The never-ending quest for the truth about the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, is about to reach its final stage.
Seattle native Amanda Knox may be a free woman today, but her legal woes are far from over. Perugia prosecutors have filed their anticipated appeal of Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito’s murder acquittal on Valentine’s Day, two days before the deadline. The 111-page brief officially petitions Italy’s high court in Rome to annul the October 2011 acquittal of the former lovers.
After filing the document, prosecutors Giovanni Galati and Giancarlo Costagliola told reporters gathered outside the courthouse in Perugia they were confident that the appeal will be accepted, which is the first step before the high court can make the final, definitive ruling on the case. They added that they felt confident the high court in Rome would see the inconsistencies and unfairness of the Perugia appellate-court acquittal. “We are extremely convinced that Knox and Sollecito were coauthors in Meredith’s murder,” they said, pointing out that Knox could be extradited under an agreement between the United States and Italy.
The prosecution is asking the high court to consider a number of legal points of law that they say were mistakes that led to the acquittal and release of Knox and Sollecito from prison. They want the high court to specifically consider whether the independent review of key forensic evidence was too short-sighted and legal at all. During the appellate process last year, defense lawyers were able to get a court-approved independent forensic review of a knife that had Knox’s DNA on the handle and what prosecutors then said was Kercher’s on the blade and Kercher’s bra clasp that had Sollecito’s DNA on the tiny metal hook. Both items were ruled inadmissible because of the methodology used to collect, store, and test the items. The DNA sample on the knife, for example, was too small to double-test, and the bra clasp was left uncollected from the floor of the crime scene for nearly six weeks after the murder. Prosecutors believe that the entire body of forensic evidence should have been reconsidered, not just the most contentious items. “There was much more forensic evidence that linked these two to the murder,” said Manuela Comodi, one of the prosecutors in the original trial. “You can’t just pick and choose the weakest items to retest. It should have been all or nothing.”
Perugia prosecutors have also asked the high court to uphold Knox’s remaining conviction for slander, for which she was sentenced to three years in prison. That conviction was upheld in last October’s appellate ruling, and Knox’s attorneys launched their own appeal against that ruling last week.
Italy’s high court cannot reconvict Knox and Sollecito, but they can order a retrial if they find that mistakes were made. Knox would not have to attend a retrial, and her lawyers say that she would not come back for that, though her lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova told reporters that she might come back to Italy to give evidence as a witness in her parents’ related slander trial in June.
Kercher’s murder case has already made its debut in Italy’s high court. In 2009 the same court upheld the murder conviction of Ivory Coast native Rudy Guede, who was convicted in a fast-track trial as one of three assassins in the crime. Prosecutors in Perugia hope the high court will consider that ruling as precedent when they consider the Knox-Sollecito appeal later this year. In the meantime, Kercher’s family is considering filing a wrongful death suit against Knox and Sollecito.
It is no coincidence that Knox’s handlers in Seattle and her literary agent in New York have put her memoirs on the auction block at the exact moment the deadline to appeal came due in Italy. By riding a new wave of interest in the case, they are sure to up ante for her yet-to-be written book, which is reported to start only with her arrest and imprisonment for Kercher’s murder. She is not expected to write about the night of the crime or the morning after.