By Megan Williams
A free Amanda Knox has left Italy, after spending four years in an Italian jail. The 24-year-old from Seattle was accused and convicted of murdering her British roommate and fellow student Meredith Kercher. But an appeals court overturned her conviction and Knox was released. Now Italians are divided on whether their legal system has produced a fair outcome.
The verdict from the appeals court in Perugia was unequivocal. The judge who read it ordered the immediate release of Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. The jury fully acquitted the pair of murder.
During the appeals trial, independent experts testified that the small amount of DNA evidence linking the former couple to the crime was not reliable.
While inside the courtroom there was jubilation, outside there were signs that not everyone was satisfied with the acquittal. Onlookers crowded in the piazza outside the Perugia court chanted "Vergogna!" or "Shame!" after hearing the verdict.
In Italy, public opinion has been divided, not just over the verdict, but also over the impact an American pro-Knox propaganda campaign had on the outcome. Some, like prosecution lawyer Guiliano Mignini, say that campaign extended beyond Knox's family and supporters to include U-S media outlets.
"There was unacceptable media pressure surrounding this trial that unfortunately led to a verdict that was almost a foregone conclusion," said the prosecutor after the verdict.
Others in Italy are left with doubts. "I'm just wondering if it's true, if they are really innocent," said a university student interviewed on the street in Rome. "Or maybe it's just because of American pressure and people's opinion in America."
Another student in Rome said it's the infamously slow and complicated Italian justice system that's at fault. "The verdict simply represents the usual inefficient Italian legal system," he said. "Whether they're guilty or innocent, the verdict is still wrong, because the legal system let too much time go by, keeping two potentially innocent people in prison for four years."
The legal system actually worked as it is supposed to, said Carlo della Vedova, one of Amanda Knox's defence lawyers.
"In this case, there is no winner," said della Vedova right after the verdict. "They have rectified a mistake. And this is what happened today. The court of appeal has rectified a mistake of the first judges."
Italian legal expert Maurizio Bellacosa agrees that the outcome of the appeal is proof of a system that worked, despite its slow pace.
"The Italian system is full of guarantees for the defendants that can ask for a new examination of all evidences in a second instance trial. That's what happened in particular with a new expert opinion on the technical issues of the case, like the analysis of the DNA traces and so on. So this is the best demonstration of how full of guarantees the Italian system is for defendants."
Prosecutors in the Knox case have already said they will file an appeal with Italy's Supreme Court. That could take another year at least. And even if the court were to order yet another trial, an extradition request for Amanda Knox is not likely to be successful.