Amanda Knox’s second appeal trial has agreed to additional DNA tests on the weapon presumed to have murdered her British housemate Meredith Kercher.
The Italian judge has agreed to test one DNA trace not previously examined because it had been deemed too small.
A court-ordered review in the first appeal trial discredited DNA evidence on the kitchen knife linked to Ms Kercher.
Italy’s highest court in March ordered the new trial for American student Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, overturning their acquittals in Ms Kercher’s 2007 murder.
The star defendant was absent at its opening. Knox, now a 26-year-old student in Seattle, has not returned to Italy for the trial, nor is she compelled by law to do so. The appellate court hearing the new case could declare her in contempt of court but that carries no additional penalties.
“We refute the idea that because Amanda is not coming, that Amanda is guilty, that Amanda is using a strategy. Amanda always said she was a friend of Meredith’s, Amanda has always respected the Italian justice system,” Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga said before the trial opened.
Knox and Sollecito, now 29, were convicted and later acquitted in Ms Kercher’s death. Knox served four years of a 26-year sentence, including three years on a slander conviction for falsely accusing a Perugia bar owner in the murder, before leaving Italy a free woman after her 2011 acquittal.
The bar owner, Patrick Lumumba, showed up at the trial, saying he did so to underline the damage he suffered from Knox’s false accusations.
“I say the same thing I said six years ago. I think she is guilty, and that is why she slandered me,” he said.
Knox’s conviction for slandering Mr Lumumba has been confirmed by the high court, but it asked the Florence appeals court to decide if it should reinstate it as an aggravating circumstance that Knox lied to derail the investigation and protect herself from becoming a murder suspect.
In its first move, the Florence court rejected a motion by Knox’s lawyers to exclude Mr Lumbumba from the new appeals trial as a civil participant, a status that allows him to seek further damages.
Knox’s protracted legal battle in Italy has made her a cause celebre in the United States and has put the Italian justice system under scrutiny. Italian law allows prosecutors to appeal acquittals.
In the United States, the principal of double jeopardy would have prohibited another appeals round after her acquittal.
At the same time, the trials have left the Kercher family without clear answers in the death of their daughter.
Ms Kercher’s body was found in November 2007 in her bedroom of the house she shared with Knox. Her throat had been cut.
A third man, Rudy Guede, was convicted in the killing and is serving a 16-year sentence. That court found that Guede had not acted alone.
“We are still convinced of the presence of all three of the defendants at the scene of the crime,” Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca said.
“I think she is talking too much, sincerely, and this attitude of continuous playing the victim is inappropriate.”
In the 2011 acquittal overturning lower court guilty verdicts against Knox and Sollecito and throwing out their long prison terms, a Perugia appeals court criticised virtually the entire case mounted by prosecutors.
The appellate court noted that the murder weapon was never found, said that DNA tests were faulty and that prosecutors provided no murder motive.
Yet the Court of Cassation ruling was likewise strident, criticizing the appeals court ruling and saying it “openly collides with objective facts of the case.”
The high court said the appellate judges had ignored some evidence, considered other evidence insufficiently and undervalued the fact that Knox had initially accused a man of committing the crime who had nothing to do with it.