Knox drama nears finale in Italy's high court

27th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Italy's top court was Friday considering whether to definitively convict Amanda Knox for murder in what could be the final act of an eight-year legal page-turner dripping with blood, sex and intrigue.

The American and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted last year for a second time of taking part in the brutal 2007 killing of Meredith Kercher, a British student with whom the then 20-year-old Knox shared a house in the university town of Perugia.

Lawyers for the pair were due to present final arguments, before the Court of Cassation judges retire to consider whether to confirm once and for all that the Italian judicial system regards the convictions as safe.

If they do, Sollecito could be taken straight back to jail while the absent Knox is likely to become the subject of a wrangle over whether she should be extradited from the United States back to Italy to join him behind bars.

The pair have already spent four years in jail -- two on remand and two after their initial conviction for murder in 2009.

Alternatively, the judges could send the case back to the appeal stage, opening the door to one or both of the defendants being acquitted.

"It's an important day," Sollecito's lawyer Giulia Bongiorno told a scrum of reporters as she arrived for Friday's hearing.

"The defendants were sentenced on the basis of a case riddled with errors and contradictions. I believe that today we will finally have a significant response to that."

Bongiorno depicted the prosecution's case as a jigsaw of unconnected evidence.

"If you chopped a Bible up into tiny pieces you could stick them back together to make it look like pornography," the lawyer said.

- Bra strap and vibrator -

The hearing was scheduled to have been wrapped up on Wednesday but was carried over to a second day, partly as a result of delays caused by the huge media interest.

The case has fascinated a global audience thanks to its youthful, photogenic cast, the gory and baffling nature of the crime itself and an endless supply of headline-friendly detail ranging from DNA traces found on the victim's bra strap to the 'rabbit' vibrator that Knox kept in a see-through toilet bag.

Prosecutors wrapped up their presentations on Wednesday by insisting that a Florence court was right to re-convict the pair last year.

That verdict came nine months after the former lovers were freed on appeal, allowing Knox to return home to Seattle, where she now works as a journalist and has reportedly become engaged to a childhood friend.

Her lawyers admit she is "very worried" about a possible extradition request, which legal experts say would stand a good chance of succeeding.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told AFP that Knox would likely seek to argue she had effectively been tried twice for the same crime, in breach of the double jeopardy principle.

"These arguments are unlikely to succeed on the merits, but may give American authorities an excuse to do what the American public would like them to do -- namely to keep her in this country," Dershowitz said.

"Legally she would have a weak case, but politically she would have a strong case. The real question is whether politics would prevail over the law."

- Stabbed 47 times -

Kercher, 21, died after being stabbed 47 times and having her throat slashed.

Her half-naked body was found in a pool of blood in a back room of the house she shared with Knox.

Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede was jailed for Kercher's murder in 2008, but the judge in his trial ruled that he could not have acted alone.

While prosecutors believe Knox and Sollecito fatally slashed Kercher while Guede held her down, her supporters see her as an innocent abroad who was a victim of a miscarriage of justice produced by an unreliable judicial system.

Even if she is eventually acquitted of murder, Knox is likely to retain a criminal record since her lawyers do not contest that she initially told a fabricated story about what happened on the night of the murder and attempted to pin the blame on the manager of a bar where she worked.

© 2015 AFP

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