First Day of Testimony Has Emotional End for Amanda Knox

Perugia court hears a surprise statement from Raffaele Sollecito.

PERUGIA, Italy, Feb. 6, 2009 — -- Amanda Knox's cheerful optimism cracked at the end of the second day of her Italian murder trial today when she was allowed to hug her father and tears welled up in her eyes.

"I told her to be strong," Curt Knox said after his daughter left the courtroom, smiling back at her dad through tear-filled eyes as she headed back to prison.

"We both told each other we love each other," he said.

It was an emotional end to the first day of testimony in the trial in which Knox, 21, and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 24, are accused of murdering Meredith Kercher in November 2007 in Perugia, Italy, where both women were attending school as exchange students.

Kercher, a 21-year-old British student, was found on the floor of her bedroom on the morning of Nov . 2, 2007 in a pool of blood with her throat slashed.

Knox, of Seattle, and Sollecito are accused of sexual violence and murder in Kercher's death, along with 23-year-old Rudy Guede, who was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison last October for his part in Kercher's murder.

The former University of Washington student has smiled at times during her court appearances and her family has told ABC News that she was bearing up well in their weekly prison visits. Her brief show of emotion today was the first sign of the emotional toll the case is taking.

Curt Knox said he was encouraged by the initial day of testimony.

"My reaction to today's hearing is for the first time real evidence is starting to come out that will prove her innocence," he said.

He said his daughter was going through a "difficult period," and the family is eager for the ordeal to be over.

"But I want her to be exonerated from everything because she didn't do anything wrong," Curt Knox said. "Even if this takes a little longer, I want her to be exonerated."

Today's testimony began with a surprise statement by Sollecito in which he insisted on his innocence. He rose a second time later in the trial to comment on testimony from the first police who arrived at the murder scene.

The court in Perugia was preparing to hear the first witness in the trial when Sollecito's lawyers announced he wished to make a spontaneous statement. Italian law allows defendants to make statements or ask to be questioned at any time during a trial.

"I find it difficult to understand how I have ended up in this situation," Sollecito told the court in a tremulous voice. "I have been in jail for one year and three months and I have nothing to do with all of this. I am not a violent person. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I find it difficult to hurt a fly."

Looking wan, in a white turtleneck, Sollecito explained that he barely knew Kercher. " She was Amanda's roommate, " he said. Sollecito also said that he had never met Guede.

"My relationship with Amanda had just begun. We met on Oct . 25," he said.

During a previous hearing, Sollecito's lawyer said that the two were young "lovebirds" just starting on a relationship and had no reason to go looking for wild sexual experiences, something the prosecution has suggested might be a motive for the crime.

"I humbly ask you to examine everything with extreme attention, to ascertain the truth," Sollecito pleaded with the court. "I feel I am the victim of a judicial mistake."

Knox's Father Says She Is "Confident"

Knox was also in court for today's hearing, the second day of the trial, which began with a hearing Jan. 16. Knox looked relaxed as she entered the courtroom dressed simply in jeans and a green sweater, accompanied by the usual prison guards.

"She is just a young girl," remarked a woman in the public section of the courtroom, as Knox walked by.

Knox smiled at her lawyers and turned to smile at her father, Curt Knox, who was also present in court.

Knox's parents and family members have taken turns going to Perugia so that someone is almost always there to visit her twice a week in prison.

As Knox took her seat in the courtroom she glanced over at Sollecito, and they exchanged shy smiles.

She sat between her lawyer and her court-appointed interpreter, who whispered a running translation in English of the proceedings in her ear. Knox followed attentively, apparently without tiring or getting bored. Her father, however, did not have an interpreter and had to rely on brief summaries of the proceedings that were provided by lawyers during breaks.

"Amanda is confident," Curt Knox told reporters as he arrived at the courthouse, "and we have faith in the Italian justice system."

After the statement by Sollecito, the two judges and six jurors who make up the jury began to hear the first witnesses in the case.

In an evident effort to reconstruct a timeline of events, the prosecution's witnesses are being called in the order in which they arrived at the scene of the crime on the morning of Nov. 2, 2007.

Knox was the first person to go to the Perugia cottage she shared with Kercher and two Italian roommates the morning after the murder. She had spent the night, she says, at Sollecito's house and had gone home to shower when she discovered things amiss at her home. The front door was wide open; spots of blood were in the bathroom. She then went to get Sollecito who returned to the house with her; soon after the police arrived.

Among the first witnesses to testify today were two police officers of Italy's postal police who had come to the cottage to return Kercher's cell phone; it had been found by a neighbor in her garden.

When they arrived at the cottage, the officers said they found Knox and Sollecito standing outside. They said that the couple told them things were amiss in the house and that they had called the police, the "carabinieri."

Another roommate of the girls arrived shortly after and the postal police knocked down the locked door of Kercher's room.

Police Inspector Says Knox Was "Surprised But Calm"

Chief police inspector Michele Battistelli testified that when police broke down the door, "There was quite a lot of blood," he said. "I saw (Kercher's) foot sticking out from the duvet, and given the color and the fact that she didn't move, I thought I'd call the emergency sanitary service."

Battistelli also said that Knox and Sollecito, whom he met at the crime scene, appeared "surprised, but calm."

Sollecito addressed the court for the second time, and his lawyers announced that he would regularly be making be statements to give his version of events.

Sollecito explained that he had remained close to Knox that morning because she was "very shocked and cold."

"She was silent and was staring into space," he said.

The questioning of the police today revolved around the timing of events that morning and the conditions they found in the house.

Timing is of particular importance because the prosecution maintains that the phone call Sollecito made to the carabinieri took place after the arrival of the postal police.

During his second address to the court, Sollecito insisted that he called the carabinieri before the postal police arrived.