di Francesco Musolino
Rome, September 17 - The first hearing in the new appeals trial of former American student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, which sees the two being retried on murder charges for the death of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia in 2007, opens on Monday in Florence, with a verdict expected by Christmas. The pair were convicted in 2009 and later acquitted on appeal in 2011. Then in March this year Italy's supreme Court of Cassation sent the case back to the appeals stage. The Cassation scrapped the 2011 decision of Perugia's appeals court, which had quashed the 26-year and 25-year sentences Knox and Sollecito were handed respectively at the original trial. The final hearing of this new appeals trial is expected in November, according to a court-released timetable, paving the way for a possible verdict in December. It's expected that the first hearing will seek to establish what elements of the investigation need to be revisited. The Cassation said a closer investigation was needed into the knife seized in Sollecito's house at the time of the original probe. The Cassation said the previous appeals court's dismissal of forensic evidence was flawed. Ivorian Rudy Guede has been definitively convicted of the murder but the Cassation Court found it unlikely he acted alone. Both Knox and Sollecito have reaffirmed their innocence in the lead-up to this new trial.