BOISE -- A key component of the appeal process that set Amanda Knox free began at Boise State University.
Dr. Greg Hampikian, professor of forensic biology and director of the Idaho Innocence Project, played a key role in the analysis of the DNA that was at the center of Knox's appeal. After his team reviewed the DNA evidence Italian prosecutors used to convict Amanda Knox, he came to the conclusion that Knox was innocent.
The DNA evidence was so clear to me that one man did this, Rudy Guede, said Hampikian. All of the evidence pointed to him it was so obvious. Everything in that room that had to do with the murder had his DNA on it.
Hampikian said by chance he began looking at the DNA evidence in the Amanda Knox case two-and-a-half years ago.
I was trying to study how DNA evidence is used in other countries, and when I looked at the data, I was appalled, said Hampikian.
The DNA evidence in question was found on a knife, the alleged murder weapon and the only piece of evidence that tied Knox to the crime.
But after a closer look, Hampikian determined the trace amounts of Knox's DNA found on the knife were so small, they could only be tested once. His team at the Idaho Innocence Project also determined there was no blood on the weapon.
When the DNA comes back and tells you you are wrong, you need to let those suspects go home and they should have done that four years ago, said Hampikian.
Hampikian said Knox's DNA on the knife likely came for what he calls casual transfer.
We replicated those conditions in my laboratory at Boise State University.In my lab, the team took knives from the Dollar Store. They collected coke cans from the office staff at the dean's office, and I told them don't change your gloves between every piece of evidence, do it between every other piece of evidence. And what happened is DNA from innocent staff people in the dean's office got onto their gloves, got transferred to the knives, and when we swabbed the knives when we looked at those very low levels like they did in the Amanda Knox case, you start to see contamination, said Hampikian.
The findings started the ball rolling in Italy, where authorities decided Knox's case should get a second look. And on Monday, she was set free.
It was quite a relief. For them it's been hard. And for us at the Idaho Innocence Project, it's been a lot of work, a really amazing amount of work. And I'm very glad that we got this just result, said Hampikian.
According to its website, the Idaho Innocence Project at Boise State has helped exonerate eight wrongly convicted people all around the nation since 2005. In four of those cases, the new DNA evidence identified the actual perpetrator.