Amanda Knox 'relieved,' 'grateful' for Italy court's acquittal

"The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal." - Amanda Knox on the court's acquittal

By Doug G. Ware

ROME, March 27 (UPI) -- First convicted of murder, then acquitted, and then convicted again, Amanda Knox was again released from criminal culpability Friday -- this time for good -- in a sensational 2007 murder case that made headlines around the world.

Italy's highest court issued its ruling late Friday, local time, after hearing a final round of arguments from defense attorneys. Raffaele Sollecito, Knox's boyfriend at the time, was also released of liability in 21-year-old Meredith Kercher's death.


Friday afternoon, Knox responded to the court's verdict, saying she was "relieved," Seattle's KING-TV reported.

"I am tremendously relieved and grateful for the decision of the Supreme Court of Italy," she said. "The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal. And throughout this ordeal, I have received invaluable support from family, friends, and strangers. To them, I say: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your kindness has sustained me. I only wish that I could thank each and every one of you in person."


Knox's family also issued a statement following the acquittal.

"We want to express our profound gratitude to all of those who have supported Amanda and our family. Countless people – from world-renowned DNA experts, to former FBI agents, to everyday citizens committed to justice – have spoken about her innocence," the Knox family said in a statement. "We are thrilled with and grateful for today's decision from the Supreme Court of Italy. And we are grateful beyond measure for all that so many of you have done for her."

Defense attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova said the verdict is the "best thing that could happen," ABC News reported.

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Knox, 27, and Sollecito, 31, were arrested following Kercher's death in October 2007. The pair, along with a third defendant, were convicted of killing Kercher and making it look like a botched burglary attempt. Prosecutors said sexual assault was also committed during the crime.

Knox's and Sollecito's convictions were overturned in 2011, but they were reconvicted in 2013 and sentenced to even longer prison terms of 28 years and 25 years, respectively.

Kercher was a roommate of Knox's at the time of the murder. Prosecutors and other officials have speculated about a motive from the start. Initially, prosecutors believed it was the result of a drug-fueled sex party gone wrong. Later, it was suggested that the two roommates did not get along and that animosity led to the murder. Sollecito, the argument went, was just backing up his girlfriend.


The high court heard summary arguments before issuing its determination Friday, when an attorney for Knox told reporters that the former exchange student sounded worried and stressed in a phone conversation prior to the new verdict. Another attorney had said Knox was waiting on "pins and needles."

In striking down the prior convictions, the judges effectively set Knox and Sollecito free for good.

Sollecito's attorneys argued he had nothing whatsoever to do with Kercher's death, and that he was simply caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of his attorneys likened him to the film character Forrest Gump, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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"He is a pure person involved in enormous things without realizing it," said attorney Giulia Bongiorno. "You know another person who was involved in spectacular things without realizing it? Forrest Gump."

Other than an outright acquittal, the Italian high court judges had a few options in the case. They could have upheld the guilty verdicts or they could have ordered the pair to be retried.

Sollecito, an Italian citizen, was present at the courthouse Friday but Knox was in Seattle, where she resides. Had the court upheld the prior convictions, Sollecito would have been rearrested and Knox likely would have been put through a complicated extradition process to return to Italy. She immediately left Italy and returned to the United States following her acquittal in 2011.


Bongiorno had argued Friday that much of the evidence used to convict Knox did not apply to Sollecito. And the evidence that did apply was highly suspect -- particularly a bra clasp belonging to Kercher that police said contained Sollecito's DNA. Defense attorneys, however, have criticized that piece of evidence, saying the clasp remained undiscovered in the victim's apartment for nearly 50 days -- during which time it could have been contaminated -- and Sollecito's DNA was not found on any other part of Kercher's bra.

"We are not throwing Knox overboard, but if the court wants to do that, Sollecito remains safe and dry," Bongiorno said.

The attorney also questioned how Knox could have been the murderer since none of the American student's DNA was found anywhere in Kercher's bedroom.

A third suspect, Rudy Guede, was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison before Knox and Sollecito were ever brought to trial. Defense attorneys argued that his quick trial has also unfairly affected their clients -- as his conviction, which was handed down as police were still processing much of the critical forensic evidence, was later used to influence the cases against Knox and Sollecito.


"This was a tragic cascade of errors," Bongiorno said.

Defense lawyers argued there were numerous inconsistencies in the official version of events. For example, Bongiorno said, a knife from Sollecito's apartment police believe was used to stab Kercher does not match the wounds on her body.

Also, the lawyer argued, it's highly unlikely Knox would have taken the knife from Sollecito's apartment, killed Kercher, and then returned it.

Knox, who last month announced she was engaged to be married, is now free to do as she wishes. Sollecito, who also is in another romantic relationship, is as well. Both had served about four years in prison before they were first acquitted.

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