Nightly News   |  October 03, 2011

Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned

An appeals court jury on Monday overturned the murder convictions of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of her roommate Meredith Kercher four years ago. NBC’s Lester Holt reports from Perugia, Italy.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

WILLIAMS: Good evening.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: The case of Amanda Knox always had all the requirements, the elements of focusing public attention. A grisly murder, a beautiful young American girl from the Pacific Northwest who was then held for four years in Italy while the justice system ground through various fits and starts and while millions of Americans watched back home. It all came down to today in an Italian courtroom. Millions watching live around the world had to wait for the translator, hoping they had heard it correctly. But the verdict in the end unmistakable. She exploded in tears when she heard it. She is free to go, free to return home to the United States . Lester Holt starts us off tonight in Perugia , Italy . Lester , good evening.

LESTER HOLT reporting: Brian , good evening. This was an appeal of her 2009 conviction on six counts. On appeal, the judge and jury today threw out five of those counts; the lone remaining conviction on slander for her false accusation of a suspect early in the investigation. That, said the court, carries a three-year sentence. She's served four so she's out of prison tonight and is expected by tomorrow to leave this country a free woman. After a four-year struggle to clear her name the final verdict for Amanda Knox took just minutes.

Unidentified Judge:

HOLT: The 24-year-old Seattle native collapsed into the arms of her lawyers as her family, all gathered in the courtroom, swept each other up in their arms after the jury overturned her conviction in the 2007 murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher . Her elated sister, Deanna , spoke to reporters afterward.

Ms. DEANNA KNOX: We're thankful that Amanda's nightmare is over. She suffered for four years for a crime that she did not commit.

HOLT: Cheering was heard from inside the prison where Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito , who was also freed, waited during deliberations. Outside the courthouse, however, a different reaction as Italians, angry over the handling of the case, jeered the prosecutors. The stage for the dramatic decision was set earlier this morning when Knox stood to address the court, the final word before deliberations. Nervous and tearful at times, she declared her innocence saying she wasn't even there when it happened and if she had been she would have been killed, too. She accused the police betraying her trust in them and called Kercher her friend and someone she was sharing her life with. And, finally, told the court...

Ms. AMANDA KNOX:

HOLT: "I want to go back home. I want to go back to my life." Tonight, Seattle friends of Knox who came here for the verdict are anxious to see her go back home.

Mr. ANDREW SELIBER: I'm so relieved and so happy that she's out.

Ms. JESSICA NICHOLS: I'm just so grateful that they get to go back to prison for the last time and then go home.

HOLT: Also in the courtroom tonight, the family of Kercher who appeared emotional after the verdict. Earlier they asked the world to not forget the ultimate victim in this tragedy.

Unidentified Man #1: It's very difficult, so forgive us at this point. As I say, four years on the one hand's a very long time; on the other it's not, you know, it's still very raw.

HOLT: The case against Knox at times seemed to put the Italian justice system itself on trial, especially after critical DNA evidence against the pair was discredited by the court's own independent experts. But tonight legal experts here say that in the end the system worked.

Unidentified Man #2: It did vindicate itself in a certain way. I think that the appellate court acted in an equitable way. It gave a fair hearing to both sides and explored all the evidence.

HOLT: Less than two hours after the verdict, a car carrying Amanda Knox left the prison for the first leg of her journey home. So is the case over? For Knox , it is. The prosecution in Italy has the right to appeal this to the supreme court , but getting it accepted into the Italian supreme court could take weeks. In the meantime, sources close to Knox are telling us that she will leave as soon as tomorrow from Rome on her way back to Seattle , Brian .

WILLIAMS: All right, Lester Holt in Perugia , Italy , tonight. Lester , thanks.