herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

After four years in prison, is Foxy Knoxy set to walk free?

They have already spent nearly four years in jail, but in the next few days Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito will learn whether they can go free, their innocence proven, or must serve out their sentences.

They have been sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively, for the murder of Knox's British flatmate, Meredith Kercher, who was stabbed at the flat the two women shared while studying in the Italian city of Perugia.

Today, prosecutors begin summing up in the couple's appeal against conviction; the verdict is expected within 10 days.

Everything seems to be going Knox and Sollecito's way. Earlier this month, after two court-appointed forensic experts roundly discredited evidence which led to their conviction, Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann refused the prosecution's request to appoint new experts to examine it all over again. It was a dramatic turning point.

Knox, originally from Seattle, told friends that she hoped she would be home for Thanksgiving in November. Her friends and relatives have a spring in their step.

But the outcome of the appeal is still far from certain. It is being held in the city where they were found guilty, and where public minister Giuliano Mignini, the chief prosecutor, continues to wield great moral and judicial power, despite being convicted of abuse of office in an unrelated case in Florence.

The fate of the Knox and Sollecito rests in the hands of jurors in a profoundly conservative town, whose dubious view of the foreigners flocking to what the Italian press called "the Ibiza of foreign studies" seemed well represented by the cattolicissimo (very devout) Mr Mignini.

Mr Mignini told the court in the first trial that Ms Kercher was killed at the culmination of a satanic rite. The murder was premeditated, "celebrated on the occasion of the night of Halloween, a sexual and sacrificial rite", the Italian paper Il Tempo reported him as saying.

The killers, he added, "contented themselves with the evening of November 1 to perform their do-it-yourself rite, when for some hours it would again be the night of All Saints".

Ms Kercher, he explained, was on her knees in front of a wardrobe, Rudy Guede (the third person blamed for the murder and convicted at an earlier trial) held her immobile and Sollecito grasped one of her arms while Knox wielded the knife.

Yet he presented no evidence to support this macabre vision: no confessions, no witness accounts, no personal history of the involvement of any of the accused in such activities, above all no trace of the presence of Knox and Sollecito in the room.

All Mr Mignini possessed were the ravings of a person called Gabriella Carlizzi, a spiritualist blogger in Rome.



weapon

The only forensic evidence against Knox was a knife which the prosecution claimed was the murder weapon -- but it is this, along with the clasp of Ms Kercher's bra on which, it is alleged, there were traces of Sollecito's DNA, that has been the prosecution's undoing during the appeal.

The discrediting of the evidence of the knife and the bra clasp cuts the only thread linking Knox and Sollecito to the crime scene; there are no longer any grounds for believing they were involved.

Yet, for the family of Meredith Kercher, the demise of the absurd "satanic rite" story leaves them in limbo. What was the sequence of events that night? Why did their innocent daughter have to die?

For them, the anguish of uncertainty goes on.

hnews@herald.ie

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