ROME, Italy, May 29, 2009— -- As the prosecution wrapped up its case with final witnesses today, the murder trial in Perugia, Italy, of American student Amanda Knox is finally shifting into another gear.
After four months in which witnesses have often portrayed Knox as a cold, calculating and bizarre young woman in what her father, Curt Knox, has called a "character assassination," the defense will finally have its chance to show the jury that Knox is innocent, and their star witness will be Knox herself. She is expected to take the stand for questioning June 12.
Knox, 21, an exchange student from Seattle, Wash., and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 25, are accused of sexually assaulting and murdering Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher, 21.
Kercher was found stabbed and strangled to death in her room in the house she shared with Knox and two other women on November 2, 2007. A third person, Rudy Guede, has already been convicted for his role in the murder last October.
"Amanda is anxious to testify in court," her father, Curt Knox, told ABC News. "She wants to be able to take the stand and truly get her side of the story out for everybody to hear the truth." Both defendants have already made 'spontaneous statements' in court (as allowed by Italian law) on occasions when they felt they needed to clarify something, or to profess their innocence, as both have done.
Offering to be questioned is another matter, however.
The prosecution did not ask to question Knox. The decision to take the stand was hers and that of her lawyers. Her co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, will not be questioned.
The first questions will come from her lawyers, but then Knox can be cross-questioned by the prosecution, lawyers for the civil plaintiffs (the Kerchers and Lumumba) and the judge, Giancarlo Massei.
She can choose to interrupt the questioning at any time, or choose to answer certain questions and not others, but if you take the stand it is supposed you plan to answer the questions. The only other time Knox has agreed to be questioned since her arrest – by prosecutor Giuliano Mignini in December 2007 – she broke down, according to court records, and refused to continue.
Will Knox Lie in Court?
And in Italy, defendants are allowed to and even expected to lie. While witnesses have to swear tell the truth, defendants do not. It is assumed that if they are defending themselves they might not tell the whole truth, and will not be charged with perjury if they don't.
Surprisingly, Knox plans to speak in Italian when she takes the stand.
"She does not want to have to correct her interpreter's translation," Curt Knox explained to ABC News. She is confident that she will be able to express herself, and she will have an interpreter at her side just in case she needs help.
Knox, who came to Italy to study Italian, and has an aptitude for languages, has perfected her Italian in the Perugia prison, where she has been for a year-and-a-half awaiting trial. All the statements she has made in court so far have been in a clear well-pronounced Italian although her grammar is not perfect.
Before the judges and jurors hear from Knox there will be a somber day in court when the family members of Meredith Kercher take the stand. Kercher's mother, sister and one of her brothers will travel to Perugia from England on June 6 to testify in court, according to their lawyer, Francesco Maresca. They are civil plaintiffs in the case against Knox and Sollecito. It is not clear what their testimony will be, but she may speak about the last time they spoke to Meredith, and her plans and state of mind that day.
In this next phase of the trial, the focus may shift from Knox, who holds a strange fascination for press and public (far more so than her ex-boyfriend Raffaele), to the person who in many ways the trial and certainly the press, has lost sight of – the victim. Who was Meredith Kercher, and what was she like?
In the meantime, Perugia prosecutors Giuliano Mignini and Manuela Comodi closed their case today, after four months of hearings and more than 80 witnesses.
Nothing new emerged from the four senior police officials who testified today, except, perhaps, another example of strange behavior by Knox.
The director of the Violent Crime department of the Police, Edgardo Giobbi, told the court that when, on the day after the murder, he handed Knox (not yet a suspect) a pair of shoe covers before entering the apartment below hers, she swiveled her hips and said "oopla." This attitude made him turn his "investigative attention" on her, he said.