Reporter’s notebook: Knox defense team presses her innocence, friends can only wait for Monday

Stephen Robert Morse Tow-Knight Fellow in Entrepreneurial Journalism , The City University of New York
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Editor’s note: Stephen Robert Morse is live-tweeting from inside the courtroom where the Amanda Knox appeal is being heard — exclusively for The Daily Caller.

PERUGIA, ITALY –  The appeals trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito continued today with Knox’s defense team presenting a long list of reasons why the 24-year-old American could not have murdered her British roommate, Meredith Kercher in 2007.

After listening to a full day of impassioned speeches by Knox’s Italian lawyers, Luciano Ghirga and Carlo Dalla Vedova, Madison Paxton, 24, Amanda Knox’s best friend from the University of Washington, told The Daily Caller: “I feel terrified because I can’t fathom the jury finding Amanda guilty. During the past four years, I’ve never felt so confident as I have as of today, that there will be a verdict declaring her innocence.”

Paxton moved to Perugia 10 months ago and visits Knox in prison twice weekly. Prior to her move to Europe, Paxton corresponded almost weekly with Knox through the mail.

Dalla Vedova  started his presentation Thursday morning with a discussion of the Italian and British media tsunami against Knox which came in the immediate aftermath of the murder — media attention that focused largely on Knox’s supposed behavior rather than on hard evidence.

He also spent time discussing the cultural differences that contributed to misconceptions about Amanda. One was highlighted by a text message Knox wrote to her boss on the night of the murder. It said the Italian equivalent of “see you later.” Italian police and prosecutors misinterpreted this to mean that the two were meeting up that night.

The Knox defense team went to great lengths to emphasize that witnesses for the prosecution were unreliable. One witness was a homeless man whom prosecutors have used for three other murder trials — in a region of Italy that sees only about ten murders per year.

Other witnesses only came forward after many months, including one who claimed she heard a scream at a specific time on the night of the murder. Other prosecution witnesses included prisoners, drug addicts and people taking medication for mental illness.

The defense focused a great deal of attention on the knife, found in a drawer at Sollecito’s home, which prosecutors claim is the murder weapon. The knife didn’t have the DNA of Meredith Kercher — the victim — on it. And, say defense lawyers, it could have been disposed of in any number of places, including a deep ravine near where the murder took place.

Prosecutors, they say, want the court to believe Knox and Sollecito returned that knife to Sollecito’s drawer with other knives after using it in a murder.

The defense denies, in fact that this knife was the murder weapon at all. It doesn’t match the depth of the wound in Kercher’s neck, they say. And they claim a single police officer chose that particular knife from among all of those in Sollecito’s drawer, solely because of his “police intution.”

One of the prosecution’s theories has been that Knox and Sollecito staged a break-in to cover their involvement in Kercher’s murder. The defense tried to debunk this by explaining that a big dent in the inside shutter came from a rock tossed in from the outside. The rock, they insist, broke a window, hit the shutter, dented it, and then landed on the floor — indicating a genuine attempt at breaking-and-entering.

Defense attorneys believe that it was Rudy Guede, a man also convicted of the murder and sentenced to 16 years in prison, who committed the murder — and he alone.

With a history of robbery and using knives, Guede was jobless and in need of money at the time of the murder. He was friendly with men who lived in the apartment below Knox and Kercher, and he knew those men would be away for the weekend — along with Knox’s and Kercher’s two female Italian roommates, because it was a holiday weekend.

In another development that would likely overturn any conviction in most Western countries, the court learned Thursday that police damaged beyond repair the computers of Knox and Sollecito. Those computers might have been able to show Knox’s online activity — or lack thereof — on the night Kercher was killed.

Prosecutors have tried to paint an image of Knox and Kerchers as rivals or enemies, but defense attorneys read aloud text messages sent between the two showing that they socialized together frequently.

Ultimately, defense attorney Ghirga stole the show Thursday by poking fun at what he viewed as an absurdity that Knox was ever charged at all — saying he thinks of her as a daughter. Ghirga’s words had Knox family members, journalists, jury members, and others in the audience laughing — and then, later, welling up with tears.

Paxton told TheDC: “I feel like everyone was so incredibly responsive to Ghirga, more so than to any other lawyers. He did an amazing job, so thoroughly explaining things, pointing out the absurdity of what has happened to Amanda.”

Paxton is hopeful about her friend’s future, but cautious: “I dont want to feel so hopeful about something, because I was shocked that Amanda was convicted in the first place. I don’t want anything to go wrong again.”

Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman clarified on Thursday that a verdict will be delivered on October 3, not on October 1 as some news outlets had previously reported.

With 400 journalists credentialed for this case, Perugia has turned into a de facto newsroom. It’s impossible to walk by any cafe or restaurant in the center of town without bumping into familiar faces from television. But this influx of reporters, many of whom have descended into Perugia just in the past 24 hours, led Judge Hellman to anounce Thursday that a live feed of the October 3 verdict would be broadcast for free via media outlets around the world.