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Seattle woman says she’s innocent in Italian court

Fri., Feb. 13, 2009, 11:15 a.m.

PERUGIA, Italy — Sounding confident and speaking fluent Italian, a U.S. student charged with murdering her British roommate told a court Friday that she was innocent and was sure the truth would come out.

Amanda Knox was making her first public statements since she was arrested in the slaying of Meredith Kercher. Knox addressed the court after an acquaintance testified that she had been indifferent in the hours immediately after Kercher was found dead Nov. 2, 2007.

“I am innocent,” Knox told the court. “I’m confident that everything will come out and that everything will work out.”

Knox, a 21-year-old from Seattle, and Raffaele Sollecito, a 24-year-old Italian who was her boyfriend at the time of the slaying, are being tried on charges of murder and sexual violence. They deny wrongdoing.

Knox did not respond to assertions by witnesses that she showed no pain in the aftermath of Kercher’s death, and she made no references to her relationship with the victim.

Instead, in a casual and almost amused tone, Knox said she wanted to explain the presence of a sex toy — a pink rabbit-shaped vibrator — in the Perugia house she shared with Kercher.

Witnesses said Kercher had expressed unease over a clear bag that Knox kept in the bathroom that contained condoms and a vibrator.

“It was a joke,” Knox told the court. “It was a present from a friend before I came to Italy,” she said. She gestured with her hands to indicate the size of the toy, which the presiding judge, Giancarlo Massei, translated as about 10 centimeters (4 inches).

During the hearing Friday, witnesses said Knox showed no distress and was cuddling with Sollecito at the police station waiting to be questioned after Kercher’s body was found.

“I found Amanda’s behavior very strange, and I found it quite difficult to be around her,” said Robyn Carmel Butterworth, a prosecution witness who was a friend of the victim. “Everybody was upset and she didn’t seem to show any emotions.”

“We were all crying. I didn’t see her crying,” she added.

The witness said Knox and Sollecito were fooling around as they waited to see police.

“I remember Amanda sticking her tongue out at Raffaele,” the British witness said, with her testimony in English being translated into Italian. “They were talking and joking, kissing and cuddling.”

Amy Frost, another witness who was also at the police station, said Knox “made faces,” such as crossing her eyes and sticking her tongue out. She was “giggling” and kissing Sollecito, said Frost.

“She didn’t show any sadness. She wasn’t crying. She seemed quite angry and a bit frustrated and sometimes happy,” said another one, Natalie Hayward.

Knox and Sollecito have attended the court sessions, escorted by police. Sollecito told the court in an earlier hearing that he was the victim of what he called a judicial mistake.

The witnesses also testified as to how they learned of their friend’s death and what Knox and Sollecito said at the police station.

According to Butterworth, Knox said: “How do you think I feel? I found her.” She quoted Knox as saying Kercher was “in the closet covered by a blanket.’”

At one point, Knox said that Kercher “(expletive) bled to death,” according to Butterworth. Hayward also quoted Knox as saying Kercher would have “died slowly and in a lot of pain.”

Kercher was found with a stab wound in the neck in a pool of blood under a comforter in her bedroom.

Friday’s lineup of witnesses, British women who were friends with Kercher, also talked about a problematic relationship between Kercher and Knox. Some broke into tears as they recalled their friend.

Many of the witnesses said Kercher was frustrated because Knox didn’t keep the bathroom clean.

Knox’s father, Curt Knox, said Friday’s hearing was largely based on people’s “perceptions and opinions that can change.”

“If this is the prosecution’s case, there’s not much there,” he said during a pause of the hearing.

He said Amanda wanted to give the sense that the vibrator was a joke “as opposed to using it.”

“I think she wanted to clear that out,” he said.

Prosecutors allege that Kercher was the reluctant object of a sex game by the three suspects that ended violently.

Sollecito has maintained he was in his own apartment in Perugia and that he doesn’t remember if Knox spent part or all the night of the murder with him. Knox initially told investigators she was in the house when Kercher was killed and covered her ears against the victim’s screams. Later, Knox said she wasn’t in the house.

A third resident in Perugia, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, was convicted last year of the same charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guede, who had also denied wrongdoing, had requested and received a fast-track trial.

The trial continues Saturday.

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