09/07/2011 at 02:50 PM EDT
Nearly two years after Amanda Knox was convicted
in the brutal murder of her roommate in Italy, a judge appears likely to free the American woman because of problems with the DNA evidence.
An independent report by forensic experts has questioned the validity of tests of blood samples on a 12-inch knife allegedly used to kill Meredith Kercher, 21, in what authorities called a sadistic sex game gone awry in 2007.
Now, in an appeals trial, Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman in Perugia, Italy, rejected a prosecution request to introduce new records on the original tests and to hear from a new witness, CNN reports.
The decision was a blow to the prosecution and a major victory for the defense of Knox, 24, and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 27, who had been convicted after Kercher's semi-naked body was found in the house they shared in Perugia.
"There is an ill wind blowing in this case," Prosecutor Manuela Comodi said, according to The Telegraph
. "The judge and his assistant are clearly against us. I can see both Knox and Sollecito being freed, which will be a shame as they are both involved."
Prosecutors originally presented evidence that Knox's DNA was on the knife handle and the victim's on the blade.
Knox, a University of Washington student studying in Italy, was portrayed in the European press as an amoral, pot-smoking party girl – an "angel-faced killer," in one headline – and was sentenced to 26 years in prison.
The court-appointed experts didn't question the finding of Knox's DNA, but raised questions about that of the DNA on the blade.
"Amanda is happy and hopeful that she won't be spending too much more time in prison," her father Curt Knox said, "but it's still up to the judges in the court and we will start those arguments later this month."
Attorneys will return Sept. 23 for final arguments in the appeals trial and a decision is expected as early as Sept. 29.