Amanda Knox has finally spoken. Ever since the 21-year-old American student was arrested in Italy in late 2007 and charged with the grisly murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher, tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic have bubbled with scandal and speculation. Was she, as Italian and British reports suggest, a promiscuous party girl who lived like a slob and took strange men back to the house? Did she, as Italian prosecutors allege, cut Kercher's throat after she refused to take part in group sex with Knox; Knox's boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito; and Rudy Guede, an Ivoirian now serving a 30-year prison sentence for the murder? Or was Knox, as friends and family in Seattle insist, a hardworking honors student railroaded by incompetent and overzealous police work? Testifying on June 12 for the first time, Knox fought back in her own words, claiming that she had been bullied into making a false confession, accusing Italian police of abusing her and insisting she was sleeping at Sollecito's at the time of the attack.
Observers at the trial in the central Italian hill town of Perugia say there's plenty left for Knox to defend herself against. Forensic evidence includes bloody prints that allegedly match Sollecito's and Knox's feet and a knife found in Sollecito's apartment with the victim's DNA on it. The two have given conflicting accounts of their whereabouts, and there is evidence that the murder scene was tampered with before police arrived. Then there's the confession, in which Knox said she was at the house during the killing but blamed her boss, bar owner Patrick Lumumba (who was later cleared). The document was signed without a lawyer present and is inadmissible, but prosecutors produced another note in which, they say, Knox reaffirmed her declaration.
Her many supporters in the U.S. say the case is far from cut and dried. Family lawyers call the forensics collection deeply flawed, the DNA evidence laughably slim. One theory says the entire trial is the fantasy of prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, who is facing misconduct charges in a separate case. He has never provided a convincing motive or solid evidence to support the group-sex theory. In her two days on the stand, Knox poked holes in the prosecution's legitimacy, noting that she cooperated as a witness while the police never told her she was a suspect. A lawyer for Kercher's family told TIME the testimony was a "very good job."
Still, Knox's words may yet work against her. Her rosy depiction of the roommates' relationship contradicted testimony from Kercher's friends that the two didn't get along. Speculating on Kercher's slow death--pathologists say she choked on her own blood--Knox called it "yucky, disgusting" and mimicked sounds of choking in a manner that seemed to startle jurors. When asked if she ever thought about the victim, Knox was less than sympathetic. "In the end, I knew her for a month," she said. "And first of all, I'm trying to get on with my life."
ONE VICTIM; HOW MANY KILLERS? 1 Meredith Kercher, 21, was killed Nov. 1, 2007 2 Raffaele Sollecito began dating Knox two weeks before the murder 3 Rudy Guede admitted to having sex with Kercher and was convicted of murder 4 Patrick Lumumba, named in Knox's confession, had an airtight alibi
Kercher's body was found in the cottage she shared in Italy with Knox and two students