Amanda Knox, the young American whose murder conviction in Italy captured attention around the world, learned Tuesday that Italy’s highest court has overturned a lower court’s 2011 decisionto dismiss that verdict. A retrial has been ordered. So it appears likely the case against Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who were charged in the 2007 murder of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher, will be heard again.
But whether Knox, now 25, would appear at such a trial or ever be forced to return to Italy is uncertain. The Associated Press writes that “Italian law cannot compel Knox to return from the U.S. for the new trial. The appellate court hearing the case could declare her in contempt of court but that carries no additional penalties.”
And, the AP adds:
” ‘If the court orders another trial, if she is convicted at that trial and if the conviction is upheld by the highest court, then Italy could seek her extradition,’ Knox’s lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said Monday. It would then be up to the United States to decide if it honors the request. U.S. and Italian authorities could also come to a deal that would keep Knox in the United States.”
Knox issued a statement Tuesday, the BBC writes, saying that “it was painful to receive the news that the Italian Supreme Court decided to send my case back for revision when the prosecution’s theory of my involvement in Meredith’s murder has been repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair. … No matter what happens, my family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity.”
“Prosecutors argued that the decision to overturn the convictions of Knox and Sollecito was flawed. They were arrested in 2007 after Kercher’s body was found in a pool of blood in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia — where they were exchange students. Kercher’s throat had been slashed.
“In the first trial, Knox and Sollecito were found guilty and sentenced to 26 and 25 years in jail respectively. … In his arguments before Italy’s highest court, Prosecutor General Luigi Riello said the appeals court had been too dismissive in casting aside DNA evidence.”
The AP adds that in the original trial “prosecutors alleged Kercher was the victim of a drug-fueled sex game gone awry. Knox and Sollecito denied wrongdoing and said they weren’t even in the apartment that night, though they acknowledged they had smoked marijuana and their memories were clouded. An Ivory Coast man, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the slaying in a separate proceeding and is serving a 16-year sentence.”
Attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova said he had spoken to Knox and she was “upset and surprised because we thought that the case was over.” But, he added, “at the same time, as she’s done in the last five years, she’s ready to continue and we are ready to fight.” Dalla Vedova said he did not expect his client to leave Seattle for Italy “for many reasons,” although she is free to travel. “She’s a very young girl and she’s looking to have her life,” he said. “This has a psychological impact on her.”
Prosecutors have argued that despite the appellate decision, they still believe Knox and Sollecito are responsible for the death. “We are still convinced that they are the co-authors of Meredith’s homicide,” Perugia prosecutor Giovanni Galati said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. A lawyer for Kercher, Francesco Maresca, said the British girl’s family was satisfied with the ruling. The Kercher family had wanted a retrial because they believed the ruling that acquitted Knox and Sollecito was “superficial and unbalanced,” he said. The Kercher family believes more than one person was in the room when Meredith, 21, was killed, he said. Another man, Ivorian drifter Rudy Guede, was convicted separately of Kercher’s killing. Guede admitted having sexual relations with Kercher but denied killing her.
Judge Saverio Chieffi told the court he would publish the reasoning behind his decision within 90 days, after which the parties would have 45 days to present their case. The retrial is not expected until sometime early next year. Knox may be ordered to return to Italy for the retrial, to be heard in an appellate court in Florence. If she refuses, the Italian government could appeal to the U.S. government for her extradition. But even if it does, Knox still not might end up before an Italian court.
The Supreme Court judges did not order her retrial Tuesday on a charge of defamation. Knox’s conviction for defaming Patrick Lumumba, a club owner whom she accused of killing Kercher, was upheld in October 2011 by the same appeals court that cleared her of murder. She was ordered to pay Lumumba 40,000 euros ($54,000) in damages. The court also sentenced her to three years in prison on that charge, but because she had already been held for four years, she was freed immediately.
U.S. officials might reject such a request because it violates the U.S. legal principle that a criminal defendant can’t be tried twice on the same allegation, said Joey Jackson, a contributor for HLN’s “In Session.” Italy lacks the absolute prohibition present in U.S. law preventing authorities from retrying a criminal defendant who has been acquitted of a charge. “We have principles that are well-founded within our Constitution, one of which is double jeopardy,” Jackson said. “So as a result of that, I think it would be highly objectionable for the United States to surrender someone to another country for which justice has already been administered and meted out. So I don’t think or anticipate that that would happen.”
The case began in 2007, after Knox moved to Perugia to study at the University for Foreigners of Perugia for one year. Knox, then 20, shared a room with British student Kercher. That November, Kercher’s semi-naked body was found at the home, with her throat slashed. Police arrested Knox and Sollecito, who was her boyfriend at the time.
Two years later, they were convicted of murder, but they were cleared when they appealed the verdicts in 2011. In legal paperwork published in December 2011, the judge in the case wrote that the jury had cleared the pair of murder for lack of evidence proving they were guilty. Knox’s family said last year the appeal was unwelcome, but no cause for concern. “The appeal of Amanda’s acquittal by the prosecution was not unexpected as they had indicated from the day of the verdict that they would appeal,” a family statement in February 2012 said.
Knox has spent the last year and a half trying to resume a normal life, studying at the University of Washington in Seattle, her hometown. She has written a book on her ordeal, titled “Waiting to be Heard,” which will be published next month. Francesco Sollecito, father of Raffaele, told CNN in a phone interview last year that the family was “not happy about the decision (to appeal). My son is trying to get back to normal life.” “We can do very little in this situation,” he said, but as Italian citizens, they would have to accept the court’s decision. “We hope that the high court will finally put the words ‘the end’ to this story.”
Knox has written a memoir, Waiting To Be Heard, that’s due to be released April 30. ABC News is already promoting her appearance on the network that evening.
Sources: ANSA, AP, CNN, ABC, NPR
- You: Amanda Knox faces retrial over Meredith Kercher murder (guardian.co.uk)
- Amanda Knox to face retrial for Meredith Kercher murder (telegraph.co.uk)
- Acquittal of Amanda Knox in murder trial goes to last stage (The Italianist)