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Knox, Sollecito found guilty of Kercher slaying

Case expected to return to supreme court

30 January, 22:00
Knox, Sollecito found guilty of Kercher slaying (ANSA) - Florence, January 30 - Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were found guilty in a Florence court Thursday for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia.

American student Knox was sentenced to 28 years and Sollecito to 25 years.

The court banned Sollecito from leaving Italy and ordered his passport to be confiscated.

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 on the November 2, 2007 murder of Erasmus student Kercher in the flat they shared.

Sollecito had vowed to stay to hear the judges' decision but left court when it was postponed from Thursday afternoon to Thursday night.

Knox heard the verdict - the fourth ruling by an Italian court on the case - with her mother in her home city of Seattle.

Knox reaffirmed her innocence in a Skype interview with The New York Times earlier Thursday.

"Nothing will ever take away the experience of being wrongfully imprisoned," she said.

Knox was held behind bars in Italy for a total of four years, including pre-trial detention.

"I would be putting myself in the hands of people who very clearly want me in prison for something that I didn't do. And I can't do that. I just can't," Knox went on.

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 said.

"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.

Thursday's ruling is unlikely to be the final word in a case that has repeatedly made international media headlines as both the prosecution and the defence have the right to appeal to the supreme Court of Cassation afterwards.

Sollecito and Knox have both already served a total of four years in prison, including pre-trial custody, after their initial conviction in 2009.

That sentence was subsequently overturned on appeal but the supreme court last year quashed the acquittals over aspects of the evidence it argued had not been properly examined and ordered a repetition of the appeals-level trial.

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 are not a retrial but a second appeals hearing.

Kercher's brother and sister, Lyle and Stephanie, were in court for the verdict.

They said they could "never forgive" what had happened to 'Mez'.

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