Prosecutors request life in prison for American suspect at Italy murder trial

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Life requested for US suspect in Italy murder case

PERUGIA, Italy — Prosecutors on Saturday requested life in prison for an American student and her ex-boyfriend accused in the fatal stabbing of her British roommate during a drug-fueled sex game — charges the U.S. woman dismissed as “pure fantasy.”

In their closing arguments, the prosecutors said Amanda Knox and Italian Raffaele Sollecito should be convicted on charges of murder and sexual violence for the 2007 slaying of Meredith Kercher.

They deny wrongdoing.

Knox, who is from Seattle, took a deep breath when Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini requested life imprisonment — Italy’s stiffest punishment. She then addressed the court, saying that the accusations against her were “pure fantasy.”

“Meredith was my friend, I didn’t hate her,” she said in Italian, fighting back tears.

The Briton’s body, her throat slit, was found in a pool of blood on Nov. 2, 2007, in the apartment she shared with Knox in the central Italian town of Perugia.

Prosecutors argued that Knox resented her British roommate and killed her, together with Sollecito and Rudy Hermann Guede, of Ivory Coast, under “the fumes of drugs and possibly alcohol.”

They said Knox hit Kercher’s head against a wall, then tried to strangle her, as Sollecito held her and Guede sexually assaulted her.

Guede was sentenced to 30 years in prison last year for the killing after a fast-track trial he had requested. He also denies wrongdoing and is appealing his conviction.

“The murder and the sexual violence were carried out for futile reasons,” Mignini said. “Meredith will never come back.”

He requested nine months of daytime solitary confinement for Knox and two months for Sollecito. A verdict by the eight-member jury is expected in early December.

Knox, 22, and Sollecito, 25, have been jailed for more than two years since being arrested shortly after the slaying.

According to prosecutors, a knife with a 6 1/2-inch (16.5-centimeter) blade, with Kercher’s DNA on the blade and Knox’s on the handle, was found at Sollecito’s house.

Defense lawyers argue that the knife is too big to match Kercher’s wounds and that the amount of what prosecutors say is Kercher’s DNA is too low to be attributed with certainty.

Prosecutors also maintain Sollecito’s DNA was found on the clasp of Kercher’s bra, although his defense team contends that the evidence might have been inadvertently contaminated during the investigation.

During Saturday’s hearing, prosecutors showed an animated video reconstructing what they say were the different phases of the murder, with cartoon characters representing the defendants and the victim.

Photos showing Kercher’s wounds and bruises also were shown in the video. Knox kept her head down during the presentation, while Sollecito watched it intently.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors also reviewed technical data on the use of Sollecito’s computer the night Kercher was slain. According to Knox, who took the stand last June, she spent the night of Nov. 1 with Sollecito at his home, watching a movie on his computer and smoking pot. Witnesses for the prosecution have argued that there was no sign of the defendant using his computer during the hours 21-year-old Kercher was stabbed to death.

Mignini also asked the court to convict the defendants on lesser charges, including staging a break-in and the theft of €300 (US$444) in cash and Kercher’s cell phones. He said Knox and Sollecito staged a burglary in the apartment by breaking a window in a bedroom in an attempt to sidetrack the investigation.

Knox also is being tried on charges of defamation for allegedly accusing Diya “Patrick” Lumumba — a Congolese man who owns a pub in Perugia where she worked — of being the killer. Because of her accusation, Lumumba was briefly jailed. He was later cleared and is seeking damages from Knox.

Defense lawyers will make their own closing arguments beginning late next week.

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