Q&A: Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito retrial

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, pictured together in 2007 following British student Meredith Kercher's death

Following the upholding of their murder convictions, we explain why Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito faced a verdict yet again and what could happen next.

Why have Knox and Sollecito been retried?

Having being convicted of murder in 2009, the pair were released in 2011 following a successful appeal against their conviction. A key factor behind the second verdict was the issue of flawed DNA evidence – evidence that had previously been deemed crucial to the case.

However, in March 2013, Italy’s highest court ordered that the pair's appeal be heard once again. It said the previous decision habased on discrepancies in testimony and also claimed that the jury that acquitted them did not consider all the evidence. Furthermore, several aspects of the case remain a mystery.

Because the 2011 acquittal was completely overturned, any evidence or testimony presented then was ignored as if it never happened. As a result, the latest hearing deliberations merely confirmed the initial guilty verdict.

But hasn’t someone already been found guilty of the murder?

Yes. One man has been convicted: Rudy Hermann Guede, a small-time drug dealer originally from Ivory Coast who had been convicted previously of break-ins. He is serving a 16-year sentence for a murder that courts have said he did not commit alone.

Why isn’t Knox in Italy?

As Knox is a US citizen she was not required by law to attend the retrial. She emailed a statement to the court, insisting that she “didn’t kill” Kercher and noting that she feared a wrongful conviction.

"I am not present in court because I am afraid,” she said in the email. “I am afraid that the vehemence of the prosecution will make an impression on you, that their smoke will get in your eyes and blind you.”

Has her absence had affected her case?

Knox's absence does not formally hurt her case since she was freed by a court and defendants in Italy are not required to appear at their trials.

However, Judge Alessandro Nencini reacted sternly to Knox's emailed statement, noting that defendants have a right to be heard if they appear physically before the panel.

Will today’s decision be the end of the case?

It seems very unlikely. The author and journalist Barbie Nadeau, who has written a book about the trial, says: "It's the final verdict but it really isn't the end of this trial because whatever the verdict is today it still has to go in front of Italy's high court for a final word, which could come sometime this summer, even early next year."

What will happen to Knox and Sollecito if found guilty today?

While Sollecito, as an Italian citizen, can simply be sent straight to prison pending any further appeal, the situation is somewhat more complicated for Knox. Despite the guilty verdict, experts have said it is unlikely Italy would seek her extradition until a verdict is finalised, a process that can take a year.

The defence teams are certain to appeal against the guilty verdict to Italy's supreme court, which can take a year or more and could, in theory, result in yet another appeals court trial if errors in the Florence trial are found. The prosecutor general, on the other hand, could decide to let an acquittal stand after studying the court's reasoning.