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Amanda Knox: Italian forensic police defend work in murder appeal (video)

Amanda Knox is challenging her murder conviction in an appeals trial. But Italian police Tuesday said there was no contamination of the knife Amanda Knox and her boyfriend used to kill a British college student.

By ALESSANDRA RIZZOAssociated Press / September 6, 2011

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PERUGIA, Italy

An Italian forensic police expert – who conducted the original investigation in the case of American college student Amanda Knox – insists there was no contamination on crucial pieces of evidence linking Knox and her co-defendant to the murder of her British roommate.

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Patrizia Stefanoni examined DNA traces in the aftermath of the 2007 killing of Meredith Kercher. But her work was criticized by court-appointed experts, who have alleged glaring errors in evidence gathering and possible contamination, including on a knife considered the murder weapon (see video above).

Stefanoni told an appeals court Tuesday that she could rule out contamination on the knife, which she insists contained Kercher's genetic profile.

Patrizia Stefanoni was on the stand Monday and Tuesday as Knox's appeals trial resumed after the summer recess. A verdict is expected by the end of the month.

Knox and her co-defendant and one-time boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted of sexually assaulting and killing Meredith Kercher in the apartment that Knox and the 21-year-old Briton shared while studying in Perugia. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison; Sollecito to 25. Both deny wrongdoing and have appealed the Dec. 29 verdict.

An independent review of DNA traces in the case found that much of the evidence collected in the original investigation fell below international standards and may have led to contamination of the samples. The review especially focused on some traces of DNA linking the defendants to the crime, and concluded that due to the risk of contamination and the low amounts of DNA used for the testing it was impossible to extract a genetic profile with any certainty.

In the first trial, prosecutors maintained that Knox's DNA was found on the knife's handle and Kercher's DNA was found on the blade. They also say Sollecito's DNA was found on the clasp of Kercher's bra, mixed with the victim's.

Carla Vecchiotti, one expert questioned Monday over the extraction of DNA profiles from the bra clasp, said the data was so mixed that a very high number of genetic profiles could be extracted, depending how one combined the data.

"I could find yours, too," Vecchiotti told the presiding judge. "I'm there, too," she said, adding that some data was compatible with her own DNA. She said Kercher's profile was the only certain one.

The findings have boosted the defendants' efforts to be cleared and gain freedom after almost four years in prison.

Curt Knox, the defendant's father, said he was hopeful that the case was turning in his daughter's direction.

"The independent experts have done a very good job evaluating the information," he said. "I don't see it breaking down at this point. I see it's been good for Amanda and Raffaele."

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