A Brief Guide to the Amanda Knox Legal Saga

Before you watch the new Netflix documentary Amanda Knox, learn the basics about the brutal 2007 murder in Italy

Photo: Ida Mae Astute/ABC/Getty

It was the truly international murder case that captivated the world.

In 2007, American exchange student Amanda Knox was accused of killing British student Meredith Kercher in the home they shared in Perugia, Italy. A new Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox, is taking a close look at the brutal murder and the subsequent years of global legal battle surrounding the case.

The doc’s two dueling trailers – one that portrays Knox as an innocent who finds herself in a nightmare, with the other taking the angle that she truly does have blood on her hands – highlights the still-mysterious and controversial nature of the saga that has fascinated international media for nearly a decade.

Below, we explain all the major events of the at-times baffling story to help prepare for the doc’s revelations about the crime.

Who was Amanda Knox before the crime?
Knox was a linguistic student at the University of Washington when she decided to spend an academic year in Italy at the University for Foreigners Perugia. In Italy, she shared a four-bedroom apartment with two Italian women, Filomena Romanelli and Laura Mezzetti and Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student from the University of Leeds. Knox worked part-time at a bar called Le Chic, which was owned by a man named Diya “Patrick” Lumumba.

A section of the house where Kercher and Knox lived was also rented out by a group of Italian men, who were acquainted with an Ivory Coast immigrant named Rudy Guede.

In October 2007, Knox attended a concert where she met then-23-year-old Raffaele Sollecito, who would later become her boyfriend.

What was the crime?
After spending the night with Sollecito, Knox allegedly returned to her apartment on Nov. 2 to find the front door open, bloodstains in the bathroom, and Kercher’s bedroom door closed. Knox called Kercher’s phone that morning but received no answer. Knox later called her roommate Romanelli, explaining what she had found in the apartment and that she was worried something had happened to Kercher.

Knox claimed she went back to Sollecito’s home after taking a shower, and then the pair returned to her apartment. There, they attempted and failed to break open Kercher’s locked bedroom door. Sollecito called the Italian military police.

Police arrived at the apartment – not because of Sollecito’s call, but because they had traced two phones that were found in a nearby garden to the home. The police opened the door to Kercher’s room, discovering Kercher’s body lying on the floor covered by a duvet. According to police, her body was semi-naked and her throat had been cut.

And Knox was found guilty?
After almost two years in jail and an 11-month trial, an Italian jury found Knox and Sollecito guilty of killing Kercher in a sex game gone awry. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison while Sollecito received 25 years. Prosecutors, and much of the European press, had depicted the pair as sadistic party people.

In a separate 2008 trial, Guede was found guilty of murder and sexual assault and sentenced to 30 years.

But then she was freed?
In 2011, an appeals court overturned the most serious charges again Knox.

A critical component to Knox’s second trial was the mishandling of DNA evidence in the case. Independent experts criticized the police’s handling and evaluation of the supposed murder weapon, a knife which was found in Sollecito’s kitchen. Prosecutors claimed there were traces of Kersher’s DNA on the blade, along with Knox’s DNA on the handle, but during the appeal court-appointed experts testified that the way the DNA was collected would have allowed for cross-contamination, and that the DNA could not be matched to Knox with certainty.

The appeals court did uphold Knox’s slander conviction, which stems from her accusation that Lumumba, who was able to produce an alibi, committed the murder.

So Knox went back to the U.S. and everything was resolved, right?
Not quite. In March 2013, Italy’s Court of Cassation threw out Knox’s acquittal and ordered a retrial.

Knox did not have to attend the trial because Italy does not require defendants to be in court personally.

In the second appeals trial, which was concluded in January 2014, Knox was again found guilty of murdering Kercher. She was sentenced to 28 ½ years in prison, while Sollecito was sentenced to 25. The court explained that it re-convicted the pair partially because the nature of Kercher’s wounds indicated that Guede (who is still in prison serving a reduced 16-year sentence), could not have acted alone.

After the decision, Knox told Good Morning America that she “would never willingly go back to Italy” – and thus never serve her new sentence.

Where do things stand now?
In March 2015, Knox’s second conviction was overturned by Italy’s highest appeals court. The court later accused the police and prosecutors in the case of “stunning weakness” and “investigative bouts of amnesia.”

“There was no shortage of glaring errors in the underlying fabric of the sentence in question,” the court wrote.

Officially a free woman, Knox released a statement following the decision: “I am tremendously relieved and grateful for the decision of the Supreme Court of Italy. The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal. And throughout this ordeal, I have received invaluable support from family, friends, and strangers. To them, I say: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your kindness has sustained me. I only wish that I could thank each and every one of you in person.”

Amanda Knox will be available on Netflix Friday.

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