• Lawyer: Knox couple blamed to calm Italian fears
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     | January 10,2014
     
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    Raffaele Sollecito, right, talks with his father Francesco at the Florence court, Italy, Thursday.

    FLORENCE, Italy — The defense lawyer for the former boyfriend of U.S. exchange student Amanda Knox told an appeals court Thursday that the young lovers were blamed by authorities for the murder of a British student to calm fears that a monster was loose in their Italian university town.

    Defender Giulia Bongiorno said her client, Raffaele Sollecito, and Knox were identified as suspects by police in a “record” four days after the murder of Meredith Kercher in the central town of Perugia because authorities “did not want to think that a stranger, a monster, could have entered a house and murdered a student.”

    Bongiorno said much of the evidence later used to convict the pair in their first trial — including the presumed murder weapon found in Sollecito’s kitchen drawer and a clasp that had been ripped from Kercher’s bra — had not even been gathered by investigators at that point.

    Bongiorno, on the last day of closing arguments in the pair’s third trial, showed a court slides and videos in a bid to dismantle the prosecution’s case. Sollecito sat at her side.

    Kercher, 21, was found murdered in her bedroom in the apartment she shared with Knox and two others on Nov. 2, 2007, having been sexually assaulted and stabbed.

    In their first trial, Knox and Sollecito were sentenced to 26 years and 25 years, respectively, in proceedings that made headlines around the world.

    Italy’s high court ordered the case back to trial after vacating their 2011 acquittals, blasting the appeals court’s handling of the case. While Sollecito, now 29, has attended several hearings, Knox, 26, remains in Seattle, where she returned a free woman after her acquittal.

    A third man, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Hermann Guede, is serving a 16-year term in the case after being convicted in a separate trial.

    Knox, in an interview published Thursday in the La Repubblica newspaper, said she didn’t return to face trial because she feared being jailed again.

    “It was a difficult choice, because I would have wanted to come to Italy to speak directly to the judges,” Knox was quoted as saying.

    She added that she hopes she can meet Kercher’s parents “after my innocence has been definitively confirmed.”

    Kercher’s family, through their lawyer, have expressed pain at Knox’s attempts to reach out to them, especially at her solicitation of donations in Kercher’s name for an unidentified project in her memory.

    Prosecutors initially said Kercher was killed in a drug-fueled sex game that went bad. But in this trial, Prosecutor Alessandro Crini has backed away from the orgy scenario of previous trials. Crini is arguing that the violence was triggered when Guede failed to flush a toilet, igniting an alleged dispute between the roommates over cleanliness.

    Bongiorno, the defense lawyer, argued that the young lovers had no motive for the crime, noting their romance was just 9 ½ days old when Kercher’s half-naked body was discovered.

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