UPDATE 6:17 P.M. EDT: Knox is "overjoyed" that "the truth had won out," according to her spokesman. She and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, dodged 28 and 25-year sentences with the verdict handed down Friday.
An Italian appeals court overturned Friday night the murder conviction of American student Amanda Knox for the brutal killing of a British student found dead and sexually assaulted in the pair’s apartment in 2007, according to the Associated Press. Knox and her then-boyfriend, Italian Raffaele Sollecito, were sentenced to more than 25 years each for the killing of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher, which critics say was handed down by a flawed trial following a faulty investigation.
Knox, now 27 and living in Seattle, and Sollecito, spent four years in prison each following the conviction, but a second-level appeals court acquitted the pair and Knox was freed to return to the United States. Last year though, Italy’s highest court struck down that acquittal and ordered a retrial. They were again found guilty in January 2014 in a controversial ruling that in the U.S. could have been null under laws on double jeopardy.
BREAKING: Italy's highest court overturns Amanda Knox murder conviction, closing legal saga.
â€” The Associated Press (@AP) March 27, 2015
An Ivorian-Italian man, Rudy Guede, was also convicted of being an accomplice in Kercher’s murder; he is now serving 16 years. Prosecutors maintained that the three attacked Kercher, forcing her to have sex with Guede, then stabbing her and slitting her throat. They then faked a break-in by breaking a window in their home in Perugia, stealing Kircher’s two phones and some money, prosecutors said.
Knox was interrogated by police and her lawyer says she was coerced into offering conflicting statements. She originally said she had spent the night at Sollecito’s apartment, but later said she had returned to the apartment that night and heard Kercher screaming. Knox, who spoke little Italian, was provided a translator who her lawyers say misrepresented her words in a bid to paint her as complicit in the murder. Inconsistencies in both Sollecito and Knox’s statements, like Sollecito’s assertion that he wasn’t sure if Knox stayed all night with him on the night of the murder, cast doubt upon their claimed innocence.
The initial investigation was marred by the police’s failure to prevent a contamination of the crime scene and questionable admissions of DNA evidence that were inconsistent with most crime scenes. While Guede’s DNA was found on Kercher’s body, Knox and Sollecito’s was not, but prosecutors said the pair cleaned up the crime scene. A judge ruled in Guede’s trial that he could not have acted alone based on evidence at the crime scene and the manner of Kercher’s murder, according to Agence France-Presse.
Had the verdict been upheld, a complex legal and political battle would have ensued over her extradition from the U.S. to Italy. While the two countries have an extradition treaty, legal experts differed in their opinions on whether or not the U.S. would extradite Knox because of her public support and the possibility a retrial would be double jeopardy.