By Deepa Babington
PERUGIA, Italy (Reuters) - Amanda Knox could play the role of a saint but was a "she-devil" at heart, the lawyer for a man falsely accused by the American student of killing her roommate told an Italian court on Monday.
Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are appealing their 2009 convictions of murdering 21-year-old Briton Meredith Kercher during a drug-fueled sexual assault in Perugia in 2007.
The student from Seattle initially accused Congolese bar owner Patrick Lumumba of killing Kercher, whose half-naked body was found with a deep stab wound in the throat.
"Amanda is one thing and another -- that is, both Saint Maria Goretti and a satanic, diabolic, she-devil given to borderline behavior," his lawyer Carlo Pacelli told the court, referring to a Catholic saint associated with purity, young women and rape victims.
Knox, 24, later retracted the accusation, saying she incriminated Lumumba under pressure from police who threatened her with 30 years in jail. Lumumba, who was arrested, was cleared and successfully sued the American for slander.
Pacelli told the appeals court that Knox's lies destroyed his client's image in an instant. He said the American was a liar who irked Kercher with dirty bathroom habits and because she brought back men to their shared apartment.
"Amanda should be judged based on her personality when the crime occurred in November 2007 and at that time she was a concentrated mix of sex, drugs and alcohol," Pacelli said.
"We're not talking about the girl you're seeing today, who has been through four years of prison."
Knox looking gaunt and tense, stared straight ahead as Pacelli urged the jury panel of lay and professional judges to look past the American's "mask of an impostor".
"Amanda Knox loved strong emotions and dangerous games," the lawyer said.
"If she had no reason to lie, why did she lie?"
GIRL NEXT DOOR
Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Sollecito to 25 years and prosecutors on Saturday asked the court to increase their terms to life.
The American's good looks and conflicting portrayals of her personality helped fuel worldwide interest in the case, which has spawned more than a dozen books and a television movie.
Dubbed "Foxy Knoxy" by some in the press, the former University of Washington student has been alternately cast by prosecutors as a cunning young woman with a penchant for extreme sex games or by her supporters as a naive victim of bumbling Italian police and unreliable forensic evidence.
Prosecutors say Knox led her boyfriend and a small-time drug dealer, Rudy Guede, in a sexual assault on Kercher, known as "Mez", that ended with the American stabbing her roommate with a kitchen knife. Guede, an Ivorian drifter with a criminal record, was jailed in 2008 for taking part in the murder. He also says he is innocent.
Prosecutors point to a frayed friendship between Kercher and Knox, who they say resented the Briton's criticism of her sexual habits and untidiness in the shared apartment.
Knox maintains she spent the night of the murder with Sollecito in his apartment, where they watched a film, smoked marijuana and had sex.
Knox has won support from many in the United States, where her family has helped keep attention on her case by appearing regularly on talk shows. Many Americans see her as an innocent American who got trapped in a byzantine legal system thousands of miles from home.
(Additional reporting by Maurizio Troccoli; Editing by Matthew Jones)