One of Italy's most prominent defense lawyers told the jury in Amanda Knox's murder trial today that the 22-year-old student from Seattle is not "Amanda the Ripper."
Instead, attorney Giulia Bongiorno said that Knox is more like "Amelie of Seattle," referring to the lead character in the popular French movie "Amelie," about a naive young woman who tries to help people.
The description of Knox as a naive, even bizarre young woman, comes after several days of prosecution summations in which prosecutors depicted her as a vengeful woman who got her boyfriend and another man to sexually attack her "prissy" British roommate Meredith Kercher, and slit her throat Nov. 1, 2007.
Prosecutors have asked the jury to convict Knox of murder, sentence her to life in prison, including nine months of daytime solitary, and fine her $12 million.
Bongiorno, who is a member of the Italian parliament and previously successfully defended Italy's former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti against Mafia charges, was the first of four defense lawyers to present summations in the nine-month case. The trial is expected to conclude later this week.
Bongiorno is actually representing Knox's co-defendant and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, but she told the court that she was forced to defend Knox in order to defend Sollecito.
"She is a fragile and weak young girl, that is the true Amanda," Bongiorno said.
"Amanda writes that her friends think she is like Amelie because she likes the little things, like birds singing. I agree with Amanda's friends, Amanda likes to look at the world through Amelie's eyes. She is spontaneous, immediate and imprudent," the lawyer said.
"She is extravagant, and unusual, full of contradictions -- someone who does cartwheels in the police station," Bongiorno said, mentioning one of Knox's actions during the murder investigation that led prosecutors to suggest she was cold and uncaring.
The attorney described Knox as "a little bizarre and naive," but said, "She is not Amanda the ripper, she is the Amelie of Seattle."
Knox and Sollecito were in court today as they have been for every court session. Knox's parents, who are divorced, and two step-parents were also in court, and Knox gave them a quick smile and mouthed the words, "Are you OK?" to them.
The two defendans also seemed a bit more upbeat today, having Bongiorno on their side. During a break, Sollecito mouthed a message to Knox, asking her, "Are you OK?" Knox nodded and smiled.
Besides challenging the prosecution's description of Knox as "diabolical and malicious," Bongiorno also attacked the evidence presented by the prosecution.
She ridiculed Knox's odd confession during a grilling by detectives when she told police she had a vision she was at the house and said a bar owner she worked for, Patrick Lumumba, was at the murder scene. Knox later said she became confused because police were rough with her, called her a liar and hit her in the head.
"I find it very difficult to imagine Amanda that night, giving those statements without a lawyer," Bongiorno said. "I don't like the idea of a person who hits herself in the head as she is being questioned without a lawyer, like police said she did. At least let her hit herself in the head in front of me," she said sarcastically.
When she mentioned Lumumba, she also put herself at the scene of the murder, Bongiorno said. And when Sollecito's description of where he and Knox were that night differed somewhat, Knox did not contest it.
These are not the actions of someone who is "the evil witch, the ripper, the devil for whom lying is her daily bread."
Speaking to the jurors, Bongiorno said, "You have to interpret her, analyze her personality and you have to conclude that she is either a ripper or a confused young girl. I find it difficult to imagine her so cunning -- otherwise that night she would have defended herself, not become confused."
During a break in today's hearing, Amanda's mother, Edda Mellas, agreed with Bongiorni.
"Finally, someone has described the real Amanda. She us indeed naive, spontanous, all the words Bongiorno used. That is Amanda. She is like Amelie."
The lawyer also ripped into the evidence, focusing her defense largely on Sollecito.
Prosecutors have claimed that a bloody shoe print matched Sollecito's shoe, but investigators later admitted it was not his.
"One mistake after another leads to a judicial error," Bongiorno said. "In this case many judges made a mistake in good faith. This is a warning to you."
The kitchen knife that was found in Sollecito's home and portrayed by prosecutors as the murder weapon was also criticized, citing defense experts who testified that the blade was not compatible with Kercher's wounds.
A speck of Kercher's DNA was found on the knife, but the amount was too low to do a second test to confirm it was Kercher's DNA. 'You have to decide if too low means that the trace could be analyzed or not," she said.
Bongiorno reminded the jury that the charges claim a conspiracy to murder among Knox, Sollecito and a third man, Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast immigrant who has already been convicted and sentenced to 30 years.
But Bongiorno asked how could the trio conspire when Sollecito and Guede had not met until the preliminary hearing of the murder charges. She dismissed prosecution witness who said they saw the two men together that night.
"If Raffaele and Rudy did not know each other, and they didn't, how could they possibly conspire together?" she asked.
In addition, Bongiorno tried to insert doubt about the prosecution's timeline of events. She said an analysis of food in Kercher's stomach suggested that Kercher died between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., not between 11:30 p.m. and midnight as prosecutors claim. Computer records show that Sollecito was on his computer until 9:10 p.m.
She also attacked the prosecution's claim that Sollecito, 25, joined in on the attack in a frenzy while high on drugs.
"I refuse to analyze a motive that does not exist. I want hear in the rebuttals why a young student, who had just started dating a girl, who was about to graduate, would suddenly commit such a crime," Bongiorno said.
The lawyer urged the jurors to doubt what the prosecution has told them.
"You must open yourselves to doubt, and you must go back over the trial documents. Check everything that has been said. I won't fear your decision if you study the papers," she said.