By COLLEEN BARRY
2014-02-01 03:22 AM
FLORENCE, Italy (AP) -- The three trials of Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito have reached conflicting conclusions and left outsiders puzzled by the intricacies of the Italian justice system. Here is a look at the legal path the case has taken since the body of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher, Knox's roommate, was found on Nov. 2, 2007, in the Italian university town of Perugia.
THE OVERALL LEGAL JOURNEY
Knox's and Sollecito's legal journey began with their first trial court conviction (2009), then went to the appellate acquittal (2011), headed to the scathing high court dismissal of that acquittal (2013) and now, this week's development, a Florence court's confirmation of the original guilty verdict. The next step: A planned appeal by lawyers for Knox and Sollecito to Italy's supreme Court of Cassation, probably sometime in the next year.
THE FIRST TRIAL IN PERUGIA
-- On Dec. 4, 2009: The court found Knox guilty of murder, sexual assault and slander and sentenced her to 26 years in prison, including one year for slander. Sollecito is convicted of murder and sexual assault, sentenced to 25 years.
Prosecutors contended that Kercher was killed by multiple stab wounds as an erotic game went awry. The court said it didn't believe Knox and Sollecito premeditated the crime but that it happened spontaneously when they aided a third person's sexual desire for Kercher.
The evidence leading to the conviction included the presumed murder weapon: Kercher's DNA was on the blade of the kitchen knife found at Sollecito's house while Knox's DNA was on the handle. Mixed traces of DNA belonging to Sollecito and Kercher were also found on a clasp of Kercher's bra.
Initially Sollecito said he was working on his computer all night but police said there was no sign he used it. He also couldn't recall if Knox was with him the whole night. Knox initially told investigators she was home that night and had to cover her ears against Kercher's screams.
The couple later said they had spent the evening at Sollecito's place watching a movie, smoking pot and making love. Knox said her false confession was forced under duress during all-night questioning by Italian police without a lawyer present and in a language she barely spoke. The defense teams argued neither had a motive to kill Kercher: Knox said they were friends while Sollecito said he barely knew the British student.
Knox, meanwhile, falsely blamed a Congolese bar owner for the murder. Eventually another man, Rudy Guede from Ivory Coast, was arrested, tried and convicted of the murder in a separate trial.
THEIR APPEAL NO. 1, AT PERUGIA
--On Oct. 3, 2011: The court throws out Knox and Sollecito's convictions, declaring them innocent of murder and freeing them immediately after spending nearly four years in prison. Knox's slander conviction is upheld and the sentence is increased from one to three years. The Perugia appellate court criticized the "building blocks" of their conviction and the failure to identify a motive:
Expert witnesses said the DNA on the knife blade attributed to Kercher was "unreliable" and that the testing was not up to international standards. Independent experts also suggested the bra clasp evidence could have easily been contaminated because it was taken in several weeks after the crime scene was examined.
The court said the pair had no motive to kill Kercher and there was no evidence the two had ever been in contact with Guede. It ridiculed the prosecution's efforts to demonize Knox when it criticized her buying thong underwear days after the murder. The court said Knox's and Sollecito's alibis were out of synch but said that doesn't constitute false alibis.
THE SUPREME COURT REVERSAL
--On March 26 , 2013: Italy's highest court vacated the acquittal, ordering a new appeals trial in a scathing decision that attacked the Perugia appellate court's logic and ordered evidence to be examined that had been omitted previously.
APPEAL NO. 2, FLORENCE
--On Jan. 30, 2014: The court reaffirmed the 2009 murder and sexual assault convictions against Knox and Sollecito. Knox's sentence was increased to 28 ? years, which also includes time for the slander conviction. Sollecito's was confirmed at 25 years.
Italy's high court had told the Florence court to order new tests on DNA evidence on the presumed murder weapon that had not been previously examined, but also to re-examine all the evidence in its totality, challenging the appeals' court logic of dismantling the evidence piece by piece.
The court's reasoning won't be known for 90 days, after which the defense teams can appeal the convictions to the high court in Rome.
A tiny DNA trace on the kitchen knife that was not previously tested was linked to Knox. Her defense said it was further proof she had used the knife for domestic purposes at Sollecito's place. The prosecution said it again put the murder weapon in her hands. The defense said the bra clip had been mishandled and contaminated, catalogued 46 days after the crime, but the prosecution said the tests were valid.
Knox's team argued there was no evidence of her being in the room where Kercher's body was found and that it would have been impossible for Knox to have cleaned up her own DNA while leaving behind Guede's.
A new prosecutor dropped the erotic-game motive, claiming this time that the violence was rooted in a long disagreement over cleanliness between Knox and Kercher that ignited anew when Guede left their toilet unflushed. The defense said the changing motive meant the prosecution's case was weak.
GUEDE'S ROLE IN THE MURDER
Guede was convicted of murder in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence. His conviction specified that he committed the crime with others. He acknowledged being in the apartment at the time of the murder and his DNA was found in multiple places in Kercher's bedroom. He claimed he heard Knox and Kercher argue, and that when he rushed to them he was attacked by an unidentified man.