Italys highest court on Tuesday ordered a new trial in the sensational case of Amanda Knox,an American exchange student accused of murdering her 21-year-old roommate,Meredith Kercher of Britain,in 2007.
The judges announcement that earlier acquittals had been overturned was greeted by a shocked silence in the courtroom here.
The ruling by the Court of Cassation means that the case against Knox and her former boyfriend,Raffaele Sollecito,will be reheard at a new appeals court in Florence either later this year or in 2014. The two were initially convicted in a trial that divided public opinion internationally but were acquitted on appeal 18 months ago. Prosecutors then challenged that acquittal.
The decision opened a further tangled and dramatic chapter in a long-running case whose youthful protagonists,sometimes lurid detail and courtroom spectacle has fascinated many people in the United States,Britain and rest of Europe.
Kercher,a 21-year old exchange student at the University of Perugia,was killed in her bedroom on the night of November 1,2007. Her half-naked body was found under a duvet,her throat slit.
Knox,then 20,and Sollecito,then 24,were arrested days later and convicted of murder in December 2009 in a lower court in Perugia. Both were sentenced to 25 years in prison for the crime,and Knox received an extra year for calumny after she falsely accused another man of committing the murder.
When the convictions were overturned on appeal,the two were released in October 2011. But in 2012,Italian prosecutors and lawyers for the Kercher family filed an appeal with the Court of Cassation,whose rulings are final.
Knoxs lawyers appealed against the accusation of calumny,but the ruling on Tuesday upheld the charge.
A third man,Rudy Guede,an Ivorian residing in Perugia,was tried and sentenced to 16 years.
In a statement issued by her media advisers within minutes of the announcement,Knox said it was painful to receive the ruling when prosecutions theory of my involvement in Merediths murder has been repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair.
No matter what happens,my family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have,confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity, the statement said.
A lawyer for the Kercher family was jubilant. This is marvellous, said Francesco Maresca,the Kercher family lawyer.
If the new appeals court upholds the previous conviction and the Court of Cassation confirms it,Dalla Vedova said,Knox would have to serve out her sentence.
Murder in varsity town
Nov. 2,2007: Body of Kercher found in Perugia. Investigators say she was killed the night before.
Nov. 6,2007: Knox is arrested with then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and Diya Patrick Lumumba,the owner of pub where Knox occasionally worked.
Nov. 20,2007: Lumumba,falsely implicated by Knox,is released from jail for lack of evidence.
Oct. 28,2008: Judge indicts Knox and Sollecito on murder and sexual assault charges. Rudy Guede is convicted of murder and sexual assault and sentenced to 30 years.
Dec. 4,2009: Court finds Knox guilty of murder and sexual assault,sentences her to 26 years. Sollecito is convicted of same and sentenced to 25 years.
June 29,2011: Independent forensic report ordered by the appeals court finds much of the DNA evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito is unreliable.
Oct. 3,2011: Appeals court clears both of murder convictions,orders them freed immediately.
March 26,2013: Italys highest court overturns acquittal of Knox and Sollecito,orders new trial