SEATTLE, Oct. 9, 2009 -- Amanda Knox's legal defense was startled today when the Italian court rejected her lawyers' request to appoint an independent experts to review the prosecution's DNA evidence.
The refusal by the judge clearly surprised and disappointed the defendants. Knox briefly put her head back and closed her eyes, but her former boyfriend and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito put his head down and cried. Sollecito's lawyer patted his client on the back.
Knox and Sollecito were counting on the independent review to help rebut charges that they murdered Knox's roommate Meredith Kercher during a drug fueled sex game.
During the marathon trial, the defense had put their own DNA experts on the stand to criticize the prosecution's handling of DNA evidence and the conclusions they drew from it. They had hoped to have an independent expert appointed by the court to reject some or all of the DNA evidence.
One key piece of evidence presented by the prosecution is a speck of what they claim was Kercher's DNA on a knife found in Sollecito's apartment. The prosecution claims the knife was the murder weapon.
Defense lawyers have challenged the validity of the DNA saying the amount on the knife was not sufficient to make a positive match to Kercher.
Knox's family said the judge's decision was not what they wanted, but said they still have hope.
According to Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, the family is optimistic. "The defense has put together an extremely strong case that shows that Amanda had nothing to do with this crime. Further evidentiary support may not be needed and we will be there for the verdict," Mellas told ABCNews.com.
A lawyer for Knox, Luciano Ghirga, told reporters that the judge's decision "does not change anything."
"It is a decision that we accept, and we are ready for the debate. It was foreseeable. Nothing has changed," Ghirga said.
Judge Giancarlo Massei told the court that if the jury still had doubts about the DNA evidence by the time lawyers for both sides concluded their closing arguments, they could ask for a review by independent experts.
The judge then adjourned the trial until Nov. 20 when closing arguments will begin. The court hopes to have a verdict by Dec. 5. Lawyer Francesco Maresca, who represents the Kercher family, said that Kercher's parents would be present for the verdict.
Today's ruling was the latest event in the long and exhausting defense of Amanda Knox has taken a financial and emotional toll on her family.
For nearly two years, Knox's family has shuttled back and forth 6,000 miles from Seattle to Perugia, Italy, to visit their daughter and sister in the Italian prison that has become her home.
They have had to finance an expensive legal team that includes forensic and DNA experts.
For the Knox family, it has been an unimaginable, emotional and quite expensive journey. And there is no end in sight because if Amanda is convicted, the family will appeal. And if Amanda is acquitted, the prosecution plans to appeal.
The question of how the family could possibly continue to pay for lawyers, travel and living in Perugia is one they cannot definitively answer, other than to say that somehow they will.
"Between Amanda's mother and myself, we have spent over a million dollars so far," said Knox's father, Curt Knox, who lost his job as an executive at Macy's during the ordeal and is looking for work. "We have literally mortgaged everything and used our retirement funds. But we do what it takes because we are not leaving our daughter in a foreign prison for something she didn't do."
Amanda Knox Talks By Phone With Mom Every Saturday Morning
Knox's two-year imprisonment and year-long trial has left a gaping hole in the family's suburban Seattle life.
"We want to be hopeful and we know she'll be home, but just to assume she's going to be home right now -- it's hard," Mellas told "Good Morning America" today. "Because when it doesn't turn out the way it's supposed to, it's devastating."
Mellas, a math specialist in a Seattle school, has made nearly a dozen trips to Italy to see her daughter in prison for only one hour, twice a week.
In an interview with ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas, Mellas explained, "As a mom, are you really going to leave your innocent child in a foreign country alone with no one to visit her?"
Mellas told "GMA" that she'd definitely be in Italy for the closing arguments and the verdict. And when she's not able to be there in person, she's on the other end of the phone.
"I talk to Amanda every Saturday morning," she said. "She's never alone."
Mellas said she has to be hopeful that her daughter is getting a fair trial and is encouraged that the defense has been able to "rip apart" some of the prosecution's evidence.
When Mellas is not in Perugia, Knox's father is. Despite divorcing when Knox was young, her parents are united in their quest to free their eldest daughter whom they wholeheartedly believe is innocent.
Curt, who spent September in Italy, worries about Amanda. "She has been phenomenally strong and kept a positive attitude. But she told me last week there is this huge weight on her chest of having somebody else take your life in their hands and say -- guilty or innocent."
The "somebody else" are the two Italian judges and six jurors who will decide his daugther's immediate fate. During eight months of trial, they have heard nearly 100 witnesses. At points during testimony, some jurors -- and even the lead prosector, Guiliano Mignini -- have fallen asleep.
Amanda Knox's Sisters Pay Price, Too
Curt Knox also worries about his two young daughters, Ashley Knox, 14, and Delaney Knox, 11, who have been growing up with their father away half the time. Curt has lived nearly an entire year in total in Perugia.
Curt's youngest daughter Delaney misses her father, but understands why he's away. "I wish he was here when I had my first day of middle school and for him to take me there or pick me up. He couldn't because he was in Italy, but we know he is over there doing a good thing for Amanda."
Sitting next to her younger sister, Ashley fights back tears. "We all love and support her. The right thing will come out, that she's innocent and we will be able to see her back home soon."
Amanda's sister, Deanna Knox, 20, says the two are best friends. It was Deanna who traveled with Amanda to Perguia and found her new home, a cottage overlooking the Umbrian hillside that Amanda shared with Meredith Kercher and two Italian roommates.
Deanna recalled, "I actually found [the house] and it was amazing. Nothing in my mind could have imagined that something like this could happen."
A few weeks later, the picturesque cottage became a crime scene, and the lives of Amanda Knox and her family changed forever.
After learning that Amanda's roommate had been murdered, Mellas boarded a flight to Italy to go console her daughter. But during a layover in Switzerland, she answered an unforgettable phone call: Amanda had been arrested.
When Mellas finally arrived in Perugia, she was swarmed by media. Mellas says those first days in Perugia are a blur. "I was in shock. I wasn't eating. I wasn't sleeping. I hadn't seen Amanda. It was just a horrible time."
Knox Family Has Rented Apartment in Perugia
A few days later, Curt flew to Perugia, too.
But back home in Seattle, Deanna was alone in college harassed by media to the point she was provided security guards.
Deanna told ABC News, "It was a little frustrating. I couldn't walk to eat dinner without a police security escort to my cafeteria."
The attention from the media and the stress of the trial has been difficult for Deanna. While waiting for a verdict, Deanna is taking a semester off college and working in retail. She wanted to move closer to home and be with her family.
Deanna has also traveled to Perugia to visit Amanda six times. When home, she has had to fill the role of big sister to Ashley and Delaney while Amanda is gone. But Deanna says she cannot fill Amanda's shoes. "It's been hard to take her role, because no one can really replace what she did. She always took care of us."
Driving around their hometown, Deanna has constant reminders of her absent sister -- the soccer fields they shared, Amanda's favorite bowling alley and a local park they frequented.
"It's different driving in the car now. It was always the four of us -- Amanda, Ashley, Delaney and me... but now there is always an empty seat," Deanna explained.
For more than a year, Amanda's family has rented a small apartment on the outskirts of Perugia because it's cheaper than a hotel. When they are not in court or visiting Amanda in prison, they spend much of their time updating family and friends about Amanda and the trial.
One silver lining for this blended family is their much stronger bond. Both Curt and Edda remarried and live just miles apart, but Amanda and Deanna were raised by their mother.
"Everyone knows my parents are divorced. We have lived with our mom our whole lives and it pushed our dad to the side. But he has really stepped in and became the dad we always knew he could be."
The two families even gather at the Mellas household for Amanda's weekly 10-minute phone calls.
Reflecting on the one-hour visits he has with Amanda, an emotional Curt explained how much stronger his relationship is now with Amanda. "How often do you get to sit down and just talk with your child for one hour?"
Amanda Knox Family "Cautiously Optimistic"
With a verdict approaching, Amanda's family remains "cautiously optimistic." But they are very aware that this ordeal may not be over anytime soon.
Deanna cannot think about the possibility her sister may not come home. "I just can't imagine it in my head. I just can't picture it. I need her home."
There are moments when Edda simply loses hope. There are also moments she dreams of her best case scenario. "Three o'clock in the morning, I think about the plane ride and getting her here, and she talks about the food she wants to eat. She craves ethnic food, Thai food -- or even a really good sandwich. We will take her someplace where boating is involved and the sun. We will find a way to take her and just relax for a while."
What Deanna wants is simple. "I just want her home so I can talk to her about sister stuff and life." Deanna is also holding Amanda to a promise she made in a letter from prison. "Amanda promised me she would be home for my 21st birthday. I'm holding her to it."
Amanda's family refuses to be defined by this chapter in their lives, and, they say, so does Amanda. They acknowledge that life will never be the same, but insist they will find their new normal.
But for now, their normal is having their eldest daughter, now known around the world, locked up in a foreign prison, waiting for the verdict in her murder trial.
The family never forgets that the Italian justice system is different from the United States. Jurors are not sequestered or vetted for biases. They can watch media reports and read newspapers.
In Italy, a verdict is based on a majority vote among the two judges and six jurors, not a unanimous decision.
Curt understands what his daughter is facing. "It's a foreign country that has an extremely different legal system than the United States. And until I hear 'innocent'. ... I just need to hear that."
He cannot imagine another year of waiting and the toll it will have on all of them, especially Amanda.
In a quivering voice, he added, "I just want them to say 'innocent' and then we get to take her home. We just want her home."