U.S. Student Amanda Knox Takes Stand, Claims Innocence

Sounding confident and speaking fluent Italian, a U.S. student charged with murdering her British roommate told a court Friday she was innocent and was sure the truth would come out.

Amanda Knox was making her first public statements since she was arrested in the slaying of Meredith Kercher. Knox addressed the court after an acquaintance testified she had been indifferent in the hours after Kercher was found dead Nov. 2, 2007.

"I am innocent," Knox said. "I'm confident that everything will come out and that everything will work out."

Knox, a 21-year old from Seattle, and Raffaele Sollecito, a 24-year-old Italian who was her boyfriend at the time, are being tried on charges of murder and sexual violence. They deny wrongdoing.

Knox did not refer to assertions that she showed no pain following Kercher's death, and she made no references to her relationship with the victim.

Instead, in a casual, almost amused tone, Knox said she wanted to explain the presence of a sex toy — a pink rabbit-shaped vibrator — in the Perugia house she shared with Kercher.

Witnesses said Kercher had expressed unease over a bag Knox kept in the bathroom containing condoms and a vibrator.

"It was a joke," Knox told the court. "It was a present from a friend before I came to Italy," she said. She gestured with her hands to indicate the size of the toy, which the presiding judge, Giancarlo Massei, translated as about 4 inches in length.

During the hearing, witnesses said Knox showed no distress and cuddled with Sollecito at the police station while waiting to be questioned after Kercher's body was found.

Robyn Carmel Butterworth, a prosecution witness and a Briton who was a friend of the victim, told the packed courtroom in this Umbrian university town that she had been among several students waiting to talk to officers in Perugia's police station shortly after Meredith Kercher's bloodied body was found.

"I found Amanda's behavior very strange and I found it quite difficult to be around her," said Butterworth. "Everybody was upset and she didn't seem to show any emotions."

"We were all crying. I didn't see her crying," Butterworth added.

She said Knox and Sollecito fooled around as they waited.

"I remember Amanda sticking her tongue out at Raffaele," Butterworth said in English, her testimony translated for the court. "They were talking and joking, kissing and cuddling."

Amy Frost, another witness who was also at the police station, said Knox "made faces," such as crossing her eyes and sticking her tongue out. She was "giggling" and kissing Sollecito, said Frost.

"She didn't show any sadness. She wasn't crying. She seemed quite angry and a bit frustrated and sometimes happy," said another one, Natalie Hayward.

Both Knox and Sollecito have attended the court sessions escorted by police and have been jailed since shortly after police found Kercher's body. Sollecito told the court in an earlier hearing that he was the victim of a judicial mistake.

The witnesses Friday testified about how they learned of Kercher's death and what Knox and Sollecito said at the police station.

According to Butterworth, Knox said: "How do you think I feel? I found her." She quoted Knox as saying Kercher was "in the closet covered by a blanket."

At one point, Knox said that Kercher "(expletive) bled to death," according to Butterworth. Hayward also quoted Knox as saying Kercher would have "died slowly and in a lot of pain."

Kercher was found with a stab wound in the neck in a pool of blood under a comforter in her bedroom.

Friday's lineup of witnesses, British women who were friends with Kercher, also talked about a problematic relationship between Kercher and Knox. Some broke into tears as they recalled their friend.

Many of the witnesses said Kercher was frustrated because Knox didn't keep the bathroom clean.

Knox's father, Curt Knox, said Friday's hearing was largely based on people's "perceptions and opinions that can change."

"If this is the prosecution's case, there's not much there," he told The Associated Press during a pause of the hearing.

He said Knox had cried when she learned of Meredith's death, but that by the time she arrived at the police station she had spent hours figuring out her feelings.

"Everybody reacts differently when they are under extremely stressful situations," he said. "There is no right way to react."

He said that, in saying the vibrator was a joke, his daughter was "trying to let the jury know that she was not a promiscuous young lady." Prosecutors allege Kercher was the reluctant object of a sex game that ended violently.

Francesco Maresca, who represents Kercher's family, said Friday's testimony about Knox was consistent.

"All the girls confirmed ... that her behavior had been strange," he said.

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

A third resident in Perugia, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, was convicted last year of the same charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guede, who denied wrongdoing, had requested and received a fast-track trial.

The trial continues Saturday.