In Brief

How Amanda Knox has captivated the global media

American exchange student is a media celebrity in Italy where she goes on trial today charged with murdering former roommate Meredith Kercher

After spending 14 months in an Italian jail, 'Foxy Knoxy', aka the Seattle student Amanda Knox, finally went to court today charged with murdering the English student Meredith Kercher in the cottage they shared in Perugia.

Reporters were herded into a cage - originally designed for terrorists - to witness the 21-year-old with the angelic good looks and a reputation for sexual deviance face Judge Giancarlo Massei from the dock of the Umbrian capital's medieval courthouse.

Knox has become a media superstar in Italy where it is long forgotten that she got her nickname for her skills on the soccer pitch and not her sexual appetite.

Mignini alleges that Kercher’s death was the result of a Hallowe’en rite

She constantly appears on magazine covers, and in an Italian 'women of the year' poll last year beat local-girl-made-good Carla Bruni and frontierswoman turned VP candidate Sarah Palin.

While in prison, Foxy's every move has been reported: how local nuns taught her to dance, her pleas to her family to send warm socks and thermal underwear, even a bizarre controversy over whether her walk-on role in a prison video, in which she recited Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech, should be screened at the Batik film festival in Perugia.

(To the dismay of the festival director, Alessandro Riccini Ricci, the film was pulled after representations from Knox's lawyers and jail authorities. "It is a shame because I have seen the film and she is a magnetic actress," said Ricci.)

Knox is not alone in the dock. Also accused of the murder of Meredith, who was found partially clothed and with her throat slit on the morning of November 2, 2007, is Knox's 24-year-old ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

The prosecution case is that both Knox and Sollecito were responsible for involving Meredith, 21, a Leeds University student visiting Perugia on a student exchange programme, in a sexual game that led to 'premeditated' murder.

They did this together, it is claimed, with 22-year-old Rudy Guede, from the Ivory Coast, who was found guilty of murder in a separate trial which finished last October and sentenced to 30 years' jail.

Judge Paolo Micheli, who oversaw Guede's trial, took the decision to send Knox and Sollecito to trial because he believed the weight of circumstantial and forensic evidence - including a knife found under Sollecito's bed and DNA traces found on Meredith's bra strap - was enough to prove their guilt.

He also agreed with prosecutors that the crime scene had been tampered with and efforts made to remove Knox's fingerprints.

According to Knox’s hometown paper, her family will not attend the trial

However, he did not go along with prosecutor Giuliano Mignini's famously "fanciful" notion that Meredith's death was the result of some sort of Hallowe'en rite, postponed to November 1 because of a dinner party on October 31 at the cottage.

At Guede's trial, Mignini described an elaborate scene in which Meredith was on her knees, while Guede held her still. Sollecito grasped one arm while Knox wielded the knife. Judge Micheli wrote that Mignini's scenario "belonged to the world of comic books".

Knox's defence is that she and Sollecito had been smoking cannabis all afternoon - thus explaining various inconsistencies in the pair's testimony and the withdrawal of an early confession - and that an intruder was responsible for Meredith's murder.

According to a report in Knox's hometown newspaper, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, her mother and father will not attend the trial, though some family members may be among the 200-plus witnesses expected to be called in the course of the trial which, because there are only six hearing days scheduled per month, is expected to last for most of this year.

As the trial opened, the judge - who will hear the case with an eight-person jury made up of two assistant judges and six lay jurors - denied a request from Meredith Kercher's family lawyers to hold the trial behind closed doors, though he retains the right to hear portions in camera if he chooses.

Hundreds of reporters from Italy and abroad are vying for seats in the courthouse and there would have been a lot of very disappointed editors if he had chosen to keep reporters out, not least at the Seattle Post Intelligencer, which Hearst Newspapers announced this month will close if a buyer cannot be found within 60 days. Regular reports from Umbria on Foxy's trial could make a difference.

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