Knox at the National Innocence Network Conference with David Camm (center) and exoneree Randy Steidl (left)
|Born||Amanda Marie Knox
July 9, 1987
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
|Education||University of Washington|
|Known for||Being wrongfully imprisoned in Italy|
Amanda Marie Knox (born July 9, 1987) is an American woman who spent almost four years in an Italian prison accused of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, one of the women who shared her apartment, before being definitively acquitted by the Supreme Court of Cassation. Knox had raised the alarm after returning from spending the night with her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. Police initially thought a faked burglary at the apartment indicated a single male known to Kercher, but investigations began to focus on Knox, although she was officially a witness. Four days later, she and Sollecito were arrested, over the objections of the policeman heading the investigation. Knox and Sollecito were initially accused of acting with a bar owner she worked for, but he was released and substituted for Rudy Guede whose bloodstained fingerprints had been found on Kercher's possessions.
Guede received a greatly reduced sentence after his statements and separate trial and conviction for the murder and sexual assault of Kercher facilitated the prosecution case against Knox and Sollecito. A guilty verdict at Knox's initial trial caused international controversy as US experts were quoted in the media expressing the opinion that the forensic evidence at the crime scene was incompatible with her being involved. A prolonged legal process, including a successful prosecution appeal against her acquittal at a second level trial, continued after Knox was freed in 2011. On March 27, 2015, some seven-and-a-half years after their arrest, Italy's highest court exonerated Knox and Sollecito.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Italy
- 3 Acquittal and release
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Amanda Knox grew up in West Seattle with three younger sisters. Her mother, Edda Mellas, a mathematics teacher, and her father, Curt Knox, a vice president of finance at the local Macy's, divorced when Amanda was a few years old. Her stepfather, Chris Mellas, is an information-technology consultant. Knox first travelled to Italy at the age of 15, when she visited Rome, Pisa, the Almalfi coast and the ruins of Pompeii on a family holiday. Her interest in the country was increased by the book Under the Tuscan Sun, which her mother gave her. She graduated in 2005 from the Seattle Preparatory School and studied linguistics at the University of Washington; making the university's dean's list, and working at part time jobs to fund an academic year in Italy. Relatives described the 20-year-old Knox as outgoing, but not always able to pick up on social cues.  Her stepfather had strong reservations about her going to Italy that year, as he felt she was still too naïve.
Perugia, the city where the murder of Kercher took place, is known for its universities and large population of students. There had reportedly not been a killing in the city for twenty years, but its prosecutors had been responsible for Italy's most controversial murder cases. In 2002 the conviction in Perugia of fomer Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti on a murdering journalist linked to the Propaganda Due masonic lodge resulted in complaints that the justice system had "gone mad". The Supreme Court took the unusual step of definitively acquitting him the next year.
In early 2002, Perugia prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, who enjoyed taking a detective-like role and was later to be in charge of the Kercher investigation, arraigned members of a respectable masonic lodge for an alleged conspiracy reportedly involving serial killings and Satanic rites. Mignini investigated fellow prosecutors for complicity in the supposed plot, and appealed dismissals of the charges; there were no convictions the case, which finally ended in 2010. According to a scholar who researched comparative law in Italy, selective changes to the Italian legal system left it unable to cope when a prosecutor with Mignini's American-style adversarial approach used his powers to the fullest.
Via della Pergola 7
In Perugia, Knox shared a four-bedroom ground-floor apartment in a house at Via della Pergola 7. Her flatmates were two Italian women in their late twenties, and Kercher. Kercher and Knox moved in on 10 and 20 September 2007, respectively, meeting each other for the first time. Knox was employed part-time at a bar, Le Chic, which was owned by a Congolese man, Diya Patrick Lumumba. She told flatmates that she was going to quit because he was not paying her; Lumumba denied this. Kercher's English women friends saw relatively little of Knox, as she preferred to mix with Italians.
The walk-out semi-basement of the house was rented by young Italian men with whom both Kercher and Knox were friendly. One, Giacomo, spent time in the girls' flat due to a shared interest in music. Returning home at 2 am one night in mid-October, Knox, Kercher, Giacomo and another basement resident met Rudy Guede, later identified as the Perugia burglar who weeks previously had brandished a jackknife when confronted.  Guede attached himself to the group and asked about Knox. He was invited into the basement by the Italians. Knox and then Kercher came down to join them. At 4:30 am Kercher left, saying she was going to bed, and Knox followed her out. Knox recalled a second night out with Kercher and the Italians from the house where Guede joined them and was allowed into the basement. He was never allowed into the women's apartment. Three weeks before her death Kercher went with Knox to the EuroChocolate festival. On October 20, Kercher became romantically involved with Giacomo, after going to a nightclub with him as part of a small group which included Knox. Guede visited the basement later that day. On 25 October, Kercher and Knox went to a concert where Knox met Raffaele Sollecito, a 23-year-old student. She began spending her time at his flat, a 5-minute walk from Via della Pergola 7.
Discovery of body
November 1 was a public holiday and the Italians living in the house were away. Kercher was alone in the house when she returned at 9pm that evening. Just after midday on November 2, Knox called Kercher’s English phone, which she kept in her jeans and could always be reached on, but the call was not answered. Knox then called Romanelli, one of the two Italian trainee lawyers she and Kercher shared the apartment with, and in a mixture of Italian and English said she was worried something had happened to Kercher, as on going to Via della Pergola 7 apartment earlier she had noticed bloodstains and Kercher’s bedroom door closed. Knox and Sollecito then went to Via della Pergola 7 and on getting no answer from Kercher unsuccessfully tried to break in the bedroom door, leaving it noticeably damaged. At 12.47 pm Knox called her mother and was told to contact the police as an emergency.
Solecitto called the Carabinieri getting though at 12.51 pm. He was recorded telling them there had been a break-in with nothing taken, and the emergency was that Kercher’s door was locked, she was not answering calls to her phone and there were bloodstains. Police telecommunications investigators arrived to inquire about an abandoned phone, which was in fact Kercher’s Italian unit. Romanelli arrived and took over explaining the situation to the police who were informed about Kercher’s English phone, which had been handed in as a result of it ringing when Knox called it. On discovering Kercher’s English phone had been found dumped, Romanelli demanded that the policemen force Kercher’s bedroom door open, but they did not think the circumstances warranted damaging private property. The door was then kicked in by a strongly built friend of Romanelli’s, and Kercher's body was discovered on the floor. She had died from a neck wound.
Italian legal procedure
In 1989 the inquisitorial system of Italy was reformed and elements of US-style adversarial procedure were introduced. The changes were intended to remove an inquisitorial continuity between the investigatory phase and the basis for a decision at trial, but in practice they took control of inquiries away from police and gave prosecutors authority over the preliminary investigation. Although they have considerable authority over early inquiries and discretion in bringing charges, Italian prosecutors do not customarily use their powers in the aggressive way common in the US system.
Murder trials are normally heard by a Corte d'Assise, which is less likely to exclude evidence as prejudicial than a US court. The accused is never considered a witness, and can make statements without taking an oath. Two presiding professional trial judges, who also vote on the verdict, are expected to correct any bias of lay-judges during their deliberations. An acquittal can be appealed by the prosecution, the judges' reasoning is given in writing and can be grounds for overturning their verdict. An acquittal can be appealed by the prosecution and judges' reasoning for a verdict is given in writing and can be grounds for overturning their verdict.
Italian judges can question witness so as to introduce new issues. The settled verdict of another court can be used without collaboration to support circumstantial evidence (in Knox's case the official report on Guede's conviction was advanced as showing that Guede had accomplices). If the Supreme Court grants an appeal against a guilty verdict it usually sends the case back to be re-heard. It can also dismiss the prosecution case, although this is rare.
Arrest and arraignment
Because anyone effecting an entry through the broken window seemed unlikely, police almost immediately discounted the possibility of a burglar being the killer. The police were not told the extent of Kercher's relationship with Giacomo in initial interviews. Guede, who went to a nightclub hours after the murder, and again the following night, is believed to have left Perugia on 4 December, the same day the lead investigator was quoted as saying that someone known to Kercher and let into the house by her was believed to be responsible for her murder.
According to Knox, a senior female detective, who later took over the investigation, was hostile to her from the outset. Over the next four days she was repeatedly interviewed and during the interrogation and statements of 5–6 November, the conduct of which is a matter of dispute, Knox incriminated herself and Lumumba. The policeman then heading the investigation opposed the arrests, but Knox, Sollecito, and Lumumba were taken into custody and charged with murder. Lumumba was released after examination of the crime scene identified the fingerprints of Rudy Guede, who had fled to Germany days after the murder. Guede, Knox, and Sollecito were then charged with committing the murder together. On 30 November 2007 a panel of three judges endorsed the charges, ruled there had been no burglary, and ordered Knox and Sollecito held in detention pending a trial.
Knox became the subject of unprecedented pre-trial media coverage, including a best-selling book about her that contained witness transcripts not in the public domain, imagined or invented events, excerpts from her prison journal, and unsubstantiated allegations about her private life. 
Trial of Guede
In initial internet conversation while he was a fugitive wanted for the murder of Kercher, which Knox and Sollecito were being held for, Guede did not mention Knox or Sollecito as being in the house on the night of the murder. His account changed and he indirectly implicated them in the murder, which he denied involvement in. He opted to be tried in a special fast track procedure by judge Micheli. Guede was not charged with having had a knife. He did not testify and was not questioned about his statements. He was convicted of murder and the official judges’ report on the conviction specified that he had not acted alone, or stolen any of Kercher’s possessions. Micheli’s finding that Guede must have had an accomplice gave support to the later prosecution of Knox.
The judges discounted the possibility of Guede having faked the burglary, in view of his own earlier break-ins (though at the time of the murder he was known to police only for being detained for trespassing in Florence). The judges also decided against the possibility of Guede having got in by simply knocking on the door, because they thought Kercher would not have opened the entry door to him (although she knew him to be an acquaintance of her boyfriend Giacomo). In his pre-trial declarations Guede said Kercher had let him in the cottage. Some later writers on the case have considered that Guede having killed Kercher after he called on some pretext and she answered the door to him while alone in the house was the most likely way the murder had occurred.
First trial of Knox and Sollecito
In 2009 Knox and Sollecito pleaded not guilty at a Corte d'Assise on charges of murder, sexual assault, carrying a knife, simulating a burglary, theft of 300 euros, credit cards and mobile phones. There was no charge in relation to Kercher's missing keys to the entry door and her own bedroom door, although Guede's trial judgement said he had not stolen anything. Knox was charged with Calunnia, which in Italian law is to blame someone of a crime that the accused knows is innocent.
According to the prosecution, Knox’s first call of 2 November, to Kercher’s English phone, was part of an attempt to delay the discovery of the body. Sollecito had tried to break in the bedroom door because after locking it behind them, they realized they had left something that might incriminate them.  Knox’s call to her mother in Seattle, a quarter of an hour before the discovery of the body, was said by prosecutors to show Knox was acting as if something serious might have happened before the point in time when an innocent person would have such concern.
A prosecution witness, homeless man Antonio Curatolo, said Knox and Sollecito were in a nearby square on the night of the murder. Prosecutors advanced a single piece of forensic evidence linking Sollecito to Kercher's bedroom, where the murder had taken place: fragments of his DNA on Kercher's bra clasp. Giulia Bongiorno, leading Sollecito's defence, questioned how Sollecito's DNA could have got on the small metal clasp of the bra, but not on the fabric of the bra back strap from which it was torn. "How can you touch the hook without touching the cloth?" Bongiorno asked. The back strap of the bra had multiple traces of DNA belonging to Guede. According to the prosecution's reconstruction, Knox had attacked Kercher in her bedroom, repeatedly banged her head against a wall, forcefully held her face and tried to strangle her. Guede, Knox and Sollecito had removed Kercher's jeans, and held her on her hands and knees while Guede had sexually abused her. Knox had cut Kercher with a knife before inflicting the fatal stab wound; then faked a burglary. The judge pointedly questioned Knox about a number of details, especially concerning her phone calls to her mother and Romanelli.
The defense suggested that there had been a genuine break in by Guede, and pointed out that no shoe prints, clothing fibers, hairs, fingerprints, skin cells or DNA of Knox were found on Kercher's body, clothes, handbag or anywhere else in Kercher's bedroom. The prosecution alleged that all forensic traces in the room that would have incriminated Knox had been wiped away by her and Sollecito. Knox's lawyers said it would have been impossible to selectively remove her traces, and emphasized that Guede's shoe prints, fingerprints, and DNA were found in Kercher's bedroom.
Guede's DNA was on the strap of her bra, which had been torn off, and his DNA was found on a vaginal swab taken from Kercher's body. Guede's bloody palm print was on a pillow that had been placed under Kercher's hips. Guede's DNA mixed with Kercher's was on the left sleeve of her bloody sweatshirt and in bloodstains inside her shoulder bag, from which 300 euros and credit cards had been stolen. Both sets of defence lawyers requested the judges to order independent reviews of evidence including DNA and the compatibility of the wounds with the alleged murder weapon; the request was denied. In final pleas to the court, Sollecito's lawyer described Knox as "a weak and fragile girl" who had been "duped by the police." Knox's lawyer pointed to text messages between Knox and Kercher as showing that they had been friends.
Verdict and controversy
On 5 December 2009 Knox, by then 22, was convicted on charges of faking a break-in, slander, sexual violence and murder, and sentenced to 26 years imprisonment. Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years. In Italy opinion was not generally favorable to Knox, and an Italian jurist remarked: "This is the simplest and fairest criminal trial one could possibly think of in terms of evidence."
In the US the verdict was widely viewed as a miscarriage of justice. American lawyers expressed concern about pre-trial publicity, and were troubled by statements obtained while Knox was being denied her rights under Italian law being allowed for contemporaneous civil and defamation suits heard by the same jury. Her defense attorneys were seen as, by American standards, passive in the face of the prosecution's use of character assassination. Although acknowledging that Knox might have been a person of interest for American police in similar circumstances, journalist Nina Burleigh, who had spent months in Perugia during the trial while researching a book on the case, said that the conviction had not been based on solid proof and there had been resentment at the Knox family which amounted to "anti-Americanism".
A number of US experts spoke out against DNA evidence used by the prosecution. According to consultant Gregory Hampikian the Italian forensic police could not replicate the key result, claimed to have successfully identified DNA at levels below those an American laboratory would attempt to analyse, and never supplied validation of their methods.
In May 2011, Hampikian, director of the Idaho Innocence Project, a non-profit investigative organization dedicated to proving the innocence of wrongly convicted people, said forensic results from the crime scene pointed to Guede being a killer who had acted on his own.
Acquittal and release
A Corte d'Assise verdict of guilty is not a definitive conviction. What is in effect a new trial, Corte d'Assise d'Appello, reviews the case. The appeal (or second grade) trial began November 2010 and was presided over by Judges Claudio Pratillo Hellmann and Massimo Zanetti. A court-ordered review of the contested DNA evidence by independent experts noted numerous basic errors in the gathering and analysis of the evidence, and concluded that no evidential trace of Kercher's DNA had been found on the alleged murder weapon, which police had found in Sollecito's kitchen. Although the review confirmed that male DNA fragments on the bra clasp, which the forensic police had lost on the floor for 47 days, included some from Sollecito, the court-appointed expert testified the context strongly suggested contamination. On October 3, 2011 Knox and Sollecito were found not guilty. Knox returned to the US.
In an official statement giving their grounds for the acquittals, Hellmann emphasized that that Knox's first calls raised the alarm and brought the police to the house, which made the prosecution's assertion that she had been trying to delay discovery of the body untenable. Her and Sollecito's accounts failing to completely match did not constitute evidence they had given a false alibi. Discounting Curatolo's testimony as self-contradictory, the judges observed that he was a heroin addict. Having noted that there was no evidence of any phone calls or texts between Knox or Sollecito and Guede, the judges concluded there was a "material non-existence" of evidence to support the guilty verdicts, and that an association among Sollecito, Knox, and Guede to commit the murder was "far from probable".
To hold my hand and offer support and respect throughout the obstacles and the controversy, there were Italians. There was the Italy–USA Foundation, and many others that shared my pain and that helped me survive, with hope. I am eternally grateful for their caring hospitality and their courageous commitment. To those that wrote me, that defended me, that stood by me, that prayed for me... I am forever grateful to you.
On March 26, 2013, Italy's highest court, the Supreme Court of Cassation set aside the acquittals of the Hellmann second level trial on the grounds that it had not given weight to circumstantial evidence in context, proper considered Knox's accusation of the bar owner, or a note Knox composed in the police station (which did not mention Guede) that the Supreme Court regarded as confirmation that she and Guede were present in Via della Pergola 7 while Kercher was attacked. A retrial was ordered, Knox was represented but remained in the US.
The second level retrial judges granted a prosecution request for analysis of previously unexamined DNA found on a kitchen knife of Sollecito, which the prosecution alleged was the murder weapon based on the forensic police reporting that Kercher's DNA was on it. The conclusion had been discredited by court-appointed experts at the appeal trial, but the failure to test the sample had been criticized by the Supreme Court. When the unexamined sample was tested, no DNA belonging to Kercher was found. On January 30, 2014, Knox and Sollecito were found guilty. Both Knox and Sollecito appealed to the Supreme Court, which informed observers expected to confirm their guilt. John Follain, author of Death in Perugia and a Italian correspondent for the Sunday Times, said the retrial pointed to a conviction.“Given that the supreme court previously trashed the acquittal, it would be quite surprising if the supreme court went back on what it’d once ruled. One could expect a definitive conviction.”
On March 27, 2015, the final appeal by Knox and Sollecito was heard by the Supreme Court of Cassation; it ruled that the case against Knox and Sollecito was without foundation, thereby definitively acquitting them. Rather than merely declaring that there were errors in the earlier court cases or that there was not enough evidence to convict, the court ruled that Knox and Sollecito were innocent of involvement in the murder.
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- Diritto, procedura, e pratica penale Tribunale di Perugia: Ufficio del G.I.P.: Dott. Paolo Micheli: Sentenza del 28 October 2008 – 26 January 2009 (Italian): (English trans): Guede "confirmed then to have touched more or less everywhere in the room, even with his hands stained with blood, without however explaining why one of his [palm-]prints were found on the pillow under the corpse, when he remembered the regular pillow on the bed, where they also found the jacket and purse/handbag that the girl [Kercher] had put down on re-entering the house. The bed was, according to his description, covered with a red or beige duvet (but he had insisted far more on the former colour): the pillow was outside of the quilt." Earlier in his judgement, the judge noted that (Italian): "Soltanto in seguito, attraverso la comparazione in Banca Dati di un'impronta palmare impressa nel sangue e rinvenuta sulla federa del cuscino che si trovava sotto il corpo della vittima, si accertava invece la presenza sul luogo del delitto del 21enne G. R. H., nativo della Costa d'Avorio ..." (English): "Only later, through the comparison in the database of a palm-print imprinted in the blood of the victim and found on the pillowcase of the pillow where the body of the victim was found, it confirmed instead the presence at the scene of the crime of the 21-year-old G[uede] R.H., native of the Ivory Coast, ...".
- Mirabella, Julia Grace, Scales of Justice: Assessing Italian Criminal Procedure Through the Amanda Knox Trial (January 5, 2012). Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2012, page 247, note 122
Follain_p.248was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
Cite error: The named reference
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