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Amanda Knox is ordered to stand trial for murder in Italy again

March 26, 2013|By Tom Kington | This post has been updated and corrected. See the notes below for details.

ROME -- Amanda Knox, who was ordered Tuesday by Italy’s highest court to again stand trial for the murder of her housemate, called the turn in her case "painful."

In a statement, Knox, 25, said that the prosecution's theory in the case "has been repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair."

Knox, an American from Seattle, was attending school in Italy in 2007 when British student Meredith Kercher was found dead in the house they shared in Perugia. Knox and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted two years later in a case that garnered headlines around the world.

The convictions were overturned in 2011 on grounds of a lack of sound evidence and motivation. Knox sobbed openly in the courtroom after that decision was announced.

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"The prosecution responsible for the many discrepancies in their work must be made to answer for them, for Raffaele's sake, my sake and most especially for the sake of Meredith's family," Knox said Tuesday. "Our hearts go out to them."

Kercher, 21, was found with her throat slashed and more than 40 stab wounds. Authorities said there were signs of sexual assault.

Knox and Sollecito spent four years in prison before their acquittals. In a separate trial, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in the slaying.

Knox's story about her whereabouts that night changed over the course of the case. After saying she had heard Kercher's screams, she denied it, saying brutal interrogations had forced her to make false statements.

Italian prosecutors said Knox's DNA had been found on the knife that killed Kercher, but that finding that was later undermined by an independent review that said the evidence had been severely compromised by sloppy police work.

The six-judge panel of the Italian Supreme Court did not immediately release the reasoning behind its decision Tuesday. With the acquittal annulled, a retrial will be set in Florence, possibly by the end of the year or in 2014. [Updated, 12:20 p.m. March 26: The trial could be held as early as this summer, judicial sources said.]

"Amanda is very sad at this news but is strong and ready to fight on," said Carlo dalla Vedova, a lawyer representing her. "She thought the nightmare was over, but was ready for this after the discussion in the Supreme Court went on longer than predicted. This means further harassment, but she's ready to fight."

Francesco Maresca, a lawyer representing the Kercher family, said: "I am happy the Supreme Court has seen the faults in the acquittal, and I trust the next trial will be fair and balanced."

Prosecutors challenged the acquittals of Knox and Sollecito, as permitted by Italian law, which grants two levels of appeal. The Kercher family backed the appeal, which was upheld after a five-hour hearing Monday. The court is expected to issue an explanation of its decision at a later date.

Knox will not need to return to Italy for the new trial because defendants in Italy are not required to be present. Should she be convicted, however, Italy could lodge a request for Knox's extradition with the U.S. government, said Dalla Vedova.

Sollecito, who is currently studying robotics in Verona, Italy, was “unlikely” to be jailed again in the run-up to the retrial, said Guilia Buongiorno, a lawyer representing him.

At the hearing Monday, prosecutor Luigi Riello said that freeing Knox was a “violation of the law which must be annulled.”

"I believe all the premises are there to make sure the final curtain does not drop on this shocking and dire crime," he told the Supreme Court judges.

Under Italian law, those judges do not hear evidence but check verdicts for any procedural or technical errors. But what should have been a quick hearing rapidly turned into a hard-fought battle, as prosecutors and lawyers ignored protocol to pour over the finer details of the 7-year-old case.

For the Record, 12:20 p.m. March 26: A previous version of this post said the retrial would be set again in Florence. The first trial was held in Perugia, not Florence.

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