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Amanda Knox: Top Italian lawyer argues for defense as trial nears judgment day

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Ever wonder if the facts of a case are more important or if it's the lawyers involved who make the difference in the final outcome of a murder trial? Many in Italy believe topnotch Italian attorney Giula Bongiono is a big reason American Amanda Knox and Italian Raffaele Sollecito were found not guilty in Knox Trial 2 after both were found guilty in Trial 1 along with Rudy Guede.

Not only has Bongiono already won more than her share of high profile cases in the country shaped like a boot, but she is also an influential member of the Italian legislature. With the verdict to be announced Jan. 30 in Florence, Italy nobody would be wise to bet their life savings against the already legendary Bongiono.

As attorney for Sollecito during the appeal of the murder conviction, she was instrumental in the defense that in October of 2011 helped throw out the convictions for the brutal 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, according to an article in Marie Claire.

Bongiono, 45, first made her name in an Italian courtroom at age 28 when she defended former head of state Guilio Andreotti who was accused of conspiring with the Mafia in a murder case. She received some negative response from the public when she was seen celebrating the not guilty verdict which was unpopular among many in Italy. She shrugged off the bad publicity from the verdict, saying that in such an emotional, high-profile case a "visceral response" was to be expected.

As a senior member of the Italian Parliament, she is also a powerful figure in the political world which sometimes overlaps the legal world. She headed a no confidence vote against leader Silvio Berlusconi. In fact it has been said she may be the only woman in Italy who Berlusconi fears.

Her duties as president of the Italian Parliament's justice commission forced her to miss much of the first trial in which Sollecito and Knox were convicted for murder. The fact Sollecito's wealthy father was willing to hire an attorney who was only available for a part of his son's trial is a testament to the respect in which she is held among Italians. During the second trial which was an appeal from the conviction, she attacked the police forensic science expert Patrizi Stefanoni with an aggressive cross examination. Freed from her duties with the legislature at that time, Bongiono was able to elicit testimony from the prosecution witness that she didn't change gloves while collecting specimens for the DNA testing, according to an article in the Guardian.

Her blistering cross examination was considered a key factor in the not guilty verdict at the second trial. But how does a trial attorney attain the towering reputation Bongiono earned? It usually starts with a series of smaller victories. She previously successfully represented Italian footballer Francesco Totti for spitting at an opponent during a soccer match.

She also did well in representing the heir to the now defunct Italian throne.

Throw in the high profile victory for the Mafia boss, and the building blocks to fame were all in place for the dramatic Bongiono. She then stepped onto the international stage with the Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito murder case.

The huge victory for Sollecito and Knox in the second murder trial was largely credited to her abilities. As Sollecito's attorney, her arguments also benefitted Knox about whom she said, "The prosecution portrayed Amanda as ruthless and manipulative. That is false."

In the third trial she argued powerfully for Sollecito that he would "not kill for Amanda Knox."

Judge Alessandro Nencini has at times expressed irritation at Knox's failure to appear at this third murder jury trial. Knox instead sent him an email, expressing her innocence. While Nencini read the email in opponent court he expressed the opinion that he would prefer she showed up in person.

Regardless of the outcome of this internationally covered trial, Bongiono's reputation is secure as one of the top criminal attorneys in Italy and maybe the world. This is definitely one of those murder trials where the attorneys will make a difference.

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