An Italian court has overturned the 2011 acquittal of Amanda Knox who was accused of murdering her roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007 while studying in Italy as an exchange student.
The overturned verdict is the latest startling development in one of the most sensational and controversial criminal cases of the past decade. It began when the body of 21-year-old Kercher, a British citizen, was found in bed half-undressed and soaked in blood with a slit throat. The Italian tabloid press began using prosecutors’ allegations as a taking off point to speculate that Knox and her boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito, killed Kercher during the course of a sadistic sex romp gone wrong.
A jury in 2011 reached a not guilty verdict after Knox had already served four years in an Italian prison for Kercher’s murder. While in prison, Knox claimed that she was sexually harassed by prison personnel and officials on a number of occasions. At one point, a senior prison official allegedly forced her to enter his office alone where he made inappropriate suggestions to her. She was also wrongly told that she had tested positive for HIV while in prison and was coerced to reveal the names of her past lovers, which were leaked to the press.
For Knox, the news that the prosecution has been given the green light to try her case once again after the Italian Supreme Court sent the case back for revision has been “painful.” “The prosecution’s theory of my involvement in Meredith’s murder has been repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair,” Knox said in a statement.
Knox also questioned the competency of prosecutors involved with the case, without specifically citing evidence of prosecutorial misconduct that was revealed during her trials. “I believe that any questions as to my innocence must be examined by an objective investigation and a capable prosecution. The prosecution responsible for the many discrepancies in their work must be made to answer for them, for Raffaele’s sake, my sake, and most especially for the sake of Meredith’s family,” Knox said. “Our hearts go out to them. 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.”
Unlike the United States, Italy’s judicial system does not have a double jeopardy protection that prevents defendants from being tried again in criminal cases for the same crime after an acquittal. Prosecutors in Italy said today that Knox and Sollecito could go on trial again for murder as early as this year. They could be tried in absentia, and if convicted, Knox could face extradition proceedings forcing her to return to prison in Italy from Seattle, where she now attends the University of Washington. Such a scenario would increase tensions between Italy and the Unites States, where those backing Knox claim prosecutorial misconduct, farcical courtroom antics, and unreliable evidence during her trial proceedings. However, any attempt by Italian prosecutors to extradite Knox to Italy would be seen as a symbolic move with little legal merit in the United States.
When contacted by Crime Library, a representative for Knox’s lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said that it was very unlikely that Knox faced going back to prison. The spokeswoman also said that Vedova was surprised by the development but was confident that Knox’s innocence would be maintained.
The attorney representing Sollecito, Giulia Bongiorno, told Crime Library that her client and Knox would not be going back to prison in Italy for Kercher’s murder. When asked if her client or Knox faced any risk of returning to serve a full sentence for the murder, she replied: “The answer is no.”
Bongiorno also said she would continue to fight for her client but said prosecutors did not have much to go on. “Do not forget that this is not a guilty verdict, but a judgment that reveals errors, which we will demonstrate,” she told Crime Library.
The Telegraph reported that Knox said in a statement that the prospect of a new trial was unfair and that she was “saddened” by the court’s decision to yet again seek another conviction.
In the UK, Knox is often portrayed in a less favorable light than she is in the United States. The Telegraph reported that Francesco Maresca, the attorney representing the Kercher family, was ecstatic about the prospect of Knox and Sollecito going on trial again.
While it is highly improbable that Knox will have to return to Italy again to defend herself against charges that she helped murder Kercher, she will always be known as the accused in one of the most famous murder cases in modern history. But she will not be forced again to make an impassioned and desperate plea to an Italian jury as she did during her last trial in 2011: “I did not kill, I did not, rape, I did not steal, I was not there.”