(The table was only empty for presentation logistics – all the others were full)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
With that quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., longtime West Seattleite Mike Heavey opened his presentation this afternoon to the Rotary Club of West Seattle‘s weekly lunch meeting at Salty’s on Alki. The topic: The much-discussed case of Amanda Knox – “a 20-year-old kid, from the University of Washington, from West Seattle” at the time of her arrest in Italy in 2007, which as you almost certainly have heard led to a murder conviction which is now being appealed (with proceedings continuing next Saturday).
Heavey was careful to state — repeatedly — that he was speaking as a private citizen, not in any capacity related to his job as a King County Superior Court judge. (Because of that, we will omit his title during this story; otherwise, we usually include such titles in references throughout stories).
He is also a former state legislator and has been an outspoken advocate for Knox and her family, including her father Curt Knox of Arbor Heights, who attended the Rotary luncheon (photo at right) and listened to Heavey’s presentation from a seat close to the podium, but did not join him in speaking.
Before specifically making his case for Knox’s innocence to the Rotarians, he reviewed great moments in the history of justice as he began – from the Biblical tale of Solomon’s choice, to the U.S. Supreme Court’s one-vote ruling in the Gore vs. Bush election of 2000, and then focused on the American justice system providing the right to trial by jury.
When he reached the point where he spoke specifically about what he called a “trumped-up case” — the first slide in his PowerPoint presentation read “Amanda Knox: Wrongfully convicted of murder, December 5, 2009.” He noted that she has “spent four Christmases in prison.” But he did not give short shrift to the victim; the second slide read, “A Tragedy in Perugia, Meredith Kercher, Murdered November 1, 2007.”
Explaining why he believes Knox is innocent, he reviewed key points in the investigation: “A flawed response,” Heavey pronounced it, surmising “they had a lot of pressure to solve the crime.”
He said Knox was subjected to all-night interrogation he termed “very abusive,” including sleep deprivation – an interrogation he says lasted more than 40 hours. He quoted retired FBI agent Steve Moore, who has become active in the case, as saying, “give me 3 or 4 hours, I can get someone to say whatever I want them to say.”
So who did kill Meredith Kercher? Heavey described what he called “overwhelming evidence” against Rudy Guede, “who admits to being at the scene of the murder” and was convicted in 2008. Heavey detailed the evidence against him, including that his DNA “(was) inside the victim” and “his bloody shoeprints on the floor” (“Why didn’t he call the police?” Heavey wondered.) He noted that Guede’s sentence is now 16 years, shorter than Knox’s. He contends the evidence shows Guede acted alone, breaking into the apartment before he then … “robbed, sexually assaulted and killed (Meredith Kercher), and then he fled the scene” and before long, even fled the country.
But “the authorities didn’t want to look like fools” so they dug in on another theory, Heavey argued, also saying the evidence was contaminated, that there were “no witnesses of any repute” and that, for various reasons including its size and the DNA that was and was not found on it, that the large knife alleged to have been used to kill Kercher was “not plausible as the murder weapon.”
So how did Knox wind up wrongfully convicted? For one, according to Heavey, pre-trial demonization – he says she gained so much fame in Italy, via media lies that led “99 percent of he people in Italy” to think “she was the devil incarnate.” On the other hand, he brought up prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, describing him as “a convicted criminal” who was on trial at the time this all broke, eventually convicted of prosecutorial misconduct, calling him a “Satanic cult theorist.” He is part of the Knox prosecution, as she appeals, while appealing his own case, Heavey noted, also saying the Italian justice system did not follow some of the key tenets of the American system – such as screening and sequestering jurors, or having prosecutors refrain from “releasing any information that would heighten the public condemnation of the accused” – even when it’s “true statements.” As a result, he said of the jurors who found Knox guilty of murder: “Their hearts were hardened against Amanda Knox before she ever went to trial. … The jurors were unwitting tools … of arbitrary action of the government.”
But Heavey also said that as Knox’s appeal proceeds, there’s good news for her: “Public opinion (in Italy) is changing.” He showed a cover of OGGI magazine saying “Innocent.” Then, he quoted Americans who have come out in her defense, such as retired FBI agents John Douglas and Steve Moore saying they’re convinced she’s innocent, as well as investigator Paul Ciolino, and retired US federal attorney S. Michael Scadron.
“Politicians don’t take sides in criminal cases,” Heavey added, but noted that U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell came out in support of Knox’s innocence.
“You don’t have to believe me,” summarized Heavey. “Anyone who looks at this (evidence), comes to the same conclusion.” Listing Knox-supporter websites such as injusticeinperugia.org and friendsofamanda.org (which is also collecting donations for her defense fund), he said, “When you look at the picures of these kids [Knox and ex-boyfriend Raffaelle Sollecito] on these websites, you say, this is impossible.”
He says 99 percent of the people he sees as a judge are high-school dropouts, often with drugs issues. Not applicable to Amanda Knox, an honor-roll student at UW, he said.
He closed his PowerPoint with a photo of Amanda Knox playing a guitar, with a toddler looking at the camera: “You would be proud to call her your daughter. … I invite you all to get more involved, get more informed, tell your friends and family there’s an injustice going on.”
He had spoken for about 45 minutes, over the allotted time, but the room seemed riveted. “Can a federal prosecutor do anything?” he was asked. Heavey suggested that he thinks the U.S. State Department is “doing a lot” behind the scenes. Other questions had to do with the status of the case – which, again, goes to a hearing in the ongoing appeal this Saturday.
As is the case with speakers, Rotary leaders presented Heavey with a certificate saying 300 pounds of food had been donated to Rotary First Harvest in his honor. They have historically had a wide range of guest speakers, and most of their weekly lunch meetings (noon Tuesdays at Salty’s) are open to the public; there’s more information at westseattlerotary.org.