Knox appeal reaches climax with final pleas on both sides

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The Independent Online

Speaking for the defence team at the Meredith Kercher murder appeal yesterday, lawyer Donatella Donati described the case as "delicate and particular". As one of the journalists in court remarked, it was the understatement of the year.

What the whole world knows as "the Amanda Knox case" is in its last days in Perugia, where it has become the biggest legal circus in memory, and for its hotels, bars and restaurants a potent addition to the city's regular chocolate and jazz festivals. Nearly 400 journalists have been accredited for the case, and they pack out the press seats and anteroom reserved for them.

Their focus is Knox, 24, the student from Seattle who, as her lawyer told the court this week, has spent 1,000 nights in jail after being convicted with her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and a third man, Rudy Guede, of sexually assaulting and stabbing to death Knox's British room-mate Meredith Kercher, a Leeds University student, in November 2007.

Knox and Sollecito are appealing against their convictions; Guede's conviction was upheld in 2009, and he is serving a reduced sentence of 16 years.

Yesterday, lawyers for both sides delivered closing speeches containing a baffling torrent of claims and counter-claims about witnesses' reliability, the nature and cause of the dead girl's wounds, the pain of her family and the elaborate and costly operation mounted by Knox's supporters.

Donatella Donati, a lawyer for Sollecito, came close to alleging that the evidence that helped to convict her client – a clasp from Miss Kercher's bra that had been retrieved from the crime scene 47 days after the murder – may have been planted by police.

Manuela Comodi, for the prosecution, repeated her assertion of earlier in the week: "They killed. Perhaps for nothing, but they killed." She argued that the lack of a discernible motive actually made the crime much worse. "They are young but so was Meredith," she said. "They deserve the severest sentence – which, fortunately [for them], this being Italy, is not death."

The defendants' supporters point to the evidence of court-appointed experts, who have declared themselves unconvinced by forensic evidence in the case.

They also say that witnesses have been discredited, that neither Knox nor Sollecito has any history of crime or violence, and that, as Ms Comodi accepted, there was no motive.

Prosecution lawyers have made an emotional appeal: they cite the pain of Ms Kercher's family, from Coulsdon, Surrey, who are eager to see the pair's convictions confirmed, and the injustice, as Giuliano Mignini, the chief prosecutor of Perugia, put it, of Knox and Sollecito allegedly "making a pact of steel to throw everything on to the black man ... The two kids from good families have their backs covered; it's Guede who must pay for all."

Guede left many traces at the crime scene and is the only one of the three who admits he was present when Miss Kercher was killed.

Mr Mignini, the instigator of the case against the two students, also told the jury that if Knox and Sollecito were absolved, there was a "risk of a flight abroad that could not be remedied. This is only the second of the three grades of justice in Italy. It is up to you to render justice."

In Italy a conviction is not deemed definitive until confirmed at the third grade, the Supreme Court.

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