After 15 months in prison, American co-ed Amanda Knox finally got a chance to speak in an open courtroom in Perugia, Italy, last weekend as journalists, the jury and her father looked on. Knox, together with her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, are standing trial for the murder and sexual assault of Meredith Kercher in November 2007. (Article continued below...)
On Friday, Knox listened to several hours of testimony from Kercher's friends before speaking herself, as is her right at any point in the trial under the Italian judiciary system.
Amy Frost, one of three girls with whom Kercher, a British citizen, spent her last night, repeated stories that Kercher had allegedly told them. "Amanda would play the guitar, but she would play the same chord over and over again," Frost recalled.
Another friend, Robyn Butterworth talked about how their friend Meredith felt awkward because Knox didn't flush the toilet. All of the girls recalled Meredith talking about how Knox brought strange men home and how she kept in the bathroom a transparent tote bag with condoms and a pink vibrator shaped like a rabbit.
When Knox spoke, she addressed the witnesses' testimony, including the odd detail about a vibrator. "It exists," she said with a giggle, speaking in impeccable Italian. "It was a joke. It's a little pink rabbit and it was given to me by a friend as a joke."
Knox's father, Curt, in an interview with NEWSWEEK ahead of the testimony, anticipated a difficult day. "These girls are very dedicated friends of Meredith," he said. "But they were not at the house when the murder took place or when the body was discovered."
Still the girls' testimony could be damaging for the defense. They claimed that both Knox and Sollecito acted strange and without much grief as the group sat in the Perugia police office during interrogations on the day of the murder. "I found Amanda's behavior very strange. She showed no emotion," Butterworth testified. "We were all crying but I didn't see Amanda crying. She and Raffaele were kissing and joking and laughing. She stuck her tongue out at him, she put her feet on him.
"The girls also called attention to comments Knox allegedly made in the police office. They testified that Knox told the group that Kercher's body was found "inside" the wardrobe covered with a duvet. In fact the body was discovered beside Kercher's bed, according to crime-scene photos. And the British witnesses were bothered by what they felt was Knox bragging about being on the scene when Kercher's body was found. "She said 'I found her. She was in the closet with a blanket on top of her,'" testified Frost. "I felt like she was proud."
So far none of the testimony given since the trial started Jan. 16 has given clarity to the confusing circumstances surrounding Kercher's murder. Neither has the conviction of Ivory Coast native Rudy Guede, who is serving 30 years in prison for his part in the crime. Testimony two weeks ago included postal police officers who were the first on the scene but who were not authorized to break down the door to the bedroom where Kercher's body was found.
Instead, it was revealed then, that friends of the Italian girls who lived in the house with Knox and Kercher kicked open the door. The prosecution had also introduced evidence about the washing machine in the villa where the murder took place. Filomena Romanelli, the Italian from whom Knox and Kercher sublet rooms in the villa, testified that the washing machine was warm when she arrived on the scene. She later identified the contents of the washing machine as Kercher's even though the Briton had been dead for at least 10 hours before her body was found, implying that someone else started the laundry.
On Valentine's Day, Knox showed up at court in a white T shirt with the Beatles mantra "All You Need is Love" across the front. Apparently no one on her all-male defense team had thought to coach her on what not to wear when on trial for murder. The jury heard testimony Saturday from the girls' other roommate Laura Mezzetti who said she saw a scratch on Knox's neck the morning after the crime. Knox's father had an explanation. "It was just a hickey," he said after court. "It backs up what she said about spending the night before at Raffaele's house."
Whether the jury has the same impression remains to be seen. Testimony resumes on Feb. 27 with the first real forensic evidence being presented in this bizarre case that continues to be stranger than fiction.