Video: End of Amanda Knox appeal in sight

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    >>> new developments in the appeals trial of amanda knox after the court heard from the police official who conducted the original murder investigation on monday. nbc's lester holt is in italy with the latest on this story. good morning.

    >> arne, good morning. trial watchers seem to agree the case against amanda knox has taken some serious body blows from scientific experts who simply shredded their scientific evidence . right now this morning the prosecution is fighting back. we saw much more upbeat amanda knox entering the courtroom this morning who offered a smile to her father curt with the august summer break behind her, the end of the appeal trial is in sight and it's clearer than ever to both sides that the outcome will hinge on the dna evidence that helped send her and her ex-boyfriend to prison for the murder of knox 's roommate, key evidence that now has been thoroughly discredited by court-appointed experts. are you all feeling stronger and better based on what you heard in court?

    >> i think we're feeling more hopeful.

    >> reporter: on monday one of the independent experts held firm on the conviction that the dna evidence used in the original trial was of such a minute amount that it could have come from virtually anyone in the courtroom. carla gave little ground on her intense prosecution questioning. how is it going?

    >> you tell me because you're seeing what happens from the outside. i believe i did my job in the way it should be done.

    >> reporter: as the weeks started off, the sister of victim meredith kircher sent a letter to the family lawyer saying, it is extremely difficult to understand how the results, which were obtained with great care and presented in the first trial as valid, could now be regarded as irrelevant. kercher's father told nbc news the family has full confidence in the original scientific findings and says it is the independent analysis that is suspect. that analysis cited dozens of mistakes in evidence gathering. the prosecution is not conceding any mistakes. and for a seconds day has put the police expert on the stand who originally analyzed the dna. she is vigorously defending her work and says the international standards in evidence collection protocols have changed since the case began. with the verdict expected by the end of the month, a former university of washington classmate of knox 's who now lives in perugia told me the stress is clearly affecting knox .

    >> she's definitely feeling sick , sicker lately, and a lot more stress. and then the heat in prison is making all the prisoners feel really sick. so i think it's a combination of the case and then the actual physical conditions.

    >> reporter: when we talk about sloppy evidence, one of the things that's being talked about is the scientific expert for the police admits at one point some of the biological evidence collected at the scene that should have been stored at a specific temperature was put in the freezer at the victim's home instead of being taken to the lab. ann?

    >> lester holt , so much to talk about here. thank you so much this morning.

NBC News and news services
updated 9/6/2011 12:41:43 PM ET 2011-09-06T16:41:43

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

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 to be the murder weapon.

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

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.

Story: Italian police defend their Knox murder probe

Stefanoni also said the international standards in evidence collection protocols have changed since the case began, NBC News reported.

Image: Amanda Knox
Stefano Medici  /  AP
Amanda Knox attends an hearing of her appeals case at the Perugia court, Italy, on Tuesday. The police official who conducted the original investigation in the Amanda Knox case defended her standards Monday, after an independent review harshly criticized the evidence used to convict the American student of murdering her British roommate.

But Carla Vecchiotti, one of the court-appointed 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.

Video: End of Amanda Knox appeal in sight (on this page)

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

"I think we're feeling more hopeful," Knox's father Curt Knox told NBC's Lester Holt on Tuesday.

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.

A third person, Rudy Hermann Guede of the Ivory Coast, also has been convicted of Kercher's murder in a separate proceeding. Italy's highest criminal court has upheld Guede's conviction and his 16-year-prison sentence. Guede denies wrongdoing.

NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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