Verdict day for Amanda Knox in Italy sex-murder trial

3rd October 2011, Comments 0 comments

American Amanda Knox faces a verdict on Monday to determine whether she was an innocent caught up in a gruesome Italian murder case or a remorseless killer who knifed a British student to death.

Together with her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, Knox is appealing her conviction for the murder and sexual assault of her housemate Meredith Kercher on November 1, 2007.

"We are hoping for the best," Knox's father, Curt, said in an interview on the Today Show on the eve of the verdict. "It's going to be very tough for her to have to struggle for her life. She'll be pleading for her life," he said.

Knox is expected to make a final statement to the court ahead of the ruling.

Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and her boyfriend to 25 in 2009 in a case that has shocked many because of the brutality of the killing and the hard-partying student environment in which it is alleged to have taken place.

Knox, Kercher and Sollecito were all studying in the hilltop university town of Perugia in central Italy, which is popular with year-abroad students.

Local small-time drug dealer and petty thief Rudy Guede has been convicted on the same charges as Knox and Sollecito but was tried separately and is serving a 16-year sentence after exhausting his appeals.

All three convicted for the murder have protested their innocence, although Guede claims he was in the house that night but did not wield the knife.

The decision in the appeal, which began in November 2010, will be up to an eight-person jury presided by main judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, another judge and six jurors from the general public -- five women and one man.

Whatever the outcome, it seems likely that the details of what exactly happened in the cottage that Knox and Kercher shared will never be clear.

In her first interrogation in November 2007, Knox said she was in the house at the time of the murder and she falsely identified the owner of a bar where she worked as a waitress as the killer. He was arrested but quickly exonerated.

Sollecito also told police that Knox had been missing for several hours that evening and that she only came to his place at around one in the morning.

Knox now says that she was with Sollecito at his house all night and that her initial comments were misunderstood and only given after heavy questioning.

The key to the appeal has been the analysis of two pieces of evidence that helped convict Knox and Sollecito -- a kitchen knife and Kercher's bra clasp.

Police said they had found Knox's DNA on the handle and Kercher's on the knife, the presumed murder weapon, which was found in Sollecito's kitchen.

The bra clasp was picked up by investigators at the scene of the murder several weeks after the killing and was believed to have Sollecito's DNA on it.

But independent experts commissioned by the appeal court said the DNA work in the investigation had been shoddy and that the DNA traces were too low.

As a result, defence lawyers say there is now no physical evidence placing either Sollecito or Knox at the scene of the murder -- Kercher's bedroom.

Kercher, 21, an exchange student from Leeds University, was found stripped naked and in a pool of blood on the floor of her bedroom. Her body had 43 knife wounds and bruising, as well as evidence of sexual assault before death.

Her mother is expected to attend the verdict, along with Knox's parents.

© 2011 AFP

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