County judge brings argument in support of Amanda Knox to Vashon

Michael Heavey, a former state senator and now a Superior Court judge, came to Vashon Friday to denounce the Italian government’s treatment of West Seattle resident Amanda Knox, calling her imprisonment “a textbook story of a wrongful conviction.”

In a presentation to the Vashon Rotary Club, the judge spoke passionately and at times powerfully about Knox, the trial that sent her to prison and what he called the shoddy investigative work and numerous lies put forward by an unbridled prosecutor and other Italian authorities.

“This was the railroad job from hell,” Heavey said, quoting a former FBI agent who has extensively studied the case that landed Knox in an Italian prison.

After Knox’s roommate, Meredith Kercher, was found murdered in their flat in a small Italian city, the Italian authorities concocted a story about a drug-infused orgy gone wrong “without one piece of forensic evidence,” Heavey said.

“It was pure speculation, and the media, especially the tabloids, loved it,” he added.

As he spoke, Curt Knox — Amanda’s father and a 1979 graduate of Vashon High School — as well as her grandparents, Vashon residents Milly and Bill Knox, listened quietly.

Knox, 23, has been incarcerated in Italy for three and a half years, an imprisonment that began five days after her roommate’s grisly murder on Nov. 1, 2007. Knox, a University of Washington student who was in Perugia as part of a study-abroad program, along with her boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted of murdering and sexually assaulting Kercher in December 2009. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison; Sollecito was handed a 25-year prison term. A third man, a drifter named Rudy Guede, was also charged and convicted.

Heavey, whose daughter went to Seattle Preparatory School with Knox, has spent countless hours researching the facts surrounding Knox’s sensationalistic case — a high-profile affair that has put the Italian judicial system under a spotlight.

Heavey, a King County Superior Court judge for more than a decade, has even been reprimanded for his involvement. The state’s Judicial Conduct Commission issued an admonishment, the lowest possible reprimand, last fall, after Heavey told the commission he had written letters to three Italian judges on King County stationery expressing his concerns about the case.

His talk at the Vashon Rotary was his seventh presentation to a Rotary club, a speech he made, he said, in his capacity as a private citizen. Asked after the talk why he’s investing both his time and prestige into a case involving a young woman he’s never met, he said he’s doing so because of the “tremendous injustice” he believes she’s undergone. 

“I’m going to keep doing this until she comes home,” he said.

As for the reprimand, he said it gave him clarity about what he can and can’t do and the extent of his free-speech rights as a sitting judge.

During his presentation to the Rotary, Heavey outlined numerous examples of what he believes were grievous mistakes by Italian authorities. 

One of Kercher’s bra clasps which the prosecution said had Sollecito’s DNA on it, for instance, was found in her room nearly three weeks after her murder — and after numerous people had been in and out of the flat, making it far from a pristine piece of evidence. And an alleged witness who said he saw the young couple at the flat that night is a heroin addict who has provided eyewitness accounts to authorities three times, Heavey said.

The evidence, meanwhile, overwhelmingly points to Guede acting alone — a young man with a criminal record who was in need of money and who took off for Germany days after the incident, Heavey said. Guede’s DNA was found in vaginal swabs of Kercher; bloody shoe prints in the flat matched his; even a bowel movement in the unflushed toilet was his.

Guede, Heavey said, likely broke into the flat to get money, used the toilet and was about to flee when Kercher came home and discovered him. From there, Heavey said, a burglary turned into a robbery, a sexual assault and, finally, a murder.

The authorities came up with a different theory, saying that Knox and Sollecito got together with Kercher and Guede — a man neither of them knew — for a sex orgy that unraveled, leading to Kercher’s murder. The theory, Heavey said, “defies logic.”

But the lead prosecutor, Guiliano Mignini, is a conservative Catholic who was recently convicted for “abuse of office” for his work on another case. “And in his world, young people engaging in pre-marital sex and smoking marijuana is the devil’s work,” Heavey said.

Mignini, noting the murder happened the day after Halloween, called Kercher’s death “a sexual and sacrificial rite in accordance with the traditions of Halloween,” Heavey said.

In other words, Heavey added, the prosecutor metaphorically called Knox a witch. “This is a true-life witch trial in his mind, a modern day witch trial gone global,” he said.


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