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article imageRenowned UK DNA pioneer Peter Gill adds voice to Amanda Knox case

By Bruce Fischer     Aug 15, 2014 in Crime
Dr. Peter Gill has taken on the task of analyzing the disputed DNA evidence in the Meredith Kercher murder case, providing his expert opinion in his new book titled “Misleading DNA evidence: reasons for miscarriages of justice.”
Meredith Kercher was a college student murdered on November 1, 2007, in Perugia, Italy. Three people were tried and convicted for the murder, Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Guede. Knox and Sollecito were exonerated on appeal in October of 2011. Guede’s conviction was confirmed by the Italian Supreme Court and he is currently serving a lenient 16-year sentence.
In March of 2013, the Italian Supreme Court overturned the acquittals of Knox and Sollecito and ordered the case back to the appellate level. In January of 2014, the appeals court in Florence, Italy, reinstated the guilty verdicts for both. Knox and Sollecito have appealed the Florence verdicts to the Italian Supreme Court. A decision is not expected until late this year or early next.
The final chapter of Dr. Gill’s new book highlights the DNA evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito. Gill finds that contamination is most likely to blame for the disputed forensic evidence.
A large kitchen knife retrieved from Sollecito’s kitchen drawer and Kercher’s bra clasp, an item that was not collected from the crime scene until 46 days after the initial investigation took place, are the two key pieces of evidence in the case.
With respect to the low template DNA profile of Kercher that the prosecution attributed to Sollecito’s kitchen knife, Dr. Gill wrote: “this is the kind of profile I would expect to observe, if it had originated from a contamination event.”
Dr. Gill’s professional opinion on the knife correlates with Profs. Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti of the University of Rome. Conti and Vecchiotti analyzed the DNA evidence at the request of the court during Knox and Sollecito’s successful appeal. Conti and Vecchiotti concluded that contamination could not be ruled out because recommendations of the international scientific community regarding Low Copy Number (LCN) samples were not properly followed when testing the knife.
With respect to the collection of the bra clasp, Dr. Gill wrote: “There is strong evidence to show that the failure of investigators to change their gloves in between handling items and potentially touching door handles is high risk, giving credibility to the defense proposition that Sollecito’s DNA was transferred as a result of cross contamination.” Dr. Gill goes on to say that the principle of cross transfer mediated by latex gloves is demonstrably high risk.
Sollecito visited the residence on several occasions, so finding his DNA would be no surprise. In fact, Sollecito was present at the residence shortly before Kercher’s body was discovered. Sollecito attempted to break down Kercher's locked bedroom door, due to growing concerns for Knox’s missing roommate. Two of Sollecito’s fingerprints were found on the outside of Kercher’s door. Investigators most likely made contact with that door multiple times during the course of their investigation. Dr. Gill’s observation that they did so while wearing dirty gloves certainly raises legitimate concerns regarding contamination.
Dr. Gill also analyzed the DNA that was present in the bathroom of the residence that was shared by Knox and Kercher. Three samples in the bathroom showed Knox's DNA mixed with Kercher's blood. With respect to the mixed samples, Dr. Gill wrote: “There was little consideration about the preexisting background levels of DNA that would be present. Knox and Kercher shared the premises—their DNA will be everywhere."
Dr. Gill’s observations suggest that Knox’s DNA was residual DNA, not related to the crime. The killer most likely used the bathroom to clean up after the murder. In the process, Kercher’s blood was deposited on surfaces where Knox’s residual DNA was already present.
Dr. Gill’s observations clearly suggest that the DNA evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito was not reliable, making this case an excellent selection for his new book.
Dr. Peter Gill is a world renowned DNA expert. Dr. Gill is a coauthor of the 1985 paper in Nature that introduced forensic DNA testing. After spending many years at the Forensic Science Service, Dr. Gill became professor of forensic genetics at the University of Oslo. He is chair of the DNA commission of the International Society of Forensic Genetics, and he has published more than 180 peer-reviewed papers. John Butler, the author of a respected textbook on DNA profiling, wrote: “In my opinion, over the past three decades no one has done more to advance forensic DNA analysis and interpretation than Peter Gill.”
More about Amanda knox, Peter Gill, Meredith kercher, Raffaele sollecito, Dna evidence
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