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'Violent legal clash': Amanda Knox returns to court

Amanda Knox briefly returned to court in Italy for the start of her appeals trial, about a year after the American student was convicted of killing her British roommate.
Image: Amanda Knox
epa02464691 Convicted US student Amanda Knox attends the appeal trial for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, 24 November 2010. Meredith Kercher was on a student exchange programme in Italy and was found dead in her bedroom in 2007. At the request of either party the trial was postponed to 11 December. EPA/PIETRO CROCCHIONIPietro Crocchioni / EPA
/ Source: The Associated Press

Amanda Knox briefly returned to court in Italy on Wednesday for the start of her appeals trial, about a year after the American student was convicted of killing her British roommate in a case that drew global attention.

The hearing, devoted mainly to procedural matters, lasted 15 minutes and the case was adjourned until Dec. 11.

Knox was escorted by a policewoman into the same Perugia courtroom where the first trial was held. The 23-year-old was convicted in December of sexually assaulting and murdering Meredith Kercher, and sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Also attending was Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian who was Knox's boyfriend at the time of the murder. He has been convicted of the same charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Both have always maintained their innocence.

New witnesses?
Luciano Ghirga, a lawyer for Knox, said on the eve of the appeal that the American's confidence had been low in recent days, but was now eager for the appeals trial to get going, so that "at least she knows what lies ahead."

The defense is seeking a full review of the case, hoping to introduce new witnesses and ultimately win an acquittal. The prosecutors have also appealed, as they can Italy, as the ruling fell short of their demand for life in prison.

"We want an acquittal, the prosecution demands a life sentence: It's an intense, harsh and violent legal clash," Ghirga told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday evening.

In their appeal motion, Knox's lawyers were sharply critical of the verdict, maintaining it was based on mere hypotheses and saying that "the motive, a fundamental aspect of a serious crime, is basically absent."

They denounced an "obscene media campaign" against their client, accused police of focusing their investigation into the slaying on the assumption that Knox was guilty, and said the court made the same mistake.

"The verdict is constructed almost as if to find the evidence to support a theory" they wrote in the motion.

During the first trial, the prosecutors failed to provide a "smoking gun," and also lacked a motive.

Prosecutors did present circumstantial evidence and forensic evidence linking both Knox and Sollecito to the crime, and the court in their verdict supported this evidence against the defense's claims. They described Knox as a manipulative, promiscuous woman whose personality clashed with Kercher's.

In their December ruling, the judges said they found no inconsistencies in the prosecution's case. The killing was carried out without planning or animosity, but still it was the result of a brutal sexual assault, the court said in a document that was released in March and summed up the reasoning behind the verdict.

Knox and Sollecito have been behind bars in Perugia since Nov. 6, 2007, four days after Kercher's body was found in a pool of blood, her throat slit, in the apartment Knox and Kercher shared as exchange students in Perugia.