Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were tonight found guilty of murdering British student Meredith Kercher as a Florence court dramatically reversed the two defendants’ acquittal in 2011 for the same crime.
Judge Alessandro Nencini sentenced Knox to 28 years and six months, more than the 26 years she received at her first trial in 2009.
Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years, the same sentence he previously received, but he was instructed to hand over his passport and forbidden from leaving the country before Italy’s supreme court confirms the sentence.
Knox said later in a statement that she was frightened and saddened by the verdict, and that “justice was perverted”.
It was suggested last night that Knox was unlikely to return to Italy to serve her sentence.
It is thought the British government may apply pressure on Washington over extradition given she has been convicted of murdering a British national. However, it is not clear if the American authorities would extradite her to Italy.
Knox, 26, a student from Seattle, shared a house in the Italian town of Perugia with Kercher, then 21, who was found partially naked in a pool of blood with her throat slashed in November 2007.
Initially arrested and convicted of the murder, Knox and her then boyfriend Sollecito, 29, spent four years in jail, before they were acquitted on appeal in 2011, only for Italy’s supreme court – the third tier in the Italian justice system -- to order the latest trial, stating the acquittal was riddled with “shortcomings, contradictions and inconsistencies”.
“It’s hard to feel anything now because this will go on to a further appeal,” said Lyle Kercher, Meredith’s brother, who was in court to hear the verdict with Meredith’s sister, Stephanie.
“I feel satisfaction in that this is what the prosecution has been working towards, but it is not a cause for celebration,” he added.
After retiring to consider its verdict at 10:15am, the jury repeatedly pushed back its scheduled return to the court, finally re-emerging with its sentence shortly before 10pm.
Raffaele Sollecito was present in the courtroom to hear the final arguments yesterday morning before the jury retired, but he was later absent.
Knox said in a statement last night: “First and foremost it must be recognized that there is no consolation for the Kercher family.
“Their grief over Meredith’s terrible murder will follow them forever. They deserve respect and support.
I am frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict. Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system.
The evidence and accusatory theory do not justify a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, nothing has changed. There has always been a marked lack of evidence. My family and I have suffered greatly from this wrongful persecution.”
She went on: “Clearly a wrongful conviction is horrific for the wrongfully accused, but it is also terribly bad for the victim, their surviving family, and society.”
The sentence will now likely go back to the supreme court for a final sign-off before it becomes definitive. If a guilty verdict is upheld, Knox could face extradition proceedings.
Under Italy’s slow paced justice system, the supreme court is unlikely to hear the case until April or May of 2015, said Francesco Maresca, the Kercher family’s lawyer. Lyle Kercher said the waiting had been tough.
“To lose someone you love so dearly is hard enough, especially in the way she died, but that has been compounded by the fact that it has gone on for six years and three months”, he said.