PERUGIA, Italy Oct. 1, 2010 -- A worried looking Amanda Knox briefly left the Italian prison that has been her home for almost three years to attend a hearing today on charges that she slandered Italian police during her 2009 murder trial.
The prison van carrying Knox was driven straight into the basement of the courthouse in Perugia, Italy, where a throng of journalists, many American and British, waited to get a glimpse of her. But the hearing was behind closed doors, and journalists and the public were kept out.
One person who had access to the courthouse said Knox was in a small courtroom in the company of her lawyers, and looked pale and a little worried. Her boyish haircut had grown out somewhat, and she was crisply dressed in a white shirt and black pants.
A lawyer for Knox, Luciano Ghirga, said the prolonged legal battles are taking on toll on Knox. Besides facing the slander charge, she is bracing for an appeal next month of her murder conviction for the stabbing death of her British roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007.
Ghirga said his client "is worried about the upcoming appeal." He added, "She has lost her good cheer and her serenity."
The stress was mirrored in the face of Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, who told ABC News' "Good Morning America" today, "It's three years, it's horrible." Mellas struggled to hold back tears as she spoke.
Curt Knox said prison has changed his daughter. "The naivete that she went over there with is gone," he told GMA.
"It's hard to sit there knowing you're innocent... She is singing in a choir with a number of other inmates and will be part of the Christmas celebration," Mellas said.
The father added that prison officials have offered tranquilizers to help Knox cope with prison. "Amanda has refused to take any pills from them," he said.
From behind prison walls, Knox has also watched a growing business emerge around her. There are several books about her out by lawyers, a fellow inmate and journalists, and at least two movies are in development.
Amanda Knox's Murder Conviction Appeal Begins Next Month
"Amanda... is starting to hear a little bit about all the books and the movies and she just thinks it's bizarre," Mellas said.
Today's hearing, in which some technical issues were resolved, was over within an hour and adjourned until Nov. 8, when discussion of the slander case will take place. Knox was soon speeding out of the courthouse and back to prison.
Knox, now 23, was convicted by an Italian jury in December 2009 of murdering Kercher and was sentenced to 26 years in prison. She is appealing that verdict and sentence, but in the meantime faces an additional charge of slander, which is a criminal offense in Italy and could add up to six years to her prison term.
Knox is accused of having slandered 12 members of the Perugia police force when she testified at her murder trial last June that police were rough with her when they interrogated her overnight just days after Kercher's body was found in a pool of blood in the house they shared.
Knox says she was interrogated by numerous officers all night, discouraged from calling a lawyer, and cuffed on the back of the head. At the end of the long interrogation Knox signed a statement in which she said she had a confused dream-like recollection of being in the house and hearing Kercher scream, effectively placing her on the scene of the crime.
In today's hearing Judge Claudia Matteini admitted eight officers from the Perugia police department as civil plaintiffs, and adjourned the hearing.
The police officers are being represented by Francesco Maresca, the same lawyer who represented Kercher's family as civil plaintiffs in Knox's murder trial. Maresca said today that the officers sought him out because of his grasp of the case. The police officers have denied being abusive. In their testimony at the murder trial they said they had treated Knox fairly, giving her breaks and offering her coffee.
Amanda Knox's Parents Also Face Charges
Lawyers for Knox wanted the judge removed from the slander case, maintaining that she was not suitable. She is the same judge who confirmed Knox's arrest for murder in November 2007 and twice denied Knox's requests for house arrest.
Matteini refused to step aside last June and two appeals to have her removed were rejected.
Ghirga told reporters in Perugia today that the slander case was important.
"The night of Nov. 6, 2007 (when Knox was interrogated by police) is at the heart of the case, because it precedes the actual investigation into Meredith's murder," Ghirga said.
The first hearing for Knox's appeal of her murder conviction is scheduled for Nov. 24. Her case will be heard by a new set of jurors and judges, who will review all the evidence presented in the first trial. Knox's lawyers will request an independent review of the forensic evidence that was hotly contested in her first trial.
And on Oct. 19 her parents also face a possible indictment.
Curt Knox and Edda Mellas are charged with libel, a lesser crime than slander, for repeating Knox's accusations of her alleged mistreatment to an English newspaper.
ABC News' Nick Watt contributed to this report