Amanda Knox 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
PERUGIA, Italy - An Italian court cleared 24-year-old American Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend of murdering British student Meredith Kercher in 2007 and ordered them to be set free on Monday after nearly four years in prison for a crime they always denied committing.
Seattle native Knox and Italian computer student Raffaele Sollecito, had appealed against a 2009 verdict that found them guilty of murdering 21-year-old Kercher during what prosecutors said was a drug-fueled sexual assault four years ago.
Looking pale and tense as the sentence was read out in a packed Perugia court room, Knox was led away in tears and close to collapse by police officers.
The court quashed the conviction against Knox, who was sentenced to 26
years in jail and against Sollecito, who was sentenced to 25 years,
after independent forensic investigators sharply criticized police
scientific evidence, saying it was unreliable.
Kercher's half-naked body, with more than 40 wounds and a deep gash in
the throat, was found in 2007 in the apartment she shared with Knox in
the Umbrian hill town of Perugia where both were studying.
Both Knox and Sollecito, 27, had consistently maintained their innocence
throughout the original investigation and trial. A third man, Ivorian
drug dealer Rudy Guede, was imprisoned for 16 years for his role in the
The court upheld a conviction against Knox for slander, after she had
falsely accused barman Patrick Lumumba of the murders. It sentenced her
to three years in prison, a sentence which has now been served.
Knox's good looks and the salacious details of the murder helped make a
global media sensation of the trial, which attracted hundreds of
reporters from around the world to the packed Perugia courtroom.
Expectations were running high before the verdict that Knox and
Sollecito would walk free after the forensic review discredited DNA
evidence used to convict them.
In a tearful address to the court earlier on Monday, Knox pleaded with
the panel of two professional and six lay judges to free her, saying she
was paying for a crime she did not commit.
"I did not do the things they say I did. I did not kill, rape or steal. I
was not there," she said in the fluent Italian she has learned in
The appeal trial gripped attention on both sides of the Atlantic, with
an outpouring of sympathy and outrage from many in the United States who
saw the American as an innocent girl trapped abroad in the clutches of a
medieval justice system.
A powerful lobbying campaign by her family played a big part in changing
perceptions of Knox from the promiscuous "Foxy Knoxy" of early media
reports and the cold-blooded, sex-obsessed "she-devil" portrayed by
In the process, her plight in jail dominated reporting of the trial,
leaving Kercher's family feeling the real victim of the crime had been
pushed to one side.
"Mez has been almost forgotten in all of this," her sister Stephanie
told a news conference as the family emphasized that the brutality of
the crime must not be forgotten.
Kercher, a Leeds University student from Coulsdon in Surrey, was on a
year-long exchange program in Perugia when she was murdered, bringing a
flood of unwelcome attention to the medieval town in central Italy that
her family said she loved.
The murder investigation showed she was pinned down and stabbed to
death. Prosecutors said that she resisted attempts by Knox, Sollecito
and Guede to involve her in an orgy.
But their case was weakened by forensic experts that dismissed police
evidence that traces of DNA belonging to Knox and Kercher were found on a
kitchen knife identified as the murder weapon.
The experts also said alleged traces of Sollecito's DNA on the Briton's bra clasp may have been contaminated.
The defense argued that no clear motive or evidence linking the
defendants to the crime have emerged, and say Knox was falsely
implicated in the murder by prosecutors determined to convict her
regardless of the evidence.