FLORENCE, ITALY: An appeals court in Florence on Thursday upheld the guilty verdict against U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28½ years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition if the conviction is confirmed.
Lawyers for Knox and her co-defendant, Raphael Sollecito, vowed to appeal to Italy’s highest court, a process that will take at least another year and drag out a legal saga that has divided court watchers in three nations.
In a news release from Seattle, where she had awaited the verdict at her mother’s home, Knox said she was “frightened and saddened” by the decision. She said it was “unjust” and the result of an overzealous prosecution and narrow-minded investigation that worked to “pervert the court of justice.”
“This has gotten out of hand,” she said. “Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system.”
After nearly 12 hours of deliberations, the court reinstated the guilty verdicts first handed down against Knox and Sollecito in 2009 for the death of Meredith Kercher. Those verdicts were overturned in 2011, and the two were freed from prison.
Knox returned to the United States following her acquittal, but Italy’s supreme court vacated that decision and sent the case back for a third trial in Florence.
Kercher, 21, was found dead Nov. 2, 2007, in a pool of blood in the bedroom of the apartment she and Knox shared in the central Italian city of Perugia, where both were studying. Her throat had been slashed, and she was sexually assaulted.
Knox and Sollecito, who had just started dating a few days earlier, were arrested within the week. A third defendant, Rudy Guede of Ivory Coast, was convicted in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence for the murder.
Knox and Sollecito maintained they were at Sollecito’s apartment the night of the murder, smoking marijuana, watching a movie and making love.
A statement from Knox after the ruling appeared less aimed at persuading Italy’s highest court to find her innocent in the upcoming appeal than at rallying supporters in the United States to resist a possible extradition request if the conviction is upheld.
Experts have said it’s unlikely that Italy would request Knox’s extradition before the verdict is final.
If the conviction is upheld, a lengthy extradition process would likely ensue with the U.S. State Department ultimately deciding whether to turn Knox back over to Italian authorities to finish serving her sentence.
Mary Fan, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at the University of Washington Law School in Seattle, said any decision by the State Department is “a matter of both law and politics.”