Image: Amanda Knox
Pier Paolo Cito  /  AP
Amanda Knox sits at the beginning of a hearing in her appeals trial at Perugia's courthouse on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010.
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updated 12/11/2010 11:28:37 AM ET 2010-12-11T16:28:37

Convicted murderer Amanda Knox broke into tears as she made an emotional address to an appeals court in Italy, saying Saturday she is the innocent victim of an "enormous mistake" and that her life had been "broken" by three years in jail.

In a powerful 20-minute address to the court, the 23-year-old American reached out to the family of Meredith Kercher, the British girl she was convicted of killing and sexually assaulting in 2007 when they were roommates on a student exchange program in Perugia.

Knox denied being the "dangerous, diabolical, uncaring, violent" person described by the prosecution.

Last year, Knox was convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Also convicted of the same charges was Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian who is Knox's ex-boyfriend. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Both deny wrongdoing, and have appealed the verdict.

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The appeals trial formally opened last month but that hearing was immediately adjourned. With Saturday's hearing, the new proceedings got into full swing.

'So proud'
"I am innocent. Raffaele is innocent. We did not kill Meredith," said Knox, speaking Italian, and her voice breaking. "It doesn't' do justice to Meredith and her loved ones to take our lives from us."

Silence fell on the courtroom as Knox started speaking, with her step-father Chris Mellas and her university friend Madison Paxton in attendance. Paxton, who was crying during her friend's speech, said later she had never been "so proud of anybody in my life."

Knox has addressed the court in the previous trial but never for as long or as passionately. She said she regretted not being able to fully speak her mind before, saying that words don't come easily to her and that she has a difficult time standing up for herself.

In the United States, the coverage of the case has been largely favorable to the American and critical of the Italian handling of the case. Some raised doubts over the investigation and the collecting of forensic evidence allegedly linking Knox and Sollecito to the crime.

"I stand here more scared than ever, not because I am or I have ever been afraid of the truth," she said, "but because the truth has not been recognized."

She was in tears as she said she thinks of Kercher as a dear friend she is "grateful and honored" to have met.

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In the previous trial, Knox had described Kercher as a friend whose death had shocked her. On Saturday, she also turned her thoughts to the victim's family.

"I'm very sorry Meredith is no longer living," a tearful Knox said. "I too have little sisters and the idea of their suffering, their loss, terrifies me."

"What you are going through, and what Meredith was subjected to, is incomprehensible and unacceptable," she said.

'Broken life'
The victim's father, John Kercher, wrote a piece in Britain's Daily Mail lamenting the fact that "since that act of horrific violence, Knox, it seems, has been accorded the status of a minor celebrity."

Kercher wrote that Knox's parents "have never expressed their condolences to our family for our grievous loss."

"There has been no letter of sympathy; no word of regret," he wrote. "Instead, I have watched them repeatedly reiterate the mantra of their daughter's innocence."

Knox said it took her time to come to terms with her new life, saying "I was in prison, my photo was everywhere." She lamented what she said were "insidious, unjust, mean" reports of her private life. While the American press has largely been sympathetic to Knox, reports in Britain and Italy have often described her as a devious, manipulative woman.

"I can never get used to this broken life," she said. "I still don't know how to face all this, except than to be myself."

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In their December ruling, the court said that on the night of the murder, Knox and Sollecito were at the house with a fourth person, Rudy Hermann Guede, an Ivory Coast citizen who has also been convicted of murder in separate proceedings. Knox and Sollecito assisted Guede's sexual desire for Kercher, becoming her brutal assailants together with the Ivorian man and ultimately killing the 21-year-old when she resisted the sexual approach.

"How is it possible that I should have jumped at the opportunity to hurt my friend, be violent as if it were the natural thing to do?" Knox asked the court.

At the appeals trial, the defense lawyers for Knox and Sollecito are seeking a full review on the forensic evidence, including on disputed DNA evidence that was found on a knife allegedly used in the murder, and on the clasp of Kercher's bra.

The defense maintains that DNA traces were inconclusive, and also challenged that they may have been contaminated when they were analyzed. They also want new testimony to be heard.

The court is expected to rule on these requests at the next hearing, Dec. 18.

The prosecutors, who had sought life sentences, are also appealing the ruling, as they can in Italy.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Knox: My heart is ‘broken’

  1. Transcript of: Knox: My heart is ‘broken’

    AMY ROBACH, co-host: But we begin in Italy , where Amanda Knox is appealing her murder conviction. The former college student from Seattle insists she is not a killer. We will talk with Amanda's parents in just a moment. But first, NBC 's Keith Miller joined us -- joins us live from Perugia , Italy . Good morning, Keith .

    KEITH MILLER reporting: Good morning, Amy . Well, in fact, this appeals trial is expected to drag on for some time. But for Amanda Knox , this is a whole new trial. And this morning she got up before the court to make what amounted to a declaration of innocence. Appearing pale, sullen, almost withdrawn after more than three years in prison, Knox joined her defense team in court . Then, breaking with court procedure, she asked to speak. Choking back tears, the 24-year-old student from Seattle told the judges and jurors that she is scared . 'Not scared of the truth,' she said, 'but scared because I have already seen justice fail.' Nearby was Knox 's former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito , who was convicted along with Knox and a third man of murder and violent sexual assault of Knox 's roommate, Meredith Kercher , an exchange student from England . This morning Knox addressed the parents of the victim, saying she is so sorry Meredith is not here. Bursting into tears, Knox said her heart was broken. 'I am honored and thankful,' she said, 'to have had a friend like her.' Today's court session was preliminary, a chance for the six jurors and appeals judge to go over the motivation for conviction. What they got instead was a passionate declaration of innocence. 'We are paying for a crime we did not commit,' said Knox , adding, 'No justice is served to Meredith and her family if the wrong people are accused.' It was a stirring courtroom performance, but winning a case on appeal is not easy.

    Mr. ALEXANDER GUTTIERES (Italian/American Lawyer): You know, the defense -- to turn this case around, the defense is going to have an uphill battle. Like in any criminal case , when you go and try to impugn the credibility of a police officer, you really have to have some strong evidence.

    MILLER: The prosecution is also appealing. It argues the 26-year prison sentence handed down to Knox is not harsh enough and is asking for life behind bars . Knox 's lawyers say she is dispirited, even saddened by what's going on, as she prepares now, Amy , for her fourth Christmas behind bars. Amy :

    ROBACH: Keith Miller in Italy . Thank you. With me now from Seattle are Curt Knox and Edda Mellas , the parents of Amanda Knox . Good morning to both of you.

    Mr. CURT KNOX (Amanda Knox's Parent): Good morning.

    Ms. EDDA MELLAS (Amanda Knox's Parent): Good morning.

    ROBACH: Amanda stood up and made a very emotional plea in court today. I

    want to read you part of what she said: "So here I am in front of you, scared . Not scared of the truth coming out but scared because I have already seen justice fail me. We are paying for a crime we did not commit. We do not deserve the three years we have paid. I am innocent. Raffaele is innocent. We did not kill Meredith . Please consider that there has been a terrible mistake. No justice is served to Meredith and her family if the wrong people are accused." Wow. What's your reaction to hearing those words from your daughter this morning?

    Mr. KNOX: Well, I think they're very strong words and they're very -- you know, words that are really true to what she feels and knows that she is innocent, as well as Raffaele .

    Ms. MELLAS: You know, I know -- I know that she is -- you know, had been thinking about and wanting to say some words. And she's always, you know, very -- I mean, the whole court thing is very scary, but she wanted to do this. And it sounds like she did a great job.

    ROBACH: And, Edda , Amanda's lawyers have said that her time in prison so far, three years, we should mention...

    Ms. MELLAS: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    ROBACH: ...have taken a toll on her psychologically...

    Ms. MELLAS: Yeah.

    ROBACH: ...as anyone can imagine.

    Ms. MELLAS: Yeah.

    ROBACH: And there is certainly a lot at stake for her during this appeals process. I know that Amanda's stepfather, your husband, was able to visit with her.

    Ms. MELLAS: Mm-hmm.

    ROBACH: What did she tell him? What is her state of mind?

    Ms. MELLAS: Well, you know, I think she said it well in what she said in court , you know. She's scared because, you know, the justice system there has failed her so far. She was found guilty of a crime she didn't commit. She wants the truth to come out, and she wants to be freed.

    ROBACH: And, Curt , with a new judge, a new set of eyes looking at this case, what do you think could potentially make the difference in this appeals trial?

    Mr. KNOX: Well, I think one of the big things is really the media coverage that was built up around the first trial. And if the forensic evidence is reopened, which is one of the things that we'll be asking for, we strongly believe that, you know, they'll see that Amanda had nothing to do with this crime and that she will be set free .

    ROBACH: And, Edda , the prosecution, we should mention...

    Ms. MELLAS: Mm-hmm.

    ROBACH: ....is also appealing because they want her sentence increased to life in prison . They don't think she got a tough enough sentence.

    Ms. MELLAS: Right.

    ROBACH: Are you concerned that Amanda could end up in worse shape when this is all said and done ?

    Ms. MELLAS: No. I mean, for me that was never a concern. You know, when you're innocent, you know, that's what you do, you appeal. And the prosecutor could, you know, appeal even, you know, anyway. So no. We just need to keep pushing forward because we know she's innocent.

    ROBACH: Curt , I know there have been reports of jailhouse letters that say that other people have taken responsibility for this crime , for Meredith 's murder. They may or may not be allowed as evidence into this trial. But how much stock do you take in some of this -- these new things that are coming up?

    Mr. KNOX: Well, you know, it -- whenever you have an individual that steps forward that, you know, has been in prison with Rudy Guede and has said that Amanda and Raffaele were not there, it's something that has to be taken into consideration. But we're really more focused on the forensic evidence and the lack thereof it and believe that if it's reopened, then Amanda will be set free .

    ROBACH: We know that the Italian court system is certainly a lengthy process. But we will keep -- be keeping our eyes on this. And we want to thank you for your time. Curt Knox and Edda Mellas. Thanks for joining us this morning.

Photos: Amanda Knox: Her long legal saga

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  1. Amanda Knox: Her long legal saga

    The long legal saga of Amanda Knox, an American student accused of the violent death of her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher, has made headlines around the world since it began in Perugia, Italy, in late 2007.

    Reversal of fortune
    From left, Pierluigi Puglia, member of the British consulate in Italy; Stephanie Kercher, sister of the late Meredith Kercher; her brother, Lyle Kercher, and lawyer Francesco Maresca speak to the press in Florence on Jan. 31, 2014, the day after the guilty verdicts against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of UK student Meredith Kercher in 2007 were reinstated in Italy. The verdict overturned Knox and Sollecito's successful appeal in 2011, which released them after four years in jail. (Franco Origlia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Reconvicted

    Amanda Knox is shown here in Seattle after serving four years in prison after being convicted in a case involving the murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. Her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito is shown here in Florence, Italy, on Jan. 20, 2014. Though both were acquitted on appeal and released in 2011, they were re-convicted of the murder on Jan. 30, 2014. (Splash News, AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Awaiting another verdict

    Raffaele Sollecito leaves court in Florence, Italy, on Jan. 30, 2014. The Italian ex-boyfriend of Amanda Knox awaited the court's verdict in the retrial of both Knox and himself for the murder of Meredith Kercher more than two years after they were acquitted. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A new trial

    Francesco Maresca, lawyer for the family of Meredith Kercher, talks to reporters as he arrives for the start of Amanda Knox's second appeals trial in Florence, Italy, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. Italy's highest court ordered a new trial for Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, overturning their acquittals in the 2007 slaying of Kercher. (Francesco Bellini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Not going back

    Amanda Knox appeared on TODAY on Sept. 20, 2013, to discuss her upcoming retrial in Florence for the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox maintained that she would not go back to Italy to face trial again: "It's not a possibility, as I was imprisoned as an innocent person and I just can't relive that," she told Matt Lauer. (Peter Kramer / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A memoir

    Filled with details first recorded in the journals Amanda Knox kept while in Italy, "Waiting to be Heard," Knox's memoir, is set to be released on April 30, 2013. (HarperCollins via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Acquittal overturned

    Luciano Ghirga, lawyer of Amanda Knox, center, talks to journalists as he leaves Italy's Court of Cassation in Rome on March 26, 2013. Italy's highest criminal court overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that an appeals court in Florence would have to re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. (Gregorio Borgia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Home at last

    Amanda Knox makes remarks after arriving in Seattle a day after her release from prison in Italy on Oct. 4, 2011. She was acquitted of murder and sexual assault by an Italian appeals court after spending four years in custody over the killing of her British housemate, Meredith Kercher. At left is her father, Kurt Knox. (Dan Levine / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Welcome home

    Well-wishers greet Amanda Knox upon her arrival at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle a day after her release from prison in Italy on Oct. 4, 2011. (Dan Levine / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Tears of relief

    Amanda Knox cries after hearing the verdict that overturned her conviction and acquits her of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher, at the Perugia court on Monday, Oct. 3. The Italian appeals court threw out Amanda Knox's murder conviction and ordered the young American freed after nearly four years in prison. (Pier Paolo Cito / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Home front

    Supporters of Amanda Knox react as they watch a news broadcast about her appeal verdict from a hotel suite in downtown Seattle on Oct. 3. (Elaine Thompson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Sisterly support

    Amanda Knox's sister Deanna Knox, center, cries tears of joy in Perugia's Court of Appeal after hearing that Amanda won her appeal against her murder conviction on Monday in Perugia, Italy. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Closing arguments

    Amanda Knox, accused of the 2007 murder of her housemate Meredith Kercher, arrives in court as her appeal trial resumes in Perugia, on Sept. 30, 2011. Wrapping up the defense case, Knox's lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, points to alleged errors by police and urges a panel of lay and professional judges to look beyond how Knox has been portrayed by the media and the prosecution. (Tiziana Fabi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Hoping for her release

    Amanda Knox's lawyer, Luciano Ghirga (left), and her father, Curt Knox (right), use their mobile phones at the court during her Sept. 30, 2011, appeal trial session in Perugia. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Her fate in the balance

    Amanda Knox arrives at the court during her appeal trial session in Perugia, Italy, on Sept. 30, 2011. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Her ex-boyfriend

    Raffaele Sollecito attends his appeal hearing at Perugia's Court of Appeal on Sept. 29, 2011 in Perugia, Italy. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are awaiting the verdict of their appeal that could see their conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher overturned. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. He calls her 'she-devil'

    Carlo Pacelli (center), lawyer for Patrick Lumumba, (left) -- a barman who is seeking damages from Amanda Knox as part of a civil case running alongside her murder appeal -- speaks outside the Perugia courthouse on Sept. 26, 2011. Pacelli called Knox a "she-devil" and told the appeals court she destroyed Lumumba's image by falsely accusing him of the murder, testimony that helps prosecutors attack her credibility. Knox has said she wrongly implicated Lumumba under pressure from police. . (Mario Laporta / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Legal battleground

    Through the bars of holding cells, a view of the courtroom in Perugia on Sept. 6, 2011, before the resumption of the appeal trial of Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. (Fabio Muzzi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. New 'do

    Sporting a new, short haircut, jailed Amanda Knox attends a preliminary hearing in Perugia, Italy, on June 1, 2010. (Fabrizio Troccoli / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Awaiting sentence

    Amanda Knox is driven into court at midnight to hear the sentence in her murder trial on Dec. 5, 2009, in Perugia, Italy. Knox was convicted of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, was also convicted of the murder charges. He was sentenced to 25 years. (Franco Origlia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Pleading her case

    Amanda Knox looks on during a break in the closing arguments of the murder trial in Perugia, Italy on Dec. 3, 2009. She read a statement during her murder trial on Dec. 3, in Italiian saying, "I am afraid of having the mask of a murderer forced onto my skin." (Max Rossi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Police escort

    Murder suspect Amanda Knox, right, is escorted by a police officer as she arrives at Perugia's court, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2009. Italian prosecutors have begun their closing arguments in her trial. (Alessandra Tarantino / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The murder weapon?

    Prosecutor Manuela Comodi shows a knife during a hearing in the murder trial for Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, on Sept. 19, 2009. The knife, wrapped in plastic and kept in a white box, was shown to the eight-member jury during the trial of Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. (Stefano Medici / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Victim in video

    At the trial of Amanda Knox, a music video that included an appearance by slain student Meredith Kercher was shown June 8, 2009. Kercher played the love interest in the video for the song "Some Say" by London musician Kristian Leontiou. The 2007 video was shot only weeks before Kercher died in Perugia, Italy, at age 21. (TODAY) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Boning up?

    Amanda Knox holds the Italian penal code book at the trial of slain British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, on Jan. 16, 2009. (Daniele La Monaca / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Back in court

    Amanda Knox, one of three suspects in the murder of Meredith Kercher, arrives at a Sept. 27, 2008 court hearing in Perugia, Italy. Kercher, a British student, was found dead in her Perugia flat on Nov. 1, 2007 with her throat cut. (Tiziana Fabi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Sister speaks out

    Stephanie Kercher reads a statement during a Sept. 15, 2008 press conference in Perugia, Italy as legal proceedings connected to the death of her sister, Meredith Kercher, approach a critical phase. (Antonio Calanni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. The victim's family

    Arline, mother of Meredith Kercher, answers newsmen questions flanked by Meredith's sister Stephanie, left, and brother Lyle, during a press conference in Perugia, Italy on April 18, 2008. (Leonetto Medici / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Headed to a hearing

    Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who along with Knox and Rudy Hermann Guede was held on suspicion in the murder of Knox’s housemate Meredith Kercher, is escorted by Italian police to a January 2008 hearing with magistrates. (Paolo Tosti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Remembering Meredith

    A floral tribute with photographs of Meredith Kercher is shown at her funeral at Croydon Parish Church, South London on December 14, 2007. (Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Another suspect

    In December 2007, police in Germany arrested Rudy Hermann Guede, a native of the Ivory Coast, in connection with Meredith Kercher's murder. Here Guede is shown being led away by Italian police after arriving in Rome from prison in Germany. (Riccardo De Luca / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Arrested, then released

    Patrick Lumumba Diya, a Congolese man who owned a small bar in Perugia where Amanda Knox sometimes worked as a barmaid, was arrested after being implicated in the Meredith Kercher murder by Knox. However, he was released after another suspect, Rudy Hermann Guede, was arrested in the case. He is shown here leaving police headquarters with his lawyer on Nov. 20, 2007. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Under arrest

    Her cap pulled low, American student Amanda Knox was arrested on Nov. 6, 2007, for her alleged involvement in the brutal murder of her housemate, Meredith Kercher. (Pietro Crocchioni / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Searching for clues

    Police forensics investigators examined Meredith Kercher's Italian house while a coroner conducted a post-mortem investigation on the slain student's body. (Chris Radburn / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. The murder scene

    On Nov. 5, 2007, the rented hillside home that murder victim Meredith Kercher had shared with fellow student Amanda Knox in Perugia, Italy was a crime scene. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Front-page news

    By Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007 Meredith Kercher's gruesome murder was front-page news in the central Italian city of Perugia. (Chris Radburn / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. The day after

    Amanda Knox, a student from Seattle who had been living with Meredith Kercher in Perugia, was arrested Nov. 6, 2007 for her alleged involvement in Kercher’s murder. Also held by police was Knox’s Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. Taken Nov. 2, the day Kercher was found dead, this picture shows the pair outside the rented house Knox shared with Kercher. (Stefano Medici / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. The murder victim

    Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old British exchange student, was found dead with her throat slit on Nov. 2, 2007 in her room in an apartment she shared with other exchange students in the Italian town of Perugia. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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