ROME - An Italian judge who was part of the jury that acquitted Amanda Knox said Wednesday that she and her ex-boyfriend were cleared of murder based on the evidence, but the "real truth" could be different.
Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann said in a state TV interview that Knox and Italian Raffaele Sollecito may know what happened in the 2007 slaying of Meredith Kercher, Knox's British roommate.
In his first public comments since the appeals court verdict Monday, the judge stressed the ruling was the fruit of the "the truth that was created in the trial."
"But the real truth could be different," Pratillo Hellmann added. "They could also be responsible, but the proof isn't there."
Pratillo Hellmann, the presiding judge, was one of eight jurors in the case.
Knox and Sollecito have vehemently denied wrongdoing in Kercher's murder. Knox flew home to Seattle on Tuesday, her first full day out of jail since she was arrested a few days after the murder. Sollecito was resting at his hometown in southern Italy, his lawyers said.
Asked who knew the truth about the slaying, Pratillo Hellmann referred to a third defendant, Rudy Guede, who was convicted of Kercher's murder in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence in Italy.
"Certainly Rudy Guede" knows, he said. "I won't say he's the only one to know," the judge added.
Referring to Knox and Sollecito, who were both convicted of sexual assault and murder in a lower court trial, the judge said that "maybe the two defendants also know" what really happened.
Guede, of the Ivory Coast, has denied wrongdoing but has acknowledged being in the house when Kercher was slain. The court in convicting Guede indicated in its ruling that he committed the murder along with someone else. But it never said who that was.
The judge described Knox and Sollecito as "two kids barely in their 20s, normal, like so many of today's (youth). Indeed, they were polite, composed, put to the test and matured by this kind of experience."
"I felt emotion because they are two young people who suffered, justly or unjustly. I repeat, we can never say with certainty," he said.
The judge added that Kercher's family has "all my human compassion."
"But we cannot assign responsibility (for a crime) with such a high penalty solely to ease the suffering of these parents," he said.
The prosecution had sought convictions and life sentences for Knox and Sollecito. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison by the lower court trial, while Sollecito was given 25 years.
The appeals court must issue a written explanation of its decision within 90 days. The prosecution can then decide whether to appeal the verdict to Italy's highest court. That tribunal, the Court of Cassation, could either uphold the acquittals or throw out the verdict if it finds some technical error, paving the way for a second appeals trial.
Pratillo Hellmann dismissed a suggestion the jury might have been influenced by the "media circus" surrounding the trial. "You have to rely on your own conscience," he said. "If you are at peace with your conscience, the media circus doesn't have the least impact."