Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters
Amanda Knox, the U.S. student convicted of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy in November 2007, leaves the court during her appeal trial session in Perugia on Monday.
By Claudio Lavanga, NBC News Producer
PERUGIA, Italy – To journalists, a seat in Perugia’s appeals court for Thursday’s pleading by Knox’s defense team, and especially for this weekend’s verdict, is the hottest ticket in town.
At least 370 journalists from all over the world asked for accreditation. About a third of them have already crammed the small room in the basement of the local court in the heart of the city center for the past week. How the others will make their way in, it’s anyone’s guess.
Of course, there’s always the press room upstairs. But it’s so small it could soon be deemed a health and safety hazard. With so many people heading this way, a stampede is a likely scenario. Even for journalists, who are used to walking over each other’s bodies to get the perfect shot, it could prove to be dangerous.
The last act of the trial, which should decide whether American student Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito walk free or spend their lives in prison for the murder of Meredith Kercher, is proving a suited finale for a drama that has gripped journalists, locals and the worldwide audience alike.
The setting couldn’t be any more appropriate for the dramatic trial to unfold: Perugia is a medieval jewel perched on top of a hill with breathtaking vistas over the rolling countryside of Umbria, a region in central Italy famous for its wine, truffles and for the past four year, a trial that has divided the nation and the world.
Is Amanda Knox really a “she-devil,” as she was recently called by prosecutors who say she killed her former housemate Meredith Kercher, a “Venus in Furs” who enslaved her young Italian lover into participating in the crime? Or just a “Jessica Rabbit,” as a defense lawyer called her, who “is not bad, but was just drawn that way”?
The question has been on every journalist’s mouth. Along with the taste of cappuccinos and truffles, that is.
Cramming the outdoor tables of cafes and restaurants, journalists have turned the center of Perugia into an open-air court. They animatedly debate court proceedings, DNA findings and the reliability of the body of evidence in such detail that by now many of them they might have enough legal expertise to apply for a job as a forensic scientist or a defense lawyer.
It’s difficult to blame them for their obsession, because wherever you are in Perugia, you don’t seem to be more than a few meters away from the murder case.
As Amanda Knox's appeal of her murder conviction enters its final stages, her father speaks to TODAY's Matt Lauer, saying his daughter is "fighting for her life."
For instance, while eating a recent meal on a restaurant terrace overlooking Perugia’s rolling hills, word came out that one of the cooks was a Bangladeshi immigrant renting the room in Via della Pergola where Kercher was killed. On a separate night, while sitting at a bar sipping grappa, a street seller offering roses turned out to be another housemate in the “house of horrors.”
So much for the house owner’s recent claim that she is suing for 100,000 euro in damages for the loss in value of Knox and Kercher’s former apartment and the difficulties in renting it out. Even if it’s unclear who exactly she would sue, it seems, instead, that every other person in Perugia lives in Via della Pergola number 7.
The journalist’s camp is divided: on one side, most foreign journalists believe Knox is a victim of a flawed Italian justice system that turned the murder trial into a witch hunt. On the opposite side, mainly Italian journalists don’t believe in Knox’s innocence.
This is Italy, after all, and “drug-fueled sex orgies gone wrong,” as a local journalist pointed out, have been part of everyday life since the days of the Roman Empire.
But don’t blame the journalists for the sensationalism surrounding this trial.
The prosecutors and defense lawyers alike took turns in providing comical moments that turned the trial into a show worth paying for.
In one of her best performances so far, Manuela Comodi, one of the prosecutors, pulled out a new bra in front of the judges and jury to show them how Kercher’s bra was ripped by her assailant. The price tag from Intimissimi, a nearby lingerie shop, was still hanging off it, and one of the shop’s bags was on the prosecution’s desk.
One has to wonder is Intimissimi will follow Abercrombie & Fitch’s and Lacoste’s examples. The first offered to pay Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino not to wear their brand for fear of damaging its image. And Lacoste recently pleaded with Norway’s police to stop mass murderer Anders Behring Brievik from wearing their clothes.
Given the increasing fictionalization of characters involved in this trial and the dramatic plot getting richer by the day, this trial might soon be in need of a sponsor.