American college student Amanda Knox was found guilty of murdering her British roommate and sentenced to 26 years in prison early today after a year-long trial that gripped Italy and drew intense media attention. Her co-defendant, former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years. The two also were found guilty of sexual assault in the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old student from England.
"No, no," Knox said, bursting into tears and clinging to one of her lawyers as the judge read the verdict just after midnight following 13 hours of deliberations. Minutes later, the 22-year-old Knox, who is from Seattle, and the 25-year-old Sollecito were put in police vans with sirens blaring and driven back to jail. Prosecutors had sought life imprisonment, Italy's stiffest sentence. Courts can give less severe punishment than what prosecutors demand.
The American's father, Curt Knox, asked if he would fight on for his daughter, replied, with tears in his eyes: "Hell, yes." "This is just wrong," her stepmother, Cassandra Knox, said, turning around immediately after hearing the verdict. Her family had insisted she was innocent and a victim of character assassination. The family said later in a statement they would appeal the ruling. One of Knox's attorneys, Luciano Ghirga, was asked if she was distraught. "Yes, I challenge anyone not to be," he replied.
Silence fell on the packed and tense courtroom as the jurors walked in. Kercher's mother and sister cried at the verdict. "The sentence is fair and satisfactory for the family," said their lawyer, Francesco Maresca. "It was a heartfelt sentence. There is deep suffering on all sides." A juror, a woman, also looked like she was crying after the verdict. A group of local youths who gathered outside the courthouse shouted insults and "assassin" at the Knox family as they walked in to hear the verdict.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors depicted Knox as a promiscuous and manipulative she-devil whose personality clashed with her roommates. They say Knox had grown to hate Kercher. Prosecutors argued that on the night of the murder, Knox and Sollecito met at the apartment where Kercher and Knox lived. They say a fourth person was there, Rudy Hermann Guede, an Ivory Coast citizen who has been convicted of involvement in the murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guede, who is appealing his conviction, says he was in the house the night of the murder but did not kill Kercher. Knox also was convicted of defaming a man she had originally implicated in the case. After the murder, Knox told investigators she was home and had to cover her ears to block out Kercher's screams. She accused a Congolese man, Patrick Diya Lumumba, of the killing. Lumumba, who owns a pub in Perugia where Knox worked, was jailed briefly but was later cleared. Knox said during the trial that police pressure led her to initially accuse an innocent man. *AP