ROME — An Italian court is expected to announce later Thursday fresh verdicts in the ongoing trial of American Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito in connection with the violent 2007 slaying of British student Meredeth Kercher.
The first two trials produced flip-flop verdicts of guilty then innocent for Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Sollecito, and the case has produced harshly clashing versions of events.
The pair were acquitted on appeal in 2011 after spending four years in custody. But Italy's supreme court — called the Court of Cassation — dismissed that ruling based on what it said was key evidence that had been omitted during the appeal.
A Florence appeals panel was subsequently designated by Italy's supreme court to address issues it raised about the acquittal. If convicted again, Knox and Sollecito can lodge a further appeal with the Supreme Court. Even if the previous acquittal is upheld Thursday, legal experts said a further trial could take place if new evidence is made available.
Much of the attention has focused on Knox, 26, who has remained in Seattle during this trial, citing her fear of "the universal problem of wrongful conviction," according to her statement emailed to the Florence court. Her representatives say she is concentrating on her studies at the University of Washington.
In a statement to the court in closing arguments, Knox's lead attorney, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said he was confident his client would be vindicated.
"The knowledge about Amanda is innocence is rock-solid and it allows us to wait for the verdict with complete serenity," Dalla Vedova said. "It is impossible for the court to convict someone because they are 'probably' guilty or 'may be' guilty."
Legal experts have said that if Knox is again convicted Italy may seek her extradition, but probably not before a final judgment has been made. If that happens, it is not clear how that may play out.
"Italy would usually refuse to extradite someone convicted of murder to the U.S. based on human rights grounds, because of the death penalty," said Argia Bignami, a Rome-based attorney and frequent commentator on criminal justice issues. "But that is not relevant for an extradition request to Italy from the U.S.
"But an extradition request is not automatic," she continued. "That's a further step that must be taken, and it's not at all clear how U.S. authorities would react to such a request or what would happen if they refused."
Unlike Knox, Sollecito has said he would be in the courtroom when the verdict is announced.
Prosecutors are asking for 26 years in prison for each of the two defendants. Some Italians said they are bothered by the fact that Knox refused to come back for the trial.
"I have no opinion about guilt of innocence of these two, but it doesn't seem fair that one (Knox) stays at home, while Sollecito is brave enough to appear to hear the judgment," said 66-year-old Sabrina Vincente, a retired law firm office manager. "They either committed the crime together or they did not. It's not just to think the punishment would be given to only one half of the couple."
Contributing: Associated Press