Knox declares innocence in court
Prosecutors today accused University of Washington student Amanda Knox of fatally stabbing her British house mate in a Satanic rite in Perugia...
The Associated Press
ROME — Prosecutors today accused University of Washington student Amanda Knox of fatally stabbing her British house mate in a Satanic rite in Perugia last year and asked a court to convict and punish an alleged African accomplice with life imprisonment, defense lawyers said.
Knox, 21, proclaimed her innocence at the closed-door hearing in the Umbrian university town and emotionally accused police of hitting her on the head and calling her a liar during an interrogation, defense lawyers said.
"It was expected" that prosecutors would seek a harsh penalty, said Valter Biscotti, a lawyer for Rudy Hermann Guede, the Ivorian accused in the case.
At his lawyers' request, a fast-track trial is being conducted for Guede. He has acknowledged being in the bedroom where Meredith Kercher's body, stabbed in the neck and lying in a pool of blood, was found in November 2007 in the house she rented with Knox.
Fast-track trials can sometimes result in lighter penalties. But prosecutors asked the court Saturday to convict Guede and mete out Italy's stiffest punishment — life imprisonment. Italy does not have the death penalty.
The court deciding Guede's fate is also hearing arguments to determine if Knox and her former boyfriend, Italian student Raffaele Sollecito, should stand trial for the slaying. A ruling on prosecutors' request for their indictment is expected for the end of October.
All three suspects have repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the slaying, which took place in Perugia, a university town with a large foreign student population.
Prosecutors at today's hearing "laid out a scenario like from some crime novel," Sollecito's lawyer, Luca Maori, said by telephone after a seven-hour hearing.
Prosecutors "alleged it was some kind of Satanic rite, with Amanda allegedly first touching Meredith with the point of a knife, then slitting her throat, while Sollecito held her by the shoulders, from behind, Guede held her by an arm" and tried to sexually penetrate the victim, Maori said.
One of Knox's lawyers, Carlo della Vedova, told reporters outside the courtroom that prosecutors had laid out "a presumed scenario" with no hard evidence that would justify a trial for his client.
Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, contacted by The AP, declined to elaborate on his allegations Saturday about the slaying nor comment on his request for life imprisonment for Guede.
Another member of Knox's defense team, Luciano Ghirga, described the American as being "disappointed" when the prosecutors pushed for the stiffest sentence for Guede.
The case has received heavy publicity in Italy, in Britain, and in the United States.
Knox asked permission during the closed-door hearing to make a declaration in English. "She proclaimed her innocence, and got emotional when she recalled her interrogation by police in Perugia," Ghirga said in a telephone interview.
The lawyer denied Italian news reports that she wept while addressing the court, but said Knox was upset as she recounted "the pressure, the aggressiveness of the police who called her a liar."
Maori said Knox also accused the police of hitting her on the head during her questioning.
Italian TV showed a brief, partial view of Knox as she given a microphone to address the court. Only her hands, busily gesticulating as she addressed the court, could be seen. There was no audio.
Knox and Sollecito have been jailed as suspects since shortly after the slaying. Under Italian law, they can be jailed for as long as a year during the investigation.
Knox and Sollecito, 24, have given conflicting statements.
Sollecito has said he was at his own apartment in Perugia. He said he does not remember if Knox spent the whole night with him.
Knox has insisted she was not at home during the slaying. But one point, she also told prosecutors she was in the house the night of the slaying and covered her ears to muffle Kercher's screams while a Congolese man who owns a pub in the town killed Kercher. The Congolese man was initially jailed, but authorities released him, saying he was no longer a suspect.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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