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According to the prosecution case, Knox, Sollecito and Guede, go to Knox’s flat on the night of 1 November, probably stoned, and try to entice Meredith into a group sex game. When she refuses Sollecito allegedly holds her down from behind as Guede to sexually assaults her. It is also alleged that Knox then stabs her.
The prosecution then claim that Knox and Sollecito go outside and throw a stone at Knox’s other flatmate Filomena’s window to break it and make the murder look like a burglary gone wrong. They also allegedly dispose of Meredith’s phone in a neighbour’s garden, which is later found and reported to the police.
When the trial finally began in January 2009, the prosecutions’ biggest problems remained the apparent lack of motive and lack of Knox DNA in Kercher’s bedroom. They explained away the first problem by saying that Knox found Kercher prudish and was eager to humiliate her sexually in a drug fuelled sex game that turned deadly. And the damning DNA may not have been in the room, but Knox’s DNA was on the handle of a knife whose blade had Kercher’s DNA on it and which was found in Sollecito’s flat. Sollecito’s DNA is found on a bloodied bra though the length of time between the crime and the bra’s testing leaves the possibility that the evidential chain had been contaminated.
Sollecito’s defence is that he was surfing the internet but his computer records don’t back him up. Both Knox and Sollecito say they were smoking marijuana which is why they cannot remember details properly. And both rely on an expert forensic witness to rebut the DNA evidence with an O.J Simpson like defence, i.e. there was a contamination of the evidential process.
The relationship between the two accused was tense and when Sollecito gave a statement, Knox nervously bit at her nails. Her demeanour throughout was as analysed as her character before the murder. Photos of her beaming, even flirty smile at her lawyer was thought to be proof of her carefree innocence by defenders and damning proof of her psychopathic nature for others. When a hearing happened on Valentine’s Day, she wore the Beatles lyric, ‘All You Need is Love’ in massive red letters. Few thought it appropriate. Her drug-free, teetotal image had been exposed by her own admission of smoking marijuana on the night of the murder and by the fact that she had previously been fined for her role in a drunken party. She was labelled a ‘she-devil’ by Kercher’s family lawyer but Knox’s lawyer calls her ‘the Amelie of Seattle’, referring to the heroine of the eponymous French movie that Knox said she and her boyfriend watched on the night of the murder. (The film is about a woman who dedicates her life to doing good.)
Much was made of her smiling and laughing but English speaking viewers could sympathise with some of these reactions. For example, she laughed when she gave her birth date, not because she had little respect for the proceedings but because of the inappropriate timings her rotund translator chose to start interpreting. At one point, Amanda Knox’s every sentence was so interrupted that the very sense of her answers was lost. Knox’s response was to become fluent in Italian.
The 11 month trial was very Italian. Knox had to sit for five months without saying a word and her mother being a witness, wasn’t allowed to attend the first day of her daughter’s trial. And then during the summer, there was a two month break for the holidays. The trial system itself was and is different from the UK with two Italian judges joining six local residents as members of the jury, each of whom have a single vote.
Before the verdict was read, Knox appealed to the jury, in fluent Italian, saying she ‘was confident my conscience is clean’ but that ‘I am afraid of having a mask of murderer forced on my skin’
The 22 year old American student had spent two birthdays in jail. She was sentenced to spend a further 26 of them in prison. Her former boyfriend, Sollecito, now aged 25, was sentenced to 25 years in jail. Her lawyer comforted her as she and her family broke down.
Sollecito remained impassive and ironically as calm and composed as the Kercher family.
On top of the sentence, the court ordered Knox and Sollecito to pay two million Euros to Kercher’s parents, and with additional awards to her siblings, the total amounted to more than €4m. Knox was also ordered to pay €40,000 to Patrick Lumumba. It was her false testimony against him which gave her an extra year on the sentence given to Sollecito. She was sent to Capanne prison on the outskirts of Perugia to a nine metre square cell, with her family vowing to appeal.
On 24 November 2010, Knox and Sollecito's appeals began amid a media furore. By now known as 'Foxy Knoxy' in newspapers and on television screens across the world, Knox made an emotional plea for mercy in court, reading in Italian from handwritten notes in which she described her conviction as 'an enormous mistake'.
Meanwhile, back in the US, a controversial new film about the murder, entitled 'Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy', dramatised the harrowing last moments of Meredith Kercher's life. One particular scene, which shows the victim being held while she screams, caused particular uproar and Knox later tried to ban its wider release, calling it an 'invasion of my life'.
In July 2011, the appeals court heard from experts who suggested that the DNA evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito could have been contaminated, although Italian prosecutors deny the claims. It was also alleged that police failed to wear the correct protective clothing. With this in mind, the accused separately addressed the court for the first time in a bid to appeal their convictions ahead of the jury's verdict. Knox, who immediately began to cry, told the court that she was 'not who they say I am', while her former boyfriend and co-defendant Sollecito explained that the case had felt like a nightmare from which he could not wake. Later that evening, in a speech which elicits gasps from the courtroom, presiding judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann announced that the jury had acquitted the pair of Kercher's murder on the basis of doubts over procedures used to gather DNA evidence. Knox collapsed in tears and was escorted from the court.
Although the judge upheld her conviction of slander after she accused bar owner Lumumba of the murder, the three year sentence passed down had already been served by Knox. She is now a free woman.
The parents of Meredith Kercher have left her bedroom untouched, just as she left it to go to Italy in August 2007. Her mother said,
“It's not a shrine to Meredith but it is a constant reminder of her. When I'm walking past with a pile of washing in my hand I get a feeling of sadness. It's almost as though she's just gone out and will be back in a while.”
Retrial
On 26 March 2013 Italy’s highest court reversed the acquittals and ordered Knox and Sollecito to stand trial again in the Court of Assizes of Appeal in Florence. The retrial began on 30 September 2013.
Italy had no power to summon Knox to the hearing and she remained in Seattle, where she is studying creative writing at the University of Washington. Sollecito, who remained in Italy was not required to return to jail during the retrial but did choose to attend court during the hearing.
On 31 January 2014, after 12 hours of deliberation, Knox and Sollecito's guilty verdicts were reinstated and they were sentenced to 28 years and six months and 25 years respectively and ordered to pay damages to the Kercher family. Presiding judge Alessandro Nencini also ordered that Sollecito's passport be revoked.
In a statement issued after the verdict was delivered, Knox said:
"I am frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict."
Both Knox, who was in Seattle at the time of the verdict, and Sollecito, who had left the court before the verdicts were delivered, will appeal to the supreme Court of Cassation. In Italy, the verdict will not be considered to be final until it is confirmed by the Court of Cassation. If the Court of Cassation upholds the guilty verdicts, it is likely that at this time Knox's extradition would be requested.