Raffaele Sollecito could seek reparations after acquittal

Former boyfriend of Amanda Knox says he will no longer accept being called a murderer

 Accompanied by his lawyer Giulia Bongiorno (left) Raffaele Sollecito departs after giving a press conference in Rome on Monday following the overturning of his murder conviction last week by the country’s highest court. Photograph: Ettore Ferrari/EPA.

Accompanied by his lawyer Giulia Bongiorno (left) Raffaele Sollecito departs after giving a press conference in Rome on Monday following the overturning of his murder conviction last week by the country’s highest court. Photograph: Ettore Ferrari/EPA.

 

Amanda Knox’s ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito may seek reparations after his second acquittal for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher brought to an end a marathon journey through Italy’s justice system.

The tortuous zig-zag of contradictory rulings that followed Ms Kercher’s stabbing in the town of Perugia has underlined the slowness and unpredictability of Italian law, which numerous governments have failed to fix.

Mr Sollecito’s lawyer Giulia Bongiorno said on Monday her client, now 31, would wait for Italy’s top court to give the reasoning behind the acquittal, expected in about three months’ time, before taking a decision.

“We have already heard people talking about compensation ... if we want to make someone pay,” Ms Bongiorno said at a news conference. “We will see if any mistakes were made, what measures to take, but this is all far in the future.”

The American Knox and Italian Sollecito were definitively cleared last week by the Court of Cassation.

Since Ms Kercher’s death seven and a half years ago, Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito have been convicted twice and acquitted twice.

‘Double jeopardy’

To those used to US “double jeopardy“ rules barring trials for the same offence after acquittal, retrying the pair after they were released on appeal in 2011 showed systemic unfairness.

But Maurizio Bellacosa, professor of criminal law at Rome’s Luiss university, said the Italian system was designed to allow the highest court to get closer to the truth.

“It’s about trying to get as close to the facts of what actually happened,” he said.

From a case like this, “the lesson is that the system should try to speed up the process”, he said.

Accusations of police ineptitude and judicial failings in the case turned the American Ms Knox - originally painted as a fast-living partygoer - into a cause celebre in her home country.

The pair maintained their innocence throughout trials and four years each in jail. Their lawyers said DNA evidence used to convict them was contaminated.

Ms Kercher’s family has expressed disappointment with last week’s verdict and said that after years of trials and retrials the system had still failed to find the killer.

Rudy Guede, originally from the Ivory Coast, is serving a 16-year sentence for the crime but judges said he did not act alone.

“I think the Italian justice system needs to establish who was with Rudy Guede,” Ms Kercher’s family’s lawyer Francesco Maresca said on Friday. “The court retained that the evidence didn’t stand up.”

‘Time to heal’

Mr Sollecito, meanwhile, has said he will no longer accept being called a murderer and needs “time to heal” following the seven-and-a-half year legal saga.

Mr Sollecito (31), expressed a sense of disbelief that the battle to prove his innocence was finally over after the unexpected verdict from Italy’s highest court.

“It’s affected my heart, it’s affected my mind. This wound will always bleed,” he said at a press conference in Rome.

He added that he had briefly spoken to Ms Knox, who is living in Seattle, and had congratulated her after the ruling from the Court of Cassation came in on Friday night. The two did not, however, have any plans to meet, he said.

Mr Sollecito’s words seemed reflective and defiant, even as some press accounts of the surprise verdict continued to raise questions about the night of the murder and the unanswered questions surrounding the circumstances of Ms Kercher’s death.

“I don’t expect from now on to be called an assassin and I’ll be ready to defend my dignity,” he said.

Ms Bongiorno, said that her client was “evaluating” whether to seek payment. If he did, she said, it would not be as an act of revenge.

“We are not going to whip the people who made mistakes,” she said, adding that they would wait to read the legal rationale for the judges’ decision before acting.

The full decision will be released in less than 90 days. Mr Sollecito denied being surprised at the verdict even though his own attorneys seemed stunned when it was read out by the presiding judge in the case.

Exceedingly rare

Such outright acquittals are exceedingly rare in the High Court, but Mr Sollecito insisted this one had been inevitable.

“It had to end this way because this is what happened. This is the right ending,” he said.“It was the beginning of a new life.”

Ms Kercher and Ms Knox met while they were studying abroad in Perugia. They were housemates when the Briton, from Coulsden, Surrey, was sexually assaulted and killed in November 2007. Rudy Guede, a petty criminal who was known to Perugia police, was convicted of Ms Kercher’s murder but was not believed by judges to have acted alone.

Both Mr Sollecito and Ms Knox were convicted of her murder but then acquitted in 2011. That ruling was subsequently reversed and their convictions were reinstated in 2014. The long-running legal saga came to a definitive end on Friday, when the High Court threw out the charges.

Speaking in English at the end of the press conference, Mr Sollecito said it was hard to imagine a life that was no longer in limbo. “Seven years and five months is an unbelievably long time and it is hard to think that now everything has changed,” he said.

Guardian Service/Reuters