Monday 19 March 2018

'Hopeful' Knox prepares court speech for her day of judgment

Nick Squires in Perugia

AMANDA Knox was putting the finishing touches yesterday to a speech that could make the difference between her being acquitted of murdering Meredith Kercher or spending the next two decades behind bars.

Knox will read out the declaration in court in Perugia today, shortly before six jurors retire to deliberate on whether to quash or uphold her 26-year sentence for killing Ms Kercher, a Leeds University student, in what prosecutors said was a frenzied attack during a group sex game.

Knox, who attended Mass in the prison chapel yesterday, has been described by those around her as "hopeful". Her co-accused, Raffaele Sollecito, is also appealing against his 25-year sentence for murder and sexual assault and is awaiting his fate.

Knox and Sollecito were found guilty of murdering Ms Kercher (21), from Coulsdon, near London, at the end of a year-long trial in December 2009. The exchange student was found dead, with her throat cut, in the house she shared with Knox in the university town of Perugia on November 2, 2007.

If Knox is acquitted, she is set to get on the first plane back to the US. However, the jury could uphold her sentence -- or even increase it to life. The six jurors -- five women and one man -- and two judges will have to choose between the two wildly differing images that have been presented of the young American. Was she, as prosecutors claim, a promiscuous vamp -- a "she-devil" as one prosecutor claimed -- whose jealousy of Ms Kercher turned into a sadistic, murderous rage? They say her DNA was on the murder weapon, she had no alibi, witnesses had placed her at the scene, and she herself had confessed to being in the house on the night of the murder.

Or was she, as the defence contends, a naive innocent abroad who became unwittingly entangled in a miscarriage of justice exacerbated by trans-Atlantic cultural misunderstandings? Legal experts have said the conviction would never have been passed in a British or American court. During the appeal, much of the evidence was undermined: independent experts claimed the DNA evidence was tainted and insufficient, witnesses proved unreliable, and Knox's confession was presented as having been given under duress. Knox's family and friends say the image portrayed by prosecutors bears no resemblance to reality.

Her alleged accomplices were Sollecito, a bespectacled computer studies graduate who had only been her boyfriend for a few days; and Rudy Guede, a drifter who was born in the Ivory Coast but grew up in Italy.

After being found guilty of sexual assault and murder in a separate trial, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, which on appeal was reduced to 16 years.

If Knox and Sollecito are acquitted, prosecutors say they will appeal against the decision in the Court of Cassation in Rome, Italy's highest criminal court and the very final level of appeal.

Jurors could strike down the murder convictions and rule that the couple were guilty of a lesser crime such as complicity, which would reduce their sentences and see them released soon, after the four years already served.

Whatever the outcome, the real-life soap opera that has surrounded Amanda Knox for the past four years is likely to keep rolling on, to the profound dismay of Ms Kercher's grieving family, who fear that amid the circus, the world has lost sight of the one person who never should have been forgotten: Meredith. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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