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Amanda Knox finally gets to come home. On Oct. 3 in Perugia, Italy, Knox won her appeal hearing and was found not guilty of the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. Knox has already served four years in Italian jail for the murder, after being found guilty in a 2009 trial. Now that verdict is overturned, the 24-year-old American can return to the United States with her family.
Knox sobbed as the decision was read, while others present in the courtroom gasped and the judge screamed, "Silence, please!" As officers led a still-crying Knox from the room, her family, friends and lawyers tearily embraced. But outside the court, on the streets of Perugia, the mood was quite different: A crowd, clearly displeased with the verdict, chanted "Shame!" over and over.
From the beginning, the Amanda Knox case was a tabloid sensation, due to the sordid nature of the crime and the defendant's good looks. Knox, a University of Washington student studying abroad in Italy, and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were accused of stabbing her friend Kercher in a sex game gone wrong -- and, in 2009, were found guilty of the murder. Knox and Sollecito have always contended that they were not present during the murder, but nonetheless were sentenced to 26 and 25 years, respectively; a third defendant, Italian citizen Rudy Guede, was also found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Over the years, the case has raised many questions about the Italian legal system, with the original Knox verdict being called a great miscarriage of justice. One issue is the exposure of jurors to the media. Unlike the American system, Italian juries are not sequestered from the opinions of the outside world, meaning that they could easily have been influenced by the unfounded gossip and salacious TV specials that swirled around the case.
It's this issue that led TIME magazine to refer to the Knox case as "Trial By Tabloid." (The tabloids dubbed the defendant "Foxy Knoxy" and generally portrayed her as a scheming, promiscuous wild child.)
Another concern, which factored prominently into the appeals trial, was shaky DNA evidence. The prosecution's key pieces of evidence were a knife and bra clasp that were allegedly marked with Kercher's blood and Knox's DNA. However, an independent report by forensic experts concluded that police had mishandled the evidence and failed to follow proper forensic procedures.
There were also questions about the police interrogation of Knox. Knox was initially interviewed in Italian, which she had been studying for only two months, without a translator. She has claimed that she was "brainwashed" and tricked into making incriminating statements during an intense four days of police questioning. Knox also told the jury that police had denied her food and water, didn't allow her to go to the bathroom and hit her during the interrogation -- twice.
Although Knox had no clear motive for murder, she also didn't have a verifiable alibi, and at one point fingered an innocent man, bartender Patrick Lumumba, for the murder. (Though she was cleared of the murder charge, she was found guilty of slandering Lumumba and ordered to pay him damages.) But she always maintained her own innocence -- right up to this afternoon, when she gave her own closing argument.
"I am paying for my life for something I haven't done. I lost a friend in the worst and most inexplicable way," Knox told the court. "I'm not the person they've portrayed me to be. They say I will escape. I won't escape. I just want to go home. I'm innocent and we didn't do it."
The prosecution is expected to take the case to the Italian supreme court. But for now, at least, Amanda Knox is a free woman.