UPDATE, ORIGINAL POST FOLLOWS:
It's now official. Judge Hellmann has overturned the earlier court's guilty verdict on all counts except defamation. This is a real blow to the Kerchers, even though this verdict is not final until Italy's highest court rules. The silver lining is that Knox was sentenced to three years for defamation, less time served. So she will be severely limited in terms of seeking compensation for wrongful conviction. The Kerchers have asked for an hour to compose themselves before giving a press conference. The people of Perugia are up in amrs over this latest verdict, shouting "Vergogna" (Shame!) after it was announced, and "give her to us, we know what to do with her". As Sollecito's rock star attorney Bongiorno spoke to the BBC, people in the crowd were yelling about the remembering the real victim, Meredith Kercher.
As Knox was led out of the courtroom, she looked totally distressed, more like someone who has just heard their conviction upheld. There is a photo on the cover of one of the regional newspapers that captures this look exactly as I saw it.
After this morning's courtroom finale, which I watched via live streaming, the judges and jurors retired to finish deliberations. Judge Hellmann's parting words were that this is not a football game. He mentioned Meredith by name and also noted that two others awaited their fate. He asked people to refrain from shouting, and to listen to the verdict in silence when it is delivered.
Arline, Stephanie and Lyle Kercher will be in court for the verdict, but decided to skip this morning's final pleas by Knox's attorney and then the two on trial. Knox's attorney did not have a good outing: lots of shouting, little substance. Raffaele seemed lost and unfocused, talked about how they took his shoes away at the Questura. He said he had never been asked to speak in the first trial - a very disingenuous statement - and that he had never said Knox left his apartment that night. This is not true, but he was not under oath. Knox was theatrical, emotional, and clearly anxious to come home. She skipped the damning details, did not mention the man she falsely accused nor apologize for it. Some are reporting that her speech was a success, whatever that means. She was pleading for her freedom.
In a surprise move, the three Kerchers in Perugia gave a press conference. They were amazingly poised under difficult circumstances. Journalists were allowed to ask a total of nine questions, 3 from Italian, 3 from British and 3 from other countries. Most tried to ask 2-part questions, which made things difficult for the Kerchers. There were too many questions about Knox, when what the Kerchers wanted to do was talk about Meredith.
I was asked to give my reaction after the verdict, but I have already thought about it and put my thoughts in writing. They don't depend on what verdict is reached by this court. Here they are:
In the event that guilt is affirmed:
I am not particularly surprised that the conviction was upheld. The amount and the force of the evidence against Knox (and Sollecito) are substantial. If people are surprised by this verdict, it is probably because most of the evidence went largely unreported in the US by all major news outlets. What this suggests to me is that hiring a PR firm is a poor substitute for seeking the best possible legal counsel in the country where the trial is actually occurring. The campaign may have won some hearts and minds in the US and perhaps even in Britain, but it did so to the detriment of the victim, Meredith Kercher, and even perhaps of Knox herself.
In the event of acquittal:
This verdict is contrary to what every other judge who has been asked to assess the same evidence has concluded. And I cannot make my own assessment of its merits until Hellmann issues his motivations. Prior to that, it would just be idle speculation. I will say, however, that this latest verdict will not be final until Italy's highest court reviews the case in the second and final appeal, which is automatic in Italy.
In any case:
Today, my thoughts are with and for the family of Meredith Kercher. This family has remained mostly silent and did not publicly celebrate the earlier conviction of Knox and Sollecito in December of 2009, although they said they were satisfied and convinced that justice had been done.
Recently, Meredith's mother and sister reiterated this position in a rare interview. But they also said they had no choice but to accept an adverse ruling. The many, many people in Seattle and around the world who share their view feel exactly the same way. And we plan to continue to support them through the final appeal, holding quiet vigil for Meredith Kercher in our hearts.
Personally, I regret that the Kercher family was dragged into a media circus not of their making, which, sadly, seemed designed to erase their beloved Meredith. For me, and for others, this is a second death for Meredith.