The ebullient Foxy Knoxy has been brought to the ground at last. She has been sentenced by an Italian court to 26 years in prison for her role in the murder of her flatmate Meredith Kercher. Her boyfriend gets a year less. But both have been ordered to jointly pay €5 million to the Kercher family as also pay the costs of the trial. Knox was told she must also pay 40,000 euros compensation to local barman Patrick Lumumba, for falsely accusing him of the murder.
It was thus curtains for a yearlong trial in Perugia that had rivetted the attention of the entire western world. The prosecution, though vilified endlessly across the US and on the Internet, seems to have succeeded in establishing that the murder of Kercher was the culmination of a drug-fuelled sex game.
AdvertisementThe jury ruled that Knox, 22, and Sollecito, 25, killed Kercher, 21, of Coulsdon, Surrey, together with a third man, Rudy Guede.
Kercher, who was studying at Leeds University, went to Perugia to learn Italian and to pursue her European Studies degree.
Just two months into the medieval city, on Nov.2, 2007, Kercher was found semi-naked, with her throat slashed in a hillside cottage she shared with Ms Knox and two Italian women. Her body bore more than 40 injuries.
In the days following the murder, prosecutors arrested Knox, her former boyfriend and Italian Raffaele Sollecito, 24, and Rudy Guede, 21, a drifter and immigrant from the Ivory Coast. While Knox is a US student, Sollecito is an IT student from a wealthy southern Italian family.
Sollecito and Knox were also accused of simulating a break-in by smashing a window and of theft of cash and credit cards.
The trial of Knox and Sollecito started on 16 January this year.
The jury, which consisted of six lay jurors guided by two judges, deliberated for 13 hours before reaching its verdict. They accepted the prosecution's case that Knox recruited Sollecito and Guede to force Miss Kercher to take part in a sex game.
While Sollecito forced Miss Kercher on to her knees, Guede sexually assaulted her while Knox taunted her with a knife, finally stabbing her in the neck three times in what prosecutors described as a "crescendo of violence." Guede had been convicted in a separate trial last year.
"When I closed my eyes, I could only see red," the African wrote in an account for the police after his arrest. "I have never seen so much blood. All of that blood on her beautiful face."
Ms Knox herself had told police that she had covered her ears in the kitchen to block out Ms Kercher's screams, but she subsequently changed her statement and claimed innocence.
Fearing a pact between Sollecito and Knox's defence teams, Guede elected to undergo a separate, fast-track trial last year. He was convicted of murder and sexual assault and imprisoned for 30 years. But Judge Paolo Micheli ruled that there was enough evidence to send Knox and Sollecito to trial on charges of murder and aggravated sexual assault.
And it was that trial that came to a close Saturday amid dramatic scenes. After the judge read out the verdict to a hushed court, Knox buried her head in her lawyer's chest and sobbed. Her sister Deanna wept uncontrollably as Knox was led out of court crying.
Knox, from Seattle, Washington, and Sollecito, were incriminated by DNA evidence and by their confusing and contradictory accounts of where they were on the night of the murder.
Knox, who styled herself "Foxy Knoxy," had denied having any part in the killing. She said she spent the night with Sollecito in his apartment in Perugia.
But Sollecito maintained that he could not remember whether Knox was with him or not. He said he had been at home downloading films and cartoons on his computer, but a forensic examination showed that there was no activity on the laptop during the hours in which Miss Kercher was killed.
Knox and Miss Kercher were both at the beginning of a year's study at Perugia's University for Foreigners.
The prosecution maintained that Knox was sick of being criticised by Miss Kercher for not "pulling her weight" with the housework and for bringing men back to their shared accommodation.
Weeks of tension exploded into violence, with Knox and the two men subjecting the Leeds University student to the degrading sexual attack, prosecutors said.
They charged that a kitchen knife found in Sollecito's apartment was the murder weapon and that it had Knox's DNA on the handle. There was also a tiny amount of Miss Kercher's DNA on the tip.
But the defence tried to cast doubt on the scientific evidence, saying it wasn't reliable enough to support a conviction.
For example, the DNA trace said to be from Miss Kercher was so small it was destroyed in testing.
The defence also said the knife didn't match two of the major wounds suffered by the Leeds University student.
But at the end of the day, the prosecutors managed to carry conviction with their description of the American student as a "manipulative, narcissistic, sexual thrill-seeker" who had fallen out with Kercher in the few weeks they had lived together in the cottage.
Some felt the prosecution went overboard, painting a picture of the American student as a she-devil, using terms that would probably not be allowed in a UK or US court. It was vicious character assassination, Knox's supporters argued. But the aggressive campaign, showing the Italian judicial system itself in poor light, has only boomeranged.
Knox's father, Curt, when asked if there would be an appeal against the conviction, said: "Hell, yeah."
Her stepmother, Cassandra, said the family were devastated by the verdict. "We had a plane ticket for her, we were going to take her home," she said. "But it seems we'll never have justice in this city."
In Seattle her grandmother, Elisabeth Huff, added: "They didn't listen to the facts of the case. All they did was listen to the media's lies."
Outside court Mrs Knox, her husband Curt, a vice-president of the Macy's department store, and Knox's mother Edda Mellas, were greeted with screams and jeering by the large crowd which had gathered to hear the verdicts.
The family of Amanda Knox faces financial ruin after the compensation order, it has been reported.
They have already spent over Ł750,000 in supporting their daughter. Mrs Mellas and Mr Knox have both re-mortgaged their homes, as has her 72-year-old German-born grandmother Elizabeth Huff.
Their credits cards are "maxed out" and they say they are now so short of money they may have to sell their homes in order to continue to pursue a long-running and expensive appeal on her behalf.
The family of murdered British student Meredith Kercher have said they are pleased with the verdict against her killers but there was "no celebration".
In a statement read to a press conference in Perugia, Miss Kercher's brother Lyle said: "Ultimately we are pleased with the verdict.
"It's not a time for celebration. It's not a moment of triumph.
"We are all gathered here because our sister was brutally murdered and taken away from us.
"Of course, there were two very young people who have been sentenced yesterday to a very long time behind bars."
Guede too has appealed the sentence, claiming Ms Knox had killed Ms Kercher in a row over stolen cash. That is still pending.
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