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Italian court orders Knox murder evidence review

An Italian court has called for a review of the evidence and new witnesses in the trial of an American student who was convicted of murdering her British housemate. The trial has attracted worldwide media attention.

Amanda Knox at Perugia's courthouse for a hearing in her appeal trial

Amanda Knox attended her appeal hearing on Saturday

An Italian court has ordered a review of key evidence in the trial of Amanda Knox, the American convicted of murdering British student Meredith Kercher, in a decision that could benefit the defendant.

The 23-year-old Knox and her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are appealing prison sentences of 26 and 25 years respectively for their alleged role in the death. A third person, an Ivorian man named Rudy Guede, has also been convicted for the murder and is serving a 16-year sentence.

The Perugia court said on Saturday that it would hear new witnesses and admit new expert evidence concerning the knife allegedly used as the murder weapon. An American scientist is expected to testify that the quantities of DNA found on the knife, including biological traces from both Knox and Kercher, are too small to be reliable.

The court has also ordered new analysis on Kercher's bra clasp, which was found to have traces of Sollecito's DNA. The defense has said the evidence was "contaminated" in the 45 days between the murder and the time the clip was found.

"After three years we've had our first big victory," said Luca Maori, Sollecito's lawyer.

Prosecutor Manuela Comodi, who had opposed the review, said at least it would "finally end the scandal over alleged errors, which did not occur."

Suspects maintain their innocence

Police working in the house of Meredith Kercher and Amanda Knox in Perugia, Italy

Knox shared an apartment with Kercher in Perugia

Kercher, 21, was found semi-naked in a pool of blood in the apartment she shared with Knox in the university city of Perugia in November 2007. Prosecutors said Kercher was sexually assaulted and killed in what was likely a drug-fueled attack by Sollecito, Knox and Guede. All three have claimed their innocence.

Knox and Sollecito were sentenced last year, while Guede, who said he was in the house at the time of the killing but did not take part, had his 2008 conviction upheld by Italy's highest appeals court on Thursday.

Knox has steadfastly maintained her innocence, saying she has been "unjustly convicted." Questioned by police shortly after the murder, she said she had been home at the time of the killing. She now says she was at Sollecito's house when Kercher was murdered.

Her lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, has said the case against her client was "full of grey areas" and that it was "a huge miscarriage of justice." Last month, Knox was indicted on additional charges of slander for claiming that police beat her during questioning.

Knox's defense has also requested that a new witness be allowed to testify at the appeal trial, a former mafia member who claims his own brother carried out the murder during an attempted burglary. The court is reviewing the request.

The next hearing in the trial, which has attracted media attention in Italy and the United States, is expected January 15, with the conclusion of the appeal trial expected some time next year. Prosecutors want Knox to be sentenced to life in prison if her conviction is upheld.

Author: Martin Kuebler (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Andrew Bowen

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