Continued from page 1

The jury upheld Knox’s conviction on a charge of slander for accusing bar owner Diya “Patrick” Lumumba of carrying out the killing. But it set the sentence at three years, amounting to time served. Knox has been in prison since Nov. 6, 2007, five days after the murder.

After the verdict, Knox dropped her head in sobs and had to be propped up by lawyers on both sides of her.

Prosecutors said they would appeal to the nation’s highest criminal court, the Court of Cassation, after reading the court’s reasoning, due out within 90 days.

“Tonight’s sentence is wrong and confounding,” prosecutor Giuliano Mignini told the ANSA news agency. “There is a heavy conviction for slander. Why did she accuse him? We don’t know.”

“The Court of Cassation will establish who is right” between the lower court and the appeals court, he added. Mignini said there was “unprecedented media pressure,” revisiting a theme he touched on during his closing arguments.

In the meantime, nothing in Italian law prevents Knox from returning home to Seattle.

At a news conference earlier in the day, the Kerchers expressed hope that the jury would deliberate without considering the intense media coverage of the case.

Stephanie Kercher lamented that her sister “has been nearly forgotten” as attention shifted to Knox and her appeal. “We want to keep her memory alive,” the sister said before the verdict.

The trial captivated audiences worldwide. Knox and Sollecito, who had just begun dating, were convicted of murdering Kercher in what the lower court said had begun as a drug-fueled sexual assault.

Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito charged that Guede was the sole killer, but the prosecution and a lawyer for the Kercher family said bruises and a lack of defensive wounds on Kercher’s body prove there was more than one aggressor holding her down.

After the verdict, the U.S. State Department said it appreciated the “careful consideration” the Italian justice system gave to the case. “Our embassy in Rome will continue to provide appropriate consular assistance to Ms. Knox and her family,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

In Seattle, about a dozen supporters began hugging each other at a downtown hotel suite.

“She’s free!” and “We did it!” they shouted after they watched the court proceedings on TV.

Supporters also expressed sympathy for the Kercher family.

“This is primarily a sad occasion,” said Tom Wright, one of the main organizers of the Friends of Amanda group, after the verdict. “They lost their daughter. We’ll keep them in our prayers.”

Story Continues →