Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Analysis Suggests The Conti-Vecchiotti DNA Review Is Weak, Tendentious, Cites Non-Existent Standards

Posted by Fly By Night


In light of the huge fanfare two weeks ago over the release of the court-ordered independent expert review by Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti (image above, more in post below) on the forensic science methods and findings of Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni as part of the Knox/Sollecito appeal, we start this analysis of that report by summarizing a few hard facts:

  • The DNA samples currently under review by the court are NOT the only DNA samples used to convict Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.  In fact, the five mixed samples (not just DNA ““ there was the fresh blood of both women in four of them) of Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher constitute the strongest, most damning physical evidence of the case. This is why they have not been subjected to independent review during the appeal, along with the great majority of the evidence Judge Massei and the jury considered in convicting Knox and Sollecito of the murder of Meredith Kercher.

  • In reviewing the findings of Dr. Stefanoni, Technical Director/Principal Biologist with the Polizia Scientifica in Rome (image below), the expert report is also critiquing the findings and opinions of an entire well-regarded forensics agency along with the personal views of many prominent forensics experts. They include Dr. Renato Biondo, Professor Francesca Torricelli, and the nationally prominent General Luciano Garofano who in support of Dr. Stefanoni’s own open descriptions have provided lengthy statements describing in great detail their reasons for agreeing with Stefanoni’s methods and findings.

  • The use and acceptance of LCN DNA analysis techniques in the USA lags behind that of other countries in the world, as documented in the numerous publications on the topic now seen in US professional journals.  Enhanced typing methods for LCN DNA are routinely relied upon in forensic DNA laboratories across Europe to provide sound evidence for courtroom arguments.  So the expert report’s overbearing reliance upon AMERICAN sources including the controversial opinions of Bruce Budowle (image below) of the University of North Texas, in questioning Stefanoni’s LCN DNA testing techniques, is highly questionable. Budowle has been strongly criticized by a number of distinguished researchers including Theresa Caragine and John Buckleton for his non-scientific opinions and for allegedly engaging in unethical practices and maintaining serious conflicts of interest.

  • Claudio Pratillo Hellman, the judge presiding over the Knox and Sollecito appeal trial, appointed Vecchioti and Conti to provide an independent assessment for the court regarding the handling and analysis of several pieces of evidence that played a role in the conviction of Knox and Sollecito.  Using the expert report as a focus, on Monday July 25th these independent experts will appear in court along with various expert witnesses for the prosecution, the defense teams, and the Kercher family to discuss the only pieces of DNA-related evidence that have been subjected to review in the appeal trial. They are (1) the DNA on the kitchen knife accepted by the Massei court to be the murder weapon, and (2) the DNA on a bra clasp torn from Meredith’s body.

The findings of the expert report itself in all their 145 pages of depth appear to boil down to two primary debates: (1) Issues surrounding the 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.

The Expert Report

When the supposed findings of the independent expert report were first leaked, international media ballyhooed them as a sure sign that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito would soon be cleared of murder charges, claiming that the prosecution’s DNA arguments had now been shown to be based upon substandard DNA testing practices, and that the evidence might have been contaminated.  Knox herself was said to have sung and danced with joy upon hearing the news.

But a closer look at actual contents of the report, and its supporting documents, suggests that such celebrations are premature and ill-advised.  The expert report exists to serve only as the focal point for upcoming courtroom arguments, including arguments over the validity of Dr. Stefanoni’s claim to have identified Meredith Kercher’s DNA on the blade of the kitchen knife.  The report explains why a complete repeat of the testing Stefanoni performed on both the knife and bra clasp was not possible and how DNA on the bra clasp had deteriorated beyond testability. 

The expert’s attempts to perform repeat tests on the knife were unsuccessful in identifying cellular material on the blade. This was not a surprise, considering that Stefanoni had previously reported that additional testing would be impossible due to the minimal amount of DNA originally found there.  The expert’s testing did, however, firmly conclude that Amanda Knox’s DNA was located on the handle of the knife.

The expert report will steer upcoming courtroom debates towards a complete review of Stefanoni’s crime scene management practices, the DNA analysis methods she employed, and the reasoning and protocols she used to reach her conclusions.  The expert report provides one of several frames of reference for these debates and in part focuses upon criticisms not only of Stefanoni’s use of LCN DNA testing techniques to identify Kercher’s DNA on the knife blade but the entire LCN DNA analysis methodology itself.  As noted above, Vecchioti and Conti confirmed the presence of Amanda Knox’s DNA on the handle of the knife but suggest that the very small sample of Meredith’s DNA located on the blade, identified by LCN DNA testing, is the result of contamination.

The Potential For Contamination

Contamination of evidence might occur in the evidence collection phase of an investigation, or it might occur as the result of improper laboratory testing procedures once a sample has arrived securely at the forensic laboratory.  Before digging deeper into laboratory contamination potential, including associated LCN DNA analysis issues, we first take a look at the expert report’s evaluation of evidence collection protocols and the potential for contamination in that phase of the criminal investigation.

The expert report attempts to establish that international standards for crime scene management practices exist. However, their approach raises the same question raised by the assignment of Bruce Budowle, a controversial and opinionated LCN DNA commenter, as the foundation for their DNA analysis critiques.  Namely, why does the expert report find it necessary to over-rely upon inappropriate and highly questionable American resources to support its most critical arguments?

As strange as it may seem, the Italian expert report references quite a few relatively obscure, and often outdated, editions of American resources. They include the State of Wisconsin Crime Laboratory Manual, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Handbook, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Evidence Guide, the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory Manual, the New Jersey State Police Evidence Manual, and even introductory college textbooks covering criminal investigations at the level of “please wash your hands.”

If the intent of the expert report was to establish that a standard set of international protocols exists, and then to compare that set of protocols to protocols used in the Meredith Kercher murder case, then why not cite the international body that establishes and upholds such standards, if that body actually exists?

Instead, the approach taken by the expert report only serves to underscore the notion that there may, in fact, be no such thing as international standards for evidence collection and handling.  What the report actually establishes is that they are citing from a selected list of extremely diverse regional “best practices” manuals in support of theoretical and abstract concepts or points.  In doing so the expert report authors its own set of ad hoc “international standards” as it moves along. 

It would have been far more effective to put the focus on creating an objective and fair analysis of the real-world crime scene management procedures employed in this case, and then comparing and contrasting those findings with the successful, or unsuccessful, management practices of other similar case-study investigations providing appropriate citations from relevant literature along the way.

As a result of the independent experts’ approach, the contamination risk concerns cited in the expert report during the evidence collection phase appear to be largely a rehash of arguments over protocol that were thoroughly vetted during the course of the trial itself, such as how often investigators changed their gloves.

What we are left with is a report that only theoretically suggests that contamination cannot be ruled out, while completely failing to provide concrete examples of precisely when and how contamination could have entered into the evidence management chain.  For the appeal, this will result in a repeat of the same attacks upon investigative methods and processes, and all of the related arguments, that the court entertained during the trial, albeit this time with a new judge and jury.

The expert report apparently confirms that Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA was found on the bra clasp in an amount that would be difficult to attribute to contamination.  Dr. Stefanoni found about 4 nanograms of Sollecito’s DNA on the bra clasp, which is a substantial amount of DNA considering that research suggests that contaminated samples usually contain sub-picogram amounts of DNA, or around 1000 to 10,000 times less DNA than attributed to Sollecito on the bra clasp.

That fact that Raffaele’s DNA on the clasp appears to be mixed with additional DNA should NOT lead to conclusions that his profile cannot be effectively isolated and identified, or must be the result of contamination.  In fact, Italy’s premiere forensic science expert Luciano Garofano testified that Stefanoni’s analysis of the bra clasp was “perfect.”  It is also not plausible to suggest that contamination is the source for Sollecito’s abundant DNA on the bra clasp in the absence of significant environmental traces for Sollecito anywhere else in or around Meredith’s home, or in the Rome laboratory for that matter.

LCN DNA Testing

LCN is a DNA profiling technique employed when available DNA is limited to very small quantities.  A DNA sample might be as small as a millionth the size of a grain of salt, amounting to only a few cells of skin or sweat left in a fingerprint.

Using LCN testing techniques the small sample can be successfully evaluated and attributed to an individual.  LCN DNA testing has been in use since 1999 and is rapidly gaining worldwide acceptance in both legal and forensic science communities.  For example it has now been used in more than 21,000 cases in the UK since being approved for use in criminal cases in 2008, following a period of stringent testing and evaluation.

The increased sensitivity of LCN testing techniques does increase the potential of contamination to impact analyses of small DNA samples in the laboratory.  Since LCN techniques can accurately amplify DNA samples having as little as just a few cells it has been suggested that even breathing on such a small sample has the potential to render the resulting profile useless.  Contamination is particularly problematic for LCN samples because both sample and contaminant DNA are amplified, resulting in a complex mixed profile with related stochastic effect impacts. 

But, as evidenced in the expert report itself, Dr. Stefanoni is well-versed in the appropriate methods for dealing with these concerns, since she is quoted as already having admonished the court experts Vecchioti and Conti for not making use of a fume hood to ensure the absence of contamination as they conducted their retests on the evidence.

In recent years numerous professional publications have addressed the scientific, technical, and legal issues surrounding LCN DNA sample testing, outlining the stochastic effects and artifacts such as peak imbalances between alleles and loci, as well as allele and locus drop-out, or allele drop-in, along with making a variety of suggestions for both avoiding contamination and making error-free evaluations of stochastic effects. 

On the basis of these publications, including the proceedings of the biannual world congresses of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, it is clear that enhanced typing methods for LCN DNA are now routinely in use in forensic DNA laboratories across Europe.  This is strong evidence that the scientific community is now actively engaged in an effort to document all LCN DNA methods in use and is working towards developing standard biostatistical tools for evaluating LCN DNA typing results. 

It also appears as though the USA is lagging behind other regions in research, practice, and acceptance in this discipline.

In this relatively new field of study it is not surprising that researchers have yet to establish anything approaching standards for LCN DNA testing and analysis.  Even so, this has not prevented the results of LCN DNA testing from being successfully and routinely introduced as viable evidence in courtroom arguments. 

For example, on February 8, 2010, Judge Robert Hanophy of the Supreme Court of Queens County, New York ruled that results of LCN DNA testing, as performed by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York City, is now generally accepted as reliable in the forensic scientific community, it consistently yields reliable results, it is not a novel scientific procedure, and it is therefore admissible at trial (People v. Megnath, Supreme Court of New York, Queens County, 2010 NY).

Although the current Wikipedia article on the topic maintains that LCN DNA has only been adopted for evidential purposes in the UK, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, this unreferenced claim stands in ignorance of the fact that inquisitorial court systems in numerous European countries do not typically require formal publication and peer review of analytical methods in scientific journals as a justification for their methods. 

And as we have seen in the current Knox/Sollecito trial, in Europe it has become customary to have independent experts attempt to convince the court of the validity, or invalidity, of the LCN typing results that have been presented in a trial.  To be successful, it is essential that an independent expert provide the court with evidence of expertly-conducted retests of available evidence, relevant citations of appropriate research, and meaningful evaluations of protocols employed in outlining their objective and balanced set of opinions for the court. 

In this regard, it appears that the independent expert report for the Knox/Sollecito appeal has completely missed the mark.

Their report gives the strong impression that Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti were overtly attempting to invalidate the findings of Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, the Polizia Scientifica in Rome, and the wealth of supportive testimony provided in court during the trial.  The tone of their report strongly indicates that they have lined up with Sollecito defense experts Adriano Tagliabracci and Valerio Onofri of the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Ancona, and Knox defense experts Sara Gino, Walter Patumi and Carlo Torre from the University of Turin.

We will see in court on the 25th if they are really across the figurative aisle from the prosecution witnesses Dr. Stefanoni and Dr. Giuseppe Novelli, a highly esteemed professor of biomedicine at Tor Vergata in Rome who is considered to be the “father of police forensics” in Italy, along with the expert witnesses for the Kercher family Professor Torricelli, and Dr. Emiliano Giardina, who is a colleague of Professor Novelli at Tor Vergata University.

This appears to establish grounds for a formidable courtroom battle if all experts can provide solid grounds for their opinions. However, the Kercher’s lawyer Francesco Maresca was already quick to point out that those on the prosecution’s side of the aisle have substantially more practical experience and years of work in the forensic science field.

An in depth reading of the expert report uncovers allegations that Dr. Stefanoni has not followed internationally established forensic science management standards and that in doing so she has committed analytical errors, such as the misattribution of peaks in her bra clasp DNA analysis.  What the report fails to mention, however, is that no such standards exist and that there are currently multiple perspectives from which a scientist might argue their case regarding the proper interpretation of DNA data, as evidenced in any sampling of current forensic science journal articles. 

For example, the expert report cites a 2006 International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) publication as an example of a standard for determining which stutters should be considered as alleles in the assessment of mixed DNA samples.  But this alleged “standard” stands in contrast to direct testimony from Dr. Stefanoni while defending her lab protocols in comparison to the ISFG “recommendations” which she claims in no way qualify as authoritative standards.  The difference between recommendations and standards is a critical distinction in scientific fields.

A closer look at this discrepancy reveals that in 2007 Dr. Stefanoni and her immediate supervisor, Dr. Renato Biondo, hosted a meeting in Rome of the European DNA Profiling Group (EDNAP) in which these same 2006 ISFG recommendations were discussed.  At that meeting papers were presented from the UK and Germany that contested a number of the ISFG recommendations that the expert report now attempts to establish as mandatory standards. 

In the midst of this ongoing debate over ISFG recommendations, it is quite remarkable that the expert report, citing that 2006 ISFG document, chooses to assert that Stefanoni made erroneous interpretations of chart peaks simply because her interpretation of the data did not respect the controversial ISFG recommendations. 

The experts report consequently admits that they confirmed Stefanoni’s awareness of the ISFG recommendations, and that she expressed a personal view that they should simply be viewed as “guidelines.”  Yet they STILL insist on continuing to label her conclusions as erroneous since she did not “correctly” and “explicitly” adhere to the ISFG “recommendations.”

In light of all this, it is highly unlikely that Judge Hellman will dismiss Dr. Stefanoni’s knowledge and expertise on this matter as readily as Vecchioti and Conti have in their expert report.

An in depth analysis of the expert report also indicates that the citations from scientific journals are incomplete and often “cherry-picked” to directly support specific criticisms brought against Dr. Stefanoni’s methods. 

For example, the expert report appears to base its entire argument against Stefanoni’s reliance upon LCN DNA analysis techniques upon one paper, authored by Bruce Budowle et al entitled “Low Copy Number Typing Has Yet to Achieve General Acceptance.”  The expert report then goes on to cite a paper by Gill and Buckleton where these authors appear to support a few claims made by Budowle (image above) in his article, but the report completely ignores the fact that Gill and Buckleton then go on to air strong criticisms of many other claims made by Budowle.

In fact, in 2010 John Buckleton and Peter Gill authored a scathing criticism of Bruce Budowle’s entire “Low Copy Number Typing Has Yet to Achieve General Acceptance” article; the very article that the expert report relies exclusively upon in bringing Dr. Stefanoni’s methods into question.  In their article, published in Forensic Science, Buckleton and Gill state:

[Budowle’s] article is not peer reviewed. The proceedings of the ISFG Congress are prefaced by the message: “the manuscripts were neither reviewed nor edited in detail.  The articles reflect the opinions of the authors.”

It contains neither new data nor any novel scientific findings. Rather it represents public advocacy and is an expression of alternative opinion by the three authors concerning observations that are largely common ground. There is a place in the scientific literature for advocacy but it must be soundly based on proven facts.

We have some considerable difficulty in actually determining just exactly what the authors are indeed advocating. This is because of their inconsistent use of terminology and inconsistent recommendations. In our opinion, the views presented are inadequately precise, demonstrate a lack of appreciation of underlying principles and are not aligned with broader scientific opinion.

The title of the paper appeared to have one eye on future Frye or Daubert hearings and again we question whether such a title has a place in the learned literature. It takes upon itself, inappropriately, the role of gatekeeper of what constitutes “general acceptance” (The Frye test).

The article itself appears to be a rather inappropriate continuation of a debate arising from a court case in New York (People v. Megnath). Again we would question whether this journal is the correct forum to air this debate.

In other words, Buckleton and Gill are suggesting that Bruce Budowle acted unethically by publishing his non-peer reviewed opinions in a professional journal for the purpose of using the article to support his work as a paid consultant, and as an expert witness in court cases such as People v. Megnath in New York. 

Incidentally, Budowle was unsuccessful in advocating his opinions as an expert witness for the defense in People v. Megnath in his battle with Theresa Caragine of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York over her submission in court of data obtained using LCN DNA testing techniques.

Theresa Caragine herself authored a powerful rebuttal of Budowle’s article claiming that when Budowle’s “opinions” were published he failed to disclose that he had, in fact, been retained by the defense counsel for Mr. Megnath, and that he had already testified as a paid expert witness regarding the opinions he expresses in the journal article that the expert report relies heavily upon in attempting to substantiate its points.  And even though Bruce Budowle’s opinions had previously been delivered as a paid expert witness in a judicial setting, he made the claim of “˜No Conflict of Interest’ when applying to publish this non-peer reviewed article.

Caragine’s remarks go even further in criticizing the Budowle et al LCN DNA article by pointing out that it is not even a research article, but a non-peer reviewed submission that had purportedly been presented in the context of the 23rd Biennial Worldwide Conference of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, 2009 in Buenos Aires. 

Caragine claims that, while Budowle had in fact submitted a similar paper at that meeting, it was not under its current title, nor did it have the same the list of authors, and the abstract submitted to the conference organizers for their selection process does not align with the content of the paper now cited in the Italian experts’ report submitted to the court in the Knox/Sollecito appeal.  In her rebuttal, Caragine strongly questions whether or not such a circumvention of all standard principles of scientific publishing is in any way acceptable or appropriate.


In light of all of the above, the upcoming July 25th court hearing in the Knox/Sollecito trial should be considered as anything but a foregone conclusion.  The rationale behind the exuberant remarks noted in recent press releases regarding content allegedly favorable to defense efforts and anticipated impacts appears to be baseless. 

For an Italian report, it gives the appearance of being remarkably Amero-centric, and we find it ugly and unprofessional that the expert report chooses to attack Dr. Stefanoni and her colleagues by citing nonexistent international standards and by relying upon extraordinarily questionable resources in doing so. 

The report’s final conclusion that contamination cannot be completely ruled out is remarkably weak considering that there are relatively few real-world cases in which contamination of evidence might be completely ruled out.

It becomes clear, then, that well informed prosecution interrogators will have no problem in identifying and attacking the report’s multiple weaknesses.  We should expect Dr. Stefanoni and the prosecution’s team of experts to present precise counter arguments for the challenges expressed in the expert report, strongly defending the forensic science capabilities of Stefanoni and her team.


Great analysis. Neatly sums up many hours of work over many days by a whole team over on PMF.

Bottom line: the report really is toast. It has proved nothing the court did not already know, and the source of its extreme bias toward American experts who always work for the defense is highly suspect.

Judge Hellman appointed the two consultants, but he will not be very pleased if he thinks they have wasted the court’s time and money.

He did NOT approve any other reviews of the great bulk of the forensic evidence - which is the most incriminating of all evidence as several of the trial jurors said - and in light of this fiasco it is hard to see that happening now.

So as the appeal winds down the defense don’t seem to have landed a heavy blow on even one small component of the Massei and Micheli reports.

No wonder that when the Alessi and Aviello testimony turned into complete farce defense lawyer Giulia Bongiorno leaked the Conti-Vecchiotti report.

What will she leak now? Any last tricks, or is she done (except for the submission of the final bill for fees)?!

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/11 at 06:19 PM | #

Am I wrong therefore to consider that the original first trial findings will not be entered as evidence. I was under the impression that if the testing by the Conti Vecchiotti group rendered the DNA evidence un-usable then everything would come in on appeal including the original DNA findings. It might be expediant to show once more the original graphs proving that the blood evidence is beyond question that of Knox and Kercher
sincerely Grahame Rhodes

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 07/13/11 at 06:44 PM | #

Last though. This is a wonderful analysis and I thank you so very much.

Lastly and to quote ‘Sun Tzu’ from his little 13 chapters ‘The art of war.’

“Know yourself,
Know your enemy.
A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 07/13/11 at 06:52 PM | #

Hi Grahame. On the question in your first comment. All of the first trial documentation and evidence as well as all of that from Rudy Guede’s trial and his two appeals are already on the table in the Italian system of appeal.  Nothing gets thrown out in the Italian system, instead it gets weighted by the smart judges and lay judges. This report will be weighted, and so will all the other info on the subject already in.

Weighted more heavily by the Massei trial jury than either the knife or the bra clasp evidence of this review were the forensic traces in the bathroom, in the corridor, and in Filomena’s room. Also to be weighted is the prosecution’s appeal against the mitigating circumstances. That presentation is still to come. The prosecution could introduce a very ominous picture of the two perps there. That might be weighted very high.

Judge Hellman almost lost control of his court at the last hearing which underlines that this branch of criminal law is not quite his normal thing. Judge Massei is the senior judge in Umbria and so is Judge Hellman’s superior. Hellman will not be looking to do any idle dumping of the Massei report.  Hellman will now be under great pressure to wind the thing down and come to a conclusion - to which the Supreme Court of Cassation must buy in.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/11 at 07:03 PM | #

Thank you for this Peter. I am always concerned that people will lose sight of the basic tenants of this. So therefore your insight into what has become a rather bulky case is always very consise and helpful. Thank’s once again
sincerely Grahame

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 07/13/11 at 07:32 PM | #


I hadn’t realised that Massei was the senior judge in Umbria. That lends considerable weight to the original conviction and would suggest that should Hellman decide to overturn the Massei verdict, any follow-up meeting betwen the two would not be a place for the faint hearted. Hellman might find himself sharing a park bench with Curatolo….......

Posted by Smacker on 07/13/11 at 09:35 PM | #

Finely penned, FBN.  The academic fireworks are all in place for a 25 JUL showdown.

Posted by Stilicho on 07/13/11 at 09:41 PM | #

Anyone seeking detailed information regarding Dr. Stefanoni’s findings, methods, and courtroom testimony should search for “Stefanoni” in either the Massei document itself, or the Massei summary - links to both are at the top of every TJMK page!

It seems that the discussion of Stefanoni’s work takes up at least a third of the original Massei report.  Browsing through that document it becomes apparent that she will once again serve as a formidable witness for the prosecution in the appeal.

Regarding the mixed blood samples of Amanda and Meredith, Stefanoni testified in the trial that she knew it was blood content because she had performed specific blood tests on the samples, and will testify similarly in the appeal.

You may recall that she was unable to perform the blood-specific test on the knife blade DNA because she determined that this would have prevented her from running further tests to identify whose blood it actually was, due to the very small size of the sample she had to work with.

Posted by Fly By Night on 07/13/11 at 10:36 PM | #

Hi Smacker. Yes Judge Massei is the President of the Court of Assize. Something was made of that when he was announced late in 2008 but it seems to have been forgotten (especially by the FOA) ever since.

Assize refers to county, and the equivalent of his court in the United States would be the supreme court in every US county like that huge one in all the movies in Manhattan.

The very senior Judge Massei took the Knox-Sollecito case because he had handled several high profile murder cases before. Hellman normally handles business trials if I recall.

The Knox cultist David Anderson posted a comment here a couple of days ago that Judge Hellman is not part of the Perugia clan or clique and presumed that that somehow suggests he is a maverick who will not hide the “truth” any longer.

What are those people smoking? Especially with the tough tone of the Cassation finding against Guede, Judge Hellman has EVERY reason to tread carefully.

I just don’t see him having the supreme intellect that would be required to successfully reverse the verdict and have Cassation make that stick. Nice enough guy though, so I’m told.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/11 at 10:44 PM | #

Hi Fly By Night. Just to add to your comment just above about it being mixed BLOOD here is the Machine’s post of six weeks ago emphasizing just that devastating point.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/11 at 11:08 PM | #

Great analysis, Fly By Night. I applaud the amount of work that went into the translation and your summary. This is why I come back to the site often and recommend TJMK and PMF to everyone, because of the high standard of the posts. Your post succeeds so well because it explains the ‘experts’ report in language anyone with average intelligence and education can understand, yet the depth of the knowledge shines through.

It does help if one reads Massei as well, and,  Darkness Descending by General Luciano Garofano gives a lot of background which helped me in my decision to trust Dr. Stefanoni instead of the experts. Small aside, the book made me smile a bit when it revealed she doesn’t take as many notes as might be required in a perfect situation. I’m like that myself, relying more often on memory, but can see where the academics might have wanted more documentation to back up her findings. I understand she was pressed for time in a very difficult situation, but feel sure she’ll be able to justify her conclusions in court, backed by the able prosecution team.

I was concerned by the early release of the report and immediate trumpeting by the Amandii of how she’d be home for thanksgiving, and how the report mirrored an American bias authored by defense centric Americans. But, having read the other reports, I felt quite confident in saying there’ll be fireworks in court.

Posted by Ergon on 07/13/11 at 11:14 PM | #

An impressive review. Peter says that it “sums up many hours of work over many days by a whole team over on PMF.”

Then quoting from the report itself: 

[As strange as it may seem, the Italian expert report references quite a few relatively obscure, and often out-dated, editions of American resources. They include the State of Wisconsin Crime Laboratory Manual, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Handbook, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Evidence Guide, the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory Manual, the New Jersey State Police Evidence Manual,  and even introductory college textbooks covering criminal investigations at the level of “please wash your hands.”]

It’s hard not to think that such detailed & out of the way resources as here mentioned weren’t overtly suggested to the two professors. “The Missouri State Highway Patrol Handbook?” What Italian Professor would have thought of this?  And besides Missouri are mentioned Wisconsin, North Carolina, Louisiana, New Jersey.

Such resources, such references were surely not at the experts’ fingertips. My guess would be that some American contributor, having researched the matter, suggested these resources to the team.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 07/14/11 at 12:37 AM | #

@ Ernest Werner:

In 2010, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences held its annual meeting in Seattle, Washington (February 2010). The meeting attracted many professionsals, including those from foreign countries. Bruce Budowle attended this meeting, and was even a presenter. Greg Hampikian of the Idaho Innocence Project and closely allied with Chris Mellas and the FOA, was also there. It was a perfect opportunity to court shadow experts. Just sayin’.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 07/14/11 at 02:05 AM | #

Fly-by-Night, thanks so much for summarising and developing the discussion which has many of us puzzled at Carla Vecchioti’s and Stefano Conti’s reference to Bruce Budowle’s criticism of techniques used by Dr. Stefanoni. They seem to have made an effort to cherry-pick a critique, which itself is a non-starter.

It’s as if two geographers were at a National Geographic convention, trying to convince the attendees that the world is flat, based on pre-Columbus “truths”.

Well, the world is beyond that. Likewise, LCN DNA testing is a reality and has been successfully used in courts around the world. It’s not something that Dr. Stefanoni has invented and used only in isolated Perugia.

In any case, the body of evidence, and the mix of evidence still leaves a strong case against Knox and Sollecito (not just all the DNA evidence, not just the convicts’ statements, not just witnesses, not just the telephone records, not just ......).

Posted by Kermit on 07/14/11 at 09:16 AM | #

In this context Luciano Garofano is making a presentation at Casalgrande near Modena at 9:00 pm tonight on the forensic investigation. That could be a presentation worth obtaining. Here is one notice:

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/14/11 at 12:40 PM | #

Thanks, Skeptical Bystander.

To clarify a point.  I had meant to write that an American contributor may have suggested these resources to the Court.  In a sort of complaint, as it were.  The court in turn would have passed the information along to the experts, legitimately.

Did not at all intend to impugn the experts or suggest that they were pliable or possibly corruptible.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 07/14/11 at 11:07 PM | #

Amazing work, Fly by Night! I am humbled by the care and thought that goes into the posts on this site.  You keep Meredith Kercher’s memory alive by keeping the focus on the evidence.  Most commenters here don’t bother to rant and rave about Knox or Sollecito.  You let the evidence of their ignoble deeds speak for itself. Thank you so much!

Posted by Sailor on 07/15/11 at 06:57 AM | #

I feel humbled by the posts and comments on this website. It all is very caring and well managed and edited in a very transparant way. The far most comments are decent and polite and of course there is room for justified frustration. This website runs on posters and commenters who care for justice for Meredith. Thanks all and thank you Peter!

Posted by Helder Licht on 07/15/11 at 12:45 PM | #

This is a comment to Peter Quennell’s post about:

Castello di Casalgrande Alto – Reggio Emilia
“Ora legale – Assassini per caso di Luciano Garofano” 15/07/2011 21.00

I was able to attend the presentation and I have some pictures.

At the beginning general Luciano Garofano explained how the common citizen can help law enforcement and about the essential need for legality in Italy. And about the fact that the number of murders is really decreasing in Italy.
Hereinafter he talked about the now closed cases of Cogne, Via Poma, and, as far as I understood,  in his opinion the most terrifying : Novi Ligure (he tried to describe Erika’s father eyes). He continued, briefly, with the still open cases of Avetrana, Brembate and Perugia.
He didn’t seem surprised about the results of the “independent” review and, instead, sure about the mixed blood since in his experience, so in his own words, the mixed blood is proof of contemporaneity. Then he presented his book “Assassini per caso”, the italian version of “Darkness Descending” and anticipated that a new book, about crimes against women, written with Andrea Vogt (?) will be released next fall.

At the end a brief about Capaci and JUDGES Falcone and Borsellino.

Posted by ncountryside on 07/16/11 at 02:16 PM | #

Thank you so much, ncountryside. Garafano is such a renowned expert, I wish I could’ve seen him in person, but I don’t speak Italian. Thank you for attending and taking notes.
The main thing is your report that Garafano is “sure about the mixed blood” and that he says mixed blood in his experience (and whose better?) is proof of contemporaneity.

So there is proof positive that Amanda and Meredith were in the same place bleeding at the same time. 

Somehow the question of whether Meredith’s blood was mixed with Amanda’s DNA or Amanda’s blood has been a maelstrom of confusion for me since I began reading about this case. That confusion is an FOA weapon to deter a clear understanding that Amanda was present when Meredith was bleeding. Of course the FOA want to sow doubt about this key point. Mixed blood makes Amanda guilty without a doubt.

I don’t understand why the certainty of mixed blood from both girls wasn’t hammered home in the courtroom and in the newspapers and why it became a doubtful subject prone to excuses like, “It was just Amanda’s DNA that naturally permeated the entire cottage.”

Garafano lays this doubt to rest. He is sure there is mixed blood. Who could not but agree with his opinion, that if there is the slightest drop of Amanda’s blood MIXED with Meredith’s, case closed: guilty. She was present at the murder, bleeding at the murder.

Amanda’s presence at the murder scene is proven through mixed blood.

I wish Stefanoni would pound on this point on July 25th.

Posted by Hopeful on 07/16/11 at 07:56 PM | #

Hi ncountryside. You made it? I am late in tonight but must absorb this more in the morning! Quite a proigram. I would have driven several hours to see that one.

We talk about the 80,000 pound gorilla being Cassation’s agreement that three did it - but as Hopeful says, it really looks like that from the mixed blood, there is no escape. How reassuring that is his opinion.

A fine guy, Mr Garafano. Andrea Vogt too. Good things happen. The horrific Erika de Nardo case was described in the Machine’s post about girls who unexpectedly kill. She gets out I think in 2012.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/17/11 at 03:44 AM | #
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