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Amanda Knox Wins Murder Appeal, Goes Free

Amanda Knox Goes Free in Meredith Kercher Murder
Amanda Knox
Stefano Medici/AP

updated 10/03/2011 AT 04:00 PM EDT

originally published 10/03/2011 AT 05:15 PM EDT

After always proclaiming her innocence, Amanda Knox finally is free.

Nearly two years after the University of Washington student – who had been studying in Perugia, Italy – was convicted of the brutal 2007 murder of her roommate, an appeals court overturned the most serious charges on Monday.

Knox, who had faced a sentence of 26 years in prison, sobbed as the decision was read and gasps could be heard in the courtroom.

"Silence, please!" the judge snapped. "Silence, please!"





Officers led the crying Knox out of the courtroom as friends, family and lawyers embraced and cheered. Outside the courthouse, a crowd chanted, "Shame! Shame!"

The two judges and six jurors upheld only one charge – defamation for her statements originally implicating another man in the murder. She'll get credit for time already served in prison.

She later was seen being driven out of the prison in a black Mercedes sedan with tinted windows.

Knox's former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 27, will also be released. He too had been convicted of the 2007 killing and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

A Personal Plea

Knox herself took to the stand Monday morning, to declare, "I did not kill." A major linchpin of her appeals trial stemmed from problems with the DNA evidence in the case.

An independent report by forensic experts questioned the validity of tests of blood samples on a 12-inch knife allegedly used to kill Meredith Kercher, 21, in what authorities called a sadistic sex game gone awry.

Prosecutors originally presented evidence that Knox's DNA was on the knife handle and the victim's on the blade. The court-appointed experts didn't question the finding of Knox's DNA, but raised questions about that of the DNA on the blade.

Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman in Perugia rejected a prosecution request to introduce new records on the original tests and to hear from a new witness, a ruling that hurt their case.

In their closing arguments, the prosecution urged the court not to release Knox and Sollecito, but rather to extend their sentences to life behind bars.

A Controversial Character

Knox – who dubbed herself "Foxy Knoxy" on her MySpace page – was viewed from shortly after the murder as a controversial character, and the bizarre sex- and drugs-saturated murder quickly made headlines worldwide.

Police, answering a routine call about missing cell phones placed by a neighbor, found Kercher's body Nov. 2, 2007, after forcing the locked door to her room.

Blood was everywhere. Kercher, lifeless on the floor under a duvet cover, had been raped and her throat cut – possibly, theorized police, resisting an "extreme" sex game.

During her appeals trial Knox was called "witch of deception" and "a satanic, diabolic she-devil given to borderline behavior" by Carlo Pacelli, an attorney for bar owner Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, whom Knox once accused of committing the murder.

Kercher's family also had a presence at the trial, and their lawyer showed dozens of autopsy photos showing extensive gashes and other bloody wounds.

But Knox had her defenders. She's "not bad, she's just drawn that way," attorney Giulia Bongiorno, Sollecito's lawyer, told the court.

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