Frequently asked questions about Amanda Knox’s “retrial”

(Current as of 18 Dec 2013)

Why is Knox being tried again?

Actually, Amanda Knox is not being tried again; the Florence proceedings are re-hearing Knox and Sollecito’s appeal of their original 2009 conviction (CNN, 30 Sep, 2013). This is a ‘continuing case on appeals’,  according to Knox’s Italian lawyer Dalla Vedova (Toronto Sun, Mar 2013).

One NBC-affiliate, King 5 Seattle, has acknowledged they know Knox and Sollecito are appealing their conviction for murder, but decided to call it a retrial anyways.

But wasn’t she acquitted?

The last appeals did result in an acquittal, however that ruling was not a final ruling. The Italian supreme court threw out that acquittal due to “‘deficiencies, contradictions and illogical’ conclusions” and sent the case back to the appellate level to re-hear the appeals (AP/Barry, 17 Dec 2013).

Judgements in Italy are not final until the supreme court affirms a judgement. The acquittal happened at the appellate level and was overturned by the supreme court. Knox’s attorney Ted Simon has admitted the supreme court sent the case back to the appellate level to re-hear the appeals (Shepherd Smith show, 6 Nov 2013).

Isn’t that double jeopardy?

Since the judgements are not final until supreme court approval, Knox and Sollecito are not put in “double jeopardy.”  Even Knox’s own Italian lawyer Dalla Vedova admits its not double jeopardy, as this is a continuation of the same case on appeal (Toronto Sun, Mar 2013).

In the US, they are accustomed to acquittals being a “final” judgement, however that is not true in many parts of the world, including Canada, Mexico, and Turkey. Acquittals can be overturned in those countries; and the US has extradited defendants to each of those countries despite claims of “double jeopardy”.

King 5 Seattle said Italy doesn’t prohibit double jeopardy?

According to one KOMO seattle reporter, Knox PR reps have been pushing the double jeopardy line to reporters.

Italy is a signing party to two international conventions that prohibit double jeopardy from final rulings, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the United Nations convention on human rights. The United States has also signed the UN convention on human rights. The international community recognizes the validity of the Italian processes under those conventions.

Those conventions prohibit double jeopardy in final judgements. As Italy does not recognize the judgement as final until it is affirmed by the supreme court, defendants are not placed in double jeopardy as a result of overturned acquittals.

The ECHR? Isn’t that where Knox appealed her slander charge?

Knox has claimed she has filed a charge in the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) regarding alleged abuses in her questioning by police. The ECHR clearly states they are not an appeals court; they will not overturn or quash legal rulings in the member states (ECHR Questions and Answers, 2013).

Knox’s alleged charge is under the same ECHR convention banning double jeopardy, so her defense team should be well aware that the convention prohibits double jeopardy.

If the appellate court affirms her conviction, what happens next?

The ruling in the current appeals is expected in January 2014. If there is an affirmation of the conviction, Knox and Sollecito will likely appeal the conviction at the supreme court, thus the case will likely continue to the Italian supreme court.

Will she be extradited?

First, the courts in Italy would have to finally affirm a conviction against Knox and Sollecito, then issue an extradition request to the US.

Extradition is a complex process, and there are two parts in the US to consider: the legal process in the federal courts (judicial), and the international relations aspect in the US state department (executive).

For the federal court process, there have been many past US extradition cases that have had similarities to Knox’s potential extradition. In 1974, defendants tried a double jeopardy defense to avoid extradition to Canada, where their acquittal was overturned (CourtListener). The federal court denied that defense and extradited them to canada. In 1995, a defendant attempted a double jeopardy defense to avoid extradition to Turkey, where they had two prior acquittals overturned. The US federal courts again denied that the US constitutional protections do not apply “extraterritorial” protections to crimes in other countries, and the defendant was extradited (CourtListener).

Any questions about the fairness of the Italian court proceedings against Knox would not be dealt with by the federal courts, but by the US state department. The federal courts have said several times that those questions belong to the executive branch of the US government, which is responsible for the extradition treaty with Italy (US vs. Kin-Hong, 1997).

But there’s no evidence against her?

Despite the PR-influenced media reports in the US, the case obviously includes items that have been entered into evidence. Evidence includes Knox’s DNA mixed with Meredith’s DNA and blood in several rooms in the apartment, Knox and Sollecito’s constantly changing stories, and Knox’s written memoriale stating she “stands by” her previous statement placing her at the crime scene during the murder. For a full description of the evidence, see the summary of evidence against Knox and Sollecito at the Murder of Meredith Kercher wiki.

There’s no evidence of her in the room Meredith died?

Knox has made a similar claim in her recent email to the appellate court in Italy, where she limits the “crime scene” to being only Meredith’s bedroom.

The Italian police and courts recognize the crime scene as the whole apartment; Meredith’s blood and DNA was found in the hallway, Filomena’s bedroom, and the bathroom. Guede’s DNA was found in the other bathroom in the house. Limiting the definition of “crime scene” to be Meredith’s bedroom excludes all of this evidence (including the alleged break-in in Filomena’s bedroom).

In all of those places where Meredith’s DNA and blood was found, Knox’s DNA has also been found. In addition, the use of the forensic chemical luminol at the crime scene revealed the presence of two other individuals. Two sizes of footprints were revealed, neither one of which match Guedes’ foot size.

For more details and additional evidence, see the Murder of Meredith Kercher Wiki page on the evidence against Knox and Sollecito.

Didn’t testing exclude the knife?

The media misreported on the latest test on the knife; the most recent test was ONLY on a single trace of DNA that had not previously been tested. The most recent test found Knox’s DNA (Guardian, 30 Sept 2013; Murder of Meredith Kercher Wiki)

This was the fourth biological trace obtained from the knife. Previous scientific testing on the other traces testing revealed two samples of DNA; one belonging to  Meredith and one belonging to Knox (Massei, 2010). The defense disputed the findings of the trace belonging to Meredith, but that report is still part of the case evidence.

Isn’t Guede the only killer?

The prosecution argued several points that show the presence of more than one person:

1. The type and location of the wounds on Meredith; there were almost no defensive wounds (Massei, 2010).

2. The luminol footprints in the hallway that are of two sizes other than Guede’s foot (Massei, 2010).

3. The bathmat footprint in Meredith’s blood that doesn’t match Guede’s foot size (Massei, 2010).

4. Considerations about who would have reason to move Meredith’s body after the murder and arrange the crime scene to look like a break-in (Massei, 2010).

Where can I find out more information?

The Murder of Meredith Kercher Wiki includes source documents, trial transcripts, and summaries of case evidence.

Where can I get updates?

Andrea Vogt is reporting from Italy at her own web site.

The Murder of Meredith Kercher Wiki provides updates on the Florence appeals for Knox and Sollecito.

CNN reporting on Amanda Knox appeals

CNN reporting on Amanda Knox appeals

The actual case against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito

Update 1/31/2014: I will be producing an updated version of this post in the coming week. Follow me on twitter at @pataz1 or enter in your email address in the subscribe box to be notified of the update!

The evidence of Guede in the apartment and his involvement in Meredith’s murder are widely accepted; Guede himself admits to being at the apartment that night. However the prosecution and the first court in Amanda Knox’s trial believed that Guede was not alone based on many points of evidence. The involvement of additional people, i.e. that Guede did not act alone,  has also been accepted in Guede’s trial AND in both of his appeals.

One of Knox’s own first statements placed her at the scene of the crime, coming after Sollecito changed his story and no longer provided her an alibi. While Knox’s first statement was not admittable in the trial, her written statement was, and she admitted she couldn’t not confirm any of her actions the night of the 1st:

“I also know that the fact that I can’t fully recall the events that I claim took place at Raffaele’s home during the time that Meredith was murdered is incriminating.”

Knox also questioned her own memory:

And I stand by my statements that I made last night about events that could have taken place in my home with Patrik, but I want to make very clear that these events seem more unreal to me that what I said before, that I stayed at Raffaele’s house. (…) Is the evidence proving my pressance [sic] at the time and place of the crime reliable? If so, what does this say about my memory? Is it reliable?

Some of the points in the Massei report:

Forensic evidence

The forensic evidence points to additional participants in the murder and staging the scene afterwards.

  • Sollecito’s DNA found on the bra hook of the cut-off part of the bra
  • Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s DNA found on a knife in Sollecito’s apartment
  • Half a bare footprint on the bathmat in the bathroom, however Guede’s tracks from his shoes lead directly from the bedroom out the front door.
  • Bare footprint not a match for Guede’s foot
  • No other bare footprints or blood in hallway or bathroom leading up to bath mat; potential signs of a clean-up
  • Luminol tests done 45 days later revealed a footprint in the hallway the size of Knox’s foot.
  • Knox’s DNA, not Guede’s or the other roommates, found mixed with Meredith’s blood in the bathroom, hallway, and in the room with the “break-in”

The Knife

The knife is one of the most contested parts of the case. The knife was found in Sollecito’s house, not Knox’s, and contained Knox’s DNA. The examiner also found Meredith’s DNA on the blade of the knife, though the sample was small, and the defense contends that therefore contamination cannot be ruled out. However, even if the DNA is excluded, Sollecito made a damning statement when he claimed:

The fact that Meredith’s DNA is on my kitchen knife is because once, when we were all cooking together, I accidentally pricked her hand,

Meredith had never been to Sollecito’s apartment.

Knox & Sollecito alibi problems

Knox’s alibi of being at Sollecito’s all evening is was not corroborated by Sollecito during the trial.  His own story changed multiple times. His final story during the trial had Knox going out for a portion of the evening. However, multiple points contradict both of their alibis:

  • Cell phone records indicate Knox received the text from Patrick from a different part of town then Sollecito’s apartment is in
  • Witness Curatolo puts them in the basketball court that evening
  • Computer records contradict Sollecito’s story of being on the net all evening, and do not provide alibi for the time of the murder
  • Cell phone and computer records contradict Sollecito’s story of sleeping until morning of the 2nd, as both show activity at ~5-6am
  • Owner of shop places Knox at his shop early in the morning of the 2nd, a time Knox said she was sleeping

Other issues

There are other considerations regarding Knox and Sollecito the Massei report takes into consideration:

  • Knox & Sollecito “panic” at not knowing about Meredith and attempting to break-down Meredith’s door not witnessed by any of the police or other people who arrived the afternoon of the 2nd. (“panic” per Knox’s email home).
  • Knox & Sollecitio not reporting the attempt to break down the door to the police, her roommate, or others when they arrived
  • When Knox called up F. the morning of the 2nd to report the strangeness of the house, Knox did not tell F. that she’d already tried to call Meredith’s phone, and said that she would try calling her after she got off the phone with F.
  • Knox shifted the time of dinner on the 1st from 9:30pm to 11pm; however Sollecito’s father had a phone conversation at 8:42 pm and recalled Sollecito reporting a water leak from washing dishes, an event the Massei report believes took place after dinner- thus putting the dinner significantly before when Knox reports it happened.
  • Sollecito received a phone call from his father at 9:30 am the morning of the 2nd, an event Knox makes no mention of, though she contends she was with Sollecito until she woke at 10am.
  • Knox & Sollecito claim they were planning on going out of town the morning of the 2nd, but their activities don’t support that action: Knox returning home for a change of clothes, Knox taking a shower at home though she took one at Sollecitos,  sleeping in late though Knox was reportedly an early riser.
  • Sollecito emphasized in the phone calls to the police that “there was no theft” and “nothing has been taken”, then when the postal police show up they’re told of a possible burglary.
  • Knox called her mother at 12:47, before the door had been broken down. In a jailhouse conversation with her mother on this phone call, Knox states “I was in shock”, and her mother replies “But this was before anything had happened…”

Against the lone-wolf scenario

Both the Micheli report from Guede’s trial and the Massei report from Knox/Sollecito’s trial rejected the argument that Guede acted alone. There are many reasons for this; chief among them that the argument that this was a break-in was rejected and instead the disarrayed room was staged to make it appear there was a break in. Guede would not have a reason to stage a break-in to deflect attention while at the same time leaving unassailable evidence of his presence, including in the bathroom. Therefore, Guede would have had been provided access to the house, and the Massei report argues that it is improbable that Meredith let Guede in.. therefore whoever let Guede in was at the house that night and was responsible for staging the break-in to deflect attention from themselves.  Amanda was the only resident without an provable alibi.

The signs that the burglary was staged include:

  • No footprints in the grass below the window (and no ground dirt tracked in)
  • An undisturbed nail sticking out on the outside wall under the window, which seems unlikely if someone pulled their body up over that wall
  • A lack of scuff marks on the wall that would have been climbed
  • Glass still sitting on the window sill that a climber would have had to pull themselves over
  • No glass  was found on the ground outside the window
  • What was disturbed in the bedroom with the “break-in” was only clothes; boxes and drawers remained closed and unchecked
  • Valuables, including computer, were not taken
  • The shutters on the window with the broken glass were argued to be closed; this would have required climbing the wall twice.
  • Someone breaking in would have to rely on the chance occurrence that the inner shutters were not locked, and thus not preventing access once the window was broken.