ROME — The appeal hearing of American student Amanda Knox against her murder conviction in Italy resumes Monday with all eyes on an Ivorian man also convicted in the slaying, who will testify as a witness for the prosecution.
Rudy Hermann Guede is serving a 16-year-prison sentence for the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a British student who was stabbed to death in the apartment she shared with Knox.
Knox and her co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, have also been convicted in the murder and are appealing. Guede, who sought a fast-track procedure, was tried separately and has already exhausted all levels of appeals, with Italy's top criminal court upholding his conviction.
He will testify before the court hearing Knox and Sollecito's appeal at the opening of Monday's session, lawyers say.
Guede, 24, was called by the prosecution to counter testimony by a fellow inmate who testified for the defense and claimed he had information clearing Knox and Sollecito. Convicted child killer Mario Alessi told the court that Guede had confided in him during recreation time at the Viterbo prison that Knox and Sollecito had nothing to do with the killing.
Guede in the past has denied talking to Alessi about the case, and he is expected to repeat that when he takes the stand. Whether his testimony will go beyond that remains to be seen.
His lawyer Valter Biscotti stressed that Guede's testimony was admitted in reference to that particular claim, and might be limited to that alone. But he said the presiding judge has some leeway to allow some broader questioning.
"He's got nothing to hide and nothing to be afraid of," Biscotti said of his client.
However, when Guede took the stand during the pair's first trial, he declined to answer prosecutors' questions or offer any spontaneous testimony.
Knox and Sollecito – the American's boyfriend at the time of the killing – have been convicted of sexual assault and murder. She was sentenced to 26 years in prison, he to 25.
Like Knox and Sollecito, Guede has denied killing Kercher. But unlike them, he has admitted being at the crime scene the night of the murder, Nov. 1, 2007.
Speaking at the opening of his appeals trial, Guede claimed that he had heard Kercher and Knox argue minutes before the Briton was slain.
He said he was at the house with Kercher when he fell ill and went to the bathroom with his iPod. He heard Knox and Kercher argue over money, then heard a "very loud scream" coming from Kercher's bedroom, and rushed to it. There, he said, he saw an unidentified man who tried to attack him. Backing down into the hallway, Guede said he heard the man say "'Let's go, there's a black man in the house.'"
Guede said he heard footsteps leaving the house and looked out of the window, where he saw a silhouette that he later identified as Knox's. He said he then tried to rescue Kercher, who was lying in a pool of blood after her throat was slit, taking her in his arms and trying to mop up the blood with towels. But he panicked and left the house.
Guede fled Italy, and was found and arrested in Germany about a month after the killing. His DNA confirms there was sexual intercourse with Kercher, while fingerprints and other traces attest to his presence in the house.
Knox and Sollecito have maintained they were at Sollecito's house the night of the murder. Their defense lawyers claim Guede was the killer and acted alone.
"We are getting ready for a ferocious cross-examination, though it may not be needed," said Luca Maori, a lawyer for Sollecito.