MILAN — For Meredith Kercher’s family, the Italian court reasoning this week goes a long way to vindicating the account they have long and unwaveringly believed — that their 21-year-old daughter was murdered by American roommate Amanda Knox, her boyfriend at the time and a drifter.
The family has maintained a reserved and dignified demeanor through multiple trials and flip-flop murder verdicts against Knox and Italian ex-boyfriend Raffele Sollecito. Family members have discussed the case in the public eye only on rare occasions and they so far have not commented on the voluminous reasoning, released Tuesday, behind an Italian court’s decision to reinstate the guilty verdicts against Knox and Sollecito.
In the 337-page document, the judge who presided over the second appeals trial in Florence said three aggressors acted in concert, but with different motivations:
Knox delivered the fatal blow out of a desire “to overpower and humiliate” her British roommate, with whom she had differed over housekeeping and the frequency of male visitors to the shared apartment. Sollecito, Knox’s boyfriend of just a week, backed his new lover. And the third aggressor, who was tried and convicted separately, sought to act on his sexual attraction to Kercher.
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“Let’s say in general, it is a version that we have always in some ways sustained,” Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca said Wednesday. “We have always maintained there were mixed motives.”
One key point, according to Maresca, is that the new verdict relies heavily on the reasoning behind the long-confirmed guilty verdict against Rudy Hermann Guede, serving as a sort of thread to the latest conviction. He is serving a 16-year sentence.
Guede acknowledged having been in the apartment on Nov. 1, 2007, the night Kercher died, but said he didn’t kill her. Both Knox, 26, and Sollecito, 30, deny any involvement in the murder, saying they spent the evening at Sollecito’s getting high, making love and watching a movie.
A key element of the Guede verdict was that it held he didn’t act alone. The reasoning by the Florence appeal court cited the nature of Kercher’s wounds: the physical evidence that indicates two knives, not just the kitchen knife seized from Sollecito’s draw but another smaller knife never identified; finger imprints indicating she had been restrained; and the lack of any defensive wounds.
Some of the most graphic conclusions — that Knox delivered the fatal blow, that two knives were used, even though only one was identified — also were part of the first trial court’s reasoning. But this time the judge wrote that the aggression didn’t grow out of a consensual erotic game gone awry, as prosecutors in the first trial contended, because it was out of Kercher’s character.
“The image that we gather from the testimony is that of a very ‘serious’ girl, nearly ‘puritanical,’” Alessandro Nencini, the judge who presided over the Florence appeals trial, wrote.
Nencini also said despite Knox’s attempts to downplay any tensions in the house, there was ample testimony to show there were ongoing disputes and that Kercher “harbored reservations about Knox’s behavior.”
The night of the murder, Nencini said Knox let Guede into the apartment, someone whom Kercher didn’t know that well and who went on to defecate in a toilet without flushing, “behavior that was likely to annoy Meredith Kercher more than a little.” The British student also was probably aware of the disappearance of 300 euros (over $400), Nencini wrote, which Guede testified she blamed on Knox.
“The two circumstances could have constituted effectively a valid motive for Meredith Kercher, who had no sympathy for the defendant, to ask for explanations in a very pressing manner,” the document said.
Maresca hadn’t yet discussed the contents of the court’s reasoning Wednesday afternoon with Kercher’s family, and he didn’t expect they would issue a statement. In a news conference after January’s reinstated guilty verdicts, Kercher’s sister Stephanie said, “We hope we are near to the truth, to an end, so that we can start to remember Meredith for who she was.”
Family members have appeared only rarely at the three trials, showing up to testify in the first trial and then for all three verdicts. Kercher’s mother, Arline, fought back tears when she told the court, “I still look for her.” And her father, John, said Meredith would have defended herself if she could have: “She could put out quite a fight.” The parents’ health has been poor and neither traveled to Italy for the January verdict.
The Florence appellate court that reinstated the first trial guilty verdicts in January handed Knox a 28 ½ year sentence, including the additional conviction on a slander charge for wrongly accusing a Congolese bar owner. She remains in the U.S. since her 2011 acquittal and has vowed to never return willingly to Italy to face her judicial fate.
Sollecito, who faces 25 years, won’t be taken into custody until the guilty verdict is confirmed by Italy’s highest court, which hears the final appeal.
Kercher’s siblings have established a fund aimed at ensuring that those responsible for Meredith’s death “are brought to justice” to pay legal fees for their team of lawyers who have assisted the prosecution as civil plaintiffs. And her father, John Kercher, wrote a book about his daughter, a memorial to his loss and that didn’t garner anywhere near the attention of Knox’s book, in a deal reportedly worth $4 million, or even Sollecito’s published account.
“It has seemed as if Meredith has been all but forgotten,” John Kercher wrote in a 2012 column for the Daily Mail on the book’s publication. “In writing this book, I hope to go some way toward redressing the balance, for Meredith was a beautiful, intelligent and caring girl whom everyone loved, and her story deserves to be told.”
Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.