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Knox 'very nervous' pending appeals court decision

Thursday's verdict unlikely to be the final word

30 January, 14:04
Knox 'very nervous' pending appeals court decision (ANSA) - Florence, January 30 - Amanda Knox was said to be "very nervous" on Thursday as she waited for a Florence court to decide whether she and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are guilty of the November 2007 murder of British Erasmus student Meredith Kercher in Perugia.

The US citizen was awaiting the verdict - the fourth ruling by an Italian court on the case - with her mother in her home city of Seattle after deciding not to appear in court for fear of a wrongful conviction.

In an 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.

Prosecutors in the new appeal have requested a 30-year prison term for Knox and 26 years for Sollecito, who will instead be present for the sentence "out of respect" for the court, his father said Wednesday. Kercher's brother and sister were also expected to be in court for the verdict, which is expected no earlier than 5 pm local time (16:00 GMT). 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.

If Knox is found guilty Italy is likely to seek her 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.