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January 9, 2014 at 5:13 AM

Defense says Knox, Sollecito were blamed to calm fears

By COLLEEN BARRY
Associated Press

Raffaele Sollecito, right, talks with his father Francesco Thursday in the Florence court where the younger Sollecito and Seattle's Amanda Knox are being retried in the stabbing death of Knox's former roommate, Meredith Kercher in Pergugia, Italy, in 2007, (AP Photo/Riccardo Sanesi, Lapresse)

Raffaele Sollecito, right, talks with his father Francesco Thursday in the Florence court where the younger Sollecito and Seattle’s Amanda Knox are being retried in the stabbing death of Knox’s former roommate, Meredith Kercher in Pergugia, Italy, in 2007, (AP Photo/Riccardo Sanesi, Lapresse)

FLORENCE, Italy —The defense lawyer for the former boyfriend of Seattle’s Amanda Knox told an appeals court Thursday that the young lovers were blamed by authorities for the murder of a British student to calm fears that a monster was loose in their Italian university town.

Defender Giulia Bongiorno said her client, Raffaele Sollecito, and Knox were identified as suspects by police in a “record” four days after the murder of Meredith Kercher in the central town of Perugia because authorities “did not want to think that a stranger, a monster, could have entered a house and murdered a student.”

Bongiorno said much of the evidence later used to convict the pair in their first trial — including the presumed murder weapon found in Sollecito’s kitchen drawer and a clasp that had been ripped from Kercher’s bra — had not even been gathered by investigators at that point.

Bongiorno, on the last day of closing arguments in the pair’s third trial, showed a court slides and videos in a bid to dismantle the prosecution’s case. Sollecito sat at her side.

Kercher, 21, was found murdered in her bedroom in the apartment she shared with Knox and two others on Nov. 2, 2007, having been sexually assaulted and stabbed.

Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox

Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox

In their first trial, Knox and Sollecito were sentenced to 26 years and 25 years, respectively, in proceedings that made headlines around the world.

Italy’s high court ordered the case back to trial after vacating their 2011 acquittals, blasting the appeals court’s handling of the case. While Sollecito, now 29, has attended several hearings, Knox, 26, remains in Seattle, where she returned a free woman after her acquittal.

A third man, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Hermann Guede, is serving a 16-year term in the case after being convicted in a separate trial.

Knox, in an interview published Thursday in the La Repubblica newspaper, said she didn’t return to face trial because she feared being jailed again.

“It was a difficult choice, because I would have wanted to come to Italy to speak directly to the judges,” Knox was quoted as saying.

She added that she hopes she can meet Kercher’s parents “after my innocence has been definitively confirmed.”

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