Knox Closes Murder Conviction Appeal With Tearful Plea For Freedom

Posted October 3rd, 2011 at 12:15 pm (UTC-5)
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American student Amanda Knox made a final tearful plea for freedom in a Perugia courtroom Monday, as the Italian jury retired to consider its verdict in her appeal against her murder conviction.

Knox fought back tears as she denied taking part in the crime that left her roommate, Meredith Kercher, half-naked and dead in a pool of blood in their apartment. Knox told the jury, “I did not kill, I did not rape, I did not steal, I wasn't there.” She added that she has been paying with her life for a crime she did not commit.

Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and killing Kercher in what prosecutors say was part of a drug-fueled sex game that turned violent. Knox insists she was at Sollecito's house when Kercher was killed.

The 24-year-old Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, while Sollecito got 25 years. In a separate proceeding, Rudy Guede was sentenced to 30 years in prison. All three say they are innocent.

After the jury began its deliberations, Kercher's sister Stephanie said Meredith has been forgotten and that it has been difficult to keep her memory alive. Stephanie Kercher added that as long as the jury weighs the evidence and avoids the “media hype” surrounding the case, justice can be done. But she said it is too soon to think of forgiveness at this stage.

The prosecution has painted Knox as a “witch” whose innocent looks hid a life of sex, drugs and drinking.

Knox's appeal is based on the findings of independent court-appointed forensic experts who said the DNA evidence used to convict her was not reliable and was possibly contaminated by police. The defense has also argued that prosecutors provided no clear motive or evidence linking the defendants to the crime.