A pathologist testifying in the murder trial of American student Amanda Knox told the court in Perugia, Italy, today that there was no biological proof that Knox's roommate, Meredith Kercher, was raped before she was killed in November 2007.
Defense attorneys and attorneys for Kercher's family voiced differing opinions on whether that testimony cast doubt on the prosecution's theory that Knox, who was Kercher's roommate, and two others killed her as part of a forced sex game gone wrong.
For the first time since the trial started in January, the Perugia court that is trying Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito for murder and sexual assault held proceedings behind closed doors. Judge Giancarlo Massei decided that testimony by the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Kercher, the British exchange student whom Knox and Sollecito are accused of murdering, should not be seen or heard by the press or the public.
During a break in pathologist Luca Lalli's deposition, a lawyer for Kercher's family, Francesco Maresca, told reporters that Knox kept her head down and never looked at the large screen on which the autopsy photos were shown. Sollecito, Knox's former boyfriend, did look at them occasionally, Maresca said.
Knox, a 21-year-old University of Washington student from Seattle, was studying abroad in Perugia when she was arrested on Nov. 6, 2007, along with Sollecito, 25, and accused of the murder and sexual assault of Kercher. Kercher, 21, was found dead in her bedroom on the morning of Nov. 2, 2007, half-naked and with her throat cut.
Knox and Sollecito have professed their innocence and maintain that they were together at Sollecito's house the night of the murder. A third man, Rudy Guede, 22, has already been convicted in a fast-track trial and sentenced to 30 years in jail for participating in the murder.
Sex Game Gone Wrong?
Investigators believe Kercher was killed when the three defendants forced her to participate in a group sex game.
Guede is scheduled to take the stand in the trial Saturday, but he is expected to exercise his right not to respond to questions. He has appealed his conviction.
Maresca told reporters that the pathologist basically confirmed what he wrote in his final report, in which he estimated Kercher's time of death at around 11 p.m. on Nov. 1.
According to Maresca, Lalli also told the court the victim's body did not have the usual signs indicating a rape, but he did not rule out the fact that the young woman could have been forced to have sex under threat. He said Lalli told the court there were indications that Kercher had had sex not long before she was killed, and that, based on the bruises on the victim's body, the sex "was not consensual."
Giulia Bongiorno, an attorney for Raffaele Sollecito told reporters simply that rape had been ruled out from a biological point of view.
The defense lawyers of both Knox and Sollecito maintain that the murder was committed by one person only, possibly a thief who broke into the house.
According to Maresca, the pathologist indicated that the bruising on Kercher's body indicates that more than one person was involved. Bongiorno countered that while Lalli did not rule it out, the injuries were "modest" compared to those you would find in a group killing.
"The prosecutor's scenario is starting to crumble," Bongiorno said today.
Civil Plaintiff to Sue Amanda Knox
Patrick Lumumba, a Congolese citizen who ran a pub in Perugia, is scheduled testify this afternoon. Lumumba was implicated in the murder by Knox, when she was questioned by police in the days just after the murder. In an all-night interrogation at the Perugia police station, Knox told investigators she thought she recalled seeing Lumumba at her house with Kercher the night she was killed.
Knox has since recanted that account and said she was exhausted and under great pressure to say something that night, and that she was even hit on the head by police. The police officers who questioned her that night absolutely deny any coercion.
The Supreme Court in Rome last year decided that the testimony offered that night could not be used against Knox because she did not have a lawyer present at the time.
Lumumba was jailed for 14 days before being cleared of all charges after police determined he had a solid alibi and no trace of him was found at the crime scene. He is a civil plaintiff in the current trial. He is suing Knox for defamation and was recently awarded $10,000 in damages from the Italian state for unjust detention.
Also testifying later today will be a shop owner who said Knox, in the company of Sollecito, bought underwear in his shop on the day after the murder.
Zachary Nowak contributed to reporting from Perugia, Italy.