ROME, July 3, 2009 — -- A consultant for the defense in the trial of U.S. student Amanda Knox used a video presentation today to show the court in Perugia, Italy, that Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito had not faked a break-in at the murder scene of her British roommate, as prosecutors allege.
Knox, 21, of Seattle, is on trial along with Sollecito, 25, her Italian former boyfriend, for the murder and of Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old British exchange student who shared a Perugia apartment with Knox and two Italian women.
Kercher was found in her bedroom on Nov. 2, 2007, semi-naked in a pool of blood, her throat slashed.
Investigators in Perugia believe she was killed when she resisted participating in a sex game involving Knox, Sollecito and a third person, Rudy Guede, who has already been convicted for sexual assault and murder, and sentenced to 30 years in prison. All three maintain they are innocent, and Guede's appeal is scheduled to begin in November.
Prosecutors say Knox and Sollecito staged a break-in to make the murder appear to be the result of a botched theft. A window in the bedroom of Filomena Romanelli, Knox and Kercher's housemate, was broken, and glass shards and a 9-pound rock were found in the room. The prosecution presented witnesses and evidence that suggest the window was broken from the inside.
Francesco Pasquali, a retired forensic police officer hired as a consultant by Sollecito's defense, presented a video in court that included three different scenarios showing how the rock could have been thrown from the outside to break the window, located 13 feet off the ground.
According to Pasquali, the rock was thrown from a terrace across from the window, making the glass "explode" on the inside and spreading glass fragments everywhere on the inside and the outside of the windowsill.
Pasquali said that he had re-created the same conditions that were found in Romanelli's room at the time of the break-in. Pasquali said he constructed a window of the same size, with the same paint and the same type of glass, and threw the rock through it into a room with the same characteristics as Romanelli's room. Two video cameras -- one inside and one outside -- filmed the rock being thrown through the glass.
By analyzing the trajectory of the rock and the projection of the glass shards, Pasquali said he could "exclude that the glass could have been broken from the inside."
Prosecutors, however, contend that shutters outside the window could have prevented a rock from breaking it.
Did Shutters Block Rock?
The two prosecutors in the case, Giuliano Mignini and Manuela Comodi, made a number of objections when they cross-questioned Pasquali, who admitted that he had not taken into account the fact that there were shutters on the outside of the original window.
Prosecution witnesses have testified that the shutters were partially closed on the morning after the murder, and Pasquali conceded that the closed shutters would have prevented a rock from the breaking the window from the outside.
"It does not take a technician," Pasquali said. "If the shutters were ajar then the rock couldn't fit through."
The combined defense teams of Sollecito and Knox have attempted to show in recent hearings that the vicious murder of Kercher was committed by one person -- Guede -- who killed Kercher when she caught him stealing.
Witnesses in recent hearings have said they were robbed and threatened by Guede just weeks before Kercher was killed.
One witness said his office window had been broken with a large rock, and a computer stolen. The computer and a cell phone were later found in the possession of Guede, who was also found with a switchblade.
Another witness said Guede pulled a knife on him when he caught Guede in his house rummaging through his things.
Knox was in court today, as she has been for every hearing since the trial began, and during a break she graciously accepted a chocolate from Sollecito, thanking him out loud. It is reportedly the second time he has given her a chocolate.
Knox's younger sister, Deanna, 20, appeared in court for the first time on Friday, along with Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, who has been attending hearings in Perugia since she testified June 19. Deanna Knox had been to Perugia and visited Knox in jail, but she had not returned since the trial started in January.
Knox's family has been by her side continually since her arrest, with members taking turns staying in Perugia.
Knox's half-sister Ashley, 13, also came to court Friday morning but was asked to leave by the judge, because she is a minor.
Knox smiled at her sister and a friend from Seattle, Madison Paxton, who testified last week. Knox showed them her biceps, as if to say, "I'm strong."
Knox, Sollecito Accused of Robbing Kercher
The other witnesses at Friday's hearing added what appeared to be of little substance to the defense.
The director of a local bank, Paolo Fazi, testified that 20 euros ($28) had been withdrawn from Meredith Kercher's account Nov. 2 -- the day her body was found. But he also said that the bank accounting date does not necessarily reflect the actual date of the ATM withdrawal, and that only Kercher's British bank would have that date. Someone from the British bank is expected to testify in upcoming hearings.
Fazi also said that the person making the withdrawal had used Kercher's pin code to get into her account.
Knox and Sollecito are also accused of stealing Kercher's credit cards, her cell phones and 300 euros ($420) in cash that were missing after she was killed.
Other witnesses on Friday included the prison guard who gave Knox pen and paper Nov. 7, the day after she was imprisoned, so she could write down a statement. Raffaele Ariro said he gave Knox the pen and paper on the evening of Nov. 6, shortly after she arrived at the prison. When Knox gave him a written statement the following morning, he handed it over to the prosecutor, he said. The content of the statement was not discussed in court.
A University of Perugia student told the Perugia court that he had seen Guede at a local disco in the early morning hours of Nov. 3, after Kercher's murder. Pietro Camplongo said Guede was dancing alone, and that people were keeping their distance from him, because he smelled "as if he hadn't washed."
Finally, Riccaro Luciani, one of the students who lived in the apartment below Knox and Kercher, said that the relationship between his roommate, Giacomo Silenzi, and Kercher was "simple and had just begun."
The trial continues Saturday, with friends of Sollecito expected to testify for him.
Additional reporting from Perugia by Enzo Beretta.