Amanda Knox Re-Trial

It began today and there’s a worldwide frenzy to see a conviction.  Or is it a re-conviction?

Based upon what’s on the internet, at least, those agitating for a conviction far outnumber, out-emote and out-shout anyone else with a different point of view.  This site, for example, has had more than 21 million views and is as prolific as it is overwrought.

You have to hand it to the Italian system:  it really gins up the partisans.  You get one verdict that goes hard one way and an appeals verdict that goes just as hard the other way, setting up the last part of the hat-trick where people really pony up their dough. 

There’s something very sad about these high profile cases, no matter how they turn out.  The first in modern times, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, was a terribly sad story. 

Much of the public reaction does not inspire confidence in the rationality of most people.  Beyond that, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the fevered desire to see someone punished over something that has nothing to do with you.  It is the strangest thing.

In any case, this is interesting.  I don’t think that’s a bad focus at all for the Italian court.  It probably is the decisive piece of evidence, inasmuch as it’s impossible for me to think of an innocent reason Meredith Kercher’s DNA would be on that knife blade; on the other hand, if it isn’t Meredith Kercher’s DNA, or if it can’t be known whose DNA it is, then I don’t see any other evidence that reliably points to guilt.

So to that extent, it seems to me the Italian court is looking exactly where they should be looking, sorting through all the noise.  Encouraging, really.



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67 responses to “Amanda Knox Re-Trial

  1. I fail to see that this DNA evidence is decisive.
    Especially given that such a miniscule amount of DNA is reportedly on the knife – assuming they mean the blade of the knife, there is a perfectly innocuous reason why it might belong to Meredith Kercher. She lived in the house and presumably used the cutting knives. It is so banal and so common to cut oneself on a knife either during slicing or perhaps while poking something out like a fruit stone with the point. I challenge anyone to say they have never done either of these things. If the knife had been used to stab her, would there not be much more DNA residue all over the knife – that is if even washing didn’t remove all trace of it?
    Even if they find definitively that an excessive amount of MK’s DNA is on the blade of the knife, how does this necessarily convict Knox and Sollecito? Apparently I am missing something……


    • Well, assuming no contamination and no monkey business, and given that the knife was located in Sollecito’s place, you could certainly conclude, not unreasonably, that it was the murder weapon.

      I’ll say that that would be the only really good evidence. The bra clasp is entirely different.

      I mean, I think they’re innocent. I don’t think they’re going to find anything on the blade, and there would have to be good proof from an expert to verify that it is, in fact, Meredith Kercher’s DNA, but if it is any innocent explanation is going to be hard to swallow. Personally, I put a lot of stock in the finding that her DNA was not on the knife in concluding that they were innocent. If the DNA is there, there would be some other evidence that I would see in a different light. Like, for example, I’ve conceded for purposes of discussion that it might have been more likely that more than one person was involved, but without the DNA proof I’d say that that was immaterial – as long as it was not impossible for there to be only one person, the absence of any other reliable proof that there was more than one brings you to a dead end. On the other hand, if there is other reliable proof – and DNA on the blade would be that, I think – then the likelihood carries more weight.

      If what you get is some prosecution expert saying it is and the defense expert saying it isn’t or you don’t know, and the defense expert is not demonstrably wrong I wouldn’t change my opinion on the ultimate question here. But if you have a girl killed with a knife, and a knife is found in Sollecito’s apartment with AK’s DNA on the handle and MK’s on the blade and it otherwise matches the kind of knife that was used, that’s pretty significant, no doubt about it.

      Truth is, I don’t think they’re going to determine anything from the knife, though. I’m perhaps not quite so thoroughly persuaded as you that because of Italian system dysfunction the prosecution side can rig things at this stage. That bra clasp is sort of a classic – they’re trying to get these kids and have come up empty for more than a month and a few people, maybe even one person, can plant evidence and at that point there was a strong incentive for someone with an agenda to do that.

      But I think they collected the knife way earlier. Correct me if I’m wrong.


      • Aha, with all the discussions, the fact that the knife was taken from Sollecito’s was assumed to be remembered by all. I had forgotten that. But did the knife originate from the girls’ flat? Unless it was premeditated (no evidence of a motive for that) why would Sollecito take a knife from his home then take it back there after the murder? No doubt there’d be plenty of available knives at the girls’ flat for a spontaneous murder. Is the prosecution suggesting that the knife originated there?
        I am not thinking that the Italian system can rig anything significant here, if no real evidence exists, but rather that they have managed to create a false narrative persuasive enough for many Italians, and Americans to believe. As in the Casey Anthony case, the fact that the purported forensic “evidence” was absurd made no difference to the masses carried along by media-hyped emotion. When people are duped and satisfied by the fairy tale of goodies and baddies they have been fed by the prosecution via trash media, they are easily swayed by flimsy forensics and care little to delve into the laborious details of scientific realities. Like you, I doubt this trial will come up with anything conclusive, and they will be acquitted again, but with millions on both sides of the Atlantic believing Knox is guilty, her life is severely compromised.


        • Yes that’s the worst part, or one of the saddest for me, anyway. Assuming innocence, which I also think is very, very likely BTW, it seems almost endemic to the collective consciousness that one violent and perverse act – the terrible murder of a young girl, Meredith Kercher – must be matched by another violent and perverse act, and if we don’t get what we want we will bray and obsess and literally hound our target, virtually to death, and eternally. No peace. We compulsively compound wrong with wrong.

          People in AK’s position should just be awarded a pile of money so they can live in some remote place as recluses with some degree of comfort and with a few friends who see the madness for what it is.

          I think about that video of the guy after being surprised by the Casey Anthony not guilty verdict, sitting in front of the TV chugging a beer, eating, expecting guilty of course, and when the party was folied he unleashed an incredible torrent of venom that rivaled anything I could have imagined if the little girl had indeed been murdered.

          This is an area where a lot of studying should take place. We need to understand this about ourselves, why this happens in this or that case. I’m sort of in awe of it, not in a good way.


    • The knife was not in Merodith’s and Amanda’s flat it was in RS flat…all in all I’ve read all I could on both sides-it’s a simple case of a robbery gone bad by Rudy whose DNA is every where. They already aressted Knox and RS before ANY DNA came back which quickly pointed them to Rudy!


  2. Jessie

    This post is a good example of why I like you, John 🙂 I don’t understand either why anyone would salivate at the idea of punishment, even when guilt is not in any real doubt. I just don’t get off on the idea of somebody suffering, even when they deserve it. The cheering outside some of these convictions makes my skin crawl.

    With this case, it’s the mystery that pulls people back in. Kind of ironic, considering how convinced both sides are that they are absolutely, no question, correct. (And they believe they are correct in their narrative as well. Technically, I think Knox is innocent too, but I don’t buy the defense narrative.)

    Anyway, you can find the FOAKer sites if you look for them. They’re just as loud and irrational as the guilters, but they tend to either not know anything about the evidence or they just deny it. It’s always either contaminated or they claim shoddy police work. Amazing, really, how the police could have gotten every single thing wrong — but only as it pertains to Knox and Sollectio. They’ll buy into all the evidence used to convict Guede, even though it was all collected by the same allegedly incompetent cops. The logic really is just as bad on both sides.

    I’d have to agree with you that if the knife turns up Kercher’s DNA a second time, I’ll have to concede that my little theory is wrong and they are guilty. I don’t think it’s going to, but it’s interesting to watch both sides go all-in like this.

    There is yet more forensic evidence though. (I just keep pulling them out, one by one, each time I post a reply.) The “mixed DNA” all gets lumped together, but it shouldn’t be. It falls into three categories:

    –Kercher’s blood mixed with Knox’s DNA in several spots in the bathroom. The first court let this one go by the end of the first trial. (Oddly enough, guilters will cling to evidence that even the PROSECUTION has let go of.) But it’s flawed for the obvious reason that one would expect to find their DNA in the bathroom and, while it might be a little unusual that all those blood spots also happen to include Knox’s DNA, it’s impossible to draw any conclusions from it.

    –Not quite as easy to dismiss the DNA mix in the ransacked bedroom with the broken window. One spot was found in there with Luminol. They were able to test it for either DNA or the type of substance, but not for both. Given the shape of the spot and that it was found with Luminol, they opted for the DNA test. Sure enough, Kercher’s DNA, so we can conclude it’s blood. But it also contained Knox’s DNA. Still plausible that her DNA could be in her roommate’s bedroom, but not as easily dismissed as in the bathroom.

    –And it’s quite difficult to dismiss the footprints. Hear me out on this — because, of course, Knox’s footprints would be all over her own apartment. They were discovered with Luminol in the hallway outside the victim’s room. Again, testable for substance or for DNA, but not both. They again opted to test for DNA for a somewhat complicated reason. Only a few substances react to Luminol and only two were worth considering in this situation — blood or bleach (in particular, bleach from cleaning products used to clean the floor in which the girls might have then been walking around in it). They could identify the footprints as Knox’s and they found Kercher’s DNA in the footprints, which wouldn’t be surprising, except they were able to rule out bleach because Luminol reacts to bleach for only a short period of time and the test was conducted several weeks after the murder. Because the substance was still reacting, it’s almost certainly blood.

    Of course, you already know how I would explain that.


    • Jessie, it’s got to be the lawyer in me. I figure there’s a standard of proof and evidence that has no hope of meeting it, well, I just don’t spend much effort on it.

      Mystery? I don’t see much here. Some. There was a lot more with the Jodi Arias case, and the Casey Anthony case, because there the cops really didn’t investigate much of anything, they just focused on one suspect and one scenario. Here the cops, to their credit I think, were all over it, and for a while at least they were open minded enough to make mistakes, like arresting Lumumba (sp?). However sloppy they may have been, I have a fair amount of confidence that as a group they were doing their job.*

      Anyway, I’m hearing you out, but because AK DNA would be all over the apartment the most you can glean from any “mix” is that something is possible when maybe you’d otherwise, and even rather, rule it out. It’s nice when evidence can eliminate issues. You move on to something else, that might actually be true. The trouble with any argument based on AK DNA in the apartment is that there’s absolutely no hope it will resolve anything. Any ‘mixing’ data would perhaps generate some suspicion, and that is all. But there is already plenty of reason to be suspicious of the roommate, right? So looking at evidence that can’t even get you past suspicion seems to me like a waste of time. I mean, did they test for Filomena’s DNA too? My guess is you’d find Filomena’s mixed in there.

      As far as footprints, same deal. Unless you can determine that the footprint was made in the blood before it dried, like the unidentified footprint in the JA case, or say JA’s handprint – in blood – it doesn’t tell you anything. My understanding is that this is not the case with the AK footprints, that they are of a type that were just there anyway, and blood and/or DNA could have come after the print was already there.

      There was that bare footprint – in blood – on the bathmat, of a right foot, and elsewhere (I understand) shoe prints in blood of Rudy Guede’s – but only the left shoe, the obvious inference from these two facts being, of course, that for some time during or after the murder Guede had his right shoe off but not his left. Yet guilters still want to argue that the bare footprint in blood on the bathmat is Sollecito’s because some “expert” says so.

      If there wasn’t such a strong possibility that the bra clasp had been tampered with, the clasp and the knife would both be the most telling items of proof here. Throw out the bra clasp and you’re left with the knife, and that’s what the court is focusing on. I can’t help but agree that that’s exactly the right thing, so as far as I am concerned the Italian justice system is functioning at a high level so far.

      I hold out hope that there won’t be any prosecution “expert” who will say that they have divined Kercher’s DNA on the blade, but the fact is you can get experts to say just about anything. I don’t know enough about the subject to second guess anyone else with any level of expertise, but I will say that I think that finding Meredith Kercher’s DNA there at this point should be regarded as a highly unlikely event. So if the expert testimony is a split – prosecution’s says yes, defense’s says no – then the unlikelihood would become determinative in my assessment. If anyone cares about that, that is.

      * There has to be a caveat here. There’s a high likelihood that some people within the police/prosecutor group planted DNA evidence on the bra clasp. Maybe not “more likely than not”, but way too high to put any stock in that particular item of proof.


      • Jessie

        Just to make sure this is clear: When I say I accept a given evidence point, I’m not saying anything about what can be inferred from that evidence point. That’s a very important distinction. Saying that I accept the bra clasp DNA or the footprints ONLY means I believe that, more likely than not, Sollecito’s DNA is on the bra clasp and that Knox’s footprints appeared in blood in the hallway.

        Neither is solid evidence of guilt and they’re certainly proof positive of it. It just seems to me like you’re approaching these things from the question of what can be inferred from them, rather than the preliminary step of determining whether they validly indicate the fact claimed about them. (And, WTF? You just said back in the other thread that you don’t believe the DNA was planted; now you’re saying there’s a high likelihood it was planted. Huh??)

        You’re missing my point about the footprints, but I may not be explaining it very well. They don’t have anything to do with Knox’s DNA being in her own apartment. The footprints were found with Luminol. They were consistent with Knox’s footprint. Luminol only reacts to a few liquids that would be found in the average home — blood, bleach, and fruit juice. (It also reacts to metals, but most people are not tracking cobalt around their house.)

        We can rule out fruit juice as improbable, so that leaves blood from the murder and bleach from cleaning products used on the floor. Now, they could test for DNA or they could test to determine what the substance was, but they couldn’t test the same sample for both. They opted to test for DNA for a reason that is sort of complicated. The footprints were found several weeks after the murder (the scene was investigated for almost two months). Bleach only reacts to Luminol for a couple of days. Therefore, we can reasonably assume the substance was blood. That’s why they tested the footprints for DNA, which turned up Kercher’s and Knox’s.

        That is not proof of guilt. In that sense, I agree with you when you keep saying we can’t draw conclusions from these things. But acknowledging the validity of the evidence is NOT the same thing as making inferences from that evidence. All we can safely infer from the footprints is that Knox got Kercher’s blood on her bare feet. Suspicious certainly, and it means the defense narrative is nonsense, but it’s not even close to proof she murdered Kercher. I don’t conflate those two things, so let’s just take that off the table.

        Yes, they did test for Filomena’s DNA. They collected DNA from all those who lived in the house as well as from Kercher’s friends. Guede’s DNA and fingerprints were on file because he was an immigrant. Otherwise they might never have caught him. Because, again, he didn’t have a criminal record.

        Anyway, the sample in Filomena’s bedroom….I don’t question it in terms of “did they find what they think they found.” That sample was also discovered with Luminol, but it wasn’t as easy to say it was blood. While it’s unlikely anyone was walking around the hallway creating footprints in fruit juice, it is possible Filomena spilled juice in her bedroom. So, again, they tested for DNA; again they found Knox’s and Kercher’s, the latter of which they used to determine the spot was blood.

        The reason I put that sample in an iffier category than the footprints is because it’s possible that Knox’s and Kercher’s DNA would be on the floor of their roommate’s bedroom. It’s a awfully big coincidence that both would be found in the same spot, which just happens to be blood….but it is possible. In any case, it’s less definitive than the footprint.

        The bathmat footprint….I’m undecided on that one. I tend to think it is Sollecito’s, based on the measurements of each part of both men’s feet. However, their footprints are pretty damn similar. In My Little Theory, the hypothesis is that both Knox and Sollecito got blood on their feet by entering the bedroom after the murder to assess what happened. Sollecito would have more reason than Guede to wash his feet, and he’d probably have more time. We can reasonably posit that the murderer would want to exit the scene as quickly as possible and there are no footprints leading up to the bathmat from which we might determine who left the bathmat footprint.

        I disagree with you that the bra clasp is a telling item of proof….proof of what? Guilt in a murder? That requires a leap that the knife would not require (if the knife comes up positive again, I’ll eat all my words and acknowledge they’re guilty….but I’m not holding my breath….)

        I just think you’re also making a huge leap to claim tampering. The crime scene was investigated for about two months, during which time Sollecito was in jail and thus incapable of going to the crime scene and possibly handling evidence. The fact that the clasp was picked up later in that timeline than the knife is immaterial. It didn’t collect DNA by lying on the floor. The only way to transfer DNA onto it would be to, not only touch it, but to apply some pressure.

        Could the police have planted evidence against Knox and Sollecito? Of course. I just don’t see any reason to believe they did. And, seriously….get off this kick that Mignini is a psychopath… Even if he was, he had a relatively lesser role in the whole thing. He was on-call the night of the interrogation. He came in, took Knox’s statement, and signed her arrest warrant. He was among the prosecutors in the first trial, but even if he was batshit crazy, he wasn’t in much position to frame two innocent kids, at least not easily and not without significant collusion from multiple people across several agencies. The lead prosecutor was Manuela Comodi and the lead investigator was Patrizia Stefanoni. Mignini just made a good villain in the FOAKer story, especially since at the time he was under investigation for wiretapping (he was later acquitted).

        In fact, it’s Mignini who’s said all along that there’s a “missing scene” in this whole thing. Something he couldn’t put his finger on that would explain all the puzzling evidence. Naturally, I think he was spot-on with that, although obviously I disagree with his theory of the crime.

        The point is, contrary to this idea that Mignini made up his mind before there was evidence, it’s Mignini who’s said there’s something about this crime that remains elusive — the missing scene. In interviews, he comes across as quite rational and even compassionate. While the other attorneys were describing Knox as a “luciferina” and “dirty on the inside,” Mignini said it saddened him to lock up two kids, even though he does believe they’re guilty. He reminds me of some of the better prosecutors I’ve worked with and I think the way the FOAKers have attacked reputation is kind of disgusting.


        • Jessie

          Correction: This should say, “Neither is solid evidence of guilt and they’re certainly NOT proof positive of it.”

          Proofreading would be good here….


        • Jessie, I have only time for a short comment right now. There are no reference DNA samples from Filomena or Laura, nor are there reference footprints. Rusty water has iron. Soils may contain small amounts of metal ions, IIUC. I don’t see a valid reason for failing to perform a confirmatory test. Nowadays, they are much more sensitive than the older tests, which worked on different principles.


        • >>All we can safely infer from the footprints is that Knox got Kercher’s blood on her bare feet.<<

          Well, Jessie, if that is your understanding of what the evidence proves, I can certainly better appreciate your fondness for your theory. It would indeed be pretty much impossible otherwise to come up with an innocent explanation for those footprints.

          But there appear to be legitimate disputes about all the footprints, some claiming that there is no evidence the footprints belonged to either AK or RS, some disputing that luminol reacts with more things for longer than you have indicated, and just in general I think the footprint evidence is a mess. Just like AK DNA, AK footprints are bound to be all over and blood, bleach, and so on could come along later. Besides, what possible excuse could there be for "finding" new footprints 6 weeks later?

          That's all for now but I'll try to get back for more later.


          • Jessie

            Interesting….I’m surprised you see the bloody footprints in such a damning light. All that can really be inferred from them is that the person with said foot had access to the scene some time between the murder and the time the blood was cleaned up. That applies to a lot of people for a lot of reasons, many of them innocuous (including investigators). So I don’t have trouble accepting the footprints, but still not ascribing guilt to them.

            I wouldn’t call any of the dispute about the footprints particularly legitimate. No one, including the defense, ever disputed they were Knox’s prints. The defense explanation is that the prints were formed in bleach from a cleaning product, which falls apart because bleach would no longer have reacted to Luminol.

            The FOAKers…..gotta love ’em…..only a partisan could look at a murder scene with that volume of blood and say, “Oh, those footprints? Much more likely those were made in rusty water!”

            The rusty water theory doesn’t work. The Luminol prints were found in a cluster in the hallway right outside the victim’s bedroom. How would rusty water be on the floor of that hallway, but nowhere else in the apartment? Had such footprints been scattered throughout the apartment — especially prints belonging to all the girls — then I would have to assume some other explanation. (Any prints belonging to Kercher would rule out blood completely.)

            The quantity of rust required is a problem too. To believe the prints were made in rust, we’d have to believe the girls were drinking water that contained so much rust it was practically not potable. Trace amounts of rust (say, in water used to clean the floor) wouldn’t have left fully formed footprints. Only the rust would react to the Luminol, leaving speckles, not full formed footprints.

            Something was on Knox’s feet that reacts to Luminol and, especially under the circumstances, blood is the only credible substance.

            Why did investigators find the prints a few weeks after the murder? I don’t know for sure. I would guess because they probably had little reason to bring Luminol in right away, especially compared to priorities like combing through logical suspects, trying to identify visible prints, interpreting the autopsy results, etc. Besides, Luminol is only used to pick up traces not visible to the naked eye. There wasn’t much reason to assume at first that such traces were a part of the scene. So I can understand why a Luminol assessment was a lower priority than other techniques.

            I think they brought it in at more like three weeks than six though. Not that that necessarily matters. Either way, bleach would have been long gone. It only reacts to Luminol for a couple of days, ruling out the only other likely substance in which the footprints could have been made (although even then, one would think such prints would exist throughout the cottage). Incidentally, the guilters and the prosecution believe Knox and Sollecito wiped away their footprints. I think this is unlikely, given that the print was identifiable. Wiping it would have smeared it. So I think the prints identified with Luminol were probably not wiped, but were just too faint to be visible to the naked eye.


            • One, the luminol was applied six weeks after the murder, and there had been an enormous amount of traffic in the cottage in the interim (Meredith’s mattress had been moved out of her room, for example). I don’t think that the evidence should have even been admitted, given that it was not collected in a timely fashion. Two, The prints are all right feet and don’t form a trail. What is your theory of how and when they were formed? Three, only reference prints from Amanda were taken, not any other flatmate. This is suspect-centered forensics. IIUC the defense does not necessarily say that they are Amanda’s, and IMO the evidence doesn’t support that contention (my opinion is that they might or might not be hers). Four, there are speckles in the tile grouting, on the ruler, and on the investigator’s boot in some photos. What substance is that? Five, who made the shoe print in the hallway and when? If that were made at a different time, then the substance is probably not blood. Six, rusty water from Ms. Knox’s shower the next day is a possibility (just as it is a possibility that bloody water from the bathroom got onto her feet). Seven, luminol reacts with other cleaning products besides bleach. Eight, the burden of proof is on the the prosecution to show that they were blood, not on the defense to show what the other luminol-reactive substance was. Nine, how do you explain the fact that TMB was negative?


            • With respect to the luminol-positive/TMB-negative/DNA-negative areas, I asked the authors of a 2009 review article in Forensic Sciences International on the forensics of body fluid identification for their interpretation. Drs. Kelly Virkler and Igor Lednev wrote, “So, there was either no blood and the luminol was wrong, or there was blood and the TMB had interference and the luminol damaged the DNA. We think it is more likely that there was no blood, and that the luminol was reacting with something else, possibly plant matter from the bottom of the shoes causing the footprints (the intensity of the luminol reaction might give some more insight). The prosecution should have used much more convincing evidence to prove the presence of blood.”


            • The area of our diagreement probably revolves around the phrase “bloody footprints”. There’s a bare right footprint from the mat in the bathroom. For some reason you think it’s Sollecito’s; I think it’s Guede’s, who apparently for some period during the crime had his right shoe off but not his left. Be that as it may, though, the bathmat footprint is what you and I would both call a “bloody footprint”.

              But the “footprints” they find with luminol aren’t necessarily of that character at all. There you have small amounts of blood, not visible to the naked eye, that are in the same place as a footprint that could have occurred at any time. That’s why I think footprint evidence of that kind, even if it is AK’s doesn’t mean a thing.

              Regarding evidence planting, it’s a real thing and it happenes. Not like space aliens or, say, Big Foot which for some reason is now back in the news with a new group of charlatans claiming this or that. For what it is worth I do not see a high likelihood of any evidence planting except with respect to the bra clasp, which is kind of a unique item of evidence in all this. And again, high likelihood just means too likely to accept the evidence against AK and RS, not so likely that you’d say with confidence that tampering actually occurred.

              I realize that evidence planting is a disturbing subject because it turns the world upside down and you wind up not being able to agree on what is ‘evidence’ in the first place. That’s different from arguing about what the evidence shows or what it means, a more conventional and comfortable area to be arguing. But take a look at the NY Times today and the article about Detective Scarcella. Although few in number, there are police and prosecutors who are very ambitious in an ego sense, and who can and do abuse their positions by planting evidence, coercing confessions and witnesses and so on. The system hides from this issue. It needs to be confronted directly and there should be things like Pattern Jury Instructions dealing with it. It’s telling that there are no such instructions, as if it’s not a legitimate way to attack evidence.

              The result is that when the police or prosecutor has framed a defendant, that defendant is usually not allowed to prove it at his own trial. The judge will generally rule all such discussion out of bounds, telling the defense lawyer: “Your client is the one on trial here, not the police or the prosecutors.” So the only way we deal with it now is when other police bring the accusation. And of course that doesn’t happen.

              Or when it does, as is happening now in Brooklyn, it’s some kind of extraordinary review by the DA’s office. The victims of all the perfidy that went on for years are collateral damage and no one wants to face them, either.

              Fabrication and evidence and witness tampering by police and prosecutors is most likely to be discovered by the defense lawyer, but defense lawyers are basically discouraged from even looking because even if they find it, they can’t use it, and then they get the whole “conspiracy theorist” thing from judges.

              I know whereof I speak, unfortunately.


              • Jessie

                I’m not sure I follow what you’re saying about how the Luminol footprint might have been created. It’s impossible that there was a footprint there already and then blood came along later. Because it’s not like there was just blood in the footprint — then I would agree. But, no, the print itself is fully-formed and clearly created by something that reacts to Luminol being on the sole of the foot.

                So our only options here are:
                -It wasn’t Knox’s print, but someone else’s made in blood.
                -It was Knox’s print, but made in some other reactive substance.
                -It was someone else’s print AND some other reactive substance.
                -It was Knox’s print made in blood.

                No one has disputed it’s Knox’s print (at least no one actually involved in the case). So we can take that one off the table — unlike the bathmat, this is a fully-formed print. So that leaves us with the type of reactive substance. And I’ve already explained why I think we have to rule out other reactive substances besides blood.

                The bathmat print? Yes, that it was made in blood is indisputable and I agree it’s not certain whose print it is. It’s not fully formed. Plus, Guede and Sollecito’s footprints are very similar. So I could go either way on that one. I lean towards Sollecito for two reasons: (1) the measurements comparing each portion of the print conform much more closely to Sollecito than to Guede and (2) Sollecito had more reason, more time, etc. to wash his feet — we might call this “the totality of the scene.” An intruder who kills someone, for example, probably wants to skedaddle pretty quickly and washing only one foot is a bit odd (we know Guede didn’t wash his left foot because his prints go right out the door). #2 is not as strong as #1, but they are when combined.

                I’ve never been persuaded by the idea that Guede had one shoe on and one shoe off. The fact that only Guede’s left shoe print was found doesn’t indicate anything except that fact alone. No right bare footprint was found that can be definitively attributed to Guede and that’s the only forensic evidence that would really tell us he had his right shoe off. Combine that with the rather odd behavior of cleaning one foot and then walking around with one shoe on and one shoe off, it’s more reasonable to assume — lacking evidence to the contrary — that he had both shoes on and skedaddled right out the door, as Guede’s bloody footprints do indicate.

                It’s important to keep in mind here that only a handful of fingerprints or footprints at any scene are of any use at all. Most of them are smudged, overlapping, etc. And, except in the case that they are made in blood, it’s usually impossible to connect them to a crime (although if there’s little other innocent explanation for the suspect’s presence, that might be at least a bit fishy, but still not definitive — even Guede COULD have been in the cottage for innocent reasons; it’s just very unlikely, but, of course, that’s exactly what his attorneys argued).

                Point being: Just because we don’t have a right footprint for Guede doesn’t mean his shoe was on or his shoe was off. It just means we don’t have a right footprint for Guede. That’s it.

                If we assume the bathmat print was Sollecito’s, however, that is no more proof he committed a murder than if we assume Knox’s bare footprint was made in blood. Neither indicates anything more than that they had access to the scene some time between the murder and the time the blood was cleaned up. There are many non-guilt reasons that could be the case, especially since the murder happened in Knox’s own home.

                Speaking of access to the scene, I’ll toss another evidence point out there (wonder how long it would take me at this rate to get through all of them — we’re nowhere near yet!) So here’s another one:

                Shortly after the murder was discovered, all of Kercher’s friends and housemates (those who were in town at the time, anyway) were brought in for questioning, printing, etc. While waiting together, Knox indicated that Kercher’s throat had been cut.

                The trouble is how exactly she knew this. When police found the body, Kercher was covered by a blanket. None of the friends and housemates were present when they lifted that blanket to examine her and police had not publicly released the cause of death by the time the friends and housemates were brought in, which was pretty immediate after discovery of the body.

                Knox has never had any convincing explanation as to how she knew the cause of death before it had been released. She claimed that Sollecito asked around among the friends, one of them told him, and then he told her. Except none of the friends knew either. That’s WHY they were wondering aloud about it at the police station when Knox indicated that she knew the cause of death.

                Here again, guilters make the leap to guilt from something that cannot be taken as proof of guilt. Like the footprint, all it can tell us is that Knox had access to the scene (and that the defense narrative is BS, but ruling out the defense narrative does not rule in guilt — guilters don’t get that logic).

                Crap, I wanted to comment on evidence planting, but this is getting way too long. Suffice it to say: I hear you. I agree with you. I’m glad your blog is bringing attention to the problem. You’re like the antidote to Nancy Grace 🙂

                But for the purposes of this discussion, can we take it off the table? So far, the only evidence it happened is merely that it happens in general far too often — and it does. But since we have no indication it actually happened in this particular case, it becomes a distraction from talking about how we might apply logic to the evidence points. Again, how would you evaluate them if we assume that all evidence was legitimately obtained and presented in good faith?


              • >>It’s impossible that there was a footprint there already and then blood came along later.<<

                I just don't agree with you about this, but as you say let's leave that for now; for purposes of discussion I'll grant the point. (Maybe a link with some details about these footprints would help if we revisit it.)

                There seem to be people disputing that these prints belong to Knox, but I'll grant for purposes of discussion that this is not in dispute. That eliminates the first and third of your options for purposes of discussion. As between the other two, and based on what little I know about luminol reactive substances, I would say the last would be the far more likely of the two.

                So we wind up that AK's footprint is made in MK's blood.

                By any reasonable interpretation that places AK at the scene at the time or shortly thereafter. Evidence placing a suspect at the scene at the time is always very damning. It is true that it does not, all by itself, prove guilt of the crime alleged, but it doesn't take much more than that.

                I think your argument about the bathmat footprint being Sollecito's kind of bootstraps your conclusion into it, but again, okay for purposes of discussion.

                Lastly, AK's comment about MK's throat being cut. There are many, many cases where information that wasn't supposed to leak out did and resulted in false confessions. In this particular case, there is also a significant likelihood that based on what AK actually had seen, the idea that MK's throat had been cut was a fairly obvious inference. And finally, if I'm not mistaken it is not even an entirely accurate statement: it would be more accurate to say that MK's neck had been stabbed than to say that her throat had been cut.

                But again, let's just run with your theory. Speaking with my criminal defense lawyer hat on, I would say that the theory cannot be sold to a jury; that even if it is, so many people outside would feel that the defendants had "gotten away with murder" that their lives would be ruined anyway, they would be hunted into seclusion and poverty, like Casey Anthony. Even if I thought it was the truth I would try to mount a better defense. The only way your theory could even be intelligibly argued is to say that there just isn't quite enough to overcome reasonable doubt. I would be terrified to argue that to a jury if the clients were innocent. Moreover, you would be virtually compelled to put them on the stand to testify in their own defense and then they would be hit with all that evidence on cross examination and any bush league prosecutor, like Juan Martinez, could make them look really, really guilty in front of the jury.

                Is that the subject you wanted to get to? That is, how I think your theory would fare at a trial?


              • There is a possibility that Amanda got Meredith’s blood onto her feet when she showered there the next morning.


              • “Neither indicates anything more than that they had access to the scene some time between the murder and the time the blood was cleaned up.” I have no idea what you are saying. If there had been a clean-up, there would be swirls, not footprints. “No one has disputed it’s Knox’s print (at least no one actually involved in the case).” I don’t recall that the defense has ever said that the prints are Amanda’s, and I also searched Massei unsuccessfully. I have given two reasons why they should not concede this point.

                According to a recent article coauthored by Dr. Veccchiotti, the bra clasp had been stored in the presence of extraction buffer (most buffers are aqueous solutions). Therefore it is not surprising that the clasp rusted (it is a little bit like storing a cassette tape next to magnet). Until I learned of this, I was of the opinion that accidental contamination of the bra clasp was as least as likely as tampering. However, this incident makes me believe that tampering to produce the initial DNA results was a little bit more likely. Stefanoni misrepresented the amount of DNA with respect to the knife profile and answered misleadingly about the existence of negative TMB blood tests. Other than these issues, there is no evidence of tampering, and I am willing to leave the question of tampering alone.

                The forensic police have a poor track record with respect to shoe prints in this case. They claimed that two parallel lines were compatible with Amanda’s shoe print in Meredith’s room, but Sollecito’s expert, Francisco Vinci refuted this. They are ascribed the shoe prints in the hall to Raffaele, when it was obvious that they were Rudy ‘s. With respect to the print on the bathroom mat, to my untrained eye it looks more like Guede. Rinaldi’s measurement of the big toe encompasses a mark that is more likely to be from a person’s second toe.

                Although I don’t believe the bloody print on the bathmat should be used as evidence against anyone, I think it is likely that Rudy made it when he cleaned himself up in the bathroom (perhaps he removed his shoe to rinse off blood and stepped on the mat at that time). He then returned to Meredith’s room for the money and keys. At some point he stepped into a bloody pool with a portion of his shoe. That would account for the shoe track in the hallway.


              • Jessie

                There aren’t really any good websites about this case for me to recommend. All the ones I know of are highly partisan and pretty useless for trying to look at the case objectively. The FOAKer sites ignore or deny the evidence; the guilter sites make a lot of unexamined assumptions and display a credulity about the evidence as if it were all equally compelling.

                Their respective agendas interfere too much to really be of use. It’s quite obvious that they’re both trying to sell you something — not just guilt or innocence, but a specific narrative. (Notice that FOAKers don’t consider me an ally, even though I believe Knox is innocent. That’s not good enough for them because I don’t swallow their whole story, complete with Snidely Whip-Mignini, twirling his mustache and cackling like the villain in a fairytale.)

                Many of the primary documents are available on the Internet. They’re often on partisan websites, but if you ignore the commentary and just go for the primary source, those can be helpful. Some of them appear on the websites of both sides.

                What was I looking for from you? That’s a good question….I’m interested in whatever response you have, but this originally came up because you had floated a theory in which Jodi Arias’ intruder story might be true. I was impressed (I never really bought your theory, but I was impressed by your mental dexterity) and the gist of it reminded me of my theory about this case — the idea that someone present at the scene of a crime will also leave evidence of themselves, but that doesn’t make them the perpetrator of the crime.

                So, basically, I was curious what you might make of the Kercher murder if you were to prioritize the evidence and then encompass all the points you find reasonable. Perhaps you would accept or reject different evidence for different reasons than I do. And so on. It’s quite possible — even likely — that the guilter theory, the FOAKer theory, and my theory are all wrong. I’m just interested in how your mind works. (I’ve read a lot of your blog. I just rarely have anything worthwhile to contribute….assuming my posts here are “worthwhile” 🙂

                Anyway, Knox did take the stand to testify in the original trial. It was a disaster. She was often sarcastic in response the questions and visibly annoyed with her interpreter “interrupting” to translate, eventually insisting on switching to Italian to get rid of the interpreter. She came across as a brat. (Video of her testimony is all over YouTube.)

                None of her behavior in the first trial did anything but hurt her. She dressed inappropriately. She giggled. She put her head down on the table in the middle of the proceedings as if she was going to sleep. None of it means a damn thing in terms of her guilt or innocence, but it certainly hurt her in terms of public opinion. At one point, she answered a question about whether she still thinks of Meredith Kercher, “Yes, I remember her, but I only knew her for a month and I’m trying to move on with my life.” That just bolstered the prosecution’s contention that Knox was callous enough to have murdered the girl.

                Assuming she’s innocent, the trouble for Knox is that you can rule out one, two, even a dozen or more of the puzzle pieces and there’s still so many left that it’s hard to explain them all away as persecution or coincidence. Ted Simon, before he became one of her lawyers, said the defense should attempt to provide a comprehensive alternative narrative, rather than knock down individual pieces of evidence, because even though, taken individually, many of them are dubious or explainable, there are just too many of them to, as he put it, “play Whack-a-Mole.”

                Her knowledge of the cause of death is a perfect example. As you point out, it is completely impossible to conclude anything from that. The cause of death might have leaked or one of the friends could have made a lucky guess. Both of those are entirely possible….they’re just a little bit difficult to picture.

                None of the kids saw the body. When Kercher’s bedroom door was broken down, they saw her foot protruding from the blanket and there was lots of screaming, “A foot! A foot!” And then police kicked everybody out of the house.

                This is when the infamous “kissing video” was captured, and the kids were ushered down to the police station pretty quickly. I’d have to look up the times, but Knox wasn’t the first one interrogated, so they were sent down there pretty fast after discovery of the body.

                Did police leak the cause of death? Maybe. But they knew very little themselves at that point. None of the other friends — the ones Knox supposedly heard it from — knew the cause of death and they were surprised that Knox did know. They got the impression she had seen the body. So it all raises some doubts or questions.

                Nevertheless, it could have been a lucky guess. But that’s the trouble for Knox and Sollecito — one oddity or coincidence piled on top of another, piled on top of another, over and over, until eventually it becomes hard to believe they’re all just flukes or coincidences. A few are easy to accept (or should be easy to accept — too often people dismiss coincidence). But when you get so many, either Knox was the unluckiest girl in all of Europe….or something else is going on and the official stories are not the truth of what happened. Both the prosecution and defense narratives require explaining away a great many things — more than I find plausible, obviously.


              • From Candace Dempsey’s Murder in Italy, pp. 77-78, this takes place in the car on the way to the station on the afternoon of 2 November. “ Then Raffaele started asking Luca and Paola question. Was Meredith dead? How did she die? What had they seen? Then Raffaele passed the information along to Amanda in his garbled English. He told her Meredith’s throat had been cut.” Dempsey goes on to credit Frank Sfarzo for reporting about this at Perugia-Shock, including the fact that Amanda cried during the conversation.

                The rest of your comment contains too many generalities to merit a response beyond, “If you want to play whack-a-mole, fine, but not until you have responded to the moles I have already whacked.” It is the prosecution’s job to present a comprehensive narrative, and they have failed abjectly to do so, despite going on six years. That having been said, there is an obvious defense narrative: “An unfortunate woman walked into a burglary in progress, and it escalated into sexual assault and murder.”


              • Well, Jessie, if you’ve read a lot of this blog you can understand why these cases with pretty girl defendants resonate with me.

                And of course it is true that just being present at the scene of a crime doesn’t make one guilty. Victims are also present at the scene of a crime.

                But official accusation carries a lot of weight. Coupled with presence at the scene of a crime, the accusation will almost always result in a finding of guilt. Ted Simon is right – in a situation like that you have to advance a complete counter-narrative to the prosecution’s. As you may have seen, I did exactly that in the Sephora Davis matter, with all kinds of extremely reliable corroborating proof, like medical records and phone records, and records that the police made themselves before they had focused their intentions on Sephora.

                By comparison, the ‘evidence’ that Sephora was guilty was complete garbage. And, as it later became clear, perjury, other than the evidence placing her at the scene. But because the presumptions of ‘regularity’ are so strong in favor of the government there was still a high likelihood that jurors would have believed the perjury and voted to convict. The only way they would not believe the perjury was to recognize that it was, in fact, perjury that the prosecution and police knew about. That is a high mountain to climb to get to the summit of an acquittal. As a practical matter, it’s nearly impossible.

                Nearly impossible is better than absolutely impossible, of course. But the other problem is that the trial would be inherently unfair. A fair trial would be one where an acquittal of the defendant would also be a finding of guilt against the police and prosecutors, and they would be hauled off for punishment instead of her. But of course that cannot happen.

                There are affirmative defenses in criminal trials – coercion, intoxication, and so on. But there is no affirmative defense that the prosecution is not brought in good faith. The government is conclusively presumed to be acting in good faith, and whether they factually are or not is of no moment. A situation in which you are forced to offer a counter-narrative, like the AK case, is in the nature of an affirmative defense, but it isn’t called that. The effect is the same, though: the burden of proof, never anywhere near as high on the prosecution as we pretend, has shifted altogether to the defendant. Then they have to take the stand.

                When they take the stand the stain of accusation results in a scrutiny that is mostly insurmountable. Your take on AK’s testimony is a case in point. There is no way for her to appear appropriate. If she is sad and cries and pleads she is doing so out of guilt. If she giggles and argues and parries she does so out of guilt. If she looks up it’s because she’s guilty. If she looks down it’s because she’s guilty. Law enforcement has theories that the trot out regularly to claim that they can scientifically discern truthful people from others. The theories are ridiculous. There are very convincing liars, and truthful people who seem otherwise. There simply is no way to tell. That is one of the reasons official accusation is so powerful. As you said in one of your comments, what motive do they have to lie? I once heard that from a court official after he indicated that the government’s contentions were always more believable because the government is neutral.

                But there is plenty of motive for the government to lie, or shade or color their evidence. Vindication. Career advancement. Ego enhancement. The simple lust for power over others. I could go on.

                What is the remedy for that? I’ll tell you. We require certain standards of intelligence, and more importantly character and fitness from attorneys. Or we pretend to require them. But we massively fail at it, and this failure is especially destructive when some attorneys are government prosecutors.

                As a perhaps interesting aside, did you know that publicly employed prosecutors are of fairly recent vintage? Middle 19th century. Before that, cases were prosecuted by private attorneys.


        • Jessie, real quick regarding tampering. When I say “high likelihood”, I don’t even mean more probably than not, just a likelihood that’s high enough to disqualify it as evidence of guilt. I don’t agree it would take many people to plant evidence on the clasp – probably only one other person. Moreover, if you read about Mignini and the Monster of Florence fiasco, you’ll find that he seems gentle and compassionate while all the time spinning and indulging accusatory fantasies in his head. Be that as it may, you might be right and I might be wrong about him, but there’s enough chance that I am right about him that the idea of planting evidence goes from fanciful to plausible.

          Sollecito’s DNA on the clasp doesn’t directly prove murder, true. But it does prove his presence at the scene at the time, or around the time, and coupled with what then would have to be lying as to his whereabouts, among other things, it would certainly permit a strong inference of guilt. Thus, a strong motive to plant the evidence there.

          I didn’t realize you worked with prosecutors. I like most prosecutors, too, and would be loathe to believe they planted evidence or framed people, but the fact is there are some who have. The temptation can be great, because the systems both here and I’m sure in Italy indulge prosecutors, and at the same time are extremely resistant to suggestions that prosecutors have abused their trust.

          But I’ll stop calling Mignini a psychopath because I don’t want to offend you. You see how accommodating I can be?


          • Jessie

            Oh, you’d have to work harder than that to offend me, John 🙂

            Yup, I worked with prosecutors for many years. The good ones, in my opinion, were deliberative, compassionate, put investigators through their paces, and were more concerned with the truth than with logging another conviction-by-any-means-necessary. The prosecutors I found chilling probably wouldn’t have lied or planted evidence, but were Just Doing Their Jobs, phoning it in. They weren’t invested enough to bother planting evidence, but they lacked respect for how much power they had and how much damage that power could do to someone.

            I’ve seen hints of the good qualities in Mignini’s interviews, but…who knows? I don’t know the guy. He might be a total dick. But we don’t know, and I think the FOAKer attacks on his reputation are unfair, illogical given his role in the case, and only serve the purpose of creating a mustachio-twirling villain to be Knox’s nemesis. (I don’t know much about the Monster of Florence case, but it struck me as a territorial pissing contest more than anything.)

            The one in the best position to plant DNA evidence would have been Patrizia Stefanoni, but no one’s ever accused her of doing such a thing and it’s a nasty accusation without articulating some reason to believe it happened. And if she wanted to do such a thing, why not plant lots of DNA on the knife rather than submit such a small amount, leaving the single piece of evidence that virtually proves guilt open to reasonable attack?

            I’m just not seeing any reason to think evidence was planted. If one were going to plant evidence, it would only make sense to plant good, solid evidence, whereas most of the evidence in this case is slippery, fluid, open to interpretation and debate. Not the kind of evidence one would want to plant to assure a conviction.

            I do think the police had blinders on in terms of how they interpreted that evidence. The bra clasp DNA and the bloody footprints might be a strong inference of guilt, but they’re a far cry from proof. Non-guilt explanations for those things are quite possible without having to resort to space aliens or tie oneself in mental pretzels to get there.


          • Jessie

            Well, in my own defense here for a moment, I don’t think I’m reading into Knox’s courtroom behavior in the way you suggest. With regards to the things I pointed out, there really is an appropriate alternative: Don’t appear to fall asleep in court or give sarcastic answers when you’re on the stand. I don’t even really criticize Knox for that; I criticize her lawyers for not guiding her courtroom behavior. (Who knows? Maybe they tried and she didn’t listen or didn’t understand them.)

            But that’s not the same thing as when the public over-analyzes a defendant’s every little facial expression or crying vs. not crying — always, of course, reading guilt into those things, even if they must contradict themselves to do it. (If the defendant cries, shes faking it; if she doesn’t cry, she’s being defiant, blah, blah, blah.) It’s nonsense. It’s like reading tea leaves.

            The things I pointed out weren’t so ambiguous. It’s not reading tea leaves to note that laying your head down on the table in the middle of the proceedings is not going to impress the court — just don’t do that, whether you’re falsely accused or not. It doesn’t mean jack shit about her guilt or innocence, but even if the world hadn’t been watching, the judge and jury were.

            I also don’t think I ever suggested the police would have no motive to lie, per se. I’m well aware cops lie and that they’re even permitted to lie in the course of their duties. I question why they would have a motive to scoop up two random kids and pin the crime on them (the FOAKer theory relies on this) and, if the DNA was planted, I question their methods. It’s not that I question whether cops WOULD do those things, but that, if they did in this situation, they did both so poorly as to suggest they didn’t do either.

            For example, if they were going to just pin it on anybody, Kercher’s boyfriend would have been a better scapegoat (partner violence is much easier to believe). Or if they were going to plant DNA, then plant enough on the knife to avoid all the doubt about the knife. At some point when planning is that lousy, it’s hard to accept that any planning happened at all. (I also think I’m consistent in applying this to both cops and defendants. Jodi Arias’ supposed “planning” was so lousy that it was hard to believe she planned anything at all — granted, I didn’t follow that case particularly closely.)

            So I don’t think I’m falling into either of those traps, but I did realize just now how I came to the theory I did. There were three pieces of evidence that made me reject the defense narrative (not innocence, mind you, just the defense narrative — those are NOT the same thing): the bra clasp, the Luminol footprint, and some of the problems with their alibi that can be independently confirmed (e.g. lack of activity on the computer they claimed to be using; they claimed to sleep in until 10 a.m., but there’s activity on the computer and on their cell phones several hours prior to that). I don’t see any way to explain away those three things without either getting into highly improbable territory or just making something up. (I also believe the ransacked bedroom was a staged break-in, but that isn’t reason in and of itself to reject the defense narrative.)

            What really prompted my own theory was Knox’s statement to the police. Everyone, on both sides, has always claimed her statement was 100% false…but what if it wasn’t? After all, she voluntarily wrote another statement the next day standing by it. Perhaps her words were dismissed too quickly and there really was some truth to her claim that she was there when someone else murdered her roommate. (She’s often criticized for repeating, “It could have been me, it could have been me.” This does appear a little self-centered if, in fact, she was nowhere near home that night. But if she was there when the murder occurred, it’s not self-centered at all — it’s literally true and would, I imagine, be highly traumatizing.)

            From there, we have evidence I put in the “iffy” pile (e.g. the bathmat footprint, the mixed DNA in the ransacked bedroom, various witness statements, etc.). I don’t reject them, but I don’t necessarily accept the fact asserted about them.

            Then we have these other things that I’ve been calling “evidence,” but it’s really more accurate to call them “oddities.” The power of the oddities comes in the sheer number of them — victim’s locked bedroom door with no fingerprints on the doorknob, blanket laid on the victim at least a half hour after death, Knox’s breakdown when she returned to the cottage kitchen, her apparent knowledge about the cause of death, blood stains partially wiped away, Knox and Sollecito’s behavior the next day, which we haven’t even gotten into.

            All of the oddities can be explained away, some more easily than others (e.g., Guede might have locked the bedroom door and wiped the handle, but the blanket had to have been placed on the victim well after her death and there’s no good explanation for how that happened).

            I like to be contrary, I guess, so I tried to explain those oddities in a way that’s consistent with the credible evidence, but that neither relies upon nor rules out the “iffy” evidence. I could never make the leap to guilt, because the guilt scenario is improbable on its face and because all the evidence that I accept can easily be explained without guilt.

            Perhaps there are errors of logic in how I came to this?


            • >>I question why they would have a motive to scoop up two random kids and pin the crime on them (the FOAKer theory relies on this) and, if the DNA was planted, I question their methods. It’s not that I question whether cops WOULD do those things, but that, if they did in this situation, they did both so poorly as to suggest they didn’t do either. <<

              Well, let’s try to be fair here. As to your first point, in the beginning of an investigation like this you have a lot of upset people. A beautiful youg woman has been murdered. It is extremely upsetting, both for the police and anyone else connected with it, however remotely. People do rash things when they are upset. Why do Rafaelle and Amanda become the focus, and not some other person or persons? It could be as simple as a remark or a gesture or a statement that made them peculiarly suspicious in some way. From there it just snowballs, because everyone is upset, understandably so. This happens in investigations all the time.

              As to your second point, I refer you to the Ashley Baker statement and the Todd Gaddy statement. In order to do a half way decent job of fabricating “Sephora was the driver” evidence, the police officer(s) involved, one of whom was certainly Dana Carson, would surely have to make sure those two statements matched up. But they didn’t. It’s an incredibly stupid error that tips their hand and unravels the whole thing, or should. So this kind of disproves your argument that guile and deceit are always competently done.

              Because evidence fabricating and planting and so on is ordinarily done by a couple of people, a small subset of the group, it’s easy to make a stupid mistake like that. You’re generating phony evidence but everyone else is just doing their job and gathering legitimate evidence. There’s a high likelihood that something can go wrong if you’re not really careful. And the bra clasp should give you pause on that ground. I don’t think I need to explain it to you. There is only very questionable evidence of RS being present in the apartment at all – other than the bra clasp, assuming it is his DNA on it. That makes the bra clasp an anomalous piece of evidence that just happened to be moved around and not collected for more than a month, by which time the investigation was certainly focused on AK and RS.

              I don’t think your logic is off at all. But you’re one in a million. For the vast majority of people the “leap” you are talking about is obvious and no problem at all. They’re wrong, as you point out: proof of presence at a crime scene is not proof of having perpetrated the crime. But almost any jury will convict on 1) government accusation; 2) proof of presence at crime scene; and 3) proof of any lie in connection with the incident, but especially a lie to the effect that you weren’t there when you were. Is that a violation of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard? You bet. There is a leap there. You won’t make it, but you’re like Henry Fonda’s character in 12 angry men.

              If I could have 12 Jessies as jurors, or maybe even just a couple, I’d be very comfortable making the arguments that you have been making. But that’s not the world we live in.


              • Jessie

                Oh, goodness, John, I’ve never been compared to Henry Fonda before…. That’s sweet….just be careful who you say it to or I’ll never get out of jury duty 😉

                I wish I could say more about this, but it pertains to my work…..Suffice it to say, I’ve had cause in the last 24 hours to be reminded just how much of an uphill battle the defense usually has and how bloodthirsty Americans are for convictions. I think, in the end, that’s why I have such contempt for the FOAKer position. Because it’s not as though Americans are normally committed in any way, shape, or form to things like the presumption of innocence or skepticism to the weight of an official accusation. No, Amanda Knox is the exception and she’s only an exception because this didn’t happen in the United States.

                The FOAKers are fond of saying, “This would never have gone to trial here in America!” Yes, it most certainly would have. And, moreover, Knox would never have been freed on appeal. She’d still be sitting in prison for something she probably didn’t do, maybe even on death row. The difference would be, if this had happened in the States, Americans would be screaming to “Give her the needle!” She’d be just another Casey Anthony or Jodi Arias and everyone in America would hate her. (In fact, there was more evidence in this case than in Casey Anthony’s — Florida prosecuted that without any solid evidence a homicide even happened.)

                The hypocrisy is nauseating and I think that’s why my own innocence theory is never acceptable. Because this isn’t really about Knox’s innocence; it’s about an archetypal story of the sweet American ingenue versus the ugly Italian monster. If the story doesn’t read like a fairytale, then it doesn’t offer a self-congratulatory exceptionalism. But for those being prosecuted in the United States, Americans are as convinced as ever that defendants are guilty and that trials are, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, nothing more than “special privileges” for criminals. God forbid my life should ever be in the hands of 12 of my “peers”!

                That’s neither here nor there, I guess. I just have a lot of respect for the work you do and, in general, I agree with you more than might be evident from this particular thread.

                The argument for evidence-planting in this case just strikes me as circular. The bra clasp isn’t good evidence of tampering because it’s immaterial that the clasp wasn’t retrieved right away. DNA testing is successfully done on much older evidence, sometimes to crack cases that are decades old. It’s used in archeology where the tested items have obviously not been preserved. DNA testing may be done on the piece of the 9/11 plane that was just found in Manhattan. No one’s saying that test would be invalid because the plane chunk has been lying around the streets of New York for a decade.

                DNA just isn’t as easy to transfer as this argument assumes. It doesn’t float about in the air like dust, where it might settle on the item. Even skin contact may not transfer it without some amount of pressure. So the argument is circular: If the cops had done a fast investigation, it would be criticized as too hasty. Yet because they took their time and investigated for two months, then yes, some evidence will be discovered later in the investigation. We can’t have it both ways. Either the cops rush it or they take their time and some evidence gets discovered later than others. But in the case of the bra clasp, later discovery doesn’t, by itself, affect the validity and there was enough DNA for confirmatory testing.

                So I don’t see any reason not to accept the bra clasp and, while it might be eyebrow-raising at first, it’s not that hard to think of ways his DNA might have gotten on the clasp other than murdering her. (My very first thought when it was discovered was to wonder if Sollecito had a sexual relationship with Kercher. He didn’t, but point being, my first thought even under the circumstances, didn’t go to guilt. A young man’s DNA on underclothes? My first thought went to sex.)

                I could make the leap to guilt if, say, there was no evidence of another person at the scene. Or if the knife turns up positive for Kercher in this second test, then I suppose I will have to conclude they’re guilty. But the bra clasp is nothing more than eyebrow-raising — it’s miles from proof of guilt!

                So here’s a question for you, John: We’ve already been through a good chunk of the prosecution narrative. Do you see any errors of logic in the defense narrative? Again, not referring to innocence, but specifically to the defense narrative.


              • chrishalkides

                One, DNA does indeed float around, as a recent entry at my blog discusses. Indeed, even dust itself has DNA, as a 2008 paper cited Conti-Vecchiotti report documents. Two, DNA evidence is supposed to be collected in a timely manner to minimize the chances of inadvertant transfer. There was no good reason not to collect the clasp and the other items in the first pass, none whatsoever. Three, DNA profiling of clothing sometimes turns up DNA from people not in the wearer’s immediate family, according to an FBI study from 2003-2004. Four, the most likely means of transfer of Raffaele’s DNA to the clasp do not involve airborne DNA. His DNA was on the door (fingerprints contain DNA), and if he washed his hands at the flat, his DNA was almost certainly on the towels. FIve, the two main pieces of evidence that suggest tampering are the video of the collection itself, and the storage of the clasp in the presence of buffer, which has rendered subsequent testing impossible. Six, your comparison to 9/11 is invalid, IMO. DNA profiling done for forensic purposes should be held to a different standard than DNA profiling done to identify the victims of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. I suggest reading Bruce Budowle’s thoughts on this question.

                If the case had gone to trial in the U.S. the judge would have slapped the prosecution upside the head for withholding the electronic data files, and for treading into the ground the principle that the prosecution should not inflame public opinion against the accused. And if Illinois versus Lovejoy is any guide, the negative TMB results that were hidden until late into the trial of first instance would have been cause for a retrial (I happen to think that Lovejoy was guilty).

                Finally, can we do away with “FOAKer?” It is a gratuitous insult, and this is the second time I have requested that you do so.


              • I’m sorry, I don’t know enough about the defense narrative to comment intelligently. If it’s that AK and RS weren’t there during the crime, I can’t see any big holes, absent the bra clasp and Kercher DNA on the knife, either of which would strongly suggest that they were present.


              • Jessie

                This is completely off the subject of Amanda Knox (though I could probably find a way to tie it in for the sake of propriety). It’s something you’ve addressed in your blog before: Under what circumstances and how likely is it that an appeals court would reexamine a jury’s verdict?

                Let’s say (purely hypothetically, of course), that a jury issues a guilty verdict. Later they start talking to the press and they indicate that they didn’t understand the charges. Or they unintentionally contradicted their jury instructions. Or they indicate that the verdict they issued didn’t derive from the actual charges (e.g., they gave a verdict on what would have been second-degree sexual assault, but the only charge was first-degree sexual assault and, had they known that — oops — they would have aquitted and they admit they would have acquitted had they realized that).

                I’m talking about US appellate courts, so I guess I can’t really tie this in to the Knox case at all. But I’ve learned (mostly from you) that appellate courts are almost completely hands-off a jury verdict. It’s sacred in the American system. But when are there exceptions to that? Would those exceptions generally result in a new trial or some other remedy? Is there any difference based on whether it’s state court or federal court?

                Feel free any time in here to say, “My blog is not law school, Jessie” 🙂


              • I don’t mind expounding here and there on these things. Besides you’ve been a very worthwhile commenter.

                Unfortunately, I’ll have to tell you how it really is, not just the theory.

                In both state and federal systems, at least for the most part, there are trial courts and then two levels of appeal. The first level is an “intermediate” appellate court and the second level is the state’s highest court for state systems, and the US Supreme Court for the federal system.

                In New York, the intermediate appellate courts are called “Appellate Divisions” and the state is divided into four “departments” over which they have geographical jurisdiction. So in the western part of the state, where I am, the intermediate appellate court is called the “Appellate Division, Fourth Department”.

                In the federal system, the trial level courts are called District Courts and then the country is divided into 11 “circuits” where intermediate appeals are taken. These courts are referred to as “United States Court of Appeals for the ____ Circuit”

                In general, and unlike the second level of appeal, the intermediate appellate courts have jurisdiction to review both the legal rulings and the fact findings of the lower courts. But whereas the standard of review of legal rulings is wide open, the fact findings of trial courts, and especially jury verdicts, are accorded great deference in the appellate courts.

                That’s the theory.

                The reality is that this only applies to jury verdicts and fact findings that go against the lower status litigant. When jury verdicts or fact findings go against the higher status litigant, appellate courts routinely alter, amend, throw out, remand, dismiss, etc.

                So, for example you get a jury that awards $5 million to Joe Schmoe against J.P. Morgan Chase bank. That award stands a 75% chance of being modified on appeal. Maybe higher. On the other hand, you get a guilty verdict in United States v. Martinez. That verdict has an essentially 0% chance of being modified on appeal.

                In criminal cases in New York there are a few instances where the prosecutor can appeal a trial court ruling before the trial. Such appeals are called “interlocutory” appeals because they are in the middle of ongoing litigation. Prosecutors routinely win these appeals. For criminal defendants, interlocutory appeals are essentially not allowed. If you have a quarrel with something the judge did, you have to bring it up after it’s all over and you’ve been convicted and you’re serving your sentence. And in contrast to your prosecutor when he appeals, your chances on appeal are in the vicinity of 1%-2%.

                If you’re a criminal defendant and you fall into that incredibly lucky 1%-2%, your “remedy” is almost always a new trial, not a dismissal of charges. Charges are dismissed oh, say 1%-2% of the 1%-2%. In other words, an infinitesimally small number. Happens, say, once a decade around here, among thousands upon thousands of appeals taken.

                At the second level of appeal – that is, state’s highest court and US Supreme Court – there is almost no review of fact findings. In the SCOTUS, there is a limited authority to review facts but they almost never do; in the New York system, the Court of Appeals (state’s ‘highest’ court) explicitly has no jurisdiction to review fact findings. They can only review legal rulings.

                Apparently the Italian system is very different on these things.

                The significance of the reality of appeals and its effect on the trial courts cannot be overstated. Look at it from the trial judge’s perspective: if you make a ruling against the high status litigant you stand a very good chance of being reversed on appeal, which is considered by most to be an embarrassment or at least a black mark. If you make a ruling against the lower status litigant, as a practical matter you will never be reversed.

                Care to take a guess what trial court judges do, then?

                One last thing I’ll add is that in my opinion the intermediate appellate courts are where much of the problem really is. The reason I say that is that they are in fact very insulated from pressure, political and otherwise, and they have the power to overturn a trial court based on an erroneous fact finding. For litigants they are also effectively the only redress if something really wrong happened at the trial level.

                But as you can see they essentially abdicate.

                I don’t really know what the solution is, other than what I have proposed here: well thought out and targeted lawyer strikes. There needs to be some pressure from the other side, from the disfavored litigants, as I call them. All the pressure is one way at this point. Perhaps no one can expect fairness when political clout is so one-sided.


              • Jessie

                Thank you for your response to my off-topic question. So to bring this back on topic…..

                You’ve mentioned a couple times that if the truth were that Knox and/or Sollecito were at the cottage the night of the murder but did not participate in the murder, you would terrified to present that to a jury. I can sort of understand that, but sort of not.

                Knowing you’ve got evidence, that whatever its flaws, might be compelling to a jury — the knife, the bra clasp, the footprint — wouldn’t it be much riskier to advance a position that doesn’t account for any of them? As opposed to a position that accounts for at least one or two of them in a believable, and even sympathetic, way? Particularly if it might also account for some of the more ambiguous evidence (or, rather, “the oddities”).

                A staunch “they weren’t there” position becomes much riskier when, for example, the prosecution has only to point out that, if DNA really floated about in the air like dust**, all DNA testing of any sort would be plainly meaningless. If we shed our DNA like sloughed-off skin, it would remain any place we’ve ever been. Since DNA deposits can’t be dated, there would be no point whatsoever in testing any of it.

                My DNA, for example, could then conceivably still be in my elementary school and if someone committed a crime there, that could be pinned on me as easily as on anyone else there in the last….well, I won’t say how long 🙂 But you get the idea. If it were transferred so easily, no DNA sample would mean anything at all.

                Even if you couldn’t explain the DNA-carrier’s presence at the location, it would be easily explainable as transfer from some other location, perhaps many years in the past (e.g., my DNA at a school I didn’t attend could have been tracked there by any number of adults or other children who had been some place that I had been, in the past or the present). If that were true, we would effectively be living in a soup of meaningless DNA samples, often from people and locations that have nothing to do with us.

                So, setting aside that attorneys are limited to some extent by what their clients tell them and that they can’t advance a position they know to be a lie, why would you be so afraid to assert “they were there, but they didn’t do it”? I can see the risks in that, but the risks seem much greater of a jury being compelled by any evidence to the contrary. Not to mention that, in this case, you’d be asking the jury to accept the DNA evidence against one suspect while rejecting it against the other two.

                **I looked into this question a little bit and, apparently, there is some DNA present in dust, but in such small amounts it would not be testable and probably not even detectable. So while the “dust” assertion about, for example, the bra clasp technically has some truth to it, it has no practical value. A testable sample is going to require contact with some amount of pressure or the deposit of a bodily fluid, though neither can be dated by the DNA alone (which, again, renders invalid the “46 days to collection” argument).


              • Well, Jessie, the short and unfortunate answer to your overall question is that if the prosecution can prove definitively that the defendants were at the scene at the time, it is time to seriously consider a guilty plea, regardless of its truth, assuming leniency is available. I never said I’d go with the “they weren’t there” scenario if I couldn’t prove it, or if the prosecution’s proof wasn’t so flawed I could be at least somewhat confident that I would prevail on the point.

                Presence at the crime scene + government accusation = conviction almost every time, especially when a beautiful young woman is dead. Just the way it is.


              • chrishalkides

                What evidence places Ms. Knox at the scene? The evidence that places Mr. Sollecito at the scene (the bra clasp), would also place between 2 to 4 other men at the scene. That is because the YSTR chromatogram from the clasp has additional peaks that are not in Sollecito’s profile. Does anyone believe that so many men took part in this crime. If the answer is no, then one has to acknowledge that the DNA from several men ended up on the clasp in a way that is unrelated to the crime. If their DNA got to the clasp in an innocent way, then why conclude that Sollecito’s DNA did not?


              • chrishalkides

                It seems to me that lawyers who wish to serve their clients’ best interest cannot afford to let their thinking get clouded by the CSI effect. A little bit of reading into the Phantom of Heilbronn case might be a good antidote. If I could recommend just one article to introduce lawyers to the problems in DNA testing, it would be “Tarnish on the Gold Standard,” by William C. Thompson.


              • Chris, if you’re referring to me I was not conceding that AK and RS have been definitively proven to be at the scene at the time; I made a conditional statement about all that, which I’ve been doing for some time with Jessie. S/he seems to be focused on different aspects of the whole thing, like lawyer trial strategy or tactics, but to get to that subject the other stuff was assumed. Not conceded.

                If I ever need to get a better understanding of DNA testing I’ll be sure to consult you!


              • chrishalkides

                if you look at the figures in the 2008 article by Brown and coworkers, some of the peaks from dust are quite large, over 2000 RFU. The authors note that this is enough to be called in an egram, and this paper was cited by Conti and Vecchiotti, the independent DNA experts of the second trial. It is quite easily detectable, but it may not always yield a complete profile. That having been said, I think that tampering or accidental transfer (from the door to the gloves to the clasp, or from towels to Guede’s hands to the clasp) are more likely explanations for the now-destroyed clasp. The FP should have used disposable tweezers. It is also worth recalling that DNA from nonfamily members shows up in clothing according to a study that appeared in an FBI journal, IIRC. DNA evidence is supposed to be collected in a timely manner, according to the evidence collection guidelines I cited elsewhere. No one know how the clasp was moved from one location to another in the bedroom.

                With respect to the knife, the lack of blood and the fact that the sample was well into the low template region both raise the odds that this is a case of in-lab contamination. How can a knife be cleaned completely of blood but not DNA or starch? It makes no sense whatsoever. The lab was not certified for regular DNA testing, yet good work in the low template region requires a dedicated facility that at least sometimes is remote from the main lab and that has specially designed air handling features. That is because unintended DNA transfers are an even bigger problem when one enters into the low template region However, there are also several reasonable routes of secondary or tertiary transfer, including the fact that Officer Gubbiotti was at the women’s flat before handling the knife, a clear violation of best practices. I suggest looking into the cases of Farah Jama, Jaidyn Leskie, Lukis Anderson, Gregory Turner, Gary Leiterman, and Russell Gesah before drawing conclusions about how easy or difficult it is to transfer DNA.

                Previously I provided a link that shows what the luminol-positive footprints in the hallway looked like some time ago. Given what appear to be puddles of liquid and a splotchy appearance, I don’t see how distances could be measured accurately, nor is there any hope of finding defining ridges. Therefore, I would challenge anyone to explain how they could be attributed to any one person, especially given the lack of reference footprints from Laura, Filomena, or Meredith. Nor have I heard of an explanation from the prosecution of why there are only isolated right feet, not a trail.

                Finally, there is the problem of TOD. Meredith’s duodenum was empty, essentially ruling out the TOD suggested by PM Mignini in his closing arguments or suggested by Massei. That fact and the independent fact that Meredith’s cell phone connected with a distant tower around 10:15 PM both point to a time of attack that was probably around 9-30. There is undisputed interaction on Raffaele’s computer at 9:08 and a disputed interaction at 9:26. There is simply not enough time for A and R to have gotten messed up and to have committed the crime.


            • I think we flattened the mole about Amanda’s supposedly knowing about the cause of death pretty completely a couple of days ago. Guede might have wiped a little in Meredith’s bedroom with the towels, but that is the only wiping or cleanup of which I am aware. I am not sure where you are getting the information about the duvet being pulled over Meredith well after death. Every time I have looked into evidence to suggest that the body was moved well after death (lividity; a mark on Meredith’s shoulder), the evidence has turned out to be bogus. Part of the blame lies in the 2008 Micheli report, but better information is now available. Here is a link to a photo, showing plenty of blood transfer to the duvet:

              The police damaged three hard drives over the course of their investigation and erased metadata on Sollecito’s computer when they went to his apartment, such as the previous time that the Stardust file was opened. Therefore their claim of no activity should be taken with generous grains of salt. Sollecito claims that there is an interaction at 9:26 or so (opening the Naruto file). He also claimed in his appeal that the screensaver log shows that it was not activated during the crucial time.

              Can you be a little bit more specific about one thing? What do you think Amanda was being sarcastic about? I also would bring to your attention that Comodi misstated the time of one of Amanda’s phone calls to her mother. Are you telling me that Comodi didn’t know the time?


            • “I question why they would have a motive to scoop up two random kids and pin the crime on them (the FOAKer theory relies on this)…” Well, no, a pro-innocence theory is that the police put the blame on people close to the scene (this happens not infrequently–consider the Norfolk Four just off the top of my head). They jumped ahead of the facts, and then begin to fit the facts to the storyline (some might call it tunnel vision). I wonder if we might be able to do away with references to “FOAKers.” It is name-calling, not engaging in rational debate.


            • Her first memoriale did not exactly stand by the two statements that she signed. “And I stand by my statements that I made last night about events that could have taken place in my home with Patrik, but I want to make very clear that these events seem more unreal to me that what I said before, that I stayed at Raffaele’s house.” Most people only quote the first half of the sentence, but the whole sentence reads a little differently. Her second memoriale of 7 November is a complete retraction, and she implicitly affirmed the second memoriale in her letter to her lawyer on or about 9 November. All of these documents are now publicly available in one form or another. The key portion of the second memoriale was even quoted back to Ms. Knox by PM Mignini.


    • “Not quite as easy to dismiss the DNA mix in the ransacked bedroom with the broken window.”

      Wait a second. There were two Luminol-revealed blobs in the ransacked bedroom (Filomena’s). One had Meredith’s DNA, the other Meredith’s, Amanda’s, and other persons’ (don’t remember how many; unidentified because they did not take DNA samples from Filomena and Laura).

      Both spots tested negative with TMB. It may be slightly less sensitive than Luminol but it’s irrelevant to this case – Luminol glowed brightly so if that was blood, there was enough of it to be picked by TMB. So any decent investigator would have either said “no blood” or run a confirmatory test. They said “blood” instead and kept mum about TMB until the defense found out. Foul play.

      Luminol reacts to a wide variety of substances – it’s incorrect to say it’s only bleach. Some soils, among other things – see Barni, Talanta et al. for a great review. As you probably know, Luminol gave lots of false positives in Sollecito’s apartment and the girls’ villa – i.e. zero-DNA samples that were clearly non-blood. As I’ve said, it’s probably something in the local soil. That’s what Virkler and Lednev also argued.

      “Still plausible that her DNA could be in her roommate’s bedroom, but not as easily dismissed as in the bathroom.”

      The cops should have tested random spots for DNA. Also, the unidentified profiles show other people – likely Filomena and Laura – left their prints as well.

      “–And it’s quite difficult to dismiss the footprints… Only a few substances react to Luminol and only two were worth considering in this situation — blood or bleach (in particular, bleach from cleaning products used to clean the floor in which the girls might have then been walking around in it). They could identify the footprints as Knox’s and they found Kercher’s DNA in the footprints, which wouldn’t be surprising, except they were able to rule out bleach because Luminol reacts to bleach for only a short period of time and the test was conducted several weeks after the murder. Because the substance was still reacting, it’s almost certainly blood.”

      First, they never established the prints were Knox’s. They didn’t even take reference prints from Filomena and Laura! Second, they tested all DNA-containing, Luminol-positive spots with TMB and bingo, it was negative! The failure to run confirmatory tests is striking, as with the blobs at Filomena’s.

      Luminol does not only react to blood, bleach and turnip juice. It’s just plain wrong to say that. But it’s the cops who should be doing the explaining here, since TMB said “not blood” after all!


      • Good comment. But don’t get snarky with Jessie, she’s very popular around here.


        • I have read through Alex K’s comment twice, and I think it is fact-filled and worth discussing further. It was PM Comodi who got snarky with the defense, telling the jurors (falsely) that it was either blood or turnip juice. Students of the Gregory Taylor case in North Carolina or of the Lindy Chamberlain case (NT, Australia) know that presumptive tests are not confirmatory tests and are indeed prone to false positives.


        • Jessie

          I’m popular around here? Ha! Not with anybody but you, John!

          The thing about the tests is that they vary in what they measure and they vary in sensitivity to what they measure. Luminol is highly sensitive, but it reacts to a number of different substances. TMB can be performed to react only to blood, but it’s not a sensitive test and any kind of light easily degrades it. So Luminol is vulnerable to misinterpretation and TMB is vulnerable to false negatives.

          The value of Luminol in a crime scene investigation is that most other substances to which Luminol reacts are either improbable (e.g. horseradish) or quite easy to distinguish (e.g. certain types of paint, in which case the entire painted surface will glow).

          The guilters have made quite a lot of the Luminol “glowing brighter,” but that’s fairly irrelevant. The closest thing they’ve got to a point there is that the only other substance that might have triggered the Luminol and would realistically have formed footprints on the floor would be bleach in cleaning products — you scrub the floor, you walk around on it, you leave footprints in bleach. But bleach evaporates in a matter of days and the Luminol test wasn’t conducted until weeks after the murder. So it’s a matter of timing — not of “glowing brighter,” but of glowing at all.

          The footprints were confined to an area in the hallway right in front of the victim’s bedroom. Most were an unidentifiable smudge (as most footprints and fingerprints are); one is a fully formed footprint and a match to Amanda Knox. (Yes, prints and samples were taken from all the roommates and friends, many of them within hours of the body being discovered.)

          No one, including the defense, disputed the footprint match, only the substance in which it was made. That substance reacts to Luminol weeks after the murder and it contains the victim’s DNA. Good luck explaining that as anything other than her blood.

          There is, however, one thing that this is not, and that I don’t want put in my mouth: It is not proof that Amanda Knox committed a murder. It might be suspicious, it might be probable cause. It’s perhaps the single hardest piece of evidence to explain innocently, though it’s not impossible to explain innocently. But it is — unequivocally — not proof of guilt.


          • Jessie, I am going to have to disagree with you on a number of points. One, there are no reference prints from Laura or Filomena in any document that has ever ultimately been made public (there are copies available of Rinaldi’s report and Vinci’s report, to name two of them). Two, even Colonel Garofano (no friend to the defense) criticized the way that the luminol was applied (and indeed the luminol appears to be in puddles). Let me respectfully challenge you to produce a statement from the defense saying that a footprint was certainly Knox’s. There are some prints in Ms. Knox’s room, but at least one of them (Rep. 180?) has a mark that is not in the correct position to be Ms. Knox’s second toe. Therefore, I don’t think that one can be certain that even those prints were made by Ms. Knox.

            Three, the number of luminol-positive footprints that has Ms. Kercher’s DNA is zero (both Massei and Hellmann are mistaken about one, confusing a shoe print with a footprint. The lack of DNA is actually a big problem for the prosecution’s case. The presence of DNA is not a confirmatory test for blood; however, the absence of DNA was taken as evidence against a stain’s being blood in the Gregory Taylor case. Four, if one wants to be certain whether or not blood is present, one runs a confirmatory test. Given that the lower limit of detection of these tests rivals that of luminol and TMB, there is no excuse not to make use of them (my blog has an entry which discusses the lower limits of detection of a number of tests). The quote I provided from Dr. Virkler and Professor Lednev that I provided should also be consulted.

            My working hypothesis is that there is a transition metal (probably iron) that has bonded with the tile in the floor, perhaps from footprints made in rusty water. Transition metal ions (iron, copper, cobalt, etc.) are known to catalyze the luminol reaction.


          • Jessie, there exists one innocent explanation for the prints even if they are blood: Ms. Knox may have made them the following morning after unwittingly getting Ms. Kercher’s highly diluted blood on her feet during her shower. Perhaps that is the same explanation you were thinking of. One curiosity of the three luminol positive prints is that all are right feet, and it would be nice to be able to account for that fact.


  3. Then again, I imagine interest in an important criminal trial is more healthy than, say, an obsession with whether a hypothetically in-his-prime Michael Jordan would beat the now-in-his-prime LeBron James.

    I mean, don’t sports writers get embarrassed writing things like that?


  4. The knife was too large to have made at least some of the wounds, and it did not match the bloody outline of a knife in Ms. Kercher’s bedroom. The blade had no blood. The amount of DNA was into the low template region, and it was tested in a lab that was not even certified for standard DNA profiling. The most likely explanation is laboratory contamination (not tampering), yet the Court of Supreme Cassation has made rulings that make a defense along these lines all but impossible (it is a shameful report). Moreover, secondary or tertiary transfer of DNA before the murder or in transport to the laboratory are reasonable alternative explanations, given the small quantity of DNA and the lapses in handing. It is worth stressing that the appeals trial in 2011 heard from independent experts, not defense experts, as well as the prosecution’s experts.

    Luminol tests for the possibility of blood; many transition metal ions including iron, cobalt, and copper will give a positive result (the Lindy Chamberlain case is similar). The tetramethylbenzidine tests were negative (raising the odds that the substance was not blood), and there is no excuse whatsoever not to have performed a true confirmatory test using antibodies. The presence of DNA is absolutely in no way shape or form a confirmatory test for blood. Period.

    The footprints in the hallway were diluted images from the overapplication of luminol. They have no defining marks and the only reference prints that the police took were from Guede, Sollecito, and Knox. No one should attribute them to any one person IMO. None of the three luminol-positive footprints have DNA; they don’t form a trial and all are right feet. An unidentified shoe print in the hallway has mixed DNA, but given the number of reference shoes available, it is odd that none apparently matched.

    The police arrested Knox, Sollecito, and Lumumba before any forensic evidence was available, and the investigation at that point if not before became one of proving that they had the right people. The single strongest evidence against Guede is not the DNA or even his shoe prints. It is his bloody handprint in the bedroom. The reason why I think he is guilty is that I think it is much more difficult to mess up this type of evidence than the other methods. Many of these points are gone over in much more detail on my blog. The latest entry is on the terribly misguided CSC motivations report. MOO.


    • Chris, thank you. If I may summarize, and at the risk of being a simpleton on this point, what you are saying is that there is no way they can reliably find that Kercher’s DNA is on the knife solely as a result of the knife being the murder weapon.

      Accordingly, there is no way this trial should result in a conviction. Not that that’s the way it’s going to turn out, of course.

      I would recommend to any reader that they follow the link from Chris’ name to his blog where the subject is discussed at great length, and very cogently.


      • Thank you for your kind words. Far from being a simpleton, you have expressed it in a concise way that everyone can understand. I particularly want to highlight the use of the word “reliably.” The problem is not a matter of identifying Ms. Kercher’s DNA, it is that the origina of such small quantities of DNA are problematic even when dedicated facilities are used for analysis. Some scholars are very cautious about using these small quantities of DNA in forensics, as opposed to using them in victim identification in a disaster. That is my take on where Allan Jamieson and Bruce Budowle stand at least.


  5. I neglected an important part of the story, the complete failure of proper discovery of the forensics to occur. In this country it is routine for the electronic data files (the raw data that underlie the colorful egrams showing DNA peaks) to be released to the defense for a second review. Despite repeated requests, the prosecution has refused, and the courts have sided with the prosecution. I would like to know what they are so reluctant to let everyone see. How can one go about proving contamination without these files? Even with them, the exact moment of DNA contamination is often elusive.


    • Your article is a very cogent and readable scientific analysis of the appallingly flawed and blatantly biased Corte Suprema di Cassazione report on the conducting of DNA analysis “giving its reasons for overturning Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s successful 2011 appeal and sending the case for another trial in Florence.” It is also revealing of certain Italian cultural tendencies I outlined in my article The kind of intellectual dishonesty and illogical arguments exposed are alarmingly prevalent in Italy, and taint all aspects of daily life, never mind the personal ambitions of those in authoritative positions, politics and the criminal justice system. The incidental – and to outsiders, surprising – conceding of certain facts that belie the credibility of what is being stated is another typical aspect of Italian culture. Fiddling the system and corruption are regarded by Italians in general as a “given”, so that blatant disregard of what might be considered expected ethical practices in other nations is an unfortunate norm – everyone knows so why try to actively hide it, wink wink….? The banal analogy, and one that pretty much sums up this cultural attitude, is the knowledge by a whole community, and even his wife, that a man is having an affair, but in order to maintain the status quo and not disturb comfortable routines, traditional family structures and facades everyone turns a blind eye, including the betrayed herself. Italians are not ones to make huge waves, those running the country know this, so that outsiders often marvel at the brazenness with which unscrupulous activities are carried on with only perfunctory measures to cover them up. Hopefully the individual Italian citizens chosen as jurors will be able to step out of their apathetic cultural conditioning for the purposes of this trial and return a verdict that acknowledges the outrageous incorrigibility of the prosecution and of the biased agenda of the CSC.


  6. Yes, I see that, and it does not augur well for a just result. More’s the pity.


    • In response to my question on this subject, Professor Dan Krane wrote, “The biggest concern that I personally have regarding this case is the refusal of the prosecution to provide the defense with a copy of the electronic data that underlies the DNA test results — that is virtually unheard of world-wide today and it would be especially important to review that data in a case such as this which seems to involve such low level samples.” Professor Krane is the head of a forensic bioinformatics company.


  7. Here is a link with photos that briefly discussed the luminol footprints in the hallway. I don’t claim any expertise in footprint analysis, but given the apparent puddling of liquid in the luminol test, ascribing these footprints to any one person is risible.


  8. I would like to address some aspects of the role of PM Mignini in this case. PM Mignini kept Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito from meeting with their lawyers until just prior to their being in front of Judge Matteini on 8 November. PM Mignini invoked a law that was intended to be used against people in the mafia to imprison them for almost one year before they were formally sent to trial. He was asked to produce the order itself during the Matteini hearing but no one could do so. A third-year law student at George Washington at the time, Benjamin Sayagh wrote a manuscript about why invoking this law against Ms. Knox was on shaky ground (“Arrested Abroad”) in that other, less severe remedies were available to the auhorities. IMO the grounds for holding Mr. Sollecito under this law were even shakier, but that did not stop PM Mignini from holding Mr. Sollecito in solitary confinement during this period.

    The fact that he was able to make up dialog to put into Ms. Knox’s mouth during his closing remarks in December of 2009 was bad enough. The fact that he was allowed to push back his claim of the TOD by more than an hour in his closing remarks was worse. What role he has played in the appalling lack of discovery that has plagued this case is not easy for me to determine. The same is true for the stream of release of false information that swelled into a river by the time of the hearing in front of judge Micheli.

    The number and variety of PM Mignini’s lawsuits against various journalists is a wonder to behold. He also had Mario Spezi held in solitary confinement, provoking a rebuke from the Committee to Protect Journalists. I am willing to assume that PM Mignini has a genuine belief that the two are innocent until proven wrong, but that does not excuse actions that should not be tolerated in a liberal democracy that should prize transparency and fairness.


    • As far as I am concerned, there is enough worrisome information about Mignini that appears to be uncontested that I have a hard time swallowing any investigative conclusions to which he was a contributor in any way.

      But that’s just me.


  9. If anybody wants to understand the reasons why Amanda Knox was convicted of murder, I recommend reading the translations of the official court documents and court testimony. They are available online at the Meredith Kercher Wiki website:


    • The pseudo-Wiki “themurderofmeredithkercher” has been the source of incorrect information. The falsehoods about Ms. Knox’s retraction remain, despite attempts to bring the errors to the attention of at least one person associated with it. Whether this site contains misinformation or disinformation is in the eye of the beholder.


      • I don’t know what is going on with the whole AK situation right now, but let’s look at that site a little and take the section specifying the evidence that AK and RS were involved one by one:

        “More than one person attacked Meredith Kercher” Highly dubious.

        “Someone returned to move Meredith”. I hadn’t heard this one before. If the evidence of this is solid – and I’m not sure one way or the other from the linked site – it’s a very interesting fact. I’m not sure it would necessarily implicate AK or RS by itself, but maybe in combination with other facts. I don’t think evidence that the body was moved means that “someone returned” to move it. Any thoughts on this particular contention would be of interest to me.

        Bra clasp DNA: we’ve been over that one. Just not there.

        Knife from RS apartment: apparently there’s been a failure of proof on this one.

        Bare footprint in blood on the bath mat: One interesting fact recited here is that Rudy Guede’s bloody shoeprints lead from the victim’s room directly to the front door. That suggests he didn’t return to the bathroom after killing her, but it doesn’t really prove it. More information would be needed to conclude one way or the other.

        AK’s DNA in her apartment: Duh.

        Bloody footprints discovered much later with luminol: I think we’ve disposed of that one.

        Burglary was staged: All sorts of leaps here. Leap to burglary; then leap to “staged” burglary. The facts are that the other roommate’s room had a broken window, apparently with a rock, and stuff was strewn about. “Burglary” is an inference, not a fact itself. “Staged” burglary is an inference upon that inference. Then you can make the further inference that ONLY AK and RS would have the motive to stage a burglary because they had access otherwise; then you can infer that they actually did all that to conceal their involvement in the murder. None of the subsequent inferences can be any more reliable than any inference preceding it, so this whole idea is a massive fail.

        AK and RS “lies”: Meh.


        • chrishalkides

          Judge Micheli’s report (from the proceedings of 2008) apparently made the claim that Meredith’s body had been moved hours after her death. I have been looking into this for some time, but I have found no convincing evidence that her body was moved long after her death. There is no publicly available translation of the Micheli report, which makes it difficult to be certain of what he said. Some have argued (and this apparently included Judge Micheli) that the fact that there were aspirated drops of blood on Meredith’s bra indicates that the bra was removed long after death (sometimes this is called the stencil effect). However, there were also droplets on Meredith’s bare breasts, something that appears almost parenthetically in the Massei report (early 2010) at the bottom of p. 103 in the English translation. The Massei report is a little bit more cryptic in the area of lividity (p. 121), but the sole mention of this that I was able to find did not support the claim that she had been moved long after death.

          One hypothesis is that Guede cleaned himself in the small bathroom, returned to Meredith’s room (perhaps to obtain her money) and stepped in a pool of blood at that time. That would explain the prints leading toward the door.


          • Stepped in the pool of blood but only with his left foot?


            • chrishalkides

              I don’t see that as being unlikely; perhaps he took a single step partially into the edge of the pool and did not realize it.


              • Well I bring that up because there’s also this odd fact that all of Guede’s shoe prints in blood were of the left shoe. So I inferred from that that maybe for some reason his right shoe was off and that’s why the print of the right foot on the bathmat was Guede’s.

                Bu that’s a lot of inferring on my part, too. 🙂


              • chrishalkides

                Let me talk with a friend of mine and get back to you on that.


  10. If Knox had anything to do with it I think she could have come home and found Meridith -being in a foreign country not knowing what to do she tried to act like she didn’t know, I just don’t see any connection to Rudy and Knox or RS-no motive, when you look at Rudy and all his recent burgurlies makes total sense it was rent time for all of them -he broke in and Meridth walked in at around 9 or so-I think he might of thought of sexual assault but didn’t follow through-how can you have Knox and RS so involved in the act itself but only Rudy’s DNA is every where. In The US Amanda would never been arrested -the DNA in our country would of led to Rudy’s -remember Rudy first claimed Knox WAS NOT THERE until they lowers his sentence from 30 to 16 years!! How crazy! His DNA is all over Meridth and the Italians are making Rudy out to be a victim! He’s do for reslease soon!


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