Amanda Knox, already serving a 26-year sentence in an Italian prison for the murder of her British roommate, appeared calm but serious Wednesday as her lawyers began the process of challenging the evidence against her. Meanwhile, prosecutors are trying to get a judge to throw the book even harder at the 23-year-old from Washington state.
Knox returned to court in Perugia briefly on Wednesday for the start of her appeals trial. Also attending was Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian who was Knox's boyfriend at the time of the murder. He has been convicted of the same charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The hearing, devoted mainly to procedural matters, lasted 15 minutes and the case was adjourned until Dec. 11.
Under Italian law, Amanda Knox’s second bite at the judicial apple could leave an even more bitter taste than the first one. The defense is seeking a full review of the case, hoping to introduce new witnesses and ultimately win an acquittal. But if prosecutors have their way, the defendant dubbed “Angel Face” and “Foxy Knoxy” by the European tabloids could wind up with an even longer sentence.
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"We want an acquittal, the prosecution demands a life sentence: It's an intense, harsh and violent legal clash," Luciano Ghirga, a lawyer for Knos, told The Associated Press Tuesday.
But Knox’s parents, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira on Wednesday that they do not view the appeal as a gamble. Rather, they are encouraged by the fact that the appeal was assigned to a new jury presided over by a new judge who is regarded as open-minded and fair by defense lawyers in Italy.
Mellas said that despite the risk of a longer sentence, not appealing was not an option: “When you are innocent, you have no choice but to appeal and you keep going until you are free.”Video: More prison time for Amanda Knox? (on this page)
Knox, Sollecito, and another man were tried for the November 2007 stabbing death of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. Knox, a student abroad, was sharing a flat with Kercher and two other women in Perugia at the time.
Although evidence was presented at the trial that crime scene evidence was mishandled, Knox and Sollecito were convicted of murder last December. Prosecutors argued that Kercher died during a sex game gone wrong. A third suspect received 30 years in prison, but an appeals court slashed his sentence to 16 years.Slideshow: A murder in Italy (on this page)
When the appellate proceedings resume on Dec. 11, Knox’s defense lawyers are expected to ask the court to appoint an independent panel of experts to review the physical evidence in the case. The family hopes that “fresh eyes” will view the evidence in a different light and conclude that there is no physical evidence tying Amanda to the murder, Curt Knox told Vieira.
In his findings, the trial judge entertained speculation and guesses and just got it wrong, Curt Knox argued.
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“There are assumptions made that are not backed up by fact. There are hypotheses that are made that are not backed up by fact,” he said. “We think an independent review, specifically of the forensic evidence, is really going to point this new judge and jury to the fact that Amanda had nothing to do with this crime.”
In their appeal motion, Knox's lawyers were sharply critical of the verdict, maintaining it was based on mere hypotheses and saying that "the motive, a fundamental aspect of a serious crime, is basically absent." They also denounced an "obscene media campaign" against their client, accused police of focusing their investigation into the slaying on the assumption that Knox was guilty, and said the court made the same mistake.Video: Knox makes appeal in murder conviction (on this page)
Prosecutors did present circumstantial evidence and forensic evidence linking both Knox and Sollecito to the crime, and the court in its verdict supported this evidence against the defense's claims. They described Knox as a manipulative, promiscuous woman whose personality clashed with Kercher's.
In their December ruling, the judges said they found no inconsistencies in the prosecution's case. The killing was carried out without planning or animosity, but still it was the result of a brutal sexual assault, the court said in a document that was released in March and summed up the reasoning behind the verdict.
Wearing a blue knit sweater, Knox looked a bit tired and grave when she appeared in court on Wednesday. Although she is concerned about what is at stake in the proceedings, she tries to hide it during the 10-minute phone calls she gets with her family every Saturday, her mother said.
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“She always tries to put on a brave face for those 10 minutes; we know that it is just horrible for her to be locked up for a crime she didn’t commit,” Mellas said. “This has taken a toll … I don’t know that I would characterize her as depressed, but she is worried.”
Knox’s lawyers said as much in court papers. “The long pre-emptive custody has broken down the young woman,” they wrote.
A ruling on the appeal is not expected until sometime in the spring.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.
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