with the student population in general?

Gladwell portrays Guede as a stranger to Knox, but that’s a mistake. It’s even possible Knox was either sleeping with Guede, or infatuated with him.

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Source: The Education of Amanda Knox, from thestranger.com

Meredith Kercher Murder Trial Resumes

6. Fleeing the crime scene

Gladwell finishes off his opening gambit linking the discovery of Kercher’s body to Guede fleeing to Germany [where, as it happens, Knox’s aunt also lived].

Now, to be clear, all of Meredith’s British friends fled Perugia. They cut short their studies and decamped back to Britain. But Knox wanted to stay. Everyone in the villa had to move out following Meredith’s murder, but Knox wanted to continue staying there. In fact, Knox was bummed out that she’d just paid the rent and now wasn’t going to get anything for it. Knox wanted her life to go on business as usual, even though someone in the room next door to her had been brutally murdered.

Gladwell might dismiss this as simply quirky, but most right-thinking people would realize something more was amiss. This isn’t just goofy behavior, although the goofy behavior is relevant. It’s more goofy than everyone else, why is that? And what might this goofiness have to do with her street cred, and her attitude to…say…alcohol use [as a 21-year-old American] and her proclivity to recreational drug use, and sex?

When Guede went to Germany, a friend of his got hold of him on Skype and had a conversation. This is an extract of that conversation.

GUEDE: I’m afraid. But I don’t want to stay in Germany, I’m black and if the police catch me I don’t know what they might do to me. I prefer Italian jails. In the newspaper they’re writing that I was drunk and slept on the toilet. That’s crap. In that house we were smoking joints, we smoked and so did those girls, everyone did. After that I said to the guys, who are men of their word, “Listen, guys, I’m tired, I can’t walk now, can I sleep over here?” So I slept on their sofa. I was only ever at their place twice. After that, after that I met Amanda, but I didn’t talk to her any more, I just saw her one other time, at that pub, at Lumamba’s pub, whatever his name is.

GIACOMO: Right, Lumumba.

Slipping ahead.

GUEDE: Listen to this [Guede is reading from a newspaper], “Meredith’s clothes were put in the washing machine. When the police came to the house it was still full, the girl’s clothes were wet”, so if that really did happen, Amanda or Raffaele did it. Do you understand? That must have been them, if it really happened.

GIACOMO: Why would they have done that?

GUEDE: Because when I left she was dressed, see?

GIACOMO: Meredith? The girl who died?

GUEDE: But Meredith was dressed.

GIACOMO: So they killed her dressed?

GUEDE: Yes, but it says here that they were washed in the washing machine, but it’s not true, she was dressed, she had a pair of jeans on and a white shirt and a woolen thing. She was dressed.

GIACOMO: All right, and that…

GUEDE: This means that they washed them, Giacomo. I left [the house], and that guy [quello] must have left that house and…

GIACOMO: But what the hell did Amanda go wash the clothes for?

GUEDE: How the hell do I know?

Read the rest of the transcript here.

There’s also something else that’s interesting. When Knox was arrested, she implicated another black man as being at her apartment. Her boss. According to that confession she was with this black man while he was in the room with Kercher. What are the chances Knox would know that Meredith’s killer was black person before anyone, before the rest of the world did?

And further, if Guede was at the villa, and Knox knew about him, why wouldn’t she tell the police about him, rather than her boss, was a married father who had never been to her home to begin with?

In Episode #2 TCRS will deal with Gladwell’s version of the police investigation into Knox and Sollecito, including his version of the forensic evidence. 

*Malcolm Gladwell. Talking to Strangers (Kindle Locations 1975-1983). Little, Brown and Company.

Malcolm Gladwell reckons we have a hard time recognizing the truth – about Amanda Knox

Many of Malcolm Gladwell’s techniques are highly applicable to true crime. Thin-slicing is one. An example of just how brilliantly effective thin-slicing can be is in the hugely complex quagmire of serious relationships and marriage. How the heck does one thin-slice that? And yet, we can.

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When couples show one particular trait the relationship is predictably doomed. That trait is Contempt.

This is a fascinating insight into perhaps the most complex of all human and social dynamics – romantic relationships. How often have we all been stung, misled, betrayed and lied to? How often have others felt that way way – and often misunderstood – those traits in us? When couples first engage, whether on Tinder or at the altar, what everyone wants to know including them is: is this fucker going to last?

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Contempt provides the litmus test. If there’s any contempt in the beginning, a relationship is not likely to see a very good, very happy or very long run. Contempt cuts through the crap of what the Terminator once referred to as “the dynamics of human pair bonding”.

Is a marriage going to end in divorce? If there’s contempt in the beginning, middle or end, it surely will.

Now, we can apply the same Gladwellian techniques almost across the board with true crime. These are just a few examples of thin-slicing tricks that work more often than not in true crime:

  1. The absence of evidence is also evidence. I’ve heard prosecutors in court phrasing it slightly differently – the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. What this means is where there is no evidence, where we would expect to see it [regardless of whether there is a crime or not] this in itself is evidence of something. A good example is deleted cell phone data, or a crime scene that has recently been vacuumed, or laundry done in the middle of a murder etc.
  2. Not all liars are murderers, but all murderers are liars. Just as contempt is a quick route to check whether a relationship will stand the test of time or not, if a suspect – or potential suspect – proves to be even a little economical with the truth especially during an interrogation, this tends to be a red flag. There are exceptions, Nichol Kessinger being a current example. But in true crime it’s usually not hard to find out whether someone is telling the truth or not. Invariably it’s not a little white lie here or there, it’s a case of living a lie.
  3. Social death of the perpetrator as a precursor to murder. This is more difficult to recognize, and thus tougher to thin-slice, because it’s symbolic, and this is really the area we miss when trying to figure out other people. What matters to us matters to others in different proportions. pinocchio-ears
  4. The Temptation of PleasureLand. Whether it’s Oscar Pistorius or Amanda Knox, OJ or Chris Watts, what crimes invariably involve is a PleasureLand calling from a distance. The crime is intended to make sure access is not denied to an imagined PleasureLand. PleasureLand both tempts the perpetrator, and numbs their sense of reality.

Once one gets the hang of Gladwellian thin-slicing, it feels like everything can be thin-sliced.

There’s a lot of thin-slicing going on in true crime, especially in the media coverage. It’s inevitable that talk show hosts will try to reduce high-profile crimes that have been bumper-to-bumper for weeks, months, sometimes years, to a golden nugget. Do they get it right?

True crime is a complex psychology, and tends to have very complex gears and machinery driving antisocial behavior. The identifies of people are complex, the dynamics between them even more so. And since so much of this machinery is deliberately hidden, while some of it is freely disclosed, this challenges and tests our ability to discern truth from reality. Most of us can’t, and no one can without doing their due diligence, spending time getting to know the people involved.

Just as identity isn’t the same as character, truth isn’t the same as reality.  While identity is constant, character can be refashioned, rebooted, reimagined. Truth isn’t interchangeable with this or that reality. Reality is whatever we believe, or say it is. Truth, the TRUE in True Crime Rocket Science isn’t a matter of beliefs, it’s scientific.

In true crime, typically when an expert says it that’s the new reality. When an influential person prognosticates that becomes true crime gospel. But that’s not truth. That’s thin-sliced reality. Thin-sliced truth is harder and far more difficult to do properly, especially in true crime. It takes a mind practiced in criminal psychology, and saturated with knowledge of the case, to come close to getting it right.

We see it when Dr. Phil thin-slices Chris Watts’ Sermon on the Porch, and assesses him as guilty because he’s a narcissist. And then the true crime forums are flooded with people repeating that word.

Dr. Phil Covers Chris Watts – and uses the “N” Word

When an ex-FBI profiler on Dr. Phil calls Watts a psychopath, the true crime world shudders with new revelation. That’s why this crime was committed!

When an ex-FBI profiler, the legendary John Douglas [AKA Mindhunter] says he thinks Amanda Knox is innocent, that’s enough – apparently – for Gladwell.

Wrongfully Accused

Douglas was paid handsomely for his expert opinion in the West Memphis 3 case,  basically applying the same thin-slicing to Damien Echols as Amanda Knox. It goes like this: “Just because you behave in a weird way after a vicious murder [in Echols’ case the triple murder of three eight-year-old boys], doesn’t mean you were involved in a crime.”

Douglas was also called by John Ramsey’s defense lawyers within two weeks of JonBenet’s murder. Douglas famously bragged that after two hours of talking to John Ramsey [who appeared “appropriately sad and depressed”], Douglas told Ramsey’s lawyer Bryan Morgan – of Haddon, Morgan and Foreman –  “I believe him.”

A Grand Jury two years later did not, and the results of that hearing were kept secret for the next 13 years.  And then? The public thin-sliced the then District Attorney’s statement that “there’s not enough evidence to have a trial” to mean that’s what the Grand Jury thought. It wasn’t.

Thin-slicing can be used just as easily to manipulate. In Amanda Knox’s case, if you were trying to influence public opinion [after her original conviction], where would be the obvious place to start? Start by undermining the Italian justice system. That’s what they did and it worked.

But let’s look a little closer at the way Gladwell thin-slices the Knox saga, and why Knox got her way in the end.

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From the New York Times:

In “Talking to Strangers” he asks why we are “so bad” at understanding people we haven’t met before. We often can’t tell when a stranger is lying to us (“Puzzle Number One”), and meeting a stranger face-to-face doesn’t necessarily help our understanding of who they are (“Puzzle Number Two”). 

Amanda Knox has always been an enigma. One might say the same of Damien Echols, Oscar Pistorius, Casey Anthony and Chris Watts. These men and women aren’t the average. Look closer, and at the time they were accused of murder, they were both on the fringes of society and trying to break into PleasureLand.

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In true crime, thin-slicing can be a double-edged sword. Just as weird behavior can be used to say someone isn’t necessarily guilty of something, weird behavior can be used to say someone is. When Douglas met John Ramsey and Ramsey appeared appropriately sad, there was nothing weird about that. When Knox was photographed outside the villa where Meredith lay dead, having been brutally attacked and bled to death [she drowned in her own blood], Knox was kissing her boyfriend. This strange behavior persisted at the police station, where everyone else was grief-stricken and shocked, while Knox continued to flirt and giggle with her Italian lover. And Knox seemed to play the goofy excuse in court, as a ploy to explain her strange behavior at the scene.

When Knox appeared in Italy most recently, she’d learned to portray a different look:

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Obviously, Gladwell and Douglas are too busy giving lecture tours on expert lie-spotting to spend any time on one particular case, or they would see the not so subtle way they, and many are being manipulated.

Knox was recently caught out trying to solicit funds for a wedding that had already taken place.

Whether we want to call that a lie or just sneakiness, it’s one of many instances, going all the way back to Knox framing her boss Patrick Lumumba when the walls moved it. It seemed like she knew a little too much then when she fingered a black man, her boss, when the suspect turned out to be a black dude who’d hung out with Knox and her pals at home.

The  critical aspect Gladwell, Douglas and the Thin-Slicing crow have missed, is the most obvious. If someone is weird, just in their daily behavior. If they’re loud and attention-seeking, this and that, what are they like to live with? And how does that translate to Knox’s roommate getting murdered over a long holiday weekend when everyone in the villa had decamped to their families, except the expat American student and her expat British neighbor, right next door [who was trying to study].

The New York Times does it’s often version of thin-slicing. Firstly it thin-slices Gladwell’s book, then thin-slices his book’s version of the Knox case. It all comes down to 1) the overwhelming evidence that someone else was guilty and 2) Knox didn’t grieve when her friend died.

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Overwhelming evidence pointing to another culprit.

If we apply the logic of the Knox case to the West Memphis 3 case [officially unsolved], then we could also say only one of the West Memphis 3 committed the murders, why should all three take the fall? It’s nonsense. In the Knox case there were originally three convictions: Ivorian Rudy Guede, who had smoked and sold marijuana on previous occasions with the girls in the house. Knox’s boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito who it was said had been caught viewing bestiality porn and used cocaine, and Amanda Knox.

The Pro-Knox site has been explicit in trying to debunk the drug narrative as a myth.

The Cocaine Dealer Relationship Myth

Of course just as behaving in a weird way may be a sign that you’re just a weirdo, it may also be a sign of habitual drug use, with all the associated Pinocchio behavior and stringing others along, thrown in. Once again, if you’re two students sharing space in a far flung villa in Italy, and you’re not both equally caught up in Pinocchio goes to PleasureLand, why wouldn’t conflict ensure?

Knox was guilty because she didn’t act like the prototypically grieving friend

It wasn’t just that Knox didn’t act right at the crime scene, or at the police station. It wasn’t that someone else had to smash down Meredith’s bedroom door, even though Knox was at home. It wasn’t the half a dozen confessions Knox gave, each one contradicting the other. It wasn’t her boyfriend withdrawing his alibi.

It was after Meredith was dead, she expected life to continue as usual. She expected to stay in her room, and continue to go to classes. All of Meredith’s British friends left Perugia immediately after the murder. They suspended their studies and went home. They attended Meredith’s funeral. They gave their statements and almost all had alibis.

Knox wanted to stay in Italy. She told her parents as much. She told them she didn’t want to go home. Her friend had just been murdered in the room next door, and the murderer [at that stage] was still out there, and she wanted to continue with her life? That only makes sense if you thin-slice it one way.

Thin-slicing has its limits, but apparently, so do ex-FBI profiling legends.

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Who do you despise the most in True Crime? Damien Echols is my pick [WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES]

 

If Amanda Knox is living like this, why is she asking us for money for her wedding?

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Knox purchased a 3,650 square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bathroom home on March 13th, 2019 for $718 000. The request for public donations immediately followed her “Innocence Project” trip to Italy, in July 2019, three-and-a-half months later.

Secretly Married Amanda Knox Bought $718K Mansion Before Asking For Wedding Funds – Radar Online

Amanda Knox allegedly bought $718K home before soliciting wedding donations, according to report – Yahoo

I DO! AMANDA KNOX GETS ENGAGED TO NOVELIST BOYFRIEND CHRISTOPHER ROBINSON – Radar Online

Amanda Knox Suffers Horrific Christmas Death Tragedy – Radar Online

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