Back in November 2007, when Seattle native Amanda Knox accompanied her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito to a Perugia police station where he was to be questioned in connection with the murder of Meredith Kercher, the two lovebirds sealed their fate as partners in a suspected crime.
Knox had been questioned earlier and often, and Sollecito was called in alone to clear up a few fine points, including whether or not he really believed his girlfriend was telling the truth. According to the transcripts of that unrecorded interrogation, he hedged when he was asked to specify just what time Knox joined him in his Perugia apartment the night Kercher’s throat was fatally slit. Sollecito’s leap of faith in Knox sent alarm bells ringing. And Knox, who was conveniently in the police waiting room doing yoga, including cartwheels and splits, to try to ease the apparent tension that goes with a roommate being murdered, was then called in to clarify just where she was that night.
During the ensuing interrogation (during which Knox says police hit her on the back of the head and police instead say they offered her biscuits and juice) Knox confessed not to the murder, but to being in the house when it took place, going so far as to describe Kercher’s screams and how she cowered in the kitchen covering her ears. She also accused her boss Patrick Lumumba of committing the murder. She was remanded in custody (along with Sollecito and later that night, Lumumba). The next day, she asked her jailers for a piece of paper and pen and backed up that confession with a handwritten statement in which she wrote, “I stand by my statements that I made last night about events that could have taken place in my home with Patrick.” When she had legal guidance, she retracted the so-called “false confession”, but, right or wrong, that statement has always been, and continues to be, the crux of the case against Knox and, by default, Sollecito.
Now, for the first time in this seven-year long, painfully epic case, Sollecito wants to be judged independently from Knox—if not on the case as a whole, at least on the issue of the so-called “false confession.” The two were jointly convicted of Kercher’s murder in 2009; jointly acquitted in 2011; their joint acquittals were thrown out in 2013 and their original convictions were jointly reinstated in 2014. Each judgment has been motivated, in part, on the merit or weakness of Knox’s so-called false confession and the subsequent accusation against Lumumba. The confession has and remains a fine point in each ruling judge’s decision. And, perhaps more importantly, in each of the judgments, whether they were convicted or acquitted of Kercher’s murder, Knox has always unequivocally been found guilty of slandering Lumumba during that “false confession” by accusing him of murder, meaning legally, at least part of the confession has always been judged as valid.
Now, it’s do or die for the dynamic duo. Knox is facing 28 years and six months in prison if she is extradited from the United States and Sollecito, whose travel documents have been sequestered, is facing 25 years if Italy’s high court signs off on the murder convictions reinstated in January 2014. Knox and Sollecito’s lawyers have just submitted their latest appeals to Italy’s high court asking that the convictions be overturned. The high court will now set a date sometime later this year or early 2015 to rule on whether to uphold the 2014 convictions for Kercher’s murder or whether to send the case back for yet another appellate trial. There is no middle ground; they can only sign off on one or both of the convictions, or they can send all or part of the case back to court.
In Knox’s 337-page document, obtained by The Daily Beast, her lawyers ask the high court to throw out the new murder conviction based on an number of legal points, including their assertion that the appellate prosecution that won a new conviction failed to prove that Knox “delivered the final blow” or “humiliated the victim” as the appellate court found. The rest of Knox’s complaints mimic earlier appeals.
But this time, Sollecito’s defense is taking a different approach. In their 342-page document, also obtained by The Daily Beast, they, too, ask that the high court throw out the convictions based on perceived legal and procedural mistakes. But they also ask that Sollecito be judged independently of Knox when it comes to the “false confession” which could be a deal breaker in this case if the court decides to send Sollecito’s case back to court while upholding Knox’s.
Sollecito’s lawyers contend that Knox’s confession may have led to her murder conviction but it inevitably also led to Sollecito’s, albeit based on guilt by association. “Sollecito was found responsible solely because of the ‘force of connection’ generated by the position of Amanda Knox, and ultimately convicted for a motive alien to him and a ‘confession’ attributable solely to his co-accused (which, mind you, she never placed her former boyfriend at the scene of the crime).”
The Sollecito defense appeal also goes on to say that Knox’s confession, if it is to be believed, actually clears her boyfriend. “It is clear from this document that Raffaele Sollecito was not present in the house on Via della Pergola where and when the crime was carried out,” Sollecito’s lawyers write, essentially saying that if this court believes Knox’s confession to be true or not, it does not implicate Sollecito and therefore should not be used to judge him.
Knox and Sollecito cannot completely separate their defenses this late in the game—and why should they since their alibis are intertwined—but the Italian high court could recommend yet another trial for one or both of them, in which they could then launch separate defense strategies, which could include accusing each other for elements of the crime.
Sollecito’s family has been using the Italian media to imply that their favorite son could do just that. In a highly rated true crime program on Mediaset, investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi brought out Sollecito’s aunt, who said that “the family” now all thought that Knox might be guilty, despite what Sollecito’s defense says officially. She went on the record to say that they believe that a suspicious image captured on CCTV footage in a parking garage across from the scene of the crime the night Kercher was murdered is actually Knox, which would imply that they don’t believe she spent the whole night with Sollecito, which is exactly what Sollecito implied back in 2007 before his legal team convinced him otherwise.
Kercher’s parents have long supported the convictions of Knox and Sollecito, and they have said they welcome an end to this saga, which has prohibited them from grieving their daughter and sister while the question of culpability bounces between the tiers of Italy’s courts. “We want the truth,” Meredith’s sister Stephanie Kercher told The Daily Beast. “Even though that won’t bring Meredith back.” But the only thing certain in this uncertain case is that closure for the Kerchers won’t happen any time soon.