In November 2007, Raffaele Sollecito was a 23 year-old Italian college student, just a few months from a degree in software engineering, attending classes by day, smoking marijuana with his new American girlfriend by night.
Then his girlfriend’s roommate, British exchange student Meredith Kercher was found dead, having been stabbed 40 times and left lying partially naked in a pool of her own blood.
In 2009, Raffaele Sollecito and his ex-girlfriend Amanda Knox were convicted of Kercher’s murder. That conviction was overturned in 2011, after DNA evidence used by the prosecution was found to be false or tampered with.
Last March, the Italian Supreme Court overturned that not guilty verdict, forcing a new trial. Last night, the judge in that new trial found Knox and Sollecito guilty, sentencing the former to 28.5 years and the latter to 25.
You can see Sollecito’s 20+ minute interview with the BBC in 2013 above.
Here’s everything you need to know about Sollecito, the case against him, and his chances of staying free:
1. He Was Taken In By Police Near the Italian Border Last Night
Early reports suggested Sollecito was caught trying to flee Italy last night, when police apprehended him in a town on that country’s border with Austria. However, Sollecito told NBC News today that he had actually been arrested while driving back into Italy.
He claims that he was so certain he and Knox would be acquitted of the murder, having both been found innocent once, that he’d planned a trip out of the country, that just happened to overlap with the day the verdict was to be released. He told NBC:
“As soon as I got the news there was a guilty verdict … I came right immediately back in Italy.”
When asked about Sollecito’s arrest on Good Morning America this morning, Knox said, “My initial thought after the verdict was, ‘Oh my God, Raffaele’ … I don’t know what I would do if they imprisoned him. It’s maddening.”
2. He’d Only Been Dating Knox For a Week At the Time of the Murder
According to a profile from the BBC, Sollecito and Knox met at a classical music concert in October of 2007, just days before Kercher’s murder. He said of the relationship to the BBC:
“It was a really nice relationship. In that period she was much more at my apartment than in her one. It was an intense story, it was the start. It was crazy.”
Knox spent much of the week leading up to the murder living in that flat Sollecito’s parents had bought for him. She would later claim that she had been there with Sollecito the night of the murder.
When asked about the present status of their relationship, after their convictions were overturned in 2011, Sollecito said “she’s with another boyfriend and I am going on with my life. We are really good friends now but no, no there is nothing between us now.”
3. His Alibi Went Uncorroborated
Sollecito claimed that he’d been home on the night of the murder surfing the internet, but police said his computer records did not support the alibi. He claimed that his inability to recall his precise movements on the night of the murder was due to the psychoactive effects of marijuana he’d smoked that evening.
Knox’s claim that she had spent that night at Sollecito’s was contradicted by closed circuit security footage that allegedly showed Knox entering the cottage she shared with Kercher at two other flat mates at 8:43 p.m. Forensic evidence suggested Kercher had been killed sometime between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
Knox confessed under questioning that she had been at the cottage at the time of the murder, and had heard Kercher scream as Congolese bar owner Patrick Lumumba stabbed her to death. Lumumba would be cleared of the crime, and Knox claimed that her accusation had been false and made under duress.
The Telegraph provides two succinct lists of the top five reasons to be believe Knox is guilty, and the top five to believe she is innocent.
4. The Prosecutors Changed Their Story at the New Trial
In the first trial, prosectors argued that Kercher had been killed by Knox and Sollecito after refusing to cooperate in a “sex game.” However, according to the BBC, in the new trial the prosecution claimed “the murder resulted from a heated argument over cleanliness in the Perugia apartment.”
5. Sollecito Can and Will Appeal
Sollecito is unlikely to be jailed until his appeal is heard, which may be a matter of months. Until then, his passport has been revoked.
6. He Claims His Family Wanted Him to Testify Against Knox
In 2013, Gallery Books Published Sollecito’s memoir “Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back With Amanda Knox.” In it, he claims his family pressured him to testify against Amanda so as to save himself, but he refused:
“If I had changed my testimony, Amanda would have remained behind bars for the rest of her life, not just the 26 years to which she was originally sentenced. And that was something my conscience could never permit.”
During the four years Sollecito spent in prison between the time of his initial conviction and his successful appeal, he wrote that the thought of Knox’s face became “the image of a nightmare.”
But upon visiting Knox in her home city of Seattle, after their release, his old affectionate associations of her were restored. Sollecito told ABC:
“”After she hugged me, I realised that Amanda is the Amanda that I dated for that week. She’s not the Amanda that was the ghost Amanda during those four years.”
7. He Testified at the New Trial, Knox Did Not
When the retrial began on September 30, Sollecito was in the Dominican Republic and Knox was at home in Seattle. Sollecito returned to Italy to testify in November, saying:
“I would like to make you understand that these charges against me are absurd. There was not a basis to charge me, to put me in jail. … I don’t wish anybody on Earth to go through what I went through.”
Knox remained in Seattle throughout the trial, likely wanting to maintain the ability to fight extraditionin the event she was found guilty. She emailed a statement to the Florence court, which read in part:
“I must repeat to you. I’m innocent. I did not rape, I did not steal … I did not kill Meredith.”
8. If Her Appeal Fails, It’s Likely Knox Will Be Extradited
CNN solicited the opinions of several legal analysts as to whether the United States would agree to extradite Knox should her appeal fail. Analyst Sonny Hostin argued that the United States justice system’s hostility towards double jeopardy would likely keep the US from extraditing her:
“Because of this tension between Italian and U.S. law it is unlikely that U.S. law will extradite her. When the fight begins those are the grounds that U.S. attorneys will be arguing.”
However, Hofstra University law professor Julian Ku pointed out that in her initial trial, Knox was convicted, saying further “I followed the trial, it was slow but I never got the sense that it was unfair.”
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz concurred:
“As popular as she is here and as pretty as she is here — because that’s what this is all about, if she was not an attractive woman we wouldn’t have the group love-in — she will be extradited if it’s upheld. The Italian legal system, though I don’t love it, is a legitimate legal system and we have a treaty with Italy so I don’t see how we would resist.”
9. Kercher’s Family Welcomes the Ruling
According to CNN, the Kercher family was pleased with the ruling, their attorney saying after six years of trials, “They are tired of this and want justice.”
The Kerchers still do not believe they know exactly who killed Meredith or how or why. Meredith’s sister Stephanie told the press: “I think we are still on the journey to the truth. I think it may be the fact that we don’t ever really know what happened that night, which is obviously something we will have to come to terms with.”
A final verdict may not be reached until the Supreme Court hears the next round of appeals, perhaps as late as Spring of 2015.
Meredith’s brother Lyle said that while he knows nothing can bring his sister back, “The best we can hope for is finally bringing this whole case to a conclusion, having a conviction, and everyone can move on with their lives.”
10. The Only Man Sent to Jail For The Murder Will Be Eligible for Parole This Year
Rudy Herman Guede, an immigrant born in the Cote D’Ivoire and raised in Italy, was 21 when he was arrested in connection with Kercher’s murder. His fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime, including a bloody palm print left on a pillow of the bed where the body was found. Sollecito’s lawyers claimed that a glass fragment of broken window found beside Guede’s shoe print outside the cottage was proof that Guede had broken in. Geude maintained that he was dating Kercher at the time, and that after kissing and touching Kercher, he had developed stomach pains, and retreated to the bathroom where he overheard her screams, and emerged to find a shadowy figure holding a knife, standing above Kercher’s body. He claims the man whispered “Trovato negro, trovato colpevole; andiamo” (“Found black, found guilty; let’s go”), before fleeing.
Guede was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. However, three weeks after Knox and Sollecito were convicted, Guede’s prison term was reduced to 16 years. In 2014, Guede will come up for release.