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Amanda Knox back on trial in Italy in lingering case linked to roommate Meredith Kercher's murder

Amanda Knox faces slander trial in Italy
Amanda Knox faces slander trial in Italy 01:53

RomeAmanda Knox, the American woman who spent nearly four years in an Italian prison after being convicted in 2007 of murdering her college roommate Meredith Kercher as they both studied abroad, was back on trial in Italy on Wednesday.

Kercher, a British student, was found dead in her bedroom in the apartment she shared with Knox in the Italian city of Perugia. She had been sexually assaulted and had multiple stab wounds. 

Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted of the murder and depicted by prosecutors during the trial as sexual miscreants who'd killed Kercher in a sex game that went awry. But after flip-flop verdicts and with worldwide media attention, the two were eventually exonerated by a higher court in 2015.

One conviction against Knox still stands, however. She was found guilty of slander for falsely accusing Congolese bar owner Patrick Lumumba of killing Kercher. Knox worked part-time in Lumumba's bar in Perugia. It is that charge of slander that Knox is facing in the trial that opened Wednesday in Florence.

American student Amanda Knox (right), and her British roommate Meredith Kercher, who was murdered in 2007, are seen in file photos. AP

Shortly after Kercher's murder, Knox, then 20, was subjected to 53 hours of interrogation — without a lawyer or official translator. Eventually, during that process, she accused Lumumba of killing Kercher. Police typed up the statements, which she signed. 

Very soon after, however, she wrote a hand-written, four-page statement in English casting serious doubt on her testimony to the police.

"In regards to this 'confession' that I made last night, I want to make clear that I'm very doubtful of the veritity [sic] of my statements because they were made under the pressures of stress, shock and extreme exhaustion. Not only was I told I would be arrested and put in jail for 30 years, but I was also hit in the head when I didn't remember a fact correctly," she said in the statement. "It was under this pressure and after many hours of confusion that my mind came up with these answers."

She said she had "flashes of blurred images" of Lumumba in her mind, but added: "These things seem unreal to me, like a dream," and she was left "unsure if they are real things that happened or are just dreams my mind has made to try to answer the questions in my head and the questions I am being asked."

In 2016, the European Court of Human Rights declared that Knox's rights had been violated during the interrogation. At the request of Knox's lawyers, Italy's highest court then annulled the slander conviction and ordered a retrial. 

The court also ruled then that the initial testimony typed up by the police would be inadmissible as evidence in the retrial. Only Knox's handwritten note can be admitted as evidence in the proceedings that opened Wednesday.

Knox is being tried in absentia and is not expected to appear in person for the trial. Her attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova told Italian news outlets that his client remained in the U.S., as "she is busy taking care of her two young children, one of whom was born recently." 

After being accused by Knox, Lumumba spent two weeks in jail, despite having a solid alibi. He has since moved out of Italy. 

The prosecutor asked the court on Wednesday to confirm the slander conviction and impose a penalty of three years, but even if she is convicted, Knox has already served sufficient time behind bars in Italy on the since-overturned murder conviction to avoid another custodial sentence.

Another man, Rudy Guede — whose footprints and DNA were found all over the crime scene — was convicted of murdering Kercher in 2008 and served 13 years in prison before being released in 2021.

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