Tuesday 16 January 2018

Drama as prosecutors seek life term for Knox

Lawyers try to convince the court that original evidence is sound

APPEAL: Amanda Knox talks with her lawyer during her a trial session in Perugia yesterday. Photo: Reuters
APPEAL: Amanda Knox talks with her lawyer during her a trial session in Perugia yesterday. Photo: Reuters


The prosecution summing-up in Amanda Knox's appeal against her conviction for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher ended in high drama last night.

Lawyers asked for Knox's sentence to be increased to life imprisonment. They demanded that former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito also be given life. Knox was sentenced to 26 years by a lower court and with good behaviour could be expected to leave prison much sooner. Life imprisonment in Italian law is intended to mean that prisoners serve a minimum of 26 years. Lifers are also obliged to do unpaid employment in prison.

Earlier, prosecutors had attacked the court-appointed experts who questioned the forensic evidence against Knox. Prosecutor Manuela Comodi noted the experts were both professors of forensic science, rather than practising investigators. She asked the jury: "Would you entrust the wedding reception of your only daughter to someone who knew all the recipes by heart but had never actually cooked?" Ms Comodi said the original analysis had been carried out by police forensic experts whose competence was internationally recognised.

A verdict is expected early next month. Next week a lawyer for the victim's family and the defence teams will deliver their closing arguments.

Knox, of Seattle, Washington, and Sollecito were convicted by a lower court of sexually assaulting and murdering Meredith Kercher while they were all studying in Perugia in 2007. Knox was sentenced to 26 years, her co-defendant Sollecito to 25 years.

They both deny wrongdoing and have appealed the 2009 verdict.

But in Italy prosecutors also can appeal, and they did so in this case, using the appeals court to try for the harsher penalty.

The prosecutors had sought life imprisonment, Italy's harshest punishment, in the original trial, too.

For two days, prosecutors sought to persuade the appeals court that there is sound evidence incriminating the defendants: witness testimony, genetic material, cell phone activity.

Ms Comodi, summing up the case yesterday, said there is "gigantic, rock-solid circumstantial evidence". Ms Kercher was stabbed to death in the apartment she shared with Knox, in what prosecutors said was a drug-fuelled sexual aggression.

Earlier yesterday, Ms Comodi defended the forensic evidence that had been used to convict Knox, firing back at an independent review that criticised the investigation and the work of police in the case.

The DNA is crucial in the case, where no clear motive for the brutal killing has emerged.

Prosecutors maintain that Knox's DNA was found on the handle of a kitchen knife believed to be the murder weapon, and that Kercher's DNA was found on the blade. They said Sollecito's DNA was on the clasp of Kercher's bra as part of a mix of evidence that also included the victim's genetic profile.

But those findings were always disputed by the defence, and the appeals court decided to appoint two independent experts to review the evidence.

The independent experts challenged both findings. They said police had made glaring errors in evidence-collecting and that below-standard testing and possible contamination raised doubts over the attribution of DNA traces, both on the blade and on the bra clasp, which was collected from the crime scene several weeks after the murder.

© Observer/AP

Sunday Independent

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