Amanda Knox acquittal is overturned by Italian supreme court

Knox scheduled to speak publicly about trial on American TV next month ahead of release of her book

Amanda Knox is led away from Perugia's court of appeal after the first session of her appeal in November 2010. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Reuters

Amanda Knox is led away from Perugia's court of appeal after the first session of her appeal in November 2010. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Reuters

Wed, Mar 27, 2013, 06:46

The Amanda Knox murder trial took another unexpected turn yesterday when Italy ’s supreme court threw out the October 2011 appeals court ruling acquitting her and her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito of the November 2007 murder of English student Meredith Kercher, in Perugia.

This week’s hearing of the Knox case represents the third “level” at which the case involving the 25-year-old American student has been tried. In the first ruling, in December 2009 on this often controversial case, a Perugia court sentenced her and Mr Sollecito to 26 and 25 years respectively for their alleged involvement in the murder.

Ms Kercher, a 21-year-old Leeds university student, had been found half naked in a pool of blood in the Perugia house she shared with Amanda Knox, with her body badly bruised and bearing what looked like knife wounds. Both Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito were arrested four days after the murder.

That original conviction was, however, overturned in October 2011 when the two were acquitted after an appeals hearing which, thanks at least partly to the testimony of court-appointed forensic investigators, ruled that the original Perugia inquiry had been riddled with serious errors. In particular, the forensic experts questioned the validity of DNA evidence, taken from Ms Kercher’s bra and from the alleged murder weapon. That court ruling set Ms Knox free after four years of prison, allowing her to return to her native Seattle, Washington, where she currently lives.

Yesterday’s ruling means that the original murder conviction, issued in December 2009, will have to be appealed again, this time in an appeals court in Florence probably early next year. Until the Italian supreme court’s reasoning is issued in 90 days, the judicial thinking behind yesterday’s decision will remain unclear.

Rehash of trial history
Legal experts, however, pointed out yesterday that this third-level hearing seemed a little anomalous. Normally, the supreme court does not reconsider all the evidence of a case, rather it rules on whether the appeals court decision has followed correct Italian jurisprudence. In other words, it looks for procedural irregularities that might give grounds for a retrial.

This hearing, however, appeared to rehash much of the Knox trial history, with public prosecutor Luigi Riello and his colleagues concentrating more of their time and energies on the original Perugia trial in 2009 rather than on the 2011 appeals court ruling.

This emphasis on the findings of the original trial prompted several commentators to suggest that the public prosecution’s best intentions this time were aimed at re-establishing the “honour” and credibility not only of the Perugia public prosecutor’s office but also of the Perugia police and Perugia forensics team.

Third person
In the meantime, a third person, Ivorian Rudy Guede, has been found guilty and sentenced to 16 years for the Kercher murder in a separate trial, which reached a definitive verdict in December 2010. Guede is now the only person serving time for the murder, although prosecutors have always maintained he could not have killed Ms Kercher by himself.

Ms Knox, who remained in Seattle for this hearing, was yesterday described by her defence team as “upset and worried” by this most recent ruling. She is however scheduled to speak publicly about the trial for the first time on American television next month, when her book about the case, Waiting to Be Heard , is due to be released. Legal experts suggested last night that it is most unlikely Ms Knox will return to Italy for the Appeals Court hearing.