SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

March 27, 2013

Knox saga still not over for Italian courts

(Continued)

For those familiar with the U.S. legal principle of “double jeopardy” — which holds that no one acquitted of a crime can be tried again for it — the idea that the Italian justice system allows prosecutors to appeal acquittals is hard to absorb.

Knox attorney Dalla Vedova dismissed the “double jeopardy” concern, maintaining the high court ruling hadn’t decided the defendants’ guilt or innocence, but merely ordered a fresh appeals trial, which he said was unlikely to start before early 2014.

The appeals court that acquitted Knox and Sollecito had criticized virtually the entire prosecution case, especially the forensic evidence that helped clinch their 2009 convictions. It noted the murder weapon was never found, and said DNA tests were faulty and that prosecutors provided no murder motive.

In arguing for overturning the acquittals, prosecutors said the Perugia appellate court was too dismissive of DNA tests on a knife they maintained could have been used to slash Kercher’s throat as well as DNA traces on a bra belonging to the victim and tests done on blood stains in the bedroom and bathroom.

The court on Tuesday also upheld a slander conviction against Knox. During a 14-hour police interrogation, she had accused a local Perugia pub owner of carrying out the killing. The man was held for two weeks, based on her allegations, before being released for lack of evidence.

Her defense lawyers say Knox felt pressured by police to name a suspect so her own interrogation could end.

Because of the time she served in prison before the acquittal, Knox didn’t have to serve the three-year sentence for the slander conviction. The court on Tuesday ordered her to pay 4,000 euros ($5,500) to the man, as well as the cost of the lost appeal.

Whether Knox ever returns to Italy to serve more prison time depends on a string of ifs and unknowns.

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