By Eric Lyman and William M. Welch, USA TODAY
October 4, 2011
PERUGIA, Italy – Amanda Knox headed home to the United States on Tuesday a free woman for now, but an Italian prosecutor vowed to appeal the dramatic verdict overturning the murder conviction that kept the American student locked up for almost four years.
Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini expressed disbelief in Monday’s verdict by an appeals court , and vowed to take it to Italy’s highest criminal court.
“Let’s wait and we will see who was right. The first court or the appeal court,” Mignini said Tuesday.
The court did uphold Knox’s conviction for slander for accusing bar owner Diya “Patrick” Lumumba of carrying out the killing of her roommate in 2007. But the three-year sentence translated to time served — Knox has been in prison since Nov. 6, 2007.
Hometown supporters of Knox in Seattle were all smiles when the appeals court decision was announced.
“It’s unreal,” John Lange, Knox’s former teacher, said as the verdict was read. He and a dozen or so friends and supporters of Knox gathered at the Fairmont Hotel to watch TV coverage of the court proceedings in Perugia, Italy.
In the courtroom, Knox, 24, collapsed in tears after the verdict overturning her conviction in 2009 was announced, and her parents cried with joy. Her co-defendant and former boyfriend, Italian Raffaele Sollecito, also was cleared of killing Knox’s British roommate, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. The two shared an apartment while they were students in Perugia.
Earlier, Knox had fought back tears as she spoke in Italian to the eight members of the jury in pleading for her freedom. “I’ve lost a friend in the worst, most brutal, most inexplicable way possible,” she said. “I’m paying with my life for things that I didn’t do.”
The case was the subject of lurid headlines alleging “Foxy Knoxy” and Sollecito had stabbed Kercher to death in a sexual game. The victim’s family watched grimly, and outside the courthouse, some observers shouted, “Shame, shame.”
Anthony Holt, 21, a Perugia University student from Los Angeles, said there was no cheering among Knox’s supporters there, only relief. “The students were definitely split about evenly on innocence or guilt,” Holt said. “Nobody here knew any of them because we all arrived since then.” Antonio Buccia, 19, a student from Rome, said: “I just didn’t feel she was capable of something like that. I’m glad she’s free.”
Friends maintained support for Knox with websites and an Internet forum, “Injustice in Perugia.” Celebratory comments filled those sites.
The family of slain British student Meredith Kercher remained stunned by the verdict and searching for answers.
“It was a bit of a shock,” said Stephanie Kercher, the victim’s older sister. “It’s very upsetting. … We still have no answers.”
Lyle Kercher, a brother, said the family is still trying to understand how a decision that “was so certain two years ago has been so dramatically overturned.”
Lyle Kercher said the family has been left to wonder who is guilty in the 21-year-old Kercher’s death after the release of Knox and Sollecito . A third man has been convicted in the brutal slaying, however his trial concluded he did not act alone.
Contributing: Byron Acohido in Seattle; Associated Press