Amanda Knox was released from prison this evening after an appeal court overturned her murder conviction.
Amanda Knox, 24, burst into tears and hugged her parents Curt Knox and Edda Mellas – as just feet away the family of Meredith Kercher could only look on in amazement.
Amanda Knox has served four years of a 26-year prison sentence after being found guilty in 2009 of the brutal sex murder of Meredith Kercher, 21, who was found semi naked with her throat cut in her bedroom of the house she shared in Perugia, Italy.
Computer studies graduate Raffaele Sollecito, 27, Amanda Knox ex-lover, who had also been accused of carrying out the murder, was also freed by the eight member jury after 11-hours of deliberations.
Amanda Knox was actually found guilty of slandering bar owner Diya “Patrick” Lumumba who she accused of carrying out the killing. She was sentenced to three years in jail – but as she had already served four years she was freed immediately.
Amanda Knox who had arrived to the hearing looking breathless and pale seemed to struggle to her feet as she was quickly led from the court room by Italian officials.
Amanda is now looking at the possibility of a swift return to America – possibly on a private jet provided by a television network.
Speaking outside the court following the verdict, Amanda Knox’s sister Deanna said:
“We are thankful that the nightmare is over. She suffered for four years for a crime she did not commit.”
Deanna Knox also thanked the Italian lawyers who had conducted the case and who “loved her”.
“We are thankful for the support from all over the world, people who took the time and trouble to research the case and knew that she was innocent.
“We are thankful to the court for having courage to look for the truth.
“We now ask for privacy and a chance to recover from our ordeal.”
“We’ve been waiting for this for four years,” said one of Raffaele Sollecito’s lawyers, Giulia Bongiorno
However, the verdict was not universally welcomed.
Outside the court there were screams of “shame on you” which appeared to be directed at lawyer Giulia Bongiorno.
One bystander shouted: “Run off back to America on your private jet,” while another said: “They just let the black man pay.”
Sky News reported rumors that American TV network had laid on a private plane as part of a potential a $1million deal with a guarantee of an interview.
Prosecutors now have to decide if they will appeal the acquittal to Italy’s highest court. There was no word late this evening if they planned to do so.
The Knox family’s delight contrasts sharply with the emotions of Meredith Kercher loved ones.
Meredith’ sister, Stephanie Kercher, who was in Perugia with her mother and brother for the verdict, lamented that her sister ‘has been nearly forgotten”.
“We want to keep her memory alive,” Stephanie said after the verdict which means that four years on from the brutal murder of the 21-year-old her family still have no clear picture of what happened.
At the first trial in 2009, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito had been convicted after the court heard they had carried out the crime with the aid of a third man Ivory Coast drifter Rudy Guede, 24.
The appeal however overturned this and ruled that he carried out on his own but key to the verdict was an independent court ordered report into hotly disputed DNA evidence.
Two forensic professors from Rome’s La Sapienza University Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti had poured scorn on the original police forensic investigation of the crime scene producing a damning conclusion of techniques and methods used.
Key to the case was a 12 inches kitchen knife retrieved in Raffaele Sollecito’s flat and on which the original trial heard was found DNA from Meredith on the blade and that of Amanda Knox on the handle.
Prosecutors confusingly said it was “not incompatible” with the murder weapon – which has never been found – while defense teams argued it was too big to have caused the wounds on Meredith Kercher’s throat.
In addition the report also said that no blood was found on it and the DNA of Meredith Kercher was so low is should be ruled inadmissible – in fact there was such a small amount it could not even be retested.
They were also critical of results reached from tests on a clasp from Meredith’ s bloodied bra which was not collected from the murder scene and analyzed until 46 days after Meredith Kercher was killed.
To highlight the farcical way police carried out the investigation the experts showed footage of the way the forensic officers collected the evidence and there was gasps of amazement as more than 50 errors were pointed out.
The team was seen picking up the clasp with dirty gloves – instead of tweezers – and then placing it in a plastic bag when the recognized international procedure is a paper one.
They were then seen handing it to each other from glove to glove, placing it back on the floor in a different place from where it was found and then picking it up again.
Professors Conti and Vecchiotti said that this also made it highly likely that it had been contaminated and then they also revealed how they had been unable to retest the clasp because it had rotted away after being wrongly kept in the forensic lab in Rome.
Prosecutors lame arguments that the experts had no professional experience and that their findings were unqualified and unreliable, were ignored by the judge and jury.
Today prosecutors said they would appeal the decision and take the case to the Supreme Court in Rome but in the meantime Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito will be free and they do not even have to show up for the case.
The Supreme Court judges will simply examine all the documentary evidence and see if there is a valid point of law which can be used to overturn the appeal court’s ruling.
If they do not find any cause then the decision to release Amanda Knox will be confirmed while if they do find a justifiable reason then the case will be sent for a fresh trial leaving open the possibility of an extradition request from Italy for Knox.
November 2, 2007: Body of Meredith Kercher is found in Perugia apartment. Investigators say she was killed the night before.
November 6, 2007: Amanda Knox is arrested with then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, Congolese owner of pub where Knox occasionally worked.
November 20, 2007: Lumumba, implicated by Amanda Knox statements to police, is released from jail for lack of evidence.
December 6, 2007: Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede is extradited from Germany, where he was arrested, and jailed upon arrival in Italy.
December 14, 2007: Meredith Kercher is laid to rest after funeral in London.
October 28, 2008: Judge indicts Amanda Knox and Raffaelle Sollecito on murder and sexual assault charges. Rudy Guede, who was granted a fast-track trial, is convicted of murder and sexual assault and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
January 16, 2009: Trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito opens in Perugia.
June 12, 2009: Amanda Knox takes stand; tells court she was shocked by Meredith’s death, offers alibi and says police beat her into making false statements.
December 4, 2009: Court finds Amanda Knox guilty of murder and sexual assault; sentences her to 26 years in prison. Raffaele Sollecito is convicted of same charges and sentenced to 25 years.
December 22, 2009: Appeals court upholds Rudy Guede conviction and cuts sentence to 16 years.
November 8, 2010: Judge orders Amanda Knox to stand trial on slander charges for claiming police beating.
November 24, 2010: Appeals trial for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito opens in Perugia.
December 16, 2010: Italy’s highest criminal court upholds Guede’s conviction and 16-year prison sentence.
June 29, 2011: Independent forensic report ordered by appeals court finds much of the DNA evidence used to convict Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is unreliable.
October 3, 2011: Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are freed after appeals court overturns conviction for murder.