Judge agrees to review of Knox case DNA evidence
Amanda Knox's appeal against her 26-year sentence for the murder of Meredith Kercher received a massive boost yesterday when a judge granted her request for a comprehensive review of key DNA evidence used to convict her and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.
After two appeal hearings in Perugia, Italy, judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman said he was convinced the complexity of the case called out for a review of forensic tests in the name of "reasonable doubt".
Knox, 23, and Sollecito, 25, were convicted of killing Ms Kercher, a British exchange student in Perugia, in November 2007.
Hearing the news, Knox began to take deep breaths, her mother and stepfather both began to cry and Sollecito beamed at his family.
"Amanda is stunned," said her mother, Edda Mellas. Knox's college friend Madison Paxton said she was "full of adrenaline" after Judge Hellman said he was appointing experts to re-analyse a knife and a bra clasp considered crucial to the convictions.
The two defence teams had asked for experts to complete an independent review of the analysis of the knife found in Sollecito's kitchen drawer, considered a murder weapon. It contained tiny DNA traces of both Knox and Ms Kercher according to police experts, but insufficient quantities to be reliable, according to the defence.
"If it is not possible to check the identity of the DNA, we will check on the reliability of the original tests," said Judge Hellman in his ruling.
Also disputed is the discovery of Sollecito's DNA on Ms Kercher's torn bra clasp, found in her room 49 days after her death, during hich time it had been moved accidentally by investigators.
Judge Hellman agreed to review the bra clasp evidence after defence lawyers claimed it had been contaminated during the investigation.
"It would have been very strange for a guilty party to insist so much on these tests," said Francesco Sollecito, the accused's father.
Judge Hellman said he would appoint two independent experts to handle the tests and would set a timetable on January 15.
Judge Hellman also accepted the defence team's request to hear local tramp Antonio Curatolo who they say gave mistaken testimony. Mr Curatolo says he saw Knox and Sollecito loitering near the house Knox shared with Ms Kercher on the night of the murder, but lawyers now claim he has his dates confused.
Prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola said a review would be "useless". Manuela Comodi, the prosecutor who built the case against Knox with fellow magistrate Giuliano Mignini, returned to the court to try, in vain, to demolish the defence's case for a review.
Knox's prospects were clouded by the court's decision to incorporate into the appeal all documents, evidence and findings from the murder trial of Rudy Guede, who chose a fast-track trial and was definitively sentenced to 16 years on Thursday for his part in the murder of Ms Kercher after two appeals.
Mr Mignini, the magistrate who secured the conviction of Knox, warned that the Guede conviction could doom Knox's appeal. "Guede's sentence states that Knox and Sollecito were involved and it is very rare that one sentence would contradict a definitive sentence."