It has been 10 months since Amanda Knox and her ex-lover Rafaelle Sollecito first entered the frescoed courtroom in Perugia, Italy, to stand trial for the sexual assault and murder of Knox's British roommate Meredith Kercher. (Kercher was found dead in her bedroom the morning of Nov. 2, 2007, with multiple knife wounds to her neck.) The prosecution and defense finished presenting their evidence two weeks ago; finally, they'll begin their closing arguments on Friday. Those could take up to six weeks or longer, especially if the judge asks for an independent review of any evidence. Afterward, two judges will lead a six-member layperson jury in deciding whether Knox and Sollecito should spend the rest of their lives in an Italian prison. This is how the evidence stacks up in the case.
Evidence: Murder dynamic
Who it hurts: Knox and Sollecito
One of the most complicated aspects of Kercher's tragic death is how the murder itself played out. The prosecution believes that Knox, Sollecito, and Guede taunted Kercher in a sex game that quickly escalated to violence and ended in murder. Countless forensic experts, including those who performed the autopsies on Kercher's body, have testified that more than one person killed her based on the size and location of her injuries and the fact that she didn't fight back—no hair or skin was found under her fingernails. The defense has confused matters more: Knox's forensic specialist testified that Kercher had been killed by only one person from the front, but Sollecito's expert testified that Kercher had been killed by one person from behind.
Evidence: Knox's confession
Who it hurts: Knox
On Nov. 5, 2007, Sollecito was called to the Perugia police station for questioning about Kercher's murder. Knox testified last June that she did not want to be alone, so she accompanied him. During his interrogation, Sollecito admitted to police that he did not know for sure if Knox actually spent the night of the murder at his house, as she had told police earlier. Since Knox was at the police station, the head of the murder squad decided to ask her a few questions. Her interrogation started at about 11 p.m., and, by 5:45 a.m., Knox had told police that she was in the house when Kercher died—and that Patrick Lumumba, the owner of the nightclub where she worked, was the assailant. She even described Kercher's screams. She, Sollecito, and Lumumba were arrested. The next day, Knox wrote a five-page memorandum reiterating everything she said the night before. But since there was no lawyer present during her interrogation—and so far no one has produced an audiotape of the interrogation—Knox's attorneys were able to have her verbal confession thrown out of evidence. The five-page memorandum still holds.
Evidence: False-accusation charge
Who it hurts: Knox
Knox and Sollecito are jointly charged with sexual assault, murder, staging a crime, and theft. Knox is additionally charged with falsely implicating Lumumba. It turned out he had nothing to do with the crime, and he furnished an airtight alibi. Knox's defense says she was coerced into naming him and that the police mentioned Lumumba's name first. Witnesses have testified that extreme stress can cause false memories and that Knox, a young woman in a foreign country, was under incredible pressure. Still, the charge of false accusation may be hard to overcome. Lumumba was dragged from his home in front of his wife and children, and he spent two weeks in prison before being released due to lack of evidence. He lost his nightclub, which remained part of the investigation even after he was released. Lumumba is also filing a $740,000 civil suit against Knox for defamation of character.
Evidence: Conflicting alibis
Who it hurts: Unknown
Knox maintains that she spent the night of Nov. 1, 2007, at Sollecito's house. Sollecito did not take the stand during this trial, and his lawyer told NEWSWEEK that it was, at least in part, because he could not corroborate Knox's alibi. In fact, before his arrest Sollecito told police that he was smoking pot and downloading cartoons on his computer the night of the murder. He said Knox was there, but that she left, and that he could not remember when or if she came back. Knox says the two cooked dinner, watched a movie, smoked pot, and had sex. A parade of bizarre witnesses—including a homeless man who slept on a park bench near the scene of the crime, and who said he did not wear a watch that night—testified in the trial that Knox and Sollecito were near the house close to the time of Kercher's murder. Computer experts for the prosecution testified that there was no activity on Sollecito's computer during the time he was allegedly downloading files. But an expert witness for Sollecito offered evidence that someone was on his computer the night he was at the police station, implying that his alibi had been tampered with.
Evidence: Cartwheels, splits, vibrator, and motive
Who it hurts: The prosecution
Early on in the trial, police officers and Kercher's friends testified that Knox performed cartwheels and did the splits at the police station while waiting to talk to investigators about the murder. While this behavior was inappropriate for someone whose roommate was just found with her throat slit, Knox's gymnastics won't likely have any impact on the final outcome of this case. Nor will her pink "Rampant Rabbit" vibrator that she kept in a transparent beauty case in the women's shared bathroom. When Kercher's British girlfriends took the stand, they testified about how uncomfortable the presence of the sex toy made Kercher feel. It was placed into evidence because the prosecution felt that its presentation in their home was used to intimidate Kercher. But the vibrator was not the murder weapon, it was not used in the crime, and it is not likely to be a factor for the judges deciding her case. The prosecution has also done little to prove a motive in this case. Countless witnesses have testified that the two young women got along, and while Kercher was clearly unhappy with the sexual and hygienic habits of her American roommate, there has been no proof offered that the murder was premeditated.
Evidence: Courtroom behavior
Who it hurts: Knox
Italian courts are respectable institutions where rules of decorum are strictly followed. But Knox behaved boorishly throughout the trial, and the jury will have noticed. She enters the courtroom like a beauty queen, pandering to the cameras and sometimes answering journalists' questions with a coy smile. She also wore a "Let It Be" T shirt on Valentine's Day, and has been spotted passing around chocolates, winking at Sollecito, and laying her head down on the defense table. The Italian press has had a ball with Knox's courtroom antics (and those of her family). The jury is not sequestered, and the members are free to read about the case, which means they will certainly have been exposed to rampant criticism of her conduct.
Evidence: The knife
Who it hurts: The prosecution
The most contested piece of evidence in this murder case is the "double DNA knife," a six-and-a-half-inch kitchen knife found in Sollecito's apartment that has Knox's DNA on the handle—and, according to Italian forensic police expert Patrizia Stefanoni, Kercher's DNA on a groove on the blade. An officer testifying at the trial said he used "police intuition" when choosing that knife from Sollecito's cutlery. Officers testified that there was a strong smell of bleach in the apartment and that the knife had looked exceptionally clean. Stefanoni testified that it had tiny scratches on the side, compatible with intense scrubbing. According to multiple witnesses for the defense, the knife is compatible with at least one of the three wounds on Kercher's neck, but it was likely too large for the other two. And it does not match a knife print in blood that was left on Kercher's white bedsheet. More troubling for the prosecution is that, while the DNA on the handle is inarguably Knox's, the spot on the blade attributed to Kercher was so small that Stefanoni could not double-test it according to forensic protocol standards. And she did not test it with the defense experts present (they had been offered the opportunity to attend but didn't attend.) If Knox and Sollecito used this knife to kill Kercher, as the prosecution alleges, it is also puzzling why they would bring it back to Sollecito's apartment and put it in a drawer with the regular utensils to be used for cooking.
Evidence: Mixed blood
Who it hurts: Knox
The only forensic evidence against Knox is the presence in her house of five spots where the blood and DNA of the roommates had commingled. Of those five, the most damning is a drop of Kercher's blood with Knox's DNA found (with the aid of Luminol, a substance used in crime-scene investigations to find blood that has been cleaned up) in the bedroom of Filomena Romanelli, one of the two Italian women who also lived in the house. The prosecution alleges that a break-in was staged by Knox and Sollecito in Romanelli's room: the window was broken with a large rock and the room was ransacked, but nothing was taken—even though expensive sunglasses and jewelry were in plain sight. Clothes were pulled from Romanelli's dresser drawers but the glass shards from the broken window were found on top of them, leading police to believe that the window was broken after the ransacking took place, not before. Romanelli testified on the stand that the first thing she thought was "What a stupid burglar." The other mixed DNA spots were found in the bathroom the women shared—on the sink, the bidet, and on the side of a Q-tip box. The defense did not contest any of the lab results, provide a counter scenario to the staged break-in, or offer testimony to explain why Knox may also have been bleeding (except to say that it is common to find mixed DNA from two people who shared a house). Knox originally told police that her pierced ears were infected. Her mother, Edda Mellas, told NEWSWEEK that she was menstruating, though neither scenario was presented to the jury. Knox supporters suggest that Kercher's blood had been dropped by Guede on a spot where Knox's dried blood or DNA already existed, even though Guede's DNA profile was not identified in any of the five spots.
Who it hurts: The prosecution
No fingerprints or DNA belonging to Knox was ever found in the room where Kercher was murdered. In fact, the only fingerprint in the entire house attributed to the Seattle native was on a drinking glass in the kitchen sink. Those who support Knox's innocence say that lack of evidence in the crime-scene room should exonerate her. Those who think she is guilty say the evidence was cleaned up and point out that there are 19 fingerprints in Kercher's room that are unidentifiable because they are partial or smeared, meaning they may have belonged to Knox or Sollecito.
Who it hurts: Sollecito
Knox's bare footprints were found in the corridor outside Kercher's room after officers used Luminol. Because she lived in the house, these footprints are easily justifiable, even though the officers testified that they were likely left in blood (Luminol detects prints left in blood, bleach, and certain acidic juices). She testified that she had taken a shower and then seen blood on the floor, meaning she could have easily stepped in it and tracked it around unknowingly. A footprint in Kercher's blood on a blue bathmat is another story. It was attributed to Sollecito by the prosecution and what appeared to be a doctored version of the print was attributed to Guede by the defense. Several sneaker footprints in Kercher's room were attributed to Guede. A bloody footprint from a smaller shoe was found on the pillow beneath Kercher's head but it could not be positively identified as a match to any of the suspects.
Evidence: The bra clasp
Who it hurts: Nobody
Unlike Knox, Sollecito's DNA was found at the crime scene on the tiny metal clasp of the bra Kercher was wearing when she was murdered. The bra had been cut from her body by the assailants and the clasp and white material around it were separated from the rest of the bra. If the sample had been treated properly, the DNA would have damaged Sollecito's defense. But after the clasp was identified on a video of the original sweep of the crime scene, it was not collected into evidence until the third visit to the house, nearly six weeks after the murder. The prosecution maintains that the house was sealed the entire time and that contamination was impossible, since "DNA does not fly around the room." But Sollecito's lawyers have cast much doubt on the sanctity of this sample by focusing on the six weeks the clasp was left unattended in the house. In several videos taken during the investigation phase, the clasp appears to have been moved more than a meter from its original location. The only other DNA belonging to Sollecito found in the house was on a cigarette butt in another room.
Who it hurts: Unknown
Kercher's murder remains a mystery. There is not much forensic evidence, no clear murder weapon, no motive, and no confession as to what really happened the night of Nov. 1, 2007. So circumstantial evidence will have unusual influence on the judges' decision. The prosecution presented witnesses who testified about Knox and Sollecito's strange behavior after the crime. Phone records show that Knox and Sollecito both turned off their cell phones at the same time the night of the murder and turned them back on again within a few minutes very early the next morning, even though they maintain they woke up late that day. But it's not all bad for Knox. Forensic specialists have testified that the investigators made grave errors in collecting evidence—including not changing gloves between samples. And there are significant questions about some of the lab work.
Still, there are many anomalies that simply don't make sense. For instance, Knox testified that she came home the morning after the murder and found the door to the house open but went in and took a shower anyway. Then she testified that she saw blood on the rug and the floor in the bathroom. "I thought it was odd that she'd had a shower when there was blood all over the place," the women's roommate Romanelli told the court. "I really don't think that's normal." But this case has never been normal.