PERUGIA, Italy (Reuters) - Amanda Knox was not a man-eater driven by her sexual urges but a young woman in love who was wrongly convicted of murdering her roommate, a lawyer for her ex-boyfriend said on Tuesday.
Prosecutors had tried to create a distorted image of Knox to pin her to the 2007 killing of British student Meredith Kercher, Raffaele Sollecito’s lawyer said, and she likened the American to cartoon femme fatale Jessica Rabbit.
Knox was described as diabolical, a witch and a she-devil earlier in her appeals trial against verdicts that found her and Sollecito guilty of killing Kercher in 2007 during a sex game that turned violent.
Far from being sex-obsessed, Knox was a besotted and immature girl who barely spoke Italian when she was accused of the murder, Sollecito’s lawyer Giulia Bongiorno said as defense lawyers began closing arguments.
“Knox could be compared to Jessica Rabbit,” she said. “She may appear to be a man-eater. In reality, she was a faithful woman in love.”
Jessica Rabbit was a voluptuous, sultry but faithful character from the 1988 movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” where she says: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”
Knox’s personality has played a central role in the case. Prosecutors depict her as a cunning, sex-crazed girl who led her boyfriend in the attack on Kercher while defense lawyers argue her vixen image was created to justify a lack of motive.
“I think Amanda Knox has been portrayed like Jessica Rabbit because this character fits like a glove with the motive,” said Bongiorno. “The character of a female dominatrix was needed.”
Kercher’s half-naked body with a slit throat and more than 40 wounds was found in November 2007 in the apartment she shared with Knox in the hilltop Umbrian town popular with foreigners studying Italian.
Knox, now 24, was sentenced to 26 years in prison for the murder while Sollecito got a 25-year sentence. Rudy Guede, an Ivorian drifter with a criminal record, is also serving time for taking part in Kercher’s murder.
All three found guilty have maintained their innocence. Bongiorno argued there was no evidence linking her client Sollecito with the murder, saying he was implicated in the crime just because he happened to be dating Knox at the time.
Film of the two kissing outside the house where Kercher’s body was found has been shown repeatedly on television since the murder and has been held up as evidence of Knox’s supposedly cold-blooded cynicism.
However, Bongiorno said the kiss was not a sign of their perversion, but simply a sign of the affection the two shared.
She also pointed to a forensics review that discredited evidence used to convict the couple, especially its conclusion that traces of Sollecito’s DNA found on Kercher’s bra clasp could have been due to contamination.
The review — which has strongly boosted Knox’s hopes of being released — also cast doubt on the reliability of DNA traces belonging to Knox found on the handle of a knife and Kercher’s DNA on the blade.
A verdict in the trial is expected at the end of the week or early next week. Knox’s family have said they are hopeful she will walk free after nearly four years behind bars.
The American student has won sympathy from many in the United States, where she is widely seen as an innocent abroad who fell into the clutches of a medieval justice system.
Reporting by Deepa Babington; Editing by Robert Woodward