Knox, Sollecito absent as Kercher murder retrial opens
Court orders new forensic tests on murder weapon30 September, 19:58
(ANSA) - Florence, September 30 - The first hearing in the retrial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the 2007 sexual assault and killing of British exchange student Meredith Kercher was held in a Florence appeals court on Monday, with judges ordering new DNA tests on the knife believed to be the murder weapon.
The former American student and her Italian ex-boyfriend are being retried on murder charges for the November 1, 2007, sexual assault and stabbing of Kercher, who was found dead on the floor of an apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia.
Kercher was 21. Knox and Sollecito were convicted in 2009 and later acquitted on appeal in 2011. Italy's Cassation Court scrapped the 2011 decision by a Perugia appeals court quashing the 26-year and 25-year sentences Knox and Sollecito were handed respectively at the original trial, saying it had wrongly dismissed contested forensic evidence. A third suspect, Ivorian national Rudy Guede, was convicted in a fast-track trial and is serving a 16-year sentence for the sexual assault and murder of Kercher, but the Cassation Court found it unlikely he acted alone. Sollecito's father, Francesco Sollecito, on Monday repeated his belief in his son's innocence. ''We spoke to each other yesterday and exchanged best wishes. He is very worried, but I am confident,'' Sollecito's father said while entering the court, adding that his son was not present at today's hearing, but would be at the end of October.
Knox, who returned to the US after her release from prison on appeal, told Corriere Fiorentino newspaper in an interview that ''I will not return to Italy, in part because my presence has always been an element of distraction in court''. ''I'm not coming back to avoid that circus,'' Knox added. A lawyer representing Kercher's family said he was convinced that the two defendants are guilty. ''We are convinced of the guilt of Amanda and Raffaele, of their presence on the scene of the crime,'' said Francesco Maresca upon entering the Florence court. ''We desperately want to discover the truth and find justice for Meredith, who was taken from us so brutally'', the victim's sister Stephanie Kercher wrote the court. The final hearing of this new appeals trial is expected in November, according to a court-released timetable, paving the way for a possible verdict by Christmas.