MILAN — Europe's human rights court on Thursday ordered Italy to pay Amanda Knox financial damages for police failure to provide legal assistance and an independent interpreter during a long night of questioning following the Nov. 1, 2007 murder of her British roommate. But the court said there was insufficient evidence to support claims of psychological and physical mistreatment.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, said in its ruling that Italy hadn't succeeded in proving that "the restriction of Ms. Knox's access to a lawyer ... had not irreparably undermined the fairness of the proceedings as a whole." It said Italy must pay Knox 18,400 euros ($20,000) in damages, costs and expenses.
"Ms. Knox had been particularly vulnerable, being a foreign young woman, 20 at the time, not having been in Italy for very long and not being fluent in Italian," the court noted.
After more than seven years of legal battles and flip-flop decisions, Knox was definitively acquitted of Meredith Kercher's murder by Italy's highest court in March 2015. But a damaging conviction and three-year sentence for falsely accusing a Congolese bar owner of the murder was confirmed, leaving a cloud over her acquittal.
Knox, who is now 31 and lives in Seattle, wrote in her blog after that the ruling means "that my slander conviction was unjust."
"I never should have been charged, much less convicted, of slander," she wrote.
It was during questioning in the wee hours of Nov. 6, 2007 that Knox accused Patrick Lumumba, the owner of a bar where she sometimes worked, of the murder. Knox's defense had long claimed that the accusation was coerced.
The court noted she had quickly and repeatedly retracted the statement. It said that despite her lawyer's request, there was never an investigation to clarify the circumstances of "the incriminating statements."
It also said that the interpreter assigned to her acted more as a "mediator, and taking on a motherly attitude which was not called for in the circumstances," and that Knox's complaints about the inappropriate conduct were never examined in Italian courts.
The human rights court, however, said there was not enough evidence to conclude Knox had "sustained the inhuman or degrading treatment" she claimed. Knox said she had been slapped twice on the side of the head by police, while also being subjected to pressure, threats of imprisonment and shouting.
Knox's defense attorney, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said the decision "is not a big surprise for me because the supreme court already said there were many mistakes." He said he was considering whether to challenge the standing conviction for malicious false accusations.
"I hope Patrick Lumumba will understand also through the outcome of this decision that she was put in a very difficult situation," Dalla Vedova said.
The sensational murder of 21-year-old Kercher attracted global attention, especially after suspicion fell on the photogenic Knox, and Knox's then-Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. Kercher was found nude under a blanket in her locked room, with her throat slit and having been sexually assaulted. While Knox and her former boyfriend were initially convicted in Kercher's slaying and handed hefty sentences, both were eventually acquitted.
An Ivorian immigrant, Rudy Guede, is serving a 16-year sentence for the murder.
The Kercher family lawyer, Francesco Maresca, said that the family remained bitter that years of court decisions "resulted only in the conviction of Rudy Guede."
Prosecutors argued throughout the trials that the murder could not have been the work of a single perpetrator.
Sollecito sought 500,000 euros for wrongful imprisonment — the maximum allowed under Italian law — but was denied because the court said he had contributed by making contradictory statements made during the investigation. Dalla Vedova said that Knox let the deadline for wrongful imprisonment filing lapse without seeking compensation, instead focusing on the human rights issue.
"It is impossible to compensate Amanda for four years in prison for a mistake. There will be no amount. We are not looking for compensation of damages. We are doing this on principal," he said.