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Series DNA and luminol

Monday, August 02, 2010

Why The Media Are Wrong To Rely On Amanda Knox’s Family For Impartial and Accurate Information

Posted by The Machine


1 False claim-making endemic in support of Knox

In many posts we have been addressing the myriad false claims of Knox & family that, lies that now number up in the hundreds.

And here are 150 questions for the two perpetrators posted by our great Powerpoint creator, Kermit, just prior to their conviction. If reporters had sought answers to all of those, they might have once and for all nailed down the truth from the two, and made clear what REALLY happened.

Edda Mellas is already charged along with Curt Knox with making things up, in that pending case about slandering Amanda Knox’s interrogators. And as Finn MacCool seems to have got all the facts right in this post on Amanda Knox’s calls with Edda Mellas, it seems surprising that she is not also charged with perjury.

It’s a great pity that not more media people have put aside their emotions, and actually analyzed the numerous wild claims that come pouring out of Edda Mellas. The fact that so many professional journalists have given her a free pass and never challenged, cross-checked, or probed her claims is especially shameful.

Why has Edda Mellas been able to make so many false claims in the media without being challenged? 

One primary reason according to the Daily Beast is because journalists are required to give certain guarantees about positive coverage in order to gain any access to Amanda Knox’s family: “Of the handful of American journalists in Perugia in late 2007 and early 2008, none got access to the Knox family without certain guarantees about positive coverage.”

And another reason why Edda Mellas has been able to get away with repeatedly propagating the same core false claims is that the journalists in the US who have interviewed Edda Mellas are almost completely ignorant of the basic facts of the case. They haven’t bothered to find out enough about the case to be in a position to challenge what she says.

In fact any journalist - in fact, anyone interested in the case - can check the veracity of her claims against the official court documents, including the Micheli Sentencing Report of January 2009 (summarised on TJMK in English) and the Massei Sentencing Report of March 2010 (very soon available on PMF and TJMK in English).

And they can check the claims against the objective reporting of the various respected Rome-based journalists who speak fluent Italian and who actually attended the trial - the only Rome-based English-language reporter who has ever filed biased reports was Peter Popham, who seemed reflexively anti-Italy, and who was withdrawn two years ago.

2. Numerous False Knox-Family Claims

This analysis focuses on the claims that Edda Mellas has made in interviews with Larry King on CNN, Chris Wragge on CBS, Linda Byron on King 5, and The Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone. There are other videos and text interviews that we could have drawn examples from.

We start with Edda Mellas on CNN’s Larry King Live.

Edda Mellas and Curt Knox appeared on Larry King Live shortly after the verdict last December. You can see them in the videos above and below. The timing here corresponds to the time counter at bottom-left of the video.


False claim 1 “The prosecution had changed the motive four times during the trial. and at the end they finally had to say we don’t have a motive but it doesn’t matter.” (minute 4.22 above)

Barbie Nadeau pointed out that the prosecutors had changed their theory, but only rather slightly:

“The prosecution lawyers began their case in January 2009 by arguing that Kercher was killed during a sex game gone awry. When it came time for closing arguments, they had changed the theory slightly, trying to make the case that Knox resented her prissy British roommate and killed her in hatred” A sex attack was still involved.

Prosecutor Mignini also suggested that a hards drug like cocaine might have been involved, and certainly never said that they didn’t have a motive. Co-Prosecutor Manuela Comodi said that she didn’t know precisely what the motive was, but certainly never claimed that there was none.


False claim 2:  “He (Rudy Guede) all of a sudden had money that he didn’t have earlier in the day” (minute 3.22 above)

Edda Mellas is plucking “facts” out thin air with this claim. No evidence was presented at any court hearing that showed that Rudy Guede suddenly had money that he didn’t have earlier in the day on 1 November 2007.


False claim 3:  “There is no murder weapon.” (minute 4.32 above)

Judge Massei indicates in the sentencing report that Amanda Knox’s judges concluded that the double DNA knife, the larger of the two indicated by Meredith’s autopsy, is indeed the murder weapon.

It is totally compatible with the deep puncture wound in Meredith’s neck, and according to a number of independent forensic experts, it contained Meredith’s DNA on the blade..

 


False claim 4:  “The Italian Supreme Court found the interrogation illegal” (minute 7.54 above)

Though this claim has been repeated in different ways, the Italian Supreme Court has NEVER ruled that Amanda Knox’s interrogation either as a witness or a suspect was illegal. In the suspect interview, she had both a lawyer and interpreter present.


False claim 5:  “They admit to the fact they really have no physical evidence” (minute 7.54 above)

As it took the prosecutors four or five months to present it, they have never admitted that they have no physical evidence. The stop-start-stop nature of the defense phase of the trial showed how very telling the evidence was.


False claim 6:  “They believe Meredith was killed at about 9.30pm” on Larry King Live (minute 0.54 here)

The prosecutors didn’t claim this at the trial. According to Mignini’s timeline, which he used when presenting his scenario for what happened to the judges and jury at trial, Meredith was killed at about 11.50pm.


False claim 7:  Amanda Knox didn’t know Rudy Guede (minute 1.02 here)

Unbelievably, Edda Mellas claimed that Amanda Knox didn’t know Rudy Guede despite the fact that Amanda Knox testified IN COURT that she had met Rudy Guede on several occasions.

Here’s the actual court transcript:

Carlo Pacelli (CP), Patrick Lumumba’s lawyer: In what circumstances did you meet him (Rudy)?

Amanda Knox (AK): I was in the center, near the church. It was during an evening when I met the guys that lived underneath in the apartment underneath us, and while I was mingling with them, they introduced me to Rudy.

CP: So it was on the occasion of a party at the house of the neighbors downstairs?

AK: Yes. What we did is, they introduced me to him downtown just to say “This is Rudy, this is Amanda”, and then I spent most of my time with Meredith, but we all went back to the house together.

CP: Did you also know him, or at least see him, in the pub “Le Chic”, Rudy?

AK: I think I saw him there once.

CP: Listen, this party at the neighbors, it took place in the second half of October? What period, end of October? 2007?

AK: I think it was more in the middle of October.


False claim 8:  Rudy Guede’s DNA was in Meredith’s purse (minute 3.16 here

Edda Mellas’s claim that Rudy Guede’s DNA was in Meredith’s purse is completely untrue. According to the Micheli report, which was made available to the public in January 2008, Guede’s DNA was found on the zip of Meredith’s purse and not inside it.


False claim 9:  “Even the Italian Supreme Court ruled that her rights were repeatedly violated.” (minute 5:32 above

The Italian Supreme Court has NEVER ruled that Amanda Knox’s rights were repeatedly violated. Not even her own lawyers claimed that, and no complaint was ever lodged.

The first of Knox’s two written statements couldn’t be used against her simply because she wasn’t represented by a lawyer when she made it - and she volunteered that statement, in a seeming state of panic, when she was told Sollecito was no longer supporting her alibi..

We continue next with Edda Mellas making claims in an interview for the CBS Early Show.

Whilen Edda Mellas was in Perugia, she was interviewed by CBS’s Chris Wragge. (Embedding of this CBS video YouTube on sites like TJMK is disabled, which suggests that CBS might be worried that the claims made were wrong and they should have been challenged on-air.) 


False claim 10:  The double DNA knife is incompatible with the wounds on Meredith’s body. (minute 0.16 above)

In the interview Edda Mellas made the following claim: “The knife they think is the murder weapon is way too big and demonstrated how it had to have been a much smaller knife that caused all the wounds.”

Edda Mellas’s claim above is simply not true.

Barbie Nadeau reported directly from the courtroom in Perugia that multiple witnesses for the defence, including Dr. Carlo Torre, conceded that the double DNA knife was compatible with the deep puncture wound in Meredith’s neck.

“According to multiple witnesses for the defense, the knife is compatible with at least one of the three wounds on Kercher’s neck, but it was likely too large for the other two.” (Barbie Nadeau, Newsweek).

“He (Dr. Carlo Torre) conceded that a third larger wound could have been made with the knife, but said it was more likely it was made by twisting a smaller knife.” (Barbie Nadeau, The Daily Beast).

Judge Massei categorically states in the judges’ sentencing report that the double DNA knife was compatible with the large wound on Meredith’s neck.


False claim 11:  Meredith’s room was so tiny, there wasn’t enough room for four people in some kind of tussle. (minute 0.27 above)

In the same interview with Chris Wragge, Edda Mellas asserts that there couldn’t have been an attack on Meredith involving three assailants.

“The space available this crime happened is so tiny you can’t have had four people in that room in some kind of tussle.”

The Violent Crimes Unit itself used detailed images at the trial to show that there was more than enough room for an attack involving three attackers.


False claim 12:  There is no evidence of Amanda Knox at the actual crime scene. (minute 2.06 above)

“Its the fact at the actual crime scene there is no physical evidence of Amanda; not a hair, not a fingerprint, not a nothing.”

The crime scene involves the whole cottage and it isn’t limited to Meredith’s room. Knox and Sollecito were both CONVICTED of staging the break-in and tampering with the crime scene.

Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence actually placing Amanda Knox in Meredith’s room on the night of the murder: the double DNA knife, and the blood she tracked into the bathroom, the hallway, Filomena’s room, and her own room.

According to two imprint experts, there was a woman’s bloody shoeprint on the pillow under Meredith’s body which matched Knox’s foot size.

Even Sollecito’s forensic consultant, Professor Vinci, claimed that he had found Amanda Knox’s DNA on Meredith’s bra.


False claim 13:  “The DNA is so insignificant. It’s this tiny spot. It’s not blood.” (minute 2.16 above)

Three independent DNA experts -  Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, Dr. Renato Biondo, and Professor Francesca Torricelli - confirmed that Meredith’s DNA was definitely on the blade of the double DNA.

The DNA charts themselves show a clear and unmistakable match. Edda Mellas doesn’t seem to understand that DNA evidence almost always involves only microscopic traces of DNA.

Dr. Stefanoni testified at the trial that the DNA on the blade could indeed have come from Meredith’s blood.

We continue next with Edda Mellas in an Interview with Linda Byron on Seattle TV station King 5.


False claim 14:  Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito maintained the same story (minute 3.17)

Edda Mellas claimed in this interview with Linda Byron that Amanda Knox had maintained the same story for over a year when she was asked whether her daughter had lied.

In another interview with Linda Byron in November 2009, Edda Mellas bizarrely claimed that Amanda Knox hadn’t changed her story. KING 5 Investigator Linda Byron asked her: “Did she change her story?”

Edda Mellas responded: “No, no. For this whole year they have maintained the story - what they did that night. They stayed at Raffaele’s, they made dinner, they watched a movie. That’s it, that’s the story.”

Edda Mellas’s statement that Amanda Knox didn’t change her story and that she and Sollecito maintained the same story is yet another incorrect and misleading claim.

Knox and Sollecito both gave three different alibis. The posts on their alibis are linked-to up at the top here. Knox gave at least three different times for when she and Sollecito had dinner on the night of the murder.

Knox gave different reasons for writing her handwritten confession, and she gave different accounts of seeing the blood in the bathroom which contradict each other.

And most devastating of all, Sollecito stopped providing Knox with an alibi on 5 November 2007.

Sollecito is STILL nearly three years later refusing to corroborate her alibi. He clearly hasn’t maintained that Knox was with him at his apartment - actually he claimed that she went out for four hours.


False claim 15 : Amanda Knox wasn’t provided with an interpreter (minute 2.37)

Edda Mellas made this false claim, which has been widely propagated by Knox groupies, in an interview with Linda Byron on King5.

It’s not difficult to prove that this claim is completely false. Knox’s interpreter on 5 November 2007, Anna Donninio, even testified at the trial. And Amanda Knox herself spoke about her interpreter when she gave testimony at the trial.

We continue next with the claims of Edda Mellas on ABC TV.


False claim 16:  “Amanda Knox is incredibly honest” (minute 11.25)

In an interview with ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas Edda Mellas claimed that her daughter is “incredibly honest”.

And Edda Mellas told The Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone that “Amanda doesn’t know how to lie.”

In fact, Amanda Knox’s mobile phone records, data recovered from Sollecito’s computer, and corroborative testimony of numerous witnesses, provide irrefutable proof that Amanda Knox has lied - again and again.

For example, her lies about him directly led to Diya Lumumba, an innocent man, spending two weeks in prison - even though as recorded in prison she told her mother Edda Mellas that her claims were not true. .


False claim 17 : Amanda Knox could have left Italy, but she chose to stay and help the police.

In an earlier interview with Larry King in October 2009, Edda Mellas told him that Amanda Knox could have left Italy, but she chose to stay and help the police:

“After the murder, Mellas said, friends and family told Knox to leave Italy—to either come home or stay with relatives in Germany—but Knox refused because she wanted to help find the killer and prove that she had nothing to do with it.”

“Many people asked her to leave, but she said no. ‘I’m going to stay. I’m going to try and help. I’m going to try and finish school,’ ” Mellas said.”

Edda Mellas’s claim is flatly contradicted by Amanda Knox herself, in the e-mail she wrote to her friends in Seattle on 4 November 2007:

“i then bought some underwear because as it turns out i wont be able to leave italy for a while as well as enter my house”

And along with one of Meredith’s friends who walked home with Meredith on the night, the police told Amanda Knox pretty promptly that as her status was (then) a primary witness, she was not to go anywhere.

The fact that Knox did stay was of little help to the investigation - in fact, she seemed to work hard to derail it - and one of her main concerns at the time, a pretty callous one, was whether she would be staying or moving out of the house and getting a rent refund.


False claim 18:  Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were not under the influence of drugs on the night of the murder (BBC Radio)

In an interview with BBC Radio after the verdict, Edda Mellas apparently stated that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were not under the influence of drugs on the night of the murder.

This is despite the fact that both Knox and Sollecito had both themselves actually claimed they had smoked cannabis. The prosecution believed they might have been on a hard drug like cocaine, which also seems the general belief around Perugia.


3. And Some Conclusions

The fact that Edda Mellas has been able to propagate so many wrong claims in the media for so long without being challenged seems to speaks volumes about the naivety and unprofessionalism of her interviewers, and of the media organisations they work for.

As they usually do,  ABC News, CBS News, CNN, King 5, and other media outlets should have interviewed objective crime-case professionals, who don’t have a vested interest in the case.

Instead they have relied again and again on Amanda Knox’s mother and other family members as primary sources.

Amanda Knox is not an innocent political prisoner who was railroaded in some Third World country for some very murky reason. She was unanimously convicted after a lengthy trial at which the evidence was absolutely overwhelming. 

As the Christian Longo and Scott Peterson cases that we posted on below go to prove, seemingly quite normal people commit horrific murders. Probably the vast majority of murders are committed by people who to many seemed normal.

It seems downright perverse that some of the journalists who have interviewed Edda Mellas treat Amanda Knox as a victim, and with cloying sympathy ask “How is Amanda doing?”  They wouldn’t dream of asking Charles Manson’s mum how the Manson girls are doing.

It is time for the sake of the truth, the legitimacy of the verdict, the relations between the US and Italy, and the peace of mind of Meredith’s family and friends, that from now on they hold Edda Mellas’s feet to the fire.. 


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Questions For Knox And Sollecito: Ten From Daily Beast As Knox Calunnia #2 Trial Starts

Posted by Peter Quennell





This Daily Beast report indicates that the cancelled jailhouse TV interview with Amanda Knox was a lot more firmed-up than Knox’s stepfather, Chris Mellas, seems to have claimed.

And it outlines the first phase of Knox’s Calunnia #2 trial which is based on charges brought by the interrogating police, all of whom testified at her trial that she was treated well during her interrogations as a witness and suspect. .

Click the image or link above above for the fine reporter Barbie Nadeau’s full article on some issues Knox has never been able to account for, including Knox’s callous skipping of Meredith’s memorial service.

The ten questions are all very tough, and each would also have been asked by the jury. Here they are:
.:

It’s back to court for Amanda Knox, the 22-year-old Seattle native currently serving 26 years in prison in Italy for sexually assaulting and murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher.

This week, Knox is expected to attend a preliminary hearing on slander charges lodged against her for accusing Perugia police of abuse. During her testimony at her murder trial last June, she accused the cops of slapping her on the back of the head during an interrogation just days after Kercher’s body was discovered in November 2007.

The police deny hitting her, and Knox’s own lawyers have never filed charges for the alleged abuse. If she is convicted of slander, a judge could add six years to her sentence….

Knox’s resurgence in the headlines was to coincide with a joint jailhouse interview she had granted to ABC News and the Italian broadcaster Mediaset’s Matrix program. But the bureau of prisons denied the interview in the final hour, effectively silencing Knox indefinitely.

A high-profile jailhouse interview with Knox is considered the Holy Grail by journalists covering the case, and the American and Italian networks have been vying for a chance to ask Knox a few questions on camera. Now it is unlikely anyone will get an interview before Knox’s appeal hearings this fall.

But if we did, there are a few questions we’d want her to put to rest.

1. Why did you and Raffaele Sollecito turn off your cell phones at the same time the night of November 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 November 2, 2007, but phone records show that you both turned your phones back on very early that morning. How could that be?

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?

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 November 5? 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?

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 miniscule 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 November 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 circumstances?

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. What is your real view?

10. Is there anything you wish you would have said in court during your trial? 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 December 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?

Our posting soon of the judges’ sentencing report will open up dozens of new questions for Knox. Such as: “How did you track Meredith’s blood into your own room and leave three traces revealed by luminol?”


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

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

Posted by pat az



[above: the Queens New York Supreme Court]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



 

Posted on 03/16/10 at 10:33 PM by pat azClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolThe wider contextsN America context
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wow! Perugia Shock’s “Frank Sfarzo” Claims Copyright Infringement In This Video

Posted by Peter Quennell



One week ago our poster Machine posted an excellent video by the talented video creator ViaDellaPergola on the strength of the evidence represented by the knife.

In a move perhaps unique in this whole case, where both right and wrong information has flowed freely (some of it perhaps too freely), “Frank Sfarzo” of Perugia Sock (real name Sforza) has now claimed a copyright infringement.  Click on the arrow above for the confirmation.

The YouTube management have removed the video unusually quickly - another first, in our experience, as such claims are usually argued back and forth in a process. 

“Frank Sfarzo” has repeatedly been thrown on the defensive in the past, both for seeking commercial gain from Meredith’s case, and for allowing many seemingly highly libelous comments by anonymous posters.

More to come as we check out the video, and see what the problem actually was.

By the way, in most legal systems copyright can only be claimed by real people with real names. We wonder what name YouTube knows the elusive “Frank” by - and why he has to use a false name.

Posted on 01/20/10 at 12:19 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolOther physicalFrancesco Sforza
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Trial: Further Expert Examinations Denied: The Report From Andrea Vogt

Posted by Peter Quennell


Excerpts from the report of Andrea Vogt (above) in the Seattle P-I.

An Italian jury rejected Amanda Knox’s multiple requests for an independent review of contested evidence Friday, bringing the end in sight to the Seattle student’s contentious murder trial….

Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito, asked the court to approve an independent review of several contested pieces of forensic evidence, most notably the kitchen knife with Knox’s DNA on the handle and what prosecutor’s argue is the Kercher’s on the blade, and a bra clasp with Sollecito’s DNA.

Knox’s lawyers also asked for a review of the luminol-enhanced footprints, the mark on the pillowcase that the prosecution argued was a woman’s shoeprint, but which the defense argues is simply a bloody crease, and several other traces of DNA found in the flat Knox and Kercher shared….

The Kercher family’s attorney, Francesco Maresca of Florence, argued, however, that the court already had plenty of material to review. “We all know that in all trials of this nature there are different analyses of forensic evidence made by the various expert witnesses,” he said. “The court must now consider the seriousness and integrity of the experts’ testimony.”

Prosecutor Manuela Comodi went a step farther, saying while she did not believe a review was necessary, she would she would “almost be pleased” to see the results with regard to the prosecution’s footprint expert analysis.

The eight-member jury, which includes two professional judges, flatly rejected all defense requests at 9:30 p.m. after deliberating just under two hours.

Immediately after the judge’s announcement, Sollecito bowed his head and briefly wept, as lawyers began haggling over court dates for closing arguments.

Knox glanced worriedly at her lawyers, who patted her on the back and insisted confidently after the hearing that the outcome was not unexpected, nor necessarily negative for their client…

“This doesn’t change anything,” said Knox’s Perugian attorney, Luciano Ghirga. “We wanted to clarify the evidence, but obviously the judge doesn’t feel he needs additional information. We are ready to argue.”

The judge was careful to note that the jury’s decision did not indicate a presumption of guilt and left open the possibility that the court could call for additional review of evidence after closing arguments and before a verdict.

Nonetheless many court observers expressed surprise at the fact that the jury chose to not review even a single element of the controversial forensic evidence. For Knox, however, the complete rejection of a third-party review could have a silver lining—effectively positioning her better for an eventual appeal.

Our legal watchers doubt the validity of that last remark - that somehow the judges and the jury have messed up here, and that this is a get-out-of-jail-free card for Knox’s and Sollecito’s appeals.

They note that Italy has a “smart jury” system which is encouraged to take a very broad birds-eye view of the case. The multi-alibis testimony and the mobile-phone testimony and the eye-witness testimony and the various mixed-blood traces and the various bloody footprints are considered almost impossible to account for if the defendants are in fact not guilty. The DNA on the knife and the bra-clasp are not make-or-break issues in this case and never were.

The sleeper in this trial of course as in the Rudy Guede trial is the huge and very detailed report that the judges must prepare and release within three months of their verdict. The astounding level of profesionalism of those reports - unique in the law world - leaves American lawyers in real awe.  In the case of Guede, the report by Judge Micheli was absolutely damning.

If the verdict here also is guilty, those unconvinced by that report will probably all fit neatly into one Volkswagen.

Posted on 10/10/09 at 11:52 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedThe defensesEvidence & witnessesDNA and luminolTrials 2008 & 2009
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Trial: Further Expert Examinations Denied - The Report From Nick Pisa

Posted by Peter Quennell


Excerpts from Nick Pisa’s report in the UK’s Daily Mail.

A judge last night rejected defence requests for an independent review of evidence in the Meredith Kercher murder case.

The decision means that a verdict in the trial will come by early December as an independent review could have taken up to a month delaying the decision….

Yesterday lawyers for Knox and Sollecito argued that the review should be held because of errors in the police investigation and the way evidence was collected.

Key to the case is a 30cm black handled kitchen knife on which DNA from Knox was found on the handle and that of Meredith on the blade.

Prosecutors say the knife, which was found in the kitchen of Sollecito’s flat, is compatible with the murder weapon - which has never been found.

Knox’s lawyer Carlo Della Vedova said that too many discrepancies had emerged in the examination of the knife by forensic scientists….

Sollecito’s lawyers had also asked for a review of a bloodied bra clasp found at the scene which had his DNA on it.

They pointed out that the clasp had been found during an initial police search in one point and then ‘lost’ for six weeks before being found else where in the room….

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini had argued that: ‘There is no need for a review as the evidence was gathered in a very professional way by qualified persons.’

In his ruling judge Massei said: ‘The court has heard from several consultants who have brought several elements and which rule out the need for any further proof.’...

As the judge read out his decision Knox, who earlier had been laughing and joking with guards, closed her eyes and looked upwards.

Sollecito rubbed his eyes and was in tears as the decision would seem to indicate the court has already made up its mind over their guilt.

Posted on 10/10/09 at 11:44 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedThe defensesEvidence & witnessesDNA and luminolTrials 2008 & 2009News media & moviesGreat reporting
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Trial: Defense Expert Tries To Claim Sollecito-Sized Footprint Is Guede’s

Posted by Peter Quennell

Click above for the Daily Express’s full report. The relevant section:

A bloody footprint found at the house where a British student was killed in Italy was wrongly attributed to one of the defendants in the case, a forensic expert has testified at the murder trial.

The footprint was found on a bathroom rug in the house in Perugia where Meredith Kercher was killed in November 2007.

Prosecutors have attributed it to Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian who is on trial on murder charges with Amanda Knox, his girlfriend at the time. Both defendants deny wrongdoing.

In his testimony, expert Francesco Vinci compared detailed pictures of the footprint on the rug with images of Sollecito’s feet, arguing that the sizes and shapes “absolutely don’t match”.

“Differences, one by one, can be seen,” said Vinci, who is a witness for Sollecito’s defence.

According to Vinci, the footprint is “compatible” with the foot of a third man, Rudy Hermann Guede, who was convicted in a separate trial last year and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

In effect then, the claim is that Guede was participating with bare feet in the cleanup of the crime scene some time after the death of Meredith - although precisely what he cleaned up is unclear, as strong evidence of his presence remains.

Like many of the defense’s attempts at rebuttals, this sounds to us like a tragedy that is now playing out as farce.

In one of his clinically precise powerpoints Kermit already refuted this claim

Posted on 09/18/09 at 11:06 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedEvidence & witnessesDNA and luminolOther witnessesRaff SollecitoSollecito team
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Trial: Judge Massei Rejects Feeble Defense Bid To Throw Out DNA Evidence

Posted by Peter Quennell


So the trial has resumed, amid conjecture that it might last for additional months if the DNA evidence is to be independently assessed.

That possibility seems to have disappeared in a hurry. Raffaele Sollecito’s lawyer Giulia Buongiorno (above) made a request that some of the DNA evidence be thrown out.

Judge Massei speedily and very firmly ruled against. He clearly appears to consider the evidence and the procedures that were followed to be sound.

First, the DNA analyses in question were performed in the presence of defense experts, who did not make any comment at the time. And second, no substantive DNA information was wrongly withheld from the defenses and so the defendants’ rights were not violated.

[Judge Massei] added that relevant documents had been made available a month-and-a-half ago, suggesting that defence teams had enough time to review the DNA findings.

Our takes on the DNA component of the case (which our legal watchers say is far from being make-or-break evidence in this case) can all be found here.

Posted on 09/14/09 at 11:02 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedThe defensesEvidence & witnessesDNA and luminolTrials 2008 & 2009
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Our Take On The Case For The Prosecution: #2 The Footprint Evidence

Posted by The Machine




1. Preamble

This series is a summary of the prosecution’s case in five parts, with a commentary on matters of key significance.

The material has been reordered so that evidence presented at several points in the trial can be described in one post here. Sources used are the many published reports and some transcripts made of the testimony. The first post, below, was on the formidable DNA evidence.

In this post we now elaborate the footprint evidence, some of which is easily visible and some of which is only apparent with the use of luminol.

We reported what happened in the court here and here.

Kermit in his Powerpoint series provided us with accurate prior analysis and post analysis of these flootprints and shoeprints, and Kermit also presented a Powerpoint map of the cottage.

2. About luminol

Luminol is a chemical that reacts with the microscopic particles of iron in the blood if a partial but incomplete attempt has been made to clean a bloodstain away.

The blood traces glow a bright blue quite fleetingly in the dark under luminol, just long enough to allow forensic investigators to measure and photograph it.

Luminol evidence can be among the most compelling. If bloodstains show up under luminol, but not to the naked eye, then it is almost a complete certainty that a crime-scene clean-up has been attempted.

Lorenzo Rinaldi is the director of the print-identity division of Italy’s scientific police, the Italian equivalent of Scotland Yard or the FBI. He testified that one visible and three luminol-revealed footprints and a visible shoeprint belonged to the present two defendants, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. (Another shoeprint belonged to Guede, convicted last October.)

3. Evidence Against Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox’s footprints were found set in Meredith’s blood in two places in the hallway of the new wing of Meredith’s house. . One print was exiting her own room, and one print was outside Meredith’s room, facing into the room. These bloody footprints were only revealed under luminol.

The fact that there was an absence of any visible bloody footprints from Meredith’s room where Meredith’s blood was to the visible bloody footprint on the blue bathmat in the bathroom that Meredith and Knox shared strongly indicates that some prints were successfully cleaned away altogether.

A woman’s bloody shoeprint which matched Amanda Knox’s foot size was found on a pillow under Meredith’s body. Barbie Nadeau noted the significance of this evidence on The Daily Beast website:

“When the judge asked Rinaldi the size of an unidentified bloody shoeprint found on the pillow below Kercher’s body, he responded, “Between 36 and 38.” The judge then asked Rinaldi what size shoe Knox wears. “The Skecher shoe we sequestered belonging to Amanda Knox corresponds with size 37.”

The significance of the woman’s bloody shoeprint in Meredith’s room is considerable. By itself it debunks the myth that some had propagated for a while, that Rudy Guede acted alone. The bloody shoeprint was incompatible with Meredith’s shoe size.

4. Raffaele Sollecito

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 PPT 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


Monday, July 20, 2009

Our Take On The Case For The Prosecution: #1 The DNA Evidence

Posted by The Machine



[Above: Prosecutor Manuela Comodi, click for larger image]

1. Preamble

Nearly 200 hours over 23 days.

That is how long the prosecution took to present its voluminous case against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, including time taken by the defense teams to conduct cross-examinations.

This series is a summary of the prosecution’s case in five parts, with a commentary on matters of key significance. The material has been reordered so that for example the DNA evidence presented at several points in the trial can all be described in one post here.

Sources used are the many published reports and some transcripts made of the testimony. All the main witnesses will be named in this series with a brief mention of who they are and their qualifications.

Two past posts that may aid in understanding the DNA testimony are Nicki’s post here and Fiori’s post here. All past DNA posts can be found in this area. 

2. The Large Double DNA Kitchen Knife

The double DNA knife is the knife that was sequestered from Sollecito’s apartment. Although there was an imprint of another knife at the scene, and one defense expert argued that there may have been yet another, it remains plausible that this is the weapon that was used to murder Meredith.

Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni was the leader of the forensic team from Rome that carried out all the forensic collections at Meredith’s house.  She testified unequivocally about the knife. A small sample of Meredith’s DNA was found to be in a groove on the blade, and Amanda Knox’s DNA was found to be on the handle.

Dr. Stefanoni noted that there were peculiar diagonal scrapes on the knife blade, which suggested that the knife had been vigorously cleaned.

Both Dr. Renato Biondo, the head of the DNA Unit of the scientific police, and the Kerchers’ own DNA expert, Professor Francesca Torricelli, provided independent confirmation that this forensic finding is accurate and reliable.

The defence teams’ forensic experts are not disputing that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade of the knife. Instead they are arguing that the knife was somehow contaminated for the DNA to actually be there.

Dr Stefanoni has firmly excluded this possibility of contamination in transit or in the laboratory. She testified that there hasn’t been a single instance of contamination in her laboratory for at least the last seven years, and every precaution was taken here to ensure that different traces were not mixed.

A police officer who led a search of Sollecito’s apartment added weight to the prosecution’s assertion that the double DNA knife had been cleaned with bleach. He testified that he had been struck by “the powerful smell of bleach”. 

When Raffaele Sollecito heard that the scientific police had found Meredith’s DNA on the double DNA knife in his apartment, he did not deny the possibility of the DNA being there.

Instead he made a claim about accidentally pricking Meredith’s hand whilst cooking at his apartment. “The fact that Meredith’s DNA is on my kitchen knife is because once, when we were all cooking together, I accidentally pricked her hand.’’

However Meredith had never been to Sollecito’s apartment and so it seems Sollecito could not have accidentally pricked her hand there whilst he was cooking. In attempting to explain the presence of Meredith’s DNA on the blade, he did so in a way easily disproved and seemed to further implicate Amanda Knox and himself.

3. Sollecito’s DNA On Meredith’s Bra Clasp

An abundant amount of Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA was found on Meredith’s bra clasp, and Dr. Stefanoni has excluded the possibility of any contamination.

This is the bra clasp that was collected some weeks after the first forensic collection and it was conceded that it should have been collected earlier. It was also argued that valid DNA evidence in other cases is often collected weeks or months or even years after the crime when a suspect object is unearthed.

Sollecito’s lawyer Ms Buongiorno is perhaps not surprisingly claiming that this bra clasp was also contaminated in the laboratory. The problem for them is to explain precisely where such an abundant amount of Sollecito’s DNA could have come from, and how it was so firmly imprinted.

The only other instance of Sollecito’s DNA at the cottage was found on a cigarette butt in the kitchen, seemingly an unlikely source at best.

It would seem unlikely that the judges and jury will conclude that the bra clasp was contaminated in a strictly controlled laboratory where Dr. Stefanoni follows rigorous laboratory procedures.  She is an internationally renowned and very experienced forensic expert and was part of a Disaster Investigations Team which identified disaster victims via their DNA.

Alberto Intini is the head of the Italian police forensic science unit. Andrea Vogt reported as follows in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Mr Intini’s testimony about the possibility or otherwise of contamination:

“Alberto Intini maintained that the crime scene had not been contaminated and pointed out that laboratory testing revealed none of the investigators’ prints or biological traces. Mr Intini said “In fact, it is the results that tell you if it was done correctly, and I can tell you that in this investigation there was not even one trace of any of our operators.”

He also pointed out that unless contamination has been proved, it does not exist. “It is possible in the abstract that there could have been contamination, but until this is proved, it does not exist.”

The prosecution demonstrated on the final full day of testimony that Meredith’s bra was actually removed with a knife some time after she had been killed.

Judge Paolo Micheli presided over the fast-track trial of Rudy Guede and committed Sollecito and Knox to trial. In looking at the identical evidence he asked “Who had a reason to come back, cut off Meredith’s bra, and move her body some time later?”

The present judges and jury might conclude differently, but Judge Micheli concluded that it would only have been done by someone who knew about Meredith’s death and had an interest in arranging the scene in Meredith’s room to point away from themselves. He discounted Rudy Guede, who apparently went home, cleaned himself up, and then was seen out on the town.

4. Knox Blood With Meredith’s

There were five instances of Amanda Knox’s blood or DNA mixed with Meredith’s blood in three different locations in the cottage in Via della Pergola: the bathroom, the hallway, and Filomena’s bedroom.

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.

Dr. Stefanoni testified that it would have been “strange” that three traces of blood with both Meredith’s and Amanda Knox’s DNA would have been left at different times.

Barbie Nadeau in Newsweek pointed out a reason why the blood stains must have been left on the night of the murder:

“Legal experts who follow this case have suggested that blood evidence cannot be dated and therefore could have been left weeks before the murder. But when Knox testified in her own defense in June, she conceded that there was no blood in the bathroom the day before the murder, effectively dating those blood stains to that night.”

Perhaps Knox had a bloody earring piercing, and maybe a drop landed on a drop of Meredith’s blood. But in three different places? Perhaps it is not surprising that the defence lawyers have not brought up the subject of the mixed DNA in the bathroom in their part of the trial.

Meredith’s blood was found on the top part of the light switch in the bathroom she shared with Amanda Knox. This suggests that it was deposited there when the light was switched on. Meredith’s blood was also found on the toilet lid. There were no DNA or other physical traces of Rudy Guede in that bathroom.

Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s DNA was also found mixed together in a bloody footprint in the hallway of the new wing of the house.

A mixture of Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s blood was also found in Filomena’s room. This seems to be compelling evidence because Knox had never claimed she entered Filomena’s room when she checked the cottage. This room was the scene of the alleged break-in, and there were glass fragments on the floor.

Meredith’s blood had been cleaned up in this room, but it was nevertheless revealed by luminol.

Barbie Nadeau concludes in a Daily Beast report that the mixture of Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s blood in Filomena’s room seems more incriminating than the double DNA knife:

“But perhaps more damning even than the knife was Stefanoni’s testimony that a mix of Knox’s DNA and Kercher’s blood was found on the floor in the bedroom of a third roommate, Filomena Romanelli.”


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Trial: ASCA Wraps Up For Final Day Before The Trial Breaks To 14 September

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for ASCA’s report in Italian. A quick translation of the main points:

Adriano Tagliabracci, a DNA consultant for the defense of Raffaele Sollecito, testified to the contamination and therefore the unreliability of one of the DNA finds that the prosecution considered particularly important.

According to the expert, the handling of the hook of Meredith’s bra where Sollecito’s DNA was claimed by prosecution experts to have been identified followed incorrect procedures, both in the collection and in the final analysis and interpretation. For this reason, the finding is not reliable.

The work of the forensic experts, moreover, in Tagliabracci’s opinion, was not in line with what is recommended by international bodies, starting with the long interval of time, 47 days, between the discovery of the bra hook on November 2, under the pillow which had supported the victim, and its collection for evidence on December 18 from under a mat.

In this period, three visits to the house were made by an unknown number of crime-scene processors who used many unspecified procedures which might have created a situation where the possibility of contamination was increased..

Given that the DNA of Sollecito was derived from epithelial cells, there is a firm possibility that, contrary to the claims by the police and Patrizia Stefanoni, the chief scientific expert for the prosecution, the DNA could have been placed on the bra hook during those visits.

The bra hook in question was made available in the courtroom today in a plastic evidence envelope.

An excellent prior analysis of this piece of evidence was posted by our DNA poster Nicki on 29 May here. Nicki, an expert in the field, was totally disbelieving that the DNA got on that hook by accident.

She concluded that Sollecito must have handled Meredith’s bra hook - and moreover, with a very firm grip. 

Posted on 07/18/09 at 12:17 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolTrials 2008 & 2009Raff Sollecito
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Saturday, July 11, 2009

It Is The Jury That Ultimately Matters: How They May Be Seeing The DNA Here

Posted by Fiori



Example of well-equipped Italian DNA lab


Ciao! Posting again from Florence.

Nicki and Kermit have already done amazing work here and here in explaining the hard facts of the DNA evidence.

This post is about perceptions and about what the judges and jury might - might - now be thinking, now that those facts are presented and some of them contested.

DNA evidence is notoriously hard to present and argue before a jury. It is not only in the trial against Amanda and Rafaelle that one finds problems, ambiguities and different interpretations of the validity and reliability of DNA, this is the same in many criminal trials.

Standardization of DNA testing procedures got an enormous boost by the unforeseen “accident” in the OJ Simpson’s trial, where the jury, according to all scientific authorities, failed to recognize the DNA evidence properly. Since than the overall public understanding of DNA has been increasing, and jurors and others agents have earned a familiarity with handling DNA in criminal trials. All this suggests that it is generally getting easier for jurors to understand when and how DNA is significant in a trial.

It is of great importance to underline that the jury is the crux of every case: No matter what Dr. Stefanoni knows and how she may have handled the DNA samples, it is the jury, this particular selection of individuals, which has to make sense of the testimonies, and form an understanding of what the DNA samples tells about the murder of Meredith and the possibly involvement of Amanda and Rafaelle (and Rudy). I emphasize this:

  • Jurors are not a scientific committee, and the way which a jury understands DNA differs considerably from a professional, scientific understanding of DNA

  • Jurors’ understanding of DNA is highly situational; i.e. it is heavily influenced by how, when and by whom DNA material is presented during the trial

  • Jurors build their comprehension from context, meaning that a jury does not base their understanding upon systematically selected information about DNA, but forms an opinion based upon an interrelation of scientifically based information and the circumstances of the present case

Findings from the US and UK system of justice

What characterizes jurors’ judgments of DNA material in criminal trials? It is usual to expect that the more scientifically complex a piece of evidence is, the more difficult is it for a jury to comprehend, but from studies in UK, US and Australia several other things are known:

  • Among jurors who were aware of DNA profiling evidence before their participation in the researched trials, expectations for the evidence in determining the guilt or innocence of an accused were high, and these expectations were largely confirmed by the jury members experiences of the trial itself.

  • Juror comprehension of DNA evidence is not solely dependent on the scientific complexity of the evidence. If the evidence is presented clearly in court, if the expert testimony is consistent, if the defences do not present contrary interpretations of the DNA evidence, and the case is otherwise circumstantial, then jurors seem to manage a fair understanding of the science and weight it significantly in case material.

  • The strength of the defence challenge may depend on the coherence and grounding of an alternative explanation or conclusion drawn from the DNA. Meaning: it is NOT generally so, that IF a piece of DNA evidence is NOT contradicted by the defence, then it is easier for a jury to comprehend DNA evidence. HOW a jury interprets DNA evidence depends upon the context of the PRESENTATION of the evidence.

Research into US trials reports that jurors mostly are much more skeptical toward DNA evidence than statistics gives reason for. The jurors often “incorrectly aggregate separately presented probabilities and afford probabilistic evidence less weight than would be expected [by experts]” and “their background beliefs about the possibility of laboratory errors and intentional tampering affects the weight participants afford a DNA match report.”

A juror’s interpretation of expert testimonies is highly influenced by the credibility they assign to the legal and scientific system; i.e. all the institutions involved in a trial: the police, the legal system, the forensic police, and scientific institutions in general.

The point made here is that jurors and legal systems have “historical memory” so the result of one trial influences the outcome of another:  Thus, it is possibly that the OJ Simpson case and the many faulty convictions based upon DNA ‘evidence’ has produced a overt negative attitude towards DNA in the US, which is not to be expected to be the same in Italy.

Another conclusion, also from research within the US: Cognitive errors favoring the defence were more prevalent than errors ones favoring the prosecution. This piece of research examines how jurors’ evaluates that part of the DNA testimony which involves probabilities and statistics. And as this touches upon core questions brought up in the case against Amanda and Rafaelle, I will quote in length from the paper.

    The paper, which studies the outcome of several (murder) trials - concludes that “some jurors showed susceptibility to classic (defence) fallacies in interpreting conditional probabilities, and the jurors as a group were not overwhelmed by testimony from a prosecution expert that ‘more than 99.98% of all Caucasians would be excluded’ by the DNA match.
    Most jurors accepted a defence criticism of this computation. Moreover, it appears that many jurors were inclined to agree with the defendant’s overstated argument that because dozens of men in the area might have DNA types consistent with those of the robber, the match with the defendant’s DNA was worthless. A smaller number seemed to commit what has been called the ‘prosecutor’s fallacy.’ These jurors did muddle up the proportion of the general population that would be excluded by a DNA test, and the probability that the defendant was the source of the crime-scene DNA.
    On balance, these findings do not indicate that jurors generally were unduly impressed by the prosecution’s DNA evidence. Consequently, our results challenge the legal argument that DNA evidence should be excluded because jurors are prone to overvalue such evidence.”

So, measured in relation to the expert testimony actually given in court, this research found that jurors made misunderstandings and misinterpretations biased BOTH ways. The research did not find jurors to be ‘unduly impressed’ by prosecutions experts testimony, but instead being ‘susceptible’ in favour of the defence. 

But other research indicates that some jurors are being too impressed by the DNA evidence or mislead by the statistics presented in court.

Research from UK and US, states that “a number of convictions which have relied on DNA evidence have been overturned on appeal on the basis of misdirection of the jury regarding the statistical basis of the test and its results. In particular, juries are often awe-struck by the enormous values of random occurrence ratio with which they are presented by the prosecution experts. The factual significance of these large numbers is often misunderstood and misrepresented by barristers and judges, leading to unsafe convictions.”

Then, not only the jurors, but the legal actors more widely have problems with understanding how the statistical dimensions of DNA evidence works. The point of the statistics is, that identifying the DNA markers can be misleading if identification of the suspect occurs on behalf of ‘random occurrence ratios’ – i.e. the suspect is identified in random by her DNA (similar to how fingerprint identification works).

Identification on behalf of DNA must relate to the demography of the area where the crime took place, as well as the family background of the suspect. Meaning that statistics can be misleading if identification is not supported by additional information (where much exists in the trial against Amanda and Rafaelle). Dr. Stefanoni has repeatedly argued this point in court, explaining why Amanda’s DNA is Amanda’s, and Rafaelle’s DNA is Rafaelle’s, and not a ‘random’ person, like an unknown friend of Rudy’s.

From research into the working of the US and the UK legal systems, it must be clear that most of the news-reports from the US about the murder of Meredith Kercher tend to reinforce a common deficit in knowledge on how to interpret DNA evidence. A shame that.

Also worth mentioning is that the OJ Simpson trial is not the only one where ‘scientifically’ obvious DNA evidence have been disregarded by a jury; this also seen in cases where there presented a lot of other circumstantial evidence supporting the DNA material.

And that different interpretation (prosecution and defence) of DNA material does not in itself blur jurors comprehension and prevent an unanimous understanding of the significance. Contrary, controversies over DNA can serve to clarify a juror’s understanding of DNA.



Example of well-equipped Italian DNA lab

Likely differences under the Italian system of justice

These results from research into the US/UK type of legal system should be discussed in relation to the working of the Italian system. And there are, in this perspective, significant differences.

In Italy, a jury consists of 6 lay persons and 2 professional judges. It is highly likely that the participation of 2 professional judges influences how the jury perceives and discusses DNA and other complex scientific matters. The above quoted research into fallacies of comprehending DNA evidence can only support the view that it is a strength of the Italian system that professional judges are represented in the jury.

Also, the Italian trial system, where parts of evidence are presented and assessed by multiple judges in many pre-trial hearings, also marks a difference vis a vis the US system. Every (pre-) trial adds to jurors possibility to comprehend DNA material correct (‘correct’ in relation to understanding what is actually testified in court, not ‘correct’ in relation to assessing the significance of the DNA material as evidence).

As referred to above, pre-trial experiences also influences how jurors interpret DNA testimony.

Then education, schools and general cultural education (‘bildung’ in German), cultural habits (for example if criminal trials are broadcast or not, and if they are watched widely or not) will without doubt influence how jurors comprehend DNA evidence. And of course so will criteria used by the court for selecting the actual jury influence the outcome; for example if it was considered important that jury members demonstrated ability to understand complex scientific arguments.

Generally, European comparative test shows that primary education in Italy are in the upper middle, and Italy has very good universities and strong academic traditions, and – not the least - a long and proud tradition in science from Leonardo da Vinci and onwards.

These conditions will influence the jury’s assessment of DNA evidence presented in the trial against Amanda and Rafaelle, and we can expect that the jury will demonstrate a fairly accurate understanding of the different testimonies from (a.o.) Dr.Stefanoni and Dr.Torre, and a fairly accurate understanding of DNA technology. Though, how the jury will make sense of the scientific facts in the actual circumstances (what it tells about who murdered Meredith) are not obvious.

Scientific references to the quoted papers are listed in my comment below.

Posted on 07/11/09 at 07:30 AM by FioriClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolTrials 2008 & 2009Massei prosecution
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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Defense Experts Testimony: Daily Beast Posts The Most Detailed Report In English

Posted by Peter Quennell


Click above for the report by Barbie Nadeau on the disputatious knife and DNA-handling evidence..

[Coroner Torre and genetic expert Gino] testified that “Exhibit 36,” a knife found in Sollecito’s apartment with Knox’s DNA on the handle and Kercher’s on the blade, cannot be the murder weapon. Torre showed pictures of Kercher’s wounds to the jury, then used a mannequin to demonstrate that this knife was too big to make two of the wounds in Kercher’s neck. He conceded that a third larger wound could have been made with the knife, but said it was more likely it was made by twisting a smaller knife….

Although Torre and Gino, who did not examine Kercher’s body, both testified that they saw no evidence that more than one person was involved in her murder, countless prosecution witnesses, including two coroners who did examine Kercher’s body, testified that the 47 cuts and bruises indicated that “more than two hands” were at work.

Posted on 07/08/09 at 07:47 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolTrials 2008 & 2009
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Trial: Italian Reporting On Autopsy Consultant Seems Brief And Unswayed

Posted by Peter Quennell


]

We had long been led to believe the testimony of Carlos Torre might be a blockbuster which could energize a lackluster defense.

Click above for the longest report of the day that we can find in Italian. Even ASCA’s report seems relatively brief and restrained. No sense of a breakthrough there.

ASCA reports that Mr Torre interpreted the wound pattern on Meredith to mean that a smaller knife was used for the final blow “with a blade of 8 cm which was partially extracted and plunged in at least 3 times”.

As the size of the wound is large, he claimed a repeated partial in-out action of the small knife, rather than blows from the larger kitchen knife with a blade of 16 cm found in the kitchen of Sollecito, on which traces of the DNA of both Meredith and Amanda Knox were found.

Also that the final blow occurred while Meredith was lying on her back, that there were no signs of three aggressors, that Meredith could not have cried out after the stab wounds, and that bloody footprints revealed under luminol were not the shape of Knox’s foot.

Mr Torre conceded under cross-examination that a wound of the size of the larger knife was also present, and he left the DNA evidence of Knox and Meredith on that larger knife unchallenged, thus undercutting his claim of a single perpetrator.

The prosecution team had presented extensive evidence that the bruise patterns and cut marks indicated that Meredith was kneeling face-down at the time. And that they all pointed to three attackers, rather than a single attacker wielding two knives with only one hand free both to hold her and to inflict bruises all over her body.

Judge Micheli in seeing most of the same evidence concluded in his report convicting Guede and sending the two to trial that a scream heard by witnesses in the houses above was probably Meredith’s last act before she was stabbed, not right after.

And last month, Sollecito’s defense team essentially went along with the prosecution experts’ claims for the autopsy and attack scenario, so for the first time the defense teams significantly differ.

Thankfully, besides being terse, the reporting was not very graphic, in this the most painful of all areas for those who mourn Meredith the most.

Posted on 07/07/09 at 06:07 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolThe two knivesTrials 2008 & 2009
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Powerpoints #14: The Telling Case Of The Doctored Footprint

Posted by Kermit





Click here if you have Powerpoint or the Powerpoint Viewer program loaded. If not here is the Viewer download.

At a guess maybe half of the defense-campaign resources have gone into public relations. Money well spent? We rather doubt it. P-R and legal watchers of the case we consider impartial have noted three problems with the campaign:

  • It seems to be addressed to the wrong country, and the only one, Italy, that really matters, now seems totally lost.
  • It seems to have started with a very raw-knuckle message which was bound to polarize, and only got harder ever since.
  • It doesn’t seem to be particularly competent with the evidence, taking potshots, but never really shaking the whole.

And this unprecedented campaign may have buoyed Amanda Knox herself into taking the stand, where neither her demeanor nor her claims seem to have done her any good (see here and here).

This Powerpoint analyzes a new claim on the FOA campaign website about a key piece of evidence (footprint evidence against Sollecito, not against Knox) which seems straight out of cloud-cuckoo land.

The size of the footprint had been doctored to make a footprint that is clearly the same size and shape as Sollecito’s NOT into Guede’s as intended - but into Knox’s!

Hmmm. An unusual way to help Knox, that is for sure!

Posted on 06/24/09 at 06:53 AM by KermitClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Overviews PowerpointCrime hypothesesDefendants in courtRaff SollecitoThe officially involvedEvidence & witnessesDNA and luminol
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