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Knox and Sollecito lose appeal
Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito had their convictions for the murder of the British student Meredith Kercher in 2007, reinstated on Thursday night, a dramatic development in the long-running legal saga which paves the way for a possible extradition tussle between Italy and the United States.
Delivering its ruling at the end of the defendants' four-month-long second appeal, the court of appeal in Florence upheld the guilty verdicts for both the 26-year-old American student and her Italian ex-boyfriend, who have protested their innocence for years.
After nearly 12 hours of deliberations, a packed, silent courtroom heard Judge Alessandro Nencini sentence Knox to 28 years and six months in jail while Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years. Sollecito is free pending a definitive confirmation of the verdict by Italy's highest court but cannot travel out of the country.
Though it is bound to come as a huge psychological blow for Seattle-based Knox, the verdict is not likely to have any immediate logistical impact on her as it will only become definitive if confirmed by Italy's top appeals court, and only then would Rome be in a position to request her extradition.
Standing in court, Lyle and Stephanie Kercher looked confused during the lengthy, dense verdict and were briefed on its contents by an official from the British embassy before responding cautiously. "We are still in shock. There's nothing to celebrate," said the victim's sister Stephanie in the courtroom after the judge had spoken.
The development in the long-running case will be welcomed by the family of Kercher, the 21-year-old Leeds University student from Coulsdon, Surrey, whose lifeless body was found in the bedroom of her shared flat in Perugia on the morning of 2 November 2007.
The Perugia appeal court that overturned their convictions in 2011 had found that the guilty verdicts had relied on faulty DNA evidence and were "not corroborated by any objective element of evidence".
But it, in turn, was harshly criticised by the top Italian court, the court of cassation, which ordered the second appeal when it quashed the verdict of the Perugia appeals court, picking holes in numerous ways in which the verdict was reached and accusing it of "numerous deficiencies, contradictions and manifest lack of logic".
Despite their protestations of innocence, Knox and Sollecito's case has always been marred by a lack of independent alibi corroboration and by Knox's false statement to police – which she insists was made under intense police pressure – in which she wrongly blamed the bar owner Patrick Lumumba for the crime. The court of cassation verdict last year definitively upheld Knox's conviction for slandering Lumumba, her boss at the time of the murder, for which she had already served enough jail time.
As is standard practice in Italy, the Florence court gave no explanation for its verdict and now has up to 90 days to publish its reasoning.
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