Knox stands up to the examination of her life

American student accused of the murder of Briton Meredith Kercher survives questions from the prosecution
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The Independent Online

For the second day in a row, Amanda Knox was cool, calm and collected. So much so that some wondered how the same girl who broke down in a state of dazed confusion during an all-night police interrogation could withstand two such intense days of pressure on the witness stand, with the whole world watching. But she did, for the most part with flying colours.

Ms Knox, the fresh-faced American from Seattle, is on trial for the murder and sexual assault of Meredith Kercher, a British student. Prosecutors argue that Ms Knox, her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede strangled, stabbed and suffocated Ms Kercher in the Perugia apartment she and Ms Knox shared on 1 November 2007. For the past five months, prosecutors in court have built their case against her, including multiple character, police and scientific witnesses.

In the courtroom yesterday, the tension between the 21-year-old student and the Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini was palpable – she at times defensive, he at times flustered. But she came across confident and poised, even under fire, though somewhat "thoughtless", a word she used to describe herself.

This was particularly evident when asked by the Kercher family lawyer, Francesco Maresca, about comments she made to Ms Kercher's friends, when they had said they hoped the Leeds University student had died quickly and painlessly. "Why did you say you thought she died a slow death?" asked Mr Maresca.

"I heard that her throat had been slit and from what I have seen on CSI, it is not something fast or easy. Blegh," she said, making a gagging motion. "Blegh. It is disgusting. The brutality, to die that way."

Ms Knox's strong, but unscripted personality, inappropriate as it may seem at times, is one element her lawyers were banking on to rehabilitate her bruised image in the eyes of the eight-member jury. She gave a fairly consistent story on both days – though her testimony is in direct conflict with what has been said by a number of prior witnesses. An Albanian witness said he saw her near the scene of the crime the night of the murder. "Tutto falso," she said. "All false." So did a homeless man. "Impossible," she said.

Police say she was treated firmly, but fairly. She claims she was browbeaten and pressured until she could come up with a scenario for the crime, which she did, naming an innocent man, the Congolese pub owner Patrick Lumumba. Ms Knox said she was confused, having flashbacks and was unable to distinguish between truth and her own imaginings at the time. Mr Lumumba spent two weeks in prison.

Ms Knox gave one piece of important information about the blood found in the bathroom (police have told of finding DNA samples of Ms Kercher and Ms Knox's blood on the sink, bidet and a cotton bud box in the bath). Ms Knox told the judge that she had not seen any blood in the apartment or bathroom the day before Ms Kercher's death. Only the morning after.

After Ms Knox, one other witness was called to the stand yesterday – a college friend from Seattle. University of Washington psychology major Andrew Seliber, 22, told how Ms Knox studied and worked hard, but also liked to rock climb, play music and party occasionally. Once she left for Italy, she raved about her roommates and posted enthusiastic reports on Facebook and in emails home.

"She told me her roommates were great, that they got along well and she liked them very much," he said. "She was having the best time of her life."

Then the hearing took a bizarre turn, with half an hour of testimony about the exact nature of a Seattle college party, considered pertinent because it was Ms Knox's only other run-in with police. Ms Knox and Mr Seliber told of a normal Greek Row college party that got a little loud. Neighbours called police. When they arrived, Ms Knox said she took responsibility, talked to them, and was given a $200 fine for disturbance, which her friends pitched in to pay.

But a Mail Online article cited by Mr Mignini told a very different story – a raucous, out-of-control party where rocks were hurled into the streets. Lawyers requested the article be entered into evidence. Mr Maresca also weighed in, saying an FBI report had confirmed the rock-throwing. Then Ms Knox's lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said a sheriff in Seattle "told us something very different than the article, which was just gossip," he said, casting doubts on the prosecutor's reliance on such information. When asked, Mr Seliber described the get-together as just an ordinary, everyday party in Seattle. "Nobody threw stones at cars."

Finally, Mr Seliber explained why Ms Knox was given the nickname "Foxy Knoxy". It was because of the way she ran when she played soccer as a child. "It was not a name she called herself. I never called her Foxy Knoxy. I have never heard any of my friends call her Foxy Knoxy," he said.