http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/10/03/501364/main20114867.shtml

(CBS/AP)

Last Updated 4:04 p.m. ET

PERUGIA, Italy – American student Amanda Knox, who was convicted by an
Italian court for the 2007 murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher, was
acquitted today by an appeals court.

Her murder conviction in the 2007 slaying of her roommate Meredith Kercher
was thrown out by the jury, and she was ordered immediately released from prison
after nearly four years of detention.

Knox collapsed in tears after the verdict was read out Monday.

Her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was also found not guilty.

Knox and Sollecito had been convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and
murdering Kercher, who was stabbed to death in her bedroom. She was found in a
pool of blood and covered by a duvet the following day.

Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, Sollecito to 25. Also convicted in
separate proceedings was Rudy Hermann Guede, an Ivorian man. They all denied
wrongdoing.

As the verdict was announced, about a dozen supporters from the group called
Friends of Amanda, gathered at a downtown Seattle hotel to watch the proceedings
on TV, burst into applause and cheered. They began chanting, “She’s free!” and
“We did it!”

Earlier Monday, as hundreds of reporters and cameras filled the underground,
frescoed courtroom, Knox tearfully told the Italian appeals court 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. The court began deliberations
moments later.

Knox frequently paused for breath and fought back tears as she spoke in
Italian to the six members of the jury and two judges 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.”

“She had her bedroom next to mine, she was killed in our own apartment. If I
had been there that night, I would be dead,” Knox said. “But I was not
there.”

“I did not kill. I did not rape. I did not steal. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t
there at the crime,” Knox said.

“48 Hours Mystery” correspondent Peter Van Sant reports that Knox appealed to
the jury – members of which wept openly during her statement – to reverse the
conviction and let her return home.

“I insist I’m innocent and that must be defended. I just want to go home, go
back to my life,” she told the court through tears.

Van Sant says Knox’s words brought tears even to the eyes of some journalists
in the room.

Minutes before, an anxious Sollecito also addressed the court to proclaim his
innocence and plead for his release from prison.

“I never hurt anyone, never in my life,” Sollecito said, shifting as he spoke
and stopping to sip water. He said at the time of the murder he was in a great
period of his life, close to defending his thesis to graduate from university
and having just met Knox.

The weekend Kercher was murdered was the first the pair planned to spend
together “in tenderness and cuddles,” he said.

At the end of his 17-minute address, Sollecito took off a white rubber
bracelet emblazoned with “Free Amanda and Raffaele” that he said he was been
wearing for four years.

“I have never taken it off. Many emotions are concentrated in this bracelet,”
he said. “Now I want to pay homage to the court. The moment to take it off has
arrived.”

The Kerchers have arrived in a Perugia hotel and are expected to be in court
for the verdict.

Speaking this morning, Stephanie Kercher said her sister “has been most
forgotten” in the media circus surrounding the high-profile trial.

“As long as they decide today based purely on the information available to
them and they don’t look into the media hype, I think justice will be found,”
she told reporters.

Kercher
family doesn’t want victim forgotten

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