Amanda Knox, who maintained that she and a former Italian boyfriend were innocent in her British roommate's murder, was vindicated Friday when Italy's highest court threw out their convictions, the Associated Press reports. The decision ends the 7½-year legal battle by Knox, 27, and Raffaele Sollecito, 31, to clear their names in the gruesome 2007 murder and sexual assault of British student Meredith Kercher. Knox recently has been a reporter for the West Seattle, Wa., Herald. A panel of Italy’s Court of Cassation panel deliberated for 10 hours before declaring that the two did not commit the crime, a stronger exoneration than merely finding insufficient evidence to convict.
Had the court upheld the pair's convictions, Knox would have faced 28 ½ years in prison, if she had been extradited, while Sollecito had faced 25 years. The case attracted widespread media attention due to the brutality of the murder and the allegations that the young American student and her new Italian lover had joined a third man in stabbing to death 21-year-old Kercher in a sex game gone awry. Though it cleared Knox of murder, the court upheld a slander conviction against her for wrongly accusing a Congolese-born bar owner in the murder. The court reduced the sentence to three years. Because Knox already spent nearly four years in Italian prison, she won't have to serve that time.