Knox back in court for appeal hearing

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The Independent Online

Amanda Knox has arrived in court for the latest hearing in her appeal against her conviction for murdering British student Meredith Kercher.

The 23-year-old American hopes a review of crucial forensic evidence will see her cleared of killing her former housemate in the Italian hilltop town of Perugia.

She and and her former lover Raffaele Sollecito, 26, were found guilty of killing 21-year-old Ms Kercher after what prosecutors claimed was a sex game taken to the extreme.

They were handed prison sentences of 26 years and 25 years respectively at the Umbrian court last December.

Today, two independent experts were formally appointed to re-examine disputed DNA traces found on a knife allegedly used as the murder weapon and on the clasp of Ms Kercher's bra.

But legal teams for the two defendants maintain this evidence - used to secure their convictions - was inconclusive and may have been contaminated when analysed.

University of Leeds student Ms Kercher, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was found with her throat slit on November 2, 2007, in her bedroom at the house she shared with Knox and others during her year abroad.

Her semi-naked body was partially covered by a duvet.

Knox and Sollecito were later charged with sexual assault and murder.

Small-time drug dealer Rudy Guede, an immigrant from the Ivory Coast, was also handed a 30-year sentence for murder and sexual violence at a fast-track trial in October 2008.

This was later cut to 16 years.

Knox, from Seattle, has continued to protest her innocence from behind bars and her family remain insistent there is no proof their daughter killed Ms Kercher.

They hope this appeal, which could last several months, will clear her of all charges.

However, if her conviction is upheld, she could face a longer jail term.

Prosecutors, who had sought a life sentence in the original trial, have also appealed.

As in the original trial, Knox's fate will be decided by the judge, a fellow magistrate and six jurors.

In separate proceedings, she is charged with slandering police officers while giving evidence.

If convicted in this trial, which begins in May, any prison sentence she receives will be added to her current sentence.