Knox found guilty of Kercher murder

American breaks down after being sentenced to 26 years in Italian jail for killing British student
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The Independent Online

Amanda Knox was last night found guilty of the murder of Meredith Kercher and sentenced to serve 26 years in prison.

In a dramatic and emotional courtroom scene, Knox and her young sister Deanna began weeping as the jury filed into the courtroom. As the sentence was read, she laid her head down and cried on the chest of her Perugia lawyer standing next to her, Luciano Ghirga, who hugged her tightly as presiding Judge Giancarlo Massei read the opinion, which included an additional year of prison for Knox for the slander charge for falsely accusing Congolese pub owner Patrick Lumumba. Her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, was also found guilty and received a 25-year sentence.

Knox, distraught and sobbing, was led out of the courtroom by a prison guard on each arm as her family watched, stunned. Her sister Deanna's cries echoed in the courtroom, where two of the women jurors and a number of family friends also wept.

"Its wrong. Incredible. Disappointing," said Knox's stepmother Cassandra Knox "What kind of justice will they get in appeal if it is taking place in this same city?"

"We tried to prepare Amanda, but she wasn't ready."

The Kercher family, accompanied by the attaché to the British embassy in Rome and aided by an interpreter, also comforted one another and wiped their eyes. John Kercher, Meredith's father, hugged prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, who chewed nervously on his cherry wood pipe as he waited for the jury's verdict. Arline Kercher looked directly at Sollecito and Knox as they were led in and out of the courtroom. The police officers who investigated Kercher's death also shook hands with family members after the announcement. The Kerchers will be holding a press conference today to make an official comment.

Two of the female jurors wept as the sentence was read. Sollecito's stepmother yelled out "Stay strong Raffaele" and broke into loud sobs as he was led away by prison guards. Half a dozen of Sollecito's best friends also broke into tears and paced angrily, holding their red faces in their hands and shaking their heads.

Sollecito's lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, said outside the courtroom: "The appeal begins tomorrow."

The sentence was deemed by some Italian court observers to be more lenient than expected from the tough judge, who has already handed down three life sentences this year alone. The prosecutor had asked for life in prison and solitary confinement, but the jury chose to shave off a number of years off of his request due to mitigating circumstances such as their youth and clean criminal records.

"I am not at peace," said Knox's lawyer, Luciano Ghirga upon leaving the courtroom. "They didn't have the courage to go all the way. It is a judicial compromise."

The sentence came just before midnight, approximately 13 hours after the jury began deliberating. After exiting the courtroom, a stunned and angry Curt Knox led his two young daughters down the main shopping street of the old city centre, passing under strings of Christmas lights, a sad reminder of the holidays which he hoped his daughter would be sharing in Seattle. As he walked, he was trailed by a group of photographers and a British documentary film team, part of the massive media presence gathered outside the courtroom, where the scene was sadly carnival-esque, with satellite trucks packed around a carousal and ferris wheel. A number of local Perugians spilled out of the cafés and trattorias to gather around to hear the outcome of the sensational and acrimonious trial, which has been going on for the last 11 months.