Convict Opts for Silence at Knox Trial

Potentially explosive testimony withheld in U.S. student's Italian murder trial.

ByABC News
April 4, 2009, 11:18 AM

Perugia, ITALY<br>April 4, 2009 -- A man serving jail time for his role in the murder of a 21-year-old British student in Perugia, Italy declined today to testify in the trial of American exchange student Amanda Knox, who faces sexual assault and murder charges in the crime.

The testimony of Rudy Guede, 22, an Ivory Coast citizen, was seen as potentially damaging to Knox, 21, and her former Italian boyfriend, Rafaelle Sollecito, 25, who is also on trial. Under earlier police interrogation, Guede said that he had seen a young Italian man in the house where British student Meredith Kercher, then 21, was killed, and that he had recognized Knox's voice.

Kercher was found dead Nov. 2, 2007 with a knife wound to the neck in the home she and Knox shared.

Under interrogation by the prosecutor, Guede told the presiding judge, Giancarlo Massei, that he intended to exercise his right not to reply to questions. Prosecutors then requested that transcripts of the earlier police interrogation be admitted as evidence. The motion was turned down on the objections of defense attorneys.

Guede did not once look at the two defendants in the brief time he was in court. Knox and Sollecito watched Guede sit down without any visible reaction.

Guede's bloody palm print was found on a pillow under the victim, and his DNA was found on her body. He was convicted in a short-track trial in October 2008 for murder and sexual assault and sentenced to 30 years.

He has always said that he was in Kercher's house when she was killed but that he was in the bathroom when she was attacked and did not participate in the crime. He found Kercher in a pool of blood, he said, tried briefly to help her and then fled.

Guede has appealed his conviction and is expected to be tried again in the fall.

Francesco Maresca, the lawyer representing the Kercher family, told reporters today that the fact that defense lawyers objected to having Guede's statements admitted was significant.

"The defense has always said that Guede was unreliable, so why don't they want to hear what he has to say?" asked Maresca.

The testimony of a coroner and a gynecologist relating to the autopsy of the victim was held behind closed doors because of the personal and graphic nature of the evidence.