Prison inmates testify that Amanda Knox is innocent in appeals trial in Italy

A convicted child murderer testified in an Italian court on Saturday at the appeals trial for Amanda Knox, saying that a fellow inmate had told him that Knox had nothing to do with her British roommate's murder in Perugia in 2007, the Associated Press reported.

Mario Alessi, a witness who is serving a life sentence for the kidnap-murder of an Italian toddler taken from his home, was called by defense lawyers. His credibility was challenged in court.

Knox, a 23-year-old American student, was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher, in the house they shared in Perugia, and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Her Italian co-defendant and ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in the case.

Kercher was found dead on Nov. 2, 2007, semi-naked with her throat slashed, according to CNN. Knox and Sollecito were both found guilty of the murder. Knox was sentenced in December 2009.

Also convicted in separate proceedings was Rudy Hermann Guede, a drifter from Ivory Coast. They all denied the charges, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Alessi was held in the same prison as Guede, and claims that Guede told him that Knox and Sollecito were innocent.

Alessi, called by Sollecito's defense, told the court in Perugia that Guede spoke to him about Knox and Sollecito's innocence in November 2009 during recreation time at the Viterbo prison.

That was about a month before Knox and Sollecito were convicted in the first trial and at a time when Guede had been convicted and was appealing, the Associated Press said:

"Rudy links arms with me, inviting me to take a walk with him, he has something important to tell me," Alessi testified. He quoted Guede as saying he was worried because "I don't know whether to tell the truth or not," and that the truth "is altogether different from what you hear on TV."

According to Alessi, Guede said that he and an unidentified acquaintance visited Kercher to try to get her to participate in sex acts, CNN reported. When Kercher didn't go along with them, Guede's friend forced himself on her, and Guede participated as well, Alessi said. The friend pulled out a knife, and Guede, who was holding Kercher at the time, saw that she was bleeding, Alessi testified.

Alessi told the court that Guede tried to stop the bleeding, but the friend said that they should leave. Alessi said Guede stayed with Kercher for a while, but eventually left her injured.

Prosecutors questioned the validity of Alessi's testimony.

Guede has denied this version of events through his lawyers.

Four other inmates claiming that they have information that clears Knox and Sollecito, are being called to give evidence in the trial as well, according to BBC News.

A police informant, Marco Castelluccio, who was also incarcerated in Viterbo prison, also took the stand on Saturday.

He said that he too had heard the story that Knox and Sollecito were innocent, mainly from Alessi, but that on one occasion in his cell he heard Guede say from another cell that they were innocent.

Another inmate who gave evidence is Luciano Aviello, a member of the Mafia who claims that his brother Antonio, a fugitive from justice, killed Kercher as he was robbing apartments in the neighborhood.

Aviello told the court that his brother murdered Meredith after she disturbed him while he was breaking into the house in Perugia, according to Sky News.

Aviello said his brother had given him a set of keys to the house and the murder weapon to hide; neither of these items has been found.

There have been growing doubts over the strength of the convictions of Knox and Sollecito. DNA evidence presented during the original trial has been questioned and the motive has been unclear, with prosecutors switching between a sex crime, theft and a domestic disagreement between Knox and Meredith, or all three.