I read this book when it came out but am only now writing a review. First off, there are many details that Follain makes in the book that are interesting, not found in other books and help to understand the case. But I give the book only 2 stars for the many things that Follain leaves out, the insinuations he includes that are not based on fact, and because of the tiny trivial things he uses to insinuate guilt of Amanda and Raffaele, without factual support.
This account of the Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito trial speaks only a little about the true murderer who was convicted on a fast track trial before Amanda and Raffaele were even allowed to go to court. This book ignores that fact that the only evidence in the room where Meredith was brutally murdered led straight to Rudy Guede. This book ignores the fact that the murderer Rudy Guede was known as a habitual liar, a thief, and drug addict who routinely broke into homes and offices in the same manner that he did the house of Meredith and Amanda. Follain lets us think that he had a clean record. This book ignores the absurdity of the fact that Guede was accused and convicted for murdering Meredith but not convicted of burglary or theft, even though the physical DNA evidence tied him to her purse. Somehow Follain tells certain things about Rudy but makes it out to still be Amanda who is guilty. The fact that Follain does this is truly criminal.
Now to what Follain does write about. Follain includes many details of the trial as well as relating the many absurdities of the trial. The problem is, he never analyzes them, or shows how they led to the wrongful conviction, even though it is obvious.
Follain does not reveal the worst of police behavior such as the destroying of the hard-drives of 3 out of 4 computers or the destruction of the cell phones. Follain does not tell us about Mignini being prosecuted for abuse of power or anything from the insanity of his role in the Monster of Florence investigations until page 371, at the end of the book, even though it is very important to understanding Mignini's character. Only seven scant paragraphs are devoted to this and they say nothing of the insanity that Mignini's actions reveal. Follain is actively protecting Mignini by revealing so little about him.
The illegal behavior of the police (i.e. they did not tell Amanda or Raffaele they were suspects, did not produce a video of the interrogations, they denied both Amanda and Raffaele lawyers), the illegal wire taps by police, the cost of Mignini's movie presented in court, and the absolutely unbelievable behavior by the Scientific Police in their collection of evidence which was well documented by their own videos and ultimately brought the whole case into a farcical light, the burning of the hard discs of the computers, not recording their interrogations, etc...).
The fact that Follain does not question the case as presented by the prosecution or refute their lies, means that he does not care about the truth .. i.e. "bare, bloody footprints" used as evidence actually tested negative for blood.
Follain's description given of the evidence presented by the prosecution is thorough while his representation of the case of the defense is scant and leaves out hours of testimony.
Follain does not question anything in the Massai/Christiani report which has to be one of the most ridiculous reconstructions of a crime scene ever, since the days of witch trials. There was no "evidence beyond a reasonable doubt" to back up anything in it, and nothing about Amanda and Raffaele's character supports it. The only supporting evidence was falsely reported by Stefanoni in all out lies about DNA, blood and footprint findings.
Follain ignores the entire character and evidence leading to the conviction of Rudy Guede. He does not criticize the police who declared that a known thief without a job (Rudy), who was a serial burglar who had threatened people before, and their declaration that Rudy would not have broken into the house and did not steal anything from Meredith or lie about anything. He does not state that Rudy who was the only person who left his DNA, footprints and fingerprints all over the crime scene.
Follain swoons about Mignini and uses much hyperbole to describe him. His description of Mignini shows his obvious admiration for him, yet though he tries to make him look good, just by describing Mignini's actions, he shows what an utterly dangerous and bizarre character the man is.
Follain, as Barbie Nadeau, has no sympathy for the accused and never tries through his "investigative journalism" to understand how the two could have been framed, manipulated and abused into the situation they were in. This is because he chose to believe in their guilt from the beginning. They are not innocent until proven guilty.
Both he and Nadeau use titles in their books to make them seem as if they have insider knowledge. They both back it up by saying they read all the documents and were present during most of the trial. Yet Follain ( and Nadeau) take all of Mignini's words as being gospel, no matter how absurd and rattled they are with pulp fiction-like absurdities.
Follain does not mention a word about Mignini's history as a truly dangerous man who invents diabolical, mysterious reasons for murder, ties them to mysterious cults with sex rituals, and is obsessed with unproven theories not backed by a shred of evidence. Nor does he mention the fact that Mignini has a history of shutting down journalists who don't swallow his bizarre lines of reasoning. I am sorry, but I thought journalism was about fact finding, not just swallowing the swill of the most powerful and leaving it at that.
The most interesting thing in this book is how Follain's close relationship to Mignini brings out the truth about his character, no matter how unwittingly. Mignini is shown to be a man obsessed by grand battles, thinks of himself as Sherlock Holmes and does anything he can to win. This is very telling when it comes to this trial. In fact that is what Mignini did. He lied, bent evidence, withheld evidence and records from the defense. Even more disgusting he made Amanda, a 20 year old girl who barely spoke Italian, a medieval style witch, someone who controlled men, was obsessed with sex and who was evil. I am sorry but all the words used to describe this girl were only used in order to mask the truth: that they had nothing tying her to the crime. No evidence. They used the medieval tactics of the inquisition to break her and Raffaele. Follain acknowledges part of this, but seems to believe that it is justified. I can only assume that he does not believe in the checks and balances that should protect the innocent, until proven guilty.
Follain describes the players on the prosecution side like superheroes, and shows his obvious admiration for them, while his description of the defense team is weak and even mean at times. Mignini is a strong character with intense interests and a super-hero pursuer of justice, moved by the naked body of Meredith, as are the police. The judge Massai is a paragon of perfection. The jury sounds very impressive too. His quote about the jury "Their verdict would be based exclusively on what they saw and heard in the courtroom...." ignores the fact that this jury was not sequestered and could read anything in the papers, watch any media they wanted and be influenced by anything. They were not even screened for bias before being chosen.
Follain's ridiculous judgements of Amanda and Raffaele are shown through his cherry picking of quotes and descriptions and continue throughout the book. He has no empathy for two young adults kept in solitary confinement (Raffaele over a year), refused legal council until it was too late, and serially abused. Amanda was denied a translator that would be outside of the influence of the police. ON and on goes the list of abuses towards them, which made them scared, fearful and unable to trust anyone. He documents some of these abuses but does not analyze how the treatment they received made them act strangely, and ultimately be tried and convicted. This is not a light thing. Their human rights were abused. This is very vital to the whole case.
He uses phrases that imply their guilt: i.e. re Amanda "As Guirga took her through the days leading up to the murder and her relations with Meredith, Amanda looked and sounded self-assured. Her tone was even chatty at times- jarring with her surroundings- as when she played down her clash with Meredith over cleanliness". What clash is Follain referring to? No "clash " was ever documented by anyone. The room-mates said there was not clash over cleaning, no arguments ever witnessed between Amanda and Meredith.
The press was particularly powerful in this case and used every tiny glance or expression caught on film (carefully chosen from thousands of photos taken) to characterize the accused to fit Mignini's description of them. Follain takes the British girlfriends of Meredith every word as gospel, even though they did not know Amanda or Raffaele, and emphasizes their vitriol and anger that came out of Meredith's murder as proof of their guilt. Of course the British girls had no contact with Rudy ever, so they would never be able to focus that anger on the person tied to the crime. The quotes that Follain includes from the British girls sound like those of the group of girls in the Salem witch trials. They are baseless, meaningless, and only lead to a peremptory idea of guilt based on fumes of hatred. Follain clearly shows how the police, in the few days following the murder have already decided Amanda and Raffaele's guilt, as well as told the British girls of this, so it is easy to understand why they followed this path. Follain's weight he gives to these girls words, the intense scrutiny of every move or motion that Amanda and Raffaele made during years of trials, as indications of guilt is just bizarre when he at the same time describes so many of the ridiculous vicissitudes of the trial.
Nor does Follain bother to point out the long list of evidence used in the trial and how it was full of lies, contradictions, and much of it later disproven. Follain says for instance when describing the film that Mignini and Comodi made to show how their version of the crime happened "She (Comodi) instructed the production company making the film to base it solely on the evidence, showing only what was in the case files" - he does not point out that there was nothing tying them to the crime scene, except for Rudy, so this would be impossible. The film is only a representation of the fanciful imagination of the prosecution. It does not rely on any facts. If it did, it would only show Rudy Guede.
Amanda and Raffaele are accused of dozens of things there is no evidence for but Follain never questions this: Amanda carrying a knife, the two faking a burglary, the two provoking a sexual attack, the two murdering, the two covering up a crime scene, the two stealing the money of Meredith (even though it was Rudy's DNA on the wallet).
Follain emphasizes how MIgnini felt- that he was so sad to ask for life sentences. Yet he is always waxing on about how sensitive Mignini is, while at the same time showing how he is a ruthless prosecutor who would stoop to anything to brand Amanda a sexual predatory rapist witch. Follain's use of these quotes is very strange. It is as if he admires Mignini for his ruthlessness, and has to also make him seem tender and compassionate at the same time.
Follain's descriptions of Amanda after the conviction are pathetic- p. 381. It is all orchestrated to make her look guilty. On page 387 he gives two whole paragraphs to an un-named investigator who says that Amanda has convinced herself she is not guilty- criticizes her for defending herself (as everyone does throughout the book, even attacking her family for their vigilant defense of Amanda) but never analyzes anything from the perspective that Amanda was NOT GUILTY. He attacks her for not apologizing to the Kerchers (this happens many times in the book) without acknowledging that she has no reason to apologize for a crime she has not committed.
On page 390 he makes it seem that Raffaele is an admirer of a murderer of children, with no evidence behind it and makes it sound like there is some sort of a connection between the two cases. Where is the evidence Follain?
Follian shows in his quotes how fearful the prosecution is that the forensics teams and DNA analysis will have a peer review. But Follain does not seem to question this or think that it is unreasonable.
Follain gives scant attention to the retrial, in line with his constant work throughout the book to emphasize the case by the prosecution, rather than that of the defense. On page 59 Follain's disdain of Amanda comes out as he describes her clothing. He mocks her "prisoners 'uniform' of jeans, sweatshirts and sneakers she had worn at the previous trial" trying to make it sound unusual. She was only wearing the clothes she had worn before being branded a murderer.
Follain never speaks about the fact that there was DNA of up to seven men on the bra clasp. On page 60 he does not mention why it took so long for the review of the DNA evidence by the defense: the fact that Stefanoni refused to hand it over for years, in spite of being ordered to do so by the judge. Follain uses the word "alleged" on page 405 when he says that "...Conti then listed more than fifty alleged failings..." referring to the DNA collection and examination by the prosecution team. Then he describes the failings in scant words, using the word "alleged" again to describe the detailed assault which was made on Stefanoni and the teams work.
Did Mignini, Comodi and the police and the entire prosecution team not "allege" everything they said about the entire crime? Why use this word now, unless you are trying to make it not seem important. Why on page 425 bring in Sophie's analysis? What did the British girls opinion have to do with anything? They were not witnesses, they did not know Amanda, they were only used by the police to plant their unsupportable theories. The coven of British girls had not attended the retrial. They had not witnessed the demolition of the "evidence" originally presented by the prosecution. They would always hold the image in their minds of Amanda and Raffaele being guilty.
Another thing that I think Follain misses out on is that the family of Meredith had in reality been tortured by the behavior of the prosecution for those four years (and still), as they had pursued the crime based on ridiculous and unfounded assumptions and mislead the family to believe that the crime was more complicated than it was. And of course that behavior had tortured Amanda and Raffaele and their families.
While reporting on the aquittal, Follain claims that outside the courtroom stood a "crowd some 4,000 strong", but it does not seem like there were more than a couple of hundred according to video footage. He does not mention that most people knew very little of the trial, and that there was an atmosphere more of vigilantes than people truly interested in the case.
Follain did not wait for the very thorough document released by Judge Hellmann which article by article refutes the prosecution's case. He also first thanks the prosecution. Those two things help to place Follain where he needs to be- although his work is interesting and full of a long account of the case, his work comes out slanted in the end, and not definitive. Because if it was definitive, it would have examined both sides with equal interest and asked and answered questions. The work does not do this, and this is why I fault it.