Print on the Mat

[Orma sul tappetino, pp. 93 – 100; translated by roteoctober]

Starting on the afternoon of November 2, 2007, the Scientific Police, in the person of Giulia Brocci – a Lead Officer at the Questura of Perugia – carried out the [evidence] collection in the small bathroom, the one next to Meredith’s room, used by her and by Amanda.

Here Brocci (see page 100 of the ruling) found, among other things, a mat, which she described as “soaked in blood at a place where a shape, which morphologically appeared to be a foot, was impressed”.

According to Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni – biologist with the forensic genetic section of the Scientific Police in Rome – the traces of blood, analyzed from three samples, belonged to the victim (page 198 of the ruling).

On 05/12/2008, the Office of the Prosecutor of the Republic [la Procura della Repubblica] entrusted to Dr. Lorenzo Rinaldi – engineer, principal technical director of the State Police, director of three of the sections constituting the Identity Division of the ERT [Esperti Ricerca Tracce, “Trace Search Experts”] – and Chief Inspector of the Rome ERT Pietro Boemia the task of [preparing] a report [consulenza] which would have as its subject, among other things, the comparison of the footprints taken from the defendants (Sollecito, Knox and Guede) with the footprint detected on the mat and classified as Exhibit 9F, letter A. The ruling gives a detailed account of this technical investigation on pp. 361 et seq.

Therein we read that, among the various deposits of blood found on the mat, the one classified under letter A can be clearly distinguished. It is morphologically attributable to the print of a bare right foot, where the big toe, the metatarsus and a portion of the plantar arch can be seen, while the heel is completely missing.

According to the findings of the Public Minister’s consultants, this print presents the following measurements:

big toe: 33 mm wide and 39 mm long;
metatarsus: 99 mm wide and 57 mm long.

After a comparison with the footprint of Raffaele Sollecito, the consultants reached a verdict of probable identity.

In their opinion, in fact, the print on the mat shows in particular a notable similarity with Sollecito’s with respect to the important dimension of the big toe in width (30 mm for Sollecito’s, 33 mm the one on the mat) and in length (37 mm and 39 mm respectively).

The comparison was performed by superimposing on each reference print, and on the print found on the mat, a grid marked in centimeters known as the “L.M. Robbins Grid”, oriented in such a way as to make the vertical axis coincide with the right profile of the foot and the horizontal axis with the apex of the big toe.

When these measurements were done, the consultants discovered several more points of dimensional similarity between Sollecito’s reference footprint and the one on the mat:

plantar arch 40 mm vs 39 mm for the one on the mat;

widths of the metatarsus measured in different points: identical values of 99mm, 92 mm and 75 mm;

distance from the top of the big toe to a certain green point at the beginning of the plantar arch: 93 mm for Sollecito’s foot, 92 mm for the one on the mat.

The ruling has shown acceptance of the conclusions of the Rinaldi – Boemia report, despite their statement that the print on the mat, lacking highly characteristic features such as the details present on the papillary crests, is to be considered useful for negative matches but not for positive ones (ruling page 362). And [also] despite the fact that the same conclusions have been challenged in detail by the report for the Sollecito defense, prepared by Professor Vinci.

Again according to the ruling (from p. 376), the latter [Vinci] emphasized two morphological elements highly characteristic of Raffaele Sollecito’s right foot and clearly displayed in the reference print, taken on a sheet of paper after inking, namely the missing impression [appoggio] of the second toe (so-called “hammer” position [attegiamento] of that distal phalanx) depending on a slight valgus of the right big toe and the similarly missing impression of the distal phalanx of the first [i.e. big] toe, represented in the footprint in question by the noticeable absence of continuity between the big toe and the forefoot.

The ruling reports that according to Professor Vinci the print on the mat would present evidence of the impression of the second toe, in contrast to what was said above regarding the reference print taken from Sollecito. Which would lead one to calculate the length of the big toe no longer at 30 mm, as per Rinaldi and Boemia, but [instead] at about 24.8 mm.

The defense consultant reached this conclusion by pointing out the existence of a clear-cut gap [una netta soluzione di continuità] between the bloodstain attributable to the big toe and a much smaller stain which would constitute the print of the second toe.

We read in the ruling that Vinci applied the “Robbins” grid with a different methodology, putting the reference line (the zero point [origin] of the grid on the horizontal, with the whole forefoot above) just below the metatarsus, with the result that all the points of interest (for example, the top of the big toe, and the so-called hump, or the external right profile of the print on the mat) are out of place with respect to Sollecito’s foot.

The Court of first level (p. 379) held that it could not agree with the starting point of Professor Vinci’s reasoning, namely the detachment of that blood particle, the result of which is the drastic reduction of the width of the big toe on the mat.

In their appeal brief [atto di impugnazione], Raffaele Sollecito’s attorneys, using the results of the Vinci report, have criticized the conclusions of the first-level Court concerning the probable attribution of the print on the mat to the defendant [Sollecito], with arguments that are hereby reported together with their evaluation by this Court.

First of all, one cannot but acknowledge that the previous judge has totally avoided ruling on a point of great relevance, even after having accurately quoted Professor Vinci’s observations on the subject.

The latter had, thus, highlighted an obvious morphological peculiarity of Raffaele Sollecito’s right foot, namely the almost nonexistent impression of the distal phalanx of the first toe, represented by the relevant absence of continuity between the big toe and the forefoot, in the reference print taken through inking of the sole and subsequent impression [of the footprint] on a sheet of paper placed on a smooth surface.

The simple visual examination of the photos of the mat, present in the record and particularly in the Rinaldi – Boemia technical report, makes it clear that, on the contrary, in the print there [on the mat] affixed, the big toe and the metatarsus are merged in a single bloodstain.

Now, since the contact of the foot with the blood happened to occur on the floor of Meredith’s room, i.e. a flat rigid surface, the distal phalanx of Sollecito’s first toe, which does not press [poggia], could not have become stained and, hence, nor could it have left the trace, which is however clearly visible on the mat.

Again in terms of morphology, Professor Vinci also claimed that the print on the mat – unlike the one taken from Sollecito – shows the impression of the second toe’s distal phalanx.

Attentively examining the black and white images on pp. 26 and 27 of his report, one remains convinced of the validity [fondatezza] of his belief. One can indeed see a roundish trace beside the one attributable to the big toe and in a position slightly below the apex of the big toe itself.

We have already seen that the ruling disagrees with this “detachment operation” (as it is defined therein on p. 379), and on this subject we read that “the base of the fabric at the point under discussion (the terry cloth works out a noticeable doodle at that place [frazioncina]) shows that the blood stain is all-in-one along the whole curl and it is evenly tied to the other parts of the cloth where the big toe rested, which is why the demonstration that that particle would constitute the resting point of the second toe (missing in the morphology of Sollecito’s foot[print]) appears absolutely weak and unsatisfying”.

Except that if it were so, the big toe of the print on the mat would not have a strongly triangular shape, with a top much narrower than the base, like Sollecito’s, but a substantially quadrangular one.

Indeed, according to the claims of the first judges, the top should be the widest point of the big toe, so much so that they reason as follows (again on p. 379): “Finally, although one can agree that in calculating the width of the big toe (about 30 mm), a non-soiled point ended up being used, nevertheless the overall view of the mat makes it clear why this was done. And indeed ( e.g. photo 17 of the photographic appendix of the ERT, which shows the whole print on the mat) assuming that the small fraction under discussion is part of the top/dome of the big toe, the point 30 mm in width to the far right is placed along the line descending from that top, perpendicularly, without any widening”.

This stands in jarring and irredeemable contrast to what leaps out when one observes the reference print taken from Sollecito’s right foot, where the big toe shows a strongly triangular trend upward.

Consequently Vinci (p. 59) ruled out the appropriateness [correttezza] of the reference point used by Rinaldi and Boemia, placed by them well beyond the limits of the reddish color attributable to blood, which determined the shape of the big toe, just because they were convinced that the spot, in reality left by the distal phalanx of the second toe, was an integral part of the apex of the big toe itself.

If, however, we choose the actually-visible border [as reference], the cross-width of the big toe turns out to be 24.9 mm instead of 30 mm.

The Court of first level closes the subject with what we read on p. 380: “One fact appears, finally, to the Court as incontrovertibly established: the images of the mat themselves, proposed (by Professor Vinci, author’s note [H&Z]) in vivid colors with the Crimescope lighting device increase the confirmation of compactness of the dimension of the big toe (and also of the metatarsus) and enhance the perception of unity to the whole of that particle that one would have wanted to detach. The consequence is that one cannot consider viable the alternative version which would pretend to disprove or undermine the determination of probable identity previously formulated by the Scientific Police, whose reliability is somehow reinforced”.

This is, however, a sheer subjective impression, lacking any logic, much less technical – scientific, support, as such unequipped to overcome the objective fact stated shortly above.

But these are not the only morphological differences between the print on the mat and the defendant’s foot.

As we read on p. 45 of his report, Vinci had the footprints aligned, setting the base of the forefoot as reference-line, since it is very sharp and clearly visible on the mat in evidence, which allowed him to point out: the different resting-width of the first metatarsus; the different width of the whole forefoot “characterized in Sollecito’s footprint by the projection of the salience of the metatarsal-phalangeal articulation of the second toe beyond the first yellow reference line”; the different position of the apex of Sollecito’s big toe “which goes well beyond the second yellow reference line aligned to the apex of the big-toe trace visible on the print on the mat”. Finally, on p. 50 attention is drawn to the different axial inclination of the big toe between the print on the mat and Sollecito’s, and on p. 53 to the different position of all the toes.

The first-level ruling has completely failed not only to examine, but even merely to mention any of these points.

On the other hand, Rinaldi and Boemia themselves have objectively called attention, on p. 19 of their report, to some points of noteworthy dimensional discrepancy between the print on the mat and the reference print from Sollecito, moreover in conflict with their conclusion of probable identity.

The ruling has nothing to say about this aspect either.

To bring this subject to a conclusion, [this] Court finds the print impressed with Meredith’s blood on the mat to be of no evidentiary [indiziario] value against defendant Sollecito.

The circumstance, explained by the consultants of the Public Minister Rinaldi and Boemia themselves and quoted in the ruling, that it [the print on the mat] is useful only for negative and not for positive comparisons, the incontrovertible morphological differences with respect to the reference print taken from Sollecito, the dimensional differences asserted by Professor Vinci and those pointed out by Rinaldi and Boemia themselves, do not allow us to accept the first-level [Court’s] judgement of a probable identity between the two footprints.

At this point it is worth making some remarks [svolgere alcune considerazioni] on the possible ownership of the print on the mat.

One should thus mention the fact that the Police detected the presence of bloody [shoe] prints along the corridor that were easily visible and that, starting from Meredith’s room, “degraded towards the exterior, towards the main door and progressively faded becoming almost threadlike. There were, however, no visible bare footprints” (this in the ruling on p. 186).

These prints have been determined to have been all impressed by the left shoe of Rudy Guede (ruling, page 359).

Now, it has been ascertained that the print on the mat was left by a right foot.

Even without getting into comparisons, which are not the competence of this Court, appointed to deal only with Knox and Sollecito, it remains an open and indeed unexplored possibility that the print on the mat was impressed by Rudy Guede’s right foot.

In light of the different dimensional evaluation of the latter [print on the mat], based on the well-grounded findings of Professor Vinci, the dimensional elements of Guede’s foot are no longer incompatible with those left in Meredith’s blood on the fabric of the mat.

It cannot therefore be ruled out that Guede, after leaving the print of photo 104 on the pillow (ruling p. 359) and, perhaps, that of photo 105 (ruling pp. 366-367), experienced the loss of his right shoe in the course of the violent aggressive maneuvers to which he subjected Kercher, thus resulting in the soiling of his foot with blood, which he took it upon himself to wash in the small bathroom situated immediately to the left of the door to Meredith’s bedroom. Otherwise, his right shoe should also have left some kind of bloody trace along the corridor as he exited; he likely went through it, however, with his right food bare, even if cleaned of blood by this point.

Next: Prints Revealed by Luminol With Useful Biological Profile