Thursday, October 10, 2013

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

Posted by Peter Quennell


1. ViaDellaPergola’s video

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

2. From our short-form Massei Report

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

Exhibit 36: The double DNA Knife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To this central point, Dr. Stefanoni:

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

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

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

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

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


3. TJMK posts on the latest DNA science

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

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

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

Our lawyer SomeAlibi recently explained how.

5. Andrea Vogt posts possible scenarios.

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

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




Comments

Thanks so much Pete. Unfortunately the video is unavailable here. Just would be interesting to see a clear close-up of the knife, showing ‘grooves’ and so on.

***

From Pete. The YouTube is running on VDPS accound and is not zone-limited - James (below) sees it - so it might just take time scrolling at peak hours for Canadian YouTube, quite a common YouTube complaint. Try another time of day? The long text below is more recent.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 10/10/13 at 03:33 AM | #

The video states that neither AK nor RS had an expert present for the test on the knife. That is not quite correct. The Sollecitos did hire an expert, Dr Patumi, who was there. Dr Torricelli, for the Kerchers, was also there.

Dr Patumi re-appears in the Massei Report, but this time described as a consultant giving evidence for the AK defence team. Dr Patumi clarified that he was not actually a specialist in genetics but he essentially confirmed the investigative findings of Dr Tagliabracci who had become the main expert for RS.

Much is made of the fact that no blood was detected on the knife but DNA exists in any cellular substance and it does not have to be haematological.

I must confess that it does seem counter-intuitive that the knife could have been cleaned so that absolutely no trace of blood was left and yet this particular trace of cellular DNA remained. Be it that it was located in a groove on the blade might one not just as well argue the same for blood, since there were a number of such grooves?.

On reflection I am not now convinced that the knife was treated with bleach. I don’t think that the knife was ever described as itself smelling of bleach. It was RS’s kitchen that actually smelt and that was enough to put the investigators on notice, and Finzi simply then applied his investigative instinct based on what he had been told about the fatal wound. Bleach does degrade DNA and this shows up in a ski slope effect in the peaks shown in an e-gram chart which we don’t see here.

Blood, when fluid or still relatively fluid is quite easy to remove from a surface like a steel blade, just by placing the blade under a tap of running water. That’s because of it’s viscosity. In other words it’s unlikely to stick, even in a groove, to the same extent as a non-haematic cellular substance.

God works his justice in mysterious ways. At the end of the day the result is there, and the contamination issue requires the use of more straw than can be found in a stable.

A while ago Ergon posted close up pictures of the knife on pmf.net.

Posted by James Raper on 10/10/13 at 08:17 AM | #

It is true that bleach is very pervasive, and even a small amount used will penetrate and linger in the air, making it difficult to know its source.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 10/10/13 at 08:26 AM | #

Judge Micheli underscores the equally important point that the DNA traces on the knife and on the bra clasp should be taken together, as they both have Knox as the common link: (boyfriend’s DNA on the bra of the flatmate AND flatmate’s DNA on the knife of the boyfriend).

The likelihood of both of these traces being due to contamination are extraordinarily slim, almost nil. It is far more probable this would happen if la Scientifica lab wanted to frame Knox and Sollecito for murder. But why would they ever do so?

The most reasonable explanation is that the traces link Knox because Knox and Sollecito were involved in Ms. Kercher’s murder.

Posted by Marcello on 10/10/13 at 08:57 AM | #

Hi Marcello
I am sure that the forces of evil will claim ‘frame-up’ by the Italian court. the gullible ones will of course swallow anything but the simple explanations. ie she’s American so therefore innocent, please see input from several posts prior to this one.
Cheers G

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 10/10/13 at 09:37 AM | #

The world is full of people, some quite reasonable, who nevertheless believe in the craziest things, like the moon landings were faked, the Apocalypse is near, the WTC were demoed, etc.

It’s hard to convince, much less prevent faulty thinking. The real issue is irresponsible/biased journalism as well as unethical public relations. These ‘professionals’ should really know better, and that they continue to perpetrate lies or half-truths is distasteful and immoral.

Hopefully the Italian lawsuits will help ‘set the record straight’.

Posted by Marcello on 10/10/13 at 01:16 PM | #

Hi

That is an amazing and such an effective video, and sad! Thank you so much True Justice for presenting this evidence. I’ve read the Massei report twice now and it’s the best “book” on this case. It is relentless in its detail that brings together all the evidence and the bigger picture.

Dora Maar

Posted by Dora Maar on 10/10/13 at 02:46 PM | #

Dr. Stefanoni is so smart. Now two new experts look at the knife again. Good stuff.

That knife drawer terrified Amanda, while Laura and Molly were cool and serene. Laura had been in Rome during the crime, Molly (Filomena) had been across town, and so they had no visceral reaction about knives. At the time police take Amanda back for a tour of the cottage she had not been arrested, she was as free as Laura and Molly.

Like anyone innocent she should have assumed some unknown killer had been involved, some person who might have run off to Turkey or Sardinia for all she knew and had taken his knife and the murder weapons with him and fled. Why would her kitchen drawer have anything to do with it? But she attached so much significance to it that she sobbed, shook, and had to be carried to a couch.

This unveiling while her admirers Laura and Molly are right there watching her, that’s what affects Amanda. The regrets, the fear, the suddenly knowing it’s game over added to an emotional flashback of the crime started perhaps in this very room, then afterwards all the knife scrubbing she and prince were doing at his house, sweating and sloshing with bleach and soap and steel wool to sand those knives and remove any trace of blood, whew, it overwhelmed her. She hadn’t been back here in 3 days, this was where it all happened, she had been running away for the last 3 days. Even police headquarters didn’t affect her like being back in the cottage.

Having witnesses see her at the cottage looking at her as if they can read her mind, as if they had been standing there while she and Raffaele killed Meredith, as if all her secrets are out in the open, it causes a meltdown. She’s embarrassed at the shocking contrast between herself and Laura and Molly which she knows gives away her false story. They are placid, nobody else on the tour feels guilty or frightened, maybe sad but not terrified. My goodness, the police are right there to protect them.

But Amanda may have suddenly felt all was lost, the idyll of the cottage and she felt exposed for the first time.

Posted by Hopeful on 10/10/13 at 04:57 PM | #

Yes Hopeful
and at the jail she was about to admit her culpability only her father (Seeing dollar signs no doubt) stopped her. Perhaps that’s not fair on him but considering what took place later and given her fathers track record I believe it’s not so far from the pail.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 10/10/13 at 05:03 PM | #

That is powerful stuff Hopeful.
I wish the general “4 entertainment” crowd would know this…then, the Pendulum of public persuasion would swing heavily towards delivering a big message to the guilty ones. In the end, The Scales of Justice will remain even, and there will be equilibrium for those who love her, and Meredith and the ones who love her will find peace.

Posted by Bettina on 10/10/13 at 06:30 PM | #

The fact that AK was ‘very worried’ about the knife says a lot, wouldn’t it be ironic if Knox left her DNA on the knife handle, not at the time of the murder, but when she was cleaning it, hence, framing herself.

Posted by Urbanist on 10/10/13 at 08:00 PM | #

@James Raper

There are several misconceptions in your post. Let me try to make it clear.

Blood, as commonly understood, is a mixture of several things. Most important is the RBC, the red blood cells that contain the red coloring matter (hemoglobin) but no dna. This is most commonly tested for blood (the stain on cloth and other objects is mostly due to this) which is mostly a protein and which sticks very well to many surfaces but can also be washed off.

The other major component of blood, WBC contains dna but no red coloring matter. It also gives test for blood but only weakly. Here I consider only the common tests like TMB etc. that are not highly specific but are quite sensitive.

The dna is present (5 pg /cell) mixed with proteins. You can wash it off easily if fresh but once dried, it is much more difficult to remove because it becomes insoluble. It can be scraped off with some scouring powder (a tough scrubber will often do).

Proteins stick very well to many surfaces (many modern inks are protein based) and are often difficult to remove by simple washing. A blood stain is tough to remove from clothes or other absorbing surfaces because once dry it becomes insoluble.

Blood is almost as thin as water within the body but once out it begins to clot and becomes very thick in a very short time. This is due to what is technically called “clotting”.

Bleach acts weakly on both protein and dna and is used as a mild antiseptic only in the lab. Again I am talking only about chlorine based bleach (that only have the strong bleach smell) and there are many others and without smell too (they are peroxide based). Note “acts weakly”.

Posted by chami on 10/11/13 at 02:58 AM | #

As just posted in the Breaking News box at the top:

La Nazione reports that DNA has been found on the knife and tests to identify it will continue today Friday. Their report and the report of ANSA News Service say it is human DNA. An earlier report by Diggita said it was not yet established whether it is plant, animal or human DNA.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/11/13 at 11:00 AM | #

Let it be Meredith’s DNA.

Let this be cleared up once and for all.

Posted by thundering on 10/11/13 at 12:00 PM | #

My fingers are crossed…

Posted by Odysseus on 10/11/13 at 01:00 PM | #

From reports, the DNA appears to be AKs. I suppose it does change anything. I am surprised. Why would her DNA be on the blade of the knife?

Posted by starsdad on 10/11/13 at 06:18 PM | #

Should read…..does NOT change anything…..

Posted by starsdad on 10/11/13 at 06:19 PM | #


Make a comment

If you are reading this please log in to post a comment.

Smileys



Where next:

Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page

Or to next entry The Carabinieri Laboratories In North-Central Rome Where Now Two Different Samples Need Attribution

Or to previous entry Questions For Knox and Sollecito: Why Claim Rudy Guede Did It Alone When So Much Proof Against?