An appeals court in Florence has found Seattle student Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend guilty in the 2007 murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher.
The verdict came after four months of arguments in Knox's and Raffaele Sollecito's third trial for the murder in the Italian university town of Perugia. The court deliberated for several hours before delivering their verdict Thursday afternoon and setting a 28.6 year sentence.
Knox, 26, awaited the verdict half a world away in Seattle, where she returned after spending several years in jail before being acquitted in 2011 in Kercher's murder. In an email to the court, Knox wrote that she feared a wrongful conviction.
Knox's absence did not formally hurt her case since she was freed by a court and defendants in Italy are not required to appear at their trials. However, presiding Judge Alessandro Nencini reacted sternly to her emailed statement, noting that defendants have a right to be heard if they appear physically before the panel.
Sollecito, on the other hand, has made frequent court appearances, always in a purple sweater, the color of the local Florentine football club. He was in court again Thursday, accompanied by his father and other relatives.
Members of Kercher's family are expected to appear later at court.
Italy's highest court ordered the third trial in a scathing dismissal of the appeals court acquittal, ordering the examination of evidence and testimony it said had been improperly omitted by the Perugia appeals court as well as to redress what it called as lapses in logic.
`'Most of all, the court was instructed to evaluate all of the evidence in their complexity," said Vieri Fabiani, one of the lawyers for the Kercher family.
The first trial court found Knox and Sollecito guilty of murder and sexual assault based on DNA evidence, confused alibis and Knox's false accusation against a Congolese bar owner, which resulted in a slander verdict that has been upheld on final appeal. A Perugia appeals court dismantled the guilty verdict two years later, criticizing the `'building blocks" of the conviction, including DNA evidence now deemed unreliable by new experts, and the lack of motive.
Suspicion fell on Knox and Sollecito within days of the discovery of Kercher's half-naked body on Nov. 2, 2007 in her bedroom in Perugia.
One man has been convicted, Rudy Hermann Guede, a small-time drug dealer originally from Ivory Coast who had been convicted previously of break-ins. He is serving a 16-year sentence for murder that courts have said he did not commit alone.