ROME – It’s not over yet for Amanda Knox.
Italy’s top criminal court dealt a stunning setback Tuesday to the 25-year-old college student, overturning her acquittal in the grisly murder of her British roommate and ordering her to stand trial again.
“She thought that the nightmare was over,” Knox’s attorney, Carlo Dalla Vedova, told reporters minutes after conveying the unexpected turn of events to his client, who had stayed up to hear the ruling, which came shortly after 2 a.m. West Coast time. “But she’s ready to fight.”
Now a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Knox called the decision by the Rome-based Court of Cassation “painful” but said she was confident that she would be exonerated.
The American left Italy a free woman after her October 2011 acquittal – but only after serving nearly four years of a 26-year prison sentence from a lower court that convicted her of murdering Meredith Kercher. The 21-year-old exchange student’s body was found in a pool of blood, her throat slit, in a bedroom of the house the two shared in Perugia, a university town 100 miles north of Rome.
Raffaele Sollecito, Knox’s Italian boyfriend at the time, was also convicted of the Nov. 1, 2007, murder, then later acquitted. His acquittal was also thrown out Tuesday and a new trial ordered.
Italian law cannot compel Knox to return for the new trial and Dalla Vedova said she had no plans to do so.
In any case, the judicial saga is likely to continue for years. It will be months before a date is set for the new trial, to be held in Florence instead of Perugia because the small town has only one appellate court, which already acquitted her.
Prosecution and defense teams must also await details of the ruling explaining why the high court concluded there were procedural errors in the trial that acquitted Knox and Sollecito. The court has 90 days to issue its explanation.
Another Knox defender, Luciano Ghirga, said she was gearing up psychologically for her third trial. Ghirga said he told Knox: “You have always been our strength. We rose up again after the first-level convictions. We’ll have the same resoluteness, the same energy” in the new trial.
Whether Knox ever returns to Italy to serve more prison time depends on a string of ifs and unknowns.
“Questions of extradition are not in the legal landscape at this point,” another Knox attorney, Theodore Simon, said on NBC TV.
If she is convicted by the Florence court, Knox could appeal that verdict to the Cassation Court. Should that appeal fail, Italy could seek her extradition from the United States.
Whether Italy actually requests extradition will be a political decision made by a future Italian government. It would then be up to U.S. officials to decide whether they will send Knox to Italy, and Dalla Vedova said U.S. authorities would carefully study all the case’s documentation to decide whether she had received fair trials.
U.S. and Italian authorities could also come to a deal that would keep Knox in the U.S.