Thursday, June 30, 2011

DNA Report Already Dead On Arrival? Francesco Maresca Etc Don’t Think It Is Very Good

Posted by Peter Quennell

The New York Times redeems itself a little with an okay story on the report. It includes this:

The lawyer for the Kercher family, Francesco Maresca, countered that the word of the independent experts would not be the last word, and said he would raise his objections during the last week in July, when the report will be formally discussed during a week of hearings.

He said that the scientific police and the consultants who carried out the original tests had far more experience than the independent experts appointed by the court.

“I was surprised that these experts were so certain, and gave such strong, drastic opinions, given that they don’t have the same number of years of experience under their belt,” Mr. Maresca said.

Our Main Poster lawyer Tom M emailed this.

Maresca makes sense.  The referral was not for the purpose of making a legal judgment about the two pieces of evidence, but to report on the techniques employed and the procedures followed. At the end of the first trial there were X number of DNA expert witness reports; now there are X+1 expert reports and this latest one only muddies the water. 

It does not make the judges’ task easier as far as these two items are concerned.  Unless there is something in their analysis that is considerably more persuasive than what the previous defense experts said, AK and RS really haven’t advanced the ball, it’s just that now they have, I don’t know, say 3 expert reports instead of 2 that criticize the LCN and say it could be contamination.

One thing that needs to be looked at is whether legal standards and scientific standards are at odds.  Italian law places the burden of proof on the party that asserts something.  “Can’t rule out contamination” may be a true scientific statement, but does it supplant legal doctrine?  I don’t think so. 

Also, while scientific protocol call for repeatability, Italian seems to provide where the amount of material to be tested is so small that only one test can be performed, others are notified and invited to attend to observe and to raise objections.  I think the law is within its rights to do this, even though the pure scientist would not.

That of course is what happened. The defense experts were all invited to come witness the one-time-only testing of the knife but failed to show. The knife test would not even be under review if they had showed. No wonder the prosecution sound ticked.

There are also quotes in the New York Times from others who expected more and better than they got. 

Other accusers of Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito said that the DNA was just one piece of evidence in the case that they built against them, based on various testimonies, their lack of an alibi and what prosecutors say is other damaging physical evidence, which has not been reviewed. During one interrogation, Ms. Knox allowed that she was in the house when Ms. Kercher was murdered, an admission she later retracted, saying she had spoken under duress.

“The first jury decided looking at a wide range of evidence, the DNA was only part of it,” said one prosecutor, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. “Everything else still stands.”

And Italian poster Yummi on PMF posted this:

I am reading the report. The report brings in a lot of interesting information about the details of the DNA findings on these two items.

However, I fail to find the conclusions about the bra clasp convincing. In this report, the final issue of contamination is considered in the abstract, as well as criticisms on Stefanoni’s work.

In the abstract means, the conclusion on the probative value is given without an assessment on how likely a contamination might occur on that one specific profile of that contributor, which is Raffaele Sollecito.

The same report infers there was environmental contamination of the bra clasp, on the basis of the presence of a plurality of male contributors (at least two). But fails to give weight to the outstanding difference in the peaks hight/areas (amount of DNA) between these third parties, on one hand, and Sollecito’s DNA on the other: the amount of DNA prsent is very diferent in the two cases.

There is a very big difference in the amount of DNA from these contributors - Sollecito on one side versus others, his contribution really very large compared to others. I don’t know why the report fails to notice this.

The report also criticizes the “interpretation” given by Stefanoni, as said, of the DNA chart on the bra clasp. But, in fact, in the end the report acknowledges that both autosomic and Y haplotype DNA of Sollecito are present on the bra clasp (p.135):

So there is no doubt Sollecito’s DNA was on the bra clasp in large amount.

The same report cites failure of meeting interpretation standards for the bra clasp DNA. But acknowledges that there are no agreed standards for the assessment of stutters and alleles on mixed profile traces.


The Kercher family and Maresca are the moral center in this tragedy, much like the Goldman family was in the OJ murder trial.

Posted by giustizia on 06/30/11 at 05:42 AM | #

Remember too Amanda’s contributions during the examination of the evidence.

She was given some slippers to cover her shoes & responded by saying, Oo-la-la! (or something like) with a suggestive swaying of the hips.  Not quite the response one might expect of a normal young woman being taken to the crime scene of a murdered flatmate with whom she was in daily contact.

Or her response when, with other female flatmates, inspectors opened a drawer in the kitchen containing knives.  My recollection is that this was a drawer in their own apartment, not in Sollecito’s where the knife had been found.

Amanda’s response was of such nervousness, unlike the others, that she had to be specially tended to. Whatever for?

Given three months these experts requested an additional forty days, which the court allowed them. Why was this report publicized a day before its proper presentation to the court?

News reports written all out of context both in America & England simply create another false impression of Amanda’s chances & feed the astonishing anti-Italian sentiment which Curt Knox’s own empty dogmatisms & hired professionals have helped arouse.

This whole damned case is no less a classic than say the murder of Bobby Franks or Capote’s In Cold Blood. It will be remembered (& cited) decades hence.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 06/30/11 at 08:46 AM | #

Many thanks to Peter and Yummi for this post. 

As a layperson in both scientific and legal terms, I am disturbed.  I think the phrase, ‘muddies the waters’ is more than apt and I believe that, whatever the arguments put forward, the fact that these are the two court-appointed experts who were asked to ‘review’ the DNA findings will mean that their conclusions will weigh heavier. 

I can certainly hear AK’s family insisting loudly that these two experts’ opinions must be the opinions to prevail thus casting significant doubt on possibly all the DNA evidence (although on PMF it was pointed out that these two pieces of evidence were collected in different ways to the rest of it) however I do think that the court will listen to these two more carefully as it appointed them.

Loud insistence from family will not sway a court but I fear that their loudly persistent insistence with legal support will bear them some fruit.  Given all the information about the Italian legal system offered by posters here and on PMF, I believe that AK and RS will undoubtedly obtain a reduction - significant? - in their sentences.

This really is a tragedy as Ernest Werner says above.

Posted by thundering on 06/30/11 at 09:21 AM | #

Hi Ernest

Could it be that the Knox lot have known about this for a few weeks? but kept it quiet until Rudy Guede was well out of the way. He would have been well ticked off coming to the witness stand knowing AK/RS chances had improved, and might have said more. Just a thought.

Posted by JHEA on 06/30/11 at 09:37 AM | #


I cannot say how much time it dates back, but surely there are a few Knox supporters who write anonymously on the internet (could be family members as well), who claim since days to know what the independent expert review is going to say.

I found it a bit premature to say both pieces of evidence will be dismissed, but now I am sure they must have had the results since some time.

Posted by Nell on 06/30/11 at 09:51 AM | #

P.S. Sorry, I should have said, ‘as giustizia says above’.

Posted by thundering on 06/30/11 at 10:32 AM | #

I have had a look at groundreport where I’ve read comments about leaked information from the report and they date back as much as a week at least.


Posted by Nell on 06/30/11 at 10:51 AM | #

@ Nell: Suspicious play?

Posted by thundering on 06/30/11 at 11:06 AM | #

the particular two pieces that are cited as being less than credible - the bra clasp and the knife are of obvious importance however, i am left wondering if all the harping done on these two pieces in the american press is due the the Knox PR machine harping on these because they knew they could muddy the waters….now, if they could only explain the mixed blood evidence and various other instances in the bathroom.

Posted by mojo on 06/30/11 at 11:28 AM | #


There are two possibilities in my opinion. One is the lawyers have the report in their possession since some time and the Knox/Mellas family, instead of waiting until the report was deposited in court, leaked details already on the internet, because they believe the result is positive for Amanda Knox and couldn’t hold back.

The other possibility is that they got what they paid for.

Posted by Nell on 06/30/11 at 12:20 PM | #

Hi, Nell.  Yes, I concur with your opinions.

Posted by thundering on 06/30/11 at 12:46 PM | #

These are all of our postings on the subject of all of the DNA.

For a correct perspective the Machine’s post of December 20, 2010 is an especially important read.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/30/11 at 02:59 PM | #

Were it even remotely true that “they got what they paid for,” that’s actionable.  And if even the Knox group “[had had] the results since some time,” a premature publicity release is impertinent.

And yes, Peter, your underlining of the Machine’s post is important. So too the Machine’s first post on the 140 page review below.

The menstrual theory cited to account for Amanda’s blood being mixed with Meredith’s is an absurdity. A flow heavy enough to be dripping (!), no pad, no underpants…? In a bathroom clean of blood the day before.  As for a pierced earlobe explaining the mix… No thank you.

Amanda could easily have swallowed blood in the mouth. So for me the nosebleed hypothesis is far the best & given the extent of the violence (forensic report) easily credible.

The astonishing fact, the ineffaceable detail, is that Amanda’s blood is present AT ALL. And mixed.

I am confident in my belief (no prior proof) that the knife as murder weapon will not be dismissed. No Sollecito’s abundant DNA

Posted by Ernest Werner on 06/30/11 at 04:54 PM | #

PS Twice this morning I must have pressed the wrong key. First time an offered post nearly complete disappeared entirely to be replaced by a strange new screen.  Heaven only knows into what cloud it disappeared to.  And above—unedited & unreviewed. And unfinished!

My belief is that the murder weapon & the bra clasp will be retained as evidence but, certainly, evidence concerning which the question of an undisputed reliability has been raised.

Trouble with the recent (two) experts’ view, now in contradiction to earlier experts (!) is that the question raised is all out of context & association with the total (blood & DNA) scene, everything from Amanda’s mixture & Raffaele’s bloody footprint, wider & not as long as Rudy Guede’s foot.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 06/30/11 at 05:01 PM | #

PPS In for a penny, in for a pound.

Impertinent, why?  Because an early release, prior to the court report, gives opportunity for a publicity (passed off as news—both in England & America) which reports the questioning of evidence without, as would happen in court, a counter-reply, a questioning of the questioning.

So the news is all one-sided. A kind of Immaculate Misconception.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 06/30/11 at 05:20 PM | #

Re:Ernest Werner on 06/30/11 at 09:54 AM

“The astonishing fact, the ineffaceable detail, is that Amanda’s blood is present AT ALL. And mixed”.

I agree, Ernest.

Not only is it acknowledged that Knox’s blood is present on the knife, what if the only DNA on the knife attributable to anyone-at-all is Knox’s DNA?

At least, that would be evidence that it was Knox who cleaned the knife so well; why was no DNA attributable to anyone else “reliably” recovered?

It might clarify matters if proper procedures on the knife’s blade-handle/joint were now to be implemented.

Beyond that, the Court will have to rely on the large amount of circumstantial evidence – which may include this evidence, especially if the only DNA on the knife attributable to anyone-at-all is Knox’s DNA?

It would be ironic if the defense prevailed because of the effectiveness of purposeful measures to eliminate DNA evidence.

Then it could be called:

“Prevailing by a Preponderance of Evidence-Destroyed.”!?

Posted by Cardiol MD on 06/30/11 at 05:47 PM | #


Only Meredith’s body is direct evidence of her murder.

Until AK or RS admit to SEEING the OTHER stab Meredith, ALL the other evidence is circumstantial.

I should have written “...the Court will have to rely on the large amount of OTHER circumstantial evidence.”

Posted by Cardiol MD on 06/30/11 at 11:22 PM | #

Thank you Peter for this report. Through your recent turmoil you should know that you are very much admired and appreciated. Thank you sir.

Posted by friar fudd on 07/01/11 at 12:24 AM | #

Hi Mojo,

The “low copy” DNA defense argument appears to be an American import by the Friends of Amanda Knox campaigners to Italy a la O.J. Simpson-get-me-off-these-murder-charges.

One must not forget that when Raffaele Sollecito was confronted by the police with the discovery of Meredith Kercher’s DNA on the blade of the kitchen knife that belonged to him, he attempted to explain it away by falsely saying that he had accidentally pricked Meredith while they were cooking together at his house.

Sollecito never rebutted the police by simply telling them that Meredith’s DNA could not have been on his knife.

With respect to Sollecito’s DNA that was discovered on Meredith Kercher’s bra clasp, Mignini said that Sollecito’s presence had no business whatsoever being discovered in Meredith Kercher’s bedroom.

Posted by True North on 07/01/11 at 01:00 AM | #

I second True North on the ‘cooking fish together’ comment. An absurd “fact” to volunteer, if you are, in fact, innocent of involvement. The knife that never left your flat naturally has upon it the blood of a recent stabbing victim who never set foot in your flat. Wish someone had pushed for further clarification on this point!

At the least he could have corrected the gaffe by saying he meant cooking together at the cottage. And then the further stress on the fact that he immediately followed this accidental pricking with an apology to Meredith, so all was forgiven. Surely there was something fishy about the knife, or SOME knife belonging to RS and possibly being found in an incriminating condition.

I just finished my copy of Will Savive’s book, and I had similar questions about things that might have turned up in Sollecito’s flat, had the investigator’s had a chance to search it sooner. Did he wipe his own hard drive? Did his cleaner destroy evidence on her final visit?

Posted by mimi on 07/01/11 at 04:39 AM | #

Despite all reports, I cannot see how these reports can be classed as a victory. I have not yet read the actual reports, but the key words are all over the internet and not even these seem definitive.

1- contamination cannot be ruled out. Can it ever?

This IMO is the two reviewers being extremely cautious. Also as many here have pointed out the burden of proof is on the defence, so they still have not proven contamination.

2- they criticise LCN testing. This is old news.

Am I the only one that is baffled by the weight FOA are giving to this review?

Also - my observation - RS and AK had massive smiles on their face last time in court. They looked like they had very good news and considering Rudy was going to testify, I don’t see a reason for their relaxed and happy look before the trial began….

Posted by Giselle on 07/01/11 at 10:19 AM | #


Your observation is bang on.

The mother talked to the BBC at the end of the day, and made ref to the review, at which point i turned to my wife and said “She Knows and i think it is good news for her”.

Posted by JHEA on 07/01/11 at 12:09 PM | #

Hi, this is my first post so I apologise if this has been already covered and I have missed it somewhere amongst the mountain of information.

Why do they just not break the knife open to see if anything has seeped into the handle, and test that? This seems a logical next step procedure to me, given all the controversy surrounding the LCN. Would this not help to clear any uncertainty?


Posted by distemper on 07/01/11 at 07:36 PM | #

Hello distemper

Apparently they did break it upon and found nothing; or rather some small traces of starch.  Not surprising though considering was most likely heat sealed handle.

Posted by Lola on 07/01/11 at 08:34 PM | #

The most interesting elements of this leaked report are
1) the timing.
Presumably some form has been in-hand for the defense for a while, but strangely it is only released now, just in time to blunt the force of RG’s testimony - allowing the US press to go on about this “news” and forget about all that inconvenient testimony…
2) the framing.
The report is being leaked entirely encased in defense spin, the proper weight to give to the findings, and indeed the findings themselves, will live in the public eye, in the US at least, always in the interpretation given here.
The court will, of course, read the whole thing and weigh it appropriately, but these pre-chosen news bites are what will live in the public mind.

It doesn’t sound to me, from the bits I’ve read, as if there is anything startling or new in the report.
Debatable points remain debatable, and on the same terms.

Besides, the knife and bra have always only been two small elements in an overwhelmingly damning pile of evidence.
The family, and the defense, have long sought to create a strawman argument in which these two elements are the foundation of the case against the murderers, and therefore the whole issue of guilt or innocence rests on them alone.
Ain’t so.

This tactic doesn’t fly in court, but it does work in the PR realm.
And possibly in the rather odd minds of AK’s support group, who seem to believe their own spin.

Posted by lauowolf on 07/01/11 at 08:51 PM | #

To all.

In Italy the defense is just opening fire from Silvio’s (& Rocco’s) media

Posted by ncountryside on 07/01/11 at 11:27 PM | #


I agree with all your points and I would like to add that what most astounds me from what has emerged from the report (I’ve only read the bits and pieces that have been translated on forums so far) of the independent experts, is how they seem to disqualify Dr. Stefanoni’s and the forensic police’s methods in general.

I believe that could be a major problem, if they cast doubt about the methods how the evidence has been collected, stored and processed, which in turn would raise doubt about the reliability of all the physical evidence, not only the bra clasp and the double DNA knife.

This development to me is surprising and I admit, a bit suspicious, given the fact that other highly regarded DNA experts confirmed Dr. Stefanoni’s findings and considering that both families of the convicted have tried to interfere with the legal proceedings, sometimes even resorting to illegal methods.

The Sollecito family stands trial for leaking a crime scene video and for trying to use their powerful contacts to “make the water run uphill”. The latest episode included 5 prison witnesses testifying in court, telling contradicting stories and another two inmates testifying for the prosecution acknowledging that there was talk among the prisoners that lawyers from Raffaele Sollecito had made contact, offering money and a possible reduction in sentence in exchange for their testimony in court. Now ask me who do I think has been offered money, the defense or the prosecution witnesses? After all that has emerged, it is not a far stretch to assume that the families of both convicted murderers are doing their best to spring them, guilty or not, they don’t care.

I would like to know when the defense was handed over the report? There is no doubt in my mind that the details from the report were leaked from the Knox/Mellas camp, given that the user who published the leaks on Ground Report is an Amanda Knox supporter.

Posted by Nell on 07/02/11 at 05:03 AM | #

I believe that with the criticisms in general of a) the way the DNA evidence was collected and b) the procedures undertaken by Stefanoni when analysing the DNA the convictions are undermined.  So, black whitewashed white in some measure.  We can only wait and see how the debates turn out 25 July onwards.  That justice prevail above all else.

Posted by thundering on 07/02/11 at 08:29 AM | #

Hi thundering. Let Stefanoni and the others give their responses on 25 July before deciding what evidence is undermined? The 2009 jurors did not weight highly the knife evidence or even the bra clasp evidence in what helped them decide.

What they did weight highly was the mixed blood evidence and the footprint evidence, neither of which have been shaken - or even explained. The defenses have always kept well away from them.

They may now ask for retests of those too, but I’d certainly not bet on it.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/02/11 at 01:38 PM | #

Yes, I look forward to their responses.  It will probably be a heated debate and I hope justice will prevail above all else.  The PR campaign, the absolute and persistent determination of the family to get Amanda home and the reported leniency of the justice system give rise to some uncertainty!

Posted by thundering on 07/03/11 at 02:52 PM | #
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