Monday, January 11, 2010

WHAT I’M READING: ‘The Monster of Florence’

A co-worker first recommended the book “The Monster of Florence” a month ago. I got it for Christmas from Albie’s mom, and I finished reading it last week.

The book by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi takes you through 14 brutal murders in and around Florence dating back 20 years, and the Italian law enforcement’s search for the killer. But this is also a story of how a local newspaper journalist becomes a monster expert through his own investigations and great reporting, and later a suspect in the murders.

It is a story of how the Italian legal system lacks oversight, how prosecutors tell investigators what to look for (and what to find), and how innocent people can be convicted of heinous crimes with almost no physical evidence to back up the charges.

The story is extremely timely and relevant as 22-year-old American Amanda Knox was just convicted in the killing of a British exchange student in Perugia, Italy, in December.

At the center of both cases is prosecutor Guiliano Mignini. Mignini was indicted and charged with abuse of office in 2006 after he ordered wiretaps on several journalists – especially those who wrote about him critically – and area judges, but he is still allowed to keep working as a prosecutor despite the charges against him. He is expected to stand trial for abuse of office and “abetting” in the Monster of Florence case.

There seems to be a bias in prosecution in both cases. Once the prosecutor made up his mind about who he thought was behind the Monster of Florence crimes, Mignini disregarded not only physical evidence, but also common sense. It seems he has done the same in the Knox case.

According to CBS blog Crimesider, Mignini quietly appeared in court on and off for his own trial since April 2008, while waging a highly publicized prosecution against Knox.

Did Amanda Knox really kill her roommate? I don’t know. But she should at least be allowed a fair trial, and not a trial overseen by a man who is being investigated for not letting people have fair trials.

The Italian justice system does, indeed, seem to be in need of repair.

Let’s just hope Knox gets a chance to appeal her conviction and a separate set of eyes – people who are not on Magnini’s payroll – will re-examine the evidence against her.

Let us also hope that Magnini will be held accountable for his actions if it turns out he made the Italian justice system look worse than it already is.

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