Italian prosecutor slams Knox as verdict looms

30th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

An Italian prosecutor accused Amanda Knox on Friday of trying to pin all the blame for a horrific murder on "the black guy" and urged jurors not to absolve her as a verdict loomed in her appeal.

Giuliano Mignini issued a scathing personal attack on Knox as tension rose at the appeal trial in Perugia, the medieval university town where Knox's British housemate Meredith Kercher was murdered in November 2007.

"Have you ever seen a defendant who hires a big PR agency?" Mignini, who has been a key player in the four-year legal saga from the start, told jurors as Knox, her family and several supporters in the courtroom shook their heads.

"She has a publicity campaign behind her that cost up to a million dollars. And she's the one who has been crucified by the media?" Mignini said, picking up on a phrase used by Knox's defence lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova on Thursday.

"If anyone's been crucified by the media, it's Patrizia Stefanoni" -- the police forensic scientist whose work has been at the centre of the appeal and who was heavily criticised in an independent review of the DNA evidence.

Stefanoni has said she plans to sue after experts commissioned by the court cast doubt on two crucial pieces that helped convict Knox and Sollecito -- a kitchen knife that is the presumed murder weapon and Kercher's bra clasp.

Traces of Kercher's DNA on the knife blade were found to be inconclusive and traces of Sollecito on the bra clasp were also all but discounted.

A verdict in the Knox's appeal, which began in November 2010, is expected Monday.

Kercher was found on November 2 in her bedroom in the house she shared with Knox and two other Italian girls. Her body was almost completely naked and covered in bruises and knife wound, in a pool of blood. She was 21.

"I saw that brutalised corpse with my own eyes," Mignini said, adding that when pictures of the body were shown in court: "Amanda never looked at them."

The prosecutor also argued that an apparent break-in at the house where the murder took place had clearly been staged and that a broken window could not have been smashed from the outside because the wooden blinds were closed.

Knox told police during initial questioning without a lawyer present that she was in the house but did not take part in the killing. She now insists that she was at her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito's house that night.

Referring to Sollecito, who was also convicted of murder and sexual assault and is appealing with Knox, Mignini said the two had coordinated their defence.

"You wanted to make a pact of steel and blame it all on the black guy," he said, apparently alluding to Rudy Guede -- the third person convicted of the murder that prosecutors say was the result of a drug-fuelled sexual assault.

"They covered their tracks well. The poor black guy will pay for everyone," he added. Guede has been tried separately and convicted on the same charges and is serving out a 16-year sentence after exhausting all his appeals.

Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Sollecito got 25 years in 2009.

Another prosecutor, Manuela Comodi, said: "They killed, they killed for nothing. Yes they're young, but so was Meredith."

Prosecutors have asked for Knox and Sollecito's sentences to be increased to life in prison because the crime was motiveless.

Mignini added: "Do you know what will happen if you absolve? She will run away abroad and we won't be able to do anything about it."

Prosecutors have said they will appeal if the verdict is overturned but Knox would be free to leave the country so any hypothetical appeal would likely take place in absentia. If the verdict is upheld, she has one more chance to appeal.

© 2011 AFP

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