An Italian prosecutor asked an appeals court today to increase the prison sentence for American student Amanda Knox from 26 years to life.
Prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola asked that in addition to spending the rest of her life in prison that the 24-year-old Seattle woman be ordered to spend six months in daytime isolation.
The request for the harsher sentence came as Knox and her co-defendent Raffaele Sollecito were hoping that their appeal could conclude soon with their prison sentences thrown out. They were convicted in 2009 of murdering Knox's roommate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy.
Prosecutors asked today that Sollecito, who was originally sentenced to 25 years, also be given a life sentence, with two months of daytime isolation.
Knox and Sollecito showed no reaction to the prosecutor's request for life imprisonment and Know was taken out of the court quickly afterwards. Sollecito hugged his lawyer before leaving.
Knox's father, Curt Knox, said he spoke with his daughter shortly after the hearing ended for the day.
"She was actually doing okay... It's hard to hear that someone is asking that you spend your life in prison," Curt Knox said.
Manuela Comodi, one of three prosecutors who spoke Friday and today, appeared pleased with the case they presented.
"I think we were able to present a complete picture," Comodi said.
The request for the extra prison time capped the prosecution's two day summation in the murder case.
Comodi spent much of today staunchly defending the DNA evidence that had been used to convict Knox and Sollecito. That DNA evidence has been harshly criticized as flawed and mishandled by two forensic experts who had been appointed by the court to review the DNA evidence.
In rejecting the experts' review, Comodi told the court that their work "has nothing scientific about it." She also accused the experts, who are forensics professors, of lacking competence and the necessary experience to critique her investigators.
"Would you entrust the wedding reception of your only daughter to somebody who knows all the recipes by heart but has never actually cooked?" she asked the court.
Comodi seemed to take particular aim at Carla Vecchiotti, one of the two experts. "She does not want to examine (evidence) because she is not competent to do so," the prosecutor said.
She complained of what she called "scientific falsities" in the experts' report and said the experts "betrayed the people who nominated them by adding confusion."
The DNA evidence in the case has become critical to the appeal by Knox and Sollecito and the criticism by the experts has significantly boosted Knox's hopes that she could finally be released from her 26 year prison sentence and go home to Seattle.
Amanda Knox Prosecutor Uses Bra to Defend DNA Evidence
Knox, 24, and Sollecito, 27, were convicted in 2009 of murdering Kercher, a British student who was Knox's roommate during what was supposed to be a year of studying in Perugia, Italy. A third person, Rudy Guede, was also convicted of taking part in the murder during a separate trial.
One of the most significant pieces of evidence during their murder trial was what prosecutors claimed was Sollecito's DNA on Kercher's bra clasp, which had been cut or torn away from the bra during the attack that left her partially nude and her throat slashed.
To bolster her argument, Comodi pulled out a white bra and showed judges and jurors "how Raffaele Sollecito's DNA ended up on the bra clasp."
Tugging at it with both hands she said "Sollecito is here, this side, and Rudy Guede here."
Sollecito and Knox turned their heads to watch her demonstration briefly, but Sollecito soon turned back to his lawyer and shook his head.
Comodi argued that it is impossible that the bra clasp was contaminated by DNA from another source, saying it was "scientifically false" that the DNA could "fly" onto the clasp. And while the clasp wasn't collected until six weeks after the murder, it never left the room, minimizing its chance of being contaminated by Sollecito's DNA from elsewhere in the house, Comodi said.
She said that Sollecito's DNA had an extremely rare chromosome Y, adding to the certainty of the forensic evidence.
The independent experts, however, had noted the clasp was left on the floor of Kercher's bedroom for six weeks after the killing and when it was finally collected as evidence it was passed around among the investigators, and then placed in a plastic bag instead of the recommended paper bag. DNA deteriorates in plastic, the experts said.
They concluded that the bra clasp had likely been contaminated by the improper handling.
Comodi was the third member of the prosecution team to address the court in their two-day summation of the case.
Knox's family has gathered in Perugia in the hope that she will be released when a verdict comes down, possibly as early as Oct. 3.
The verdict will be rendered by a majority decision by six jurors and two judges. If they are evenly split, Knox and Sollecito will be acquitted.
But the high stakes of the moment are clearly evident on Knox who appears frail and tense. Even her hair appears thinner. Her mother, Edda Mellas, commented on Friday after watching her daughter in court, "She doesn't appear to be sleeping well."
Knox and Sollecito had been dating for about a week at the time of Kercher's death in November 2007. They were arrested days after her killing and have been in an Italian prison cell ever since.
Knox and Sollecito's lawyers will present their summations next week, followed by rebuttals.The last words of testimony will come from Sollecito and Knox.
If Knox and Sollecito win their appeal, the prosecutors have the right under Italian law to file their own appeal.