'Devilish' Knox accused in Italy as verdict looms

30th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Amanda Knox was accused in an Italian court on Friday of trying to pin all the blame for murder on "the black guy" and was called a "devilish slanderer" as a verdict loomed in her appeal.

Senior prosecutor Giuliano Mignini issued a scathing personal attack on Knox as tensions rose at the 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 by an independent review of the DNA evidence.

Stefanoni says she plans to sue after experts commissioned by the court cast doubt on two crucial pieces of evidence 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 Knox's appeal, which began in November, 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 through a window at the house where the murder took place had clearly been staged by the killers.

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.

In that interrogation she identified Patrick Lumumba, the owner of a bar where she worked as a waitress, as the real culprit.

Lumumba was arrested and held for two weeks but was found to have a rock-solid alibi and has been completely exhonerated.

Lumumba's lawyer Carlo Pacelli said his client has been haunted by nightmares of his own children being taken away ever since his injust arrest.

"That pain has a name -- Amanda Knox, a devilish slanderer," he said.

He also pointed to reports of Knox's hard-partying lifestyle in Perugia that were the subject of a media frenzy during the investigation, saying: "At the time of the crime, Amanda was a blend of sex, drugs and alcohol."

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.

Prosecutors in the appeal 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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