FLORENCE, Italy — Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend were convicted a second time Thursday in the 2007 fatal stabbing of Meredith Kercher, who shared an apartment with Knox in the university town of Perugia, where both women were exchange students. The presiding judge in the Florence court sentenced Knox to 28½ years in prison and the ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, to 25 years.
In so ruling, the court upheld a 2009 conviction for the murder. Knox, now 26, and Sollecito, 29, spent four years in prison before an appellate court in Perugia acquitted them in 2011, but the Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest court, overturned that ruling last year, sending the case back to the appellate court in Florence.
Both defendants maintain their innocence. Defense lawyers vowed to appeal the latest conviction with the Court of Cassation, waiting to file until after the court publishes its reasoning within 90 days.
Knox was in Seattle when she received the news. David Marriott, a spokesman for Knox’s family, said Knox awaited the ruling at her mother’s home. After the decision was announced, a person believed to be Knox emerged surrounded by others and covered by a coat. The person got into a vehicle and was driven away.
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In a statement, Knox said she was “frightened and saddened,” that she “expected better from the Italian justice system,” and that “this has gotten out of hand.”
She acknowledged the pain being felt by Kercher’s relatives, saying there is no consolation for them. “Their grief over Meredith’s terrible murder will follow them forever. They deserve respect and support,” she said.
Knox implored officials in Italy to fix problems with the justice system, and she blamed overzealous prosecutors and a “prejudiced and narrow-minded investigation” for what she called a perversion of justice and wrongful conviction.
When asked how Knox was doing, her mother, Edda Mellas, said: “She’s upset. How would you be?”
The courtroom in Florence fell still as the presiding judge, Alessandro Nencini, read the sentences Thursday, 11½ hours after the jury of two judges and six lay jurors began its deliberations.
Sollecito attended many of the hearings with his father, but neither he nor his family was present when the verdict was read. Lyle and Stephanie Kercher, the older siblings of Meredith Kercher, were in court. “This confirms everything we’ve said all these years,” said Francesco Maresca, one of the lawyers for the Kercher family.
Kercher, 21, was found dead in a pool of blood in the bedroom of the apartment she and Knox shared. Kercher had been sexually assaulted and her throat slashed.
Knox was originally sentenced to 26 years, but the Florence court added 2½ years because it confirmed Knox’s previous conviction for slander, adding aggravating circumstances. Shortly after the killing Nov. 1, 2007, Knox accused her Congolese-born boss of the crime; he was arrested but was later released when his alibi was confirmed.
A third defendant, Rudy Guede, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Perugia, was convicted in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence in connection with the murder.
Offering a motive, prosecutor Alessandro Crini suggested that Kercher and Knox used to argue about housecleaning. One violent confrontation was said to have taken place in the presence of Sollecito and Guede.
Crini presumed that the deadly row was triggered by Guede not flushing the toilet during a visit to Knox and Kercher’s flat. In earlier trials, prosecutors saw the murder as the result of a racy sex game gone wrong.
Michael Heavey, a retired King County Superior Court judge whose daughter went to high school with Knox, expressed shock at Thursday’s verdict.
“My reaction is, ‘Unbelievable,’ ” he said. “The insanity continues. The terror and trauma on two good young people continues.”
Heavey has followed the case closely, reviewed legal evidence and advocated for Knox’s innocence in public speeches and writings.
Heavey said he expects the latest verdict still must be reviewed and confirmed by the Court of Cassation. “But it could be the same judges who directed this trial doing that review,” he said.
From there, the case likely will go to a European Union court for review.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said she found the verdict disappointing but was confident there will be another appeal. “It is very troubling that Amanda and her family have had to endure this process for so many years,” Cantwell said in a statement. “I will continue to closely monitor this case as it moves forward through the Italian legal system.”
Knox has been living in Seattle since the acquittal in 2011. She has said she was afraid to return to Italy and possibly be convicted again.
In closing arguments Thursday, Knox’s two lawyers said the prosecution evidence was insubstantial and asked the jury to imagine a scenario in which Guede was the sole perpetrator of the crime. In the defense account, Guede broke into the house, was discovered by Kercher, 21, and inflicted the mortal blows after his alcohol-induced advances were rebuffed.
“That is, for the defense, the most plausible conclusion,” said Carlo Dalla Vedova, one of Knox’s lawyers.
Any request for Knox’s extradition would have to go through the Italian Justice Ministry and the U.S. State Department, he said.
Before Knox could be extradited, she would get her day in court — this time, in the United States.
The extradition process would kick off after Italy made a formal request to the U.S. State Department. State then would route the request to the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, which
would evaluate the petition for legal sufficiency before deciding whether to seek an extradition certificate. If they did, Knox’s extradition would be heard before a federal judge.
But such a review is limited in scope, said Mary Fan, a University of Washington Law School professor who specializes in international and domestic criminal law. While Knox’s attorneys likely would argue against the validity of her conviction and the process, such a hearing largely is dictated by whether paperwork and treaty standards have been met.
Italy is among at least 109 nations that hold extradition treaties with the United States. Due to “reciprocity” concerns, Fan said, federal officials might be in a tough spot not to carry out such an extradition, if it ever got to that point.
“Someday, the U.S. might seek extradition of someone convicted of a serious crime, such as murder, from Italy,” she said. “So, it’s reciprocity that’s the major consideration. Not just in this case, but in future cases. That’s something that the State Department has to consider.”
Material from Seattle Times staff reporter Lewis Kamb, Deutsche Presse-Agentur and The Associated Press was used in this report.