Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned by Italy high court

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Amanda Knox's Conviction Overturned by Italy's Highest Court

ROME (AP) - Italy's highest court overturned the murder conviction against Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Friday over the 2007 slaying of Knox's roommate, bringing to a definitive end 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 late Friday. "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.

In a statement issued from her home in Seattle, Knox said she was "relieved and grateful" for the decision.

"The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal," she said, thanking her supporters for believing in her.

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Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned by Italy high court
Amanda Knox's Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, left, is chased by media as he arrives at Italy's highest court building, in Rome, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. American Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend expect to learn their fate Wednesday when Italy's highest court hears their appeal of their guilty verdicts in the brutal 2007 murder of Knox's British roommate. Several outcomes are possible, including confirmation of the verdicts, a new appeals round, or even a ruling that amounts to an acquittal in the sensational case that has captivated audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Raffaele Sollecito's lawyer Giulia Bongiorno speaks to journalists as she arrives on March 25, 2015 at the Rome's Supreme Court for the reviewing of Sollecito's trial. The court will examine the verdict that found Raffaele Sollecito and his former lover American Amanda Knox guilty of killing British student Meredith Kercher in the Italian university town of Perugia in 2007, in a case that has captivated the world with its sub-texts of drugs, alleged sexual debauchery and police bungling. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
Amanda Knox puts her hand to her forehead while making a television appearance, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 in New York. Knox said she will fight the reinstated guilty verdict against her and an ex-boyfriend in the 2007 slaying of a British roommate in Italy and vowed to "never go willingly" to face her fate in that country's judicial system . "I'm going to fight this to the very end," she said in an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC's "Good Morning America." (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Appeals Court Judge Alessandro Nencini, center, reads out the verdict for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, in Florence, Italy, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. An appeals court in Florence upheld the convictions of U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition. After nearly 12 hours of deliberation Thursday the court reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down against Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009. (AP Photo/Fabrizio Giovannozzi)
Appeals Court Judge Alessandro Nencini, center, reads out the verdict for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, in Florence, Italy, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. An appeals court in Florence upheld the convictions of U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition. After nearly 12 hours of deliberation Thursday the court reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down against Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009. Writing above reads in Italian "The Law is Equal for All." (AP Photo/Fabrizio Giovannozzi)
Stephanie Kercher (L), sister of Meredith Kercher, and her brother Lyle hold a press conference in a hotel in central Florence on January 31, 2014. A court in Florence on January 30 sentenced US student Amanda Knox to 28 years and six months in prison for the murder of her British housemate in 2007 in the latest dramatic twist in the high-profile case. The court, after 12 hours of deliberations, also found Knox's former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito guilty for killing Meredith Kercher in the university town of Perugia and sentenced him to 25 years. Knox and Sollecito were first convicted of the murder in 2009, then acquitted in 2011 on appeal. An extradition procedure for Knox can only be launched following a definitive ruling from the supreme court, which could take months or years. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman believed to be Amanda Knox, center left, is hidden under a jacket while being escorted from her mother's home to a car by family members Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Seattle. Amanda Knox says she is frightened and saddened by her "unjust" murder conviction in the death of her British roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox's lawyers have vowed to appeal to Italy's highest court. In a statement issued from Seattle on Thursday after her conviction was upheld, Knox blamed overzealous prosecutors and a "prejudiced and narrow-minded investigation" for what she called a perversion of justice and wrongful conviction. (AP Photo)
ADDS STATEMENT FROM KNOX SPOKESMAN DAVID MARRIOTT-An unidentified woman, center, is hidden under a jacket while being escorted from the home of Amanda Knox's mother, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Seattle.  Knox?s family spokesman, David Marriott, said Thursday that Knox was at the house when an Italian court upholding her murder conviction was read Thursday, but said he didn?t know whether the person who emerged was Knox. On Friday, Marriott stated he had made inquiries and that the person under the jacket wasn?t Knox. (AP Photo)
ADDS STATEMENT FROM KNOX SPOKESMAN DAVID MARRIOTT-An unidentified woman, center, is hidden under a jacket while being escorted from the home of Amanda Knox's mother, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Seattle.  Knox?s family spokesman, David Marriott, said Thursday that Knox was at the house when an Italian court upholding her murder conviction was read Thursday, but said he didn?t know whether the person who emerged was Knox. On Friday, Marriott stated he had made inquiries and that the person under the jacket wasn?t Knox. (AP Photo)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - During an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts, Amanda Knox vowed to fight murder conviction, on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, 1/31/14, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) ROBIN ROBERTS, AMANDA KNOX
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - During an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts, Amanda Knox vowed to fight murder conviction, on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, 1/31/14, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) ROBIN ROBERTS, AMANDA KNOX
This image released by NBC shows Amanda Knox during an interview on the "Today" show, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 in New York. Knox defended her decision not to return to Italy for a new appeals trial over the 2007 killing of her British roommate, even as she acknowledged that "everything is at stake," insisting she is innocent. In March, Italy's supreme court ordered a new trial for Knox and her former Italian boyfriend. An appeals court in 2011 had acquitted both, overturning convictions by a lower court. Italian law cannot compel Knox to return for the new legal proceeding. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)
Meredith Kercher's brother Lyle, left, and sister Stephanie wait for the reading of the verdict for the murder of the British student in Florence, Italy, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. An appeals court in Florence upheld the convictions of U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition. After nearly 12 hours of deliberation Thursday the court reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down against Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009. (AP Photo/Fabrizio Giovannozzi)
Appeals Court Judge Alessandro Nencini, center, reads out the verdict for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, in Florence, Italy, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. An appeals court in Florence upheld the convictions of U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition. After nearly 12 hours of deliberation Thursday the court reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down against Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009. Writing above reads in Italian "The Law is Equal for All." (AP Photo/Fabrizio Giovannozzi)
Francesco Maresca, lawyer of Kercher family, right, caresses his assistant, left, as Meredith Kercher's brother Lyle, center right, and sister Stephanie talk after the reading of the verdict for the murder of the British student, in Florence, Italy, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. An appeals court in Florence upheld the convictions of U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition. After nearly 12 hours of deliberation Thursday the court reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down against Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni )
Meredith Kercher's brother Lyle, left, and sister Stephanie share a word after the Appeals Court Judge Alessandro Nencini, read out the verdict for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, in Florence, Italy, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. An appeals court in Florence upheld the convictions of U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition. After nearly 12 hours of deliberation Thursday the court reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down against Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni )
This image released by NBC shows Amanda Knox during an interview on the "Today" show, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 in New York. Knox defended her decision not to return to Italy for a new appeals trial over the 2007 killing of her British roommate, even as she acknowledged that "everything is at stake," insisting she is innocent. In March, Italy's supreme court ordered a new trial for Knox and her former Italian boyfriend. An appeals court in 2011 had acquitted both, overturning convictions by a lower court. Italian law cannot compel Knox to return for the new legal proceeding. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)
This image released by NBC shows Amanda Knox, right, during an interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 in New York. Knox defended her decision not to return to Italy for a new appeals trial over the 2007 killing of her British roommate, even as she acknowledged that "everything is at stake," insisting she is innocent. In March, Italy's supreme court ordered a new trial for Knox and her former Italian boyfriend. An appeals court in 2011 had acquitted both, overturning convictions by a lower court. Italian law cannot compel Knox to return for the new legal proceeding. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)
This April 9, 2013 photo released by ABC shows Amanda Knox, left, speaking during a taped interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer in New York. In March, Italy's highest criminal court overturned Knox's acquittal in the 2007 murder of a British student and ordered a new trial. The interview aired Tuesday, April 30, coinciding with the release of her memoir, "Waiting to Be Heard." (AP Photo/ABC, Ida Mae Astute)
Amanda Knox motions to cheering supporters as her mother, Edda Mellas, looks on at a news conference shortly after her arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, in Seattle. It's been four years since the University of Washington student left for the study abroad program in Perugia and landed in prison. The group Friends of Amanda Knox and others have been awaiting her return since an Italian appeals court on Monday overturned her conviction of sexually assaulting and killing her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Amanda Knox, right, is cheered by family friend Dave Marriott as she arrives for a news conference shortly after her arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, in Seattle. It's been four years since the University of Washington student left for the study abroad program in Perugia and landed in prison. The group Friends of Amanda Knox and others have been awaiting her return since an Italian appeals court on Monday overturned her conviction of sexually assaulting and killing her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Amanda Knox gestures at a news conference in Seattle Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, after returning home from Italy. Knox was freed Monday after an Italian appeals court threw out her murder conviction for the death of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Amanda Knox breaks in tears as she is taken away after hearing the verdict that overturns her conviction and acquits her of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher, at the Perugia court, central Italy, Monday, Oct. 3, 2011. 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. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)
A woman believed to be Amanda Knox, center left, is hidden under a jacket while being escorted from her mother's home to a car by family members Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Seattle. Amanda Knox says she is frightened and saddened by her "unjust" murder conviction in the death of her British roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox's lawyers have vowed to appeal to Italy's highest court. In a statement issued from Seattle on Thursday after her conviction was upheld, Knox blamed overzealous prosecutors and a "prejudiced and narrow-minded investigation" for what she called a perversion of justice and wrongful conviction. (AP Photo)
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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 2011 when the case first came up to its review on appeal.

The justices' reasoning will be released within 90 days.

The decision ends the long legal battle waged by Knox and Italian co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito to clear their names in the death of British student Meredith Kercher, after they spent nearly four years in prison immediately after the murder.

The Kercher family attorney, Francesco Maresca, was clearly disappointed by the ruling.

"I think that it's a defeat for the Italian justice system," he said.

Across the Atlantic, a spontaneous shout of joy erupted from inside the Seattle home of Knox's mother as the verdict was announced. Several relatives and supporters filtered into the back yard, where they hugged and cheered.

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.

The case aroused strong interest in three countries for its explosive mix of young love, murder and flip-flop decisions by Italian courts.

Kercher, 21, was found dead Nov. 2, 2007, in the apartment that she shared with Knox and two other students. Her throat was slashed and she had been sexually assaulted.

Knox and Sollecito were arrested a few days later. 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 the young man 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."

___

AP television producer Paolo Santalucia contributed.
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