Critical Analysis: Retrial begins in Italian murder case; defendants do not appear in court

The retrial of American Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito began in Florence, Italy on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, and continued on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Knox and Sollecito were convicted in 2009 for the murder of Knox’s roommate Meredith Kercher; their conviction was overturned in 2011. The Italian Supreme Court overturned this acquittal in March and ordered a retrial.

Prosecutors allege that Kercher was killed in a twisted sex game gone wrong. Neither defendant appeared in court in the first week of the retrial. If Knox is re-convicted, she will be ordered to return to Italy. If she refuses to return, it is unclear if the U.S. government would comply with a request for extradition.

Amanda Knox will not return to Italy for the retrial of Kercher's murder.  Source: MediaPunch/Rex Features
Amanda Knox will not return to Italy for the retrial of Kercher’s murder.
Source: MediaPunch/Rex Features

The Italian court ordered the retrial under the belief that the jury that acquitted the pair in 2011 did not consider all the evidence. On Monday, the judge ordered a critical piece of evidence, the knife that prosecutors allege was used to kill Kercher, be retested for DNA. However, the court rejected requests for other DNA tests the defense asked for, including a stain on a pillow that Kercher’s body was found lying on top of, Kercher’s cellphones, and Sollecito’s computer.

The judge did allow Lucia Aviello, (formerly called Luciano but is undergoing a sex change) who spent time in jail with Sollecito, to testify that it was her brother, and not Sollecito or Knox, who killed Kercher. Aviello testified her brother is now dead, but that he took part in a burglary for artwork at the house shared by Kercher and Knox, and that the brother stabbed Kercher when she started screaming. Aviello originally testified to this account but recanted in 2011 after claims surfaced that Aviello was offered cash by one of Sollecito’s lawyer to tell the story. Sollecito’s father denies that he or his son’s lawyer paid off Aviello for the testimony. Aviello is a convicted member of the Neapolitan mafia. In the past, Aviello claimed her brother gave her the murder weapon to hide. Because police believe that Aviello lacks credibility, they have not made a search where Aviello claims the knife is buried.

The Supreme Court also wants to consider the motive of Knox’s false confession that her boss, Patrick Lamumba, was in Kercher’s bedroom the night of her murder. While the confession was thrown out, it has remained as evidence in the case because of the Italian court system, which combines civil and criminal cases. If the trial was limited to criminal issues, prosecutors would not be able to use the confession since police had violated Knox’s rights during the confession. Lamumba has filed several civil cases for libel against Knox, and the judge ruled Monday that Lamumba could be a witness as a civil party in the retrial.

A verdict on this appeal is expected before the end of the year. The Court now takes more than a month break, with the next hearing scheduled on November 6, 2013.

Caroline Marfitano is a 2L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.