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Amanda Knox, acquitted of murder - Italian court orders new trial after appeal
So It GoesDo I have something on my face?Registered Userregular
PERUGIA, Italy — After one of the most closely watched trials in Italy, an American college student and her Italian former boyfriend were found guilty of murdering her housemate two years ago in this picturesque university town.
Amanda Knox was taken to court Friday to hear the verdict in her murder trial in Perugia, Italy.
The case gripped Italy and drew intense international media attention to a pair of young people who seemed to have no clear motive or violent pasts.
Prosecutors had accused Amanda Knox, 22, then a student at the University of Washington, and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 25, of killing her housemate, Meredith Kercher, 21, of Surrey, England, in November 2007 after a scuffle escalated into their coercing her into a sex game.
Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito were both found guilty on all the major charges by the jury, in a verdict that was read in court about midnight. Ms. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Mr. Sollecito to 25 years. Prosecutors had been seeking life sentences, Italy’s stiffest sentence, for both.
A third defendant, Rudy Guede, 22, is already serving a 30-year sentence for sexual assault and murder, although the judge ruled that he was one of three assailants. All three deny wrongdoing. Mr. Guede’s trial in his appeal is under way.
In addition to the murder charges, an eight-member jury, after a yearlong trial and more than 12 hours of deliberation, also found Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito guilty of unlawful possession of a weapon, (a knife that prosecutors claim was involved in the murder), of staging a crime scene and of burglary.
Prosecutors contended that the three had faked a burglary to cover up the murder.
Ms. Knox was also found guilty of defamation, for having accused her former boss in a bar where she worked, Patrick Lumumba, of the crime in both verbal and written testimony. He was jailed before being released. Ms. Knox has said that the police pressured her into accusing Mr. Lumumba.
But to American eyes, many aspects of the trial can in fact seem baffling, even if they are perfectly normal here.
Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito were held in jail for a year before prosecutors moved to indict them. Although it began in mid-January, the trial has taken nearly a year — long by American standards but fast by Italian standards — because it has met only two days a week, partly to accommodate a powerful lawyer for Mr. Sollecito, Giulia Bongiorno, who is also a sitting member of Parliament and the head of Parliament’s Justice Committee.
The case the prosecutors have presented is largely circumstantial, though even some American legal experts say it could be strong even in an American courtroom.
Prosecutors have cited records showing that Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito stopped using their cellphones around the same time on the evening of the crime, and began using them again around the same time early the next morning. Forensic experts have testified that evidence with Ms. Knox’s and Ms. Kercher’s commingled DNA was found in a room in the house where prosecutors allege Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito staged a break-in as a cover-up, for which they are also charged.
Ms. Knox has maintained that she spent the night of the murder at Mr. Sollecito’s house, where the two smoked marijuana, watched the French film “Amélie” and had sex. She said she went home the next morning and found the door to the house open and Ms. Kercher dead.
Mr. Sollecito has said he does not remember whether or not Ms. Knox spent the whole night at his house. His lawyers chose not to subject him to cross-examination, in part because his story does not entirely corroborate Ms. Knox’s. On Thursday he delivered one of his few declarations in court, saying, “I did not kill Meredith” and appealing to jurors to give him his life back.
Unlike in some American trials, where defendants often turn on each other, Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito’s lawyers have mounted a common defense. They say this is because their clients are innocent. Yet the Italian justice system offers no American-style plea bargain, in which defendants admit some guilt in exchange for a lesser sentence. The closest equivalent is a fast-track trial, which Mr. Guede’s lawyers asked for with the hope of a shorter sentence for him.
The jury of six civilians and two judges is not sequestered and has access to news media coverage of the case. They must convict if they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. In closing arguments on Thursday, one prosecutor, Manuela Comodi, told jurors that they did not require absolute truth. That, she added, was known only “by God.”
The two former lovers gave contradictory accounts of their movements on the night of the crime when, as they both acknowledged, they had been smoking cannabis. Amanda Knox then gave police a statement which she subsequently retracted, in which she said she had been at the flat when Kercher was murdered and had covered her ears to block out her screams. Her statement, at the end of an overnight without the assistance of either a lawyer or interpreter, interrogation was ruled inadmissible by Italy's highest court.
But, by a quirk of the law, it was able to be cited repeatedly in court and even shown this week on a giant screento the two professional and six lay judges trying the case. That was not the only unusual aspect of a trial during which the leading counsel for the prosecution, Giuliano Mignini, was being tried for abusing his powers in another case.
Mignini, who initially suggested Kercher might have died in an occult rite, later argued that Knox had killed her because she had come to hate her British flatmate.The judges appeared to have accepted that explanation and the prosection's reconstruction of the killing, which also changed during the trial.
This had Sollecito taunting Kercher with one knife while Knox plunged another into her throat. Mignini suggested it was culmination of a violent game forced on the British student in which she was sexually assaulted by Guede.
The final days of the trial saw media sentiment in Italy shift in favour of the defendants as their lawyers kept up an offensive on the forensic evidence linking them to the crime.
On Thursday, Knox and her former boyfriend both made emotional appeals to the judges to free them, but to no avail. The US student and the young Italian had spent more than two years in jail waiting to know their fate. Trials in Italy proceed at a leisurely pace of, at most, two hearings a week and this one took eight months.
Two points of discussion here:
1. What really happened that night, and why?
2. The Italian justice system is whacked, y/n? I tried to highlight a few of the aspects that would not fly in the American justice system or don't make a lot of sense.