Amanda Knox found guilty again

Last updated 23:06 31/01/2014
Knox

RAFAELLE SOLLECITO: Sentenced to 25 years in jail.

Retrial finds Knox, Sollecito guilty

Amanda Knox
AMANDA KNOX: Sentenced to 28 years in prison, but she would need to be extradited to serve the time.

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Amanda Knox says she is frightened and saddened by her ''unjust'' murder conviction in the death of her British roommate Meredith Kercher.

An Italian court this morning handed down guilty verdicts for the US student and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito in a retrial for the 2007 murder of Kercher, reversing an acquittal by a previous appeal ruling.

Knox was ordered to serve 28 years and six months in jail. Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years.

Knox's lawyers have vowed to appeal to Italy's highest court.

In a statement issued from Seattle just after her conviction was upheld, Knox blamed overzealous prosecutors and a ''prejudiced and narrow-minded investigation'' for what she called a perversion of justice and wrongful conviction".

''This has gotten out of hand,'' she said.

''Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system. The evidence and accusatory theory do not justify a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,'' Knox said.

Kercher's brother and sister were in the courtroom for the verdict and said the outcome was the best they could have hoped for.

''It's hard to feel anything at the moment because we know it will go to a further appeal,'' said her brother, Lyle Kercher.

''No matter what the verdict was, it never was going to be a case of celebrating anything.''

Sollecito was in court on Thursday morning, accompanied by his father and other relatives and said he would return for the verdict. But he didn't come for the verdict.

Instead he was found by police, hours after the verdict, at a hotel near Italy’s border with Slovenia and Austria. 

The cabinet chief of the Udine police station, Giovanni Belmonte, said police showed up at about 1am Friday (local times) at a hotel in Venzone, about 40 kilometers from the border, where Sollecito and his current girlfriend were staying.

They took him to the Udine police station, took his passport and put a stamp in his Italian identity papers showing that he cannot leave the country. He will be freed later, Belmonte said. 

Earlier, after nearly 12 hours of deliberations, the court reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down against Knox and Sollecito in 2009. It did not immediately order Sollecito’s arrest.

The verdict had been overturned in 2011 and the pair freed from prison, but Italy's supreme court vacated that decision and sent the case back for a third trial in Florence.

Knox's attorney, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said he had telephoned Knox and informed her that the Florence court had not only confirmed the guilty verdict, but had increased the sentence from the original 26 years.

''She was petrified. Silent,'' he said.

Sollecito's lawyers said they were stunned by the conviction and Sollecito's 25-year sentence and would appeal. 

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''There isn't a shred of proof,'' attorney Luca Maori said. Presiding Judge Alessando Nencini ordered Sollecito's passport revoked but made no requests for Knox's movements to be limited, saying she was ''justifiably abroad.'' 

Experts have said it was unlikely that Italy would request Knox's extradition before the verdict is final. If the conviction was upheld on a final appeal, a lengthy  extradition process would likely ensue.

LAWYER HAD BEEN CONFIDENT

Knox's defence team gave its last round of rebuttals, ending four months of arguments in Knox and Sollecito's third trial for the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in the Italian university town of Perugia.

Dalla Vedova had told the court he was "serene" about the verdict because he believes the only conclusion from the files is "the innocence of Amanda Knox."

"It is not possible to convict a person because it is probable that she is guilty," Dalla Vedova said. "The penal code does not foresee probability. It foresees certainty."

Dalla Vedova evoked Dante, noting that the Florentine writer reserved the lower circle of hell for those who betrayed trust, as he asserted that police had done to Knox when they held her overnight for questioning without legal representation and without advising her that she was a suspect.

Knox had returned to Seattle after spending four years in jail before being acquitted in 2011. In an email to this court, Knox wrote that she feared a wrongful conviction.

She told Italian state TV in an interview earlier this month that she would wait for the verdict at her mother's house "with my heart in my throat."

Knox's absence didn't formally hurt her case since she was freed by a court and defendants in Italy are not required to appear at their trials. However, Nencini reacted sternly to her emailed statement, noting that defendants have a right to be heard if they appear in person.

Sollecito, on the other hand, had made frequent court appearances, always in a purple sweater, the color of the local Florentine soccer club.

LEGAL ARGUMENTS

The first trial court found Knox and Sollecito guilty of murder and sexual assault based on DNA evidence, confused alibis and Knox's false accusation against Lumumba, a Congolese bar owner, which resulted in a slander verdict that has been upheld on final appeal.

A Perugia appeals court dismantled the guilty verdict two years later, criticising the "building blocks" of the conviction, including DNA evidence now deemed unreliable by new experts, and the lack of motive.

Italy's highest court ordered the third trial in a scathing dismissal of the appeals court acquittal, ordering the examination of evidence and testimony it said had been improperly omitted by the Perugia appeals court as well as addressing what it called as lapses in logic.

"Most of all, the court was instructed to evaluate all of the evidence in their complexity," said Vieri Fabiani, one of the lawyers for the Kercher family.

- Agencies

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