Italy court: Amanda Knox to be retried for Meredith Kercher murder
In an unexpected decision, the Italian supreme court in Rome is overturning Amanda Knox's acquittal, saying she will stand trial again for the murder of roommate Meredith Kercher. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports and Italian legal expert Praxilla Trabattoni discusses the case.
Amanda Knox was ordered to stand trial again for the murder of her roommate by Italy's top criminal court on Tuesday, but there appeared to be little the country could do to force her to return for the new hearings.
The Court of Cassation, Italy's final court of appeal, overturned the acquittals of both Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito over the 2007 killing of British student Meredith Kercher.
In a statement responding to the decision, Knox slammed prosecutors and vowed to fight on.
"It was painful to receive the news that the Italian Supreme Court decided to send my case back for revision when the prosecution's theory of my involvement in Meredith's murder has been repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair,” said Knox, who is now aged 25 and living in the Seattle area.
“I believe that any questions as to my innocence must be examined by an objective investigation and a capable prosecution,” she added. “The prosecution responsible for the many discrepancies in their work must be made to answer for them, for Raffaele's sake, my sake, and most especially for the sake of Meredith's family. Our hearts go out to them.”
Theodore Simon, one of Amanda Knox's attorneys, discusses the Italian supreme court's stunning decision to overturn her acquittal saying "we fully expect she will be exonerated."Knox said that she and her family would “face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity."
Kercher, 21, died from knife wounds in an apartment that she shared with Knox in Perugia, Italy.
Prosecutors argued that Knox and Sollecito killed her after a drug-fueled sexual assault in a case that drew worldwide attention.
Young, attractive and with a seemingly bright future, the prosecution’s allegations suggested Knox’s outward appearance belied a secret, more sinister nature.
Knox was routinely referred to by a nickname “Foxy Knoxy” in newspapers as every detail of her life was examined.
She and Sollecito, who turned 29 on Tuesday, were prosecuted and found guilty of killing Kercher. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, while Sollecito got 25, but they were acquitted after serving four years.
Small-time drug dealer Rudy Hermann Guede, who knew Knox, was convicted and given a 16-year sentence.
Ted S. Warren / AP, file
Amanda Knox, seen in October 2011 in Seattle shortly after her release, will now be retried in Italy for the murder of Meredith Kercher.
Meredith’s sister Stephanie Kercher, 29, told Britain's ITV News that the family welcomed the court's decision to retry Knox and Sollecito "in the sense that we hope to find the answers.”
“We are never going to be happy about any outcome because we have still lost Meredith, but we obviously support the decision and hope to get answers from it,” she said. "There are still so many unanswered questions, all we have ever wanted to do is do what we can for Meredith and to find out the truth of what happened that night."
"Rudy Guede's conviction was on the basis that there was more than one person there so that is something that needs to be looked into,” she added.
Francesco Maresca, a lawyer representing Kercher's family, said in a statement on Monday that the acquittals were "defective" and "lacked transparency," Reuters reported.
TODAY's Matt Lauer talks to Amanda Knox's father, Curt, who says his daughter is currently focused on being with her friends, many of whom have stayed her friend while she was in prison."There was a lot of external pressure and the judge showed a will from the start to acquit," Maresca said.
Italian law cannot compel Knox to return to Italy and she could be tried in absentia.
Knox’s attorney, Theodore Simon, told TODAY that the student and her family were confident her acquittal would be upheld.
He characterized the outcome of Tuesday’s court decision as a “revision” of the case, as opposed to a retrial, saying: “Merely because they have sent it back for revision does not mean that anything else will happen other than she will be recognized as not guilty and the same thing will happen again.”
“From what I understand, [Court of Cassation judges] have sent [the case] back for revision and reconsideration. They will review it. They may simply affirm that there was a ‘not guilty’ before and it should remain the same. They may seek to take some further evidence, but nothing has really changed.”
Simon said there was no reason for Knox to have to return to Italy, saying her presence was “no issue” in Tuesday’s ruling.
The Italian appellate court hearing the case could declare her in contempt of court but that carries no additional penalties.
"If the court orders another trial, if she is convicted at that trial and if the conviction is upheld by the highest court, then Italy could seek her extradition," another of Knox's lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova, told The Associated Press.
Since her release from prison in 2011, Knox has resumed her studies in Seattle.
Knox's book about the case is due to be released in April.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. ITV News is the U.K. partner of NBC News.
Oli Scarff / Getty Images
The long legal saga of Amanda Knox, an American student accused of the violent death of her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher, has made headlines around the world since it began in Perugia, Italy, in late 2007.
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An Italian court on Tuesday ordered the retrial of Amanda Knox, the American college student jailed for four years for killing her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, but acquitted after an appeal. Here are some questions and answers arising from the decision:
What just happened here?
They had been convicted in 2009 when Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Sollecito got 25 years. An appeals court freed both of them when it overturned the convictions in 2011, ruling that prosecutors had provided faulty DNA evidence, no murder weapon and otherwise insufficient proof.
What was the basis for Tuesday's court ruling?
We don’t know yet. Italian law gives the court three months to explain its decision. In the American system, an appeals court would generally explain itself upon issuing the ruling.
Any idea what they might be thinking?
Prosecutors have filed 16 points of appeal — essentially disputes over how the law was applied at trial, not over the facts of the case. Among other points, prosecutors question the appeals court’s ruling that DNA testing was faulty and that certain witnesses were unreliable.
This sounds an awful lot like double jeopardy.
Italian law prohibits a version of double jeopardy — being tried anew for a crime for which you have already been cleared, said Praxilla Trabattoni, an Italian lawyer who was followed the case. This case is technically different.
Trabattoni said that the Supreme Court was essentially saying that "when the appeals court was evaluating whether she did it or didn’t, the appeals court did that on the basis of evidence that shouldn’t have been admitted.”
Italian law says that a judgment is not definitive until it’s cleared every degree of trial, Trabattoni said, and the Supreme Court is considered the third degree of trial, after the lower court and the appeals court. If the Supreme Court had upheld the acquittal and then prosecutors had brought a new case entirely, that would be considered double jeopardy under the Italian system, Trabattoni said.
What happens next?
After the Supreme Court issues its explanation, an appeals court in Florence gets the case. A retrial probably would not begin until late this year or early next year.
Where is Amanda Knox these days?
In a statement Tuesday, she said: “No matter what happens, my family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity.”
Does she have to go back to Italy for the retrial?
No. And it appears unlikely that she will. Knox spent almost four years behind bars after her original arrest and conviction, before the appeals court reversed it. The retrial can go forward without Knox being present.
“It simply will proceed, it will be strenuously defended, and we fully expect she will be exonerated,” one of her lawyers, Theodore Simon, told NBC News.
What happens if the conviction is reinstated? Does she get sent back to jail in Italy?
We’re several big steps away from that, but it’s possible. First, Knox would have to be convicted by the appeals court. Then the Italian Supreme Court would have to uphold that verdict. Then Italy would have to seek Knox’s extradition from the United States.
The United States and Italy have an extradition treaty under which the U.S. would be bound to send Knox back, said Juliet Sorensen, who teaches international criminal law at the Northwestern University School of Law.
Such a decision would risk a political furor here at home. Knox has been portrayed by the American media as someone caught up in a hopelessly dysfunctional Italian legal system.
Still, if the conviction is reinstated, “I expect that Italy will make that request because it’s a serious crime,” Sorensen said. “At the end of the day, if she’s convicted of murder, I don’t foresee the Italian authorities letting it drop.”
And Meredith Kercher’s family? What do they make of this?
Kercher’s sister Stephanie, 29, told ITV News, the British partner of NBC News, that all the family ever wanted was the truth about the night of Nov. 1, 2007.
“We are never going to be happy about any outcome because we have still lost Meredith, but we obviously support the decision and hope to get answers from it,” she said.
What became of Sollecito, the boyfriend?
He released his own book last year: "Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox." In it, he reportedly wrote that police slapped and stripped him during an interrogation, and that they tried to get him to save himself by turning on Knox.
These days he is 29 and studying in Verona, according to British newspaper reports.
Giulia Bongiorno, one of his lawyers, stressed that the Supreme Court ruling was not the same as a conviction.
“Unfortunately we have to continue the battle,” she told reporters, according to Reuters. “This is a sentence that says, with regards to the acquittal, that something more is needed.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.