Staging of Burglary

[Simulazione di furto, pp. 114 – 123; translated by komponisto]

The first-level Corte di Assise, accepting the prosecution theory, has held that the breaking of the glass of a window in one of the rooms of the house at Via Della Pergola 7 (the one used by Filomena Romanelli) and the ransacking of the same room are not actually the signs of an illicit entrance into the residence for the purpose of committing robbery, but only the intended effect [il voluto effetto] of the staging of a burglary — in reality never contemplated [ideato] [i.e. by any actual burglar] —  on the part of someone with an interest in putting the responsibility for the murder of Meredith Kercher onto someone else who did not have access to the keys to the house. And since the only people other than the victim who could enter with the keys were the other young women who shared the house, the only people who could [possibly] have an interest in staging a burglary and accomplishing such a deception [depistaggio], according to this theory, were Amanda Knox, and Raffaele Sollecito who was with her. Not the other two, who had definitely remained far away from that house that night: one of them (Laura Mezzetti) all the way in another part of the country (Montefiascone), the other (Filomena Romanelli) in Perugia but at the house of her boyfriend at the time, in an entirely different area.

Mr. Maresca, civil-party attorney, has spoken of a “splendid parallel” between the crime of staging the burglary and that of calumny, in that —  he says — both were carried out in service of a single goal [posti in essere nell’ambito di un disegno unitario], to deceive the investigators about who committed the crime.

However, the parallel does not seem so “splendid” when one considers that Patrick Lumumba, indicated as the perpetrator of the murder in the “spontaneous statements” of Amanda Knox, was not at all suited to take on the role, were it to be assigned to him, as the author of an attempted burglary, considering that his lack of prior crimes of this type and his total inexperience in entering via windows (rather high ones at that) would not have allowed one to plant suspicions on him of entering through the window, much less with the intention to commit robbery. But actually, one could maintain that none other than Rudy Guede * could also have had an interest in staging a burglary, since it cannot be ruled out that he, having occasionally visited the residence on the lower floor (where, among others, Meredith’s boyfriend at the time, Giacomo Silenzi, lived), was acquainted with Meredith Kercher to that minimum extent necessary for her to calmly let him into the house, maybe with the excuse of needing to use the bathroom, which he then actually did use. And then one could maintain that, at that point, after the tragic events, Rudy Guede, precisely because he had been let in through the entrance, had intended to remove from himself the suspicions of anyone who (perhaps unbeknownst to him) had happened to see him while the door was being opened to him, by creating the impression that other unknown individuals had entered the house through the window.

The first-level Corte di Assise rules out the possibility that Rudy Guede could have had an interest in staging the burglary via breaking the window, recalling that he himself had been surprised inside a Milan nursery [asilo] just a few days earlier, where he had illicitly entered at night; and that he had been indicated as the probable author of other burglaries, so that it would be truly strange — argues the first-level Court — for him to have staged an illicit act that he was in the habit of committing in order to deflect suspicion from himself. In truth [however], one could respond that it is exactly that evidence which leads the Court to maintain that there clearly was a staging which suggests that Rudy Guede thought he could remove suspicion from himself, since a professional thief does not stage a burglary but commits it for real.

Except that this Court finds that these are [all] mere conjectures, since there is no reason to think [affermare] that there was a mise-en-scène rather than an actual violation of domicile with the purpose of committing theft, abandoned due to the tragic unfolding of events.

The belief that there was a staging derives — according to the Corte di Assise of first level — from various pieces of evidence recovered from the scene: glass which had ended up on top of the objects displaced by the supposed intruder, since the objects, if ransacked after the entering of the room, should have been found on top of the glass fragments and not under them; the fact that signs of climbing the wall had not appeared (a nail in the outside wall turned out to be wholly straight and intact, whereas climbing the wall, which would have been difficult due to the window’s height of 3 meters, would have required at the very least displacing or bending this nail); the difficulty of breaking [the window] with a rock, considering that the shutters [persiane], pulled near [accostate] by Romanelli because of the difficulty of closing them due to a bulge in the wood, would have to have been open first.

The first-level Corte di Assise, therefore, starting from the assumption [dato] that the shutters, if closed (as claimed by Romanelli at the hearing of 2-7-2009), or even if pulled but not closed (as previously claimed, also by Romanelli, on 12-3-2007) because of the difficulty of closing them due to the bulge in the wood, would not have permitted anyone planning to enter via the window after breaking the glass with a rock to realize their intention (it being necessary to somehow open [the shutters] first), has  judged the actions required to enter the house via the window — an initial climb to open the shutters, followed by a second climb, after having thrown a rock to break the window — to be too cumbersome and risky to be realistic [verosimile]. Furthermore — in the opinion of that Court — the blinds [scuri] positioned behind the glass would have represented another obstacle.

Except that what may seem like a laborious activity to a person with no experience in it, can turn out to be feasible, if not particularly easy, for someone who has developed such experience. Nor can the height of the window (about 3 and a half meters) be considered an insuperable obstacle, since the presence of a nail on the wall below and a grated window represent legitimate [validi] points of support, to such an extent that (in an experiment that can be considered certain because it is on film, and the veracity has not been called into question) an office colleague [un collaboratore di studio] of Mr. Maori easily succeeded in his attempt at reaching the window for demonstrative purposes, without bending the nail or leaving other traces on the wall. Hence there is no reason to think the nail would not have been able to withstand the weight of other people, or that there would have been noticeable traces left on the outside. Moreover, it is notoriously easy for individuals who devote themselves to burglarizing apartments to succeed in entering through windows placed at significantly greater heights, so much so that many owners have been induced to install grates even on higher floors.

Furthermore, this Court finds that the shutters were pulled near but not closed: firstly, because the statement made by Romanelli on 12-3-2007 (“I had pulled the shutters, but I don’t think I closed them”) is more reliable than the one made at the hearing of 2-7-2009 (she recalled “having closed them also because I would be gone for a few days”), as the first statement is closer to the time of the facts being reported, when her recollection would have been more vivid; and secondly because it is precisely the fact that the shutters were rubbing in the windowsill, due to the bulge in the wood, which makes it likely that she had left them simply pulled near, closed only by the presence of the swelling, so as not to have to put in the effort [affrontare lo sforzo] of pulling them further inward to close them.

Certainly, therefore, neither the [difficulty of the] process of climbing [le modalità dell’ascensione] nor the absence of specific traces on the wall should lead one to believe that there was a staging.

The Corte di Assise of first level, again accepting the Public Minister’s theory, has held that throwing a rock from the terrace [terrapieno] located in front of the window, in order to break the glass, would not have been easy. But a defense consultant, Marshal Francesco Pasquali, has shown that it was on the contrary possible and easy for anyone with experience, provided that the shutters were open, whether because they had been left that way or because they had been opened by the person prior to throwing the rock. In reality, no arguments capable of overcoming Marshal Pasquali’s feasibility demonstration were offered, and at any rate, the proximity [vicinanza] of the terrace to the window leads one to conclude, on the basis of common experience, even, that it was indeed possible — so much so that, in his closing argument, the Public Minister insisted on the centrality of the point about whether the shutters were open or not, evidently aware that their being open would have allowed the throwing of the rock to break the glass to be feasible.

Additionally, the existence of “blinds” could not have constituted an obstacle to the breaking of the glass; there is no indication [non risulta] that the blinds were themselves closed, and furthermore the marking [segno] in the wood corresponding to the breaking of the glass is indicative [sintomatico] of the force of the impact of the rock against the glass and therefore against the “blind”.

But the smoking gun [la prova regina della simulazione] — according to that [i.e. the lower] Court — was supposedly the lack of glass under the windowsill, outside the residence, and the presence of glass on top of the clothing and objects inside the room; which was supposed to demonstrate that the breaking of the window followed, and did not precede, the ransacking [of the room], at that point clearly carried out in order to create the impression of [inscenare] a burglary attempt.

On this point too, however, this Court begs to differ, since the process [dinamica] of throwing the rock and the force of impact did not make it necessary for some glass to end up on the outside as well as the inside of the room — where in reality the glass did not appear only on top of the objects or clothing but also underneath, as one learns [come risulta] from the statement given by Romanelli at the hearing of 2-7-2009, which portrays an extremely chaotic situation in the room, an entire “jumble” [miscuglio]. To quote:

“…PRESIDING JUDGE: Excuse me, what does a jumble mean?

ANSWER: It was a jumble of glass, clothes, glass, …

PRESIDING JUDGE: So they were also under the glass?

ANSWER: Yes, they were also under, but also above.

PRESIDING JUDGE: So this is what you mean by a jumble.

ANSWER: Yes, yes…”

And Inspector Battistelli, too, it turns out [a ben vedere], reports a very chaotic situation, and not, in fact, [one of] broken glass located only on top of things. Quoting from the hearing of 2-6-2009:

“…PUBLIC MINISTER: The glass was, where was the glass?

WITNESS: The glass was on the ground, and the curious thing that caught my eye was that this glass was also on top of the clothing…”

The glass was thus noticed “also” on top of the objects, and not in fact “only” on top of them.

And witness Altieri also speaks of glass both above and below, while witness Zaroli reported being struck by the location of glass above the objects, but in so doing he did not at all deny that the glass was also on the ground.

But this situation of glass being on the sill and scattered pretty much everywhere in the room is also represented by the photographs and films made by the police themselves and shown in court by the defense. And it cannot be maintained that the photographs and films are not representative of the situation because the latter had already been partially altered by the movement of the police and the entrance into the house of the occupants themselves, since these photographs and films were made in the immediacy of the inspection, when the police ought to have reasonably kept the whole situation more or less unaltered.

And the jumble can be explained by the fact that the height of the window, higher compared to at least some of the objects in the room, could have allowed the glass, as a result of the thrust [spinta] acquired from the impact of the rock that had broken the window, to end up above as well as below some objects; but also, the activity of rummaging (obviously carried out in a frantic manner), if performed in an environment where glass is scattered around, can cause some glass to end up on [top of] some objects or clothing items as well as underneath.

It will also be recalled that the film, made by the scientific police during the inspection, reveals the presence of a glass fragment next to a footprint in Meredith’s room. Which logically leads one to conclude that the breaking of the window happened before the entry into the room of Meredith Kercher — there being no reason to suppose that after the alleged staging of the burglary, carried out to divert suspicions about responsibility for the crime already committed, the perpetrator had reason to go back into Meredith Kercher’s bedroom, thus leaving behind a glass fragment that had remained attached to the sole of a shoe or the clothing being worn.

The first-level Corte di Assise has held that this can be explained by considering that, after the staging of the burglary and the breaking of the window, the person who had done this went into Meredith’s room to close the door and/or to cover the lifeless body with a quilt. This explanation does not seem very likely, considering that after the alleged staging of the burglary, the perpetrator would have needed to get as far away from the apartment as soon as possible, given that seeing the breaking of the glass even from the outside could have been cause for alarm on the part of anyone who had happened to find themselves in the vicinity of the house, even by accident. If, hypothetically, there had been a staging, this would have been carried out after placing the quilt on the body and closing the door to the room, not before.

Finally, it will be observed that the fact that nothing whatsoever was removed does not rule out the possibility that the original intention had been to penetrate the inside of the apartment in order to commit robbery, since it is quite understandable that, in view of the tragic turn of events, that intention was totally abandoned in order to flee the apartment as quickly as possible.

If we now turn from considering the (objectively feasible) means of entry to considering subjective experience and disposition [attitudine] as well, we cannot avoid assigning relevance to the specific prior history [ai precendenti specifici] of Rudy Guede (we use the term “prior history” not in the technical sense of entries on one’s [criminal] record [certificato del castellario], but in the general sense of experiences verified in whatever way, and not denied even by the person concerned).

Rudy Guede had in fact been involved [si era reso protagonista] in burglaries in apartments or offices several times: in a legal office in Perugia, where after breaking a French window [porta finestra] located on a terrace [terrazzino] (around 3 or 4 meters in height) with a large rock, he had taken a computer and a cellular phone; in a nursery [asilo] in Milan, where a kitchen knife 40 cm in length was found in his backpack, taken from the kitchen of the nursery; and again in the residence of a Mr. Tramontano, where, upon being discovered, he had been able to escape by threatening Tramontano with a jackknife [coltello a serramanico].

Now, in order to rule out the evidentiary relevance [rilevanza indiziaria] of this prior history with respect to Rudy Guede, the first-level Corte di Assise drew attention to the differences between these episodes and the supposed entry via the window in the apartment at Via Della Pergola 7. However, this exercise in distinction [operazione di distinzione] does not seem relevant given that, while the differences obviously arise from the differences in location (so that each one requires a specific means of entering) the similarities (which are not few in number: all are burglaries inside buildings, sometimes carried out after no less than breaking a window with a large rock) demonstrate Rudy Guede’s disposition to commit [such acts] and the experience he had already acquired.

Nor is it of any value to observe that Mr. Maori’s office colleague, who performed the experiment, is taller than Rudy Guede and thus would have had an easier time climbing, because in reality Rudy Guede, shorter though he may be, is nevertheless agile and athletic enough to play basketball. Which leads one to conclude that he could indeed have gotten into the house at Via Della Pergola 7 in the manner described.

But — it might be said — is it possible that Rudy Guede, who was known to the extent that he had sometimes visited the house, would not have found these visits to be a psychological obstacle [remora] to furtively entering the house?

The answer, however, is yes: the personality of Rudy Guede, as it emerges from witness statements, does not reveal any particular respect for other people. Not only had he — as recalled above — acquired experience as the perpetrator of burglaries in others’ apartments, sometimes even committed with the robbery victims present in the house (see Tramontano); not only had he not hesitated to use a knife to threaten the victim that had chased him (Tramontano again, but also in the Milan nursery he had taken possession of a 40-cm-long knife), but several times on the street, especially when he was drunk, he had importuned young women, attempting to hug and kiss them, and even the very fact (only seemingly banal; in reality very indicative of his ways) that he was in the habit of using the bathroom in other people’s houses (as a guest or as an intruder, it matters not here) to defecate or urinate without flushing afterward (on one evening this had happened on the lower floor of the house on Via Della Pergola, as reported by witness Stefano Bonassi; in the Milan nursery that he had gotten into, as alleged by Salvatori Del Prato, the children’s toilet was found dirty, despite having been surely left clean beforehand; and even on the evening of the murder, he had gone to the bathroom in the house on Via Della Pergola, leaving it dirty, to the extent that the Scientific Police was able to recover his DNA from the toilet paper) signifies an absolute — perhaps even ostentatious — lack of respect towards others. Which leads one to conclude that he found no obstacle to entering for the purpose of committing robbery even in the house in which he had been welcomed as a friend (although in reality he had been hosted on the lower floor, by the young men absent on the night of November 1, and not on the upper floor where the young women lived).

Being, furthermore, already familiar with the house, he was in a position to easily ascertain whether or not its residents were present. So, contrary to the finding of the first-level Corte di Assise, there is no reason to conclude that he had any psychological obstacles or particular fears about inserting himself into the house at Via Della Pergola 7 in the absence of those who lived there.

And it should also be remembered that on December [recte: November] 20, 2007, when he was arrested by the German police, Rudy Guede had wounds on his right hand, compatible with the breaking of the glass and with the climb.

One final argument offered to support the theory that the burglary was staged is the fact that Raffaele Sollecito, in the phone call he made to request the intervention of the Carabinieri, said that nothing had been taken: how would he be able to say — it is argued — that nothing had been taken before an accurate inspection had been done by those who lived in the house? And the answer is that he could do so precisely because he knew very well that it was only a mise-en-scène, having [himself] been its creator [artefice] together with Amanda Knox.

This Court does not find that argument meaningful. The statement “they didn’t steal anything” was a spontaneous response, dictated by the fact that Amanda Knox, on an initial cursory examination after she had already entered the house, had not found that any important things were conspicuously missing, and at any rate, if they had been the ones to carry out the staging and to call the Carabinieri to portray their surprise at what had happened and their innocence of the murder, they would certainly have been more shrewd and Raffaele Sollecito would not have spontaneously answered “they didn’t steal anything”.

In the end, there is no evidence to conclude that [the break-in] was a staging rather than a real means of entry into the interior of the house.

Whence the acquittal of the crime under Charge E because the act did not take place, and the failure of the alleged staging as evidence [il venire meno del valore indiziario della constestata simulazione].

*“…[lo] stesso Rudy Guede…” For the benefit of readers who are not native speakers of English, it should be clarified that the phrase “none other than” as used here is merely an idiomatic way of emphasizing the name that follows, and in particular does not mean “no one else besides”. [translator’s note]

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