ROME, June 23, 2009#151; -- Lawyers for Amanda Knox began laying out their defense for the American student on trial in an Italian courtroom for allegedly murdering her British roommate in what prosecutors say was a sex game gone awry.
As part of the day's testimoney, they prompted one of Knox's neighbors who said he saw no friction between the two exchange students who were spending a year studying in Perugia, Italy.
Knox, 21, of Seattle, and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 25, are accused of murdering Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old British student, who was strangled and stabbed in the neck. Both defendants deny any involvement in the crime.
A third person, Ivory Coast drifter Rudy Guede, has already been convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for his involvement in the murder. He is appealing his conviction.
Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito, who are presenting a joint defense, called several witnesses today in an apparent attempt to cast doubt on the prosecution's claim that Kercher was killed between 11 and 11:30 p.m. Nov. 1, 2007.
It appears that the defense of Sollecito wants to move the time of Kercher's death up by a couple of hours, a time when Sollecito was likely to still have been at home.
Pasqualino Coletta, a tourist who was visiting Perugia in November 2007, told the court that his car had broken down on the night of Nov. 1 as he was leaving the public parking lot across from the cottage that Knox and Kercher shared.
Coletta said that while he waited for a tow truck between 10:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., he noticed nothing strange and did not hear any screams.
Last week, Francesco Introna, a coroner called as a consultant for Sollecito, told the court he believes Kercher died at 9:30 p.m.
Earlier in the trial, two witnesses who live within earshot of the crime scene were called by the prosecution and told the court they heard a scream coming from the house between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. that night.
Knox's lawyer also called Marco Marzan, who lived in the apartment below the one rented by Knox and Kercher. Marzan was questioned about the relationship between Kercher and Knox, and Marzan said he "had never noticed any friction" between the two girls.
Asked about Guede, Marzan said that Guede had been to their house twice, once uninvited, and on one occasion had fallen asleep on the toilet.
Knox has said previously that she had met Guede once at the apartment downstairs, but denies being anything more than an acquaintance of his.
Guede has said in various interrogations that he was attracted to Kercher, and had an appointment with her on the night she was killed. He claimed he was in the house when she was murdered, but that he was in the bathroom at the time and did not kill her.
Also in court today was Sollecito's landlady at the time. She told the judge and jurors the defendant had never given her any trouble.
Today's methodical testimony was in contrast to recent days when Knox took the stand for 12 hours of testimony over two days in front of a crush of media. During that time, Knox said she was at Sollecito's house on the night of the murder where they smoked pot and had sex.
Knox's testimony was followed by Sollecito's father Francesco, and Knox's mother, Edda Mellas. Both parents presented a heartfelt defense of their children and testified about phone calls Sollecito and Knox had with them in the days following the murder.
The trial in Perugia, which seems to be moving at a snail's pace with just two hearings a week, is scheduled to accelerate in the coming weeks as the court attempts to hear out the defense before a two-month summer break begins in mid-July.
The defense's strongest presentations by forensic consultants will probably be presented just before court adjourns for the summer July 18. That would leave final arguments for the fall, and possibly a verdict by October. Knox and Sollecito will have been in prison for almost two years by then.
Crowded court schedules in Italy often mean that trials are dragged out over months with just a few hearings a week.