Sunday, July 20, 2014

Retesting the knife for DNA: a dubious rationale, but an exculpatory result


Part 38 in the Knox/Sollecito case

Background on the DNA profiling of Sample 36-I
In overturning the Hellmann-Zanetti acquittal of Knox and Sollecito, the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) published a motivations document in 2013 (the previous blog entry critiqued section 12 of the motivations report on genetic investigations).  The present entry discusses section 11, another DNA-related portion but one that focused entirely on the retest of Raffaele’s kitchen knife, the subject of two previous entries here.  One of the court-appointed independent experts, Dr. Carla Vecchiotti, had found the sample in question (36-I) by swabbing the knife in 2011.  Because this amount was far below the recommended amount of DNA for the reagent kit, she decided that the amount was too small (its concentration was estimated to be 5 pg/┬ÁL).  Pro-guilt commenters sometimes imply that because the defense had the opportunity to object to certain aspects of DNA testing in 2007, that their subsequent requests for the raw forensic data should be turned aside (this argument is problematic on multiple grounds as discussed in the previous blog entry).  Yet if we accept that an objection to some aspect of testing should be lodged immediately, then either the prosecution's observers should have objected to not amplifying 36-I in the spring of 2011, or the prosecution should have admitted that it lost the opportunity to do so when it did not.

Why did the Supreme Court of Cassation demand an amplification of the new sample?
In section 11 of their motivations report the CSC wrote,
“This trace was not subjected to genetic analysis – through a decision made by one of the experts, Professor Vecchiotti, alone, without documented prior authorization to that effect by the Court, who had also given a mandate to attribute the DNA on the present findings on the knife and on the bra hook- because the amount was not sufficient to provide a reliable result, amounting to Law (sic) Copy Number. This choice, however, met the subsequent sharing of the group, on the assumption that such a small sample would not have allowed two amplifications necessary for a reliable result (p. 84 of sentence).

“So that when the Procurator General and the civil plaintiffs demanded to complete the examination, strongly as a result of the scientific contribution of Professor Novelli, geneticist of undisputable fame recognized by the same Court (p. 79 sent.) on the availability of equipment able of operate with safety also quantities of less than ten picograms, in the areas of diagnostic character (even on embryos) in which the claim to certainty is certainly no less pressing than that which animates the legal field, the Court rejected that proposal, assuming that the methods to which Prof. Novelli had referred were "in the experimental phase” (p. 84 sent.), thus freely interpreting and misrepresenting the assumption of bias, which in fact was to remember the use of these diagnostic methods in areas in which you can be certain of the result.

“…Especially since the renewal of genetic investigations were requested in 2011, after four years from the initial time and over which the evolution of instrumentation and methods of investigation had marked significant milestones, as was emphasised by the advisor to the Procurator General, Professor Novelli. Just on receipt of the information from the consultant mentioned who - under the constraint of the obligation to truth, spoke of cutting-edge techniques -, the Court fell into a new gross misrepresentation of argument concerning the reliability of the results of investigations carried out assuming no new findings of such remedies, even through developments emerging at a later time, concerning reasonableness of the grounds (Section I, 25.6 .2007, n. 24667).

“…[the survey must] bring to analysis also the newly sampled trace, according to the most accurate and modern “experimental” analytical techniques, under pain of violation of the law for not making a decisive test and the fallout in terms of manifest illogical reasoning (again for obvious incompleteness of the inferential platform, to have overlooked data that is not only important, but crucial), as was correctly pointed out by the public plaintiff.”

Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez summarized Novelli’s testimony and offered their opinion in the chapter, “The test that wasn’t done,” in their 2013 book Math on Trial (pp. 83-86):  "In court on September 5 [2011] and supported by expert prosecution witness Giuseppe Novelli, Stefanoni explained that newer generations of DNA analysis kits existed in 2011 that had not been available in 2007, and these new kits could give results on as small as a couple of cells.  She wanted a new analysis performed to confirm that her previous work was correct.  The prosecution agreed and asked the judge to order the new tests...Judge Hellmann missed a major opportunity to get at the truth.”  According to the CSC, techniques that are appropriate for diagnosis in embryology are also appropriate for forensic investigations.  There have been advances in technology, and the new tests should take advantage of them.  The results will be "decisive."

Not every observer sounded convinced of the probability-based rationale Schneps and Colmez put forward.  Professor Daniel H Kaye wrote, “If these experts’ concern — that the original DNA test was simply detecting traces of Kercher's and Sollecito’s DNA that investigators inadvertently transferred to the knife and bra clasp, respectively — then repeating the tests could well continue to detect that DNA — and prove nothing more than the original tests did.” In other words one weakness in the rationale provided by the SCC is that a newer generation of kits cannot circumvent the problem that one is dealing with DNA in the low template range (see below). 

Can one equate pre-implantation genetic diagnosis with DNA forensics?
It may be that Professor Novelli left the court with the impression that single-cell PCR was new technology, but single-cell PCR in diagnostics is at least twenty years old.  Yet the problem with using diagnostic practices to justify further low template testing on the knife is that it ignores that one is still dealing with low template quantities and all the problems that such analysis has in a forensic setting.

In the article “LCN DNA Analysis: Limitations Prevent 'General Acceptance'” Dr. Angela von Daal wrote, "The use of PCR for analysis of very low levels of DNA in the field of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has been used to justify general acceptance of LCN analysis in the wider scientific community(12). This argument is flawed. PGD analysis is not analogous to LCN analysis for several reasons. PGD uses pristine cellular DNA from a single source, whereas forensic LCN samples are mostly mixtures and are likely in a state of apoptosis. The complexities of profile interpretation issues seen with STR analysis (e.g., stutter) are not an issue for PGD testing(13). However the most significant difference is that the samples derived from the mother, father and embryo are single-source and the parental samples are of known genotype."  In other words the connection between pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and low template DNA forensics is tenuous and trying to extrapolate from the former to the latter is dubious at best.  Why Professor Novelli chose to ignore the problems in his analogy is something only he can explain.

Did the SCC understand the unique problems of low template DNA profiling?
And the problems of innocent transfer of DNA get more severe as the sample size gets smaller.  Sara Gino testified for the defense in the trial of the first instance, and some of what she had to say is pertinent to this issue. From the Massei report (p. 258, English translation): “She reaffirmed that [the risk of] contamination exists, and emphasised that in minimal quantities of DNA there is not necessarily a greater risk of contamination but it was easier to notice the effects of the contamination and be misled (‘...It's not that the risk of contamination is greater; but it is easier to see the contamination...’ page 92).” In response to a question on this subject, Professor Dan Krane expounded on Sarah Gino’s testimony, “There is absolutely no question but that contamination is a much greater problem in LCN cases than conventional DNA testing. The reasons that it is a greater problem are both because it is easier to detect contaminants ([Sarah] Gino's point) and because it is easier to transfer (and to transfer without knowing) smaller amounts of DNA than larger amounts of DNA.”

Proper low template profiling demands that one rework the entire process of DNA forensics, from collection of the evidence all the way through the final step of analysis of the electropherogram.  True low copy number LCN profiling requires ultra-clean, dedicated facilities in order to perform it properly, as clearly discussed in nontechnical language in an article in the New Zealand Herald. Without those extra precautions, the odds of contamination are necessarily greater (or else the precautions are a waste of time and money).  In a review article in Nanomedicine Professor Novelli and coauthors wrote, “Very few laboratories perform low template DNA typing properly, because it requires dedicated facilities and great experience, although there are several published methods for the interpretation of such profiles [80-82].”  This blog has previously discussed the need for proper air handling facilities.

Even so, within the forensic DNA community there are a number of critics of LCN profiling.  Dr. Budowle and colleagues, for example, argued that low template analysis should be restricted to identification of bodies and the generation of leads.  In other words using the practices in embryology to justify further testing on the knife was predicated on a very weak analogy and one that has been seriously questioned by molecular biologists.  Professor Novelli should have known this and should have acknowledged this limitation to the court.

What other forensic issues did the Supreme Court of Cassation ignore?
In forensics it is impossible to interrogate the DNA as to the time or manner of its deposition.  With respect to the knife, the DNA may have arrived from secondary or tertiary transfer prior to its collection or during its handling.  Regrettably, the knife was removed from its package at the police station, a breach of good practice.  The person who repackaged it had previously been to the women’s apartment earlier that day, a second error.  In addition, the negative controls have never been produced in the form of raw data or probably any other form.

What did the proponents of the retest expect to learn?
As this blog has repeatedly argued, the DNA from Sample 36B in 2007 was probably from laboratory contamination.  Pro-guilt commenters have resisted this interpretation.  In a story from 27 April 2013 the BBC’s Ruth Alexander asked Coralie Colmez this question.  “’So what this means in the case of the knife in the murder is that if it were tested again, and once again the DNA was Meredith's profile we could be a lot more certain that the DNA on the knife is indeed Meredith's,’ Colmez says.”  On the other hand suppose that the test came out differently.  “And if the knife were tested again and the DNA did not match Meredith Kercher's profile? That would be good news for Knox and Sollecito, she says.
‘This would mean that this major piece of evidence against them would be discredited.’”  In other words either way the results turned out, there would be useful, arguably decisive, new information.

What did the new test actually tell us about the knife?
Andrea Vogt wrote, "The RIS Wednesday deposited their forensic report on trace 36i, a spot of DNA identified (but not earlier tested) on the kitchen knife alleged to be the murder weapon. “Cento Percento” (100 percent) said Major Berti, discussing compatibility. The RIS found that the DNA was compatible with Amanda Knox, and excluded that it was that of Sollecito, Guede or Kercher. The RIS expert was asked only a few questions from attorneys and the judge. The judge asked why the RIS had done two amplications of the DNA and not 3 or 4. Major Berti described that two is considered the minimum number of amplifications necessary, according to today’s forensic standards, doing less (or more) might have diminished the reliability of the results. The judge also asked about the age of the equipment used. Berti responded that the forensic kit used this time has been commercialized since 2010 and available for use since 2011. At one point the judge stopped a line of questioning by Knox’s Rome attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova, who was asking why the RIS described Knox’s DNA as “fluids” when a prior expert had said the trace did not come from blood. Nencini said: That question was not put to the RIS by this court, it was not their job to determine that. The other experts’ reports are in the case files for everyone to read, he noted, adding: “We cannot put words in the mouth of this expert that were said by another expert.”

The presence of Ms. Knox’s DNA on the handle knife has never been in dispute, and the finding of additional DNA on the blade is not inculpatory.  A recent review article on trace DNA noted that DNA transfers can occur after an item of evidence is packaged; therefore, the DNA on the blade may have arisen from transfer after the knife was packaged, or from direct transfer: chef’s knives are often gripped both at the handle and the base of the blade.  If anything, the result is modest additional exculpatory evidence.  If the knife were the murder weapon, it would have Meredith’s blood.  Somehow all of Meredith’s blood would have to be removed, yet DNA from Meredith and Amanda would remain, along with starch.  A letter to the court from Professor Bruce Budowle indicates that it would be difficult to clean a knife of blood.  There was additional DNA in sample 36-I belonging to an unknown person, a finding which further calls into question the hypothesis that it was the murder weapon.

Are the new results exculpatory?
In early 2014 Leila Schneps wrote, “By the third trial, when a new attempt was made to collect DNA from the knife (which had been swabbed again during the appeal trial, though no tests were then conducted) there was no match to Meredith – a result welcomed by Knox's defence team, though it did not in fact impact on the findings of the first trial.”  This passage presents quite a contrast with the earlier quote from Coralie Colmez (above).

There are two important issues.  The first point is that Meredith Kercher’s DNA was not found, and this was the whole reason for performing the test.  The people who argued for the test did so on the basis that the retest might improve the reliability of the 2007 result.  They should at the very minimum concede that the original result on the knife has now been “discredited,” as Ms. Colmez wrote.  The second point is that the 2013 result did indeed impact on the finding of the first trial.  The Carabinieri noted that at least two amplifications of the DNA must be done, and Stefanoni apparently did only one.  Therefore, the lack of retesting with respect to the original result is indeed makes it unreliable by the expert testimony of the Carabinieri, which support the testimony of Conti and Vecchiotti.  In other words the result and the testimony are a one-two punch that should have knocked the kitchen knife right out of the trial.

Is the Nencini court being impartial and objective with respect to the forensics of this case?
An early report from Andrea Vogt on Judge Nencini’s motivations document from the Florence court indicates that Nencini harshly criticized the rationale for Conti and Vecchiotti’s not completing the test in 2011.  For the reasons given above, this argument has no merit.  A cynical observer might conclude that it is a canard to distract future courts from the real issue, which is that Meredith Kercher’s DNA was not found, and this was supposed to be a decisive test.  Pro-guilt commenters might now argue that the test would have been decisive if Meredith’s DNA had been observed in 36-I but any other result is inconclusive.  However, such an argument prompts a question:  Why should the Nencini court order a test that might only be beneficial to the prosecution and not also grant requests that are favorable to the defense?  This blog has long argued that the failure of the prosecution to release the raw DNA data constitutes a serious breach of discovery, rendering the trial unfair.

Another serious logical problem with the SCC and the Nencini court is the selective indignation about the lack of amplification of 36-I in 2011.  Mrs. Stefanoni has failed to produce many electropherograms which showed positive quantification of DNA, some of which may contain highly probative evidence.  The defense has every right to see these data under any reasonable standard of discovery.  One profoundly wishes that the Nencini court had demanded the production of the electropherograms that originated from a putative semen fraction, to take just one example.  The fact that it did not do so is only one reason to call its objectivity into question.

Update (13 August 2014)
In the Lindy Chamberlain case a forensic worker, Joy Kuhl, invented a new test for fetal hemoglobin.  The defense witnesses were sharply critical of her methods.  “On the matter of specificity and testing solution, [Ian] Barker wanted to know whether [Professor Richard] Nairn believed that over two hundred tests, referring to Kuhl's tests, which showed a negative reaction to adult haemoglobin would be sufficient to conclude that the anti-sera was not specific to adult haemoglobin. Nairn answered that it would depend on the test, a bad test is a bad test no matter how many times it is repeated.”  Another author quoted Richard Nairn: "Two hundred bad tests are poorer than one good test."

58 comments:

noel dalberth said...

This is excellent! The blatent refusal to ensure this investigation was carried out completely is mind boggling. Actually, it seems this was intentional. To avoid exposing the truth, discovery & thorough testing of evidence was blocked from the beginning. This is an outrage. This is one of many violations that should be considered by the Italian Justice system unless they prefer to be exposed by the ECHR. Wake up, Italy.

Tom Zupancic Ph.D. said...

Chris,

Thank you for your comprehensive and insightful analysis of this highly technical issue that has been routinely misrepresented by the prosecution and the Italian courts and misinterpteted by the media. The ongoing insistence of the Italian Judiciary in ignoring Science while promoting their ignorant and arrogant distortions of the DNA evidence in this case is an inexcusable insult to the concept of justice.

Tom Zupancic Ph.D. said...

Chris,

Just one more comment to elaborate on why such an analysis is not useful in a court proceeding. One key point you made that needs to be emphatically emphasized is that the fundamental and inherent logical flaw with such LCN DNA testing is that it is NOT RELIABLE, because the very nature of DNA, the way it behaves in our world and in our hands as we examine it, makes it INTELLECTUALLY/LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to draw scientifically valid conclusions from these sorts of results. Specifically, among many problems, an investigator CANNOT KNOW the source and method of introduction of the DNA that they are observing, regardless of the sophistication of the technique they use to characterize it.

Paul Smyth said...

As usual, I have read your post with great profit. What an intellectual disaster area the Italian courts have become. Novelli, deliberately or otherwise, misleads the court, and Cassation then runs with the error and compounds it in some of the flabbiest, long-winded prose imaginable. As for Nencini, he is just a fool who doesn't understand or care about any of it. Clearly, these people should not be ruling on anything scientific if it affects people's lives. If they were ruling on the validity of things like medical trials a lot of Italians would be dying.

Kaosium said...

However, such an argument prompts a question: Why should the Nencini court order a test that might only be beneficial to the prosecution and not also grant requests that are favorable to the defense? This blog has long argued that the failure of the prosecution to release the raw DNA data constitutes a serious breach of discovery, rendering the trial unfair.

Great article and that's a damn good question. Why is it that prosecution requests for tests are respected but not defense requests? For example the semen stain which the defense requested back in 2009 and was part of the appeal as well? It's been almost five years now!

Another one is how come the fact that Meredith's DNA was not found doesn't seem to matter? What does it take to discredit this knife as being involved in the murder?

Chris Halkides said...

Kaosium,

It is amazing that the Nencini court discusses 36-I so extensively but apparently is completely unconcerned about the result itself, which is exculpatory.

Chris Halkides said...

Previously I referred to the Court of Supreme Cassation, but I just edited those references so that it now reads the Supreme Court of Cassation.

Gallagher said...

Chris,

In all my years following this case I have never seen a single pro guilt comment implying that raw data should be withheld because the defence was able to observe and object to testing. They are two separate issues which you have seemingly tied together to make a point for your own agenda.

Cassation demanded a testing of the new sample simply because C and V had not carried this out, as requested. Novelli pointed out that the technology was available. No more and no less. Correct me if I'm mistaken but Stefanoni never claimed she wanted a new test to confirm her work, that seems a total fabrication. Stefanoni is purely an analyst. It is not up to her to ask for a testing, nor would she ever be allowed to do so. That is for the court to decide. Schneps, Colmez and Vogt are writers with a pro guilt position, just as your stance is pro innocence. They have absolutely nothing to do with this case and have no input. Why you wish to cite them is beyond me. It's akin to making a case for guilt because of what some pro innocence half wit wrote in Ground Report.

The trace analysed by the RIS was found to belong to Knox. Nencini was not too happy with C and V because they had declared the trace too small for analysis. Nencini asked the RIS why they had split the sample and they explained that this was always preferable when feasible. Stefanoni had not been able to do this because her trace was so small that splitting could have rendered an unreliable result. The whole episode was perhaps a dig by Nencini towards C and V who had declared the trace too small. Inferring some wrong doing by Stefanoni for not splitting the sample is completely unwarranted and not backed up by anything the RIS declared. To state the whole reason for the retest was to confirm Kercher's DNA is total hogwash, and who are these people who argued for the test to confirm the 2007 result? You are even shooting yourself in the foot now. Bad, corrupt, satanic and incompetent police and officials who genuinely believed Kerchers DNA was on the blade? Does that make sense?

Chris Halkides said...

Gallagher,

You may know that I sometimes comment on this case at the James Randi Educational Foundation Forum. The notion that observing a test is somehow supposed to be the remedy for forensic problems has been discussed there for more than four years. Whether or not the two have been linked together is of lesser importance than the fact that the data have never been released, and indeed it now seems as if the lack of EDFs was just the tip of the iceberg. Do you agree that all data should have been, yes or no?

Novelli failed to present an honest accounting in several ways. First and foremost is the flawed analogy between techniques appropriate for embryology and forensics. Second is the implication that a newer generation of tests somehow overcomes the problems of doing DNA profiling in the low template region. That is pure hogwash.

Dr. Schneps' has several connections to the case; IIRC her son-in-law knew Guede, and she has done some of the translating into English of important documents. With a book and an op-ed in the NYT to her credit, she is a prominent PG commenter.
(to be continued)

Chris Halkides said...

Gallagher,

With all due respect, your comment about the presence or absence of Meredith's DNA makes little sense. One, the trace is still unreliable in the sense that it is in the low template region. In other words, the fact that the Carabinieri were able to amplify it is of little signficance. Two, I suggest you read both translations of the SCC's 2013 report. The result to be obtained is described as "key evidence" in one of the two translations. This cannot refer to the possibility of finding Amanda's DNA there: Amanda's DNA was already found in larger amounts on the handle. The Galati appeal (starting on page 26 of the English translation) is also helpful reading, if for no other reason than that it is similar to the SCC's report. The assignment given to Conti and Vecchiotti uses the word "reliability" twice, once with respect to 36B and once with respect to the previous analysis and the possibility of contamination. It is not obvious how finding any other DNA profile besides Meredith's could bear on these questions.

Stefanoni failed to do true Low Copy Number DNA profiling as it was being practiced at the time. I wouldn't call it wrongdoing exactly; she was making up a new and untested method, something akin to what Joy Kuhl did in the Chamberlain case. Not splitting the sample was only one of several shortcomings in her technique; in my opinion it was the least of the shortcomings.

Chris Halkides said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Halkides said...

My comment at 9:37 should have said 36, not 36B.

Paul Smyth said...

I always find it disheartening when apparently intelligent people like Gallagher go to such lengths to deceive your readers. You have answered him well, but at the risk of repetition I would make the following points:

--Getting all of the EDFs and lab records is far more important than observing the lab work. It is important never the less it is important to note the malfeasance of the prosecution here. The defense team was not given timely notice of when the test was scheduled and Massei let them get away with it.

--Novelli deliberately misled the court. The techniques he advocated were not new and they were not generally accepted for use in forensic situations. In this sense, C&V were entirely correct and Novelli and Nencini wrong.

--Schneps and Colmez are fair game because they both have written about the forensics and because both have personal connections to the case that they tend to keep hidden. Schneps recounts taking a crime tour visit to the cottage and, upon finding it locked and the current tenants away, entered the premises to snoop around.

--It is not at all clear that Stefanoni could not have split the sample since she inexplicably did not use the best quantification techniques available to her. In any event, the problems go beyond this. She didn't have the right kind of training, equipment, or lab either.

--In the vast majority of countries these techniques are not viewed as sufficiently robust to be used forensically even if done correctly. They are controversially used in the UK and few other places but not in the US, Canada, and most of western Europe.

--There are plausible and convincing indications that Stefanoni's lab work was incompetent and clear indications of contamination and fraud.

--All of what I say here is firmly on the record but Cassation and Nencini have simply ignored it. This is just par for the course in Italy. Of course, the purpose of the retest is because a biased higher court presumed guilt and wanted a conviction. If it had been anything else, Nencini would have acquitted.

The rulings made by Massei, Cassation, and Nencini on scientific matters are just embarrassing. Thank god they are not ruling on the adequacy of clinical trials. People would be dying.

freerudyguede said...

hello Chris,
Contamination of the knife almost certainly took place during the repackaging of the knife at the police station. Since it is easy to deliberately contaminate something there would be no reason to allow it to go off to the forensics lab in a pristine condition.
Possibly the reason that the peaks were so low and so many tests were needed to obtain a profile is due to detergent residue on the knife interfering with the polymerase amplification. This might be overcome by either a prolonged washing step of the precipitated DNA or resuspending the DNA and precipitating it a 2nd time.
Retesting the knife would achieve nothing. If it came up negative it would just mean all the DNA had been eluted in the earlier testings or broken down. If it came up positive it would merely confirm a contamination event.
The main contamination events that occurs in labs is due to DNA from staff, the likelihood of contamination from any samples of 6 days prior is almost zero. And if Stephanoni had wanted to cheat she could have just contaminated the knife with some PCR product from earlier tests on Kercher's samples - which would have produced a beautifully strong profile test after test.

Chris Halkides said...

freerudyguede,

I don't entirely agree about the six days. For one thing, Stefanoni hid so many results, I am not sure that nothing was tested. For another thing, low template DNA is a somewhat different ballgame from DNA in the normal range (Dan Krane commented to this effect in a previous entry).

freerudyguede said...

Theoretically possible but not plausible. There were hundreds or thousands DNA that could potentially contaminate in the lab in LCN environment. If there is no record of contamination being a problem then it would be odd that Kercher's DNA should suddenly pop up.

On a completely unrelated matter: noting news reports about contact with a cocaine dealer both before and after the murder who is only designated by the initial F and that according to Rudy Guede, Kercher's dying words were "A.F." (OK highly improbable, but it appears he feared reprisal) - is it possible you could query the IIP knowledge base as to any person with the initials A.F?

Chris Halkides said...

freerudyguede,

DNA can persist on things like rulers (tools used to examine items of evidence) for some time. Stefanoni claimed no contamination in seven years (which itself raises a red flag), but it can be shown from the quantitation data that her claim is not strictly true. That is one reason why full release of the negative controls should be insisted upon by the SCC.

The drug dealer story is old news. The only new twist is the claim of the initial of the person being F. Unless the name of the person is released by the reporter who broke this story, it is all so much tabloid trash, as far as I am concerned. Where is the evidence that Raffaele and Amanda used anything but marijuana?

freerudyguede said...

None, but the answer is Daniel De Luna - AF or F is presumably some kind of street name
:D
Meredith Kercher didn't like the men that Amanda Knox was bringing and unless she fudged her HIV list, the only man she brought home was Danny-boy.
So I would say the evidence is accumulating that the dislike between the two was mutual.

freerudyguede said...

OK Angelo Frioni? Can't get everything right.
I just seem to recall Giacomo Silenzi describing De Luna as a dealer, but I might be misremembering.

Anyway, if Amanda Knox doesn't give the true account of what happened that night very soon, odds on she is going back to Italy. It is entirely her choice.

Chris Halkides said...

IIRC Meredith was with Giacomo downstairs the night that Daniel was upstairs. Therefore, the idea that Meredith did not like men that Amanda brought home (as friends or as one night stands) looks a little Shaky.

michellesings said...

And really, it does not seem like this discussion is anywhere close to what the topic is about. Surely there is another place for this other conversation.

littlegreyrabbit said...

I agree with Michelle, but the wonderful thing about social media or blogs, if you own the site or have the password, you change a comment to anything you like. So if Chris doesn't like anything he can just delete or change anyway.

I often have this problem with RetractionWatch where I sometimes comment. Ivan Oransky will just edit out the bits of my comments he doesn't like, often completely altering the sense or meaning of what I was trying to convey. I have tried to tell him it is unprofessional, but his site, his rules.

Happily he has never changed it to anything completely absurd like: "I am FREDERICO THE MAGNIFICENT, Imperial Arch-Duke of Ruritania and I love vaseline."

But perhaps I had better not be giving Ivan ideas.

littlegreyrabbit said...

Which might explain both the HIV hoax and why the police fried her hard drive.

Chris Halkides said...

Michelle, I agree with you. The topic of this entry is the retest of the knife.

littlegreyrabbit,

Google's Blogger software does not allow the sort of editing you are envisioning. I can't even edit typos out of my own comments, unfortunately.

shipoffools said...

As a scientist, Chris, do you think there was something in the water in Perugia causing memory loss?
Rudy Guede describes the assailant as
"Guede: This person was wearing a hat however… he had this hat however the cheekbones of this person left an impression on me
Napoleoni: What do you mean by hat, Rudy?
Guede: He was wearing a type of hat
Napoleoni: Of wool?
Guede: Yes, a type of wool
Napoleoni: Color?
Guede: It was a white color with a red stripe and what stayed with me in particular were the cheekbones of this person because they were pronounced"

and Alessia Ceccarelli, the girlfriend of the owner of the newsstand in Grimana Square remembered that: 'she had noticed a “boy” on the morning of November 2 around 7:00-7:30 who shouted on his cellphone “kill you bitch’.”

She remembered that the boy was wearing a white wool cap, a dark jacket and jeans, and had “dirty blood on the right hand.” '

Although apparently her original version was different.

Being a cocaine dealer in Perugia would be like selling snow to Eskimos, one sip of the water there and they all start hallucinating.

shipoffools said...

I am going to leap out on a limb here, partly in case Knox ever decides to speak out that she can give an account untrammeled by any fear of not being believed.

I am reasonably confident that Knox and Sollecito both turning off their phones that night is code for had-their-phones-taken-from-them - otherwise why would not Knox have at least rung Sollecito? Presumably their phones are returned when Sollecito receives his father's text message.
Now does Meredith have one phone or two? Either way both phones are confiscated to prevent premature communication and thrown in a nearby garden (exactly why Knox, Guede or Sollectio should hoax this is not known to me). We are told Meredith had her UK phone to call home and Filomena's phone for local calls, my understanding that roaming charges are so high that is far more cost effective to just buy a local sim card (a few euros) wherever you go - is this different in Europe? In which case Filomena's phone would have been carried and used by Filomena only.
I have always been amazed at the efficiency and alacrity with which the Postal Police - on a public holiday - attempted to return a stray phone that had been handed in. According to their own account they looked up the number and had dispatched a patrol car to return it to its address within an hour.
Knox made one very short call to Filomena's phone at 12:08 - perhaps already in the hands of the Postal Police? She received 3 short calls back between 12:12 and 12:34. Is it possible that these calls were from the Postal Police along the lines of:
1. "Whose phone is this, what is the address."
2. "Are you still at the address, we are sending a car to drop it off."
3. "We are in the vicinity but we can't seem to find the apartment."
The last call ending at 12:35, the time the police recorded as arriving at the apartment.
If so, then Filomena was also present at the apartment when Meredith was killed and the Perugian water supply must be even more contaminated than even I thought possible. We already know Filomena committed perjury (like everybody else) regarding internet access. This would mean her window testimony could be disregarded (and I have always found the alleged motive for staging a break-in rather strange, why wouldn't Meredith answer the door?)

Just throwing it out there on anything goes Thursday. In terms of DNA, one wonders why the team of "Find-Touch-DNA-Anywhere" never investigated the phones.

littlegreyrabbit said...

"Google's Blogger software does not allow the sort of editing you are envisioning"
You should definitely consider moving to Wordpress. A lovely snarky remark concerning Special Forces training has been subjected to surgeon's knife over on RW. They are a miserable bunch.

I just want to tidy up some matter regarding Knox's November 4th email to friends and the mop.

That email is not a pleasant read, I will be honest. According to leaks from Perugia police, Knox was in phone contact with Af/F after the murder, so I am assuming she wrote it under some duress. I also assume she was under extreme stress.

According to testimony from Laura there was a mop outside in the garden area. My speculation is that person(s) broke into the apartment overnight and did some clean up in preparation for maybe moving the body the next night. Partly they used towels found underneath the body and partly they used that mop. I am also guessing that the mop has disappeared.
I can't see Knox wandering around Perugia unseen with a mop in the morning of the 2nd and no traces of Kercher were found in Sollecito's car. I don't personally have an issue with Knox, under duress, using the mop to do clean-up and disposing of it. I just don't think she did.

Under instruction she included details of the mop in her email to explain its disappearance. Probably Af/F was already planning to set her up and knew the issues this mop/pipes rubbish was going to create for her. Sayings about dogs and fleas spring to mind, but it is too much like blaming the victim. If I understand it correctly the Sollecitos have sprayed about money to get people to testify the pipes really did break - the alacrity with which Italians will lie under oath never ceases to amaze.

shipoffools said...

Good points Little Grey Rabbit and may I say it is a pleasure to discuss this case with someone as erudite and insightful as yourself.

Just a little more on the two phones and the surprising Italian appetite for perjury.
Amanda rang both Meredith and Filomena on the grounds that both at been present that night. She didn't ring Laura because Laura had not been present.

Alessandro and Fiammetta claim they found the first phone (Meredith's Filomena phone - in reality Filomena's phone) at 9:00 am and gave it to the postal police circa 11:00. They found Meredith's phone around 12:00 when Amanda rang it (3 times).
But if the Meredith Filomena phone was the one she used for local calls, why was not Amanda's call received by the postal police. Why would Amanda ring Meredith's British phone?

In reality, Alessandro was alerted to the phones at 12:00 when Amanda first rang Meredith, she then talked to Alessandro or Fiammetta on Filomena's phone and then rang Meredith's phone again twice so that A or F could locate it by the ringing. Then both phones were handed to the postal police and shortly after taken to the apartment.

We should not assume that Amanda had perfect knowledge of what had occurred at this point. I don't suppose Giacomo and Daniel took her on a tour of inspection of the apartment. Referring to the Fish Blood Manifesto

"The truth is, I wasn't sure what to think, but I definitely didn't think the worst, that someone was murdered. I thought a lot of things, mainly that perhaps someone got hurt and left quickly to take care of it."

freerudyguede said...

ShipofFools, Little Grey Rabbit may be erudite, but you are not.
I assume you are referring to the pdf floating around called AK phone traffic.
It clearly references a number Meredith(I). This is the only time that Meredith(I) appears in the logs, AK always phoned Meredith(E). It also lists it as an incoming call rather than an outgoing call - although the listing suggests the opposite.

If I was to indulge your strange fantasy, and I am not convinced I should, AK either made or received a short call from someone else who has falsely been given the identity of Meredith(I). If AK did receive a call, then it probably wasn't Meredith(I) - roaming charges from heaven are extortionate. Nor would it be anyone using Meredith(I)'s phone - since there would be no record of AK's number on this phone.

In your crazy fantasy it would go something like this
12:07 AK leaves message on Meredith's voicemail
12:08 AK rings Filomena's phone - answered by Alessandro. "Is there another phone there?"
12:11 Alessandro aka Meredith(I) rings AK - "I can't see it, can you try ringing it."
12:12 AK rings Meredith's phone again: Alessandro answers and says found it.
12:12 Alessandro rings AK using Filomena's phone: "I'll take them to the police."
12:20: Postal police ring AK using Filomena's phone: "We are sending a car around"
12:34" Postal police ring AK using Filomena's phone: "We can't find your apartment"
12:35: Arrive at apartment
From Judge's report of 9th November 2007
"Upon reaching the destination the agents found outside the building on Via Della Pergola 7 two youths, identified as KNOX Amanda Marie, who lived at that address, and SOLLECITO Raffaele, who said they were waiting for the Carabinieri military police, called because on that morning they became aware of a window with the glass broken and had suspected a theft."

12:40 Postal Police tell AK and RS: "Ho, ho, ho we are just the postal police. This kind of thing involves the Carabinieri"
12:50 RS rings Carabinieri.

Give my regards to John

Chris Halkides said...

freerudyguede,

The postal police did not arrive until after Raffaele called the Carabinieri.

Chris Halkides said...

I added a paragraph which discussed a different kind of testing used in the Lindy Chamberlain case.

freerudyguede said...

Joy Kuhl was almost certainly a case of noble cause corruption. For all that I don't doubt the dingo was innocent, the problem the Crown had was to prove Lindy had killed Azaria in a very small slither of time. Had the police been aware Azaria had actually died several hours before, they would have no trouble nailing the perpetrator.

But to return to the knife. In AK's diary of I think the 18th of November she says she was informed that the knife had her fingerprints on the handle and Meredith's DNA on the blade. Reading her entry it sounds very likely they were trying to break her down and didn't really believe what they were saying - in other words they weren't locked into this scenario yet. As I understand it no fingerprint evidence was presented. Is it possible to determine when Amanda's DNA was detected on the handle? Was it after the 18th of November and did the police just magically know that she had held the knife? Or did the police get it wrong and Amanda's DNA had already been identified?

I am also interested in the DNA profile of Rudy Guede allegedly found in MK's vagina. Since this tested negative for semen it has been suggested that this profile was from digital penetration. Given the amount of the time the two had known each other, the general lack of alcohol, MK's personality and the time elapsed since RG arrived at the house - I would be very surprised if they had got to such a point and Rudy, as in other points, was simply confessing under duress to agree with the forensic evidence.

I would have thought that a vaginal swab would be such a rich source of cells and DNA, that any touch DNA from Rudy would be quite difficult to detect - let alone any skin cells that where shed might get phagocytosised quite rapidly. Do you have any idea regarding the peak heights from the 2 individuals for this swab?



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Chris Halkides said...

Some years ago I asked that commenters refrain from making comments here that they would not make in front of their mothers. To that I am adding two more guidelines, that they stay on topic and that they refrain from engaging in obviously trollish behavior. Those comments that fail to meet these standards will be deleted, and commenters who engage in such behaviors will be blocked.

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corpus vile said...

Chris? Were any of these off topics about history by any chance or citing certain historians wrt The Great Lie? I'm genuinely curious here.

corpus vile said...

It's just that I'm somewhat familiar with that certain historian is all. Talk about unorthodox.

Chris Halkides said...

Corpus vile,

This comment thread is about retesting the knife; please stay on topic. If you have off-topic questions, please contact me in some other way.

Chris Halkides said...

Corpus vile,

This comment thread is about retesting the knife; please stay on topic. If you have off-topic questions, please contact me in some other way.

Anonymous said...
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corpus vile said...

Fair enough, my response to retesting on the knife is that the evidence phase is over, with their final appeal being argued on points of law only. I wll therefore refrain from commenting, exceept to point out that endlessly rehashing finished phases such as evidence will not help Knox nor Sollecito. Finding reversible flaws in Nencini's ruling otoh will. That said, I wish you luck with your analysis and debate.

Regarding my original question, If you wish to leave an email I can contact you privately if you wish, or I could contact you on Youtube perhaps?
While I'm aware my question is off topic, you... rather surprised me with your specific choice of historian is all, hence my wishing for clarification.
Always a pleasure,
Cheers.

Chris Halkides said...

Corpus Vile,

There is email contact information here at this blog, or you are welcome to use my university email address.

corpus vile said...

Cheers for the heads up, I'll give you a shout.

corpus vile said...

Hi Chris,
Email sent.

Anonymous said...

Professor Halkides

Can you confirm whether the exchange posted on PMF is an accurate record of the comments you deleted from this blog.

Chris Halkides said...

Anonymous at 3:57 PM,

I was asked to refrain from commenting at PMF. Yet, that would be the correct location for such a conversation, if all were agreeable. You are also welcome to send me an email.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Halkides said...

Please be civil to all who comment here. Lying about or misrepresenting what someone says is one type of incivility. If you are uncivil or if your comments are off topic, your comments may be deleted.

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