Knox prosecutors seem to admit defeat as appeal nears close

 

WHEN AMANDA Knox was found guilty of murdering British student Meredith Kercher, it brought to an end the first stage in a long legal process.

It had taken more than a year for her trial to come to court after she was jailed on suspicion of the killing, and another year after that for it to end in a conviction.

But the sentencing of the young American student dubbed “Foxy Knoxy” to 26 years in prison did not mark the end of the story. Instead, it just heralded the next round in the protracted judicial tussle that has played out over four years in the Italian town of Perugia where Miss Kercher died.

In Italy, those convicted of crimes are entitled to two appeals, meaning cases can drag on for years. In Knox’s case, the 21 months since her conviction have been spent anxiously waiting and hoping for the verdict to be overturned – or at the very least, for her sentence to be slashed.

It was, however, almost a year after the trial ended before she and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito – also convicted of the murder – could return to court to launch their appeal.

And, as with the rest of the justice process that began after the University of Leeds student’s body was found in November 2007, it has been slow going.

But the ordeal has not been without small victories and glimmers of hope for the former lovers and their families.

In December, their case got a boost when they succeeded in their bid for a full review of the forensic evidence used.

Jurors in the original trial had heard prosecution claims that DNA found on a knife allegedly used in the murder, and on the clasp of Miss Kercher’s bra, inculpated the pair.

But this evidence was fiercely disputed by the defence, who maintained it was inconclusive and argued it may have been contaminated when analysed.

They appeared to be vindicated when experts told the court in July this year that the forensic scientists involved had made a series of glaring errors.

The genetic evidence was tainted by the use of a dirty glove and failure to wear protective caps, the experts claimed.

Defence lawyers slso said the prosecution’s case was based on hypotheses and that any motive for the murder was lacking.

Their case was further helped when a key prosecution witness gave conflicting reports during the appeal about whether he saw Knox and Sollecito near the crime scene on the night of the murder.

However, Rudy Guede, a young Ivory Coast national convicted of the murder and sexual violence in separate proceedings, caused an upset for the defendants when he gave evidence for the prosecution confirming the contents of a letter he wrote to his lawyers last year containing a direct accusation against Knox and Sollecito.

But despite this glitch, the Knox camp could be forgiven for feeling cautiously optimistic as the appeal nears its conclusion.

In the last hearing before closing arguments began, the court rejected a prosecution request for new DNA tests, deeming them unnecessary.

By this stage, even the prosecutors appeared to be admitting defeat, with one, Manuela Comodi, reportedly saying she could envisage the pair being cleared.

The prosecutors too have appealed, as they can in Italy, because the sentence fell short of their demand for life in prison.

But by the time the last day of evidence was heard, they were said to lack confidence that the verdict would even be upheld.