Nightly News   |  July 30, 2011

Turning point in Amanda Knox case

Court-appointed forensic experts say the evidence used to convict the American exchange student was badly flawed and maybe contaminated by investigators. NBC's Keith Miller reports.

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LESTER HOLT, anchor: It is a pivotal weekend in the appeals trial of Amanda Knox , the American student convicted in an Italian court of killing her roommate. DNA is at the center of this case, and court-appointed forensics experts say the evidence used against Knox and her boyfriend was badly flawed and possibly contaminated by investigators. NBC 's Keith Miller has our report tonight from Perugia .

KEITH MILLER reporting: Knox appeared buoyant as she entered court today. Her mother, Edda , was there to offer support in the final stages of the appeal. The prosecution spent the day lashing out at the findings of an independent panel of forensic scientists who called the DNA evidence used to convict Knox unreliable. The judge read a letter from the head of Italy 's police forensic team defending the professionalism of his officers. The findings of the independent forensic scientists is a major embarrassment to the Italian crime scene investigators on this case. They are accused of more than 50 breaches of international forensic protocols. The most damaging finding by the independent experts is the absence of DNA from the victim on the alleged murder weapon, a kitchen knife. The prosecution contended it was there. That new finding, according to a leading criminal attorney in Rome , appears to seriously undermine the prosecution's case.

Mr. ALEXANDER GUTTIERES (Lawyer): If I were reviewing this from an American point of view, I would say most definitely it looks like a slam dunk.

MILLER: Not so argued the prosecutor, who claimed today there could have been a mistake during the retesting of the DNA material. The Knox family remains optimistic, but upset judicial delays in the appeal mean Knox will spend another summer behind bars.

Ms. EDDA MELLAS (Amanda's Mother): It's unfortunate now that there's going to be delays again and that they'll have to sit, you know, another summer in the heat in jail while everybody else goes on vacation.

MILLER: The appeal trial will resume in September, after the annual August

vacation. The judge will then have three options: He can overturn the conviction, reduce the prison sentence, or even impose a harsher sentence if yet more new evidence sways the case. Keith Miller , NBC News, Perugia.