FLORENCE — An appeals court in Florence on Thursday upheld the guilty verdict against US student Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28½ years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition if the conviction is confirmed.
Lawyers for Knox and her codefendant, Raphael Sollecito, vowed to appeal to Italy’s highest court, a process that will take at least another year and drag out a legal saga that has divided court watchers in three nations.
In a statement from Seattle, where she had awaited the verdict at her mother’s home, Knox said she was ‘‘frightened and saddened’’ by the decision. She said it was ‘‘unjust’’ and the result of an overzealous prosecution and narrow-minded investigation that worked to ‘‘pervert the court of justice.’’
‘‘This has gotten out of hand,’’ she said. ‘‘Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system.’’
After nearly 12 hours of deliberations, the court reinstated the guilty verdicts first handed down against Knox and Sollecito in 2009 for the death of Meredith Kercher. Those verdicts had been overturned in 2011 and the pair freed from prison, but Italy’s supreme court vacated that decision and sent the case back for a third trial in Florence.
Kercher, 21, was found dead Nov. 2, 2007, in a pool of blood in the bedroom of the apartment she and Knox shared in Perugia, where both were studying. Her throat had been slashed and she had been sexually assaulted.
Knox and Sollecito, who had just started dating a few days earlier, were arrested within the week. A third defendant, Rudy Guede of Ivory Coast, was convicted in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence for the murder.
‘Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system.’Amanda Knox, American accused of killing roommate
Knox and Sollecito maintained they were at Sollecito’s apartment the night of the murder, smoking marijuana, watching a movie, and making love.
A statement from Knox after the ruling appeared less aimed at persuading Italy’s highest court to find her innocent in the upcoming appeal than at rallying supporters in the United States to resist a possible extradition request if the conviction is upheld.
Experts have said it’s unlikely that Italy would request Knox’s extradition before the verdict is final. If the conviction is upheld, a lengthy extradition process would likely ensue with the State Department ultimately deciding whether to turn Knox back over to Italian authorities to finish serving her sentence.
Mary Fan, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at the University of Washington Law School in Seattle, said any decision by the State Department is ‘‘a matter of both law and politics.’’
‘‘The US courts don’t sit in judgment of another nation’s legal system,’’ Fan said. Nevertheless, ‘‘Many Americans are quite astonished buy the ups and downs in this case, and it’s the US that will ultimately be making the call about whether to extradite.’’
Knox’s attorney, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said he had called Knox by telephone and informed her that the Florence court had not only confirmed the guilty verdict, but had increased the sentence from the original 26 years.
‘‘She was petrified. Silent,’’ he said.
Sollecito was in court Thursday morning, but didn’t return for the verdict. Sollecito’s lawyers said they were stunned by the conviction and Sollecito’s 25-year sentence and would appeal.
‘‘There isn’t a shred of proof,’’ attorney Luca Maori said.
Attorney Giulia Bongiorno said she had thought the appeals trial had gone in her client’s favor. ‘‘I don’t think there can be a written ruling that justifies this verdict,’’ she said.
Presiding Judge Alessando Nencini ordered Sollecito’s passport revoked but made no requests for Knox’s movements to be limited, saying she was ‘‘justifiably abroad.’’
Kercher’s brother and sister were in the courtroom for the verdict, and said the outcome was the best they could have hoped for.
‘‘It’s hard to feel anything at the moment because we know it will go to a further appeal,’’ said her brother, Lyle. Asked if he was satisfied, he said: ‘‘No matter what the verdict was, it never was going to be a case of celebrating anything.’’