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Meredith Susanna Cara Kercher,
known as Mez
|Born||28 December 1985|
Southwark, London, England
|Died||1 November 2007 (aged 21)|
Via della Pergola 7, Perugia, Umbria, Italy
|Cause of death||Knife wounds leading to blood loss and suffocation|
|Burial||14 December 2007|
Mitcham Road Cemetery, Croydon, London
Giovanni Galati (General Prosecutor of Perugia)
|Convicted of sexual assault, murder||Rudy Guede|
(29 October 2008)
Meredith Susanna Cara Kercher,
known as Mez
|Born||28 December 1985|
Southwark, London, England
|Died||1 November 2007 (aged 21)|
Via della Pergola 7, Perugia, Umbria, Italy
|Cause of death||Knife wounds leading to blood loss and suffocation|
|Burial||14 December 2007|
Mitcham Road Cemetery, Croydon, London
Giovanni Galati (General Prosecutor of Perugia)
|Convicted of sexual assault, murder||Rudy Guede|
(29 October 2008)
Meredith Kercher, a British university exchange student from Coulsdon, South London, was murdered in Perugia, Italy, on 1 November 2007. Kercher, aged 21 at the time of her death, was found dead on the floor of her bedroom with stab wounds to the throat. Some of her belongings were missing, including cash, two credit cards, two mobile phones, and her house keys.
Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast native raised in Perugia, was convicted in October 2008 of having sexually assaulted and murdered Kercher, and was sentenced to 30 years, reduced on appeal to 16 years in December 2009. Also tried were Amanda Knox, an American exchange student and flatmate of Kercher, and Knox's then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian student. Knox and Sollecito were convicted on charges of sexual assault and murder in December 2009, and sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively. Their convictions were overturned on appeal in October 2011 by a panel of six jurors and two judges. In an official statement of their grounds for overturning the convictions the judges wrote there was a "material non-existence" of evidence to support the guilty verdicts at the trial. The appeal judges further stated that the prosecution's theory of an association between Sollecito, Knox and Guede was "not corroborated by any evidence" and "far from probable".
The murder and subsequent events, especially Knox's arrest and trial, received worldwide press coverage, often in the form of salacious tabloid reporting, particularly in Italy and England. Some observers criticized the media for not describing the case accurately and dispassionately, as they believed it could influence the court case.
|Via della Pergola 7, courtesy of the BBC.|
Meredith Susanna Cara Kercher, known to her friends as "Mez" (born 28 December 1985 in Southwark, South London) lived in Coulsdon, South London. She had two older brothers and an older sister. Her father is a freelance journalist, and her mother a housewife who was born in India. Kercher attended the Old Palace School in Croydon, a private school, then studied European Studies at the University of Leeds. At the time of her murder she had just begun a one-year course in modern history, political theories and history of cinema at the University of Perugia as part of the Erasmus student exchange program; her ambition was to work in journalism. Described as caring, intelligent and with a good sense of humour, she was popular with fellow students. Her funeral was held on 14 December 2007 at Croydon Parish Church, with more than 300 people in attendance, followed by a private burial at Croydon's Mitcham Road Cemetery. The degree that she would have received in 2009 was awarded posthumously by the University of Leeds.
In Perugia, Kercher shared a four-bedroom ground-floor apartment in a house at Via della Pergola 7, whose front door lock did not have a spring latch and had to be closed with a key. The house was set on a hillside with an extensive unfenced garden and a panoramic view over the city. According to Candace Dempsey, an Italian-American journalist, locals thought of it as a bad neighborhood. Between the house and the university was Piazza Grimana, where students often gathered. (Coordinates: ) Her flatmates were Filomena and Laura, Italian women in their late twenties, and 20-year-old Seattle exchange student Amanda Knox. Kercher and Knox moved in on 10 and 20 September respectively, meeting each other for the first time. Kercher called her mother, who was unwell, at least once a day on a mobile phone she kept with her at all times; her other mobile was registered to Filomena. Knox used her own phone as a watch and did not usually turn it off. Knox was employed part-time at a bar, Le Chic, which was owned by a Congolese man, Patrick Lumumba. She told flatmates and her mother that she was going to quit as Lumumba was not paying her and had suggested she drink wine while working. Lumumba said that both these assertions were untrue. Kercher's English women friends saw relatively little of Knox, as she preferred to mix with Italians.
The walk-out semi-basement of the house was rented by four young Italian men with whom both Kercher and Knox were friendly. One of the men, Giacomo, spent time in the girls' flat due to a shared interest in music. Cannabis plants were grown in the basement and Knox sometimes smoked hashish there, as did Kercher on occasion. Returning home at 2 am one night in mid October, Knox, Kercher, Giacomo and another basement resident met Rudy Guede. The Italians knew Guede from playing basketball with him. Guede, who had been served by Knox at her part-time bar job days earlier, attached himself to the group and asked about Knox. He was invited into the basement and talked about her with the Italians. They all expressed the opinion she was attractive. Knox and then Kercher joined them and smoked hashish. At 4:30 am Kercher left, saying she was going to bed, and Knox followed her out.
Three weeks before her death Kercher went with Knox to the EuroChocolate festival. On 20 October, Kercher became romantically involved with Giacomo, after going to a nightclub with him as part of a small group which included Knox. On 25 October, Kercher and Knox went to a concert where Knox met Raffaele Sollecito, a 23-year-old student. The Italian flatmates later testified to being struck by how physically affectionate he was with Knox, who began spending her time at his flat and returning for clothes every second day. Sollecito was a regular user of hashish; after their arrests both he and Knox attributed their inability to give accurate and precise accounts of their movements and activities on 1–2 November to its use.
On the night of the murder, 1 November, the house was empty. Kercher's Italian flatmates were visiting family because it was a public holiday. The downstairs flat was also empty because the occupants were out of town. At about 6:00 that evening, Kercher had dinner with three other English women at one of their homes, and watched a DVD, The Notebook. According to the friends, just before 9 pm, she said she felt tired and wanted to retire early; she borrowed a history book, saying she would return it by 10 am the next morning, and left to walk home with one of her friends. The two parted company on Via del Lupo at around 8:55 pm, about 500 yards (460 m) from Via della Pergola 7. At 8:56 pm, someone tried to call Kercher's mother from her mobile phone, but the call was cut off. At 10 pm, someone again used her mobile phone to call her bank in London, but the call did not go through. An April 2008 report by court-appointed experts estimated that Kercher died between 8:55pm and 12:50 am. The time of death could not be established with any precision because the police prevented the coroner from checking her temperature until midnight on the night after her death. Sollecito's lawyers argued on appeal that, because the autopsy showed no stomach contents had passed into the duodenum, the time of death could not have been after 10 pm.
An Italian couple returning from the city centre said they saw a black man running down Via della Pergola at 10:30 pm, who nearly ran into them.
By Knox's account she returned to Via della Pergola 7 on the morning of 2 November, finding the front door open and drops of blood, which she thought were menstrual, in the bathroom she shared with Kercher; Kercher's bedroom door was closed which Knox took as indicating that she was sleeping. After showering, Knox found faeces had been left in the unflushed toilet of the second bathroom, which she thought odd. At 12:08 pm, Knox called Filomena, her Italian flatmate, to report that there was something strange. After returning to Sollecito's home she cleaned up a leak in his kitchen with a mop she had brought from the house, and had breakfast. Knox said she and Sollecito walked back to Via della Pergola 7, and saw that the window was broken in Filomena's bedroom, suggesting a break-in. When Kercher did not answer her door, which was locked, Sollecito unsuccessfully tried to break it in. Filomena called Knox back three times while shopping; the third time, which began at 12:34 pm, Knox told her about the broken window and that her bedroom was in a mess.
At 12:47 pm, Knox called her mother in Seattle, who told her to contact the police. Sollecito telephoned his sister, a police officer, for advice, then made two calls to the emergency number 112, at 12:51 and 12:54 pm. He reported a break-in, blood, a locked door, and a missing person. Before the carabinieri arrived in response to these calls, two officers from the Polizia Postale (Post and Communications Police) drove up to the house. They were investigating a report from a local woman who had found two mobile phones in her garden, later believed to have been discarded there by the killer, which the police had traced to Via della Pergola 7.
Knox and Sollecito were standing outside the house when Chief Detective Inspector Michele Battistelli and another police officer arrived; they told the officers they were waiting for the carabinieri, that a window had been broken, and that there were spots of blood in the bathroom. Three of Filomena's friends arrived, followed shortly after by Filomena herself. She entered her room to inspect the broken window and saw clothes strewn around the room but found nothing missing. Dempsey writes that in rummaging around, looking for anything that might be missing, she inadvertently destroyed parts of the crime scene.
At the time police did not suspect a burglar had entered through the broken window, partly because the wall below it seemed too smooth to climb. This became an issue later when the prosecution argued that Knox and Sollecito had staged the break-in, breaking the window themselves from the inside. They reasoned that a burglar would not have chosen that particular window, as it was almost twelve feet from the ground. Nina Burleigh, an American journalist, writes that there was a window grate below that offered footholds for a trained athlete to reach it. The prosecution supported its view with Filomena's testimony that she had seen glass from the window lying on top and underneath her clothes on the floor, suggesting they had been moved before the window was smashed. Battistelli confirmed seeing glass lying on top of the clothes, although there were no crime-scene photographs taken showing this. A 4.5 kilo (9.9 lb) stone that appeared to have been used to smash the window lay on the floor of the room. On discovering the phone Kercher always carried with her had been found in a garden, Filomena became alarmed and requested that Polizia Postale force open the door to Kercher's bedroom, but Battistelli declined. Instead Luca, one of Filomena's friends, broke down the door at around 1:15 pm. He later testified that Battistelli had entered the room, something which Battistelli denied. Kercher was found inside, lying on the floor with a pillow underneath her hips, and covered by a duvet soaked in blood. She was naked except for a shirt pulled up over her chest, with stab wounds to her throat. The prosecutor would later point to the covering of the body with the duvet as an instance of pietà (compassion or pity), citing it as evidence that a woman had committed the crime. According to Burleigh, American criminologists suggest that the covering of a victim has nothing to do with gender, but might suggest the killer was inexperienced.
Kercher's handbag sat on top of her bed, and had apparently been searched through. In addition to her mobile phones, police discovered that two credit cards, 300 euros in cash, and her house keys were missing; the cash, credit cards and keys were never found. Dempsey writes that there was a bloody outline of the knife on the bed, where the killer appeared to have laid it down, a bloody handprint on the pillow underneath her, and streaks of blood on the wall as if someone had tried to wipe the blood off their hand. Two towels were lying under her body, drenched in blood, and a third was on the bed, also with blood on it. There were bloody shoe prints on the tile floor, made by Nike shoes with concentric circles on the soles, three of them next to Kercher, and others creating a trail down the hallway toward the front door. There was also a bare bloody footprint on a bath mat in the bathroom Kercher shared with Knox.
The Polizia Postale ordered all present to leave, and an officer used tape to seal off the house, though Filomena was able to enter it after this, removing her handbag and laptop. The prosecutor, Public Minister Giuliano Mignini, arrived shortly before 3 pm. He entered the house with the coroner, Luca Lalli; the forensic police did not allow the coroner to take Kercher's temperature at that point, which meant there were problems later in establishing the time of death. The coroner found three knife wounds on Kercher's neck; the main one was on the left side, 8 cm in length. Lalli determined that the cause of death was combined blood loss and suffocation.
According to the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure, individuals accused of any crime are considered innocent until proven guilty. After the trial of the first grade (primo grado), if convicted the individual is referred to as defendant or accused (imputato), and is not considered guilty until convicted at the trial of the second grade (secondo grado). During this time, the defendant is either allowed to go free pending the final verdict, or is held in cautionary detention. An appeal to the second grade, which is similar to a trial de novo where all evidence and witnesses can be re-examined, is absolutely guaranteed. With conviction at the second grade, it is possible to appeal to the Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) only on technical grounds or on issues of the interpretation of law. Written briefs are prepared and reviewed in camera (i.e. there is no more testimony or verbal presentations) and either accepted, meaning the case is sent back to the appeals court for retrial, or rejected, in which case the verdict is final and the individual receives a sentence, with credit for time served while in cautionary detention.
Article 185 of the Italian Penal Code requires that individuals convicted of a crime pay restitution or damages to their victim. Once criminal proceedings have been commenced by the magistrate, the victim has the right to join as a party to the trial to represent his or her own interests in regards to receiving restitution or damages. This is not an uncommon aspect of criminal procedure in civil law systems; for example, it is also permitted in France, Germany and Spain.
Amanda Marie Knox (born 9 July 1987 in Seattle, Washington) was raised with her two younger sisters. Her mother, Edda Mellas, a teacher, and her father, Curt Knox—a vice-president of finance at Macy's—divorced when Knox was a few years old. She graduated in 2005 from the Seattle Preparatory School, a private Jesuit-run school, and began to study linguistics at the University of Washington, making the university's dean's list in the spring of 2007. Relatives later described Knox as not always able to pick up on social cues. Knox had become interested in Italian culture while at school; she had first travelled to Italy on a family holiday when she was 15 years old. She decided to study there, choosing Perugia over Rome so as to mix with Italians rather than American expatriates. Her stepfather had strong reservations about Knox going to Italy that year as he felt she was still too naïve.
In September 2007, Knox became one of Kercher's three flatmates in Perugia, where she had arrived to attend the town's University for Foreigners for a year, studying Italian, German and creative writing. According to Candace Dempsey, Knox's friends saw her as energetic, athletic, and kind, a pacifist hippie who loved making cakes and jam, doing yoga, playing soccer and guitar, rock climbing and cycling. Burleigh writes that, while Knox appeared to be a confident young woman, she was known by friends and family to be averse to any kind of conflict, and believed in the importance of positive thinking. She had grown in recent years into an attractive woman, and had become a compulsive diarist. All these traits, Burleigh writes—including her bubbly personality and tendency to practice yoga stretches at inappropriate times—contributed to her downfall in Perugia, making her more reticent flatmates critical of her, and the police suspicious.
Knox had been filmed by journalists outside the house on the day the body was discovered, briefly kissing Sollecito. This was the frame reproduced by the media. Burleigh writes that Italian television played the video for months. Perugia Flying Squad Detective Superintendent Monica Napoleoni spoke to Knox and Sollecito at the scene and thought they seemed 'indifferent' to Kercher's murder. At her trial Knox said that before she was filmed kissing Sollecito she had been crying and trembling as she sat with him in a car outside the house, Sollecito had given her his jacket and they had then left the car and been filmed.
At around 3pm police requested the flatmates and their friends to attend the police station for further enquiries; Luca was asked to take Knox and Sollecito. Asked about what had happened to Kercher, Luca said he had heard her throat had been cut. Knox sobbed briefly on hearing this. English female friends of Kercher met Knox in the waiting room of the police station several hours later, shortly after it had been confirmed to them that Kercher was dead. Some of Kercher's friends were to testify at the trial that Knox had shown "no emotion", and behaved in a way that they had found inappropriate. Prosecutors later said that Knox had told Kercher's friends details that only someone who had seen the body could have known, but there was testimony that Knox had heard witnesses discussing the crime scene.
In outlining the case for detectives Napoleoni told them the murderer was probably male and definitely not a burglar. Knox was the only occupant of the house who had been in proximity to it in the time-frame of the murder. Knox was one of the first to be questioned but she remained at the police station until 6 am. A police witness later testified that in the police station Knox "seemed calm, as if nothing had happened", and also that she "paced up and down the hallway pretty nervously, and brought her hands to her head, hitting herself on the temples."
On the afternoon of 3 November, Knox accompanied police back to the house to investigate the basement flat. Edgardo Giobbi, of the Rome-based Serious Crime Squad, later told reporters Knox had sobbed uncontrollably outside the crime scene. Following the visit to the basement Knox was questioned at the police station for a second day. That evening, unable to return to the house to pick up fresh clothes, she was filmed by a store security camera buying underwear and a pullover.
The following day, 4 November, the Italian flatmates and Knox were summoned for further questioning. In the early evening they were taken to the upstairs flat to help ascertain if any knives were missing. While Mignini was showing them knives in the flat, Knox broke down crying and shook so severely that a doctor became concerned for her; she was made to rest on a couch. When she failed to recover, Knox was taken outside by Napoleoni to sit in a car. Knox was questioned for 50 hours over the four days following the murder. She was officially being interviewed as a witness rather than a suspect: this allowed interrogations without the safeguards normal in Italy such as the presence of a lawyer and recording of interviews. Knox said she had spent the evening and night of 1 November with Sollecito at his apartment; she said they watched the film Amélie, which they had downloaded on Sollecito's computer, went to bed and woke the next morning. When a friend of Sollecito's went there briefly around 8:40 pm, Knox was there and opened the door. Police computer analysts, who destroyed Sollecito's computer while examining it, said the film ended at 9:10 pm and there was no trace of human interaction on his computer between then and 5:32 am.
On the evening of 5 November, Sollecito was called to come in for another interview. Detectives thought his and Knox's accounts had inconsistencies, and wanted to know why activity on their mobile phones had halted, at 8:42pm and 8:35pm respectively, on the night of the murder. Police believed phone records indicated this was not their usual behaviour. Sollecito said he was having dinner and would come when he was finished. When told of this Napoleoni exclaimed: "the police are supposed to wait for Raffaele to have his dessert?" As on previous occasions when one of them was individually summoned, Knox and Sollecito went to the police station together; they arrived around 10:15 pm. The police had been listening to Knox and Sollecito's telephone conversations, and knew her mother was due to arrive from Seattle on 6 November; Burleigh writes that 5 November might have been the last night police could question Knox without a lawyer, parent, or the American Embassy being involved. While Sollecito was being interviewed, without a lawyer, Knox remained in a waiting room, doing yoga stretches as was her habit. Shortly after 10:30 pm, according to Knox, a male police officer asked how she had become so flexible and to demonstrate some moves. Knox then performed a split. An allegation that Knox had turned cartwheels in the police station was later used to portray her in a negative light.
While Knox was waiting outside the Flying Squad offices on the third floor of the station, a man, who did not identify himself as a police officer, struck up a conversation with her. After listening to Knox's complaints about the repeated interviews, he asked her who the killer could be. Several detectives joined them and there was a burst of intense questioning before Knox was asked into the Flying Squad offices where, so she was told, Sollecito's interview was about to finish. Chief Detective Inspector Rita Ficarra asked for the names of men Kercher had known and Knox used her mobile phone contacts to draw up a list. Knox admitted smoking hashish to Ficarra; she had previously denied using any drugs.
Napoleoni and detectives from the Serious Crime Squad interviewed Sollecito until 3:30 am. At around midnight, Sollecito changed his story by ceasing to support Knox's account of having been at his flat on the night of the murder. Another interview of Knox began at 1:45 am; Napoleoni moved between rooms during the questioning of Knox and Sollecito to keep both sets of detectives updated. In a 2011 report by appeal court judges, the conduct of the interview was criticised on the grounds that, despite the seriousness of the offence Knox was being interviewed as a suspect for, she had no lawyer. Noting that Knox "at the time neither understood nor spoke Italian well" the judges said an interpreter had 'assisted police' in the interrogation rather than simply translating.
Knox was told that Sollecito, in another interview room, was no longer saying Knox had been with him all night, but was now maintaining she had left him at 9 pm to go to Le Chic, and had not returned to his apartment until 1 am. Giobbi, watching the interview from a control room, later said he heard Knox scream. Ficarra told the trial that Knox started to cry when asked about activity on her mobile phone before it was switched off on the night of the murder.
The last activity on Knox's phone on the night of the murder was a text to Le Chic's owner, Lumumba. Interrogators asked Knox why she hadn't been working on that night; she told them that Lumumba had sent her a text saying she was not required because business was slow. Knox explained that the reason for switching off her mobile was to prevent Lumumba contacting her again if he changed his mind about her not working. Knox had deleted Lumumba's text from the memory of the phone. She told detectives she did not remember replying to it. The detectives looked through the phone's messages and found that Knox had in fact replied. Follain renders Knox's reply to the text as "Sure. See you later. Have a good evening!". Suspicious, the detectives showed Knox her reply to Lumumba on the display of her mobile. Anna Donnino, the interpreter, told the trial that Knox had an "emotional shock" on being shown her text to Lumumba: "She covered her ears with her hands and said 'It's him, it's him, he's bad."
At her trial Knox's account of what had happened during her interrogation differed from that of the police. She testified that she spent hours maintaining her original story, that she had been with Sollecito at his flat all night and had no knowledge of the murder, but a group of police would not believe her. Knox said "I wasn't just stressed and pressurised; I was manipulated"; she testified to being told by the interpreter, "probably I didn't remember well because I was traumatised. So I should try to remember something else." Knox stated, "they said they were convinced that I was protecting someone. They were saying 'Who is it? Who is it?' They were saying: 'Here's the message on your telephone, you wanted to meet up with him, you are a stupid liar." Knox also said that a policewoman "was saying 'Come on, come on, remember' and then – slap – she hit me. Then 'come on, come on' and – slap – another one." Knox said she had requested a lawyer but was told it would make things worse for her, and that she would go to jail for 30 years; she also said she was not allowed access to food, water, or the bathroom. Ficarra and policewoman Lorena Zugarini testified that during the interview Knox was given access to food, water, hot drinks and the lavatory. They further said Knox was asked about a lawyer but did not have one, was not hit at any time and interviewed "firmly but politely". Napoleoni testified that Knox was not beaten, threatened or insulted.
Knox told the police Lumumba was the killer of Kercher, thereby implicating herself as his accomplice. She said she had met Lumumba at the basketball court at 8:30 pm, before going with him to Via della Pergola 7. Of the murder, she said: "I have a hard time remembering those moments but Patrick had sex with Meredith, with whom he was infatuated, but I cannot remember clearly whether he threatened Meredith first. I remember confusedly that he killed her."
Napoleoni was backed by several other detectives in arguing for the arrest of Knox, Sollecito, and Lumumba. Her immediate superior, Chief Superintendent Marco Chiacchiera, thought arrests would be premature, advocating close surveillance of the suspects as the best way to further the investigation. Knox had been interviewed as a witness and what she had said could not be used to prosecute her. Mignini placed Knox officially under investigation and at 5:45 am took a statement from her. According to Follain, Mignini began by telling Knox that anything she said in the statement could be used in evidence against her and that she was entitled to a lawyer. The statement had details changed from what she had previously said; for example, she now said she had met Lumumba at 9 pm, not 8:30. She also added that she had heard Kercher scream, though later in the same statement said she could not remember whether she had heard this. After some time, Knox stopped talking and refused to speak further. She signed the statement and was given tea and food. Mignini drew up warrants giving the statement, texts and mobile phone activity as the grounds for arrest. Knox was arrested at noon in the police offices. John Follain writes "when Amanda discovered what she was accused of, she burst out: 'You used me, you stressed me out, you yelled at me and now you put me in prison accusing me of having killed my friend? But I could be dead now! And you tell me I'm a murderer?'."
Assisted by a female doctor, the pathologist Lalli gave Knox a physical examination and obtained samples of her DNA, saliva, urine, hair and pubic hair.
Before she was taken to prison, Knox, who still had not seen a lawyer, wrote a four-page note. In it, she wrote: "This is very strange, I know, but really what happened is as confusing to me as it is to everyone else. I have been told there is hard evidence saying that I was at the place of the murder of my friend when it happened. This, I want to confirm, is something that to me, if asked a few days ago, would be impossible." She wrote that memories and "flashes of blurred images" had begun mingling in her mind: "In regards to this 'confession' that I made last night, I want to make clear that I'm very doubtful of the verity of my statements because they were made under the pressures of stress, shock and extreme exhaustion. Not only was I told I would be arrested and put in jail for 30 years, but I was also hit in the head when I didn't remember a fact correctly. I understand that the police are under a lot of stress, so I understand the treatment I received."
At her trial, Knox said that the emphasis the police had put on the text messages with Lumumba, and a suggestion that she was suffering from traumatic memory loss, had caused her to doubt her own memory. She said, "In my confusion I started to imagine I was traumatized as they said." She also said the police had asked her to compose an imaginary scenario, asking her what might have happened if she had been there. It was in response to that question, she said, that she told them she had a "vision" of Lumumba at the crime scene.
The Italian Court of Cassation later found that Knox's human rights had been violated, because the police had not told her of her legal rights, appointed her a lawyer, or provided her an official interpreter; therefore, her statement to police was ruled inadmissible for Knox's and Sollecito's criminal trial. The court ruled the note she wrote afterwards questioning the validity of her statement was admissible as evidence to prosecute her. A concurrent civil case for defamation was brought against Knox by Lumumba for having named him to police as the killer. Both trials occurred concurrently with the same jury.
At a news conference on 6 November called to announce the arrests of Knox, Sollecito, and Lumumba earlier that day, the Perugia Chief of Police dismayed some high-ranking investigators by saying the case was "substantially closed."
On 8 November Knox appeared along with Sollecito and Lumumba before judge Claudia Matteini, and during an hour-long adjournment Knox met her lawyers for the first time. The next day Matteini ordered Knox, Sollecito and Lumumba to be detained for a year, pending a trial. Lumumba had maintained he was at his bar from 6pm onward, but the first receipt for the night of the murder was timed at 10:29; Lumumba insisted he had been talking to a Swiss professor for hours before that time. On 11 November a teacher from Zurich told police he had been in the bar the entire evening and confirmed Lumumba's story. On 19 December Mignini wrote a warrant for Lumumba's release in which he suggested that Knox may have accused Lumumba to protect Guede.
On 16 November the Rome forensic police matched fingerprints found in Kercher's bedroom to Rudy Guede, a man originally from the Ivory Coast who had lived in or near Perugia since arriving in Italy with his father when he was five years old. Because he was an immigrant, his fingerprints were on file, and on 20 November he was arrested in Germany, where he had fled days after the murder. His DNA was later found at the crime scene, on and inside Kercher's body. The prosecution charged Guede for the murder, but retained the allegations against Knox and Sollecito that originally related to acting in concert with Lumumba.
The prosecutors proposed a number of possible motives for the murder including that Kercher and Knox had fallen out over issues such as the cleaning roster in their home; that the murder was part of a Satanic ritual; that it was a sex game gone wrong; or that Kercher had refused to take part in an orgy. Knox was also accused of having stolen Kercher's money to pay Guede for drugs (though tests showed she had taken no drug other than cannabis) and of having killed Kercher in a drug-fuelled rage after smoking marijuana.
Knox became subject of intense media attention. Shortly before her trial she began legal action against Fiorenza Sarzanini, the author of a best-selling book about her which had been published in Italy. The book included accounts of events as imagined or invented by Sarzanini, witness transcripts not in the public domain and selected excepts from Knox's private journals which Sarzanini had somehow obtained. Lawyers for Knox said that the book had "reported in a prurient manner, aimed solely at arousing the morbid imagination of readers." According to US legal commentator Kendal Coffrey, "In this country we would say, with this kind of media exposure, you could not get a fair trial".
Knox was charged with murder and sexual assault, along with Sollecito, and with slandering Lumumba. They pleaded not guilty. They were denied bail on 30 November 2007, a decision that was unsuccessfully appealed all the way to the Court of Cassation, meaning they remained in custody throughout the trial and appeals.
They were indicted in October 2008 by Judge Micheli and charged with murder, sexual assault, simulating a crime (burglary), carrying a knife, and theft of 300 euros, two credit cards and two mobile phones. They opted for a full trial, open to the media, which began on 16 January 2009 before Judge Giancarlo Massei, Deputy Judge Beatrice Cristiani, and six lay judges at the Corte d'Assise of Perugia.
The prosecution accused Knox of having tortured Kercher with a knife before cutting her throat while Sollecito had held Kercher down and Guede had sexually assaulted her. They said Knox and Sollecito had wiped the apartment clean in an attempt to remove evidence that incriminated them, then staged a break-in. According to Follain, an investigator thought Mignini "wasn't as hard-hitting as he could have been" in cross-examination of Knox, but the judge's questions were "relentless". Massei had pointedly questioned Knox on numerous details, such as whether she had touched a particular light switch or the timing of mobile phone calls; she repeatedly answered "I don't remember". Lumumba's lawyer used vituperative language about Knox at the trial calling her "unclean on the outside because she was dirty on the inside."
The prosecution's witnesses included Filomena, the flatmate who had received a phone call from Knox telling her that something strange had happened at the house. Filomena testified that she found Knox's behaviour in using the shower after noticing bloodstains not normal. Knox said she had thought the blood was menstrual. Filomena's assertion that Kercher always left her bedroom door unlocked contradicted Knox, who said that Kercher sometimes locked it. Filomena said that, though her own room was in a mess, with clothes strewn everywhere and the window broken, none of her property was missing; her laptop was still there, for example, as was her jewellery. She repeated her belief that she had seen glass from the broken window on top as well as underneath the clothes on the floor, which the prosecution used to bolster its allegation that Knox or Sollecito had broken the window after the room had been messed up. Filomena testified at the trial to leaving the shutters on her window closed, but her original account had been that she had left one ajar which would have made it easier to effect entry through the window. Filomena's testimony that Battistelli had entered Kercher's bedroom after the door had been broken down supported the defence's contention that footprints the prosecution said belonged to Sollecito may have been made by the police officer.
No evidence directly linked Knox to Kercher's bedroom. The prosecutors stated that luminol tests outside Kercher's room had detected footprints revealed by luminol which they stated were compatible with those of Knox. The defence advanced the idea that this was a false positive result and that bleach, present in many cleaning agents, can cause luminol to react in the same way as it does to blood.
Laura, the other Italian flatmate, testified that she and Filomena did almost all the cleaning of the flat and that they never used bleach. Laura also said that while in the police waiting room on 2 November she had seen a fresh scratch on the front of Knox's throat, though she did not mention it to police until her seventh interview ten months later. Kercher's boyfriend, Giacomo, said that he noticed nothing out of the normal between Kercher and Knox and that Kercher had never complained to him of her relationship with Knox.
The judges overruled defence objections to allow a 20-minute animation based on the prosecution case to be shown to the court. The animation featured figures resembling Guede, Knox and Sollecito and included effects such as the screen turning red when the fatal injury was inflicted, and photos of Kercher's wounds.
The prosecution alleged that the murder weapon was a kitchen knife found in Sollecito's kitchen and had Kercher's DNA on the blade and Knox's DNA on the handle. Expert witness Sara Gino, called by the defence, said that traces of DNA on the knife were too insubstantial to be considered evidence and pointed to contamination by other samples as a possible explanation for police scientist Patrizia Stefanoni's testimony that Kercher's DNA was on the knife. Gino noted that the dates when different samples were tested, which could indicate whether they had been tested on the same day with a resulting risk of cross-contamination, had not been supplied by Stefanoni.
Both sets of defence lawyers requested the judges and jury to order independent reviews of evidence including DNA, foot and shoe prints, and the compatibility of the wounds with the alleged murder weapon; the request was denied. In final pleas to the court, Sollecito's lawyer described Knox as "a weak and fragile girl" who had been "duped by the police." Knox's lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, told the court that DNA evidence against his client was the result of inadvertent contamination in the forensic laboratory, and pointed to text messages between Knox and Kercher as showing that they had been friends.
On 5 December 2009 Knox, by then 22, was convicted on charges of slander, sexual violence and murder and sentenced to 26 years imprisonment. The prosecutor had requested life imprisonment, with nine months of solitary confinement.
Knox sobbed as the verdict and sentence was announced, she was led out and was heard by those still in the courtroom screaming "No, No No!" Although acknowledging that American police might also have been suspicious of Knox's story, Nina Burleigh said that the conviction had not been based on solid proof, and there had been resentment at the Knox family which amounted to "anti-Americanism". Another journalist who attended the trial said that she saw no evidence of anti-Amercanism in the proceedings. An Italian jurist said that:"This is the simplest and fairest criminal trial one could possibly think of in terms of evidence."
Under Italian law two appeals are permitted to defendants, during which there is a presumption of innocence until a final verdict is entered. Their first appeal began in November 2010 and was presided over by Judges Claudio Pratillo Hellmann and Massimo Zanetti. The court ordered a review of the contested DNA evidence by independent forensic DNA experts Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti from Rome's Sapienza University. They submitted a 145-page report that noted numerous basic errors in the gathering and analysis of the evidence, further asserting that a police forensic scientist had given evidence in court that was not supported by her laboratory work. In testimony to the appeal, Professor Conti said that a police video showed that, when a vital piece of evidence was gathered, it was handled with a glove that was visibly dirty. During cross-examination Vecchiotti was asked by prosecutor Comodi if a gap of several days between analysing samples was enough to remove the possibility of cross-contamination in the laboratory. "They're sufficient if that's the way things went," replied Vecchiotti.
On 3 October 2011, the court overturned Knox's and Sollecito's convictions on charges of complicity in murder, sexual assault, illegally carrying a knife and staging a break-in. The conviction of Knox on a charge of slander was upheld and the original one-year sentence was increased to three years and eleven days imprisonment.
In their official report on the court's decision to overturn the convictions the appeal judges wrote that the verdict of guilty at the original trial "was not corroborated by any objective element of evidence." Describing the police interviews of Knox as of "obsessive duration" the judges said that the statements she made incriminating herself during interrogation were evidence of her confusion while under "great psychological pressure".
Raffaele Sollecito (born 26 March 1984, Giovinazzo, Bari) was 23 years old at the time of the murder, and nearing the completion of a degree in computer engineering at the University of Perugia, which he finished while imprisoned. His father, Dr Francesco Sollecito, is a successful urologist, who had set his son up in Perugia with an apartment and an expensive black Audi. Sollecito had met Knox just seven days before the murder, when Knox and Kercher attended a classical music concert.
Sollecito was interviewed several times by police between 2 and 5 November 2007 and was called in again around 10 pm on 5 November, accompanied by Knox, for the crucial, final interrogation. He at first told them he and Knox had spent the evening and night of the murder together in his apartment. He was interviewed by four officers, without audio or videotaping, while Knox sat in the waiting room. He said the police told him he had been lying about being with Knox that evening, and had lied about the time he telephoned the police on the morning after the murder, stating that he first called them after he saw the Polizia Postale arrive at the house, to cover himself. He said he asked for a lawyer, and was told that was not necessary; he said he also asked to speak to his father, and this was declined too. The police found a small pocket knife on him, something he had carried around for some time, and thought this might be the murder weapon. He later stated that the officers treated him "with violence and coercion" during the interview.
At some point he signed a statement saying that he and Knox had been out on the evening of the murder and had parted company at 9 pm, and that she had not shown up at his apartment until 1 am. This left both of them without an alibi for the evening. That Sollecito had changed his story was conveyed to Knox, who by then was being interviewed in another room. Shortly thereafter, she signed a statement implicating Lumumba.
Sollecito was arrested along with Knox and held in custody without bail. At trial Sollecito helped prosecutor Manuela Comodi to show a DVD of evidence against him by lending her his own laptop. For Comodi, Sollecito's act - as Follain writes - "was another sign that, like Amanda, he hadn't understood anything about the trial or what was at stake for him". Giulia Bongiorno led Sollecito's defence and attempted to show that the testimony of a homeless man, who said he witnessed Knox and Sollecito in Piazza Grimana on the night of 1 November, was untrustworthy. The court visited the scene of the crime to assess the plausibility of a lone burglar being the murderer, as advanced by the defence, but a juror was heard commenting that the window was an impractical method of breaking in.
A bloody shoe print was initially attributed to Sollecito but experts appointed by the prosecutor found that it was made by Rudy Guede.
The prosecution produced what they said was evidence of Sollecito's Y chromosome on Kercher's bra clasp, apparently cut from her body by her attacker. This was the only piece entered into evidence linking Sollecito to the crime scene. The clasp was visible in crime-scene video taken on 2 November when it had been found by Perugia's forensics squad who placed a marking card beside it for Stefanoni's team from Rome. Stefanoni's team only realized it had been missed 46 days later, by which time they had inadvertently moved it four feet across the room, where it was found under a rug in a pile of other items. Bongiorno questioned how Sollecito's DNA could have got on the metal clasp of the bra, but not on the fabric of the bra strap from which it was torn. "How can you touch the hook without touching the cloth?" Bongiorno asked. The back strap of the bra had multiple traces of DNA belonging to Guede. During a cross-examination Bongiorno screened film of the belated recovery of the bra clasp that appeared to show Stefanoni touching the hooks of the clasp with her glove; Stefanoni admitted that, contrary to what she had said at pre-trial hearings, she may have touched the hooks. DNA evidence remained the central plank of the prosecution case against Sollecito. He was convicted in December 2009 on charges of murder, sexual assault, and staging a break-in, and sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Independent forensic experts appointed by the court for Sollecito's appeal (secondo grado) were unable to re-test the bra clasp, because it had become rusted due to incorrect storage by the Scientific Police, but noted that video of the clasp's recovery showed it had been handled using a glove that was "dirty". The experts said the DNA evidence was faulty, possibly because of contamination, and that the "international procedures for inspection, protocol and collection of evidence were not followed" by the police or forensic team. The conviction was overturned on appeal on 3 October 2011. A ruling that there was insufficient proof, similar to the verdict of not proven was available to the court, but they acquitted Knox and Sollecito completely. In an explanation of their decision the appeal judges noted that there was no evidence of phone calls or texts between Knox or Sollecito and Guede, that testimony of Sollecito and Knox being seen in the Piazza Grimana on the night of the murder had come from a heroin addict, and that Massei, the judge at the 2009 trial, used the word "probably" 39 times in his report.
Rudy Hermann Guede (born 26 December 1986, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire) was 20 years old at the time of the murder. He had arrived in Perugia at the age of five with his father, Roger, who found work there as a stonemason; Guede told friends he had not met his father before going to live with him in Italy. He saw his mother, Agnes, just once more, when he returned to Côte d'Ivoire for a visit in 1997. In Italy, Guede was raised with the help of his school teachers, a local priest and others, who would take it in turns to buy him food and clothes. One of the teachers told Nina Burleigh that Guede would sometimes sleep in the street after his father locked him out of the house at night as a punishment.
Guede's father returned to Côte d'Ivoire in 2004, leaving the 15-year-old boy to be looked after by his common-law wife, but there was friction between the two. One of his former teachers arranged for him to be adopted by a wealthy Perugia family, who agreed to look after him until he was eighteen. Burleigh writes that Guede was given his own flat in a gated villa, spent summer with the family in Sardinia and winter in the Dolomites, and was sent to a good school. He also played basketball for the Perugia youth team in the 2004–2005 season. In his second year with the family, the relationship began to break down. He dropped out of a hotel management and then a computing course; the family then employed Guede as a gardener in a farmhouse bed and breakfast they owned where he worked satisfactorily for a couple of months. Guede said he met a couple of the Italian men from the basement of Via della Pergola 7 while spending evenings at the basketball court in the Piazza Grimana at this time. In the summer of 2007 he was let go from the gardening job after going sick without submitting a certificate; the family asked him to leave their home.
He went to stay with an aunt in Lecco, near Milan, where he worked in a cafe, for a short time, before returning to Perugia. A bar owner in Perugia stated that Guede had broken into his home at 6 am one day in September 2007, entering through a window, and producing a jackknife when confronted; three credit cards were stolen. The man said he recognised Guede in a nightclub later that day but gave up trying to report the crime after three attempts because of the wait at the police station. On 13–14 October, Guede allegedly broke into a lawyer's office in Perugia, entering through a second-story window. On 27 October, days before Kercher's murder, he was arrested in Milan after breaking into a nursery school to sleep there; when police found him he was reportedly holding an 11-inch knife he had taken from the nursery's kitchen.
Guede said he briefly met Kercher and Knox when he became friendly with the young men who lived in the downstairs flat at Via della Pergola 7, where Kercher, Knox and the two Italian women shared the upstairs flat. According to Burleigh, the men were unable to recall how Guede had met them, but did recall how, after his first visit to their home, they had found him later in the bathroom, sitting asleep on the unflushed toilet, which was full of faeces.
Guede went to a friend's house at about 11:30pm on 1 November, the night of the murder. He later went to a nightclub where he stayed until 4:30am. On the following night, 2 November, Guede went with three American female students he had met in a bar to the same nightclub.
Guede left Perugia by train a few days after the murder, and fled to Germany. After his fingerprints were found at the crime scene, Interpol traced a computer he had used in Germany to access Facebook and reply to a message from a Daily Telegraph journalist. In his message, Guede had said he knew he was a suspect and wanted to clear his name. On 20 November 2007, the Bundespolizei arrested him on a train near Mainz for travelling without a ticket. When questioned, he said he was returning to Italy to give himself up. He was extradited to Italy on 6 December 2007.
Guede opted for a fast-track trial, held in closed session with no reporters present. The court heard that his handprint was found on a pillow in Kercher's room, and his DNA on and inside her body, as well as on her sweatshirt and bra. Although the faeces Knox had found in the unflushed toilet the morning after the murder could not be identified, Guede's DNA was found on the toilet paper.
Guede told the court he went to Via della Pergola 7 on a date arranged with Kercher after meeting her the previous evening. Two neighbours of Guede, foreign female students who were with him at a nightclub on that evening, told police the only girl they saw him talking to had long blonde hair. Female friends of Kercher who had been with her that night had not seen her talking to Guede. He said he arrived at the cottage just after 8:30 pm, and that Kercher arrived and let him in around 9 pm. She went to her bedroom, he said, and told him that a significant amount of money was missing from an open drawer. He said that he and Kercher had kissed and touched, but did not have sex. He then developed stomach pains and crossed to the large bathroom on the other side of the apartment. Guede said he heard Kercher scream while he was in the bathroom, but had not heard the killer enter the apartment because he was wearing iPod headphones. He said that, emerging from the bathroom, he had found a shadowy figure, holding a knife, standing over Kercher, who lay bleeding on the floor. Guede said that he and the man struggled. Guede was cut on the hand, and fell to the floor, but picked up a chair. He described the man as an Italian with light-brown hair, without glasses, and shorter than him. The man fled while saying in perfect Italian, "Trovato negro, trovato colpevole; andiamo" ("Found black, found guilty; let's go").
The court found that his version of events did not match the forensic evidence, and that he could not explain why one of his palm prints, stained with Kercher's blood, had been found on the pillow of the single bed, under the disrobed body. Guede said he had left Kercher fully dressed. He was found guilty in October 2008 of murder and sexual assault, Judge Paolo Micheli sentencing him to 30 years' imprisonment. Micheli acquitted Guede of theft, suggesting that there had been no break-in. Sollecito's lawyers had said a glass fragment from the window found beside a shoe-print of Guede's at the scene of the crime was proof that he had broken in.
He appealed in November 2009, and had his conviction upheld on 22 December. His sentence was reduced to 24 years to match the sentences given to Knox and Sollecito, with a further one-third (eight-year) reduction—standard in the Italian appeal system—giving him a sentence of 16 years. He continued to protest his innocence. During his appeal, Guede stated for the first time that Knox had been in the apartment at the time of the murder. He said he had heard her arguing with Kercher, then glancing out of a window had seen her silhouette leave the house, though he had previously said Knox had not been there. In March 2010, the court explained it had reduced Guede's sentence by 14 years because he was the only one of the three defendants to apologize to the Kercher family for his failure to come to her rescue. A lawyer representing the Kercher family protested at the "drastic reduction" in Guede's sentence. He filed his second and final appeal, in May 2010, to the Court of Cassation. The hearing was held on 16 December 2010; the court upheld the verdict and sentence. Guede may be eligible for release in 2016.
The defence argued that Guede was the lone killer, because the break-in appeared to fit recent criminal activity of his, and because his DNA was found on and inside Kercher's body, and on her shirt, bra, and handbag. A bloody handprint found on a pillow placed under her back was also matched to him.
A school director testified that Guede had broken into a nursery school in Milan on 27 October 2007, days before the killing, and had been found there by police with a stolen 16-inch (410 mm) knife. He was also found in possession of a laptop and mobile phone he had previously stolen from a Perugia lawyer's office, which he had broken into by throwing a rock through a window. He said he had bought both the laptop and phone at a railway station in Milan. The school director testified that a small amount of money was also missing.
There was no forensic evidence indicating that Knox had been in the bedroom in which Kercher was murdered. Knox's fingerprints were not found there.
Luminol revealed footprints in the apartment that the prosecution argued were compatible with the feet of Knox and Sollecito. A consultant for Knox's defence testified that work status reports showed, "in contradiction to what was presented in the technical report deposited by the Scientific Police, and also to what was said in Court, that not only was the Luminol test performed on these traces, but also the generic diagnosis for the presence of blood, using tetramethylbenzidine ... and this test ... gave a negative result on all the items of evidence from which it was possible to obtain a genetic profile." The judge did not accept this view, and concluded that the traces revealed with Luminol in Knox's bedroom, the corridor and Filomena's room had originated from Knox's bloody feet.
The prosecution argued that a severed clasp of Kercher's bra revealed traces of both her DNA and that of Sollecito. Knox's lawyers argued that the sample had been contaminated during the investigation at the crime scene, and when the investigators accidentally moved the clasp across the room, during the 47-day delay in retrieving some of the samples.
Knox's DNA was matched to the handle of a kitchen knife recovered from a kitchen drawer in Sollecito's apartment, where Knox said she had used it to cook. Patrizia Stefanoni, a forensic scientist in Rome, said that a DNA sample from the blade was "compatible" with Kercher's profile, though there was no blood on the blade. The sample was a low copy number (LCN) sample, which should have been run several times for confirmation, as the chance of contamination is higher. The prosecution did not tell the defence that it was a low copy number sample.
There was also a problem with the chain of evidence. The inspector who collected the knife sealed it in an evidence envelope and passed it to a superintendent at the station. The superintendent, who had searched Knox's room earlier in the day, took it out of the envelope and placed it in a Renato Balestra calendar box. Dempsey writes that he left it for some time in a closet and failed to make clear how he transported it to the laboratory in Rome. According to Dempsey, the knife was also problematic because it did not match the outline of the knife print left on Kercher's bed, where the killer appeared to have laid it down, and it was too large to have made the two smaller cuts on Kercher's neck. Prosecution witnesses said the knife could have made the larger wound, though this was also contested. Carlo Torre, a professor of criminal science based in Turin, hired by Knox, testified that all three wounds originated from a knife that had a blade one quarter the size of the one recovered from Sollecito's flat.
In 2009, a group of American forensic specialists wrote an open letter expressing concern that procedures used by most laboratories in the United States to ensure accurate results had not been followed in this case. They stated that a chemical test for blood had returned a negative result for the knife, that the amounts of other DNA were sufficient only for a low-level, partial DNA profile, and that it was unlikely that all traces of blood could have been removed from the knife while retaining the DNA that was discovered.
In December 2010, the judge presiding over Knox and Sollecito's appeal ordered a re-examination of the DNA evidence pertaining to the knife and the bra clasp. The June 2011 report from independent experts appointed by the court said the evidence was "unreliable because not supported by scientifically valid analytical procedures." They concluded that the tests on the blade of the knife were not reliable, because the international protocol for tests on low copy number DNA analysis had not been followed. The police investigation had also not adhered to international standards for the collection of DNA samples. The scientists said the previous test results could have been the result of contamination. The report concluded that the police either mishandled evidence or failed to follow proper forensic procedure 54 times.
An autopsy of the victim demonstrated that no stomach contents had passed into the duodenum at the time of death, which Sollecito's attorneys used to argue in the appeal meant that the time of death could not have been past 10 pm. The prosecutors had argued that the time of death was 11:30 pm during the first trial, an assessment with which the lower court agreed. The appellate court concluded that the time of death was around 10:15 pm at the latest, not after 11:00 pm as the lower court had determined.
Prosecutors Giuliano Mignini and Manuela Comodi first proposed that the murder involved a Satanic ritualistic orgy. Mignini had made similar allegations in a previous case, unsuccessfully leveling charges at 20 people he said were involved with a Satanic sect responsible for the Monster of Florence killings. The prosecution also speculated that it might have been a "cult sacrifice". Mignini later denied ever saying this.
The prosecution then stated that Kercher's murder had involved a sex game gone wrong, or that the victim had refused to participate in an orgy. They also alleged that Knox had been motivated by jealousy. The prosecution further suggested that Guede had gone to the cottage to meet Knox, that Knox had stolen money from Kercher to pay Guede for drugs, and that Kercher had walked in at the wrong time and was sexually assaulted and murdered. At trial, the prosecution stated that Knox was easily given to disliking people with whom she disagreed, and that the time had come to take revenge on Kercher. On another occasion they speculated that Knox had fallen victim to "a rage caused by smoking marijuana". Rolling Stone quoted a prosecutor who said "[w]e live in an age of violence with no motive."
The defence argued that the prosecution had put forward several different theories but no convincing evidence of a motive for the murder. Knox testified that she regarded Kercher as her friend and had no reason to kill her.
The prosecution sought in the Knox and Sollecito trial to show that the break-in had been staged, arguing that nothing in the room with the broken glass was reported missing, and that the perpetrator had wanted to divert suspicion from the people who had keys to the apartment. An officer testified that shards of glass from the broken window had been found on clothes strewn around the room, suggesting that the window had been broken after the room had been ransacked. A police official testified for the defence that the break-in was not staged, and that the window of Kercher's flat had been broken from the outside. He presented a video to the court to reconstruct how the stone was thrown.
The prosecution alleged that Knox and Sollecito had false alibis for the time of the murder. Sollecito maintained that he was at his flat, using his computer. Police computer analysts testified that his computer had been used until 9:10 on the evening of the murder, then again at 5:32 the next morning. Knox maintained she was with Sollecito at the time, but during police questioning after 10 pm on 5 November 2007, Sollecito said that he could not be certain she was with him when he was asleep. Their version of events was contradicted by a witness, who testified that he had seen Knox and Sollecito chatting animatedly on a basketball court around five times between 9:30 and midnight on the night of the murder. At the appeals trial, the witness, a homeless heroin addict who has appeared as a witness in a number of murder trials, offered contradictory testimony concerning the date he said he saw Knox and Sollecito, and other crucial details. A Perugia shopkeeper testified that Knox had gone to his supermarket at 7:45 on the morning after the murder, at a time when she was, according to her account, still at Sollecito's. The shopkeeper first informed police of his recollection months after the crime occurred at the prompting of a reporter who was his friend. A worker in the shop testified that she had not seen Knox. A report by the appeal court judges said that, though the timing of events in Knox and Sollecito's accounts did not perfectly match, this was "very different" from giving false alibis.
The Public Prosecutor's Office of Perugia appealed to the Italian Supreme Court against the judgement that decided that Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox are not guilty of the murder of Meredith Kercher. The verdict of the Italian Supreme Court will conclude the murder case. The first hearing is scheduled for 25 March 2013.
In Knox and Sollecito's first trial, the two were ordered to pay a sum of €1,000,000 to each of Kercher's parents and €800,000 to each of her three siblings. Knox was also ordered to pay Patrick Lumumba, €10,000 in damages as a result of her conviction for calunnia, and €40,000 compensation for his legal expenses. The decision was upheld by the appeals court in October 2011, which sentenced Knox to three years' imprisonment, already served, and ordered her to pay a further €22,000. Lumumba also pursued compensation from the Italian authorities for unjust imprisonment and loss of business; in December 2009 a court awarded him €8,000 in damages. In February 2010 he announced that he would be taking his claim for compensation from the Italian authorities to the European Court of Human Rights.
In March 2010, Knox won a civil case against Fiorenza Sarzanini, author of a book about the Kercher case, Amanda e gli altri (Amanda and the Others), and her publisher for violation of her privacy and illegal publication of court documents. The book contained long excerpts from Knox's diary, as well as from witness interviews that were not in the public domain, and intimate details professing to be about Knox's sex life. Knox was awarded €40,000 in damages.
Following Knox's statements that she was slapped by police during questioning about the murder, another case for calunnia was opened against her on 1 June 2010 for falsely implicating police. Knox has stated she was hit and put under pressure by police when she was questioned in the aftermath of Kercher's 1 November 2007, slaying. She said police repeatedly called her a "stupid liar". Police denied misconduct and filed charges saying Knox's comments were slanderous. The trial was adjourned until 15 November 2011. According Italian Penal Code, for this crime she can be imprisoned from two to six years.
In February 2011, Knox's parents, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, were indicted on charges of criminal slander as a result of an interview published by The Sunday Times in 2009, in which they said their daughter "had not been given an interpreter, had not received food and water, and had been physically and verbally abused" by police officers after her arrest. They sought to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that there was no intent. On 4 July 2011, Judge Paolo Micheli resigned from the case, citing his involvement in the trial of Knox and Sollecito. Knox's parents' trial was adjourned until 24 January 2012. In February 2012, the prosecution filed an appeal against the acquittal of Knox and Sollecito.
The murder and associated trials resulted in worldwide media coverage, especially in Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Several observers argued that the pre-trial publicity and tabloid-style coverage tainted the public perception of Knox and might have prejudiced the court cases. The professional and lay judges who decide the verdicts in Italian court cases are not sequestered, and are allowed to read news articles about the case.
The news coverage by Italian and British tabloid newspapers, in particular, was criticized as constituting character assassination and demonisation, especially of Knox. For example, soon after she was sent to prison to await trial, prison officials falsely told her that she had tested positive for HIV, and pressed her to disclose her romantic history. She provided a list of the men she had had sex with, and which birth control method they had used. The list was leaked to Italian and British tabloids in June 2008, which published it, along with a note she wrote about how she did not want to die. Her creation of the list helped the prosecution to sexualize her, and to focus on a sexual motive for the murder. The sexual attention of the media helped to trigger harassment in prison; one guard started asking her whether she dreamed about sex, and whether she was good at it. He was eventually moved after a complaint from her family.
Several commentators criticized the Italian legal process, including Donald Trump, New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, and journalist Judy Bachrach. British writer and media lawyer Alex Wade wrote in The Times in December 2009: "If by some cruel miracle a British judge had found himself presiding over 12 good men and true ... it is inconceivable that he would not have made strong, telling directions to acquit."
Author Candace Dempsey, in her book Murder in Italy (2010), lists a number of examples of what she calls falsehoods and distortions in the press reports about the case. Knox's family engaged the services of David Marriott of Gogerty Stark Marriott, a Seattle-based public relations firm, to address what they felt was misinformation about Knox in the media. Libby Purves, writing in The Times in December 2009, said "both evidence and reconstruction look pretty convincing" and described the American campaign for Knox as "almost libellously critical of the Italian court".
Kercher's father said in December 2009 that he had no reason to doubt the Italian justice system, and in December 2010 criticized Knox's growing celebrity status. After the appeals court cleared Knox and Sollecito in October 2011, the family held a press conference in which they said they accepted the court's decision, though her brother, Lyle, said it felt as though they were back at square one.
Knox's family maintained the innocence of both Knox and Sollecito throughout the proceedings. They gave several media interviews and appeared on television talk shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show on 23 February 2010. Both sides of her family—including her mother and father's second spouses—incurred significant debts from legal fees and travel related to the hearings and prison visits.
In late 2008, a number of Seattle-area residents, including lawyer Anne Bremner and King County Superior Court Judge Michael Heavey, founded the "Friends of Amanda", a support group to raise money and awareness. Heavey later reported himself to the Commission on Judicial Conduct for violating Washington state's Code of Judicial Conduct for writing letters on official court stationery to members of the Italian judiciary. The Commission held that he did not intentionally or flagrantly violate his oath of office and issued to him an advisory letter known as an "Admonishment", the least severe action the Commission could take.
Maria Cantwell, United States Senator for Washington, issued a statement on 4 December 2009 that the evidence against Knox was inadequate, that she had been subjected to harsh treatment after her arrest, and that there had been negligence in the handling of the evidence. The Idaho Innocence Project (IIP), a non-profit investigative organization dedicated to proving the innocence of wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing, volunteered to work for the Knox defence. On 23 May 2011, Dr Gregory Hampikian, director of the project, announced that, based on its independent investigation and review, DNA samples taken at the crime scene all pointed to Guede, and excluded Knox and Sollecito.
On 10 May 2011, "Perugia Shock", a blog about the case written by Italian blogger Frank Sfarzo, who was highly critical of prosecutor Mignini's conduct in the Kercher case, was shut down by court order. The order was granted by a Florence court to Mignini on the grounds of defamation (calunnia). The Committee to Protect Journalists wrote to the Italian government protesting the action. The blog's content was later restored on a new host. The effort to shutter Sfarzo's blog followed reports of harassment and brief detention by police in September 2010.
On 26 May 2011, 11 members of the Italian parliament, led by Rocco Girlanda and all members of The People of Freedom Party founded by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, issued a document as an act of parliament addressed to Justice Minister Angelino Alfano. The document criticized the evidence that resulted in the Knox/Sollecito guilty verdicts, and the extended detention to which they were subject. Girlanda also addressed a letter to President Giorgio Napolitano, in Girlanda's capacity as president of the Italy–USA Foundation, in which he wrote, "These distortions, not without reason, are fuelling accusations against the administration of justice in our country."
Five years after the murder, the city of Perugia and its University for Foreigners in cooperation with the Italian embassy in London instituted a scholarship fund to honour the memory of Meredith Kercher. During the appeal trial Stephanie Kercher stated that the Kerchers themselves wished to establish a scholarship in Meredith Kercher's name. John Kercher stated in an interview that all profits from his book Meredith would be going to a charitable foundation in Meredith Kercher's name.
Media related to Murder of Meredith Kercher at Wikimedia Commons