- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

PERUGIA, Italy | A judge ruled Friday that the trial of an American student accused of killing her British roommate would remain open to the news media despite concerns about the indignity of releasing sensitive details of a purported sexual attack.

Presiding Judge Giancarlo Massei, on the first day of the trial of Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, rejected a request by the family of victim Meredith Kercher to have the proceedings closed to the public and the media.

Judge Massei barred video cameras, but ruled the trial would remain open to print journalists - although some sessions could be closed. The next session is scheduled for Feb. 6.

The ruling was one of several technical issues ironed out at the start of the trial of Miss Knox, 21, from Seattle, and Raffaele Sollecito, 24.

Both are charged with murder and sexual violence in the slaying of Miss Kercher, who was found stabbed to death Nov. 2, 2007, in the apartment she shared with Miss Knox in Perugia, 115 miles north of Rome where both were exchange students.

Both Miss Knox and Mr. Sollecito deny any wrongdoing.

Miss Knox appeared relaxed during the hearing, smiling often and chatting with her interpreter and guards during breaks. Wearing jeans and a hooded sweat shirt over a striped shirt, she sat next to her attorneys — not in the cage often used for defendants in Italian trials.

A third defendant, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, was convicted last year of the same charges and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guede, who also had denied wrongdoing, underwent a fast-track trial at his request.

Prosecutors say Miss Kercher was killed during what began as a sex game, with Mr. Sollecito holding her by the shoulders from behind while Miss Knox touched her with the point of a knife. They say Guede tried to sexually assault Miss Kercher, and then Miss Knox fatally stabbed her in the throat.

Mr. Sollecito has maintained he was in his own apartment in Perugia and that he doesn’t remember whether Miss Knox spent part or all of the night of the killing with him. Miss Knox initially told investigators she was in the house when Miss Kercher was killed and covered her ears against the victim’s screams. Later, Miss Knox said she wasn’t in the house.

Miss Knox’s attorney, Luciano Ghirga, said he wanted to prove that Miss Knox was with Mr. Sollecito somewhere else at the time of Miss Kercher’s death.

Both Miss Knox and Mr. Sollecito were denied bail and have been detained for more than a year in Italy. Italy does not have the death penalty, and a conviction could bring a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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