ROME Jan. 28, 2014
Anxiety has set in for American student Amanda Knox as she waits for the fourth time in six years for an Italian court to decide whether she is guilty or innocent of killing her roommate Meredith Kercher.
Knox has remained at home in Seattle because she feared she would be "wrongly convicted" and arrested, but despite the relative safety the tension has been heightened by the prosecutor who sought to increase Knox's prison sentence if she is convicted and urged the judge to request her immediate arrest.
Two judges and eight jurors will deliberate Thursday in Florence after final rebuttals by Knox's legal team and a verdict and a sentence is expected to come sometime in the "late evening" on Thursday.
While Knox, 26, won't be present, Kercher's sister and brother have said they will be in court to hear the decision.
Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted in 2009 of the 2007 murder of Kercher in the cottage the women shared in Perugia. The prosecutor at the time said the murder was the result of a sex game gone awry.
That verdict was overturned in 2011 after Knox had spent four years in prison. But Italy's Supreme Court ordered an appeals court to review the case and that court will render its verdict this week.
Knox's lawyers Carlo Dalla Vedova and Luciano Ghirga told reporters at the last hearing that "she cannot wait to end this nightmare." They said she has followed the trial "step by step" and that she was "very worried" about the outcome.
Sollecito, now 29, will wait for the verdict at his family home in Puglia, southern Italy. His father has said his son is not psychologically able to await the decision in court that day. "He will almost certainly stay at home and has no intention of course of running away."
If prosecutor Alessandro Crini gets his way, Knox and Sollecito will be sentenced to 26 years in prison for murder and her sentence for a related slander conviction would be increased from one year to four years.
Knox has befriended Ryan Ferguson, who was recently released from prison after serving 10 years for a murder he didn't commit. Ferguson told ABCNews.com this week that she is "doing incredibly well considering the circumstances."
"She is very positive and we all believe that justice will prevail and the facts that have proven her innocence will set her free," Ferguson said.
There were only slight changes in the prosecution's case. Crini, a respected soft-spoken man whose style has held the judge and jury's attention, was a sharp contrast to the Perugia prosecutor Giuliani Mignini, a controversial figure.
Crini, in his closing arguments dismissed the motive suggested by Mignini that the murder was the result of a sex-game gone wrong. Instead, Crini argued that it was more likely to have been caused by a series of arguments over cleanliness in the bathroom that Knox and Kercher shared.
Many of the more contested points of the case remain unsolved, leaving many of the experts following the case unsure as to Thursday's outcome. A new wrinkle was the testing of one DNA speck on a knife found in Sollecito's apartment that the prosecution claimed was the murder weapon. The speck had been left untested previously. The DNA turned out to belong to Knox, but that was not seen as surprising she had stayed with Sollecito and could have used the knife for cooking.
The judge, Alessandro Nencini, has made it clear that this court's decision will be based on all the evidence and arguments used and presented in the previous trials.
Whichever way the judges and jury rule on Thursday, the case against Knox and Sollecito will still not be over. The decision will almost certainly be appealed, and return to the highest court for a definitive sentence. A conviction at that level could eventually lead to Knox's extradition, but Knox would be able to fight any such request in a U.S. court.
A third person, Rudy Guede, a native of Ivory Coast, was convicted in Kercher's murder and sentenced to 30 years, later reduced to 16-years on appeal. Guede was convicted of participating in the killing of Kercher with others.