Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Comodi asks for common sense

Posted by Jim Lovering a.k.a. Charlie Wilkes

The prosecution has now presented its closing arguments in the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. I won't even try to address the assault on reason unleashed by prosecutor Giuliano Mignini. His brand of lunacy is worthy of Dickens, or Melville, or perhaps Dr. Seuss.

I can more easily come to grips with Mignini's sidekick, Manuela Comodi. Her opinions bear on pedestrian matters. In last Saturday's Seattle PI, Andrea Vogt gave us a taste of Comodi's thinking:

[Comodi] defended the work of police biologist Patrizia Stefanoni and other police forensic investigators and appealed to jurors to use common sense when considering the reliability of defense consultants' testimony.

"At the scene of the crime there is a footprint made in blood on the bathmat and Knox and Sollecito's footprints made in blood on the floor," Comodi said. "and these were supposedly made at some different time because they stepped in bleach or rust or fruit juice? It's up to you to decide."

Common sense, eh? OK, Ms. Comodi, let's apply common sense to these "footprints made in blood." Except for the one on the bathmat, which obviously fits the shape of Rudy Guede's foot and big toe, they weren't visible to the naked eye. Nor were they confirmed to have been made with blood. They were detected and photographed with the aid of luminol, a chemical that glows for a few seconds if it reacts with blood, or the rust found in tap water, or certain types of soil, or various household cleaning products, or many other substances.

Altogether, there were six latent bare footprints, three in the hallway, three in Amanda's room, and none in Meredith's room. Each was swabbed and tested for DNA, and not one of them revealed Meredith's DNA. Is it common sense, therefore, to conclude that they were made with her blood?

Is it even possible they were made with her blood?

Let's look at where the hallway footprints were found, starting with Rep. L9 in the above illustration. Rep. L9 corresponds to the blue blob pictured below. The prosecution's footprint consultant, Lorenzo Rinaldi, attributes it to Amanda.

It is just outside the door to Meredith's room, a single footprint, all by itself, with the toes pointed toward that room. It's also adjacent to the bathroom Amanda and Meredith shared.

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that this footprint really has something to do with the murder, and that it was made with Meredith's blood. What transpired to produce it? What criminal scenario are we supposed to imagine when we heed the Comodian call for common sense? Did Amanda step in blood in Meredith's room and then hop backward into the hallway to deposit this solitary print, which she then mopped up, but not thoroughly enough to prevent its detection with luminol?

Now look at rep. L6-L7. That label denotes a pair of blue blobs: two right footprints, side-by-side. They are outside the door to Amanda's room, oriented parallel to the run of the corridor, with the toes pointed toward the kitchen.

According to Rinaldi, the right footprint on the right was made by Raffaele. He doesn't say how or why, but that's OK. We'll simply uncork another bottle of Umbrian common sense and assume that Raffaele hopped on his left foot from Meredith's room to the spot where he put down his right foot, leaving a bloodstain which he then mopped up, but again, not thoroughly enough.

But where did the other right footprint come from? Whose is it?

While we ponder those questions, let's take a look at Rep. 2 and Rep. 3. Those labels correspond to a different kind of evidence — one that doesn't require luminol. They mark visible blood traces having the distinctive tread pattern of Rudy's athletic shoes. The box for those shoes was found in Rudy's apartment. He has admitted he wore them on the night of the murder and threw them into a dumpster after he fled to Germany.

And there were more of these prints, inside Meredith's room and in the corridor. The photo below, made from police video, shows how they continue toward the front door. We don't have to imagine people hopping on one foot. These markers show the trail of blood that Meredith's killer left when he made his exit. Rudy's shoe prints are part of a pattern of evidence that also includes Rudy's DNA inside the victim's body and Rudy's bloody fingerprints on a pillow inside the room where the murder took place.

This murder was senseless and brutal, but it was not complicated. The evidence — the real evidence, as opposed to random forensic artifacts that could have a dozen perfectly innocent explanations — shows that Rudy acted alone. He broke in, he robbed Meredith, he raped her, he killed her, he cleaned up in the bathroom, and he ran away. That is what happened on the night of November 1, 2007. Everything else is a malicious fantasy that needs to be shot down before it ruins two innocent lives.

If you want common sense, Ms. Comodi, there it is.