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Originally published Saturday, October 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Seattle attorney, judge say Amanda Knox is being unfairly treated by court

The Italian defense team working to win the freedom of University of Washington student Amanda Knox is getting a valuable assist from a well-known defense attorney and a judge in Seattle.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Italian defense team working to win the freedom of University of Washington student Amanda Knox is getting a valuable assist from a well-known defense attorney and a judge in Seattle.

Attorney Anne Bremner and King County Superior Court Judge Mike Heavey are among those who believe the 21-year-old exchange student is being treated unfairly by an Italian court, which is weighing her guilt in the slaying of her roommate last year in Perugia, Italy.

Both have helped in the defense of Knox as she appears before an Italian judge who is deciding whether Knox and another suspect will be charged and stand trial for the slaying of Meredith Kercher. The visiting student from Leeds University in England was stabbed in the neck Nov. 1 in the apartment she shared with Knox and other students.

A third suspect, Rudy Hermann Guede, opted 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.

Italian prosecutors allege the suspects strangled and stabbed Kercher. They also accuse Guede of engaging in sexual violence against Kercher, with the help of Knox and Knox's former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

But after recent developments in the case, including the intervention of Bremner and Heavey, Knox's parents are feeling optimistic about their daughter's chances of winning release.

"We've always been guardedly optimistic because we know Amanda is innocent," said Edda Mellas, Knox's mother. "But we know there are innocent people in prison all over the world."

Previously, much of what was known of the case came through leaks from police, prosecutors and prison officials, Knox's supporters say. The hearings are closed to the public.

Heavey wrote to the Italian council that regulates judges to ask that the case be moved out of Perugia and to protest leaks from the prosecutor, police and prison officials to the tabloid press.

"Amanda Knox is in grave danger of being convicted of the murder because of illegal and improper poisoning of public opinion and judicial opinion," Heavey wrote. "I respectfully submit that the prosecutor's office, police and prison employees have made illegal and false statements ... These false reports have wrongfully poisoned the well of public opinion against Amanda."

Similar concerns prompted Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to write to the Italian ambassador in the U.S. and the American ambassador in Italy urging that Knox get a "fair trial by an impartial tribunal."

Cantwell also noted that news reports raise questions whether that's happened. "Confidential information about her case was leaked, resulting in false and misleading media reports."

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What makes Mellas more optimistic are recent courtroom developments.

In one, Knox's statement "I was there," made in a taped telephone conversation to her parents and referring to being with Sollecito, has been clarified.

Police had translated the statement from English to Italian to mean Knox was at the murder scene that night, Mellas said. Defense attorneys brought in another translator who listened to the tape and said the reference was simply to Knox being at Sollecito's.

Even some of the Italian newspapers that previously vilified Knox have been writing more balanced articles, Heavey said.

"I'd like to think it's because of some of the things we've done here," said Heavey, who has offered advice, along with Bremner, to the defense team and written letters in support of Knox.

In addition to being an attorney, Bremner is a legal analyst for truTV (formerly Court TV), MSNBC and Fox News.

Back in Seattle, Mellas tries to keep positive, but "I cry every day," she said.

She worries that even if the prosecutor's case against her daughter falls apart, the Italian court may have difficulty saving face and her daughter still could face trial.

She is anguished that only a portion of Knox's prison diaries — those discussing her lovers after the prison officials told her falsely that she tested positive for HIV — were made public. And when they were, they were incorrectly translated to imply she'd had seven lovers in 60 days in Italy instead of over her lifetime.

Also never publicized were her feelings about Kercher.

"Meredith was my friend and I'll never forget how wonderful she was," Knox wrote. "How is anyone else supposed to know what it feels like to feel like your own death was just as close? It was my home after all, and I could have just as likely been found there. ... "

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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