June 12, 2009 in Nation/World

Knox takes stand in Italian trial

UW student accused of murdering British roommate
Marta Falconi The Associated Press
 
Stefano Medici photo

US murder suspect Amanda Knox, a University of Washington student, testifies during a hearing in the Meredith Kercher murder trial, in Perugia, Italy, Friday, June 12, 2009. Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are on trial for the murder of Knox’s British roommate, student Meredith Kercher, found dead in the house they shared in Nov. 2007.
(Full-size photo)

PERUGIA, Italy— A University of Washington student accused of murdering her British roommate took the witness stand for the first time Friday and said the last time she saw the victim was hours before the killing.

Amanda Knox also said that on the night of the murder, in November 2007, she smoked a marijuana joint, had sex with her boyfriend — now her co-defendant — at his house and then fell asleep.

Prosecutors contend that Knox, an exchange student from Seattle, and Raffaele Sollecito killed 21-year-old Meredith Kercher in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia, central Italy. Kercher’s body was found there on Nov. 2, 2007, and legal experts said she was killed the night before.

“On Nov. 1, I told Raffaele that I wanted to watch a movie so we went to his place,” Knox said. After dinner, they went upstairs to his room, she said.

“I sat on the bed, he sat at his desk, he prepared the joint and then we smoked it together,” the 21-year-old woman said. “First we made love, then we fell asleep.”

During her testimony, Knox alternated between English and Italian, occasionally pausing to take a breath, her voice shaky at times.

Knox said she last saw Kercher on the afternoon of Nov. 1. They talked about what they had done the night before — a Halloween night out — and Knox said Kercher still had a bit of her vampire makeup on.

Sollecito then arrived at the house; he and Knox had something to eat while Kercher was in her room, Knox told the court.

“She left her room, said ‘bye,’ walked out the door,” Knox said, at this point speaking Italian. “That was the last time I saw her.”

Sollecito, 25, has said he was at his own apartment the night of Nov. 1, working at his computer. He said he does not remember if Knox spent the whole night with him or just part of it. The two have said they could not remember events clearly because they had taken drugs.

Knox also repeated her accusations that she was beaten by police and confused when she was questioned in the days after the killing. Police have denied any misconduct.

After the killing, Knox accused Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, a Congolese man who owns a pub in Perugia, of being the culprit. Lumumba was jailed briefly in the case, but he is no longer a suspect and is seeking defamation damages from Knox.

Knox was called to testify both in her own defense and in a civil case brought by Lumumba.

“The declarations were taken against my will, so everything that I said was said in confusion and under pressure,” Knox said under questioning by Lumumba’s lawyer.

“They called me a stupid liar; said I was trying to protect someone. I was not trying to protect anyone,” she said. “I didn’t know what to respond. They said I left Raffaele’s home, which I denied, but they continued to call me ‘stupid liar.’”

Knox smiled as she walked into the court before her testimony. She was dressed in a white shirt and white trousers and had her hair pulled into a ponytail.

Knox’s father, Curt Knox, said his daughter looked “confident in what she wants to say.”

“She has nothing to hide,” he told The Associated Press during a break. He said he hoped people could now see a “different Amanda,” — different from the way she has been portrayed by the media so far.

Knox and Sollecito have been jailed since shortly after the slaying. They are both charged with murder and sexual violence.

They could face Italy’s stiffest punishment, life imprisonment, if convicted of murder. The trial began in January and a verdict is expected after a summer break.

A third suspect in the case, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, was found guilty of murder and sexual violence and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was given a fast-track trial at his request, and his appeal is set to start in November. He, too, denies wrongdoing.

The trial has been closed to cameras but the presiding judge, exceptionally, allowed them in to film for Knox’s testimony — only to ask them to leave in a few minutes for causing too much disruption. The cameras were then crammed in the press room, where proceedings were being shown on a screen.


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