Quintavalle

[Quintavalle, pp. 51-55;  translated by teddypots, a.k.a. Newcomer]

One of the elements on which the Corte di Assise of first level based its belief in [the defendants’] guilt is represented by the testimony of witness Quintavalle, owner [titolare] of a grocery store located on Corso Garibaldi, not far from Sollecito’s house but also just a few minutes from Via Della Pergola:  he, in fact, stated that he had seen on the morning of 2nd November, a young lady enter his store early after having waited for it to open, whom he later recognized as Amanda Knox. According to the prosecution (and the Corte di Assise of first level) this demonstrates that, contrary to the alibi provided, she did not stay at Sollecito’s house sleeping until the late morning, but instead went early to Quintavalle’s store due to an urgent need to purchase a detergent suitable for cleaning the house on Via Della Pergola of her and Raffaele Sollecito’s traces, before the police could intervene and collect samples, it being inevitable that sooner or later the alarm would have been raised regarding what had happened.

In truth even if in theory this occurrence really happened, it would be a weak piece of circumstantial evidence, as on its own it is not sufficient to prove even a presumption of guilt, but in any case this Court does not consider the testimony of the witness to be very reliable, especially with regard to the identification of the early customer [mattiniera cliente] as Amanda Knox.

In fact it should be remembered that Mr. Quintavalle, questioned by the Police who were searching for useful information in the days immediately following the perpetration of the crime, by which time the newspapers and the media were busy working on the story on a wider scale, did not mention the girl who had waited for the opening of the store on the morning of 2 November and had then entered as soon as he had opened to the public, heading to the section where household and hygiene products were on display (even if then – according to the same Quintavalle – she left without buying anything). Nor did he come forward in the following days or in the following months to report what had happened. In fact he presented himself to the Police following continuous requests [sollecitazioni] by a young apprentice journalist who lived in the area of his store, only one year later, declaring to be convinced, thanks mostly to the color of her eyes (blue) and of her complexion (very pale), that the girl who had entered his store that morning was indeed Amanda Knox.

Now, that over a year passed before Quintavalle presented himself to the Police is not at all irrelevant in evaluating the reliability of this witness, especially in terms of the authenticity of his memory and the accuracy of the identification.

Indeed this was not a witness who came forward a year after the fact to give testimony [oggetto della deposizione] just because he later became aware of the relevance of his testimony, nor was he a witness who developed the wish to come forward, to report facts about whose relevance he knew of since the beginning, having had to overcome within himself some personal reasons that had previously dissuaded him from coming forward; no, instead he was a witness who – based on what he himself stated – took a year to be convinced of the accuracy of his perception and his identification of Amanda Knox as the girl he saw, despite having been able, in the days immediately following the occurrence [crime], to appreciate the relevance of his testimony.

In fact, from the testimony of Inspector Volturno at the hearing of 3.13.2009 it was revealed that photographs of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox were shown to Quintavalle, as they were to his staff and the other shop owners [esercenti] of the area, and that they were asked in particular whether the two had made any purchase for cleaning products, precisely because it was a line of enquiry of the investigation [punto oggetto di indagine]. Therefore Quintavalle cannot claim that he did not report to Inspector Volturno what had happened on the morning of 2 November because he was convinced that it was not a relevant fact.

Quoting from the written transcripts of the hearing of 3.13.2009:

“QUESTION – Did you carry out investigations into the death of Meredith Kercher?

RESPONSE – Yes.

QUESTION – Do you remember the kind of inquiries [accertamenti] you made? First list them to us and then describe them.

RESPONSE – Basically the first inquiry I made was with regards to two bottles of Ace bleach that had been seized at Raffaele Sollecito’s house on 16 November 2007. Immediately after they were seized I went around the shops nearby Raffaele Sollecito’s house trying to understand where they could have been purchased and in connection with this I showed the photograph of Raffaele Sollecito, [and] the photograph of Amanda Knox.

After a few days we traced the store, which was a Margherita Conad store – located right at the start of Corso Garibaldi, where both the owner and the assistants recognized Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox in the photographs that we showed to them. Raffaele Sollecito was a regular customer of this store, whereas the girl had been seen two or three times in his company.

QUESTION – Together with Sollecito?

RESPONSE – Yes, yes, in his company. In this store we also asked if by chance they had noted in the days immediately preceding the homicide or immediately after if they remembered whether these people had purchased this product, however they did not remember…”

In any case, with the story being by then in the public domain and with Amanda Knox having been arrested already on 6 November 2007, he had good reason [ragionevolmente motive] to report the fact at the moment that Inspector Volturno asked him for information.

Furthermore his staff, who were also there in the store on the morning of 2 November 2007 and who, nevertheless, did not note anything in particular, have reported that he expressed [prospettò] to them, in the days immediately after the fact, his doubts about the identification of Amanda Knox as the young lady [giovane] seen entering his store: he had not expressed to them his certainty that it was her but only that it could have been.

But then, how can one maintain that this certainty, which did not exist in the days immediately following, when recollection would have been made easier and more genuine, was reached during the course of the year, when by then the continuous coverage of the story and of its protagonists was in the media and the solicitations of the apprentice journalist, perhaps particularly excited by the possibility of a scoop, could really have compromised in some way the authenticity of his memory, allowing a conviction to be planted [in his mind] that the direct perception of the event had not been able to plant? Or rather, the certainty was surely reached at a subjective level, considering the assuredness of Quintavalle in giving testimony in front of the Corte di Assise of first level, but how can one say that this was based on a correct perception of the occurrence and an exact identification of the girl seen entering the store?

But these doubts about the reliability of his testimony increase if one considers that – according to Quintavalle’s testimony – he was only able to catch a glimpse of the girl [vedere la ragazza soltanto di sfuggita], first and foremost only out of the corner of his eye [con la “coda dell’occhio”] and then from closer for a few moments, but never head-on [frontalmente] (as testified in the hearing of 3.21.2009 “…Yes then she entered, I saw her let’s say like this, 3 quarters left, 3 quarters to the left side. I never saw her head-on…”) and there is no indication that the grey coat that the girl was wearing – according to the witness – was ever owned by Amanda Knox.

The Public Minister observed that the witness could have confused a grey coat with a black and white striped sweater, which Amanda Knox owned, but this is merely a conjecture that is not in any way verifiable, given that a coat is very different in shape and texture compared to a sweater.

But it seems even more strange that Amanda Knox, who according to the arguments of the Public Minister, was in a hurry to purchase detergents to clean the apartment on Via Della Pergola, so much so as to wait in the early morning for the store to open, entered by going to the section where the cleaning and household products were on display, which was certainly well stocked, leaving, however, without having purchased anything. In fact Quintavalle stated that the girl left without having purchased anything.

Quoting from the testimony of the hearing of 3.21.2009: “… If they had asked me… also because, I repeat, when the young lady came into my store I did not see her leave with anything, because when she passed by, and she passed by again, when she left I caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye as she was leaving, I did not notice that she had a shopping bag [busta] or anything in her hands.

PRESIDING JUDGE [PRESIDENTE] – Are you talking about the morning of 2 November?

RESPONSE – Of the morning of 2 November. I don’t know if she bought anything, I don’t know. My assistant doesn’t remember if she bought anything. I’m not in a position to say whether she bought anything or not…”.

If one were to maintain that Quintavalle was perhaps mistaken, because instead she actually did buy some products, it would be correct to observe that Quintavalle was mistaken on this point, and in the same way about the clothes she wore, then he could also be mistaken on the identification of the young lady as Amanda Knox.

Ultimately, the testimony of witness Quintavalle does not appear reliable and, in any case, represents an extremely weak piece of circumstantial evidence.

Next: Time of Death