Amanda Knox acquitted of murder
PERUGIA, Italy - American student Amanda Knox, who was convicted by an Italian court for the 2007 murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher, was acquitted today by an appeals court.
Her murder conviction in the 2007 slaying of her roommate Meredith Kercher was thrown out by the jury, and she was ordered immediately released from prison after nearly four years of detention.
Knox collapsed in tears after the verdict was read out Monday.
Her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was also found not guilty.
Knox and Sollecito had been convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher, who was stabbed to death in her bedroom. She was found in a pool of blood and covered by a duvet the following day.
Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, Sollecito to 25. Also convicted in separate proceedings was Rudy Hermann Guede, an Ivorian man. They all denied wrongdoing.
The Kercher family looked on grimly as the verdict was read out by the judge after 11 hours of deliberations by the eight-member jury. Outside the courthouse, some of the hundreds of observers shouted "Shame, shame!"
As the verdict was announced, about a dozen supporters from the group called Friends of Amanda, gathered at a downtown Seattle hotel to watch the proceedings on TV, burst into applause and cheered. They began chanting, "She's free!" and "We did it!"
Earlier Monday, as hundreds of reporters and cameras filled the underground, frescoed courtroom, Knox tearfully told the Italian appeals court she did not kill her British roommate, pleading for the court to free her so she can return to the United States after four years behind bars. The court began deliberations moments later. Knox frequently paused for breath and fought back tears as she spoke in Italian to the six members of the jury and two judges in a packed courtroom, but managed to maintain her composure during the 10-minute address.
"I've lost a friend in the worst, most brutal, most inexplicable way possible," she said of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old Briton who shared an apartment with Knox when they were both students in Perugia. "I'm paying with my life for things that I didn't do."
"She had her bedroom next to mine, she was killed in our own apartment. If I had been there that night, I would be dead," Knox said. "But I was not there."
"I did not kill. I did not rape. I did not steal. I wasn't there. I wasn't there at the crime," Knox said.
"48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Peter Van Sant reports that Knox appealed to the jury - members of which wept openly during her statement - to reverse the conviction and let her return home.
"I insist I'm innocent and that must be defended. I just want to go home, go back to my life," she told the court through tears.
Van Sant says Knox's words brought tears even to the eyes of some journalists in the room.
Minutes before, an anxious Sollecito also addressed the court to proclaim his innocence and plead for his release from prison.
"I never hurt anyone, never in my life," Sollecito said, shifting as he spoke and stopping to sip water. He said at the time of the murder he was in a great period of his life, close to defending his thesis to graduate from university and having just met Knox.
The weekend Kercher was murdered was the first the pair planned to spend together "in tenderness and cuddles," he said.
At the end of his 17-minute address, Sollecito took off a white rubber bracelet emblazoned with "Free Amanda and Raffaele" that he said he was been wearing for four years.
"I have never taken it off. Many emotions are concentrated in this bracelet," he said. "Now I want to pay homage to the court. The moment to take it off has arrived."
The Kerchers have arrived in a Perugia hotel and are expected to be in court for the verdict.
Speaking this morning, Stephanie Kercher said her sister "has been most forgotten" in the media circus surrounding the high-profile trial.
"As long as they decide today based purely on the information available to them and they don't look into the media hype, I think justice will be found," she told reporters.
Three people are being questioned by Italian police over UK student Meredith Kercher's death on grounds of sexual violence and premeditated murder.
According to reports, all three had been at the house in Perugia, Italy, where Miss Kercher, 21, of Coulsdon, south London, was found dead.
They include her American housemate, Amanda Knox, aged 20, and Miss Knox's boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 24.
Also questioned was Lumumba Diya, 37, a legal Congolese immigrant.
Arturo De Felice, Perugia's police chief, told a press conference that she died fighting off a sexual attack.
He said that Miss Kercher was a "victim and nothing more".
Amanda Knox myspace: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm...iendid=6527257