Knox lawyers confident ahead of appeal in Italy

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Amanda Knox goes before an Italian court on Saturday in her quest to overturn a conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher, with lawyers confident they can discredit key forensic evidence.

The American was sentenced to 26 years in prison last year for the 2007 killing of British university student Meredith, 21, with whom she shared a house with in the town of Perugia in central Italy where both were studying.

Raffaele Sollecito, Knox's boyfriend at the time, was sentenced to 25 years for his part in the murder and is also appealing his conviction.

The appeal hearing will re-examine the DNA and witness evidence used to convict the pair after the court ordered fresh tests on the presumed murder weapon.

Luciano Ghirga, one of Knox's lawyers, said the review was "an important step" and a "victory in the search for truth."

Prosecutor Manuela Comodi, who had opposed the review, said at least it would "finally end the scandal over alleged errors, which did not occur."

The defence says the kitchen knife -- found in Raffaele's house and said to have Knox's DNA on the handle and Meredith's on the blade -- does not fit the wounds found on the Leeds University student.

The absence of blood and low level of Meredith's DNA on the knife mean it was probably contaminated in the lab and should be excluded.

They also want a bra clip with traces of Raffaele's DNA disregarded because it was collected days after the murder, had been moved, and is also likely to be contaminated.

Kercher's body was found semi-naked in a pool in her room on November 2, 2007. A third person, an Ivorian man called Rudy Guede, who was sentenced for his part in the murder in a fast-track trial in 2008.

Prosecutors said Knox, Sollecito and Guede were charged with sexually assaulting and killing Meredith in a drug-fuelled attack.

But Knox's lawyers say the Seattle native only confessed to being at home the night of the murder after nearly 54 hours of intense interrogation without a solicitor or interpreter. She later retracted her statement.

Carlo Dalla Vedova, Knox's other lawyer, has said the case against her is "full of grey areas" and that it was "a huge miscarriage of justice."

The most basic procedures were mishandled by investigators at the crime scene, the defence says, including the fact Meredith's body temperature was not measured for at least 12 hours after she was found, they say.

Police also failed to react to Guede's apparent confession to a cell-mate that he had masturbated over Meredith and neglected to carry out DNA test on the semen found on the cushion under her body.

The lawyers have also questioned the reliability of the prosecution's key witness, homeless man Antonio Curatolo, who lives on a bench and has been a witness in a murder enquiry in Perugia twice before.

He testified to seeing Amanda and Raffaele the night of the murder -- apparently undermining their alibis -- but when the defence pointed to inconsistencies, Curatolo changed his story.

As well as undermining prosecution evidence, Knox's lawyers are keen for the Perugia court to review testimony by gangster Luciano Aviello, currently serving time for murder, which would exonerate Amanda and Raffaele entirely.

Aviello claimed his brother Antonio confessed to the murder before fleeing the country and could show police where the knife was buried, but the court has yet to admit his testimony.

"Their conviction was a monstrous injustice, based on shaky evidence and contrived witnesses," said David C Anderson, a retired professor of medicine who has taken an interest in the case and will attend the hearing Saturday.

"I just hope that the judge and jury realise their mistake," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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