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October 13th, 2011
02:48 PM ET

Another Iranian assasination plot?

CNN's Drew Griffin reports for AC360 on a 2009 Iranian assassination plot targetting an Iranian dissident in California.

The details mirror the bizarre murder-for-hire assertions made by the U.S. government in its charges against Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, accused in an alleged conspiracy to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir.


Filed under: Adel Al-Jubeir • Drew Griffin • Manssor Arbabsiar
October 3rd, 2011
05:02 PM ET

Amanda Knox to go free after jury overturns murder conviction

A jury cleared Amanda Knox of murder and other charges on Monday, nearly four years after she was arrested on suspicion of having killed her roommate in this picturesque Italian university town.

The jury evidently believed Knox's impassioned final statement to the court, delivered in a voice trembling with emotion.

"I am not what they say I am - perverse, violent. ... I haven't murdered. I haven't raped. I haven't stolen," Knox said in the most important speech of her life.

Knox was, however, judged guilty of defamation against Patrick Lumumba, an early suspect in the case. She had accused club owner Lumumba of killing British college student Meredith Kercher in 2007 in Perugia.

Lumumba was arrested but later released after his alibi checked out.

She and her defense team succeeded in overturning a conviction handed down two years ago by a different jury, which found her and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito guilty of killing of Kercher, who was sexually assaulted and killed. Her throat had been slashed.

"I am innocent," Knox said Monday. "Raffaele is innocent."

Sollecito put his claim simply in his own closing statement before Knox spoke.
“I have never hurt anybody," he said.

As he concluded, he dramatically removed his plastic "Free Amanda and Raffaele" bracelet, saying: "I have never taken it off since it was given to me. ... I think now is the moment to take it off."

His voice almost inaudible, he concluded, "I hope this is part of history and that Amanda and I have a future." Knox's lawyer Luciano Ghirga reminded the jury Monday that they had to be convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Knox and Sollecito were guilty if they were to uphold the conviction.

At least four members of the jury - composed of six members of the public and two judges - must have concluded they did, indeed, have doubts about her conviction. A majority ruling was all that was needed to throw out the conviction, with a tie favoring the defense. The actual vote will remain secret, but the main judge, Claudio Pratillo Hellman, will file a statement explaining the jury's reasoning within 90 days of the ruling.

Knox and Sollecito were convicted of murder, sexual assault and related crimes related to Kercher's death in December 2009. A third man, drifter Rudy Guede, was convicted separately of involvement in the killing and is serving 16 years.

In the appeal, lawyers for Knox and Sollecito picked apart DNA evidence that played a role in the original conviction.

Part of the original prosecution case was based on DNA evidence found on a knife and on a bra clasp belonging to Kercher.

During the appeal, experts for the two sides battled over whether the DNA evidence was reliable.

They also fought over the character of Knox.

The lawyer for a man falsely accused of the crime called Knox "Lucifer-like, demonic, Satanic," while Sollecito defense counsel Giulia Bongiorno insisted that, like the buxom cartoon temptress Jessica Rabbit in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" Knox is not bad, just "drawn that way."

Knox herself acknowledged the debate Monday in her closing statement.

"People always ask 'who is Amanda Knox?'" she said. "I am the same person I was four years ago. ... The only thing that now separates me from four years ago is my suffering.

"In 4 years, I've lost my friends in the most terrible and unexplainable way. My trust in the authorities and the police has been damaged. I had to face charges that were totally unfair, without any basis. And I am paying with my life for something I haven't done."

Knox was 20 and Kercher was 21 years old, studying at Perugia's university for foreign students, when Kercher's semi-naked body was found in the house they shared.

Sollecito, 23 at the time, was Knox's boyfriend, studying computer science at another university in Perugia.

Either side can appeal this court's ruling to Italy's High Court, but such an appeal would be on narrow technical grounds only.

CNN’s Drew Griffin takes a look at Amanda Knox’s life growing up for CNN Presents: “Murder Abroad: The Amanda Knox Story.”

Filed under: Amanda Knox • Drew Griffin
September 20th, 2011
05:35 PM ET

Last wrongful death lawsuit from 9/11 is resolved

As the celebrations memorializing the 10th anniversary of 9/11 became echoes, the last of 85 wrongful-death lawsuits stemming from the attacks were resolved Monday, court records showed.

"This is the first time in 10 years not to be in fighting mode," said Mike Bavis, who lost his 31-year-old twin brother Mark when United Airlines Flight 175 became the second plane to pierce the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The Bavis family filed a "gross negligence" lawsuit in 2002 against United and Huntleigh USA, the security company for United Airlines at Logan International Airport in Boston, where the flight originated.

Family attorney Donald A. Migliori said the family hoped to get some accountability for the tragedy.

The family originally opted not to accept payment from the Victims Compensation Fund, but had a change of heart after a court decision this month put the burden of proof on the family and not on the airline and security firm.

The resolution of the case involved compensation, but details were not released.

United Airlines issued a statement saying that "the tragic events of 9/11 impacted all of us, and we are pleased to resolve this case."

Huntleigh's attorney didn't respond to CNN's request for comment.

"The family of Mark Bavis feels that achieved many of their goals," Migliori said. "They were able to ask target questions under oath, and got important answers they were looking for."

CNN’s Drew Griffin interviews ordinary Americans who were thrust by fate into history for CNN Presents: “Footnotes of 9/11.”

Filed under: 9/11 • Drew Griffin • Mark Bavis • United Airlines Flight 175
September 14th, 2011
05:26 PM ET

Palin hits Perry on state-mandated vaccine

While she wasn't on stage at Monday night's debate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin jumped in on the attacks against Texas Gov. Rick Perry for signing a state law that required inoculation against a sexually-transmitted disease for sixth-grade girls.

"You have to go up against the big guns," Palin said on FOX News Monday, praising GOP candidate Michele Bachmann for bringing up the issue at the debate.

"And they will try to destroy you, when you call them out on the mistakes that they have made," she added.

In 2007 Perry signed off on a law that mandated vaccines for HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer. While parents had the option of opting out for religious reasons, the measure was still considered an unpopular law in the Lone Star State.

Bachmann confronted Perry at the "CNN Tea Party Republican Debate" in Tampa, saying the Texas governor's former chief of staff later went to work for a drug company that made the vaccine.

“There was a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate,” Bachmann said, adding that Perry received contributions from the company.

Perry countered saying he had received $5,000.

"I raised $30 million," Perry said. "If you think I can be bought for $5,000, then I'm offended," Perry said.

Firing back with a shot that spurred wide applause in the audience, Bachmann said: "Well, I'm offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn't have a choice."

After the debate, Palin called Perry's ties with the drug company "crony capitalism."

"True reform and fighting the corruption and fighting the crony capitalism is a tough thing to do within your own party," Palin said. "Believe me I know that. I have the bumps and bruises to prove it."

Palin, who paints herself as a "maverick," added that she's been fighting corruption for the last 20 years at the local and state level, in addition to her time campaigning as the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee.

CNN’s Drew Griffin interviewed Gov. Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign for CNN Presents: “Sarah Palin Revealed.”


Filed under: Drew Griffin • HPV • Michele Bachmann • Rick Perry • Sarah Palin
September 7th, 2011
01:20 PM ET

Amanda Knox judge: No new DNA evidence

The judge in the Amanda Knox trial Wednesday rejected a prosecution request for new DNA testing as the American fights her conviction for killing her British housemate, Meredith Kercher.

Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman also rejected prosecution efforts to introduce newly found records about the original testing and to hear a new witness - all victories for Knox's defense, which opposed the motions.

Knox's father Curt told CNN after the rulings he was optimistic his daughter would come home soon.

But Francesco Maresca, a lawyer representing the Kercher family, said the rulings were not a defeat, and that he understood why the judge rejected the requests.

The judge adjourned the hearing until September 23, when final arguments are expected to begin. The earliest possible verdict date is September 29, under a timetable released by the judge Wednesday.

Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were found guilty of the killing in 2009, two years after Kercher's semi-naked body was found in the house they shared inPerugia,Italy.

Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, while Sollecito got 25. A third defendant, Rudy Guede, was convicted in a separate fast-track trial.

Lawyers fighting for Knox and Sollecito this week have worked to cast doubt on DNA evidence found on the knife and Kercher's bra clasp.

DNA on the knife used to kill Kercher could not have been from blood, a forensic expert testifying for Knox's defense told the court Wednesday.

CNN’s Drew Griffin traveled to Perugia, Italy, where he was granted a rare interview with Italian Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini for CNN Presents: “Murder Abroad: The Amanda Knox Story.”


Filed under: Amanda Knox • Drew Griffin
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