The Seattle woman who had earlier been convicted and served prison time for the slaying of her roommate in 2007 was weeping and speechless, her attorney said, after Friday’s verdict declaring her innocent.
ROME — Italy’s highest court late Friday overturned the murder conviction against Amanda Knox, of Seattle, and her ex-boyfriend in the 2007 slaying of Knox’s roommate, ending the high-profile case that captivated trial-watchers on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Finished!” Knox’s lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova exulted after the decision was read out. “It couldn’t be better than this.”
In a rare decision, the Supreme Court of Cassation overturned last year’s convictions by a Florence appeals court and declined to order another trial. The judges declared that the two did not commit the crime, a stronger exoneration than merely finding that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict.
Amanda Knox spoke to media outside her mother’s West Seattle house around 8 p.m. Friday.
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“I am so grateful for the justice I have received. … I am so grateful to have my life back,” Knox said.
Surrounded by family members, Knox said she wasn’t yet sure about her future plans.
“I’m still absorbing what all this means,” she said.
Knox wouldn’t comment on who killed Meredith Kercher, but called the woman her friend.
“She deserved so much in this life,” Knox said.
Experts have said such a complete exoneration is unusual for the high court, which could have upheld the conviction or ordered a new trial as it did in 2013, when the case first came up to its review on appeal.
Gasps went up among spectators in the Rome courtroom where, after 10 hours of deliberation, the presiding judge, Gennaro Marasca, announced the decision. The justices’ reasoning will be released within 90 days.
The decision ends the long legal battle waged by Knox, now 27, and Italian co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, now 31, to clear their names in the death of British student Meredith Kercher after they spent nearly four years in prison immediately after the slaying, only to be freed when they were first acquitted in 2011.
The case aroused strong interest in three countries for its explosive mix of young love, murder and flip-flop decisions by Italian courts.
Across the Atlantic, a spontaneous shout of joy erupted from inside the West Seattle home of Knox’s mother as the verdict was announced. Several relatives and supporters filtered into the backyard, where they hugged and cheered.
Neighbors drove by and clapped as they passed the news cameras.
“I hope she has a wonderful life, because she’s been through hell,” neighbor Faith Beatty said from her car as she stopped to speak with journalists.
Dalla Vedova said he called Knox to tell her the news, but said she couldn’t speak through her tears.
“She was crying because she was so happy,” he said.
Kercher, 21, was found dead Nov. 2, 2007, in the apartment that she shared with Knox and two other students. Kercher’s throat was slashed and she had been sexually assaulted. At the time, both were exchange students in the Italian university town of Perugia: Knox from the University of Washington, Kercher from Leeds University.
The Kercher family attorney, Francesco Maresca, was clearly disappointed by the decision. “I think that it’s a defeat for the Italian justice system,” he said.
Kercher’s mother, Arline Kercher, told Britain’s Press Association news agency that she was “a bit surprised and very shocked.”
“They have been convicted twice, so it is a bit odd that it should change now,” she said.
Knox and Sollecito were arrested a few days after Kercher’s death. Eventually another man, Rudy Guede, from Ivory Coast, was arrested, tried and convicted of the murder in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence.
The couple maintained their innocence, insisting that they had spent the evening together at Sollecito’s place watching a movie, smoking marijuana and making love.
Knox and Sollecito were initially convicted by a Perugia court in 2009, then acquitted and freed in 2011, and then convicted again in 2014 in Florence after the Cassation court overturned the acquittals and ordered a new appeals trial.
That Florence appeals conviction was overturned Friday.
Knox had been convicted of slander for having falsely accused a Congolese man of the murder. That conviction was upheld by the high court Friday, but Knox has already served the three-year sentence in prison.
Sollecito’s lawyer, Luca Maori, called him with the good news from the steps of the courthouse.
“You have your whole life ahead of you now, Raf,” he told Sollecito.
Speaking to reporters, he added: “He almost couldn’t speak. Eight years of nightmare over.”