JohnBonaccorsi

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The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

Thank you, komponisto. Congratulations to you on this fine essay. I think I must have first encountered it in December 2012, when I first learned of Less Wrong and came to see what the site was. Though I didn't do much to absorb the essay at that time, it stayed in my mind; the news the other day about Knox's re-conviction moved me to read it again. My mental process in response to that rereading has, in a sense, been recorded here, in my last few days' worth of exchanges with Less Wrong posters. When I posted my first comment in response to the essay, I wasn't sure it would be noticed, because the essay was more than four years old. Fortunately for me, Less Wrong's participants were paying attention.

The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

Reply to myself:

I hereby withdraw every negative thing I have said about Amanda Knox at this website. In the period since I posted the comment immediately above, I could not drive from my mind a remark my fellow-poster Desrtopa made in a post at 03 February 2014 07:39:06AM. In effect, Desrtopa asked whether I would fault a person for giving changed-stories because of torture; if I wouldn't, why would I fault the person for giving changed-stories under interrogation so harsh that its effect on the person being questioned would be tantamount to that of torture? At the time, I avoided answering Desrtopa's question.

Just a few minutes ago, I read commentary by a "veteran FBI agent" named Steve Moore. The commentary was posted at http://www.injusticeinperugia.org/FBI7.html , which is a page of a website called Injustice in Perugia. Having known really nothing about interrogation before I read Moore's remarks--and having had no sense how a law-enforcement professional would evaluate various types of interrogation--I had no right to remark on Amanda Knox's performance under interrogation in this case. Moore's remarks have persuaded me of what Desrtopa was, in effect, asking me to consider, namely, that the interrogation of Knox was a disgrace. Moore's closing paragraph was as follows:

"This is an innocent college girl subjected to the most aggressive and heinous interrogation techniques the police could utilize (yet not leave marks.) She became confused, she empathized with her captors, she doubted herself in some ways, but in the end her strength of character and her unshakable knowledge of her innocence carried her through. It’s time that the real criminals were prosecuted."

In saying "the real criminals," Moore seems to have been speaking of the interrogators themselves. If that is, indeed, what he meant, I would say he used the right term.

Should the conviction of Amanda Knox be upheld, and should Italy request Knox's extradition from the United States, the U.S. government, I hope, will decline to extradite her. The U.S., in my estimation, should do much more that that to right the wrongs that have been done in this matter.

The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

Dear fellow-poster Desrtopa --

Something called a "karma problem" has prevented me from replying directly to your comment at 03 February 2014 08:52:06AM. In the hope you will spot it, my reply will be posted here. I'm afraid it's the last comment I'll have time for; your reply to it, should you choose to post one, will be the last word in our exchange.

Suppose that you were living in a rather more paranoid country, where the government suspected you of subversive activities. So, they took a current captive suspect, tortured them, and told them they'd stop if the suspect accused you. If the suspect caved, would you blame them for accusing you, or the government for making them do it?

I would hope my friends would know I would applaud their doing anything--even torturing me--to avoid being tortured themselves. That goes double for strangers.

PS At 02 February 2014 11:49:15PM, I wrote, with respect to Knox's accusation of Lumumba: "The utterance of such a false thing, outside, maybe, a literal torture chamber, is depraved." I withdraw the word "maybe."

PPS Let's consider your own personal experience, the stressful interrogation you underwent about the money you were suspected of taking. Were you tortured? Was Knox tortured? If Knox was of the view that she was tortured, she had a duty--not merely to herself but to everyone--to take the stand in her trial and say her story-changing and her accusation of Lumumba were products of torture.

The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

I appreciate your alerting me to Komponisto's translations. If the information I've encountered at pro-guilty and anti-guilty websites had not given me identical impressions of the murder-room evidence, I might well be inclined to read those translations. As things are, my caveat that my sources are second hand is a minor one. From what I know, your assessment of the prosecution doesn't sound off-base.

After seeing your links to them, I took quick looks at "Privileging the Hypothesis" and "0 and 1 are Not Probabilities." I'm not sure I understand why you've suggested I read them, but I'll address what I'll guess you have in mind:

Suppose we say that the investigators of the Kercher murder privileged the hypothesis that Knox and Sollecito participated in it. Once convinced of it, those investigators went looking for every little thing that seemed to support it, even while the murder premises were all but shrieking: "Guede did it; case closed." That has nothing to do with Knox's story-changing. Whether the interrogation of Knox would have proceeded differently if the investigators had not been privileging the hypothesis, Knox gave different stories, one of which included a false accusation. Once she did that, the story-changing itself became a legitimate focus of concern. To put that another way: One can say, "If the investigators hadn't privileged the hypothesis that Knox participated in the murders, the story-changing wouldn't have occurred." Maybe so--but they did privilege it, and the story-changing did occur. That is as much a part of reality as the DNA in that room.

As for probability 1.00--well, I've already linked to that clip from The Godfather. When William the Conqueror was having trouble getting his Saxon subjects to accept the presence in their country of their new overlords, his Norman kin, he passed a law that said, I think, that, if a Norman were to be found dead in a Saxon town, the town was guilty of killing him. The thinking, I imagine, was rather like that of Don Corleone: "[even] if he's struck by a bolt of lightning." That's what I mean when I say the probability of the guilt of a person who has engaged in story-changing like Knox's is 1.00. Whether that's quite in the spirit of this website, I'm not equipped to say.

The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

I responded to what I regarded as a ridiculous question. I've said enough to indicate my view of the seriousness of false confession. Do you really find it difficult to believe I could come up with countless examples of behavior that, say, you and I would agree is mildly antisocial--my neighbor's failure to trim weeds that were partly obstructing our block's common driveway, for one? You're being pointless.

The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

You couldn't imagine innocent people changing their stories - but it happens. So what does that say about the validity of your inference from your own imagination to the expected behaviour of other people?

I didn't see the above when I first read your comment; maybe I was busy forming, mentally, my reply, below, to the rest of what you said. I direct you to the comment I just posted, at 02 February 2014 11:49:15PM, in response to Wes_W.

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