Image: Amanda Knox
Stefano Medici / AP

TODAY   |  September 26, 2011

Knox to testify in appeals trial

American student Amanda Knox, who was convicted of killing her roommate while studying in Italy, is planning to address the judge and jury at her appeals trial and declare once again that she is innocent. NBC’s Keith Miller reports.

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>> now to an important decision in italy by amanda knox . she plans to address the court hearing her murder conviction appeal as that case winds down this week. nbc's keith miller is in perugia with the latest for us. keith, good morning.

>> reporter: amanda knox is coping, according to her family. but the prosecution's demand that her prison sentence be increased to life, along with six months of solitary confinement has given her a shock. amanda knox has lost weight. she appeared in court this morning looking tired and tense. almost four years behind bars and the strain of the appeal are taking a toll.

>> reporter: she looks like she's working really hard to pay attention . she's taking notes a lot. i'm really happy for the way she's handling all the really insane things that are being said.

>> in court this morning, family and friends offered encouragement as civil lawyers got their chance to try to convince the judge and jury knox and her former boyfriend are remorseless killers. acting as prosecutors, lawyers representing the three civil cases being heard simultaneously with the criminal trial are all seeking damages. knox and her former boyfriend were convicted of the murder and violent sexual assault of knox 's roommate meredith kercher . the kercher family complained their daughter has been forgotten because of all the attention focused on the defendants. the prosecution took two days to sum up its case, calling the evidence rock-solid. but a former fbi agent here as an independent observer calls the evidence weak, blaming the prosecutor for mishandling the case.

>> reporter: he has never investigated this case. he has simply tried to prove his conclusions correct. and they were wrong in the first place and you can't -- you can't create a zebra by painting stripes on a horse.

>> the appeal trial is attracting international interest. with almost 400 journalists covering the final stage of the appeal. once hostile to knox , the italian press is now speculating that a faulty investigation has produced a weak case. in court , the prosecutor blamed what he called a media circus for attempting to undercut his case led by armchair detectives. the defense will sum up its case later this week and then amanda knox will apparently address the court , the judge and jury . once again, proclaiming her innocence. lester?

>> reporter: keith miller , thanks. savannah guthrie is "today's" legal correspondent. savannah, good morning. a lot has been made of the dna evidence in the case used to conviction amanda knox . that was taken off the table by independent experts who said it simply candidate there. if you take it off the table, how strong is the circumstantial evidence in the case against knox ?

>> the prosecutors call it rock-solid but i think it is hardly that. there's some suspicious behavior perhaps by amanda knox in the way she acted in the interrogation. she of course said she was coerced when she was talking to police in the moments and days after the murder. but the dna was really the crucial evidence in this case. it's what tied amanda knox and her boyfriend to the murder scene and these independent experts have all but eradicated that. assuming the judges believe it, they've got a thinner case.

>> there's somebody in prison who's already confessed to the murder.

>> exactly. forensics strongly tied him to the case and he acknowledged being at the scene. he's currently serving a 16-year sentence.

>> the prosecution is doubling down here. the appeals process works both way, the prosecution can appeal and they are actually asking for a life sentence now for amanda knox and that she be kept in isolation up to six months. what's that about?

>> as you say, the thing about an appeal in the italian system is that prosecutors get another bite at the apple as well and that's the risk. apparently it is very standard for prosecutors not only to ask for more time but also to ask for an increase in the severity of the type of time. so they're asking for amanda knox to have six months of solitary confinement . by and large though, i think this is one feature of the italian justice system that favors amanda knox . the appeal is not at all what it would be in this country where the only issue is points of law. they can basically retry the case. they have retried the case and i think ultimately she may benefit from that.

>> another big difference is the defendant's right to speak to the court unchallenged. she will take that right. it's called a declaration. she can stand up at any time and speak and apparently is going to do that. there is not as much downside as doing that in american court , right?

>> absolutely. because if a defendant speaks in the american courtroom that defendant is subject to cross examination . sheer she can just make a statement. think her lawyers will probably tell her less is more, the less said the better. she can declare her innocence, perhaps convey condolences to the kercher family for what they've been through but once again say to the court , look, i had nothing to do with this.

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