Italian court hears arguments, delays ruling in Amanda Knox case
An Italian high court will delay its ruling on whether to uphold Amanda Knox’s murder conviction until Friday due to the amount of evidence being heard, a judge said Wednesday.
Presiding judge Gennaro Marasca said the last statement from a defense lawyer would be given at 9 a.m. on Friday before the court retires. A decision was expected later that day.
As the case drags on, Knox was “very worried,” her lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said Wednesday. “I spoke to her yesterday and she is following the case,” he said before heading into the courtroom in Rome.
A prosecutor and six lawyers were originally due to speak before five judges gave their verdict late Wednesday on whether to uphold Knox’s sentence of 28 years and six months in prison for the 2007 murder of her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher, in the Italian city of Perugia.
If the sentence is confirmed, the Italian government could launch extradition proceedings to bring Knox back from Seattle, where she works as a journalist and is engaged to a local musician. Her co-defendant and former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who was sentenced to 25 years, has had his travel documents seized and was present in court.
After the hearing started at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday, a court official reading the details of case took longer than expected as journalists and members of Sollecito’s family crammed into a small area of the courtroom set aside for the public.
To make space, Marasca ordered the hearing to be moved to the building’s main courtroom — a large room lined with marble columns, stucco reliefs, frescoes and a stained-glass ceiling.
By 1:45 p.m., after speaking for 75 minutes, prosecutor Marco Pinelli informed the court that he required another 45 minutes. A lunch break was called, after which Marasca said that the statements would be wrapped on Friday morning, because the judges were handling another case on Thursday.
Knox, now 27, was tried, convicted and sentenced in 2009 to 26 years in prison, while Sollecito, received 25 years. But their convictions were reversed on appeal two years later. She returned to the U.S. before the Rome high court ordered a new trial, at which the pair were again found guilty.
Now, the case has returned to the court of cassation for what could be a final sign-off, as required under Italian law.
As he entered the courtroom Wednesday, dressed in a dark blue suit, a smiling Sollecito said he was “calm.” But as the hearing proceeded, he began to tap his feet nervously and bite his nails.
Dalla Vedova, Knox’s attorney, argued in court that her sentence was “a very serious miscarriage of justice which must be put right.”
In turn, Pinelli reminded judges that the high court had already once overturned an acquittal of Knox and Sollecito, and said the court’s mandate was to consider a handful of legal points, rather than reconsider the entire case.
Pinelli described as “beyond reproach” the allegations that Knox fatally stabbed Kercher, aided by Sollecito.
He recalled a partial confession that Knox made, then retracted, in which she said the murder had been committed by a local barman, Patrick Lumumba. Pinelli said that apart from blaming Lumumba, other details in her confession had been accurate about the crime scene. All that changed, he said, was “putting the knife in the hand of Lumumba.”
Pinelli turned his attention to the knife found in Sollecito’s kitchen, which prosecutors have cited as the murder weapon. Knox’s lawyers have argued it was unlikely Knox took the knife to the flat she shared with Kercher and killed her there with it, since the murder was portrayed by prosecutors as unpremeditated. But Pinelli claimed she did take it with her, suggesting Knox had planned the murder.
In a long statement in which he called the defense lawyers “pushy,” the prosecutor also demanded to know why Knox was not startled when she visited the house the morning after the murder, despite it being “full of blood.” That, he said, was a “fundamental aspect” of the case.
He also asked the court not to focus on the motives for the killing, and to concentrate instead on the evidence. Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito have said the pair lacked any reason to kill Kercher.
On Friday, Sollecito’s lawyers are expected to try and separate their client’s plight from that of Knox. In a filing to the court before the hearing, the lawyers argued that much of the evidence used to sentence Knox and Sollecito was applicable to only Knox.
Her confession, they argue, does not mention Sollecito. Last year, Sollecito also suggested he could not account for Knox’s whereabouts for the entire night of the murder.
“We are not throwing Knox overboard, but if the court wants to do that, Sollecito remains safe and dry,” said Giulia Bongiorno, a lawyer representing Sollecito.
Kington is a special correspondent.
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