UK & World News

  • 2 February 2014, 1:18

Amanda Knox Judge Describes Agony Of Decision

The judge who upheld Amanda Knox's murder conviction has spoken of his pain at making the decision.

Judge Alessandro Nencini made his comments as fellow judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman, who cleared Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2011, criticised the verdict.

Judge Nencini and his panel of six jurors took almost 12 hours to make their decision.

It saw them uphold the original murder convictions against Knox, 26, and Sollecito, 29.

''I have two children and this was a painful sentence for me as well but I and all the jury have a clean conscience," he said.

''I feel liberated because the moment of decision is always agony.

"I have two children and to give two young people sentences of 25 and 28 years is emotionally very strong.''

Judge Nencini added that the decision reached was ''shared'' by all the jury and that they all knew the ''severity'' of the Florence appeal court ruling.

"This (case) involves young people and entire families. This is a story that has overturned many lives," he said.

Meredith was found semi-naked and with her throat slashed, in the bedroom of the house she shared with Knox in Perugia seven years ago.

She was killed just weeks after arriving in Italy as part of her university degree course.

Knox and Sollecito were originally convicted of murdering and sexually assaulting the British student Meredith Kercher by a court in 2009.

But then two years later they were dramatically cleared by Judge Hellmann at appeal - and walked free.

Then in a further twist, that decision was overturned by Italy's Supreme Court and sent back to the appeal court .

Knox was sentenced to 28 years and Sollecito to 25 years on Thursday.

Speaking about the latest decision, Judge Hellmann said: "I remain certain that there is no concrete evidence at all against these two young people.

"This new sentence was on the cards - it's tied to the decision made by the Supreme Court - Amanda's not doing a bad thing by not coming back to Italy."

In its ruling last year the Supreme Court decided that "errors" had been made in the 2009 appeal court hearing and that these should be "remedied".

Key to the case is DNA evidence which in the appeal trial was exposed as being flawed. It emerged that forensic officers had not followed correct procedures at the crime scene when collecting evidence.

This was the key to Knox and Sollecito's release from jail.

The Florence appeal court once again heard that DNA evidence from a 30cm kitchen knife found at Sollecito's house and thought to be the murder weapon was also questionable.

Experts ruled that although Knox's DNA was on the handle and a small amount of Meredith's was on the tip, it was deemed too small to be significant.

But the court chose to overlook this.

Sollecito's lawyer said the case was a milestone as it was the first time that ''two people have been convicted of a crime when there is no evidence putting them at the scene".

The appeal court will release its reasons and motivations for the verdict sometime in April but judge Nencini stressed they were ''all convinced'' of their verdict.

The ruling now marks the start of a long legal battle as both Knox and Sollecito's defence teams have announced they will appeal the verdict to Italy's Supreme Court.

That hearing is unlikely to start until spring 2015.

Only at that point, and if the sentences are confirmed, will extraditing Knox from America back to Italy be discussed.

The US will not reveal whether it has received a request to extradite Knox.

The State Department's deputy press secretary Marie Harf said: "We've been following it closely as it's gone through the Italian legal system.

"I don't have any more analysis of the Italian judicial procedure for you. But again, we'll just keep monitoring it and if we have anything else to say as we get further along in the process, we will.

"Extradition requests I understand, are legally private and confidential, so I don't think I have more comment than that. We do have an extradition treaty, which has been in force since 1984."

On Friday, Knox wept on television as she vowed to fight her latest conviction"to the very end".

For Sollecito, the outlook is arguably bleaker as he is already in Italy. He has had his passport confiscated and been banned from leaving the country.

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