Contradicted Physical Evidence in the Case/False Confessor

In the Summary there are several glaring inconsistencies between Giarratano’s police-composed statement and the physical and crime scene evidence supporting the conclusion that Giarratano’s alleged confession statements were false.

For instance:

Giarratano confessed to strangling Michelle Kline with his hands, but an independent review by the Chief Medical Examiner of the State of Maryland, as well as a review by Cyril Wecht, conclude that it is unlikely that Michelle Kline was strangled manually.

See Petition, P. 53

The State’s medical examiner, Dr. Presswalla, had originally diagnosed the strangulation of Michelle Kline as having been done by “partial ligature” (an object rather than the hands), but changed his findings following the interrogation of Giarratano by the Norfolk officers apparently for no other reason than to conform to Giarratano’s confession.

Petition, Footnote 12, Pp. 53-54

Giarratano confessed to stabbing Barbara Kline in the hallway between the living room and the door, but the crime scene evidence clearly indicated that the entire assault upon Barbara Kline occurred in the bathroom.

Petition, P. 54-55.

Giarratano confessed to killing Barbara Kline with a kitchen knife approximately seven inches long, but none of Kline’s three stab wounds were deeper than three and a half inches. Considering the force with which these wounds were inflicted, a 7-inch knife would likely have inflicted deeper wounds.

Petition, P. 55.

Giarratano confessed to throwing the knife into a location adjacent to the apartment house, but no knife was found there or anywhere else, despite the yard being small and mostly barren.

Petition. P 55.

Giarratano confessed that Michelle Kline entered the bedroom voluntarily, but police investigating the crime scene noted the presence of “drag marks” indicating that she had been forcibly dragged into the bedroom.

Petition, P. 55.

Giarratano confessed to pulling Michelle Kline’s clothes off and raping her. The physical evidence indicates that she died with her clothes on.

Giarratano confessed that he locked the bottom door of the apartment after the rape, but the landlord, who first discovered the bodies, reported that the bottom door of the apartment had been unlocked.

Petition, p. 56

Back to the Case Summary

See Petition, P. 53

The next step in analyzing the reliability of the confessions is to examine the congruence, or fit, between the details recounted in the confessions and the physical and crime scene evidence. If there is a significant incongruence, the theory that Mr. Giarratano’s confessions were based on imagined, rather than remembered events, is further confirmed. If, however, there is congruence, this theory may be called into question. Our analysis has revealed significant incongruence. Mr. Giarratano was inaccurate with respect to a number of details in the Norfolk confession:

1) He confessed that he strangled Michelle Kline with his hands. However, an in independent review by Dr. John Smialek, the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland, of Dr. Faruk Presswalla’s autopsy findings establishes that it is unlikely that Michelle was strangled manually. The complete absence of the Hallmarks of manual strangulation—“discrete bruising produced by the assailant’s fingers and fingernail marks, among others”—in combination with “the pattern of injuries on the face and neck, both externally and internally” which was reported by Dr. Presswalla, led Dr. Smialek to conclude that the strangulation was most likely accomplished “by a broad object such as a forearm (a type of ‘chokehold’).” Not by the use of the hands. (12)

Petition, Footnote 12, Pp. 53-54

In the field of forensic pathology, only two types of homicidal strangulation are recognized, manual or “ligature.” Strangulation by ligature is strangulation by anything other than the hands, such as a rope, cord, or a chokehold of the type described by Dr. Smialek.

Medical Legal Investigation of Death

(12) Examination of the autopsy report concerning the death of Michelle Kline reveals that the initial findings of Dr. Presswalla were the same as the findings on review by Dr. Smialek. Initially, Dr. Presswalla diagnosed the strangulation of Michelle as having been accomplished by “partial ligature.” Thereafter, following the interrogation of Mr. Giarratano by the Norfolk officers, in which Mr. Giarratano said the strangulation was accomplished manually, Dr. Presswalla changed his diagnosis to read “strangulation either by partial ligature with a metal choker necklace or manually.” There is nothing in the autopsy report, such as additional laboratory results or physical findings that would explain why the initial diagnosis of strangulation by partial ligature was changed to include a diagnosis of strangulation by partial ligature or manually. The only known intervening event that might have influenced this change was the confession of Mr. Giarratano. Accordingly, the initial autopsy findings in Virginia—which have no cloud over their integrity—are consistent with the independent findings of Dr. Smialek, further confirming the likelihood that Michelle Kline was not strangled manually.

Excerpt from page 7

C) Type of strangulation—most consistent with the use of a forearm from behind, rather than manual as stated in Mr. Giarratano’s police-composed confession.

Physical Evidence

“No tangible evidence has ever emerged that clearly indicates that Giarratano committed the two murders.” The Psychology of Interrogations, Confessions, and Testimony at p. 317

Back to Case Summary