For twelve long years now an italian citizen from Trento has been locked up behind bars in a state penitentiary in Florida. He is accused to be the instigator in a murder case. The trial leading to his conviction was not only characterized by a number of violations of rules but also reached its conclusion on a heavily biased and distorted presentation of the facts, and the public prosecution did not have any evidence, witnesses, legal and logical proof nor – most importantly – could count on a convincing motive. Now a political solution is under examination (foreign minister frattini willing…)
It was on the news for weeks. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are free. The girl from America has already left the country, and the young man from Puglia will do the same in the next few weeks – or at least that’s what some people think- before the case of Meredith Kirchner will be put on the agenda once again by the “Cassazione” , the Italian Supreme Court. America is the home to liberty, therefore both of them can consider themselves to be safe there, even if the verdict should be reversed. On the contrary, who is not at all safe in the United States is Enrico Forti, known by everybody as Chico, who was imprisoned in 1999 and convicted to life without parole in 2000, without any proof or real evidence. In the country home to liberty, where liberty has been the emblem for centuries and which for decades has been voicing protests against dictators, nations that are scoundrels and violations of human rights, when one takes a closer look, there is less liberty than one would think. On the other hand it can’t be overlooked that the USA are among the few countries where death penalty is still applied (and has a vast support among the population): a “modern democracy” full of arrogance giving out lists of the good and the bad; mind you, the badness is often directly proportional to the number of barrels of gas that country produces. Besides, a nation with a President who is a living contradiction (Nobel Peace Prize and war addicted at the same time) cannot be but a place where contradiction reigns.
The facts to report are simple. The case is about an Italian citizen locked up behind bars in a high security penitentiary in Florida. He has been accused of being the instigator in a murder case. The trial that brought him behind bars was not only characterized by a number of violations of rules (about which we will talk later on) but also reached its conclusion based on a heavily biased and distorted presentation of the facts, and the public prosecution did not have any evidence, witnesses, legal and logical proof nor, most importantly, was able to provide a convincing motive.
FEBRUARY 1998: U.S.A. against TRENTINO: 2-0
It’s strange, but during the first half of February 1998, the small province of Trento in the Northeast of Italy twice has to deal with the United States of America. The first time is on February 3rd, when Richard Ashby and his crazy squad venture to get past under the cables of the Mount Cermis cable car (unfortunately the attempt results in the cabin crushing on the ground, and 20 people die in the accident). The second time is on February 15th, when the entrepreneur Enrico Forti gets caught up in the Pike case in Miami, Florida. In the first case foreigners in Italian territory are involved; the second involves an Italian citizen in a foreign country. Unfortunately though, the concept of exchange or “converting” works only with numbers and not with international cases. The American pilots are not even judged by an Italian court but will be sent back urgently to the country that is home to liberty, in order to be “judged” overseas. We know what the outcome of that was… Enrico Forti on the other hand, not only will be judged by an American court, but his trial could come straight out of a book by Franz Kafka or a play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Be the citizen from Trento innocent or guilty, if our readers would read the whole final summation by Reid Rubin, the Prosecutor, they would get an idea of the farcical aspects of the trial (in some parts it is really difficult not to smile) and at the same time be provoked and vexed by an irritating feeling of impotence creeping up.
Because, you see, someone may leave for America and say “Oh, how wonderful, I’m going to the States, just you stay behind and be jealous, and so on… ” But that person isn’t aware of the risks and the problems he could run into over there, in case he should be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You hear stories about jails in Turkey or the methods used by prison guards in Russia, but after having read this story perhaps also penitentiaries in the USA will be something more real to you than seeing them in a movie with Clint Eastwood (“Escape from Alcatraz”) or Tom Selleck (“An innocent man”).
Talking about movies, there is a third one we would like to mention: The “Hurricane “ interpreted by Denzel Washington. It is the story of a boxer, Rubin Carter, convicted for three murders to three life sentences in 1966 and acquitted and freed (listen up!) after 19 years of unjust imprisonment. There are several similarities in “Hurricane” Carter’s story and the one we are about to tell about Enrico Forti.
WHO IS ENRICO “CHICO” FORTI
Business entrepreneur, windsurf champion, film maker, producer…if you look at the list, you can clearly see that Enrico Forti’s personality is an eclectic one. Born in 1959, he soon realizes that the provincial town of Trento is “not big enough” for him, unsatisfying to say the least. He starts travelling around Italy and abroad, has a pioneering role in windsurfing, but is good also at other extreme sports. What is more, in 1990 he wins a substantial sum of money when taking part in the television quiz program “Telemike”. This money he uses to make the final leap towards his American dream. But the country of liberty for him, a few years later, will turn into the country of his imprisonment.
Once in America (he comes to California first, then to Miami) Enrico Forti is busy with lots of activities and projects. Like a volcano, always on the move, always smiling. This innate positivity is a quality that will also be vital during his 12 long years of detention.
He sets up a film production company to film extreme sports. The program (“Hang Loose”, which lasted a hundred episodes) will be bought by ESPN, the biggest American sports channel. He designs boards and accessories for windsurfing but also sports watches, runs a restaurant, sets up a cosmetic firm selling anti-aging face masks. And, to top it all, gets his pilot’s license and buys a small aircraft so as to be able to do aerial photography. In America, for sure Enrico Forti isn’t twiddling his thumbs – not even such a master of rhetoric like Reid Rubin could have challenged this fact.
EVERYTHING STARTS WITH THE HOTEL IN IBIZA
In order to tell this incredible story, we have to start in Ibiza, a small island of the Balearic Islands. In the eighties, Anthony Pike, an English “adventurer” is building a small hotel there, helped by his son Dale. It doesn’t take long and Pike’s Hotel turns into a “place to go” for the International jet set at the time, among which Boy George and George Michael. The latter will even make a video with Wham there, recording a song called “Club Tropicana”. Frequently staying at Pike’s Hotel is Thomas Knott, a German national who claims to be a professional tennis champion (in actual fact he’s only won a few matches in the German national championships). Or rather, really he is a champion of international swindling in the field of time-share property. Knott often travels to Ibiza with Siegfried Axtmann, another German national who owns a small aircraft company in the town of Nürnberg.
A few years later, we are now in 1993, the luck is turning. Anthony Pike suffers from Aids and has thrown out his son Dale, who is living in Malaysia. Thomas Knott gets arrested in Germany and is sentenced to six years imprisonment for fraud. Four years later he is freed on parole, but escapes to the US, where he will be introduced by his friend Siegfried Axtmann to the exclusive residence on Williams Island, Miami. He is staying in a small apartment there; Enrico Forti is living on the floor above. Towards the end of 1996, Dale is imploring his father for help since it seems he got himself into serious trouble in Malaysia. Anthony goes to see him, but his health conditions suddenly deteriorate. He is taken by Dale to Australia, to Sydney, where Bradley, his brother, is living. Anthony is dying and according to the doctors has only days to live. But his wife Vera does not believe this; she flies to Australia and is able to take her husband out of the country. In Spain she has him looked after and given alternative treatment. Almost miraculously and in a short time, Anthony Pike recovers.
THE “CUNANAN” MYSTERY
Let’s open a digression: on July 15th 1997, on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Gianni Versace, the Italian fashion designer, is shot dead. It’s a sensational murder case, the whole world is talking about it, and obviously the more so are people in the area. It seems that the killer is a certain Andrew Cunanan, who committed suicide on a house boat during a “large-scale raid” by the Miami police. After this event, Thomas Knott tells Enrico Forti he knows the intermediary of the house boat. What a coincidence – it is Siegfried Axtmann, who comes from the same German town he is from. Enrico, who is a film maker and is thinking of making a news feature about the Cunanan –Versace story, takes advantage of this contact to buy the rights of the houseboat for journalistic purposes. Knott is helping him with the shooting of the “The Medusa Smile”, which will be broadcast on Italian and French television. From what can be gathered from evidence and testimony, one is led to believe that it wasn’t in fact Andrew Cunanan who shot Versace and that the death of the designer has to do with a shocking mixture of politics and criminality. In other words, the documentary quite openly makes the Miami police looks like fools, who set up a Fort Alamo type large-scale raid, so that an already dead culprit could “commit suicide”. In fact, several strange happenings immediately after seem to confirm this theory of a kind of conspiracy. Cunanan’s body is carried off in a black bag and will be cremated in the space of a few hours. The house boat will sink for no apparent reason not long after. Bought and broadcast on 26 September by the Italian television channel Raitre, the copy of the film will disappear from the archives, and up until now it is impossible to see it in Italian even on the Internet. If on the one hand Enrico Forti is able to make some money out of this film, on the other hand he is now considered a “pain in the neck”. Italians aren’t that much in favor out there anyway, and especially so if you insist coming up with stories like this… And here we get to the end of the digression.
PIKE’S HOTEL LIKE THE FONTANA DI TREVI?
We are at the end of the year 1997. Thomas Knott, who now is hand in glove with Forti, invites his old friend Anthony Pike , who has got over his illness, to Miami. He arrives and is introduced to Forti. And Knott says: “You know what? He wants to sell his hotel in Ibiza”. – Really? – Yes, my friend. A bargain, if you ask me”. It’s a shame though that the two hide a small detail which is really quite important: i. e. that Pike’s Hotel doesn’t actually belong to its founder anymore but 95% belong to a company on the Jersey Islands and only 5% of it can be purchased. Which is a bit like in that film by the Italian comedian Totò, when he is trying to sell the Fontana di Trevi in Rome to an unsuspecting tourist who doesn’t have a clue.
Unfortunately Enrico Forti doesn’t suspect anything either. He only firmly asks Knott to stay out of the deal because of his criminal record, and goes to see the hotel. In mid January 1998, he signs a preliminary agreement with a Spanish notary, without suspecting that he isn’t actually buying a hotel, but to use Anthony Pike’s own words a “white elephant”- in other words, it’s a con.
In mid February the whole affair comes to the crunch: it is when Dale Pike arrives in Miami. But listen to this: two weeks before, Anthony Pike calls up Enrico Forti asking him to do him a favor. Dale is in trouble (once again) and needs to get out of Malaysia as soon as possible. But he doesn’t have any money, could Enrico be so kind as to pay the ticket for him? Enrico obliges and pays for the flight to Spain. A few days later, he gets another phone call from the hotel owner, from Madrid:”I’m coming to Miami with my son Dale, you wouldn’t pay for our plane tickets by any chance?” The Italian does pay for the tickets, but the next day there is a change of plan: Dale Pike will arrive in Miami on his own, as his father is busy. The father makes an appointment with Enrico Forti for the following Wednesday in New York , asking him to put up his son on Williams Island in the meantime.
THE SUNDAY BIG WITH FATE -FEBRUARY 15TH 1998
In the morning somebody is knocking on Enrico Forti’s door. It’s Thomas Knott. He has been told (by whom?) that Dale is arriving in Miami and offers to pick him up at the airport. Enrico, who probably knows his kind by now, refuses the offer and goes to Miami International Airport on his own. But Dale isn’t the only guest he has to pick up that day. At 8 p.m. in the evening, in fact, at Fort Lauderdale airport his father in law together with two sons is arriving as well. But Forti is not bothered, there is lots of time. Dale’s flight is due at 3 p.m..But then there is a delay of two hours; Dale and Enrico will meet and leave the airport only around 6.30 p.m.
As we were saying, Enrico’s father in law is coming as well and Enrico cannot put up Dale in his apartment anymore. He offers to book him into a hotel , but Dale refuses and asks to be taken to a gas station to buy cigarettes and make a phone call. The phone call is to Thomas Knott. When he comes back to the car he asks to be given a lift to the restaurant Rusty Pelican, on the island of Virginia Key, where it seems someone is waiting for him. Plus he wants Enrico not to tell his father that he has arrived, because he wants to have the time of his life. As they arrive, Dale will get out of the car and walk towards a man sitting waiting in a white Lexus. The two talk, then Dale comes back to Enrico’s car, takes his bag out and tells Enrico to meet again the following Thursday, by the time his father will have arrived.
At 19.16 Enrico calls his wife Heather and tells her that he is on his way to fetch his father in law and the children. The phone call is recorded on Rickenbacker Causeway – the stretch of land connecting Key Biscayne to Miami – at about 2 miles distance from the Rusty Pelican. At 8 p.m. Forti is at Fort Lauderdale.
The day after, Dale will be found dead, stripped naked, lying in a stretch of wood along Sewer Beach, about 3 miles away from the Rusty Pelican. Next to the body there is the U.S. entry card issued by the Immigration Office at Miami airport, a boarding pass and a tag of Pike’s Hotel. Killed with two gun shots in the neck – somewhat like an execution.
If Enrico Forti really was the murderer, he would have had about 10-15 minutes to go to Sewer Beach, that is avoiding the barriers and exclusion zones in the area at the time, kill him with two shots in the neck, strip his clothes off (the blood stained shirt proves that this is the exact sequence of events) drag the body for dozens of meters, get rid of the clothes, of the baggage, cancel the traces of the tires and then recover from all those actions, so as to appear calm, peaceful and relaxed when meeting his father in law and the children. Frankly something almost impossible even for the most cruel and recidivous criminal.
THE DISCOVERY OF THE BODY. THE CODED MESSAGE OF THE MURDERER
But if Enrico Forti didn’t kill that man, who did? Thomas Knott? A friend they had in common? And why didn’t anybody consider that there may have been a Malaysian connection? Dale Pike had run into big trouble in the Far East: couldn’t it be – seen how he was killed– a classic case of “punishment” in the crime scene? The Malaysians followed him to Miami or they hired someone locally and… end of story.
And sorry, plus the fact of that U.S entry card next to the body -, if Enrico Forti really was the murderer who had just been to pick up the victim at the airport, for God’s sake, do you really think he would place the boarding pass and the visa waiver card next to the dead body? As if to say: I’ve done it, look, it was me, won’t you come and get me? On the other hand, if somebody else killed Dale Pike, as would seem more logical, there is something somewhat childish but also sinister in the attempt to direct suspicions towards Enrico Forti. The killer (or the killers) removes everything, clothes and baggage, and the card from the airport is placed next to the victim’s left hand. Then other “traces” are scattered around here and there (to top it all whoever it was could have written ”Forti: please proceed to arrest”). A kind of coded message addressed to the police. A surfer, David Suchinsky, who had climbed over the barrier (since there was no access from the actual road) had found the body the next day.
Once on the crime scene, the police call Iberia, the airline, asking for the telephone number left by the passenger and immediately phone the number they’re given. It belongs to Pike’s Hotel. The detectives ask to speak to the Manager, Antonio Fernandez. “What made Dale Pike come to Miami?” Fernandez needs a moment to recover from the shock of the news and then answers: “He was supposed to meet Enrico Forti (called Chico) and …Thomas Knott.“ Mr. Fernandez will not be on the list of witnesses heard at the proceeding.
THE SURPRISE, THE LIE, THE TRAP
Wednesday February 18th Enrico Forti and Anthony Pike have an appointment in New York in the apartment of a friend of the latter, Jane Fredricks. Detective Catherine Carter from the Miami police will call her to inform her about the death of Dale Pike. At the time his father is still on the plane and he will only be informed after landing.
In the meantime Enrico Forti has arrived in New York. He calls Jane Fredricks to find out if Tony is there and she informs him about what has happened, advising him to call detective Carter. This is where Enrico gets into a panic. He can’t keep all the things that have happened in his head and think straight. He gets on the phone and asks Gary Schiaffo, the former head of investigations in Miami, for help, as he had been in contact with him during the filming of “The Medusa Smile” and they had done each other some a favors.
Then he gets a plane back to Florida and lands in Miami before Anthony Pike. But he is waiting in vain for the hotel owner at the passenger exit. Anthony Pike had been intercepted by the police and hidden at the Hotel Regency and it would have been impossible for Forti to meet him.
Enrico Forti is calling the police on Thursday, 19th: “You know, Tony Pike is missing…” He calls a second time and then a third, this time detective Carter makes an “appointment” with him at the police department at 8 p.m. Forti is anxious and doesn’t know what to do. He calls up Schiaffo again who calms him down: “No problem, it’s just a formality. You won’t need a defense attorney.”
During the encounter at the department – according to the defense, there is no evidence for it – detectives Carter and Gonzalez tell Forti that Tony Pike has been found dead in New York. Murdered, it seems. (And now we must pay attention, we really must. If we think about it, if Enrico Forti was the guilty one –i.e. at that moment conscious of having killed Dale Pike but at the same time of not having killed his father, and quite sure – unless his death was due to a shocking but extremely unlikely coincidence –that the news about Tony Pike’s death is a fabrication, would he have lied the way he did?!) But Enrico does exactly that and by doing it he is making his biggest mistake. But let’s put ourselves in his shoes at the time. If really both father and son were killed almost at the same time, there is somebody who is trying to nail him down, definitely and cynically wanting to lock him into jail and throw away the key. That’s why he says he never met Dale Pike. Anybody could have done the same. Anybody who didn’t know about the moralistic respect Americans have for the truth. For them, there is no such thing as a different measurement scale for different types of lies. An innocent lie said with good intention is judged on the same scale as the biggest lie ever.
“MRS. FORTI, DID YOU KNOW YOUR HUSBAND IS PART OF THE MAFIA?”
On February 20th, the day after the first police questioning, Enrico Forti is returning voluntarily to the police department to take some papers he had been asked to bring the day before. For sure he didn’t expect what was about to happen to him. He was arrested with the indictment of fraud and embezzlement and questioned for 14 hours. Without a defense counsel. He says: and what about the Vienna Convention, guaranteeing immediate legal assistance in case a citizen is arrested in a country that is not his own? And what about the Universal Principles about a fair trial, consecrated in an International Pact in New York on December 16th 1966, and obviously also signed by the U.S.? Who the hell cares… During the same night, he will be taken to what supposedly is the crime scene, handcuffed.
Still handcuffed, he is taken to an ambulatory where a blood sample is taken, to compare the DNA. All this without being informed about his “Miranda rights”, since officially he is not under arrest (but he is handcuffed…)
His apartment is searched. His car too, as it is broken in by a mysterious tramp. And the Italian authorities, the Italian Consulate, when will they find out about the arrest? They will read it in the newspapers. Nine days later, that is.
How can we put this? In this case, things have happened which unfortunately can only remain conjectures. What we are stating is based on Enrico Forti’s testimony and on that of his wife. The detectives tell her a lot of lies about her husband (“He’s a mafia man, he’s leading a double life”, etc.), things which unfortunately Heather will believe for a long time, until she realizes she has been deceived. Among other things, at the time of the arrest, the detectives rip up the photographs of a smiling Enrico with his children, intimidating him that he will never see them again. (This prediction has come true. At least, until now.) It goes without saying that there is no trace of this episode, and nobody even knows where the video of the surveillance cameras of the police department has ended up.
In any case, by now we are at the end of February. Enrico Forti and Thomas Knott are the main suspects, but the German has an alibi. It may be a weak one, but it is still an alibi ( he had invited guests for a party in the two-room apartment on Williams Island…)
This however is regarding the indictment for murder. For the fraud, the detectives believe to have sufficient proof for the fact that Anthony Pike has been conned by Forti. But the truth of the matter is that it’s the other way round, the con man is really Anthony Pike.
On February 25th , Knott is arrested as well, during an attempt to escape from Miami. On March 3rd, Forti is freed on bond, initially fixed at 10 million dollars: a record amount for a fraud case, without any justification for it. Two days later it will be turned into (how? why?) freezing the defendant’s accounts.
In any case, that’s not the problem, since Forti is found not guilty of all charges on October 9th, 1999. Thomas Knott on the contrary will be found guilty by the Court of Florida of fraud against Anthony Pike, as well as for owning a gun with the same caliber of the one with which Dale Pike was killed…
I know, it may seem incredible, but a few years later the parts are reversed and Thomas Knott will be the one flying back to Europe, as free as a migrant bird.
Between the day of the first arrest until the verdict of “not guilty” for the indictment of fraud, 20 months go by, during which basically Forti is not held in custody . Months during which he could have – if he had been guilty and feeling that something was being set up behind his back – left the U.S. quite easily. But he doesn’t leave. Why? – Perhaps because he’s not guilty? – Just a thought.
Two days after being judged “not guilty” of fraud, the fraud will be used again as a motive, when Forti is arrested wit the indictment of first degree murder.
THE DEFENSE – CONFUSED AND TOO CHICKEN-HEARTED
“The trial? – Just a formality”. Take the word of the defense counsel for it. But then things turn and get complicated. Forti would like to give testimony, go to the bar and tell the Jury what really happened, what those detectives did to him and to his family, but his defense counsel (and here we have another sore point of the Forti case) have advised him not to expose himself, in order to avoid a debacle in the face of a practically certain verdict of “not guilty”. It’s a shame though that for American law this way of proceeding (i.e. not going to the bar) is granting an incredible advantage to the Prosecution – the right to have the last word. It’s a bit like letting the Barcelona football club play against a small town team and on top of that depriving the latter of three players as well as of their goal keeper. It’s the first of a series of “own goals” (metaphorically) that the defense will cause during the court hearings.
Another absurd detail: the duration of the preliminary enquiry. 20 months is a record time, considering that usually it takes around six. Why is this? Nobody knows. Perhaps to get as much proof as possible to set up the defendant?
Third mistake of the defense: the conflict of interest of which attorney Ira Loewy is guilty of. For some time in fact he has been working as a Prosecutor in another case. For American law, this is a reason to declare the trial null and void, unless the defendant has given his consent. Some time after, Loewy will come up with a photocopy of an authorization, supposedly signed and authorized by Enrico Forti. But Forti repeatedly claims that he has never seen that form and therefore he can’t have signed it.
Anthony Pike will show up in court ailing, a drama queen supported by two nurses. (A few weeks later, two of Forti’s friends will see him, how should we say– in fair better health at his hotel in Ibiza)
The trial will go on wearily for 20 days, and Judge Platzer will tell the parties that they are wasting too much time in idle talk….Sure, if there are no witnesses, no fingerprints, no evidence, etc.etc… What kind of trial can you base on that? But…there is a but.
A INDICTMENT WORTH A NOBEL PRIZE … BUT IN THE CATEGORY “CINICISM”
Should there ever be a Nobel prize for Ars Oratoria,i.e. the art of rhetoric, then Reid Rubin, the Prosecutor in the case, would be top of the list as a candidate. But if there was such a thing as a Nobel prize in “cynicism”, he wouldn’t be in the back rows either. One only has to read his summation. Because we are talking about a Prosecutor who was able to convince a Jury of 12 people that the defendant was guilty, based only on a lie which was put right after 24 hours anyway. He was able to have sentenced Enrico Forti to life without any substantial proof connecting him to the murder, without a witness or finger prints, without murder weapon and despite a negative DNA test result (it was compared to the DNA on a glove found next to Pike’s body). To say nothing of the motive that was used: the fraud of which Enrico Forti had been found “not guilty” months beforehand. A unfair and unlawful behavior, totally ignoring the so-called Double Jeopardy Rule according to which if a defendant has already been found not guilty for a charge, the same charge cannot be used in another trial. But Reid Rubin, the Nobel prize candidate, doesn’t stop short here. Knowing he will have the right to have the last word, during the final summation he will use the lock pick of the indictment for fraud, without informing the Jury that Enrico Forti had actually been found not guilty of it! Isn’t it beyond belief?
Finally the verdict is announced. Judge Victoria Platzer – who worked together with Gary Schiaffo in the homicide section at the time of the Cunanan case – is asking the jury to pronounce their verdict. And believe it or not, it reads as follows: “Forti personally and/or with another person or persons who were as yet unknown, while acting as principles and in concert, one with the other, and/or as part of a common scheme or plan, did unlawfully and feloniously kill Dale Pike with another person or other persons who are as yet unknown.”
Which is as if a mother were saying to her naughty child: “You pinched the jam personally or with someone else or with others who I don’t know right now, and the idea was yours or somebody else’s or perhaps it’s got nothing to do with you but I will punish you all the same.”
But Judge Platzer will display the best of her sophistic capabilities when immediately after the Jury she will express herself using the following terms (this is an exact transcription of the original wording): “The Court has no proof you actually pulled the trigger on the murder (weapon never found) but I feel beyond all doubt that you were the instigator. Your accomplices have not as yet been apprehended but one day they will be and will then face the same fate as yourself. Take this man away in chains to the Federal State Penitentiary. I sentence you to life without parole”
What? You feel? Did we hear right? Judge Platzer, you are ruining a man’s life because you have a …feeling? Are you aware of what you are saying? Not a certainty, but a feeling, from the Latin word sensationem, meaning more or less “simply a modification of the human spirit based on an impression on our nerves by an outside event?
Sometimes one word alone can reveal more things you can imagine. In Florida, in the swamps full of crocodiles, there is a high security penitentiary. In that penitentiary there is a prison cell. In that cell an Italian has been living for the past twelve years. He has lost his wife, his children, his house and his freedom. He had to hear and live with the fact that his father Aldo died of heartache. All this because of a feeling…
But, she says, by all means, you can appeal! Attorneys Loewy and Bierman claim to be sure that the verdict will be reversed. They even tell Enrico’s family to put a bottle of Champagne in the fridge, to celebrate. But then the appeal turns into a kind of farce. While sipping her coffee, the judge dismisses the objections made during the first instance one by one as “not relevant”. A few minutes only, in midst members of the police force who are laughing and other defendants passing by and going in front of the Court, and it’s all over. A rehearing of the trial is not granted either, by this violating clause 14 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, signed in Rome on November 4th 1950, concerning a fair trial.
KAFKAESQUE APPEALS AND STRANGE ABATEMENTS OF ACTIONS
Twelve long years have gone by. Enrico Forti is now 52, and when you look at him in recent photographs, despite that positive spar k in his eyes, you notice a tiredness. Not fear but exhaustion. The fact to have to keep repeating that he is innocent, and to think that his relatives – and especially his uncle, Gianni Forti – and his friends are turning their lives upside down in the attempt to get him out of that place, must be a thought that is distressing him. He would like to activate himself, read the trial papers, go on television, answer the journalists, but he can’t do anything. The only thing he can do is stay in his cell and try to forget his sense of guilt, for the affliction that indirectly he is causing his family. Perhaps that’s the only thing he can actually be blamed for.
In the space of ten years, five extremely costly appeals were filed (at a cost of 100 000 dollars each…) The first on October 26th, 2001. The hearing will be on April 30th of the year after. (Look out, because here we really are entering a realm of absurdity) In front of the Judges, the defense counsel Bierman and Loewy show up, and for the Prosecution Frank Ingrassia, replacing (why?) Rubin, the master of rhetoric. Loewy will repeat one by one the weak points of the Prosecution. Lucidly and quite determined. Ingrassia on the other hand is reading out a brief by Rubin, and is embarrassingly unprepared. Seemingly, he even admits a few weak points of the Prosecution to do with the evidence of the sand and about the fact of not granting a speed trial. At the end he will be reprimanded by the Senior Judge who – literally – points out that he has not given any answers about the evidence exhibited. Therefore, in his reply Loewy will again stress the abuse by the Prosecutor’s office and the fact that the accusation is inconsistent. Yet six weeks later the Forti case is filed confirming the life sentence. Without motivation. Talking about being kafkaesque…
The second appeal (filed in July 2004, while the reply is dated October 19th, 2006!) will be refused without discussion and without opinion. On July 9th 2008 the request for rehearing will be refused by the Court of Appeal, obviously without opinion. At this point, the only possible option is to appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida. But to do so, you need a written opinion as to why the last appeal was refused (…and why the hell that? Here you can clearly see that Americans have never studied Roman law…) But never mind, let’s try and ask them for this opinion, no matter if it’s only one line, but it would be our right to know…- No. Nothing. No opinion is given. Obviously there is no opinion as to the reason for the no opinion.
Last possibility, the Federal Court of the United States of America. On March 9th 2009, Forti’s defense attorneys file a motion which will be refused because of expiry of the time limits… In short, it almost seems as if something like a tombstone is being placed over Enrico Forti’s case.
A “POLITICAL” SOLUTION: FROM AMANDA TO CHICO, VIA THE FOREIGN MINISTRY
During these years of detention Enrico Forti has never thought of asking for an act of grace for a crime he claims he hasn’t committed. And at the same time he is well avoiding to ask to be transferred to an Italian prison, despite this being envisaged by the Strasbourg Convention. However the risks are high and manifold. One aspect alone: who can guarantee that once the request is signed it will actually be granted? And why should he admit, if only implicitly, to be guilty of a crime for which he is desperately trying to prove his innocence? American justice certainly didn’t give him any reasons to believe it is reliable…
So the only pathway left is the so-called “political” one. During the days before the verdict of not guilty for American citizen Amanda Knox, America campaigned in favor of the girl from Seattle. But if we go and look, already in December 2009, after the first instance verdict, Senator Maria Cantwell said it “caused her sadness”. She was talking about having serious doubts about the proper functioning of the Italian legal system, and that anti-American feelings may have influenced the trial. In this Senator’s opinion , who is representing the State of Washington (where the Knox family is living) “there was not sufficient proof for an impartial Jury to conclude beyond any reasonable doubt that Amanda was guilty”. From that day onwards, American politicians have been insisting that Hilary Clinton in person should deal with the case (and it cannot be excluded that the former first lady got involved in some way)
The attitude by Italian politics is completely different. The one who could be the main contact person– Foreign Minister Franco Frattini – has kept a low (or one could even say extremely low) profile about the matter. This is what he wrote on his blog: “America is a great democracy and the only step we cannot afford to make is that of a political and diplomatic interference (…) The only possibility is to verify if there are new elements exculpating the defendant, which either had not emerged before or had not been considered during the trial, i.e. elements to reopen the case, evaluate the new evidence and ascertain if he is responsible or not”.
Not to worry, Minister Frattini, there are quite a number of elements of the kind. Weren’t you informed by your staff?
THE SIMILARITIES OF THE FORTI CASE WITH THE “HURRICANE” CARTER CASE
At the beginning of this article we mentioned the movie “The Hurricane”. It is about a boxer, Rubin Carter. Half of the population of the United States got activated in his favor (even Bob Dylan, whose famous song “Hurricane” is about him ) At a certain point in the film, Carter, after years and years in prison, for the first time is showing a weakness. For a long time he didn’t capitulate, through practicing religious asceticism and meditation and using whatever other possibility he had in order to avoid to give in to anger and injustice. There is a scene where he calls his defense counsel and confesses that he can’t any longer. The concern is that this may happen also to Enrico Forti. That despite his determination the years will be too many for him and that he will give in, ask for grace and confess a crime for which – by looking at the facts so far – he really doesn’t seem responsible.
And there is also another danger. A much greater one. The danger that rumors about a rehearing may hit the penitentiary in the Everglades too soon. “In this place the life of a man is worth a hundred or two hundred dollars at the most” Enrico Forti has said more than once. The sword of Damocles is hanging over his head since the first day of his more than ten years long prison term. Should it strike, then many people would have to accept responsibility for this.