UPDATE: The court has ruled that Knox and Sollecito are guilty of Meredith Kercher's murder, overturning their appeal. Knox's sentence has been increased to 28 years in prison and Sollecito, sentenced to 26 years, has been ordered to turn over his passport.
After more than 11 hours of deliberation, two coffee runs and a catered lunch, the two judges and six lay jurors tasked with delivering yet another ruling in the complicated murder case against Seattle native Amanda Knox and her erstwhile Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito came back with a resounding guilty verdict for the murder of Meredith Kercher.
This is the fourth ruling in the case and the second time a court has decided to convict them of the murder. Kercher’s siblings Stephany and Lyle were in court for the verdict. "We have always believed in the prosecution in this case, but this is no time for celebration," Lyle Kercher told reporters after the verdict. When asked whether or not he thought the fact that Knox was not present for the trial had any impact, he said no. "I can fully understand their personal reasons for not coming," he said. "But I don't think it had any impact on the outcome."
Judge Alessandro Nencini sentenced Knox to 28.6years in prison—two years more than the original judge sentenced her to, and sentenced Sollecito to 26 years in prison—one year more than his original conviction carried. They have 45 days to publish their judicial reasoning for upholding the convictions.
Knox and Sollecito still have one more chance to fight for their freedom in front of Italy’s high court. No cases are considered final in Italy until and unless the high court rules definitively. Knox can wait until that final ruling in Seattle without fear of being arrested, but if the high court confirms their conviction, then she faces a possible extradition order that might be difficult to fight.
Knox and Sollecito will not have to begin serving their sentence until after the high court signs off on the ruling, likely not before the spring of 2015. Sollecito was ordered to surrender his passport and travel documents. Knox, who the judge says is not a risk of flight since she is already out of the country, will not have to surrender her documents. After the hearing, Knox's attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova said Knox was listening to the verdict by an open phone in the courtroom. "She was petrified," he said.
Kercher’s lifeless half-nude body was found with two stab wounds to her neck in a locked bedroom in the student apartment she shared with Knox on November 2, 2007. Five days later, Knox, Sollecito and Patrick Lumumba, Knox’s boss at the pub where she worked, were in jail on suspicion of murder. During an intense interrogation, Knox had admitted to being in the house when Kercher was killed and accused Lumumba of the murder. Two weeks later, Lumumba was released from jail due to lack of evidence. Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast native who worked odd jobs and peddled dope to students, including those who lived in the apartment below Kercher and Knox, was arrested in Germany after his DNA was found in Kercher’s room and on her body. In October 2008, Guede was convicted of Kercher’s murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison in a fast-track trial on the same day Knox and Sollecito were indicted. They were kept in protective custody because Knox was deemed a flight risk, according to the judge who denied her request for bond. In December 2009, Knox and Sollecito were convicted of Kercher’s murder and sentenced to 26 and 25 years in prison. The same month, Guede’s sentence was reduced to 16 years on appeal. In October 2011 the former lovers’ convictions were overturned on appeal. In March 2013, Italy’s highest court overturned those convictions and ordered a new appellate trial, which began in September 2013 and concludes today.
The new appellate trial was not a replica of the first two trials. The court did not ask to rehear and rehash all of the evidence presented in the first two trials. Instead, the court homed in on key evidence like the knife the prosecution maintains is the murder weapon, and asked for clarification on key witnesses that were used to convict Knox and Sollecito in the first instance, and then acquit them on appeal.
Knox was not present in court, but she sent an email in which she said she was “afraid” the judicial panel would make a mistake and uphold their convictions. After reading the letter for the court record, Judge Nencini commented that receiving an email was highly irregular. “If you want to speak in court, you should come to court,” he said.
Sollecito attended several hearings, including the final rebuttals by Knox’s lawyers on the morning of the verdict. “We are nervous,” Sollecito’s father Francesco Sollecito told The Daily Beast the night before the verdict. “We have faith but we are afraid.”
Kercher’s siblings Stephany and Lyle came from London to hear the verdict in the case, accompanied by a representative from the British Consulate. They have been present for each of the court rulings. Patrick Lumumba was also in court on verdict day, telling reporters, “If Amanda was innocent, she would be here, too.”