Tuesday, January 03, 2012

UK High Court Convicts Two After 18 Years When Defense DNA Contamination Claims Lose Traction

Posted by The Machine

Gary Dobson and David Norris have been found guilty of murdering Stephen Lawrence in 1993 by a jury at the Old Bailey.

There are some parallels between this case and the Meredith Kercher case: the police were accused of making a catalogue of errors and the defence lawyers claim forensic evidence was contaminated.

Gary Dobson was acquitted of Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1996. However, the Court of Appeal quashed the acquittal. The case against David Norris collapsed before it reached court.

It’s heartening that Dobson and Norris have been finally brought to justice. Forensic scientists used advanced techniques which were not available to the original investigators to recover bloodstains, clothing fibres and a single hair belonging to Stephen Lawrence from the clothes of the suspects.

Rosalyn Hammond from LGC Forensics explaining in today’s Telegraph:

Their convictions come after a five-week trial during which forensic evidence linking the two to the murder was shown to the jury.

The discovery of the fibres, blood and hair on the clothing was the evidence upon which the trial was based. A spot of Stephen’s blood was found on the collar of Dobson’s jacket, while hairs belonging to Stephen were found on Norris’ trousers.  As well as the blood spot, fibres from Stephen’s clothing were found on clothing taken from the homes of Dobson and Norris.

At one point in the 1990s Dobson contacted the Metropolitan Police to ask for the return of his clothes. But, after considering his request, Scotland Yard declined. Even today the force retains the clothing of all of the suspects so that they can be tested as forensic techniques develop.

A further criticism could be laid at the door of the scientists who failed to discover the blood spot in the 1990s.  But experts pointed out that even if it had been discovered then, it would have been useless as DNA testing had not yet developed enough to be able to clarify that such a small stain was blood belonging to Stephen Lawrence.

The tiny stain found on Dobson’s jacket is believed, by forensic experts, to be the smallest piece of forensic evidence upon which a trial has ever been mounted.

The decision to base the prosecution against Dobson on such a small piece of evidence was a risk, however. After his conviction was quashed, the current law allows only one further attempt at prosecution. It meant that if he was found not guilty, Dobson could never have been charged again.

The Italian Supreme Court should order another appeal trial on the grounds that the court consultants Vecchiotti and Conti failed to carry out a newly available test on the knife. That was despite the fact they were specifically instructed in their initial instructions to do so.

Also that Judge Hellman late in the appeal arbitrarily denied the prosecution request for precisely that test of the DNA without any good reason.

The prosecution grounds for their appeal to the Italian Supreme Court due this month are expected to repeat this request and we can see no grounds that could allow the Supreme Court to deny it. There are a number of laboratories that have the technology to carry out a test on the remaining DNA on the knife.

The requested test on the knife should go ahead.

Posted by The Machine on 01/03/12 at 08:53 PM in Evidence & WitnessesDNA and luminolThe legal followups


This helpful comment by Gabster on another thread is reposted here:

A significant and landmark result in the Stephen Lawrence murder trial today in London. Two defendants guilty of murder - after forensic testing after 18 years revealed new evidence. The defense argued contamination - similar to Meredith’s case, but the jury saw through this and did not agree.

This case was also significant as it was only the reversal of the double jeopardy rule that allowed the individuals to be tried again.

This was a huge case in the UK for those not familiar and there is the feeling that the truth has caught up with these killers after all these years.

It is good to see that the contamination defense argument not winning the day again - otherwise DNA and forensic evidence would seem to be fruitless.

I also hope that justice for Meredith can happen in the future and that the truth shines through - as it did in this case.

Posted by gabster1971 on 01/03/12 at 12:37 PM | #

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/03/12 at 11:16 PM | #

@The Machine

Thanks also to Gabster71 posting under Italian Criticisms for bringing us this news.

Your parallels are remarkable & important. So this news is encouraging along certain lines.  I always did feel that criticism of the police (& forensics) was seriously misplaced—they apprehended the culprits, brought a wealth of evidence & won the prosecution’s case.

Also flimsy was the recommendation of the two professors Vecchiotti and Conti that ALL the forensic evidence should be discounted on quite inadequate grounds.

While the parallels are encouraging in prospect of further movement in the Meredith case, yet two striking differences remains. Your YouTube snippet posted above reveals a serious lapse in police duty in the London case—no honest parallel here to the Italians on duty who did everything possible &, I think, everything or nearly everything right.

Also different & possibly basic (if elusive, problematic): the question of an Italian motive. Without expanding that, I continue to feel that authorities in Italy don’t want Knox back in prison (& all the media fuss involved) & that, to date, they have achieved what they wanted of the Hellman court.

Peter’s suggestion of an Interpol arrest warrant is promising for many reasons but let others examine that.

Again, The Machine & gabster1971, many thanks.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 01/03/12 at 11:22 PM | #

This is a huge case and has been in the UK since Stephens murder in 1993. This was a true pack mentality crime and only 2 of the pack have been convicted.

This case gives me hope that new DNA evidence was still admissible 18 years after the event.

This gives me further hope that it will enable Meredith another London native and her family the truth and justice they need & deserve.

RIP Stephen & Meredith.

Posted by tfyfe_uk on 01/03/12 at 11:24 PM | #

Hi tfyfe_uk,

DNA evidence has been used to convict people many years after their crimes were committed. For example, Ronald Castree was convicted 32 years after he had murdered Lesley Molseed. The argument that Sollecito’s DNA on Meredith’s bra clasp isn’t valid evidence because the clasp was collected 46 days after the murder is ridiculous.

Posted by The Machine on 01/04/12 at 01:40 AM | #

Very interesting story and posts here.  I agree that the test should have been repeated and that it was ridiculous for Hellman not to allow it.  I hope for some clarity in the future on this case.

Posted by believing on 01/04/12 at 04:55 AM | #

@ The Machine great news and thank you. I always thought the arguments about the 46 day delay in collecting the bra clasp were total rubbish.

What about all those very old cold cases that are re opened by new investigators and the evidence is found in boxes that have been re located in different warehouses etc.,  Items are sometimes missing from the file and have been handled by lots of different people.

Then with new technology evidence is discovered on a sock or something that has been handled by many with and without gloves and then turns out to be the case breaker.

Posted by mason2 on 01/04/12 at 07:56 AM | #

Some of the misunderstanding comes from the poor knowledge about the DNA and how a single molecule of DNA can identify a person unequivocally- far, far beyond all and any reasonable doubt.

Contamination can and does occur but they are usually contaminations from the lab workers or people who has handled the sample.  Modern practice and clean habits are so good that it is virtually impossible to explain any possible contamination theory (as in the case of AK and RS), like the ones floating in the internet blogs.

However, if Chris Halkides to be believed, only a single molecule (as per my estimate) of DNA (of MK) was found on the knife. However, the sample after amplification (PCR reaction) can be always retested.

No satisfactory reason for contamination was ever presented.

Posted by chami on 01/04/12 at 10:33 AM | #

I forgot to add:

(A) Does anyone sincerely believe that if the samples are retested they will produce a different result? (possible in theory only and impossible in practice).  There is something called reliability of an experimental analysis…

(B) I feel disgusted when someone says that the signals (for the DNA on the knife blade) came from rye bread (well, it was said indirectly)- I know ignorant people are in the majority and in a democracy we must listen to the majority- and they go on and on and repeat the phrase with glee.

Posted by chami on 01/04/12 at 11:43 AM | #

Let us also be inspired by the courage of SL’s family members and their determination to fight on in the face of so many setbacks.

Posted by Ann-Marie on 01/04/12 at 04:52 PM | #

Good news, Peter. At this point nothing less than a complete retrial at the appeals level would do. I think there are a number or good reasons to do so, besides retesting the knife.

I would like a ruling on the bra clasp DNA as well, but, surely, the Hellmann Report is the starting point for grounds for appeal, if it is as badly written and biased as early translations indicate it is?

Posted by Ergon on 01/04/12 at 09:52 PM | #

WHo cares…nobody cares about me and I don´t care about you anymore. deactivate my account if you please…................................

Posted by aethelred23 on 01/04/12 at 11:31 PM | #

aethelred23, please give TJMK another chance. It’s hard for this board to be a chatroom, and we’re in a down cycle with not much news. I’d recently been thinking about you in particular, and Mimi, and some other posters from long time ago and now I’m sorry I didn’t act on it to name and thank, but holidays intervened, distractions, new directions as we all have in private lives. Please remember it’s difficult to respond directly to individual posters when the format is comments on a news article and not necessarily conversation among posters. Your input has always been good so please don’t feel your comments are not valuable. I’ve read every one of yours.

They are being read, whether people seem to respond to them or not. This site has great numbers of readers and lurkers. It’s easy for any of us to get discouraged. Stay on board just awhile longer, you may get revitalized as new topics arise.

Posted by Hopeful on 01/05/12 at 12:15 AM | #

Hi aethelred23. You’ve been loyal to Meredith and the community here for a long time. We all read you and you command the greatest respect. Email us how things are going for you? As you know emails get shared if the writer wants that and usually things work out very nicely.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/05/12 at 12:29 AM | #

Oh I´m sorry…this had nothing to do with TJMK but with my general failing health and no doctor caring sufficiently to help me. That´s why I wanted to stop everything I´d been doing for a while . But if you ask me of course I´ll stay.

Posted by aethelred23 on 01/05/12 at 12:37 AM | #

Dear friends.

If the Perugia’trial was a “normal” trial, I would already tell you that the Cassazione will accept the appeal of the prosecutors, but unfortunately this is not a normal trial.Why? Because Amanda is American, and America wants this case closed. Peter keeps answering me that there is know prove that politics was involved. But you need only logic to understand it.

Why did Mr.Girlanda resign as President of the Italian-American foundation after the acquittal of Amanda? And he said: “Now I can now resign after that Amanda Knox has been acquitted”. Why are you only now resigning, Mr Girlanda? Because the goal has been achieved? Did you have any role Mr Girlanda in this acquittal of your beloved American girl, Amanda? Did “someone” manoeuver to put a judge who has never done a criminal trial on the Amanda appeal trial?  A ridiculous judge who looked more like Amanda’s new lawyer than a judge?

Posted by Matteo_65 on 01/05/12 at 01:03 AM | #

I sense the Sword of Damocles is hanging over the heads Knox and Sollecito, waiting to drop sharply as and when advances in science put things into sharper focus, and/or when the “highest court” pronounces them guilty.

Meanwhile, get your sick bags ready: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2082375/Amanda-Knoxs-post-jail-life-On-Skype-Raffaele-Sollecito-parents-debt.html

Posted by nopassingby on 01/05/12 at 12:52 PM | #

Hi Matteo. Amusing about Girlanda. So many of those who hopped opportunistically on the PR-driven Knox bandwagon ended up paying a price. Girlanda has lost out in two ways: he espoused a cause which is unpopular in Italy and faces a tough election next time around; and his party and his mentor Berlusconi are out of power and unable to taunt or bend the justice system further.

Politics being impossible to prove is of course not the same thing as no politics.  We picked up slight hints that the US State Department might have liked the case on the back burner to give the deeply unpopular Berlusconi a small breather while he wrestled with the economic future of the western world. We picked up strong hints that Berlusconi and his people (which include Bongiorno and Girlanda) would have liked to land one in the eye of the powerful Perugia prosecutors, to set back their Olympics investigation which could have Berlusconi colleagues serving time in the big house rather than shoring up his coalition’s slim majority..

The appointment of Judge Hellman with no criminal cases in his past (and no DNA experience) was indeed astounding. But still we see no hard connecting up of all the dots leading to two judges and a jury bending the verdict for reasons other than a seeming personal bias toward the two white defendants and their flash-mobs in the court-room.

Our Italian lawyers all believe now that Cassation will go its own sweet way regardless of any politics (the judges actually like showing they are unbending to politics) and that it will set things straight. Our lawyers would lay money on the chances of a retrial or major makeover. Read the post above for one good precedent.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/05/12 at 02:56 PM | #

Hi nopassingby. So tha Daily Mail’s anonymous reporter mysteriously gets an inside track again complete with paparazzi type photos and squawks about AK being scared of paparazzis. Gimme a break. And I absolutely doubt the death threats - there is no easy channel for mail to reach Knox that law enforcement would not find traceable. We would have had death threats if it had been that easy - oh wait, some on PMF actually did get them. Well, put that down to Knox’s dummies.

Knox not promptly speaking out and making clear what “really” happened together with her sliming of Capanne staff and fellow inmates have been total disasters. Those folk sure know how to make the wrong enemies. Curt Knox tried to brush the evidence and weight of public opinion under the rug rather than confront them or honestly explain to Amanda about them in Capanne and now they all reap the bitter fruits.

A stupid legal strategy and a stupid PR strategy which have won them few friends and left them with giant bills they did not need to incur in the first place.  Maybe they should rewind the movie and go for the short-form trial as Guede did, with a tacit admission of some guilt, claims of some mitigating circumstances, and shows of real contrition toward Meredith’s family. Would Knox be any worse off than she is now?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/05/12 at 03:10 PM | #

Good post, Peter. And will she or sollecito take a lie detector test? Will they heck.

Posted by nopassingby on 01/05/12 at 03:53 PM | #


I would hope that pressure would be brought on K&S to have an independent polygraph test, by both sides.

However, I remember Louise Woodward underwent one which suggested that she told the truth. I have always thought that she was guilty.

Also, I would expect Cassation to statistically determine the chances of contamination of the knife and the bra clasp.

Posted by starsdad on 01/05/12 at 07:43 PM | #

Peter, you are surely correct in doubting the death threats. That claim only tries to solidify Amanda’s role in this as a Victim.

I hesitate to differ from your knowledgeable lawyers & confess to having learned a few things from your posts just above, I would put in a word for Matteo.

His view is based on inference with offered reasons. If Cassation takes up the prosecutors’ appeal, they surely won’t call for a retrial at the lower level which would open up fissures in public opinion.

I do say that they’ll conclude matters & I see no return to prison. If time served doesn’t suffice, then possibly your idea, Peter, of a European warrant for Knox’s arrest if she sets foot on that continent. A serious deprivation for one of her inclinations.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 01/05/12 at 08:36 PM | #


What happened?  Why do you think that no one cares?

In some way you right, no one cares about anyone else.  This works till a point but we do need each other and we are really dependent on each other! So we have to care, there is no way out of that.

In another way, yes, the society cares only about what you do, your work, your life it takes out as much as possible and demands more and more.  It does not really care about the fine human feelings and the company and the quality of life (this phrase I heard from a Dutch businessman). It is easy to feel neglected and lonely and, yes, it is real, depressed.  And you are right there.

But I ask you to see the reality: if nobody really cares about anybody else, then what the hell we are doing here?  I am really a stranger who has flocked to this blog just because I think it is important to care. 

By the way, I think Americans do care more but their expressions are poor. See, for example, the Italians care so much for their “kids” (Hellman’s words, not mine; and RS is the prime example) but the “kid” finally went astray. Amanda is no different but then when the time came the fighting parents for a change moved the earth, of if you want to say the other way, raised hell.  Because we all care.

But we must not forget Meredith.  That is the reason we are here. Because we care. You are not alone, you are not neglected, you are part of us, all of us.

Posted by chami on 01/05/12 at 08:42 PM | #

@ aethelred23

Sorry to hear you are not well. Keep looking for a Doctor who will listen to you, my experience is that they usually don’t. Without good health it is difficult to get much done.

I wish you all the best.

A belated Happy New Year to all.

Posted by Miriam on 01/05/12 at 10:54 PM | #

Something is fishy, well it usually is where Sollecito and Knox is concerned.
On the day Hellmann’s report came out (can’t remember the day) having already read the news I was looking at different new sites, when I saw on Il Giornale that the report was out. I posted the link without even noticing northcountry had already posted. I then went to Corriere della Sera and posted that link. When I got to TgCom I saw a video of Sollecito at his lawyers ( with his father of course) the article that went with it said he was not speaking to Knox or corresponding with her, but Xmas greeting would be exchanged by their family’s. Well, I was anxious to start reading the report so I did not post that link. The next day it was gone. I have searched for it and cannot find it. So, if he claims they don’t correspond why does the DM claim the do? And why this total blackout of news on the Italian media?

So before this one disappears: http://www.tgcom24.mediaset.it/cronaca/puglia/articoli/1032373/sollecito-mi-hanno-tolto-quattro-anni-di-vita-ho-bisogno-di-essere-curato-dentro.shtml

Posted by Miriam on 01/05/12 at 11:23 PM | #

Funny how a UK paper the Daily Mail is hyping up when US papers aren’t? Surely Knox’s PR team could get her some coverage, or are ‘death threats’ and ‘letters from Ron Howard’ etc seen as non-stories here?

What I do know is that John Kercher’s book “Meredith” is available for pre-order on amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk, (but not .com) release date April 26, 2012. U.S. customers might want to look at alternative arrangements now, though I should add that I myself never had a problem ordering from the other sites.

Posted by Ergon on 01/05/12 at 11:41 PM | #


It is difficult to see what a re-trial would be for other than a retest of the DNA samples from the knife and bra clasp, which C&V did not carry out, perhaps though not necessarily as part of a further general or specific point(s) DNA review.

Leaving the foregoing aside I can’t see the point of a re-trial myself. The Supreme Court has all the material it needs (from the two trials that have already taken place) to enable it to adjudicate.

We have had enough trials and I think the Supreme Court should bite the bullet and

(1) confirm the Hellmann verdict
(2) quash it (to re-instate the Massei verdict) OR
(3) deliver it’s own verdict with reasons

- though I am not sure option (3) would be within it’s powers though this is what I would like to see - a synthesis of and adjudication on the arguments from the two trials. This would save a lot of time and be kinder to every one involved, particularly the Kerchers. We not only need a major makeover but an authoritative one as well. But would the Supreme Court have the time and patience for this and could it be within it’s remit?

Posted by James Raper on 01/06/12 at 12:25 AM | #

Hello everyone.  Here’s an interesting tidbit which, I presume, is a US news source:


Posted by thundering on 01/06/12 at 12:57 AM | #

Are the news websites that do puff pieces on Amanda filtered for comments. Everytime I post actual facts from the case it seems they are never posted while every single comment is “They got the guy. is dna was all over the place, she was railroaded, italy is corrupt (yeah and her buddy Berlusconi was the most corrupt and the reason she is out).

Posted by Severino518 on 01/06/12 at 02:24 AM | #

[comment deleted on poster’s request]

Posted by TruthWillOut on 01/06/12 at 12:44 PM | #


Ditto what you said.

Posted by James Raper on 01/06/12 at 01:56 PM | #

Hi James

On your questions on Cassation at 8:25 pm. I relayed the advice from our Italian lawyers (the lawyer Yummi has been posting similarly on PMF) that Cassation if they agree with a prosecution appeal that there are problems will order all or part of it back down to an appeal court for a re-look rather than make any adjustment itself. There would be a longish written explanation.

It may or may not be the same appeal judge and a jury may or may not be involved. The partial retrial ordered in the case of the wife of Alessi for the kidnapping and murder of Baby Tommy took place in Bologne last year under a different judge and was handled rather quietly and quite fast. In that case Cassation considered that Alessi’s wife was over-charged for the murder (she was not present and it was not originally intended) and the sentence was very slightly reduced.

Maresca has said he intends to lodge an appeal but the attorney general (image in the post below) has not yet done so. Perugia has paid a price aleady and town considerations may be involved.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/06/12 at 02:23 PM | #

Nice one, thundering.

Quote… “Mr. Verdi, the President and CEO of Verdi Productions (VP), stated, “After reviewing all the information we had involving the Knox case, I have decided it was not the inspirational feel good story that VP was looking for and we have withdrawn our offer.” Unquote.

That will be my favourite quote of the decade. Perhaps Mr Verdi has been digging…googling…about statement analysis, psychopathic behaviour and lying and etc.  😊

Posted by nopassingby on 01/06/12 at 03:52 PM | #

Or perhaps Mr Verdi read the original trial report… Very funny quote!

Posted by TruthWillOut on 01/06/12 at 04:10 PM | #

Hi Matteo_65,

I also have suspected political interference from the beginning.  It is of course impossible to prove and difficult to analyse.  But the confidence that the Knox camp exuded well before the trial is over is a good pointer.  In some sense it is a circumstantial evidence, but certainly not a proof.

The maximum it takes is for the US Ambassador to make a couple of phone calls.  The rest falls in place and there are agents who take care of the details. It bypasses the local political machinery only partially.  The beauty is that few involved in the game will know the full details. A parallel government, if you would like to call it. Just deal directly with the people who can deliver.

Part of the story how it operates came out for the first time during the CIA trials in Milan. Of course you are better aware of these details than me.  I know only the titbits that has come into the English language news papers on the Internet.

Posted by chami on 01/06/12 at 06:59 PM | #

Hi Peter.

So is there a real possibility that the AG will not appeal out of consideration for the town - city? - of Perugia?

Also, what is the likelihood of the judge being Hellmann again?  Wouldn’t the fact that he was out of his depth and / or that there are questions regarding his handling of the case as well as the integrity of the process and verdict preclude having him again?

Posted by thundering on 01/07/12 at 01:43 PM | #
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