Murder Trial in Italy: US Student Had a Scratch

By: Alessandra Rizzo AP
By: Alessandra Rizzo AP

PERUGIA, Italy (AP) - An American student accused in the stabbing death of her British roommate had a scratch on her neck hours after the killing, a witness testified Saturday at the murder trial in Italy.

Prosecutors allege Meredith Kercher was the reluctant object of a sex game that ended violently on Nov. 1, 2007 when the British woman was fatally stabbed in the neck.

Laura Mezzetti, an Italian who shared an apartment with Kercher
and defendant Amanda Knox, told the court she saw the scratch on
Knox's neck, below her chin, the following day at the police station where they were waiting to be questioned but said she didn't point it out at the time because she thought investigators would notice themselves.

"I noticed it because it was known that Meredith had been killed by a wound to her neck," Mezzetti told the court. "I was afraid that Amanda, too, might have been wounded, I was worried and I looked at it really intensely."

Kercher's body had been found earlier that day in their apartment in Perugia, which was shared by a group of young women including Knox, Kercher, Mezetti and another Italian, who also has testified in the case.

Mezzetti said she observed Knox's scratch from a few yards (meters) away. She described the wound as "vertical, less than 1-centimeter (0.4 inches) thick," red in color and gestured that it was under her chin.

The prosecution had no comment on the new testimony, but after the hearing, Knox's lawyer and her father downplayed it.

Knox, a 21-year old from Seattle, and Raffaele Sollecito, a 24-year-old Italian who was her boyfriend at the time, are being tried on charges of murder and sexual violence. They deny wrongdoing.

Another man, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, was convicted last year on the same charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guede, who had also denied wrongdoing, had requested and
received a fast-track trial.

Mezzetti said she did not see any scratch when she saw Knox on Oct. 31, 2007, during breakfast at the apartment, and that she did not see Knox again until two days later at the police station. She said the scratch was different from a love bite, which would be "purple and more round."

Mezzetti told police about the scratch in November, after failing to mention it in several previous interrogations. She said she thought everybody else would have noticed it.

Knox's lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, said the mark was insignificant. "This is a witness giving a medical assessment," he said.

The defendant's father, Curt Knox, told reporters that the doctor who gave his daughter a full-body medical examination after her Nov. 6, 2007, arrest "did not make a single note related to a scratch in the neck."

"There is no scratch," he said, adding it was "probably a hickey."

Appearing in court Saturday on Valentine's Day, Amanda sported a bright T-shirt with "All You Need Is Love" scrawled across the front in large pink letters. Her father said she is a fan of the Beatles.

Testifying for a second straight day, Knox said she was hurt by recent testimony from witnesses, including by her Italian roommates. Witnesses said Knox did not always leave the toilet clean, prompting Kercher and other roommates to complain.

"I'm sincerely disappointed," she said, speaking Italian. "This cleaning issue was vastly exaggerated. I have talked about it with the other girls, but there was never conflict."

Knox insisted that relations in the house were good.

Also heard Saturday were Giacomo Silenzi and Stefano Bonassi, two Italian students who lived below the Knox and Kercher's apartment. Silenzi had started dating Kercher a few weeks before her death.

The two said they knew Guede, and both testified that the Ivorian had taken an interest in Knox, asking if she was dating anybody.

Bonassi testified that in October 2007, he woke to see Guede, Knox and Kercher together in his apartment, along with Silenzi and others. The group had met up at a bar, Silenzi said. Guede then spent the night, apparently too drunk to move, the witnesses said.

"She knew of him, she had been introduced. But it's not like they were pals or anything," Curt Knox said of his daughter and Guede.

The trial continues Feb. 27.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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