Amanda Knox - Free At Last, Free At Last, Free At Last - Sex Gamist Released from Italian Prison
PERUGIA, Italy — Amanda Knox, the 24-year-old American found guilty in 2009 of murdering her roommate Meredith Kercher, was a free woman after an appeals court jury on Monday acquitted her and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.
Knox, 24, collapsed in tears as the jury's verdict was read.
The jury had two options to acquit: determining there wasn't enough evidence to uphold the conviction or that the pair simply didn't commit the crime. The jury determined the latter, clearing Knox and Sollecito completely.
After briefly returning to prison for a formal discharge, Knox was seen being driven away in a convoy. Rocco Girlanda, an Italian lawmaker who is close to the Knox family, said she planned to leave Italy on Tuesday.
In court, 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!"
The Kercher family issued a brief statement, saying: "We respect the decision of the judges but we do not understand how the decision of the first trial could be so radically overturned. We still trust the Italian justice system and hope that the truth will eventually emerge."
As Knox waited for the verdict to be read, she appeared tense — leaning forward in her chair, and panting and wincing between exchanges with her lawyer. A dark cloak draped around her, she put her hands to her face several times.
Nothing in Italian law would prevent her from returning home, legal experts say.
A slander conviction against Knox, who falsely accused barman Patrick Lumumba of the murders, was upheld, but since that was a three-year sentence it was considered time served.
'Not a promiscuous vamp' Earlier Monday, a tearful Knox told the jury that 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.
Knox frequently paused for breath and fought back tears as she spoke in Italian to the jury in a packed courtroom, but managed to maintain her composure during the 10-minute address.
"I'm not a promiscuous vamp. I'm not violent ... I have not killed, I have not raped, I was not there, I was not present," the American told a packed courtroom in Perugia.
"I want to go home, I want to go back to my life, I do not want to be punished and to have my life taken away from me for something I have not done, because I am innocent."
The jury weighed whether the 2009 convictions and prison sentences — 26 years for Knox, 25 years for Sollecito — should stand, be dismissed or altered.
The case made Knox an unwilling celebrity and placed Italy's justice system under scrutiny.
'Paying with my life'
Knox looked tense as she entered the courthouse where she and Sollecito made their final case for their freedom.
"I lost a friend, in the most brutal and inexplicable way possible," Knox told the court in Italian. "My absolute faith in the police authorities was betrayed, I've had to face absolutely unfair ... and baseless accusations. I am paying with my life for things I did not commit."
One of the female jurors appeared to be in tears as Knox spoke, NBC's Lester Holt reported from the courtroom.
Minutes before, an anxious Sollecito also addressed the court to proclaim his innocence and plead for his release from prison.
"Every day I have been in prison I have felt dead," Sollecito told the court. "I never hurt anyone, never in my life. I have been in this nightmare and never, ever woken from it."
The weekend in 2007 when Meredith Kercher was murdered was the first he and Knox planned to spend together "in tenderness and cuddles," Sollecito said.