Miscalculations by judges and lawyers effect justice

ITALY’S highest court overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox, accused of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher.

In 2011, an appeals court invalidated the 2009 murder convictions of Ms. Knox, and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and released them from jail. Now, Italy’s Court of Cassation has annulledthat decision — sending a strange new ripple into a case that has riveted many around the globe for years.

Miscalculation by judges and lawyers of probabilities, from the odds of DNA matches to the chance of accidental death, have sent innocent people to jail, and, perhaps, let murderers walk free.

The Court of Cassation has not yet publicly explained the motivations behind its ruling. But the appellate judge’s failure to understand probability may well play a role.

One of the major pieces of evidence was a knife collected from Mr. Sollecito’s apartment, which according to a forensic scientist contained a tiny trace of DNA from the victim. Even though the identification of the DNA sample with Ms. Kercher seemed clear, there was too little genetic material to obtain a fully reliable result — at least back in 2007.

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