Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

rmattbill comments on The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom - Less Wrong

42 Post author: komponisto 13 December 2009 04:16AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (632)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: rmattbill 14 December 2009 06:21:07PM 11 points [-]

Hi Nick, While I appreciate that you don't seem to be one of the irrational Knox haters, your comments about the evidence contain a couple of errors, and the one that don't leave out some important facts which cast doubt on almost every single claim.

-Yes, Knox's DNA was founded mingled with Kercher's, but almost all of it was in the bathroom they shared. It would've been almost impossible NOT to find a few instances of their DNA mixed in such a small place, and a place where humans shed copious amounts of hair and skin cells, and even blood (shaving cuts, etc.).

-Not one shred of Knox's DNA was found in Kercher's room. The idea that she somehow managed to remove every microscopic shred of her DNA, while leaving Rudy Guede's behind, is completely implausible. This alone casts enormous doubt on the prosecution's theory. DNA in the bathroom simply proves Knox and Kercher lived together. A total lack of DNA in Kercher's room is compelling evidence she was not at the scene of the crime.

-No traces of bleach were found at the crime scene. Numerous rumors about bleach are clogging message boards all over the internet, including false stories about receipts which showed Knox buying bleach twice the morning after the murder, but those stories did not pan out and were not presented at trial. One witness emerged, seven months AFTER the murder, to say he saw Knox buy bleach in his store, but his co-worker said he was lying. This testimony must be treated skeptically, since no traces of bleach were found at the crime scene. The crime scene was extensively examined using Luminol, and in addition to revealing blood, Luminol illuminates trace amounts of bleach.

-The Albanian witness who says he says Knox and Sollecito with Guede is the only person to allege that the three knew each other, and his testimony at the trial was contradictory and underwhelming, to say the least. Throughout his interrogation and trial, Guede denied knowing Knox or Sollecito, and denied they were at the house. He knew what Amanda looked like, as he had twice visited the downstairs neighbors to play basketball, but didn't even know what Sollecito looked like.

-Knox and Sollecito had taken the mop to Sollecito's house to mop up water that had come from a broken pipe under the sink. Was any blood or DNA found on the mop?

-Whether or not the bloody footprint on the bath mat matches Sollecito or Guede is highly debatable. Another bloody footprint, found in Kercher's room, was a definitive match for Guede. Although people have posted claims about bloody footprints revealed using Luminol, those prints were left by sweat and oil, and tested negative for any trace of blood.

Briefly, on a few other points, the prosecution's fingerprint expert said it was not unusual that he didn't find usable prints for Knox in her own bedroom. There were lots of smeared prints (fingerprints, made by a tiny amount of oil on our skin, are easily disturbed), just no USABLE prints. Lots of smeared and partial prints is evidence the room was NOT wiped down, and he testified he saw no evidence of a wipe down.

Last, the so-called "fake" break-in is highly contentious issue and neither conclusion can be viewed as beyond doubt. The prosecution tried to say it's impossible to climb the wall (ignoring photos of a 40-year old Italian detective in dress slacks and dress shoes easily scaling the bars on the window below), but Judge Micheli dismissed them, noting that anyone in reasonable shape could've easily climbed into the window. Rudy Guede, who had committed at least three burglaries in the previous week, was 20 years old, and a former semi-pro athlete.

But again, I appreciate your rational approach to the evidence, and respect your opinion. It's nice to see someone on the internet talking about the evidence, and not just Knox's immature behavior.

Cheers, Matt

Comment author: Jack 14 December 2009 08:05:23PM *  4 points [-]

Rudy Guede, who had committed at least three burglaries in the previous week

Jeeze, how did I miss that. Do you have a link?

Edit: Also. New people! Welcome.

Comment author: rmattbill 14 December 2009 11:37:57PM 5 points [-]

Sorry, my post contained an error. It was three burglaries in five weeks, not one week.

This is from an article at the Daily Mail entitled "Amanda Knox: The Troubling Doubts Over Foxy Knoxy's Role in Meredith Kercher's Murder."

Here's the link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1234298/Amanda-Knox-The-troubling-doubts-Foxy-Knoxys-role-Meredith-Kerchers-murder.html

And the pertinent text from the article:

On September 27, 2007 - five weeks before the killing - Perugia bar tender Cristian Tramantano heard a noise downstairs in his home and found Guede wandering around with a large knife. Tramantano recognised Guede from his work in a nightclub.

There was a confrontation between the two, which ended when Guede ran away. On four occasions, Tramantano went to Perugia's central police station to report the break-in, identify Guede as the culprit and to detail how the intruder was armed and threatened him.

On each occasion, he says he was ignored and the police refused to log his complaint.

The following weekend, there was a break-in at an English-speaking nursery school in Milan in which 2,000 euros and a digital camera were stolen. The school owner, Maria Antoinette Salvadori del Prato, reported it to her local police station.

Three weeks later, on Saturday, October 27 - one week before the murder - Mrs Prato arrived at the school early in the morning with a locksmith to replace the front door, only to be confronted by Guede standing in the main entrance.

Police were called and Guede questioned. A stolen laptop, digital camera and ten-inch kitchen knife were found in his backpack.

But instead of being arrested and charged, Guede was merely escorted to Milan central railway station and placed on a train back to Perugia.

In the interim, on the weekend of October 13, there had been a break-in at the office of lawyers Paolo Brocchi and Luigi Palazzoli, in which a firstfloor window was smashed - similar to the break-in at Meredith's house. A computer and other items were stolen.

They were later found in Guede's possession, but he was not arrested or charged.

Comment author: zero_call 14 December 2009 11:46:00PM 2 points [-]

The Daily Mail is a British tabloid... frequently posting completely fraudulent information about football players, for example... check your sources friend...

Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 12:59:20AM 0 points [-]

The above quoted story was reported in more than just the Daily Mail. I will look for a few of the other articles.

Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 12:57:58AM 0 points [-]

I read three in the week leading up to the murder, as well. I should recheck that. But it is confirmed that he traveled with a 16 inch knife "for protection" and that he had various run-ins resulting in complaints to police that were ignored by the police.

Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 05:14:17PM 3 points [-]

For the most horrible information about Guede, read his journal. Not fun to read, as it is very dark, but reveals a telling psychological profile as well as shows his time line the night of the murder. His Skype conversation as well gives a lot of information.

On the other hand, if you read Raffaele's writing, it shows his innocence.

Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 12:29:12AM 0 points [-]

Yes... a huge fact that did not hit the headlines in any big way.

Comment author: Jack 15 December 2009 02:33:18AM 0 points [-]

I'm still waiting on non-tabloid verification. A quick look at the paper's wikipedia page yields a long list of successful libel suits.

Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 05:11:00PM 0 points [-]

Just one more comment. One more article, includes someone who knows Rudy who said he used cocaine.


Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 05:07:52PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 05:04:50PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: AnnaGilmour 15 December 2009 04:19:32PM *  0 points [-]

Sorry... I'm in the Pacific Time Zone... Just got back to the computer... I am looking into non Daily Mail/Mirror articles. Am at work, so have to look as I can. I do know it was part of the court record and that the kindergarten teacher testified and a police person might have as well. I am looking for something on the court record. Candace Dempsey of the Seattle Post Intelligencer was following that aspect of the case and wrote about it in her blog Italian Woman at the Table. Guede's criminal history is established as fact, as well as the police turning away reports about him.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 December 2009 09:42:15PM *  0 points [-]

Thanks for taking your time with your thoughtful and detailed response. I will go through each point in turn below. It's worth mentioning now that I don't actually mean to argue for or against the conviction specifically; rather I feel the prosecution case is significantly stronger than US media has generally reported. Also I'm neither a lawyer, phorensic scientist or logician, so I apologize in advance for any technical mistakes. I'm just trying to assess the information myself that's available on the internet and come to an informed opinion.

Certainly some of the evidence appears flawed: the bra clasp, the alleged murder weapon, the eye witness. But we do know that the Judge, and a panel of 19 legal experts, admitted these as evidence. I can't really comment on whether the blood trace on the knife, for example, is sufficient enough to admit the evidence; similarly whether the bra clasp can become contaminated. But the evidence was admitted, and strongly contested, consider and eventually accepted by the panel and the jury.

  • The DNA evidence: Firstly, I think the important point is that 4 blood samples from the bathroom were found with mixed Knox-Kercher DNA. From truejustice.org: " Yes, it does seem that the investigative methods were sloppy and not all samples may be reliable (I acknowledge that there are some problems with the prosecution’s case). But I have yet to read even one article where a reputable DNA expert can explain why sloppy police procedures would result in four separate mixed blood samples".

  • Also this site (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-05-24/will-dna-damn-amanda-knox-/), reporting on the Forensic biologist Patrizia Stefanoni testifying for 9 hours on the stand, notes "But perhaps more damning even than the knife was Stefanoni’s testimony that a mix of Knox’s DNA and Kercher’s blood was found on the floor in the bedroom of a third roommate, Filomena Romanelli [...] her window was broken with a large rock that prosecutors believe was used to stage a break-in. The mixed Knox-Kercher trace was found after investigators used luminol, a substance used in forensic science to bring out blood that had been cleaned up."

  • The bleach: The truejustice.org site has various mentions of use of bleach on the alleged murder weapon, shoes, and apartment (not crime scene), such as "A police officer who led a search of Sollecito’s apartment added weight to the prosecution’s assertion that the double DNA knife had been cleaned with bleach. He testified that he had been struck by 'the powerful smell of bleach'.". I agree this is far from damning evidence of a cleanup, and the lack of the recipe being produced at trial weakens this evidence substancially.

  • The Albanian witness: From the translation of the Micheli report, "Judge Micheli examines the evidence of Hekuran Kokomani and finds him far from discredited .. Hekuran Kokomani was in the vicinity of the cottage on both 31st Oct. and 1st Nov isn’t in doubt ... details which he gave of the breakdown of the car, the tow truck and the people involved weren’t known by anyone else.".

  • The police who found Knox and Sollecito at the crime scene were a different police force there on other business (the mobile phone/bomb hoax), so I assume at the time they didn't think much of it and so the mop wasn't detained as part of the crime scene. Sollecito said it was being used to mop up water that had come from a broken pipe under the sink; knox said it was to mop up water from the pasta spilt cooking the night before. Sollecito later sent an email saying they ate something other than pasta that night.

  • Your point that there were no bloody footprints that fit Knox/Sollecito doesn't match with what I'm reading from the report, including "bloody bare footprints which show up with luminol and fit Knox’s and Sollecito’s feet" by the front door, suggesting entry through that route, and "Bloody footprints made visible with luminol in Filomena’s room contain Meredith’s DNA". The source of this is all truejustice.org, but supposedly this is based on impartial translations of the freely available italian report. I have no other source to go on and don't speak Italian, do you think these are falsehoods? Are there alternative translations/summaries available?

  • Regarding the 'fake break-in', how did the defence respond to the claim that glass lay on top of clothes that had been disturbed during or after the attack?

  • Only final point, "Rudy Guede, who had committed at least three burglaries in the previous week", is there a source for this information?

Comment author: rmattbill 15 December 2009 07:35:41AM 5 points [-]

Two more tidbits re: Kokomani (from annebremner.com):

To give you an example of how absurd it got, Kokomani said that when Amanda was yelling at him, he noticed a wide gap between her front teeth. So the judge asked Amanda to smile, and she did. There is no gap between her front teeth.

Nor could Kokomani have had a beer with Amanda and her Italian uncle in July of last year, as he claimed in court, because Amanda was not in Italy at that time and she does not have an Italian uncle.

Comment author: rmattbill 15 December 2009 02:22:37AM 3 points [-]

Hi Nick,

Thanks for the response.

Regarding the bleach, no evidence was ever presented that anything had been bleached. This story took on a life of it's own after the phony receipts story began circulating. I believe the Judge blocked at least one officer from testifying that he smelled bleach, and was only allowed to say that Sollecito's apartment smelled "clean," because the bleach smell was not listed in the initial report, and was added later, after the false reports about the receipts.

Despite the deference True Justice shows for every bit of evidence that favors Knox's guilt, Kokamani's testimony was ludicrous. He claimed that when he saw Knox, Sollecito and Guede together, that Sollecito (a meek computer nerd by all acounts), punched him in the face, and that Knox whipped out a 16 inch (!!!) knife, and said "Come here you! I'll show you!" and that he escaped by hurling olives and a cell phone at her. His testimony contradicted his original statement on many key points, and he had been arrested on drug charges before his testimony.

Regarding the footprints, my understanding is that two bloody shoe prints were found. One in Kercher's room that matched Rudy Guede, and another on the bath mat in the bathroom, that was a partial. From everything I've read, the partial print in the bathroom is a mess. It's certainly hard to tell anything from the photos. At various points, the prosecution said it was Knox's, then Guede's, then Sollecito's. The defenses expert witness made a strong case that it was Guede's, but I don't think anyone can conclusively prove anything one way or the other because it's only a partial print.

The other footprints were revealed by Luminol, but what True Justice leaves out is that every single one (except for the two I mentioned above), tested negative for the presence of blood. If the footprints weren't bloody, they don't really say anything about the crime, especially since Knox and Sollecito admit to being in the house that morning, before the body was discovered.

There are two good papers on the footprints at friendsofamandaknox dot org. Of course they're biased in Amanda's favor, but not any more so than True Justice is in the other direction.

I'm not surprised that some of Kercher's blood was mixed with Knox's DNA in the bathroom, since Knox's DNA could've come from anything. If a drop of blood splashed onto a dead skin cell of Knox's, the result would've been DNA from both women in the drop of blood. And that doesn't take into account the sloppy (by U.S. standards) forensics work done by the Italian police who could've easily, and innocently, intermingled DNA which is, often, invisible to the naked eye.

This is apparently what happened with the bra clasp which was left sitting on the floor for 47 days, was moved several times by unknown persons, and contains the DNA of at least three other people (and those people are not Kercher, Knox, Guede, or the other roommates or their boyfriends). The DNA either belongs to police who were not following procedure, or was picked up in the lab due to improper handling.

In the crime scene photos, it doesn't appear there is any glass on top of the clothes, nor did the police present photos of such a thing at trial. One of the biggest misconceptions is that the glass was on top of Kercher's clothes in her room. If this is true, the intruder could hardly have ripped Kercher's clothes off before breaking in through the window, but in fact the clothes were in Filomena's room. She testified she didn't leave any clothes out, hence the claim the break in was staged. But Filomena also could be wrong, she certainly wouldn't be the first witness to misremember something. Also, Filomena was allowed into her room no less than three times before the police finally sealed it, so it's hard to say exactly how the clothes and glass were intermingled before they were disturbed. It's possible the break-in was staged, but given Guede's past burglaries, and Occam's Razor, it seems likely that Guede broke into the house. If the break-in was staged, the prosecution did not manage to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, at least not to my mind.

Last, I posted a separate comment with the link to the Daily Mail story about Guede's other break-ins.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 December 2009 04:26:36PM *  1 point [-]

You seem to be privy to a lot of information that I'm not, were you at the trial, or otherwise have better knowledge that the sourced information on the internet? Or is it from reading the 100-page Judge's report of the Guede case? I haven't heard before many of the things you've mentioned in your previous post. Also, some of the things seem to contradict what I've quoted above, a lot coming from the translation of Judge's summary. For example:

  • " I believe the Judge blocked at least one officer from testifying that he smelled bleach"

  • The specific details of Kokamani's testimony.

  • Information like " At various points, the prosecution said it was Knox's, then Guede's, then Sollecito's".

  • The papers on friendsofamandaknox don't give any sources. How do we know the information is good? I'm sure we could level the same criticism to truejustice.org, but many of the details they have linked to outside sources.

  • That the mixed DNA can easily be explained away, and DNA can be easily contaminated (there are various expert witnesses at the Guede trial who state otherwise)

  • That the bra clasp contained DNA of 3 other people.

  • "it doesn't appear there is any glass on top of the clothes", this contradicts what I've read from the Judge's report. You then go on to explain how glass could have got on top of the clothes (filomena allowed back in to the room), so I'm not sure which you are stating?

  • Regarding the Daily Mail story - as other posters have mentioned, the Daily Mail certainly isn't a reliable news source, unfortunately. And in general, even a well respected media source alone probably isn't good enough as a source, given how misreported the case has been (like the bleach receipt, the 14-hour interrogation, etc)

So again, I'm still not sure the truejustice.org summary of the Judge's document on the Guede case should be considered reliable, do you doubt some of the points? I'm using this to base a lot of my reasoning.

If it is an accurate summary, then it represents the decision of a large panel of law experts, that disagree with many of your arguments. So it seems either you are suggested (a) this translation Judge's summary is inaccurate, or (b) you disagree with the decision of the Judge and panel on many key points. If it's (a), I would certainly like to read a better translation. If (b), why do you think you are better qualified to make decisions on forensic evidence than a panel of legal experts?

I think in the end I will have to wait 90 days for the summary of the case to be made publicly available to make my own decision on the likelihood of guilt. There are still great disparages between the "pro" and "con" sites about what happened in the court room, and exactly what evidence was and was not presented in court. You seem to disagree with the Judge's decisions in the G case a lot (that the break-in was not faked; that the DNA evidence is unreliable; that the eyewitness testimony should not be admitted as evidence). What we do know is that the Judge, along with a large panel of legal experts, did in fact accept this evidence. Is it not reasonable (and rational) for me to accept the decisions of experts in the field?

Comment author: pete22 15 December 2009 05:57:40PM 1 point [-]

I'm with Nick -- there are very few primary sources available in English, and none of the stuff people are linking to, even the articles in mainstream media, seems like a completely reliable source to me -- especially on all these he said/she said issues of what evidence was actually adduced in court and if so whether it was effectively refuted.