An attractive American student on trial for murder can count on support 6,000 miles away in her native Seattle. There, one of Amanda Knox's most vocal backers is attorney Anne Bremner, who has offered her counsel pro bono to the accused's family and is a spokeswoman for Friends of Amanda. On Friday, she sat down with TIME to go over the case against Knox, who took the witness stand on Friday in her murder trial.
Video footage from the crime scene of British student Meredith Kercher's murder flickers on a laptop screen as Bremner points out what she deems critical flaws in the collection of evidence. After placing rulers on the sides of a bloody shoeprint, for example, a blue-rubber-gloved hand reaches down with a piece of white cloth and scrubs the bloody mark off the tile floor before putting the cloth into an evidence tube. This happens three times for three separate footprints. In film footage taken at least a day later, another team of investigators attempts, using photographs, to place where the footprints had been. "They should have lifted the tile," Bremner says, shaking her head.
In what is surely a well-rehearsed demonstration by now, Bremner goes on to address the case against Knox, point by point. The prosecution, she says, is most likely relying on a knife found at the house of Knox's then boyfriend and fellow accused Rafaelle Sollecito. That knife has Knox's DNA on the handle and what some forensic scientists say is Kercher's DNA on the tip. But Bremner dismisses the idea that it is the knife that killed Kercher: "They never found the murder weapon." Bremner claims that a bloody print on the bed linens conveys the shape of the actual murder weapon and that the knife in question "doesn't match an outline of the knife on the bed." Additionally, Bremner says, expert testimony has already indicated that at least two of the wounds on Kercher's neck couldn't have been made by that particular blade. That aside, she points out, it's not surprising that Knox's DNA would be on its handle; she prepared dinner with Sollecito in his apartment.
As to whether the DNA on the tip belongs to Kercher, experts disagree. Patrizia Stefanoni, a police forensics expert who testified in the pretrial hearing in May, suggested that it was Kercher's DNA on the tip of the knife and that the way the genetic material was positioned indicated the knife had probably been used to puncture the skin. But other experts who have analyzed the DNA evidence for the defense suggest that poor sample quality and possible contamination undermine the accuracy of these results.
Contamination was also likely with the DNA found on Kercher's bra clasp, Bremner says, pointing out that the clasp wasn't collected until more than two months after the murder and that throughout film footage of the crime scene investigation it periodically changes location suggesting it was picked up and moved several times.
Bremner goes on to criticize the character assassination the media have directed at Knox since the beginning of the trial, which she believes gives the defense an uphill battle in front of a jury that is unsequestered and thus exposed to the often explosive stories in the press. Accounts of Knox doing splits and cartwheels as she awaited questioning by the police are a distortion of the behavior of a teenager exhibiting restlessness, Bremner argues, and depictions of a hypersexualized relationship with her "on-again, off-again" boyfriend Sollecito have been overly dramatized. "They met at a [classical] music concert and had been dating for two weeks when this happened," she says. "It's hard to be 'on-again, off-again' in two weeks."
Her list goes on. It was reported that Knox went out to buy lingerie and had an explicit conversation about sex with Sollecito as the investigation first got under way. "That house was a crime scene," Bremner explains, "so she couldn't go back in and didn't have any clothes. And the person who supposedly reported that this conversation had been overheard didn't even speak English, and their conversation was in English."
Reports about her supposedly salacious sex life including a book, Amanda e gli altri, that according to Knox's ex-boyfriend was based on a mere 10 pages of an old diary have contributed to her inability to get a fair trial, Bremner claims. "The tabloid media glommed onto the name Foxy Knoxy," Bremner says, referring to the moniker that peppers news coverage and that suggests that Knox had given herself the nickname in reference to her sexual proclivities. "It referred to playing soccer in Seattle as a kid," Bremner says. She and other Knox supporters draw a very different picture of the Seattle native: an athletic, hardworking student, now 21, who maintained three jobs while studying at the University of Washington to be able to afford to study abroad; a lover of the outdoors who cherished hiking in the mountains that flank her home city; an innocent victim of rapid-fire media and the public's bottomless hunger for lurid scandal.
Still, there are plenty of people who argue that Knox positioned herself in front of the firing squad. Why did she contradict herself, telling investigators that she had been present at the scene of the murder and that Patrick Lumumba, her boss at the bar where she worked a couple of nights a week, assaulted Meredith? She had originally stated that she'd spent the entire night at Sollecito's home. Knox's defenders suggest that a combination of exhaustion, after being questioned for hours, and police interrogation tactics may have led her to make the comments. Indeed, when Lumumba's airtight alibi got him released from jail, after a couple of weeks, Knox wrote ecstatically about it in her prison journal ("Patrick got out today! Finally! Something is going right!") and later wrote of her remorse at ever having implicated him, saying it was under extreme duress and a result of police "brainwashing." Her testimony Friday took it one step further: she told the jury that she had also been struck twice during the interrogation. (Another accused accomplice, Rudy Guede, has already been sentenced to 30 years in prison for Kercher's murder; Knox has acknowledged being acquainted with Guede.)
As the trial goes on, the prosecution will surely continue to drive home their most damning points: the knife; Knox's statement putting herself at the house the night Kercher was slain. And the defense will probably point to the crime-scene video, with its frequent stops and starts, and to alleged flaws in the investigation for example, when a female investigator reaches down with tweezers to pluck a hair sample off the blood-stained duvet, her own long hair dangles down beside her.
Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Knox's supporters will be following all this from afar. And observing a bitter milestone: this weekend, Knox's testimony coincides with what would have been her college graduation. Her former classmates "are commencing their lives," Bremner says, "and she's sitting in jail."