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Amanda Knox found not guilty of murder by Italian jury, in appeals trial

Knox collapsed in tears after the verdict was read out Monday, Oct. 3, 2011.

(CBS/AP) PERUGIA, Italy - A jury has overturned Amanda Knox's 2007 conviction for the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy, and Knox is to be freed immediately.

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A tearful Knox told an appeals court in Italy that accusations that she killed her British roommate are unfair and groundless.

Knox fought back tears as she addressed the court Monday, minutes before the jury went into deliberations to decide whether to uphold her murder conviction.

"I've lost a friend in the worst, most brutal, most inexplicable way possible," Knox said of the murder of Kercher to the courtroom. "I'm paying with my life for things that I didn't do."

In 2009, Knox was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher in Perugia, Italy and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Knox's co-defendant and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian, was convicted of the same charges and sentenced to 25 years. Sollecito has also appealed.

Knox was arrested on Nov. 6, 2007, only four days after Kercher's body was found in the apartment they shared in Perugia. Her case quickly became a media sensation and she was painted as either as a manipulative girl-gone-wild or as a naïve young woman trapped in a judicial nightmare.

The role of media was a theme in the appeal trial's closing arguments for both the defense and the prosecution. Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini criticized what he said was media interference and an increasingly strong campaign in support Knox. Defense lawyers, on the other hand, argued that Knox had been unfairly portrayed.

"Knox has been crucified in a public square, subjected to the most sinister of speculations," Dalla Vedova said. "All, regardless of their nationalities, have offended Amanda Knox."

Prosecutors maintain that Knox's DNA was found on the handle of a kitchen knife believed to be the murder weapon, and that Kercher's DNA was found on the blade. They said Sollecito's DNA was on the clasp of Kercher's bra as part of a mix of evidence that also included the victim's genetic profile.

But an independent review - ordered at the request of the defense, which had always disputed those findings - reached a different conclusion.

The two experts found that police conducting the investigation had made glaring errors in evidence-collecting and that below-standard testing and possible contamination raised doubts over the attribution of DNA traces, both on the blade and on the bra clasp, which were collected from the crime scene 46 days after the murder.

Prosecutors say that a fourth person was present the night of the murder, Rudy Hermann Guede from Ivory Coast, who was also convicted. Italy's highest criminal court has upheld Guede's conviction although his prison sentence was reduced to 16 years. Guede also denies wrongdoing

Knox grew up in Seattle, attending Seattle Prep high school before going to the University of Washington. Her grandmother, uncle and a few other relatives are the only ones who weren't able to make the trip to Perugia to await the appeal verdict, said Tom Wright, a friend of the family.

Complete Coverage of Amanda Knox on Crimesider