ROME, Nov. 26, 2008 -- The president of a court in Perugia, Italy, has postponed the beginning of the trial for the murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher until January.
The trial of U.S. college student Amanda Knox, 21, and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 24, who are accused of murdering Meredith Kercher, was originally scheduled to start next week, Dec 4.
Instead, the judge ordered on Tuesday a delay until Jan. 16 at the request of defense lawyers, to give them more time to examine the extensive documentation and, in particular, new evidence presented by the prosecution. The large number of witnesses called by all parties also seemed to influence the decision to postpone the trial until the new year.
Knox and Sollecito were indicted in Perugia in October after a yearlong investigation into the gruesome case, which has generated headlines around the world. At the same time, another suspect, Rudy Guede, who had opted for a fast-track trial, was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the killing.
Knox, Sollecito and Guede were accused of sexual violence and murder in what prosecutors say they believe was a sex game gone wrong that resulted in Kercher's death. A British exchange student who shared an apartment with Knox and two Italian girls, Kercher was found dead in her room with her throat slashed Nov. 2, 2007.
Held without bail, Knox and Sollecito deny any wrongdoing.
According to Italian media reports, Giuliano Mignini, the prosecutor in the case, has presented seven new witnesses in the case since the preliminary hearing ended Oct. 28.
Those include someone who claims to have heard Kercher scream the night of the murder and two others who say they heard running footsteps on a street near the crime scene that same night.
There is also a shopkeeper who says he saw Amanda Knox in his store near the crime scene at 7:45 on the morning after the murder. Knox has said she was at her boyfriend's house that morning until 10:00.
Another young man says he saw all four of the people involved in this case -- the two suspects, Guede and Kercher -- together Oct. 30 in front of the house where Knox and Kercher lived, two days before the murder. Defense lawyers have protested that the foursome did not know each other: Knox and Meredith saw Guede a couple of times, but Sollecito denies knowing Guede.
These witnesses have all come forward a year after the crime.
The prosecution has filed a list of 90 witnesses it hopes to call during the course of the trial. These include police investigators, forensics experts, coroners, Kercher's friends, neighbors and Guede -- who can, however, choose not to testify.
Sollecito's lawyers have requested the admission of 89 witnesses, and the lawyer representing the victim's family, who are civil plaintiffs in the case, has named 65 witnesses, including Kercher's parents and siblings. Knox's lawyers have not said how many witnesses they intend to call but it is possible that her parents and sister will testify in her defense.
The trial is likely to last well into next year.