Foreign exchange student Amanda Knox spent almost four years in an Italian prison for the 2007 murder of her flatmate, British student Meredith Kercher, who was killed at the age of 21 in Perugia, Italy, on Nov. 1, 2007. Kercher was found with her throat slashed on the floor of her bedroom on Nov. 2. She had been sexually assaulted.
Following the discovery of her roommate’s body, Knox, who had said she’d spent the previous night with her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, was repeatedly interviewed without being given access to a lawyer. Knox later testified that she was subjected to pressure tactics and struck by police to make her incriminate herself. She was arrested and charged with murder on Nov. 6, 2007. Tabloids quickly caught on to the shocking case and the coverage of “Foxy Knoxy” went global.
Knox and Sollecito were held in prison for Kercher’s murder. Over a year later, their trial began on Jan. 16, 2009 before Judge Giancarlo Massei, Deputy Judge Beatrice Cristiani, and six lay judges at the Corte d’Assise of Perugia. The charges were that Knox and Sollecito, along with a man named Rudy Guede, whose fingerprints were found at the scene, had murdered Kercher in her bedroom. Knox and Sollecito both pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, Guede opted for a fast-track trial, held in closed session with no reporters present. During the trial, Guede claimed that Kercher had let him in the flat, they’d kissed and touched but had not had intercourse. He says when he left the room to go to the bathroom a “shadowy figure” came in and stabbed her. However, the forensics didn’t match his story. There was broken glass fragments with a shoe print of Guede’s at the scene, which indicated he’d broken in. One of his palm prints in Kercher’s blood was on the pillow next to her dead body.
Guede was found guilty in October 2008 of murder and sexual assault and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. Judge Micheli acquitted Guede of theft.
The prosecution argued that Knox had attacked Kercher in her bedroom, banged her head against a wall, held her face, and tried to strangle her. The prosecution also theorized that Guede, Knox, and Sollecito removed Kercher’s jeans and held her on her hands and knees for Guede to sexually abuse her. They also said that they believed Knox had cut Kercher with a knife before inflicting the fatal stab wound; and that she had then stolen Kercher’s mobile phones and money to fake a burglary. On 5 December 2009, Knox and Sollecito were convicted of murder and sentenced to 26 years’ imprisonment.
The appeal trial began in November 2010 and was presided over by Judges Claudio Pratillo Hellmann and Massimo Zanetti. There was a review of the contested DNA evidence by independent experts, which found a multitude of basic errors in the gathering and analysis of the evidence. The review concluded that there was no evidence of Kercher’s DNA on the alleged murder weapon. Some of Sollecito’s DNA had been found in Kercher’s bra, however, an expert strongly argued that the evidence was contaminated.
On Oct. 3, 2011, Knox and Sollecito were acquitted completely. The conviction of Knox on a charge of slander of Patrick Lumumba, a bar owner Knox falsely accused, was upheld, and the original one-year sentence was increased to three years and eleven days’ imprisonment.
Explaining their ruling, the appeal trial judges wrote that the verdict guilty “was not corroborated by any objective element of evidence”. The judges said that the interviews of Knox were an “obsessive duration,” the judges said that the statements she made incriminating herself were when she was under “great psychological pressure.” The judges further noted that a homeless man who had testified to seeing Sollecito and Knox in the Piazza Grimana before the murder was a heroin addict. Additionally, the judges observed that the judge at the 2009 trial had used the word “probably” 39 times in his report; and there was no evidence of any phone calls or texts between any of the accused.
Following the acquittal, there was a rehearing of Knox and Sollecito’s second-level trial. The was new evidence of a previously unexamined sample of the blade of Sollecito’s kitchen knife, which the prosecution had alleged was the murder weapon. But no DNA belonging to Kercher was found. Despite the negative result, the court found them guilty. But Knox and Sollecito appealed.
On March 27, 2015, Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, ruled that Knox and Sollecito were innocent of murder, thereby definitively ending the case. Rather than merely declaring that there were errors in the earlier court cases or that there was insufficient evidence to convict, the court ruled that Knox and Sollecito had not committed the murder and were innocent of those charges. Cleared of the murder crime, Knox’s conviction for slandering Patrick Lumumba was upheld.
After this verdict was announced, Knox, who was living in the United States by then, said in a statement: “The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal.”
In September 2015, the delegate Supreme Judge, Court adviser Mr. Gennaro Marasca, went public the reasons of absolution, explaining that the evidence demonstrated that either Knox or Sollecito was present at the crime scene. The judge added they cannot have “materially participated in the homicide,”since there were no “biological traces that could be attributed to them in the room of the murder or on the body of the victim, where in contrast numerous traces were found attributable to Guede.”
Upon returning to the United States, Knox completed her degree. She is now a writer, TV personality and advocate for the wrongfully accused.