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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Knox pins hope on hotshot lawyer who Berlusconi 'fears'

Tom Kington in Rome

THE brilliant mind of Italy's most famous lawyer will be put to the test in the glare of the media spotlight this week as Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito return to the courtroom to appeal against their murder convictions and convince jurors they played no part in the killing of British student Meredith Kercher.

Giulia Bongiorno, the defence lawyer for Sollecito -- and possibly the only woman in Italy feared by Silvio Berlusconi -- put Knox's legal team in the shade during the former couple's trial in 2009 with her sparkling court performances.

Now, as both defence teams prepare to win the argument the second time around, all eyes are on Ms Bongiorno who, as well as her legal work, is a senior MP.

If she is successful in her bid to prove that the couple had nothing to do with the murder, both the 23-year-old American and her former Italian boyfriend will walk free. For Knox, serving a 26-year sentence for killing Ms Kercher, her flatmate, in Perugia in November 2007, that prospect is crucial.

While Ms Bongiorno's duties as president of the Italian parliament's justice commission often saw her unable to attend trial proceedings, Knox and Sollecito will hope that she will have more time for this appeal, which is due to begin with a technical hearing on Wednesday.

During her absences last year, the couple's other lawyers failed in their bid to discredit the DNA and witness evidence pinning the pair to the crime scene, with jurors nodding off during testimony by defence experts who contradicted each other.

When she did appear, Ms Bongiorno, 44, who is five months pregnant, was brilliant, pressuring police forensic expert Patrizia Stefanoni into admitting that she did not change gloves while collecting specimens and playing down Knox's wanton image by likening her to Amelie, the ingenue heroine of the eponymous French film.

The defence teams now plan on ramming home what they say are gaping holes in the verdict, starting with the couple's lack of motive, something all but admitted by the trial judge.

In an appeal dossier submitted to the court last week, Ms Bongiorno and Luca Maori, Sollecito's second lawyer, cite new evidence suggesting that local tramp Antonio Curatolo could not have seen Knox and Sollecito lurking near the house where Kercher died on the night of the murder, as he claims.

New research will show Sollecito was working at his computer at the time of the murder and Ms Bongiorno will seek to prove Rudy Guede, the third suspect convicted of taking part in Kercher's murder, acted alone.

She will offer testimony from Guede's cellmate, child killer Mario Alessi, that Guede told him Knox and Sollecito were not present when Kercher was stabbed. "If they allow these new DNA checks, we may not get a verdict until March," said one lawyer.

However long the appeal lasts, one thing is for sure: the media interest around the case will not let up. Ms Bongiorno -- a legal adviser to Berlusconi's rival Gianfranco Fini -- is no stran-ger to high-profile cases; she helped to clear former prime minister Giulio Andreotti of Mafia charges, before defending clients including the heir to the defunct Italian throne and footballer Francesco Totti.

© Observer

Sunday Independent

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