Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Explaining To “No Physical Evidence” Gladwell Just How MUCH There Was: #1 Knife DNA

Posted by The Machine

Carabinieri labs court exhibit 2013; 2007 charts at bottom

1. Series Overview

This is the first in a series of short posts rebutting this claim Malcolm Gladwell made:

There was never any physical evidence linking either Knox or her boyfriend to the crime.

Gladwell is a renowned Canadian academic and author and contributor to The New Yorker. He is right now giving numerous media interviews to promote his new book Talking To Strangers.

We have already done some point-by-point analyses of what is wrong with Gladwell’s mistake-prone chapter on “the Knox case” (he only names Meredith once) here and here.

It was mentioned that Gladwell chose to go with the US conspiracy theorists (which the defense teams mostly ignored) rather than the trusted and globally respected Italian law enforcement.

If you’re expecting the renowned intellectual to comprehensively demolish the DNA and forensic evidence against Knox and Sollecito, and provide some exculpatory evidence that proves they’re innocent, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

I could give you a point-by-point analysis of what was wrong with the investigation of Kercher’s murder. It could easily be the length of this book.

But he doesn’t. He never will.

Gladwell’s claim that there was never any physical evidence linking Knox or her boyfriend to the crime is demonstrably false and would be news to the two defense teams.

My series will cover the multiple pieces of DNA and forensic evidence linking to them to Meredith’s murder: the double DNA knife (this post), the bra clasp evidence, the mixed-blood evidence, the bloody footprint evidence, and the staged break-in.

Others will cover the very telling Knox lamp and Meredith’s door. What impacted the unanimous jury was more complex still. See here.

Carabinieri central labs (Roma RSI) in northen Rome

2. The AK And MK DNA Knife

The knife shown at top was tested for DNA twice, in 2007 in the Scientific Police Labs in Rome, and in 2013 in the Carabinieri labs in Rome. Defence observers were present at all processing and raised no objections. The markers showing there are from the Carabinieri’s extraordinarily conclusive 2013 presentation.

At Knox’s and Sollecito’s appeal in 2011 Judge Hellman (a business judge with only one murder case, a fiasco, behind him) had appointed two independent experts. That was actually illegal as no new experts should be appointed at appeal stage; and the Carabinieri labs and experts with vastly better equipment and training than the consultants were available.

Despite strong conclusions, the experts never finished their court-ordered testing, for reasons that really made little sense then or now.

1. Gladwell’s claim

The only physical evidence Gladwell mentions in his book is the knife evidence.

Gladwell says very little about it. In fact, he can’t even be bothered to provide his own opinion - he just offers a puzzling quote from the much-challenged English expert Peter Gill:

The amplified DNA product in sample B was also subjected to capillary gel electrophoresis. The electrophoretic graph showed peaks that were below the reporting threshold and allele imbalance at most loci. I counted only 6 alleles that were above the reporting threshold. The electrophoretic graph showed a partial DNA profile that was claimed to match Meredith Kercher. Consequently, sample B was border- line for interpretation.

Such isolation of one evidence item is forbidden under Italian procedure, as I explain below. It can only be taken in context and the context here is damning.

2. Prosecution case

Charts created in 2007 for Meredith’s DNA and swabs from the knife are shown down the bottom here (click for larger images). They disprove Gill’s claim which Gladwell swallowed whole.

The DNA found on the blade of Sollecito’s kitchen knife was an exact match for Meredith’s DNA. When you look at Meredith’s DNA chart superimposed on sample 36B, you can clearly see that all the alleles match up.

“...the consultant [Professor Novelli] also did a statistical calculation with the purpose of determining the probability that the profile could belong to someone other than the victim Meredith Kercher. The calculation of the Random Match Probability came to one chance in 300 million billion.” (The Nencini report, page 230).

A number of independent forensic experts - Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Giuesppe Novelli, Professor Francesca Torricelli, Luciano Garofano, Elizabeth Johnson, Greg Hampikian and Bruce Budowle - have all confirmed that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade.

Sollecito provably knew that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade when he lied about accidentally pricking her hand whilst cooking.

“The fact there is Meredith’s DNA on the kitchen knife is because once when we were all cooking together I accidentally pricked her hand. I apologised immediately and she said it was not a problem.”

Gladwell doesn’t explain how Meredith’s DNA ended up on the blade of Sollecito’s kitchen knife thus when Meredith had never actually been to Sollecito’s place, thus making it impossible for the knife to have been contaminated with Meredith’s DNA.

Dr Stefanoni analysed the traces on the knife six days after last handling Meredith’s DNA. This means laboratory contamination can be ruled out.

In 2009 Judge Micheli ruled out contamination during the collection phase because the knife was sequestered from Sollecito’s apartment on Corso Garibaldi by a different police team to the one that collected evidence from the cottage on Via della Pergola on the same day.

In 2010 the Attorney General for Umbria Giovanni Galati made the following common sense observation in the Republic’s 2011 counter-appeal.

“It is evident that the “non-exclusion” of the occurrence of a certain phenomenon is not equivalent to affirming its occurrence, nor even that the probability that it did occur.” (The Galati appeal, page 57).

He goes on to explain that unless there is proof of contamination of the knife and bra clasp, you can’t simply claim there was in order to nullify this evidence:

...if one is not able to [67] affirm where, how and when they would have happened, they cannot enter into a logical-juridical reasoning aimed at nullifying elements already acquired, above all if scientific in nature. (p57).

In early 2013 the Italian Supreme Court noted that contamination in the laboratory had been ruled out actually quoting “independent” experts who showed a strong defence bias.

Laboratory contamination was also excluded by these experts [Conti and Vecchiotti].” (Judge Chieffi’s Supreme Court report, page 92).

Finally in November 2013 the Carabinieri lab re-test of the knife and sample stored was reported by Andrea Vogt thus.

The RIS Wednesday deposited their forensic report on trace 36i, a spot of DNA identified (but not earlier tested) on the kitchen knife alleged to be the murder weapon. “Cento Percento” (100 percent) said Major Berti, discussing compatibility. The RIS found that the DNA was compatible with Amanda Knox, and excluded that it was that of Sollecito, Guede or Kercher.

The RIS expert was asked only a few questions from attorneys and the judge. The judge asked why the RIS had done two amplications of the DNA and not 3 or 4. Major Berti described that two is considered the minimum number of amplifications necessary, according to today’s forensic standards, doing less (or more) might have diminished the reliability of the results. The judge also asked about the age of the equipment used. Berti responded that the forensic kit used this time has been commercialized since 2010 and available for use since 2011.

And our own comment on that.

Hard to see any game changers in today’s strong but undramatic testimony. The Carabinieri RIS DNA experts could not be shaken. All momentum remains with the prosecution and with the Supreme Court’s “givens” on the evidence, such as the presence of three attackers in Meredith’s room. The defenses seem to be giving up. They could have phoned it in.

3. Peter Gill’s case

Gladwell quotes it above, in a rather puzzling way. The charts below show he got it wrong.

From the start Gill makes a fundamental breach of Italian procedure in considering any piece of evidence separately and in isolation from the other pieces of evidence and making something of it.

The Supreme Court in 2013 in annulling the 2011 RS and AK appeal outcome firmly stated that was unacceptable procedure under Italian law.

Gill doesn’t address some of the most incriminating pieces of evidence against Knox and Sollecito - the computer and telephone records that provide irrefutable proof that they both lied repeatedly; the staged break-in and the fact that it couldn’t have been staged by Rudy Guede; the bloody footprint on the bathmat which matched the precise characteristics of Sollecito’s foot; and the fact Amanda Knox knew specific details about the murder kept secret from the public.

Gill did admit in an e-mail to TJMK’s Swansea Jack that he didn’t know how the DNA was transferred and that he had simply made a list of all of the possibilities.

Thanks for your email.

I cant control how people interpret my comments.  I am not getting involved in a debate that specifically addresses the ultimate issue of innocence/guilt of individuals since that is the purpose of the court.  I can only comment on the probative value of the DNA evidence. I dont know definitively how the DNA was transferred - I simply make a list of all of the possibilities. I dont comment on the non-DNA evidence.

Regards, Peter

3. Past Posts Which Expand Proof

Click for Post:  What We Believe Are The Hard Facts On The Double DNA Knife

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

Click for Post:  Questions For Sollecito: Why So Many Contradictory Explanations Of How DNA Got On The Knife?

Click for Post:  Understanding Why The DNA Is On The Knife

Click for Post:  Appeal Session #3: The Carabinieri Labs Report On The DNA On The Knife

Click for Post:  An Investigation Into The Large Knife Provides Further Proof That This Was THE Knife

Click for Post:  Multiple Attackers and the Compatibility of the Double DNA Knife (Exhibit 36)

Click for Post:  How The DNA Processes And Evidence Points Were Deliberately Misrepresented

4. The Double DNA Charts

Charts created in 2007 for Meredith’s DNA and swabs from the knife are shown (click for larger images).

1. Meredith’s DNA

2. Knife swab

3. Both overlayed

Posted by The Machine on 09/17/19 at 03:51 PM in


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