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Amanda Knox prosecutor Giuliano Mignini back in court as a defendant

Amanda Knox
Giuliano Mignini
CBS/Mario Spezi

(CBS) NEW YORK - It was four years ago today that Italian police broke down a locked door inside a house in Perugia, Italy. There, they discovered the lifeless body of Meredith Kercher. Her throat was slit and the 21-year-old British student was lying on her bedroom floor in a pool of blood.

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A few weeks later, police arrested Rudy Guede for the brutal murder. Police had found Guede's bloody fingerprints at the Kercher crime scene.

Within a year, Guede was tried, convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison (later reduced to 16 years on appeal). That should have been that. But, of course, the case didn't end - or begin - with Guede.

By the time Rudy Guede was arrested in mid-November 2007, the Perugia authorities had made a profound error - they'd jumped the shark.

Four days after they'd discovered Meredith Kercher's body, Perugia police arrested three others for the murder; American student Amanda Knox, her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and Knox's boss, bar-owner Patrick Lumumba. Perugia police held a press conference and announced, "case closed." A bold claim at the time, given no forensic evidence had yet been analyzed.

Over the next four years, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito would each spend more than 1,400 days in prison. All that while, Perugia police and prosecutors did just about anything they could to bolster the original "case closed" statement. (Patrick Lumumba was quickly released and never charged because he had an alibi).

Police and prosecutors came up with a string of bizarre "witnesses" against both Knox and Sollecito; each witness seemed more fitting for a Zoolander-type movie role than a murder trial - "for serious" as the fictional Derek Zoolander would say. Official police video seemed to show the Italian CSI-types at the crime scene were saving money on rubber gloves by re-using dirty ones to handle critical evidence. And the then-uncertified Italian police lab appeared to work under the concept that "DNA" stands for "Do Nothing Analytical," at least nothing analytical that could withstand later independent scientific scrutiny.

All of this led to the prosecution and conviction of Knox and Sollecito in December 2009. Something like 34 Italian judges ruled on aspects of the Knox and Sollecitos case at one time or another. All 34 judges issued rulings, both major and minor, against the two defendants.

It took judge number 35 to say, in essence, "basta cosi" - ENOUGH!

On October 3, 2011 Italian Appellate Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman acquitted Amanda Knox and Raffale Sollecito of the murder of Meredith Kercher and freed the two young defendants. The main prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini was shocked by the court's verdict. Italian journalist Mario Spezi snapped a picture of Mignini at the exact moment the decision came down. It shows a man in pure agony.

Now, some Italians wonder if they will see that same expression on Mignini's face once again at the end of this month.

That's because Mignini is scheduled to return to an appellate court at the end of November. This time, he is not going as a prosecutor, but rather as a defendant. Two years ago, Mignini was convicted of abuse of office in another case. Though he was sentenced to 16 months in prison, Mignini is a free man who is allowed to remain a prosecutor pending the outcome of his appeal. If Mignini loses his November appeal, he will be out of the prosecutor's office - though he can still appeal to the Italian Supreme Court.

Prosecutor Mignini's resume has taken a tumble. While the world was watching last month, Mignini lost the Knox-Sollecito appeal. His witnesses were discredited; his DNA evidence was judged unreliable. Last year, Mignini lost a case against 20 defendants who the prosecution charged (some say fantasized) were part of a violent, Satanic cult. Then there is his own abuse of power conviction and possible prison sentence.

In the last few days, various media have wondered how, on the four year anniversary of Meredith Kercher's murder, Amanda Knox could have gone to a Halloween party, over the weekend in Seattle, dressed as a cat burglar.

Perhaps a better question would be how Giuliano Mignini continues to dress in the formal robes of an Italian prosecutor.

Complete coverage of Amanda Knox on Crimesider

  • Doug Longhini

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