An Italian defense lawyer argued Thursday that Amanda Knox is an innocent girl "crucified" in the media and wrongly convicted of killing her roommate, urging an appeals court not to be afraid to correct a mistake.
Carlo Dalla Vedova told the court in his closing arguments that Knox has been the victim of a "tragic judicial case" and has spent more than 1,000 days behind bars as a result. The highly anticipated verdict in the appeals case is expected Monday.
Knox was convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher, a British student in Perugia, and sentenced to 26 years in prison, while co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years. They deny wrongdoing and have appealed.
"Knox has been crucified, impaled in a public square, subjected to the most sinister of speculations," Dalla Vedova said. "All, regardless of their nationalities, have offended Amanda Knox."
Soon after her arrest on Nov. 6, 2007, Knox became a media sensation, depicted either as a manipulative girl-gone-wild or as a naive young woman caught up in a judicial nightmare. The media remained hooked on the case, and hundreds of reporters, cameramen and photographers have descended on the central Italian town in anticipation of the verdict.
The role of the media in the four-year-long case has been a recurring theme of closing arguments of all parties. Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini has lamented what he said was media interference and an increasingly strong campaign in support of Knox. Defense lawyers said Knox had been unfairly portrayed.
"This has swept away her life," said Dalla Vedova, adding that Knox had been hit by "a tsunami, a tornado" and that her privacy had been violated.
The lawyer sought to refute the prosecution's case, saying that there was no motive for the brutal murder and insisting Knox and Kercher were friends who had quickly bonded upon their arrival in Perugia thanks to their shared language.
He said investigators were hasty in their conclusions _ Knox and Sollecito were arrested four days after Kercher's body had been found in the apartment the 21-year-old Briton shared with Knox. The lawyer maintained that a court-ordered review of DNA had demolished much of the prosecution's case.
"Today there's very little left," Dalla Vedova said. "A clue is not enough."
The review found that crucial DNA evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito was unreliable and possibly contaminated _ an assessment vehemently denied by the prosecution and the forensic police that conducted the original investigation.
Dalla Vedova urged the court not to be afraid to recognize that the lower court that had convicted the two in 2009 had made a mistake. "That's exactly why we have appeals _ courts can make mistakes," he said. "Nobody is infallible."
Kercher was stabbed to death in what prosecutors say had begun as a sexual assault. Prosecutors say that a fourth person was present the night of the murder, Rudy Hermann Guede from Ivory Coast, who has also been convicted and is serving a 16-year-prison term. Guede denies wrongdoing, but he has exhausted all levels of appeals under Italy's judicial system.
Knox and Sollecito _ the American's boyfriend at the time of the crime _ insist they spent the night at his house. Their defense lawyers maintain that Guede is the sole killer, while the prosecutors say that bruises and a lack of defensive wounds on Kercher's body prove that there was more than one aggressor holding her into submission.
Knox's family has flown in for the last stretch of the trial, attending hearings and visiting her in prison. Members of the Kercher family, which has kept a lower profile, are also expected to come to Perugia for the verdict.
"We visited her yesterday and she was rather anxious. But it was also the first time all my four daughters have been together for two years," a teary-eyed Curt Knox, the defendant's father, said.
He said Thursday's summations had given the court a chance to hear "a whole different story and a whole different presentation of what this case is really about".
"I think that gave her some extra strength," he added.
Knox appeared relaxed and even giggled at one point as her other lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, ridiculed a prosecution witness, covering her mouth with her hand as she tried to quickly regain her composure.
With a fatherly gesture, Ghirga ended his arguments by caressing Knox's head. He told reporters she had thanked him.
The trial continues Friday with rebuttals, beginning with the prosecution.