Moment that mattered: Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are acquitted of murder John Follain, Sunday Times journalist and author
“I wasn’t that shocked by Knox and Sollecito’s acquittal, because of the body language in the court throughout the appeal trial. The judges and jurors hung on every word of the defence lawyers, but they sat back in their seats wearing sceptical expressions when the prosecution was responding. Often when the prosecutors made requests they would be slapped down by the judges. It was very noticeable in the last pleas – when Amanda and Raffaele stood up in turn to speak and proclaim their innocence – how attentive the court was.
That is not to say that the acquittal was expected. I was sat just behind the Kercher family and after almost four years of them being told that Amanda and Raffaele were guilty, it really made them feel as if they were back at square one. They wondered where the 10,000 pages of evidence had gone.
The key moment in the whole appeal trial was when the two court-appointed experts, who had been brought in to examine DNA evidence on a kitchen knife and Meredith’s bra clasp, showed a video of the forensic police taken at the cottage. The experts said they used dirty gloves, shook the evidence and passed it between themselves. You could see the shock and surprise on the faces of the judges and the jurors as they watched.
I have been reporting on the case since the day that Meredith’s body was discovered and it was always clear that it would be a huge story. The rareness of the situation – one female student being accused of killing another – the youth and looks of the protagonists and the cocktail of sex and drugs alleged by the prosecution helped make it so.
But over the last four years, the Perugians kept their distance from the trial, and it was very rare to see more than half a dozen of them in court. There was a feeling that it wasn’t a Perugian murder in the sense that outsiders were involved – both the victim and the people who had been targeted by the prosecution. That is not to say that the city didn’t care, and there was always affection for the victim, who was known as ‘La povera Meredith’ (Poor Meredith). On the night of the verdict, thousands of people turned up in the square and when Amanda and Raffaele’s lawyers came out there was a strong reaction, with some people shouting ‘assassins!’ and ‘shame!’. Talking to people in Perugia over the following days it was clear that they weren’t convinced by the verdict and most believed what the prosecution said – that Amanda, Raffaele and Rudy [Guede] were all guilty.
In the Italian system you are not definitively convicted or acquitted until you have exhausted all possibilities of appeal. There are two possibilities of appeal, so there was the first trial at which Amanda and Raffaele were convicted, then the second where they were acquitted of the murder. Now what is expected is that there will be a trial by the supreme court in Rome, the highest court, which will either be in the summer or the autumn. The Supreme Court will confirm the acquittal, declare them guilty or call for a retrial because of the controversy over the appeal trial.
Of course it is unlikely that Amanda would return from America for the second appeal. The prosecution found out about the rules of extradition in case Amanda were to be convicted in Rome. They were told that there was zero possibility that the US would ever send Amanda back, especially considering the very strong public opinion there that Amanda is innocent.
I think the second appeal will go on even without Amanda. The precedent for big Italian crime cases is that you can have somebody convicted for years, maybe decades and then suddenly somebody comes forward and the whole thing gets started again. Nothing is ever really set in stone in the Italian judicial system and we do have this contradiction now that the supreme court in Rome said that Rudy killed Meredith with others and this acquittal says that it wasn’t Amanda and Raffaele. So the question is left hanging – if it wasn’t them, then who was it? To be honest, though, I am sceptical of the chances of the final truth of how and why Meredith died coming from an Italian courtroom.”
John Follain is a journalist for the Sunday Times and the author of ‘Death in Perugia: The Definitive Account of the Meredith Kercher Case from Her Murder to the Acquittal of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox’.
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