PERUGIA, Italy -- These are the last days of the Amanda Knox trial before the Italian courts break for two months. Amanda Knox came into the courtroom smiling at her mother, Edda Melles, and to the throng of media allowed to snap her picture before the proceedings began.
For Knox, it is a crucial opportunity to try to convince the jury and the judge that she's innocent of killing her roommate, Meredith Kercher.
She and her Italian boyfriend at the time, Rafaelle Sollecito are on trial for the sexual assault and murder of Kercher. A third suspect, Rudy Guede, has already been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime.
The defense began by calling Knox's second cousin, Dorothy Nair to the stand. She was living in Germany and was Amanda's closest relative and talked to her several times on the phone here in Perugia, feeling somewhat responsible for her.
When her roommate's body was discovered, her cousin called Amanda several times trying to convince her either to come to Germany to be with her, to go home to Seattle, or to go to the American Embassy where she would be safe.
But she said Amanda told her no, that she wanted to stay to see if she could help police find the killer -- hardly behavior of a guilty murderer, according to her defense.
She said she had been with her boyfriend Rafaelle Sollecito, and that she came home in the morning to take a shower. When she discovered Kercher's body, Knox said she was shocked and frightened that the killer was still on the loose.
Her attorneys then played a police recording of one of the phone calls Amanda had made to her cousin. Little did she know, police were recording all her conversations, even though she had never been told she was a suspect.
Knox told her cousin that the questioning had become more intense..that she was scared, confused, hungry, and lonely. Nair said Knox was "falling apart" and insisted that her cousin come to Germany to be with her. But by now, Knox told her cousin, police had forbidden her to leave Italy and soon Nair heard on the news that Knox and Sollecito had been arrested.
The Italian court system is unlike anything I've seen. The attorneys all don robes. The jurors sit in a row with the judge, wearing sashes with the colors of Italy.
They are free to watch and listen to any news coverage in between court sessions, and there is plenty. They are only in session for this trial on Fridays and Saturdays, so it moves at a snail's pace. On Friday, one of the jurors and one attorney even nodded off briefly during the court proceedings.
After Saturday's testimony, they will break until September, when there will likely be closing arguments. Knox and Sollecito may not know their fate until October. By then they will have been in prison for almost two years.
Photos from inside the courtroom:
Amanda's mom, Edda Melles, is seen at right.
News media in the courtroom.
The courtoom is seen from my seat behind Amanda.
Amanda before the start of the hearing.