Knox/Sollecito appeal: DNA experts granted more time, proceedings unaffected by Rapture

Amanda Knox and Maria Del Grosso

Amanda Knox and lawyer Maria Del Grosso in court today. Photo stolen from AP.

Today’s court hearing in the appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito seems to have been relatively undramatic. Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann agreed to an extension for the independent review of DNA evidence in the case, so that the court-appointed experts will now submit their findings by 30 June and appear in order to present them on 25 July. This seems like it was a foregone conclusion. Any other decision would very probably have served only as grounds for his castigation in the second appeal – under Italian law, it is almost certain that there will be a second appeal.

A sign of how little to get excited about happened today is Barbie Nadeau’s report for The Daily Beast. She dedicates the first third of her report to Amanda Knox’s understandable concern, expressed in court, that she isn’t left to stew over the summer months whilst everyone working on her case disappears to Capri for an extended period, in the traditional Italian fashion. I think it can safely be presumed that this fell upon deaf ears.

For those interested in the nitty-gritty, though, there were a couple of things that happened today that are worth jotting down. Firstly, the DNA experts, Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti, seem to have made a point of stressing that they have had everything they need and have had full co-operation from the police. Although it also seems that they got some of what they were asking for only recently, I’m interpreting this as a more-or-less direct refutation of comments made recently in the media by Curt Knox, Amanda’s father, in which he has claimed that police are withholding crucial data. It seems that the dog hasn’t eaten anyone’s homework after all.

It also emerged that the additional documentation the experts have asked permission to consider relates to the retrieval and handling of the knife alleged to have been used by Amanda Knox to stab Meredith Kercher. It’s interesting, but not surprising, that they want to look at this information. It would seem they must be interested in establishing whether or not there was a possibility of contamination of this evidence between the time it was first identified and the time it was tested in the lab. It shouldn’t be assumed, though, that this must therefore be a pivotal matter in the review. I think Conti and Vecchiotti will be examining and reporting on a whole range of aspects. Knowing what one of those is doesn’t make anything else old news.

The other noteworthy event today was the agreement that defence lawyers have been granted permission to present testimony from five prisoners, and potentially a sixth, who claim they know the real – “inside”, as it were – story of Meredith Kercher’s murder. The Italian media seem to be finding this highly significant, but I’m not so sure. The trouble is that, between the five potential new witnesses, there seem to be three completely different stories. The first one is what the defence has claimed all along: Knox and Sollecito’s co-accused, Rudy Guede, committed the murder alone. Then there is an alternative version in which Kercher was murdered by a fugitive Mafioso. The third version seems to posit that Kercher was such a monumental drug addict that, within a couple of weeks of her being in Perugia, some as yet unnamed person put a hit out on her for her unpaid debts.

It seems obvious to me that this is the type of evidence that is likely to undermine itself without the prosecution having to say a word. Will these various stories give the judges pause for thought, or will they simply note that convicted criminals may sometimes say all manner of things for who-cares-what reason? Yes, that is a rhetorical question. In fairness, though, I do not get the impression that defence lawyers imagine that these witnesses will change any games. They have already said that they “do not attach particular significance” to one of the witnesses and that the reliability of another “is for the court to decide, not us“.

It is always possible that one of the stories will ring true when it gets its day in court but, for now, I feel I have to wonder whether the defence lawyers are just diligently clutching at straws.

Given that, at the start of the day, it was a real possibility that someone may have been Raptured during the course of proceedings, I’m slightly disappointed that today’s hearing doesn’t seem to have thrown any particular light on the facts of the case. Leave a comment if you know different.

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6 Responses to Knox/Sollecito appeal: DNA experts granted more time, proceedings unaffected by Rapture

  1. RoseMontague says:

    Not a very exciting day from what I have seen. I wonder if the defense team was also provided copies of what the experts received?

    I wanted to mention that both Vogt and Nadeau have the quote from the experts as “calling for maximum collaboration” not saying that they had “received maximum cooperation” (it looks like the Italian word in the TGcom article is collaborazione). In any case, somebody has this quote wrong.

    I still can’t see the strategy with these prison witnesses as being a good one for the defense at this point. From what I gather Monica testified on police evidence collection rather than the previous issue of the disco buses. Amanda sounds very frustrated with the constant delays.

    • Hammerite says:

      I would be surprised if both the defence and prosecution were not witnesses to any material used by the court appointed independent experts in their testing, review and report. Lengths have been gone to since Hellmann commissioned this review to ensure that representative experts from all sides were present for all testing etc of the items under review.

      My understanding therefore is that all of the parties will arrive at the court presentation date (+ 40 day extension) already fully informed and advised of the contents and the results of the independent experts report.

      Transparency seems to be as high a priority here as accuracy and precision IMO.

  2. Peggy Ganong says:

    Here is a translation (by Yummi, a native speaker of Italian, edited by me) taken from La Nazione and reporting on Saturday’s courtroom proceedings:

    Meanwhile, this morning in the courtroom the experts explained that they had obtained all the scientific data they required.

    The new deadline for the reports was set by the judges at the request of their own experts, who a few days ago had requested a 40-day extension in order to respond to all questions.

    They stressed the need to consult the report on the seizure of the knife and the testimony submitted for the first trial, the written reports from the investigators who conducted the evidence collection at Sollecito’s domicile.

    The Court has now ordered that these documents be submitted to the experts.

    Addressing the judges, one of the experts stressed that “maximum cooperation” had been provided by the forensic police who performed the technical analysis during the investigation.

  3. RoseMontague says:

    The only reason I pointed out the Italian word for collaboration (collaborazione) is that is the word used by both Nadeau and Vogt in their quote (collaboration vs cooperation (cooperazione). There is not a big difference in the meaning but the rest of the quote is different. So which version makes more sense?

    The judge had to prod Stefanoni to hand over the info which the experts just got a few days before the hearing. They are now asking for some more information and it would make sense that they ask that there are no delays with this as there was the first time around. I believe that they were calling for maximum collaboration with their new request and not thanking Stefanoni for maximum cooperation on the old one.

    It is certainly possible both Vogt and Nadeau got it wrong, it has happened before with much of the coverage of this case. However it makes sense that they got this one correct.

    • maundy says:

      Collaboration? Co-operation? Let’s call the whole thing off.

      I think what probably makes most sense is that both things were said in court (ie “We’ve had full colloperation and we want that to continue”). But I guess its impossible to be sure without the direct quote. I don’t think it matters a great deal. Clearly, the work of the experts isn’t being impeded.

      I don’t think it’s very clear that “the judge had to prod Stefanoni” is justified. We don’t know that. We know that the defence selectively leaked a memo from her to the judge in which she queried the need for certain info and couldn’t provide it anyway until someone told her specifically what it was. She probably exchanged dozens of messages with the judge, but I don’t think its a big deal.

  4. AFP had an interview with Carlo Dalla Vedova about two days ago. Two quotes:

    “‘The experts asked the forensic police to hand over information essential to their report on the DNA. They still haven’t received it and will therefore request a 40 days extension,'” Carlo della Vedova, Knox’s lawyer, told AFP on Saturday.

    “‘But they need the raw data they have asked for from the police to do so. We first asked for it in 2009 and it’s still not been handed over,’ he said.”

    Taking these two pieces of information together with some leaked information, I conclude that the defense never got the files and that the two independent experts have only recently received them.

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