American university student Amanda Knox did not get the news she was hoping for today. She and her former boyfriend Rafaelle Sollecito, standing trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, were hoping the judge would give them a sign that the prosecution’s case against them was flawed. The court met today to hear various requests by the defense lawyers. The most important was a request for an independent analysis of the case’s forensic elements that are particularly damning to the defendants—specifically a knife with Knox’s DNA on the handle and what the prosecution believes was Kercher’s on the blade, and the hook from Kercher’s bloodied bra that has Sollecito’s DNA on the metal clasp.
But the judge said no, the evidence will stand alone.
The denial of an independent review does not necessarily mean the judge assumes guilt. But it is a clear sign that he wants to wind this trial up as soon as possible. Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast native who was convicted for his role in Kercher’s murder, will begin his appeal on November 18. Testimony from that case has so far had no bearing on this case, even though the two cases are deeply intertwined. Defense lawyers did not show disappointment. “It is positive,” said Luca Maori, attorney for Sollecito, who cried in the courtroom upon hearing the news. “It means the judge wants to wrap up this case as soon as possible. It is not necessarily bad news.”
When handing down his ruling just before 9:30 p.m., the judge said that his decision was not an indicator of guilt, but that it was the application of Italian law. He said that an independent analysis would not change the facts of the evidence. But Knox’s lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, disagreed. “We had made the request to clarify this evidence,” he said after the hearing. “But obviously the judge can make his decision without further information.”
What this means for Knox and Sollecito is anyone’s guess. The two are charged with sexual assault, murder, staging a crime, and theft. Knox is charged additionally with false accusation for accusing Patrick Lumumba of Kercher’s murder. They could be convicted of any or all of those crimes. They face life in prison. But in Italy, convictions are automatically appealed and those close to this case have suggested they have a good chance at winning an appeal.
Either way, this was the first real step toward the end of this epic murder mystery. The trial will resume November 20 with closing arguments. The case is expected to go to the two-judge, six-layperson jury on December 4. A verdict could come any time after that.
Barbie Latza Nadeau has reported from Italy for Newsweek since 1997. She also writes for CNN Traveller, Budget Travel, and Frommer's.