Italian prosecutors bid to keep Amanda Knox in jail
Italian prosecutors insisted US student Amanda Knox was guilty of murder on Friday in the final stretch of her appeal trial, while her stepfather branded the accusations "crazy lies".
Silver-haired prosecutor Giuliano Mignini recounted the events of the terrible day in 2007 that Knox's housemate, British student Meredith Kercher, was found in her bedroom half-naked with her throat slashed in a pool of blood.
The prosecution called on the six-person jury to try to ignore the "obsessive" media coverage of the case and to concentrate on the facts.
Mignini showed gruesome photographs of the autopsy and close-ups of Meredith's wounds and evoked the 21-year-old's nightmarish last moments.
Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison in 2009 for the murder but has always protested her innocence, and the appeal has cast serious doubts on the DNA evidence that helped convict her and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.
Knox's stepfather Chris Mellas slammed her accusers for telling "crazy lies," dismissing the prosecution's final arguments in the case as "a farce."
A pale and anxious-looking Knox kept her head low as she sat across from the jury and the prosecution began an intense two days of final arguments.
Mellas said Knox was "under a lot of pressure" as the appeal moves towards a verdict, adding: "We really hope that she'll be freed. It's a matter of days."
Mignini took his time in describing the crime in detail, casting Knox as a girl who loved to "experiment new things" and who had killed Kercher in a drug-fuelled sex game involving Sollecito and a third person, Rudy Guede.
Guede has been convicted separately and is serving a 16-year sentence.
Prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola said that the "unbearable" media coverage of the case had made "everyone feel like the parents of Amanda Knox" and asked the jury instead to "feel like the parents of Meredith Kercher."
"The parallel media trial is not reality. When you withdraw to consult and decide on a verdict you must remember that reality is what you hear here," he said, as dozens of camera crews and photographers jostled for pictures of Knox.
The appeal has sparked the same media frenzy as the trial. Knox was originally portrayed in British tabloids as a lascivious party girl whose angelic features masked a devilish interior.
But when independent experts called by the appeal judge cast doubts on the original forensic procedures, some media turned to supporting the blonde Seattle native, heaping criticism on the Italian judicial system.
Police who attended the crime scene were accused by the defence of failing to follow international procedures after they were captured on film contaminating the DNA traces by using dirty gloves to collect the evidence.
The prosecution insisted that even if the original forensic evidence used to convict the pair -- traces of the lovers' DNA on the murder weapon and a torn bra clip -- is excluded, "the DNA is not the only evidence at play here."
They resumed the evidence used in the first trial to place the pair on the scene, from bloody footprints to the homeless man who claims he saw Knox and Sollecito on the night of the murder, undermining their alibis.
During police questioning in the days after the gruesome killing, Knox said she had been in the house at the time of the murder and had heard Kercher's screams. She also identified a bar owner, Patrice Lumumba, as the murderer.
Lumumba was subsequently found to have a rock-solid alibi and Knox said she had been struck by a police officer and had spoken without a lawyer present.
The appeal began in December 2010.
Next week the court will hear closing arguments from Francesco Maresca, the Kercher family's lawyer, as well as the final summing up by the defence. The result of the appeal is expected as early as next week.
© 2011 AFP