Amanda Knox did not take an oath of truth on Friday morning before she sat before a Perugian jury deciding whether she murdered her former roommate Meredith Kercher. None was necessary; in Italy, defendants in criminal trials do not have to take an oath before testifying, and those judging the case have to decide if hers is the real truth. Dressed in a fresh, white short-sleeved blouse and khakis, the 21-year-old Seattle native began making her case today.
She began speaking in English. After two hours, she switched to Italian, the language in the country where she now lives. Throughout her six-hour testimony, she was confident and collected. She did not cry when she discussed Meredith's death and she passed up what would have been a perfect opportunity to apologize to Patrick Lumumba, the man who spent two weeks in prison after she falsely accused him of Kercher's murder. "Did you ever apologize to Patrick?" asked Lumumba's lawyer, Carlo Pacelli. "No," said Knox. When asked why she named him, she blamed the police. She said she had accompanied Raffaele Sollecito, her then boyfriend who had been called to the police station at 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 5, 2007, for questioning about the murder.
When police also called her in for questioning, things started to go bad. She was questioned, without a lawyer but with the services of an interpreter, until 5:45 a.m., when she finally signed a statement declaring that Lumumba killed Kercher and that she was in the house at the time. According to Knox, they were not nice to her until she made that declaration. She said that the police hit her on the back of the head twice, and that they intimidated her with threats. "They called me a stupid liar," she said. "They made suggestions to me about what might have happened. It was a complicated situation."
But the next day, Knox, from her jail cell, asked for paper to write an account of what happened. She wrote, "I stand by my statements that I made last night about events that could have taken place in my home with Patrick." When asked by Pacelli if she was under pressure when she wrote that statement the next day, she said, "No. I wrote this because I was confused. I wanted to explain to the police that I was confused. I did not understand what was in my imagination and what was the reality."
In February, the same police who questioned her said they offered her breakfast and were not abusive. Officers testified that they did not hit Knox and that, while they were tough on her, they were not excessively mean. But Knox disagreed and was not afraid to tell the court, even though many of the police she accused were sitting in the courtroom. "They kept asking me, 'Who could I imagine would be the person who killed Meredith?'" she told the court. "I said I didn't know and they said I would go to prison for lying to protect someone."
The Lumumba questions are vital in this case because Knox faces criminal charges for accusing him of a crime that is punishable by life in prison. Even if she is acquitted of Kercher's murder, she could still serve prison time for the false-accusation charge. "In my confusion I started to imagine that maybe I was there," she told the court. "Under this pressure I imagined lots of different things."
Knox's testimony was delayed by a quintessential two-hour moment of Italian chaos. The judge offered the media a rare opportunity to film the proceedings but, to keep noise to a minimum, he said only five TV cameras could stay and the media would have to decide who they would be and how the footage would be shared. No consensus was reached and the crews were relegated to the press room to film the monitor instead. Despite the delay, by the time she took the stand, she had regained her cool.
But today was the easy part. On Saturday she will be questioned again, this time by Kercher's lawyer and by the prosecutor. "All the things that have been said about me are not true," she said during testimony. "That's not who I am."