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Judges ponder appeal from Knox's ex

March 27, 2015 2:35 PM
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Judges ponder appeal from Knox's ex

Lawyers for Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend have made a final appeal to Italy's top criminal court, urging it to overturn the pair's murder conviction for the 2007 murder of Knox's room-mate, British student Meredith Kercher.

Attorney Giulia Bongiorno dissected the decision of an appeal court in Florence last year to show what she said were numerous errors of fact and logic that resulted in prison sentences of 28 and a half years for Knox and 25 years for Raffaele Sollecito.

Judges at the Court of Cassation in Rome started deliberating shortly after noon. A decision to confirm the convictions could result in an extradition request from Italy for Knox, who is currently living in the US. She has vowed to never willingly return to Italy.

In her closing arguments, Ms Bongiorno said even Knox's original statement to police - which was never entered as evidence and was later changed - exonerated her client.

Knox, who along with Ms Kercher had been studying in the university town of Perugia, initially accused a Congolese bar owner of the murder. She also told investigators she was home the night Ms Kercher was killed and had to cover her ears to drown out her screams.

Ms Bongiorno said she believed Knox's statement was coerced, but that even if the high court chooses to consider it, Sollecito figures nowhere in her story.

"My heart is crying because I think she was pressured by an intermediary," Ms Bongiorno said, apparently referring to the person who served as Knox's unofficial translator during police questioning. But within that statement, Ms Bongiorno added, Knox "rules out Sollecito".

Ms Kercher, 21, was found dead on November 2 2007 in the apartment she shared with Knox and two other students. Her throat was slashed and she had been sexually assaulted.

Knox and Sollecito were arrested a few days later. They both have maintained their innocence.

Initially Sollecito said he was working on his computer all night, and that he could not remember if Knox had stayed the whole night with him. Police said there was no sign he used the computer that night.

The couple later said they had spent the evening together at Sollecito's place watching a movie, smoking marijuana and making love.

Knox said her initial statement was forced under duress during late-night questioning by Italian police without a lawyer present and in a language she barely spoke. Her false accusation against Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, who owned the bar where Knox occasionally worked, resulted in a slander conviction against Knox that has been upheld on appeal.

The high court has several options as it weighs the case: It can confirm the guilty verdicts, raising the question of extradition for Knox; it can overturn the convictions and order a third appeals trial; or it can overturn the convictions without a new trial, tantamount to acquittal.

Knox, who was freed in 2011 after an earlier appeals court ruling acquitted her, is awaiting the decision in Seattle on "pins and needles", lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said.

Another lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, said he had spoken with Knox but that she responded in only "monosyllables".

"She is very worried and stressed," Mr Ghirga told reporters outside the courtroom. "She just answers by saying 'Yes, no, thank you, talk to you later'."

Sollecito was in court, joined by his girlfriend, sister and father, as was Mr Lumumba. Mr Bongiorno said Sollecito would not return to court to learn his fate, but was calm "because he knows he's innocent".

Knox and Sollecito were initially convicted by a Perugia court in 2009, acquitted and freed in 2011, and then convicted in 2014 in Florence after the Court of Cassation overturned the acquittals and ordered a new appeals trial.


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