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Knox, ex-lover retrial for Italy murder begins

30 September 2013, 13:32

Florence - The retrial of Amanda Knox and her former lover for the murder of a British student began in Florence on Monday, with lawyers for the victim saying her family was long overdue the truth behind one of Italy's most notorious crimes.

US student Knox and Italian Raffaele Sollecito spent four years behind bars for the murder of Meredith Kercher, who was found half-naked in a pool of blood in the house she shared with Knox in 2007, her body riddled with stab wounds.

Kercher's throat had been slit and she suffered a "slow, agonising" death, according to the coroner's report.

"I hope that we will take a step towards the truth, for the Kercher family. A truth which will finally reveal what really happened to Meredith that night," said lawyer Francesco Maresca.

An appeals court overturned Knox and Sollecito's convictions in 2011 and the US student returned to Seattle, but Italy's Supreme Court in March ordered a retrial for them both following an appeal by prosecutors against what they slammed a "superficial ruling."

"We are convinced of their guilt, and believe the Supreme Court ruling supports our theory," Maresca said.

The lawyer told the court that none of the Kercher family were present because Meredith's parents were in ill health.

Knox, 26, has insisted she will not to return for any of the retrial, saying her stint in prison aged her by 40 years and she suffers from panic attacks and depression.

"I was depicted as a young, unscrupulous liar. A sex fiend, a murderess. I'm not coming back," she told Florence's local Corriere Fiorentino daily on the eve of the hearing.

If Knox is convicted again and loses another Supreme Court appeal, experts say there is a remote chance that she could be extradited and imprisoned.

Sollecito, 29, has been living in the Dominican Republic but his family has said he will attend court later on in the trial, which could last months.

Sollecito's father Francesco, who was present in court, said: "the Supreme Court wants the new court in Florence to look at the fundamentals, and we're pleased."

"It can only confirm what we already know: that Raffaelle has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened to that poor girl," he said.

Retrial judge Alessandro Nencini will have to decide whether to order DNA evidence to be examined again from scratch and re-hear witness testimony.

'She is guilty'

Italy's highest court said a retrial was necessary because of "numerous examples of shortcomings, contradictions and incoherencies" in the appeal ruling.

It accused the judges of glazing over clues and insisted the prosecution's claim from the original trial - that the grizzly murder was the result of "an erotic game that spun out of control" - was a valid hypothesis.

It strongly questioned the decision not to test a third trace of DNA found on the alleged murder weapon - a kitchen knife found in Sollecito's house - despite experts saying the trace was too low to produce conclusive results.

It accused the judges of not considering the prosecution's claim that Sollecito's involvement was proved by the fact that only one in three billion people were compatible with the DNA traces found on Kercher's bra strap.

The defence insists the DNA samples were not admissible because the original probe into the murder was flawed - with police caught using dirty gloves to bag evidence and failing to store it properly, opening the way to possible DNA contamination.

The Supreme Court said Knox's original confession to police which she later retracted - in which she said she heard Meredith's screams from another room in the house and covered her ears - was undervalued.

She also falsely accused Congolese bar owner Patrick Lumumba of the murder, landing him behind bars for two-weeks before he was cleared of the crime.

"Amanda isn't here because she is guilty. She is guilty or she would not have accused me," said Lumumba, who was present in court.

The US student insists the claims were made under duress.

Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede, who like the other two has always denied the murder, is the only person still in prison for the crime.



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