I don’t know why it should take an act of the Legislature to get thousands of DNA samples from Rape Kits tested, but that’s apparently what it takes. Our own Senator from Southwest Florida, Lizbeth Benacquisto (R, Lee and Charlotte Counties), has sponsored a bill to expedite the process, and the bill has now passed the Criminal Justice Committee, an early step in the process of becoming a law. Kudos to Ms. Benacquisto, and AG Pamela Bondi, who has also made it a point to see that these rape kits get tested in the name of justice.
It remains to be seen how long it takes the state to catch up to the backlog of kits, numbering over 13,000 at one point. In addition to Bondi’s urging, Governor Scott has also pushed for money to get the kits tested. It’s a shame that it still has not happened, and Senator Benaquisto has taken real action to see that happen.
See previously: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/shocking-florida-has-more-than-11000-rape-kits-left-untested/
Gov. Rick Scott
Rick Scott has requested $8.5 million to increase the FDLE budget to try to address the backlog of untested DNA kits in Florida evidence lockers. And he’s not the first to bring this matter to attention, Attorney General Pam Bondi has also pushed to get the backlog of DNA kits tested. This has been front page-level news for weeks now, and it’s time to get something done to pursue our most violent offenders. I applaud Governor Scott for moving this funding request forward and urge anyone involved to get it done quickly.
The concern is real: I had a client that was recently the victim of an attempted murder. A violent criminal fired into his bedroom window, and his girlfriend was gravely injured. Fortunately she is recuperating, but only after multiple surgeries and weeks in a wheelchair. I spoke to the Detective handling the case, who has a good idea of who did it, and will have a strong case, once the DNA evidence is tested. It has been submitted, but it has now been sitting for months in the DNA backlog. That means a violent madman with a gun is still running around at large because the FDLE hasn’t gotten around to testing the DNA evidence that was collected. That’s unacceptable. Meanwhile, the jail is full of non-violent offenders who can’t afford to bond out. It’s time to get our priorities straight.
Raffaelle Sollecito, the former boyfriend of Amanda Knox, who was also charged with the murder of Meredith Kircher, made a spontaneous declaration in court this week of his innocence. He and Knox are currently being retried in the case, after their convictions were thrown out on appeal. Italian law allows for such declarations, without making the defendants subject to cross-examination. One of the key issues is that the knife investigators believe to be the murder weapon was retested for DNA, and revealed no DNA for Ms. Kircher. It did reveal DNA for Amanda Knox, which was not a surprise since she had used it to prepare food. The government has no concrete evidence tying Knox or Sollecito to the crime, just the statement of Knox, which is demonstrably inaccurate. A man named Rudy Guede was convicted separately for his role in the killing, and he is serving a prison sentence. The retrial will continue, probably for several weeks.
I did not realize the distinction between “low-template DNA” and the full DNA profiles that are generally considered to be extremely reliable. The so-called LTDNA profiles can be generated from a few cells, but often do not have enough material to build a reliable profile. While the reliability of DNA testing is well-known, and generates a high level of confidence, the distinction between those reliable profiles and the LTDNA profiles has not been publicly covered as much. People hear DNA evidence, and they jump to conclusions where there are wildly differing types of DNA evidence.
David Balding, a researcher in London, has developed new software to evaluate the reliability of LTDNA. Geneticist Peter Gill says that implementation of this type of evaluation is long overdue. He says that methods to evaluate and interpret LTDNA currently in use are ineffective. Such evidence may be excludable in U.S. courts if it does not meet the reliability standard to be admitted into evidence.The difficulty in providing a full profile, coupled with the possibility of contamination affect the probabilities of accuracy in determining identification. DNA contamination, due to a poorly handled crime scene, was one of the issues that caused the murder convictions against Amanda Knox and Rafaelle Sollecito to be overturned. Balding’s software indicates that it was very unlikely that Amanda Knox was at the scene of the crime in this case.
As the case is headed for retrial, there is time for there to review the reliability of the DNA and/or LTDNA evidence and its implications on Knox’s guilt or innocence. Hopefully, only evidence that is scientifically reliable will be considered in the final determination on the case.