March 26, 2013

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito face retrial over Meredith Kercher murder

Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito have always denied any involvement in the murder of Meredith Kercher
Italy's highest court is due to decide whether US student Amanda Knox should be retried over the 2007 killing of her British flatmate Meredith Kercher.

Prosecutors are arguing that the acquittal of Miss Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito on appeal in October 2011 was flawed.

The pair spent four years in jail for Miss Kercher's murder, but have always denied any involvement in the murder.

Meredith Kercher's family say they are still seeking answers to her brutal killing
Judges are expected to deliver a verdict on Tuesday.

The verdict had been expected on Monday, but after hearing six hours of evidence the court said it would make the announcement at 10:00 (09:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

The judges at Monday's hearing were considering points of law rather than the evidence.

The killing of the 21-year-old student in Perugia in November 2007 and the subsequent trials made headlines around the world.

Raffaele Sollecito, Knox and Rudy Guede. Photographs: AP and EPA
Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito had been facing 26-year and 25-year jail terms respectively following their initial convictions in 2009.

But they were acquitted after the defence successfully argued that DNA evidence on a kitchen knife, thought to be the murder weapon, could be flawed.

Miss Knox, who now lives in her home town of Seattle, was "very anxious" about the latest hearing, according to her Italian lawyer.

"She would love to come back to Italy as an innocent and free person," said Luciano Ghirga.

If the court upholds the October 2011 verdict, this protracted case will finally be over and Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito will have their innocence confirmed in the eyes of the law, the BBC's Alan Johnston reports from Rome.

However, if the court rules against the verdict, a new appeals process would be reordered, meaning there would be a retrial, he adds.

One of Mr Sollecito's lawyers, Giulia Bongiorno, said the delay in the court's decision was "very hard to interpret".

"This sort of thing is very rare at the Supreme Court," Ms Bongiorno said, according to the AFP news agency.

'Unanswered questions'

Meredith Kercher, from Coulsdon, south London, had been on a year abroad from Leeds University when she was found semi-naked in her bedroom and with her throat cut in the cottage she shared with Miss Knox in November 2007.

She had also been sexually assaulted, leading prosecutors to believe she was killed in a brutal sex game that went wrong.

Ivory Coast national Rudy Guede was convicted in a separate trial of sexually assaulting and stabbing Meredith Kercher and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He has admitted being at the house on the night of the murder, but denies murder.

Prosecution evidence of Miss Knox's DNA on the handle of the alleged murder weapon, and Miss Kercher's DNA on the blade of the knife, which was found at Mr Sollecito's flat, had been key to the original convictions of Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito.

But the appeal in October 2011 heard an independent review cast doubt over those DNA traces due to concerns about poor procedures in evidence collection and forensic testing and the possibility of contamination.

Prosecutors argue that the October 2011 acquittals failed to take into account other key evidence against Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito.

Meredith Kercher's family told British media this week that they hope the latest hearing will provide some answers to the "many unanswered questions" about her brutal killing.

Neither Miss Knox, who is preparing to publish her memoirs, and Mr Sollecito, a student in Verona, are expected to attend the hearing.

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