Amanda Knox might be freed following an appeal against her conviction for killing the British student Meredith Kercher.
After a tortuous, four-year legal process, we are finally here: today we should learn whether
An eight-member panel of judges in Perugia, Italy, will decide whether Knox, now 24, and her 27-year-old former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 27, will be acquitted of the gruesome 2007 crime or whether they should serve their sentences, 26 years and 25 years respectively. There is a third option, that the judges could decide to reduce their sentences.
John Hooper has provided all the background in this story. He and my other colleague in Italy, Tom Kington, are both in Perugia, and will be sending me updates.
What is set to be a dramatic day will open with Knox and Sollecito making their final appeals for freedom. A verdict from the panel, comprising six lay judges and two professional judges, should come some time this evening.
This is one of the more sensational court cases of recent years, taking in as it does a photogenic main defendant variously portrayed as a temptress witch or an innocent, faithful woman in love, and a shocking crime incorporating allegations of sex games gone wrong.
But whatever today’s drama, and the eventual verdict, it’s worth remembering throughout that at the centre of events remains a 21-year-old Leeds University student, the youngest of four children, who went to Perugia at the start of September 2007, full of excitement at what lay ahead, and was dead just eight weeks later. As Kercher’s mother, Arline, told the original trial: “It’s such a shock to send your child to school and for them to not come back.”
here. He’s also just tweeted a small list of other useful people to follow for the day.
You can follow John’s Twitter updates from today’s events
Knox and Sollecito have now arrived in the courtroom. TV coverage shows Knox in close consultation with her lawyers. Knox, as you would expect, looks nervous.
John Hooper has just filed an updated story which further explains what will be happening today:
Both appellants are expected to plead in person for their appeals to be upheld and their sentences to be overturned. The frescoed and vaulted 14th century courtroom was packed with jostling camera crews and reporters as proceedings began more than a half an hour behind schedule.
Today’s proceedings were to due to open with a final rebuttal from Knox’s lawyer, Luciano Ghirga. After the personal statements by the American student and her ex-lover, the two professional judges will retire together with six lay judges who are to help them reach a decision.
He also has this, on Italian opinion about the case:
Local auguries for their appeal were inconclusive, but showed up a division that did not bode well for the appellants. A survey among Italian university students, carried out by the web site Universinet.it, found that the 6,130 respondents split almost evenly between those who thought the couple were innocent (44 per cent), and those who thought they were guilty (48 per cent), with the remainder uncertain.
But the balance of opinion was starkly different according to gender. Only 21 per cent of men thought Knox and Sollecito should continue to serve their sentences. Among women, the proportion rose to 68 per cent.
The poll, reported by the Italian news agency Ansa, is particularly relevant in the light of the predominantly female panel that will reach a decision. Both the professional judges, who will cast three votes between them, are men. But the lay judges, who have six ballots, include five women.
live stream of the hearing here.
The BBC website has a
Luciano Ghirga, Knox’s lawyer, is now addressing the panel of judges in a courtroom so packed that some members of the media are standing. He is discussing the knife used as evidence by prosecutors, and saying Knox faced significant hostility from police. Her eventual statement suggested “intense suggestion”, he says.
tweeted this initial thought on the lawyer’s address:
John Hooper has
#amandaknox lawyer Ghirga less impressive, more strident than in his moving address on her behalf last week.
The BBC’s Daniel Sandford, also in court, meanwhile
Raffaele is quietly reading his personal address to the court, rehearsing it while #amandaknox lawyer adresses judges and jury
Back with the lawyer’s address, he has been telling the judges that the knife identified as the weapon which killed Kercher is not compatible with the wounds which killed the British student. He is now winding up his address.
Amanda Knox enters court. Photograph: Filippo Monteforte/AP
Here’s a picture of Knox entering court before.
Ghirga has finished, and Raffaele Sollecito, the co-defendant and Knox’s former boyfriend, is addressing the judges. He is clearly nervous, and much more halting than the lawyer. He explains that the case feels like a nightmare from which he cannot wake. He tells them:
I have never harmed anyone, never, ever in my life.
Sollecito is now describing life in prison:
Every day, in prison, by the end of the day, you feel dead, Every day is like that.
He is dismissing as “totally untrue” reports that he has tried to implicate Knox in the crime. So far his statement is quite fractured, and very emotional.
tweet from the BBC’s Daniel Sandford:
Interesting point in a
No mention of the victim Meredith Kercher yet from Raffaele. #amandaknox
Sollecito says he “and Amanda” – he is very much tying together their fates – have spent 20 hours a day for the past 1,400 days in cells measuring around 2.5m by 3.5m. Both their families have made “huge sacrifices” to assist them, he adds. This is a very emotional appeal so far, with little mention of the evidence.
After reminiscing about first meeting Knox, who he describes as “sunny and sweet”, Sollecito begins summing up with a dramatic flourish. He points to a bracelet he wears, saying it bears the message, “Amanda and Raffaele free”, saying he had never taken it off in prison. He then removes it.
It;’s now Knox’s turn to speak.
Speaking in Italian, in a halting voice, Knox almost immediately breaks down in tears and is told by the judges that she can take a break. She instead take a deep breath and continues, still sounding shaky. She immediately mentions Kercher:
Over the past four years I have lost a friend in the most brutal way, in an unexplained manner. Also, my trust in the police has been betrayed.
Four years ago, Knox said, she had never personally known tragedy or suffering, and she did not know how to deal with it. Again, she recalls the events of Kercher’s death, mentioning her by name this time:
How did we feel when we learned that Meredith had been killed? I did not believe it. How was it possible? And then fear – this was someone whose life I was sharing, whose bedroom was next door to mine.
This seems to be the key part of Knox’s speech:
I am not who they say I am – the perversion, the violence, the lack of respect for life. I did not do the things they said I did. I did not kill, I did not sexually assault, I did not steal.
She is breaking down in tears again.
The BBC’s Daniel Sandford, in court,
Lots of tears among #amandaknox family. Sister Deanna and step-mother holding hands
This is a hugely dramatic and emotional speech by Knox, who is consistently on the verge of sobbing.
Merdith was killed and I have always wanted justice for her…. I want truth…
I want to go back home. I want to go back to my life. I don’t want to be punished. I don’t want my life and my future taken away for something I didn’t do, because I am innocent and Raffaele is innocent, too.
She ends by expressing her respect for the court, then says:
This is what I am asking for: justice.
The lead judge then speaks briefly to say he and the rest of the panel will retire to consider their verdicts. There will be no ruling before 8pm Italian time (7pm BST). The hearing is over.
Both the defendants’ addresses were, in their varying ways, extremely emotional. However, it’s worth immediately stressing that they will be but a small part of what the judges will consider. This is a four-year case with a mass of evidence.
Raffaele Sollecito’s statement was the more low-key, somewhat rambling and unfocused. He also did not mention Meredith Kercher once.
Knox, in contrast, while more emotional – she was on the verge of tears throughout and had to stop briefly several times – had a more direct message. Kercher, or Meredith, as she called her again and again, was her friend and she would never hurt her. She was not the devil portrayed by the court and media but an innocent young woman who wanted to begin her life again.
Raffaele Sollecito’s lawyer, Giulia Bongiornio, is addressing the media outside the courtroom in Perugia. She has been dismissing the DNA evidence against her client – his DNA was allegedly found on the clasp of Kercher’s bra – saying this was only discovered 46 days after the crime. Her client had now been returned to prison, but she hoped this was for the last time, Bongiornio added. She also showed the media the bracelet bearing his and Knox’s names that Sollecito wore in prison to protest his innocence (see
This tweet is from CNN’s Matthew Chance, who was in the courtroom:
No further comment yet from Knox’s family.
#AmandaKnox dad refuses to comment on his daughters emotional courtroom plea
Francesco Maresca, the lawyer for the Kercher family – who were not in court to hear the statements – has been addressing the media. The Kerchers “accepted” the initial verdicts against Knox and Sollecito, and it would be in their interests to have this reconfirmed, he said.
However, the lawyer added, the Kercher family believed the appeal hearing had been fair, and accepted that if Knox was acquitted she would be perfectly within her rights to return to the US. He said:
If she is acquitted she has the right to live where she wants.
Kercher’s mother, father and brother would be in court this evening to hear the verdict, he added.
If you were watching to live TV coverage of the lawyers’ statements to the media outside court, you would have heard a brief flurry of police sirens. That was the court vehicles returning Knox and Sollecito to prison ahead of this evening’s decision.
This from Keme Nzerem of Channel 4 News, part of their team covering the trial:
The #kerchers have just landed at #perugia airport for #Amandaknox appeal. Sister Stephanie says ‘we’ll talk later’
I’ve been speaking with the Guardian’s Tom Kington, who was in the packed courtroom in Perugia. He had this to say of Raffaele Sollecito’s final address to the judges:
His speech was rather rambling. he was reading from notes, he’s clearly not very well versed as a public speaker.
In contrast, he said, Knox delivered a “very powerful, very cogent, very well-delivered speech” in near-perfect Italian.
But would these addresses sway the six lay judges?
I doubt it. I think they will have all the elements at hand. They’ll now go into chambers with the two (professional) judges and go through, for the last time, a lot of the forensic and other evidence. They may not even discuss these last-minute speeches we’ve heard.
a round-up of this morning’s events by John Hooper and Tom Kington.
Given the long delay between the end of the hearing and the verdict, we’ll be bringing this live coverage to a close. Here is
We will be returning this evening for live coverage of the ruling. It will come at some point after 8pm Italian time (7pm BST), although some lawyers said this could mean beyond 10pm.
It will be a hugely important and emotional moment for Knox, Sollecito and their families. But it’s again worth considering that it will also be an incredibly difficult event for Meredith Kercher’s father, mother and sister, who will be in court, and who say they will respect whatever the court decides.
The main judge, Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, had their feelings partly in mind when he urged those in court to be respectful and quiet when the verdict is read out later. As he said:
This is not a football match.