Italy: Amanda Knox guilty of murder
Two judges and six lay jury members deliberated 11Ĺ hours before issuing their decision.
Fabrizio Giovannozzi / Associated Press
Appeals Court Judge Alessandro Nencini (center), reads the verdict for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, in Florence, Italy, on Thursday.
A woman believed to be Amanda Knox is hidden under a jacket while being escorted from her motherís home to a car by family members Thursday in Seattle.
From left, Italian student Raffaele Sollecito, slain 21-year-old British woman, Meredith Kercher and her American roommate, Amanda Knox.
Knox, 26, received word in her hometown of Seattle. The former American exchange student said she was “frightened and saddened by the unjust verdict” and blamed “overzealous and intransigent prosecution,” “narrow-minded investigation” and coercive interrogation techniques.
“This has gotten out of hand,” Knox said. “Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system.”
Lawyers for Knox and 29-year-old ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who was also found guilty, vowed to appeal to Italy’s highest court, a process that will take at least another year and drag out a seesaw legal battle that has fascinated court-watchers on both sides of the Atlantic and led to lurid tabloid headlines about “Foxy Knoxy” and her sex life.
It was the third trial for Knox and Sollecito, whose first two trials produced flip-flop verdicts of guilty, then innocent. After the acquittal in 2011, Knox returned to the U.S., where she evidently hoped to put herself beyond the reach of Italian law. But Italy’s supreme court soon ordered a third trial.
On Thursday, the panel of two judges and six lay jury members deliberated 11 1/2 hours before issuing its decision, stiffening Knox’s original 26-year sentence, which took into account an additional conviction for slander, while confirming Sollecito’s 25-year term.
Legal experts said it is unlikely Italy will request Knox’s extradition before the verdict is final. In Italy, verdicts are not considered final until they are confirmed, usually by the supreme Court of Cassation.
The final decision on whether to hand Knox over to the Italians would rest with the U.S. State Department, and the issue is likely to stir debate over whether she is a victim of double jeopardy, because she was retried after an acquittal.
“Many Americans are quite astonished by the ups and downs in this case,” said Mary Fan, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at the University of Washington Law School.
Nevertheless, Fan said U.S. courts have previously held that being acquitted and then convicted of a crime in another country is not a legal bar to extradition.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Knox’s home state of Washington, said she was “very concerned and disappointed” by the verdict and confident the appeal would re-examine the decision.
“It is very troubling that Amanda and her family have had to endure this process for so many years,” she said. “I will continue to closely monitor this case as it moves forward through the Italian legal system.”
Kercher, 21, was found dead Nov. 2, 2007, in a pool of blood in the bedroom of the apartment she and Knox shared in the central Italian town of Perugia, where both were studying. She had been sexually assaulted and her throat slashed.
Knox and Sollecito denied any involvement in the killing. After initially giving confused alibis, they insisted they were at Sollecito’s apartment that night, smoking marijuana, watching a movie and making love.
Prosecutors originally argued that Kercher was killed in a drug-fueled sex game gone awry — an accusation that made the case a tabloid sensation.
But at the third trial, a new prosecutor argued instead that the violence stemmed from arguments between roommates Knox and Kercher about cleanliness and was triggered by a toilet left unflushed by a third defendant, Rudy Hermann Guede.
Guede, who is from the Ivory Coast, was convicted in a separate trial in a verdict that specified he did not commit the crime alone, and is serving a 16-year sentence.
Kercher’s sister, Stephanie, and brother, Lyle, were in the courtroom for the verdict Thursday.
“It’s hard to feel anything at the moment because we know it will go to a further appeal,” Lyle Kercher said. “No matter what the verdict was, it never was going to be a case of celebrating anything.”
Their attorney, Francesco Maresca, called the verdict “justice for Meredith and the family.”
Sollecito’s lawyers said they were stunned by the conviction. “There isn’t a shred of proof,” attorney Luca Maori said.
In his final rebuttals, Knox’s lawyer, Dalla Vedova, told the court he was “serene” about the verdict because he believed the only conclusion from the files was “the innocence of Amanda Knox.” He later called the verdict “a big surprise.”
The first trial court found Knox and Sollecito guilty of murder and sexual assault based on evidence that included DNA. But the DNA evidence was later deemed unreliable by new experts.
There have been other high-profile tussles over whether Americans suspected of crimes in Italy would face justice there.
In 1998, a low- and fast-flying U.S. Marine jet sliced a cable supporting a gondola at a ski resort in the Italian Alps, killing 20 people. Many Italians wanted the pilot and crew tried in Italy, though NATO rules gave jurisdiction to the U.S. military. The pilot faced a court martial in the U.S. and was acquitted of negligent homicide charges.
Italian courts convicted — in absentia — 26 CIA and U.S. government employees in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric suspected of recruiting terrorists in Milan. One, a U.S. Air Force colonel, was pardoned last year on the grounds that it was unprecedented to try an officer of a NATO country for acts committed in Italy. Another, the former CIA base chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, has also requested a pardon. Lady was briefly held last summer in Panama based on an international arrest warrant issued by Italy, which has not yet formally requested his extradition.
“I suspect that the Italians feel there have been enough incidents of them not being able to prosecute Americans for crimes committed in Italy,” said Christopher Jenks, a former Army attorney who served as a State Department legal adviser and now teaches at Southern Methodist University’s law school.
Nov. 2, 2007: Kercher, 21, is found dead in Perugia apartment. Investigators say she was killed the night before.
Nov. 6, 2007: Knox is arrested with then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, Congolese owner of pub where Knox occasionally worked.
Nov. 20, 2007: Lumumba, implicated by Knox, is released for lack of evidence.
Dec. 6, 2007: Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede is extradited from Germany.
Oct. 28, 2008: Judge indicts Knox and Sollecito on charges of murder and sexual assault. Guede, in a fast-track trial, is convicted of murder and sexual assault and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Dec. 4, 2009: Court finds Knox guilty of murder, sexual assault and slander; sentences her to 26 years in prison. Sollecito is convicted of murder and sexual assault, sentenced to 25 years.
Dec. 22, 2009: Appeals court upholds Guede conviction, cuts sentence to 16 years.
Nov. 24, 2010: Appeals trial for Knox and Sollecito opens in Perugia.
June 29, 2011: Independent forensic report ordered by the appeals court finds much of the DNA evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito is unreliable.
Oct. 3, 2011: Appeals court clears Knox, Sollecito of murder conviction, orders them freed immediately.
March 26, 2013: Italy’s highest court overturns the acquittal, orders a new appeals trial.
Sept. 30, 2013: Florence appeals court opens third trial of Knox and Sollecito.
Jan. 30, 2014: Florence appellate panel scheduled begins deliberations.
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