Italian court: Amanda Knox struck mortal blow, victim's wounds indicate multiple aggressors

The Associated Press

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 file photo, Amanda Knox talks to reporters, in Seattle. A court in Florence that convicted Amanda Knox in her British roommate's 2007 murder says the wounds indicate multiple aggressors, and that the two exchange students fought over money the night of the murder. The appellate court on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, issued a 337-page explanation for its January guilty verdicts against Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. Knox, 26, was sentenced to 28 ½ years while Sollecito, 30, received 25 years. Knox has been in the United States since 2011, when an earlier appellate trial that overturned her lower court conviction. Sollecito remains in Italy. The release of the court's reasoning opens the verdict to an appeal back to the supreme Court of Cassation. If the high court confirms the convictions, a long extradition fight for Knox is expected. Kercher, 21, was found dead in a pool of blood in the apartment she and Knox shared in the town of Perugia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

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By COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press

MILAN (AP) — The Italian appeals court that reinstated the conviction against Amanda Knox in her roommate's 2007 murder said in a lengthy reasoning made public Tuesday that Knox herself delivered the fatal blow, and that overwhelming physical evidence precluded any need to determine a clear motive.

Presiding Judge Alessandro Nencini concluded in a 337-page document that the evidence "inevitably leads to the upholding of the criminal responsibility" against Knox and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher in a hillside villa occupied by students in the university town of Perugia.

The judge said the nature of Kercher's wounds inflicted by two knives and the absence of defensive wounds indicated multiple aggressors were to blame, also including Rudy Hermann Guede, an Ivorian man convicted separately and serving a 16-year sentence.

Nencini presided over the panel that reinstated the guilty verdicts against Knox and Sollecito in January, handing Knox a 28 ½ year sentence including the additional conviction on a slander charge for wrongly accusing a Congolese bar owner. Sollecito faces 25 years.

The release of the court's reasoning opens the verdict to an appeal back to the supreme Court of Cassation. If it confirms the convictions, a long extradition fight for Knox is expected.

She has been in the United States since 2011, when her earlier conviction was overturned. Knox has vowed to fight the reinstated conviction, saying she would "never go willingly" to Italy to face her judicial fate.

Sollecito's lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, tore apart the reasoning, saying "from the motive, to weapon, to the DNA, it is a string of errors."

"I can't wait until they fix a day to hear us for the appeal, because honestly the verdict is so full of errors, illogical elements and contradictions, that I strongly believe it will be overturned," Bongiorno said.

The judge said relations between Knox and Kercher were strained, despite Knox's attempts to downplay tensions during the trial, and that the two had argued over housekeeping and visitors.

He also cited as credible Guede's statements that the British student had accused Knox that evening of stealing rent money from her room, even though none of the defendants was convicted of the theft.

According to Nencini, Knox and Sollecito on the night of the murder arrived at the house sometime after Kercher, and Knox let Guede inside -- dismissing defense arguments that Guede had broken in.

"It is a matter of fact that at a certain point in the evening events escalated; the English girl was attacked by Amanda Marie Knox, by Raffaele Sollecito, who was backing up his girlfriend, and by Rudy Hermann Guede, and constrained within her own room," the document said.

Nencini's reasoning assigned the role of each assailant: Sollecito, now 30, used a small knife that caused a wound to the right side of Kercher's neck and also was used to remove her bra, the judge wrote, while Guede restrained and sexually assaulted the victim. Knox "delivered the only mortal blow," striking Kercher with a kitchen knife causing an 8-centimeter-deep wound, the judge wrote.

The three trials have only physically identified one murder weapon, a kitchen knife found in Sollecito's drawer. Forensic tests attributed DNA on the handle to Knox and on the blade to Kercher, although that evidence was placed in doubt by new experts in the first appeal that acquitted the pair. No smaller, second knife has ever been entered into the evidence.

The court said it was not necessary for all of the assailants to have the same motive, and that the murder was not attributable to a sex game gone awry because it was out of Kercher's character to have consented to such activity.