Amanda Knox likes the view from her prison cell. From the high-security Capanne jail—home to, among others, convicted drug dealers, mafiosi and killers—the 20-year-old Seattle native held in connection with the murder of British student Meredith Kercher overlooks a landscape of rolling Umbrian hills, fragrant pine trees and a collection of olive groves. She stares out of her window often, she notes in a diary from prison, "and, when I have an hour of outside time, I sit with my face in the sun, so I can get a tan."
Knox has been in Capanne since Nov. 9, the week after Kercher's killers slit her throat and left her to bleed to death in a house the two students shared in the Italian college town of Perugia. Prosecutors believe the Briton died during an extreme sex session that went badly wrong. Kercher's former boyfriend, Rafaelle Sollecito, and an alleged drug dealer called Rudy Hermann Guede, are also being held in the jail in connection with the murder.
None of the trio has yet been charged in the case, leaving them in a limbo that has led to a bizarre proxy legal battle of leaked documents and personal diaries. Italian newspapers have posted confidential judges' reports online, downloadable in PDF form, and published images from closed-circuit (CCTV) surveillance footage showing Knox and Sollecito buying thong underwear two days after Kercher's killing. In one leaked statement, store owner Carlo Maria Scotto di Rinaldi told police that the couple was laughing and joking as they were holding up the lingerie. "I heard her as she was choosing the underwear—particularly the G-string—and they were ready to pay," he said. "In front of the till, she whispered, 'Afterwards I'm going to take you home so we can have wild sex together'."
In the latest development, an investigator's report disclosed that Sollecito's DNA was found on the bloodied fastener of the murder victim's bra. Guede's DNA was found alongside—a finding that, according to prosecutors, tied them both to the crime scene. Before that, traces of both Knox and Kercher's blood were identified from samples taken from a bathroom sink, implying, according to the detective who signed the report, "If Amanda Knox did not take part in the murder, she was at least present at the scene of the crime."
With the investigators' material painting such an unflattering picture of Knox and Sollecito—who say they have since broken up—their respective lawyers have now released the couple's own account of the events of the night of Nov. 1. These have come in the form of diaries compiled during their time in prison. Knox records her thoughts in English in a "Spider-Man 2" notebook titled in Italian "La Mia Prigione" (My Prison); Sollecito compiles his in a tightly written Italian text called "Notes on a Prison Journey."
Both try to deny suggestions that they were involved in the murder. Knox, who called herself "Foxy Knoxy" on her MySpace page, says she is "annoyed that I am being called a liar. They think that I am involved and that's sad because it means that they have no idea of what happened … They don't know who killed my friend Meredith." Later, she mentions the attention she has received from men: "I have received letters from fellow inmates and admirers telling me that I am hot and they want to have sex with me. I have also had insulting letters."
Knox also writes that she was not in the apartment at the time of the murder, contradicting two statements she gave to police and during a bugged telephone conversation with her mother. Then Knox goes on to hypothesize about the identification of her DNA on the handle of a knife with Kercher's DNA on the blade. The knife, which was found in Sollecito's apartment, is considered the likely murder weapon, according to detectives working on the case. "That night I smoked a lot of cannabis and I fell asleep at my boyfriend's house … I don't remember anything. But I think it's possible that Raffaele went to Meredith's house, raped her, then killed her, and then when he got home, while I was sleeping, he pressed my fingerprints on the knife," writes Knox. "But I don't know why Raffaele would do that." After that, she goes on to list all the young men she has had sex with since coming to Italy, including one man she met on the train to Perugia. In that entry—part of which was redacted before her lawyers released it—she notes when her partners used condoms and writes about her fear of contracting AIDS.
Sollecito's 40-page diary reads more like a defense testimony statement than random thoughts. "The fact there is Meredith's DNA on the kitchen knife is because once when we were all cooking together I accidentally pricked her hand. I apologized immediately and she said it was not a problem." (Friends of Kercher have told police and reporters that the victim had never been to Sollecito's apartment.) Sollecito also points a finger at his former girlfriend Knox, "I was in a total panic because I thought Amanda killed Meredith or maybe helped someone kill her… Amanda may have set me up by taking the knife and giving it to the son of a bitch who killed Meredith. When I saw the knife on TV ... my heart jumped into my throat." He also writes that he isn't sure what happened the night of the murder, "Reconstructing the events I think she [Knox] was with me but I can't quite remember if she left me for a few minutes early on that evening … My recollections are confused because we smoked so much dope." Surveillance cameras from a nearby parking garage show Knox entering the villa she shared with Kercher around 8:40 the night of the murder.
Guede is the only suspect who admits to being in the house at the time Kercher was killed. He, too, denies any part in the crime and is also writing an account of his version of events. He is not mentioned by either Knox or Sollecito in their diaries even though, according to police, he and Knox exchanged mobile-phone calls during and after the murder. But investigators say his DNA was found on Kercher's body, and he has admitted having what he describes as consensual sex with the British woman. According to Guede, someone broke into the villa and killed Kercher while he was in the bathroom suffering from stomach cramps after eating a spicy kebab. The lead prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini, says Guede's account is "full of holes and contradicts the facts of the case."
While the prison diaries are not likely to take the place of the suspects' court testimonies, they are expected to be useful to any defense case. Although written accounts are unlikely to contradict the hard forensic evidence prosecutors say they have collected, Italian law provides for reduced sentences for crimes committed under the influence of drugs. Knox and Sollecito's claims that they were high when Kercher died may prove useful if they are convicted, even if it also results in additional drug charges against them.
Mignini, the lead prosecutor, expects charges to be filed this summer and a trial to be held about 12 months later. However, authorities may also decide to take advantage of the law that allows them to hold the trio for up to a year without charge in the hope of coaxing a confession while building their case. If convicted of murder, they will face sentences of 20 to 30 years—and more if it is determined to be premeditated or if sexual assault was part of the crime. Until then, they will remain in Capanne, where they share cells with other inmates and have access to TV and newspapers but are not allowed visitors beside their lawyers and immediate families. Despite the good views, it's clearly not a prospect they relish. "This," wrote Sollecito in one of his entries, "is like living in some sort of nightmare reality show."