Frail Amanda Knox appeals in Italy sex-murder case

24th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

A nervous-looking Amanda Knox began her appeal on Wednesday against her conviction for the sex-murder of a British student in the medieval Italian city of Perugia in 2007.

Knox, a 23-year-old from Seattle who was jailed for 26 years for the murder, gripped the edges of the sleeves of her blue cardigan and nodded while talking with her lawyers in the courtroom during the hearing.

"We feel as though we have a very good case," her step-father, Chris Mellas, told AFP ahead of the hearing.

"She's going to go home," said Mellas, who has been living in Perugia since September to help Knox prepare for her appeal.

Mellas said the wait for the appeal had been "difficult" for Knox, who was a student in the city at the time of the killing.

Wednesday's hearing lasted only a few minutes and the appeal court judge scheduled the next hearings for December 11, December 18 and January 15.

The result of the trial is expected some time next year.

"The conviction is wrong. We're starting again from scratch," Knox's lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, told reporters after the hearing.

Ghirga said the defence would focus on DNA evidence linking Knox to the crime scene that he said had been questioned by three scientific opinions.

The lawyer said Knox's mother and father would be at the hearing on December 11 and said he expected the trial to conclude in February or March.

Asked about her health, he said: "She looks terrible. She's very thin."

Knox was sentenced last year for killing Leeds University student Meredith Kercher in the cottage they shared in Perugia as part of what prosecutors described as a gruesome, drug-fuelled sexual assault.

Prosecutors have said they will seek a longer sentence for Knox if the conviction is upheld by the court.

Knox's then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who was sentenced to 25 years for the 2007 murder, is appealing at the same time.

Sollecito, wearing a cream-coloured polo neck jumper, flashed a smile at the cameras as he entered the courtroom for the hearing.

An Ivorian man, Rudy Guede, who fled Perugia soon after the killing and was arrested in Germany, has also been jailed for the murder.

Kercher was found on November 2, 2007, half-naked in a pool of blood with stab wounds to the neck in her room in the cottage she shared with Knox.

Knox has repeatedly protested her innocence and her case has continued to garner large-scale media attention, particularly in the United States where many people are convinced of her innocence.

Earlier this month she was indicted on additional charges of slander for claiming that police beat her during questioning soon after the murder. She said then that she had been in the house at the time of the killing.

Knox faces a separate trial on the slander charges on May 17 next year.

She has spoken in detail of her imprisonment in a book of interviews by Italian lawmaker Rocco Girlanda, president of the Italy-USA Foundation, who has taken a personal interest in the case and has visited Knox in prison.

Knox is quoted in the book as saying that she longs to live a normal life and hopes to one day become a mother and start a writing career.

"I want to live... I'm thinking about when I will be out of here," Knox is quoted as saying during one of the visits in her cell in Perugia.

"Living here is like being in limbo," she said.

Girlanda said he brought Knox numerous classic works of world literature during his visits, including works by Dostoyevsky, Hemingway and Kafka.

The case is also serving as the basis for a television film currently being shot in Italy called "The Amanda Knox Story," starring US actress Hayden Panettiere as Knox. It is expected to screen in the United States next year.

© 2010 AFP

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