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Amanda Knox cleared

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Amanda Knox has been cleared of the murder and sexual assault of her British flatmate Meredith Kercher in a dramatic court ruling in Perugia last night (3 October) after serving nearly four years in jail.

Knox broke down in tears as she was told she had been found not guilty, in a decision made by two appeal judges and six members of a jury.

Knox's co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito also had his conviction for the murder and sexual assault of Meredith overturned.

The lead appeal judge said that the evidence used to convict them was not reliable.

Rudy Hermann Guede is now the only person out of the trio initially charged for the murder whose conviction has been upheld.

The court room erupted in cheers and was instructed to keep silent as the ruling was announced but outside the court there were some cries of "shame on you" from the waiting crowd, highlighting just how much the case has divided public opinion.

Speaking just after the decision was announced, Amanda's sister Deanna said, "We're thankful Amanda's nightmare is over. She's suffered four years for a crime she didn't commit."

The ruling marks the culmination of an extraordinary and dramatic court case that has descended into something of a media circus over the past four years, commanding endless column inches and dividing opinion.

Knox, 24, spent nearly two years fighting to overturn her 26-year sentence, with much of the appeal focusing on the flawed DNA evidence used to convict her and her former boyfriend, Italian student Sollecito.

In an emotional statement to the court yesterday before the ruling was made, the American student reiterated her innocence in a final plea for freedom.

"Merdith was killed and I have always wanted justice for her... I want truth...," she said, through tears and in fluent Italian. "I want to go back home. I want to go back to my life. I don't want to be punished. I don't want my life and my future taken away for something I didn't do, because I am innocent and Raffaele (her co-accused former boyfriend) is innocent, too."

Meredith was found with her throat slashed in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia in November 2007.

Four days after her body was discovered, police arrested Knox and her then boyfriend, Italian student Raffaele Sollecito. Another man, Rudy Hermann Guede, was later charged over the murder as well. All three were accused of killing Meredith in a violent drug-fuelled sex game that got out of hand.

Guede was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2008, following a fast-track trial. He had admitted being in Meredith's house on the night of the murder and his bloody handprint was found on her pillow.

In December 2009, both Knox and Sollecito were found guilty of murdering Meredith. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Sollecito 25 years. Lawyers for the pair immediately launched an appeal.

The appeal process began in early 2010 and focused on the veracity of crucial DNA evidence used to place Knox and Sollecito at the murder scene. Experts called before the court testified that forensic teams made a series of serious mistakes - including wearing dirty gloves and a failure to wear protective caps, which could have contaminated evidence.

Meredith's family arrived in Italy yesterday to hear the verdict. In a news conference beforehand, they said the suffering of Meredith appeared to have been largely forgotten amid the media furore surrounding Knox. They said Meredith had died in fear and terror, adding that, "it is very difficult to forgive anyone at this stage."

Picture credits: Rex Features

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