Letter to NYT re: op-ed on one aspect of Perugia case

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March 28, 2013 by AK

Here’s the text:

The authors of “Justice Flunks Math” (March 26, 2013) misrepresent
facts of the case and Judge Hellmann’s reasoning. He could not order
new tests as court-appointed independent experts determined there was
no DNA available for testing. Here’s the story: In 2008 a
prosecution-appointed expert analyzed DNA samples taken from the blade
of an alleged murder weapon, a kitchen knife. No blood was detected
but the expert claimed the victim’s DNA was present. In 2011, two
court-appointed experts, professors at Rome’s Sapienza University,
concluded the original DNA analysis had been fundamentally flawed on
several levels. In addition, basic rules for the inspection,
collection and sampling of DNA were broken, leading to possible
contamination, a common problem with low copy number DNA profiling.
The independent experts attempted to obtain more DNA from the knife
for retesting, but concluded the new samples would be useless even
with the most advanced technology.

End of letter. I would also add (I was limited to 150 words) that the prosecution’s expert not only bungled the tests; not only did so knowingly – she didn’t follow the rules for LCN DNA testing; but also refused to turn over the raw files to the defense when ordered by the appellate judge. She pretty much defied an order from a judge. In the US, the judge would probably cite her for contempt and threw her pseudoscience out of the case.

I didn’t know when I wrote the letter that one of the op-ed’s authors was a contributor to a forum of Knox-haters. The mother and daughter penned a book, but if it’s as error-dense as this little op-ed, I don’t see how it can add much value to our understanding of crime. As for the math, I don’t have a problem with it. I got a pretty decent education in math, from one of Soviet Union/Russia’s best universities; my degree is rusty, almost 20 years old, but I’m probably still better in math than 95% of people in any country. 


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