Sat, Dec 17, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Knox trial was gravely flawed: judge

The Guardian, ROME

The Italian appeal court judge who freed Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in October after they spent four years in jail for killing British student Meredith Kercher has criticized almost every stage of the investigation that led to their convictions.

In a 143-page document explaining his court’s acquittal, released on Thursday, Judge Pratillo Hellman seeks to discredit witnesses who saw Knox, a student from Seattle, and her former boyfriend Sollecito, at the scene of the crime and questions DNA evidence.

However, he refused to speculate on what actually happened to Kercher on Nov. 1, 2007.

One man, Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede, has been convicted for his role in the killing.

Hellman has no doubts that the evidence does not pin Knox, 24, and Sollecito, 27, to the murder, pointing out how the judge who convicted the pair in 2009 used the word “probably” 39 times in his written explanation of the conviction.

Hellman ridicules attempts to demonize Knox because she bought G-string underwear days after the murder and dismisses investigators’ suspicions of Knox after she kissed Sollecito before questioning and turned cartwheels at the police station.

Her behavior, he writes, “was part of a need to find a minimum of normality in the context of a tragic situation.”

Once ushered in for “obsessive” questioning that dragged into the night with no lawyer present and accompanied by an interpreter who “induced her to drag up memories,” Knox was placed under “psychological pressure,” eventually stating she was in the apartment at the time of the murder and implicating a local barman.

“By giving the name to those who were interrogating her in such a tough fashion, Amanda Knox hoped to end the pressure, which had become, after long hours, a real torment,” Hellman wrote.

A statement she wrote hours later suggesting she was in the apartment at the time of the murder was the product of “total confusion,” he wrote.

Hellman refers at length to the court-ordered review of DNA evidence which discredited the police theory that a knife found in Sollecito’s kitchen drawer was the murder weapon, stating that police tests “were not in line with international scientific protocols.”

He also questions techniques used to find Knox and Kercher’s DNA in blood drops in their bathroom.

On the subject of witnesses, Hellman said that a local tramp who placed Knox near the apartment on the night of the crime was a heroin addict with little sense of time.

A shopkeeper who reported that Knox had bought bleach from him the morning after the murder only stepped forward a year later “following the continued pressure of a young apprentice journalist who lived near his shop,” Hellman said.

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