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The Amanda Knox verdict might not end the drama

The former exchange student could face civil penalties, jail time even if she is found innocent of murder.

Amanda Knox, right, is escorted as she arrives at the courtroom where she is on trial for murder in Perugia, Dec. 1, 2009. (Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)

ROME, Italy — The two-year-long murder trial of American exchange student Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito has transformed the once-sleepy Umbrian university town of Perugia.

The trial is finally drawing to an end, but many doubt whether the picturesque hill town — formerly best known for the Perugina chocolate company, the Umbria Jazz Festival and as a destination for religious pilgrims to nearby Assisi — will ever recover.

“I think that in terms of the way people see Perugia, and the way the city’s residents see themselves, Perugia will probably never return to the way it was before Nov. 1, 2007,” said Renato Locchi, referring to the date a grisly murder left the bloody body of British student Meredith Kercher with her throat cut amid evidence of a sexual attack. Locchi was mayor of Perugia when the murder took place.

“The city we knew is gone forever,” he said in an interview.

The prosecution charges that Knox, Sollecito and a third party — Ivory Coast native Rudy Hermann Guede, who was already found guilty in a fast-track trial and sentenced to 30 years in prison — abused and then murdered Kercher, then 21, in a bizarre night of extreme sexual games that left DNA evidence from all three parties in the apartment Knox and Kercher shared.

Prosecutors made their final arguments last week (they requested life sentences for both Knox and Sollecito), and this week were followed by defense attorneys who blasted the DNA and forensic evidence and defended their clients' characters. Knox and Sollecito have mounted separate defenses, raising the possibility that the verdict could differ between them.

The verdict could be handed down as soon as Friday, as Perugia’s residents look on. Dozens of reporters and photographers are expected to be on hand to record the finale to the marathon trial.

There are several factors to pay attention to when the verdict is handed down. It is possible that Knox and Sollecito will be found not guilty on the murder charges but still face jail time on other counts.