Going home: Amanda Knox heads back to the U.S. as murder conviction is quashed after four year Italian ordeal

Monday, October 3, 2011

-Knox seen being driven away from prison after four years behind bars
-Co-defendant and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito also freed on appeal
-Sister praises worldwide support and Italian lawyers who 'loved her'
-Knox found guilty of slander but walks free because of time served
-Fury in Italy as verdict sparks near riot outside court

By Nick Pisa, David Jones and Paul Bentley

Going home: Knox is driven away from prison after serving four years for murder

Amanda Knox was on her way back to the U.S. this evening after an appeal court sensationally cleared her of murdering Meredith Kercher.

Staring ahead towards a lucrative future of million-dollar TV and book deals, Knox was spotted being driven away from Capanne Prison outside Perugia, four years after she was convicted of murder.

Earlier her family had whooped and hugged in court as an Italian judge told her the prosecution had failed to prove she and her boyfriend killed the 21-year-old British student.

Free: Amanda Knox leaves Perugia's court in a car after hearing the verdict overturning her murder conviction

There were screams in court as Knox burst into tears and hugged her parents Curt and Edda Mellas - as just feet away the family of Meredith Kercher could only look on in amazement.

Meanwhile, as the 24-year-old was escorted away a near riot erupted on the streets outside the courthouse in Perugia.

Her victorious defence team were surrounded by the mob who yelled: ‘Shame!

Assassins! Justice has been sold down the river!’ Hundreds had gathered to await the verdict, the majority convinced she and Raffaele Sollecito, 27, were guilty.

Cleared: Amanda Knox bursts into tears after she was sensationally cleared of the murder of Meredith Kercher

Life-changing: Knox has already served four years in prison for the murder of Meredith Kercher

Overwhelmed: Knox is dragged away in tears after the sensational appeal verdict

Referring to reports that Knox would be whisked to America by a TV network offering $1million for her story, they shouted: ‘Jump on your private plane and go home!’

The American has served four years of a 26-year prison sentence after being found guilty in 2009 of the brutal sex murder of Meredith, 21, who was found semi naked with her throat cut in her bedroom of the house she shared in Perugia, Italy.

As the incredible scenes unfolded, Meredith’s stunned mother, Arline and her elder sister Stephanie remained in court, staring stonily ahead and seemingly unable to comprehend that the woman they are convinced is a cold-blooded killer had been released.

But Knox’s triumphant sister Deanna, 22, stood amid the baying crowd and said: ‘We are thankful that the nightmare is over. She suffered for four years for a crime she did not commit.’

She also thanked the thousands who had supported Knox’s freedom campaign on websites and blogs, waging a vicious war of words with those who believe her guilty.

It was an extraordinary climax to a case that has bitterly divided opinion from the outset – some compared yesterday’s ugly scenes to those seen during the witch trials in Perugia in medieval times.

Knox was photographed this evening, being driven out of the gates of Capanne Prison outside of Perugia.

She is expected to fly back to her family home in Seattle immediately.

At her original trial in December 2009, Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, 27, her ex-lover, were found guilty of murdering and sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively.

Computer studies graduate Sollecito was also freed today by the eight member jury after 11-hours of deliberations.

Overcome: Amanda Knox's mother Edda Mellas was very emotional after the verdict

Relieved: Amanda Knox's sister Deanna Knox, right, and Italian lawyer Maria Del Grosso moments after the verdict at Perugia's Court of Appeal

Amid the chaos Knox was actually found guilty of slandering bar owner Diya 'Patrick' Lumumba who she accused of carrying out the killing. She was sentenced to three years in jail - but as she had already served four years she was freed immediately.

Knox who had arrived to the hearing looking breathless and pale seemed to struggle to her feet as she was quickly led from the court room by Italian officials.

She is now looking at the possibility of a swift return to America - possibly on a private jet provided by a television network - and a huge payday.

Speaking outside the court following the verdict, Knox's sister Deanna said: 'We are thankful that the nightmare is over. She suffered for four years for a crime she did not commit.'

Knox also thanked the Italian lawyers who had conducted the case and who 'loved her'.

Led away: Raffaele Sollecito smiles as he is taken from the court by an Italian police officer after the verdict

Thankful: Deanna Knox speaks outside the court in Perugia, where she thanked her sister's supporters and the Italian lawyers

Overjoyed: Around a dozen Knox supporters shouted 'She's free!' and 'We did it!' as they watched proceedings from a hotel in Seattle

Shocked: Members of the Knox family including her father (in the blue shirt) and sister (centre) react following the judge's decision

'We are thankful for the support from all over the world, people who took the time and trouble to research the case and knew that she was innocent.

Tearful: Meredith's sister Stephanie Kercher wipes away a tear following the news that Knox and Sollecito had been freed

Distraught: Meredith Kercher's mother, Arline, (centre) and sister Stephanie (right) arrive at Perugia's court for the announcement of the verdict

Crowded: Hundreds of people gathered outside the court room with some chanting 'shame on you' at the Italian lawyers

The team was seen picking up the clasp with dirty gloves – instead of tweezers – and then placing it in a plastic bag when the recognized international procedure is a paper one.

They were then seen handing it to each other from glove to glove, placing it back on the floor in a different place from where it was found and then picking it up again.

Professors Conti and Vecchiotti said that this also made it highly likely that it had been contaminated and then they also revealed how they had been unable to retest the clasp because it had rotted away after being wrongly kept in the forensic lab in Rome.

Final plea: Both Sollecito and Knox made impassioned statements to the court this morning before the verdict was announced

Grief: Stephanie Kercher, pictured with mother Arline at a press conference this afternoon, said the family were struggling to keep sister Meredith's memory alive during the 10-month appeal

Elated: Knox's parents Curt and Edda, pictured at an earlier hearing, were ecstatic after the verdict was read out in court

Prosecutors lame arguments that the experts had no professional experience and that their findings were unqualified and unreliable, were ignored by the judge and jury.

Today prosecutors said they would appeal the decision and take the case to the Supreme Court in Rome but in the meantime Knox and Sollecito will be free and they do not even have to show up for the case.

The Supreme Court judges will simply examine all the documentary evidence and see if there is a valid point of law which can be used to overturn the appeal court’s ruling.

Media scrum: Journalists, photographers and camera crews flooded the court room during the appeal sessions earlier today ahead of the verdict

Hopes: Supporters of Amanda Knox hold an overnight vigil on the eve of the appeal verdict

Media circus: Satellite TV vans parked outside the court in Perugia. The case has generated massive public attention

If they do not find any cause then the decision to release her will be confirmed while if they do find a justifiable reason then the case will be sent for a fresh trial leaving open the possibility of an extradition request from Italy for Knox.

Meredith, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was in Perugia as part of her Leeds University course and had only been in Italy for two months before she was killed in November 2007.

Initially prosecutor Mignini had described the murder as a Satanic ritual but his bizarre theory changed several times from a sex game gone wrong, botched break in or a jealous row.

Eventually in closing arguments he stuck simply to the all encompassing view that it was a 'senseless killing, without a motive' and which had led to him asking for the maximum life penalty.

Questions about the reliability of the verdict were raised during the original trial with many agreeing that the case would not have even come to court in Britain as it was based on half baked theories and a clearly botched investigation.

Mignini himself prosecuted the case despite the fact he was convicted last year of abuse of office after it emerged that he had illegally wiretapped journalists and police officers while investigating the 'Monster of Florence' serial killer.

He was given a 16-month jail sentence but as he is appealing he was still allowed to continue and tonight/last night there were reports that the Ministry of Justice in Rome was to investigate the whole case.

Evidence: DNA found at the scene was called into question during the hearing

Brutal killing: A bedroom in the home Meredith shared with Knox in Perugia. Her blood-soaked body was found on the floor in her own room

source: dailymail

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