Amanda Knox has said she is ‘frightened and saddened’ after being sensationally declared guilty for a second time of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in 2007, with whom she had shared a flat in Perugia, Italy.
In the latest twist in the tortuous legal process, an appeals court in Florence ruled that Knox, 26, and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 29, took part in the killing of Ms Kercher, 21.
Knox was not in court. She returned home to Seattle after the first appeal trial overturned her 2009 conviction. Sollecito has had his passport confiscated after being found in a hotel near the Italian border, but will not yet return to prison.
Speaking before the verdict was read out, Knox told BBC’s Newsnight programme: “I'm definitely not going back willingly. They will have to catch me and pull me back kicking and screaming into a prison that I don't deserve to be in.”
If the verdict is finalised in the Supreme Court - the same court which ordered the third trial after the pair’s guilty verdict was quashed by the first appeals court - Italy will seek Knox’s extradition.
Calling the verdict “unjust”, Knox said: “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.”
Knox was handed 28 years and six months and Sollecito a 25-year jail term.
One of Sollecito’s lawyers, Luca Maori, condemned the verdict and said the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that his client was guilty. “This was a verdict devoid of sense,” he said.
Ms Kercher’s brother, Lyle, who was in the court for the verdict, said he would not be able to forgive those responsible for his sister’s death.
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Kercher said: “I think you’d have to be a very strong-willed – arguably religious – person to find that forgiveness. I think it is so easily forgotten what happened to Meredith. When I read reports even now, I find myself skimming past the paragraphs that refer to what actually happened to her because it is so horrific.”
The jury, of two judges and six lay people, took far longer than the expected eight hours to arrive at the verdict, indicating some disagreement.
Kercher, 21, was found dead in a pool of blood in the bedroom of the apartment she and Knox shared in the town of Perugia, where they were studying. Kercher had been sexually assaulted and her throat slashed.
The original trial in 2009 relied on DNA evidence, confused alibis and Knox’s false accusation against a Congolese bar owner. The pair were convicted and spent four years in prison.
Prosecutors originally argued that Kercher was killed in a drug-fueled sex game gone wrong, but in the latest trial, a new prosecutor instead argued that the violence stemmed from arguments between roommates Knox and Kercher about cleanliness.