MAR
27
Italian supreme court retires to deliberate on Amanda Knox case
Rome (dpa) - Judges from Italy's supreme court retired Friday to deliberate on the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, which has been blamed on US citizen Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. The case has attracted worldwide media attention and polarized public opinion in Italy, Britain and the United States. It has also raised questions about the credibility of the Italian legal system, as its courts have issued conflicting verdicts. The Rome-based Court of Cassation, which held hearings on Wednesday and Friday, was due to issue the fifth - and not necessarily the last - judgement in a legal saga that has protracted for more than seven years. It could confirm convictions issued last year, closing the case; it could invalidate them and order a lower court to re-examine the case a sixth time; or, in a less likely scenario, quash the convictions with no retrial, clearing the defendants for good. Carlo Dalla Vedova, a lawyer for Knox, said she was "on tenterhooks" as she awaited the verdict with her parents in their home city of Seattle. "I have just spoken to her and she is very worried," the attorney said. Whereas Sollecito, who was in court, would face arrest in case of a final conviction, Knox has ruled out the possibility of turning herself in to Italian authorities, so the Italian government would have to fight for her extradition from the United States. Kercher, 21, was found dead on November 2, 2007, in the central Italian university town of Perugia. She was lying half-naked, her throat slit, inside her locked bedroom in the flat she shared with Knox and two other Italian women. Ivory Coast-born small-time drug dealer Rudy Guede has already been tried and convicted for the murder, and handed a final 16-year jail term in 2010. But courts concluded he did not act alone, leaving the search open for more culprits. In January 2014, Knox and Sollecito were sentenced to 28 and a half years and 25 years respectively for murder, the theft of Kercher's belongings, and the illegal carrying of the presumed murder weapon, a 30-centimetre kitchen knife. Knox's sentence was longer because she was also found guilty of slandering Patrick Lumumba, a Congolese pub owner who spent two weeks in prison immediately after the murder because Knox falsely implicated him. Giulia Bongiorno, a lawyer for Sollecito, told reporters ahead of delivering closing arguments on Friday that the conviction verdict was marred by "tens of mistakes, contradictions and, above all, slips of the tongue." Addressing the court, she described Sollecito as a "Forrest Gump" figure unwittingly "implicated in a spectacular and huge affair" on the grounds that he was Knox's boyfriend and using flimsy DNA evidence from the victim's bra clasp. "Absolve him," Bongiorno said. On Wednesday, Knox's defence also called for an acquittal, while the prosecution said convictions should be upheld, with a three-month reduction for the expiration of the statute of limitations for the illegal carrying of the knife. Prosecutor Mario Pinelli said last year's guilty verdict pieced together incriminating evidence "perfectly, like in a picture by [the late prize-winning French photographe