Tuesday, September 17, 2019

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

Posted by The Machine

Carabinieri labs court exhibit 2013; 2007 charts at bottom

This overview of the Gladwell series lists all posts.

Long post. Click here to go straight to Comments.

1. Series Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But he doesn’t. He never will.

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

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

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

Carabinieri central labs (Roma RSI) in northen Rome

2. The AK And MK DNA Knife

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

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

Despite strong conclusions, the independent experts never finished their Hellmann-ordered testing, for reasons that made no legitimate sense. The elite Carabinieri labs completed the work, with devastating effect on the defence.

1. Gladwell’s wrong claim

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

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

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

Gill is hoaxing the uninitiated here. It is not the height of the alleles that matter, it is the number of STRs, and there was an STR match in 29 of the 30 indicated. 

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

2. Prosecution’s real case

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

The DNA found on the blade of Sollecito’s kitchen knife was an exact match for Meredith’s DNA. When you look at Meredith’s DNA chart superimposed on sample 36B, you can clearly see that all the alleles match up. And quite conclusively, 29 of the 30 STRs do match up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And our own comment on that.

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

So Gladwell swallowed the illegal Gill hoax. All the experts and courts got it right. All the alleles and 29 of the 30 STRs on the charts below do match up.

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

That is to prevent such hoaxing, which has been rampant in the pro-Knox campaign. The Supreme Court in 2013 in annulling the 2011 RS and AK appeal outcome firmly stated that was unacceptable procedure under Italian law.

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

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

Thanks for your email.

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

Regards, Peter

3. Past Posts Which Expand Proof

Click for Post:  Understanding Micheli #3: How Damning Is The DNA Evidence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Double DNA Charts

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

1. Knife swab

2. Meredith’s DNA

3. Both overlayed

5. Our Next Post

Click for Post:  Explaining to “No Physical Evidence” Gladwell Just How MUCH There Was #2 Mixed Blood

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


[James’s additional advice here is appreciated and has been blended into the post.]

Both the above charts relate to Meredith! One is from exhibit 36B (from the blade) and the other is Meredith’s reference profile.

The peaks (or alleles) we see relate to 15 specific markers (in which the alleles appear in pairs) isolating the loci that are always looked at for the purpose of making an identification. This is because of the high degree of variability here.

These 15 markers will be in a different sequence on each individual’s DNA thread. As we can see from the above superimposition, they match up.

The killer, however, is that each allele will have a certain number of short tandem repeats, and there is a high degree of variability here. So, for instance, for marker D8S 1179 the number of STRs in Meredith’s reference profile is, for both alleles there, 13 and 16. For D7S 820, 8 and 11.

There are thus 30 STRs by which we can make an identification. There was in fact an STR match in 29 out of the 30.

Were there a match in all 30 then to find another individual with the same match then “one would have to imagine seeking that individual in a population of a trillion people.” There are only 7 billion people alive in the world today!

The height of the peaks is an indication of the amount of DNA only. However the STR data is conclusive and the fact that 36B was Low Copy Number and that there was an imbalance in the alleles is irrelevant.

Gill knows this perfectly well.

The issue,of course, is possible contamination. There was absolutely no evidence of laboratory contamination and other than in the abstract it is highly improbable to conceive of inadvertent manual contamination before or during the collection phase.

Posted by James Raper on 09/18/19 at 05:07 AM | #

Peter Gill claimed in his e-mail to Swansea Jack that he could only comment on the probative value of the DNA evidence, but in his book he claimed Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are innocent and called the case a miscarriage of justice despite the fact there’s no exculpatory evidence that proves they are innocent.

Like Malcolm Gladwell, Peter Gill doesn’t address most of the evidence against Knox and Sollecito let alone refute it. It’s dishonest of Gill to give the public the impression that the evidence against Knox and Sollecito is limited to the bra clasp and knife evidence and the Luminol footprints.

Posted by The Machine on 09/18/19 at 07:10 AM | #

I’d add to the Machine’s comment above that the defense teams found the enormous output of conspiracy theorists like Gill (which has impacted Gladwell) quite useless.

They were almost always ignored as ill-informed, status-seeking, and potentially very harmful as allies of the mafias.

One did do harm. Hampikian illegally addled the “independent” DNA consultants in 2011 and HURT Judge Hellmann who found his verdict ANNULLED. Something very rare.

Judge Hellman was forced to retire. Gee, Hampikian, thanks a lot.   

Their problem was, time and again the devil was in the details, and those were always in Italian. RS and AK got off because of bent courts, not because of the sheer amazingness of Gill or any other false claimant to have been THE one to crack the case.

They never mention that defense observers observed all processing with no complaint. They never mention that lead DNA processor Dr Stefanoni created a huge presentation in 2011 which pre-empts every imaginable claim of “a crime”.

The unwitting mafia ally Gladwell stumbled into an enormous swamp of lies and got sucked in. A case study for his own book.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 09/18/19 at 07:33 AM | #

Not that the defenses were pure as the driven snow. They had their own dirty tricks.

So very smart government experts like Dr Stefanoni INSISTED on being observed.

The collection of the bra clasp 46 days later that appears in 1000 conspiracy theory rants?

Dr Stefanoni knew when she got back to her lab the day after Meredith’s murder that the bra clasp was not there. She would have gone back the very next day.

But the defenses quite deliberately dragged their feet on making observers available. For 46 days.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 09/18/19 at 08:23 AM | #

Gladwell - a case study for his own book - Hahahaha!

Apart from the “Forgotten Killer” spiel, what was the point of including Knox as a case study? Has he something interesting to say? His book is not available on Amazon UK.

His general message would appear to be - “Beware strangers, don’t jump to conclusions and don’t be taken in or be sucked in by them”. He owes a lot to his mother, I guess, as we all do.

And yet that is exactly what has happened to him.

Posted by James Raper on 09/18/19 at 09:50 AM | #

Hi James,

Malcolm Gladwell’s book Talking to Strangers is available on Amazon.co.uk, but I wouldn’t bother buying it. The chapter on Amanda Knox is a nothing burger - it’s very short and he says nothing new or profound. He just repeats a couple of PR lies and he doesn’t cite any of the official court reports or court transcripts.

He’s only mentioned Amanda Knox because he knows it will generate publicity for his book. I don’t understand why he’s regarded as a world-renowned intellectual when his book contains glaring factual errors and lacks academic rigour.

I’ve asked him some tough questions about the evidence on Twitter, but so far he has declined to answer them. He just runs away to his ivory tower. He’s proven himself to be lazy, gullible and naive and now a white feather can be added to his dunce’s cap.

Posted by The Machine on 09/18/19 at 10:28 AM | #

So you are thinking, Machine, that one of our headlines soon will read like this?



Posted by Peter Quennell on 09/18/19 at 10:50 AM | #

Hi Pete,

A number of people in the US media portrayed Italy as a backwards and medieval Third World Country and Malcolm Gladwell has picked up the baton.

He is xenophobic towards Italy. He makes the police officers involved in the case sound like the Keystone Cops, and claims the analysis of the DNA evidence linking Knox and Sollecito to the crime was “completely botched” without ever substantiating his opinion - which gives the impression the Scientific Police are incompetent buffoons.

He falsely claims Amanda Knox was charged with and convicted of murder only because she behaved strangely, as if the police officers and the multiple experienced judges, including three panels of Supreme Court judges, involved in the case were Witchfinder Generals who meted out justice based on their whims and silly superstitions rather than actual evidence.

Italy is a modern democratic country and member of the United Nations, NATO and the G7. The DNA experts involved in the case - Dr Stefanoni, Alberto Intini, Dr Biondo, Professor Novelli and Professor Torricelli are all well-qualified and extremely experienced.

Malcolm Gladwell should read the transcript of Dr Stefanoni’s testimony and then explain why he thinks she’s wrong instead of making unsubstantiated claims and slanderous comments.

Posted by The Machine on 09/18/19 at 11:44 AM | #

Hi Machine

Right on all counts. And it’s not only a bigoted and wildly inaccurate attack against Italian justice.

It’s elevating the dangerous fraud Amanda Knox who uses this in her blood-money-grubbing career of professional anti-Italy demonizer.

It’s also inflicting a fraud upon all who pay to buy the book, trusting that it is truthful, and not a cut-and-paste Knox PR job.

Our pressure will harden with each post. Neither Hachette nor Gladwell can afford widespread public denunciation.

The book should be gone sooner or later and both Hachette and Gladwell will owe a lot of people public apologies.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 09/19/19 at 08:27 AM | #

Gladwell sure is a snake oil salesman’ dream. I really would like to check his medicine cupboard.

It kind of explains the reason for the book, which James asked about above - far from the only one.

Gladwell can’t recognise a hoax, even if it hits him over the head.

What else does he believe? Flat earth? Fake moon landing? Horses that are geniuses at math? Knox is the Virgin Mary?

The book’s paranoid mantra has zero relevance to that 99% of the population which is less gullible and naive.

Commenters on Amazon say this is a new trend in Gladwell.

Maybe his paranoia comes from the money he “earned”. Deep down he knows his ideas are trivial, and really not worth near that much.

Don’t be going on any trips with Gladwell to Jonestown.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 09/19/19 at 03:04 PM | #

“It’s not height of the alleles that matters but number of STR’s”. And STR match was found in 29 out of 30. Thanks to The Machine for that clear explanation. Conclusion: Meredith’s DNA is on the knife. And James Raper has good comment that “Gill knows this perfectly well” (knows perfectly well that Meredith’s DNA is on the knife and that LCN is irrelevant.)

So Gill knows Meredith’s DNA is on the knife! He knows that Knox’s DNA is on the knife, too, but then he writes a book saying Knox is innocent. Strange.  Why isn’t his scientific spidey sense tingling with doubt? 

Peter Quennell gives a good explanation of why the bra clasp lay uncollected on floor of cottage for 46 days. It was a deliberate delay by the defense to cast doubt on evidence that might later be found on the clasp. 

Smart Dr. Stefanoni realized immediately that the clasp was missing and wanted to retrieve it immediately from the cottage but she was blocked by this delaying tactic. I’d never quite grasped the reason for the lapse in time until this comment.

I agree: Gladwell added Knox’s name to his book to attract attention. It’s hilariously true that he could be a case study for his own book! Duped by the blind followers of Queen Duper Knox and her cronies at Duper’s Delight Unlimited.

Don’t forget Peter Hyatt of Statement Analysis who found deception in much of Knox’s language. But how a scientist can wave away DNA in a knife blade when the knifed victim had a visit from the knife owner…none so blind as he who will not see.

Sollecito’s panicked explanation of having pricked Meredith with the knife while cooking…ridiculous story which shows his fright and defensiveness about the issue. He took it for granted that the police had found Meredith’s DNA on his knife. He probably kicked himself for not having disposed of it entirely. Perhaps he kept it as a trophy, or to blackmail Knox, knowing she had used it on Meredith and that he’d lent it to her “for protection”?.

Posted by Hopeful on 09/19/19 at 03:50 PM | #

I don’t understand why Malcolm Gladwell and Peter Gill are absolutely certain Sollecito’s kitchen knife was contaminated and are not prepared to entertain the possibility that it wasn’t. It seems they have an emotional need to believe Amanda Knox is innocent and this emotional need clouds their judgement.

Renowned negotiator Jim Camp said emotions not facts and logic persuade people. Once people fall for the PR narrative of an innocent middle-class American gal being railroaded by corrupt and/or incompetent cops and a crazed prosecutor in a medieval Third World country, it seems their minds become completely closed and they’re incapable of thinking rationally.

They resort to making ridiculously far-fetched claims to justify their belief in Amanda Knox’s innocence e.g. there was huge sinister conspiracy to frame her involving the police, prosecutors, judges and Supreme Court judges.

They don’t think Amanda Knox’s multiple false alibis and numerous lies are suspicious. They attach no significance to the fact she tried to frame an innocent man for rape and murder and didn’t retract her false and malicious allegation against Diya Lumumba the whole time he was in prison.

They argue the Luminol was reacting to fruit juice - not blood - even though there was an abundance of blood at the cottage and some of the Luminol prints contained Meredith’s DNA.

They claim all the DNA evidence against the black man is reliable, but all the DNA evidence against the two white people was contaminated.

They’re adamant the break-in wasn’t staged even despite the fact there were shards of glass on top of the clothes and objects on the floor and nothing was stolen.

They claim the bloody footprint on the bathmat belongs to Rudy Guede even though there are irreconcilable differences between it and his foot and his bloody shoe prints prove he didn’t track Meredith’s blood into the small bathroom.

They dismiss the mixed-blood evidence as a coincidence even though Knox’s blood was mixed with Meredith’s blood in different part of the cottage.

However, if Meredith was their daughter or sister, I don’t think they would made such ridiculous claims and behave like gullible simpletons. It’s hard to understand what makes people think so irrationally. 

Posted by The Machine on 09/20/19 at 09:10 AM | #

Hi Machine

Remember truth is winning over the Enormous Middle now. Those millions are what counts.

And on the psychology, yes, some will never come right.

1. Read up on mental paradigms to understand why. There’s a way to de-program them but in this case who cares? And Rocco is scaring them from beyond the grave.

2. Also Knox is a cash cow. Many have tried to make big bucks, like Moore and Fischer and Sforza, and have no intention of any refunds.

We found just about all of those listed in the previous post as having hoaxed Gladwell had themselves listed on Speakers Bureaus for fees often starting at $10,000. Knox of course too.


Gladwell asks for much more than that. Take Knox away from his Strangers list and he has little to sell via this book.

Checking all media reports, it seems he has not mentioned Knox since we began.

But what are Hachette up to? Marketing a fraud? Will they junk a print run and lose face, or remain stubborn and lose face?

Stay tuned. Tick tick tick.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 09/20/19 at 10:10 AM | #

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