March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Italy’s highest court decided today Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito must be tried again for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher.
Knox, now 25, was an exchange student in Perugia at the time of Kercher’s murder in 2007. She was originally convicted and sentenced to 26 years and served almost four years in jail before the decision was overturned in October 2011. Sollecito, 29, was also sentenced to 25 years in jail in the first ruling in 2009 and found not guilty on appeal in 2011. Knox returned to her hometown in Seattle after the appeals verdict.
“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,” Knox said, according to an e-mail sent by David Marriott, a spokesman for her family.
The court today approved the prosecutors’ request to void the appeals court verdict and try Knox and Sollecito again, according to a court official. The case against Knox and Sollecito will be retried in a Florence court of appeals. Knox, who is still considered innocent pending the retrial verdict, will evaluate whether to take part in the trial, her lawyer Luciano Ghirga said on television network SkyTG24.
The case garnered global media attention in Italy, the U.K. and the U.S., and the appeals trial in 2011 saw a wave of journalists descending on Perugia, a town of 170,000 in central Italy. In Italy, the prosecution can file appeals when a verdict goes against them. An eventual extradition request could be considered in the event of a conviction in the retrial and confirmation by the highest court, according to a Justice Ministry official. That request wouldn’t involve the Italian government, Prime Minister Mario Monti’s spokeswoman said. The retrial is expected within one year, Ghirga said.
The case should be examined by “an objective investigation and a capable prosecution,” Knox said in the statement. “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.”
Kercher, a 21-year-old student, was found dead in her bedroom, half-naked and strangled with her throat slashed, on Nov. 2, 2007 at the house she shared with Knox and two other women. Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini said at the original trial that Knox had masterminded a drug-fueled sex game involving Sollecito and Ruby Guede, an Ivorian-born Italian citizen, which turned violent, leading to the murder. Sollecito and Knox have always denied any wrongdoing.
Guede was found guilty in a separate “fast-track” trial in 2008 and sentenced to 30 years. He had his sentence reduced to 16 years in a 2009 appeal.
“The battle goes on,” Sollecito’s attorney Giulia Bongiorno said on SkyTG24 today. The court’s reasoning, which will be published at a later stage “will tell if the retrial is on everything or if part of the appeals sentence can be saved.”
Knox didn’t understand why the court didn’t believe her innocence, Ghirga said, citing a conversation with his client after the verdict today. “We’ll have the same energies to sustain Amanda’s innocence in the Florence court.”
In arguments to the appeals court in 2011, Sollecito’s attorney Bongiorno compared Knox to Jessica Rabbit, saying the American had been unfairly portrayed in the media as a savvy, sex-obsessed manipulator. Like the cartoon-film character, Knox “isn’t bad, she’s just drawn that way,” Bongiorno said.
Knox first told police she was at the villa at the time of the killing and that screaming from Kercher’s room alerted her to the crime scene. She also initially named the owner of a bar where she had worked as the possible killer. The man, Patrick Diya Lumumba, was arrested and later released after a witness confirmed his alibi.
Neither Knox nor Sollecito were in court today. Knox’s memoir on the years spent in prison, “Waiting to Be Heard,” will be released April 30, according to the website of publisher Harper Collins.