Prints Revealed by Luminol With Useful Biological Profile

[Impronte evidenziate dal luminol con profilo biologico utile, pp. 100-106; translated by roteoctober]

It was during the second inspection at the cottage at Via Della Pergola 7, carried out by ERT [Esperti Ricerca Tracce – Trace Search Experts] Scientific Police on the date of 12/18/2007, that aspersion with luminol was performed of the floor of the corridor, the kitchen/living-room, the bedrooms of Amanda Knox and Filomena Romanelli, and  the larger bathroom.

Chief Inspector Ippolito took photographs of the traces of bare footprints – detected only in the corridor/living room and in Amanda Knox’s bedroom. While taking the pictures he did not use fluorescent metric ribbons, which would have been useful for the subsequent measurement of the photographed footprints (ruling page 369).

The first-level ruling reports on these traces [footprints] (Exhibits 176 to 184) on pp. 303 et seq., specifically concerning those testing positive on genetic investigations, and also on pp. 370-373 on those which, in the absence of genetic findings, were submitted to morphological and dimensional examinations.

The prints are of bare feet, detected in Romanelli’s room (176 and 177), in Knox’s room (178, 179, 180), in the corridor (184, rectius [Latin: “more correctly”] 183).

According to the indications in the SAL [Stato Avanzamento Lavori, “State of Work Progress”] files of the genetic lab of the Scientific Police,  the generic test for blood was performed on these footprints, which gave a negative response.

The genetic investigations, conducted by Dr. Stefanoni, biologist of the Scientific Police, gave the following results: 176 trace of Meredith; 177  mixed trace of Meredith and Amanda; 178, 179, 180, biological profile of Amanda, 184 (rectius 183)  mixed genetic profile of Meredith and Amanda.

During the first-level trial, Dr. Sarah Gino, consultant for the defense, stressed that the quantity was compatible with low-quantity DNA (low copy number), that the analysis had not been repeated to validate the result and that peaks were present, which had not been considered, that could show the presence of other contributors. She also posed the problem of contamination — of non-authenticity of the traces — and consequent irrelevance of the traces themselves.

The ruling, though noting that the number of substances reacting to luminol is rather large, gave arguments [purporting] to rule out (p. 304) that the material covering the floor of the house on Via Della Pergola had such a quality.

It assessed as improbable the possibilities suggested regarding specific substances, stating (p. 305): “one would have to hypothesize that one of those substances (certain vegetables, fruit juice, rust, bleach…) had been on the floor where the luminol test was performed, and, present on the date of December 18…would have been affected by some biological trace that placed itself on one of those luminol positive substances, a biological trace originating from Amanda and in two cases also from Meredith”.

Specifically concerning bleach, though noting the likelihood that such a product had been aspersed everywhere in the house during ordinary cleaning, the ruling concluded that, in actuality, “it cannot be known when and by whom such a pervasive and extensive cleaning involving the various rooms was carried out. Moreover, nobody entering the house claimed to have noticed the smell of bleach…Furthermore, had bleach been applied in the whole house, in a cleaning operation involving the various rooms, many more luminol positive traces than those found should have been detected”.

The ruling thus concluded that the footprints had necessarily been left in Meredith’s blood, trodden on by Knox in the murder room and then transported by her into the other parts of the house.

The belief of the first-level Court has been contested by Knox’s defense and faces insurmountable contradictions, both logical and factual.

First and foremost, the certain, true fact is that the generic blood test gave a negative result. According to the [first] Court this happened because of the scarcity of the available biological material, but the consultant for the defense, Professor Tagliabracci, specified, without being refuted (hearing of July 18 2009, p. 174), that the tetramethylbenzedine (TMB) test is very sensitive, so much as to give a positive result even with only five red blood cells present. Dr. Stefanoni herself, moreover, clarified (preliminary hearing of October 4 2008) that, while a positive test result could be deceptive due to reactivity of the chemical [evidenziatore] with other substances, a negative result gives certainty that no blood is present.

Secondly, given that there are bleaches without smell or even perfumed – in any case luminol reacts to other cleaners too – it is not impossible to presume who may have performed the cleanings of the house. Four girls lived together in the apartment, and it appears reasonable to surmise that they, possibly in turns, accomplished the task [provvedessero alla bisogna], the more so since the house was visited by other people as well, friends or boyfriends as they might be, and so was even more subject to getting dirty.

The limited number of footprints detected can be explained by treading at different times and by the use of bleach on points specifically dirty.  After all, doubts similar to those raised in the ruling could be brought up even supposing that the traces are of blood: why only in those few points, moreover not consecutive and instead spread in various rooms?

The ruling arrives at an unlikely explanation (p. 306): Amanda “with bare feet, washed of Meredith’s blood, but under which there should still have remained blood residue, went to her room, to Romanelli’s room and passed by the corridor and in some places of the room, where she walked, she left the traces that were detected”.

The paradox of an inaccurate foot-washing aside, what remains without an explanation is the fact that the traces were not left one after the other starting from the door of the small bathroom – moreover, about this issue see below – but instead just one in the corridor, at the wall dividing Meredith’s room from Amanda’s room (hence a few steps away from the bathroom); two even further away in Romanelli’s room; three in Amanda’s room.

[This is an] even more valid consideration  in light of the serious contradiction in the ruling, where (pp. 408 and 409) it assumes that, instead, the footprints were left by Amanda with blood soaked feet and that she would have washed them only later.

Conscious of the weakness of its theory, the ruling takes for granted (p. 413) that a clean-up was carried out. It reaches such certainty considering that the foot which left the print on the mat could have arrived there only through steps that should have left other, even more obvious prints on the floor.

Even neglecting to consider that, as has been seen, the footprint on the mat has been attributed to Raffaele Sollecito and not to Amanda, the explanation for the incongruity highlighted by the Court can be found in the statements of Amanda herself, who said that she took a shower the following morning and that she went back to her room dragging the mat with her bare wet feet, which was then put back in its place. Confirmation of this has been given by Professor Vinci, who examined and photographed the mat, revealing that it showed bloodstains on the bottom, which did not correspond to those on the upper side (p.37 of his report).

Beside which, the occurrence of a clean-up is negated by the sheer number of traces found in the house.

To overcome this objection, the first-level Court goes as far as stating that during the clean-up the shoeprints were purposefully spared, in order to direct suspicions toward others (p. 416). But awareness that the owners of those shoes, once identified thanks to those same prints, could have then made a devastating accusation of complicity [chiamata di correità], would certainly have deterred from such an aim. Much better would have been to erase everything. Furthermore, many more bloodstains were found in that bathroom that were not cleaned, as will soon be discussed.

To finish with this matter of a clean-up, contradicted by logical and factual arguments, one must finally consider that no bloodstained cloths were found either on Via Della Pergola or at Sollecito’s apartment (the ruling does not deal at all with this), materials that, according to the decision, would have been bought by Amanda in the early morning of November 2 at Quintavalle’s shop. This witness, however, aside from the reliability of his account, ruled out having seen Ms. Knox making any purchase, much less of that kind – as we have already seen.

Another important circumstance remains unexplained as well: only two traces contain a Meredith – Amanda mixed profile, Exhibit 176 [recte 177] in Romanelli’s room and Exhibit 183 in the corridor. The others can be attributed to Amanda alone, and Exhibit 176, left in Romanelli’s room, even to Meredith alone. If the first-level Court’s explanation were plausible, they should all contain a mixed profile, or, at least, that of only Meredith as well.

With a little common sense, however, it is useful to remember that the girls lived together in that house, that they were all friends, and who knows how many times they went up and down barefoot in the various rooms, as often young people do, leaving their traces here and there, even superimposing them by chance, probably on bleach, but without excluding some other possibilities, such as a stain of fruit juice or of vegetable stock.

Indeed – as already recalled above – Dr. Stefanoni (pp. 221 and 228) has acknowledged that it is not possible to date the moment when DNA is released, nor to establish the chronological order in which multiple traces were left, even one above the other.

In this respect, then, it must be considered that footprint 183 was collected near [in corrispondenza di] a shoeprint of Guede directed towards the exit, so that this could have been the one to contaminate Amanda’s DNA with Meredith’s.
And also concerning contamination, the Police conducted search operations in the rooms of the house before December 18, the day when luminol was employed, and an accidental dragging of genetic material may have occurred.

But the beliefs of the first-level Court in terms of genetics cannot be accepted either.

According to Dr. Gino, consultant for the Knox defense, the DNA in those traces is apparently of low quality (low copy number), therefore requiring repetition of the analyses.

In the ruling, we read that the credibility and reliability of the analysis derives from the good quality of the instruments, the fact that the latter are subjected to prescribed maintenance, and the correctness of the methodology. It is furthermore verified by the fact that the results are not isolated: the trace with a mixed Meredith – Amanda profile appeared twice, while the one relating to Amanda alone, four times.

In actuality, the quality of the instruments is of no help when the quantity of DNA is insufficient to give reliable results. On this matter, the Conti-Vecchiotti report, commissioned by this Court, has made it clear that below 200 pg, the interpretation of the result is ambiguous and, at any rate, it is necessary to repeat the quantification of the DNA, and also to proceed to multiple confirmatory analyses.
In the case of the footprints detected with luminol this healthy and correct practice was not or could not be utilized: this is enough in order not to find any certainty in the results.

To conclude on this subject: the footprints in question, in the opinion of this Court, have no evidentiary [indiziario] value against Amanda Knox.

Next: Prints Revealed by Luminol Without Useful Biological Profile