PERUGIA, Italy — American college student Amanda Knox was found guilty of murdering her British roommate and sentenced to 26 years in prison early today after a yearlong trial that gripped Italy and drew intense media attention.
Her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, was also convicted and sentenced to 25 years. They were also found guilty of sexual assault in the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old student from England.
Knox, 22, burst into tears and murmured, "No, no," after the judge read the verdict shortly after midnight following some 13 hours of deliberations. She then hugged one of her lawyers.
Minutes later, Knox, who is from Seattle, and Sollecito, 25, were taken back to jail.
Prosecutors had sought life imprisonment, Italy's stiffest sentence. Courts can give less severe punishment than what prosecutors demand.
Knox's father, Curt Knox, asked if he would fight on for his daughter, replied, with tears in his eyes: "Hell, yes."
"This is just wrong," her stepmother, Cassandra Knox, said, turning around immediately after hearing the verdict.
The family had insisted that Amanda Knox was innocent and a victim of character assassination.
Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca called the verdict and sentence "satisfactory," but he acknowledged: "There is deep suffering on all sides."
Throughout the trial, prosecutors depicted Knox as a promiscuous and manipulative she-devil whose personality clashed with her roommate's. They say Knox had grown to hate Kercher.
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.
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 while the two were studying in the medieval town of Perugia in Italy's central Umbria region. Prosecutors said the Leeds University student was murdered the previous night.
Prosecutors argued that on the night of the murder, Knox and Sollecito met at the apartment where Kercher and Knox lived. They say a fourth person was there, Rudy Hermann Guede, an Ivory Coast citizen who has been convicted in the murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guede, who is appealing his conviction, says he was in the house the night of the murder but did not kill Kercher.
The prosecution says Knox and Kercher started arguing, and that Knox joined the two men in attacking and sexually assaulting the Briton under "the fumes of drugs and possibly alcohol."
Knox said Kercher was a friend whose slaying shocked and saddened her.
Defense lawyers described Knox, 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.