Italian Appeals Court Releases Amanda Knox

An Italian appeals court released Amanda Knox Monday. Knox, an American exchange student, had been convicted of murdering her British roommate and sentenced to 26 years in an Italian prison. Earlier in court, Knox made an emotional appeal for freedom.

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GUY RAZ, host: It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block. Amanda Knox is a free woman. An Italian appeals court today acquitted her of the murder of a British student. Knox's former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, also saw his murder conviction overturned. Between them, the two were serving more than 50 years in prison for killing Meredith Kercher, in what Italian police said was a frenzied knife attack after a sex game got out of control. NPR's Philip Reeves reports on today's hearing.

PHILIP REEVES: Amanda Knox was tearful, and looked very nervous, as she arrived in court to hear the decision that would change her life. She was hunched and wincing with anxiety as the verdict was read out.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN (Interpreting for speaker): The request made by the parties is not accepted. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are being freed. Silence please. Quiet, please. The hearing is over. Thank you.

REEVES: Knox broke down, and with cameras flashing all around her was bundled out of court by security officers. Her lawyers had argued that the original evidence against her was riddled with errors and flaws. The court, evidently ,agreed. She and Sollecito each served some 1,400 days in prison. This case has exposed some deep divisions. While there were some cheers in court, outside the mood was different. There was cries from the Italian crowd of "murderer," and "this is an embarrassment." Perugia's courthouse dates back to the Middle Ages, yet it can rarely have witnessed the sort of scenes that played out there in the last day. This morning, people crammed beneath its vaulted ceilings to hear Knox plead for her life. In jail, Knox's Italian has become fluent, yet she spoke slowly and tearfully as she insisted on her innocence.

AMANDA KNOX: (Through translator) In four years, I lost a friend in the most brutal and inexplicable way possible. My absolute faith in the police authorities was betrayed, I've had to face absolutely unfair, suggestive and baseless accusations. I am paying with my life for things I did not commit.

REEVES: Italian prosecutors portrayed Knox as cold, devious, sex-obsessed, even demonic. Knox said they've got her wrong.

KNOX: (through translator) I am not what they say. The perversions, the violence, contempt for life and for the persons, aren't part of me, and I did not do what they say I have done. I didn't kill. I didn't rape. I didn't steal. I wasn't there. I wasn't present at the crime.

REEVES: That crime occurred nearly four years ago. Twenty-one-year-old Meredith Kercher, a language exchange student from Leeds University in England, ended up with her throat slit and multiple stab wounds. Knox was later jailed for 26 years. Sollecito got 25. A third person's now serving 16 years in prison. Sollecito also addressed the court today and said spending 20 hours a day in a cell was like being dead.

RAPHAELE SOLLECITO: (through translator) I never hurt anybody, never in my life.

REEVES: This case has received huge coverage, especially in the United States, Italy and Britain. Much attention has focused on Amanda Knox. Her family launched a major publicity drive to convince the world of her innocence. The family of the victim, Meredith Kercher, mostly stayed away from the limelight. Today, though, they flew in from Britain and before the verdict, held a press conference. They said they were satisfied with the original convictions, but they were clearly aware there was a good chance that Knox and Sollecito would be acquitted today. The verdict did not diminish the force of the message articulated by Meredith's sister, Stephanie. Do not forget Meredith, the biggest victim of all, she said.

STEPHANIE KERCHER: Everything that Meredith must have felt that night, everything she went through - the fear and the terror, and not knowing why - she didn't deserve that. No one deserves that.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

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