FLORENCE, Italy, Sept. 30, 2013 — -- Amanda Knox's third murder trial began in an Italian courtroom today with a written appeal from the sister of Meredith Kercher, Knox's former roommate who was slain in 2007, saying that Kercher "deserves at least the dignity of the truth."
The letter, which was not read in court, contrasted with the statement by one of Knox's legal team asking whether it was fair that Knox be "tried endlessly."
Neither Knox nor her former boyfriend and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito were present for the start of the proceedings. Nor was Kercher's family, but the family sent a note to the court to say health reasons kept them away.
"We desperately want to discover the truth and find justice for Meredith, who was taken away from us so brutally," Stephanie Kercher, Meredith's sister, wrote.
"Nothing will bring our beautiful Meredith back to us and we will keep her forever in our heart and memory, but we need to know what happened and she deserves at least the dignity of the truth. …The only way our pain and suffering could start to be alleviated is to gain a clearer understanding of the tragic events of Nov. 1, 2007," she wrote.
Patrick Lumumba, a restaurant owner who Knox briefly blamed for the 2007 killing after a night of interrogation by Perugia police, accused Knox of staying away from the trial out of fear.
"I think she (Knox) is not here because she is afraid ...because she knows she is guilty," Lumumba said.
Knox, 26, and Sollecito, 29, spent four years in an Italian prison for Kercher's murder until an appeals court threw out the verdict in 2011.
Italy's supreme court, however, ordered a new court to reconsider the evidence. In its scathing written ruling, it argued that the appeal sentence had "inconsistencies," "illogical reasoning" and had "overlooked evidence." The court's 74-page document indicates that the Supreme Court judges supported the prosecutors' original theory that Kercher possibly died during a forced "erotic game" that got violent. It asked that the new trial focus on the motives of the murder and establishing if the defendants were present at the crime scene at the time of the murder.
Knox, who is studying creative writing at the University of Washington, will not return to Italy for the retrial. By Italian law she does not have to attend the retrial in Florence and can be represented in court by her lawyers.
In court today, her lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova asked the court if Knox "is being treated like other defendants... Is this constitutional that she be tried endlesssly?"
Prosecutor Alessandro Crini called the argument "deprived of relevance and obviously unfounded."
Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito requested a battery of new tests, including tests on Kercher's cellphones, Sollecito's computer, and on a pillow found beneath Kercher that had yellow stains on it.
The court rejected those requests but did authorize new tests to be carried out on a knife the prosecution claims is the murder weapon. Prosecutors claim they found traces of DNA from Knox and Kercher on the knife which was found in Sollecito's home.
Defense lawyers have claimed the prosecution's test was inconclusive and that the amount was so minute that a second test could not be carried out.
Knox's two previous trials have revolved around the DNA evidence on the knife and the prosecution's claim that Sollecito's DNA was found on a clasp that was cut from Kercher's bra.
The appeals court questioned the conclusion about the DNA on the knife and said the bra clasp wasn't collected as evidence until 46 days after the murder when the crime scene had been disturbed several times. The appellate ruling said it was possible the clasp had been contaminated by other evidence.
The appeal will be heard by a panel composed of Judge Alessandro Nencini, his assistant judge and eight jurors, five women and three men. Over 200 media passes have been requested and TV cameras are being kept outside the building.
Rudy Guede, a young man from Ivory Coast, who was tried separately in a fast-track trial, remains in an Italian prison for the murder. Although admitting to being present at the Perugia house on the night of the murder, he has denied involvement in the crime. He is serving a 16-year sentence.
Knox told ABC News in a recent interview that she is still plagued by panic attacks and symptoms of PTSD after her 1,400 nights in an Italian prison.
The next hearing in the retrial is set for this Friday.