Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Italy: Update--Trial Proceedings Continue in Murder of British Exchange Student Meredith Kercher, 21

According to The Associated Press, an Italian court that convicted Amanda Knox, 26, in the brutal death of Meredith Kercher, 21, said in lengthy reasoning made public on Tuesday (April 29) that Kercher's wounds indicate multiple assailants and that Knox and the late Meredith Kercher, 21, fought over money on the night of the murder, November 2, 2007.

The appellate court in Florence explained that the January 2014 guilty verdicts against Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 29.

The court said that a third person convicted in the murder, Rudy Hermann Guede, 24, did not act alone, and cited the nature of the victim's wounds. It noted that at least two knives were used to attack 21-year-old Meredith Kercher and that there were also finger imprints on her body, indicating she had been restrained.

The court said there was ample evidence of a soured relationship between Kercher and Knox, despite Knox's attempts to play down differences in court, and cited statements by Guede under police questioning that Kercher had blamed Knox for taking money from her room. 

The court said it was not necessary for all of the assailants to have the same motive, and that the murder was not attributable to a sex game gone awry, as it was out of Kercher's character to have ever consented to such activity.

The release of the court's reasoning opens the verdict to an appeal back to the Supreme Court of Cassation. If it confirms the convictions, a long extradition fight for Knox is expected. She has been in the US since 2011 when her earlier conviction was reversed. 

COMMENT: Kercher was found dead in a pool of blood in the apartment she and Knox shared in the town of Perugia, on November 2, 2007. Her throat had been slashed and she had been sexually assaulted. 

Knox and Sollecito were arrested four days later and served four years in prison before an appeals court acquitted them in 2011. Knox subsequently returned to the US.

Italy's high court later threw out that acquittal and ordered a new trial, resulting in January's conviction. The court sentenced Knox to 28½ years in prison and Sollecito to 25 years.

Knox and Sollecito were convicted of murder and sexual assault in the first trial based on DNA evidence, confused alibis and Knox's false accusation against a Congolese bar owner, for which she was also convicted of slander.

An appellate court in Perugia dismantled the murder verdicts, criticizing the "building blocks" of the conviction, including DNA evidence deemed unreliable by new experts and lack of motive.

That acquittal was scathingly vacated in March 2013 by Italy's highest court, which ordered a new appellate trial to examine evidence and hear testimony it said had been improperly omitted by the Perugia appellate court and to redress what it identified as lapses in logic.

The third defendant, Guede, was convicted in a separate trial of sexually assaulting and stabbing Kercher. Guede's sixteen-year sentence--reduced on appeal from 30 years--was upheld in 2010 by Italy's highest court, which said he had not acted alone. 

Guede, a drug dealer who fled Italy after Kercher's homicide, was later extradited from Germany, acknowledges that he was in Kercher's room the night she died, but denies killing her.