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Italian lawyer calls US student Amanda Knox a 'she-devil' at appeal of sentence in murder case
PERUGIA, Italy (AP) ' Italian lawyers described Amanda Knox, the American student convicted of killing her British roommate, as a "she-devil" and a "witch" in an appeals court Monday while calling her alleged victim a "beautiful girl in the prime of her life."
The court also saw gruesome photos of the semi-naked, bloodied body of Meredith Kercher as two lawyers made closing arguments at the appeals trial of Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, her co-defendant and former boyfriend.
Knox and Sollecito were convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher. Knox was sentenced to 26 years, Sollecito to 25. They deny wrongdoing and have appealed their convictions, which were issued by a lower court in 2009.
"Who is Amanda Knox?" said attorney Carlo Pacelli. "Is she the mild-looking, fresh-faced person you see here, or the one devoted to lust, drugs and alcohol that emerges from the court documents?"
Pacelli represents Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, the owner of a bar in Perugia who, shortly after the 2007 murder, was unjustly accused by Knox of being the murderer. He was briefly jailed and then cleared. Lumumba is a civil plaintiff in the case, for in Italy civil portions of cases are heard at the same time as criminal content.
Pacelli maintained that a double soul coexists in the 24-year-old American.
"Both a (saint) and a demonic, satanic, diabolical she-devil, which leads her toward borderline behavior. This was the Amanda of Nov. 1, 2007," the night of Kercher's murder, Pacelli said.
Knox at the time of the crime "was an explosive mix of drugs, sex and alcohol," he insisted. "She is a spell-casting witch, a virtuoso of deceit."
Pacelli cited testimony by Kercher's friends alleging tensions between Kercher and Knox over the American's alleged promiscuity and bad bathroom hygiene. He insisted Knox deliberately accused an innocent man to cover up her own crime.
Kercher, 21, was stabbed to death in the apartment she shared with Knox. The American student at one point told investigators she was home during the killing and had to cover her ears to drown out Kercher's screams while Lumumba was murdering her, according to court documents.
Knox maintains police pressure led her to accuse Lumumba, a Congolese national in whose bar she occasionally worked.
"The attack was so over-the-top," Curt Knox, the defendant's father, said of Monday's summation. "Still, it's extraordinarily difficult to listen to, for Amanda knowing she wasn't any of those things."
Curt Knox insisted his daughter was always serious and that "you just don't go abroad and freak out in a short period of time."
"Does he accomplish proving anything by name-calling?" Knox's father added.
Other civil plaintiffs include the Kercher family. Their attorney, Francesco Maresca, first showed the court on Monday a photo of a smiling Kercher, telling the jurors: "Look at her. She was a beautiful girl in the prime of her life."
Minutes later, he showed images of her dead body covered in blood.
"I don't want to shock you or make a show out of this," Maresca told the jurors. "But this is to show you her suffering."
"We're not in a TV show," he added.
Silence fell in the courtroom as the images appeared on a screen. Knox mostly seemed to keep her head down.
Graphic photos have been shown to the court before, but behind closed doors. In this case the courtroom wasn't cleared and the photos were run repeatedly for a few minutes. Maresca later apologized for not asking that the room be cleared.
"The jury must make a decision and therefore must understand what really happened," Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini said.
Maresca and his assistant Serena Perna told the court that Kercher died while desperately resisting a sexual assault and escalating violence. The prosecutors say she was killed in what had begun as a drug-fueled sexual aggression.
Knox and Sollecito insist they spent the night at his house the night of the murder.
A verdict in their appeals case is expected by next week. Knox and Sollecito hope to be freed after four years in jail; prosecutors have asked the court to increase both their sentences to life in prison, Italy's stiffest sentence.
In Italy, prosecutors and defendants can appeal a verdict. Manuela Comodi, a prosecutor in the case, told the ANSA news agency that, in case of an acquittal, the prosecution would appeal the case of Knox and Sollecito to the Court of Cassation, Italy's highest criminal court and last level of appeals.
Also convicted in separate proceedings was Rudy Hermann Guede from Ivory Coast. Italy's highest criminal court has upheld Guede's conviction and his 16-year prison sentence. Guede also denies wrongdoing.