Q&A: Meredith Kercher murder retrial convictions

Raffaele Sollecito, Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox (composite) The case against Raffaele Sollecito (L) and Amanda Knox (R) has received much publicity in the European and US media

A court in Italy has reinstated the guilty verdicts against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of UK student Meredith Kercher in 2007. Knox - who is in her native United States - and her Italian ex-boyfriend Sollecito had pleaded not guilty. The latest verdict overturns the pair's successful 2011 appeal, which freed them after four years in jail.

What are the facts of the case?

British exchange student Meredith Kercher was found stabbed to death at the house she shared in Perugia, Italy, in November 2007. Three people were tried for her murder. One, Rudy Guede from the Ivory Coast, was tried, convicted and jailed for 16 years. The others, US student and housemate Amanda Knox and her Italian student boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, were tried separately and convicted of murder and sexual violence in December 2009. They maintained their innocence. The former was jailed for 26 years, the latter for 25. In October 2011, a jury freed them on appeal, largely after doubts were raised about the forensic evidence against them. In March 2013 an appeal by prosecutors was upheld and a new appeal ordered. In January 2014 their guilty verdicts were reinstated by a court in Florence.

Why were the acquittals overturned in March 2013?

Prosecutors successfully argued in Italy's supreme court, the Court of Cassation, that the 2011 appeal hearing had disregarded important DNA evidence. The Court of Cassation's judges sharply criticised the appeals court for the acquittals, saying it had ignored some evidence, considered other evidence insufficiently and undervalued the fact that Knox had originally accused local bar owner Patrick Diya Lumumba who was later proved to be innocent. The appeal judges were also criticised for not taking into account the sentence against Guede, saying he had not acted alone. The Court of Cassation moved the re-trial from Perugia to Florence.

How could they be tried twice for the same crime?

The Court of Cassation ruling meant the latest hearing in Florence was a re-run of the appeals process, - so technically not a new trial but a continuation of the original one. The hearing began in September.

Why was Amanda Knox being tried in absentia?

Italy had no power to summon Knox to the hearing. Now that she has been convicted again, Italy may request her extradition, but the US is famously reluctant to hand over its citizens. A further appeal could still be taken to the Court of Cassation in her absence. Knox's representatives say that she is concentrating on her studies at the University of Washington.

What forensic evidence was used?

Prosecutors pointed to a bra clasp belonging to Meredith Kercher where Sollecito's DNA was reportedly found. They maintained that Amanda Knox's DNA was on the handle of a kitchen knife used in the attack, with Ms Kercher's DNA on the blade. In addition, traces of Knox's blood and footprints were found in the house.

How did the pair plead at the retrial in Florence?

Knox sent a five-page email to the court insisting on her complete innocence and expressing her fear that the "vehemence of the prosecution" would "blind" the court. Sollecito, who attended the new trial, said it made "no real sense" for him to have committed "such an atrocious act".

How did the Florence hearings differ from previous proceedings?

Correspondents say that the new prosecutor in Florence, Alessandro Crini, redefined the motive of the crime. He moved away from the drug-fuelled erotic game described by his colleagues in earlier proceedings and instead contended that the outburst of violence was rooted in arguments between roommates Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher about cleanliness - triggered by a toilet left unflushed by Rudy Guede.

Why has the case generated so much publicity?

The case has been described as one of the highest profile murder trials in recent Italian history. That is partly because of the young age of both victim and defendants and partly because of media interest in the alleged sexual nature of Meredith Kercher's death. "I don't remember any case which has been as highly publicised and where the countries have taken sides,'' noted defence attorney Alan Dershowitz told the AP news agency. "I think it's fair to say that the vast number of Americans think she is innocent and a substantial number of Italians think she is guilty,'' he said.

What happens next?

In Amanda Knox's case, legal experts say any extradition is unlikely to take place before the verdict is finalised by Italy's high court, the Court of Cassation. In the event the conviction is upheld, a lengthy extradition process would ensue. The request would first go to the US State Department where its legal basis and America's political interest would be taken into consideration. If approved, it would be transferred to the Justice Department to be processed. If the US grants Italy's request, Knox can still fight her extradition in a US court.

Raffaele Sollecito, who was in Italy during the appeal, was considered by the court to be a "flight risk". Soon after the ruling, Italian police visited Sollecito between Udine and Tarvisio, less than 10km from the Slovenian and Austrian borders, where they notified him of his travel ban and confiscated his passport and driving licence. Despite the ban, the 29-year-old is free to move within Italy's borders until the verdict is confirmed.

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