Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Limited Review Of The DNA Tests Agreed To By Judge Hellmann Are Now Underway In Rome

Posted by The Machine

[Amended by the Machine after his posted comment.]

Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti of La Sapienza University in Rome (above) have begun the review of the DNA on the large double-DNA knife and the bra clasp under the eyes of expert witnesses.

Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni and Professor Giuseppe Novelli will be testifying on behalf of the prosecution. 

Professor Novelli has an impressive CV. He is a highly regarded professor of biomedicine at Tor Vergata in Rome and director of the Centre of Excellence for Genomic Risk Assessment in Multifactorial and Complex Diseases.  Professor Novelli is regarded as the “father of police forensics” in Italy.

If there had been any doubts about the validity of the DNA evidence against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, he wouldn’t have agreed to testify for the prosecution.

A number of independent experts have already confirmed the validity of the DNA evidence at various court hearings.

There was an independent review of the forensic evidence in 2008. Dr. Renato Biondo, the head of the DNA unit of the scientific police, reviewed Dr. Stefanoni’s investigation and the forensic findings. He testified at Rudy Guede’s fast track trial in October 2008 and confirmed that all the forensic findings were accurate and reliable.

He also praised the work of Dr. Stefanoni and her team. “We are confirming the reliability of the information collected from the scene of the crime and at the same time, the professionalism and excellence of our work.”

Alberto Intini, the head of the Italian police forensic science unit, testified for the prosecution at the trial last year. He maintained that the crime scene had not been contaminated. He pointed out that unless contamination has been proved, it does not exist.

He also stated that the results of the tests showed that the investigation had been carried out correctly because there was not even one trace of any of the forensic technicians.

The Kercher family hired their own DNA expert, Professor Francesca Torricelli, and asked her to examine the DNA evidence.

Professor Torricelli is the Director of a genetic facility at Careggi University Hospital and has been working in genetics since 1976. She testified at Knox’s and Sollecito’s trial last year and she also confirmed Dr. Stefanoni’s findings.

She told the court that the significant amount of Sollecito’s DNA on Meredith’s bra clasp meant that it was unlikely that it was left by contamination. She also agreed with Dr. Stefanoni that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade of the double DNA knife.

Distinguished DNA expert and former Caribinieri General Luciano Garofano analysed the DNA and forensic evidence for the early 2010 book “Darkness Descending”.

He has more than 32 years of forensics experience and is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He is considered by many as Italy’s top forensics expert. In his section of the book, he explains at length why he too thinks that Knox and Sollecito are guilty of Meredith’s murder.

Although General Garofano agrees with Dr. Renato Biondo and Alberto Intini that the scientific police did a good job, he thinks the police should have separated the plastic handle from the knife and checked for blood there because it often gathers in the grooves and recesses under the blade.

Stefano Conti has asked Judge Hellman for permission to take apart the handle of the knife.

The conclusions of the DNA retesting must be filed with Judge Hellman’s court no later than May 9 and they will be discussed at the appeal hearing on May 21.

Retesting of the DNA was always a high-stakes gamble for the defense teams and could prove to be game-over for Knox’s and Sollecito’s appeal in a single stroke.

On the other hand, the prosecution has little to worry about either way, as the balance of the evidence is so massive.

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Very glad to have this news & with your machine-like capabilities & precisions, Machine, also the names & detail.

Since Dr. Stefanoni was (if I recall) the original examiner, she won’t overlook any mere haste or carelessness. And I am very glad for “the eyes of about a dozen witnesses.”

Had been uneasy about the time lapse (decay) &, as Stefanoni herself reported, the minute quantity obtainable—which she thought would make retesting difficult.

You are surely right, that the balance of evidence is massive. I have come to believe (gradually) that Amanda Knox has no hope even for a reduction in her sentence, as matters now stand. (Were she to confess & save the courts time, labor & money, that might change.)

But why do you suppose that Novelli “must have reviewed” the evidence simply because he agrees to testify?

Posted by Ernest Werner on 03/22/11 at 05:38 PM | #

Thank you for this information Machine! It makes me feel confident that justice will be carried out with so many eyes watching, including the original examiner, Stefanoni, as well as Biondo, and Garofano. The Italians can certainly be trusted to leave no stone unturned in their search for the truth, contrary to what some would have you believe.

A few questions:

1. Do you know who will be observing for the defence?

2. Will their be a judgement on May 21st or will that come later?

Posted by bedelia on 03/22/11 at 06:24 PM | #

Novelli is a fresh pair of eyes for the prosecution. I think the Machine means that the prosecution would not have requested his attendance but for his CV and because he has reviewed the DNA evidence and has no problems with it. The same can be said of Garofano.

I think that RK and RS may have their original experts plus one additional, and in the case of AK the one additional will be from the States.

12 or 14, this is a heck of a lot of high calibre experts to have in one place!

Posted by James Raper on 03/22/11 at 09:06 PM | #

There’s been a bit of a misunderstanding between Pete and myself. The current piece contains some errors. The full piece about the DNA review will be posted shortly.

Posted by The Machine on 03/22/11 at 09:17 PM | #

The Machine’s expanded version of the post is now up.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/22/11 at 09:49 PM | #

From original Knife-DNA-Re-Test Discussion:

“The DNA experts have asked to break open the handle of the knife they are asked to retest. If Meredith’s blood is found to have seeped into the handle, by itself that will be case closed and verdict confirmed. Decision on hold.”

Do these pending tests include the above search for blood that may have seeped into the handle?

Posted by Cardiol MD on 03/22/11 at 10:29 PM | #

Hi Cardiol, good question. No the handle is till off-limits for the moment.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/22/11 at 10:45 PM | #

My take on this issue:

Although the Knox/Mellas families regarded the decision to re-examine the double DNA knife as a great victory, I said at the time it is actually a perfect case of “be careful what you wish for” here.

It has to be noted that the prosecution strongly opposed the decision to re-examine.

The FOA were positively salivating at the prosecutions stance - as they saw it as a case of the prosecution being scared of being exposed - as nothing will be found on the knife, when in actual fact the prosecutions stance was that they believed it not necessary as several experts had already testified and such a decision would undermine their expertise and the precedent that such a decision would set.

Posted by Black Dog on 03/22/11 at 11:13 PM | #

Hi Machine,

Thank you for your excellent trial update.

Italian legal experts who have been following this case have said that what will matter more to this jury, is not the strength of the evidence but the consistency of the story.

On both these fronts the defenses have failed miserably.

Meanwhile, as Italian justice rolls steadily along for Meredith Kercher back in Amanda Knox’s hometown of Seattle, her parents, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas go bowling!

Posted by True North on 03/22/11 at 11:25 PM | #

I must observe that, bowling benefits aside, the Knox case seems to be drawing little public attention here in Seattle.

The PR blurbs primarily get press in the Seattle PI, which is no longer published in a print edition. The surviving daily, the Seattle Times, rarely carries a story apart from something from the wire services.

Similarly, TV coverage is episodic, although it appears that PR mavens Marriot, et. al., have KING TV locked up for press releases.

This is a case I do not hear discussed locally, and I think the general sentiment is “blah”.  Seems all the $$$ for PR may have been money down a rat hole for the Knox\Mellas clan.

Posted by Ballard Guy on 03/23/11 at 03:36 AM | #

Hi Ballard Guy. Thanks a lot. News from Seattle is always interesting and welcome.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/23/11 at 04:30 AM | #

The review will continue over the next two days and it seems that they have usable samples of DNA that came originally from the knife.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/23/11 at 04:31 AM | #

I have talked to many people as well, and most people either heard of her and have no opinion, or didnt hear anything about it. Then again, I live 4 hours from Seattle.

I’ve debated this case with lots of FOA, and what is interesting to me is that they rely on Fisher and Moore’s words instead of people who were actually at the crime scene, like the jury.

Posted by Barry on 03/23/11 at 07:29 AM | #


As always, I am thankful for your site and for all the accurate and up to date information here.

I was wondering what you mean by “it seems that they got a useable sample of DNA from the knife.”?
Do you mean that they have actually found DNA?


Posted by Giselle on 03/23/11 at 12:07 PM | #

Your site too Giselle! And thank you. We will have another post up today on the DNA and probably another tomorrow as well. I amended my one-line comment above yours to reflect what we seem to know.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/23/11 at 03:07 PM | #

Thanks Machine for a thorough report…
It’s great to have this information set out so clearly.

Posted by lilly on 03/23/11 at 03:14 PM | #

Thanks very much Peter!

Posted by Giselle on 03/23/11 at 07:05 PM | #

Giselle has a website about this issue as well? Please send me the link, I would like to read it.

Posted by Barry on 03/24/11 at 12:30 AM | #


I believe Peter meant that TMJK is not just his website, but it belongs to all of us who post here. You, Giselle, Pete and everyone else.
We are all here for Meredith.

Posted by cath on 03/24/11 at 01:09 AM | #

Would like your thoughts on this article by Nick Pisa on the DNA tests.. 

Posted by Barry on 03/25/11 at 12:15 AM | #

Hi Barry. The review only concluded today and there’ll be a post on this tomorrow. I do think his “given new hope” is a stretch. If the experts come back and say the tests were done just fine - and there is every sign that they were - the defense loses on this sub-component of the DNA front.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/25/11 at 12:23 AM | #

Thanks to The Machine for the very informative post on the limited DNA review.  It was useful to know something about the credentials of the forensic scientists who are now or have been involved in analyzing the DNA evidence.  It was clear from the period of the trial that Dr. Stefanoni is very highly respected in her field.  The Machine’s post makes it clear in addition that Professor Novelli, Dr. Biondi, and Professor Torricelli have outstanding credentials. 

By contrast, the Lifetime documentary states very little about the scientist who presents a challenge to the DNA evidence of the knife found in Sollecito’s apartment.  Elizabeth Johnson is introduced as an “expert,” but no specific information is given about her other than that she has a Ph.D.

Posted by Tullia on 03/25/11 at 12:36 AM | #

Hi Barry,

Dr. Stefanoni said there was only enough DNA on the blade of the knife for one test. This has now been confirmed by Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti. As I pointed out yesterday, Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti will now have to look at the same data as Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli, Luciano Garofano and Professor Giuseppe Novelli.

Nick Pisa doesn’t seem to realise that the DNA isn’t put back where it was found after it has been collected and tested. At least he acknowledged that the court appointed experts will now have to examine the data from the original tests:

“Both professors will now cast their opinion on original tests carried out by police scientists on both items to see if they were properly carried out.”

Posted by The Machine on 03/25/11 at 01:43 AM | #

Hi I am new to all of this, but like most people on this site i believe they are 100% guilty.

My question is where is the above info coming from? I thought this would be confidential until they reported back to the Judge.

Posted by JHEA on 03/28/11 at 08:36 PM | #


The information could be coming from a number of sources. Amanda Knox’s lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, and prosecutor Manuela Comodi both spoke to the media about the fact that the independent experts weren’t able to perform any DNA new tests on the knife and the bra clasp.

Posted by The Machine on 03/28/11 at 08:51 PM | #

JHEA, to add to what the Machine correctly said. You can be pretty sure that 100% of the leaks in this case for the past several years have been coming from the two defenses. They have often been open about it.

Prosecutor Mignini is famously close-mouthed. It is possible that the police or prosecution (more likely the police) leaked once or twice in the first several weeks of the case, but not even that was ever certain.

many leaks also seem to have come from Knox’s family - the Knox diary listing her recent sex partners came from them for sure, presumably in an attempt to make the HIV testing look bad.

The defenses leaked “evidence” all during their phase of the 2009 trial. Most feverishly about the big knife not matching any wounds on Meredith’s neck (actually it does) and images of Meredith’s neck from the autopsy even ended up on conspiracy theory websites.

Quite a torrent to say the least. Much of it inaccurate or incomplete.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/28/11 at 09:43 PM | #

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