Today Italian prosecutors seeking an appellate hearing in the Corte Suprema di Cassazione, which is the highest criminal court in Italy, related to the October 2011 release of Amanda Knox.
Knox, who was an American exchange student studying abroad, spent four years in an Italian prison for the 2007 murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher. Amanda Knox’s boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, was also freed in October after DNA evidence, which had originally implicated Knox and Sollecito, was discredited, resulting in the collapse of the prosecution’s case.
A lesser criminal court had originally sentenced Amanda Knox to 26 years in prison and Raffaele Sollecito to 25 years in prison. Prosecutors had obtained the guilty verdict by painting a picture of Knox, Sollecito, and a third defendant, Rudy Guede, of participating in a sex game that turned violent against Kercher. Kercher was found with her throat slit in the home shared with Knox, laying in a pool of her own blood.
The original verdict was obtained based on DNA and other circumstantial evidence. But the jury in the appellate court determined that the evidence was not sufficient to place Knox or Sollecito in the home at the time Kercher was killed. The appellate court determined that without additional evidence that supported the DNA and circumstantial evidence, a criminal conviction could not be upheld. However, the appellate court did not go so far as to say that the evidence supported the presence of another killer, which the prosecution has taken as a potential opportunity to re-establish the original verdict against Knox and Sollecito.
A previous appeal by Guede reduced his sentence from 30 years to 16 years, but his conviction was upheld and he still remains in prison related to the stabbing death of Kercher.
Amanda Knox, who was 24 years old at the time of her release from prison in October, returned home to Seattle shortly in order to be near family and friends. Sollecito, who was 27 at the time of release from prison, still lives in Italy.
As is the case with appeals in courts in the United States, the Italian Supreme Court will not hear new evidence in the case but rather will review documentation outlining the evidence considered in the previous trials. The review is expected to last until the latter part of 2012 as the court considers the 100 plus page appeal submitted by prosecutors.
Giovanni Galati, one of the Italian criminal prosecutors, said along with the filing of the appeal that he is “very convinced” Knox and Sollecito were involved in the killing of Kercher. But defense attorneys for Knox and Sollecito are expected to file counter-arguments once they have the opportunity to fully review the prosecution’s appeal.
“We will write our brief to say it’s a mistake,” said Sollecito’s attorney Luca Maori.
Amanda Knox’s family issued a statement related to the appeal through their attorney Theodore Simon. “We are not concerned about this appeal, as Amanda’s innocence was clearly and convincingly proven in her appeal trial. This is simply another example of harassment by the prosecutor against Amanda and makes this terrible, painful incident continue to go on for Amanda, Raffaele and their families.”
Should the Italian Supreme Court reinstate Amanda Knox’s criminal conviction, questions abound as to whether the United States would extradite Knox. While the United States has an extradition treaty with Italy, there is question as to whether returning Amanda Knox to Italy would amount to double jeopardy, since Knox has been acquitted of the murder and allowed to return home.
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