Monday, 10 October 2011

Are Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito really innocent?

Before I tell, you what happened, let me briefly tell you something of the main characters in this true story.

Amanda Knox, a 20-year-old student eager to study and experience another culture 6,000 miles away from her Seattle home arrived in Italy in 2007.

Raffaele Sollecito
, now 27, was a shy Italian student who rented the upstairs flat and had met Knox and began sleeping with her about a week before the murder occurred. Within days he was arrested and charged with murder. Prosecutors claim he was taking part in a sex game gone wrong, and that he was merely a puppet willing to do anything Amanda asked of him.

Meredith Kercher, one of Knox's three roommates, was an exchange student from the University of Leeds in England. She shared a flat with three other young women. The previous evening, Kercher dined with three other English women at one of their homes and watched a DVD of The Notebook. Kercher said that she felt tired and that she wanted to retire early for the night. She borrowed a history book, and left to walk home with one of her friends, Sophie. Parting company with Sophie at about 8:55 pm, she walked the remaining 500 yards (460 m) to her flat alone. According to early investigations and post-mortem examination, it was believed that Kercher died in the flat between 9 and 11 p.m., however it was later revised to between 9 pm and 4 am. She was found dead on November 2nd, 2007, lying partially naked in a pool of her own blood. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed repeatedly. Her throat was slit. Some of her property was stolen.

Rudy Guede, a resident of Perugia, was convicted on the 28th of October 2008 of the sexual assault and murder of Kercher. His fast-track conviction was upheld, and he is now serving a reduced sentence of 16 years. Previously, he had been sentenced to 390 years in prison.

Knox and Sollecito were convicted of sexual assault and murder in December 2009, and were given sentences of 26 and 25 years respectively. Knox and Sollecito appealed the verdict and the Italian appeals court reversed their convictions on the 3rd of October 2011 and set both of them free.

The trials have been the subject of news reports around the world, particularly in Italy, Britain and the United States. The coverage has been criticized for being tabloid in nature rather than presenting the evidence accurately and dispassionately.

Reactions to the case have been polarized between the view that Knox and Sollecito were innocent victims of a miscarriage of justice and the view that they were directly involved in Kercher's murder and convicted fairly.

Background

On the evening of the 1st of November 2007, the house in which Kercher lived was temporarily unoccupied. It is situated on an open hillside below the city centre, near a motorway on the edge of Perugia which is the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy, near the River Tiber and is the capital of the province of Perugia. The city is located about 164 kilometres (102 miles) north of Rome. It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area. One of her Italian flat mates had left town and the four Italian men who shared the downstairs flat had also left town.

Kercher shared the upstairs flat with Knox and two Italian women who rented the flat in August 2007. Kercher rented the remaining bedroom beginning in late August and moved in on the 20th of September 2007, meeting Kercher for the first time.

Meanwhile, Knox while still staying at Sollecito's flat was expecting to work at Le Chic pub that night, but at 8:18 p.m., her employer, Patrick Lumumba, sent her a text message stating that she was not required because business was slow. She acknowledged his text at 8:35 p.m. When a friend arrived at Sollecito's flat around 8:40 p.m., Knox opened the door. What I don’t know is whether or not Knox and her friend then left the house after that. If Knox remained in the house, then she had to have either heard the murder taking place or alternatively, participated in it.At 12:07 p.m., the next afternoon, Knox called Kercher's UK mobile phone, letting it continue ringing for 16 seconds.

This raises an interesting question. Since Kercher was already in the upstairs flat where Knox was also staying, why did she not simply go to Kercher’s room and knock on her door instead of phoning her on her mobile?

Knox testified at her trial that Kercher had always carried that phone since she expected calls about her mother's recent illness. One minute later, she called her flat mate, Filomena, telling her that she had returned to the flat and found the front door open, and blood in the small bathroom. Knox called Kercher's second mobile phone and then called the first phone again. The flat mate called Knox back three times. During the final call, which commenced at 12:34 pm, Knox said that the window in the flat mate's room was broken and that the room was a mess.

This raises another question. If she had returned to her flat, where then had she spent the night before she returned to the flat at noon hour? Further, since the murdered girl’s room was on the second floor of the house, and the door to her room was locked, how did Knox see inside Kercher’s room?

At 12:47 pm, Knox called her mother in Seattle and told her what she saw. Her mother told her to call the police. Meanwhile, Sollecito had made two calls to the emergency number 112, at 12:51 and 12:54 pm. He reported a break-in, blood, a locked door and a missing person whom I presume he was referring to Kercher.

Before the Carabinieri (Italian police) arrived in response to these calls, two officers of the Post and Communications Police came to investigate the discovery of Kercher's mobile phones near another house. Knox and Sollecito were outside and told the police that they were waiting for the Carabinieri, that a window had been broken and that there were spots of blood in the bathroom.

This raises another interesting question. Since Kercher was murdered in her bedroom, how did her blood end up in the bathroom?

Knox showed the two officers the room with the broken window; Kercher’s locked bedroom door and the blood in the bathroom. Meanwhile the flat mate she had called earlier arrived with three of their friends. The mobile phones were confirmed as belonging to Kercher. The Carabinieri had not yet arrived and the Post and Communications Police officers were reluctant to break down the locked door. Around 1:15 pm, one of the flat mate's friends kicked it open. Kercher's body was on the floor, covered by a duvet (comforter) soaked in blood. The officers ordered all present to leave the flat, and the house was secured as a crime scene.

The house was closed as a crime scene from the 2nd of November 2007 until April 2009, when a jury visited it during the trial of Knox and Sollecito. It was later remodeled and re-occupied from the end of 2009.

Police interviews

On the 5th of November 2007, after Sollecito had confirmed that he and Knox had spent the night of the murder at his flat, the police reported that a "confused and nervous" Sollecito stated that Knox could have left his home sometime when he was asleep.

The police then questioned Knox, who had accompanied Sollecito to the police station. Starting at 11 that evening, Knox was questioned first by the police alone and, later that night, in the presence of a prosecutor. She claimed that she was initially interviewed in Italian – although she had been studying the language for only two months – without an attorney present and without being recorded. These claims were denied by prosecutors. She later claimed that she underwent a hostile interrogation of 14 hours that she was struck and yelled at, denied food and water, and caused to make incriminating statements. In the end she signed a statement in Italian saying, in part, that she had seen Patrick Lumumba (Knox's boss) and Kercher enter Kercher's room.

Knox stated that during her interrogation the police asked her to imagine what might have happened at her flat had she been there, and that she explained this vision of Lumumba at the crime scene in response to that question. Lumumba was arrested on the 6th of November 2007 as a result of Knox's false statements.

Knox was arrested on the morning of the 6th of November. Later that day she wrote a note to the police saying that she felt confused because she had been told in the interrogation that there was hard evidence which placed her at her flat at the time of the murder so that memories and "flashes of blurred images" had begun mingling in her mind during the interrogation. She partially retracted her earlier statements. Knox wrote, "In regards to this 'confession' that I made last night, I want to make clear that I'm very doubtful of the verity of my statements because they were made under the pressures of stress, shock and extreme exhaustion. Not only was I told I would be arrested and put in jail for 30 years, but I was also hit in the head when I didn't remember a fact correctly." She also wrote she couldn't "fully recall the events that I claim took place at Raffaele's home during the time that Meredith was murdered", adding that while she "understood that the police are under a lot of stress" so that she "understood the treatment she received", she denied involvement in the killing.

Of her November 2007 interview, she stated, "I was treated as a person only after I made a statement. Period. That was when I was brought something to drink, when they let me go to the bathroom." A police officer testified that Knox had been questioned "firmly but politely". In June 2009, Knox repeated her description of the interrogation at trial. Her lawyer, summing up at the end of her trial, stated that the interviews over the course of four days had lasted a total of 53 hours, causing "stress and fear". Knox also stated that there had been no interpreter present.

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini was in the room conducting the contested interrogation where the misconduct by officers was alleged. Both the police and Mignini denied her allegations that she was abused and that there was no interpreter, and she has been charged with slander in a separate trial for accusing Lumumba of committing the murder.

The Italian Supreme Court later found that Knox's human rights were violated because the police did not tell her of her legal rights, appoint her a lawyer or provide her an official interpreter and that her signed statement was inadmissible for Knox's and Sollecito's criminal trial. However, the court allowed the statement to be used in the concurrent civil, defamation trial in which Lumumba prevailed against Knox. Both trials had the same jury which heard Knox's confession.

Lumumba was detained for two weeks until the arrest of Guede. Initially, doubts about his alibi were reported in the press, but ultimately he was completely exonerated. Unfortunately as a direct result of his arrest and Knox’s accusation which turned out to be false, he lost his business.

Guede's arrest

Nick Squires of The Daily Telegraph reported that Guede "...became a suspect in the murder two weeks after Miss Kercher's body was found when DNA tests on a bloody fingerprint and on samples taken from the body were found to match samples which police already had on file following his earlier arrests." A manhunt for this fourth suspect began on the 19th of November 2007 after a bloody handprint found on Kercher's pillow was matched to Guede. He had left Perugia by train a few days after the murder. Interpol had traced a computer that he had used in Germany to access Facebook and reply to a message from a Daily Telegraph journalist. In his message, Guede had said that he was aware that he was a suspect and wanted to clear his name. On the 20th of November 2007, the Bundespolizei arrested Guede on a train near Mainz, Germany where he was apprehended for travelling without a ticket. When questioned, he stated that he was returning to Italy to give himself up. He was extradited to Italy on the 6th of December 2007.

Forensic evidence

Kercher's body was found on the floor of her bedroom, with blood in various locations around the room. There were three cuts on her neck as well as bruises suggesting she might have been strangled. There were also signs of sexual assault. The coroner determined the cause of death was combined blood loss and suffocation.

DNA matching Guede's was found both on and inside Kercher's body and on her shirt, bra and handbag. A bloody handprint found on a pillow under Kercher's back was also matched to Guede. The prosecution argued that a severed piece of Kercher's bra, including its metal hooks, revealed traces of both her DNA and that of Sollecito. Is it possible that both he and Guede committed the crime? If not, then is it possible that Sollecito and Kercher previously had consensual sex together?

Knox's lawyers later argued that DNA evidence had been contaminated during the investigation at the crime scene and also when the investigators accidentally moved the evidence during the 47-day delay in retrieving the samples. A June 2011 report by court appointed forensic experts concluded that there was not enough DNA on the bra clasp to retest, that the collection of the bra clasp evidence did not conform to internationally accepted procedures, and the collection was "in a context that was highly suggestive of ambient (surrounding) contamination".

Luminol (iron present in any blood in the area catalyzes the chemical reaction that leads to the luminescence revealing the location of the blood) revealed footprints in the flat which the prosecution argued were compatible with the feet of Knox and Sollecito. A consultant for Knox's defence, however, testified that work status reports showed, "in contradiction to what was presented in the technical report deposited by the Scientific Police, and also to what was said in Court, that not only was the Luminol test performed on these traces, but also the generic diagnosis for the presence of blood, using tetramethylbenzidine and that this test gave a negative result on all the items of evidence from which it was possible to obtain a genetic profile." Nevertheless, the judge did not accept this view and concluded that the traces revealed with Luminol in Knox's bedroom, the corridor and Filomena's room had originated from Knox's bloody feet.

This raises another interesting question. Did the blood on Knox’s shoes come from the bathroom where Kercher’s blood was on the floor or on the floor of Kercher’s bedroom? If it came from the bathroom, what was Knox doing in the bathroom when there was Kercher’s blood on the floor?

Knox's DNA was matched to the handle of a kitchen knife recovered from Sollecito's flat, and the prosecution stated that Kercher's DNA was on the blade. A June 2011 report by court appointed forensic experts concluded that the previous results indicating that Kercher's DNA was on the knife blade appeared "unreliable because not supported by scientifically valid analytical procedures".

Prosecution witnesses stated that the knife could have made one of the three wounds on Kercher's neck.

Carlo Torre, a professor of criminal science based in Turin, hired by Knox, testified that all three wounds originated from a different knife that had a blade one quarter the size of that recovered from Sollecito's flat. During her trial, Knox's lawyers argued that she had used knives for cooking at Sollecito's apartment.

There was no forensic evidence directly indicating that Knox had been in the bedroom in which Kercher was murdered. Knox's fingerprints were not found in Kercher's bedroom, nor was there any found in her own bedroom.

I find that odd that Knox’s fingerprints weren’t found in her own bedroom. Was it because her fingers were covered in blood and she wanted to wipe off her bloody fingerprints from both rooms?

Investigators argued that a break-in had been staged at the flat, partly because the window seemed to have been broken after the room had been ransacked. If that is so, then the striations on the edges of the broken glass would have shown the forensic investigators as to whether or not the glass window was broken from the inside or the outside.

In 2009, a group of American forensic specialists wrote an open letter expressing concern that procedures used by most laboratories in the United States to ensure accurate results had not been followed in this case. They stated that a chemical test for blood had returned a negative result for the knife, that the amounts of other DNA were sufficient only for a low-level, partial DNA profile, and that it was unlikely that all traces of blood could have been removed from the knife while retaining the DNA that was discovered. In December 2010, the judge presiding over Knox and Sollecito's appeal ordered a re-examination of the DNA evidence pertaining to the knife and the bra clasp. The report concluded that the DNA evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito did not adhere to international standards for the collection and analysis of the DNA, that the evidence was unreliable, and that the previous test results could have been the result of contamination. The report concludes that the police either mishandled evidence or failed to follow proper forensic procedure 54 times.

Prosecution and defence arguments

The prosecution's first theory for the motive in the murder involved a Satanic ritual orgy, similar to the charges of belonging to a Satanic sect that Mignini (Knox’s prosecutor) had unsuccessfully leveled at 20 others in the Monster of Florence case. The prosecution also posited it may have been a "cult sacrifice". Mignini denied ever saying that Kercher was the victim of a "sacrificial rite". Later, the prosecution hypothesized that Kercher's murder involved a sex game gone wrong, or that the victim had refused to participate in an orgy or that Knox was motivated by "jealousy". The prosecution also suggested that Guede went to the house to meet Knox, that Knox stole money from Kercher to pay Guede for drugs, and that Kercher walked in at the wrong time and was sexually assaulted and murdered. At trial, the prosecution stated that Knox was easily given to disliking people with whom she disagreed and the time had come to take revenge on Kercher. On another occasion the prosecution theorized that she fell victim to "a rage caused by smoking marijuana". The defence stated that the prosecution had further changed their theory of motive to an economic one. Rolling Stone, quoting a prosecutor as stating, “We live in an age of violence with no motive," reported that the prosecutors could not prove either motive or intent.

There is no doubt in my mind that the prosecutor was unqualified to act as a prosecutor. He was a bungler. His theories were nothing but theories. You can’t convict people simply on the basis of theories.

In the Knox and Sollecito trial, the prosecution sought to prove that a break-in at the murder scene had been staged, arguing that nothing in the room with the broken glass was reported missing and that the perpetrator wanted to divert suspicions from "those who had the apartment keys". An officer testified that shards of glass from the broken window had been found on clothes strewn around the room, suggesting that the window had been broken after the room had been ransacked. A police official and defence witness testified that the break-in was not staged and that the window of Kercher's flat had been broken from the outside. As evidence, he presented a video to reconstruct how the stone was thrown.

Why would someone throw a stone towards a second story window in an attempt to break it if climbing into the broken window couldn’t be undertaken without the assistance of a ladder? If a ladder was used, where was the ladder after it was used? Such a ladder would have bloody footprints on it.

Police evidence was presented showing that Knox and Sollecito did not have alibis for the time of the murder. Sollecito maintained that he was at his apartment, using his computer. Police computer analysts testified that his computer had not been used between 9:10 on the evening of the murder and 5:32 the next morning. Knox has maintained that she was with Sollecito at the time, but during police questioning after 10 pm on Monday, the 5th of November 2007, Sollecito said that he could not be certain she was with him when he was asleep. Their version of events was contradicted by a witness, who testified that he had seen Knox and Sollecito chatting animatedly on a basketball court around five times between 9.30 and midnight on the night of the murder. At the appeals trial, the witness, a homeless heroin addict who has appeared as a witness in a number of murder trials, (that’s very suspicious) offered contradicting testimony concerning the date he said he saw Knox and Sollecito and other crucial details about his testimony. How much money was he paid to give his evidence?

A Perugia shopkeeper testified that Knox had gone to his supermarket at 7:45 on the morning after the murder, at a time when she was, according to her account, still at Sollecito's. The shopkeeper first informed police of his recollection months after the crime occurred at the prompting of a reporter who was his friend. A worker in the shop testified that she had not seen Knox. That doesn’t prove anything. He either forgot or he wasn’t nearby when she entered the store. Or maybe the shopkeeper was wrong all along.

Knox told the court that she had been with Sollecito in his flat on the night of the murder. The defence stated that, despite having put forward several different theories, the prosecution had produced no convincing evidence of a motive for murder. Knox testified that she regarded Kercher as her friend and had no reason to kill her.

The defence sought to show that Guede could have been a lone killer. A school director testified that he had been caught with a stolen 16-inch (410 mm) knife inside a closed Milan school on the 27 of October 2007 and was also in possession of a laptop PC and a mobile phone previously stolen from a Perugia solicitors' office, burgled with a rock breaking a window. Guede said that he had bought both the laptop and phone at a railway station in Milan. The school director testified that a small amount of money was also missing after she found Guede looking inside a cabinet in the school office. Despite that criminal history, that alone would not be enough to convict him of Kercher’s murder. As previously stated in this article, there was however, sufficient evidence to convict him of her murder.
Trials

Guede, Knox and Sollecito have all stood trial for the murder of Kercher. Guede was convicted and after appeal, his entence was reduced from 30 years to a 16-year sentence which he is presently serving. Knox and Sollecito were convicted in a joint trial in 2009 and sentenced to 25 and 26 years respectively. They successfully appealed their convictions. Under Italian law two appeals are permitted to defendants, during which there is a presumption of innocence until a final verdict is entered.

On the 30th of November 2007, Knox and Sollecito were denied bail, a decision that was appealed all the way to the Court of Cassation. Their request for release was ultimately denied and they were to remain in custody throughout trial.

Guede elected for a ‘fast-track’ trial that began on the 16th of October 2008, presided over by Judge Paolo Micheli. By doing so, he exchanged the right to challenge the evidence in a full trial for a more lenient sentence, if found guilty. The trial was held in closed session, with no reporters present. On the 28th of October 2008, he was convicted of murder and sexual assault but acquitted of theft, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guede's appeals, which concluded in December of 2009 and 2010, upheld his conviction but reduced his sentence to 16 years.

Knox and Sollecito opted for a full trial. They were indicted in October 2008 by Judge Micheli and charged with murder, sexual assault, simulating a crime (burglary), carrying a knife and theft of 300 euros, two credit cards and two mobile phones. Their trial began on 16 January 2009 before Judge Giancarlo Massei, Deputy Judge Beatrice Cristiani and six lay judges at the Corte d'Assise of Perugia. The trial and subsequent proceedings has attracted great media attention. Knox and Sollecito filed for their first appeal in April 2010 which began in November 2010 and concluded on the 3rd October 2011 with the overturning of the murder conviction.

Guede trial and appeals

Guede was tried for murder, sexual assault and the theft of 300 euros, two credit cards and two mobile phones that had been in Kercher's possession. In evidence he said that on the day of the murder he had visited the cottage for a date with Kercher, organized the previous night. At Guede's trial, witnesses said that they had been with Kercher the night before, and had not seen them talk. Guede said that he had arrived at the cottage at 8:38 p.m., and that Kercher had arrived and let him in at about 9 p.m. Kercher went to her bedroom and said that a significant amount of money was missing from an open drawer. Guede stated that they kissed and touched each other but did not have sex. He then developed stomach pains and crossed to the large bathroom. Guede specified that he heard Kercher's screams while in the bathroom, but had been unable to hear the killer enter since he was wearing iPod headphones. Guede reported that, emerging from the bathroom, he had found a shadowy figure, holding a knife, standing over Kercher, who lay bleeding on the floor. Guede said that they had struggled. He was cut on the hand,] and fell to the floor, but picked up a chair. Guede described the man as an Italian with light-brown hair, without glasses and shorter than him. The man fled while saying in perfect Italian, "Trovato negro, trovato colpevole; andiamo" ("Found black, found guilty; let's go"). Guede's version of events did not account for Kercher's stolen mobile phones, which had been found in a park about ten minutes' walk from the house.

On the 28th of October 2008, Guede was found guilty of the murder and sexual assault of Kercher and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The court found that Guede's version of events did not match some of the forensic evidence, remarking that he could not explain why one of his palm prints, stained with Kercher's blood, had been found on the pillow of the single bed, under the disrobed body, when he had stated that he had left her fully dressed.

Appeals

Giving evidence at the first of his two appeal trials, Guede said that while in the bathroom he heard Knox arguing with Kercher about money missing from the bedroom. He said that, glancing out of the window, he saw the silhouette of Knox leaving the house. This testimony did not match the statements he made before his arrest in which he said that Knox was not at the flat at the time of the murder.

On 22 December 2009, the Corte d'Appello (Court of Appeal) upheld Guede's convictions, but cut his sentence to 16 years. In March 2010, the court explained it reduced Guede's sentence by 14 years because he was the only one of the three defendants to apologize to the Kercher family for his "failure to come to her rescue". I find that reasoning strange. If he murdered her, he would hardly be failing to rescue her.

In May 2010, Guede filed his second and final appeal to the Court of Cassation. The hearing was held on 16 December 2010, when the Court confirmed the verdict and sentence of 16 years.

Knox and Sollecito Committal hearings

During Knox and Sollecito's committal hearings before Judge Micheli concluded that Kercher had been sexually assaulted and then murdered by multiple attackers. He also concluded that the apparent break-in had been faked and that one or more people had returned to the crime scene, rearranged the body, and staged the fake break-in some time after the murder. Judge Micheli also believed that it was suspicious that Sollecito called the Carabinieri military police, saying that a burglary had occurred but nothing had been taken when other flat mates had not yet returned to check their rooms for missing items. He also found it suspicious with respect to Knox's statement that she took a shower in a room with blood on the floor.

Following the court session, Sollecito’s lawyer Luca Maori described the prosecution's theory on the motive for the murder as being part of a "satanic rite" and this was widely reported in the press, some of whom linked this with the fact that the murder occurred on the day after Halloween. Micheli dismissed this motive as fantasy and made it clear that the committal for trial of the two suspects was not based on this theory.

The Trial

During their January 2009 trial, Knox was represented by Luciano Ghirga and Carlo Dalla Vedova and Sollecito by Giulia Bongiorno. The head prosecutor was Giuliano Mignini, assisted by Manuela Comodi. Guede was called by the prosecution to testify but asserted his right to silence. During the first session, Judge Massei rejected a request by the Kercher family to hold the trial behind closed doors, ruling that the trial would be public with closed sessions where appropriate.

After nearly six months of hearings, the trial was shut down early for summer, when Judge Massei ordered the prosecution to release to the defence previously withheld biological evidence. On 14 September 2009, the defence requested that the murder indictments of Knox and Sollecito be thrown out due to the length of time that the prosecution had withheld evidence. Judge Massei denied the defence’s request.

Towards the end of November, the prosecution and defence began summing up their cases. On the 4th of December 2009, after 13 hours of deliberations, Knox was convicted by a panel comprising two judges and six lay judges of all charges except theft and was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Sollecito was found guilty of all five charges and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. According to the lay judges, the verdict was unanimous.

Judges' report

On the 4 of March 2010, the Corte d'Assise of Perugia released a 427-page report, detailing its rationale in reaching its verdicts. The report concludes that "all of the elements put together, and considered singularly, create a comprehensive and complete framework without gaps or incongruities and lead to the inevitable and directly consequential attribution of the crimes to both the accused, for which therefore they have penal responsibility." The Court determined that Guede had been supported by Knox and Sollecito in subduing Kercher after she resisted his sexual advances. It was noted that Knox and Sollecito had consumed hashish and had been reading sexually explicit and violent comics collected by Sollecito, which were alleged to have influenced their behaviour. The court ruled that Knox and Sollecito had acted without premeditation and that no grudge had motivated the crime.

The judges concluded that Knox and Sollecito had stabbed Kercher in the neck using two different knives, and that after the murder they had covered the body with a duvet (comforter) in an act of repentance. The court also stated that a bloody footprint found on a bathroom mat was made by Sollecito, while a footprint in a bedroom was made by Knox. The court further believed that Knox and Sollecito had staged the apparent break-in at the house to make it appear that Kercher had been killed by an intruder and that Knox had attempted to pass the blame by falsely accusing Patrick Lumumba.[

Appeals

In April 2010, both Knox and Sollecito's defence teams filed appeals contesting the verdict resulting from the initial trial. The defence counsel has asserted that neither Knox nor Sollecito had any involvement in the crime and the layers representing them had contested the credibility of some of the witnesses at the first trial and the DNA and other forensic evidence. They also intended to produce new witnesses during the appeal. The prosecution has filed an appeal against the sentences, arguing that currently they are too lenient and seeking to increase them to life sentences.

Since the trial, prosecutor Mignini has been sentenced to a 16-month suspended jail term for "abuse of office" over phone tapping during a 2001 re-investigation of the Monster of Florence case, against which he is appealing. Knox's defence has suggested that his conviction could be grounds for an appeal, although Mignini has said that it would not affect her conviction.

The appeal process began on the 11th of December 2010 before the Appellate Court of Assizes, presided over by Claudio Pratillo Hellmann. On the 18th of December 2010, the court announced it would re-examine the DNA evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito, appointing two experts from the Sapienza University of Rome to conduct the review.

In late March 2011, a prosecution witness who had placed Knox and Sollecito near the crime scene on the night of the murder admitted to being a heroin addict. He later contradicted himself regarding the dates, times and details regarding when he may have seen Knox and Sollecito.

On the 26th of March, media reports surfaced claiming that forensic investigators on the case had been unable to find enough genetic material on the knife that Knox and Sollecito are alleged to have used to stab Kercher. News outlets reported that Kercher's bra clasp, linking Sollecito to the crime, was judged to be too rusty to be re-examined.

At a hearing held on 21 May 2011, it was determined that the police must provide evidence regarding the identification of the alleged murder weapon to the DNA experts appointed by the court and must provide the testimony of the police who found the weapon. According to Knox's father, the police's reluctance to provide this information to the court-appointed DNA experts has delayed their report. In June 2011, the report by court appointed forensic experts concluded that there was not enough DNA on the bra clasp to retest, that the collection of the bra clasp evidence did not conform to internationally accepted procedures, and the collection was "in a context that was highly suggestive of ambient contamination." The forensic experts further concluded that the previous results indicating that Kercher's DNA was on the knife blade appeared "unreliable because not supported by scientifically valid analytical procedures." On the 25th of July 2011, the forensic experts testified that they found no DNA or blood on the blade of a knife the prosecutors argued was the murder weapon.

This begs the question; was there enough DNA on the knife initially? If so, where did it go?

In June, several witnesses testified that they had information that demonstrated Knox and Sollecito were innocent. One witness stated that his estranged brother committed the murder and one of Guede's former cellmates testified that Guede revealed that Knox and Sollecito had nothing to do with the crime. He testified that Guede and another friend went to Kercher's house with the intent of having three way sex with her, but when she refused his friend stabbed her to death. The defence also called other witnesses to support Alessi's testimony. One such witness testified that he had heard stories of Knox and Sollecito's innocence while he was in jail and he heard Guede say that Knox and Sollecito were innocent.

However, Guede denied this on the stand, calling it "all lies". He said he had never discussed the murder and that the former cellmate was being manipulated by others. Prosecutor Mignini introduced new evidence by reading a letter penned by Guede in 2010 that referred to "the horrible murder of a splendid girl by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox", and Guede stated that he stood by the contents of the letter.

In closing arguments a lawyer for Sollecito argued that, based on transition of gastric contents, the time of death was no later than 9:30 pm, rather than just after 11:30 pm as had been determined by the court of first instance.

On the 3rd of October 2011, murder convictions against Knox and Sollecito were overturned and they were both immediately released. The defamation charge against Knox resulting from her accusation that club owner Patrick Lumumba was responsible for the murder, was upheld, and she was sentenced to a three-year term and fined €22,000. Since she had already served four years imprisonment, it did not affect her release

In the court of public opinion — Italian public opinion — Amanda Knox remains a temptress and diabolical sex-killer. In the formal court — an Italian appellate hearing — the 24-year-old American is innocent, a victim of a staggering miscarriage of justice and botched investigation.

Quite honestly, I believe that Knox, Sollecito and Guede were jointly responsible for Kercher’s death. There was simply too much evidence against them and Knox’s statements to the police bears scrutiny and certainly didn’t put her in a good light.

There is no doubt in my mind that the police bungled the investigation and the manner in which they questioned Knox was outrageous and it didn’t help to have a dishonest prosecutor proceeding against Knox and Sollecito.

The result was that Knox was free to go home within hours of the verdict that was delivered late Monday night, booked on a commercial flight back to Seattle Tuesday morning.

The reaction is disgruntled by many people: No clarity, no agreement and no justice for Meredith Kercher, a brutally slain young woman altogether eclipsed by the luminous aura cast by her former roommate.

The prosecution is appealing the decision. It will be interesting to see if the appeal will be in the prosecution’s favour. If so, Italy will have to apply to the United States to extradite Knox back to Italy to face another trial.

UPDATE: On March 26, 2013, the highest court in Italy ordered that Amanda Knox is to be tried again for the murder of Ms. Meredith Kercher. Knox is currently back in the USA and it is hardly likely that she will be extradited back to Italy. That means that she will be tried in abstentia. If the USA refuses to extradite her back to Italy, the Americans can give up any hope of successfuly asking the Italians to extradite people from Italy to the USA.


UPDATE:  On March 26, 2015, Italy’s highest court annulled the second convictions of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher in 2007. The decision ends a tortuous legal odyssey that lasted more than seven years and ultimately included two convictions and two acquittals for Knox and Sollecito. The court’s ruling after more than 10 hours of deliberations has lifted any fears of further prosecution for Knox and Sollecito, and ended all speculation about possible extradition of Knox from the US. The third suspect in the case, Rudy Guede, remains convicted without question and in prison serving a 16-year sentence.

3 comments:

Ken said...

Nice job, it's by far the best summary of the case out of the dozens of accounts I've seen.

There was a lot of very odd behavior and inability to account for her movements by Knox. Circumstantially it is very strong, but there is a lot of smoke and not a lot of fire. However, to play devils advocate, she might just be an odd personality - and she was smoking a lot of cannabis at the time.

Virtually every piece of evidence gathered by the Italian authorities is being discredited or denied. The only undisputed fact main thing being cited against Knox and Sollecito now is them turning off their mobile phones on the night of the murder, from around 8.40pm, and turning them back on at around 6am. (The BBC noted that this was the only time Knox switched off her mobile phone during her time in Italy). It could easily be a co-incidence though.

I think Raffaele Sollecito is the one who did it, or at least the one who inflicted the fatal throat wounds, he liked carrying and collecting knives (check out the facebook photo ne posted of himself masked with a cleaver and a bottle of bleach) and was carrying one when he was first questioned by police. Sollecito is the most likely one to have turned it from an assault into murder.



If the Rudy Guede was a lone burglar who managed to overpower and kill Meredith why did he wait until his successful appeal to accuse Knox and her boyfiend of committing the crime?

At his original trial (where he claimed to have broken off a consensual petting session to rush to the toilet and returned to find Meredith dead, tried to help her then panicked and fled) it was in his interest to say that he had seen Knox and Sollecito coming out out of the room. And he had nothing to lose if he had in fact acted alone.

But he didn't even though the investigation was clearly targeting Knox and Sollecito. He could have so easily finessed his story to implicate Knox and Sollecito while helping his own case, if he was a lone burglar/murderer.

A lone burglar/murderer surely would have said just that facing a murder conviction.

The answer is perfectly clear: his was the dilemma that faces a prisoner with accomplices who could retaliate to his testifying against them, not a lone burglar/murderer who could implicate innocent people with impunity. Knox and Sollecito were with him. There is no other explaination.

Marcos Rodriguez said...

Excuse my unskilled english :Meredith room was ransacked and the door was locked;Filomenas room was ransacked but the door was close but not locked because when police came ,they checked the room; amanda went to the house to take a shower in the morning so for sure amanda was into her own room and her room was not ransacked because she did not call police at that time. Why did not a thief ransacked amandas room? Why would a thief lock Meredith door and close at least Filomenas door if already have broke in,ransacked and killed? It is suppose Filomenas door was close because amanda was early in the house and she did not call police to say ,at least, Filomenas room was ransacked.On the other side;how a bloody foot print finished on the bath mat but not visible bloody foot prints on the corridor?

Harry Rag said...

The English translation of the Italian Supreme Court report which explains why Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito's acquittals were annulled can be downloaded from the Perugia Murder File website:

http://www.perugiamurderfile.org/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=599