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Originally published September 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 17, 2008 at 9:37 AM

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UW student Amanda Knox in court in murder case

University of Washington student Amanda Knox, suspected in the slaying of her British roommate in Italy last year, appeared with one other suspect Tuesday for their first hearing before a judge who is deciding whether they will be charged and stand trial.

The Associated Press

PERUGIA, Italy — University of Washington student Amanda Knox, suspected in the slaying of her British roommate in Italy last year, appeared with one other suspect Tuesday for their first hearing before a judge who is deciding whether they will be charged and stand trial.

Judge Paolo Micheli granted the request of African suspect Rudy Hermann Guede for a fast-track trial even before he was formally charged. A quick trial limits the number of witnesses and kinds of evidence that can be submitted and, if he is convicted, carries a lighter sentence.

The judge made no decision on charging the two other suspects: Knox, 21, of Seattle, and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who did not appear in court.

Meredith Kercher, a visiting student from Leeds University in England, was stabbed in the neck Nov. 1 in the apartment she shared with Knox and other university students in Perugia.

Prosecutors allege the suspects strangled and stabbed her. They accuse Guede of engaging in sexual violence against Kercher, with the help of Knox and Sollecito.

Prosecutors have asked the court to charge the three with murder as well as counts of sexual violence and stealing $475 in cash, two credit cards and two cellphones from Kercher.

It was the first time Knox was in the presence of the victim's relatives, who attended the closed-door hearing. Knox's lawyer said there was no interaction with the family.

Knox gazed straight ahead and appeared calm as she was escorted past a group of journalists into the courtroom. She looked thinner after 10 months in jail since her Nov. 6 arrest.

Knox's lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, said neither his client nor Guede addressed the court during the session devoted primarily to technical matters.

"Amanda is as calm as she has ever been ever since I've known her," Ghirga said.

Guede has acknowledged being in the victim's room but has denied killing Kercher.

A fast-track proceeding is closed to the public, unlike a full trial. It will be held before the same judge, who is expected to issue the verdict at the time he decides whether to indict Knox and Sollecito. The rulings are expected next month.

Sollecito's lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, said her client did not attend the session because it was devoted to technical matters but she added that he plans to attend future sessions. Defendants are not required to attend court sessions in Italy.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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