Category: DNA and luminol

Monday, October 14, 2013

DNA Tests: Umbria24 Reporter Francesca Marruco Provides A Balanced Overview Of Possible Prospects

Posted by ziaK





It may be that today or any day this week a definitive analysis of the seeming mixed DNA sample appears from an authoritative source.

Perugia-based Francesca Marruco did a lot of careful balanced reporting from Perugia early in the case. She has excellent official sources. She suggests in this report that the world might have to wait for the last day in October (deadline for the labs to report their analysis) or 6 November (next scheduled court session) for the official bottom line.

This is my translation. I am Italy-based also.

Kercher trial: unconfirmed reports on Amanda’s DNA: The experts will lodge their report [their truth] on the 30th [October]

By Francesca Marruco

The “I” trace identified on the blade of the knife could have come from the American woman, however the data could lend itself to contrary interpretations. The sentence could arrive before 30 November.

In order to obtain the definitive results of the analyses that the carabinieri of the RIS in Rome are carrying out on the “I” trace identified on the blade of the knife which is considered to be the weapon with which Meredith Kercher was murdered, we will have to wait until 30 October - the day on which the experts appointed by the Assise Appeal Court of Florence will lodge their conclusions. Already on Friday, the day on which the analyses were begun in the experts’ laboratories, uncomfirmed reports began to be leaked concerning the origins of that tiny quantity of DNA.

These leaks would like to ascribe it [the DNA] to Amanda Knox, the American student who was initially convicted and subsequently acquitted for the homicide of her flatmate, Meredith. But there is, as yet, neither certainty nor officiality, and - as this long case has taught us - even in the presence of officiality, opposing interpretations may be formed. If, in fact, as is being rumoured, those tiny biological particles did actually belong to Amanda Knox, this information could be interpreted in many ways.

Opposing interpretations - The defence would hasten to say that since Amanda had spent time in Raffaele Sollecito’s house - where the knife was discovered - there would be nothing strange if her DNA were to be on the blade. Just as - and this, at least, has been clearly seen - Amanda’s DNA was found on the handle of the weapon. Its presence could be explained by any banal procedure in the kitchen.

And indeed, Knox’s own defence has always maintained that the highly-contested trace “H” - the other trace identified on the blade, and which according to some is Meredith’s DNA - is nothing more than potato starch.  Thus, Amanda would seemingly have left her trace on the knife while peeling potatoes.

Traces - It is very clear, however, that the Prosecution could claim that precisely that presence of Amanda’s DNA on the blade of the knife could be proof that Knox touched it. To peel potatoes, or to kill her flatmate Meredith, as the Prosecution holds? If it is confirmed, one can bet that the data [found by the RIS] will give rise to an “earthquake” and it will fall to the judges of the Florentine court to clear up the resuting debris.

On the other hand, they might decide not to consider it [the data] any more than the other elements [of evidence], since it effectively lends itself to a multiplicity of [possible] interpretations which cannot be confirmed at this point in time. Certainly, if that trace were that of the victim, Meredith Kercher, the proceedings might take a different direction, since there would then be two [traces] at that point, and not just one trace of the victim’s DNA which would have ended up on the blade of a knife which she never touched during her lifetime.

The certainties, or rather, the conclusions, of the experts will be lodged on 30 October. It is the 6th of November, however, which has been appointed for the hearing during which these results will be discussed before the Court and the parties.

Towards the verdict - Raffaele Sollecito may also be present in court on that date, as he announced via his lawyers, Giulia Bongiorno and Luca Maori. Sollecito intends to make various spontaneous declarations in order to affirm once again his non-involvement in the barbarious murder of Meredith Kercher, for which only Rudy Hermann Guede is currently in jail, with a sentence of 16 years in prison which has been confirmed[by the Supreme Court]. 

After the hearing in which the results of the tests entrusted to the Rome RIS will be discussed, it is very probable that the trial will travel rapidly towards sentencing - the fifth sentence pronounced by an Italian court with regard to Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox. The Court President [leading judge], Alessandro Nencini, said during the first hearing that “this is a trial for matters of undeniable seriousness. Over and above the media circus, is Court’s desire to give all parties the most space possible for discussion, because there was a very significant sentence/conviction originally.”

By November -  For this reason, “in order to obtain every possible factor for the matter we are trying here, the Court orders that the trace should be examined by the staff of the RIS in Rome”. The Florence Court’s sentence could thus arrive by the end of November, or at the latest by the end of the year. It is very unlikely that Amanda Knox will decide to be present at any of the hearings, and probably she will await the verdict in Seattle.

Perhaps the final word shall never be pronounced on the most Press-covered trial in Italian legal history. After this latest sentence, in fact, nothing prevents anyone from making further appeals to the Supreme Court.

Posted by ziaK on 10/14/13 at 07:02 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Evidence & WitnessesDNA and luminolAppeals 2009-2015Florence 2014+Comments here (3)

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Carabinieri Laboratories In North-Central Rome Where Now Two Different Samples Need Attribution

Posted by Peter Quennell




Third update

Italy-based freelance reporter Andrea Vogt has tweeted the following: Leaks suggest DNA on knife shows knox genetic profile, but there is another profile being studied. Too early to interpret

Second update

Excellent comment on PMF by the poster Hugo which explains how the balance hasn’t changed.

The song remains the same. The republic contends that Amanda Knox used that knife to murder Meredith Kercher. The knife has yielded the DNA of just two people: Knox, in a position which indicates that she was gripping it, and Meredith, in a position which indicates that she was stabbed with it.

The defence can easily claim that Knox’s trace results from normal culinary use (although Stefanoni said the handprint indicated an atypical stabbing grip, with the knuckles on the same side as the blunt edge of the blade, and not a normal culinary cutting grip, with the knuckles on the same side as the sharp edge).

The problem is Meredith’s DNA at the sharp end. ‘Independent court-appointed expert’ Carla Vecchiotti admitted on the stand that this could not have arisen from laboratory contamination.

Professor Christopher Halkides’ suggestion that the contamination occurred during collection, because Stefano Gubbiotti acquired Meredith’s ‘aerosol DNA’ on his clothing, when he was supposedly in the house the same day, almost a week after the murder, and thus transferred the DNA from his clothing to his fingers to his evidence-handling gloves to the knife when he took it from Finzi’s envelope and re-packaged it in a stationery box at the Questura, is self-evidently absurd, fanciful, fictional and completely outwith the realms of actual forensic science.

And it’s not in evidence anyway, so it’s not an option open to the court.

Plus the objection to low copy number DNA is an American superstition not recognised in Europe. Unusually, it’s a scientific area where the US lags well behind. So you get hillbillies like Bruce Budowle grumbling, ‘Cain’t rightly say what that there newfangled LCN is, but ah reckon ah’m agin it.’ You’ll recall that a British appeal court has found that Bruce Budowle hasn’t the faintest idea what he’s talking about and also that, like Halkides, he tends to cite sources that don’t actually say what he says they say.

Knox is there on the hilt of the knife. And M is there near the point of the blade, and she’s trying to tell us something.

First update

The gap between the blade and handle of the knife was apparently widened to obtain the sample for the test. Sollecito lawyer Maori has claimed it is Amanda Knox’s. It is apparently adjacent to her previous trace.

If that is the case, the strength of the DNA evidence (which is very strong) remains unchanged. Dr Stefanoni identified Exhibit 36 on the blade as a strong trace of Merediith’s DNA. This was supported by various experts.

No contamination of that trace has ever been proved - or even a convincing contamination scenario put forward - and the video on top of the post below shows how the DNA charts for the sample and for Meredith totally match.

First post

Human DNA is widely reported in Italy to have been established from the sample never before tested on the large knife.

We may have to wait on an announcement from Judge Nencini in Florence as to whose DNA it is. That may not happen today.

These labs in the Carabinieri barracks are not far from the center of Rome. They are very well know to Italians because (images at bottom) “RIS” the Italian version of the show “CSI” is set there.



















Thursday, October 10, 2013

Testing Of The DNA Sample Starts Today Though Possibly No Results Announced Before 6 November

Posted by Peter Quennell


1. ViaDellaPergola’s video

That video from 2010 illustrates how the existing positive tests described in the Massei Report were crystal-clear; subsequently Hellmann, Zanetti, Conti and Vecchiotti (all now being investigated) so muddied the water.

2. From our short-form Massei Report

This is from Part Three of the four-part abbreviation of the Massei Report done by Skeptical Bystander and a PMF team in mid-2011.

Exhibit 36: The double DNA Knife

Exhibit 36 is a 31 cm long knife with a 17 cm blade and a dark handle.  It was seized from the kitchen cutlery drawer at Raffaele Sollecito’s home, located at 110 Corso Garibaldi in Perugia, on 6 November, 2007 when Chief Inspector Armando Finzi was ordered to perform a search of Sollecito’s residence.  This exhibit is important because “Sample 36b” taken from a scratch on the knife blade yielded Meredith Kercher’s biological profile.

After putting on gloves and shoe coverings, Finzi and his team entered the home.  They noted a strong smell of bleach.  Opening the cutlery drawer, they saw a big, “extremely clean” knife.  In Sollecito’s bedroom they found a second knife.  The knives were bagged and sealed.[106]

Exhibit 36 was carried back to the police station, where it was placed in a box for shipping to the Polizia Scientifica in Rome.  Dr. Stefanoni was the recipient of the box containing the knife in Rome.  All parties testified that standard procedures were followed to avoid the risk of contamination.

On 4 November, 2007, Meredith’s roommates Filomena Romanelli, Laura Mezzetti, and Amanda Knox had been taken by the police to look at the knives in their kitchen at the apartment in Via della Pergola.  Personnel from the Questura reported Amanda’s “severe and intense emotional crisis, unlike [the reaction of] the other two girls”.[292]  This behavior was contrasted to Amanda’s behavior at Police headquarters two days earlier:

“This circumstance appears significant both in its own right and also when one considers that Amanda had never previously shown signs of any particular distress and emotional involvement (in the Police headquarters, on the afternoon of November 2, Meredith’s English girlfriends, Robyn Carmel and Amy Frost in particular, according to their declarations, had been surprised by the behaviour of Amanda, who did not show emotions).”[292]

Investigators’ attention was alerted to the Exhibit 36 knife because of Amanda’s inconsistent behavior.  Later, police overheard a jail conversation between Knox and her parents on 17 November, when Knox said, “I am very, I am very worried about this thing with the knife ... because there is a knife of Raffaele’s ...”.[292]

Exhibit 36 thus became a central piece of trial evidence.  The debate would subsequently be focused on two issues: The compatibility of the knife with the large stab wound in Meredith’s neck; and the reliability of the DNA analysis.

Considering the first of these points, although the knife blade is 17 cm long, the depth of the larger wound is just 8 cm .  This “discrepancy” was the basis of defense efforts to discredit the knife as a murder weapon. The compatibility of the Exhibit 36 knife and the larger of Kercher’s wounds is addressed by Professor Bacci (see p. 121 of the Massei report).    Professor Norelli maintains that “it is not said that a blade is always embedded (plunged into) the target right up to the handle; the blade may also go (in) only to a certain portion of its length, and not right up to its end”.[126] 

It is noted that the movements of the victim may have played a part in determining the depth of the cuts.  “If I insert a centimeter of the blade into the victim and the victim suddenly moves towards me, how much of the blade will be driven inside the body surface area is absolutely unpredictable and depends on the action of both”.[129]  Alternatively, the blade of the knife might have met an obstacle. The cutting action is described on p. 146 and again starting on p. 152.

Defense witness Dr. Patumi disputed the compatibility of the wounds with said knife, arguing that a blade of 17 cm length could not have caused a cut 8 cm deep; see p. 156-157.  However, the Court rejected “the thesis of the incompatibility of the most serious wound and the knife Exhibit 36”, holding this thesis to be “unacceptable” .[172]

Regarding the second point ““ that of the DNA analysis ““ Dr. Stefanoni was the responsible expert at the crime lab in Rome. Although no biological traces were visible to the naked eye on the face of knife blade, Dr. Stefanoni perceived scratches - “anomalies in the metal’ - on the blade when rotating the blade under strong lighting.  The streaks were:

“... visible under good lighting by changing the angle at which the light hit the blade, since obviously the blade reflects light and thus creates shadows, making imperfections visible.”[196]

Sample 36b was taken from one of these points on the blade.  The genetic profile of Meredith Kercher was identified from this sample. Stefanoni presented charts to the court, showing the DNA profile: she noted “that the peaks were a bit low, but that without doubt were still within the range that is considered useful for testing a specimen (page 108). Although of a much lower quantity of DNA, the profiles were nonetheless very present and, by making a comparison with Meredith’s profile, Dr. Torricelli reported that “šwe find all the alleles, and we find them to be equal to those obtained from the swab taken, from the sample taken from the wound. Therefore in this case too, without doubt”› -she continued- “šalthough we are confronted with a sample that contains very little DNA, it nonetheless contains the DNA of only one person and is therefore comparable to Meredith’s; with regard to this knife, I would say I have no doubt in interpreting it: specimen A with Amanda’s profile and specimen B with the profile, compatible with that of Meredith.”[231-32] However, the amount of DNA was small and it was all used up in order to run a single test.

The defense objected that it was impossible to evaluate whether the actual nature of Sample 36b specimen: 

“.. when we have a small amount of DNA we talk about low copy number DNA, and that when this type of DNA is present, we are indeed able to carry out our amplification and obtain a profile, but we must remember that we may have lost one of the alleles, we may have an allelic imbalance ... it becomes very difficult to distinguish from a real allele, so that when working on ...  small quantities of genetic material, it is necessary to be very cautious in interpreting the results.”[237]

To this point, Dr. Stefanoni argued that it is preferable “to know to whom a biological specimen is attributable, rather than ascertaining the nature of that specimen, without attributing it to anyone.”[288]

Furthermore, it was argued by the defense that the quantity of DNA was too low to be able to perform the tests and consider the results reliable.  Given a low amount of DNA, the risk of contamination is high - particularly given the very numerous number of samples being analyzed.
 
The court rejected the possibility of contamination because no anomalies were ever identified in the Polizia Scientifica’s analytical process. The Prosecutor pointed out that all tests had been carried out in the presence of a lawyer/consultant for the defense - who had raised no objections during the testing.  The possibility of contamination during the collection of evidence was rejected based on a detailed consideration of the collection process.

Thus, the DNA from Meredith which was found on that knife cannot be traced back to any contamination occurring in the house in which it was found, or to the method of acquisition of the knife on the part of Finzi, or even to the collection and dispatch methods used by Gubbiotti. In addition, as has been said, that such contamination could have been carried out by the laboratory is also ruled out.[266]

In addition, Dr. Stefanoni testified that she did have the biological profile of the defendants, but did not employ them while interpreting the electrophoresis diagrams. Nevertheless, the Massei report judges that:

“... the main criticisms advanced by the defense concerned precisely this very small DNA quantity, and it raised the question of the reliability of the result obtained.”[288]

To this central point, Dr. Stefanoni:

“Regarding the too low quantity of DNA, Dr. Stefanoni declared, as has been seen, that even in the case of a particularly scanty amount of material, the analysis and evaluation should be performed, and she added that, if the data that emerges is absolutely readable and interpretable and the correct laboratory practice was followed, the result is reliable and there is no reason to repeat the test.

“It does not follow ... that the data is unusable and unreliable as a consequence of a lack of repetition due to a lack of further quantities of DNA. It is necessary, instead, to take account of the data that emerges from such a specimen and to check for the ““ possible ““ presence of other elements, both circumstantial and inherent to the data itself that, despite the lack of repetition of the analysis, could allow an evaluation of the reliability of the analysis and of its outcome.”[289]

The court concluded that the biological profile that resulted from the 36B DNA analysis ...

“... gave a biological profile attributable to the person who was mortally wounded with that very knife: a result, therefore, that was entirely reasonable and consistent with the event; [it was] certainly not explainable as a mere coincidence, and it must be ruled out ““according to what has already been observed in this regard - that it could have originated from contamination or from the use of a suspect-centric method.”,[290] and that

“”¦. it should therefore be affirmed that the analysis of trace 36B, which detected the presence DNA attributable to Meredith, appears to be completely reliable.”[293]


3. TJMK posts on the latest DNA science

1. Poster Fy By Night:  The Hellmann-Zanetti Appeal Court’s DNA Consultancy Looks Even Worse In Face Of The Latest Science

2. The Machine A New DNA Analysis Strongly Implicating Sollecito Seems to Have The Defense Forces Extremely Rattled

4. Sollecito tries to wind back the “pricked” claim

Our lawyer SomeAlibi recently explained how.

5. Andrea Vogt posts possible scenarios.

Scroll down to UPDATE OCT. 9, 2013 An excellent weighting of the possibilities.

The DNA could be Meredith’s, which would dramatically hurt thr defenses. It could be Rudy Guede’s, which would dramatically hurt thr defenses. Or it could be neither (or untestable) which would nt neccessarily affect the outcome. .


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Appeal Session #1(B) Detailed Report On Enquiries The Court Has Okayed

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



[Above the two co-judges with lead judge Allessandro Nencini reading the case history]

Explanation

The previous post listed what has already been agreed to by the court to guide the appeal. This report which only became available later describes what had been the prosecution and defense requests.

Translation From The Umbria24 website

Meredith, war of requests in the first hearing of the 2nd Appeal

The court has order a new test on the I trace and on the hearing of the witness Luciano Aviello. Rejected all other requests

By Francesca Marruco

After a little over 2 hours in counsel chambers the Florence Court of Appeals has decided to order a new test on the trace evidence of the knife seized in Raffaele Solecitto’s apartment, the weapon presumed to have been used in the murder.

The Court has also decided to hear the witness Luciano Aviello but rejected all the other requests for renewal of investigations presented by the defense. The Court resumes on Friday with Aviello and the assignment of the task of the new genetic analysis to the Carabinieri del Ris of Rome.

[The appeal] this morning in the maxi courtroom no. 32 of the Florence Justice Courthouse, commenced the new appeal for the murder of Meredith Kercher, after the annulment of the acquittal by the Supreme Court.

Present in the courtroom was only Patrick Lumumba. Absent, as expected, were the two appellants, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

- 9:00 Francesco Sollecito, father of Raffaele, says he is tranquil about the outcome of the new trial. Responding to journalists, he specified “The statement of the Supreme Court is compromised by errors committed because the judges did not have full access to all of the proceedings, as they themselves indicated.”

- 9:45 The defense of Knox and Sollecito have asked for the exclusion of the Patrick Lumumba (civil) party because the conviction of Amanda for calunnia has already been passed into final sentence.

This request was opposed by the General Prosecutor Alessandro Crini, and the lawyer of Lumumba. For them the plaintiff’s civil right is legitimate, as the Supreme Court has asked this court to re-evaluate the penalty in light of the finalized sentence of Knox.

The Court retired to counsel chambers to decide, announcing it wanted to decide today on any reopening of the investigation.

- 10:15 The court rejects the request of the defense of Knox and Sollecitto to exclude the civil party Patrick Lumumba, because the Court specifies that, among other things, the offense was not assessed in totality by the trial court.

- 10.50 The President of the Court of Appeals, Allessandro Nencini, is initiating his introductory report, starting from the day of Meredith’s homicide. The judge travels trough the most important passages of the three Courts. Speaking of the trace, secured by the consultants of the second [Hellman] Court, on the knife (considered the weapon of the crime by the first Court) President Nencini said: “It is necessary to underline that the independent consultants had found another trace; but it was not analyzed”.

- 11:15 The President of the Court, Judge Nencini, at the end of the introductory report, said: ” This is an appeal for matters of undeniable seriousness beyond the media spectacularization. Thus the Court is willing to give all possible space for debate to all of the parties, because originally there was a solid verdict, and the actions on which we proceed are of undeniable seriousness”

- 11.25 Raffaele Sollecito defense lawyer Giulia Buongiorno was the first to take the floor.

]Bongiorno:] Sollecito’s defense does not ignore the motivations of Cassazione, and we are in favor of any kind of verification that the Court will order, with the following caveats. This proceeding has always been based on two types of evidence, the testimonial and the technical.  We request that during this proceeding, which we hope to be the last one, that the Court during the next hearings will concentrate only on the truly reliable evidences, putting aside those that are nullified by media conjecture.

Many witness have said things because they have read them or heard them. The proceeding was reopened, but not to collect this type of guesswork. We do not want to inflate this proceeding with new conjectures. We request to examine in depth the crime observed, as emphasized by Cassazione.  In the crime scene room there are copious traces of two of the four claimed present persons, the victim and Rudy Guede who admitted to having been there, and none of the two appelants except on the hook of the victim’s bra.

When the Prosecutor asserts that there are no traces because Amanda and Raffaele cleaned them, we think that this is impossible. For this reason we request to have a evaluation done in order to verify if it is possible to clean selectively…  A Cassazione mistake was that it didn’t notice the entry into the crime scene room before the bra hook was found, so we request the acquisition of two reports [on that].

We want to understand if in a sealed place it is possible to get firm evidence even after the admission by the police of other searches.  We do not request to simply take the hook and to say that it is contaminated, we want to know if in that environment it was possible to collect some genuine evidence, because at the crime scene there were not ten traces of Raffaele but only that one”.

 

A subordinate request by Giulia Buongiorno is that experts, new experts or the ones at the Hellman appeal, will read the electropherograms.  Buongiorno requests the analysis of both of Meredith Kercher’s cell phones that she consider the “black box” of the crime and that they “were never analyzed deep enough by the Corte d’Assise di Perugia” The defense requests also analysis of the presumed sperm trace on Meredith’s pillowcase.

- 12.15   Amanda Knox defense lawyer Carlo Della Vedova takes the floor and raises right away an exception to the judge’s stipulations.  “Are we today able to judge on matters that happened six years ago? Can a person be under proceeding for life? Are we sure that Amanda Knox is an accused like all the others? Is it right, the indefinite delay of this proceeding? For all of this I insist that the Court evaluate the constitutionality.”

- 13.00 The Kercher family’s lawyer produced a letter written by the family members of Meredith that read “We are confident that the evidences will be reexamined and all the requests of more evidences will be granted, in a way that all the unanswered questions will be clarified and that the Court can decide on a future way of action in this tragic case. The past six years have been the most difficult of our lives and we want to find an end and remember Meredith as the girl that she really was rather than remember the horror associated with her”.

-14.00 The General Prosecutor Alessandro Crini says he is against the request of the defense to hear anew from some witnesses, including Rudy Hermann Guede. The same argument Crini voiced for the majority of the requests of the opening introduction presented by the defense. In conclusion, he asked for the the addition of the evaluation of the “I” trace, isolated by the independent experts, but never analyzed because they claimed it was believed to be Low Copy Number. Furthermore the prosecutor asks that the witness Aviello be reheard.

-15:00 The lawyers of the civil part that represent the Kercher family support the request of the General Prosecutor Crini, and opposed the requests of the defense. The lawyer Francesco Maresca said he believes that the defense attempts to frame with a new “dress” evidence that is strong, resistant, and robust, from the findings of the trial court, and that were minimized by the first appeal court. For example, the witness Capezzali.

Also there are newly framed certain requests that are obsolete, that have already been actioned. Like that of the selective cleaning. In the bathroom next to the room of the crime, there were many mixed traces of DNA of Amanda and the blood of Meredith. And the genetic profile of Sollecito, besides on the bra hook, was present only mixed with that of Amanda on a cigarette butt, then how did it migrate, only that one, from the cigarette butt to the bra hook?

- 15:10 The defense of Raffaele Sollecito maintains the request to analyze the “I” trace, but opposes hearing from the witness Luciano Aviello. Buongiorno also pointed out that it is not true that the independent experts of the second court decided automatically to not analyze certain traces, but did so in the presence of the prosecution experts Stefanoni and Novelli and those of the defense.  Carlo Dalla Vedova, for the Knox defense, said that Avelio should be heard only to demonstrate that the police uses him two different ways. Like when Avelio said he knew where the crime weapon was.

- 15.30 The Court retired in council chamber and announced that will not come out before 17.30


Conclusion

Thereafter the court convened again and the decisions were as outlined in our post below this one. Almost all of what the defense had argued for - each of them a stretch if you know the full circumstances - was denied. 

And the two main requests from the prosecution - that Aviello be put back on the stand, and the large knife be retested - were accepted. Ourcomes of these may or may not add to the strength of the prosecution’s case, but seem to offer no prospects of joy for the defenses.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Questions For Sollecito: Why So Many Contradictory Explanations Of How DNA Got On The Knife?

Posted by SomeAlibi





It is no secret (except seemingly to him) that Sollecito’s book and web postings will once again land him in court.

This trial will be separate from the main appeal though the prosecution office will be the same. It will be for alleged contempt of the court in serially mis-stating the evidence and accusing many officials of crimes in an attempt to get public opinion to lean heavily on the courts. 

The Amanda Knox brigade has been trying that too, and look at how well that is working out!

Here is one seemingly perfect example of how Sollecito (finally responding to the pressures and pleas of his discombobulated lawyers?) may be trying to wind things back. You will recall that news of the discovery of a large knife in his kitchen drawer with Meredith’s DNA on it was related to Sollecito while he was in his prison cell, just over two weeks after the murder.

As much as the news initially panicked him, shortly thereafter on November 18th, 2007, he seemed relieved to have realised how Meredith’s DNA could have come to be on his kitchen knife after a session of, in his written words, “thinking and remembering”. He wrote in his diary:

The fact that there is Meredithʹs DNA on the kitchen knife is because on one occasion, while we were cooking together, I, while moving around at home {and} handling the knife, pricked her hand, and I apologized at once but she was not hurt {lei non si era fatta niente}. So the only real explanation for that kitchen knife is this one.

And that was it: Raffaele had “fortunately” remembered how he had “pricked” Meredith’s hand and that explained the DNA. He remembered it in precise detail - thank heavens for that!

The problem for Raffaele was that he didn’t know at this stage that the DNA was in a microscopic groove on the blade and not on the tip. The story made no sense. Worse, he was also flatly contradicted by the flatmates, the friends and even Amanda: he had never been cooking with Meredith and his story was therefore impossible as well as implausible. And since he was a murder suspect, the memories and all their specificity which would have given him an alibi for the DNA, became highly suspicious.

Unfortunately, Raffaele chose to remain silent thereafter and never testified, as was his right, at his trials.

Subsequently there were many months of Team Knox-Sollecito denying that Raffaele meant Meredith, in contradiction of all plain logic when reading the simple words in his diary. No, said the online apologists, in fact he meant Amanda’s hand and in some way he had thought that maybe Meredith’s DNA had been on Amanda and could have transferred. It wasn’t his fault that his theory was wrong, it was just an honest memory of being with Amanda and nothing suspicious at all.

On Twitter on September 22nd, Raffaele decided, probably unwittingly as is his wont, to blow that theory up. He was asked about the diary entry by Twitter user MK @santamariaxx and responded thus:

He replied as in the image above.

So, he didn’t really mean Amanda at all (thank-you for all the wasted hours of excuse making for Raffaele to those protagonists of that particular theory), but now we learn it was a false memory about Meredith that never happened.

But let’s unpick this because it’s far from a single mis-remembered sentence or action. This was a contemporaneous diary entry made barely two or three weeks after such a cooking event could have happened and it was a multi-faceted event with multiple actions. He was clear and precise about what happened in detail. Now, he is quite clear the whole thing never happened:

    1. He said he was cooking together with Meredith - but that never happened

    2. He recalled himself “moving about” during the cooking session - but that never happened

    3. He remembered the location “at home” - but was never there in this context

    4. He remembered putting a knife that he was holding into / onto Meredith’s hand - but that never happened

    5. He remembered actively apologizing to Meredith for that clumsy act - but that never happened

    6. He remembered the act of them examining Meredith’s hand and mutually discovering that she had not been hurt - but that never happened

    7. He remembered that this was the real explanation of the kitchen knife - but it never happened

Sollecito was on his own in a cell, not under interrogation, and spending time “thinking and remembering” on November 18th. What he remembered, in detail, was a multi-part sequence of events with a girl who had been murdered barely two weeks before. He remembered the minutiae of what happened and its sequence when he believed he needed to provide an alibi for the identification of the DNA on his knife.

None of Amanda Knox’s vagueness about these memories - they were particular and specific in the finest detail. So fine and specific that when he was caught out that this could not have happened, those details looked highly like someone seeking to convince precisely because of the particularity of the details. It was in the time-honoured form: “no, no - it definitely happened, because I specifically remember”..... 7 distinct and separate memories and the sequence in which they occured.

But all those things never happened according to Raffaele Sollecito in 2013.

Knox and Sollecito have never stopped the self-serving lies and flat contradictions of themselves. Not now, even after all this time, even after one them is permanently stained as, at a minimum, a convicted liar who criminally tried to frame a man for murder. Sollecito, “not hiding” in his secret location, can’t stop either. Little good it will do either of them. Finally, justice is coming and the lies will be at end. I’d almost feel sorry for him, if he wasn’t then and remains now, an inveterate liar without the honour to face justice in the country of his birth.


Monday, August 05, 2013

A New DNA Analysis Strongly Implicating Sollecito Seems to Have The Defense Forces Rattled

Posted by The Machine


F
[Above: DNA professional Professor David Balding; at bottom, DNA amateurs Barras and Halkides]


The Supreme Court has already shown strong disdain for the myriad dirty tricks of the defense forces, and legal action is building against them (see our post next week).

That the defense forces in this context attempt to put out even more misleading information seems a sure sign that their backs are to the wall, and that they will risk anything to again tilt the playing field. 

Colin Barras

“Software says Amanda Knox’s DNA wasn’t at crime scene”  This highly misleading header appeared above an article by Colin Barras on the New Scientist website last month.

It should be pointed out that Colin Barras isn’t a DNA expert. He has never been involved in a forensic investigation. He has never provided expert testimony in a court case. He is simply a freelance British science writer with degrees in geology, palaeobiology and palaentology - the palaentology of Jurassic sea urchins.

Barras explains in his article that Professor David Balding, a Professor of Statistical Genetics at University College London, has developed new software for interpreting Low Template DNA evidence.

This is true. However, Barras then goes on to make the following claim:

Using the software on data from Knox’s trial suggests that it was very unlikely that her DNA was at the crime scene.

In fact Professor Balding and his software suggested nothing of the sort. Professor Balding was referring specifically to an incomplete DNA profile on Meredith Kercher’s bra clasp which has never been at much issue.

He did not refer to all the other DNA evidence that was collected at the crime scene and presented as evidence in court.

It’s important to clarify what this crime scene actually is, because the defense forces of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito constantly move the goalposts in relation to this case depending on who they are talking about.

When they talk about the evidence against Knox and Sollecito, their version of the crime scene is strictly limited to Meredith’s room. When they discuss the evidence against Guede, their version of the crime scene includes other rooms in the cottage i.e. the other bathroom and the hallway. And when they discuss the collection of the DNA evidence, their version of the crime scene suddenly includes the flat downstairs, even though no crime was committed there.

According to Wikipedia “A crime scene is a location where a crime took place (or another location where evidence of the crime may be found), and comprises the area from which most of the physical evidence is retrieved by law enforcement personnel, crime scene investigators (CSIs) or in rare circumstances, forensic scientists.”

The Scientific Police from Rome and the Forensic Police from Perugia clearly regarded most of the cottage as a crime scene. The Forensic Police from Perugia catalogued potential evidence by placing letters and numbers in different rooms in the cottage. (The Massei report, p200).

The Scientific Police then collected DNA and forensic evidence from Meredith’s room, Amanda Knox’s room, the hallway, the kitchen, the blood-spattered bathroom, the other bathroom which was used by Filomena and Laura and Filomena’s room where the break-in was allegedly staged. That’s a total of seven rooms.

And the Scientific Police didn’t actually claim at the trial that the incomplete profile on the bra clasp belonged to Amanda Knox. It was Sollecito’s forensic expert Professor Vinci who claimed that Knox’s DNA was on Meredith’s bra. His findings were presented in court at Rudy Guede’s fast-track trial in 2008.

So Colin Barras has used a straw-man argument. He has completely ignored the six pieces of DNA evidence that place Amanda Knox at the crime scene on the night of the murder.

According to the prosecution’s experts, Amanda Knox’s blood was found mingled with Meredith’s blood in three places in the bathroom: on the ledge of the basin, on the bidet, and on a box of Q Tips cotton swabs.

Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s DNA was also found mixed together in a bare bloody footprint which was revealed by Luminol in the hallway and a mixture of Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s blood was also found on the floor in Filomena’s room.

Amanda Knox’s DNA was found on the handle of Sollecito’s kitchen knife and a number of forensic experts - Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Giuesppe Novelli, Professor Francesca Torricelli, Luciano Garofano, Greg Hampikian and Elizabeth Johnson - have all confirmed that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade.

Dr Stefanoni analysed the traces on the knife six days after last handling Meredith’s DNA. This means that contamination couldn’t have occurred in the laboratory. Meredith had never been to Sollecito’s apartment, so contamination away from the laboratory was impossible.

The knife is still in evidence and remains compelling evidence against Knox and Sollecito.

Ominously for Knox and Sollecito, the Supreme Court explained how DNA evidence should be assessed in court i.e. contamination must be proven with certainty not supposition.

The burden of proof is on the person who asserts contamination, not the person who denies it.

In other words, if the defence lawyers claim the DNA evidence was contaminated, they must describe the specific place and time where it could have plausibly occurred.

Nobody has ever proved that the bra clasp and knife evidence were contaminated and it’s difficult to see how the defence lawyers’s experts are going to do this at the new appeal.

Chris Halkides

Chris Halkides is one of Amanda Knox’s most effusive supporters. He has pontificated extensively about the case on his blog View from Wilimington and on other Internet websites.

On 30 July, he was finally prompted to post an interview with Professor Balding done some months previously. I suspect Halkides had been very keen to interview Professor Balding after reading Colin Barras’ article on the New Scientist website; but was holding back on posting it because it went against his own claims.

Indeed,  his interview has turned out to be quite a slap in the face for the Friends of Amanda and Colin Barras, because Professor Balding categorically described the DNA evidence against Sollecito to Halkidis as “strong”.

It’s worth summarising Professor Balding’s impressive academic record which for this case is topnotch, perhaps the best .

He is currently the Chair of Statistical Genetics at University College in London. He has a first-class honours degree and a PhD in Mathematics. And he has written many journal articles and co-authored a number of books on a range of topics.

This is apparently the whole of Chris Halkides’ interview with Professor Balding:

TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2013

An interview with David Balding

Part 36 in the Knox/Sollecito case

Professor David Balding recently published an analysis of the bra clasp DNA.  It may be helpful to explain some terms found in this article.  John Butler (Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing) defines the likelihood ratio (LR) as “The ratio of the probabilities of the same event under different hypotheses, and he explains that the prosecution’s hypothesis is usually the numerator, and the defense’s hypothesis is usually the denominator.  A ban is a unit of expressing the weight of evidence (WoE).  This scale is logarithmic; a likelihood ratio of three bans is equal to one thousand.  Some months ago Dr. Balding was kind enough to answer some of my questions about this work.

Does Raffaele Sollecito¹s DNA fall into the category of low template DNA, and if so, should two separate amplifications have been run?

There’s no strict definition of “low-template” but broadly yes the peaks associated with Sollecito are low (but not those associated with Kercher, they are high).  Conti-Vecchiotti discuss a threshold of 50 rfu below which a peak should not be relied on; in the UK, that threshold was used in the past but nowadays as techniques have improved the threshold is often lower, 25 or 30. 

However that doesn’t matter here as all the peaks associated with Sollecito are well above 50: there is a 65, a 70 and a 98, all the 26 other peaks are above 100.  So it is not extremely low template - many low-template cases are successfully prosecuted in the UK even when some peaks fall below the threshold and so are discounted.  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.

Replication is generally a good thing and is nowadays done in most cases in my experience, but not all - one problem is that replication splits the sample and so can increase the chance of not getting a usable result.  But although replication is desirable it is not essential.  (In a sense there already is replication, because each of the 15 loci is an independent test.) 

This is all a matter of weight of evidence, which Conti-Vecchiotti paid no attention to: if you measure the weight of evidence properly, that accounts for the extra assurance that comes from replication and gives a stronger result (or conversely gives a weaker result if there is not replication).  But because Sollecito is fully represented in the stain at 15 loci (we still only use 10 in the UK, so 15 is a lot), the evidence against him is strong even allowing for the additional uncertainty due to non-replication.

Are there contributors other than Raffaele Sollecito and Meredith Kercher to the autosomal profiles?  If so, how does the presence of this additional DNA affect the bra clasp as evidence?

Yes, Conti-Vecchiotti identified a further 12 above-threshold peaks at alleles that could not have come from Sollecito or Kercher.  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.

Are there contributors to the Y-STR profile other than Raffaele Sollecito?  If so, how does the presence of this DNA affect our interpretation of the bra clasp as evidence?

I haven’t looked closely at the Y evidence - there seems no need for it because the autosomal evidence is overwhelming for the presence of DNA from Sollecito.  But from a look at Conti-Vecchiotti, it seems to back up the conclusion from the autosomal profiles: 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.

The bra clasp was collected about 47 days after the murder, and it was found in a different location from where it was initially observed.  In the interim many people entered the cottage and items from her room were removed.  Are these concerns sufficient for the clasp to be excluded as evidence?

The only worry would be if somehow DNA from Sollecito was brought into the room and deposited on item 165B.  I don’t know enough about what happened to say if that was likely but I’d guess that people walking in and out of the room etc would be unlikely to do that.

The clasp was collected with gloves that were not clean, not with disposable tweezers (videos here and here).  The glove was handled by more than one person.  Are these concerns sufficient for the clasp to be excluded as evidence? If not, should the clasp be given less weight as evidence because of them?

Same comment - the only concern is if any of this could have transferred DNA from Sollecito onto item 165B.

Would you care to comment on the storage of the clasp after the forensic police tested it?

I know nothing about it.

Did you analyze the electronic data files?  Did you examine the laboratory¹s own protocols and machine logs?

I have only seen the epgs for the autosomal DNA profiles of 165B.  There is an unclear version of them in the Conti-Vecchiotti report, but Prof Vecchiotti kindly provided me with a clean set.

Did you examine the negative controls?

No

Fellow main poster Stilicho highlighted the most important conclusions from this interview on the PMF Forum where the quality of the DNA discussion is very informed.

The interview contains a few things that have been vigorously denied by the FOA:

The 50 RFU level is not sacred or inviolable.

It is improbable that Sollecito’s DNA got there by secondary transfer or by contamination.

The likelihood that the DNA on the bra clasp is Sollecito’s DNA is “overwhelming”.

...the interview doesn’t contain anything not already known to both sides but it contains several key elements that are not accepted by both sides.

Chris Halkides asked two-part leading questions and didn’t get the answers that would be needed to continue to falsely assert that Sollecito’s DNA is not abundant on the clasp or that, if it was there, it likely got there by some other route.

All the other inferences about environmental contamination are irrelevant to Balding’s main point: it is Sollecito’s DNA on that clasp and it didn’t get there by accident.

Final Thoughts

Some credit must go to Chris Halkides for finally posting the interview with Professor Balding even though it categorically said the DNA evidence against Sollecito is strong. I’m not sure he’ll be invited to any FOA events in the future.

Shame though on Colin Barras, for writing such a misleading article, and for using a straw man argument to highly misrepresent the DNA evidence against Amanda Knox which was then deliberately fed to the Italian media.

He completely ignored the six pieces of evidence that place her at the crime scene on the night of the murder. He also completely ignored the most important of Professor Balding’s findings.  ie that the DNA evidence against Sollecito is strong.

This finding implicates Knox and places her at the crime scene when Meredith was killed, and makes a mockery of Barras’s headline that suggested otherwise.


[Below: the wannabe crime-scene DNA experts Colin Barras, left, and Chris Halkides, right]


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How The Clean-Up And The Locked Door Contribute To The Very Strong Case For Guilt

Posted by James Raper





On the 30th September the appeals of Amanda Knox and Raffele Sollecito against the convictions they received at the first instance trial will resume, this time in Florence.

This follows the annulment by the Supreme Court of the acquittal verdicts rendered by the Appeal Court presided over by Judge Pratillo Hellmann. There is one conviction not under appeal. This is Knox’s conviction for calunnia, which is now definite.

They are therefore both currently convicted of murder and sexual assault, and a number of lesser charges, amongst which there is the simulation of a burglary “to ensure impunity for themselves from the felonies of murder and sexual assault, attempting to attribute the responsibility for them to persons unknown who penetrated the apartment to this end”.

There is one activity, for which there is evidence, with which they were not charged (perhaps either because it was redundant or not a criminal offence) though this was likewise to ensure impunity for themselves.

This is the partial clean up at the cottage and it is this with which I intend to deal. I want to highlight salient observations which have been under discussion here and elsewhere and some of which may be well known to readers, but perhaps some not, or have been forgotten about. Once again, in many cases, I am merely a conduit for the observations of others, not least the first instance trial judge Giancarlo Massei.

So let”˜s consider the observations and in doing so we can also throw some more light on the lone wolf theory.

1. Take a look at the bloody footprint

This is, of course, the bloody footprint on the bathmat in the small bathroom right next to Meredith’s room. 





The heel of the right foot, if it had blood on it, is missing from where it should be on the tiled floor. It is difficult to imagine, given that the imprint of the foot on the mat is contiguous with the edge of the mat, that there was not at least some blood on the remainder of the foot such that there must have been at least some blood deposited on the floor.

Just as difficult to imagine that casual shuffling about on the bathmat would have removed the blood so as to render it “invisible” to the use of luminol.

Of equal relevance is that there were no connecting bloody footprints.  Why not?

The defences have an improbable theory -  that Guede, despite his homicidal rage, was smart enough to hop about on his left foot with a clean shoe on, and the other bare but covered in blood, and that having by this means entered the bathroom and washed his bloody right foot, disastrously leaving his (supposed) imprint there in the process, he then returned to Meredith’s bedroom inadvertently standing in blood with his left shoe and leaving with a trail of bloody left shoe prints -  in which case the exercise of washing his foot was entirely in vain, on two counts, after all that careful hopping around.

Neither is it entirely clear why his right shoe came off in the first place.

It is far more probable that the inevitable bloody prints were deliberately and carefully removed. The reason for doing this was not just to conceal who would have made them (the print on the bathmat was, after all, left in situ) but, from a visual perspective, to conceal any blood that might be noticeable and alarming to anyone approaching Meredith’s room. Guede’s bloody shoeprints in the corridor were visible but only on close inspection.

2. Take a look at the bathroom door

Specifically the internal (hinge) side of the bathroom door. Take a look at this photograph.





We see a long streak of dried blood.  Clearly the blood has flowed some distance under the influence of gravity and we can see that it looks slightly diluted, with red corpuscles gathering towards the tip of the streak. A drip of that size does not appear from nowhere.

Indeed it is difficult to imagine how the blood got there unless it was part of a larger area of blood which most likely was on the face of the door and which was swiped to the right and over the edge of the face of the door. The cloth or towel used to do this was wet accounting for the slight dilution and length of the streak.

3. Take a look at Meredith’s door

It is interesting, is it not, that there is blood on the inside but not on the outside? The outside:





And the inside:





It is difficult to see how and why Guede touched the inside handle with a bloody hand (was it shut and if so, why?) and then closed the door to lock it without leaving a trace on the outside face of the door. Possibly he might have changed hands. The answer might also be that he visited the bathroom to wash his hand as well as his foot, save that none of his DNA was recovered from the spots and streaks of diluted blood in the washbasin, whereas Knox’s DNA was. All the more surprising given that Guede shed his DNA in Meredith’s room.

We see some blood on the edge of the door which again might be the remnant of a trace on the outside face.

4.  Take a look at Amanda Knox’s lamp.

This was found inside Meredith’s room behind the door. Meredith also had a similar lamp which was resting on it’s base on the floor by her bedside table.

The presence and location of Knox’s lamp is obviously suspicious. Had Meredith borrowed Amanda’s lamp because her own was not working, then it would not have been in the position it was found but on or more likely knocked over and lying beside the bedside table since the violence appears to have been concentrated in that area of the room. 

Had Meredith’s lamp been on the bedside table then likewise it too would most likely have been knocked over in her life and death struggle with her sole assailant (there are blood streaks on the wall just above) and it would not have ended up sitting upright on it’s base.

Both lamps were probably used to check the floor of Meredith’s room after the event and Knox’s lamp was probably sitting upright until it was knocked over by the door being forced open.

This is Meredith’s lamp by the bedside table.





And this is Knox’s lamp by the foot of the bed.




5. Take a look at what luminol revealed

We can state with confidence that luminol (extremely sensitive to and typically used to identify blood that has been wiped or washed away) discovered :-

(a) three bare footprint attributable to Knox, one in her bedroom and two in the corridor, and

(b) two instances of the mixed DNA of Meredith and Knox, one in Filomena’s bedroom and one in the corridor.

(c) a footprint attributed to Sollecito in the corridor.

I have covered a number of elements strongly suggesting that there was at least a partial clean up, not of “invisible DNA” as the Groupies like to mock, but of what would have probably in some cases have been noticeable deposits of blood that would have attracted the eye of anyone entering the cottage and which would certainly have alarmed the observer as being difficult to explain.

Spots of and footprints in blood, not just in the bathroom but outside it, a locked bedroom door with blood on it, and a bathroom door with blood on it’s face.

We can include Knox as one such observer given her e-mail account of having allegedly stopped by the cottage to have a shower and collect some clothing before the discovery of the body. Such physical evidence - had it not been removed - would not have sat easy with that account, however dizzy and naïve Knox presents herself. One can envisage Knox thinking “sorted” - that her story would now work perfectly.

Even so, there were elements that were overlooked, such as Knox’s blood on the washbasin faucet and blood generally in the small bathroom, but a door can be closed and at least these were elements amenable to some form of explanation from her perspective, whether or not convincing, as occurred in the e-mail.

Incidentally in addition to the mixed traces in the small bathroom, Meredith’s blood was found on the light switch and a cotton bud box.  I have a hard time imagining what Guede would have wanted with the cotton bud box, less so Amanda given her blood on the faucet, ear piercings and a scratch on her throat. Knox, when asked during her trial, could not recall having switched on the light during her alleged visit to the cottage.




6. Take a look at the items on Knox’s bed

Massei concluded that it was likely that it was Knox who carried out the clean up, which if correct might explain why it was not central to her thinking to dispose of the bathmat with Sollecito’s bloody footprint on it!

Knox was seen by Quintavalle at his store at 7.45 am on the 2nd November, thereby destroying her alibi. He described her as pale faced, exhausted looking, with pale blue eyes. He also added, and he would not have known this from photographs in the newspapers, that she was wearing blue jeans, a grey coat and a scarf, with a hat or cap of some sort.

We can see from the crime scene picture of Knox’s bedroom below, that such items (minus hat or cap) appear to be lying on her bed.





Sollecito did not accompany Knox to the store but this would be because he was known to Quintavalle whereas he was unfamiliar with her. He may however have accompanied Knox to the cottage and/or have acted as look out for her when she was there.

7. Some conclusions

I have included “The locked room” in the title because of a poster’s observation regarding Guede’s bloody left shoeprints exiting Meredith’s room. There is the simple observation that these footprints are going one way only and not towards the small bathroom.  But they do not even turn to face Meredith’s door, and again hard to imagine that this could be so if it was Guede who locked her door!

We can rule out Guede as having been involved in any aspect of the clean up precisely because of that trail of footprints and other evidence of his presence left behind.

Now that the travesty of the Hellmann acquittals has been truly exposed Knox and Sollecito face an impossible uphill task.

The clean up and the locked door are just two of many elements in this case which combine together and corroborate each other in a manner that enables us to see the truth beyond a reasonable doubt.


Saturday, June 08, 2013

Questions For Sollecito: Can You Realistically Account For The Bathroom Mat Evidence?

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters




1. Your Attempted Bath Mat Hoax

Let us start this series of questions to you with the bloody bathmat footprint

Specifically how you characterized it at different points in your book as part of your attempted proof that Guede acting alone did the crime.

Here is the full extent of your hoax “proving” that that print was actually from Rudy Guede’s foot.

(a) [Page X11] The intruder was quickly identified as Rudy Guede, an African immigrant living in Perugia with a history of break-ins and petty crimes. His DNA was found all over Meredith’s room, and footprints made in her blood were found to match his shoes.  Everything at the crime scene pointed to a lone assailant, and a single weapon.  Guede repeatedly broke into houses by throwing a rock through a window, as happened here

(b) [page 23] Amanda went ahead with her shower, only to notice a small bloodstain on one of the washbasin taps. It looked like menstrual blood. Was Meredith, who shared the bathroom with her, having some sort of problem? It was unlike her to leave things less than immaculate. Maybe she’d run out to a pharmacy. Then again, it was just one small stain; perhaps she missed it.

(c) [Page 79]  When my defense team examined the official paperwork, they noticed that the analysis of the footprints"including extensive inquiry into the length and shape of the foot likely to have produced them"had been conducted by two members of the Polizia Scientifica in Rome, working not in their official capacity but as private consultants charging thousands of euros to Mignini’s office. One of the analysts, Lorenzo Rinaldi, was a physicist, not a specialist in anatomy, and the other, Pietro Boemia, was a fingerprint technician with no further scientific credentials. That begged the question: if Mignini’s office felt it needed to contract the job out to private consultants, why wouldn’t it go to people with more pertinent qualifications? The whole thing stank.

(d) [page 192]  We didn’t bother to ask for a review of the footprint analysis by Rinaldi and Boemia because we had demonstrated some elementary measuring errors and felt confident that would suffice.


2. Our Analyses Of The Bath Mat Print

(1) Our main poster the Machine

The Machine described at the time how the prosecution and their witnesses did a terrific job on this evidence at trial in May 2009, and how your defense had virtually no comeback at all.

Two bloody footprints were attributed to Raffaele Sollecito. One of them was revealed by luminol in the hallway, and the other one was easily visible to the naked eye on the blue bathmat in Meredith’s and Knox’s shared bathroom.

Lorenzo Rinaldi excluded the possibility that the bloody footprint on the blue bathmat was the right size or shape to belong to Knox or Guede instead of Sollecito: “You can see clearly that this bloody footprint on the rug does not belong to Mr. Guede, but you can see that it is compatible with Sollecito.”

Andrea Vogt’s report for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shows just how meticulous and painstakingly detailed the analysis of the bloody footprints was:

“All the elements are compatible with Mr. Sollecito’s foot,” Rinaldi said, pointing with a red laser to a millimeter-by-millimeter analysis of Sollecito’s footprint projected onto a big-screen in the courtroom. He used similar methods to exclude that the footprint on the bath mat could possibly be Guede’s or Knox’s.

“Those bare footprints cannot be mine,” said Sollecito in a spontaneous statement”¦. But the next witness, another print expert, again confirmed Rinaldi’s testimony, that the print, which only shows the top half of the foot, matches the precise characteristics of Sollecito’s foot”¦.

Rinaldi’s detailed Powerpoint described methods of image analysis, metric and grid measurement of the ball, toe, heel and arch, as well the particular characteristics of the footprints and shoeprints as well as the actual shoes and feet of Knox, Sollecito and Guede. The three suspects gave their footprints and fingerprints at police headquarters.”

Another print expert also testified that the bloody footprint on the blue bathmat matched the precise characteristics of Sollecito’s foot.

Amanda Knox’s lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, asked Dr. Stefanoni to confirm that other substances like bleach or fruit juice can also react to luminol.

Dr. Stefanoni acknowledged that they do, but pointed out that biologists who work regularly on crime scenes distinguish easily between the bright blue glow of a blood trace and the much fainter glow from other reactive substances.

(2) Our main poster Kermit

Kermit in effect recreated a version of the Powerpoints which Dr Rinaldi walked the court through, in these Powerpoints here.

You will see they are detailed and very precise, and it is your footprint and not Guede’s footprint which remorselessly emerges on the bathroom mat.

After viewing the damning nature of those slides, read at the end what Kermit concludes: You WERE present at the scene of the crime. You might not have had murderous intent, or wielded the fatal blow, but you and your bare foot were there. 

(3) Our main poster SomeAlibi

SomeAlibi, a trial lawyer, recently warned here that even ONE piece of evidence if firm and inexplicable enough could be enough for a jury to decide to put you away.

There are at least four pieces of evidence that tie you to the scene of the crime: those two footprints, your still-unexplained DNA on Meredith’s bra, and sworn eye-witness testimony of Rudy Guede that he saw you there.

That is in addition to dozens of other evidence points which include cellphone evidence, computer evidence, myriad alibis, an admission that you lied, and another eyewitness account.

SomeAlibi then goes even beyond Kermit in his analysis to show how definitive the identification of YOUR footprint was. See his chart here which leaves zero room for any doubt. He comments on it as follows:

I present here a summarized view of critical evidence which suggests with devastating clarity that Raffaele Sollecito was present the night of the murder of Meredith Kercher. No lengthy text, no alternate versions, just measurements.

This FIRMLY places Sollecito in the very room where Meredith was attacked and killed.

In the small bathroom right next to Meredith’s bedroom was a bathmat. On it was found a bloody naked right footprint of someone walking straight towards the shower in the bathroom. The blood is that of Meredith.

The footprint is not Amanda Knox’s - it is too big - but we can compare it to the prints taken of Rudy Guede and Raffaele Sollecito.

In Judge Massei’s report the multiple measurements were detailed in the narrative over many sentences and, in that form, their immediate cumulative impact is less obvious. It is only by tabulating them, that we are forcefully hit by not one but two clear impressions:

The measurements are extremely highly correlated to the right foot of Raffaele Sollecito in twelve separate individual measurements. In themselves they would be enough for a verdict of guilt in all but a few court cases.

But they also show a manifest LACK of correlation to the right foot of Rudy Guede, the only other male in that cottage on the night. Have a look for yourself.

(4) Our main poster Sara

posted on our Sollecito Book page that you made a false claim in your point (b) above about the obviousness of the bathroom blood stains.

Raffaele tries to underplay the presence of blood in the bathroom by claiming that the print on the bathmat was hardly visible or distinguishable as blood.  Even in his interview with Katie Couric he claimed that it was not obvious that the stain on the bathmat was blood.

The problem? Amanda in her email during the initial days of the investigation says “it was after i stepped out of the shower and onto the mat that i noticed the blood in the bathroom.it was on the mat i was using to dry my feet”

When Knox herself admits that she knew it was blood on the bathmat, why is Sollecito claiming otherwise?

(5) Our main poster Vivianna

Vivianna posted this correction on our Sollecito Book page in response to your claim (c) that the government experts were hired guns - and the wrong ones.

The reality, according to Judge Massei, is quite different. [the experts were:]

1. Dr Lorenzo Rinaldi (Engineer, Principal Technical Director of the State Police, director of the three sections which compose the Identity Division of the ERT - Esperti Ricerca Tracce)

2. Chief Inspector Pietro Boemia of the ERT in Rome

And their tasks involved analyzing both shoeprints and footprints

Sollecito forgets to mention that their first consultancy report, with regard to a footprint left by a Nike shoe, was actually favorable to him.  Unlike a previous analysis which had attributed the shoeprint to him, this team of experts correctly attributed it to Guede. 

However, since the second consultancy task resulted in an identification of a footprint with Sollecito’s, the experts are clearly “out to get him” like everyone else involved in the investigation. It doesn’t seem to occur to Sollecito that if that had been the case, they wouldn’t have bothered to correct the previous consultant’s work on the shoeprints.

(6) Your Own Lawyers At Trial & Appeal

That Rudy Guede had attacked Meredith alone needs proof your own defense lawyers miserably failed to provide at trial, and did the opposite of at the annulled appeal.

At the annulled appeal they put the erratic jailbirds Alessi and Aviello on the stand, in a desperate attempt to explain who were the THREE perps that the crime scene recreation and autopsy had decisively demonstrated attacked Meredith.

3. Your Claims in Part 1: False In All Rspects

Guede was NOT quickly identified, precisely because Knox fingered Patrick only. Knox if anything diverted attention AWAY from Guede as he did in turn from her.

Guede had zero proven history of break-ins and petty crimes, and Judge Micheli became angry at such unfounded claims. Guede had no prior criminal record at all. He had only been back in Perugia for a few weeks after an extended stay up north.

His DNA was not found “all over” Meredith’s room. A major surprise in fact was how few traces of him were found.  The recreation of the crime scene and the autopsy both pointed AWAY FROM a lone assailant, not toward.

From Meredith’s wounds, it was evident that two and perhaps three knives had been used, and not a single weapon. What lone intruder carries or uses two or three knives?

Guede’s shoeprints in blood exit Meredith’s room and lead straight to the front door. There is no evidence at all that he removed his shoe, for whatever reason, and somehow left only ONE footprint several yards from Meredith’s room. .

And all this together with the footprints in blood outside the door matching the feet of both yourself and Knox is why the Supreme Court confirmed Guede’s guilt only “in concorso” (with others).


Wednesday, May 01, 2013

A Welcome To New Arrivals #1: An Experienced Trial Lawyer Recommends How To Zero In On the Truth DRAFT

Posted by Some Alibi



[Merediths window is seen on the top floor of the house in the lower foreground]

Welcome To Common Sense

This briefing was first posted with slightly different opening paras at the start of the annulled Hellmann appeal. New arrivals often tell us this helped them the most.

If you’ve come to this website because of the Amanda Knox book and interview, then welcome.  Like all of us who come to this case, you have one key question: did they do it?  The Knox book and interview seriously cherrypick the case, and perhaps haven’t helped you at all.

On the Internet, you will find people who are passionate in their defence of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito; and you will find people who are passionate in their support of an exceptionally talented girl who died, of a fine justice system previously untainted by PR, and of the prosecution’s very strong case.

Please click here for more

Monday, April 08, 2013

Experienced Trial Lawyer: There’s Far More Evidence Than UK/US Courts Need For Guilt

Posted by SomeAlibi




The false claim “there is no evidence”

Some amateur supporters of Knox and Sollecito have committed thousands of hours online to try and blur and obfuscate the facts of the case in front of the general public.

Their goal is simple: to create an overwhelming meme that there is “no evidence” against the accused, and thereby try to create a groundswell of support. Curt Knox and Edda Mellas and Ted Simon have all made this “no evidence” claim many times.

At least some some of the media have eagerly swallowed it.

The amateur PR flunkies make up myriad alternate versions of what created single points of evidence, often xenophobic scare stories designed to trigger emotional reactions, which they hope will be repeated often enough to become accepted as “the truth”.

And where things get really tricky, another time honored tactic is to go on at great length about irrelevant details, essentially to filibuster, in the hope that general observers will lose patience with trying to work it all out.

But time and again we have shown there is actually a great deal of evidence.

Evidence is the raw stuff of criminal cases. Let me speak here as a lawyer. Do you know how many evidence points are required to prove Guilt? One evidence point if it is definitive.

A definitive evidence point

If you’re new to this case or undecided, what is an easy example of ONE definitive evidence item that might stand alone? Might quickly, simply, and overwhelmingly convince you to invest more time into understanding the real evidence, not that distorted by the PR campaign?

In fact we have quite a choice. See the footprint which was second on that list.

Now see the table above. I recommend the use of this table of measurement to avoid the lengthy back and forward of narrative argument which so lends itself to obscuring the truth. I would like to present you with this single table of measurements to give you pause to question whether this line that there is “no evidence” is really true or whether it might be a crafted deception.

I present here a summarized view of critical evidence which suggests with devastating clarity that Raffaele Sollecito was present the night of the murder of Meredith Kercher. No lengthy text, no alternate versions, just measurements.

This FIRMLY places Sollecito in the very room where Meredith was attacked and killed.

In the small bathroom right next to Meredith’s bedroom was a bathmat. On it was found a bloody naked right footprint of someone walking straight towards the shower in the bathroom. The blood is that of Meredith.

The footprint is not Amanda Knox’s - it is too big - but we can compare it to the prints taken of Rudy Guede and Raffaele Sollecito.

In Judge Massei’s report the multiple measurements were detailed in the narrative over many sentences and, in that form, their immediate cumulative impact is less obvious. It is only by tabulating them, that we are forcefully hit by not one but two clear impressions:

The measurements are extremely highly correlated to the right foot of Raffaele Sollecito in twelve separate individual measurements. In themselves they would be enough for a verdict of guilt in all but a few court cases.

But they also show a manifest LACK of correlation to the right foot of Rudy Guede, the only other male in that cottage on the night. Have a look for yourself.

If you were the prosecution, or indeed the jury, and you saw these measurements of Raffaele’s foot versus the print, what would you think? Answer the question for yourself based on the evidence admitted to court.

Then, if you compare further, exactly how plausible do you find it that the measurements of the bloody imprint are Rudy Guede’s instead?

Not only are some of the individual measurements of Rudy’s imprint as much as 30% too small, but the relative proportions of length and breadth measurements are entirely wrong as well, both undershooting and overshooting by a large margin (70% to 150%).

Conclusions that must follow

Presented with those numbers, would you consider those measurements of Rudy Guede’s right foot to show any credible correlation to those of the footprint on the mat?

Supporters of the two have tried frantically to create smoke screen around this - the wrong technique was used they say (ruled not so by the court) / they are the wrong measurements (all 32 of them? that Raffaele’s are matching exactly or within a millimetre but Rudy’s are out by as much as -30% to +50%...?).

The severity of the impact on the defence is such that there was even a distorted photoshopped version circulated by online supporters of Raffaele and Amanda until they were caught out early on in coverage. But it is hopeless, because these are pure measurement taken against a scale that was presented in court and the data sits before you.

Have a look at the measurements and understand this was evidence presented in court. Whose foot do you think was in that bathroom that night? Rudy Guede? Or was it Raffaele Sollecito on twelve counts of measurement?

And if you find for the latter, you must consider very seriously what that tells you both about the idea there is “no evidence” in this case and who was in the cottage that night…


Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Hellmann-Zanetti Appeal Court’s DNA Consultancy Looks Even Worse In Face Of The Latest Science

Posted by Fly By Night



[Above: images of typical modern analysis DNA facilities similar to Dr Stefanoni’s in Rome]


The Galati appeal to Cassation comes down very strongly against the work and conclusions of the appeal court’s DNA consultants Vecchiotti and Conti.

Dr. Galati argues that the consultancy should never have happened at appeal level, that its methods were slipshod and out of date, that its conclusions were mainly innuendo that left the prosecution case untouched, and that the consultants should not have refused to test a remaining sample from the large knife collected at Sollecito’s place.

In July 2011, about the midpoint of the appeal trial, I took strong issue with the C&V science and essentially mirrored in advance what Dr. Galati would argue to Cassation nearly a year later. Many other TJMK posters including our legal posters James Raper and Cardiol took issue with legal and other aspects.

With a Supreme Court ruling on the 2nd level (first appeal level) outcome scheduled for early next week, it’s the perfect time to re-examine the role of DNA in that outcome against the latest science. I want to include some excellent observations from our contributing poster “Thoughtful” as expressed in her recently published book Math on Trial.

I’ll start off with an overview of the science of DNA analysis and describe recent developments in analysis approaches, techniques and capabilities.  Incidentally, one of my resources for this information is a chapter in “DNA Electrophoresis Protocols for Forensic Genetics” published shortly after the Hellmann verdict for the first appeal (circa early 2012); a chapter in which Carla Vecchiotti is cited as providing technical assistance.

Given Vecchiotti’s involvement in recent academic publications we can be certain that at the time of the Hellmann verdict Vecchiotti was well aware of the rapidly evolving and improving nature of DNA testing procedures and capabilities.  And in contrast to her courtroom allegations that Dr. Stefanoni had not followed “internationally established forensic science standards” in her DNA analysis techniques, Vecchiotti has recently contributed to sources claiming that today’s critical challenge is to develop general guidelines for DNA evaluation and promulgate clear and universal laboratory practices while recognizing that a multitude of labs exist, each with its own specific protocols and personnel.

We will return to the Conti-Vecchiotti report shortly, but first let’s have a quick look at the history and state-of-the-art of DNA analysis.


Brief History of DNA Testing

The literature reveals that the USA has never been at the forefront of forensic DNA analysis.  The first court cases to successfully employ DNA “fingerprinting” techniques occurred in England during the mid 1980s.  A case involving a double rape/homicide of teenage girls in 1986 turned out to be prophetic in that it involved the first use of DNA to exonerate an innocent suspect and also was the first to apply DNA “databases”, issues which still give rise to disputes nearly 30 years later.

Over time, a variety of procedures were developed to extract DNA from biological samples but all worked on the same basic principle of breaching individual cell walls, removing the protein surrounding the DNA, isolating the DNA, and finishing with the purification and quantification of the DNA.

An important milestone in DNA fingerprinting was the development of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) in 1985.  The PCR quickly became an important analytical method for forensic samples because of its sensitivity, specificity, rapid analysis, and ease of automation.  PCR amplification technology permitted the analysis of forensic samples with low quantities (less than 1 ng) of extracted DNA, unlike earlier methods that required at least 50 ng.

While PCR was far more sensitive than earlier procedures, problems with mixed DNA samples and DNA degradation led to the use of genetic markers known as Short Tandem Repeats (STR). STR analyses were fast and reactions could be multiplexed permitting multiple loci to be amplified in a single run.

In 1997 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory in the USA launched an effort to establish a set of 13 core STR loci for use within a national DNA database known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).  Similar sets of STR markers had already been selected by the European Union and elsewhere but, in general, a DNA profile obtained using 12 or more STR loci was found to yield a composite genotype frequency of less than 1 in a quadrillion.  This high degree of accuracy results from the hereditary nature of STR distribution and enables a very powerful method for biological identifications.

STR typing of extracted DNA has traditionally been very sensitive to the quantity of input DNA with ideal levels ranging from 0.5 to 2 ng.  Either too little or too much DNA could produce imbalanced amplification results resulting in incomprehensible outcomes.  The STR process is further complicated by “stutter” in the interpretation of multiple contributor DNA samples.  Stutter is an artifact of the PCR process that produces “false alleles” one repeat shorter than a primary allele.

In recent years DNA analysis techniques have evolved rapidly as equipment manufacturers upgrade STR systems to tolerate even the smallest of samples and samples that have been highly degraded.  The improved sensitivity of today’s STR kits along with the development of new strategies for the amplification of low levels of DNA now allows samples which previously could not be analyzed to produce viable results.

Low-level DNA samples often contain mixtures of DNA, which has complicated the detection and interpretation process due to stochastic sampling effects that include peak imbalance, enhanced stutter, allele loss (allele drop-out), and un-attributable alleles (allele drop-in).  With this in mind, strict guidelines have been developed including a careful determination of analytical thresholds and the use of replicate analyses in a profile to properly interpret low-level mixed-DNA samples.  More importantly, new analytical techniques such as laser micro-dissection and fluorescence in-situ hybridization have been developed enabling the identification, capture, and amplification of DNA from individual cells prior to “electrophoresis”, eliminating the problem of mixed profiles altogether.

In addition to today’s far more precise DNA analysis machines and methods there are also compelling arguments for the use of statistical or probabilistic models within the DNA analysis process to augment traditional “consensus allele” electropherogram evaluation approaches.  In short, the efforts of both scientists and statisticians are now creating powerful next generation approaches to DNA analyses as we progress through a second decade of highly successful STR typing methodologies.


Logic and Science on Trial

In my 2011 report I challenged Carla Vecchiotti’s contention that Dr. Stefanoni had not followed “internationally established forensic science standards” in her DNA analysis techniques.  Vecchiotti herself has conceded to the challenge through her contributions to publications that clearly describe a need to develop generally accepted guidelines for DNA evaluation and to create clear and universal laboratory practices that can be accepted by the diverse population of analytical labs currently operating under divergent operational protocols, all under the direction of professional and expert personnel.

In her excellent and recently published Math on Trial book, contributing poster “Thoughtful” accurately describes how DNA analysis expert Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni proceeded in her laboratory analysis of a small DNA sample found on the blade of a knife confiscated from Raffaele Sollecito’s apartment.  Not having what she felt was a sufficient sample to divide for replication of her analysis Dr. Stefanoni took the chance of running her entire sample in a single run.

As is typical of all DNA analyses, Stefanoni proceeded to amplify the results to a point where an electropherogram would reveal meaningful “peaks” and found that a resultant 13 pairs of peaks corresponded precisely to peaks derived from a known sample of Meredith Kercher’s DNA!

In this case it is pointless to attempt to argue that Stefanoni somehow exceeded the amplification limits of her equipment.  As outlined in the DNA discussion above, the typical problems associated with an amplification of low levels of DNA are related to peak imbalances, enhanced stutter, allele drop-outs, or allele drop-ins.  In this case there was nothing but a perfect match for Meredith that even Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti could not deny in court.

Stefanoni had clearly identified an identical match for Meredith’s DNA on the blade of Sollecito’s kitchen knife, leaving Vecchiotti and Conti no other option than to argue for “contamination” in court.  However, it was convincingly demonstrated by Stefanoni and all evidence handlers that from knife collection through laboratory analysis no reasonable opportunity for contamination with Meredith’s DNA existed.

In the first appeal trial, Judge Hellmann was thus presented with exceptionally compelling evidence that Meredith’s DNA was in fact found on the alleged murder weapon that had been confiscated from Raffaele Sollecito’s apartment.  Astonishingly, Hellmann rejected this evidence on an expressed assumption of non-compliance with testing techniques established by international scientific community standards; compliance standards that Vecchioti herself admits do not exist via recent academic and scientific publications as discussed above.

As “Thoughtful” carefully explains in Math on Trial, Hellmann’s faulty reasoning in excluding the knife evidence did not end there.  Hellmann provided Vecchiotti and Conti with an opportunity to retest any remaining DNA on the knife if they felt it was warranted.  Vecchiotti and Conti declined to perform any retests on the basis that that only a few cells might still exist on the knife, thus invalidating any potential results according to a false assumption that “international testing standards” somehow prohibited such low-level DNA tests even though, as outlined in the DNA discussion above, single-cell DNA analysis had at that time already become an acceptable possibility and Vecchiotti knew it.

Hellmann, however, accepted Vecchiotti and Conti’s reasoning by essentially stating that repeating an “invalid” DNA analysis procedure twice can do nothing towards resolving a DNA identification problem because two wrongs do not make a right.  In Math on Trial, “Thoughtful” artfully explains the complete failure of logic of Hellmann’s line of reasoning.  Hellmann claims that running an experiment independently two separate times and obtaining the same result each time can do absolutely nothing towards increasing the assurance of reliability for an event.

However, “Thoughtful” describes how successfully repeating Stefanoni’s low-level DNA analysis technique could easily carry a probabilistic result from a “not beyond a reasonable doubt” percentage range to a highly convincing 98.5% or higher probability.  “Thoughtful’s” arguments in Math on Trial are completely in line with today’s efforts to embed statistical and probabilistic models within the DNA analysis process for a much higher precision and accuracy standard.


Conclusions

In 2011 I concluded that Vecchiotti and Conti’s expert report findings actually boiled down to two primary debates: (1) Issues surrounding the small sample (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.

In 2013, on the eve of the Court of Cassation ruling on the first appeal outcomes of the Meredith Kercher murder trial, it appears to me that all issues related to DNA analysis and contamination have been powerfully addressed by both the prosecution and “best available science” considerations. 

The errors in Judge Hellmann’s logic and reasoning that set Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito free have been shown to be plentiful and astounding, as evidenced by the few DNA related examples that have been examined in this report.  In light of all of the above and the powerful legal arguments raised by the Galati appeal to Cassation, it seems that there can be no other option than to send this appeal outcome back for a thorough lower court re-evaluation.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA In Meredith’s Room Could Be Definitive Proof Of Guilt For New Appeal Jury

Posted by James Raper





Have you followed our series on the hapless independent DNA consultants Conti and Vecchiotti?  And our series on the hapless appeal judges Hellmann and Zanetti?

And our series on their formidable nemesis, Umbria’s Chief Prosecutor, Dr Galati? Who may very well convince the Supreme Court to throw out all of their work?

This post explains why their work probably deserves to be thrown out as it applies to Sollecito’s DNA in Meredith’s room, which still lacks an alternative non-damning explanation for it being there, and which could see him back serving his term in Capanne or Terni Prison before too long. 

I want to start this analysis with the following verbatim quote taken from John Follain’s Death In Perugia.

“Comodi asked Vecchiotti about the alleged contamination of the bra clasp: “Is it possible for [Raffaele’s] DNA to end up only on the bra clasp?”

“Possible”, Vecchiotti said.

Comodi insisted: “Probable?”

“Probable”, Vecchiotti retorted.

Anyone who has read the Conti-Vecchiotti Report will be amazed by Vecchiotti’s above reply under cross-examination by Prosecutor Comodi. This for the simple reason that the said report did not at all evaluate the “probability” of any contamination of the bra clasp. It merely did not rule out contamination.

The Conti-Vecchiotti report with regard to the bra clasp: “It cannot be ruled out that the results obtained derive from environmental contamination and/or contamination in some phase of the collection and/or handling of the exhibit.”

On any level of understanding, if one can not rule something out then that makes it possible. But it certainly does not make it probable.

Worse was to come, with the conclusion of Hellmann-Zanetti, that contamination was probable. This though was not so surprising in as much as Hellmann-Zanetti had already indicated in their reasoning underlying the need for an independent report that they would accept the independent experts’ conclusions.

Which they did, apparently accepting Vecchiotti’s above statement on oath as definitive and which, as we can see, they appear to subsequently improve on, since the circumstances referred to below were not mentioned in the Conti-Vecchiotti Report.  From Hellmann-Zanetti:

In the opinion of this Court contamination did not occur during the successive phases of treatment of the exhibit in the laboratory of the Scientific Police, but even before it’s collection by the Scientific Police.

Note that (1)  the suggestion is that contamination occurred when there was no video recording (thus permitting free speculation), (2) the word “probably” is omitted here seemingly making it a definite occurrence, and (3) “even before” does not exclude contamination when the Scientific Police were there, but the circumstances described below make it, in the opinion of Hellmann-Zanetti, even more probable, it seems. Again from Hellmann-Zanetti:

..it is certain that between the first search by the scientific police, directly after the discovery of the crime, and the second search by the police, on the 18th December, the house at villa della Pergola was the object of several other searches directed towards seeking other possible elements useful for the investigation, during which the house was turned topsy-turvy, as is clearly documented by the photographs projected by the defence of the accused, but actually made by the Scientific Police. And, understandably these searches were made without the precautions that accompany the investigations of the Scientific Police, in the conviction that at that point the exhibits that needed to undergo scientific analysis had already been collected. In this context it is probable that the DNA hypothetically belonging to Raffaele Sollecito may have been transported by others into the room and precisely onto the bra clasp”¦”¦”¦..the fact that [this] is not an unusual occurrence is proven by studies cited by the expert team and also by the defence consultants”¦”¦..

So Hellmann-Zanetti are talking about the ordinary police investigators being primarily responsible.

As the Vecchiotti quote at the beginning of this post is not put in any context, it is impossible for me to know whether she was referring to the Scientific Police as seen in their videos or whether she was alluding to other recorded searches, say, by the ordinary police, but which were not on video.

What we know of the police searches is as follows. From the Massei trial sentencing report:

While forensic activity was still in progress (Note: it having been going on since the 2nd) “the house was accessed on November 4th 2007 involving, accompanied by staff from the Perugia Police Headquarters, the three occupants and housemates of the victim.

The days of November 6 and 7 were taken up by the search activity of personnel from the police headquarters of Perugia”¦.on November 6” (Note: the day after conclusion of the Scientific Police activity) “no-one entered Meredith’s room other than the three performing the search. On November 7 there was another entry into the house “for the problem of the washing machine, to collect the clothes; but I (Napoleoni) know that they did not go into the other rooms…..

They wore gloves and shoe covers….

Massei also records that Profazio stated that whilst he was aware from Stefanoni that the bra clasp had not been collected, nevertheless he had not seen it on the 6th and 7th.

As we know, the Scientific Police returned to the house on the 18th December specifically for the purpose of collecting the bra clasp (the first thing they did) and using luminol, and in addition to this being on video the defence lawyers were watching the live recording outside. It was observed by the defence lawyers at that stage that the mattress was in the living room and that articles had been moved around (topsy-turvy) in her bedroom.

From the above it might be reasonable to conclude that it was not only the Scientific Police who took the photographs but that it was predominantly they who had already moved items around and taking - it not having been demonstrated to the contrary (because not on video) - such precautions appropriate to their field of expertise (or at least such as may be determined from the videos).

However the point is, of course, what entitles Vecchiotti and Hellmann-Zanetti to talk about probable contamination at all?

Incidentally, pause here to notice that Hellmann-Zanetti give no credence to environmental contamination, in the sense of DNA floating around on specks of dust, by virtue of not mentioning this at all.

It would seem that the notion that a speck of dust, with Sollecito’s DNA attached, floated into the room and landed bang on a tiny hook, somehow adhering to it, is improbable to even them. It is transfer by manipulation (  tertiary transfer, about which more later) - basically that someone must have stepped on or touched the bra clasp or hook - about which they are talking and as a result of which they deem contamination to have probably occurred.

Without that probability -  that is if it remained only a possibility - then the case for direct transfer (directly from the owner of the DNA to an object), rather than tertiary transfer (where the DNA is collected after direct transfer and transferred to another object), would not be undermined as the more probable scenario. This is because, in this context, no-one can rule out possibility, ” possibility” being firmly rooted in the abstract.

What Hellmann-Zanetti think entitles them to talk about the probability of contamination are, and as it transpires only are, the precautions which they say were not followed in collecting and handling the exhibit and for which they suppose the non-scientific police were most likely responsible.

Compliance with these, they say, “guarantees” the reliability of the result. They refer to the Do’s and Do Not’s of successful crime scene management as listed by Conti-Vecchiotti and taken from guidelines from the Louisiana State Crime Police Laboratory, from the U.S Department of Justice, and more relevantly from Evidence Manuals from the New Jersey State Police, Missouri State Highway Patrol and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.


There is a predominance of American references but they do also refer to the Good Practice Manual for Crime Scene Management promoted by ENFSI (European Network of Forensic Science Institutes). From Hellmann-Zanetti -

Regarding above all the identification of a genetic profile in an exhibit, it is important that the entire procedure be followed with complete observance of the rules dictated by the scientific community, which are not, to be sure, juridical rules (it is not a law of the State, as Dr. Stefanoni observed), but which do represent a guarantee of the reliability of the result. And since these rules also contain precautions necessary in order to avoid possible contamination, one can understand that the respect of these precautions cannot simply be assumed, but must be proven by anyone who bases his accusations on this result.

Rules and guidelines are not quite the same thing, still less are there standardised guidelines dictated by the scientific community, but let’s not be pernickety. What compliance with the guidelines does, of course, is reduce the risk (the “possibility” and yes, if there are elements supporting it, “the probability”) of contamination, not guarantee that there is not contamination. As any expert in the field will concede, contamination is always possible.

Conti-Vecchiotti listed, apparently, some 54 examples of breach of the aforesaid guidelines. Significant among these (because we know of them and the most was made of them) are the following listed by Follain in his book Death In Perugia-

1. The team failed to put on new gloves after bagging each sample ( probably, as with 2 below, accounting for the great majority of the examples, and Stefanoni admitted this did not happen every time).

2. Items were handled by more than one person without changing gloves (again, as above, admitted).

3. There was a smudge on one of the fingertips of one of the gloves which touched the clasp, so the glove was dirty.

4. The officer who picked up Meredith’s bra clasp passed it to a colleague before placing it back on the floor and then bagging it.

5. Stefanoni’s gloves were smudged with blood and split over her left index when she picked up a sample ( this need not detain us since it is an irrelevant and highly speculative and prejudicial observation, if not entirely erroneous, based on what can be seen from the video).

6. The officer filming the police video walked in and out of Meredith’s room without changing his shoe covers.

7. No security corridor was created for internal access with anti - contamination criteria between the various environments.

8. The initial position of discovery on the floor of the clasp was not the same after 46 days.

The idea of a security corridor which, given the confines of the cottage, and particularly the access to Meredith’s room, would mean, for instance, placing planks on the floor, is a good one, and obviously not followed in this instance though not actually a specific recommendation (though it can be inferred) in any of the guidelines referred to by Conti-Vecchiotti. It would have reduced the risk of carrying DNA into Meredith’s room on the soles of shoe covers.

The alleged breaches were not, of course, outlined in the Conti-Vecchiotti report. They were only mentioned in oral evidence accompanying the showing of the crime scene video in court.

Hellmann-Zanetti, in their report, mention two specific cases only, 3 and 8 above. In respect of “the smudge” they acknowledge, interestingly, that there is an unresolved issue of interpretation as to whether this is a shadow or prior staining! But why even posit a prior staining when it is obvious that the operative had to finger the fabric of the clasp (which was “dirty”) in order to pick the clasp up and show it to the camera? What was the dirt and what was the meaning of this in the context of a transfer of Sollecito’s DNA to the hook? They neither discuss not evaluate. They simply accept Conti-Vecchiotti’s observations as being pertinent and damning without question.

In contrast to Hellmann-Zanetti Massei does discuss and evaluate the probability and the logistics of contamination, with regard to the bra clasp. In fact he spends quite a bit of time on the subject. But before turning to that, let’s have a brief look at the subject of DNA transfer and then remember what Stefanoni (as quoted by Massei) says on the subject.

Primary transfer might occur between a subject (such as myself) and an object. I touch or sneeze over it. Secondary transfer could occur if the said object was moved and “placed” against yet another object so that my DNA is transferred from the first to the second object. Tertiary transfer could occur if someone touched my DNA on the first object and then touched the second object. There are three steps there but one can imagine scenarios with four or perhaps more such steps but with the inherent limitation that the quantity of DNA being transferred is going to reduce with each such step.

It is obvious that when the prosecution produce DNA evidence they are going to argue primary transfer by the accused and just as equally obvious that the defence are going to try and argue contamination, i.e that the presence of their client’s DNA is the product of secondary or tertiary transfer.

Stefafanoni said that secondary or tertiary does not happen unless (1) the DNA is in a substance which is still fresh and reasonably watery after primary transfer, not dried, and/or (2) there would have to be more than mere touch but friction, or at least pressure, as well. Whilst there could be isolated exceptions in practice this makes a lot of sense to me as a layman but in addition I also note that she was not contradicted, at the trial, by any of the defence experts, nor has she been contradicted by Conti-Vecchiotti in their report.


Returning to Massei.

Sollecito was at the cottage 3 or 4 times prior to the murder though on each occasion with Knox. It is thus possible that he left his DNA somewhere there. There is no evidence that he was ever in Meredith’s room before the murder. Thus, if he was not involved in the murder, one must hypothesize that his DNA from somewhere else in the cottage was transferred into Meredith’s room and onto the bra clasp by someone other than him.

Apart from the clasp there was only one other place where his DNA was to be found, mixed with Knox’s DNA, which was on a cigarette stub in an ashtray sitting on a table in the kitchen. From Massei, my numbering:

(1) Certainly, it can be observed that every single place in the house was not tested, and one might think that Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA might have been located in some other places. One can consider the possibility that his DNA from some other place that was not found was transferred onto the bra clasp, but this would have to have been done by someone manipulating the object.

(2) But simple contact between objects does not transfer DNA. Amanda’s and Raffaele’s DNA were both found on the cigarette stub, not just one of them, transferred by the other. It is also important that the bra was the one that Meredith was actually wearing, and the clasp was found under the pillow which was under Meredith”¦”¦. At this point it should also be mentioned that the piece of bra was (then)  found under a small rug in Meredith’s room [which protected it] “¦”¦”¦.

(3) It is also observed that the small rug did not show itself to be a good transmitter of DNA. Underneath it there was a sock, and analysis proved that on this sock there were only DNA traces of Meredith. Also the circumstance by which DNA was found on the (tiny) hooks - so on a more limited and rather less absorbent surface than the material attached to them - tends to exclude that Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA could have landed on the hooks, precisely on the hooks, by contamination or by transfer from some other unspecified object.

(4). “¦”¦.any transfer of DNA from the surface of the rug under which the small piece of bra was found would imply that between the two objects there was more than simple contact, touching of each other, but an actual pressure exercised on the rug under which the piece of bra lay. This hypothesis was set aside after Dr. Stefanoni reported “¦”¦.. the deformation of one of the hooks was the same. Vice versa, if some pressure had been exerted on top of it, if in one of the police activities someone had stepped on it—then that deformation would not have remained identical; but the small piece of material and the hooks and eyes had the same form, the exact same type of deformation “¦”¦.. she additionally stated that, having seen the small piece of bra in the early hours of November 3rd rather quickly, the images of it taken on that occasion allowed her a more prolonged and attentive observation, enabling her to declare that the deformation had remained unmodified and unchanged, as did the side on which it was set on the floor.

(5) Objects were moved, necessarily moved, but every object that was in a room, if it was not actually taken away, remained in the same room, without ever moving to another room, or being taken out of the room and then back in. The only parts of the house through which operators from the various places all passed were thus the living room and corridor. One might thus assume that some DNA of Raffaele Sollecito that had been left somewhere in the living room or corridor was moved, and ended up on the hooks. Such a movement of DNA and its subsequent repositioning on the hooks would have had to occur either because one of the technicians walking on the floor on which the DNA was lying hit it with his foot or stepped on it, causing it to end up on the hooks, or because by stepping on them, he impressed onto them the DNA caught underneath the shoe-cover he had on in that moment.

But these possibilities cannot be considered as concretely plausible: to believe that, moving around the house, the DNA could have been kicked or stepped on by one of the technicians, who in that case would have been moving about, and to believe that this DNA, instead of just sticking to the place it had been kicked or stepped on by (probably the shoe, or rather, the shoe-cover), having already been moved once from its original position, would then move again and end up on the hooks, seems like a totally improbable and risky hypothesis.

(6) “¦..and more importantly, none of the operators, after having touched some object which might have had Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA on it, then touched the hooks of the small piece of bra so as to make even hypothetically possible a transfer of DNA (from the object containing Sollecito’s DNA to the gloves, from the gloves to the hooks). In fact, none of the operators during the search of November 6th and 7th even took note of that little piece of bra, and thus in particular no one picked it up.” [Note that this observation is a direct contradiction of the unproven suspicion that this had in fact occurred - Massei had, of course, also watched the crime scene videos, seen the relevant clip and heard the argument.]

(7) Movement of objects, in particular of clothing, may have induced the movement of other objects, and this is what the Court considers to have occurred with respect to the piece of bra which was seen on the floor of Meredith’s room on November 2nd-3rd and left there. Deputy Commissioner Napoleoni, referring to the search of November 6th, has declared that she recalled the presence of a bluish rug; one can thus conclude that this rug was looked at during the search and entered into contact with the operators making the search, and like other objects, was moved from its original position, but always remaining on the floor of the room; during this movement it must have covered up the piece of bra (which was on the floor of the same room and yet was not noted during the search), thus determining by its own motion the accompanying motion of the small piece of bra, making it end up where it was then found during the inspection of December 18th: under the rug, together with a sock, in the same room, Meredith’s room, where it had already been seen. So it underwent a change of position that is, thus, irrelevant to the assertion of contamination.

Now, whatever one makes of Massei’s observations, he has at least considered, on a plausible level, the dynamics of secondary and tertiary transfer, generally and in this case - unlike either Hellmann-Zanetti or Conti-Vecchiotti. Furthermore, and in consequence, he concluded that contamination was simply not probable.

We should also recall the following words with regard to second and tertiary transfer, in the quote from Hellmann-Zanetti above”¦”¦”¦”¦”the fact that this is not an unusual occurrence is proven by studies cited by the expert team and also by the defence consultants”¦.”

What studies? Unfortunately Hellmann-Zanetti do not elaborate on these studies, and the proof therein allegedly contained, nor can we see them cited in the Conti-Vecchiotti report!

This leads me to the suspicion that Hellmann-Zanetti are trying to pull the wool over our eyes here. Yes, certainly secondary and tertiary transfer is not an unusual occurrence but the circumstances as to when this is likely, or not, is not discussed, let alone evaluated. It seems to me that this is not unimportant and the omission is surprising.

What Conto-Vecchiotti actually say about the subject in their report is mind-boggingly amateurish, trite and misleading. So much so that one doubts that they are really experts.

The relevant section about contamination (such as it is) in Conti-Vecchiotti is under the heading “Notes On Inspection And Collection Techniques”. Reading this I note, in the second paragraph, being in, it would seem, Conti-Vecchiotti’s own words:

The starting point is always Locard’s Principle according to which two objects which come into contact with each other exchange material in different forms. Equally the same principle scientifically supports the possibility of contamination and alteration [of the scene] on the part of anyone else, investigators included, who comes into contact with the scene.


Far from being just a starting point Locard’s Principle seems to be all that Conti and Vecchiotti know about the transfer of DNA.

For what it is worth Edmond Locard established an early crime lab in 1910 ( being a fan of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories) and wrote many articles as a result. However he never actually wrote any words approximating to “with contact there is an exchange of material” (which is not exactly a law of physics in the same manner as the laws of motion are) nor did he mention anything concerning a principle.

What he did write was “It is impossible for a criminal to act, especially given the intensity of the crime, without leaving traces of his presence.”  Sherlock Holmes would have said the same.

Incidentally it is science that supports a principle, and not the other way around. I would have expected Conti-Vecchiotti to know that.

I have surfed the internet for articles on the subject of tertiary transfer and there does seem to be “a lack of published data on the topic”, to quote one site I found.

Furthermore if they existed one might expect to find that they are referred to by the scientists in the FOA camp, but again I do not see these or that those that are referred to, eg by Halkides, add anything to what has already been discussed above.

Which leaves the “probability” element of contamination undemonstrated. Whatever the opportunities for contamination that there may have been arising from breach of guidelines (contentious in some if not all cases) these remain hypothetical whilst the probability of contamination remains undemonstrated.

But for Hellmann-Zanetti, conveniently, there is no need to demonstrate anything, because of the following:

Now, Prof. Novelli and also the Prosecutor stated that it is not sufficient to assert that the result comes from contamination; it is incumbent on one who asserts contamination to prove its origin.

However, this argument cannot be accepted, insomuch as it ends up by treating the possibility of contamination as an exception to the civil code on the juridical level. Thus, one cannot state: I proved that the genetic profile is yours, now you prove that the DNA was not left on the exhibit by direct contact, but by contamination. No, one can’t operate this way.

In the context of a trial, as is well known, it falls to the PM who represents the prosecution before the court (the terminology is used in Art. 125 of the implementing provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure), to prove the viability of all the elements on which it is based, and thus, when one of these elements is completed by a scientific element represented by the result of an analytic procedure, the task is also to prove that the result was obtained using a procedure which guarantees the purity [genuinità ] of the exhibit from the moment of collection right through the analysis.

“¦”¦.. when there is no proof that these precautions guaranteeing that the result is not the fruit of contamination were respected, it is absolutely not necessary to also prove the specific origin of the contamination.

The use of the word “absolutely” is interesting, as if this was the last word on the matter, and any evaluation is to be declined.

Now I sense the presence of a premise which is already a conclusion. This being that because there are (as Hellmann-Zanetti hold) breaches of guidelines, then the DNA result is unreliable for that reason.

As it happens, this is exactly what Conti-Vecchiotti say. But as it stands this is an unargued proposition. For this to be a valid deduction “for that reason” should be explained by the inclusion of another premise which we can at least accept as true - “A breach entails that the possibility of contamination cannot be excluded”. Then we can formulate a simple deduction, though it would be unsound until we can answer the question “Does the possibility of contamination render the result unreliable?”

A scientist may explain what “unreliable” means to him. But I want to answer the question in juridical terms, and this can be done quite simply.

Any element of evidence in juridical proceedings is weighed only by the probability that it represents the truth. The possibility that it does, or it does not, is simply to be discarded as having no weight either way. Accordingly, for the purpose of the argument, and for any proceedings in court, it cannot be accepted that the possibility of contamination renders the result unreliable. Whether it is unreliable or not has to be looked at in a different way, according to the balance of probabilities.

Getting back to the quote, I would say that both Hellmann-Zanetti and Novelli are right, and they are also both wrong.

Hellmann-Zanetti are of course right in that the burden of proof remains with the prosecution with regard to all elements.

And the way Prof. Novelli puts it is somewhat incorrect, but only because he is a scientist and not a lawyer.

That the burden of proof remains with the prosecution does not alleviate the defence of any burden with regard to an issue such as contamination.

There is also an issue to be discussed as to whether the burden on the prosecution is to demonstrate non-contamination beyond a reasonable doubt or merely that contamination is not probable.

Let’s start with whether there is any burden on the defence.

There is a general principle to which even criminal proceedings are subject. “Onus probandi incumbit ei qui dicit, non ei qui negat.”  My Latin is not great but roughly translated “the onus of proof is on he who says it, not he who denies it.”

Dr Galati, in his Supreme Court Appeal Submissions, puts it this way (more forcibly than I would) -

In other words, if a piece of circumstantial evidence must be certain in itself, and if therefore even scientific proof must be immune to any alternative-explanation hypothesis, this does not alter the fact that this hypothesis ought to be based on reasonable elements and not merely abstract hypothetical ones. And if the refutation of a scientific piece of evidence passes via the affirmation of a circumstance of fact (being the contamination of an exhibit), that circumstance must be specifically proved, not being deducible from generic (and otherwise unshareable) considerations about the operative methodology followed by the Scientific Police, absent demonstration that the methods used would have produced, in the concrete, the assumed contamination.

I do not myself think it is realistic for the defence to have to prove a specific contamination path from point A to point B. That would be unrealistic. But certainly if the issue of contamination is to be raised the defence must go beyond an abstract hypothetical explanation that in the event, as is the case here, is devoid of known origins for the contamination. (Save for the trace on the cigarette stub, so that if that was the source there would be Knox’s DNA mixed in with Sollecito’s on the clasp). Otherwise how is the prosecution to respond? With what level of proof?

Should it be beyond reasonable doubt? How Hellmann-Zanetti would wish! “Beyond reasonable doubt” is the standard to be applied to the prosecution’s case in its entirety, to any attribution of culpability for the crime to the accused. It is not parcelled out to each and every element.

The correct standard to apply to an element such as contamination (as it is for any piece of circumstantial evidence) is “the balance of probability having regard to other elements”. The alleged breaches of crime management guidelines are in themselves only circumstantial, requiring, for any weight to be attached to them, corroborative or supporting elements as to which, as I see it, there are none. So the correct question is: Is contamination probable or not? (This is not to exclude that there may sometimes, somewhat rarely, be circumstances where it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt)

So we are back to probability again. It is a battle (if at all)  of probabilities and we must not confuse what is possible with what is probable, however much our eyes are opened to what is possible.

That it is such, is tacitly acknowledged by Hellmann-Zanetti when they argue that Sollecito’s DNA being on the bra hook but not on the fabric of the clasp is improbable. My response to that would be to say that it is far more probable than that there was contamination of the hook.

The absence of any argument as to probability may have been a thought that popped into Vecchiotti’s head when she retorted “probable” (feeling a bit sick about the answer afterwards I hope). However that she could make that assertion does not fill one with much confidence when considering that she also maintains that there were errors in Stefanoni’s interpretation of the electropherogram result, even whilst accepting that Sollecito”˜s profile was there, not least because his Y chromosome was as well.

Don’t expect Conti and Vecchiotti to be re-invited if there is any replay of the appeal trial.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ominous Development For Sollecito And Knox: A DNA Conviction Based On A Tiny Sample Of DNA

Posted by The Machine



[Burgess, image below, murdered Yolande Waddington and, above, Jeanette Wigmore and Jacqueline Williams]


There is a HUGE dagger hanging over Sollecito and Knox. A UK case resolved this week indicates why.

New tests on the DNA sample on the large knife found in Sollecito’s house which the independent DNA experts refused to do, and the judges failed to re-order despite a strong prosecution request, could result in Knox and Sollecito being ultimately convicted and secure Knox’s extradition to serve out her term.

Lawyers consider it a dead certainty that the Supreme Court will order those tests -  that is if they dont throw out the entire Hellman/Zanetti judgment for illegal scope, or throw out the DNA report for illegally having been ordered in the first place.


(1) Summary of the UK case

David Burgess this week was convicted in Reading of murdering Yolande Waddington, 17, some 46 years after the crime was committed, thanks to all the advances in DNA technology. Back then, he was already convicted of killing Jeanette Wigmore and Jacqueline Williams.

Burgess is the latest person in Britain to have been finally found guilty of murder years after his crime was committed. Nat Fraser, Gary Dobson and David Norris had been convicted of murder this year after evading justice for a number of years.

In September 2010, Thames Valley Police reviewed the case and with advances in DNA techniques finally gathered the evidence which resulted in Burgess being convicted of Yolande Waddington’s murder.

Forensic experts obtained a partial DNA profile from the blood samples using a new technique called MiniFiler. It differs from previous methods as it can obtain information from smaller pieces of DNA. This is ideal for older cases where samples have degraded over time.

According to the manufacturer’s website

[The MiniFiler kit] increases your ability to obtain DNA results from compromised samples that previously would have yielded limited or no genetic data. This means cold cases can come off the shelf for re-analysis and new, challenging samples have a better chance of delivering interpretable results.

When David Burgess attacked Yolande, he left blood on a number of Yolande’s items, including her hair band and comb. Tests showed the chances of the DNA found on the comb and hair band not being Burgess’s were not more than one in a billion.


[Below: David Burgess then and now who had taunted the police a year ago to “prove it”]




(2) Here are the implications for RS and AK

It puts the 46-day delay (caused by the defenses) in retrieving the bra clasp into perspective.

It’s not the first case of somebody being convicted of murder decades after the crime took place on the strength of DNA evidence. Ronald Castree was convicted of murdering Lesley Molseed 32 years later.

It also highlights the arrogant negligence of the DNA consultants Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti who had refused to carry out ordered test on the knife for flimsy reasons (“the technology is experimental” when it wasn’t) that no US or UK court would have accepted. They had been specifically instructed to do the tests if possible by Judge Hellmann.

At trial in 2009 it was accepted that Amanda Knox’s DNA was found on the handle of the knife sequestered from Sollecito’s kitchen. There still is no argument about that.

And a number of independent forensic experts - Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli and former Caribinieri General Luciano Garofano - had all confirmed that Meredith’s DNA was found on the blade.

Even Greg Hampikian, a forensic expert who argues Knox is innocent, concedes that Meredith’s DNA was definitely found on the blade.

Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti didn’t know that Dr Stefanoni analysed the traces on the knife a long six days after last handling Meredith’s DNA. Contamination couldn’t possibly have occurred in the laboratory after so long a gap.

At the appeal, Professor Guiseppe Novelli testified that there are a number of laboratories that now have the latest accepted technology to carry out a new test on the remaining DNA on the knife.

The fact that Judge Hellmann denied the prosecution the opportunity to present evidence to the contrary was a violation of the procedure code. Italian law states the following:

If new evidence about a point is admitted, evidence a contrario proposed by the opposing party must always be admitted too.

Dr Giovanni Galati has now argued in his appeal to the Supreme Court that Judge Hellmann should have allowed a new test to be performed because the technology is NOT experimental but cutting edge. Summary here:

The second [point concerns] the decision to not allow a new forensic investigation requested by the prosecution at the end of the ruling discussion. In the appeal to Cassation it is written that the Appeal Court’s rejection reveals “contradictoriness/contrariness and demonstrates manifest illogicality in the grounds for the judgement/reasoning report”.

As remarked at the top, if the entire judgment or the DNA report are not thrown out for illegal scope, Judge Hellman’s refusal to allow the prosecution’s request to allow a new test on the knife will be the main reason why his verdict will be revoked.

Under Italian law RS and AK still stand accused until the Supreme Court signs off. Anyone who is concerned with the truth and justice and what Meredith stood for and the good name of Italy will want to know whether the remaining DNA on the knife is Meredith’s.

If Meredith’s DNA is identified on the knife it should make conviction and extradition a slam dunk..


[Below: ViaDellaPergola’s video first posted 18 months ago and still relevant]


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Excellent Sunday Times Report On The Many Killer Questions The Second Appeal Next Year Might Answer

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Rome: St Peter’s and Vatican in foreground; Supreme Court large white building in right background by River Tiber]


It really ain’t over until it’s over, and knowing the hyper-cautious Italian justice system, maybe not even then.

Now the drama moves to Rome.

Before any verdict and sentence in the case can become final, under Italian law and the constitution the verdict and sentence must be endorsed by the Supreme Court of Cassation.

If either the prosecution or defenses demand that issues be looked at by Cassation (as we know, the prosecution will) Cassation will do so, and it may punt the case back down to the first appeal court to re-examine questions or even run a complete re-trial at first appeal level.

At Cassation level the prosecution is likely to have at least five advantages.

    1) A confusing Hellman sentence report seems likely which won’t be able to dispose of the Massei and Micheli reports because the Hellman court did not re-examine all issues

    2) Cassation’s ruling on the final appeal of Rudy Guede which points to three perps, and Cassation’s general tendency to side with trial courts against first-appeal courts.

    3) The likelihood that only the prosecution will file issues for consideration by Cassation and not the defenses and so the prosecution will dominate all proceedings.

    4) Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito and entourages seem unlikely to be there in person for the Cassation hearings or a retrial, and emotive factors would be less in play.

    5) The Italian media and Italian public opinion and increasingly UK and US opinion seem to be taking the position that the Hellman appeal decision was unsatisfactory.

Two days ago, the Sunday Times ran this fine analysis below by their reporter on the case, John Follain, of the open issues that will be facing Cassation and possibly again facing the lower appeal court. 

With a dozen books out John Follain has by far the largest and most impressive book publishing record of any reporter on the case.

Publishers Hodder and Stoughton have announced that his book Death in Perugia: The Definitive Account of the Meredith Kercher Case will be released first in the UK later this month - on 25 October.

KILLER QUESTIONS; The acquittal last week of Amanda Knox only deepens the confusion surrounding the murder of the British student Meredith Kercher. John Follain, who has investigated the case for four years, unpicks the evidence How could one man pin Meredith down and inflict those injuries?

By John Follain in Perugia.

They may have been coached to hide their true feelings, but the expressions of the judges and jurors were an open book. Surprise and shock registered on the faces of the appeal tribunal in Perugia as they watched a video taken by the forensic police who searched the whitewashed cottage where Meredith Kercher was murdered.

That summer’s day in the medieval, vaulted Hall of Frescoes was the pivotal scene of the 10-month appeal trial of Amanda Knox, 24, and Raffaele Sollecito, 26 “” the moment that freedom suddenly became possible, if not probable, for the former lovers.

The rotund, bespectacled Stefano Conti, one of two specialists in forensic medicine appointed by the court to review two crucial traces of DNA evidence, gave a sardonic running commentary on the behaviour of the Roman scientific squad searching for clues in the cottage. They failed to use clean protective gloves to handle each item of evidence or biological sample, Conti pointed out. They passed Meredith’s bra clasp to one another before placing it back on the floor where they had found it. The officer who picked up her bra wore no gloves at all.

As the senior appeal judge, Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, recalled last week after acquitting Knox and Sollecito of sexually abusing and murdering Meredith, the DNA review was “the most difficult moment” of the trial.

“The prosecutors understood that their case was at risk, and it was at that moment that the trial became a battle with no holds barred,” he said.

The courtroom fight over this international cause célèbre ended with a sobbing Knox being rushed out by guards and flown home to a heroine’s welcome in Seattle.

But, far from resolving the mystery of how and why Meredith died, the acquittal has fuelled the unanswered questions over her fate. Are we “back to square one”, as Meredith’s brother Lyle said after the verdict? What are the mysteries still to be resolved? And will we ever know what truly happened? MEREDITH, a 21-year-old language student from Coulsdon, Surrey, was found lying virtually naked, her throat cut, in her bedroom in the house she shared with Knox and two other young women on the afternoon of November 2, 2007. “Case closed,” an overoptimistic police chief proclaimed just four days later.

The investigators thought Knox had handed them the keys to the mystery. Under questioning she placed herself at the crime scene on the night before the body was found. She had been in the kitchen, with her hands over her ears, she said, while Patrick Lumumba, a Congolese bar owner for whom she worked as a waitress, killed Meredith.

Police promptly arrested Lumumba, Knox and her boyfriend. But Knox later went back on her testimony, insisting she had been with Sollecito at his flat all night.

Investigators were forced to release Lumumba after witnesses testified he had been working at his bar on the night of the murder. Knox and Sollecito stayed behind bars.

Forensic evidence then prompted the arrest of another African immigrant, Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast drifter. Part of his palm print was on a cushion under Meredith’s body, his DNA was in her body where he had apparently groped her sexually, and his DNA was mixed with hers in drops of blood inside her shoulder bag.

The prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, accused Guede, Knox and Sollecito of killing Meredith when she resisted their attempts to force her into a sex game.

Certainly, there appeared to be compelling evidence that Knox was lying. She had tried to frame Lumumba. The defence now claimed that an intruder had broken into the cottage and attacked Meredith; but the break-in had clearly been staged. Amateurishly, a room had been ransacked before the window into it was smashed “” the glass lay over the strewn clothes instead of under them. Was this to cover Knox’s tracks? There were mixed traces of Knox’s and Meredith’s blood in the bathroom and another room. Bloody footprints had been left by Knox and Sollecito in the bathroom and in the corridor. Knox had behaved bizarrely at the police station after the murder, kissing and caressing Sollecito and doing yoga exercises. Sollecito had said he spent much of the murder night on his computer, but this was disproved by experts.

Still, this was all circumstantial evidence rather than proof. The Rome forensic police came to the rescue of the prosecution team. They reported that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade of a kitchen knife found at Sollecito’s flat “” and Knox’s was on the handle. This was believed to be one of the murder weapons.

Forensic pathologists said Meredith’s wounds had been caused by two knives, pointing to more than one killer. The team from Rome also reported that Sollecito’s DNA was on Meredith’s bra clasp. (Only much later would it emerge that the police had retrieved this from the bedroom floor a full 46 days after first spotting it.) The case rapidly became a sensation. The prime suspect was an intelligent and alluringly pretty American, only 20 at the time, who, reporters joyously discovered, had been nicknamed “Foxy Knoxy” back home in Seattle. That this was for her skills on the soccer pitch was lost in the rush to find out more.

Dozens of witnesses and expert consultants passed through Perugia’s Hall of Frescoes during the first trial, which lasted for much of 2009.

Knox was portrayed by the lawyer for the bar owner, Lumumba, as an unscrupulous and manipulative she-devil, and by her defence team as “a wholesome girl” wrongly accused.

The prosecution case was that Kercher, a hard-working young woman from a modest background, had become exasperated by Knox’s slovenly and promiscuous behaviour as a housemate.

She had remarked to her father that “Amanda arrived only a week ago and she already has a boyfriend”. She told friends that Knox left a vibrator and condoms in the bathroom and brought “strange men” to the cottage. Investigators leaked Knox’s diary, in which she had listed seven sexual partners, three of whom she had slept with after her arrival in Italy, including a man she had met on the train on her way to Perugia. On Facebook she had put down as her interests: “Men.” Unable to prove exactly what had happened on the night of the murder, Mignini offered a plausible scenario based on Meredith’s 43 knife wounds and bruises.

He suggested that an argument between Meredith and Knox escalated when Guede and Sollecito joined the American “under the influence of drugs and maybe of alcohol” in trying to force Kercher into a heavy sex game that ended in murder. The sensational 11-month trial ended in guilty verdicts and jail sentences of 26 years for Knox and 25 years for Sollecito.

Some months later, in August 2010, I met Knox briefly in Capanne women’s prison, which is a short drive from Perugia. She had cut her hair and looked younger and more frail than during her trial. She wore a red Beatles sweatshirt, black leggings and silver nail varnish.

When I arrived, she was pushing a trolley down a corridor.

A guard explained that her job was to collect orders from other prisoners for small goods they could buy: newspapers, cigarettes, coffee, magazines and “” at that time of year “” strawberries. We were allowed to talk for only a few moments, but a guard told me: “She’s pretty well. Amanda’s confident that the future will bring freedom for her. She doesn’t break down in tears. It’s nothing like the night of tears after the verdict, when we had to comfort her.”

I was told she had been reading “” in Italian “” the 427-page summary by the two judges at her trial, who had dissected the inconsistencies in her evidence.

This summary included the judges’ own reconstruction of what might have happened on the night of the murder, based on the evidence that had been put before them.

They suggested that Knox, Sollecito and Guede had arrived at the cottage at about 11pm. Knox and her boyfriend had gone to her bedroom to have sex, and, excited by a situation “heavy with sexual stimulus”, Guede had walked into Kercher’s room wanting to have sex with her.

Kercher rejected him “” she was tired, and had a new boyfriend anyway “” but Knox and Sollecito intervened to assist him. According to the judges, they were probably drugged on hashish and seeking “erotic sexual violence”. Forcing Kercher to yield to Guede was a “special thrill that had to be tried out”.

They suggested Sollecito cut Meredith’s bra with a small knife he always carried “” collecting knives was a hobby. As Guede sexually assaulted Kercher with his fingers, Sollecito stabbed her in the neck. Kercher screamed “” a neighbour heard her “” and Knox stabbed her in the throat with a kitchen knife, the judges argued. She took several minutes to die as she inhaled her own blood.

THAT was the lurid and damning case that Knox had to fight when she returned to the Hall of Frescoes last November for her appeal.

Her demeanour had changed. Gone was smiling and self-confident “Foxy”, whose manner may have helped secure her conviction. After three years in prison, Knox was much more demure.

The appeal hearing began auspiciously for her when the deputy judge remarked: “The only certain and undisputed fact is the death of Meredith Kercher.”

The comment prompted prosecutors to complain that the court had already made up its mind, but it was a portent of what was about to be revealed.

The appeal court’s decision to grant a defence request for an independent review of two items of DNA evidence “” the kitchen knife and the bra clasp “” proved devastating for the prosecution’s case.

The two experts “” Conti and Carla Vecchiotti, from La Sapienza University in Rome “” said the DNA trace on the knife blade could not be attributed to Meredith because it was too slight. They said Sollecito’s Y chromosome was on the bra clasp, but it could have been the result of contamination by police mishandling of the evidence. From then on, the prosecutors fought a losing battle to discredit Conti and Vecchiotti.

Outside the courtroom the Knox camp’s media offensive exploited the experts’ conclusions.

Knox’s family “” her mother, father, stepfather and friends “” had come well primed for battle. Homes had been remortgaged and funds raised.

With the help of a PR company in Seattle, they dominated prime-time shows on the leading American TV networks, dramatically influencing public opinion there “” so much so that the prosecutor Mignini thundered in court that he had never seen a convict hire a PR firm to prove her innocence.

Mignini himself was a key target. In what appeared to have been a turf battle with prosecutors in Florence, he had been given a suspended 16-month prison sentence for abuse of office after tapping the phones of police officers and journalists in a separate investigation into a serial killer. It was a reflection of the fragmented and politicised condition of the Italian justice system.

The prosecutors tried but failed to switch the focus away from the forensic evidence by introducing Guede, the third party to the murder. He had been prosecuted separately because he had opted for a “fast track” trial that offers a lighter sentence as an incentive. Jailed for 16 years for murder, he had appealed to the Supreme Court in Rome “” Italy’s highest court “” which confirmed his conviction, ruling that Guede had sexually abused and murdered Kercher with “unidentified accomplices”.

This was an insight into the mystifying processes of Italian law. How could justice be served by trying Guede separately? Why had he not been brought to give evidence at the first Knox trial? Why were his accomplices “unidentified” when Knox and Sollecito had been convicted of joining him in the murder? The answers lay in the fact that his supreme court appeal started just after Knox’s appeal began in Perugia “” and the two cases overlapped, a bizarre way of seeking out the truth.

Once Guede’s Supreme Court appeal had been dismissed he was summoned to the witness box in Perugia, where his contribution was damning yet so limited that it did not sway the judges and jury.

Rather than taking him through the events of the killing, Mignini read out a letter in which Guede had written of “the horrible murder of a ... wonderful girl by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox”. Challenged by one of Knox’s lawyers, Guede stood by the letter, saying: “It’s not as if there is my truth, and the truth of Tom, Dick and Harry. What there is is the truth of what I lived through that night, full stop.”

A lawyer for the Kerchers detailed the injuries Meredith suffered, arguing it would have been impossible for Guede to hold her down, sexually assault her, try to suffocate her, try to strangle her and wound her with more than one knife.

But it was too late. The appeal panel of judges and jurors had made up their minds. A juror confided after the “not guilty” verdicts had been delivered that the court had decided to acquit because of doubts over the forensic evidence, and because it saw no motive for the murder.

Pratillo Hellman explained: “To convict, the penal code says you have to be persuaded beyond every reasonable doubt. The smallest doubt is enough to not condemn.”

But he added enigmatically: “Maybe Knox and Sollecito know what happened that night, because our acquittal verdict stems from the truth which was established in the trial. But the real truth can be different. They may be responsible, but there isn’t the evidence… So, perhaps they too know what happened that night, but that’s not our conclusion.”

The judge’s comments earned him a new nickname, which investigators texted to each other delightedly: “Pontius Pratillo”, after Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of responsibility for the execution of Jesus Christ.

The prosecution scored one potentially significant victory. The court found Knox guilty of slandering the former bar owner Lumumba by initially claiming he had killed Kercher. It sentenced her to three years in prison, but released her as she had spent almost four years behind bars.

“That’s absurd, absurd,” Mignini fumed. “Knox accused Lumumba to throw the police off her tracks. Why else would she accuse him?” IN PERUGIA, at least, the prosecution can count on overwhelming backing. After the verdict, a crowd several thousand strong massed outside the courts, amid jeers at defence lawyers and chants of “Assassini, assassini!” (murderers, murderers) and “Vergogna, vergogna!” (shame, shame). In bars across the picturesque city, and on the main cobbled street, Corso Vannucci, many dissected the case for days afterwards “” the consensus was that Knox and Sollecito were at the cottage when Meredith died, but no one agreed on what role they played.

For the Kercher family no outcome could have been more bewildering. As Knox flew home, Meredith’s mother Arline, her brother Lyle and her sister Stephanie spoke to me.

“It almost raises more questions than there are answers now,” Lyle said, “because the initial decision was that [the murder] wasn’t done by one person but by more than that. Two have been released, one remains in jail, so we’re now left questioning: who are these other people or person?” Did they believe that Knox and Sollecito were guilty? “In a way we have to believe what the police say because they are the ones compiling the evidence,” Arline replied. “We haven’t a clue. I think that’s what he was saying. It’s the police “” it’s their job.”

“It’s difficult for anybody to make a valid opinion on any case, not just this one, unless you’re a trained expert,” Lyle echoed. “There are forensics, detectives, psychological profilers and so on, who are trained to do this and read the information and draw the hypotheses from that, which of course no lay person really is. So if that’s the conclusion they come to, then we’re happy to stand by that.”

“We have to accept, don’t we, just like now we have to accept this,” Arline said.

“And that’s why it’s so disappointing, because we don’t know,” Stephanie added.

It is not over for the Kerchers.

Last week’s acquittal is far from the last word on the case. The judges have 90 days to draft a report explaining the reasons for the verdict. Then the prosecution and the defence will have a further 45 days to lodge a new and last appeal. Only rulings by the Supreme Court are considered definitive in Italian justice.

Guede’s lawyers said he would appeal for a new trial if the Supreme Court confirmed Knox’s acquittal “” on the grounds that it would contradict the Ivorian’s conviction for killing Meredith alongside unidentified accomplices. “So I’m supposed to be Meredith’s only assassin?” Guede is reported to have told a prison visitor. “I’m supposed to have struck that poor girl with a knife 40 times? I confessed my responsibilities and I accused those who were in the house with me.

“I’m in prison, and the others are free and happy at home. If it wasn’t them in the house that damned evening, who are the other accomplices supposed to be? The money made available to Amanda and the media strategy helped to free her.”

Many investigators and lawyers admit privately that the Italian judicial system may simply never come up with a full and convincing explanation of Meredith’s death.

Italian justice is agonisingly slow. Judges and lawyers attend several trials in the same week, with the result that the appeal trial saw 20 days of hearings over no fewer than 10 months. It is also full of safeguards for defendants, including long preliminary hearings enshrined in the post-war constitution to eradicate the caricature of justice delivered by the courts under Mussolini.

Many of the most notorious cases in Italy’s post-war history have yet to be resolved in court. Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire prime minister, is embroiled in a string of corruption, fraud and sex offence investigations and trials, and claims that leftist prosecutors are plotting to oust him.

This week Berlusconi will push through parliament a bill banning publication of phone and other intercepts before a case reaches trial “” a measure that has become a priority for him, as investigators are expected to release within a few weeks dozens of intercepts of reportedly embarrassing conversations between Berlusconi and a convicted drug dealer.

In such a climate Italian justice itself is on trial. The truth of what happened to Meredith Kercher may emerge one day, but it’s no safe bet that it will do so in an Italian court of law.


Friday, October 07, 2011

US And UK Media: Make RS & AK Answer The HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS Of Open Questions

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters





It seems Judge Hellman has begun sweating.

Maybe Judge Hellman already sees as much of the Italian public and commentators do that he’ll have a REALLY tough time answering all the open questions in his December sentencing report as he is required to.

Constitutional requirement of Ministry of Justice never met?

That so many questions exist but are not generally even known about, especially in the US and UK, is because a key requirement of the usually very careful Italian justice system seems to have been (illegally) ignored.

The key requirement is built into the justice system by the Italian constitution. It is that trial and appeal sentencing reports MUST be made available to the maximum extent, so that the general public (usually only the Italian public) can readily check on the legitimacy of trial outcomes.

Italy is the only country in the world that has that public check and balance on trials.  Under that requirement, if it existed in the US, Barry Scheck of the US’s Innocence Project would likely find that most of the travesties of justice his team uncovers would never have happened in the first place.

Here is how things are meant to work. 

Back when the Micheli Report on the Rudy Guede sentence was released in January 2009 with Judge Micheli’s reasons for remitting Knox and Sollecito to trial it was released in THREE formats.

    1) It was released digitally (in a Word Doc) to the media with the one requirement that it not be posted in full. We translated most of our copy and posted an extensive summary (scroll down) in English in four parts (three by Brian and one by Nikki) in September 2009.

    2) It was released in printed document form by the Ministry of Justice in Rome and anyone in Italy could buy a copy.

    3) It was also posted on the website of the Ministry of Justice in text and Acrobat document format. It appears that this Internet version was checked out by hundreds of thousands and quite possibly even by millions.

Now when the Ministry of Justice in Rome released the Massei sentencing report for Knox and Sollecito (links at top of this page) in March 2010, they released it in only ONE format.

The Ministry of Justice released it ONLY on paper, and it was obtainable ONLY by the press and by those in the general public who managed to figure out how to buy a copy of the book-sized document from the Ministry.

To our knowledge the Ministry of Justice never ever posted the required Internet version.

The effect of this serious and seemingly illegal shortfall by the Rome Ministry has been that even in Italy few people have ever read the Massei Report. The number of Italian readers might be only in the hundreds and at most in the low thousands. Way, way less than ever read Micheli.

As a result only very few people in Italy may have ever realized how powerful, logically complete and conclusive that report is. Probably few or no peers of the lay judges in Perugia have ever read it. The most important document in the entire case is essentially unread.

In August 2010 a PMF team finished translating the Massei Report and made available the Masssei report in English in Acrobat format on the PMF forum and on TJMK.

In June 2011 Skeptical Bystander and a PMF team posted a Massei summary in text on TJMK and PMF.

This English language version has been downloaded close to 30,000 times and there are many people in the US and UK who are very well informed on the conclusions.  Every lawyer we know who has read the report has agreed that it arrived at the right conclusions. Many say and several do right here in these posts (scroll down) that the case would have been way more than enough for a US or UK conviction.

A slam dunk in effect. Evidence overkill.

But few of the busy people in the US and UK media have read the Massei Report and no one in the media to our knowledge has extensively analyzed or quoted from it. None of the books out so far go into the Massei Report in depth.

WHY did the Italian Ministry of Justice fail to fully distribute the Massei Report, and in particular not post it on their website? And is the Supreme Court of Cassation aware of this huge shortfall in its distribution?

This is such a serious mistake that our Italian lawyers believe that the Supreme Court or even the President of the Republic of Italy if he is petitioned could throw out the entire Hellman proceedings, verdict and sentence.

The hundreds and hundreds of open questions

Arising from the Massei Report are literally hundreds of questions for the released defendants and their teams. They have been around since early 2010. The defense teams and PR campaign have never ever tried to answer these questions, or for that matter to produce a convincing alternative scenario that hangs together implicating Guede but not Knox or Sollecito.

Here are four lists of the many, many outstanding questions.

Here from the Daily Beast are those ten questions with the Beast’s annotations showing how they are STILL unanswered:

1. Why did you and Raffaele Sollecito turn off your cell phones at the same time the night of Nov. 1, 2007, and on again at the same time the next morning? You told the police that you and Raffaele slept late the morning of Nov. 2, 2007, but phone records show that you both turned your phones back on very early that morning. How could that be? This question was never addressed fully in the appellate process except when Giulia Bongiorno for Sollecito said that perhaps the cat stepped on the phone and turned it on. At that time the prosecutor Manuela Comodi quipped, “I’ve got a dog and he has never done that.”

2. Why were you bleeding? 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. Your mother told me that you had your period. Your stepfather told others that your ear piercings were infected. Which was it? Even if this mixed blood drop is contentious in its genetic makeup (all blood or blood mixed with DNA), the appellate court was shown a picture of a drop of blood attributed entirely to Knox on the faucet.

3. Once you realized your mistake in blaming Patrick Lumumba for Meredith’s murder, why didn’t you tell the authorities? You told your mother that you felt bad about it, so why didn’t you alert an official so Patrick could be set free?

4. Why did you go with Raffaele to the police station on Nov. 5, 2007? You were not called in for questioning. Did you realize at that time that you were both under suspicion?

5. Why weren’t your and Raffaele’s fingerprints found in your house after the murder if the two of you had spent time there that morning and the day before? Only one half-print on a glass in the kitchen has been attributed to you, yet you have claimed that you took a shower there that morning. How did you spend so much time there and leave virtually no trace? Much of the crime scene has since been determined to have suffered from sloppy investigative work, meaning the absence of fingerprints in any room of the house may be due to that rather than any sort of cleanup.

6. Why did you take the mop and bucket from your house over to Raffaele’s house? You told the prosecutor during your testimony in June 2009 that you took the mop and bucket to his house to clean up a leak under his kitchen sink. But by your own testimony, the leak was minuscule and could have been easily cleaned up without it. What were you really doing with the mop?

7. What would you do differently if you had a chance to rewind the clock back to Nov. 3, 2007? Would you go to the memorial service for Meredith? Would you still have gone to the police station with Raffaele? Would you have left for Germany when your aunt asked you to?

8. What do you think happened the night Meredith was killed? You have professed your innocence. Who do you think killed her and under what circumstance? Your supporters say Rudy Guede was the lone killer. Do you agree? Or do you think there are still others out there who were involved in your roommate’s murder?

9. What do you really think of the Italian justice system? You told an Italian parliamentarian that you got a fair trial, and you even thanked the prosecutors for trying to solve the mystery of Meredith’s death, but your supporters at home in Seattle maintain that the Italian system is corrupt and unfair. In your appellate hearing you said you lost faith in justice and the police. Now that you are out, what do you really think of the system that has both convicted and acquitted you?

10. Is there anything you wish you would have said in court during your (initial) trial (in which you were convicted)? You talked about your vibrator and about how you did not want an assassin’s mask forced on you. But in your final appeal after the closing arguments on Dec. 4, 2010, why didn’t you say the words, “I did not kill Meredith Kercher”? Raffaele did when it was his turn to speak. Why didn’t you? You have said on many occasions during the appellate trial that you did not kill her and you have never hurt anyone. This question has been addressed with your denials. What about the rest?

Judge Hellman may be able to answer all of these unanswered questions AS HE MUST under Italian law in his sentencing report. He cannot simply address points defense raised about small parts of it. He must be able to explain the totality of the evidence or his report risks being thrown out by Cassation and a retrial at the first appeal level ordered.

Possibly Judge Hellman might be able to achieve this. But why do we seriously doubt it?


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fifteenth Appeal Session: Prosecutor Manuela Comodi Starkly Explains All The Forensic Evidence

Posted by Peter Quennell


This is a translation of key parts of a detailed report from the AGI news service - the excellent reporter is not named.

On Ms Comodi’s opening remarks to the court.

In Perugia the hearing of the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, in the first instance [at trial] convicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher, has resumed. This morning, the prosecutor Manuela Comodi began her part of the indictment.

“Regardless of the scientific evidence, your decision can only be the confirmation of the decision at first instance [at trial],” the prosecutor said. During the day the prosecution will make its request for a tougher sentence for the ex-lovers who are present in the courtroom next to their defence teams.

Ms Comodi on the strength of the forensic evidence.

“Quite apart from all the scientific evidence, the outcome of this process can only be at least the confirmation of the conviction of first degree”...The prosecutor judge then began to attack the independent expert report on the traces of DNA ordered by the Court.

“That ploy may have led you to believe you do not trust the results for the knife proposed as the murder weapon and the hook of the bra worn by the victim when she was killed. Those conclusions are strongly challenged by the prosecution.” Then Comodi talked of “the awkward performance of experts who have betrayed your trust… [with] their absolute inadequacy and incompetence.”

She then mentioned the lack of experience in the field of the experts appointed by the Court. “Would you trust your daughter’s wedding to a cook who knows all the recipes but has never cooked?”. In the initial phase of her indictment the prosecutor also mentioned the process carried out in England to indict Danilo Restivo…

The Guardian has a good report on how Danilo Restivo was caught in part by incriminating DNA some TEN YEARS after his crime.

And Ms Comodi on the DNA on the knife and bra clasp.

“Who wielded the knife [that killed Meredith Kercher] was Amanda Knox.” The prosecutor said in court, mimicking the way according to the defense reconstruction that knife was contested by the murderer of Meredith.

“They will tell you, She used it at some other time while staying at Sollecito’s house, but Amanda’s DNA was found in the wrong place for normal use. Give it a try, you will see that in cutting bread or meat the hand rests on the back, not there.”

“Starch on the knife? It could come from the powder present on the “vast majority” of rubber gloves used by personnel involved in investigations.” The prosecutor was recalling the words of a senior advisor to the defense of Amanda Knox, according to whom the starch was derived from the cutting of food such as potatoes and is a sign of lack of washing of the blade on which should have been found traces of blood of the victim if it was used for the crime….

“Talc is present on most sterile disposable gloves, such as those used by the scientific and the Flying Squad in Perugia. It is totally unfounded, the thesis of the non-washing of the knife.”

“The hook of the bra collected 46 days after being found missing? What of the DNA of Elisa Claps [in the Danilo Restivo case] analyzed after nearly 20 years? There is no way this could be contamination because Sollecito had not since been in the house.

Here is a very strong report from Il Mattino which after mirroring the AGI report above adds this:

“In addition to the knife and the bra hook there are other tracks that connect the presence of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito to the crime scene” said the prosecutor in her indictment.

“Traces of the mixed blood of Meredith and Amanda have been found in the bathroom, where there was an imprint of a foot of Raffaele Sollecito in Meredith’s blood. Footprints of Raffaele and Amanda in Meredith’s blood were found using Luminol in the hallway and the room of Amanda.”

The prosecutor pointed out that under the bed, in Meredith’s room, the lamp of Amanda was found. In Meredith’s room there already was one lamp. Amanda’s lamp was there “because they had to find something to take away, maybe a bracelet or a ring that Amanda might have lost.”

And the prosecution concluded by asking for life sentences and some solitary confinement for Sollecito and Knox as the crime was “aggravated - carried out for trivial reasons” and asking for the exclusion of the mitigating factors that Judge Massei had allowed.

Some of the Italian media reports carried headlines quoting Ms Comodi saying “They killed her for nothing”.


Good Reports By Seattle PI And Daily Beast On Mignini Summarising The Evidence Presented At Trial

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: The indomitable victim’s proponent Giuliano Mignini preparing for court today with Giancarlo Costagliola]


Click the image above for Andrea Vogt’s report on Mr Mignini’s afternoon in court. Tough points Mr Mignini made:

“They know the truth because they were at Via della Pergola along with Rudy,” said Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini said emphatically, pointing to Knox and Sollecito in his last remarks to the court. “Not only the young man of color should pay.”...

[Mr Mignini] sometimes seemed to obsess on small and bizarre details, but at other times showed an incredibly effective use of courtroom oratory. Just before showing the jurors gruesome autopsy photos of Kercher’s wounds, for example, he told them softly how he would never forget “the wide open eyes of the victim and the composed, immense pain of her parents.”

He reminded the appeals jurors that it was not a U.S. court, but rather one in the Italian republic and urged them to ignore “improvised detectives who give their superficial opinion from 10,000 kilometers away.”...

[Mr Mignini] went over all the witness testimony, described how a break-in in the apartment Kercher and Knox shared had been staged and frequently cited Knox’s own statements on the stand during her first trial, especially on the topic of a large drop of Knox’s blood on the bathroom faucet and mixed traces of blood and DNA of Kercher and Knox in the bathroom.

Highly worth reading the entire thing. Barbie Nadeau covers the same ground equally well in the Daily Beast and notes that today could be the final scene changer. The embattled Sollecito defense counsel Giulia Bongiorno was reduced to making this preposterous claim:

Sollecito’s attorney Giulia Bongiorno told reporters that Mignini was desperately clinging to old arguments because the independent experts’ report had demolished two key pieces of evidence : a knife and a bra clasp.

Demolished?! The independent experts didn’t retest the DNA material with modern techniques when they could and should have and they even admitted that was Meredith’s DNA profile the scientific police had produced the first time around.

They ended up looking weak and evasive. Hardly the silver bullet Bongiorno wants.

By the way, no sign of Mr Mignini being fazed by the presence (surely unhelpful to Knox and her lawyers) of the muddled “ex FBI agent” Steve Moore whose bizarre and often defamatory takes on the case and Italian justice officials we have again and again shown to be wrong.

Perhaps Mr Mignini should ask Steve Moore to publish his own detailed resume. So far, all requests for it have been stonewalled.


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Fourteenth Appeal Session: Judge Hellmann Consults Jury And Concludes They Have Enough To Wrap Up

Posted by Peter Quennell


Judge Hellman took the jury into chambers for half an hour yesterday and they decided not to delay matters for a further DNA review.

Final arguments will therefore take place later this month (dates in our right column) and a verdict on the appeal could be announced by the end of the month.

Defenses didn’t ask yesterday to put their clients on the stand, no further impromptu remarks from the defendants were made, and no defense request for review of the very damning mixed blood traces was advanced.

Our Italian lawyers are not rating chances of a full acquittal above one or two percent. They believe the groundwork for that has simply not been laid.  The judges and jury dont have what is needed to upend the detailed outcomes of two trials and two other appeals. And the Italian system is nothing if not very cautious and lacking in surprise. 

The Supreme Court has accepted that THREE attackers had to have been present on the night. Not the slightest evidence of any perps other than the three put on trial has been advanced. No scenario has been offered in court for Guede having committed the crime on Meredith alone - in fact Guede accused the other two of being there right to their faces in court.

Free-lance reporter Nick Pisa (image above) who we often quote on the occasions when we think he’s got it right reported yesterday in the Daily Mail that Prosecutor Comodi expressed frustration with the judge and predicted an acquittal due to bias.

This is not confirmed by any Italian source and Ms Comodi is simply reported there as saying she had expected the request for further tests to be turned down and the defendants COULD still walk. Nothing more.

TJMK main poster Will Savive offered this explanation for Nick Pisa’s apparent serious mistake in a comment on our previous post.

ABC News is also reporting that they spoke to Comodi after the session and it is a big difference than what Pisa wrote.

In fact, it is ABC who has claimed that they interviewed her. According to ABC, Comodi informed them that there is “a possibility” that Knox and Sollecito could win the appeal. There is also a possibility that the sun will fall from the sky, so it is all in the context and translation of how she said it. Then ABC quoted her as saying, “I would find it very serious if they were set free.”

FOX News also reported Comodi speaking out. Sheppard Smith put Comodi’s alleged quote on the screen and it read word for word what Pisa wrote. FOX has been decent, in my opinion, thus far on reporting on the case, but Sheppard and his two cronies today were amateur at best and clearly not educated on the case.

It is very likely that Pisa twisted her quote to fit his agenda and make news; I wouldn’t be surprised!

HOWEVER”¦

The Seattle Times has the best piece on it I think.  In their article they write the interview as going like this:

COMODI: We did our job. I am convinced by what I have said. I am fully convinced of their guilt and I would find it very serious if they were set free. Today’s decision could lead one to think that there is more of a possibility that they be set freed.

So in essence, she never said that there is a possibility, in her opinion. She said that the hearing today “could lead one to think that there is more of a possibility that they be set freed.” It seems as though only Pisa is reporting it the way he did.

The Seattle Times included this: “Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga warned that the court’s rejection of new DNA testing was not equal to a positive outcome of the whole appeals trial.”

As discussed at length on PMF (link just below) the present Knox PR hype is very reminiscent of the hype just before Judge Massei’s blunt and unequivocal verdict was read out.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 09/08/11 at 02:41 PM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Evidence & WitnessesDNA and luminolAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+Comments here (45)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Twelfth Appeal Session: Prosecution Start To Undermine The Independent Experts’ More Tenuous Claims

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Dr Stefanoni head of the Scientific Police’s Rome DNA labs with her prosecution interrogator Ms Comodi]


Monday’s Italian reporting suggests that Dr Stefanoni is coming across as highly competent and very objective.

Her team’s DNA handling and testing seems to have cut no corners. Her testimony will spill over into Tuesday.  The AGI News Service describes Dr Stefanoni on Monday running through her procedures and precuaions and denying that contamination could have taken place.

She hit point by point on all the complaints made by the consultants of the Assize Court of Appeal at Perugia about the police work in the context of scientific investigations into the murder of Meredith Kercher. She strongly defended the specialist work done by her laboratory. Stefanoni has categorically ruled out a possible contamination of the findings, pointing out that “the contamination is not ‘a thing that comes out of something abstract.”

The expert then recalled that the DNA of each operator that operates within the laboratories of the scientific police is ‘duly filed and that any possibility of contamination, whether by a person or from sample to sample, is tested on a regular basis. Dr Stefanoni also described how the “wet samples” collected on the first day of the murder investigation were kept in the refrigerator of the house and then brought to Rome.

And La Nazione in describing the same testimony adds that the defenses are taking quite a gamble in their all-or-nothing approach where a full acquittal seems increasingly unlikely and where the prosecution are asking for tougher sentences for Knox and Sollecito based on a waiver of Judge Massei’s mitigating circumstances.

The huge volume of evidence not being re-examined in the current appeal (about 95% of all evidence including a majority of the forensic evidence) is highlighted in many of the reports. Rudy Guede’s direct accusation of Knox and Sollecito to their faces in one appeal session is also recalled.

No mention of the position of the no-nonsense Supreme Court of Cassation position but that gorilla has to loom large in Judge Hellman’s mind. Judge Hellman does not have the final word on this appeal in Italian law, and a final outcome may take another 18 months. And if there is any funny business suspected, appeals can always be made to Cassation instantly.

In light of these two circumstances, the defense teams are still much more pussyfooting in Italian in the appeal court than the shrill PR claims in English-language media, while still not making the smartest move in Italian courts when defendants seem cooked and evoking some sympathy for them.

Knox’s best chances seem to be falling between those two stools.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eleventh Appeal Session: Judge Overrules Defense Objections and Stefanoni Will Return to the Stand

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above Dr Stefanoni today with Ms Comodi and the Sollecito defense team minus Giulia Bongiorno]


The session has begun with prominent DNA expert Dr Luciano Garofano again in the audience.

Mentioned in previous posts is that he has spoken out nationally several times recently about his concern about the “CSI effect” where DNA evidence becomes in some trials a make-or-break issue even when other evidence is widespread.

Dr Stefanoni is of course also present with her team and other prosecution DNA witnesses are also prepared. TGCom have reported this as the first item to have been covered.

The President of the Court of Assizes of Appeal of Perugia, in opening the hearing, read a letter from the Director of the Scientific Police, Piero Angeloni, to the Court iin which reference is made to the criticisms of certain experts of the laboratory’s work in the context of scientific investigations into the murder of Meredith Kercher.

In the letter Angeloni emphasized the powers of the science, pointing out that “every year 4,500 investigations” are handled. He described how the laboratories are equipped with quality certification. “The laboratory is equipped with a computerized system for tracking objects” Angeloni said in the letter..The technical equipment is modern and the staff have many years of experience.” 

Angeloni stressed that “never before has asurveys of this nature been advanced, as here, into the work of the national forensic laboratory.” The service had never been subject to criticism before and used state-of-the-art equipment, his letter said.

Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti were first questioned by the Knox defense team. The Sollecito defense team have said that they will have no questions. ADNKronos reports that Carla Vecchioti in response to a question said that there was no DNA of Meredith found remaining on the knife when reexamined. Some starch was found.

Prosecutor Comodi then pressed the two on what is the standard lower limit of DNA traces to be subjected to low-count DNA testing and on this there was apparently not a concrete answer.

The court next moved into closed session. The defenses have objected to the prosecution’s DNA experts being allowed to take the stand. We may not know the outcome until after the break for lunch.

Okay the defense objections are overruled. The lead judge decided that the court will reconvene on September 5 to give Dr Stefanoni plenty of time on the stand. No more witnesses for today. Mr Angeloni’s letter may have had some effect. His labs should only be criticized (for the first time) with proven great care and no bias.

Oddly, the independent review team largely ignored the European state-of-the-art on low count DNA testing which, at strong prosecution request, the judge had instructed them to get on top of. That is a very suspicious goof.

Judge Hellman may not much favor this review in light of that.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/30/11 at 11:50 AM • Permalink for this post • Archived in Evidence & WitnessesDNA and luminolTrials 2008 & 2009Hellmann 2011+Comments here (60)

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