A jury in an Italian appeals court has overturned a guilty verdict of murder in the Amanda Knox case and ordered her set free.
Amanda Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, Knox’s former boyfriend from Italy, were convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and murdering Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old Briton, who was stabbed to death in her bedroom.
Amanda Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, Sollecito to 25. They both deny wrongdoing.
Amanda Knox tearfully told an Italian appeals court Monday she did not kill her British roommate, pleading for the jury to free her so she can return to the United States after four years behind bars..
Earlier on Monday, Amanda Knox frequently paused for breath and fought back tears as she spoke in Italian to the eight members of the jury 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.”
“I never hurt anyone, never in my life,” Sollecito said Monday in his own speech to the jury.
Hundreds of eager observers gathered outside the courthouse ahead of the highly anticipated announcement, joining television vans that have been camped out for more than a week. One hundred reporters were being allowed into the subterranean courtroom.
Observers lined the street leading to the courthouse, taking pictures as the two vans carrying Amanda Knox and Sollecito from the prison to the court passed by.
Kercher’s mother, sister and a brother traveled to Perugia for the verdict. They have expressed worry over the possibility of an acquittal but told reporters as deliberations were under way that they hoped the jury would do the right thing and not be influenced by the media’s focus on the case.
In Seattle, Washington, Knox’s hometown, supporters of hers gathered to watch TV coverage of the verdict.
The trial has captivated audiences worldwide: Amanda Knox, the 24-year-old American, and Sollecito, a soft-spoken Italian, were convicted of murdering a fellow student in what the lower court said had begun as a drug-fueled sexual assault.
Prosecutors maintain that Knox’s DNA was found on the handle of a kitchen knife believed to be the murder weapon, and that Kercher’s DNA was found on the blade. They said Sollecito’s DNA was on the clasp of Kercher’s bra as part of a mix of evidence that also included the victim’s genetic profile.
But the independent review â€” ordered at the request of the defense, which had always disputed those findings â€” reached a different conclusion.
The two experts found that police conducting the investigation had made glaring errors in evidence-collecting and that below-standard testing and possible contamination raised doubts over the attribution of DNA traces, both on the blade and on the bra clasp, which was collected from the crime scene 46 days after the murder.
The review was crucial in the case because no motive has emerged and witness testimony was contradictory. It was a huge boost for the defense’s hope and a potentially fatal blow for the prosecution.
The prosecutors, however, refute the review and stand by their original conclusions.