Headsup: The first 8 episodes of the RAI/HBO production "My Brilliant Friend" about a supreme alpha-girl and her "moon" of a best friend airing in 60-plus countries are proving amazingly endearing. So many colorful elements of evolving post WWII Italy on display. Yes, some violence too, but peanuts compared to say New York in that era. A real must-see.

Friday, March 29, 2013

What’s Nina Burleigh Got Against Women? A Bizarre Time Report Suggests Deep Problems In Her Psyche

Posted by Skeptical Bystander





We depart from our scheduled posting for a few hours to contend with a bizarre attack by Nina Burleigh. 

I get up quite early because my clients have a nine-hour head start on me.

Today I woke up to the usual flurry of work-related emails plus a message directing me to Nina Burleigh’s Time blog post devoted to the “haters” – i.e., the many people around the world who have expressed their support for the family of Meredith Kercher and who are convinced that Italy’s first instance court got things right when it convicted Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for their role in Meredith’s brutal murder.

Italy’s highest court has just overturned the acquittal and definitively upheld Knox’s conviction for the felony offense of falsely accusing an innocent man of murdering Meredith Kercher. In that false accusation, Knox placed herself at the scene of the crime. 

In her blog post, Burleigh once again misquotes an off-the-record conversation with me, though I set her straight the first time she did it and asked her to cease. She also wrongly asserts that I am a “housewife” and “former” translator.

For those who may have missed them the first time around, the two blog posts I wrote that got Nina Burleigh all riled up can be found at TJMK or at my personal blog (http://skepbystander.blogspot.com/), under 2011 posts.

First, a bit of background: Burleigh spent a lot of time in her book maligning two of the best reporters covering the case, one of whom, like Burleigh, wrote a book about it. Since I wrote my review of Burleigh’s book and then pointed out that the New York Times was critical of her advocacy masquerading as journalism, time has passed.

According to her online news site (thefreelancedesk.com), which focuses on current events in Italy, where she lives, Andrea Vogt has been working as a reporter for 20 years and writes for, among others, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Seattle Times and The BBC.

As for Barbie Latza Nadeau, in addition to her frequent reporting for Newsweek/The Daily Beast, she is also a regular contributor for CNN. Both are excellent journalists whose work speaks for itself.

But what’s up with Nina Burleigh? I honestly don’t know what she was thinking when she decided to belittle their accomplishments in print, not to mention her decision to misrepresent my own rather more modest ones. Is she just angry because she got this case so wrong? Is this a simple case of sour grapes from a sore loser?

It probably doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. But I would caution anyone who talks to a reporter off-the-record to beware. I have talked to many reporters off-the-record, and they have all respected this agreement, except for Nina Burleigh. In addition to breaking a promise, she misrepresented what I said.

And now that she has had her public snit, may I suggest that the focus now shift from these petty personality clashes - between Knox’s fan base and anyone who doesn’t share their views - and onto the facts? I think the tone needs to change as well: facts are best discussed rationally, calmly and respectfully.

And for the record, I have nothing at all against women who choose to be homemakers.

In the final analysis, however, Nina Burleigh has done Meredith Kercher and the truth a huge favor by attacking her supporters as “haters” and, in doing so, giving our efforts a plug. It is too bad that she could not resist plugging Knox’s upcoming book as well, and thus proving the point made by the New York Times: that Ms. Burleigh has been treading what she must know - as a seasoned reporter - to be a very dangerous line, that which separates journalists and advocates

She seems to have lost her way and, instead of figuring out how to get back on track, has decided to lash out at those advocating for truth in reporting.

Posted on 03/29/13 at 02:08 PM by Skeptical BystanderClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Hoaxers from 2007Knox-Mellas teamNina BurleighNews media & moviesTerrible reporting
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tip For The Media: Getting Up To Speed With The Hard Facts Of This Complex Case

Posted by Media Watcher



[Above: Harvard “superlawyer” Alan Dershowitz, who conceded yesterday that there IS a strong case]

Getting Back On The Rails

In the United States, with few exceptions, the media has generally accepted the spin from the defense team.

As a consequence, much of the reporting has been shallow and/or wildly inaccurate.  These errors have compounded over time, which leads to a situation where the American media was completely unprepared for yesterday’s decision.

As someone who has read through all of the available court documents and much of the media and who has more than 25 years’ experience helping national media to understand complex, technical stories, here’s my take on the issues the media should consider as they continue to write about this case:

Click here for more

Posted on 03/27/13 at 01:10 PM by Media WatcherClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesHoaxes Knox & team15 Single alibi hoaxHoaxes Sollecito etc27 Single alibi hoaxNews media & moviesMedia news
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday: Elite First Criminal Section Of Italian Supreme Court Annuls The 2011 Appeal Verdict

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



[Above: Some of the judges of the First Criminal Section hearing another recent case, with other sections behind]


Report one

@andreavogt Breaking: high court has anulled acquittals and a retrial has been ordered in #amandaknox case.

Report two

From the New York Times report  Italy’s highest court on Tuesday overturned a previous acquittal and ordered a new trial in the sensational case of Amanda Knox, an American exchange student accused of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher of Britain, in 2007.

The ruling offered a further dramatic turn in a long-running case that has fascinated many people in the United states, Britain and the rest of Europe. But the full implications of the ruling were unclear, particularly the question of whether Ms. Knox would return voluntarily from the United States or be extradited to face new hearings.

Report three

Andrea Vogt in the Seattle PI. In a stunning turn around of one of Europe’s most closely watched murder trials, Italy’s Court of Cassation on Tuesday annulled the acquittals of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito and ordered two to stand trial again on appeal.

The decision came after nearly six hours of debate, not just on points of law, but on the evidence too.

This was a rare mix of exceptional violations of law and monumentally illogical reasoning, said Procurator General Luigi Riello in his scathing description of the appeals court’s 2011 decision to acquit. I believe all the elements are there to make sure the final curtain does not drop on this shocking crime, he said.

[Read more, especially on the remarks of AG Riello]

Report four

Further Tweets from Andrea Vogt who was in the courtroom:

Any outcome at appeal retrial in Florence would have to be upheld at Cassation [Rome] level.

No extradition unless formal request is made after a definitive conviction (appeal conviction upheld by high court).

Report five

Translated from La Stampa

The news is breaking news on all major U.S. television, including from CNN. The announcement of the Supreme Court arrives at Seattle on the U.S. west coast a little past two in the morning, and in New York at four. “I am not unsatisfied,” said the Attorney General of the Supreme Court Luigi Riello. The lawyer Francesco Maresca, the Kercher family lawyer, welcomed the judgment of annulment by the Supreme Court with a gesture of a fist in victory “It ‘a moral victory and good appeal trial outcome ,” said Maresca. “I had confidence in the Supreme Court” Maresca-explains why there were so many weaknesses of the judgment of the Court of Assizes of Appeal of Perugia.” In tears the victim’s sister, Stephanie said to him. “I’m happy ...,”

Posted on 03/26/13 at 06:28 AM by The TJMK Main PostersClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Appeals 2009-2015Hellmann critiquesCassation 2013Italian system
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More Pervasive Myths We Will Nail In Our Various Hoaxes Series In Due Course

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters





We hope you made it through those amazing Powerpoints on the case for guilt introduced in the post directly below.

We have created around two dozen other Powerpoints also. Here are all Kermit’s Powerpoints and here are all other Powerpoints.

Below are summaries of some more key and very pervasive myths which you can easily spot in today’s media in the US and UK (though never in Italy) which we will nail in depth soon in other longer posts.

The real hard truths can all already be found here on TJMK if you search for them. Please feel free to email us if you need some quick guidance.

1) That Knox and Sollecito maybe face a “retrial”

Rubbish. At most they face a re-run, done properly, of a poorly managed, legally and scientifically incompetent, and highly biased first appeal. It SHOULD look like any US or UK appeal: limited, fast, focusing only on a few points, no consultants, no witnesses, no attempt to run a new first-level trial.

2) That any such “retrial” is a case of double jeopardy

Rubbish. Under Italian law Knox and Sollecito still stand accused of murder and other crimes until the final appeal court (in this case the Supreme Court) signs off, so they were NEVER found “innocent, end of story” at first appeal level. There’s no question of double jeopardy; and the exact-same rules apply in the US.

3) That Amanda Knox was forced into “confessing”

Rubbish. This is the misleading label for her framing of Patrick Lumumba. She spilled the beans fast and vociferously (and repeatedly) after Sollecito who was being interrogated in another room sold her out and said she had made him tell lies. Interrogations were short, she had an interpreter, she was not interrogated as a suspect without a lawyer, and she had refreshments.

4) That all the DNA evidence was thrown out by Hellmann

Rubbish. Hellmann (who is now edged out in disgrace) and Zanetti were not criminal judges, and this was their first DNA case. They were totally at sea. By innuendo, two consultants, illegally appointed and ill qualified, tried to make out there was possible contamination. They proved nothing. They ADMITTED Meredith’s DNA was on the big knife and that Sollecito’s DNA was on the bra clasp. There was lots of other incriminating DNA evidence outside Meredith’s door.

5) That “the” prosecutor was rogue, satanist, and out of control.

Rubbish. The lead prosecutor at trial (Mignini) is straight as an arrow and very admired, and has no interest in satanism. His work was checked by a co-prosecutor, other prosecutors, and many judges. He is in line for a major promotion, and has no dark cloud hanging over his head. The Supreme Court TWICE came down strongly in his favor in the part several weeks, and he is about to be promoted to Deputy Chief Prosecutor for the Province of Umbria.

Final warning:

Disregard everything coming from ABC, CNN, and any Seattle TV station. They are highly biased for commercial reasons, they don’t know the case, and they have essentially been serial-lying to the American public.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Nailing Myths #1: In Fact 2009 Trial Was Decisive By US/UK Standards, Evidence Very Powerful Indeed

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters





This first post in our new series is a collection of Powerpoint slides summarising the case against.

It was created by our lawyer James Raper with help from Kermit on the content and slides. Please load Powerpoint Viewer if not on your system, and click here for the show.

The Powerpoints consist of 150 slides, the outcome of many hours of work, and should open up in the viewer via most Internet connections in 30 to 60 seconds. 

As we continue to point out NOT ONE credible independent lawyer has ever destroyed this case, or come up with a scenario that lets Knox and Sollecito authentically off the hook.

See the header to this post?  MANY lawyers are making the comment that in the UK and US this trial would have been the end of the road.  No judge in the US or UK would have okayed any appeal. There were never the grounds.

Posted on 03/25/13 at 05:33 PM by The TJMK Main PostersClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Knox-Mellas teamSollecito team
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Elite First Criminal Section Of Italian Supreme Court Now Receiving Prosecution Critiques

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Some of the judges of the First Criminal Section hearing another recent case, with other sections behind]


We believe the woman in the image is PIERA MARIA SEVERINA CAPRIOGLIO who is the lead judge (rapporteur) for the case.

Dr Caprioglio is known as a legal expert and hardliner on sex crimes. There is a total of five judges, and the president of the First Section is on the panel. This is unprecedented judicial firepower for a murder case, and seems to be a response to the enormous damage done by the Curt Knox/David Marriott campaign. No American political leader is going to second-guess this.

We are anticipating tweets and news reports out of Italy throughout the day.  Andrea Vogt is one who is tweeting from the court. Follow her here.

First report:

@andreavogt #amandaknox discussions starting now in cassation court in Rome. Judge Caprioglio is summarizing the case.

Second report

@andreavogt Procuratore Generale Riello now taking the floor in #amandaknox case, after a 90-minute review of all the arguments.

[Deputy Chief Prosecutor Luigi Riello [image below] holds the same rank that Dr Galati held before he transferred to Perugia to be chief prosecutor there.]

Third report

@andreavogt PG Riello: I believe the judges [Hellmann and Zanetti] lost their way. There are elements that were absolutely not taken into consideration.

Fourth report

@andreavogt PG read from Guede’s letter blaming Sollecito and #amandaknox. Says “strange” that court believed some Guede statements and not others.

Fifth report

@andreavogt The president just curtly asked PG Riello to get on with it, not go into details heard already in first instance and appeal.

Sixth report

@andreavogt PG Riello has concluded, asking that acquittals be anulled and an appeal retrial be set. Half hour break in #amandaknox hearing.

Seventh report

Okay this is us. The proposal to annul the Hellmann-Zanetti outcome has gone viral on Italian media websites. A translation of ACP Riello’s remarks is coming.

Eighth report

@andreavogt Cassation back in session in #amandaknox case, w/ Kercher Atty F. Maresca asking why there wasn’t a full review all forensic evidence.

Ninth report

@andreavogt Giulia Bongiorno has begun def arguments in #amandaknox case: “raff sollecito went to jail for a shoeprint that belonged to Rudy Guede.”

Tenth report

@andreavogt #Bongiorno just pointed out a factual error in the PG’s #amandaknox arguments. Judges listening. She’s a very good orator.

Eleventh report

@andreavogt C. Dalla Vedova urges Cassation to uphold #amandaknox acquittals and overturn slander: “This girl was stressed, confused, pressured.”

Twelvth report

@andreavogt Lawyers say the court of cassation is expected to announce a decision in the #amandaknox case around 21:00.

[Image below: Luigi Riello Deputy Chief Prosecutor Of The Supreme Court]

 

Posted on 03/25/13 at 07:53 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Appeals 2009-2015Hellmann critiquesCassation 2013Italian system
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After Bizarre Hellmann Outcome Hard Questions That Meredith’s Family Now Face

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Stepahnie Kercher at end of first appeal in late 2011 with Meredith’s second brother Lyle]


Judge Massei came out with a clear scenario for Meredith’s death after trial in 2009.

Judge Hellmann attempted to pick it apart but left no sensible scenario in its place. That is the toughest and legally most crucial argument of today’s prosecution appeal: that the 2011 appeal judges attempted to run a whole new trial - but essentially only listened to the defense.

In this context as Tom Kington reports the Kercher family lawyer in Perugia Dr Francesco Maresca has made this series of comments:

Francesco Maresca, a lawyer representing the Kerchers, claimed the acquittals of Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito were “defective” and “lacked transparency”, adding he was pushing for a retrial.

The appeal court rejected key evidence against Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito after ordering new expert analysis of traces of DNA found on a knife belonging to Mr Sollecito, and on Miss Kercher’s bra strap.

“There are many parts of the judge’s ruling that are defective,” said Mr Maresca. “For example, why did they only review those two bits of evidence? What about the blood in Miss Kercher’s bathroom and traces in the rest of the house?”

Mr Maresca also suggested the appeal court judge had buckled under pressure from supporters of Miss Knox in the US.

“There was a lot of external pressure and the judge showed a will from the start to acquit,” he said.

Dr Maresca also passes on a statement from Meredith’s sister Stephanie:

“We all still miss Meredith terribly… Unfortunately nothing will bring her back.”  Miss Kercher said her family continued to receive support from around the world and had set up a Meredith Kercher Fund to help pay their legal fees, adding the fund could be turned into a charity foundation when the case concludes in Italy.

“A beautiful young girl, my little sister, was taken from us far too soon in such a brutal way with too many unexplained factors,” she said.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Supreme Court Appeals: A Good Briefing On Tomorow’s Court Proceedings By Italy-Based Andrea Vogt

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Image above: Supreme Court in the foreground and St Peters & Vatican in the background]


Andrea Vogt often tweets very usefully on the case. Her tweet feed is here.

Today’s tweet pointed to this overview here.  It is very worth your reading the whole piece.

This is news about three of the judges of Cassation’s elite First Section on Criminal Cases which hasnt yet appeared in the Italian or, UK or US media.

I’ve chosen to not name the magistrates involved in the case until the hearing opens Monday, but for those following closely, here is some brief background on the key judges whose roles are more prominent, based on information I have gleaned from Ministry of Justice documents and “bolletino ufficiale” or public bulletins required to publicly announce personnel changes and events in the judiciary.

The presiding judge is a 72-year old magistrate originally from Naples. Over the years he has dealt with some of Italy’s most high profile crime cases, including the Sarah Scazzi case, as well as the Cassation’s 16-year prison sentence confirmation to Anna Maria Franzoni in the “delitto di Cogne,” the first high-profile case to divide Italy among innocentisti and colpevolisti lines. According to Ministry of Justice documents, the relatrice in the Amanda Knox case is 57-year old female magistrate from Turin.

The procurator general is the figure who has a prosecutor-like function and who presents the case to the panel and suggests what decision should be taken. In this case, the PG is married with two children, has been a judge since 1979 and worked for over two decades in Naples, including several years at the court of appeals there. He is known for his hard line against the clans of the Camorra.

Dr. Giovanni Galati, the Perugia procurator-general leading the recourse of the appeal’s court acquittal ruling is also no stranger to high-profile cases, having worked in the 1980s on the case of Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker murdered and found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in June, 1982

And this further explains the Cassation decision last week which will probably see the hapless Mario Spezi back in prison. We have several more of our own posts pending on this very complex affair.

There was a major development in that case earlier this week, when a separate section of the Cassation court ruled that the decades- old Narducci case, which Mignini had been ridiculed for pursuing, be sensationally re-opened.

The ruling gives new credence to Mignini’s much-maligned theory that there had been a body swap and cover up in the death of the Perugia doctor found in Lake Trasimeno and alleged to be involved in the Monster of Florence case.

Mario Spezi is among those whose acquittals were overturned this week and who has been called by the high court to stand trial.  Spezi’s alleged crime is calunnia, for suggesting Antonio Vinci was the real killer (his book marries this theory and it is the charge over which he was originally taken into custody in 2006).  It appears there are still a few chapters to be written.

Spezi has one definitive defamation conviction from the 1980s, and in the last two years, courts in Perugia and Florence handed down other convictions. He also faces trials in Padua, Milan and Perugia: all related to allegedly false or defamatory declarations in the Monster of Florence case.

Posted on 03/24/13 at 06:25 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Appeals 2009-2015Cassation 2013Italian system
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In An ABC Report Did Curt Knox & Edda Mellas Just Smear The Prosecution Appeal As “Harassment”?

Posted by Peter Quennell





That headline above is actually about a statement Knox’s parents made about Dr Galati a year ago.

They may or may not have just repeated it. Watch the video here. That is a video of a report broadcast today on ABC’s morning show. The claim comes at the 2:00 minute time point.

ABC is the Knox-Mellas’s current pet poodle among the American media, and (with the brave exception of Ann Wise on their website) ABC has consistently with extreme bias reported only the Knox-Mellas side of it.

So the new claim may well be accurate.

There are already dozens of recorded instance of ABC slamming the Italian police and prosecution - in effect accusing them of crimes.  Are ABC and the Knox-Mellases really wanting to head down this slippery slope some more? Right now?

Note how the bar has been seriously raised for any false accusations of crimes by Italian officialdom in this case.

While the Knox Mellases only face a calunnia (criminal defamation) trial for a previous instance, Raffaele Sollecito is being investigated for contempt of court for allegedly illegally attempting to interfere with an ongoing legal process.

Guilt on that charge can put perpetrators away for a long time. Ted Simon, are you asleep at the switch? Et tu, Signori Dalla Vedova e Ghirga?

Posted on 03/24/13 at 05:37 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Knox-Mellas team16 Interrogation hoax3 No evidence hoaxKnox Book
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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Hellmann-Zanetti Appeal Court’s DNA Consultancy Looks Even Worse In Face Of The Latest Science

Posted by Fly By Night



[Above: images of typical modern analysis DNA facilities similar to Dr Stefanoni’s in Rome]


The Galati appeal to Cassation comes down very strongly against the work and conclusions of the appeal court’s DNA consultants Vecchiotti and Conti.

Dr. Galati argues that the consultancy should never have happened at appeal level, that its methods were slipshod and out of date, that its conclusions were mainly innuendo that left the prosecution case untouched, and that the consultants should not have refused to test a remaining sample from the large knife collected at Sollecito’s place.

In July 2011, about the midpoint of the appeal trial, I took strong issue with the C&V science and essentially mirrored in advance what Dr. Galati would argue to Cassation nearly a year later. Many other TJMK posters including our legal posters James Raper and Cardiol took issue with legal and other aspects.

With a Supreme Court ruling on the 2nd level (first appeal level) outcome scheduled for early next week, it’s the perfect time to re-examine the role of DNA in that outcome against the latest science. I want to include some excellent observations from our contributing poster “Thoughtful” as expressed in her recently published book Math on Trial.

I’ll start off with an overview of the science of DNA analysis and describe recent developments in analysis approaches, techniques and capabilities.  Incidentally, one of my resources for this information is a chapter in “DNA Electrophoresis Protocols for Forensic Genetics” published shortly after the Hellmann verdict for the first appeal (circa early 2012); a chapter in which Carla Vecchiotti is cited as providing technical assistance.

Given Vecchiotti’s involvement in recent academic publications we can be certain that at the time of the Hellmann verdict Vecchiotti was well aware of the rapidly evolving and improving nature of DNA testing procedures and capabilities.  And in contrast to her courtroom allegations that Dr. Stefanoni had not followed “internationally established forensic science standards” in her DNA analysis techniques, Vecchiotti has recently contributed to sources claiming that today’s critical challenge is to develop general guidelines for DNA evaluation and promulgate clear and universal laboratory practices while recognizing that a multitude of labs exist, each with its own specific protocols and personnel.

We will return to the Conti-Vecchiotti report shortly, but first let’s have a quick look at the history and state-of-the-art of DNA analysis.


Brief History of DNA Testing

The literature reveals that the USA has never been at the forefront of forensic DNA analysis.  The first court cases to successfully employ DNA “fingerprinting” techniques occurred in England during the mid 1980s.  A case involving a double rape/homicide of teenage girls in 1986 turned out to be prophetic in that it involved the first use of DNA to exonerate an innocent suspect and also was the first to apply DNA “databases”, issues which still give rise to disputes nearly 30 years later.

Over time, a variety of procedures were developed to extract DNA from biological samples but all worked on the same basic principle of breaching individual cell walls, removing the protein surrounding the DNA, isolating the DNA, and finishing with the purification and quantification of the DNA.

An important milestone in DNA fingerprinting was the development of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) in 1985.  The PCR quickly became an important analytical method for forensic samples because of its sensitivity, specificity, rapid analysis, and ease of automation.  PCR amplification technology permitted the analysis of forensic samples with low quantities (less than 1 ng) of extracted DNA, unlike earlier methods that required at least 50 ng.

While PCR was far more sensitive than earlier procedures, problems with mixed DNA samples and DNA degradation led to the use of genetic markers known as Short Tandem Repeats (STR). STR analyses were fast and reactions could be multiplexed permitting multiple loci to be amplified in a single run.

In 1997 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory in the USA launched an effort to establish a set of 13 core STR loci for use within a national DNA database known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).  Similar sets of STR markers had already been selected by the European Union and elsewhere but, in general, a DNA profile obtained using 12 or more STR loci was found to yield a composite genotype frequency of less than 1 in a quadrillion.  This high degree of accuracy results from the hereditary nature of STR distribution and enables a very powerful method for biological identifications.

STR typing of extracted DNA has traditionally been very sensitive to the quantity of input DNA with ideal levels ranging from 0.5 to 2 ng.  Either too little or too much DNA could produce imbalanced amplification results resulting in incomprehensible outcomes.  The STR process is further complicated by “stutter” in the interpretation of multiple contributor DNA samples.  Stutter is an artifact of the PCR process that produces “false alleles” one repeat shorter than a primary allele.

In recent years DNA analysis techniques have evolved rapidly as equipment manufacturers upgrade STR systems to tolerate even the smallest of samples and samples that have been highly degraded.  The improved sensitivity of today’s STR kits along with the development of new strategies for the amplification of low levels of DNA now allows samples which previously could not be analyzed to produce viable results.

Low-level DNA samples often contain mixtures of DNA, which has complicated the detection and interpretation process due to stochastic sampling effects that include peak imbalance, enhanced stutter, allele loss (allele drop-out), and un-attributable alleles (allele drop-in).  With this in mind, strict guidelines have been developed including a careful determination of analytical thresholds and the use of replicate analyses in a profile to properly interpret low-level mixed-DNA samples.  More importantly, new analytical techniques such as laser micro-dissection and fluorescence in-situ hybridization have been developed enabling the identification, capture, and amplification of DNA from individual cells prior to “electrophoresis”, eliminating the problem of mixed profiles altogether.

In addition to today’s far more precise DNA analysis machines and methods there are also compelling arguments for the use of statistical or probabilistic models within the DNA analysis process to augment traditional “consensus allele” electropherogram evaluation approaches.  In short, the efforts of both scientists and statisticians are now creating powerful next generation approaches to DNA analyses as we progress through a second decade of highly successful STR typing methodologies.


Logic and Science on Trial

In my 2011 report I challenged Carla Vecchiotti’s contention that Dr. Stefanoni had not followed “internationally established forensic science standards” in her DNA analysis techniques.  Vecchiotti herself has conceded to the challenge through her contributions to publications that clearly describe a need to develop generally accepted guidelines for DNA evaluation and to create clear and universal laboratory practices that can be accepted by the diverse population of analytical labs currently operating under divergent operational protocols, all under the direction of professional and expert personnel.

In her excellent and recently published Math on Trial book, contributing poster “Thoughtful” accurately describes how DNA analysis expert Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni proceeded in her laboratory analysis of a small DNA sample found on the blade of a knife confiscated from Raffaele Sollecito’s apartment.  Not having what she felt was a sufficient sample to divide for replication of her analysis Dr. Stefanoni took the chance of running her entire sample in a single run.

As is typical of all DNA analyses, Stefanoni proceeded to amplify the results to a point where an electropherogram would reveal meaningful “peaks” and found that a resultant 13 pairs of peaks corresponded precisely to peaks derived from a known sample of Meredith Kercher’s DNA!

In this case it is pointless to attempt to argue that Stefanoni somehow exceeded the amplification limits of her equipment.  As outlined in the DNA discussion above, the typical problems associated with an amplification of low levels of DNA are related to peak imbalances, enhanced stutter, allele drop-outs, or allele drop-ins.  In this case there was nothing but a perfect match for Meredith that even Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti could not deny in court.

Stefanoni had clearly identified an identical match for Meredith’s DNA on the blade of Sollecito’s kitchen knife, leaving Vecchiotti and Conti no other option than to argue for “contamination” in court.  However, it was convincingly demonstrated by Stefanoni and all evidence handlers that from knife collection through laboratory analysis no reasonable opportunity for contamination with Meredith’s DNA existed.

In the first appeal trial, Judge Hellmann was thus presented with exceptionally compelling evidence that Meredith’s DNA was in fact found on the alleged murder weapon that had been confiscated from Raffaele Sollecito’s apartment.  Astonishingly, Hellmann rejected this evidence on an expressed assumption of non-compliance with testing techniques established by international scientific community standards; compliance standards that Vecchioti herself admits do not exist via recent academic and scientific publications as discussed above.

As “Thoughtful” carefully explains in Math on Trial, Hellmann’s faulty reasoning in excluding the knife evidence did not end there.  Hellmann provided Vecchiotti and Conti with an opportunity to retest any remaining DNA on the knife if they felt it was warranted.  Vecchiotti and Conti declined to perform any retests on the basis that that only a few cells might still exist on the knife, thus invalidating any potential results according to a false assumption that “international testing standards” somehow prohibited such low-level DNA tests even though, as outlined in the DNA discussion above, single-cell DNA analysis had at that time already become an acceptable possibility and Vecchiotti knew it.

Hellmann, however, accepted Vecchiotti and Conti’s reasoning by essentially stating that repeating an “invalid” DNA analysis procedure twice can do nothing towards resolving a DNA identification problem because two wrongs do not make a right.  In Math on Trial, “Thoughtful” artfully explains the complete failure of logic of Hellmann’s line of reasoning.  Hellmann claims that running an experiment independently two separate times and obtaining the same result each time can do absolutely nothing towards increasing the assurance of reliability for an event.

However, “Thoughtful” describes how successfully repeating Stefanoni’s low-level DNA analysis technique could easily carry a probabilistic result from a “not beyond a reasonable doubt” percentage range to a highly convincing 98.5% or higher probability.  “Thoughtful’s” arguments in Math on Trial are completely in line with today’s efforts to embed statistical and probabilistic models within the DNA analysis process for a much higher precision and accuracy standard.


Conclusions

In 2011 I concluded that Vecchiotti and Conti’s expert report findings actually boiled down to two primary debates: (1) Issues surrounding the small sample (Low Copy Number – LCN) DNA analysis techniques employed by Dr. Stefanoni, and (2) Issues surrounding the probability of excluding all possible sources of contamination from the evidence.

In 2013, on the eve of the Court of Cassation ruling on the first appeal outcomes of the Meredith Kercher murder trial, it appears to me that all issues related to DNA analysis and contamination have been powerfully addressed by both the prosecution and “best available science” considerations. 

The errors in Judge Hellmann’s logic and reasoning that set Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito free have been shown to be plentiful and astounding, as evidenced by the few DNA related examples that have been examined in this report.  In light of all of the above and the powerful legal arguments raised by the Galati appeal to Cassation, it seems that there can be no other option than to send this appeal outcome back for a thorough lower court re-evaluation.

Posted on 03/23/13 at 05:05 AM by Fly By NightClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolThe two knivesAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann critiquesHoaxers from 2007More hoaxers
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hard Line Against Seeming Self-Serving Meddling By Preston & Spezi Likely To Get Cassation Nod

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Another crazy provocation from Preston & Spezi The Angel With The Eyes Of Ice due in Germany soon]


Breaking news.  Cassation is deciding right now on a formidably worded appeal by the Umbria Prosecutor General to sustain the MOF/Narducci investigation.

The mood generally in Italy is pro the Giuttari and Mignini Monster of Florence supposition, for which there is some firm proof, and not in favor of the hairbrained Spezi and Preston supposition, for which there is none at all. Giuttiari’s book Il Mostro sells very well, while Spezi’s and Preston’s MOF hardly sells at all.

Continued investigation had been stymied by the self-serving actions of certain Florence prosecutors in charging and convicting Giuttari and Mignini for supposed harm to themselves. That conviction was reversed a year ago by an appeal judge in Florence for lack of jurisdiction, and several week ago Cassation scathingly ruled that the case must come to a total end..

The judge who found Giuttari and Mignini guilty (Francesco Maradei) is now up to his ears in his own trouble for bending court outcomes, seemingly due to pressures and bribes. Meanwhile the way has been opened for Mignini to move up to the level of Prosecutor General for Umbria (there are four prosecutor posts at that level) in the next few weeks.

Giuttari spoke out strongly about the trumped up case, and in yet another unexpected development the police chief he blamed for blocking strong pursuit of the case, Antonio Manganelli, has just died.

This post by Yummi of 21 January (especially the second half) is a vital read.

One thing you can say for the fictionalist Doug Preston: he never knows how to quit when he’s behind! 

Read our many, many posts especially by Kermit exposing Preston as a serial liar here.  This new book [image at top] by Preston and Spezi in German on Meredith’s case is promised for release next month, and included in the publisher’s blurb is this claim:

In Perugia, Italy, the British student Meredith Kercher is brutally murdered in her apartment. Prime suspect is her American flatmate Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. With sparse circumstantial evidence both are convicted to extremely long prison sentences. Two years later, an appeals process frees both. Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi roll out the spectacular case of Amanda Knox from scratch. Previously unpublished details, interviews with lawyers involved and the exposure of the dubious machinations of the Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini guarantee a breathtaking reading that can compete with any thriller.

Yeah, well, good luck with that one.

As we have reported in depth the Chief Prosecutor in Florence is already considering contempt-of-court charges for Raffaele Sollecito based on a large number of complaints about his book. If Amanda Knox’s book which is promised for next month impugns even one Italian official, she can be assured of the same..

Presumably so can Preston if this book, the latest of his many hairbrained ventures, comes forth.  More reporting right here when Cassation decides on the Prosecutor General’s appeal.


Monday, March 18, 2013

One Week From Today The Rulings Of The Supreme Court of Cassation Should Be Announced

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters





The Supreme Court received the Galati appeal and the Knox appeal over a year ago - the full documents - and began considering them in depth some months ago.

The appeals are being handled by the Court’s elite First Section which has a reputation for taking the kind of precedent-setting jurisprudence issues the Galati report raises very seriously. This looks like it could be bad news for RS and AK.

The Italian judiciary has had more than enough of the harassment of the Knox campaign, and the name of the lead judge has deliberately not been announced so that no attempts to reach them or distract or vilify them can be made.

Similarly the investigation into whether Sollecito in his book is in contempt of court for attempting to undermine an ongoing legal process has also been taken behind the scenes. If Knox’s book comes out before the legal process ends she too may be investigated for contempt of court.

The Court of Cassation may entertain some oral arguments from the prosecution and defenses next monday and will then announce their decisions on the two appeals on monday or tuesday. Written versions should follow a few days later.

If they decline to change both the Hellmann-Zanetti verdicts, Knox would remain a felon for life for framing Patrick, but otherwise RS and AK would walk free. If they accept Knox’s appeal but not Galati’s, RS and AK would both walk free, and her felony record would be erased.

Any other outcome would result in the cases being punted back down to the lower courts, this time around to get it right.

Betting in Rome and Perugia is that there is probably going to be a complete rejection of the H-Z outcomes as being of illegally wide scope (that stands out a mile) and RS and AK would be back to where they were at the end of the Massei trial, only worse off because of Sollecito’s book.

This betting is based in part on Hellmann having been edged out by the Council of Magistrates, rumor has it for embarrassing his peers with slipshod work. Any repeat of the appeal (second level) could take place quite fast, and maybe in Florence with a new prosecution team.

It would not be stretched out for illegal DNA consultancies or illegally try to second-guess all of the trial evidence in absence of trial experts and trial witnesses who originally presented it, or be in session only on occasional saturdays for the convenience of Bongiorno and her baby.

Posted on 03/18/13 at 11:22 AM by The TJMK Main PostersClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Appeals 2009-2015Cassation 2013
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Like Amanda Knox, Jodi Arias Forgets, Sings, Jokes, And Does Headstands In Interrogation Context

Posted by Peter Quennell

Posted on 03/18/13 at 08:00 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedOther legal processesThose elsewhereAmanda Knox
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Friday, March 15, 2013

The Oil Tanker Incident: Things Between Italy And India Become… Complicated

Posted by Peter Quennell





India and Italy have long been close allies but an incident a year ago perversely reverberates on.

We posted on it here and here with some excellent commentary from our Indian posters Sara and Chami.

Italy maintained that the shooting of two fishermen who the soldiers above had wrongly assumed were pirates happened in international waters, and the oil-tanker company offered to pay substantial damages to the grieving families, which they appeared at one point to have accepted.

But though the tanker was long gone from the port of Kochi, the soldiers remained under house arrest, and in the state of Kerala there remained a disposition to put them on trial though the central government told Kerala they had no jurisdiction. On the say-so of the Italian Ambassador in New Delhi that they would return, the soldiers were recently allowed to return to Italy.

Now it seems Italy doesnt want to send them back. In quick retaliation, the Indian mission to Rome may be in the process of being diplomatically downgraded, the Italian Ambassador to India is being prevented from leaving India, and the Indian Express sees a sardonic side to all of this. 

To complicate the lives of the diplomats, Sri Lanka has arrested 53 Indian fishermen which it said were illegally fishing in its territorial waters, and is still holding 19 of them captive. And Italy is seeking to have a number of CIA operatives returned to Italy to stand trial there for kidnapping.

One bit of genuine good news is that piracy is at a five year low. Phew. Thanks for that one.

Posted on 03/15/13 at 08:46 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The wider contextsItalian context
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Psychiatrist Dale Archer Suggests Jodi Arias Fits Sociopath Profile Except For No History Of Quirks

Posted by Peter Quennell



[The $200,000 home of the victim Travis Alexander at the eastern edge of Phoenix, Arizona]


Dale Archer assesses the admitted Arizona killer Jodi Arias against the checklist of sociopathic symptoms.

In his opinion (he has not had direct access to Jody Arias) she appears to accord to 6 of the 9 the symptoms below. He thinks she doesnt fit the key last one, no past history of anti-social or odd behavior going back prior to her affair with Travis Alexander, which he considers to rule out sociopathy.

We noted in the previous post that Jodi Arias had a turbulent family history and job history, and she made a good case on the stand that her boyfriend was debasing her. But absent actual signs of prior symptoms, Dr Archer doesn’t find that enough.

Failure to conform to societal norms: Jodi has no respect for the law or the rules of society. She not only viciously killed another person, she openly and unabashedly sneers at the prosecuting attorney and the courtroom proceedings.

Pathological lying: Ms. Arias has no problem lying. We’ve all seen it and know she’s good at it. Sociopaths lie easily and keep their cool because a lie is not considered wrong or immoral. It’s merely a way to get what they want. In the early stages of the investigation, Arias came up with three different lies for the police which explained what happened, changing her story as they disproved each.

Manipulation, deception, and cunning: Arias hacked into Alexander’s email and Facebook accounts. He found her hiding in his closet when he returned home from a date. She introduced him to sex, playing the submissive partner though she was actually dominant in order to control him. It is the prosecution’s speculation Arias eventually filmed and recorded Alexander in compromising situations to blackmail him if he tried to leave her.

Impulsiveness: A co-worker claimed Arias continuously called Alexander from work. If there was no answer, she would drop everything and leave to track down Alexander. She didn’t care if she lost her job, as long as she didn’t lose Alexander. Another point: while in the act of murdering him, Arias dropped a camera, and incredibly it snapped a picture of the murder taking place. Instead of taking the camera with her, along with the rope, the gun, her bloody clothes….. she impulsively threw it in the washing machine and ran it through a cycle. Miraculously, the images remained on the film.

Irritability and aggressiveness: Arias was becoming increasingly irritable and when Alexander started seeing another woman she turned up the heat. She stalked, vandalized, plotted and then murdered. Twice she slashed the tires on his car. She sent a threatening email to Alexander’s new love interest.

Reckless disregard for safety of self or others: We do not have record of Arias disregarding anyone else’s safety at this point other than Alexander- she killed him or herself; threatening suicide when Alexander would try to cut the ties. Ultimately the person she killed wasn’t herself, but Travis Alexander, the one person who consumed her thoughts, her life.

Persistent irresponsibility: In her 20s, Arias worked at several dead-end jobs and was in and out of relationships, but nothing stands out. No convictions, jail time or other legal issues.

Lack of remorse or guilt. In Arias’ mind, Alexander was not a person but her possession. He took her to interesting places, and she introduced him to sex. When he tried to pull away, she would reel him back with ever more outrageous sex practices. Eventually she killed him so no one else could have her possession. At the funeral, she did not shed one tear. Since the murder, the investigation, the arrest and the trial, not once has she said “I’m sorry.”

Before age 15 and continuing, a history of antisocial behavior. Here is the real problem with labeling Arias as a sociopath. This condition starts in the young teen years, if not before. It is a persistent and consistent behavior over the first three to four decades of the individual- some say for a lifetime. No one has come forward with any prior behavioral issues, legal issues, problems with work, family or friends. She was reportedly a very “good girl” in high school and very “normal.” At this time there are no known problems with previous boyfriends.

Jodi Arias has one or two more days on the witness stand, and then defense experts will try to account for her behavior and blackout at the time Travis died in a non-incriminating way. This trial is being shown live on American TV (the HLN channel).

Arias somewhat withered under very tough questions from the jury. Would Knox? Plenty of still-unanswered questions for Knox here.

Posted on 03/12/13 at 11:14 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Other legal processesThose elsewhereThe psychology
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