Our Netflix Reviews: How The DNA Processes And Evidence Points Were Deliberately Misrepresented
Posted by KrissyG
A tip on the images. These are movie snippets with English subtitles included. They will expand to full screen in Acrobat Reader (please download it if you dont yet have it) if you click on each image.
I posted a general review of Netflix’s “Amanda Knox” several weeks ago. Here I want to drill down into the DNA section and to consider the inclusion in the film of the geneticists Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti.
I’ll explain how and why the film misleads the viewer via their inclusion. The choreography used by the film makers to present Knox and Sollecito as ‘exonerated’ and ‘innocent’ based on Vecchiotti & Conti’s narrative in the film will be revealed for the careful script that it is.
I’ll show why Vecchiotti & Conti’s declarations in the film are deceptive. An analysis of Vecchiotti and Conti’s entire role in attaining the release of the pair and the revelation of the hidden agenda that underlies the film will be explored. Let’s do it!
2. Fictions In The Movie
In the film, Vecchiotti and Conti appear quite deeply into the film, at minute 64 of 92 minutes. The appearance of the ‘DNA experts’ towards the end enables the film makers to reinforce the image of a great miscarriage of justice, leading up to the grand finale denouement.
Enter Conti. Referring to the evidence of Sollecito’s DNA found on the bra, Conti introduces the audience to a key principle of DNA. It is ‘dust spread everywhere,’ he avers. To set the scene, we are informed that the Forensic Police (‘Scientific Police’ in Italy) acted chaotically and that the crime scene was an absolute shambles. We hear an audio voiceover of a supposed scientific policeman saying to another ‘this is absurd, there is unbelievable chaos everywhere’.
So there we have it. ‘A crime scene must be completely sterile’. We are roundly informed that this crime scene was not, based on Conti’s word for it.
Next, enter his co-partner, the other ‘independent’ expert hired by the Hellmann appeal court to evaluate the evidence concerning he DNA identified on the presumed murder weapon knife, and the bra clasp sample: Carla Vecchiotti.
Carla Vecchiotti claims that the issue of contamination of the DNA ‘was raised by the court’. Shot moves to the scientific police as she continues, ‘ it could have been by other people’.
She then throws in a red herring. ‘There was the DNA of two unknown males on the clasp’, which we can dispense with straight away. In reality they were fragments of DNA, no more than 6 – 8 alleles, and precisely of the type of dust contamination Conti is talking about. This effectively subverts the issue away from the strong DNA profile of Sollecito found on the clasp.
She claims there are ‘problems with contamination in the laboratory’, yet in court she insisted the alleged contamination was at the collection stage, and not at the laboratory. A picture of the knife comes up.
Of the Kercher DNA on the blade she states, ‘It’s so small. So scarce, the likelihood of contamination is very high.’
From this, she concludes the Kercher DNA is ‘inconclusive’.
The film makers show us the picture at least three times with ‘INCONCLUSIVE’ in bold red letters. ‘I asked Dr Stefanoni (the forensic police chief in charge of this case) how she concluded this is the murder weapon without any other evidence?’
However, the courts upheld, and Conti and Vecchiotti themselves concurred under oath, that far from being inconclusive, it was a strong profile of Meredith, at 15 alleles.
Again, Vecchiotti repeats the lie that the laboratory was contaminated, when no such finding was upheld by any court, including Hellmann’s, by referring to Stefanoni stating she had examined fifty of Meredith’s samples at the same time, see above. She insinuates Stefanoni overrode standards so that they would not have to close the lab up between samples.
The film then cuts to clips of US media outrage at Vecchiotti’s findings of ‘contamination’, even dragging in Donald Trump, no doubt sucking on a tic tac, with just a small cameo of Mignini for ‘balance’, stating that ‘all evidence’ needs to be looked at, implying that Mignini accepted the alleged contamination and was now trying to deflect from it onto other evidence. The reader should bear in mind, that in fact, there was no such finding of contamination in Stefanoni’s labs.
Nor does she or her co-partner ever once in the film, and nor do the film makers mention that their report was discredited by the Chieffi Supreme court and Hellmann expunged.
We are shown a diagram of eight black spots of Rudy Guede’s traces and one white one for Sollecito, some distance away from the body, underneath which it was actually found. A police mug shot of Guede appears on screen, whom Knox describes as ‘ a guy who regularly committed burglaries’.
From this we are led to believe Guede is a seasoned criminal career burglar, when as of the time, he had no convictions at all. The film makers inform the audience it is, ‘a burglary gone wrong’, not a finding by any court, apart from the vacated Hellmann court. The balance (at roughly six to one against, in terms of time coverage) once again is provided by Mignini who points out its unfairness, given the evidence found at the trial.
The film then cuts to Conti, who makes an astonishing confession – for a scientific professional expert witness and professor – stating, ‘What happened inside that room between Guede and Meredith, was not a job assigned to me.’
So now it is out in the open, Vecchiotti and Conti, far from protecting their professional integrity by following their ethical code, which states that they are expected to act with objectivity in their professional role and should safeguard this by recusing themselves should they feel that they have become advocates for a party, in the film do not even hide their partisanship.
Conti feels confident in this ‘documentary’, now as a global film star, to declare his advocacy for Knox and Sollecito with the above statement.
‘Cicero once said’ – pause – ‘ Any man can err, but only a fool perseveres.’
Next, the film completely ignores that his and Vechiotti’s 2011 report was unceremoniously ridiculed in 2013 by the next level court – Chieffi, Supreme Court – and the pair branded as ‘intellectually dishonest’. It ignores that the case was remitted back to a completely different Appeal Court, in a completely different area, from Umbria to Tuscany, and under a completely different judge.
In the Netflix film, a diagram showing Knox’ DNA on the knife handle is admired as a strong profile. Meredith’s DNA on the blade is highlighted as a question mark. About three times, the viewer is shown the same diagram with the word ‘INCONCLUSIVE’ above the Meredith DNA in red letters.
The truth is, ALL of the defence experts – including Vecchiotti and Conti – accepted it was a strong DNA profile of Meredith (15-allele) so we see a blatant misrepresentation here, that rather than the confidently strong profile it is, Vecchiotti declares that it is ‘inconclusive’, and leads the viewer to believe this was because of proven contamination.
This deception is underlined by the film makers immediately galloping to the 2011 Hellman Court after the Vecchiotti & Conti interview, with wild scenes of Hellmann freeing the pair and declaring them innocent.
The connection is made: the knife DNA – and the bra clasp – is ‘contaminated’ and that is why the pair were freed. ‘This was the only flimsy evidence,’ is the message conveyed. Thanks to the lurid and putrid imaginings of Mignini and Pisa, those kids suffered, the viewer is told.
Cue mass media bombardment by the outraged Netflix viewers, on Twitter and Facebook excoriating Pisa, mostly, and also Mignini as having botched up the whole case and ruined the lives of these two kids.
3. The Hard Facts In Reality
- I will look at Vecchiotti and Conti’s true track record, which is appalling. The husband of a murder victim was denied justice for a staggering NINETEEN years, as DNA investigator Vecchiotti, et al, negligently refused to investigate the DNA of the perpetrator of the murder.
- How did Vecchiotti and Conti get appointed by Hellmann court at all? I reveal how the US contingent of pro-Amanda Knox scientists helped ‘fix’ it.
- I will highlight the legerdemain ploys adopted by the pair in preparing their report, which predicated Hellmann freeing the pair from prison. It was a moot point henceforth as to whether they would ever return.
- I will set out Chieffi’s and Nencini’s damning criticisms of Vecchiotti and Conti in the case. Crini points out, in the Nencini report, that Vecchiotti’s own laboratory fridge did not have a thermometer!
- I will show how the elaborate ‘heist’ of the judicial system in springing ‘the kids’ from jail happened. A US scientist, using Boise University resources Greg Hampikian was bragging to courts in the US under oath, even as Hellmann had been expunged and Nencini had just recommenced the appeal, that, ‘I am still working on the Amanda Knox case’.
- My analysis exposes the interconnections between US advocates Hampikian, Bruce Budowle and British forensic expert, Dr Peter Gill, with Vecchiotti and Conti, which casts grave doubt on the pair being ‘independent’ expert witnesses at all.
The Conti and Vecchiotti Track Record
On 21 April 2016, Carla Vechiotti, together with Pascali, Vicenza and Arberello, was found guilty in a civil suit of gross negligence in the examination of the murder of Contessa Ogliata, dating from 1991, and ordered to pay €150,000 in damages. Vecchiotti appears to have a reputation for cutting more corners than Stirling Moss, with other cases often quoted, with which she is associated.
Recently, Conti and Vecchiotti’s laboratory in Rome was closed down due to public health issues. Contamination almost certainly occurred in their laboratory. Rotting cadavers unclaimed by relatives, were said to have piled up in the corridors. Stefanoni’s laboratory, which followed all the conventional standards of the day was never proven to have been contaminated.
Carla Vecchiotti’s reputation is in tatters. She has made a number of shocking errors in a couple of murder cases, she repeatedly misled the appeal court - Judge Nencini described her and Conti’s work as “misleading” and “reprehensible”.
The Hellmann Court (Appeal Court)
On 18 Dec 2010 at the Hellmann appeal the defences made three unusual requests, (a) to get an independent review of the DNA and (b) to bring in Alessi to challenge Guede’s testimony and (c) Aviello, a mobster. Hellmann agreed to appoint Conti & Vecchiotti from La Sapienza University in Rome. In the interim 16 Dec 2010, Rudy Guede was definitively convicted.
Request (a) was challenged by Comodi, saying there were many experts for both sides already. Hellmann argued a judge did not have sufficient expertise to evaluate the experts’ opinions. Having achieved the appointment of Conti & Vecchiotti , Conti & Vecchiotti [‘the experts’] delivered the coup de grâce: claiming international standards were not met, contamination could not be ruled out, and that the DNA profile of Meredith could not be reliable.
The pair made the claim the DNA could have ‘come from dust’, strongly rebutted by Stefanoni, who said in that case, there should have been contamination elsewhere, not just on the bra clasp.
Contamination from the laboratory was completely ruled out, contrary to the claims made in the Netflix film, after which, ‘the experts’ moved to a stance that the contamination happened before it even got to the laboratories. At the hearing, Conti was constantly asked what the criteria were for alleging contamination, to which he replied, ‘Anything is possible’. As a scientist, a proper evaluation of probability was expected of him.
In their report they claimed, ‘The electrophoretic profiles exhibited reveal that the sample indicated by the letter B (blade of knife) was a Low Copy Number (LCN) sample, and, as such, all of the precautions indicated by the international scientific community should have been applied.’
It transpired ‘the experts’ had decided to use the US standards of Bruce Budowle and supported by Gill, et al., that the threshold for Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA should be raised to 200 picograms, from the hitherto conventional 100 picograms.
In addition, ‘the experts’ argued, the US standard of 50 RFU’s should be used in place of the then Italian standard of 30 RFU’s. Analysis of DNA below these levels introduces a higher risk of ‘background noise’; contamination from alien sources, i.e., everyday dust, which may contain DNA fragments.
Hellmann, ‘the experts’ and the US scientists getting involved, by virtue of ‘the experts’ quoting extensively from their papers, erred in presupposing that Dr Stefanoni knew nothing about these issues. Professor Novelli, for the state, challenged the claim that there was any contamination. Indeed ‘the experts’ were unable to demonstrate this other than by quoting lengthy academic papers which had little to do with mundane case law and more to do with ivory towers.
Vecchiotti, born 1951 with a long CV from medical student days would have known what Italian standards were, yet tried to subvert them in retrospect.
A complaint was lodged by the prosecution about the pair being seen to openly fraternise with Sollecito’s defence team during the hearing, a strict Bar Standard ‘no, no’ for an independent expert witness.
‘The experts’ refused to analyse a further sample of DNA found on the knife, giving the reason it was LCN, and they ‘didn’t want to make the same mistake as Stefanoni.’
Hellmann accepted ‘the experts’ findings and acquitted Knox and Sollecito declaring them innocent, aside from the calunnia for Knox, together with finding that Guede acted alone, as a ‘burglar disturbed.’
For the film makers, this defines the end of the film.
The Chieffi Court (Supreme Court)
In 2013 the next level of appeal court overturned completely Hellman’s findings. It rebutted that the DNA sample of Meredith’s was ipso facto low quality just because it was LCN.
‘The experts’ had claimed, relying on their US sources that LCN sampling should only be done on special projects, such as missing persons or cadaver identification, and that there was not the technology as it was ‘too innovative’.
Chieffi did not buy this, pointing to embryology studies. He scoffed at the idea of ‘the experts’ being more expert than Professor Novelli or Dr Torricelli. He censured Hellmann for failing to consider their equivalent expert knowledge. Chieffi was particularly critical of ‘the experts’ refusing to test the remaining knife sample, calling their reasoning, ‘intellectually dishonest’.
On 25 March 2013, Chieffi ordered the case back to the Appeal court to consider the DNA evidence again, amongst other issues, and that the knife sample be tested. One suspects ‘the experts’ were loath to test the sample in case it turned out be further DNA of Meredith, and this may be why Chieffi smelt a rat.
The Nencini Court (Appeal Court)
In 2014 Judge Nencini made it clear in a newspaper interview it was not within his remit to criticise ‘the experts’, but rather, to assess the legal rectitude of the Massei court decision, which Hellmann patently failed to do. However, criticise he does.
He directs Dr Barni, witness for the Carabinieri Lab, that ‘no US standards’ are to be quoted which C&V had done profusely. In upholding the findings of the Massei court he makes the following point in his reasoning about the DNA of the knife and bra clasp:
“… The consultant holds furthermore that the most appropriate technical approach to interpret the genetic profile arising from trace 165B and to avoid subjective interpretations is to “call upon”, meaning to consider as valid, all of the alleles with RFU > 50, independently of their position or whether or not they might be stutter.
Once the complete profile is determined, given that there may also be more than two contributors to the trace, we feel that the only statistical approach that can be used adequately here is the RMNE (Random Man Not Excluded) method.
This statistical approach makes it possible to estimate the possible error due to a chance compatibility, meaning that of a person chosen randomly from the population and who by pure chance is fully compatible with the genetic characteristics of the individual represented in the trace.
The higher and nearer to 1 that probability is, the more likely it is that the profile could be the result of a random choice and thus the higher the probability of an error in the attribution of the genetic profile to a given individual. In this case, as seen in Table 5, the profile of Raffaele Sollecito is compatible at all the loci analyzed in the mixture of DNA found on Exhibit 165B.
The probability that a random individual from the population would also be compatible (the inclusion probability)  was calculated, and came out to be equal to 3.05592 x 10^-6, which is about 1 in 327 thousand. This computation is considered to be extremely conservative, since all of the allelic components are taken into consideration together with their frequency in the reference population.” (Pages 15-17 of the technical report submitted at the 6 September 2011 hearing before the Court of Assizes of Appeal of Perugia.)
The same investigative method was also suggested by the consultant of the Prosecutor in relation to the interpretation of the genetic profile of the markers located on the Y chromosome of trace 165B. Here again, all alleles with RFU>50 were considered, giving the following table:
 On the basis of the data in the above table, applying the method of statistical calculation indicated above, Prof. Novelli estimated the probability of a chance inclusion of a random person from the population in the mixed profile, together with the chance compatibility of this random individual with the major contributor to the Y chromosome, as about 1 in 3 billion.”
He upholds that the Forensic Police, aside from some human error, acted correctly and dismissed defence claims that Stefanoni had withheld raw data, and as claimed by ‘the experts’, citing documentary proof the information had been deposited. Nencini reinstated the convictions, 31 January 2014, and dismissed the claim of contamination.
The sample on the knife ‘the experts’ had claimed was ‘starch’ and ‘too low LCN’ was successfully tested and found to be that of Amanda Knox. None of this is mentioned by Vecchiotti & Conti in the film and nor do the film makers point it out, leaving their audience to believe ‘the experts’ claim of ‘contamination is proven’.
A key finding was that Professors Novelli and Torricelli had already been the target of the criticisms raised specifically by Prof. Adriano Tagliabracci, technical consultant for the Sollecito defense, at the first instance trial court, and thus was a matter settled (res judicata).
This is important to note, for Marasca later describes Tagliabracci in glowing terms as ‘world renowned’ when he reinstates the Hellmann findings in this matter, at the next level. Nencini observes, ‘Finally, it is observed that Prof. Tagliabracci’s criticism is founded on an unproven and unprovable suspicion, namely that the biologist doing the work being already in possession of reference samples supposedly used the “suspect-centric” method.’
Nencini also found that the second instance [Hellman] court undervalued the fact that the tests carried out took place during the preliminary investigation [of which the Defence was notified and had the right to attend], that at the time of those tests, there were no objections concerning the sampling and laboratory activity, nor was a pre‐trial hearing requested regarding the testing, all of which proves agreement with the [laboratory] procedures.
Was There Contamination?
There were NO full male DNA profiles on the bra, apart from Sollecito and Guede’s.
Vecchiotti and Conti, significantly, in the film, try to detract from this highly incriminating scientific fact, by making reference to everyday dust fragments, as if that could possibly account for it.
The assertion by Conti in the film that ‘a crime scene must be kept sterile,’ is meaningless for there are many environmental pollutants at every crime scene.
The expert witness testimony of Professor David Balding, to the court is as follows, and who, until October 2009 was Professor in Statistical Genetics at Imperial College, London, where he still retains an affiliation as Visiting Professor. He is an editor of the Handbook of Statistical Genetics.
“Sollecito’s alleles are all represented and these generate the highest peaks, but there are some low peaks not attributable to him; so at least one of the additional contributors of low-level DNA to the sample was male.”
“They correctly criticised the scientific police for ignoring these: many do appear to be stutter peaks which are usually ignored, but 4 are not and definitely indicate DNA from another individual. The extra peaks are all low, so the extra individuals contributed very little DNA.
That kind of extraneous DNA is routine in low-template work: our environment is covered with DNA from breath and touch, including a lot of fragmentary DNA from degraded cells that can show up in low-template analyses. There is virtually no crime sample that doesn’t have some environmental DNA on it, from individuals not directly involved in the crime.
This does create additional uncertainty in the analysis because of the extra ambiguity about the true profile of the contributor of interest, but as long as it is correctly allowed for in the analysis there is no problem - it is completely routine.” (David Balding).
“in some cases we have peaks that correspond to a fourth person.”
“The fourth person is not Guede, it seems. This mystery fourth person hasn’t been mentioned much. (Luciano Garofano, Darkness Descending).
“But because Sollecito is fully represented in the stain at 16 loci (we still only use 10 in the UK, as the legal threshold, so 16 is a lot), the evidence against him is strong.”
“In this case all the peaks associated with Sollecito seem clear and distinct so I think there can be no concern about the quality of the result as far as it concerns him or Kercher.”
The Italian Scientific Police follow the guidelines of the ENFSI - the European Network Forensic Science Institutes. Dr Stefanoni observed that they followed these specific guidelines whereas Conti and Vecchiotti basically picked and mixed a random selection of international opinions:
“We followed the guidelines of the ENFSI, theirs is just a collage of different international opinions”.
In other words, Conti and Vecchiotti were not referring to the specific guidelines and recommendation of one particular international forensic organisations despite giving that impression at the appeal in Perugia.
They cited a number of obscure American publications such as the the Missouri State Highway Patrol Handbook and Wisconsin Crime Laboratory Physical Evidence Handbook. The Italian Scientific Police are under no obligation to follow the DNA protocols of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Wisconsin Crime Laboratory.
Professor Novelli also pointed out that contamination has to be proved:
“The contaminant must be demonstrated, where it originated from and where it is. The hook contaminated by dust? It’s more likely for a meteorite to fall and bring this court down to the ground.”
Professor Torricelli testified that it was unlikely the clasp was contaminated because there was a significant amount of Sollecito’s DNA on it. Professor Novelli analysed the series of samples from all 255 items processed and found not a single instance of contamination, and ruled out as implausible that a contaminating agent could have been present just on one single result.
Back in 2008 pre-trial there was an independent review of the forensic evidence.
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.”
So thus we have a pointer as to why Conti introduced his presentation by claiming ‘DNA is spread like dust.’
To the bottom line, then, WAS there any possibility of contamination, as Vecchiotti and Conti are now claiming in the film?
- 1. Conti and Vecchiotti didn’t prove there had been any contamination. Judge Chieffi pointed this out.
2. Conti and Vecchiotti lied to the appeal court - Judge Nencini pointed this out - and they didn’t test the DNA sample despite the fact they were specifically instructed to do so.
3. Numerous DNA experts believe the bra clasp is strong evidence - Professor Balding, Professor Novelli, Luciano Garofano, Professor Torricelli and Dr Biondo.
4. It’s impossible that the knife was contaminated.
5. There is no universally accepted DNA standards for collecting and testing DNA evidence. DNA protocols vary from country to country.
6. Conti and Vecchiotti cited obscure sources, They didn’t refer to the specific guidelines of an international forensic organisation.
7. Conti and Vecchiotti excluded contamination in the laboratory.
8. The defence experts had no objections when the DNA evidence was tested.
9. Vecchiotti made calamitous errors in other cases and her lab was closed down.
10. Does anyone really believe Sollecito’s DNA floated on a speck of dust under Meredith’s door and landed on the exact part of her bra clasp that had been bent out of shape during the attack on her?
The Marasca-Bruno Supreme Court (Final)
In the final Marasca-Bruno Supreme Court appeal, the short-form provisional 48- page reasoning from March 2015, the guilty verdicts as upheld by Massei and Nencini are overturned, and Vecchiotti & Conti‘s report reinstalled.
“The second reason [the first reason being: The first reason challenged the violation and inobservance of the criminal law], highlights a problem of great relevance in the circumstance of the present judgment, that is the right interpretation of the scientific examination results from a perspective of respect of the evaluation standards according to article 192 of the criminal procedural code and the relevance of the genetic evaluation in the absence of repeatable amplification, as a consequence of the minimal amount of the sample and, more generally, the reliability coefficient of investigations carried out without following the regulations dictated by the international protocols, both during the collecting phase and the analysis.
Particularly, anomalies were challenged in the retrieval of the knife (item 36) and the victim’s brassiere hook, which do not exclude the possibility of contamination, as correctly outlined in the Conti-Vecchiotti report, ordered by the Perugian Court of assizes, which also notified the unreliability of the scientific data, precisely because it was not subject to a further examination.
It was also denied that the retrieved knife would have been the crime weapon.”
Thus, we see the First (Chieffi) Supreme Court Chambers directly challenged by the Fifth Chambers and the criticisms of Vecchiotti and Conti swept aside, as though they had never happened.
Judges Marasca & Bruno write:
‘In fact, no trace of Sollecito was found in the room of the murder. The only element of proof against him was represented by the DNA trace retrieved on the brassiere hook of the victim; trace of which relation with the indicted was actually denied by the Vecchiotti-Conti report, which, in this regard, had accepted the observations of the defense advisor Professor Tagliabracci, world-renowned geneticist.’
It further states:
‘12) Also erroneous was the interpretation of the results of the genetic evidence on item 36) …[…]
14) Obvious also was the flawed reasoning on the results of the genetic investigations on the bra hook, …[…]…
With regard to the possible contamination of the item, the appeal judges overlooked the photographic material placed before the court, which clearly demonstrated the possible contamination, regarding the way the hook was treated, with a “hand to hand” passage carried out by persons who wore dirty latex gloves.
Furthermore, a second amplification was not carried out on the hook …[…]… With regard to this, the objections by the defense and the contrary conclusions of the defense adviser professor Tagliabracci, were not considered.’
In other words, the DNA evidence for the knife and the bra clasp is completely dismissed. We see no proper rationale by Judge Marasca, just a few handfuls of abstractions along the lines of Conti’s famous, ‘Anything is possible.’
It takes on board Gill’s theories of ‘secondary’ and ‘tertiary’ transfer of DNA, when Gill himself appears to have overlooked that he himself wrote, that ‘this is highly improbable after 24 hours have passed’.
If Marasca’s rulings are considered bizarre, then light is shed when one realises that Bongiorno, for Sollecito, was given NINE times longer to present her appeal than any of the other parties, so it is fair comment to assume its reasoning is based on Bongiorno’s appeal points.
Nobody from either the Perugia or Florence prosecution teams was even present.
In addition, her 306 page appeal was appended with Gill’s advocacy report. Gill was never cross-examined.
The resuscitation of the hitherto presumed decaying corpse of Vecchiotti & Conti is remarkable, given the cadaver of their report to Hellmann was picked raw, first by the First Chambers Supreme Court (Chieffi) and then Judge Nencini.
Vecchiotti and Conti have risen like Lazarus from a car crash, shrouded in the malodorous cloth of something fishy.
How the ‘Heist’ was pulled off.
Andrea Vogt wrote of the Marasca reasoning: ‘In my opinion, their report is superficial at best and intellectually dishonest at worst, when even the most minimal amount of Quellenkritik is applied’.
Andrea Vogt writes an incisive analysis of the US influence on the C&V reports, which I cannot better here, so do read it for yourself.
However, I will repeat her prophecy, ironic in hindsight:
“If Knox is acquitted at the end of this month, the quiet American hand in her forensic defense will be heralded as the turnkey that made the ultimate difference in her case. But if she is convicted, there are legitimate questions to be asked about exactly what public resources were spent on this international defense.”
Vogt uncovered what appears to be a whole secret network that she was unable to penetrate through the fog of Freedom of Information law, which enabled Hampikian to claim ‘trade secrets’ as a project of Boise University, where his laboratory is based, to evade the question of, ‘Who was funding his Amanda Knox advocacy work?’
If then it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that both Meredith’s and Sollecito’s DNA is strong and background contamination ruled out by the trial courts, why then does the film revisit the discredited testimony of ‘court experts’ Vecchiotti & Conti?
We can link this back to the film makers own self-professed strong pro-Knox beliefs in her innocence. Thus we have come full circle.
The defence managed to convince the now expunged Hellmann court to appoint ‘independent experts’; the Chieffi Supreme Court ruled that, whilst this was within Hellmann’s remit, he did not provide adequate reasoning for doing so.
Vecchiotti & Conti, remarkably, in their report, relied heavily on US standards, thus making the straw man claim that Italy hadn’t followed them, notwithstanding their strong academic and legal background in Italy. This therefore cannot have been due to ignorance, so we have to point to their own volition to be influenced strongly by Knox-advocates.
For example, Hampikian, funded by Boise University grants and protected by a blanket of secrecy, citing ‘trade secrets’ when journalist Andrea Vogt requested information under the Freedom of Information statutes.
In addition, Bruce Budowle, a more conservative ex-FBI forensic expert, was heavily relied upon, together with peers Gill, et al. It was at this stage Gill may have got roped in. His later book draws on Vecchiotti &Conti’s Hellmann’s Report.
Thus, we see a band of pro-Amanda Knox advocates determined to influence the so-called ‘independent’ experts, even when both Hampikian’s and Budowle’s reports were rejected as depositions by the courts. Even when ‘the experts’ were spiked by the Chieffi Supreme court, Hampikian was still averring, ‘I am involved in the Amanda Knox case’.
Friends of Amanda Knox even today lovingly quote Hellmann despite his de facto ex-communication from the judiciary. Little surprise we see the film makers eager to include Vecchiotti and Conti, who made it all possible for the birds to fly.
On the subject of Dr Peter Gill, who is widely regarded as having influenced the Fifth Chambers, via Bongiorno’s Appeal, to which his theories were attached, is now drawing on Vecchiotti and Conti as his main source, so we have a case of the experts’ racing car, as it were, driven by the man referred to devoutly by the defence as ‘the father of forensic science’.
Dr Naseer Ahmed of PMF.net was moved to comment:
– A look at his sources show that the chapter on Meredith Kercher was directly influenced by the Conti-Vecchiotti report.
– He argues contamination, but doesn’t prove a path of transmission.
– He cites papers on secondary transfer of DNA, but misses the point his suggested routes, RS>door handle>investigator’s latex glove>bra clasp is tertiary transfer.
– He argues the low cell count of Meredith’s Kercher’s DNA on the knife suggests contamination without considering that rigorous washing with household bleach might degrade it. (Yet miraculously those cells did provide a full match with Meredith’s DNA)
– The shoe box belonging to Meredith story has been shot down.
– He clearly has not read Inspector Gubbiotti or Finci’s testimonies, which removes all possible paths of ‘innocent transfer’.
– Reading the actual research papers he cites, there is no way that such significant amounts of DNA could actually transfer to the bra clasp.
– He did not review Patrizia Stefanoni’s Scientific Report or any of her notes, instead relying on the IIP translated C&V report and Hellmann decision.
– He refers to the Meredith Kercher wiki, but never even looked at the DNA segments which would have alerted him to problems with the C&V report.
– He may have had indirect input from Sollecito’s first DNA expert, Vincenzo Pascali, and Carla Vecchiotti, but does not seem to know of Vecchiotti’s colorful record of falsifying evidence.
Last, and worst of all, he did not refer to the Supreme Court decision annulling Hellmann even though the translation was widely available almost ten months before his book was published.
There is no way he could not have known this, since we had been in contact with him since earlier this year. It is unconscionable that he chose this route to promote his theories. Elsevier under its new ownership and editorial policies seem to have allowed any number of self-published books to be written.
If Professor Gill had written a scholarly text book it would have to be reviewed by an editorial board and sent for peer review, which might have led to professional experts critiquing and hopefully pointing out his errors.
Instead, he wrote a slim, unreviewed ‘popular’ book to promote his own theories, which, embarrassing perhaps for him, is being critiqued and torn apart by lay persons, ahem.
Misleading DNA Evidence – Reasons for Miscarriages of Justice, Peter Gill, Academic Press. Quote:
Recommendation 1: The expert should provide the court with an unbiased list of all possible modes of transfer of DNA evidence (pg 20).”
The irony is not lost.
My Main Sources:
Thanks to Naseer Ahmed and The Machine, for the section on ‘Contamination?’
The Machine’s analysis of 50 of the most common myths still promoted.
My thanks to the wonderful translators and everybody who helped me with material.