Image: Amanda Knox
Elaine Thompson  /  AP
Amanda Knox tears up as she sits down for a news conference shortly after her arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Tuesday.
updated 10/5/2011 4:28:59 PM ET 2011-10-05T20:28:59

The Italian judge who was part of the jury which acquitted Amanda Knox said Wednesday the American and her ex-boyfriend might know the "real truth" about who killed her British roommate.

Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann said in a state TV interview that "maybe" the two defendants know what happened in the 2007 slaying of Meredith Kercher in the flat the two women shared in Perugia, the Umbrian town where they were student.

Hellmann, who was also one of the eight jurors, said "the real truth could be different." But based on trial evidence, the jury acquitted them, he said. In Italy, the presiding judge is part of the jury, along with another judge, and six civilians.

In his first public comments since Knox and her Italian co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, were acquitted Monday night, the judge stressed on state TV that the verdict was the fruit of the "the truth that was created in the trial."

"But the real truth could be different," Pratillo Hellmann added. "They could also be responsible, but the proof isn't there."

"So maybe they know, too, but as far as we (the jury) go, they didn't," he added.

Story: Amanda Knox's freedom leaves family shackled by debt

Speaking of Knox and Sollecito, Pratillo Hellmann told the interviewer: "I felt emotion because they are two young people who suffered, justly or unjustly, I repeat, we can never say with certainty."

Knox and Sollecito have vehemently denied wrongdoing in Kercher's murder. Knox flew home to Seattle on Tuesday, her first full day out of jail since she was arrested a few days after the murder. Sollecito was resting at his family home, his lawyers said.

Asked who knew the truth about the slaying, Pratillo Hellmann referred to a third defendant, Rudy Guede, who was convicted of Kercher's murder in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence in Italy.

"Certainly Rudy Guede" knows, he said. "I won't say he's the only one to know," the judge added.

Referring to Knox and Sollecito, who were both convicted of sexual assault and murder in a the lower court trial, the judge said that "maybe the two defendants also know" what really happened, but "our verdict of acquittal is the result of the truth that was created in the trial."

Guede, of the Ivory Coast, has denied wrongdoing but has acknowledged being in the house when Kercher was slain. The court in convicting Guede indicated in its ruling that he committed the murder along with someone else. But it never said who that was.

The judge described Knox and Sollecito as "two kids barely in their 20s, normal, like so many of today's (youth). Indeed, they were polite, composed, put to the test and matured by this kind of experience."

The judge added that Kercher's family has "all my human compassion."

"But we cannot assign responsibility (for a crime) with such a high penalty solely to ease the suffering of these parents," he said.

The prosecution had sought convictions and life sentences for Knox and Sollecito. Knox had been sentenced to 26 years in prison by the lower court trial, while Sollecito had been given 25 years.

Story: Emotional pressure eases as Knox goes free

Pratillo Hellmann's comments might hint at the explanation for the verdict which the appeals court must put in writing within three months.

Then the prosecution can decide if it wants to appeal the verdict to Italy's top criminal court. That tribunal, the Court of Cassation, could either uphold the acquittals or throw out the verdict if it should find some technical error, paving the way for a second appeals trial.

Pratillo Hellmann dismissed a suggestion that the jury might have been influenced by the "media circus" surrounding the trial. "You have to rely on your own conscience," he said. "If you are at peace with your conscience, the media circus doesn't have the least impact."

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Video: Knox has emotional return to Seattle

  1. Transcript of: Knox has emotional return to Seattle

    ANN CURRY, co-host: But we begin with that emotional homecoming for Amanda Knox . NBC 's Stephanie Gosk is in Seattle . Stephanie , good morning.

    STEPHANIE GOSK reporting: Good morning, Ann. Well, Amanda Knox spent 1,450 days in an Italian jail cell. It took just 30 hours to get her back here to Seattle . She sat next to her mother on the British Airways flight that landed just after 5 in the evening. The last time that Amanda Knox was in this city, she was just a kid with her bags packed, heading off for a school year abroad. Walking out into a sea of cameras after an unimaginable four years, cheers broke out for Amanda Knox and the 24-year-old sobbed. Finally home. Her family was at her side, now able to grab her hand whenever they wanted to. After several deep breaths, she spoke.

    Offscreen Voice: Speak in English.

    Ms. AMANDA KNOX: They're reminding me to speak in English because I'm having problems with that. I'm really overwhelmed right now.

    GOSK: How could she not be? Just over 24 hours before, she stood in front of an Italian court, visibly shaking, her life in their hands. The murder verdict overturned, she was whisked away in cars, through airports, on to planes. At times during the journey, moments of relief were clearly visible on her face. Her family wasted no time getting her home.

    Ms. KNOX: I was looking down from the airplane and it seemed like everything wasn't real. What's important for me to say is just thank you to everyone who's believed in me, who has defended me, who's supported my family .

    GOSK: Her parents also thankful and emotional to finally have their daughter back.

    Mr. CURT KNOX: As Ted said, this has been a very long four years, but we couldn't have made it through it without all you people out here that have supported us, and especially Amanda .

    GOSK: Amanda Knox has been given her life back. The prosecutor says he will appeal to Italy 's supreme court , leaving open a small possibility that the Italian government may try to extradite Knox . But legal experts say the chances of that are slim. Amanda 's father described the moment just after they won the appeal when he first hugged his daughter.

    Mr. KNOX: I mean, she pretty much squished the air out of us when we were hugging her.

    GOSK: Back at the family 's home, his biggest concern now was trying to regain some of the normalcy they've lost.

    Mr. KNOX: It's extremely surreal. It's something that, you know, we kind of feel like we're just regular people in a neighborhood, and then all of this happens.

    GOSK: He would not say where Amanda was going, only that she needed time to adjust.

    Mr. KNOX: A lot of it's just going to be talking to friends, you know, being able to, you know, touch and hold your friends and, you know, to be able to just kind of reconnect.

    GOSK: And spending time with her family .

    Ms. KNOX: I just want -- my family 's the most important thing to me right now and I just want to go and be with them. So thank you for being there for me.

    GOSK: For the first time in four years, nothing is stopping her. Amanda is in an undisclosed location with family and friends . A local paper says that the 24-year-old is now planning the 21st birthday party that she never had. And her father said she has another priority, Matt , and after that is that is that after four years in a concrete prison she is looking for some grass to lie down in.

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Stephanie Gosk , thank you very much . Theodore Simon is the American attorney for Amanda Knox . He had a private meeting with Amanda after that press conference and was with her and her family last night. Mr. Simon , good to see you. Good morning.

    Mr. THEODORE SIMON (Knox Family Attorney): Good morning, Matt.

    LAUER: Before we get to the emotional side of this, take me through the choreography, if you will, of the arrival at the airport, how the speech occurred, all of that sort of thing.

    Mr. SIMON: Sure. This was very carefully planned, with great concern for Amanda and her welfare, as well as her security. And basically, everyone at British Airways helped, and all the people at the airport helped. It was arranged for a private meeting just myself and David Marriott , the family 's press relations person. Everyone came off the runway. Amanda , her mom, Chris , Curt and the rest of the family . It was truly amazing, it was emotional.

    LAUER: Had she always planned to speak, Mr. Simon , or was that more spontaneous?

    Mr. SIMON: No, this was a question that was going to be put to her. It was going to be her decision. She either was not going to say anything, say a few words, or as much as she wanted to. And she, despite the fact that she was very worn and tired, felt a great obligation to thank everyone and said she would do it. She did it spontaneously and of her own accord. I can tell you, just before she spoke, she had a very emotional embrace with her father that was -- it was just tearful and powerful.

    LAUER: Do you think -- and she talked about the fact that as she flew in, she looked down from the plane and nothing seemed real to her, then she landed, there was this huge outpouring of supporters and, of course, a crush of media. Even though she's been somewhat kept aware of the interest level, do you think she fully grasped the level of interest in her story?

    Mr. SIMON: I believe she has a great appreciation of how worldwide this story is. But when you know Amanda , you really get to see what a sweet, kind, generous, charitable person she is. I mean, she's joyful and incredibly thoughtful. She's just a sweet, nice person. And this is what, I think, dominates her character. She has indomitable strength. She clearly gets that from her parents.

    LAUER: Right.

    Mr. SIMON: And it's much more about everyone else and less about her. The way she interacts with her family , the way she interacts with her cousins. I mean, after we left the airport, we left in two cars. And fortunately, we were able to manage a way in which to go in one direction and avoid the throngs of press...

    LAUER: Well, I'm glad you bring that up...

    Mr. SIMON: ...and get to her house.

    LAUER: ...because there's this huge interest level in this right now, Ted , and the press wants to see her, they want to hear from her. It would seem very unfair to keep her locked behind the door of her house. I mean, what kind of freedom is that after all these years ? So how do you intend to get her the space she's going to need?

    Mr. SIMON: Well, you know, I would have to disagree with you, Matt. This was anything but being locked away.

    LAUER: No, I'm talking about in the near future.

    Mr. SIMON: Well, I -- she's going to make these decisions as things go forward. But I can tell you, and I've been a criminal defense lawyer for more than 37 years, I am amazed how strong she is and how healthy she seems.

    LAUER: As you know, Ted , the prosecution in Italy has already said they will appeal this to the supreme court . So is there any trepidation on Amanda's part that, in fact, it's not quite over?

    Mr. SIMON: That was not discussed. But legally we feel fairly strong. As you know, the first appellate process permits a review of the facts, a reopening of the facts, a redetermination of the facts. And that's what caused this case to be reversed, and a recognition that she was wrongly convicted. But on the further appeal to the supreme court of Italy , they don't have the same broad scope of review. It's really just very narrow, simply was there an error of law? We don't think there was. So we remain pretty confident that this will hold.

    LAUER: All right, Ted Simon , who spent time with Amanda and her family over the last several hours. Mr. Simon , good to see you. Thanks for your time.

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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Timeline: Amanda Knox trial

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