Italy Opens New Slander Trial Against Amanda Knox

Italy Opens New Slander Trial Against Amanda Knox
Amanda Knox speaks at a criminal justice festival at the University of Modena, Italy, on June 15, 2019. (Antonio Calanni/AP Photo)

FLORENCE, Italy—Amanda Knox was back on trial for slander Wednesday for wrongly accusing a Congolese man of murdering her roommate while the young women were exchange students in Italy. Knox herself was convicted of the slaying before being exonerated in a case that grabbed the global spotlight.

Ms. Knox was a 20-year-old student with rudimentary Italian who had recently arrived in Perugia, when she endured a long night of questioning in the murder of Meredith Kercher. She ended up accusing the owner of a bar where she worked part-time of killing the 21-year-old British student.

In 2016, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the interrogation violated her rights because she was questioned without a lawyer or official translator.

In November, Italy’s highest Cassation Court threw out the slander conviction—the only remaining guilty verdict against Ms. Knox after the same court definitively threw out convictions for Kercher’s murder against Ms. Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, nine years ago.

That conviction, which endured multiple trials and appeals, has remained a legal stain against her, especially in Italy, as she pursues a new life in the United States campaigning for judicial reform.

Another man was convicted in Kercher’s 2007 murder.

Ms. Knox, now 36, did not appear in Wednesday’s hearing in Florence, and is being tried in absentia. She remains in the United States, where she campaigns for social justice and has a variety of media projects including a podcast and a limited series on her case in development with Hulu.

Ms. Knox’s accusation against bar owner Patrick Lumumba appeared in statements typed by police that she signed, but which have been ruled inadmissible in the new trial by Italy’s highest court.

She recanted the accusation in a four-page handwritten note in English penned the following afternoon—the only evidence the court can rule on.

However, a lawyer for Mr. Lumumba, Carlo Pacelli, argued to readmit the disallowed documents as reference since Ms. Knox referred to them multiple times in her written statement. Mr. Lumumba, who is participating in the prosecution as permitted by Italian law, also did not attend the trial.

Court recessed after nearly four hours of arguments and will reconvene June 5 for rebuttals and a decision. The case is being heard by two professional judges and eight civilian jurors.

Despite Ms. Knox’s attempts at walking back the accusation, Mr. Lumumba was picked up for questioning and held for nearly two weeks.

The slander conviction carried a three-year sentence, which Ms. Knox served during nearly four years of detention until a Perugia appeals court found her and Sollecito not guilty. After six years of flip-flop verdicts, Ms. Knox was definitively exonerated by Italy’s highest court of the murder in 2015.

Kercher’s body was found with the throat slit on Nov. 2, 2007, in her locked bedroom in an apartment she shared with Ms. Knox and two other roommates.

Rudy Guede, whose DNA and footprints were found at the scene, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was released after serving 13 years, and is currently being investigated for allegedly physically and sexually assaulting a former girlfriend since being freed.

By Colleen Barry

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