A Seattle homecoming for Knox

2011-10-05 07:50

Seattle – Amanda Knox returned to her hometown of Seattle and was as overcome with emotion as she was a day earlier in Italy, when she was acquitted on murder charges after four years in prison.

“I’m really overwhelmed right now,” she said at a news conference late yesterday afternoon minutes after she was escorted off a British Airways flight out of London. “I was looking down from the plane, and it seemed like everything wasn’t real.”

The 24-year-old’s life turned around dramatically Monday when an Italian appeals court threw out her conviction in the sexual assault and fatal stabbing of her British roommate.

Yesterday, photos of Knox crying in the courtroom after the verdict was read appeared on the front pages of newspapers in Italy, the US, Britain and around the world.

Knox sobbed at the news conference and held her mother’s hand as her lawyer Theodore Simon said her acquittal “unmistakably announced to the world” that she was not responsible for the killing of Meredith Kercher.

After her parents offered their thanks to Knox’s lawyers and supporters, Knox spoke briefly, saying, “They’re reminding me to speak in English, because I’m having problems with that.”

“My family’s the most important thing to me so I just want to go and be with them, so, thank you for being there for me,” she said before she and her family left.

Knox’s acquittal, fuelled by doubts over DNA evidence, stunned the victim’s family and angered the prosecution, which insists that she was among three people who killed Kercher (21).

Curt Knox said he’s concerned about what four years in prison may have done to his daughter, though there are no immediate plans for her to get counselling.

“What’s the trauma ... and when will it show up, if it even shows up?” he said. “She’s a very strong girl, but it’s been a tough time for her.”

People in the neighbourhood where Knox grew up were thrilled she was back.

“Welcome home Amanda,” read the marquee at a record store.

A bar offered half-price drinks to celebrate her acquittal. Around the state, at least one TV station tracked the progress of her flight on the air using a plane-tracking website.

Knox left Perugia’s Capanne prison Monday night amid cheers that a companion compared to those at a soccer stadium.

Hundreds of inmates – most of them in the men’s wing – shouted “Amanda, ciao!” and “Freedom!” as she walked into the central courtyard, said Corrado Maria Daclon, head of the Italy-US Foundation, which championed Knox’s cause.

Daclon said Knox jumped a little for joy and waved to the prisoners.

At the airport, 16-year-old Amra Plavcic shook her head at the dozens of reporters setting up for the news conference, within sight of the gate where Knox’s plane was to land.

“I don’t think this is important. It’s way too much,” said Plavcic, who was with her mother awaiting a relative who was on Knox’s flight.

Knox was studying abroad in Perugia when Kercher was killed in 2007.

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini expressed disbelief at the innocent verdicts of Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

Mignini maintains that Knox, Sollecito and another man killed Kercher during a lurid, drug-fuelled sex game.

Mignini said he will appeal to Italy’s highest criminal court after receiving the reasoning behind the acquittals, due within 90 days.

“Let’s wait and we will see who was right. The first court or the appeal court,” Mignini told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “This trial was done under unacceptable media pressure.”

One conviction in the slaying still stands: that of Ivory Coast native Rudy Hermann Guede, who sentence was cut to 16 years in his final appeal. His lawyer said Tuesday he will seek a retrial.

The highest court already has upheld Guede’s conviction.

It said Guede had not acted alone but did not name Knox and Sollecito, saying it was not up to the court to determine who his accomplices were.

Kerchner’s family said during an emotional news conference Tuesday that they were back to “square one.”

Monday’s decision “obviously raises further questions,” her brother Lyle Kercher said.

“If those two are not the guilty parties, then who are the guilty people?” he said.

Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Sollecito, an Italian, received 25, but the prosecution’s case was blown apart by a DNA review ordered during the appeals trial that discredited crucial genetic evidence.

The highest court will determine whether any procedures were violated. The hearing generally takes one day in Rome, and defendants are not required to attend.

If the highest court overturns the acquittal, prosecutors would be free to request Knox’s extradition.

It would be up to the government to decide whether to make the formal extradition request.

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