US student Amanda Knox’s second appeals trial to determine her role in the murder of her British housemate is under way in Italy in her absence.
The country’s highest court ordered a new trial for Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, overturning their acquittals over the 2007 killing of Leeds University student Meredith Kercher, 21, from Coulsdon, Surrey.
The appellate court in Florence is expected to re-examine forensic evidence in the new trial.
Knox, now a 26-year-old University of Washington student in Seattle, has decided against returning to Italy for the trial, and is not compelled by law to do so.
Knox and Sollecito were convicted and later acquitted over Miss Kercher’s death. Knox served four years of a 26-year sentence before leaving Italy a free woman after her 2011 acquittal.
Knox's protracted legal battle in Italy has made her a cause celebre in the United States and has put the Italian justice system under scrutiny. Italian law allows prosecutors to appeal over acquittals. In the US, the principle of double jeopardy would have prohibited another appeals round after her acquittal.
At the same time, the ongoing trials have left the Kercher family without clear answers over the death of their daughter.
Miss Kercher’s body was found in her bedroom at the house she shared with Knox in Perugia, a central Italian town popular with foreign exchange students, in November 2007. Her throat had been slashed.
A third man, Rudy Guede, was convicted over the murder and is serving a 16-year jail term. That court found that Guede had not acted alone.
In the stunning 2011 acquittal overturning lower court guilty verdicts against Knox and Sollecito and throwing out their long prison terms, a Perugia appeals court criticised virtually the entire case mounted by prosecutors. The appellate court noted that the murder weapon was never found, said that DNA tests were faulty and that prosecutors provided no murder motive.
Yet the Court of Cassation ruling was similarly strident, criticising the appeals court ruling and saying it “openly collides with objective facts of the case”.
The high court said the appellate judges had ignored some evidence, considered other evidence insufficiently and undervalued the fact that Knox had initially accused a man of committing the crime who had nothing to do with it.