An Introduction

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Parts of this introduction are adapted from the summary of the Massei Report prepared by unpaid volunteers from http://www.perugiamurderfile.org to promote a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding the death of Meredith Kercher and the case against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the English-speaking world.


Contents

Introduction

"Floor plan of residence shared by Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher"
Crime scene composite of the Murder of Meredith Kercher, produced by the Science Division of the Italian national police
Meredith Kercher, a British student, was murdered in the apartment she shared with three other young women, in Perugia, Italy, on the night of November 1, 2007. Three people were charged with the murder: Amanda Marie Knox, an American student who was one of Meredith's flatmates; Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian student who was Knox's boyfriend; and Rudy Hermann Guede, an Ivorian resident of Perugia, who was known to both Knox and Kercher.

Guede opted for a 'fast track trial' which, under Italian law, permits defendants to relinquish some rights at trial, in exchange for a more lenient sentence if found guilty. In October 2008, Guede was found guilty of murder and sexual assault. Knox and Sollecito opted for a full trial, and this took place in Perugia, between January and December 2009. The presiding judge was Dr Giancarlo Massei, assisted by a second professional judge, Dr Beatrice Cristiani, and six 'lay judges'. Knox and Sollecito were found guilty of murder, sexual assault and other charges related to the case.

In Italy, after the first trial an appeal is automatically granted if any party requests one. Knox and Sollecito's appeal was held in 2011, presided over by Judge Hellmann, and this resulted in their convictions being overturned, except for Knox's calunnia charge, which was upheld. Her sentence for the calunnia was increased to one commensurate with time she had already served.

This decision in turn was appealed, in accordance with Italian law, to the Supreme Court of Cassation, by three sides: the prosecution and lawyers representing the Kercher family against the acquittal, and Amanda Knox against her calunnia conviction. On March 26, 2013, the Supreme Court finalized the calunnia conviction and quashed the 2011 acquittal, ordering a new appeal. This was held in Florence, commencing on September 30, 2013, and concluding in January, 2014. The appeal upheld Knox and Sollecito's original conviction.

Knox and Sollecito have appealed again against this latest verdict and their case will be heard by the Supreme Court of Cassation on March 25, 2015.

Events Surrounding the Murder

November 1, 2007

"Map of Perugia"
Sketch map of Perugia
On November 1, two of Meredith's flatmates, Filomena Romanelli and Laura Mezzetti, left the shared apartment with the intention of spending the night away. They played no further part in the proceedings until the following day.[1]

From about 4 pm or 4:30 pm onwards, Meredith Kercher spent the evening with her English friends Robyn Butterworth, Amy Frost and Sophie Purton. They prepared and ate a pizza, looked at Halloween photos from the previous evening, watched a film and prepared and ate an apple crumble.[2] They drank only water.[3] Shortly before 9 pm, Meredith and Sophie Purton left. They parted company at about 8:55 pm, near Purton's apartment (which Purton returned to in time to see a TV program starting at 9 pm).[4] Meredith continued the short walk to her own house alone. Meredith had not said that she was meeting anyone, just that she was tired.[5]

After this point, Meredith was not seen alive again, except by her killers, and some of the main evidence for the events of that night comes from her mobile phone records. Until 10:13 pm, Meredith's phone was in the vicinity of her own apartment but, by 00:10 am, it had been dumped in a garden, not far from her home. In the intervening time her mobile was used four times:

  • at 8:56 pm, an unsuccessful call to her family's number in England;
  • at 9:58 pm, an attempted call to the mobile phone’s answering service;
  • at 10 pm, an unsuccessful call to her bank (the first number in her address list);
  • at 10:13 pm, a GPRS data connection was made.[6]

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito went to his apartment on Corso Garibaldi in the late afternoon. [7] Jovana Popovic, an acquaintance of Sollecito's, testified that on the evening of November 1 she went there twice, and that both times she met Knox. Her first visit was around 5:45 pm, and the second was around 8:40 pm.[8] Then, at 8:42 pm Sollecito received a phone call from his father, and according to his father's later statements, mentioned that he was with Knox, and that they were planning a trip to Gubbio the next day. Sollecito apparently also mentioned that, while he was washing the dishes, he had noticed a leaking pipe that had spilled water onto the floor.[9] The last discerned activity on Sollecito's computer that night was the film they were watching coming to an end, at 9:10 pm.[10] This did not require any human interaction with the computer.[11]

Analysis of the hard drive by the Communications Police concluded that there was no further human interaction until 5:32 am the following morning.[12] A possible exception was, according to a defense expert, a very brief (4 seconds) access to Apple iTunes at 00:58 am; at Knox and Sollecito's trial, the court accepted that this could have been down to human interaction with the computer, but that it was after the time when the murder was believed to have taken place.[13]

Knox was supposed to work that night at the Le Chic, the pub managed by Diya 'Patrick' Lumumba. However, he sent her a text message, at 8.18 pm, saying she wasn't needed that night.[14] Knox turned her phone off at 8.35 pm, and Sollecito apparently did so too shortly after. According to Knox this was so that they would not be disturbed. Their activities from that time onwards became a major subject of their subsequent trial.

November 2, 2007

The following morning, two mobile phones were discovered in the garden of a house located in Via Sperandio, a short distance from 7 Via della Pergola (about 5-7 minutes away on foot, according to one witness).[15]

The owner of the house had contacted the Communications Police about a telephoned bomb threat, which she had received on the night of the murder, and her son and daughter had discovered the two phones the next morning. One of the phones was registered to Romanelli, (although both were in fact Meredith's - one had a SIM card given to her by Romanelli for use in Italy).[16]

The Communications Police traced Romanelli's address, and arrived at the girls' apartment at a little past 12:30 pm. Outside the house, they found Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito – who said that they were waiting for the carabinieri, whom they had called to report a burglary.[17]

Knox had spoken to her flatmate Romanelli about the apparent break-in, blood found in the apartment and Meredith's door being locked. Romanelli, her friend Paola Grande and their boyfriends, Marco Zaroli and Luca Altieri, arrived shortly after the Communications Police, at around 1 pm.[18] Romanelli made a quick check of her room, discovering that, although it was in a complete mess with the windowpane broken and clothes thrown around the floor, nothing was missing.[19]

Nonetheless, she was concerned that the front door had been found open, bloodstains had been found in the small bathroom, and there was no news of Meredith. Furthermore, Meredith's bedroom door was locked.[20]

The significance of this fact subsequently became a point of disagreement, with Knox saying that even when she had a shower Meredith always locked her door (Zaroli and Altieri confirmed that she had said this). Romanelli, on the other hand, said she was aware of only one occasion when she had locked her door, and this was when Meredith had returned to England for a few days.[21]

Knox's apparent lack of concern at the locked door, both in the presence of the Communications Police and in her earlier telephone conversation with Romanelli, was at odds with an email that Knox later sent to her friends and family on November 4, 2007, in which the locked door acquired great importance, and Knox described herself as “panicking” when she first discovered it. This would become a significant point in Knox's trial, with the court believing that her panic at the locked door would be a normal reaction if she had been uninvolved in the murder. But according to Romanelli and the Communications Police, there was no such panic. Knox and Sollecito, in fact remained in the living room, some distance away from Meredith's room, while Romanelli and her friends were so concerned that they decided to force the door open. One of Romanelli's friends broke down the door, and the bloody body of Meredith Kercher was found. [22]

The Communications Police sealed the area and called the Carabinieri, who arrived a short time later.[23] In due course, the apartment was examined by forensic specialists and examined for fingerprints and DNA traces.

The Investigation and Arrest of Knox and Sollecito

November 2, 2007

The police briefly questioned all the people present at the murder scene, then told them to go to the police station (the Questura) to make statements. According to Knox[24] she was "in a room for six hours straight...., answering questions in Italian for the first hour and then they brought in an interpreter". She then sat around in a waiting room with various other witnesses, with only vending machine food available, from about 9 pm until 5:30 am, when she and Raffaele were allowed to return to his house.

Amanda's version of events is contradicted by Fabio D'Astolto, a police officer who was born in Australia and moved to Italy when he was 14. D'Astolto testified that it was his day off, and he was called in to interpret for Knox in the late afternoon.[25] D'Astolto described Amanda's behaviour as "kissing, embracing, occasionally laughing" and that periodically Knox and Sollecito would speak to each other in low voices.[26] Some of Knox's behaviour started to raise suspicions. While Knox was waiting to make her statement, she revealed details of the murder to Meredith's friends that she shouldn't have known.[27] In addition when D'Astolto informed Knox that the scientific police required her fingerprints, her demeanor changed and she started to get agitated. As D'Astolto escorted Knox to be fingerprinted, she started to hit her head with her fists.[28]

November 3, 2007

In the morning, they were required to return to the police station at 11 am, and Sollecito drove them there. The police took Knox to the cottage, and asked her some very personal questions about Meredith's life and about the neighbors. They returned from the house to the police station, and Knox was asked to repeat her answers to the questions, so that they could be typed-up. In all, it was “a 5 and a half hour day with the police”. In the evening, Knox and Sollecito went out for a pizza, and to buy underwear.[24]

November 4, 2007

On 4 November, 2007, Meredith's roommates, Filomena Romanelli, Laura Mezzetti, and Amanda Knox were taken by the police to look at the knives in their kitchen at the apartment in Via della Pergola. Personnel from the Questura reported Amanda's “severe and intense emotional crisis, unlike [the reaction of] the other two girls”.[29]

The same day, Knox sent an email to a distribution list of friends and family, recounting the events of the previous few days.[30] The email gives her own account of events surrounding the murder and the days following.

See Amanda Knox's Email Home.

November 5, 2007

On 5 Nov, Knox and Sollecito both attended university classes, as usual. At 8 pm in the evening, a candlelit vigil was held for Meredith, though Knox and Sollecito did not attend. Instead, they had dinner with one of Sollecito's friends.[31]

That evening, Knox accompanied Sollecito, who was again required at the police station for questioning. They arrived there at about 10:30 pm.[32] While she waited for him, she did some classwork, and was told off by a senior police officer for inappropriate behaviour - splits, cartwheels and back bends. At 10.39 pm she phoned Filomena, asking her if they were still going to live together. An officer came and talked to her informally, "beside the elevator", for a while and was then joined by other police officers.[33]

Meanwhile, Sollecito admitted to police that he did not know for sure if Knox actually spent the night of the murder at his house, as he had told police earlier. His interview began at 10:40 pm. In it he said:

Amanda and I went to the [town] centre about 18.00 but I don’t remember what we did. We remained in the centre till 20.30 or 21.00.
I went to my house alone at 21.00, while Amanda said that she was going to the pub Le Chic because she wanted to meet with her friends. At this point we said goodbye. I went home, I made a joint. Had dinner, but I don’t remember what I ate.
About 23.00 my father called me on my house phone line. I recall Amanda was not back yet.
I web surfed on the computer for two more hours after my father’s phone call and I only stopped when Amanda came back in, presumably about 01.00. I don’t remember well how she was dressed and if she was dressed the same as when we said goodbye before dinner. I don’t remember if that evening we had sex.
The following morning we woke up about 10.00 and she told met that she wanted to go home to have a shower and change clothes. In fact she left at 10.30 and I went back to sleep. When she was leaving Amanda took also an empty bag, telling me that it was to put the dirty clothes in.
At about 11.30 she returned to my house and I recall that she had changed clothes. She had her usual handbag.
She told me that when she arrived at her house she found the front door wide open and amounts of blood in the small bathroom. She asked me if I thought it was strange. I answered yes it was and I suggested to her to call her friends. She told me she had already called Filomena, while she said that Meredith was not answering.[34]

The Massei Trial

See main article: Massei Trial

Knox and Sollecito's trial took place at the Assize Court in Perugia, between January and December 2009. The presiding judge was Dr Giancarlo Massei, assisted by a second professional judge, Dr Beatrice Cristiani, and six 'lay judges'. The court concluded that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito had colluded with the main protagonist, Rudy Guede, in murdering Meredith Kercher, and that this was during the sexual assault of the victim.[35]

The evidence that Guede was involved in the murder included his bloody hand print, found on a pillow in Meredith's room, and his DNA found on a vaginal swab taken from Meredith, as well as on the cuff of her sweatshirt, and on a strap of her bra, and on her purse. Further biological traces of Guede were found on the toilet paper in the larger bathroom. His bloody footprints were found in the corridor, leading from Meredith's room to the front door of the apartment. All this evidence pointed to Guede having been in the apartment, where he crossed the living room to go to the larger bathroom (which he used, but did not flush the toilet), back through the living room and the corridor into Meredith's room, where he committed the murder. He then left passing through the corridor and living room, straight out the front door.[36]

The court next considered whether Guede had entered the apartment through the broken window in Romanelli's room.[37] The defense argued that Guede had previously been found uninvited inside a Milan nursery school, and had been in possession of items stolen from a Perugia law office, which had been broken into by someone who shattered a window with a rock. He had also been identified as the person who had broken into a house and threatened the occupant with a knife. The court noted this evidence, but highlighted some marked differences from the current case, and also that there was no direct evidence linking Guede to the law office break-in . In addition, the court made a detailed analysis of the evidence of the 'break-in' and concluded from many pieces of evidence that the it had been staged, and that no-one had entered the house through the broken window.[38] The conclusion drawn by the court from this staging, was that it had been done to throw suspicion onto a supposed intruder, who did not have a key to the front door.[39] See The Staged Burglary.

The court next considered whether Guede might himself have staged the break-in, which could have happened if Meredith had let him in through the front door and he intended to throw suspicion onto a supposed burglar. The court rejected this hypothesis: if Guede was alone in the apartment following the murder, it is improbable that he would have remained to stage a break-in, when the other occupants, who could recognize him, might return at any moment. Further doubt is cast on this scenario by the fact that some aspects of the 'break-in' are superficially similar to other crimes associated with Guede, so might lead investigators directly to him. Finally, the court doubted that Meredith, alone in the apartment, would have let Guede, whom she barely knew, in, let alone waited in her own bedroom while he used the bathroom.

The conclusion of the court was that Guede was let into the apartment by somebody other than Meredith, who had a key to the door, and the 'break-in' was likewise staged by someone who had a door key. Laura Mezzetti was away from Perugia on the night of the murder, and Filomena Romanelli was staying elsewhere. This left Amanda Knox as the only one present, with a key to the front door and she was the one who lacked an alibi for the night of the murder. According to the court, she was the only person who could have let Guede into the apartment, and who also had a motive for staging the 'break-in' to simulate the forced entry of an intruder.[40]

The court noted the 'intense' relationship between Knox and Sollecito, and that they were both using drugs.[41] After Patrick Lumumba sent Knox a text, shortly after 8 pm on November 1, 2007, telling her that she wasn't needed for work that evening, the pair of them were free of any commitments that evening. By 9:15 pm they had eaten dinner and washed up (according to Sollecito's father's account of his earlier phone call), turned off their mobile phones, and made no further use of Sollecito's computer. The court's conclusion was that they now left Sollecito's apartment, and were seen by the witness Antonio Curatolo, several times, around the Piazza Grimana.[42]

Guede already knew Knox and was attracted to her. The court believed that around 11 pm on the night of the murder, Knox, accompanied by Sollecito, let Guede into her apartment, possibly having first met him in the nearby square.[43] The reason for Guede's visit to the apartment could not be known for certain: perhaps he was going to spend the night there, as had happened on another occasion, although in the downstairs apartment; perhaps to hang out with Amanda and Raffaele for a while and to use the bathroom; maybe he had come to look for his friends in the downstairs apartment, and finding them absent, called on the upstairs apartment.[44] What is certain is that Guede used the toilet in the larger bathroom.[45]

Meredith had arrived home alone, earlier in the evening, and was most likely reading or studying in her own bedroom. The court found it probable that, having used the bathroom, Guede went into Meredith's room intent on making sexual advances, which were rebuffed. It was probably at this point that Knox and Sollecito joined Guede.[46]

The court concluded from the presence of Guede's DNA in her body, that Meredith's attack involved a sexual assault: the evidence that it was not consensual sex was deduced from other specific injuries, as well as the obvious violence. Based on factors such as Meredith's strength and physical fitness, and the way she had been undressed, they believed that she was the victim of multiple attackers.[47] See Multiple Attackers.

Based on the forensic evidence, the court believed that a sequence of events occurred in which Meredith refused to participate, and she was then grabbed by the neck by one of her assailants, to intimidate and coerce her. When this intimidation was unsuccessful, it led to an escalation of violence, which involved the small stab wound to the neck.[48]

It is likely that it was at this point that Meredith's trousers and underwear were removed by her assailants, and that she was sexually assaulted. Her top was lifted and rolled up towards her neck, and there was an attempt to unfasten her bra which, despite her resistance, was eventually cut off. A pillow was placed under Meredith to allow further sexual activity: from Guede’s bloody hand print on the pillow, it was deduced that Meredith was already bleeding at this point. Part of the bra, including the clasp which bore Sollecito's DNA, was found under the pillow, which indicates that this was cut off before the pillow was placed.[49] See The Bra Clasp.

It was, the court believed, around this time that Meredith screamed loudly, as confirmed by the evidence of Nara Capezzali and Antonella Monacchia, which made the time around 23:30 pm. The response of the assailants was to compress her upper airways, by pressing a hand over Meredith's mouth and nose, and then inflicting the deep knife wound to the right side of the neck. Their conclusion was that death occurred a few minutes later, and was caused by asphyxia resulting from the major neck wound, from which there was bleeding into the airways, impeding respiratory activity. This was exacerbated by the severing of the hyoid bone – also attributed to the knife wounds.[50]

In the court's opinion, the initial intent had not been to kill Meredith, but there was "a crescendo of violence" in which the assailants simply accepted the risk of death, constructively transforming their initial non-homicidal intent into a homicidal intent characterized by reckless malice. [51]

Regarding the murder weapon, the court found it difficult to accept that the wounds of various sizes were all made by the same assailant, and the same knife. Their conclusion was that the smaller wounds were made with a pocket knife that has never been identified, but the largest (and fatal) wound was made with the knife which was subsequently recovered from a drawer in Sollecito's apartment. This bore traces of Meredith's DNA on its blade, and Knox's on the handle. See the The Double DNA Knife.

The court believed that, following the murder, the killers used the smaller bathroom to wash off blood, as witnessed by the traces of blood found there. They rejected the possibility that these were older traces, left from some previous incident, as Knox had testified that that bathroom was clean when she left on the afternoon of November 1.[52] In the process of cleaning themselves, the murderers must have touched the door and the light switch, leaving a dribble of blood on the former, and stains on the latter.[53] The bloody . footprint on the bathmat (which matched Sollecito's foot), indicates that whoever went into this bathroom was barefoot, and must also have been barefoot in Meredith’s room.[54] See The Bathmat Footprint.

While in the bathroom, it was deemed likely that the murderers scrubbed their hands, thus leaving mixed traces of Meredith's blood and their own DNA in the sink and the bidet.[55] The court noted that the traces found in the bathroom not only tested positive for blood, but also included a mixture of Knox's and Meredith's DNA. They concluded it was Knox who, on the night of the murder, had washed off Meredith's blood in the sink and in the bidet.[56]

The court considered the traces, shown up by luminol tests, in Romanelli's room, Knox's room, and the corridor. Luminol tests positive for blood but can give false positive readings for other substances, including fruit juice, rust and bleach. Other tests for blood were applied to the same traces and proved negative, but were noted to be less sensitive than luminol. The court considered the alternative interpretations of the luminol results: it found it improbable that the traces were caused by such things as fruit juice or rust - particularly as there was no explanation for why such substances would be in all three locations. The possibility of bleach having been used in the three rooms was more plausible, but, the court wondered why it then would not appear elsewhere in the apartment. Also, there was no evidence (smell for example) that bleach had been used. Furthermore, the traces contained biological material, although it could not be proved to be blood. Considering all the possibilities, and that there were copious amounts of blood at the murder scene, the court believed that the luminol traces were indeed blood. They noted that the traces tested positive for Knox's DNA and, in two cases, also included Meredith's DNA. Their conclusion was that Knox had washed her bare feet in the bathroom, but some residue of Meredith’s blood had remained on her soles, and she had then walked into her own room, into Romanelli's room and passed through the corridor, leaving the traces which were discovered.[57] See Luminol Traces.

The conclusion of the court was that Guede had left immediately, but Sollecito had then brought in a big stone from the surrounding area, and he and Knox had broken the window in Romanelli's room with it in an attempt to fake a break-in. They had gone back into Meredith's room, covered her body with a duvet, then locked her door.[58] The court believed that the murderers took Meredith's mobile phones, left the apartment, and dumped the phones in a nearby garden. This must have happened before about half past midnight, as can be deduced by the phone records.[59] Knox and Sollecito returned to his apartment where he made a very brief (4 second) use of his computer at about 1 am.

Contrary to the statements of Knox and Sollecito, his computer was in use for half an hour from about 5:30 am the following morning, and he turned on his mobile phone at about 6 am. The court believed that Knox and Sollecito returned to the murder scene that morning, with Knox perhaps having bought cleaning materials from Marco Quintavalle’s shop at about 07:45 am.[60] There was evidence that cleaning had taken place: for instance, the bath mat marked with a bloody footprint could only have been reached by taking steps that should also have left other footprints. None were found, so the logical conclusion is that they had been cleaned up. Even the drip of blood left on the internal edge of the bathroom door was said to seem like the remainder of a much larger trace. [61]

In conclusion, the court stated that all of the elements put together, and considered as a whole, create a comprehensive and complete framework without gaps or incongruities, and lead to the inevitable and directly consequential attribution of the crimes to both the accused.[62]

The Hellmann Trial

For people unfamiliar with the Italian legal system, their court system is structured slightly differently than the ones most Americans are familiar with. In the United States, once you are convicted, an appeal is limited to arguments over procedural and legal errors. After the initial verdict, questions of fact and the introduction of new evidence is only allowed in exceptional circumstances. That is not the case with the Italian legal system. The second stage in the Italian criminal process is a second examination of some elements of the evidence with new triers of fact. That being said, the second trial is not a complete retrial. In this case, all the evidence in Massei was provided to the new judges, and they gave it the same consideration as the evidence that they heard directly.

In this case, Judge Hellmann, the presiding judge, ruled that the Appeal Court would like to hear again from a witness (Antonio Curatolo) who put Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the vicinity of the crime scene, thus invalidating their alibi. Hellmann also decided to appoint experts to re-evaluate two items of evidence — the knife allegedly used in the murder and the victim's bra clasp that was found to contain Sollecito's DNA. During the trial Hellmann would expand the scope to allow some prisoners to testify about prison gossip.

The Scope

Reexamination of the Testimony of Antonio Curatolo

Antonio Curatolo was a homeless man who claims to have seen Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in Piazza Grimana on the night of the murder. This was an issue for them because it invalidates their alibi and puts them near the cottage around the time the murder was committed.

Curatolo's testimony is not without some problems. He is certain that he saw Knox and Sollecito on the night before the forensic police came to the cottage. He also mentions people in masks, which would imply it was Halloween as opposed to November 1st. Curatolo also refers to the shuttles that transported students to the clubs, but these buses were not running on November 1st.

Despite the confusion, the previous court considered Curatolo reliable. The movement of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are well documented on Halloween, and they were nowhere near Piazza Grimana. Curatolo also provided details at the original trial that fit with the other evidence, which certainly factored in Massei considering Curatolo credible. When Curatolo had testified previously he was eloquent and sharp. Three and a half years later he appears to be suffering from age-related dementia. He is much less coherent and appears confused.

Hellmann uses this to consider Curatolo unreliable, but what matters is not if Curatolo is reliable three and a half years later, but if he was credible when he testified at the original trial. Reading the transcript he clearly was, and the judge who heard that testimony felt he was reliable. If Hellmann wants to find him unreliable, he must do so based on the testimony given to Massei, not on what he said years later.

The DNA Review

Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti, DNA experts from the Sapienza University of Rome, were asked to review the DNA evidence. Specifically, they were asked to review the DNA on the knife alleged to have been used to murder Meredith Kercher, and a piece of Meredith's bra on which Raffaele's DNA was discovered. Because the evidence had degraded over the three and a half years since the original tests were done, it was determined that Conti and Vecchiotti would be unable to repeat the original DNA tests.[63] As such the experts' role was limited to reviewing the records from the original testing that was done under the direction of Patrizia Stefanoni.

The review was delayed, and then before it was officially released it was leaked to the media. The headlines the next day said that the DNA evidence had been decimated, but weeks later, when Conti and Vecchiotti take the stand, their testimony does not meet up to expectations. Conti and Vecchiotti end up contradicting their own report in several significant ways. This outcome was expected. The DNA evidence had already been examined by nine experts, including multiple defense experts. The idea that these defense experts would have failed to see major defects in the DNA evidence is simply not realistic. The reality never got reported. The media greeted the Conti-Vecchiotti review with unquestioning acceptance, but when their original reporting turned out to be wrong, the media did nothing to correct the false impression they had created.

The Knife

Conti and Vecchiotti's criticism of the knife was that the sample was LCN DNA. They affirmed Meredith's DNA was on the knife but considered the result unreliable owing to the single amplification of the genetic material.[64] Their written report relies on the non-exclusion of lab contamination to infer its possibility. This criticism completely collapsed when Vecchiotti was confronted with the testing schedule: nothing related to Meredith Kercher's murder had been tested in Stefanoni's laboratory for the six days prior to the testing of the knife. Questioned about this, Carla Vecchiotti admitted that under those conditions, contamination at the laboratory was not possible.[65] The final outcome with respect to the knife is that the DNA reviewers confirmed that the DNA profile extracted by Stefanoni did belong to Meredith, and they ruled out the possibility of contamination.

The Bra Hook

There were two issues with the bra clasp. Firstly, Conti and Vecchiotti argued that since the video of the evidence collection showed minor errors, it is possible that more serious ones, of which we are not aware, occurred. That is a very speculative position to base an expert opinion on. It is not uncommon for minor lapses to happen, and Conti and Vecchiotti were not able to illustrate a single lapse that could have led to Raffaele's DNA ending up on the bra clasp. When pushed, their answer was "anything is possible", which, if accepted as a proper argument, would invalidate DNA evidence entirely. The problem with an argument based on contamination is that Raffaele's DNA was found in only one other location in the entire cottage -- a cigarette butt in an ashtray in the kitchen. Without a source for Raffaele's DNA, no lapses in procedure can possibly lead to Raffaele's DNA ending up on the bra clasp. The argument for contamination is further hindered by Raffaele's DNA being sufficiently abundant on the clasp to make a claim that it was a secondary transfer of touch DNA nearly impossible.

Conti and Vecchiotti also claim that Stefanoni was incorrect to classify some peaks as stutters. They base this on a strict mathematical application of the height threshold. This is not generally accepted by DNA analysts, but Conti and Vecchiotti present it as if it is. Possibly Conti and Vecciotti are correct in stating that Stefanoni should not have classified these peaks as noise. Accepting Conti and Vecciotti's position does nothing to refute the claim that Raffaele's DNA is present on the bra clasp. All this accomplished is to state that there is an additional faint male profile on the bra clasp. There is insufficient information to use this possible third profile to identify anyone, and given how faint it is, the quantity of DNA is considerably less than Meredith's and Raffaele's. From a DNA analysis perspective, how to treat these peaks in an interesting debate, but with respect to determining of who killed Meredith Kercher, the possibility of a faint third profile doesn't change anything.

The Prison Informants

Judge Hellmann granted the defence permission to introduce five prisoners, and potentially a sixth, who claimed to know who the real murderer is. The defense request to add these witnesses was a highly speculative strategy. Putting your faith in the testimony of inmates is risky, and in this case the prisoners told three completely different stories. One prisoner claimed that Knox and Sollecito's co-accused, Rudy Guede, had confided in him, that an accomplice had murdered Meredith, while Rudy was in the bathroom. A second said Meredith's murderer was his fugitive Mafioso brother. The third stated that Meredith was a drug addict, who in her brief time in Perugia became indebted to an unidentified drug dealer, who had her murdered. The defense lawyers, despite requesting calling these witnesses, expressed concerns about their value.[66][67]

Mario Alessi

Mario Alessi is serving life in prison for the kidnapping and murder of a child.[68] He testified that he had gained the confidence of Rudy Guede while imprisoned with him in Viterbo. Rudy had told him that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito had nothing to do with the murder.[69] Alessi insisted that Rudy told him that a drunk fat guy had killed Meredith after she had refused to have a threesome with them.[70] [71] According to Alessi, Rudy went to the bathroom while his accomplice attempted to sexually assault Meredith, and ended up killing her.[72] Rudy was called to testify, and denied that he had ever shared any confidences with Alessi.[73]

Luciano Aviello

Luciano Aviello was Raffaele's ex-cellmate in prison, and he had a history of making revelations about prominent criminal cases that never had any merit.[74] Aviello's story was that the real murderer was his fugitive brother Antonio. He claims that his brother had met an Albanian, and the two had planned a robbery but the Albanian wrote down the wrong address, so they ended up at Meredith's house by mistake.[75] This testimony was contradicted by both of Aviello's cellmates, who claimed Aviello had been bragging that Sollecito's father had agreed to pay him €70,000 to muddy the water. A month after testifying, Luciano Aviello himself came forward, saying he was paid €30,000 by the Sollecitos to lie, in an attempt to confuse the issue and gain Raffaele's freedom.[76] Aviello now changed his story again claiming that Raffaele told him that he was not there, and that Amanda was Meredith's killer.[77]

Informant

Testifying behind a screen, another inmate testified that Meredith was murdered because of drug debts.

The Prosecution

The prosecution limited their appeal requests to increasing the sentences from 26 and 25 years in jail to life imprisonment. They did this on the grounds that Article 557 of the Italian Penal Code allows for life imprisonment, when a murder is committed for meaningless and purely sadistic reasons. That certainly appears to be the case here. The prosecution's position is that Meredith was wantonly murdered.[78]

The Verdict

On the 3rd of October 2011, the appeal court found Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito not guilty of the murder of Meredith Kercher. The court confirmed Knox's conviction for falsely accusing Patrick Lumumba, and sentenced her to four years, which she had already served. Much like a conviction during the Massei trial was expected, Hellmann had tipped his hand, and the acquittal was not a surprise to people following the case. The decision in Perugia was met with crowds chanting shame outside the courthouse, and with the prosecution saying that they would appeal.

When the Hellmann-Zenetti written decision was finally released, the lack of logic in the reasoning was glaring. Hellmann seemed to not understand how evidence is supposed to be evaluated. Rather than looking at all the evidence against Knox and Sollecito, Hellmann instead considered each item of evidence in isolation. If there was any doubt about a piece of evidence, that evidence was dismissed. This shows a complete lack of understanding of how evidence works. Beyond that, there are offences to logic, that simply cannot be ignored. For example, Hellmann ruled that the witness, who saw Knox in a supermarket at 7.45 am on November 2, was mistaken. He then went on to say that, even if Knox had bought cleaning materials early in the morning after the murder, the court couldn't draw any negative inferences from the fact. Similar, and even graver errors in logic are liberally sprinkled throughout his decision. It was almost instantly assumed that the Supreme Court of Cassation would void the verdict, and it did not take long for rumors of interference from the wealthy Sollecito family, to begin circulating. After the decision, Hellmann who had previously been under consideration for a promotion, retired.

The Supreme Court of Cassation

"Supreme Court of Cassation"
Ergon's picture of the Supreme Court of Cassation
On March 25, 2013, the Supreme Court of Cassation convened to hear a series of cases, including the decision rendered by Judge Hellmann. The Supreme Court rendered their decision the following day, March 26, 2013, nullifying the acquittal and finalizing the calunnia conviction. The outcome was not a surprise to anyone who had read the Galati-Costagliola appeal, or the Hellmann-Zanetti decision. From the arguments presented to the Supreme Court, it is clear that lawyers representing both Knox and Sollecito expected this outcome. For most of the international media and wider general public, however, the total nullification of the appeals court decision (apart from calunnia charges), came as a surprise. Amanda Knox's sentence for falsely accusing Patrick Lumumba was confirmed by the Supreme Court and as such became final. There can be no further appeals on that score.

The Supreme Court of Cassation's report on their decision to nullify Hellmann-Zanetti was released on June 18, 2013. Its conclusions are devastating for the defense. Referring to the previous conviction of Rudy Guede, it directs the new appeal trial in Florence to consider that the crime was committed by multiple individuals, and that all of the accused knew each other, to consider a range of possible motives, including that it may well have been the result of a sex game gone wrong, and that Meredith's time of death (TOD) must be set taking into account the time witnesses heard a piercing scream.

Furthermore, the court accepts that footprints made by Amanda Knox, containing her and Meredith Kercher's DNA, were made in blood. It also rejects the contamination hypotheses, and criticizes Judge Hellmann for blindly accepting the defense arguments, when no credible evidence was provided for how this could have occurred. Lastly, Cassation strongly suggests, that Amanda Knox's false accusation of Patrick Lumumba, and memoriale mentioning a scream, when it was still not publicly known that three neighboring witnesses had heard a horrifying scream late in the evening on 1st of November, and the proof of a staged break-in, are indicative of her guilt. While the appeals court is not bound by Cassation to accept all of these facts, they are required to provide accurate, sound and logical reasoning for rejecting them, which Hellmann had failed to do.

The Nencini Appeal

See Nencini Appeal and the Nencini Sentencing Report (English)

Knox and Sollecito's appeal was reheard by a panel of judges, presided over by Judge Nencini, commencing in September 2013. Nencini rejected most requests for additional evidence and additional expert witnesses. He ordered a testing of a previously untested sample from The Double DNA Knife—that sample turned out to contain only Knox's DNA. He also reheard the witness Aviello, who had given evidence at the Hellmann appeal but had later contradicted his statements.

On January 30, 2014, the Appeals Court upheld the original convictions of Knox and Sollecito. It confirmed their prison sentences as 25 years for the murder charge, with Knox receiving an extra 3.5 years for the calunnia offence regarding her false accusation of Patrick Lumumba. Judge Nencini's sentencing report, explaining the reasons for the court's verdict, has been translated into English by a group of volunteers.

Where Are We Now?

Having lost their appeal, in Florence, Knox and Sollecito can make a further and final appeal to Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation. That appeal is due to be heard, in Rome, on March 25, 2015.

Notes

  1. Massei, p.29
  2. Massei, p.34-35
  3. Massie, p.35
  4. Massei, p.37
  5. Massei, p.38
  6. Massei, p.314
  7. Massei, p.65
  8. Massei, pp.63-64
  9. Massei, p.63
  10. Massei p.310
  11. Massei p.304
  12. Massei, p.304
  13. Massei, p.310
  14. Massei, p.64
  15. Massei, p.25
  16. Massei, pp.26,30
  17. Massei, p.28
  18. Massei, p.28
  19. Massei, p.31
  20. Massei, p.31
  21. Massei, p.31
  22. Massei, p.32
  23. Massei, p.33
  24. 24.0 24.1 Amanda Knox's Email Home
  25. Testimony of Fabio D'Astolto
  26. Testimony of Fabio D'Astolto
  27. Link to Section in Evidence
  28. Testimony of Fabio D'Astolto
  29. Massei, p.292
  30. Knox_email
  31. Amanda Knox's first letter to her lawyers, Nov 9, 2007
  32. Knox herslef, writing to her lawyers 4 days later, stated that they got there at "10:30 pm to 11pm". See Amanda Knox's letters to her lawyers
  33. See Amanda Knox's letters to her lawyers
  34. Raffaele's Statement to Perugia Police, November 5, 2007; published in Corriere della Sera Translated at Perugiamurderfile.org
  35. Massei, pp.390-393
  36. Massei, p.43-44
  37. Massei, p.45
  38. See The Staged Burglary.
  39. Massei, pp.46-55
  40. Massei, pp.56-58
  41. Massei, p.365
  42. Massei, p.359
  43. Massei, p.361
  44. Massei, p.363
  45. Massei, p.364
  46. Massei, p.365-366
  47. Massei, pp.369-372
  48. Massei, p.164
  49. Massei, p.164-165
  50. Massei, p.165
  51. Massei, p.171
  52. Massei, p.278
  53. Massei, p.281
  54. Massei, p.279
  55. Massei, p.279
  56. Massei, p.280
  57. Massei, p.281-286
  58. Massei, p.381
  59. Massei, p.383
  60. Massei, p.384
  61. Massei, p.384
  62. Massei, p.388
  63. Squires, Nick."Amanda Knox appeal receives fresh impetus from forensic review" The Telegraph 24 March 2011.
  64. Follain
  65. Staff. "Meredith, periti Dna in aula Il coltello non fu lavato" la Repubblica 30 July 2011
  66. Staff. "Meredith/ I legali di Sollecito: "Alessi attendibile? Lo deciderà la Corte"" Umbria Left 21 May 2011.
  67. Staff. "Meredith/ Lettera di un detenuto: conosco nomi mandante ed esecutore del delitto" Umbria Left 20 May 2011
  68. The "Baby Tommi" murder was a notorious case, in which Alessi pleaded on Italian TV for the supposed kidnappers to return the baby, despite the fact that he himself had beaten the child to death with a shovel. Staff. "Meredith/ I legali di Sollecito: "Alessi attendibile? Lo deciderà la Corte""Umbria Left 21 May 2011. See also this English language account on the "People You'll Meet in Hell" website
  69. Staff. "Meredith/ I legali di Sollecito: "Alessi attendibile? Lo deciderà la Corte""Umbria Left 21 May 2011.
  70. Nadeau, Barbie "Can Prison Gossip Free Knox?" The Daily Beast 18 June 2011
  71. Staff. "Meredith-Alessi: Met uccisa perchè rifiutò sesso a tre (il punto finale) Umbria Left 18 June 2011
  72. Staff. "Meredith-Alessi: Met uccisa perchè rifiutò sesso a tre (il punto finale) Umbria Left 18 June 2011
  73. Staff. "Those are inventions of Alessi" TGCOM Cronaca 11 March 2010
  74. Nadeau, Barbie "Can Prison Gossip Free Knox?" The Daily Beast 18 June 2011
  75. Nadeau, Barbie "Can Prison Gossip Free Knox?" The Daily Beast 18 June 2011
  76. Marruco, Francesca. Meredith, Aviello: «Ho mentito d’accordo con gli avvocati di Sollecito in cambio di soldi» Umbria 24 27 July 2011
  77. Marruco, Francesca. Meredith, Aviello: «Ho mentito d’accordo con gli avvocati di Sollecito in cambio di soldi» Umbria 24 27 July 2011
  78. Hooper, John. Amanda Knox should be sentenced to life, say prosecutors The Guardian 24 Sept 2011