Perugia: An Italian court on Saturday ordered a review of key forensic evidence in the case of Amanda Knox, the American convicted of murdering a British student, in a victory for her defence.
There will be fresh tests on the presumed murder weapon -- a kitchen knife found in the house of Knox's then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito that was said to have Knox's DNA on the handle and that of her victim on the blade.
Knox and her mother, Edda Mellas, who attended the appeal hearing, both started crying after the decision was announced.
One of Knox's lawyers, Luciano Ghirga, said the review was "an important step" and "a victory in the search for truth”.
Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison last year for killing Leeds University student Meredith Kercher, 21, who shared a house with the Seattle native in the town of Perugia in central Italy where both women were studying.
A lawyer for Kercher's family, Francesco Maresca, said that "if the court has any doubts it is good if it clears them up”.
Prosecutor Manuela Comodi, who had opposed the review, said at least it would "finally end the scandal over alleged errors, which did not occur”.
The court also ordered a new analysis on Kercher's bra clasp, which was found to have traces of Sollecito's DNA. Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years for the murder and is appealing together with Knox.
Kercher's body was found semi-naked in a pool of blood in her room on November 02, 2007. A third person, an Ivorian man named Rudy Guede, has also been convicted for the gruesome murder and is serving a 16-year sentence.
Prosecutors said Kercher was sexually assaulted and killed in a probably drug-fuelled and apparently motiveless attack by Sollecito, Knox and Guede.
All three have claimed they are completely innocent of the murder.
Guede, who was tried separately from the other two in 2008 and said he was in the house at the time of the killing but did not take part, had his conviction upheld by Italy's highest appeals court on Thursday.
The next hearing is expected on January 15 and the conclusion of the appeal trial is expected some time next year.
Knox broke down in the courtroom last week, telling the jury: "I am unjustly convicted.... I will never get used to this broken life.”
"To Meredith's family and loved ones, I would like to say that I am sorry that Meredith is not here. What you're going through and what Meredith went through is incomprehensible and unacceptable," Knox said then.
She also apologised to Patrick Lumumba, the bar owner she indicated as the possible culprit during police questioning after the gruesome killing, saying: "I should have withstood the pressures that made me do you wrong."
Lumumba was arrested and interrogated but later released with no charge.
Knox's lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said earlier that the case against her was "full of grey areas" and that it was "a huge miscarriage of justice".
But prosecutors say they want Knox to be sentenced to life in prison -- the term they had requested at the original trial -- if her conviction is upheld.
Knox last month was indicted on additional charges of slander for claiming that police beat her during questioning soon after the murder. She said then that she had been at her house at the time of the killing.
She now says she was at Sollecito's house when Kercher was murdered.
Knox's defence had also asked for a new witness to testify at the appeal trial -- a former mafia member who claims his own brother carried out the killing. The court said it would decide on this request at a later hearing.
Luciano Aviello, who is currently in prison, has said that Knox, Sollecito and Guede are completely innocent and that his brother and an Albanian man carried out the murder as part of an attempted burglary.
The trial has garnered widespread interest in the United States and a television film "The Amanda Knox Story" shot this year and starring US actress Hayden Panettiere as Knox is due to be released in the US next year.
First Published: Sunday, December 19, 2010, 09:19