Knox pleas for 'truth' as DNA experts granted extra time

21st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

A tearful Amanda Knox, the American convicted for the murder of a British student in Italy, told a court Saturday she was innocent as DNA experts reviewing the evidence were given extra time.

"I'm innocent and have been in prison for more than three and a half years. It's very frustrating and mentally exhausting for me," Knox said in Italian, on learning that the extension meant the outcome of her appeal would likely be delayed.

"There's nothing more important than finding the truth. There have been many prejudices and mistakes made," she said.

Knox was sentenced in December 2009 to 26 years in prison for the grisly murder of Meredith Kercher with whom she shared a house in Perugia, in what prosecutors said was a drug-fuelled sex game that turned violent.

Raffaele Sollecito, Knox's boyfriend at the time, was sentenced to 25 years for his part in the murder. Both are now appealing their convictions.

The Seattle native arrived in court looking elegant in an ivory satin shirt and black trousers. Her hair pinned back into a ponytail, she smiled at her father Curt, who had flown over from the United States to support her.

"I remember the first days, I was young and I didn't understand all of this. I don't want to stay in prison unjustly for my whole life," Knox said, her voice trembling.

As part of the appeal, fresh DNA tests were ordered on the presumed murder weapon and a bra clip found at the scene. Two independent experts from Rome's Sapienza University were originally given 90 days to review the evidence.

At Saturday's hearing the forensic specialists asked for an extra 40 days to examine other evidence and were granted an extension until June 30.

The court in Perugia also ruled that new witnesses, sought by the defence, will be allowed to give evidence.

The next hearings were scheduled for June 18 and 27.

"The experts asked the forensic police to hand over information essential to their report. They still haven't received it and will therefore request a 40 days extension," Carlo della Vedova, Knox's lawyer, said ahead of the hearing.

"It's not the first time we've asked for the police to hand over this information," della Vedova added.

The young lovers were originally convicted in large part because of traces of Knox's DNA found on the knife and Sollecito's DNA on a bra clip -- but della Vedova said the specialists had been unable to verify the findings.

"They weren't able to find any DNA on the knife blade at all, and it wasn't possible to repeat the test on the bra clip. It had been kept in a wet bag and had completely disintegrated," della Vedova said.

The lawyer for the 23-year-old said the experts had been asked to verify the presence of DNA, and if this proved impossible, ascertain whether the original tests had been carried out correctly by Italy's forensic police.

It was Knox's second court appearance in a week.

On Tuesday, she attended the first hearing in a slander trial in which she is charged with falsely accusing Italian police of beating and intimidating her during questioning.

Amanda's father and her mother, Edda Mellas, were also ordered to stand trial for alleging their daughter was beaten by Italian police in an interview they gave to Britain's Sunday Times in 2008.

Knox said the couple would be pleading not guilty at the trial, which is set for July 4.

© 2011 AFP

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