TODAY   |  June 18, 2010

Amanda Knox to answer slander charges

Seven months after her conviction for murder, 22-year-old Amanda Knox was back in an Italian court, fighting charges that she slandered local police. NBC’s Dawna Friesen reports.

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MATT LAUER, co-host: A new court appearance and a new look for American college student Amanda Knox who's currently serving 26 years in jail for the murder of her roommate. NBC 's Dawna Friesen is in London with the latest on this story. Dawna , good morning to you.

DAWNA FRIESEN reporting: Good morning, Matt. Amanda Knox is facing another summer in an Italian prison. She is appealing her conviction but is now fighting new charges as well, and she's changed her look. Seven months after her conviction for murder, 22-year-old Amanda Knox is in an Italian courtroom again, this time fighting charges she slandered Italian police . Her once-long hair is now short; she cut it two days after her conviction when she was sentenced to 26 years for the brutal murder of her former roommate, British student Meredith Kercher . In Perugia , her stepfather said she's holding up well.

Mr. CHRIS MELLAS: She does what she has to do to just kind of keep going. It's difficult for her, definitely. But she'll make it through this. She's strong.

FRIESEN: At her trial, Knox claimed Italian police slapped and yelled at her during an all-night interrogation. Knox and her parents say Italian police violated her human rights.

Ms. EDDA MELLAS (Mother): They should have provided her with a lawyer. And all of her conversations with them were supposed to be taped. You know, none of that happened.

FRIESEN: Now Knox , in addition to appealing her murder conviction, is fighting slander charges.

Mr. DAN ABRAMS (NBC News Chief Legal Analyst): She may even want to argue that the fact that they're going after her again shows you just how vindictive that these prosecutors are.

FRIESEN: Knox 's image has evolved in the two and a half years since she was charged. Then she was seen kissing and cuddling her boyfriend and co-accused a day after Kercher 's murder. The Italian press dubbed her " Angel Face " and she sometimes arrived in court with a big smile. Her new look and serious demeanor are a departure. Fresh hope for Knox 's appeal may come from a potential new witness. A mafia member, now in prison himself, claims his brother, Antonio Aviello , killed Kercher after breaking into the apartment. But prosecutors have deemed his evidence unreliable.

Mr. MELLAS: The main concern that we have is the fact that the court would not -- would not even hear him, that they're compelled by law to hear every single person who has witness testimony.

FRIESEN: Knox 's lawyers are pushing to have that convicted mafia member admitted as a witness when her appeal gets under way later this year, and if that appeal fails, Knox faces spending most of her adult life behind bars.