Amanda Knox became a free woman Monday after an Italian appeals jury threw out the former American exchange student’s murder conviction in the slaying of her roommate, Meredith Kercher, four years ago.
Jurors in the town of Perugia, Italy, decided to free Knox and her alleged accomplice, Italian Raffaele Sollecito. Knox, 24, and Sollecito, 27, were convicted in 2009 of murdering Kercher and sentenced to 26 years and 25 years in prison, respectively.
The verdict was read Monday night amid intense international media attention. Knox, a native of Seattle, looked tense and fearful as she was led into the courtroom. She burst into tears when the verdict was announced.
The jury found that the DNA and circumstantial evidence against her was not credible. But it found her guilty of slander against police and against a Congolese bartender Diya “Patrick” Lumumba whom she had falsely accused of involvement in the crime. She was sentenced to three years behind bars but given credit for time served. She also was ordered to reimburse Lumumba about $29,000 for his legal fees.
Knox’s family celebrated in the courtroom, crying and hugging each other in relief.
Kercher’s family sat impassively in the courtroom absorbing the news.
Earlier Monday, Knox made an emotional appeal for her freedom, telling the eight members of the jury that she was not the violent, promiscuous killer portrayed by the prosecution, and that her trust in the Italian police had been betrayed.
“I was manipulated. I am not what they say,” Knox said. “I have not killed; I have not raped. ... I wasn’t present at the crime.”
Knox addressed the court in Italian, at times emphatic and at other moments too overcome by emotion to continue speaking.
She has been in prison since the November 2007 slaying of the 21-year-old Kercher, whose throat was slashed in what authorities described as a sex game gone wrong.
Why was the conviction overturned?
An outside team of forensic experts discredited the DNA evidence found on a knife identified as the murder weapon tying Amanda Knox to the murder of 21-year-old British college student Meredith Kercher. The experts argued that shoddy police work contaminated much of the murder scene.
What happens to Knox now?
Knox immediately left court and headed to prison to collect her belongings and was expected to leave Italy for the U.S. this morning. Prosecutors have previously said that if the verdict went against them they would bring the case to Italy’s high court, and they have about four months to file that appeal. If the high court overturns Mondays decision, it would effectively reinstate Knox's guilty verdict, and Italy would have to put in an extradition request with U.S. authorities. It's unclear whether the request would be honored.
Were any convictions upheld?
The judge upheld Knox’s conviction of defamation for her claims that a local bartender, Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, committed the murder. She was sentenced to three years behind bars — time she has already served — plus a fine of about $29,000.
Who else was involved in the case?
Raffaele Sollecito, 27, Knox’s ex-boyfriend whose conviction of the murder was also overturned Monday, as well as Rudy Guede, 24, Ivorian drug dealer who received 16 years in prison for his role in the murder.