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Series Peter Gill

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Exposing Peter Gill #2: Nailing His “Proven Miscarriage Of Justice” False Claim

Posted by The Machine





This article is the second in a series of posts about Peter Gill. The first can be read here.

I want to expose some of the claims Gill noisily made only a year ago in an academic paper The Meredith Kercher case for Forensic Science Genetics: Analysis and Implications of the Miscarriages of Justice of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito to see whether they stand up to the light of day.

Peter Gill claims the case is a PROVEN miscarriage of justice with regard to their convictions for Meredith’s murder:

“The case discussed here relates to the proven miscarriage of justice of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in relation to the accusation of murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy on the 1st November, 2007” (Peter Gill, FSI Genetics Report).

Anyone who is unfamiliar with the case might assume after reading Gill’s comments that there must be some exculpatory evidence will supports his claim e.g. verified alibis or CCTV footage that proves Amanda Knox and Sollecito were not at the cottage at the time of the murder.

However, Peter Gill never substantiates this claim. The reason why he can’t substantiate this claim? There is in fact NO exculpatory evidence at all.

Those unfamiliar might also assume that the other pieces of evidence against Knox and Sollecito have been completely discredited. However, Peter Gill chooses to completely ignore this evidence and its stark significance.

“This paper is necessarily restricted to the interpretation of the DNA evidence—without it the original convictions probably would not have occurred.”

How does Peter Gill KNOW the original convictions probably wouldn’t have occurred?

He seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that DNA evidence is mandatory in a murder trial order to secure a conviction.

However, DNA evidence isn’t a required element in any common law jurisdiction. All the pieces of evidence in a murder trial have to be considered. They also have to be considered wholly - not separately.

If firm DNA proof is there good. If it isnt, that is not a fail. The Italian Supreme Court criticised Appeal Judge Hellmann for adopting a piecemeal, atomistic approach to the evidence, and assessing each piece of evidence in isolation to the other pieces of evidence.

“The Hellmann Court of Appeal did not assess the pieces of circumstantial evidence in a comprehensive fashion; it did not evaluate them in a global and unified dimension, but managed to fragment them by evaluating each one in isolation, in an erroneous legal‐logical analysis, with the goal of criticizing their individual qualitative significance, whereas if the Hellmann Court of appeal had followed the interpretative rule of this Court of legitimacy, each piece of circumstantial evidence would have been integrated with the others, determining an unequivocal clarification of each of the established facts, so as to reach the logical proof of the responsibility of the accused.” (Judge Chieffi’s Supreme Court report, page 25).

But Gill makes the exact same mistake as Hellmann in adopting a piecemeal approach to the evidence against Knox and Sollecito. Unlike Hellmann, however, he ONLY considers the DNA evidence.

British killers Levi Bellfield and Robin Garbutt were both convicted of murder on far less evidence than Knox and Sollecito and without the prosecution presenting any DNA evidence at their trials.

Nobody batted an eyelid. Presumably because these two killers didn’t hire PR firms and they weren’t young women in their 20s.

By restricting his comments to the DNA evidence, Peter Gill conveniently doesn’t have to address and let alone refute the other pieces of evidence that led mutiple judges - including three separate panels of Supreme Court judges - to believe Knox and Sollecito were involved in Meredith’s murder.

One of the key reasons why Knox and Sollecito were convicted of murder is they repeatedly told the police a pack of lies. They gave completely different accounts of where they were, who they were with and what they were doing on the night of the murder. Neither Knox nor Sollecito have verified alibis despite three attempts each.

All the other people who were questioned as part of the police investigation into Meredith’s murder had one credible alibi that could be verified. Innocent people don’t give multiple conflicting alibis and lie repeatedly to the police. It should be noted that Knox and Sollecito lied before and after their questioning on 5 November 2007, so their lies can’t be attributed to police coercion.

Amanda Knox initially claimed she was at Sollecito’s apartment on the evening of the murder and that she was there when she received the text message from Diya Lumumba at 8:18pm. However, Judge Massei and Judge Nencini both pointed out in their reports that her mobile phone records showed that this wasn’t true.

On 5 November 2007, Sollecito admitted in his signed witness statement that he had lied to the police.

“In my former statement I told you a load of rubbish because I believed Amanda’s version of what happened and did not think about the inconsistencies.”

Sollecito withdrew his alibi for Knox and claimed she wasn’t at his apartment.

“At 9pm I went home alone and Amanda said that she was going to Le Chic because she wanted to meet some friends. We said goodbye. I went home, I rolled myself a spliff and made some dinner, but I don’t remember what I ate. At around eleven my father phoned me on the house phone. I remember Amanda wasn’t back yet. I surfed on the Internet for a couple of hours after my father’s phone call, and I stopped only when Amanda came back, about one in the morning, I think.

Once Knox was informed Sollecito was no longer providing her with an alibi, she repeatedly admitted that she was at the cottage when Meredith was killed in two witness statements and in her handwritten note to the police.

Knox was given another opportunity to tell the police the whole truth, but she chose to deliberately and repeatedly lie to the police by again and again accusing Diya Lumumba of murder.

“Amanda Marie Knox accused Patrick Lumumba of the murder at 1:45 am on 6 November 2007.”

“Amanda Marie Knox repeated the allegations before the magistrate, allegations which she never retracted in all the following days.” (The Nencini report, page 114).

Amanda Knox reiterated her false allegation against Diya Lumumba on 6 November 2007 when under no pressure.

“[Amanda] herself, furthermore, in the statement of 6 November 2007 (admitted into evidence ex. articles 234 and 237 of the Criminal Procedure Code and which was mentioned above) wrote, among other things, the following:

“I stand by my [accusatory] statements that I made last night about events that could have taken place in my home with Patrick…in these flashbacks that I’m having, I see Patrick as the murderer…”

This statement was that specified in the notes of 6 November 2007, at 20:00, by Police Chief Inspector Rita Ficarra, and was drawn up following the notification of the detention measure, by Amanda Knox, who “requested blank papers in order to produce a written statement to hand over” to the same Ficarra. (Massei report, page 389).

The Italian Supreme Court categorically stated that it’s a judicial fact Amanda Knox was present at the cottage when Meredith was killed because she repeatedly admitted she was there and she knew specific details about the crime.

“Given this, we now note, with respect to Amanda Knox, that her presence inside the house, the location of the murder, is a proven fact in the trial, in accord with her own admissions, also contained in the memoriale with her signature, in the part where she tells that, as she was in the kitchen, while the young English woman had retired inside the room of same Ms. Kercher together with another person for a sexual intercourse, she heard a harrowing scream from her friend, so piercing and unbearable that she let herself down squatting on the floor, covering her ears tight with her hands in order not to hear more of it.

About this, the judgment of reliability expressed by the lower [a quo] judge [Nencini, ed.] with reference to this part of the suspect’s narrative, [and] about the plausible implication from the fact herself was the first person mentioning for the first time [46] a possible sexual motive for the murder, at the time when the detectives still did not have the results from the cadaver examination, nor the autopsy report, nor the witnesses’ information, which was collected only subsequently, about the victim’s terrible scream and about the time when it was heard (witnesses Nara Capezzali, Antonella Monacchia and others), is certainly to be subscribed to.”

We make reference in particular to those declarations that the current appellant [Knox] produced on 11. 6. 2007 (p.96) inside the State Police headquarters. On the other hand, in the slanderous declarations against Lumumba, which earned her a conviction, the status of which is now protected as final judgement [giudicato], [they] had themselves exactly that premise in the narrative, that is: the presence of the young American woman inside the house in via della Pergola, a circumstance which nobody at that time – except obviously the other people present inside the house – could have known (quote p. 96). (The Bruno and Marasca, Supreme Court report).

Not only does Peter Gill completely ignore Knox and Sollecito’s numerous lies and multiple false alibis as if they are somehow unimportant and irrelevant, he also completely ignores the fact that Amanda Knox knew specific details about the crime.

Judge Nencini pointed out in his report that Knox made statements to the police that contained specific references to events that the investigation ascertained actually happened on 1 and 2 November 2007 and that nobody other than a participant in those tragic events could have known about. She knew that Meredith had been sexually assaulted and had screamed loudly and she placed herself near the basketball ball in Piazza Grimana which was corroborated by another witness.

Umbria Prosecutor General Galati pointed out in his appeal that Amanda Knox told Meredith’s British friends that Meredith “was covered by a quilt, that a foot was sticking out, that they had cut her throat and that there was blood everywhere” (The Galati-Costagliola appeal, page 65).

Galati concluded that Amanda Knox knew these specifc details because she was in Meredith’s room at the time of the murder.

“Amanda has described the spot where Meredith was effectively murdered (in front of the wardrobe) and she has described the state of the body and of the room and the injury to the throat, in speaking with Meredith’s co-nationals, although, at the moment when the door to Meredith’s room was kicked in, neither she nor Sollecito, for certain, were able to look inside.

According to her, neither she nor Sollecito went into that room that morning before the arrival of the police because it was locked. Yet she knew everything. She knew because she was in that room at the time of the murder and when Meredith was left in the conditions in which she was discovered.” (The Galati-Costagliola appeal, pages 66-67).

I anticipate that Peter Gill might try to handwave away the lies by attributing them to police coercion or brutality on 5 November 2007. Amanda Knox claimed she was slapped twice by a police officer. However, the witnesses who were present when Knox was questioned, including her interpreter, all testified under oath at the trial in 2009 that she wasn’t hit.

Furthermore, Amanda Knox’s lies can’t be attributed to police brutality and coercion because she lied repeatedly BEFORE she was questioned on 5 November 2007.

  • Her account of the morning of 2 November 2007 is fictitious. She lied about sleeping until around 10:00am on 2 November 2007. (The Nencini report, page 158).

  • She lied to Filomena about where she was later that morning. (The Nencini report, page 174).

  • She pretended she hadn’t just called Meredith seconds earlier when she spoke to Filomena. (The Massei report, page 387).

  • She lied to her friends in an e-mail on 4 November 2007 by claiming she had called Filomena first. (The Nencini report, page 169).

  • She lied to the postal police by claiming Meredith always locked her door (The Massei report, page 179).

Florence Judge Martuscelli has just comprehensively detailed Raffaele Sollecito’s numerous lies and false alibis in his report - which explained why Sollecito was denied compensation from the State.

“The contradictions and inconsistencies between the various reconstructions which Sollecito offered about the movements of himself and his girlfriend during the late evening of 1 November 2007, and the succeeding night are clear, and we don’t need to underline them.

At first he said he and Knox went to his house shortly after 17:30, after a short walk around the town, and that he remained at home with her for the rest of the evening and night. A few days later he described this story as a “sacco di cazzate”, recounted by him only because the girl had persuaded him to confirm her account, whereas the truth was that he had gone to his home alone at 20:30-21:00, and had remained at home alone until Knox returned, about 01:00, and she remained and slept with him.

Two days later, questioned by the GIP, he said that this story of 5 November 2007 was untrue, and that really Knox had gone to his house with him at 20:00-20:30, they ate together, and then he certainly had remained at his computer until midnight, though it was possible that the girl had gone out, even though he didn’t remember well either if she went out or if she had later returned, excusing his lack of recall either because he had smoked cannabis that evening, or alternatively because every evening at that time was much like all the other evenings.

Such contradictions and inconsistencies render some of his earlier statements obviously incredible, because he himself has declared that they contain lies, besides which, after having purposely retracted his statements of 5 November 2007, which completely overturned his earlier statements, he didn’t return to his original story but came up with something different in which he reaffirmed the fact that he had first introduced on 5 November 2007 that Knox hadn’t spent the whole evening with him, “without however being certain about this, but confusing it in a tale of vague recollections emphasising this vagueness in the course of questioning aimed at clarifying his inconsistent statements.

Additionally his claims [5 ->] to be unable to remember those hours was criticised by various judges regarding the cautionary measures, who highlighted the strangeness of a “wavering” memory, which showed that he recalled very well various details of the evening but claimed to have completely forgotten other details of equal or greater importance. For example, the GIP in the interrogation of 8 November 2007 receiving the vague replies of Sollecito, when asked about his earlier declarations said “Sometimes you seem to remember very clearly, but at other times, when you are challenged, you say you don’t remember. I exhort you to be accurate, because you must understand that with all of these contradictions…your situation is not good.”

At the Court of Review, the order made on 30 November 2007 notes that in the spontaneous declaration given by Sollecito to that court that he had lingered on the fact that he had been at the computer the whole evening “adding new details about what he had done on the computer, details which obviously contrast with the complete mental blank which must have been his mind due to drug taking, at least unless we reach the conclusion hypothesising a particular pathology, the loss of memory secundum eventum.” [after the event]

The poor memory of what he was doing on the evening and night of 1 November 2007 seems barely credible because if it is possible that he spent all of his evenings in the same way, certainly he had never before lived through a day like 2 November 2007. To discover in the morning of 2 November 2007 that in his girlfriend’s house a murder had occurred, and that it was one of her flatmates who had been killed should have, logically, prompted the young man to have a precise memory of where Knox had passed the time during which all of this had presumably happened, at the very least to be thankful for the circumstances which had kept her away from the house, and thus would have been bound to encourage a precise recall of whether she was at home with him all evening or had been absent during that critical period.

“However all of the versions offered by Sollecito are untrue not only because they are contradictory, but also because many of them have been substantially disproved. For example, the witness Popovic disproves that Sollecito returned to his home alone at around 20:00/:30, although this is what he claimed in his last account which he never withdrew. This witness testified that she visited Sollecito’s house twice on the evening of 1 November 2007, at about 18:00 and at about 20:40, and that on both occasions saw Knox there, from which it seems certain that both of the young people were at Sollecito’s house together at least up until the time of the later visit. In addition, examination of his computer showed that it was in use, to watch a film, and showed “signs of human interaction, between the hours of 18:27 and 21:10.

It is also disproved that the young man was working at his computer on the evening of 1 November 2007 until 23:00/24:00. The analysis of his computer shows that between 21:10 and 05:32 there was no human interaction, though the machine remained switched on, downloading films in an automated manner (although Sollecito’s expert witness D’Ambrosio claims that a short animated film was viewed between 21:26 and 21:46).

The claim that the two slept all night, from 24:00 or 01:00 until 10:00 is also disproved; one of them (there was nobody else in the house) at 05:32 had turned on the computer, and listened to music for half an hour, and at about 06:00 someone had turned on Sollecito’s cell phone which was then able to receive a goodnight message from his father sent at 23:14 and which had not been received earlier because the phone was turned off.

Finally, it was disproved that Sollecito had received a phone call from his father at about 23:00 on 1 November 2007: the phone logs show that he received no calls on either the fixed or mobile line after about 20:40, [6 ->] and indeed his father explained that having established from this call that his son was with his girlfriend, getting ready to spend the evening together, he avoided telephoning again in order not to disturb them.”

The significance of Knox’s and Sollecito’s numerous lies to the police and others seems to be completely lost on Peter Gill.

Bear in mind that Robin Garbutt was found guilty of murdering his wife because he lied to the police, changed a key part of evidence and was caught out by technology.

There was no murder weapon, no DNA or forensic evidence, no logical motive, no witnesses and no confession. There has been no big media maelstrom concerning Robin Garbutt’s conviction for murder. It seems middle-aged white knights are only interested in rescuing damsels in distress and trying to profit from Amanda Knox’s infamy.

There is no plausible innocent explanation for Knox and Sollecito’s multiple false alibis and numerous lies. Amanda Knox’s high-profile supporters in the media seem to be completely oblivious to them.

The filmmakers responsible for the Netflix documentary Amanda Knox also completely ignored her lies with the exception of her false and malicious allegation against Diya Lumumba.

They ignored the fact Amanda Knox didn’t retract her accusation the whole time he was in prison even though she knew he was innocent. Time and time again Amanda Knox’s advocates in the media brush inconvenient facts that show her in a bad light under the carpet.

Peter Gill has never publicly mentioned Amanda Knox’s false and malicious accusation of Diya Lumumba or the fact she is a convicted felon for life, presumably because it undermines his narrative that she is an innocent victim. Amanda Knox’s definitive slander conviction for repeatedly accusing an innocent man of murder completely shatters this PR myth - a myth that Gill has unethically tried to peddle in the media.

Judge Micheli, who presided over Rudy Guede’s fast-track trial and sent Knox and Sollecito to trial, said lying repeatedly to the police will always be considered to be a serious indication of guilt. Judge Massei and Judge Nencini both attached considerable significance to Knox and Sollecito’s numerous lies in their respective reports.

Judge Micheli, Judge Massei and Judge Nencini are all experienced trial judges. Even Judges Bruno and Marasca didn’t attempt to understate their significance and stated that Knox and Sollecito were covering for Guede. That makes Knox and Sollecito at the very least accessories after the fact and guilty of perverting the course of justice.

Only a gullible simpleton would unquestioningly believe anything Knox and Sollecito say given the fact they are self-confessed and compulsive liars. It’s completely illogical for anyone to trust them - and yet Peter Gill does.

He may be a highly-qualified DNA expert, but he doesn’t seem to have an ounce of common sense. It should be self-evident even to a half-wit that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito lied repeatedly because they were trying to cover up their involvement in Meredith’s murder.

Posted on 03/05/17 at 08:08 PM by The MachineClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Hoaxers from 2007Peter Gill
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Exposing Peter Gill: An Opportunistic Expert Never At Trial and Never At Either Rome Police Lab

Posted by The Machine



Peter Gill seen indoctrinating non-expert viewers on Italian TV


Follow the money trail…

So many of Amanda Knox’s high-profile supporters such as Frank Sforza, Candace Dempsey, Doug Preston, Bruce Fischer, Nina Burleigh and Steve Moore have something in common - they have cynically tried to make a profit from Meredith’s tragic murder.

Now we turn our big guns on tendentious DNA expert and Johnny-come-lately Dr Peter Gill.  When Gill tried to cast doubt on the bra clasp and knife evidence with copious innuendo in the media early in 2014, it was a fairly safe bet that a book would follow suit.

Predictably, Gill’s book Misleading DNA Evidence: Reasons for Miscarriages of Justice was published later that year in June.

This first in a series of posts about Gill draws on some excellent previous posts - please do read in particular Fly By Night and Olleosnep, Machiavelli and KrissyG.

In this article I will explain the weak basis for his claims about the Meredith Kercher case and examine them to see whether he did real research.

Any hopes that Peter Gill did meticulously research the Meredith Kercher case before writing his book are almost immediately dashed. He embarrassingly refers to Meredith as “Meridith”. Is it too much to expect him to be able to spell the victim’s name correctly, especially when he is putting himself forward as an expert on the case and using his DNA credentials to bolster his credibilty?

In three specific places in his book, he refers to the case as a “miscarriage of justice” even though at the time Knox and Sollecito were still appealing their convictions for murder and sexual assault back in 2009. The appeal judge Judge Nencini then also found them guilty of murder and sexual assault in Florence in 2013.

Peter Gill was never in a position where he could conclude there had been a miscarriage of justice. Unlike the judges and lay judges, he hadn’t attended any of the court hearings in Perugia or Florence, he doesnt speak any Italian, and he has never been to the two labs that processed the DNA in Rome. 

Upstanding forensic scientists limit their comments solely to their specific area of expertise, and they allow the courts to ultimately decide whether defendants are guilty or not guilty - and not act as partisan advocates. That’s certainly the stance Peter Gill took when replying to an e-mail to TJMK poster Swansea Jack on 28 June 2014.

Thanks for your email.

I cant control how people interpret my comments.  I am not getting involved in a debate that specifically addresses the ulitmate issue of innocence/guilt of individuals since that is the purpose of the court.  I can only comment on the probative value of the DNA evidence. I dont know definitively how the DNA was transferred - I simply make a list of all of the possibilities. I dont comment on the non-DNA evidence.

Regards, Peter

It was dishonest of Peter Gill to claim he wasn’t getting involved in a debate that specifically addressed the ultimate issue of innocence or guilt when he had already done that by categorically stating the convictions of Knox and Sollecito were a “miscarriage of justice” in his book.

It wasn’t the first time Peter Gill had blown backwards and forwards on an important topic and made contradictory comments. Here is judicial criticism of some of his comments during his testimony at the Omagh bomb trial.

Dr Peter Gill, an exponent of the Low Copy Number DNA technique, conceded some of the results presented in the bomb trial were “valueless”.

Mr Justice Weir warned Dr Gill about “blowing backwards and forwards” on “an important topic”.

The judge said it was “very unhelpful” to give apparently contradictory evidence. Sean Hoey denies 58 charges, including 29 murders in Omagh in 1998.

Mr Hoey is a 37-year-old electrician from Molly Road, Jonesborough in County Armagh.

Low Copy Number DNA - a technique whereby DNA profiles can be obtained from samples containing only a few cells - is an important part of the prosecution case.

Dr Gill had been asked to comment on claims that control samples tested at the same time as parts of a device in Lisburn had come up positive for Mr Hoey’s DNA type.

That finding, said defence QC Orlando Pownall, should have meant that the tests were run again. The fact that they weren’t meant the results were invalid, he claimed.

“I think it invalidates the result,” Dr Gill agreed.

Dr Gill was also challenged over what appeared to be conflicting evidence on the reliability of Low Copy Number DNA testing.

Mr Pownall was questioning him about the amounts of DNA below which results could be relied on.

Giving evidence, Dr Gill said at a certain DNA level information taken from the results could be “informative”.

But Mr Pownall pointed out that in papers Dr Gill had written on the subject he had said that at that level the results were “uninformative”.

Mr Justice Weir intervened to say it “seems rather an important topic on which to be blowing backwards and forwards on.

In July 2016, Peter Gill wrote an academic paper about the Meredith Kercher case for Forensic Science Genetics: Analysis and implications of the miscarriages of justice of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. He made the following false claims:

“The final judgement exonerated the defendants” and “Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were exonerated in March 2015”.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito weren’t exonerated in March 2015 - they were merely acquitted with the weakest language available under Italian law.

There is a significant difference here. They were acquitted under paragraph 2 of article 530, which is merely an insufficient evidence acquittal. Had they been acquitted under paragraph one of article 530, then that would have been a definitive acquittal or exoneration.

Judge Bruno and Judge Marasca, the Supreme Court judges who acquitted them, said it was likely they would have convicted Knox and Sollecito of Meredith Kercher’s murder if the police hadn’t made claimed errors in their investigation:

“If it were not for the weak investigation and if the investigation had not been affected by guilty omissions, the court would, in all likelihood, be allowed right now to outline a framework, if not on absolute certainty at least of tranquil reliability, in view of the guilt Knox and Sollecito for killing the British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia on Nov. 1, 2007.”

Bruno and Marasca stated Meredith had been killed by Rudy Guede and others. They also said it’s certain that Amanda Knox was at the cottage when Meredith was killed and she washed Meredith’s blood off in the small bathroom. Furthermore, they said Sollecito was probably there. It’s not difficult to work out who the others are. Bruno and Marasca didn’t exonerate Knox and Sollecito - they clearly implicated them in Meredith’s murder. 

I don’t know whether Peter Gill knows about Bruno and Marasca’s comments. If he doesn’t know about them, it was remiss of him not to read the whole report and refer to these comments in his academic paper. If he does know about them, he’s guilty of deliberately misleading the forensic community as well as the general public.

Is it just a coincidence that filmmakers responsible for the Netflix documentary Amanda Knox also cherrypicked comments made by Bruno and Marasca which were favourable to Knox and Sollecito, but completely ignored all their comments which were not?

Amanda Knox’s advocates in the media have always brushed inconvenient facts under the carpet. Their intention has always been to persuade the public that she’s innocent - not inform them and let them make up their own minds. Anyone who deliberately hides information that shows Knox and Sollecito in a bad light doesn’t care about Meredith or truth and justice.

More to come.

Posted on 02/21/17 at 10:15 PM by The MachineClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Hoaxers from 2007Peter Gill
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Monday, October 17, 2016

Netflixhoax 13: Omitted - How The DNA Processes And Evidence Points Were Deliberately Misrepresented

Posted by KrissyG



Above, modern Scientific Police labs in Rome; bottom, hellhole consultants labs (now closed)

1. Introduction

“Amanda Knox” by Netflix is massively misleading on the DNA. It completely ignores that Conti’s and Vechiotti’s 2011 report was unceremoniously ridiculed in 2013 by the First Chambers of the Supreme Court and the fraudulent pair branded as ‘intellectually dishonest’. 

Netflix presents Conti and Vechiotti as trustworthy and competent when Vechiotti’s appalling lab had already been forcibly shut down. They ignore that the pair illegally colluded with US and British DNA academics Hampikian, Budowle and Gill beholden to the defense who interfered to pervert the outcome of the appeal.

They present Knox and Sollecito as ‘exonerated’ and ‘innocent’ based in part on Vecchiotti & Conti’s misleading narrative when they were nothing of the kind.

They ignore that, in large part because of their incompetences and dishonesties, the 2011 appeal was annulled.  They ignore that the case was remitted back down to a different Appeal Court, in a different area (Florence) under a different judge (Nencini) while the 2011 judge (Hellman) was edged into retirement.

And they ignore that Italy’s best DNA experts, from the Carabinieri labs in Rome, were assigned the role of DNA analysis for the repeat appeal, as they should have been in 2011, and important confirmations were presented and barely challenged.

Here is TJMK’s series of DNA analyses and the Wiki’s giant DNA spreadsheet with a lengthy explanation of how it works. And here in Italian is the full rebuttal of all defense challenges by Dr Stefanoni, lead prosecution expert at trial and annulled appeal. 

Finally, a tip on the images below. These are movie snippets, with English subtitles included. They expand to full screen in Acrobat Reader (please download it if you dont have it) if you click on each image.

Part 2 below explains what is in the film that misleads, and Part 3 describes all that was left out.

2. What Is In The Film

In the film, Vecchiotti and Conti appear quite deeply into the film, at minute 64 of 92 minutes.  The appearance of the ‘DNA experts’ towards the end enables the film makers to reinforce the image of a great miscarriage of justice, leading up to the grand finale denouement. 


Enter Conti. Referring to the evidence of Sollecito’s DNA found on the bra, Conti introduces the audience to a key principle of DNA.  It is ‘dust spread everywhere,’ he avers.  To set the scene, we are informed that the Forensic Police (‘Scientific Police’ in Italy) acted chaotically and that the crime scene was an absolute shambles.  We hear an audio voiceover of a supposed scientific policeman saying to another ‘this is absurd, there is unbelievable chaos everywhere’.

So there we have it.  ‘A crime scene must be completely sterile’.  We are roundly informed that this crime scene was not, based on Conti’s word for it.




Next, enter his co-partner, the other ‘independent’ expert hired by the Hellmann appeal court to evaluate the evidence concerning he DNA identified on the presumed murder weapon knife, and the bra clasp sample: Carla Vecchiotti.


Carla Vecchiotti claims that the issue of contamination of the DNA ‘was raised by the court’.  Shot moves to the scientific police as she continues, ‘ it could have been by other people’.

She then throws in a red herring.  ‘There was the DNA of two unknown males on the clasp’, which we can dispense with straight away.  In reality they were fragments of DNA, no more than 6 – 8 alleles, and precisely of the type of dust contamination Conti is talking about.  This effectively subverts the issue away from the strong DNA profile of Sollecito found on the clasp.




Vecchiotti then continues the theme of the film that the prosecutor Mignini was acting entirely intuitively.  ‘You can’t just make it what you want it to be’.

She claims there are ‘problems with contamination in the laboratory’, yet in court she insisted the alleged contamination was at the collection stage, and not at the laboratory.  A picture of the knife comes up.




Vecchiotti comments, ‘The Knox DNA profile is a very good one.’

Of the Kercher DNA on the blade she states, ‘It’s so small.  So scarce, the likelihood of contamination is very high.’

From this, she concludes the Kercher DNA is ‘inconclusive’.

The film makers show us the picture at least three times with ‘INCONCLUSIVE’ in bold red letters.  ‘I asked Dr Stefanoni (the forensic police chief in charge of this case) how she concluded this is the murder weapon without any other evidence?’

However, the courts upheld, and Conti and Vecchiotti themselves concurred under oath, that far from being inconclusive, it was a strong profile of Meredith, at 15 alleles.




Again, Vecchiotti repeats the lie that the laboratory was contaminated, when no such finding was upheld by any court, including Hellmann’s, by referring to Stefanoni stating she had examined fifty of Meredith’s samples at the same time, see above.  She insinuates Stefanoni overrode standards so that they would not have to close the lab up between samples.




The film then cuts to clips of US media outrage at Vecchiotti’s findings of ‘contamination’, even dragging in Donald Trump, no doubt sucking on a tic tac, with just a small cameo of Mignini for ‘balance’, stating that ‘all evidence’ needs to be looked at, implying that Mignini accepted the alleged contamination and was now trying to deflect from it onto other evidence.  The reader should bear in mind, that in fact, there was no such finding of contamination in Stefanoni’s labs.

Nor does she or her co-partner ever once in the film, and nor do the film makers mention that their report was discredited by the Chieffi Supreme court and Hellmann expunged.




Having established – falsely – that Vecchiotti and Conti had proven contamination to an unwary audience, the film then cuts to Amanda Knox claiming, ‘There is no trace of me in the murder room’.

We are shown a diagram of eight black spots of Rudy Guede’s traces and one white one for Sollecito, some distance away from the body, underneath which it was actually found.  A police mug shot of Guede appears on screen, whom Knox describes as ‘ a guy who regularly committed burglaries’.

From this we are led to believe Guede is a seasoned criminal career burglar, when as of the time, he had no convictions at all.  The film makers inform the audience it is, ‘a burglary gone wrong’, not a finding by any court, apart from the vacated Hellmann court.  The balance (at roughly six to one against, in terms of time coverage) once again is provided by Mignini who points out its unfairness, given the evidence found at the trial.




The film then cuts to Conti, who makes an astonishing confession – for a scientific professional expert witness and professor –  stating, ‘What happened inside that room between Guede and Meredith, was not a job assigned to me.’

So now it is out in the open, Vecchiotti and Conti, far from protecting their professional integrity by following their ethical code, which states that they are expected to act with objectivity in their professional role and should safeguard this by recusing themselves should they feel that they have become advocates for a party, in the film do not even hide their partisanship.

Conti feels confident in this ‘documentary’, now as a global film star, to declare his advocacy for Knox and Sollecito with the above statement.




The Vecchiotti and Conti sequence of the film ends with a drawn out episode of a supercilious Conti leaning back in an attitude of condescension, no doubt aimed at Mignini, when he concludes,

‘Cicero once said’ – pause – ‘ Any man can err, but only a fool perseveres.’

Next, the film completely ignores that his and Vechiotti’s 2011 report was unceremoniously ridiculed in 2013 by the next level court – Chieffi, Supreme Court – and the pair branded as ‘intellectually dishonest’.  It ignores that the case was remitted back to a completely different Appeal Court, in a completely different area, from Umbria to Tuscany, and under a completely different judge.

In the Netflix film, a diagram showing Knox’ DNA on the knife handle is admired as a strong profile.  Meredith’s DNA on the blade is highlighted as a question mark.  About three times, the viewer is shown the same diagram with the word ‘INCONCLUSIVE’ above the Meredith DNA in red letters.

The truth is, ALL of the defence experts – including Vecchiotti and Conti – accepted it was a strong DNA profile of Meredith (15-allele) so we see a blatant misrepresentation here, that rather than the confidently strong profile it is, Vecchiotti declares that it is ‘inconclusive’, and leads the viewer to believe this was because of proven contamination.

This deception is underlined by the film makers immediately galloping to the 2011 Hellman Court after the Vecchiotti & Conti interview, with wild scenes of Hellmann freeing the pair and declaring them innocent.

The connection is made: the knife DNA – and the bra clasp – is ‘contaminated’ and that is why the pair were freed.  ‘This was the only flimsy evidence,’ is the message conveyed. Thanks to the lurid and putrid imaginings of Mignini and Pisa, those kids suffered, the viewer is told.

Cue mass media bombardment by the outraged Netflix viewers, on Twitter and Facebook excoriating Pisa, mostly, and also Mignini as having botched up the whole case and ruined the lives of these two kids.

3. What Was Left Out

Part 3 is perhaps twice as long as Part 2 because Netflix lied by omission to its audience on such a grand scale. These are the areas to be covered.

  • I will look at Vecchiotti and Conti’s true track record, which is appalling. The husband of a murder victim was denied justice for a staggering NINETEEN years, as DNA investigator Vecchiotti, et al, negligently refused to investigate the DNA of the perpetrator of the murder.

  • How did Vecchiotti and Conti get appointed by Hellmann court at all? I reveal how the US contingent of pro-Amanda Knox scientists helped ‘fix’ it.

  • I will highlight the legerdemain ploys adopted by the pair in preparing their report, which predicated Hellmann freeing the pair from prison. It was a moot point henceforth as to whether they would ever return.

  • I will set out Chieffi’s and Nencini’s damning criticisms of Vecchiotti and Conti in the case.  Crini points out, in the Nencini report, that Vecchiotti’s own laboratory fridge did not have a thermometer!

  • I will show how the elaborate ‘heist’ of the judicial system in springing ‘the kids’ from jail happened. A US scientist, using Boise University resources Greg Hampikian was bragging to courts in the US under oath, even as Hellmann had been expunged and Nencini had just recommenced the appeal, that, ‘I am still working on the Amanda Knox case’.

  • My analysis exposes the interconnections between US advocates Hampikian, Bruce Budowle and British forensic expert, Dr Peter Gill, with Vecchiotti and Conti, which casts grave doubt on the pair being ‘independent’ expert witnesses at all.



Vecchiotti lab

The Conti and Vecchiotti Track Record

On 21 April 2016, Carla Vechiotti, together with Pascali, Vicenza and Arberello, was found guilty in a civil suit of gross negligence in the examination of the murder of Contessa Ogliata, dating from 1991, and ordered to pay €150,000 in damages.  Vecchiotti appears to have a reputation for cutting more corners than Stirling Moss, with other cases often quoted, with which she is associated.

Recently, Conti and Vecchiotti’s laboratory in Rome was closed down due to public health issues. Contamination almost certainly occurred in their laboratory.  Rotting cadavers unclaimed by relatives, were said to have piled up in the corridors.  Stefanoni’s laboratory, which followed all the conventional standards of the day was never proven to have been contaminated.
Carla Vecchiotti’s reputation is in tatters. She has made a number of shocking errors in a couple of murder cases, she repeatedly misled the appeal court - Judge Nencini described her and Conti’s work as “misleading” and “reprehensible”.



Vecchiotti lab

The Hellmann Court (Appeal Court)

On 18 Dec 2010 at the Hellmann appeal the defences made three unusual requests, (a) to get an independent review of the DNA and (b) to bring in Alessi to challenge Guede’s testimony and (c) Aviello, a mobster.  Hellmann agreed to appoint Conti & Vecchiotti from La Sapienza University in Rome.  In the interim 16 Dec 2010, Rudy Guede was definitively convicted.

Request (a) was challenged by Comodi, saying there were many experts for both sides already.  Hellmann argued a judge did not have sufficient expertise to evaluate the experts’ opinions.  Having achieved the appointment of Conti & Vecchiotti , Conti & Vecchiotti [‘the experts’] delivered the coup de grâce: claiming international standards were not met, contamination could not be ruled out, and that the DNA profile of Meredith could not be reliable.

The pair made the claim the DNA could have ‘come from dust’, strongly rebutted by Stefanoni, who said in that case, there should have been contamination elsewhere, not just on the bra clasp.

Contamination from the laboratory was completely ruled out, contrary to the claims made in the Netflix film, after which, ‘the experts’ moved to a stance that the contamination happened before it even got to the laboratories.  At the hearing, Conti was constantly asked what the criteria were for alleging contamination, to which he replied, ‘Anything is possible’.  As a scientist, a proper evaluation of probability was expected of him.

In their report they claimed, ‘The electrophoretic profiles exhibited reveal that the sample indicated by the letter B (blade of knife) was a Low Copy Number (LCN) sample, and, as such, all of the precautions indicated by the international scientific community should have been applied.’

It transpired ‘the experts’ had decided to use the US standards of Bruce Budowle and supported by Gill, et al., that the threshold for Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA should be raised to 200 picograms, from the hitherto conventional 100 picograms.

In addition, ‘the experts’ argued, the US standard of 50 RFU’s should be used in place of the then Italian standard of 30 RFU’s.  Analysis of DNA below these levels introduces a higher risk of ‘background noise’; contamination from alien sources, i.e., everyday dust, which may contain DNA fragments.

Hellmann, ‘the experts’ and the US scientists getting involved, by virtue of ‘the experts’ quoting extensively from their papers, erred in presupposing that Dr Stefanoni knew nothing about these issues.  Professor Novelli, for the state, challenged the claim that there was any contamination.  Indeed ‘the experts’ were unable to demonstrate this other than by quoting lengthy academic papers which had little to do with mundane case law and more to do with ivory towers.

Vecchiotti, born 1951 with a long CV from medical student days would have known what Italian standards were, yet tried to subvert them in retrospect.

A complaint was lodged by the prosecution about the pair being seen to openly fraternise with Sollecito’s defence team during the hearing, a strict Bar Standard ‘no, no’ for an independent expert witness.

‘The experts’ refused to analyse a further sample of DNA found on the knife, giving the reason it was LCN, and they ‘didn’t want to make the same mistake as Stefanoni.’

Hellmann accepted ‘the experts’ findings and acquitted Knox and Sollecito declaring them innocent, aside from the calunnia for Knox, together with finding that Guede acted alone, as a ‘burglar disturbed.’

For the film makers, this defines the end of the film.

The Chieffi Court (Supreme Court)

In 2013 the next level of appeal court overturned completely Hellman’s findings.  It rebutted that the DNA sample of Meredith’s was ipso facto low quality just because it was LCN.

‘The experts’ had claimed, relying on their US sources that LCN sampling should only be done on special projects, such as missing persons or cadaver identification, and that there was not the technology as it was ‘too innovative’.

Chieffi did not buy this, pointing to embryology studies.  He scoffed at the idea of ‘the experts’ being more expert than Professor Novelli or Dr Torricelli.  He censured Hellmann for failing to consider their equivalent expert knowledge.  Chieffi was particularly critical of ‘the experts’ refusing to test the remaining knife sample, calling their reasoning, ‘intellectually dishonest’.

On 25 March 2013, Chieffi ordered the case back to the Appeal court to consider the DNA evidence again, amongst other issues, and that the knife sample be tested.  One suspects ‘the experts’ were loath to test the sample in case it turned out be further DNA of Meredith, and this may be why Chieffi smelt a rat.

The Nencini Court (Appeal Court)

In 2014 Judge Nencini made it clear in a newspaper interview it was not within his remit to criticise ‘the experts’, but rather, to assess the legal rectitude of the Massei court decision, which Hellmann patently failed to do.  However, criticise he does. 

He directs Dr Barni, witness for the Carabinieri Lab, that ‘no US standards’ are to be quoted which C&V had done profusely. In upholding the findings of the Massei court he makes the following point in his reasoning about the DNA of the knife and bra clasp:

“… The consultant holds furthermore that the most appropriate technical approach to interpret the genetic profile arising from trace 165B and to avoid subjective interpretations is to “call upon”, meaning to consider as valid, all of the alleles with RFU > 50, independently of their position or whether or not they might be stutter.

Once the complete profile is determined, given that there may also be more than two contributors to the trace, we feel that the only statistical approach that can be used adequately here is the RMNE (Random Man Not Excluded) method.

This statistical approach makes it possible to estimate the possible error due to a chance compatibility, meaning that of a person chosen randomly from the population and who by pure chance is fully compatible with the genetic characteristics of the individual represented in the trace.

The higher and nearer to 1 that probability is, the more likely it is that the profile could be the result of a random choice and thus the higher the probability of an error in the attribution of the genetic profile to a given individual. In this case, as seen in Table 5, the profile of Raffaele Sollecito is compatible at all the loci analyzed in the mixture of DNA found on Exhibit 165B.

The probability that a random individual from the population would also be compatible (the inclusion probability) [245] was calculated, and came out to be equal to 3.05592 x 10^-6, which is about 1 in 327 thousand. This computation is considered to be extremely conservative, since all of the allelic components are taken into consideration together with their frequency in the reference population.” (Pages 15-17 of the technical report submitted at the 6 September 2011 hearing before the Court of Assizes of Appeal of Perugia.)

The same investigative method was also suggested by the consultant of the Prosecutor in relation to the interpretation of the genetic profile of the markers located on the Y chromosome of trace 165B. Here again, all alleles with RFU>50 were considered, giving the following table:



[246] On the basis of the data in the above table, applying the method of statistical calculation indicated above, Prof. Novelli estimated the probability of a chance inclusion of a random person from the population in the mixed profile, together with the chance compatibility of this random individual with the major contributor to the Y chromosome, as about 1 in 3 billion.”

He upholds that the Forensic Police, aside from some human error, acted correctly and dismissed defence claims that Stefanoni had withheld raw data, and as claimed by ‘the experts’, citing documentary proof the information had been deposited.  Nencini reinstated the convictions, 31 January 2014, and dismissed the claim of contamination.

The sample on the knife ‘the experts’ had claimed was ‘starch’ and ‘too low LCN’ was successfully tested and found to be that of Amanda Knox.  None of this is mentioned by Vecchiotti & Conti in the film and nor do the film makers point it out, leaving their audience to believe ‘the experts’ claim of ‘contamination is proven’.

A key finding was that Professors Novelli and Torricelli had already been the target of the criticisms raised specifically by Prof. Adriano Tagliabracci, technical consultant for the Sollecito defense, at the first instance trial court, and thus was a matter settled (res judicata).

This is important to note, for Marasca later describes Tagliabracci in glowing terms as ‘world renowned’ when he reinstates the Hellmann findings in this matter, at the next level.  Nencini observes, ‘Finally, it is observed that Prof. Tagliabracci’s criticism is founded on an unproven and unprovable suspicion, namely that the biologist doing the work being already in possession of reference samples supposedly used the “suspect-centric” method.’

Nencini also found that the second instance [Hellman] court undervalued the fact that the tests carried out took place during the preliminary investigation [of which the Defence was notified and had the right to attend], that at the time of those tests, there were no objections concerning the sampling and laboratory activity, nor was a pre‐trial hearing requested regarding the testing, all of which proves agreement with the [laboratory] procedures.



Nencini

Was There Contamination?

There were NO full male DNA profiles on the bra, apart from Sollecito and Guede’s.

Vecchiotti and Conti, significantly, in the film, try to detract from this highly incriminating scientific fact, by making reference to everyday dust fragments, as if that could possibly account for it.

The assertion by Conti in the film that ‘a crime scene must be kept sterile,’ is meaningless for there are many environmental pollutants at every crime scene.

The expert witness testimony of Professor David Balding, to the court is as follows, and who, until October 2009 was Professor in Statistical Genetics at Imperial College, London, where he still retains an affiliation as Visiting Professor. He is an editor of the Handbook of Statistical Genetics.

“Sollecito’s alleles are all represented and these generate the highest peaks, but there are some low peaks not attributable to him; so at least one of the additional contributors of low-level DNA to the sample was male.”

“They correctly criticised the scientific police for ignoring these: many do appear to be stutter peaks which are usually ignored, but 4 are not and definitely indicate DNA from another individual.  The extra peaks are all low, so the extra individuals contributed very little DNA.

That kind of extraneous DNA is routine in low-template work: our environment is covered with DNA from breath and touch, including a lot of fragmentary DNA from degraded cells that can show up in low-template analyses.  There is virtually no crime sample that doesn’t have some environmental DNA on it, from individuals not directly involved in the crime.

This does create additional uncertainty in the analysis because of the extra ambiguity about the true profile of the contributor of interest, but as long as it is correctly allowed for in the analysis there is no problem - it is completely routine.” (David Balding).

“in some cases we have peaks that correspond to a fourth person.”

“The fourth person is not Guede, it seems. This mystery fourth person hasn’t been mentioned much. (Luciano Garofano, Darkness Descending).

“But because Sollecito is fully represented in the stain at 16 loci (we still only use 10 in the UK, as the legal threshold, so 16 is a lot), the evidence against him is strong.”

“In this case all the peaks associated with Sollecito seem clear and distinct so I think there can be no concern about the quality of the result as far as it concerns him or Kercher.”

The Italian Scientific Police follow the guidelines of the ENFSI - the European Network Forensic Science Institutes. Dr Stefanoni observed that they followed these specific guidelines whereas Conti and Vecchiotti basically picked and mixed a random selection of international opinions:

“We followed the guidelines of the ENFSI, theirs is just a collage of different international opinions”.

In other words, Conti and Vecchiotti were not referring to the specific guidelines and recommendation of one particular international forensic organisations despite giving that impression at the appeal in Perugia.

They cited a number of obscure American publications such as the the Missouri State Highway Patrol Handbook and Wisconsin Crime Laboratory Physical Evidence Handbook. The Italian Scientific Police are under no obligation to follow the DNA protocols of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Wisconsin Crime Laboratory.

Professor Novelli also pointed out that contamination has to be proved:

“The contaminant must be demonstrated, where it originated from and where it is. The hook contaminated by dust? It’s more likely for a meteorite to fall and bring this court down to the ground.”

Professor Torricelli testified that it was unlikely the clasp was contaminated because there was a significant amount of Sollecito’s DNA on it. Professor Novelli analysed the series of samples from all 255 items processed and found not a single instance of contamination, and ruled out as implausible that a contaminating agent could have been present just on one single result.

Back in 2008 pre-trial there was an independent review of the forensic evidence.

Dr Renato Biondo, the head of the DNA Unit of the Scientific Police, reviewed Dr Stefanoni’s investigation and the forensic findings. He testified at Rudy Guede’s fast-track trial in October 2008 and confirmed that all the forensic findings were accurate and reliable. He also praised the work of Dr. Stefanoni and her team.

“We are confirming the reliability of the information collected from the scene of the crime and at the same time, the professionalism and excellence of our work.”

So thus we have a pointer as to why Conti introduced his presentation by claiming ‘DNA is spread like dust.’

To the bottom line, then, WAS there any possibility of contamination, as Vecchiotti and Conti are now claiming in the film?

    1. Conti and Vecchiotti didn’t prove there had been any contamination. Judge Chieffi pointed this out.

    2. Conti and Vecchiotti lied to the appeal court - Judge Nencini pointed this out - and they didn’t test the DNA sample despite the fact they were specifically instructed to do so.

    3. Numerous DNA experts believe the bra clasp is strong evidence - Professor Balding, Professor Novelli, Luciano Garofano, Professor Torricelli and Dr Biondo.

    4. It’s impossible that the knife was contaminated.

    5. There is no universally accepted DNA standards for collecting and testing DNA evidence. DNA protocols vary from country to country.

    6. Conti and Vecchiotti cited obscure sources, They didn’t refer to the specific guidelines of an international forensic organisation.

    7. Conti and Vecchiotti excluded contamination in the laboratory.

    8. The defence experts had no objections when the DNA evidence was tested.

    9. Vecchiotti made calamitous errors in other cases and her lab was closed down.

    10. Does anyone really believe Sollecito’s DNA floated on a speck of dust under Meredith’s door and landed on the exact part of her bra clasp that had been bent out of shape during the attack on her?

The Marasca-Bruno Supreme Court (Final)

In the final Marasca-Bruno Supreme Court appeal, the short-form provisional 48- page reasoning from March 2015, the guilty verdicts as upheld by Massei and Nencini are overturned, and Vecchiotti & Conti‘s report reinstalled.

“The second reason [the first reason being: The first reason challenged the violation and inobservance of the criminal law], highlights a problem of great relevance in the circumstance of the present judgment, that is the right interpretation of the scientific examination results from a perspective of respect of the evaluation standards according to article 192 of the criminal procedural code and the relevance of the genetic evaluation in the absence of repeatable amplification, as a consequence of the minimal amount of the sample and, more generally, the reliability coefficient of investigations carried out without following the regulations dictated by the international protocols, both during the collecting phase and the analysis.

Particularly, anomalies were challenged in the retrieval of the knife (item 36) and the victim’s brassiere hook, which do not exclude the possibility of contamination, as correctly outlined in the Conti-Vecchiotti report, ordered by the Perugian Court of assizes, which also notified the unreliability of the scientific data, precisely because it was not subject to a further examination.

It was also denied that the retrieved knife would have been the crime weapon.”

Thus, we see the First (Chieffi) Supreme Court Chambers directly challenged by the Fifth Chambers and the criticisms of Vecchiotti and Conti swept aside, as though they had never happened.

Judges Marasca & Bruno write:

‘In fact, no trace of Sollecito was found in the room of the murder. The only element of proof against him was represented by the DNA trace retrieved on the brassiere hook of the victim; trace of which relation with the indicted was actually denied by the Vecchiotti-Conti report, which, in this regard, had accepted the observations of the defense advisor Professor Tagliabracci, world-renowned geneticist.’

It further states:

‘12) Also erroneous was the interpretation of the results of the genetic evidence on item 36) …[…]

14) Obvious also was the flawed reasoning on the results of the genetic investigations on the bra hook, …[…]…

With regard to the possible contamination of the item, the appeal judges overlooked the photographic material placed before the court, which clearly demonstrated the possible contamination, regarding the way the hook was treated, with a “hand to hand” passage carried out by persons who wore dirty latex gloves.

Furthermore, a second amplification was not carried out on the hook …[…]… With regard to this, the objections by the defense and the contrary conclusions of the defense adviser professor Tagliabracci, were not considered.’

In other words, the DNA evidence for the knife and the bra clasp is completely dismissed.  We see no proper rationale by Judge Marasca, just a few handfuls of abstractions along the lines of Conti’s famous, ‘Anything is possible.’

It takes on board Gill’s theories of ‘secondary’ and ‘tertiary’ transfer of DNA, when Gill himself appears to have overlooked that he himself wrote, that ‘this is highly improbable after 24 hours have passed’.

If Marasca’s rulings are considered bizarre, then light is shed when one realises that Bongiorno, for Sollecito, was given NINE times longer to present her appeal than any of the other parties, so it is fair comment to assume its reasoning is based on Bongiorno’s appeal points.

Nobody from either the Perugia or Florence prosecution teams was even present.

In addition, her 306 page appeal was appended with Gill’s advocacy report. Gill was never cross-examined.

The resuscitation of the hitherto presumed decaying corpse of Vecchiotti & Conti is remarkable, given the cadaver of their report to Hellmann was picked raw, first by the First Chambers Supreme Court (Chieffi) and then Judge Nencini.

Vecchiotti and Conti have risen like Lazarus from a car crash, shrouded in the malodorous cloth of something fishy.



Illegal intruder Hampikian

How the ‘Heist’ was pulled off.

Andrea Vogt wrote of the Marasca reasoning:  ‘In my opinion, their report is superficial at best and intellectually dishonest at worst, when even the most minimal amount of Quellenkritik is applied’.

Andrea Vogt writes an incisive analysis of the US influence on the C&V reports, which I cannot better here, so do read it for yourself.

However, I will repeat her prophecy, ironic in hindsight:

“If Knox is acquitted at the end of this month, the quiet American hand in her forensic defense will be heralded as the turnkey that made the ultimate difference in her case. But if she is convicted, there are legitimate questions to be asked about exactly what public resources were spent on this international defense.”

Vogt uncovered what appears to be a whole secret network that she was unable to penetrate through the fog of Freedom of Information law, which enabled Hampikian to claim ‘trade secrets’ as a project of Boise University, where his laboratory is based, to evade the question of, ‘Who was funding his Amanda Knox advocacy work?’

If then it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that both Meredith’s and Sollecito’s DNA is strong and background contamination ruled out by the trial courts, why then does the film revisit the discredited testimony of ‘court experts’ Vecchiotti & Conti?

We can link this back to the film makers own self-professed strong pro-Knox beliefs in her innocence.  Thus we have come full circle.

The defence managed to convince the now expunged Hellmann court to appoint ‘independent experts’; the Chieffi Supreme Court ruled that, whilst this was within Hellmann’s remit, he did not provide adequate reasoning for doing so. 

Vecchiotti & Conti, remarkably, in their report, relied heavily on US standards, thus making the straw man claim that Italy hadn’t followed them, notwithstanding their strong academic and legal background in Italy.  This therefore cannot have been due to ignorance, so we have to point to their own volition to be influenced strongly by Knox-advocates.

For example, Hampikian, funded by Boise University grants and protected by a blanket of secrecy, citing ‘trade secrets’ when journalist Andrea Vogt requested information under the Freedom of Information statutes.

In addition, Bruce Budowle, a more conservative ex-FBI forensic expert, was heavily relied upon, together with peers Gill, et al.  It was at this stage Gill may have got roped in.  His later book draws on Vecchiotti &Conti’s Hellmann’s Report.

Thus, we see a band of pro-Amanda Knox advocates determined to influence the so-called ‘independent’ experts, even when both Hampikian’s and Budowle’s reports were rejected as depositions by the courts.  Even when ‘the experts’ were spiked by the Chieffi Supreme court, Hampikian was still averring, ‘I am involved in the Amanda Knox case’.

Friends of Amanda Knox even today lovingly quote Hellmann despite his de facto ex-communication from the judiciary.  Little surprise we see the film makers eager to include Vecchiotti and Conti, who made it all possible for the birds to fly.

On the subject of Dr Peter Gill, who is widely regarded as having influenced the Fifth Chambers, via Bongiorno’s Appeal, to which his theories were attached, is now drawing on Vecchiotti and Conti as his main source, so we have a case of the experts’ racing car, as it were, driven by the man referred to devoutly by the defence as ‘the father of forensic science’.

Dr Naseer Ahmed of PMF.net was moved to comment:

– A look at his sources show that the chapter on Meredith Kercher was directly influenced by the Conti-Vecchiotti report.

– He argues contamination, but doesn’t prove a path of transmission.

– He cites papers on secondary transfer of DNA, but misses the point his suggested routes, RS>door handle>investigator’s latex glove>bra clasp is tertiary transfer.

– He argues the low cell count of Meredith’s Kercher’s DNA on the knife suggests contamination without considering that rigorous washing with household bleach might degrade it. (Yet miraculously those cells did provide a full match with Meredith’s DNA)

– The shoe box belonging to Meredith story has been shot down.

– He clearly has not read Inspector Gubbiotti or Finci’s testimonies, which removes all possible paths of ‘innocent transfer’.

– Reading the actual research papers he cites, there is no way that such significant amounts of DNA could actually transfer to the bra clasp.

– He did not review Patrizia Stefanoni’s Scientific Report or any of her notes, instead relying on the IIP translated C&V report and Hellmann decision.

– He refers to the Meredith Kercher wiki, but never even looked at the DNA segments which would have alerted him to problems with the C&V report.

– He may have had indirect input from Sollecito’s first DNA expert, Vincenzo Pascali, and Carla Vecchiotti, but does not seem to know of Vecchiotti’s colorful record of falsifying evidence.

Last, and worst of all, he did not refer to the Supreme Court decision annulling Hellmann even though the translation was widely available almost ten months before his book was published.

There is no way he could not have known this, since we had been in contact with him since earlier this year. It is unconscionable that he chose this route to promote his theories. Elsevier under its new ownership and editorial policies seem to have allowed any number of self-published books to be written.

If Professor Gill had written a scholarly text book it would have to be reviewed by an editorial board and sent for peer review, which might have led to professional experts critiquing and hopefully pointing out his errors.

Instead, he wrote a slim, unreviewed ‘popular’ book to promote his own theories, which, embarrassing perhaps for him, is being critiqued and torn apart by lay persons, ahem.

Misleading DNA Evidence – Reasons for Miscarriages of Justice, Peter Gill, Academic Press.  Quote:

Recommendation 1: The expert should provide the court with an unbiased list of all possible modes of transfer of DNA evidence (pg 20).”

The irony is not lost.



Illegal intruder Gill

My Main Sources:

Thanks to Naseer Ahmed and The Machine, for the section on ‘Contamination?’

The Machine’s analysis of 50 of the most common myths still promoted.

The Meredith Case Wiki

The Perugia Murder File Forum (Net Version)

The Nencini Sentencing Report.

The Chieffi Sentencing Report.

The Massei Report.

The Marasca-Bruno Report:

My thanks to the wonderful translators and everybody who helped me with material.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Appeal Session #5: Prosecutor Alessandro Crini Proposes 30 Years For Knox And 26 For Sollecito

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters




Overview

This is the report on the second day of Prosecutor Crnini summarizing the entire case.

This was not attempted at such length at the 2011 Hellman appeal and that panel of judges was perhaps not ever fully in the picture. The first day of the presentation is reported on here. 

Real-Time Report

Assessment by main poster SeekingUnderstanding

The case put forward by the prosecution and reported to us by Yummi is almost startling in its lucid and concise approach.

It couldn’t be more in contrast to the equivocations and disingenuousness, as well as irrelevant sentimentality that we have unfortunately become used to witnessing. The cutting use of logic was therefore refreshing, and gives grounds for optimism, albeit it tempered by unknowns.

All the issues seemed to be addressed from the base line, as if from primary considerations. And many points were simply politely dismissed as being unimportant to the true case in hand -which is the establishment of the guilt (or not) of the accused. For example, it was great to hear that the reason why the knife had been brought to the cottage need not be examined - it was enough that it was there.

It seemed that where the defence had challenged the evidence, for example suggesting contamination of DNA, it was here that Crini spared no detail, and took time in bottoming out the logic, and dispensing with their points. His arguments certainly carried conviction to me.

I was glad to see motive and behavioural dynamics looked at, as indeed Cassation had requested. It seemed good too that Crini ruled out premeditation, and reduced the dynamics to something highly plausible and believable as well as simple. There are just two points I might observe :

First, it would seem within character for Meredith to have been both open and direct in confronting issues of hygiene, drug use, infringement of privacy and noise etc., (or even theft of rent money, another possibility). I am not convinced that she would necessarily have been aggressively confrontational. Someone who is relaxed within themselves, accepting of their self, is well able to be assertive in a non-provocative manner. That is quite British too - especially old-fashioned English.

Secondly, bearing in mind the possible or probable profiles of the defendants, it would not have taken more than one small trigger of reasonable confrontation to release the consequent temper-tantrum or drug fuelled rage. I do not think we are dealing with something proportionate - and this is also why it escalated in the terrifying way it did. I don’t think it is essential to hypothesize as to what in particular Meredith raised an objection to (e.g. Rudy’s bathroom event). It is probable that Meredith’s concerns were reasonable, and then the overly defensive and angry reaction to any criticism whatsoever was unreasonable. I personally think this is enough.

I liked the way Crini said that even though a source is unreliable or not credible in some ways, that does not mean they do not (inadvertently as it were) give out information that is also true and useful. Possibly other statements from Guede might be taken into account in this way?

As a psychologist, it would seem dialogue with Rudy might yet be fruitful, but, with things the way they remain with the other two, it does not seem the time now for further words. Something else needs to happen.

Assessment by main poster James Raper

Crini spent about 10 hours in total addressing the court and was certainly very thorough. Maresca was so impressed that there was no need for him to add anything further.

Crini came to the prosecution case without the baggage of having presented any previous scenario or of having had his reputation sullied and slandered by the Knox PR machine. He reviewed the evidence dispassionately and found it compelling.

Clearly he also found the previous machinations of C&V and the Hellmann court objectionable and went in hard here, even discussing previous cases where Vecchiotti and Conti had goofed up. Hellmann had tried so hard to avoid that coming out during his appeal.

He was not, however, averse to taking a different tack where he thought this was appropriate. A sign of his intellectual honesty which may have impressed the court.

For instance, he thought that there was no need to nail TOD down to 11.30pm as Mignini had sought to do. He allowed for an earlier TOD.

He was of the opinion that coming up with an exact time line for a period in which there is no alibi, and when there is already evidence of involvement in murder, is of only marginal interest.

He spent well over an hour discussing the knife. He did not think it necessary to mull over how it came to be at the cottage. That is speculation that need not detain anyone if the knife is accepted as the murder weapon, and he thinks that on all the evidence it is.

He ruled out premeditation, even as to a hazing, and presented a very simple scenario as to motive and the dynamics behind and during the attack on poor Meredith. Keeping it simple makes it understandable to everyone. Elaborate further and you risk alienating someone who disagrees with the elaboration and thinks they have a better theory.

My only objection is that it is a tad ridiculous to believe that Meredith objected to poop being left in the toilet, the toilet she didn’t use. But yes, the objectionable behaviour of a trio of drunken/drugged up louts invading her space would most likely have triggered argument, unpleasantness and then a fight.

There is plenty of character evidence to support that scenario and with a little imagination, and some recollection of one’s student days, one can easily see how this might have gone. In a way, and Crini admitted to this possibility, Meredith’s own behaviour, or misreading of the situation, may also have been a trigger. Whether one agrees with this or not, it is at least a believable and honest suggestion.

So he set out base camp for the court (bearing in mind that Cassation had suggested that behavioural dynamics be given serious consideration by the appeals court) and whether the judges elaborate further (perhaps by conjecturing a possible range of equally valid motives and dynamics) is up to them.

Assessment by main poster Hopeful

Crini is magnificent! He’s absolutely crushing the defense. He nails Knox as having left her bloody shoeprint on the pillow under Meredith.

He accepts Novelli who found Meredith’s trace on the knife. He believes Knox left DNA on the knife. He quotes from differing experts Gill and Balding and says Sollecito’s DNA on the bra clasp stands.

He describes a small, very sharp knife that he believes was used to cut off the bra in several places. He says the knifeprint on the sheet was from the big kitchen knife.

Crini contends that the strong bruise marks around Meredith’s mouth were from restraining her and blocking the scream.

He believes this fight was caused by Meredith angrily reacting to Knox’s constant dirty ways in the cottage and Guede’s nasty toilet habit along with his and Sollecito’s unwanted presence in the cottage that night.

Crini argues a crime of rage when Knox was confronted by Meredith, citing Laura Mezetti’s remarks about the cleaning conflicts. Crini says that Meredith’s scream is what caused the fatal knife blow to silence her.

Not premeditated, the murder was the final result of the perps’ terror that they had gone too far during the raging fight. He’s asking for 30 years for Knox and asks to increase sentence for calunnia to 4 years, inclusive in the 30.

He almost laughs at Knox’s weak excuse over the drops of her blood found in the bathroom, saying she would surely have known if she bled.

He confirms the storekeeper did see Knox early in the morning after the crime. He finds no proof of Sollecito being firmly at his computer sending emails during the crime. He blasts the Knox and Sollecito alibis as being a tissue of lies.

Crini has another ex-Supreme Court justice standing with him in the Florence courtroom! (Baglione).  Crini has worked extremely hard. He has conquered this convoluted pack of lies and distortions and his diligence shows. He upturned the applecart of Conti-Vecchioti nonsense and thoroughly redeemed Stefanoni’s findings.

He has completely severed the heads of this Medusa Gorgon mess, Crini is the bomb!

Tweets from main poster Yummi

114. This means a total request of 30 years for Knox and 26 years for Sollecito

113. [Propose] 26 years for both for the murder

112. The murder is contextual, their was no premeditation, and no futile motive

111. Because of their staging and denials, they should not be given generic mitigation for murder.

110. Requests to increase the penalty for [Knox] calunnia to 4 years

109. But experience tells statements of unreliable perps do contain revelations about the truth. The ‘argument’ between girls, why such context?

108. Rudy Guede has no credibility, even if the Supreme Court is right that this cannot depend on his refusal to answer.

107. Crini cites Laura Mezzetti about the ‘annoyance’ caused by Knox on house cleaning issues.

106. Meredith was the one triggering an argument because of the ‘impolite’ invasion and behavior. She accused Knox .

105. Rudy was not sober, quite high, a bit annoying, and was acting the same disgusting way he behaved downstairs days before.

104. Meredith Kercher was sober, fully awake. The others were at least ‘smoked’, a bit high, Rudy was there in the house.

103. The motive is not futile, the motive is terror, it is the consequence of the prior aggressive action in which they were involved.

102. Nothing points to an agreed plan among the three that run out of control; the first cause was an aggression, a clash, impetus of rage

101. Crini: there is a prosecution duty to conjecture a motive.

100. The blood drop on the tap: a point is Knox does not explain, guesses, while she must be aware that she bled in the bathroom.

99. Crini believes the shoe prints on the pillowcase are from a female’s shoe as suggested by police

98. Knox’s DNA between the blade and the handle (36-i)is very significant. It’s not from sweat or contact.

97. The print on the bed sheet is compatible with the kitchen knife.

96. Crini: we don’t need to figure a reason for a kitchen knife to be carried from one apartment to the other..

95. The bra straps are cut in multiple points, not with a kitchen knife.

94. Sollecito cut her bra with a knife in multiple parts. hold bra to cut it - no Guede’s DNA in that point - used a small very sharp-edge knife

93. Rudy did not stab her, because he wad used both his hands, which were unarmed

92. Wounds indicate she was immobilized by multiple people, they killed her because failing to do so completely, were terrified by her scream.

91. Criticizes Torre’s theory that the large wound could be caused by a small knife: improbable, the wound has clear margins.

90. There were two knifes, one was small, not much fit to kill.

89. Ridiculous to think that Rudy Guede - which she knew - could intimidate Meredith totally to that point. She would react.

88. Specific indicator: no defence wounds; means bruises are not from fight but restraint.

87. Description of bruises and lesions around her mouth, indicates extreme force to prevent from screaming. Rest of body was also immobilized.

86. She was still wearing a blue sweater which was removed subsequently.

85. Analysis of blood drop pattern and position of victim when stabbed; body moved in a different position.

84. Location of crime - space between the bed and the wardrobe - is peculiar, analysed by UACV

83. Crini says will sketch a dynamic of events of the crime.

82. Crini says - implying Vecchiotti, Pascali - some experts should be “hold where they belong”

81. Crini recall Pascali working on the Olgiata and the Claps case (2008, 2010);

80. There is no instance of transfer of Sollecito’s DNA anywhere on the scene

79. Crini cites the Olgiata case.

78. Contamination must be deduced from context of finding and collection. You must think a practical way for Sollecito’s DNA to be transferred

77. Tagliabracci defends Vecchiotti saying the RIS statistical techniques were not used at the time; Crini cites Gill and Balding

76. Guede’s Y haplotype in victim’s vagina alone was used to identify him.

75. Sollecito’s DNA is certainly on the clasp for the police; Vecchiotti doubts but considers X separately from Y haplotype

74. The bra clasp: the first objection was the interpretation of the mixed/complex trace

73. Crini says he learned a bit of genetics working on cold cases

72. Vecchiotti and Tagliabracci have a reliability problem in relation to the case, for different reasons

71. Vecchiotti said she obtained all cooperation she required. Raw data could be accessed by accessing the machine itself as Stefanoni offered.

70. Crini says he found out the negative controls were deposited, the court will find the document of deposit etc.

69. Vecchiotti omitted to note the censures/observations written by the other consultants, this procedure is incorrect

68. Vecchiotti’s approach to the I-trace (refusal to test it ) was ‘ideological’, ‘weak’, ‘insufficient’

67. Interpretation of profile is for complex result. For non-complex profiles there is actually no ‘interpretation’.

66. Crini recalls answers by the RIS, defence tried to elicit approval of CV, but RIS said multiple test only if possible, compromise for result

65. Novelli cited saying the profile of Meredith is certain.

64. Meredith’s profile came out clean on a single amplification, means the trace is clear.

63. The meaning of test repetition is its necessity when you have a ‘dirty’, uncertain sequence like Knox’s profile on the knife

62. Novelli knows very well about double and triple amplification protocols, and Stefanoni knows well too

61. Guidelines are an indication that guide your driver, but then you have to drive

60. Someone who keeps a refrigerator like the one Vecchiotti has, should be less critical about laboratory practice

59. Crini: should we toss any result in the garbage, no matter how important and clear, whenever the test is not repeated?

58. Speaks about the single amplification by Stefanoni versus guidelines.

57. The presence of human DNA in a scratch on the blade of a knife itself is not usual

56. Crini: another introduction specific on DNA; notes btw that the new RIS finding is ‘important’ because adds information

55. Crini makes an introduction about circumstantial evidence

54. Discussion on DNA and remaining evidence will start in 1h.

53. Francesco Sollecito [in interview] was shocked, said he never expected so aggressive arguments from PG [the Tuscany Prosecutor General]

52. Yesterday, Crini spent the first hour to argue about logical ‘method’: how assess evidence altogether, examples, quotes of SC sentences


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Analysis Suggests The Conti-Vecchiotti DNA Review Is Weak, Tendentious, Cites Non-Existent Standards

Posted by Fly By Night


Background

In light of the huge fanfare two weeks ago over the release of the court-ordered independent expert review by Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti (image above, more in post below) on the forensic science methods and findings of Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni as part of the Knox/Sollecito appeal, we start this analysis of that report by summarizing a few hard facts:

  • The DNA samples currently under review by the court are NOT the only DNA samples used to convict Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.  In fact, the five mixed samples (not just DNA – there was the fresh blood of both women in four of them) of Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher constitute the strongest, most damning physical evidence of the case. This is why they have not been subjected to independent review during the appeal, along with the great majority of the evidence Judge Massei and the jury considered in convicting Knox and Sollecito of the murder of Meredith Kercher.

  • In reviewing the findings of Dr. Stefanoni, Technical Director/Principal Biologist with the Polizia Scientifica in Rome (image below), the expert report is also critiquing the findings and opinions of an entire well-regarded forensics agency along with the personal views of many prominent forensics experts. They include Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli, and the nationally prominent General Luciano Garofano who in support of Dr. Stefanoni’s own open descriptions have provided lengthy statements describing in great detail their reasons for agreeing with Stefanoni’s methods and findings.

  • The use and acceptance of LCN DNA analysis techniques in the USA lags behind that of other countries in the world, as documented in the numerous publications on the topic now seen in US professional journals.  Enhanced typing methods for LCN DNA are routinely relied upon in forensic DNA laboratories across Europe to provide sound evidence for courtroom arguments.  So the expert report’s overbearing reliance upon AMERICAN sources including the controversial opinions of Bruce Budowle (image below) of the University of North Texas, in questioning Stefanoni’s LCN DNA testing techniques, is highly questionable. Budowle has been strongly criticized by a number of distinguished researchers including Theresa Caragine and John Buckleton for his non-scientific opinions and for allegedly engaging in unethical practices and maintaining serious conflicts of interest.

  • Claudio Pratillo Hellman, the judge presiding over the Knox and Sollecito appeal trial, appointed Vecchioti and Conti to provide an independent assessment for the court regarding the handling and analysis of several pieces of evidence that played a role in the conviction of Knox and Sollecito.  Using the expert report as a focus, on Monday July 25th these independent experts will appear in court along with various expert witnesses for the prosecution, the defense teams, and the Kercher family to discuss the only pieces of DNA-related evidence that have been subjected to review in the appeal trial. They are (1) the DNA on the kitchen knife accepted by the Massei court to be the murder weapon, and (2) the DNA on a bra clasp torn from Meredith’s body.

The findings of the expert report itself in all their 145 pages of depth appear to boil down to two primary debates: (1) Issues surrounding the Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA analysis techniques employed by Dr. Stefanoni, and (2) Issues surrounding the probability of excluding all possible sources of contamination from the evidence.

The Expert Report

When the supposed findings of the independent expert report were first leaked, international media ballyhooed them as a sure sign that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito would soon be cleared of murder charges, claiming that the prosecution’s DNA arguments had now been shown to be based upon substandard DNA testing practices, and that the evidence might have been contaminated.  Knox herself was said to have sung and danced with joy upon hearing the news.

But a closer look at actual contents of the report, and its supporting documents, suggests that such celebrations are premature and ill-advised.  The expert report exists to serve only as the focal point for upcoming courtroom arguments, including arguments over the validity of Dr. Stefanoni’s claim to have identified Meredith Kercher’s DNA on the blade of the kitchen knife.  The report explains why a complete repeat of the testing Stefanoni performed on both the knife and bra clasp was not possible and how DNA on the bra clasp had deteriorated beyond testability. 

The expert’s attempts to perform repeat tests on the knife were unsuccessful in identifying cellular material on the blade. This was not a surprise, considering that Stefanoni had previously reported that additional testing would be impossible due to the minimal amount of DNA originally found there.  The expert’s testing did, however, firmly conclude that Amanda Knox’s DNA was located on the handle of the knife.

The expert report will steer upcoming courtroom debates towards a complete review of Stefanoni’s crime scene management practices, the DNA analysis methods she employed, and the reasoning and protocols she used to reach her conclusions.  The expert report provides one of several frames of reference for these debates and in part focuses upon criticisms not only of Stefanoni’s use of LCN DNA testing techniques to identify Kercher’s DNA on the knife blade but the entire LCN DNA analysis methodology itself.  As noted above, Vecchioti and Conti confirmed the presence of Amanda Knox’s DNA on the handle of the knife but suggest that the very small sample of Meredith’s DNA located on the blade, identified by LCN DNA testing, is the result of contamination.

The Potential For Contamination

Contamination of evidence might occur in the evidence collection phase of an investigation, or it might occur as the result of improper laboratory testing procedures once a sample has arrived securely at the forensic laboratory.  Before digging deeper into laboratory contamination potential, including associated LCN DNA analysis issues, we first take a look at the expert report’s evaluation of evidence collection protocols and the potential for contamination in that phase of the criminal investigation.

The expert report attempts to establish that international standards for crime scene management practices exist. However, their approach raises the same question raised by the assignment of Bruce Budowle, a controversial and opinionated LCN DNA commenter, as the foundation for their DNA analysis critiques.  Namely, why does the expert report find it necessary to over-rely upon inappropriate and highly questionable American resources to support its most critical arguments?

As strange as it may seem, the Italian expert report references quite a few relatively obscure, and often outdated, editions of American resources. They include the State of Wisconsin Crime Laboratory Manual, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Handbook, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Evidence Guide, the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory Manual, the New Jersey State Police Evidence Manual, and even introductory college textbooks covering criminal investigations at the level of “please wash your hands.”

If the intent of the expert report was to establish that a standard set of international protocols exists, and then to compare that set of protocols to protocols used in the Meredith Kercher murder case, then why not cite the international body that establishes and upholds such standards, if that body actually exists?

Instead, the approach taken by the expert report only serves to underscore the notion that there may, in fact, be no such thing as international standards for evidence collection and handling.  What the report actually establishes is that they are citing from a selected list of extremely diverse regional “best practices” manuals in support of theoretical and abstract concepts or points.  In doing so the expert report authors its own set of ad hoc “international standards” as it moves along. 

It would have been far more effective to put the focus on creating an objective and fair analysis of the real-world crime scene management procedures employed in this case, and then comparing and contrasting those findings with the successful, or unsuccessful, management practices of other similar case-study investigations providing appropriate citations from relevant literature along the way.

As a result of the independent experts’ approach, the contamination risk concerns cited in the expert report during the evidence collection phase appear to be largely a rehash of arguments over protocol that were thoroughly vetted during the course of the trial itself, such as how often investigators changed their gloves.

What we are left with is a report that only theoretically suggests that contamination cannot be ruled out, while completely failing to provide concrete examples of precisely when and how contamination could have entered into the evidence management chain.  For the appeal, this will result in a repeat of the same attacks upon investigative methods and processes, and all of the related arguments, that the court entertained during the trial, albeit this time with a new judge and jury.

The expert report apparently confirms that Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA was found on the bra clasp in an amount that would be difficult to attribute to contamination.  Dr. Stefanoni found about 4 nanograms of Sollecito’s DNA on the bra clasp, which is a substantial amount of DNA considering that research suggests that contaminated samples usually contain sub-picogram amounts of DNA, or around 1000 to 10,000 times less DNA than attributed to Sollecito on the bra clasp.

That fact that Raffaele’s DNA on the clasp appears to be mixed with additional DNA should NOT lead to conclusions that his profile cannot be effectively isolated and identified, or must be the result of contamination.  In fact, Italy’s premiere forensic science expert Luciano Garofano testified that Stefanoni’s analysis of the bra clasp was “perfect.”  It is also not plausible to suggest that contamination is the source for Sollecito’s abundant DNA on the bra clasp in the absence of significant environmental traces for Sollecito anywhere else in or around Meredith’s home, or in the Rome laboratory for that matter.


LCN DNA Testing

LCN is a DNA profiling technique employed when available DNA is limited to very small quantities.  A DNA sample might be as small as a millionth the size of a grain of salt, amounting to only a few cells of skin or sweat left in a fingerprint.

Using LCN testing techniques the small sample can be successfully evaluated and attributed to an individual.  LCN DNA testing has been in use since 1999 and is rapidly gaining worldwide acceptance in both legal and forensic science communities.  For example it has now been used in more than 21,000 cases in the UK since being approved for use in criminal cases in 2008, following a period of stringent testing and evaluation.

The increased sensitivity of LCN testing techniques does increase the potential of contamination to impact analyses of small DNA samples in the laboratory.  Since LCN techniques can accurately amplify DNA samples having as little as just a few cells it has been suggested that even breathing on such a small sample has the potential to render the resulting profile useless.  Contamination is particularly problematic for LCN samples because both sample and contaminant DNA are amplified, resulting in a complex mixed profile with related stochastic effect impacts. 

But, as evidenced in the expert report itself, Dr. Stefanoni is well-versed in the appropriate methods for dealing with these concerns, since she is quoted as already having admonished the court experts Vecchioti and Conti for not making use of a fume hood to ensure the absence of contamination as they conducted their retests on the evidence.

In recent years numerous professional publications have addressed the scientific, technical, and legal issues surrounding LCN DNA sample testing, outlining the stochastic effects and artifacts such as peak imbalances between alleles and loci, as well as allele and locus drop-out, or allele drop-in, along with making a variety of suggestions for both avoiding contamination and making error-free evaluations of stochastic effects. 

On the basis of these publications, including the proceedings of the biannual world congresses of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, it is clear that enhanced typing methods for LCN DNA are now routinely in use in forensic DNA laboratories across Europe.  This is strong evidence that the scientific community is now actively engaged in an effort to document all LCN DNA methods in use and is working towards developing standard biostatistical tools for evaluating LCN DNA typing results. 

It also appears as though the USA is lagging behind other regions in research, practice, and acceptance in this discipline.

In this relatively new field of study it is not surprising that researchers have yet to establish anything approaching standards for LCN DNA testing and analysis.  Even so, this has not prevented the results of LCN DNA testing from being successfully and routinely introduced as viable evidence in courtroom arguments. 

For example, on February 8, 2010, Judge Robert Hanophy of the Supreme Court of Queens County, New York ruled that results of LCN DNA testing, as performed by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York City, is now generally accepted as reliable in the forensic scientific community, it consistently yields reliable results, it is not a novel scientific procedure, and it is therefore admissible at trial (People v. Megnath, Supreme Court of New York, Queens County, 2010 NY).

Although the current Wikipedia article on the topic maintains that LCN DNA has only been adopted for evidential purposes in the UK, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, this unreferenced claim stands in ignorance of the fact that inquisitorial court systems in numerous European countries do not typically require formal publication and peer review of analytical methods in scientific journals as a justification for their methods. 

And as we have seen in the current Knox/Sollecito trial, in Europe it has become customary to have independent experts attempt to convince the court of the validity, or invalidity, of the LCN typing results that have been presented in a trial.  To be successful, it is essential that an independent expert provide the court with evidence of expertly-conducted retests of available evidence, relevant citations of appropriate research, and meaningful evaluations of protocols employed in outlining their objective and balanced set of opinions for the court. 

In this regard, it appears that the independent expert report for the Knox/Sollecito appeal has completely missed the mark.

Their report gives the strong impression that Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti were overtly attempting to invalidate the findings of Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, the Polizia Scientifica in Rome, and the wealth of supportive testimony provided in court during the trial.  The tone of their report strongly indicates that they have lined up with Sollecito defense experts Adriano Tagliabracci and Valerio Onofri of the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Ancona, and Knox defense experts Sara Gino, Walter Patumi and Carlo Torre from the University of Turin.

We will see in court on the 25th if they are really across the figurative aisle from the prosecution witnesses Dr. Stefanoni and Dr. Giuseppe Novelli, a highly esteemed professor of biomedicine at Tor Vergata in Rome who is considered to be the “father of police forensics” in Italy, along with the expert witnesses for the Kercher family Professor Torricelli, and Dr. Emiliano Giardina, who is a colleague of Professor Novelli at Tor Vergata University.

This appears to establish grounds for a formidable courtroom battle if all experts can provide solid grounds for their opinions. However, the Kercher’s lawyer Francesco Maresca was already quick to point out that those on the prosecution’s side of the aisle have substantially more practical experience and years of work in the forensic science field.

An in depth reading of the expert report uncovers allegations that Dr. Stefanoni has not followed internationally established forensic science management standards and that in doing so she has committed analytical errors, such as the misattribution of peaks in her bra clasp DNA analysis.  What the report fails to mention, however, is that no such standards exist and that there are currently multiple perspectives from which a scientist might argue their case regarding the proper interpretation of DNA data, as evidenced in any sampling of current forensic science journal articles. 

For example, the expert report cites a 2006 International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) publication as an example of a standard for determining which stutters should be considered as alleles in the assessment of mixed DNA samples.  But this alleged “standard” stands in contrast to direct testimony from Dr. Stefanoni while defending her lab protocols in comparison to the ISFG “recommendations” which she claims in no way qualify as authoritative standards.  The difference between recommendations and standards is a critical distinction in scientific fields.

A closer look at this discrepancy reveals that in 2007 Dr. Stefanoni and her immediate supervisor, Dr. Renato Biondo, hosted a meeting in Rome of the European DNA Profiling Group (EDNAP) in which these same 2006 ISFG recommendations were discussed.  At that meeting papers were presented from the UK and Germany that contested a number of the ISFG recommendations that the expert report now attempts to establish as mandatory standards. 

In the midst of this ongoing debate over ISFG recommendations, it is quite remarkable that the expert report, citing that 2006 ISFG document, chooses to assert that Stefanoni made erroneous interpretations of chart peaks simply because her interpretation of the data did not respect the controversial ISFG recommendations. 

The experts report consequently admits that they confirmed Stefanoni’s awareness of the ISFG recommendations, and that she expressed a personal view that they should simply be viewed as “guidelines.”  Yet they STILL insist on continuing to label her conclusions as erroneous since she did not “correctly” and “explicitly” adhere to the ISFG “recommendations.”

In light of all this, it is highly unlikely that Judge Hellman will dismiss Dr. Stefanoni’s knowledge and expertise on this matter as readily as Vecchioti and Conti have in their expert report.

An in depth analysis of the expert report also indicates that the citations from scientific journals are incomplete and often “cherry-picked” to directly support specific criticisms brought against Dr. Stefanoni’s methods. 


For example, the expert report appears to base its entire argument against Stefanoni’s reliance upon LCN DNA analysis techniques upon one paper, authored by Bruce Budowle et al entitled “Low Copy Number Typing Has Yet to Achieve General Acceptance.”  The expert report then goes on to cite a paper by Gill and Buckleton where these authors appear to support a few claims made by Budowle (image above) in his article, but the report completely ignores the fact that Gill and Buckleton then go on to air strong criticisms of many other claims made by Budowle.

In fact, in 2010 John Buckleton and Peter Gill authored a scathing criticism of Bruce Budowle’s entire “Low Copy Number Typing Has Yet to Achieve General Acceptance” article; the very article that the expert report relies exclusively upon in bringing Dr. Stefanoni’s methods into question.  In their article, published in Forensic Science, Buckleton and Gill state:

[Budowle’s] article is not peer reviewed. The proceedings of the ISFG Congress are prefaced by the message: “the manuscripts were neither reviewed nor edited in detail.  The articles reflect the opinions of the authors.”

It contains neither new data nor any novel scientific findings. Rather it represents public advocacy and is an expression of alternative opinion by the three authors concerning observations that are largely common ground. There is a place in the scientific literature for advocacy but it must be soundly based on proven facts.

We have some considerable difficulty in actually determining just exactly what the authors are indeed advocating. This is because of their inconsistent use of terminology and inconsistent recommendations. In our opinion, the views presented are inadequately precise, demonstrate a lack of appreciation of underlying principles and are not aligned with broader scientific opinion.

The title of the paper appeared to have one eye on future Frye or Daubert hearings and again we question whether such a title has a place in the learned literature. It takes upon itself, inappropriately, the role of gatekeeper of what constitutes “general acceptance” (The Frye test).

The article itself appears to be a rather inappropriate continuation of a debate arising from a court case in New York (People v. Megnath). Again we would question whether this journal is the correct forum to air this debate.

In other words, Buckleton and Gill are suggesting that Bruce Budowle acted unethically by publishing his non-peer reviewed opinions in a professional journal for the purpose of using the article to support his work as a paid consultant, and as an expert witness in court cases such as People v. Megnath in New York. 

Incidentally, Budowle was unsuccessful in advocating his opinions as an expert witness for the defense in People v. Megnath in his battle with Theresa Caragine of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York over her submission in court of data obtained using LCN DNA testing techniques.

Theresa Caragine herself authored a powerful rebuttal of Budowle’s article claiming that when Budowle’s “opinions” were published he failed to disclose that he had, in fact, been retained by the defense counsel for Mr. Megnath, and that he had already testified as a paid expert witness regarding the opinions he expresses in the journal article that the expert report relies heavily upon in attempting to substantiate its points.  And even though Bruce Budowle’s opinions had previously been delivered as a paid expert witness in a judicial setting, he made the claim of ‘No Conflict of Interest’ when applying to publish this non-peer reviewed article.

Caragine’s remarks go even further in criticizing the Budowle et al LCN DNA article by pointing out that it is not even a research article, but a non-peer reviewed submission that had purportedly been presented in the context of the 23rd Biennial Worldwide Conference of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, 2009 in Buenos Aires. 

Caragine claims that, while Budowle had in fact submitted a similar paper at that meeting, it was not under its current title, nor did it have the same the list of authors, and the abstract submitted to the conference organizers for their selection process does not align with the content of the paper now cited in the Italian experts’ report submitted to the court in the Knox/Sollecito appeal.  In her rebuttal, Caragine strongly questions whether or not such a circumvention of all standard principles of scientific publishing is in any way acceptable or appropriate.

Conclusions

In light of all of the above, the upcoming July 25th court hearing in the Knox/Sollecito trial should be considered as anything but a foregone conclusion.  The rationale behind the exuberant remarks noted in recent press releases regarding content allegedly favorable to defense efforts and anticipated impacts appears to be baseless. 

For an Italian report, it gives the appearance of being remarkably Amero-centric, and we find it ugly and unprofessional that the expert report chooses to attack Dr. Stefanoni and her colleagues by citing nonexistent international standards and by relying upon extraordinarily questionable resources in doing so. 

The report’s final conclusion that contamination cannot be completely ruled out is remarkably weak considering that there are relatively few real-world cases in which contamination of evidence might be completely ruled out.

It becomes clear, then, that well informed prosecution interrogators will have no problem in identifying and attacking the report’s multiple weaknesses.  We should expect Dr. Stefanoni and the prosecution’s team of experts to present precise counter arguments for the challenges expressed in the expert report, strongly defending the forensic science capabilities of Stefanoni and her team.

Posted on 07/13/11 at 08:10 AM by Fly By NightClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+Hoaxers from 2007More hoaxersPeter Gill
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