Giant and Sylvia report from the court room
The hearing began with the reading of documents that are not relevant to this trial and concern people that in many cases have been acquitted. T. Theofilou’s name is not even mentioned.
The next document was Theofilou’s acquittal on the count of ‘resisting arrest”.
Then the prosecutor asked persistently to read aloud a list of objects collected from Theofilou’s house in Kalamaria, in order to show that Tasos was in possession of the official stamps of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Veterinary School. Although the presiding judge commented that the defendant is not facing any charges in relation to the stamps, the prosecutor, furious, kept insisting to have the documents read.
Strangely, the prosecutor said that a new document had been added to the case file in June 2016, which reveals that the finger prints of a man named Ioannis Chrysikos were found on one of the objects owned by Tasos and suggested that further investigation is now required to establish this man’s connection to the trial. Tasos’ lawyer questioned the validity of this document in terms of the way it relates to the case and the failure of the authorities to inform the defendant of its existence. Then the prosecutor replied with a speech that made no sense. The prosecutor asked for an investigation to establish the criminal responsibilities of this man, who is not even facing any charges and probably just came in contact with the object.
Tasos intervened and said he does not know anyone by that name and asked whether any information on this person was available. His question was not answered. Annie Paparrousou noted that the man’s only crime was that he had touched a book and stressed that a prosecutor’s duty is to investigate guilt and innocence equally, which in this case has been neglected via a tactic that raises serious questions.
Then were the documents on the fingerprints collected from a motorcycle and a bin near the burnt get away car, none of which were a match to the defendant’s.
Next, Theofilou’s attorneys stated their objections against the illegal extraction and use of the defendant’s DNA. According to the penal code it is rendered compulsory to state the reason for taking a DNA sample, to clarify whether the process was consensual, to state the purpose of this extraction and the type of genetic material it will be compared to. On the protocol of this case none of those factors were included-even the defendant’s refusal to have his DNA taken.
The extraction of DNA samples used to be illegal had a suspect not given his/her consent. Later, a decree came into force, allowing for the violent extraction of DNA when a suspect is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor count that could lead to more than 3 months in prison. This decree is obviously unconstitutional and violates international declarations of human rights. Objectively, the test should have not been considered as evidence due its illegality and violation of the human rights of the defendant.
Mr Marinopoulos, an antiterrorism officer, had stated in court that the police took the DNA sample before Theofilou was booked and so the defendant was not informed for the reasons behind having his DNA taken or the type of tissue his sample would be compared to, despite the fact that the authorities are legally obliged to provide this information. The contradictions in the officers’ testimonies reveal that Theofilou was charged with resisting his arrest as an excuse to justify the violent extraction of DNA. Since this was merely an excuse and Theofilou was actually acquitted from this count during the first instance trial, this test should have been considered invalid from a legal point of view.
Also, it is not known whether the hat, where another genetic sample was extracted from, had been sealed off and kept somewhere safe in order to avoid contamination, since the very existence of this hat is generally disputed due to its absence from the crime scene.Photographs taken by forensics specialists right after the robbery display the slightest detail of the crime scene, even cigarette butts dumped on the ground. However, the hat which gave Theofilou a 25-year sentence during the first instance trial was not depicted in any of the forensics photographs. Also, the hat was not recorded along with the other evidence collected by the anti-terrorism officer Mrs. Lollee, who arrived on the island on the same night and supposedly took a sample from the hat.
There are three reasons behind these objections:
2. scientific validity
3. whether DNA itself could amount as incriminating evidence
Mrs. Paparrousou questions whether arrestees who refuse to provide the police with their DNA are subjected to a violent extraction. Based on other cases, suspects usually face charges regarding their refusal but in this case it seems that an anonymous tip led to the violent treatment of the defendant.
Next was the testimony of Mrs. Evgenia Kolovou, an expert witness with a PhD in Chemistry.
Mrs. Kolovou attempted to explain scientific terms in simple words, although those cannot be easily understood by people who have not specialized in chemistry.
Kolovou: There is an understanding that DNA is indisputable, but only if it comes from blood or sperm, only in those cases we can identify people and I still I wouldn’t dare to say that the results cannot be questioned. I consider the following phrase used in the concluding part of the report ”beyond any reasonable doubt this DNA comes from the same person” to be misleading and non- scientific. In the case of a hat, we are dealing with epithelial cells. Everyone of us sheds 30 000 epithelial cells every day day. So in this case we can’t really say ”beyond any reasonable doubt”.
The witness went on and said that this kind of unprofessional and non-scientific work becomes obvious when one reads the report, since the testing process should have been recorded step by step. The forensics report, she emphasized, does not state anything regarding the process that was followed and does not even mention the type of DNA that was collected from the hat. Mrs Kolovou cited international scientific forums and publications which refute and consider the results derived from epithelial cells to be of very high risk.
Presiding judge: Does it make sense to have found only the defendant’s DNA on the hat?
Kolovou: It is possible to collect the DNA of people who ‘ve never touched an object from its surface. If I shake hands with you and then I grab a knife and if you sweat more than I do, there could be your DNA on that knife and not mine. There have been cases where DNA coming from two people blended on the surface of an object and formed the DNA of a third person. (….)
Presiding Judge: Do we have the same alleles with other people?
Kolovou: It’s a fact that we share common alleles. The method used in this specific DNA analysis was not developed for scanned genetic material but for samples removed directly from the human body.
Mrs Kolovou said that the existence of only one lab, where both the evidence and samples provided by suspects are tested, does not adhere to scientific standards which provide for separate laboratories and different scientists carrying out the tests in order to avoid the risk of contamination- since DNA is easily transferable. The fact that the hat was scanned instead of placing a large chunk of it under the microscope in order to have more genetic material and thus make a better comparison and the fact that the test result was never verified through repetition only reinforce how questionable the result is.
Next, the prosecutor took a very ironic tone and posed questions regarding the scientific status of the witness. Her questions concerned how the witness was so sure for the validity of her claims, how for, example, she knew that the test had not been repeated or that a microscope had not been used to examine the hat, or that all tests are conducted in the same lab.
Mrs Kolovou answered to these with the following:
”It is nowhere in the report -as it should have been and since nothing is mentioned I cannot just assume scientific precaution as a given. The report is incomplete. It is very well known that there is only one forensics laboratory, I have visited this lab myself as a counselor on technical matters. There is no other lab. The fact that both the hat and Theofilou’s DNA were analyzed on the same day is stated in the report.”
More questions followed from the defense regarding the scientific validity of the DNA test.
Papadakis: Is it possible to find DNA on the outer part of the hat?
Kolovou: It is highly possible since someone could grab the hat in order to wear it and so I cannot understand why the outer part of the hat was not tested.
Mr. Papadakis presents the witness with a photograph depicting the hat outside the protective bag and placed next to other objects collected from the crime scene.
Papadakis: Based on what you see in this photograph could the hat be contaminated?
Kolovou: Yes, of course.
Papadakis: Does this photograph reinforce your concerns over the testing procedures and the subsequent test result?
Kolovou: Yes, of course it does… (….)
Paparrousou: What kind of accreditation does the forensics lab have?
Kolovou: The forensics lab managed to get an accreditation as an analytic lab just in 2013 but it is not certified as a biochemical laboratory.
Next the witness emphasized that she could not understand the reason why the evidence and the sample collected from the suspect were tested on the same day in the same laboratory ”for what reason, the genetic material doesn’t go bad, they could have tested it the next day”.
This statement led Mr. Phytrakis, Theofilou’s third lawyer, to comment ”They were probably in a hurry to move forward with this matter and wanted to establish a connection on the same day”.
Concluding the witness said: ”Contrary to what the report states, this procedure is not scientific and due to the bad quality of the sample which was collected via scanning, no scientist could arrive at a sincere and scientifically concrete conclusion. At the same time, there are many probable ways a DNA sample could follow, DNA is transferable, I want to repeat that we could get DNA that came from a person who never touched the object we collected the sample from, so this is classed as very high-risk evidence.”
The trial resumed on Monday March 13th.