Page last updated at 22:42 GMT, Sunday, 14 June 2009 23:42 UK

What did court learn from Knox testimony?

By Duncan Kennedy
BBC Rome correspondent

Amanda Knox
Amanda Knox takes a rest after giving evidence

Amanda Knox's appearance in the witness box was billed as a day of reckoning, a make-or-break moment in the trial over the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy.

There was an expectation that the court would learn all the details about a story that has become, for many, a Shakespearean tragedy wrapped around an Agatha Christie whodunit, inside an episode of CSI: Miami.

But what really did the court learn from the 11 or so hours that American Miss Knox was in the witness box?

The answer is, not very much.

Not much new, that is.

She stuck to her story that she didn't kill Meredith, a Leeds University exchange student from London, in Perugia in November 2007.

The prosecution continued with its claims that she did.


As one of Miss Knox's lawyers put it afterwards: "She answered our questions and she answered the prosecutor's questions. We're happy."

The court was offered some snippets, like her explanation for her cartwheels in the police station shortly after Miss Kercher's body was found - she said it was to "lighten the atmosphere".

We learned she smoked marijuana the day Miss Kercher died. We found out she thought she had Aids while on remand.

But mostly it was a restatement of her previous positions.

Firstly, that she was struck by police officers during interrogation in order to force a name out of her.

She duly offered one, only to retract it later when, she said, the oppressive nature of the questioning was lifted.

Secondly, that she spent the night of the murder with her then boyfriend and now co-accused, Raffaele Sollecito.

In some ways, her time giving evidence was always going to be more about how she conducted herself, rather than what she actually said.

Her father Curt has long believed that she has been damaged by a process of constant vilification in the press and by the prosecution team.

Mr Knox has always said that if the jury, judges and outside world could only get a chance to hear from [his daughter] in person, then their view of her would change

He says in the 19 months since Miss Kercher's death his daughter has been portrayed as the personification of evil.

He claims she is often depicted as a cold, calculating figure with an amoral approach to life, prone to excess, arrogance and ultimately capable of murder.

Mr Knox has always said that if the jury, judges and outside world could only get a chance to hear from her in person, then their view of her would change.

Certainly, the Amanda Knox in the witness box didn't seem much like the caricature she has been portrayed as.

But the prosecution has already said that it didn't find her performance convincing and that she lacked credibility.

Her lawyers believed they had no choice but to put her on the stand.

They think that because the prosecution has spent so much of the past six months detonating opinion-shifting mines under her character, as well as lining up forensic and other evidence, they had to let her speak.

Such a tactic was always going to be risky.

Courtrooms everywhere are littered with the ghosts of ghastly, ill-conceived performances by defendants.

There is a history of cases where the accused have been ambushed by clever lawyers and made to look more guilty than if they had said nothing in the first place.

It is their right to remain silent but that may appear to some jurors and judges like an implicit admission of guilt.


Why, after all, would you not want to give your side of the story if you are innocent?

But it can also be the lesser of two evils, especially if a stint in the witness box leads to inconsistencies in stories, loss of temper, inability to remember or, worse, an inadvertent admission of guilt.

During Miss Knox's testimony there were a few "I can't remembers", one or two heated exchanges, but not much more.

Yet, does a decent, confident, two days in the witness box amount to innocence?

Well, that's a matter for the jury and judges to decide.

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