- (Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)
After a nearly yearlong appeal trial, an Italian court has acquitted American student Amanda Knox of the murder of Meredith Kercher, ordering her immediate release from jail.
The court announced at about 9:45 p.m. local time on Monday that Knox is not guilty of murder stating that DNA evidence was unreliable. The ruling did convict her of lesser defamation charges after she accused club owner Patrick Lumumba of killing British college student Meredith Kercher in 2007 in Perugia. However, Knox will be released immediately, as she has already served more than enough time for those charges in an Italian prison during her orginal trial and appeal.
The jury of six people and two judges deliberated together against the six counts against Knox. The presiding judge was able to cast two votes, thus the much-anticipated decision was based upon nine votes.
Hundreds of observers stood outside the courtroom in anticipation over the verdict.
Earlier today Knox pleaded with the Italian court for her freedom telling the jury, “I am not what they say, I am not a promiscuous vamp, I am not violent, I do not disrespect life, these things do not belong to me and I did not do what they’ve said I’ve done.”
She added, “I am paying with my life for things that I didn’t do.”
Knox had the last word in her appeals trial and some members of the jury wept openly during Knox’s statements.
Knox was convicted in 2009 for the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy.
Kercher’s half naked dead body was found in a pool of blood at the apartment the two students shared in November of 2007.
Knox along with her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Guede were all charged for the murder of Kercher in what was described by the prosecution as a drug-filled sex game gone wrong.
In the original trial, Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison for the murder of Kercher.
The key evidence was used to convict Knox stemmed from DNA tests that linked her to a knife that had Kercher’s DNA on the blade.
The prosecution also focused on Knox’s bizarre behavior following the murder of Kercher in which Knox originally blamed a bar owner for the murder and did cartwheels while being held at police headquarters for questioning.
Knox’s lawyers pleaded with the jury saying that she had been “crucified” by the media.
In the appeals case, Knox’s lawyers have focused largely on an independent forensic review that determined that the DNA that used to convict Knox was flawed and could have been contaminated.
Her lawyers urged the jury to set Knox free last week saying, “If you have any doubt about the DNA evidence, you must set her free.”
Kercher’s family on the other hand has been mostly absent at the appeals case but came to Perugia for the reading of the verdict.
The family has always maintained that the original murder trial and conviction of Knox was fair.
Kercher’s sister, Stephanie, told reporters prior to the reading of the verdict, “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.”