Amanda Knox sobbed as a judge read out a verdict
Monday in a Perugia court, overturning the 2009 murder convictions of
the US student and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, for the
slaying of Briton Meredith Kercher.
Presiding Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman ordered that Knox and Sollecito be freed immediately.
Prosecutors had demanded life sentences for both Knox and Sollecito.
One of Knox's lawyers Carlo Dalla Vedova said his client had reacted to her acquittal with a "liberating cry."
"This trial will mark (Amanda) forever, but she is now a free girl and has a great will to live," Dalla Vedova said.
"Tonight the court has returned my son to me," said Sollecito's father, Francesco.
The verdict was greeted with several cheers in the courthouse, but several shouts of "vergogna! (shame!) went up from a crowd waiting outside.
Public opinion was split over the case, with many in the US favouring the duo's innocence. In Italy, and to a lesser extent Britain, many believed in their guilt.
On November 2, 2007, Kercher, 21, was found half-naked, with her throat cut, in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia.
Knox and Sollecito received jail sentences of 26 and 25 years, respectively.
Knox received one more year than her former boyfriend after she was found guilty on defamation charges stemming from her claim, later proven false, that a Congolese pub owner, Patrick Lumumba, had killed Kercher.
Knox said she had implicated Lumumba after being pressured to do so while being interrogated by police.
On Monday, the court upheld Knox's conviction for defamation but increased the sentence to 3 years. However, considering the almost four years already served by Knox in prison, the court ordered that she be freed.
In the appeals trial, lawyers for Knox and Sollecito centred their case on disputed DNA evidence used by prosecutors to link the pair to the murder.
In June, independent forensic experts cast doubts on the validity of the traces of DNA from Knox and Sollecito, taken from the knife believed to have been used in the killing and from a metal clasp from Kercher's bra.
A third person convicted of killing Kercher, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede, who had opted for a separate, fast-track trial, was sentenced in 2008 to 30 years in prison.
His sentence was subsequently reduced on appeal to 16 years.
Guede denies any wrongdoing but has admitted he was in the Perugia house the night Kercher was killed. He has said he saw Knox and Sollecito in the house, which the two deny.
The trial in Perugia, a picturesque and normally tranquil central Italian university town, has attracted huge international media attention, particularly from the United States and Britain.
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