Italy’s highest criminal court ordered a whole new trial for Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend on Tuesday, overturning their acquittals in the gruesome 2007 slaying of her British roommate.
The move extended a prolonged legal battle that has become a cause celebre in the United States and raised a host of questions about how the next phase of Italian justice would play out.
Knox, now a 25-year-old University of Washington student in Seattle, called the decision by the Rome-based Court of Cassation “painful” but said she was confident that she would be exonerated.
The American left Italy a free woman after her 2011 acquittal — but only after serving nearly four years of a 26-year prison sentence from a lower court that convicted her of murdering Meredith Kercher. The 21-year-old British exchange student’s body was found in November 2007 with her throat slit in the bedroom of a rented house the two shared in the Italian university town of Perugia.
Raffaele Sollecito, Knox’s Italian boyfriend at the time, was also convicted, sentenced and later acquitted.
It could be months before a date is set for a fresh appeals court trial for Knox and Sollecito in Florence, which was chosen because Perugia has only one appellate court.
Italian law cannot compel Knox to return for the new trial and one of her lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said she had no plans to do so, and will continue to attend the university where she is a junior.
“She thought that the nightmare was over,” Dalla Vedova told reporters on the steps of the courthouse. “(But) she’s ready to fight.”
The development was a tough blow for the former exchange student, whose parents have had to mortgage both their homes to raise funds for her lengthy, expensive defense.
“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 in a statement.
Prosecutors alleged that Kercher was the victim of a drug-fueled sex game gone awry. Knox and Sollecito denied wrongdoing and said they weren’t even in the apartment that night, although they acknowledged they had smoked marijuana and their memories were clouded.
An Ivory Coast man, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the Kercher slaying in a separate proceeding and is serving a 16-year sentence.
For those familiar by the U.S. legal principle of “double jeopardy” — by which no one who is acquitted of a crime can be tried again for it — the idea that Italian justice system allows prosecutors to appeal acquittals is hard to absorb.
Knox attorney Dalla Vedova dismissed the “double jeopardy” concern, insisting the high court ruling Tuesday hadn’t decided anything about the defendants’ guilt or innocence, but merely ordered a fresh appeals trial.
Knox still planned to talk with Diane Sawyer in a prime-time special to be broadcast April 30 to promote her new book “Waiting to Be Heard,” according to ABC News.
Dalla Vedova said Knox wouldn’t come to Italy but would follow the case from home. He said he didn’t think the new appeals trial would begin before early 2014 and no date would be set for it until after the top court issues a written explanation of its decision, due in the next 90 days.
Whether Knox ever returns to Italy to serve more prison time depends on a string of ifs and unknowns.
If she is convicted by the Florence court, Knox could appeal that verdict to the Cassation Court, since Italy’s judicial system allows for two levels of appeals — by prosecutors and the defense alike. Should that appeal fail, Italy could seek her extradition from the United States.
Whether Italy actually requests extradition will be a political decision made by a future Italian government.
Enjoy expanded coverage of college football for UGa, Tech and the SEC, with our SEC Insider, covering all Southeastern Conference matchups and articles by AJC staff and regional newspapers that cover the SEC.