Europe

Amanda Knox appeal: Judge rejects DNA test request

Amanda Knox being led into court
Image caption Amanda Knox is serving a 26-year sentence for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Italy

A judge in the Amanda Knox appeal trial has rejected prosecutors' requests for new tests on DNA evidence used to convict her of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Italy in 2007.

Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann said more tests were unnecessary as genetic evidence had been discussed at length.

An independent review had questioned the quality of the evidence presented.

Knox, 24, and Raffaele Sollecito, 27, are appealing against their convictions for killing UK student Miss Kercher.

Genetic profile

The appeal hearing resumed this week after proceedings were halted at the end of July for the summer recess.

Prosecutor Manuela Comodi told the court a review of the evidence carried out by two court-appointed independent experts was "sketchy."

She demanded that new experts carry out further testing, saying the two independent experts have turned out to be "inadequate" and "unreliable."

The independent review concluded that much of the evidence in the original trial fell below international standards and may have led to contamination of the samples.

It also concluded that it was impossible to get an exact genetic profile because of the risk of contamination and the low amounts of DNA used for the testing.

Father's hope

However, forensics officer Patrizia Stefanoni told the court on Monday that DNA analyses were conducted from behind a glass wall and some of the quality standards referred to were introduced after she produced her report for the case in May 2008.

In a letter read out to the court, scientific police director Piero Angeloni described the technology used as being world-class and said the officers were highly experienced.

The decision by the judge to reject the request for further testing paves the way for closing arguments, which are expected to start on 23 September.

Amanda Knox's father, Curt Knox, told BBC Europe correspondent Matt Cole in Perugia that it showed the prosecution was "a bit desperate in asking for a second independent review because it didn't go their way".

Mr Knox said: "We're very hopeful. Today added some more hope into being able to bring her home, with the court turning down a second independent review.

"That tells me that the court believes in the independent experts' report."

Exchange year

Much of the argument in the appeal hearing has centred on a kitchen knife which the prosecutors believe to be the murder weapon.

In the first trial, prosecutors maintained that Knox's DNA was found on the knife's handle and Miss Kercher's DNA was found on the blade. They also said Sollecito's DNA was found on the clasp of Miss Kercher's bra.

Miss Kercher, a 21-year-old Leeds University student from Coulsdon, south London, was living in the central Italian city of Perugia as part of an exchange year abroad when she died.

US student Knox is serving a 26-year sentence for Miss Kercher's murder while her ex-boyfriend Sollecito, an Italian, was sentenced to 25 years. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Rudy Guede, 21, was also convicted of Miss Kercher's murder in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year term.

The appeal verdicts are expected by the end of September.

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