- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 5, 2009

PERUGIA, Italy | A jury in Italy convicted American college student Amanda Knox of murdering her British roommate and sentenced her to 26 years in prison shortly after midnight Saturday.

Her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito also was convicted. He was sentenced to 25 years.

As soon as the judge read the verdict after about 13 hours of deliberations, Knox began weeping and murmured, “No, no,” then hugged one of her lawyers.

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.

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The American student’s father, Curt Knox, asked whether he would fight on for his daughter, replied with tears in his eyes: “Hell, yes.”

“This is just wrong,” said her stepmother, Cassandra Knox, turning around immediately after hearing the verdict. Her family had insisted she was innocent and a victim of character assassination.

Knox and Sollecito were charged with murder and sexual assault in the slaying of Meredith Kercher more than two years ago. All three were studying in Perugia in Italy’s central Umbria region at the time.

Kercher’s body was found in a pool of blood with her throat slit on Nov. 2, 2007, in the bedroom of the house she shared with Knox. Prosecutors contended the 21-year-old Leeds University student was murdered the previous night.

Knox and Sollecito had been jailed since shortly after the slaying.

Prosecutors argue 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 in the murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guede, who is appealing his conviction, said he was in the house the night of the murder but did not kill Kercher.

The prosecution said Knox and Kercher started arguing, and that Knox joined the two men in brutally attacking and sexually assaulting the Briton under “the fumes of drugs and possibly alcohol.”

Throughout the trial, prosecutors depicted Knox as a promiscuous and manipulative she-devil whose personality clashed with her roommate’s. They said Knox had grown to hate Kercher.

During the trial, the most intimate details of Knox’s life were examined, from her lax hygiene — purportedly a point of contention with Kercher — to her sex life, even including a sex toy.

Defense lawyers have described the American, who made the dean’s list at the University of Washington, as a smart and cheerful woman, at one point even comparing her to film character Amelie, the innocent and dreamy girl in the 2001 French movie of the same title.

The prosecution maintained that a 6½-inch knife authorities found at Sollecito’s house could be the murder weapon; they said Miss Kercher’s DNA was found on the blade and Knox’s on the handle. However, defense lawyers argued that the knife was too big to match Kercher’s wounds and the amount of DNA collected was too small to determine with certainty whose it was.

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