Beyond Massei: On The Seemingly Insuperable Mixed Blood Evidence By All The Expert Witnesses
Posted by The Machine
The recent headlines have been dominated by the knife and bra-clasp evidence currently being reviewed by Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti at La Sapienza University in Rome.
Knox and Sollecito campaign spinners have tried to sell the highly erroneous notion that everything now hangs on the review’s outcome. Good luck with that. Actually it is almost marginal, and any imaginable outcome still leaves the defenses in a very deep hole.
This explains why what looks to us like the truly hairbrained gambit is being entertained of putting up to five jailbirds on the stand to try to prove that Knox and Sollecito wre not there. All five are likely to fall apart within minutes of the start of any cross-examination, and the same thing is likely if Knox and Sollecito take the stand.
The mixed blood samples are perhaps the strongest and most damning of all the physical evidence in the case. The defense have stayed way, way away from arguing about that - and with really good reason: it is so tough to explain on innocent grounds that it is far better for them to look the other way and hope the appeal judges and jury do too.
Again, good luck with that one. Judge Massei’s court merely summarized the mixed blood evidence in their report. They did NOT include it all. They merely summarized in sufficient depth to underpin their verdict and sentence when summaries of all the other evidence and testimony is also factored in.
There is vastly greater detail on the mixed blood evidence available to Judge Hellman’s appeal court than the Massei Report and this is a real minefield for the defence. It now includes the evidence and testimony from Rudy Guede’s trial in front of Judge Micheli which the Supreme Court endorsed recently and which is now ported in to the Knox-Sollecito appeal.
This is now a description of what ALL the mixed blood evidence looks like. Sources beyond the Massei Report include several articles by Andrea Vogt for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and several articles and the book Angel Face by Barbie Nadeau for The Daily Beast and Newsweek.
Between them they are the best observers in the English-language reporting community. Andrea Vogt and Barbie Nadeau are both fluent in Italian, they have both reported many times directly from the courtroom in Perugia and observed all the expert witnesses, and they have had full access to the prosecution’s 10,000 plus pages of evidence.
And there is also the excellent and very long description of the mixed blood evidence in the book Darkness Descending by Paul Russell and Graham Johnson which was prepared by Luciano Garofano who is perhaps the most respected forensic expert in Italy.
According to Luciano Garofano in Darkness Descending, one of Dr. Stefanoni’s key forensic findings was that Amanda Knox’s blood (not just DNA) was mixed with Meredith’s blood in a number of places in the bathroom and on the floor in Filomena’s room.
However, here is the electropherogram and you can see that the RFU value is very high, so the sample is undoubtedly blood, which is the body fluid that provides the greatest amount of DNA. In some cases you see higher peaks of Amanda’s DNA than Meredith’s. Amanda has been bleeding. (Luciano Garafano, Darkness Descending, page 371).
Dr. Renato Biondo confirmed all of Dr. Stefanoni’s forensic findings, including the mixed blood evidence, when he testified before Judge Micheli at Rudy Guede’s fast-track trial in October 2008. Dr. Biondo is the head of the DNA unit of the scientific police, so it’s safe to assume that he knows what he is talking about when it comes to analysing DNA evidence.
According to Andrea Vogt in an article for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer a number of forensic police biologists testified at the trial that there were five spots at the cottage where Meredith’s blood and Amanda Knox’s blood had mixed.
Forensic police biologists testified about five spots where they had detected samples of “mixed blood” genetic material—spots of blood of both Knox and Kercher’s—in the bidet, on the sink, on the drain tap, on the Q-tip box in the bathroom and in a spot where prosecutors argued Knox and Sollecito staged a break-in. (Andrea Vogt, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 29 May 2009).
Amanda Knox’s lawyers in fact conceded at trial that Amanda Knox’s blood had become mixed with Meredith’s blood. According to Barbie Nadeau in the Daily Beast:
“Your lawyers agree with the prosecution’s findings that at least one of the spots of Meredith’s blood found in the house where she was killed had your blood mixed with it.” (Barbie Nadeau, The Daily Beast, 29 May 2010).
Barbie Nadeau reported that the defence lawyers did not contest any of the laboratory results concerning the mixed blood evidence or explain why Knox may have been bleeding.
The defense did not contest any of the lab results, provide a counter scenario to the staged break-in, or offer testimony to explain why Knox may also have been bleeding (except to say that it is common to find mixed DNA from two people who shared a house). (Barbie Nadeau, Newsweek, 10 June 2009).
It is clear that Amanda Knox was bleeding on the night of the murder because her blood was on the tap of the basin in the bathroom.
“…a sample was taken from the front part of the faucet of the sink, which yielded the genetic profile of Amanda Knox…” (The Massei report, page192)
Barbie Nadeau pointed out that Knox herself effectively dated the blood stains to the night of the murder.
Legal experts who follow this case have suggested that blood evidence cannot be dated and therefore could have been left weeks before the murder. But when Knox testified in her own defense in June, she conceded that there was no blood in the bathroom the day before the murder, effectively dating those blood stains to that night. (Barbie Nadeau, Newseek, 14 July 2009).
Luciano Garofano also notes that Knox’s blood was recent because it hadn’t been touched or cleaned and that it is logical to put this bloodstain in relation with the blood in the bidet and and basin.
Luciano Garofano also asserts that there was copious blood loss by Amanda Knox on the night of the murder.
Let’s say the assassin used the basin and bidet to wash the knife: if you look at the electropherograms you’ll see that there seems to be more of Amanda Knox’s blood than Meredith’s. There is a copious blood loss by Amanda. (Luciano Garofano, Darkness Descending, page 374)
He rules out the possibility that Amanda Knox’s blood came from her ear or washed underwear and explains that her blood is not old blood because blood decays quickly.
After the trial, The Kerchers’ lawyer, Francesco Maresca, said the mixed blood evidence was the most damning piece of evidence against Amanda Knox. The jury agreed that it was a damning piece of evidence. Barbie Nadeau points out in Angel Face that the jurors accepted the mixed blood evidence.
The defense’s other biggest mistake, according to interviews with jurors after the trial, was doing nothing to refute the mixed-blood evidence beyond noting that it is common to find mingled DNA when two people live in the same house. (Barbie Nadeau, Angel Face, page 152).
When you put the mixed samples of blood into the wider context of the other pieces of evidence, they become even more damning. Rudy Guede’s footprints led straight out of Meredith’s room and out of the cottage.
This means that he could not have been the one to stage the break-in in Filomena’s room or go into the blood-spattered bathroom after Meredith had been stabbed. There is no physical evidence placing Guede either in Filomena’s room or in Meredith’s and Knox’s bathroom.
Ominously for Amanda Knox, the mixed blood evidence is not part of what is being reviewed by Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti. As mentioned above, the defence lawyers didn’t contest any of the laboratory results concerning the mixed blood evidence or explain why Knox may have been bleeding at the trial.
Dr. Stefanoni’s forensic investigation was a very transparent process. The defence experts were invited to attend the DNA tests at the laboratory in Rome - and refused at the last moment - perhaps to be able to speculate they were not done right.
But the validity of her findings has been confirmed by numerous independent DNA experts such as Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli and Luciano Garofano.
The fact that the formidably well qualified Professor Giuseppe Novelli has agreed to be a consultant for the prosecution at the appeals further underlines the validity of Dr. Stefanoni’s forensic findings.
So. Ignore this tough nut, or try to crack it in appeal court? That must be keeping the defenses up late.
Rather amusingly, given ex FBI agent Steve Moore’s seeming unknowing repeated attempts to belittle it, the huge new police investigative facility in Rome in the image at the top has extremely close ties with the FBI.
So much so that they train one another’s investigators and each have investigators permanently stationed in the headquarters of the other to investigate crimes jointly involving both countries. They tend to get along extremely well and our own contacts in federal law enforcement say that Italian facility is great.
This is not a laboratory that makes a lot of mistakes. It is very well equipped, very well staffed, and respected throughout Europe. Its standards are extremely high and it has been iffy about the common standards worked out for countries to voluntarily adhere to because it thinks some of its own standards are better.
The Innocence Project in the United States (created by Barry Sheck in New York who I really admire and have seen around a few times) uncovers many laboratory mistakes, but they are almost invariably at the local and state levels. They almost never find things done wrong in Federal crime investigations.
The same applies to this huge central laboratory in Rome, which runs 42 other satellite laboratories throughout Italy, and the Innocence Project has few or no cases of wrongful conviction open there.
If Steve Moore and Greg Hampikian of the Idaho arm of the Innocence Project (hardly one of the Innocence Project’s busiest arms - it would be interesting to know how many cases Hampikian has worked on, and how many convictions turned around) were onto something REAL in their heated claims, they could have swung the Innocence Project into action in Italy, and have it applying the heat to this laboratory.
To most Italians following the case, that they have not managed to do so really speaks volumes about them and their claims.
Perhaps Greg Hampikian would care to advise us all of precisely what is wrong in the Machine’s post here? How is the mixed blood that so many top Italian experts testified IS mixed blood really not mixed blood at all?
The police laboratory is several miles south-east of the center of Rome, on the major city street Via Tuscalosa. One of the nicer suburban areas of Rome, with a lot of attractive villas. Here is an image of one.
Many thanks to The Machine for a crystal clear summation of the most critical evidence.
Garofano gets it done. “Amanda has been bleeding,” he says. Garofano is the most respected forensic expert in Italy, one of the top DNA experts. He says Amanda’s blood was mixed with Meredith’s. Stefanoni who is the workhorse of Rome forensics lab said the same. Head of Scientific Police’s DNA unit, Renato Biondi confirmed her findings and testified to this in front of Micheli, and now Novelli another DNA expert at the highest level is willing to consult with the prosecution for the appeal.
As The Machine says about Biondi, “it’s safe to assume that he knows what he is talking about when it comes to analysing DNA evidence.”
Ditto for Garafano and Stefanoni and Novelli, their findings of mixed blood of Amanda with Meredith seal the deal.
The police forensic biologists at this lab in Rome, a lab which shares investigators with the FBI and has 42 satellite labs (per Peter Quennell comment) throughout Italy, is the source of these blood findings that put Amanda Knox at the scene of Meredith’s blood loss and death.
Maresca closes in on the chief point as always: the blood evidence convinced the jury. It is the ultimate sign of Knox being present at the stabbing. She was bleeding for some reason at the same time as Meredith was and the mixed blood samples prove it. Whether it was a cut on her foot, a nosebleed or elsewhere, it did the job of recording her presence at the crime. The defense did not bother to refute it for fear of drawing attention to it, one would suppose.
Stefanoni and Garofano have my vote of confidence. Without mixed blood samples, the “I was not there” might have worked. The spots of blood have been strong evidence that convinces beyond doubt. No wonder the hairsplitting and haggling FOA have tried desperately to cast doubt on findings about the blood and to pooh-pooh its significance. I’m angry they have had the effrontery to dispute real DNA experts and tried to cause endless confusion about these mixed blood traces on American TV and in cult websites.
No wonder Curt Knox leads with the Marriott halfbaked nonsense about no traces of DNA evidence in the murder room linking Knox to the crime. That is said to direct eyes away from the spots of her own blood mixed with the deceased’s in the bathroom so near by. Because they knew how deadly these traces were to the case for innocence.
The Machine sets the record straight quoting from the right source which is true hands-on scientists who actually tested the samples in a state of the art lab in Rome. Unlike FOA pseudo-experts and doubt magnates, these scientists have unimpeachable credentials. Thank goodness for Garofano, Stefanoni, Biondi, Novelli and all the other forensic biologists who testified to the truth and what science said about who killed Meredith Kercher.
Thanks TM for your coverage of the mixed blood evidence. In the trials and appeals of the three persons convicted for murdering Meredith Kercher, the basic legal protection of the defendents (now convicts) has been vigorous and constant:
- by their own lawyers, as we have seen with the formulation of their legal strageties and decisions on when and when not to talk
- by the judges, as we saw in Massei’s handling of the introduction of Knox’s Questura spontaneous statements into the proceedings, or when he kindly asked Knox if she needed breaks when she maybe needed to check things out with her lawyers.
- by the investigators when they stopped Knox’s witness statement on the night of Nov. 5-6 at 1:45 when she placed herself at the scene of the brutal crime, and by Prosecutor Mignini in ensuring that defence experts were invited and involved in all testing, even if they didn’t accept.
With all the legal protection and constitutional guarantees that Knox has, a convincing case was made against her, so convincing that in her first trial the judge and judicial jury had no difficulty in reaching a decision to find her and Sollecito guilty of participating in Meredith’s murder together with Guede.
Much ado is being made about the impact that the Double DNA Knife re-analysis could have in the case. I think it will be very little, either way (they way the re-analysis is proceeding, it doesn’t look like there are doubts as to that being Meredith’s DNA, and I doubt there are any indications that it could be there due to contamination).
In fact, I think that we could remove half the evidence in this case, and there would still be a convincing argument to confirm the original sentences against these three persons.
Great job Machine, that pretty much sums it up. As we’ve stated all along, neither defense team has challenged this evidence upon appeal.
What I have found the most dubiously bizarre, however, is the fact that the American media continues to portray this case as hanging simply on the knife, the bra clasp, and Curatolo’s testimony. How they have been able to sustain the “no evidence” cry for this long is astounding!
Again, this irresponsible coverage by our media has created new outraged Knox fans that are willing to shout out “Not Guilty” based solely on this coverage. Moreover, the media’s coverage of this case has created and will further widen the ethnocentric divide between countries.
This is the true lesson here, aside from—of course—justice for Meredith (which is paramount), this should be one of the main points of emphasis that come out of this case…how can we learn from this (we the American media)? This entire process needs to be documented and taught in journalism 101.
Judge Hellman asked Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti to evaluate the procedures used by the scientific police and to confirm whether the attribution of the DNA on the knife and bra clasp is correct.
The fact that Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti want to check the minutes related to the seizure of the knife and the testimony of the officers involved indicates that they accept Meredith’s DNA was on the blade and want to rule out any possibility of contamination.
Judge Micheli ruled out the possibility that the knife was contaminated during the collection phase. Poster Nicki here explained why in her piece about the Micheli report:
“Contamination during the collection phase is excluded by Judge Micheli, as the samples were collected by different officers at different times in different places.”
Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA was clearly on the bra clasp. His DNA was identified by two separate DNA tests. Of the 17 loci tested in the sample, Sollecito’s profile matched 17 out of 17.
Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli, Luciano Garofano and Professor Giuseppe Novelli have confirmed Dr. Stefanoni’s forensic findings. This is ominous for Knox and Sollecito.
So is the fact that the defence experts were unable to prove that there had been any contamination at the trial.
To underscore my above point, here is just one “Tweet” based on CNN’s Knox documentary shown again last night:
NONCHALANT cliff: “Ok CNN…I’m convinced, Amanda Knox & her boyfriend are innocent… the lack of evidence says it all… get it together Italy”
I just read Darkness Descending which I found very interesting, especially the remarks at the end by Garofano.
It looks like during the scuffle, Meredith must have punched Amanda in the nose, causing a nose bleed. This is credible because of her karate expertise, the mixed blood evidence and the fact that a nose bleed causes a lot of blood and no visible wound.
Any comments on this theory?
@former bad girl,
I also think Amanda had a nose bleed. It explains a lot.
Although the only book on the case I have read is Darkness Descending it is, I believe, the best book around for the time being.
Having looked in a few bookshops in and about London it is also the only one I find. The books by Candace Dempsey and Barbie Nadeu I have never found.
It seems that these american authors only have a market in the USA and I wonder whether Darkness Descending has been on sale over there.
You should try Internet bookshops. Bookshops here in Finland haven’t had any of the about 10 or so books about the case. But that is, of course, understandable since there is no widespread interest in this murder case here.
I’ve bought most of the books about the case through Internet, either as ebooks (after Windfall very kindly notified the TJMK/PMF readers about the Kindle For PC option) or normal versions. Not all of them have been that good or informative. I’m still, though, planning to read John Follain’s and Nina Burleigh’s books on the case. In the (vain?) hopes that they might have something new to say. Just checked and noticed that there’s another delay with Follain’s book - it’s now scheduled to be published in January 2012!
Looks like he’s going to read the motivations report for the 2nd level verdict before handing in his manus.
About Knox’s blood:
I’ve also been lately thinking that a nosebleed could be the reason for Knox’s blood on the scene. Some people are more prone to get them, I’ve seen myself people getting nosebleeds without no reason (or it may be due to the very dry air up here in the North during wintertime). Also children sometimes bump their heads together accidentally and get nosebleeds without no visible signs in their face or head.
Knox could also have been bleeding from the inside of her mouth. As suggested by somebody in JREF recently. Or maybe it could have been from injecting some drug or other in her veins - don’t the intravenous drug users usually first draw some blood into the syringe? And if it was her first time, her arms would not have been covered with needle marks when inspected by the police in connection with her arrest 5 days after the murder.
I ordered Darkness Descending from Amazon for 25¢ plus postage. I live in the US. I also ordered Barbie Nadeau’s book from my local bookstore when it came out and paid full price. I plan on reading Will’s book and John Follain’s book. I have no intention of giving a dime to any of the other authors.
I find it interesting that neither Knox or her mother Edda Mellas ever mentioned a nose bleed.
If I am wrong I will stand corrected.
On the same footing it is equally of interest to me that initially it was Edda Mellas who said her darling daughters ears were bleeding and also she was menstruating too, not Amanda herself. (and Amanda stated to the police that she and her boyfriend were making love that night? [did someone say EW?])
Nosebleed? yes I believe so.
Eizabeth Vargas thinks there is new DNA evidence:
“I am interested to hear your thoughts on the Amanda Knox trial. Does this new DNA evidence change your opinion about her guilt or innocence? Be sure to watch tonight and let me know what you think. Have a great weekend!”
Elizabeth Vargas must be one of the worst journalists covering the case. She only ever interviews Amanda Knox’s family and supporters, she has never addressed the majority of the evidence in the Massei report and now she erroneously thinks there is new DNA evidence.
At first I thought Eizabeth Vargas was just plain delusional.
Then I thought she was ignorant and fickle but I have settled on she is simply touting for an exclusive interview once Knox is released.I admire her for this as she is going to have to wait a very long time for the said interview.
Hi Black Dog,
I seriously doubt whether Elizabeth Vargas will still be working for ABC News by the time Amanda Knox is able to give any interviews.
I like to think Meredith got a good shot at Knox and caused the nosebleed, which in turn resulted in the mixed-blood spots that will ultimately seal Knox’s fate.
Karma’s a b****, Ms. Knox (pardon my French).
Thank you, an excellent post By The Machine.
The other DNA evidence that the defense (and CNN) seem to be avoiding like the plague relates to the flawed argument made by the murderer Sollecito that Meredith’s blood was on his kitchen knife because he “pricked her with it” in his kitchen from a previous dinner.
Funny now CNN and Knox’s PR team always seem to side step the hard DNA evidence that shows Knox is guilty. I read that before the murder, far from being a little angel like Curt Knox keeps saying, Knox actually had a criminal warning from Seattle police for hurling bricks at cars and doing drugs, and Sollecito had been reprimanded by his college for posting beastiality videos and dealing drugs. They were both rotten to the core from day one.
I’m sure this hasn’t escaped the appeal court, who are just letting Knox play all these painfully ridiculous games, including five jailbirds and DNA review extensions, so when they come back with the GUILTY verdicts again later this year, it will be even harder for Knox to wriggle out of.
One bit I hope you could expand on slightly is:
“He rules out the possibility that Amanda Knox’s blood came from her ear or washed underwear [...]”
Why is this? Is it because there is too much blood there, or is it too concentrated to have been from washing out knickers?
I would like to ask a couple of questions please
I have a question around the findings /opinions from this latest DNA review.
Does this review have the final say on the matter? (like a form of arbitration)
or is it just a further expert opinion (added to the mix) for the jury to wrestle with.
Regarding the knife and the bra clasp evidence, does anyone have an opinion on which is the stronger and less likely to get discredited (if any) from this review.
The review is by independent experts and their report will be just another item of evidence for the court to take into account and evaluate. One can imagine that the court will pay particular attention to the opinion of these experts since they were in fact appointed by the court.
I do not think that either the bra clasp or knife DNA evidence will end up being discredited myself but if forced to choose I would say that the knife DNA is the weaker.
This was Garofano’s professional opinion. Amanda’s blood on the faucet was more than noticeable to the naked eye. Experienced forensic experts - and probably most women - can tell the difference between blood from a fresh bleed and menstrual blood that has been collected first on a sanitary towel or whatever. Even supposing it was the latter, how would it have got on to the faucet?
As to a drop from an ear bleed this would admittedly look exactly the same as if it was from a nose bleed, for instance. However there is a lot of contextual evidence that one can take into account to think that this is most unlikely. I do not want to get bogged down with that here but just to say that Amanda’s own evidence tends to militate against that being so.
However here’s what Garofano says ...“For example…..that the bloodstain on the tap was from a pierced ear and the blood in the bidet and washbasin was from her period….How can Meredith’s blood be explained? Let’s say the assassin used the bidet and washbasin to wash the knife. If you look at the electropherograms you’ll see that there seems to be more of Amanda’s blood than Meredith’s. There is a copious blood loss by Amanda. Not from a pierced ear, not from washed underwear,but from bleeding. A bleeding nose, maybe a cut, or two….”
Thanks for your response.
“Experienced forensic experts - and probably most women - can tell the difference between blood from a fresh bleed and menstrual blood that has been collected first on a sanitary towel or whatever.”
Yes, agree with that, but it might not have been collected on a towel first. Without getting into too much gross detail, it’s perfectly possible for the menstrual flow to be heavy enough for quite a bit of blood to get onto ones hands, for example whilst removing a saturated tampon, and then onto the faucet (that’s a tap, right?) when it is turned on. So it would be possible, but as Amanda (as far as I know) never blamed the blood spot on her period I guess it’s irrelevant.
I’ve never believed that it could have been her ears, the piercing would have to be gushing for there to be enough blood for it to drip onto the sink, it’s just not feasible, and for it to be on the bidet etc.
Thanks for the clarification. What would I know as a man!
As you say Amanda never attempted to blame the spot on her period. I doubt that she would have been in any way prudish about this if she had been on a period.
Furthermore would her not being on a period at the relevant time be a factor in consideration? Would 4 girls living in close proximity be aware of each other’s menstrual cycles? I’m just wondering out loud and I dare say we shouldn’t linger too long on the topic.
“Furthermore would her not being on a period at the relevant time be a factor in consideration? Would 4 girls living in close proximity be aware of each other’s menstrual cycles?”
Possibly, but I doubt it. It seems Amanda was something of a slattern around the house, so might have left wrappers and packaging around, but as she didn’t share a bathroom with the Italians they might not have seen it. I doubt it would have been something that they would have discussed either, as they were such new acquaintances.
But anyway, agree it is probably a red herring.
Thank you machine for yet another well documented report. The mixed blood evidence is something that cannot be accounted for by the defense and their “defenders”. Maybe these 3 may have gotten away with this murder 40 years ago but not now with all of the scientific capabilities and DNA discoveries. Thank you sir for your report.