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09.23.11

Knox Appeal Hits a Snag

Since her appeal began, Amanda Knox has appeared to be sailing toward an acquittal—but the prosecution’s powerful closing argument today could alter her fate once again. By Barbie Nadeau

It is the beginning of the endgame for Amanda Knox, the 24-year-old Seattle native appealing her murder conviction for the death of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy, in 2007.

On Friday, the prosecution opened the final phase of the appellate process with a fiery closing argument meant to remind the two judges and six members of the jury just what Knox and Sollecito were actually convicted of in the first place. For months, reports have focused on two key pieces of evidence—a knife and the clasp from Kercher’s bra—that were determined inadmissible during an independent review. “It’s not just about the knife and the bra clasp,” prosecutor Giuliano Mignini told the court. “There are lots of other things.”

He then delivered a damning and detailed account of why he thinks Knox and Sollecito should not only stay in jail, but serve even more time. In fact, he wants them to be resentenced to life in prison. Mignini covered the prosecution’s version of Kercher’s tragic murder point by point, showing pictures of her fatal knife wounds and the bloody crime scene. He bemoaned how the case grew into such a media spectacle and urged the jury not to be pressured by the global attention this case now commands. “We are in the republic of Italy,” he said. “Don’t give in to pressure from beyond our country.”

He also scolded the media for turning Knox into a victim and for neglecting to show the same respect to the real victim, Meredith Kercher. At one point he hinted that Knox’s own defense—and that of her lawyers’—has been based on slandering everyone around her, from accusing an innocent man of the murder to saying the police hit her, before making a quick comparison to a “Nazi propaganda minister.” In all, it was a damning day for Knox, who sat solemnly at her lawyers’ table. The jury hung on Mignini’s every word in a scene reminiscent of the first trial. Mignini’s closing arguments back in December 2009 had a huge impact on the convicting jury, but it’s too early to say if it will have the same effect on this one.

Video screenshot

Before Mignini spoke, the head of the Perugia prosecutorial team cautioned the jury not to become confused by the massive amount of media attention. That won’t be easy. Outside the court, satellite trucks and white TV tents filled the usually quaint piazza as more journalists arrived daily to cover the trial, which is expected to wrap up by Oct. 3. Mignini’s coprosecutor, Giancarlo Costagliola, urged the jury not to take notice of the media circus. “The press coverage has been so obsessive that everyone feels like the parents of Amanda Knox,” he said. “I wish that you jurors will feel a little bit like the parents of Meredith Kercher, whose life was taken by these two kids from good families.”

The head of the prosecutorial team cautioned the jury not to become confused by the media attention. That won’t be easy.

Like so many twists and turns in the four years of this dreadful murder case, today’s events made a ripple in what has until now seemed to be a positive appeal for Knox. The appellate process has led many to believe that she was falsely convicted based on a damning report by independent forensic experts condemning the police and laboratories that processed the crime scene. Those truly obsessed with the case won’t change their opinions, but casual followers were quick to comment that perhaps the conviction was right all along. “From recent news, it sounded like she was going to get off,” said Melissa Grader, one of a handful of trial tourists who stopped by the court to see what was going on. “Now it sounds like maybe they had it right.”

Knox’s family and supporters, who were also in court in greater numbers than usual, called the prosecution’s closing argument lies. Amanda’s mother, Edda Mellas, who is in Perugia with her husband, Chris Mellas, and Knox’s father, Curt, told reporters outside the court that she was down. “Listening to people telling horrible lies is difficult.”

Mignini left the jurors with a poignant thought. “Don’t let the poor black guy be the only one to pay the price for this murder,” he said, referring to Rudy Guede, who is serving a 16-year sentence, reduced from 30 years for his role in the murder. He also lambasted the press for their role in making this story much bigger than it should be. “In 32 years in this profession, I have never heard of television networks buying plane tickets for defendants' supporters in exchange for interviews.”

The prosecution will continue their closing arguments on Saturday with prosecutor Manuela Comodi making the final plea. On Monday, the lawyers for the Kercher family and Patrick Lumumba will have their chance to address the court. On Tuesday, Sollecito’s defense team will give their closing arguments, and then on Thursday it’s Knox’s defense before rebuttals, deliberations, and a final verdict. Knox will either be released from jail, be given a reduction of sentence, or have her conviction confirmed. No matter what happens, her fate will most certainly be much better than Kercher’s.