Reporter’s notebook: Art of oratory not dead at Amanda Knox trial

Stephen Robert Morse Tow-Knight Fellow in Entrepreneurial Journalism , The City University of New York
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Notes from the first day of closing arguments in Amanda Knox’s appeals trial

PERUGIA, Italy – If any part of the ancient Roman tradition is still alive in modern Italy, it is most certainly the art of oratory.

Within the Italian justice system, it is not uncommon for lawyers to make impassioned speeches for hours on end: speeches that unfortunately don’t rival Cicero’s in their originality or elegance, yet nonetheless display the power of the person behind the microphone.

As the closing arguments of the appeals trial of Amanda Knox and Rafaelli Sollecito kicked off Friday, the day was quickly defined by multi-hour speeches given by two of the case’s prosecutors, Giancarlo Costagliola in the morning and Giuliano Mignini in the afternoon. In a nation known for its machismo culture (“Bunga-Bunga” party this weekend, anyone?), the prosecutors assert authority through the use of booming voices and “la moda Italiana” (Italian fashion) that consists of black robes with delicately placed wide cravates encircling the necks.

Yet the prosecution presented no new information today, merely reiterating old claims that have been hotly disputed. They focused on answers that Amanda Knox and Rafaelle Sollecito gave to interrogators in the immediate aftermath of Meredith Kercher’s murder — interrogations made without the presence of lawyers and never voice-recorded, in contradiction of Italian law.

What was actually said during these interrogations, and under what circumstances any statements were made, remains a source of speculation.

Perugian prosecutor Mignini was himself convicted of abusing his office for decisions he made in the wake of the infamous Monster of Florence serial killings. The concept of “faccia” — saving face — prevails across Italian society: Those who screw up try not to admit that they are wrong. So Mignini has stuck closely to claims he made soon after the murder that a satanic ritual orgy was behind the murder, a claim that first appeared on the blog of now deceased Italian psychic Gabriella Carlizzi. (RELATED: Live tweeting from the Amanda Knox trial)

The other major highlight from today’s proceedings was Mignini’s decision to lash out at the media. Again and again he repeated claims that the trial was influenced by media organizations based five to ten thousand kilometers away, clearly implying that the American media was skewing the proceedings in the defendants’ favor. Again, this appears to be a tactic the prosecution is using in an attempt to hang on to its earlier victory: put simply, to save face.

As the Associated Press reported, Mignini said, “The trial must be held here, in this courtroom. This lobbying, this mediatic and political circus, this heavy interference, forget all of it!”

Is Mignini going to charge the international media with crimes next? Oh wait, he already tried to!

A verdict is expected by October 3 at the latest.