Patrick Lumumba: A Tortuous Tale of Italian Jurisprudence!

It’s time to Break It Down!

On November 1, 2007, 21 year-old Meredith Kercher was murdered in Perugia, ItalyMs. Kercher was a British exchange student from Coulsdon, South London.

Rudy Guede, a native of the Ivory Coast, raised in Perugia, was convicted in October 2008 of having sexually assaulted and murdered Kercher.  Initially sentenced to 30 years, his sentence was reduced on appeal to 16 years in December 2009.

Amanda Knox, an American exchange student in Perugia,Kercher’s flatmate (roommate), and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian student were convicted on charges of sexual assault and murder in December 2009, and sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively.  Their convictions were overturned on appeal in October 2011.  In a statement of their grounds for overturning the convictions, the two judges who oversaw the case wrote:

There was a “material non-existence” of evidence to support the guilty verdicts at the trial. The prosecution’s theory of an association between Sollecito, Knox and Guede was “not corroborated by any evidence” and “far from probable

Kercher’s murder and the subsequent events, especially Knox’sarrest and trial, received worldwide media attention.  This was particularly true in Italy and England, where much of the publicity was of the salacious tabloid variety.  A number of observers criticized the press for failing to describe events in an accurate and dispassionate manner.  Naturally, the concern was that this could skew the outcome of the case.

In recent days, American media has been afire with reports that the Italian Supreme Court has overturned the acquittal, and declared that Knox and Sollecito’s case must be retried.  While the case is set in Italy, in America, we operate on a presumption of innocence, until one is proved guilty.  There is also a rule against what is called double-jeopardy, which means, in effect, if an individual is tried and found not guilty, they cannot be tried again for the same crime.

All of this may seem quite confusing to casual observers, familiar with the rules of American jurisprudence.  In the Italian system, there is a procedural sequencing that allows the Supreme Court to take the action it has in Ms. Knox’s case.  In the technical sense, what is about to happen is an extension of the stages or phases of the original prosecution, and not what Americans would consider double-jeopardy.

Amanda Knoxmay in fact be innocent of the murder of Meredith Kercher.  I hope she is! This review of the facts is not intended to try her case from my vantage point.  Rather, it is meant to note the markedly biased treatment the recent ruling is being given by parts of the American media stream, which appears to be enthusiastically questioning how “unfairly” Ms. Knox is being treated, as she attempts to rebuild her life back in her home town of Seattle.

Yet, this is what I find troubling. In her initial story to police, Ms. Knox alleged that Patrick Lumumba was infatuated with Ms. Kercher, had sex with her, and later killed her.  Lumumba was a bar owner for whom Knox worked.  At one point she noted:

I have a hard time remembering those moments but Patrick had sex with Meredith, with whom he was infatuated, but I cannot remember clearly whether he threatened Meredith first. I remember confusedly that he killed her.

Mr. Lumumba spent two weeks in jail, before the evidentiary trail fell apart abruptly, on two separate fronts. First and foremost, he had an airtight alibi.  He was at work at his bar, and engaged in conversation all evening with witnesses who corroborated his whereabouts.  Second, his DNA could not be found at the crime scene…the reason being both understandable, and abundantly clear, since he was not there!  On its face, at best, this was yet another classic instance of “blame it on the black guy;” at worse, it was a blatantly opportunistic, perhaps even desperate ploy to point the po-po in any direction, not aimed toward her.

In the end, regardless of whether Ms. Knox tried to “Susan SmithLumumba, or whether she was just lying through her teeth in an at-all-costs effort to save her own skin, damn the consequences to an innocent man; her behavior and character must be put under a microscope, due to her personal actions, color notwithstanding.  She was eventually found guilty of slandering Mr. Lumumba, and had her sentence for doing so, initially slated for one year, increased to three years and eleven days.

The Italian Court of Cassation later found that Knox’s human rights had been violated, because the police had not told her of her legal rights, appointed her a lawyer, or provided her an official interpreter; therefore, her statement to police was ruled inadmissible for Knox’s and Sollecito’scriminal trial. The court did, however, rule the note she wrote afterwards questioning the validity of her statement was admissible as evidence to prosecute her.

On 16 November the Rome forensic police matched fingerprints found in Kercher’s bedroom to Rudy Guede, who had lived in or near Perugia since arriving in Italy with his father when he was five years old. Because he was an immigrant, his fingerprints were on file.  He was arrested on November 20, 2007 in Germany, where he had fled days after the murder. His DNA was later found at the crime scene, on and inside Kercher’s body.  The prosecution charged Guede for the murder, but retained the allegations against Knox and Sollecito that originally related to acting in concert with Mr. Lumumba.

On October 3, 2011, the court overturned Knox’s and Sollecito’s convictions on charges of complicity in murder, sexual assault, illegally carrying a knife and staging a break-in. The conviction of Knox on a charge of slander was upheld.

Ms. Knox immediately returned to the United States upon her release from custody.  She then undertook the arduous task of putting the pieces of her life back together after four years in an Italian jail.  She is enrolled in college, she is writing a book about her experience, and by and large she has tried to get on with her life.

Americans have a tendency to look out for their own.  Consequently, I understand, given the range of less than delightful circumstances that Ms. Knox experienced, how and why Americans, spurred by an overzealous media, may be prone to view her as a sympathetic figure.  Yet, I cannot exorcise from my mind the image of Patrick Lumumba; innocent and in jail.  And no matter how you frame it, he found himself in that unenviable position because of the nonfactual representation of events presented by a woman whose collective defense much of the American media seems to be at the ready.

I’m sorry, but in my view, Patrick Lumumba is the sympathetic figure in this story.  As I wrote earlier, I am not suggesting that Ms. Knox is culpable in Ms. Kercher’s death.  I don’t even care to speculate on that subject. However, what has been established as fact, and etched in my mind is, for whatever the reason, Ms. Knox concocted a story, among a spate of other inconsistencies, that led to an innocent black man going to jail.  Patrick Lumumba: A Tortuous Tale of Italian Jurisprudence!”  That’s all I need to know!

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CPAC: A Trip Back to the Future

It’s time to Break It Down!

While the Catholic Church Worldwide was busy in Rome, electing, welcoming, and confirming a new Pope Francis I, in case you managed to miss it, the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party was ensconced inWashington, DC, rallying around an impressive array of the reigning Right Wing Illuminati.  The list of invited conservative luminaries included Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum,Tim Scott, Mitt Romney, Allen West, Bobby Jindal, and Jeb Bush, to name just 10.  Conspicuous by his absence (and lack of an invitation), was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whom many view as the early odds-on favorite to claim the GOP nomination in 2016.

As the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convened in the nation’s Capital for its 40th Annual Confab, many observers noted a fairly active episode of trench warfare; nothing less than a battle for the soul of the Party.  And who is the opponent of record?  Believe it or not, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has staked itself out as the entity standing as the antithesis of CPAC.

In a freshly minted report commissioned by the RNC the narrative is framed such that it tears the CPAC/GOP-Tea Party a proverbial “new one.”   One characterization in the LA Timesasserts that the report “Reads like an anti-GOP critique from the“lame stream media.”  The report maintains the GOP, as currently constituted is:

  • Too rigidly ideological
  • Too enthralled with greedy corporations
  • Too disconnected from nonwhite and young voters
  • In desperate need of new ideas

The report was authored by a collection of folks straight out of the Bush faction of the Republican Party.  Prominent among them were Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush’s White House spokesman, Sally Bradshaw, a veteran advisor to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and RNC Committeeman Henry Barbour, nephew of Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi Governor and RNC Chairman, who worked on the Presidential  campaign of Vice President George H. W. Bush in 1988.  Completing the five-member group of authors are two additional RNC members, whose race and ethnicity make them atypical RepublicansGlenn McCall, an African American from South Carolina, andZori Fonalledas, a Latina from Puerto Rico.

In gathering input for the report, the 5-member panel solicited input from 50,000rank-and-file party members.  Information gathered from focus groups (composed of Republicans) indicate that a great many Americansperceive Republicans as:

  • Narrow-minded
  • Out of touch
  • Homophobic
  • Stuffy old white men
  • Interested only in the welfare of rich people
  • A turn-off to young voters
  • Disinterested in attracting minorities to the Party

In addition to these findings, the report also suggests a number of philosophical adjustments that “true conservatives” view as anathema.  For example, the report argues, “We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when CEO’s receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not has a meaningful raise in years.”

That rhetoric could easily be mistaken for a statement from the Democratic Party, oft described by conservatives as class warfare.”

It can be argued, however, that an even more highly charged position taken by the report is the endorsement of comprehensive immigration reform.  In DC,CPAC heard right-wing commentator Ann Coulter blasted the report, insisting that immigration reform equates to amnesty, and amounts to political suicide for the GOP. She claimed, “If amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election.”

In its heated reaction, CPAC provided a vivid example of the fevered, insular mindset that the RNC committee sees as a huge problem for the party.

The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself,” the report opines.  The writers went on to say, “We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.

Ironically, while the RNC is saying let us open the doors to new people and new ideas, a litany ofCPAC speakers was composed almost entirely of insular ideologues, gay-bashers, gun fetishists, religious fundamentalists, birth control foes, and devotees of wacky conspiracy theoriesCPACheadliners such as Sara Palin, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Allen West, Donald Trump, and the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre do not represent a new direction for the GOP.  They represent exactly what the RNC is warning against; “CPAC: A Trip Back to the Future.”  Have no doubt; there is a battle afoot for the soul of the GOP.

I’m done; holla back!

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“Pontiff-ication: 15 Papal Trivia Firsts!”

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday’s billowing black smoke from the Sistine Chapel meant no new Pope; back to the drawing board.  Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was elected Pontiffby the Conclave of Cardinals on April 19, 2005, three days after his 78th birthday.  He went on to serve 7 years and a little over 10months as Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th Bishop of Rome.  Though he had reached an advanced age prior to his elevation, it is worth noting that Cardinal Ratzinger is not the oldest man elected Pope.  It is just as noteworthy that the youngest person to assume the position was a teenager at the time.  (See both in the list below).   

Most of us are familiar with the broad strokes of the Pope and the Catholic Church, i.e., the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, Romeis considered the home of the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Churchis the world’s largest Christian Church, with over 1.2 billion members, worldwide.  Yet, there are lots of nuggets unknown to most of us non-Catholics, as well as a few not generally known by Catholics.    

By now, virtually everyone with access to print media, TV/cable news, and/or the WorldWideWeb, knows Pope Benedict XVI resigned his Papacy, effective February 28, 2013, and is now Pope Emeritus.  Yesterday, the Conclave of Cardinals met for the first time to cast ballots to elect a new Pope.  According to the procedural regimen of the Catholic Church, the Cardinals in the Papal Conclave will continue to meet daily and vote until one of the Cardinals receives 77 votes; 2/3 of the 115 Cardinalsparticipating in this Conclave.  Once a Cardinalreceives the necessary 2/3 majority vote, white smoke will emanate from the Sistine Chapel, signaling the election of the 266th Pope.

To supplement the burgeoning conversation that is currently underway regarding the Catholic Church, as the Papal Conclaveendeavors to elect a new Pope, I offer the following 15 elements of trivia firsts:

1.      St. Peter is said, according to Catholic tradition, to have been the first Pope, as well as the one who brought Christianityto Rome.  However, there is evidence to indicate Christianity came to Romewell before Peter, and even once there, he did not serve as Bishop or any sort of leader.  Ultimately, Catholics insist that Jesushimself anointed Peter to the position, and they use Scripturalreferences to support their claim.Perhaps the best example is Matthew 16: 18-19“(18) And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  (19) I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  New International Version (NIV)

2.      St. Sixtus I (Xystus)First know Pope to have also been the son of a Priest.  During his era, there was no requirement that priests be celibate.

3.      St. Pius I First real Bishopof Rome.  Prior to this the Christian community was governed by a council of elders or deacons.  Pius was the first “Bishop”who exercised sole authority.

4.      St. Victor I First AfricanPope.First Pope to attempt to exert authority outside Rome and neighboring communities.  He threatened excommunication for anyone who refused to celebrate Easteron Sunday and was soundly rebuked for it – at the time, the Bishop of Rome was not justified in telling others what to do in this way,

5.      St. Pontain First Pope to resign.  Pontain was arrested and sentenced to labor in the mines of Sardinia.  Because of his sentence, Pope Pontain abdicated on September 28, 235 AD, to prevent a power vacuum.

6.      St. Innocent I First Popewhose father was a Pope, Anastasius I.  Had Anastasius’marriage not been valid, Innocent would have been an illegitimate child, and therefore ineligible for the priesthood.

7.      St. Gelasius I First Pope to use the title “Vicar of Christ.”  Last Popeof African descent, though born in Rome.

8.      John II First Pope to adopt a new name when elected – but only because his given name was that of a pagan god, Mercurius

9.      Pelagius I First Pope not actually elected; he was simply appointed by the Emperor Justinian.

10.Adrian I Oldest person elected Pope (80)

11.Adrian II Last married Pope.  His wife Setphaniaand his daughter lived in the Vatican palace with him.

12.Boniface VI When Bonifacewas elected Pope, he had already beendefrocked twice because of immoral behavior.

13.Sergius III Sergiusordered the murder of his two immediate predecessors, Leo, and Christopher.

14.John XI First (and presumably only) Pope who was the illegitimate son of a previous Pope (Sergius III).

15.John XII Youngest person elected Pope (18); first and only teenager elected to the position of Pope.

The trend during the past century or so is to elect a Pope within 3 days on average. If that pattern holds, the world will be introduced to the next Pope this week.  The Papal Conclave will resume its efforts again this morning.  Meanwhile, relax and take a quick tour of a few Papalparticulars you probably didn’t know; Pontiff-ication: 15 Papal Trivia Firsts!”

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Cardinal Sins: Catholicism and the Question of Priestly Celibacy

It’s time to Break It Down!

In 1859, Charles Dickens penned the classic A Tale of Two Cities.  The opening paragraph, one of the most famous in all of literature, reads thusly:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

For whatever it’s worth, recent events in the Catholic Church summon for me thoughts of those pointed analogies.  Of course, I must first admit I approach this conversation from the perspective of a non-Catholic.  As such, it’s perfectly fine for all the practicing members of the Faith to dismiss my views as the feeble rant of someone without a clue.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here goes.  Last Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger)left behind Vatican City, the Papal Ring, and his red Pradas; becoming the first Pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so of his own volition since Pope Celestine Vin 1294 (719 years ago).  He is expected to return to the Vatican City and live out his retirement in the newly renovated Mater Ecclesiae monastery.

There has been rampant speculation and numerous conspiracy theories about why, after more than seven centuries, a Pope chose to opt out.  To be fair, this Pope has a number of health challenges, and he cited those maladies as the basis for his decision to leave his elevated station.  Still, in full disclosure, much of the chum being circulated about reasons, at least tangentially associated with the Pope’s departure, is downright salacious.  Theories comprise a generous mixture of sex, lies, hypocrisy, secrecy, and of course, money.  No word of videotape…yet!

Christendom acknowledges acts against God as sin.The most objectionable elements of these acts are often referred to asCardinal Sins, Capital Vices, or The Seven Deadly Sins

The Roman Catholic Church divides sin into two categories: venial sins, in which guilt is relatively minor, and the more severe mortal sins.  In order to eliminate any confusion, theCardinal Sins referred to in this post are Cardinal Sins because…they were committed by Roman Catholic Cardinals; not birds, not the Baseball Team, or the Football Team, but men; Roman Catholic Priests.

This post points to two highly placed Catholic officials, and examines the different ways they are responding to their virtual perp walks.  So it is, rather than, A Tale of Two Cities, a tale of two Cardinals; prelates from different continents, but both influential heavyweights in their own spheres.

On the American Left Coast, the Archbishop of Metropolitan Los Angeles, José Horacio Gómez, removed Cardinal Roger Mahony of all his public and episcopal duties in the Archdioceseof Los  Angeles, on January 31, 2013.  The Archbishop took this action after the release of personnel files documenting priest sexual abuse cases during Cardinal Mahaony’s tenure.

In 1985, Pope John Paul II appointed Mahony Archbishop of Los Angeles; he made him a Cardinal in 1991.In July 2007, Mahoney and the Catholic Church in Los Angelesapologized for abuses by priests after 508 victims reached a record-breaking settlement worth $660 million, and an average payout of $1.3 million per plaintiff.  At the time Mahony described the abuse as a “terrible sin and crime.”  That agreement dwarfed a similar settlement paid by the Archdiocese of Boston, where Massachusettslaw places a legal dollar cap on how much a non-profit group can be required to pay.

Deliver Us From Evil, a 2006 documentary chronicles accusations that Cardinal Mahony knew that a priest serving under him, Oliver O’Grady, a native of the Republic of Ireland, had a two decades long history of sexually abusing and molesting children (including one infant), but that he failed to keep him away from children.The film claims that in a 1984 (was this Orwellian?) a Stockton police investigation into sexual abuse allegations against O’Grady was reportedly closed after diocesan officials promised to remove the priest from any contact with children.  Instead, Mahony reassigned O’Grady to a parish approximately 50 miles east, in San Andreas, where O’Grady continued to molest children.By 2012, authorities obtained internal Church documents showing Mahony had organized the movement of sexual predators across jurisdictional boundaries to complicate any possible prosecution.  In 1987 he prohibited a priest from seeking therapy for his urges on the grounds that a therapist might report the crimes to police.

The New York Times, in January 2013, editorialized: “No member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy fought longer and more energetically thanCardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angelesto conceal the decades-long scandal involving the rape and intimidation of children by rogue priests. For years, the cardinal withheld seamy church records from parents, victims and the public, brandishing endless litigation and fatuous claims of confidentiality.”

The only additional piece of information you need to know is, “This man is one of the 115 Cardinals who will be part of the Papal conclave to elect the next Pope.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien was Britain’s highest ranking Catholic leader…until Monday of last week.  He has been accused of improper conduct with priests – an unprecedented first head to roll in the sometimes tawdry passion play that has ensued in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign.

O’Brien, who was also the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, resigned from those posts too.  For the record, the Vatican maintains that Pope Benedict accepted his resignation purely because he was nearing the retirement age of 75 – not because of accusations…wink, wink.  However, O’Brien issued a statement saying he would skip the conclave because he did not want to become the focus of media attention at such a delicate time for the Catholic Church.

In addition, O’Brien said through a spokesman, he is contesting the allegations of reported in a British newspaper, Sunday, February 24th, that three priests had files complaints to the Vatican alleging that the Cardinal acted inappropriately with them.  The newspaper did not name the priests, but said their allegations date back to the 1980’s.The behavior was not detailed in the story.

This is the first time a Cardinal has recused himself from a Papal conclave because of personal scandal.  The episode follows closely a grass roots campaign to shame another Cardinal, Roger Mahony, into refraining from participating because of his role in protecting sexually abusive priests.  As noted above, however, Cardinal Mahony has, in defiant fashion, opted to ignore the calls for him to decline participation in the conclave to elect a new Pope.

An interesting, if not key distinction in the behavior of the two Cardinals is that in Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahoney has been shown to have covered up the indiscretions of other priests (a category of violation that has historically shielded accused bishops of sanction), whereas, in St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal O’Brien has been accused personally of improper behavior.  It seems likely; this difference in focus is the basis for the difference in the two men’s decision on whether to attend the conclave to elect the Pope.

There are undoubtedly a great many sociological evaluations and assessments delving into why these issues are plaguing the Catholic Church.  Without exhausting the full range of possibilities, one observation screams so loudly, it is difficult to ignore. 

Mark Dowd, a former Dominican Friar and currently a freelance writer, wrote in The Guardian last Monday, that a series of respondents were interviewed through a program called Queer and Catholic.  He notes that:

“We interviewed clerics and ex-seminarians in the UK, US and Rome and uncovered a huge irony: the very institution that teaches that the homosexual orientation is “intrinsically disordered” attracts gay candidates for the priesthood in numbers way in excess of what one would expect, based on numbers in society at large. One seminary rector based on his own experience told me the number was at least 50%.”

For its part, the Catholic Church’sposition is certainly not that there are no gay priests.  Rather, their vows should trump their nature.  That may be the design, and in a perfect world, that might be precisely as it would play out.  Alas, in the real world scenarios with which we are faced, we are left to ask, “How’s that working for you?”

That Pope Benedict XVI, frail though he admits he is, has by retiring, positioned himself to return to his long held academic pursuits, is at least in some ways a positive outcome of this Papacy.  It had been more that 700 years since a Pope took such an unusual course.  May the Pope Emeritus enjoy his remaining time, and immerse himself in pursuits that will continue to accrue to the love of his life; the Catholic Church.

That the Catholic Church finds itself roiled by controversy of such a prurient nature is a most unfortunate circumstance for the institution.  By all appearances, the combination of contemporary folkways and mores, in conjunction with the will of many people who call themselves Catholic will serve to make complicated all efforts to resolve the many dynamic issues related to this matter.  Yet, at their core, Catholics are believers, and it is written in Mark 9: 23: Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

So, In a Dickensian kind of way, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.Meanwhile, it is also time we took a closer look at “Cardinal Sins: Catholicism and the Question of Priestly Celibacy.”

I’m done; holla back.

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.comor A new post is published each Wednesday.

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