Antonio J Manca Graziadei: Knox's defence lays bare a legal system full of flaws

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From the start of the investigation to the administering of justice in the courts, this case has highlighted flaws in the Italian legal system. What happened in this case is not unusual and, in many ways, it's typical. From the start of the investigation to the administering of justice in the courts, this case has highlighted flaws in the Italian legal system. What happened in this case is not unusual and, in many ways, it’s typical.

First we take the original inquiry. The prosecution stemmed from what was a very bad investigation. In Italy, the investigation is conducted by a prosecuting judge together with the police. In this case, the scientific evidence proved to be badly flawed.

When it got to the court, the case was conducted badly. The flaws in the case did not emerge immediately. Why? Because the same person who carries out the investigation is also the accuser in court – and he wants to confirm his thesis. He has his own experts, who are independent only on paper, and who do not expose the errors in his case. And who hears the case? Another judge, who is part of the same caste, the same culture, the same club. In Italy, the same governing body represents both prosecutors and the judges; this doesn’t mean that a judge is not honest, but it does breed a clear conflict of interest.

It leaves, for all practical purposes, only the defence to contradict the initial evidence and, indeed, it was only on appeal, when proper third-party experts exposed the flaws and the true nature of the initial forensic evidence.

It has been like this for the last 30 years or so in Italy. Previously, investigations used to be carried out by the police and the prosecutor tried to translate their evidence into a proper accusation. Policemen in Italy are very badly paid and they don’t necessarily have the motivation to investigate things properly as they have to follow the instructions of a judge and, generally, they’re not happy to do that.

Many lawyers who have criminal work tell me many stories about flawed cases. The only reason the problems came out in this case was because the defence was very high-profile and very good. These problems happen every day, and probably many lawyers do not have the expertise, the time and the money to bring out the inconsistencies.

So it has meant that the system has not worked properly in any way: if these two were guilty, they have been acquitted – and this very bad. If they are innocent, only now have they been found not guilty, after they spent four years in prison without reason – and this is very bad.

There are grounds for reforming our system but I don’t believe that it will happen while Silvio Berlusconi is Prime Minister. He has put forward reforms which may have contained some good elements to make justice work better, but also to make justice work in his favour, so they have been rejected. His conflict of interest, real or perceived, foregoes any credibility and paralyses any progress. Furthermore, this case will be used for political reasons by Berlusconi to question the credibility of the judiciary and to get out of cases that he faces.

Antonio J. Manca Graziadei is President of Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF), Italy.

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