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Prosecution to appeal, but Amanda Knox still free to go home

Amanda Knox will return to Seattle this week, after being acquitted of murder, but may be back due to a prosecution appeal.

Amanda Knox arrives in court in Perugia yesterday, before it acquitted her of the murder of student Meredith Kercher.
Amanda Knox arrives in court in Perugia yesterday, before it acquitted her of the murder of student Meredith Kercher.
Image: Antonio Calanni/AP

AMANDA KNOX has left prison, a free woman for the first time in four years, after an Italian appeals court yesterday threw out the young American’s murder conviction for the brutal stabbing death of her British roommate after a drug-fueled sexual assault.

Knox, 24, collapsed in tears after the verdict was read, a stunning reversal in a sensational saga that became a cause celebre in the US Her co-defendant and former boyfriend, Italian student Raffaele Sollecito, also was cleared of killing Kercher, 21, in 2007.

“We’re thankful that Amanda’s nightmare is over,” her younger sister, Deanna Knox, told reporters outside the courthouse. “She suffered for four years for a crime she did not commit.”

About 90 minutes after the verdict was handed down, a black Mercedes carrying Knox was seen leaving the prison. She was expected to board a commercial flight for home on Tuesday, reportedly shunning offers to take a corporate jet in exchange for rights to a TV interview

Prosecutors said they would appeal to the nation’s highest criminal court, the Court of Cassation, after reading the court’s reasoning, which will be published in the next 90 days.

“Tonight’s sentence is wrong and confounding,” prosecutor Giuliano Mignini told the ANSA news agency. “There is a heavy conviction for slander. Why did she accuse him? We don’t know.

“The Court of Cassation will establish who is right” between the lower court and the appeals court, he added. Mignini said there was “unprecedented media pressure,” revisiting a theme he touched on during his closing arguments.

In the meantime, nothing in Italian law prevents Knox from returning home to Seattle.

Discredited DNA

The fatal blow to the prosecution’s case was a court-ordered DNA review that discredited crucial genetic evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito in 2009. They were sentenced to 26 and 25 years, respectively.

While waves of relief swept through the defendants’ benches in the courtroom, members of the Kercher family, who flew in for the verdict, appeared dazed and perplexed. Meredith’s older sister, Stephanie, shed a tear, and her mother, Arline, looked straight ahead.

“We respect the decision of the judges but we do not understand how the decision of the first trial could be so radically overturned,” the Kerchers said in a statement. “We still trust the Italian justice system and hope that the truth will eventually emerge.”

The Kerchers had pressed for the court to uphold the guilty verdicts, and resisted theories that a third man convicted in the case, Rudy Hermann Guede, had acted alone. Guede, convicted in a separate trial, is serving a 16-year sentence.

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There were two options to acquit: that there wasn’t enough evidence to uphold the conviction or that the pair simply didn’t commit the crime. The eight-member jury determined the latter, clearing Knox and Sollecito completely.

The verdict reverberated through the streets of this medieval hilltop town, where both Knox and Kercher had arrived with so much anticipation for overseas studies programs four years ago.

“The appeals Court of Perugia … orders the immediate release of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito,” Presiding Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann read.

The jury upheld Knox’s conviction on a charge of slander for accusing bar owner Diya “Patrick” Lumumba of carrying out the killing. But it set the sentence at three years, amounting to time served. Knox has been in prison since Nov. 6, 2007, five days after the murder.

After the verdict, Knox dropped her head in sobs and had to be propped up by lawyers on both sides of her.

WATCH: Amanda Knox wins appeal and is free to go >

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Gavan Reilly

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