The highest court in Italy on Friday overturned the murder convictions of Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend in the sensational 2007 stabbing death of her British roommate.
The vindication is the latest turn in an odyssey of international justice for Knox, who spent four years in an Italian jail after the killing. She returned to the United States when she was initially acquitted in 2011, vowing never to return to Italy, and waited for the verdict on the second trial in her hometown of Seattle.
Knox said Friday night that she is "incredibly grateful for what has happened, for the justice I've received," and thanked her family, friends and supporters during an emotional statement outside her mother's home in Seattle.
"You saved my life, and I am so grateful. I'm so grateful that I have my life back. Thank you," she said. "That's all I can say. Right now I'm still absorbing what all of this means."
Asked about Meredith Kercher, the woman who was stabbed to death, Knox's voice caught as she searched for the right words.
"Meredith was my friend. She deserved so much in this life," Knox said. "I'm the lucky one."
Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were convicted in 2009, then acquitted and freed in 2011. An appeals court overturned the acquittals in 2013 and ordered a new trial, and they were convicted again last year. Knox was sentenced in absentia to 28 1/2 years in prison. Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years.
Sollecito's attorney, Giulia Bongiorno, attacked the 2014 decision Friday, saying there were errors of "colossal proportions," that resulted in the guilty verdicts, according to The Associated Press.
Friday's decision was announced at 10:30 p.m. local time (5:30 p.m. ET). Judges started deliberating at noon local time after Sollecito's lawyers finished their closing arguments. Their reasoning will be released within 90 days. The verdict is the final ruling in the case.
Knox and Sollecito were arrested after Kercher was found dead in a pool of blood in the apartment the two women shared in the university town of Perugia, with as many as 40 knife wounds over her half-naked body.
Prosecutors argued that Kercher was killed as part of a sex game. Knox and Sollecito said they were alone together on the night in question, watching a movie, smoking pot and having sex.
Ted Simon, one of Knox's lawyers, lauded the Knox family in a statement. He said that during the drawn-out legal battle, the family showed "steadfast courage, dignity, resilience and fortitude, but most of all they relied upon their faith that this unjust conviction would not stand."
Simon also asked for prayers for the family of the victim, Meredith Kercher. "Let us not forget that Meredith was Amanda's friend and I know Amanda and the family wishes you to remember Meredith," he said.
The exoneration surprised some observers. "If the high court was going to acquit, why not do it when it was reviewing the prior acquittal," Mary Fan, an international law professor at the University of Washington, asked.
But Fan said the "twists and turns" of the Knox case became the norm. "This legal drama through many years has one consistency — expect the unexpected," she said. "In that sense, this ending fits."
Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, said Friday the family was glad the case is finished at last.
"We're so grateful ... So thankful that everything is finally right," she said.
Amanda Knox released the following statement after the verdict was read:
I am tremendously relieved and grateful for the decision of the Supreme Court of Italy.
The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal. And throughout this ordeal, I have received invaluable support from family, friends, and strangers. To them, I say: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your kindness has sustained me. I only wish that I could thank each and every one of you in person.
The Knox family also released a statement:
We want to express our profound gratitude to all of those who have supported Amanda and our family.
Countless people — from world-renowned DNA experts, to former FBI agents, to everyday citizens committed to justice — have spoken about her innocence. We are thrilled with and grateful for today's decision from the Supreme Court of Italy.And we are grateful beyond measure for all that so many of you have done for her.