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Knox saga still not over for Italian courts

  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 file photo  Amanda Knox gestures at a news conference in Seattle Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, after returning home from Italy.  Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

    FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 file photo Amanda Knox gestures at a news conference in Seattle Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, after returning home from Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

  • FILE - This is a  Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 file photo of Amanda Knox  as she breaks into tears after hearing the verdict that overturns her conviction and acquits her of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher, at the Perugia court, central Italy. Italy's highest criminal court Tuesday March 26, 2013  has ordered a new trial in the case of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate. The court ruled that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend. Knox has been living back in the U.S. while her former boyfriend continues studies in Italy. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)

    FILE - This is a Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 file photo of Amanda Knox as she breaks into tears after hearing the verdict that overturns her conviction and acquits her of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher, at the Perugia court, central Italy. Italy's highest criminal court Tuesday March 26, 2013 has ordered a new trial in the case of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate. The court ruled that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend. Knox has been living back in the U.S. while her former boyfriend continues studies in Italy. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves from the steps of his aircraft with the snow-capped mountains of Afghanistan in the background as he departs Kabul,Tuesday March 26, 2013. Kerry met again Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a day after they put on a show of unity as they tried to end recent bickering over anti-American comments made by the Afghan leader. (AP Photo/Jason Reed, POOL)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves from the steps of his aircraft with the snow-capped mountains of Afghanistan in the background as he departs Kabul,Tuesday March 26, 2013. Kerry met again Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a day after they put on a show of unity as they tried to end recent bickering over anti-American comments made by the Afghan leader. (AP Photo/Jason Reed, POOL)

  • FILE - This Friday Nov. 2, 2007 file photo shows Amanda Knox, left, and Raffaele Sollecito, looking on outside the rented house where 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher was found dead Friday, in Perugia, Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox and of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher  (AP Photo/Stefano Medici, file)

    FILE - This Friday Nov. 2, 2007 file photo shows Amanda Knox, left, and Raffaele Sollecito, looking on outside the rented house where 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher was found dead Friday, in Perugia, Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox and of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher (AP Photo/Stefano Medici, file)

  • FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2009 file photo, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democratic officials say Johnson intends to announce his retirement on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, a decision that gives Republicans a prime opportunity to pick up a seat in 2014. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

    FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2009 file photo, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democratic officials say Johnson intends to announce his retirement on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, a decision that gives Republicans a prime opportunity to pick up a seat in 2014. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

  • FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010 file photo U.S. student Amanda Knox, right, walks past Raffaele Sollecito, as she arrives after a break to attend a hearing in her appeals trial, at Perugia's courthouse, Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox and of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010 file photo U.S. student Amanda Knox, right, walks past Raffaele Sollecito, as she arrives after a break to attend a hearing in her appeals trial, at Perugia's courthouse, Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox and of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

  • FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 4, 2009 file photo  Raffaele Sollecito as he looks on prior to a final hearing before the verdict, at the court in Perugia, Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox and of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)

    FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 4, 2009 file photo Raffaele Sollecito as he looks on prior to a final hearing before the verdict, at the court in Perugia, Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox and of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)

  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 file photo  Amanda Knox becomes emotional as she sits down for a news conference shortly after her arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport , in Seattle.  Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

    FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 file photo Amanda Knox becomes emotional as she sits down for a news conference shortly after her arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport , in Seattle. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

  • ** FILE PHOTOS COMBO ** File photos combo shows, from left; Italian student Raffaele Sollecito, slain 21-year-old British woman Meredith Kercher, her American roommate Amanda Knox. Amanda Knox was waiting anxiously Monday, March 25, 2013 in Seattle to hear if she will face trial again as Italy's top criminal court considered whether to overturn her acquittal in the murder of her roommate in Italy. Italian prosecutors have asked the high court to throw out the acquittals of Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend in the murder of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher and order a new trial. The court's decision has been postponed to Tuesday. (AP Photo/files)

    ** FILE PHOTOS COMBO ** File photos combo shows, from left; Italian student Raffaele Sollecito, slain 21-year-old British woman Meredith Kercher, her American roommate Amanda Knox. Amanda Knox was waiting anxiously Monday, March 25, 2013 in Seattle to hear if she will face trial again as Italy's top criminal court considered whether to overturn her acquittal in the murder of her roommate in Italy. Italian prosecutors have asked the high court to throw out the acquittals of Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend in the murder of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher and order a new trial. The court's decision has been postponed to Tuesday. (AP Photo/files)

  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 file photo  Amanda Knox gestures at a news conference in Seattle Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, after returning home from Italy.  Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)
  • FILE - This is a  Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 file photo of Amanda Knox  as she breaks into tears after hearing the verdict that overturns her conviction and acquits her of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher, at the Perugia court, central Italy. Italy's highest criminal court Tuesday March 26, 2013  has ordered a new trial in the case of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate. The court ruled that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend. Knox has been living back in the U.S. while her former boyfriend continues studies in Italy. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves from the steps of his aircraft with the snow-capped mountains of Afghanistan in the background as he departs Kabul,Tuesday March 26, 2013. Kerry met again Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a day after they put on a show of unity as they tried to end recent bickering over anti-American comments made by the Afghan leader. (AP Photo/Jason Reed, POOL)
  • FILE - This Friday Nov. 2, 2007 file photo shows Amanda Knox, left, and Raffaele Sollecito, looking on outside the rented house where 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher was found dead Friday, in Perugia, Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox and of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher  (AP Photo/Stefano Medici, file)
  • FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2009 file photo, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democratic officials say Johnson intends to announce his retirement on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, a decision that gives Republicans a prime opportunity to pick up a seat in 2014. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
  • FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010 file photo U.S. student Amanda Knox, right, walks past Raffaele Sollecito, as she arrives after a break to attend a hearing in her appeals trial, at Perugia's courthouse, Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox and of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
  • FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 4, 2009 file photo  Raffaele Sollecito as he looks on prior to a final hearing before the verdict, at the court in Perugia, Italy. Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox and of her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)
  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 file photo  Amanda Knox becomes emotional as she sits down for a news conference shortly after her arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport , in Seattle.  Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday, March 26, 2013 that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)
  • ** FILE PHOTOS COMBO ** File photos combo shows, from left; Italian student Raffaele Sollecito, slain 21-year-old British woman Meredith Kercher, her American roommate Amanda Knox. Amanda Knox was waiting anxiously Monday, March 25, 2013 in Seattle to hear if she will face trial again as Italy's top criminal court considered whether to overturn her acquittal in the murder of her roommate in Italy. Italian prosecutors have asked the high court to throw out the acquittals of Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend in the murder of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher and order a new trial. The court's decision has been postponed to Tuesday. (AP Photo/files)

It’s not over yet for Amanda Knox.

Italy’s top criminal court dealt a stunning setback yesterday to the 25-year-old college student, overturning her acquittal in the grisly murder of her British roommate and ordering her to stand trial again.

“She thought that the nightmare was over,” Knox’s attorney, Carlo Dalla Vedova, told reporters minutes after conveying the unexpected turn of events to his client, who had stayed up to hear the ruling, which came shortly after 2 a.m. West Coast time. “But she’s ready to fight.”

Now a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Knox called the decision by the Rome-based Court of Cassation “painful” but said she was confident that she would be exonerated.

The American left Italy a free woman after her October 2011 acquittal – but only after serving nearly four years of a 26-year prison sentence from a lower court that convicted her of murdering Meredith Kercher. The 21-year-old exchange student’s body was found in a pool of blood, her throat slit, in a bedroom of the house the two shared in Perugia, a university town 100 miles north of Rome.

Raffaele Sollecito, Knox’s Italian boyfriend at the time, was also convicted of the Nov. 1, 2007, murder, then later acquitted. His acquittal also was thrown out yesterday and a new trial ordered.

Italian law cannot compel Knox to return for the new trial and Dalla Vedova said she had no plans to do so.

In any case, the judicial saga is likely to continue for years. It will be months before a date is set for the new trial, to be held in Florence instead of Perugia because the small town has only one appellate court, which already acquitted her.

Prosecution and defense teams must also await details of the ruling explaining why the high court concluded there were procedural errors in the trial that acquitted Knox and Sollecito. The court has 90 days to issue its explanation.

It was a tough blow for the former exchange student, whose parents mortgaged both their homes to raise funds for her lengthy, expensive defense.

“No matter what happens, my family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity,” Knox said in a statement.

Prosecutors alleged that Kercher was the victim of a drug-fueled sex game gone awry. Knox, then 20, and Sollecito, then 24, denied wrongdoing and said they weren’t even in the apartment that night, although they acknowledged they had smoked marijuana and their memories were clouded.

An Ivory Coast man, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the slaying in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence.

Sollecito, whose 29th birthday was yesterday, sounded shaken when a reporter reached him by phone.

“Now I can’t say anything,” said the Italian, who has been studying computer science in the northern city of Verona after finishing up an earlier degree while in prison.

His lawyer, Luca Maori, said neither Sollecito nor Knox ran any danger of being arrested. “It’s not as if the lower court convictions are revived,” he said, noting that the high court didn’t determine “whether the two were innocent or guilty.”

For those familiar with the U.S. legal principle of “double jeopardy” – which holds that no one acquitted of a crime can be tried again for it – the idea that the Italian justice system allows prosecutors to appeal acquittals is hard to absorb.

Vedova dismissed the “double jeopardy” concern, maintaining the high court ruling hadn’t decided the defendants’ guilt or innocence, but merely ordered a fresh appeals trial, which he said was unlikely to start before early 2014.

The appeals court that acquitted Knox and Sollecito had criticized virtually the entire prosecution case, especially the forensic evidence that helped clinch their 2009 convictions. It noted the murder weapon was never found, and said DNA tests were faulty and that prosecutors provided no murder motive.

In arguing for overturning the acquittals, prosecutors said the Perugia appellate court was too dismissive of DNA tests on a knife they maintained could have been used to slash Kercher’s throat as well as DNA traces on a bra belonging to the victim and tests done on blood stains in the bedroom and bathroom.

Whether Knox ever returns to Italy to serve more prison time depends on a string of ifs and unknowns.

“Questions of extradition are not in the legal landscape at this point,” another Knox attorney, Theodore Simon, said on NBC TV.

If she is convicted by the Florence court, Knox could appeal that verdict to the Cassation Court. Should that appeal fail, Italy could seek her extradition from the United States.

Whether Italy actually requests extradition will be a political decision made by a future Italian government. It would then be up to U.S. officials to decide whether they will send Knox to Italy, and Dalla Vedova said U.S. authorities would carefully study all the case’s documentation to decide whether she had received fair trials.

U.S. and Italian authorities could also come to a deal that would keep Knox in the United States.

For now, Knox has a memoir, Waiting to Be Heard, coming out April 30, for which publisher HarperCollins reportedly paid her $4 million. She still plans to appear in a prime-time special with Diane Sawyer to promote the book, according to ABC News.

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