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Jubilation in Seattle as Amanda Knox is freed

SEATTLE - A group of Amanda Knox supporters burst into applause and cheers Monday when they learned an Italian appeals court had thrown out the Seattle native's murder conviction in the death of her British roommate.

"It's unreal," John Lange, Knox's former teacher, kept repeating after the verdict was read.

Complete coverage: The appeal trial of Amanda Knox
Amanda Knox acquitted of murder

With Italy nine hours ahead of Seattle, the group of about a dozen friends and supporters of Knox had gathered Sunday night at a downtown hotel to watch coverage of the court proceedings.

The supporters, from the group called Friends of Amanda, perked up as a judge began reading the verdict and they breathlessly waited as the ruling was translated into English.

When they learned Knox was being released after nearly four years in prison, the supporters began chanting, "She's free!" and "We did it!" Some held hands and cried after the verdict was read.

In its ruling, the Italian appeals court also cleared Knox's co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, of murder in Meredith Kercher's death.

Tom Wright, a friend of Knox's family, said the group wished a "safe journey" to Knox as she was being released. Supporters also expressed sympathy for the Kercher family.

"This is primarily a sad occasion," Wright said. "They lost their daughter. We'll keep them in our prayers."

CBS News "Early Show" contributor Hattie Kauffman reports from Seattle that it was, literally, a sleepless night in the city for the friends and family following the case.

More than a dozen of Knox's supporters camped out awaiting the verdict. They packed into a hotel suite, watching a feed from the courtroom. These are people who knew her from high school and college at the University of Washington. They listened intently, as their friend Amanda Knox, made her final statement to the judge and jury earlier Monday.

Knox said in Italian, "I am the same person I was four years ago. The same person - the only thing that distinguishes me from four years ago is my suffering. I want to go back home. I want to go back to my life."

Knox frequently paused for breath and fought back tears as she spoke in Italian to the six members of the jury and two judges in a packed courtroom, but managed to maintain her composure during the 10-minute address.

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Timeline of the Amanda Knox case

"I've lost a friend in the worst, most brutal, most inexplicable way possible," she said of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old Briton who shared an apartment with Knox when they were both students in Perugia. "I'm paying with my life for things that I didn't do."

"She had her bedroom next to mine, she was killed in our own apartment. If I had been there that night, I would be dead," Knox said. "But I was not there."

"I did not kill. I did not rape. I did not steal. I wasn't there. I wasn't there at the crime," Knox said.

Knox and Sollecito, her former boyfriend from Italy, were convicted of murdering Kercher in 2009. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, Sollecito to 25. Also convicted in separate proceedings was Rudy Hermann Guede, a drifter and native of the Ivory Coast.

They denied wrongdoing.

Kercher, 21, shared an apartment with Knox when they were both students in Perugia. She was stabbed to death in her bedroom.

Knox grew up in Seattle, attending a private Jesuit high school before going to the University of Washington.

Friends of Amanda is made up of the parents of her high school classmates, her friends from college and high school, and sympathizers from around the country. It formed shortly after Knox was accused of the murder.

Some of the people gathered for Knox wore T-shirts that said "Free Amanda and Raffaele." The hotel room where they watched the proceedings featured candles and pictures of Knox, Sollecito and Kercher that supporters brought with them.

John Lange remembers Knox as the modest drama student who played an orphan in the high school's production of "Annie."

"There's the person you know and there's the widely varying depictions of her character largely wrong, and upsetting to those of us who know her," Lange said.

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