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Knox, Sollecito to appeal Kercher murder conviction

US student 'saddened', Italian ex-boyfriend 'annihilated'

30 January, 23:10
Knox, Sollecito to appeal Kercher murder conviction (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Florence, January 30 - Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito said Thursday they would appeal their 28-year and 25-year sentences for the 2007 murder of her British ex-flatmate Meredith Kercher.

In a statement, Knox said she was "frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict" after being sentenced to 28 years for the murder, which took place on the night of November 1-2, 2007.

Knox, who remained in her hometown of Seattle for the appeals trial, watched the verdict with her family on TV. "Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system," she said in a statement, announcing an appeal to the supreme court. "My family and I have suffered greatly from this wrongful persecution," she said. Knox added that the verdict "is no consolation for the Kercher family".

"This has gotten out of hand," she said. Knox blamed her conviction on "overzealous and intransigent prosecution, prejudiced and narrow-minded investigation, unwillingness to admit mistake, reliance on unreliable testimony and evidence, character assassination, inconsistent and unfounded accusatory theory." The prison sentence was fours years longer than the 24 years she got at her first trial in 2009.

Judges said two and a half years were added on because of her libel of a local bar owner she initially fingered, Patrick Lumumba.

Sollecito looked "annihilated" by his 25-year sentence, his lawyer said.

The 29-year-old information technology graduate from Puglia was struck dumb after hearing the guilty verdict on TV, Luca Maori said.

Sollecito's passport will be confiscated pending the appeal to the supreme court.

Kercher's brother Lyle said "it is not time to celebrate".

"I understand why Raffaele and Amanda weren't here," he added. Lyle and his sister Stephanie shook hands with prosecutors but were otherwise impassive.

Earlier, said they could "never forgive" the people who killed 'Mez' in such a "brutal" way.

The appeals-level verdict was the fourth ruling on the case and it is now expected to go to the Italian supreme court.

For fear of what she said would be a wrongful conviction, Knox decided not to return to Italy for the verdict. Sollecito had vowed to stay to hear the judges' decision but left court when it was postponed until late Thursday.

Judges took more than 12 hours to deliberate.

In his closing arguments last week, one lawyer described Knox as "deceitful and diabolical" and an "explosive mine of sex, drugs and alcohol," telling jurors they had no choice but to convict her, The New York Times wrote.

"I'm not that person, I am very clearly not that person that's being described," Knox responded from her home.

"People who accuse me argue that justice cannot be done for Meredith unless I am convicted". In a long email to the court last month Knox said "I'm afraid".

"I didn't kill. I didn't rape. I didn't rob. I didn't plot.

I didn't instigate. I didn't kill Meredith," she wrote in Italian.

Defence experts in the latest trial said DNA evidence presented at the original trial was unsafe.

Specifically, they argued traces of Knox's DNA on the handle of a kitchen knife found in Sollecito's flat, and of Kercher's on the tip, were in fact non-existent and that the presence of Sollecito's DNA on Kercher's severed bra clasp was due to crime-scene contamination.

Meanwhile Florence prosecutors ruled out the initial theory that Kercher was killed after a drug-fuelled sex game went wrong, arguing the murder was instead sparked by an argument possibly over the cleanliness of the flat. A third person, Ivorian Rudy Guede, whose DNA was found inside Kercher and all over the flat, was convicted in a separate fast-track trial and handed a definitive sentence of 16 years in jail.

Italy is likely to seek Knox's extradition even before the supreme court appeal.

The US tends to be reluctant to send its citizens back for foreign sentences, although theoretically Knox could serve time at home.

Double jeopardy - the US rule that you cannot be tried for the same crime twice - does not apply in this case because the Florence proceedings were not a retrial but a second appeals hearing.