US student Amanda Knox e-mailed the Italian court hearing her murder retrial saying she was afraid to attend and was not a “monster,” in what the judge on Tuesday branded an unusual move.
“If you want to speak at the trial, come to the trial,” appeals court judge Alessandro Nancini said before reading out her e-mail in the courtroom in Florence.
Knox has been in the US ever since an appeals court acquitted her in 2011 over the 2007 killing of British student Meredith Kercher, a ruling that was overturned by the Italian Supreme Court earlier this year.
“I am not present at the hearing because I am afraid. I am afraid that the vehemence of my accusers you will leave an impression on you, that their smoke in the eyes will blind you,” the judge quoted Knox’s e-mail as reading. “I am not a monster.”
Knox said Kercher, her housemate and alleged victim, was “a friend.”
“I liked her, she helped me, she was generous and funny, I never criticized enough,” she said, following accusations from prosecutors that a deep rift between the two was the motive for the murder.
Referring to a partial confession that she made to investigators in the days after the murder, Knox said that she had been “tortured psychologically.”
“They lied to me, shouted at me, threatened me, hit me on the head twice. They told me I would never see my family again if I did not remember what happened,” she wrote.
Prosecutors have asked for a 30-year prison sentence for Knox and 26 years for her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, arguing that her punishment should be harsher because she initially accused someone else of the crime.
Kercher, an exchange student from London, was found half-naked in a pool of blood with multiple stab wounds on Nov. 2, 2007, in the house she shared with Knox in the university town of Perugia in central Italy.
Knox and Sollecito, who have both protested their innocence, served four years in prison for the murder.
Rudy Guede, a local petty thief and drug dealer, has been convicted separately and is serving a 16-year sentence for the gruesome murder, with no appeal.
Prosecutors say the DNA evidence, which is highly disputed, shows that Sollecito and Knox stabbed Kercher while Guede sexually assaulted her.
A verdict on the case is expected next month.