By ALESSANDRA RIZZO and COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press
PERUGIA, Italy (AP) _ An Italian appeals court threw out Amanda Knox’s murder conviction Monday and ordered the young American freed after nearly four years in prison for the death of her British roommate.
Knox collapsed in tears after the verdict overturning her 2009 conviction was read out. Her co-defendant, Italian Raffaele Sollecito, also was cleared of killing 21-year-old Meredith Kercher in 2007.
The Kercher family looked on grimly and a bit dazed 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!”
Yet inside the frescoed courtroom, Knox’s parents, who have regularly traveled from their home in Seattle to Perugia to visit the 24-year-old over the past four years, hugged their lawyers and cried with joy.
“We’ve been waiting for this for four years,” said one of Sollecito’s lawyers, Giulia Bongiorno.
The judge upheld Knox’s conviction on a charge of slander for accusing bar owner Diya “Patrick” Lumumba of carrying out the killing. He set the sentence at three years, meaning for time served. Knox has been in prison since Nov. 6, 2007.
Prosecutors can appeal the acquittal to Italy’s highest court. There was no word late Monday if they planned to do so.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)