Amanda Knox in March. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
The court case that would come to rival the O.J. Simpson murder trial in popular culture had all the lurid elements that made it perfect tabloid fodder: a dead girl, sexual assault, false accusations, judicial reversals, and the fate of a young — and, by some accounts, badly behaved — American in a foreign land.
It’s been almost eight years since British exchange student Meredith Kercher was found dead on the floor of her apartment in Perugia, Italy — and since her roommate, another exchange student named Amanda Knox, and Knox’s Italian boyfriend were arrested and charged with the crime. They were convicted in 2009, declared innocent in 2011, re-convicted in 2013 — but declared innocent once and for all by Italy’s highest criminal court in March.
But, drawing out the twisted tale, that court has only now explained why it overturned the re-conviction — offering a final view of a case that dominated headlines, inspired documentaries and a TV movie, and led to the publication of Knox’s best-selling memoir.
In its opinion released Monday, Italy’s Court of Cassation, the nation’s highest appeals court, said, more or less, that there was no evidence Knox had committed the crime, and that the international spotlight helped derail the investigation.
There was an “absolute lack of biological traces” of Knox and boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito in the room where Kercher was murdered, the court wrote,as the Associated Press reported.
The court also pointed a finger at the media.
“The international spotlight on the case in fact resulted in the investigation undergoing a sudden acceleration,” the judges wrote. They also found the investigation was “objectively wavering,” with “oscillations … the result also of stunning weakness or investigative bouts of amnesia and of blameworthy omissions of investigative activity.”
Knox, yet again, expressed gratitude for a not-guilty verdict.
“I am deeply grateful that the Italian Supreme Court has filed its opinion and forcefully declared my innocence,” Knox wrote on her Web site. “This has been a long struggle for me, my family, my friends, and my supporters. While I am glad it is now over, I will remain forever grateful to the many individuals who gave their time and talents to help me.”
Knox, who served four years in Italian prison before her release in 2011, also thanked her many supporters, which included celebrities such as Donald Trump.
“Today would not have been possible without your unwavering support,” she wrote. “I will now begin the rest of my life with one of my goals being to help others who have been wrongfully accused.”
Knox, 28, and Sollecito had long said they were not guilty of the crime.
“People leave DNA – lots of DNA – wherever they go,” Knox wrote in an afterword to her 2013 memoir “Waiting to Be Heard.” “None of my DNA was found in my friend Meredith Kercher’s bedroom, where she was killed. The only DNA found, other than Meredith’s, belonged to the man convicted of her murder, Rudy Guede.”
Guede was convicted of killing of killing Kercher in 2008. But prosecutors alleged her murder was the result of a sex game gone awry planned by Knox. Just weeks after she arrived in Italy, the student faced a lot of questions about promiscuity and a video of she and Sollecito kissing outside of the crime scene after the murder. In 2009, she and Sollecito were convicted of killing Kercher — Knox got 25 years in prison.
“What if I hadn’t gone on a campaign to have casual sex?” Knox wrote in her memoir. “What if Raffaele and I hadn’t been so immature?”
Knox in court in 2011. (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files)
Knox returned to the United States in 2011 after her conviction was first overturned, resuming her studies and becoming a reporter. But the Italian courts took up the case again in 2013, re-convicting her and Sollecito. The Court of Cassation quashed this conviction on appeal in March. Had it not, Knox may have been extradited to Italy and returned to prison.
The court pointed out many errors by investigators, including problems with handling evidence, pinpointing the time of death, and a disaster involving computer data.
“The computers of Amanda Knox and Kercher, which perhaps could have furnished information useful to the investigation, were, incredibly, burned by imprudent maneuvers by the investigators, who caused an electric shock,” the court wrote.
One blot on Knox’s record remained, however. She was also convicted of falsely accusing an African man of the crime — a conviction that Italy’s Court of Cassation did not challenge. Knox has since recanted the confession, saying it was given under inappropriate pressure from police. She did not have to return to Italy to serve time, however, as she already spent four years behind bars.
“I was demolished in that interrogation,” she told ABC in 2013.
This, however, is really the end. Given the many problems with evidence, as the Court of Cassation explained, another trial would be “useless.”
Justin Wm. Moyer is a reporter for The Washington Post's Morning Mix. Follow him on Twitter: @justinwmmoyer.