Amanda Knox Innocent
Kayla Zerger & Katie Cox
PERUGIA, Italy — After one of the most closely watched trials in Italy, an American college student and her former Italian boyfriend were found guilty early on Saturday of murdering her housemate two years ago in this picturesque university town
The polarizing case gripped Italy and drew intense international media attention to a pair of fresh-faced young people who had no clear motive or violent pasts.
Prosecutors had accused Amanda Knox, 22, then a student at theUniversity of Washington who was studying here, and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 25, of slitting the throat of her housemate, Meredith Kercher, 21, of Surrey, England, in November 2007 after a scuffle escalated into their coercing her into a sexual game.
After deliberating for more than 12 hours, a jury of six civilians and two judges found Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito guilty on all the major charges. The judge finished reading the verdict after midnight to a courtroom packed with the families and friends of the defendants, along with a host of international journalists and local spectators.
Ms. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Mr. Sollecito to 25 years. Prosecutors had been seeking life, Italy’s stiffest sentence, for both. It was not immediately clear why the sentences differed. Under Italian law, the jury has 90 days to release the reasoning for its decisions.
A third defendant, Rudy Guede, 22, is already serving a 30-year sentence for sexual assault and murder; the judge ruled that he was one of three assailants. All three deny wrongdoing. The trial in Mr. Guede’s appeal is under way.
In a brick-vaulted courtroom humming with tension, Ms. Knox wept when the verdict was read, while Mr. Sollecito remained impassive. Mr. Sollecito’s stepmother could be heard sobbing and shouted at him to “be strong.” Ms. Knox’s mother and sisters were in tears. Her father, Curt Knox, responded tensely that the family would fight on, appealing the decision.
The Knox family said in a statement that the prosecution had “failed to explain why there is no evidence of Amanda in the room where Meredith was so horribly and tragically murdered.” They also criticized “attacks on Amanda’s character in much of the media and by the prosecution.”
In the international media, Ms. Knox has alternately been depicted as an American girl running wild on her junior year abroad or as a wholesome honors student unwittingly caught up in an Italian legal nightmare.
The verdict did not appear to resolve a host of questions about what happened the night of Nov. 2, 2007, when Ms. Kercher was killed. Some people argued that the prosecution had failed to present a coherent narrative or motive for the crime, while others said the defense had failed to adequately dispute the forensic evidence.
Although held under an international spotlight, the trial was conducted in a small-town court. After the verdict, the Knox family and lawyers were caught in a mob of people exiting the courtroom into the glare of television cameras.
A lawyer for the Kercher family, Francesco Maresca, called the ruling “a good sentence that fills us with satisfaction.” He added, “I think justice has been done for the Kercher family.”
In addition to the murder charges, the jury also found Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito guilty of unlawful possession of a weapon — a knife that prosecutors said was involved in the murder — and of staging a crime scene. Prosecutors contended that the three had faked a burglary to cover up the murder.
Ms. Knox was also found guilty of defamation, for having accused her former boss in a bar where she worked, Patrick Lumumba, of the crime in both oral and written testimony. He was jailed before being released. Ms. Knox has said the police put pressure on her to accuse Mr. Lumumba.
Addressing the court the day before the verdict, Ms. Knox said she was “afraid of being branded a murderer.”
In their closing arguments, prosecutors showed the jury an animated simulation of the night of the crime. It showed a cartoon version of Ms. Knox getting into a fight with Ms. Kercher in the victim’s room, while Mr. Sollecito held a knife and Mr. Guede held her from behind and reached a hand into her underwear.
The animation also included graphic photos from Ms. Kercher’s autopsy. They showed bruises suggesting fingerprints under her chin, several small cuts and one gaping knife wound in her neck. Forensic experts testified that the markings on Ms. Kercher’s body suggested multiple assailants. Lawyers representing for Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito argued that there was only one killer, Mr. Guede.
The forensic evidence was contested. Prosecutors said the murder weapon was a kitchen knife later found scrubbed clean in Mr. Sollecito’s kitchen with Ms. Knox’s DNA on the handle and Ms. Kercher’s DNA on the tip.
Defense lawyers said that the DNA evidence was not strong enough and that the blade did not match some of Ms. Kercher’s wounds. A second knife, with which prosecutors contend that Mr. Sollecito taunted Ms. Kercher, was never found.
The circumstantial evidence was also fraught. Ms. Knox said that she had spent the night of the murder at Mr. Sollecito’s house, where the two smoked marijuana and had sex. She said she had gone home the next morning and found some spots of blood on the bathroom floor, but took a shower anyway before finding Ms. Kercher’s body. Mr. Sollecito has said he does not remember whether or not Ms. Knox spent the whole night at his house. Mr. Guede has admitted to being at the house on the night of the murder and his DNA was found on Ms. Kercher’s body. In Italy, it is common for sentences to be reduced in two potential rounds of appeals.
2. What problem was Amanda Knox facing?
3. How do you think Amanda Knox's family was feeling?
4. Name two charges Amanda Knox faced.
5. Did the Author do a good job of staying biased?
6. Do you think the organization technique was helpful in understanding the story?