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American Amanda Knox was acquitted in 2011 of the murder of Briton Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy.
American Amanda Knox was acquitted in 2011 of the murder of Briton Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy.

Italy high court overturns Amanda Knox acquittal over Meredith Kercher murder

Italy's Court of Cassation orders a new hearing, overturning the acquittal of American Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfirend in the murder of Briton Meredith Kercher.

ROME // Italy's highest criminal court overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox in the murder of her British roommate and ordered a new trial today, prolonging a case that has become a cause celebre in the United States.

The Court of Cassation ruled that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. The exact issues that have to be reconsidered will not be known until the court releases its full ruling.

Lawyers for Ms Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito looked grim as they huddled with prosecutors and court officials to get details after the ruling was issued. Lawyers for the Kercher family said they had got what they wanted.

Kercher's body was found in November 2007 in her bedroom of the house she shared with Ms Knox and others in Perugia, an Italian university town where the two women were exchange students. Her throat had been slashed.

Prosecutors alleged Kercher was the victim of a drug-fuelled sex-act gone awry. Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito denied wrongdoing and said they were not even in the apartment that night, though they acknowledged they had smoked marijuana and their memories were clouded.

An Ivorian man, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the murder in a separate proceeding and is serving a 16-year sentence. Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito were also initially convicted of the murder and given long prison sentences, but were then acquitted on appeal and released.

The high court's ruling today overturns the appeals court acquittals.

Italian law cannot compel Ms Knox to return from the US for the new trial. The appellate court hearing the case could declare her in contempt of court but that carries no additional penalties.

It is unclear what would happen if she was convicted in a new appeals trial.

"If the court orders another trial, if she is convicted at that trial and if the conviction is upheld by the highest court, then Italy could seek her extradition," Ms Knox's lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said yesterday.

It would then be up to the United States to decide if it honours the request. US and Italian authorities could also come to a deal that would keep Ms Knox in the United States.

Ms Knox, now 25, and Mr Sollecito, who turned 29 today, were arrested shortly after Kercher's body was found in a pool of blood.

The appeals court that acquitted them in 2011 criticised virtually the entire case mounted by prosecutors. The appellate court noted that the murder weapon was never found, said that DNA tests were faulty and that prosecutors provided no murder motive.

After nearly four years behind bars in Italy, Ms Knox returned to her hometown of Seattle and Mr Sollecito resumed his computer science studies, following the degree he successfully earned while studying in prison. Ms Knox is now a student at the University of Washington, according to her family spokesman, Dave Marriott.

Italy's judicial system allows for two levels of appeals, and prosecutors can appeal acquittals.

Although the court heard gruesome details, including how Kercher choked on her own blood, it was not ruling on the guilt or innocence of the defendants. Its sole task was to decide if the appellate trial was properly conducted.

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