Verdicts due in Kercher murder trial

Posted by Warren Fyfe on January 30, 2014 in Warren Fyfe Site

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, June 2011 (composite image)Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are seen here in 2011 when they were acquitted

A court in Italy is due to announce new appeal verdicts for two people accused of the murder of UK student Meredith Kercher in 2007.

US citizen Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were acquitted of the crime on appeal in 2011, after four years in custody.

But that ruling was dismissed as flawed last year by the supreme court, and a new appeal ordered.

Ms Knox has not returned to Italy for the case. Both plead their innocence.

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Analysis – US legal view

If Amanda Knox is convicted again, Italy is likely to file an extradition request to bring her back to the country. Ms Knox has said “common sense” tells her not to return to Italy of her own accord, despite her innocence.

Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University in Washington DC, says whether or not Ms Knox is extradited to Italy is a question of the request’s legal basis and America’s political interest in the case.

Once Italy makes a request, the US will have to decide whether it falls under their extradition treaty. While there is “no reason to think the US has a specific interest” in blocking her extradition, Mr Vladeck says, countries can effectively stand in the way with a variety of “creative” interpretations of extradition treaties.

If the US does grant Italy’s request, Ms Knox can fight her extradition in a US court.

But Mr Vladeck thinks the US protection against being tried twice for the same crime – known as double jeopardy – does not apply in this case: “There’s nothing in the treaty that requires Italy to uphold the US legal system.”

If they are convicted again, they can lodge appeals with the Court of Cassation (as the supreme court is known formally), which will have the final say.

The Court of Cassation overturned their acquittals last March after an appeal by prosecutors, who argued that important DNA evidence had been disregarded.

If Ms Knox is convicted, Italy may face a legal battle to extradite her from the US.

Prosecutors have asked for a 30-year prison sentence for her and a 26-year sentence for Mr Sollecito.

DNA evidence

Miss Kercher, from Coulsdon in south London and 21 at the time, was found with her throat cut in a flat she shared with Ms Knox in the college city of Perugia, in the central region of Umbria.

She suffered a “slow, agonising death”, a coroner’s report found.

Ivorian drifter Rudy Guede was convicted of her murder at a separate trial and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Meredith Kercher, file pic

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The Meredith Kercher murder retrial explained – in 60 seconds

Prosecutors sought to prove Miss Kercher had died in a sex game involving Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito, that had gone wrong.

They pointed to a bra clasp belonging to Miss Kercher where Mr Sollecito’s DNA was allegedly found.

They also maintained that Ms Knox’s DNA had been on the handle of a kitchen knife used in the attack, with Miss Kercher’s DNA on the blade.

In addition, traces of Ms Knox’s blood and footprints were allegedly found in the house.

Arrested days after the murder, Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito were tried and convicted in November 2009.

‘I didn’t kill’

In 2011, an eight-member jury cleared both defendants of Miss Kercher’s murder after doubts were raised over procedures used to gather DNA evidence.

Ordering a retrial last year, the Court of Cassation moved proceedings from Umbria to Florence, in the northern region of Tuscany.

Raffaele Sollecito

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Raffaele Sollecito denied any guilt in November, saying “This has been going on for far too many years”

Last month, Ms Knox, now 26 and living in Seattle, sent a five-page email to the court to explain her reasons for refusing to return to Italy from the US.

“I didn’t kill,” she wrote.

“I didn’t rape. I didn’t rob. I didn’t plot. I didn’t instigate. I didn’t kill Meredith. I am not present in court because I am afraid.

“I am afraid that the vehemence of the prosecution will make an impression on you, that their smoke will get in your eyes and blind you.”

If she is reconvicted of the murder, Ms Knox could fight her extradition to Italy in a US court.

If Mr Sollecito, 29, is reconvicted, the court in Florence could ask for him to be arrested or placed under a travel ban pending the Court of Cassation’s decision.

He told the court in November that it made “no real sense” for him to have committed “such an atrocious act”.

He is likely to remain at home to avoid the media scrum when the verdicts are announced, his father was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Members of Miss Kercher’s family are expected to be in court, the agency adds.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25941999#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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