Knox, family head home to US after her acquittal
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
LONDON (AP) — After Italian prisoners gave her a boisterous send-off, Amanda Knox made her way home to America on Tuesday, holing up with family on the upper deck of a jetliner to Seattle as she enjoyed her first full day of freedom since her murder conviction was reversed.
Reporters on board the British Airways flight hoping to talk to Knox, now a tabloid staple on two continents, were blocked on the stairs by a flight attendant who politely informed them the family would speak publicly only after the plane touched down at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It was unclear whether Knox herself would speak then.
Knox’s life, spent in prison for the last four years, turned around dramatically Monday when an Italian appeals court threw out her murder conviction in the death of her British roommate. The decision, fueled by doubts over DNA evidence, stunned the victim’s family and angered the prosecution, which insists she was among three people who killed 21-year-old Meredith Kercher.
Knox left Perugia’s Capanne prison Monday night amid cheers that a companion compared to those at a soccer stadium.
Hundreds of inmates — most of them in the men’s wing — shouted “Amanda, ciao!” and “Freedom!” as she walked into the central courtyard, said Corrado Maria Daclon, head of the Italy-US Foundation, which championed Knox’s cause.
“They were screaming like crazy,” said Daclon, who accompanied Knox in her first hours of freedom. Daclon said Knox jumped a little for joy and waved to the prisoners.
She was soon on her way home, protected by the darkened windows of a Mercedes that led her out of the prison in the middle of the night, and then Tuesday morning to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport.
“Those who wrote, those who defended me, those who were close, those who prayed for me,” Knox wrote in a letter released just hours before leaving the country, “I love you.”
Knox thanked those Italians “who shared my suffering and helped me survive with hope,” in a letter to the Italy-US Foundation, which seeks to promote ties between the two countries.
“During the trip from Perugia to Rome, Amanda was serene,” said Daclon, who was with Knox in the car.
Knox flew from Rome to London, where she took a direct flight to Seattle, flying business class with full-length seat and menu options including champagne, smoked salmon and prawn salad.
At least nine members of media organizations were on board, but a British Airways attendant on the flight blocked them from the plane’s secluded upper deck “to preserve the privacy” of passengers. The attendant, quoting a Knox family member, said media were not allowed to contact Knox or her family on the flight but were welcome to attend a news conference later in Seattle.
“WELCOME HOME AMANDA,” read the marquee at a record store in the neighborhood where Knox grew up. Another welcome sign was hung at her father’s house.
“We always talked about what we would do when she gets home,” said her uncle Michael Huff. “... She wanted to lay down on the lawn, her grass.”
Huff said his niece was able to handle her ordeal because “she’s a strong kid. She’s unbelievable.”
“We always knew that she was innocent. It was trying to get the court to see that,” Huff said. “The defense team did a fantastic job to show that.”
To Knox, the verdict means freedom after four years behind bars and under the spotlight of an international press focused on her every word or gesture. The case has been a cause celebre in the U.S., and a staple of British tabloids, which took to calling her “Foxy Knoxy.”
“FREE,” said local newspaper La Nazione on its front page, dominated by a huge photo of a crying Knox, overwhelmed by emotions as the verdict was read out Monday night in a packed courtroom in Perugia.
Her grandmother Elisabeth Huff said when she heard the verdict, “I felt like a huge rock fell off me.”
“It was like the weight of the world had gone. Now I can look forward to sleeping at night. We were just jumping with joy,” she told the Associated Press outside her Seattle home Tuesday afternoon.
Kerchner’s family said during an emotional news conference Monday that they were back to “square one.”
“If those two are not the guilty parties, then who are the guilty people?” asked Lyle Kercher, a brother of the victim.
Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini expressed disbelief at the innocent verdicts of Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. He said he will appeal to Italy’s highest criminal court after receiving the reasoning behind the acquittals, due within 90 days.
“Let’s wait and we will see who was right. The first court or the appeal court,” Mignini told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “This trial was done under unacceptable media pressure.”