Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A New York Supreme Court Admits Low Copy Number DNA Testing As Valid

Posted by pat az

[above: the Queens New York Supreme Court]

Cross-posted with an added intro from my own website on Meredith’s case at the kind invitation of TJMK.

The large kitchen knife (image at bottom) found highly cleaned in Sollecito’s apartment was considered by the prosecution (and now by the judges) as the weapon used by Knox and Sollecito to kill Meredith.

Previous posts on the knife on TJMK can be found here. and here, and here, and here, and here, and finally here. 

The knife evidence has been persistently attacked by the defenses and their surrogates on these three fronts.

  • First, that it didn’t match the fatal wound on Meredith - although, in fact, it did, perfectly.
  • Second, that the DNA charts could match others - but, in fact, there were perfect matches at all points with the DNA of both Knox and Meredith.
  • And third, that the sample of Meredith’s was too small for valid results using a new kind of testing which it was claimed would be invalid in US courts.

A ruling in the Queens County New York Supreme Court, released on Feb 8th 2010,  presents difficulties for Knox supporters using this third argument. It is this same type of DNA test that the Queens Supreme court issued its ruling on, a ruling that allowed results from the new DNA test to be admitted into the Queens trial.

The testing is performed on a very tiny amount of DNA material, and it is called Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA testing. The Queens ruling establishes that results from LCN DNA testing can be entered in as evidence, and is the first challenge to LCN DNA testing in a US court. 

While the Queens ruling is only applicable in that jurisdiction, it does establish precedence, and an argument for LCN DNA test results to be accepted at other trials in America.

The DNA test results presented at the Knox trial were key evidence that directly implicated Knox as participating in the murder. Meredith’s DNA was found via LCN DNA testing on a knife found in the apartment of Knox’s boyfriend, and Knox’s DNA was found on the handle of the knife through a regular DNA test.  Based on this, Knox was also found guilty of transferring a murder weapon, which added additional time onto her sentence.

The Queens ruling cites “Frye vs. the US” (1923) to determine criteria for acceptance; Frye “requires the proponent of new or novel scientific techniques to establish by sufficient evidence the general acceptance and reliability of the technique within the relevant scientific community”.

The Queens ruling is that the LCN DNA procedure passes this test, and actually isn’t even a “new or novel” technique; merely a refinement of a generally accepted technique. It further states that while the defense may argue critiques of LCN DNA testing (interpretation issues, transference issues), these arguments “do not affect the admissibility of the evidence for trial purposes pursuant to Frye”.

The Queens Supreme Court is one of 62 in the state of New York, and is similar to circuit courts elsewhere. The highest court in the state of New York is called the “Court of Appeals”.

References here and here. An abridged version of this post was first posted here.


Posted by pat az on 03/17/10 at 04:33 AM in Evidence & WitnessesDNA and luminolThe wider contextsN America context


Hi Bailes. As DNA techniques and public understanding have grown in recent year, it seems to be becoming harder and harder to take down DNA evidence through cries of possible contamination, wrong handling, or misinterpreted read-outs of the results.

In Meredith’s case, the defenses claimed all of those things, repeatedly, and did not even get to Square One with the jury. They never came near to proving that there was contamination, or to evolving a theory for how Meredith’s DNA was on the knife other than that it was the murder weapon. .

On the appeals process, our poster Commisario Montalbano gave us this excellent description here. And Guede’s appeal is described here.

Commisario has pointed out to us in several places on TJMK that the Italian statistics on appeals do not look very promising for Knox and Sollecito. And also (as in that post) that the state of Italian prisons is such that they might find themselves out quite soon anyway if they lose - although there is now a crash program to build more cells.

The 427-page sentencing report will be used as the basis for the appeal by both sides, as the 105-page report was used for Guede’s. In the case of Guede’s appeal, the judge appeared to know the report by heart and accept it. He did not allow witnesses or new testimony, and it was over in a very short time.

Guede got his sentence reduced to 16 years simply because he had chosen the short-form trial - something Knox and Sollecito could also have done. Given how formidable the totality of the evidence really is, it might have been to their advantage to have done so.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/17/10 at 03:15 PM | #

The fact that the appeal will be based on the evidence from the first trial debunks the Knox PR machine which makes it sound like everything is back to square one.

I believe Curt Knox and Edda Mellas propagate this message, because they do not want to lose their supporters and contributors. They like to be in the spotlight of the media and they like the donations. They are going to milk this cash cow as long as they can.

Posted by Nell on 03/19/10 at 02:53 AM | #

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Where next:

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Or to next entry Rome Panel On Meredith’s Case: Seems To Have Been Shallow, But Of No Comfort To Knox Apologists

Or to previous entry Behind Mario Alessi’s Own Trial And Life Sentence: The Kidnap And Murder of A Baby Boy