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Unpublished Paper
Admissibility of DNA Evidence: Italy Under Attack
ExpressO (2012)
  • Adina Rosenfeld, Loyola Law School

The purpose of this paper is to compare the differences and similarities in the evidentiary rules for DNA in Italy and in the United States in the light of their two different legal traditions. This note will compare American and Italian rules of evidence and procedure for the admissibility of DNA in criminal trials and analyze the most relevant differences between the two systems. Based on this comparison, the note will argue that Amanda Knox would not have been convicted of murdering her roommate in American lower court because the DNA evidence would not have been admissible. In Italy, Knox had to wait for the Italian Appeals Court to overturn her conviction, in part because of the weight given to DNA evidence that was admissible in the lower court. However, it should be noted that if Knox had been convicted in an American trial court, she would not have had access to the broad appeal she did have in the Italian system. Part I of this note briefly summarizes the differences between the common law model (often referred to as the adversarial model used in the United States) and the civil law model (known as the inquisitorial model used in Continental Europe) in how criminal trials are conducted and evidence presented. Knox’s conviction at the trial level can be attributed to some of the fundamental differences between the two legal systems and not simply due to an error made by the Italian court. Part II explains what constitutes the science of DNA evidence and how it is used in criminal trials to either identify or eliminate a defendant. Part III develops the evidentiary rules and case law that establishes the DNA admissibility standards in the United States Federal Courts. Part IV delineates DNA evidence and admissibility standards in Italy based on the Italian rules of evidence and its code of criminal procedure. Also included in this section is the interpretation of DNA evidence, its method of collection, and Italy’s current standard for certification. Part V focuses on the Amanda Knox case itself by summarizing the facts of the case and the rulings of the two courts that have heard the case so far. Finally, this note will conclude that the rules for DNA evidence in both systems are still developing and that it is dangerous to judge one legal system through the lens of another legal system. Whenever comparing two different legal systems it is important to be aware of parochialism, which assumes that the writer’s systems is the best and the most advanced.

Publication Date
June 10, 2012
Citation Information
Adina Rosenfeld. "Admissibility of DNA Evidence: Italy Under Attack" ExpressO (2012)
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