Thursday, January 30, 2014

10. The Meredith Kercher Case - The Answers in Florence

A Perugian Aquaduct. No Meredith. No Amanda. No Raffaele.

Today, the Appeal Court in Florence gave its verdict.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are guilty of the murder of Meredith Kercher. The Appeal Court has upheld the pair's original 2009 convictions. Knox has been sentenced to 28 years, Sollecito to 25.

Is this the end of a long, long legal battle? Well, yes, from a legal perspective it certainly seems so. Knox and Sollecito could request Italy's highest court, the Court of Cassation, to look at their case again, but that Court has already given a ruling. In fact, it was that ruling, handed down last year, that gave rise to today's decision by the Florence court.

In other words, were they to lodge such a request (and they probably will), it would in all likelihood not help them. In that sense, their convictions seem final.

Looking back over the last few months, I realise I have been remiss. I did not write about the Florence proceedings. I certainly speculated about them after the Court of Cassation's ruling of 2013, and at some length, but that was about it.

Why? Well, there was one simple reason. Very little happened in the Florence proceedings that changed the complexion of the case. There were, to be sure, quite a few things that needed to be looked at again - these aspects were all set out by the Court of Cassation - but there was very little new evidence that could be brought forth.

So, was their nothing new at all? Well, no, not really. On the basis of the Court of Cassation's ruling, the Florence court ordered that a "new" DNA sample found on the so-called double-DNA knife should be tested. That might have been a potential bombshell; after all, what if the new tests revealed the presence of Kercher's DNA, or even Guede's? Except, of course, that the bombshell turned out to be a damp squib; the DNA tested pointed to Knox and no-one else. As such, it didn't prove anything.

Effectively, that meant things were back to square one. We were left with the original 2009 decision and a first appeal ruling that had been struck down by the Court of Cassation. The defendants' appeal needed to be reassessed, and that is exactly what the Appeal Court in Florence has done. And in doing so, it has complied with the views expressed by the Court of Cassation.  

Could the Appeal Court have handled the case differently? Most certainly. Whilst the Court of Cassation's ruling was, in many ways, rather clear, it was by no means definitive. It allowed the appeal court sufficient room to manoeuvre. However, as the Florence court started to get to grips with its remit, it became clear that it would not steer the case away from the paths already set out by the original Perugian court (and, indeed, by the Court of Cassation itself). As, in other words, the case proceeded, it became more and more likely that the original ruling would be upheld.

So, is today's ruling a surprise? Not at all. Is it the end? Yes, it should be. There are further legal issues to resolve, the possibility of extradition being perhaps the most important one, but these issues will have no impact on the guilty verdicts as such. Also, it should be remembered that the Appeal Court's motivations - the actual reasoning behind the convictions - have yet to be set out. As always in Italy, this will happen within 90 days.

But basically, this it it. In law, Knox and Sollecito are guilty. The murder of Meredith Kercher was committed by them and by Rudy Guede. All three have been convicted.


I will write further on this case. After all, it has not formally ended. And besides, the way it has been conducted - both by the prosecution and, perhaps more importantly, by the defense - is rather extraordinary. For now, however, it is done. 

The die is cast.

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