Amanda Knox is no longer a free woman—at least not legally speaking. On Tuesday morning, Italy’s highest court threw out her October 2011 acquittal and effectively returned her to guilty status for the 2007 murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher. The acquittal of her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was also thrown out.
The two former lovers will face a retrial of the appellate process sometime later this year or in early 2014. The new appeal will be held in Florence, not in Perugia—where she was originally found guilty and then eventually acquitted of the murder charge. She and Sollecito will maintain the same defense teams, but new prosecutors will try the case.
In Italy, criminal defendants are not required to attend their trials so Knox is not at risk of extradition during the new appellate process. And even if the new appeal confirms her murder conviction, she will not be required to return to Italy to serve time until Italy’s high court takes yet another look at the case. All criminal cases in Italy are subject to review by three levels of the judicial system. Tuesday’s verdict essentially returned Knox and Sollecito to the second phase, not back to square one. Knox’s lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said he was surprised by the verdict, but he reserved comment until he reads the court’s final ruling. “This is a step backwards, but we won’t give up the fight for Amanda’s innocence,” he told The Daily Beast outside the courtroom in Rome. “But this time she will be retried in absentia.”
The high court will issue its reasoning for overturning the verdict within 60 days. After that time, the defense and prosecution teams have 45 days to file their own preliminary case documents for the new appellate trial.
Kercher’s family lawyer Francesco Maresca said the Kercher family was pleased with the high-court ruling. “They feel the court is finally listening to them,” he told The Daily Beast at the courthouse in Rome. “They believe that the court also wants to find the truth about what really happened to their daughter.”
Outside the court in Rome, the media hovered around the lawyers in a scene eerily reminiscent of so many court dates in Perugia over the last five years. “Here we go again,” Luciano Ghirga, Knox’s lawyer, said as he fought his way through the crowd. “What else is there to say?”