PERUGIA, Italy — An Italian appeals court threw out Amanda Knox's murder conviction Monday and ordered the young American freed, a stunning reversal four years after she was jailed for the death of her British roommate.
Knox, 24, collapsed in tears after the verdict overturning her 2009 conviction was read out, her lawyers draping their arms around her in support. Her co-defendant, Italian Raffaele Sollecito, also was cleared of killing 21-year-old Meredith Kercher in 2007.
It wasn't clear how soon Knox could leave Italy but nothing in Italian law would prevent her from returning home, even if prosecutors appeal the acquittal to Italy's highest court, legal experts say.
One of Knox's lawyers, Carlo della Vedova, said he didn't know when Knox would leave Italy. Knox had an outdated passport that had to be renewed, but it's not clear how quickly that could be done or if the paperwork was already completed.
The eight-member jury acquitted both Knox and Sollecito of murder after a court-ordered review of the DNA evidence cast serious doubts over the main DNA evidence linking the two to the crime.
"We've been waiting for this for four years," said one of Sollecito's lawyers, Giulia Bongiorno.
The judge upheld Knox's conviction on a charge of slander for accusing bar owner Diya "Patrick" Lumumba of carrying out the killing. He set the sentence at three years, meaning for time served. Knox has been in prison since Nov. 6, 2007.
The Kercher family looked on grimly and a bit dazed as the verdict was read out by the judge after 11 hours of deliberations. Outside the courthouse, some of the hundreds of observers shouted "Shame, shame!"
The victim's sister, Stephanie Kercher, who was in Perugia with her mother and brother for the verdict, lamented that her sister "has been nearly forgotten."
"We want to keep her memory alive," she said after the verdict.