Italian court mulls Knox, Sollecito murder verdict

30th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

An Italian court was poised to hand down its verdict in the case of American Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito Thursday over the gruesome murder of a British student found stabbed to death.

Knox followed proceedings from Seattle in the United States where she has been since a previous acquittal but Sollecito was in court in Florence for the verdict.

Exchange student Meredith Kercher was found dead in the house she shared with Knox on November 2, 2007 in the mediaeval university town of Perugia in central Italy.

"The knowledge of Amanda's innocence is now rock-solid," Knox's lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, told the court in his final arguments before the two judges and eight jurors retired to consider their verdict.

"It is not possible to convict someone because they are considered 'probably' guilty," said Dalla Vedova, pointing to what he said were mistakes in the forensic work and claiming the DNA evidence was inconclusive.

Presiding judge Alessandro Nencini said the ruling was not expected before 1600 GMT, as dozens of photographers, cameramen and reporters crowded outside the giant court building in pouring rain.

Knox, Sollecito and a third person, drug dealer Rudy Guede, were initially convicted for the crime, which prosecutors said was the result of a sex game turned violent due to tensions between Kercher and Knox.

Guede is now the only one of the three still in prison after exhausting his appeals but investigators say that multiple stab wounds from two different knives indicate he could not have acted alone.

Knox and Sollecito have always protested their innocence and Guede has changed his story several times but maintains he did not commit the murder although he was in the house when it happened.

Prosecutors have asked for Knox to be given a 30-year sentence and Sollecito 26 years, saying the punishment should be harsher for her because she initially accused someone else of the crime, bar owner Patrick Lumumba.

"I expect Amanda to be convicted," Lumumba said.

"Amanda has a part to play in all of this. I am sure that she is involved in the death of poor Meredith."

'I am not a monster'

Knox says the accusation of Lumumba, as well as her since retracted memory of hearing Kercher's screams, were due to intimidating police interrogation tactics.

Knox now says she was at Sollecito's house that night.

The two served four years for the murder and were acquitted in 2011 but the supreme court overturned that ruling in 2013, sending the case back for re-trial as Italy does not have provisions against "double jeopardy" -- prosecuting someone for the same crime twice.

Thursday's verdict might still not be the final word in the long-running case since both the prosecution and the defence have the right to appeal again.

As he arrived for the hearing, wearing sepia-coloured aviator sunglasses and a blue sailor coat, the 29-year-old Sollecito told reporters: "People who had it in for me thought I would not be coming".

Sollecito is not obliged to attend under Italian law and his father, Francesco Sollecito, said that his son's choice showed "courage and respect for the court".

The 26-year-old Knox said she had not returned to Italy for fear of being "wrongly convicted".

"I am not present at the hearing because I am afraid. I am afraid that the vehemence of my accusers will leave an impression on you, that their smoke in the eyes will blind you," she said in an email to the court.

"I am not a monster," she added.

If she is convicted, experts doubt that Knox could ever be extradited to Italy, but she may not be able to travel freely outside the United States if Italy issues an international warrant for her arrest.

A guilty verdict could see Sollecito arrested in court and thrown back in jail or stripped of his passport to stop him fleeing Italy pending another appeal.

Kercher's brother and sister were expected in court.

The family's lawyer, Francesco Maresca, said: "They are very tired of the ongoing judicial process and hope that they will get justice".


© 2014 AFP

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