PERUGIA, Jan 16 – An American student who once called herself "Foxy Knoxy" and her former boyfriend went on trial on Friday for the alleged sex-murder of her British housemate in the Italian university town of Perugia.,
A media pack numbering well over 100 was on hand for the eagerly awaited trial in a case that has sparked lurid headlines.
Amanda Knox, 21, from Seattle, Washington, has been held awaiting trial since the immediate days after exchange student Meredith Kercher, aged 22, was found dead semi-nude in her bedroom with multiple stab wounds to her throat on November 2, 2007.
Knox’s then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito is also implicated in an alleged scenario in which Kercher refused to take part in a sex game following an afternoon Knox allegedly spent smoking cannabis with Sollecito.
Both Knox and Sollecito, dressed informally, appeared calm as they were brought into the courtroom without handcuffs and sat at separate tables with their lawyers.
Also present was Patrick Lumumba, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo whom Knox accused of the murder during her initial questioning.
Lumumba, who ran a pub in Perugia where Knox worked occasionally, was held two weeks before being released for lack of evidence.
He is seeking damages in a civil suit in the trial, which is expected to last several months.
Proceedings opened with arguments for and against holding the trial behind closed doors.
Kercher’s family – who are seeking $40 million from her alleged killers – wants a closed trial to protect her dignity but lawyers for Knox and Sollecito say an open trial would be the best way for them to establish their innocence.
Francesco Maresca, lawyer for the Kercher family, stressed their concern for "protecting the memory and dignity of the departed daughter."
A lawyer for Sollecito, Giulia Buongiorno, however, said that if journalists were barred from the trial "information would get out anyway, but twisted, and that’s our fear."
There would be no danger of harming the victim’s dignity, she said, "because in this trial we will talk about DNA and other technical questions."
The case against Knox – who gave herself the nickname "Foxy Knoxy" on MySpace – and Sollecito allegedly rests largely on DNA evidence collected at the scene and on a knife found in the Italian’s apartment.
The defence team has questioned the handling of the investigation and fear their clients will not receive a fair trial because of the intense media glare on the case.
A third defendant, 20-year-old Ivorian Rudy Guede, has already been convicted and sentenced to 30 years behind bars for his role in the murder.
Knox and Kercher shared a house with two Italian women who were away for the holiday weekend at the time of the murder.
Prosecutors say Knox stabbed Kercher to death while Sollecito and Guede restrained her and the latter tried to rape her after she refused to take part in a drugs-inspired sex game linked to Halloween.
Luciano Ghirga, a lawyer for Knox, said he would "radically contest" the prosecution’s murder scenario, noting that 14 traces were found of a person other than any of the accused.
Sollecito says the murder was the result of a bungled robbery attempt by Guede.