Tue, Oct 04, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Knox pleads in court for mercy as verdict looms

AFP, PERUGIA, Italy

Amanda Knox arrives in court for her appeal trial in Perugia, Italy, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

US student Amanda Knox broke down in court and pleaded for mercy yesterday as an Italian jury retired to consider its verdict in her appeal against convictions for murder and sexual assault.

“I did not kill, I did not rape, I did not steal. I wasn’t there,” she told jurors, adding: “I am paying with my life for a crime I did not commit.”

“I want to go home. I want to return to my life,” she said in a statement that she had to interrupt frequently as she struggled to contain her emotions.

The 24-year-old also said that her faith in Italian police had been “betrayed” and that she had been “manipulated” during her four-year legal saga.

Her sister Deanna cried as Knox spoke and the judge said she could sit down if she wanted to, but Knox gathered her strength and stayed standing.

She entered the courtroom with her head bowed as dozens of photographers, cameramen and Knox supporters crowded in for the final day of her appeal.

Knox’s co-appellant Raffaele Sollecito, her boyfriend at the time of the killing, also made a statement ahead of the verdict saying: “I have never hurt anyone in my life. The accusations are completely deranged.”

Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann said the verdict was expected after 8pm. Under the Italian system, the eight-person jury includes Hellmann himself, another judge and six jurors from the general public.

Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison for the gruesome killing of her British housemate, Meredith Kercher, 21, in November 2007 in the hilltop university town of Perugia in central Italy where both girls were studying.

Prosecutors have asked for her sentence and that of Sollecito to be increased to life in prison because of the absence of any motive.

Kercher was found almost completely naked on the floor of her bedroom in the house she shared with Knox. Her body had dozens of knife wounds and bruises and there was evidence of a sexual assault.

Local small-time drug dealer and petty thief Rudy Guede has been convicted on the same charges as Knox and Sollecito, but was tried separately and is serving a 16-year sentence after exhausting his appeals.

About 400 journalists are accredited for the appeal, which began in November last year, and television vans have been parked outside the tribunal for days.

Lines of journalists formed outside the court yesterday before dawn.

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