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FLORENCE, Italy â Jurors began deliberations on Thursday morning in the trial against Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, accused of the fatal stabbing in 2007 of 21-year old Meredith Kercher, who shared an apartment with Ms. Knox in the university town of Perugia, where all three were studying.
The jury of two judges and six lay jurors are deciding in a highly polarizing case that has already gone through three levels of judgment and produced contradictory verdicts. Ms. Knox, 26, and Mr. Sollecito, 29, were convicted of murder in a first trial and then acquitted by an appellate court. Italyâs high court, the Court of Cassation, last year overturned the acquittal and sent the case back to the new appellate court in Florence.
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In his closing arguments to the court last November, the prosecutor, Alessandro Crini, asked for guilty verdicts, demanding a 26-year sentence for Mr. Sollecito and 30 years for Ms. Knox. The additional four years for Ms. Knox take into account a conviction for slander, which was upheld by Italyâs high court. Shortly after the Nov. 1, 2007, killing, Ms. Knox accused her Congolese-born boss of the crime. He was arrested but later released when his alibi was confirmed.
A third man, Rudy Guede, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Perugia since he was a child, has been convicted of the crime in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence.
Mr. Sollecito was present in court on Thursday morning, and told reporters that he would be back for the verdict, which is expected later in the day.
Ms. Knox has preferred to remain in her hometown, Seattle, to await the ruling, as is her right. She has lived in Seattle since her 2011 acquittal, and has said that she is afraid of returning to Italy and being convicted again.
In closing arguments before the jury retired on Thursday morning, Ms. Knoxâs two lawyers appealed to the jurors to return a not-guilty verdict.
Dismissing the prosecution evidence presented during the four-month trial as insubstantial, the defense asked the jury to imagine a scenario in which Mr. Guede was the sole perpetrator of the crime. In the defenseâs account, Mr. Guede broke into the house, was discovered by Ms. Kercher and inflicted the mortal blows after his alcohol-induced advances were rebuffed. âThat is, for the defense, the most plausible conclusion,â said Carlo Dalla Vedova, one of Ms. Knoxâs lawyers.
In asking the jury for a conviction, Mr. Crini last week asked that some form of precautionary measures be immediately issued for Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito in the event they were found guilty. Such measures could range from incarceration to withholding a passport.
Mr. Dalla Vedova said that regardless of the verdict, the case would probably be appealed again. And if there is a conviction, any extradition request for Ms. Knox would have to go through the Italian Justice Ministry and the State Department, he said.
Ms. Kercherâs brother and sister were due in Florence on Thursday afternoon, and were expected to be present for the verdict, one of their lawyers said.
âThis case has no winners or losers,â said Vieri Fabiani, a lawyer for the Kercher family. âItâs a tragedy that involves four young people and an act that was clearly not premeditated.â
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