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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) - U.S. student Amanda Knox declared her innocence in her British roommate's brutal 2007 murder in an email to the court hearing the case against her, and said she was staying away from the trial out of fear of being wrongly convicted.

Knox wrote in the letter submitted by her lawyers Tuesday before their closing arguments: "I didn't kill Meredith." She added: " I am not in court because I am afraid" that prosecutors would "blind" the court to her innocence.

Presiding Judge Alessandro Nencini read into the record the email, written in Italian, noting it was highly unusual given Knox's absence.

The case was being tried for a third time after Italy's highest court vacated a 2011 appellate court ruling throwing out murder convictions against Knox and her Italian co-defendant.

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