An Italian court on Thursday found American Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito guilty in a retrial for the murder of Meredith Kercher. Knox was sentenced to 28 years and six months in jail and Sollecito 25 years.
Six years of trials and investigations have so far failed to clear up the mysteries surrounding the death of British citizen Kercher, 21, who was found stabbed to death in her bedroom in the student flat she shared with Knox in the Italian town of Perugia in 2007.
But after nearly 12 hours of deliberations, the Florence court on Thursday reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down to the pair in 2009. Knox, 26, and Sollecito, 29, then spent almost four years in jail, but the verdicts were overturned on appeal in 2011 and Knox immediately returned home to the United States.
Thursday's verdict came after Italy’s highest court quashed the 2011 appeal ruling due to what it called “contradictions and inconsistencies” and ordered a retrial.
In a statement issued from Seattle, where Knox is studying at the University of Washington, she said she was frightened and saddened by her “unjust” murder conviction.
Knox has denied any involvement in the brutal killing of Kercher and previously declared she would remain a “fugitive” if found guilty.
She said she was “frightened and saddened by the unjust verdict'' and blamed “overzealous and intransigent prosecution'' as well as a “narrow-minded” investigation and coercive interrogation techniques.
“This has gotten out of hand,'' Knox said in a statement. “Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system.''
The lawyers representing Knox and Sollecito have vowed to appeal the ruling to Italy’s highest court.
The court will publish the reasons for its verdict in 90 days.
Knox was arrested four days after Kercher’s half-naked body was discovered on November 2, 2007, in Kercher's bedroom. Knox has been portrayed both as a she-devil bent on sexual adventure and as a naïf caught up in Italy’s Byzantine justice system.
The case has played out through the media as much as through the courts, propelling Knox and Sollecito to something approaching celebrity status in their home countries.
US commentators have accused the Italian judicial system of a case of misapplied justice and double jeopardy, while Italians and British observers have jumped on the image encoded in the US defendant’s pre-trial moniker, ''foxy Knoxy".
The Kercher family has repeatedly called for the full truth to come out about the case. Sollecito was present in the court earlier in the day but wasn't there for the verdict, while Knox awaited the ruling in Seattle.
Lawyers for Sollecito and Knox argue that only one person is guilty of the murder: Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede, who is serving a 16-year sentence for sexually assaulting and stabbing Kercher. His trial found that he did not act alone because of the number and variety of Kercher’s more than 40 wounds.
The initial case argued that Knox and Sollecito had killed Kercher in a sex game gone awry, but the prosecution has moved away from this interpretation in the current appeal.
The retrial focused on a re-examination of DNA evidence. In closing defence arguments, Sollecito’s lawyer argued that a trace of his client’s DNA on a metal hook on Kercher’s bra clasp was there due to contamination, because it was not collected from the crime scene until more than a month after the murder and was repeatedly touched.
The defence and prosecution contest whether Kercher’s DNA was on the blade of a kitchen knife from Sollecito’s apartment, which had been used by Knox.
The case may not be over for some years to come. Italy’s high court will have to confirm the ruling to make it definitive.
Italy could ask for Knox to be extradited to serve any sentence, but her legal team is likely to challenge this.
Additionally, Knox has appealed her slander conviction to the European Court of Human Rights, one of a plethora of spin-off cases from the trial.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP, AFP)
Date created : 2014-01-30