“We trust in the Italian justice system,″ Elder’s mother, Leah Elder, told The Associated Press before heading to the courthouse. “We hope that the anomalies and the inconsistencies that were revealed in the first trial will be brought to light. We really hope that the truth of that night will be shown.”

Lawyers and relatives of two young American men convicted of murdering a police officer in Rome said they are hoping for a better outcome from the defendants’ appeals trial, which began Thursday in the Italian capital.

Carabinieri Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, who had just returned from his honeymoon, was hailed as a national hero after he was stabbed 11 times in the street while on a plainclothes mission in July 2019, near the hotel where the two U.S. tourists were staying.

Finnegan Lee Elder, now 22, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, now 21, were convicted in May 2021 of slaying the 35-year-old officer, as well as of attempted extortion, resisting a public official and carrying an attack-style knife without just cause.

The two young men, who had been friends back home in California, were given Italy’s harshest punishment — life imprisonment — and therefore essentially have nothing to lose in seeking the appeals trial.

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