WASHINGTON — The court case had all the lurid elements for tabloid fodder: a dead girl, sexual assault, false accusations, judicial reversals, and the fate of a young — and, by some accounts, badly behaved — American in a foreign land.
It’s been almost eight years since British exchange student Meredith Kercher was found dead on the floor of her apartment in Perugia, Italy — her roommate, another exchange student named Amanda Knox, and Knox’s Italian boyfriend were arrested and charged with the crime. They were convicted in 2009, declared innocent in 2011, reconvicted in 2013 — but declared innocent once and for all by Italy’s highest criminal court in March.
But, drawing out the twisted tale, that court has only now explained why it overturned the reconviction — offering a final view of a case that dominated headlines, inspired documentaries and a TV movie, and led to the publication of Knox’s best-selling memoir.
In its opinion released Monday, Italy’s Court of Cassation, the nation’s highest appeals court, said, more or less, that there was no evidence Knox had committed the crime and that the international spotlight helped derail the investigation.
There was an ‘‘absolute lack of biological traces’’ of Knox and boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito in the room where Kercher was murdered, the court wrote, as the Associated Press reported.
The court also pointed a finger at the media.
‘‘The international spotlight on the case in fact resulted in the investigation undergoing a sudden acceleration,’’ the judges wrote. They also found the investigation was ‘‘objectively wavering,’’ with ‘‘oscillations . . . the result also of stunning weakness or investigative bouts of amnesia and of blameworthy omissions of investigative activity.’’
Knox again expressed gratitude for a not-guilty verdict.
‘‘I am deeply grateful that the Italian Supreme Court has filed its opinion and forcefully declared my innocence,’’ Knox wrote on her website. ‘‘This has been a long struggle for me, my family, my friends, and my supporters.’’
Knox, 28, and Sollecito had long said they were not guilty of the crime.
‘‘People leave DNA — lots of DNA — wherever they go,’’ Knox wrote in an afterword to her 2013 memoir ‘‘Waiting to Be Heard.’’ ‘‘None of my DNA was found in my friend Meredith Kercher’s bedroom, where she was killed. The only DNA found, other than Meredith’s, belonged to the man convicted of her murder, Rudy Guede.’’
Guede was convicted of killing Kercher in 2008. But prosecutors alleged her murder was the result of a sex game gone awry, planned by Knox.
The court pointed out many errors by investigators, including problems with handling evidence, pinpointing the time of death, and a disaster involving computer data.
‘‘The computers of Amanda Knox and Kercher, which perhaps could have furnished information useful to the investigation, were, incredibly, burned by imprudent maneuvers by the investigators, who caused an electric shock,’’ the court wrote.
One blot on Knox’s record remained, however: She was also convicted of falsely accusing an African man of the crime — a conviction that Italy’s Court of Cassation did not challenge. Knox has since recanted the confession, saying it was given under inappropriate pressure from police. She did not have to return to Italy to serve time, however, as she already spent four years behind bars.
‘‘I was demolished in that interrogation,’’ she told ABC in 2013.
This, however, is really the end. Given the many problems with evidence, as the Court of Cassation explained, another trial would be ‘‘useless.’’