Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned by Italy high court

Amanda Knox
Courtesy: Associated Press

ROME (AP) — Italy’s highest court has overturned the murder conviction against Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend, bringing to a definitive end the high-profile case.

The decision by the supreme Court of Cassation is the final ruling in the case, ending the long legal battle waged by Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito. Both Knox, who was awaiting the verdict in her hometown of Seattle, and Sollecito have long maintained their innocence.

The supreme Court of Cassation overturned last year’s convictions by a Florence appeals court, and declined to order another trial. The decision means the judges, after thoroughly examining the case, concluded that a conviction could not be supported by the evidence. Their reasoning will be released within 90 days.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Lawyers for Amanda Knox’s ex-boyfriend urged Italy’s top criminal court Friday to overturn the pair’s murder conviction for the 2007 slaying of Knox’s roommate, saying in a final appeal there were errors of “colossal proportions” in the guilty verdicts.

Attorney Giulia Bongiorno dissected the 2014 Florence appeals court decision to show what she said were numerous errors of fact and logic that resulted in prison sentences of 28 1/2 years for Knox and 25 years for Raffaele Sollecito in the death of student Meredith Kercher.

The case has aroused strong interest on both sides of the Atlantic for its explosive mix of young love, murder and flip-flop decisions by Italian courts.

Judges at the high Court of Cassation began deliberating shortly after noon and defense lawyers said they were told to expect a decision at 10:30 p.m. Friday (2130 GMT, 5:30 p.m. EDT).

A decision to confirm the convictions could result in an extradition request from Italy for Knox, who is currently free in the United States. Knox, who has maintained her innocence, has vowed never to willingly return to Italy.

In her closing arguments, Bongiorno said even Knox’s original statement to police – which was never entered as evidence and was later changed – exonerated her client Sollecito.

Knox, who along with Kercher had been studying in the university town of Perugia, had initially accused a Congolese bar owner of the murder. She also told investigators that she was home the night that Kercher was killed and had to cover her ears to drown out her screams.

Bongiorno said she believed that Knox’s statement was coerced – but that even if the high court chose to consider it, Sollecito figured nowhere in Knox’s story.

“My heart is crying because I think she was pressured by an intermediary,” Bongiorno said, apparently referring to the person who served as Knox’s unofficial translator during police questioning. But within that statement, Bongiorno added, Knox “rules out Sollecito.”

Kercher, a 21-year-old student from Britain, was found dead Nov. 2, 2007, in the apartment that she shared with Knox and two other students. Her throat was slashed and she had been sexually assaulted.

Knox and Sollecito were arrested a few days later. Eventually another man, Rudy Guede from Ivory Coast, was arrested, tried and convicted of the murder in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence.

Initially Sollecito said he was working on his computer all night the night Kercher was killed and that he couldn’t remember if Knox had stayed the whole night with him. Police, however, said there was no sign he used the computer that night.

The couple later said they had spent the evening together at Sollecito’s place watching a movie, smoking marijuana and making love.

Knox said her initial statement was forced under duress during late-night questioning by Italian police without a lawyer present and in a language she barely spoke. Her false accusation against Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, who owned the bar where Knox occasionally worked, resulted in a slander conviction against Knox that has been upheld on appeal.

The high court has several options as it weighs the case: It can confirm the guilty verdicts, raising the question of extradition for Knox. It can overturn the convictions and order a third appeals trial. Or it can overturn the convictions without a new trial, tantamount to acquittal.

Knox, who was freed in 2011 after an earlier appeals court acquitted her, was awaiting the decision in Seattle on “pins and needles,” attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova said.

Another attorney, Luciano Ghirga, said he had spoken with Knox but that she responded in only “monosyllables.”

“She is very worried and stressed,” Ghirga told reporters outside the courtroom. “She just answers by saying `Yes, no, thank you, talk to you later.'”

Sollecito was in court Friday, joined by his girlfriend, sister and father. But he was later escorted by six police officers back to his home in Bari, on the Adriatic coast, to await the decision, attorney Luca Maori told reporters.

If the guilty verdict is confirmed, Sollecito will be taken into custody.

Bongiorno said Sollecito was calm “because he knows he’s innocent.”

Knox and Sollecito were initially convicted by a Perugia court in 2009, acquitted and freed in 2011, and then convicted in 2014 in Florence after the Cassation court overturned the acquittals and ordered a new appeals trial.

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