After more than 8 years of tortuous legal proceedings in the Italian courts, Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were finally exonerated on March 27, 2015. Over the course of a conviction by a Perugia court in 2009, an acquittal in 2011 (after a first appeals court trial), and then a second conviction in 2014 (after another appellate trial), the pair had spent four years in prison.
On Tuesday, September 8, Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, issued a scathing written opinion explaining its March ruling. The opinion declared that Knox and Sollecito didn’t murder Kercher, a stronger (and more uncommon) finding than merely concluding there was insufficient evidence to convict. As Italian law bars further prosecution, this decision appears to be final and Knox and Sollecito can finally move on with their lives.
The sensationalized and controversial case has captivated international media attention for years with its many twists and turns. Here in the United States, Knox has become a symbol for wrongful conviction and innocence, while the Italian criminal justice system, for many, has come to represent incompetence and unfairness towards the rights of defendants.
Throughout the case proceedings, many analysts stressed that the evidence simply did not add up; specifically, that forensic evidence at the crime scene was incompatible with Knox’s involvement.
The Court of Cassation appears to agree, writing: “There was no shortage of glaring errors in the underlying fabric of the sentence in question.” In the opinion, the investigators and prosecutors are shredded for their “stunning weakness,” “investigative bouts of amnesia,” and “blameworthy omissions of investigative activity.”
But it gets worse. Mincing no words, the court called out some of the most egregious errors:
- “The computers of Amanda Knox and Kercher…were, incredibly, burned by imprudent maneuvers by the investigators, who caused an electric shock.”
- After Kercher’s bra clasp was found on the floor 46 long days after the murder, it “was passed from hand to hand of the workers, who, furthermore, were wearing dirty latex gloves.”
- The kitchen knife which prosecutors alleged the defendants used to commit the crime had “no traces of blood found on it” and “was kept in an ordinary cardboard box, like the kind that Christmas gadgets are packaged.”
The judges emphasized that there was an “absolute lack of biological traces” of Knox or Sollecito anywhere in the room or on the victim’s body while the third person accused, Rudy Guede, left “copious” biological evidence at the scene. In sum, there was no proof they were in the bedroom where Kercher was stabbed.
How did it take the Court this long to agree on what so many others had already seen as a fundamentally flawed case?
The judges explained that, “the international spotlight on the case in fact resulted in the investigation undergoing a sudden acceleration.” Had the investigation not been handled with such incompetence, “in all probability” the defendants’ guilt or innocence would have been determined very early in the proceedings.
While that’s probably no consolation for Knox and Sollecito (and their families), at least they can now move forward free of the court’s (and the public’s) lingering doubt and misplaced suspicion.
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