Judge Defends Actions in Italian Murder Case

     SEATTLE (CN) – A judge who was accused of inappropriately contacting Italian authorities to advocate for Amanda Knox, an American college student convicted of killing her roommate in Italy, says he felt “ethically and morally compelled to act” and took “appropriate action.” King County Judge Michael Heavey, whose daughter went to high school with Knox, responded this week to charges from the Washington Judicial Conduct Commission.

In its Statement of Charges, the Judicial Conduct Commission accused Judge Heavey of violating the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct by writing to Italian judges and prosecutors on King County court stationery, using court staff to type the letters, and speaking publicly about Knox’s pending criminal case, in an attempt to influence the proceeding.
In his letters to Italian officials, Heavey identified himself as a Superior Court judge, a member of the Roman Catholic Church and a neighbor of Amanda Knox and wrote that his daughter went to high school with Knox.
Heavey wrote that “police and prison employees have made illegal and false statements to the press,” and that “these false reports have destroyed Amanda Knox’s presumption of innocence and her right to receive a fair trial.”
Heavey also asked that Knox’s trial be moved from Perugia.
“Having observed what was clearly unethical and unlawful conduct, in violation of established standards of American and Italian law, Judge Heavey sought to take appropriate action by writing to involved individuals and the appropriate disciplinary authority,” Heavey wrote in his response to the Commission.
“In his letters and public communications, Judge Heavey could have more clearly stated that the observations and opinions stated therein were his personally and not necessarily those of the Court. At the time he wrote his letters, Judge Heavey was unaware that a judge could instead have personal stationery printed which bears the title judge but which would not be confused with official stationery,” according to the response.
     The Commission will schedule a public hearing and determine if Heavey violated the code.

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