Murder conviction in Kercher case upheld, sentence reduced

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by Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on December 22, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 22 at 4:56 PM

PERUGIA, Italy - An Italian appeals court on Tuesday upheld the guilty verdict for a man convicted of murdering a British student, but cut his prison sentence to 16 years.

Lawyers said the eight-member jury emerged from more than four hours of deliberations and upheld the conviction on charges of murder and sexual violence for Rudy Hermann Guede.

Guede, who is from Ivory Coast, denies killing Meredith Kercher and last year was sentenced to 30 years in a fast track trial he had requested.

Also convicted in the case, but in a separate trial, are Amanda Knox, the Seattle student who was the victim's roommate in Perugia, and Raffaele Sollecito, Knox's boyfriend at the time of the 2007 slaying.

Knox and Sollecito deny wrongdoing and are expected to appeal their convictions. They were sentenced earlier this month to 26 and 25 years in prison, respectively.

Kercher, a Leeds University student, was found in a pool of blood with her throat slit on Nov. 2, 2007, in the bedroom of an apartment in the central Italian town. Prosecutors believe she was killed the night before in a drug-fueled sex game involving Guede, Knox and Sollecito.

Guede, who was arrested in Germany shortly after the killing, has admitted being at the scene of the crime the night of the murder, but said he did not kill Kercher.

Guede was in court Tuesday when the verdict was read and told reporters afterward: "I am not happy because I am innocent."

Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca said he was satisfied that Guede was found guilty but was "surprised" that the sentence was cut by almost half.

He said the ruling recognized some extenuating circumstances for Guede but it will be necessary to wait for the court's reasonings, expected within 90 days, to know more details. Both the prosecution and the defense could appeal the verdict to Italy's top criminal court.

Guede's lawyers had requested that the verdict be overturned and he be acquitted.

According to the ANSA news agency, defense attorney Valter Biscotti likened Guede to Sam Sheppard, the U.S. doctor who was first convicted and later acquitted of killing his wife in 1954 and whose case inspired the movie and television series "The Fugitive."

Prosecutor Pietro Catalani asked the court on Tuesday to uphold the guilty verdict.

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