article

05.21.11

Knox's New Appeal Debacle

Amanda Knox was accused of murder three-and-a-half years ago, but as her appeal takes yet another twist, there's more confusion surrounding the crime than ever. By Barbie Latza Nadeau

In what has come to feel more like a tragicomedy than a serious court process, the ongoing trial—now in the appellate phase—for the murder of Meredith Kercher took yet another turn for the bizarre. For the first time in this now-epic case, Knox, the quirky Seattle native serving 26 years for her part in the murder, seemed like the only person who was taking things seriously Saturday. She entered court with her head down, wearing a beige satin shirt and black slacks—a far cry from her usual Beatles T-shirts and casual hoodies. She looked tense and afraid. Her hair was tied back and she made little eye contact with anyone except her father, Curt Knox, and her best friend, Madison Paxton, who sat behind her.

At the end of the brief court session, the lawyers started arguing about summer calendar dates, giving excuses like weddings and planned vacations for why certain days wouldn’t work. As if to bring everyone back to the issue at hand, Knox then spoke, her voice quavering with emotion. “I have been in prison for three-and-a-half years as an innocent person,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “I am very frustrated and mentally exhausted.”

She was no doubt referring to the debacle unfolding around her. The two independent experts who are reexamining the knife (which the convicting judge believed to be the murder weapon) and Kercher’s bra clasp (which has Raffaele Sollecito’s DNA on the tiny metal clasp) took the stand earlier in the morning to ask for an extension of 40 days to submit their re-examination results. They said the kits they are required to use had not been given to them in a timely fashion. They also complained about the time it took to receive supporting documents from the state examiner, but they say they now have all the documentation they need to do their job. “We just want maximum collaboration,” said Carla Vecchiotti, a forensic specialist from La Sapienza University in Rome. “We now have everything we need.”

“I have been in prison for three-and-a-half years as an innocent person,” she said, tears streaming down her face.

Their new deadline, which had been May 9, was extended to June 30, at which time the court will be given another month to review their results before they are presented on July 25, 29, and 30.

In the meantime, the court granted a defense request to hear five new witnesses. Oddly —or maybe not for this case—all five witnesses are already in prison, serving time for everything from baby killing to drug trafficking. Luciano Aviello, serving time for Mafia collusion, says his brother, who is on the lam, murdered Kercher. And Mario Alessi, serving a life sentence for kidnapping and killing a 17-month-old child, says he heard Guede admit to killing Kercher alone during a prison yard chat. Three prisoners who back up his story will also testify. The five inmates will be heard on June 18 and 27.

And just last week, another prison letter arrived at the defense lawyers’ offices, this time from Tommaso Pace, who makes the preposterous claim that Kercher was a heavy-drug user and says he has proof that two unnamed brothers were paid €100,000 to off her due to her drug debts. In the letter, obtained by The Daily Beast, Pace states that Knox, Sollecito, and Rudy Guede are all innocent.

After the witnesses and experts testify, the court will adjourn for a summer break and pick up again in September when the prosecution and defense lawyers will give their closing arguments. A final verdict is expected in late September with three possible outcomes. The verdict could be overturned and Knox could return home to Seattle; she could be given a reduction in sentence like Guede, whose sentence was cut from 30 to 16 years on appeal; or the appellate judge could uphold the verdict as it stands. If the verdict is not overturned, she will have one more chance, this time with Italy’s high court, to win her freedom.

The original criminal trial was a confusing process that seemed at times unfocused. But the appellate trial, so far just six sessions, looks like it will be even more convoluted. “There is nothing more important that finding the truth,” a tearful Knox told the court today. But it seems that in Perugia, there's nothing quite as difficult, either.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, author of the Beast Book Angel Face, about Amanda Knox, has reported from Italy for Newsweek Magazine since 1997 and for The Daily Beast since 2009. She is a frequent contributor to CNN Traveller, Departures, Discovery and Grazia. She appears regularly on CNN, BBC and NPR.