Monday, January 24, 2011

Facts About the Double-DNA-Knife & Bra Clasp

Let’s take a closer look at the alleged murder weapon that will be examined and reported on in the months to come. All DNA evidence was overseen by Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, forensic biologist and Chief of the Italian Scientific Police Unit in Rome. Dr. Stefanoni is respected around the globe and she had no vested interest in a particular outcome—she had no dogs in this race, per say. The Marietti knife, which was found in the cutlery drawer in Sollecito’s kitchen and marked “Exhibit 36,” has a 6 ½ inch stainless steel blade. Dr. Stefanoni testified that the knife possessed Knox’s DNA in a groove on the black handle of the knife and Kercher’s DNA on the tip; hence the title "the double DNA knife."

When confronted by police about the knife early-on in the investigation, Sollecito coolly explained that Meredith’s DNA should be on the blade of the knife because he accidentally pricked her with it while he was cooking a fish diner at his place. “The fact that Meredith’s DNA is on my kitchen knife is because once, when we were all cooking together, I accidentally pricked her hand,’’ he said. It was later proven that Meredith had never even been to Sollecito’s place. In fact, she had only seen him once or twice very briefly: remember Knox and Sollecito had only met a week before the murder. Furthermore, the girls who lived in the flat testified that they had never seen the knife at the cottage at Via Della Pergola 7 (site of the murder). Sollecito has not spoken about that statement since and has yet to retract it; he did exercise his right to silence during the original trial.

Several doctors testified that the knife matched the most significant wound on Kercher’s neck—the deepest and fatal wound. During an independent review of the forensic evidence in 2008, Dr. Renato Biondo, the head of the DNA unit of the scientific police, reviewed Dr. Stefanoni’s investigation and the forensic findings. During his testimony he confirmed that all the forensic findings were accurate and reliable. Dr. Biondo and Dr. Stefanoni (Shown in pic above) are among the top forensic experts in all of Italy. The Kercher family hired their own DNA expert, Professor Francesca Torricelli (Director of a genetic facility at Careggi University Hospital). She also agreed with Dr. Stefanoni that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade of the double DNA knife. Moreover, by the admission of Sollecito himself; Meredith’s DNA was on the blade, as he recalled pricking her with it while preparing a meal at his apartment—not only was he not surprised, he confirmed it to be true.

And, as for the bra clasp: there is absolutely no question whether Sollecito’s DNA was or was not on it—it was! There is less than one chance in a trillion that this was not Sollecito’s DNA. This is a mathematical fact, as plenty of his cells were present to provide a reliable test (1.4 nanogram or 1400 picograms—which contains approximately 160 cells). The only thing that can be contested was contamination from the machine, which is virtually impossible to prove—and would almost have to be performed by monkeys to occur, because of the large amount of cells present. Or, due to some type of physical transfer, prior to removal or testing, that would involve an incalculable improbability, considering that Sollecito’s DNA was not found in the cottage anywhere else (other than a cigarette but).

Although the knife & clasp are two pieces of evidence being re-examined, there were a total of 23 separate pieces of forensic evidence in the case.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Knox Appeal: Date Set for DNA Results

The appeals of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito reconvened today, ending just hours ago. The long awaited ruling on key DNA evidence used to convict Knox and her former boyfriend Sollecito of murder was the subject of the day. Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmen made the official order today to have the DNA evidence reexamined.

The independent experts previously appointed by the appeals court—Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti from Rome’s Sapienza University (both shown in pic above)—were formally sworn in at today’s hearing. They will begin their review on 9 February at a university lab, conclude their examinations by 9 May, and report their findings to the court on 21 May 2011. The two independent experts can either make new analyses on the DNA traces that were found, or, if that isn't possible, review the analyses that had been carried out by previous forensic experts and assess whether they are reliable. Experts appointed by both the prosecution and the defense will be present during the review.

The two pieces of evidence that will be reevaluated are the knife and the bra clasp. Mr. Conti was the more vocal of the two court appointed experts, asking if he could disassemble the knife during their tests. The defense had no problem with the request, but the prosecution opposed the action. Judge Hellman ruled that they should start by working on the knife and if they feel it is absolutely necessary at some later point to disassemble it they should come back into court and make another request and it will be ruled on at that time.

The prosecution maintains the DNA review will once and for all prove that errors were not made; whereas defense lawyers maintain that the DNA evidence in the case is either “inconclusive” or was “contaminated” during the lengthy investigation. The next hearing is scheduled for March 12th.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Knox Appeal: More Defense Dilly-Dallying

The wheels of justice are again moving slowly, as the appeals of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito resume with little progress. Today the defense expressed optimism outside the courtroom that a drug charge conviction of a “key prosecution witness” Antonio Curatolo, 53, might help Knox in her appeal. One of Knox’s lawyers, Luciano Ghirga, told The Associated Press in Rome that Curatolo, a homeless man in the university town of Perugia, wasn't a credible witness.

In the first trial Curatolo testified that he spent most of his time around Corso Garibaldi (the street where Sollecito lived) and Piazza Grimana (the piazza in front of the School for Foreigners where the basketball court is located). On the night of the murder he told the court that he witnessed Knox and Sollecito in the park several times that night (between 9:30p.m., and midnight), which contradicted their statements—that they spent the entire night at Sollecito’s flat. Although homeless, Curatolo’s precise and well-spoken testimony was seen as credible by most that are familiar with it.

Still, Luciano Ghirga said, “We have always said that he was not a credible witness, it was the court that held he was credible.” The drug charge conviction “will be an additional thing to help prove the witness is not credible,” Ghirga said in a phone interview. Perugia court offices were closed Saturday, and officials could not be reached to confirm Italian news reports that Curatolo had been convicted earlier in the week for dealing drugs. It wasn’t immediately known what his sentence was or if he had been jailed.

The defense is again reaching for straws here and journalists continue to mislead the public when they claim that Curatolo is a “key prosecution witness.” In fact, Curatolo’s testimony was just another hole in Knox and Sollecito’s Swiss-cheese alibi. Curatolo’s drug charges stem from events that allegedly occurred nearly eight-years ago, bringing to mind the questions: why has it taken so long to charge and convict this man and why wasn’t there enough evidence back then to charge and convict him? It will be interesting to see what evidence there is against him for these charges of selling heroine; photographs of him talking to a drug addict in Piazza Grimana will prove nothing.

In any event, why does this piece of information make him any less credible? Moreover, the same people who are banking on this conviction to discredit him are the same ones who are banking on testimonies of the convicted baby killer and the convicted mobster—who have both been called as witnesses for the defense. Curatolo’s testimony stood up well and he was unflustered in the face of the lackluster and uncertain defense cross-examination. In strong contrast, defense witnesses Alessi and Aviello (baby killer and mobster)— who are both in prison and hoping for breaks—are almost certainly potential perjurers and may blink rather than take the stand and face perjury charges and longer sentences.

The big news that was anticipated for this hearing—information on the progress of the independent evaluation of the DNA evidence—was not reported on. Most likely it will be announced at the next hearing, which is scheduled for 22 January 2011.