Questions still hang in the air over Amanda Knox case

Analysis: Has a very Italian type of justice finally been done?

Amanda Knox speaks to the media during a brief press conference in front of her parents’ home in Seattle, Washington on Friday. Photograph: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Amanda Knox speaks to the media during a brief press conference in front of her parents’ home in Seattle, Washington on Friday. Photograph: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

 

Even as Amanda Knox in Seattle, USA and Raffaele Sollecito down in Puglia, Italy were experiencing huge relief at Friday’s Italian Supreme Court ruling which overturned their previous convictions for the 2007 killing of British student Meredith Kercher, some awkward questions still hung in the air. Has a very Italian type of justice finally been done?

This was always a difficult, mesmerising case set against the background of sex and drugs driven student life in the handsome Umbrian town of Perugia.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollectio have lived to tell the tale but this still remains a murder without any obvious motive, without an agreed murder weapon and without a murder confession. In Seattle, a tearful Ms Knox told CNN:

“Right now I am still absorbing what all of this means. What comes to mind is my gratitude for the life that has been given to me, I am still absorbing the present moment which is full of joy...Meredith was my friend and she deserved so much in this life...I’m the lucky one.”

In Puglia, surrounded like Amanda in Seattle by his family, Sollecito, said:

“As of tomorrow, I can start to think of my future, my own life, my dreams. From now on, I am a normal person even I hardly know what that means anymore.”

In Rome, Francesco Maresca, lawyer for the Kercher family, was a deal less sanguine, saying:

“This is a defeat for Italian justice, the identity of the person who was with Rudi Guede (already convicted for the killing of Meredith) remains unknown. Meredith’s family are as surprised as us at the ruling.”

So there we have it. Italian justice has now concluded that 28-year-old Ivory Coast drifter Rudi Guede was the killer. Traces of Guede’s DNA were found at the crime scene, prompting a separate “fast track” trial court to sentence him to 16 years for the murder back in 2008.

At least two judgments, however, argued that Guede had not acted alone. The prosecution always claimed that he had been aided and abetted by Amanda and Raffaele in a drink and drugs driven, violent sexual orgy. Yet, if it was not them, who was it? Or was it anybody at all?

To many experienced legal eyes, the case against Knox and Sollecito always seemed full of holes. In particular, the forensic evidence in relation to the alleged murder weapon, a kitchen knife, prompted bitter divisions of opinion between forensic experts.

Furthermore, defence lawyers argued that a key piece of evidence, namely a tiny metal clasp on Meredith’s bra containing Sollecito’s DNA, was contaminated because it was collected from the sealed crime scene only after six weeks. When Giulia Bongiorno this week said that she had identified 193 “critical errors” she might have been indulging in a little poetic license but she had a point.

To some extent, though, this trial was always about the worldwide media perception of both Knox and Sollecito.

In that sense, the pair probably did not much help themselves. First, they were seen kissing outside the murder scene house just days after the killing. Secondly, Knox originally accused Perugia bartender Patrick Lumumba of being involved in the killing.

On top of that, at least in the early days, the two occasionally contradicted one another.

It could be that Amanda Knox, a 19-year-old student who had only been in Italy a matter of months, simply did not understand what was happening to her, especially during her initial police questioning in November 2007. It could also be that Raffaele Sollecito really was, as his defence lawyer Giulia Bongiorno said in court yesterday, “a Forrest Gump figure” who found himself caught up in something much bigger than himself.

That could all be but why did it take five different trials and eight years to arrive at a decision that, to many, seemed obvious from the beginning.

Is it possible that the helter-skelter nature of the rulings on Knox and Sollecito - first guilty, then acquitted, then guilty again and finally acquitted on Friday – were at least partly prompted by a desire to save “the honour of a large part of the Perugia judiciary, which found them guilty in the first place...as well as the Perugia police”, as argued by Meo Ponte in La Repubblica two years ago.

As of now, the case is over since yesterday’s ruling is defintive. Media reports that Amanda Knox will be looking for compensation for the four years she spent in Italian prisons are premature since the Knox defence team confirmed on Saturday to the Irish Times that they have not yet made any such decision. It could be that both the Knox and Sollecito teams will decide that this is one step too many down an already painful road.

One final reflection on the verdict is that it very handily avoids a major extradition battle re Amanda Knox.

Had the Florence 2014 conviction been upheld, Sollecito would have been immediately imprisoned and, in theory, the Italian justice ministry would have had to consider making a formal request for Ms Knox’s extradition to Italy.

In fairness, even if Italy and the USA have a 1983 bilateral extradition agreement, it was by no means certain that Italy would have asked for the extradition of Knox nor that any US administration would have granted that request. However, that is one conundrum less in relation to the Meredith Kercher murder.