COMMENTARY | The murder convictions of American Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were overturned on appeal by a court in Perugia, Italy on Monday, October 3. In the wake of that acquittal, Italian police and especially prosecutor Giuliano Mignini must answer for a case that has been clearly marred either by incompetence or misconduct.
Knox and Sollecito were convicted in 2009 of the murder of Briton Meredith Kercher, but since that conviction the forensic evidence presented as evidence at trial had come increasingly into question. The controversy surrounding the evidence eventually led the court to order an investigation, and in July 2011 that investigation concluded that police mishandled or violated procedure in 54 separate instances.
This was damning not only for the police, but for prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, who took over the investigation of the Kercher murder at an early stage. Mignini’s lurid theory of the case was that a Kercher was murdered as part of a sex-fueled satanic ritual, with Knox, Sollecito and another man, Rudy Guede, as participants. The evidence strongly pointed to Guede a murder suspect, but Mignini cut Guede a deal to secure his testimony against Knox and Sollecito. Guede was ultimately sentenced to 16 years in prison, compared to a quarter-century for Knox and Sollecito.
The Knox case was not the first time Mignini has advanced satanic theories in murder cases, or been mired in charges of prosecutorial misconduct. Mignini was a latecomer in the investigation of the famous Monster of Florence case (which served as inspiration for the character Hannibal Lecter), and advanced the wild theory that a coterie of as many as 20 people were involved a Satanic cult that was responsible for the Monster’s murders. In response to criticism of his handling of the case, Mignini arrested and accused Italian journalist Mario Spezi of murder, and threatened American writer Douglas Preston as well, as detailed in Preston and Spezi’s book The Monster of Florence. Between convicting Knox and the 2011 appeal, Guiliano Mignini was convicted for abuse of authority during the Monster of Florence case and sentenced to 16 months in jail.
Mignini used similar tactics to bully criticism of his handling of the Kercher case. His response to the controversy surrounding the Kercher appeal had been to blame Preston for orchestrating a “million dollar” media campaign against him, and Mignini has maintained that mysterious forces have been persecuting him ever since his participation in the Monster of Florence investigation.
In their book, Preston and Spezi present Mignini as an ambitious, publicity-hungry prosecutor who was eager to advance his career by pushing the tabloid-ready Monster of Florence. Just how much Mignini’s participation botched the evidence collection is unclear, but his behavior during the Kercher case followed the same script as the Monster of Florence case. As a result, the case is now so muddied that we will probably never know what happened in the November 1, 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, and for that Guiliano Mignini has much to answer for.