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March 26, 2013 at 8:00 AM   |   Comments

Court: Amanda Knox, boyfriend be retried

ROME, March 26 (UPI) -- Italy's top court ordered a retrial of American Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito Tuesday for the 2007 death of Meredith Kercher in Perugia.

The Court of Cassation's decision to overturn the acquittals of Knox and Sollecito sends the matter to an appeals court in Florence, ANSA reported.

Francesco Maresca, the Italian lawyer representing Kercher's family, pumped his fist in satisfaction when the Court of Cassation announced it had put aside the acquittals of Knox and Sollecito, ANSA said.

Knox and her then-boyfriend Sollecito were convicted of the 2007 killing of Kercher, a student from Britain, while the two women were exchange students rooming together in Perugia. However, the conviction was thrown out by an appeals court in 2011. Prosecutors said Knox, Sollecito and a third person, Rudy Guede of the Ivory Coast, killed Kercher in a sex game gone wrong.

Knox, living in Seattle, isn't required to return to Italy for the trial, ANSA said. If she is convicted again, that ruling would be appealed to the Supreme Court.

In final arguments before Italy's Supreme Court Monday, Knox's lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova told the court, "This trial started with an error and the prosecution continues to insist in the errors even in an attempt to convince the Supreme Court that the recourse should be accepted."

Knox and Sollecito were sentenced to 25 years in prison. Knox also received an extra year on a slander conviction for falsely accusing her former boss, Patrick Lumumba, as Kercher's killer. During Monday's proceedings, Knox's lawyers also asked that her slander conviction be overturned.

Prosecutors and a lawyer for Kercher's family said the appeals court judges "lost their way" in reviewing the evidence and that Knox and Sollecito should be retried for Kercher's killing.

Guede was convicted in Kercher's death and is serving a 16-year prison term.

After her release from prison in 2011, Knox returned to her hometown of Seattle and is a student at the University of Washington. Her memoir, "Waiting to be Heard," is expected to be published April 30.

Sollecito has been living in Verona, where he is working toward a degree in computer engineering.


5 Afghan police officers die in attack

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, March 26 (UPI) -- Eight suicide bombers stormed a police compound in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, killing five police officers, a provincial police chief said.

Gen. Mohammed Sharif Amin, police chief for Nangarhar province, said two of the militants detonated their explosives-filled vehicles in front of the Jalalabad Quick Reaction Force headquarters, allowing six attackers in a third vehicle to enter the compound, the Los Angeles Times reported.

As the driver detonated the explosives in the third car, five assailants rushed the compound and opened fire on police, and were killed during an exchange of gunfire, Amin said.

Four other police officers were wounded, officials said.

It wasn't clear whether the attackers on foot detonated their suicide vests before they were killed by police, the Times said.

The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred on the second day of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Kabul to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.


Supreme Court to hear gay-marriage case

WASHINGTON, March 26 (UPI) -- Scores of people huddled outside the U.S. Supreme Court early Tuesday hoping for a seat inside to hear the case for and against California's gay marriage ban.

Jason Wonacott, 25, arrived Friday hoping to be first in line but found 12 people ahead of him.

He told the Los Angeles Times Monday risking hypothermia under a poncho for five days was a way he could show his dedication to the gay marriage cause.

The first 60 people in line when the chamber opens Tuesday are likely to get seats, a court spokesman said.

"You have to be willing to do something bold and maybe a little bit crazy to show it is important," Wonacott, who is gay, told the Times.

Wonacott, who lives in Washington but grew up outside San Francisco, said he hoped the court would overturn California's Proposition 8 so he can eventually be married in his home state.

Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, was to come before the high court Tuesday. The next day, the justices are to weigh the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages blessed by states.

California's 2008 ballot initiative banning gay marriage won support from slightly more than 52 percent of voters and nullified a decision made five months earlier by the state's Supreme Court allowing the practice.

Prop 8 says in part, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

A federal judge declared Prop 8 unconstitutional and a three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco agreed 2-1.

Neither California's governor nor its attorney general is defending the law in court. ProtectMarriage, an activist coalition against same-sex marriage, is the official proponent of the proposition and has been allowed to defend it in the Supreme Court.

Last month, the Obama administration told the Supreme Court California's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

If the court rules same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, the ruling will come from the Proposition 8 case, known as Hollingsworth vs. Perry, and not Wednesday's narrower arguments about the Defense of Marriage Act, The New York Times said.

The court is expected to issue its opinion in June.

Nine states, Washington, D.C., and three American Indian tribes permit same-sex marriage. Nine states prohibit it by statute and 30 prohibit it in their constitutions.


Man gets prison for shining laser at plane

PASADENA, Calif., March 26 (UPI) -- A U.S. federal judge sentenced a 19-year-old California man to two and a half years in prison for shining a laser at a small airplane and police helicopter.

Adam Gardenhire, of North Hollywood, Calif., pleaded guilty in October to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, the Pasadena (Calif.) Star-News reported.

On March 29, a pilot in a NetJet Cessna Citation reported a green-colored laser shined in his eye as he prepared to land at Burbank Airport, momentarily blinding him. A Pasedena police helicopter pilot then reported the laser was pointed at his aircraft when he responded to the first pilot's report of the laser.

The Los Angeles Police Department, the Burbank Police Department, the Pasadena Police Department and the Burbank Airport Police Department identified Gardenhire as the culprit, the Star-News reported.

Gardenhire's lawyer, Sean Kennedy, asked the court for a lighter sentence of two years probation, a fine and community service because he said his client didn't realize the strength of the laser.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said Gardenhire had been warned by a friend who loaned him the laser not to shine it in anyone's eyes. Just because he didn't think about the consequences doesn't mean he's not responsible, she said.

"One can imagine a drunk driver making the same excuse -- that he just 'didn't think about the dangers' of getting behind the wheel in an impaired state. But disregarding a clear risk does not absolve one of responsibility for assuming it," Mills said.


Mark Kelly's gun transaction canceled

TUCSON, March 26 (UPI) -- A gun store owner in Tucson said he canceled the purchase of an assault weapon by Mark Kelly, husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, R-Ariz..

Kelly said he bought the AR-15 to show how easy it is to buy a weapon with high-capacity magazines even with a background check. He planned to surrender the gun to Tucson police, Politico reported.

Doug MacKinlay, owner of Diamondback Police Supply, said he canceled the purchase of the rifle when he discovered Kelly didn't intend to use it.

"While I support and respect Mark Kelly's 2nd Amendment rights to purchase, possess, and use firearms in a safe and responsible manner, his recent statements to the media made it clear that his intent in purchasing the Sig Sauer M400 5.56mm rifle from us was for reasons other then for his personal use," MacKinlay wrote on Facebook Monday. "In light of this fact, I determined that it was in my company's best interest to terminate this transaction prior to his returning to my store to complete the Federal Form 4473 and NICS background check required of Mr. Kelly before he could take possession this firearm."

Giffords suffered a traumatic head injury Jan. 8, 2011, when Jared Loughner, a community college student, opened fire at a meet-and-greet outside a Tucson supermarket. She and her husband, a Navy officer and NASA shuttle commander, have founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group that pushes for expanded background checks for gun buyers.

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