Continued from page 1

To Knox, the verdict means freedom after four years behind bars and under the spotlight of an international press focused on her every word or gesture. The case has been a cause celebre in the U.S., and a staple of British tabloids, which took to calling her “Foxy Knoxy.”

“FREE,” said local newspaper La Nazione on its front page, dominated by a huge photo of a crying Knox, overwhelmed by emotions as the verdict was read out Monday night in a packed courtroom in Perugia.

Prosecutors announced they are appealing the innocent verdicts of Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, to Italy’s highest court.

Kerchner’s family said during an emotional news conference Monday that they were back to “square one.”

“If those two are not the guilty parties, then who are the guilty people?” asked Lyle Kercher, a brother of the victim.

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini expressed disbelief at the verdict and said he will appeal to Italy’s highest criminal court after receiving the reasoning behind the acquittals, due within 90 days.

“Let’s wait and we will see who was right. The first court or the appeal court,” Mignini told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “This trial was done under unacceptable media pressure.”

Prosecutors maintain that Knox, Sollecito and another man killed Kercher during a lurid, drug-fueled sex game. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Sollecito received 25, but the prosecution’s case was blown apart by a DNA review ordered during the appeals trial that discredited crucial genetic evidence.

Prosecutors maintain that Knox’s DNA was found on the handle of a kitchen knife believed to be the murder weapon, and that Kercher’s DNA was found on the blade. They said Sollecito’s DNA was on the clasp of Kercher’s bra as part of a mix of evidence that also included the victim’s genetic profile.

But an independent review — ordered at the request of the defense, which had always disputed those findings — found that police conducting the investigation had made glaring errors in evidence-collecting. The two experts said below-standard testing and possible contamination raised doubts over the attribution of DNA traces, both on the blade and on the bra clasp, which was collected from the crime scene 46 days after the murder.

The review was crucial throwing out the convictions because no motive has emerged and witness testimony was contradictory.

The highest court’s remit is to rule on whether any procedures had been violated, and the hearing generally takes one day in Rome. Defendants are not required to attend.

If the highest court overturns the acquittal, prosecutors would be free to request Knox’s extradition to Italy to finish whatever remained of a sentence. It is up to the government to decide whether to make the formal extradition request.

One conviction in the slaying still stands: that of Ivory Coast native Rudy Hermann Guede. His lawyer said Tuesday he will seek a retrial.

Guede was convicted in a separate fast-track procedure and saw his sentence cut to 16 years in his final appeal. He says he is innocent, though he admits being in the house the night of the murder.

Story Continues →