When Amanda Knox steps out of the airplane and breathes American air on Tuesday, she might want to think about what she’s going to write in her "thank you" card to Greg Hampikian. You may already know about Knox’s murder trial and subsequent acquittal in Italy, but you may not have heard about one of the men who played a pivotal role in setting Amanda Knox free.
When Dr. Greg Hampikian, a professor of forensic biology at Boise State University and director of the Idaho Innocence Project, decided to study how DNA evidence is used in other countries, he happened to stumble upon some facts that eventually led to Amanda Knox’s acquittal.
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. -NWCN.com
Dr. Hampikian’s observation is just one of the latest in a brave new world where we have begun to challenge the once "unquestionable results" of DNA testing. Here’s an example he came up with that shows how people can be wrongly accused of a crime even though DNA evidence suggests they did it.
"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.
Dr. Greg Hampikian should be commended for his work, and Amanda Knox might think of sending him a "thank you" card. While I hope none of us should ever have to benefit from his research, there are many people who inevitably will.