Italy's top criminal court on Monday threw out a 2009 murder conviction against Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend for the death of her British roommate, saying prosecutors presented a flawed case and that there were no "biological traces" to connect them to the crime.
The Court of Cassation in Rome issued a formal written explanation for its March ruling, which vindicated Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito for the 2007 murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher, who was brutally stabbed in the apartment the two women shared while studying abroad in Perugia, Italy.
On Monday, the 52-page explanation outlined the court's reasoning for the acquittal of Knox and Sollecito, who have maintained their innocence throughout, saying there were no biological traces in the room where Kercher was killed to connect them.
"There was no shortage of glaring errors in the underlying fabric of the sentence in question," the court wrote, citing the prosecution's flawed case from the start.
Media attention also played a factor in hindering the case, the high court said, because investigators were under pressure to produce results.
"The international spotlight on the case in fact resulted in the investigation undergoing a sudden acceleration," the judges wrote.
Knox, who is now 28, and Sollecito, 31, both spent nearly four years in Italian prison after a lower court in Perugia convicted them of murder in 2009. They were acquitted after a first appeals court trial, but were convicted again by a court in Florence in a 2014 ruling, which sentenced Knox to almost 29 years in jail — assuming she would have been extradited from the U.S. — and Sollecito to 25 years.
In separate proceedings, Rudy Hermann Guede from Ivory Coast was convicted of the murder and is currently serving a 16-year sentence. He left "copious" biological traces, the court said in its 52-page memo.
The court said it was possible that Guede had accomplices, but nothing proved that Knox or Collecito were involved. They criticized prosecutors for the motive they presented — that Knox had been resentful of her roommate — and for providing little evidence to back it up.
The memo criticized lower court judges for ignoring expert testimony that "clearly demonstrated possible contamination" of evidence and misinterpreted findings about the knife allegedly used to kill Kercher. No traces of blood were found on the knife, they wrote.
The idea that Knox and Sollecito had cleaned the crime scene, wiping away their DNA, was also ruled as impossible, the court said.
The court also said investigators were incompetent. For example, computers owned by Knox and Kercher that may have provided information in the case were "burned by imprudent maneuvers by the investigators, who caused an electric shock."
A bra clasp that supposedly carried DNA evidence linking Sollecito to the murder scene was left on the floor for 46 days and then handled by investigators who wore "dirty latex gloves," the court said.
The supposed time of death, as argued by prosecutors, was also a "deplorable approximation," they wrote.
"She is very satisfied and happy to read this decision," a lawyer for Knox, Carlo Dalla Vedova, told the Associated Press. "At the same time, it's a very sad story. It's a sad story because Meredith Kercher is no longer with us, and this is a tragedy nobody can forget."
Kercher's family expressed dismay in March when Knox and Sollecito were acquitted, The Guardian reported.
The court's ruling on Monday, however, did leave some questions open, such as whether Knox and Sollecito might have been in another room in the apartment at the time Kercher was killed.
The court also said it remained unknown why Knox identified an African man as the suspect when later a different man was convicted.
The court said Knox deserved her almost four-year jail sentence for slandering her boss, Diya "Patrick Lumumba, a Congolese-born bar owner who she accused of the crime. Lumumba was in jail for two weeks until an alibi led to his release.
The judges' decision ruled out the possibility of another trial, saying it would be useless.