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Amanda Knox freed

AP

Monday, October 03, 2011 | 3:14 PM    

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AN Italian appeals court has thrown out Amanda Knox's murder conviction and ordered the young American free after nearly four years in prison for the death of her British roommate.

Twenty-four-year-old Knox collapsed in tears after the verdict was read out in Perugia, Italy.

Her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, joined her in having their convictions for the murder of UK student Meredith Kercher overturned.

Kercher, 21, from Coulsdon, south London, was murdered in November 2007.

Knox and Sollecito were found guilty of murder and sexual violence in 2009.

One charge against Knox was upheld, but as she's already served her time in prison, it means she and Sollecito will be freed straight away.

The Kercher family looked on grimly as the verdict was read out by the judge after 11 hours of deliberations by the eight-member jury. Outside the courthouse, some of the hundreds of observers shouted "Shame, shame!"

Amanda Knox tearfully told an Italian appeals overnight she did not kill her British roommate, pleading for the jury to free her so she can return to the United States after four years behind bars. Moments later, the court began deliberations.

On the final day of her appeal trial, Knox frequently paused for breath and fought back tears as she spoke in Italian to the eight members of the jury in a packed courtroom, but managed to maintain her composure during the 10-minute address.

"I've lost a friend in the worst, most brutal, most inexplicable way possible," she said of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old Briton who shared an apartment with Knox when they were both students in Perugia. "I'm paying with my life for things that I didn't do."

Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, Knox's former boyfriend from Italy, were convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher, who was stabbed to death in her bedroom. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, Sollecito to 25. They both denied wrongdoing.

"I never hurt anyone, never in my life," Sollecito said in his own speech to the jury.

The trial captivated audiences worldwide: Knox, the 24-year-old American, and Sollecito, a soft-spoken Italian, were convicted of murdering a fellow student in what the lower court said had begun as a drug-fuelled sexual assault.

Knox insisted today that she had nothing to do with the murder and that Kercher was a friend who was always nice to her.

Also convicted in separate proceedings was Rudy Hermann Guede, a small-time drug dealer and drifter who spent most of his life in Italy after arriving there from his native Ivory Coast. Guede was convicted in a separate fast-track procedure and saw his sentence cut to 16 years in his final appeal.

Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito believe Guede was the sole killer, but the prosecution and a lawyer for the Kercher family say that bruises and a lack of defensive wounds on Kercher's body proved that there was more than one aggressor holding her into submission.

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