Forensic Expert Witness Testifies in the Amanda Knox Murder Trial

by theexpertinstitute on November 14, 2013

A forensic expert witness will play a critical role in the re-opened case against Amanda Knox, shedding light on the evidence allegedly linking the young American to the 2007 murder of her former roommate, British student Meredith Kercher. Kercher was found in the Italian apartment she shared with Knox having died from 47 stab wounds, including a deep gash in her neck. Rudy Guede, an Ivorian man whose bloody fingerprints were found at the crime scene, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for Kercher’s murder. Yet, prosecutors allege that Guede was just an accomplice to the murder, and that Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito killed Kercher in what had begun as an erotic game (Guede admitted to having sexual relations with Kercher on the night of her death). Knox and Sollecito were acquitted of their alleged involvement in Kercher’s death. However, as Italy does not proscribe to the American rule prohibiting “Double Jeopardy” – the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution inherently prohibits trying a defendant following a legitimate acquittal verdict – the Italian Supreme Court was free to vacate the appeal. Italy’s highest court has remanded the case to reexamine previously untested DNA evidence found on the knife prosecutors allege is the murder weapon.

The knife in question, discovered in a kitchen knife drawer at Sollecito’s apartment, was introduced as the murder weapon because it matched Kercher’s wounds. In the initial 2009 trial against Knox, “prosecutors claimed the knife contained small traces of Kercher’s DNA on the blade, while Knox’s DNA was reportedly found on the handle.” Defense attorneys for Knox and Sollecito argued that “the DNA samples were too small to be trusted and were also cross-contaminated during police investigation.” Following a report from two forensic experts who concluded that “the correct international protocol for tests on small samples, called low copy number DNA analysis, had not been followed,” the Italian appeals court confirmed that the DNA analysis on the two samples was inconclusive and inadmissible.

In Knox’s third trial, forensic expert witnesses Andrea Berti found no trace of Kercer’s DNA on the suspected knife, even after using high-performance techniques and testing the knife twice to verify the accuracy of the result. This revelation “casts doubt on one of the key pieces of evidence that was originally used to convict Knox and Raffaele Sollecito of the killing.” Knox’s defense attorney Luca Maori stated that the expert witness testimony clearly indicates that the knife was solely used by Knox for cooking. Knox maintains that she stayed with Sollecito on the night of Kercher’s murder and had no involvement in her untimely death. Maori pointed out that “[i]t is absurd to use it for a murder and put it back in the drawer.” Another lawyer for Knox, Luciano Ghirga, stated that the expert witness testimony “‘pushes even further away the possibility that this was the murder weapon.’” Greg Hampikian, a forensic expert witness who was part of Knox’s defense team commented that despite the prosecution’s claim that Knox bleached the alleged murder weapon, “the knife recovered from Raffaele’s apartment not only did not have traces of human blood, but it had not been cleaned in the way the prosecution said.” Hampikian further notes that the court-appointed forensic experts only found potato starch on the knife blade. “It was a typical kitchen knife…It wasn’t well cleaned and it wasn’t used as a murder weapon.”

Related: Forensic expert discusses new investigatory method

The Supreme Court, in remanding the trial against Knox and Sollecito, “asked that the new trial focus on the motives of the murder and establishing if the defendants were present at the crime scene at the time of the murder.” In addition to hearing testimony from a forensic expert witness, the court will also hear fromLuciano Aviello, a man who claims that his brother killed Kercher who is currently on the run. The court is expected to issue a verdict in January, but even if Knox is found guilty, she may not be forced to serve time in an Italian prison “the U.S. government could find legal arguments, including the previous acquittal verdict, to oppose extradition…[and] Knox could attempt to block the extradition in American courts.”

Inna Kraner is the Managing Editor of The Expert Institute, an innovative company that connects plaintiff and defense attorneys with the world's preeminent experts. The Expert Institute utilizes the latest technologies and a proprietary search platform to streamline operations and deliver time-saving and targeted referrals to highly qualified expert witnesses.

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