On November 2, 2007, Meredith Kercher, a 21-year old British student studying in Perugia, Italy, was found dead in her apartment, in a clear case of homicide. Her housemate, American student Amanda Knox, and Knox’s Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, were soon charged with the killing based largely on circumstantial inferences and suspicions the police had about Knox and Sollecito’s behavior. The charges against Knox and Sollecito were not dropped even after physical evidence revealed that a burglar named Rudy Hermann Guede (who had little connection to either Knox or Sollecito) had been responsible for the murder. Instead, investigators theorized that the three of them, Knox, Sollecito, and Guede, had killed Meredith Kercher in the course of a violent sex orgy, and amassed various pieces of evidence which (they claimed) supported this theory.
Guede was soon convicted in a “fast-track” trial process in October of 2008, and sentenced to 30 years in prison (which was later reduced to 16 on appeal). The case against Knox and Sollecito continued according to a standard schedule, and in December of 2009, Knox and Sollecito were convicted of participating (along with Rudy Guede) in the killing of Meredith Kercher, and sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively.
Knox and Sollecito’s appeal process began in November 2010. After a detailed reexamination of the case — including among other things a highly critical expert review of the DNA evidence — Knox and Sollecito were acquitted of the murder in October 2011 and released after nearly four years of imprisonment. (Knox remained convicted of a lesser crime, calumny, for having accused an innocent person, Patrick Lumumba, of the murder under intense police pressure; for this she was sentenced to three years in prison, less than the time she had already spent there.)
In the Italian judicial system, the judges in a case (who are themselves also part of the jury that decides the outcome) are required to publish a written document “motivating”, or justifying, the verdict of the court. In December of 2011, the presiding judge in the appeal trial of Knox and Sollecito, Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, and assistant judge Massimo Zanetti, released a 144-page report explaining the reasoning that had led them, along with the six “popular judges” (i.e. ordinary jurors), to believe that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were innocent of the murder of Meredith Kercher. This is the Hellmann-Zanetti report that is presented here.