Knox Receives Guilty Verdict Again – Kercher Family Anguish Continues
The family of murdered British student Meredith Kercher said Friday it was still “on a journey for the truth” after an Italian court reinstated a guilty verdict against Amanda Knox and Raffaelle Sollecito. Stephanie Kercher, Meredith’s sister, told a press conference in Florence that the family may never “really know what happened that night, which is obviously something we’ll have to come to terms with.”
Sitting alongside her brother, Lyle, she added: “We hope that we are nearer the end so that we can just start to remember Meredith for who she was and draw a line under it, as it were.” Lyle called for Knox to be extradited to Italy from the US, saying it was appropriate “if someone has been found guilty and convicted of a murder, and if an extradition law exists between those two countries”.
The family was speaking less than 24 hours after the latest dramatic twist in the long-running murder case. On Thursday night, the Italian court said Knox and Sollecito were responsible for the 2007 murder of Kercher, sentencing the American to 28 years in prison and her former boyfriend to 25 years. Both maintain their innocence and said they would appeal.
The pair were first convicted of the murder in 2009, then acquitted in 2011 on appeal. The supreme court last year then ordered a re-trial, leading to the guilty verdicts issued on Thursday. Before the verdict, Knox, who remained in the United States during the latest trial, told the Guardian newspaper she would only be extradited if she was dragged “kicking and screaming” to Italy.
An extradition procedure can only be launched following a definitive ruling from the supreme court, which Francesco Maresca, lawyer for the Kercher family, said could take up to a year. Pending that verdict, Knox will not have restrictions on her travel.
Legal experts said an eventual extradition from the United States was possible. “She will be extradited if it’s upheld,” Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told AFP. “The Italian legal system, though I don’t love it, is a legitimate legal system and we have a treaty with Italy so I don’t see how we would resist.”
Knox’s supporters argue she should be protected from extradition because the Italian system, which allows prosecutors to appeal a verdict, violates the US legal prohibition on double jeopardy: trying someone twice for the same crime.
In a statement immediately following the court’s dramatic reversal after almost 12 hours of deliberation, Knox said in a statement that she was “frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict”. “Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system. This has gotten out of hand,” she said.
While Knox is free to travel, the court said Sollecito presented a flight risk and must surrender his passport.The 29-year-old was picked up by police close to the Austrian and Slovenian borders just hours after the verdict as officers enforced the travel ban against him.
Police said they had tracked him to a hotel in the town of Venzone, where he was reportedly staying with his girlfriend Greta Menegaldo, whose parents live in South America according to Italian media reports. Sollecito’s lawyer Luca Maori said he had “never had intention of fleeing.”
British student Meredith Kercher was found with her throat slit on November 2, 2007 in the cottage she shared with Knox in the mediaeval university town of Perugia where she was on an exchange program. “Losing somebody close to you is difficult. Someone of that age, killed in that way, is horrendous,” Lyle said. “No matter what the decision, nothing is going to bring Meredith back or take away the horror of what happened to her,” he added.
Prosecutors said during the trial that the murder may have been the result of a sex game turned violent due to tensions between Kercher and Knox. The defense had dismissed this and said there was a lack of conclusive DNA evidence putting Knox and Sollecito in the bedroom where the murder happened. A third accused, local drug dealer Rudy Guede, is currently the only person in prison for the murder.
Investigators say that multiple stab wounds on the body – apparently from two different knives – indicate he could not have acted alone.