Knox convicted, sentenced to 26 years in Italy - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Knox convicted, sentenced to 26 years in Italy

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U.S. murder suspect Amanda Knox, right, is accompanied by a police penitentiary officer as Italian murder suspect Raffaele Sollecito is seen behind her as they arrives for a hearing at the Perugia court, Italy, Tuesday, Dec.1, 2009.(AP Photo/Stefano Med) U.S. murder suspect Amanda Knox, right, is accompanied by a police penitentiary officer as Italian murder suspect Raffaele Sollecito is seen behind her as they arrives for a hearing at the Perugia court, Italy, Tuesday, Dec.1, 2009.(AP Photo/Stefano Med)

PERUGIA, Italy (AP) — A jury has convicted American college student Amanda Knox of murdering her British roommate and sentenced her to 26 years in prison while her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PERUGIA, Italy (AP) — An Italian jury began deliberating Friday whether American college student Amanda Knox and her one-time Italian boyfriend are guilty of murdering her British roommate and should be sentenced to life in prison.

A verdict was expected around midnight (6 p.m. EST, 2300 GMT) in the yearlong trial, which drew intense media attention and largely focused on the personality of the 22-year-old student from Seattle and her life as an exchange student in Italy.

Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, 25, were charged with murder and sexual assault in the 2007 slaying of Meredith Kercher. All three were studying in Perugia in Italy's central Umbria region at the time.

Kercher's body was found in a pool of blood with her throat slit on Nov. 2, 2007, in the bedroom of the house she shared with Knox. Prosecutors contended the 21-year-old Leeds University student was murdered the previous night.

Prosecutors are seeking life sentences, including nine months of daytime solitary confinement for Knox and two months for Sollecito. Both have pleaded innocent. Under Italian law, if convicted, Knox could receive a lesser sentence than the one requested by prosecutors, and both prosecutors and defendants can appeal.

"They've got two 20-year-old kids and they are going to be determining their life," Curt Knox, the American defendant's father, told reporters at the courthouse.

The trial spanned more than 50 hearings and dozens of witnesses. Sollecito hired one of Italy's top criminal lawyers, who is also a member of parliament, and Knox has repeatedly addressed the court.

The day before deliberations began, the former University of Washington student made an emotional appeal in which she said she was not a murderer and didn't want to have "the mask of an assassin" forced onto her.

"I am scared of being branded what I am not," she told the jurors, speaking in near-perfect Italian.

The eight-member jury, including presiding Judge Giancarlo Massei and another judge, were sequestered in the courtroom of this medieval university town at midmorning Friday.

Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, said she was "extremely hopeful" and "confident that the judges and the jury are going to make the right decision."

The Kercher family, from Coulsdon, Surrey, in southern England, also were in Perugia for the verdict.

Prosecutors contend that on the night of the murder, Knox and Sollecito were at the apartment with Kercher and another man, Rudy Hermann Guede. Guede, an Ivory Coast citizen whose DNA was found on Kercher's body, was convicted in a separate trial and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guede, who is appealing his conviction, admitted being in the house but insisted he didn't kill Kercher.

The prosecution says Knox and Kercher started arguing, and that Knox joined the two men in brutally attacking and sexually assaulting the Briton under "the fumes of drugs and possibly alcohol."

Prosecutors have depicted Knox as a promiscuous and manipulative she-devil whose personality clashed with her roommate's. They say Knox had grown to hate Kercher.

During the trial, the most intimate details of Knox's life were examined, from her lax hygiene — allegedly a point of contention with Kercher — to her sex life, even including a sex toy.

Knox said Kercher was a friend whose slaying shocked and saddened her.

Defense lawyers have described the American, who made the dean's list at the University of Washington, as a smart and cheerful woman, at one point even comparing her to film character Amelie, the innocent and dreamy girl in the 2001 French movie of the same title.

That is the film Knox and Sollecito say they were watching at his home on the night of the murder, where they say they smoked marijuana and had sex. Knox said she went home the next morning to find the door to the house open and Kercher dead.

The prosecution maintains that a 6½-inch knife authorities found at Sollecito's house could be the murder weapon; they say Kercher's DNA was found on the blade and Knox's on the handle. However, defense lawyers argue the knife was too big to match Kercher's wounds and the amount of DNA collected was too small to determine with certainty whose it was.

The defense maintained there was not enough evidence for a conviction and no clear motive.

However, prosecutor Manuela Comodi said violent crimes can lack a motive. "We live at a time where violence is purposeless," she told the jury.

Knox gave contradictory versions of the night of the slaying, saying at one point she was home and had to cover her ears to block out Kercher's screams and accusing a Congolese man of the killing. The man, Patrick Diya Lumumba, owns a pub in Perugia where Knox worked. He was jailed briefly but was later cleared and is seeking defamation damages from Knox.

Knox later contended that police pressure led her to initially accuse an innocent man.

When deliberations began, Knox and Sollecito were escorted to the prison cells where they have spent the past two years. Italian law permits the jailing of suspects in serious crimes even before indictment in case of flight risk or the possibility of evidence tampering.

At home in Seattle, Knox's friends and family anxiously awaited the verdict. Knox's aunt, Janet Huff of West Seattle, told KING-TV she was holding onto her BlackBerry like it was a lifeline while awaiting news.

If convicted, Knox would likely be ordered to remain in jail, even though in Italy sentences are not served until all appeals are exhausted, a process that can take years.

If acquitted, Knox would be freed after paperwork is completed, her family said. They declined to give details on any travel plans.

Knox and Sollecito also were tried on lesser charges, including staging a break-in, carrying a knife, and the theft of about $450 in cash and Kercher's cell phones and credit cards. Prosecutors say Knox and Sollecito broke a window in a bedroom to stage a burglary and sidetrack the investigation.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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