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Image: Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher
AP file
Amanda Knox, left, has been convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher.
NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Dennis Murphy Correspondent
Dateline NBC
updated 12/5/2009 5:28:06 PM ET 2009-12-05T22:28:06

This report aired on Dateline NBC on Friday, Dec. 4, 2009. You can see related web-exclusive videos here.

Amanda Knox, guilty of murder. The 22-year old American--already long convicted in the Italian court of public opinion--was found guilty in the only court that matters. A Seattle college student who only intended to come to Italy for a few months of study will, failing an appeal, spend at least 24 years of her life in an Italian prison. A parents' nightmare realized. Her onetime boyfriend convicted too in a case that inflamed passions on both sides of the Atlantic.

What ended Friday, Dec. 4 in an building from the Middle Ages began more than two years ago now in the same nearby streets of Perugia, Italy.

It was Nov. 1, the evening of All Saints Day, as the young English student made her way home through the cobbled streets of the ancient Italian fortress city. Meredith Kercher was 21 years old and just weeks before leaving Britain for her year abroad, she'd helped a musician friend with his video. Meredith--Mez to her friends--had, some thought, an exotic allure and her brief turn in the music video--a lark, really--captured the quality.

Now, months later, as she returned that night to her student bungalow in Perugia, perhaps, she reflected on what a pleasant evening it had been with her English girlfriends over at their digs. Pizza and a movie, the romantic teary story of eternal love, "The Notebook."

Maybe after clubbing till all hours the night before, she needed a low-key recovery night. It was Halloween and she'd gone as a female vampire with blood dripping from her fangs.

She'd bumped into Patrick Lumumba, the Congolese bar owner--her American roommate's boss--and he'd dangled an intriguing invitation before her: come DJ one night a week at the bar. It would be "Mez Night" at his hole-in-the-wall club, Le Chic.

Lumumba thought Meredith's good looks would be a draw. She told him she'd think about it.

But there'd never be a "Mez Night." There'd never be a year of studying literature at the University of Perugia. Never again a movie and pizza with girlfriends.

When she opened the door to the apartment she shared with three others, Meredith Kercher had less than two hours to live. She was found the next day after 1 p.m. A ghastly scene. Murdered in her bedroom, her throat slashed. Her killer or killers had thrown a bed cover over her bruised and mostly naked body.

The murder case, of course, became a national sensation. Not just that a promising life had been extinguished in such a brutal fashion but even more for the Italian authorities theory of the crime and the three they'd accused of doing it.

There was the African-born idler, Rudy Guede, a 20-year old hanger-on of the student scene in Perugia. He danced in the clubs and by reputation was a small-time marijuana dealer.

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This is a homemade video Rudy Guede uploaded to a web page, him ghoulishly playing "Dracula." "I'm gonna' suck your blood," he moans.

The second person accused of killing Meredith was a slight Italian computer-sciences student, a doctor's son, 23-year old Raffaele Sollecito. He'd posted a picture of himself on a social networking site costumed as a mad surgeon with a bloody meat cleaver.

But to American ears the most baffling of all was the third person charged. Inexplicable, really. Sollecito's girlfriend of one week and the new roommate of the murdered woman: Amanda Knox, a 20-year-old Seattle student from the University of Washington.

On her web page, she'd uploaded a leggy glam shot and said her nickname was "Foxy Knoxy."

The Italian prosecutors asserted that after an evening of smoking marijuana with her boyfriend, the scrubbed American, Amanda Knox had plunged a knife into the throat of the roommate she'd quickly grown to hate, simmering tensions over money, men and drugs suddenly flaring into sexual humiliation turned murderous. Three-on-one: Rudy Guede accused of sexually assaulting the unwilling English woman from behind, as Sollecito the boyfriend gripped her arms and pushed her to her knees. Amanda Knox, the theory went, was in front, taunting her roommate with a kitchen knife.

That was two years ago. For the last year Amanda Knox and the onetime boyfriend have been on trial together in an Italian courtroom, charged with murder.

Twice a week they've been brought under guard from jail cells to hear the accusations made against them. The court an imposing stone hall from the Middle Ages where a Madonna looks down on the proceedings from a faded fresco above.

The jury, Italian style--two judges and six citizens --lean forward to take in what we call in America the opening argument.

Reporter Barbie Nadeau has covered the crime and trial for Newsweek magazine.

Barbie Nadeau: The prosecutor believes that what happened the night before was that Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede made a plan to do something to Meredith.

There would be months of testimony and evidence to follow. A story told by DNA, blood smears and ghostly luminoled footprints. Accounts of screams heard in the night. A deeply perplexing confession by Amanda later retracted.

Barbie Nadeau: You've got beautiful young women. You've got sex, you've got drugs, you've got lies. You've got a beautiful little Umbrian village. You've got all of these elements that would make a very intriguing movie. It's just unfortunate that it's real, that it really happened.

You'll see all of that now in the trial of Amanda Knox.

Perugia, in the center of Italy, is a magnificent hillside town, built largely of stone and populated by young people. There are two universities here. Forty-thousand students. And on a weekend, it can feel like a perpetual spring break.

For the foreign student destined to become the most famous of them all, Amanda Knox, it was a very juicy and very different scene than the neighborhood where she grew up in Seattle. She is a pretty, smiley kid in her family snapshots.

A soccer player at her private Catholic prep school--she got the nickname "Foxy" from her moves on the field, by the way, and not because she thought she was God's Gift as it would be spun later. A sort of tomboy retro hippy who made good grades had good friends.

Alexandra: Generous, kind, genuine, optimistic, bubbly.  Pretty much all the good words that you can find in a dictionary, she was.  (laughter) So--

She looked forward to good prospects as she left classes at the University of Washington for a few months of immersion Italian studies at Perugia's University for Foreigners.

By the end of that same year--just months later--Amanda Knox would already have been tried and convicted in the Italian court of public opinion as the heartless killer with the face of an angel and ice-cold Eyes.  Already guilty in the minds of so many Italians as she walked into court for the first day of her murder trial.

Reporter Nick Pisa was there.

Nick Pisa: And for several seconds all you could hear was the clicking of camera shutters as people filmed her walking in. As I say, Italy is one of those places captivated by, if you like, a young pretty blonde American girl.

Dennis Murphy, Dateline NBC Correspondent: Almost as though she's this enigmatic little starlet.

Nick Pisa: Exactly. Yes.

Dennis Murphy: what is she wearing today? Is she upbeat? Is she downbeat, people are watching her mood in court?

Nick Pisa: In Italy it's all about image, “la bella figura,” as they say here, you know, "the beautiful image" and the way that you portray yourself.

When Amanda got off the train here in September of 2001, she was just another face in the student throng. She rented a room in the upstairs apartment of a delightful little house with a view deck where she could play her beloved Beatles songs on guitar.

She would be sharing the bungalow with two Italian women and Meredith from England. Like her a student enjoying studies abroad.

Amanda dove into Perugia.

She'd always worked odd jobs to make ends meet and the former barista from Seattle quickly got herself hired here at this popular hangout bar, le chic. Student by day, waitress every Tuesday and Thursday nights, $65 bucks a week, plus tips.

Her boss was the bar owner, Patrick Lumumba from Congo. He liked to sing reggae for his customers but he did not appreciate the way his new barmaid Amanda was flirting and dancing with the cute boys who came in.

Patrick Lumumba: Things didn't go very well. Often I would have to remind her to take care of the customers. She would apologize, but would eventually get distracted by her friends.

Lumumba told us two years ago he was going to fire Amanda and offer her job to the English roommate Meredith. In late October Amanda and Meredith went to a classical music concert. A young bespectacled student who gave off a Harry Potter vibe caught Amanda's eyes. She loved Harry Potter and within days she was falling hard for his Italian look-a-like. His name was Raffaele Sollecito.

His friends from the seaside town where he grew up in Southern Italy, say Raffaele is a lot like a storybook character -- handsome, intelligent and sensitive. 

Amanda and Raffaele began a whirlwind romance.  It was only a week old when Halloween rolled around. Young Perugia was marking the holiday with a blow-out party night to kick off the start of a long four-day weekend. Meredith went out dressed as a vampire. Amanda partied at Le Chic then bar-hopped, ultimately hooking up with Sollecito in the wee hours.

The next day, Thursday, November 1 was a slow rise for everyone. Amanda recalled later that Meredith still had traces of her vampire make-up on as they picked at lunch together. That afternoon Meredith headed out for pizza and a video at her English girlfriends.

Amanda would later say she and Raffaele stayed in at his place to watch a movie on his computer.  And that she was delighted when her boss Lumumba texted her, giving her the night off.  She added she and Raffaele made a fish dinner, shared some marijuana and went to bed. She says returned home the next morning at about 10:30.

Newsweek reporter Barbie Nadeau picks up the story.

Barbie Nadeau: She comes to her house and finds the door open, finds it a little bit strange because the door's always locked. Two of her roommates are away for the weekend. So she goes into the bathroom, takes a shower, goes to her room and changes clothes and she notices blood after she's taken a shower. There's blood in the bidet. There's blood on the sink. She finds it curious but yet she dries her hair, she goes back to her room, gets dressed and then she says that she calls Raffaele and she says something strange is happening at the house and he comes over. That's her story.

Meanwhile, about a half mile down the road, an elderly woman had reported finding two cell phones tossed in her front garden. The police later traced the phones to the little cottage and paid a visit.

Barbie Nadeau: And they pull into the yard and they find, and have testified, that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are standing outside the house. Raffaele Sollecito with his jacket on, Amanda Knox without a jacket, and they look absolutely shocked. This was the testimony by the police. They looked surprised.

Raffaele Sollecito tells the cops there's been a break in and he's already called the Italian 911.  But had he?

Barbie Nadeau: Phone records then were able to prove that he hadn't actually called the police yet.

Did Raffaele already know that a gruesome crime had been committed?

Dennis Murphy: This is the start of a tangled story?

Barbie Nadeau: This is the beginning.

The cottage on Villa Della Pergola would be called hence the House of Horrors.

When they forced open Meredith Kercher's bedroom door, they saw the English woman's foot sticking out from beneath a bed comforter. Her throat had been slashed. The medical examiner would rule later that she hadn't died instantly. Rather, she drowned in her own blood.

As police and crime scene technicians began photographing and bagging evidence, they found a shattered bedroom window.  Valuables, lying untouched. An unflushed toilet. Spots of blood on a sink and bidet.  A bloody footprint on a blue bath mat.  A DNA treasure trove.

News cameras, meanwhile, picked up something else:  Amanda and her boyfriend Raffaele tenderly kissing outside the house.

When those images got splashed all over Italian newspapers and television and when reporters quickly found her My Space postings, Foxy Knoxy was born. The pretty blonde American captivated Italians as more tidbits were concreted into her instant image as a sexual aggressor, a femme fatale.

Item: She'd been seen nuzzling with the boyfriend at a local shop as they bought underwear for her. The store owner said he heard them laughing about having hot sex that night, just the day after her roommate had been found murdered.

And by now police investigators were also taking a hard look at Amanda and Raffaele.

Barbie Nadeau: They're watching them. And a lot of people testified to the fact that Amanda didn't cry.

The two--Amanda and Raffaele, like most of the others who knew Meredith, were questioned. His story and hers were slightly out of synch. Where they'd been at what time kind of issues.

The authorities ran a wiretap on both their phones and got a nugget on an Amanda call to him.

Barbie Nadeau: There is one particular telephone conversation that they intercepted in which Amanda Knox says, “I can't take it anymore.” And that is the moment they called Raffaele Sollecito into the police office for further interrogation.

It was Monday night, three days since the discovery of Meredith's body. The investigators had summoned Raffaele. Amanda went with him. In the waiting area outside his interview room, Amanda began to behave in a bizarre fashion, doing cartwheels and the splits.

Reporter Nick Pisa: And the police officer says “Well, you may be tired and stressed but here we have a friend of yours who's been brutally murdered. Do you really think this is how you should be behaving in the police station?”

Meanwhile, behind closed police doors, Raffaele was throwing his girlfriend under the bus.

Barbie Nadeau: Amanda Knox's alibi is falling apart because Raffaele Sollecito said during that initial interrogation, “I don't know if she spent the night. I think she left. In fact, I'm sure she left.” That night the investigators put Amanda into the hot seat and began grilling her. “Who are you protecting, who are you protecting, who are you protecting?” And she was saying, “No, nobody.” And they said “Look at your phone.”

On her cell phone was a text message from her boss Lumumba at the bar: "See you later." What did that mean? they demanded. Had the two of them hooked up at the house?

Barbie Nadeau: And so as a result of that, according to Amanda Knox, the police then latched on to the idea that it was Patrick Lumumba and put the idea in her head, in which she eventually broke and said "Yes, it was Patrick.” I heard the screams. And she covered her ears with her fingers and said, “I didn't know what to do and Patrick was killing her.”

Amanda Knox had put herself in the house as Meredith Kercher was being murdered. She later retracted the so-called confession and went back to story one. She'd been at Sollecito's apartment all night. But by then, she'd already been hauled off to a jail cell along with Sollecito and Patrick Lumumba, her boss whom she'd accused of murdering Meredith.

The prosecution then began to square Amanda's story with the blood and gore found in the little cottage. Erotic game turned to murder was the prosecutor's conclusion based on the physical evidence.

Within days of Amanda's confession, the authorities confidently declared they had Meredith's killers in custody.

Barbie Nadeau: This is what began the formal investigation into her as a prime suspect in this.

But the initial crime theory was flawed. The crime scene techs were finding no trace of Lumumba in the house. What's more he had an air-tight alibi witness swearing he'd been at his bar when the murder occurred.

But someone - not Amanda, not Sollecito - had left a bloody handprint on a pillow case beneath the body suitable for framing. That print and DNA tests from the toilet matched the same man: Rudy Guede, an Ivory-Coast born drifter who hung out at the local basketball court.

Barbie Nadeau asked students if they knew Rudy Guede.

Barbie Nadeau: They said, “Oh yeah. Well, he's, you know, he could always get you some pot, whatever you wanted, whatever type you wanted.” But he was never arrested for selling drugs.

Amanda admitted to meeting Rudy Guede twice. He'd seen both Amanda and Meredith when he'd visited the boys who rented the rooms beneath their place in the bungalow. Rudy was arrested on the lam in Germany and returned to Perugia.

Lumumba was freed.

The prosecutor's theory of an Amanda-led sexual assault on the strait-laced English roommate, however, remained intact, simply substituting Rudy Guede for Patrick Lumumba. All three were investigated for murder.

That was two years ago. Since then Rudy has been in court. He asked to be separated from Knox and Sollecito in what's known in Italy as a "speedy trial." In the proceeding, he admitted to being in the house that night, but claimed he was there for a date with Meredith.

He told a story about being in the bathroom when he heard voices then Meredith's scream, how he struggled with the attacker, a young man with a knife who told him he'd go down for the crime. Then went into the bedroom to find a dying Meredith Kercher. He said he was ashamed that he ran from the house without calling for help for the gravely injured woman.

The court didn't buy it. Rudy Guede was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 30 years.

January Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have been on trial for the same crime. It is the prosecution's core belief that there had be more than one person in the room that night attacking Meredith.  They believe Amanda was holding the knife.

Amanda Knox, still looking the fresh blue-jeaned student after more than a year in jail, continued to captivate the Italian media all the way through her murder trial.

Barbie Nadeau: They look at this girl with blue eyes, beautiful hair, beautiful young face and they think, “Wow! Could she really have done this?” And I think that keeps people interested.

The prosecutor had never wavered from his initial theory: that Amanda Knox slashed Meredith Kercher's throat as her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito held the young English woman down and Rudy Guede attempted to assault her sexually from behind. Drugs fuelling a violent payback: Amanda getting even with the roommate who nagged her about her drug use and the strange men she brought home. Amanda losing it in her rage.

It was a vivid tableau for the court to ponder.

Reporter Nick Pisa: I think what we have here is the prosecution have played a very good card here in that they've created a lot of character. They've managed to build up a very negative image of Amanda.

What's more, the jury -- already exposed to all the lurid details -- is not prevented from following press coverage of the very case they are deciding. Rudy Guede, who'd left behind copious DNA at the scene, had already been tried and convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

Amanda Knox and Sollecito would face the same punishment -- or worse -- if the prosecutor prevailed. They both had pleaded not guilty.

The prosecutor laid out the story you've heard so far: the special police returning two stolen cell phones only to discover a brutal murder and two young people cuddling outside the student rental. And there was Amanda's self-incriminating confession that was withdrawn.

Now it was time for the prosecution to present its forensic evidence to make its case: a story that would be told by blood and high-tech detective work. The story that Rudy Guede's presence alone does not explain everything the authorities uncovered.

The final alibi for the two was that they'd spent the night together at Sollecito's.

Barbie Nadeau: He said he was downloading a movie.  He said he was downloading cartoons.  Well, internet records don't lie.

The computer records and the internet records do not back up what he says he was doing that night.  They do not show that there was activity on his computer when he said there was. And another techie finding looked suspicious.

Both Amanda and Raffaele almost simultaneously turned off their cell phones two hours before Meredith died.

Dennis Murphy: Does that go to the understanding technically of what a cell phone is capable of, which is tracking you like a GPS device?

Barbie Nadeau: That is exactly right.

The authorities had spent weeks collecting and analyzing evidence from the bungalow.

What they found implicating Sollecito was a bra clasp from the victim. The prosecutor said it had the boyfriend's DNA on it.

The most damaging forensic evidence against Amanda was what the prosecution's expert said was mixed blood DNA of Amanda and Meredith found on the drain of the bidet.

Barbie Nadeau: She was convinced that it showed that Amanda Knox was involved in this crime.

Also presented: luminoled footprints found at the scene that might -- or might not -- match those of Amanda and Raffaele.

The prosecution also introduced a kitchen knife recovered from Sollecito's place that appeared newly cleaned with bleach and had, what the experts said, was Amanda's DNA on the handle and genetic material consistent with Meredith on the tip.

The prosecution also asserted the body was moved after Meredith died; blood smears on the floor described the motion. Also the bed cover thrown over it had no transfer blood on it, meaning the victim's blood had dried before the body was covered up.

Would Rudy Guede, alone, presumably wanting to get out of there as fast as he could, have bothered to move the body, waited sometime for the blood to have dried, and then thrown the bed quilt upon it?

Barbie Nadeau: The prosecution always felt, based on crime scene analysis, based on psychological analysis of-- of criminals, that a woman is more likely to cover a body than a man is.  And that really stuck in the mind of the prosecutor in this case, that-- that someone is-- couldn't look at the body anymore and so, covered her up.

What to make of the smashed bedroom window when nothing was taken? Had someone staged a break-in after the murder to suggest an intruder/rapist/killer? The only thing believed missing from the house were the two recovered cell phones and Meredith's $300 in rent money.

To reporter Barbie Nadeau, far and away the most damning evidence against Amanda Knox was her shifting story about the night of the murder. First: I wasn't there, then, you got me, yes I was. Something the Italians regard as "character evidence": of equal value to the forensics.

Dennis Murphy: And you always come back to that point don't you, Barbie? What was going on with the stories.

Barbie Nadeau: Absolutely. The tangled stories. It's the one, you know, it's probably the one area of this case that's very difficult to square. It's just you know under no matter what kind of pressure you might be under, why would you say you were in the room? Why would you say if you were in the house when the crime took place? How could you describe the screams and the murder unless you heard them?

And what could have possibly sparked such a murderous rage?

As the prosecutor saw it, Amanda was jealous of prim and proper Meredith who might even be getting her job at Lumumba's bar.

Meredith's English girlfriends, also studying in Italy, were called to the stand. They testified about Meredith's vocal displeasure over the American roomie's drug use, her sloppy bathroom habits, the men she brought home for sex.

Barbie Nadeau: They made Amanda Knox seem like an American Girl with loose morals.

But was tension between roommates a motivation for murder? The trial came down to a precious few forensic details: the bra clasp, the mixed blood drop, the footprints and one enormous convoluted story from the American who was never less than the focus of all the eyes in the courtroom.

In some eyes that persona from the tabloids Foxy Knoxy kept showing up in the courtroom. they saw a casually-dressed young college who didn't appear to be taking the court seriously.  Perhaps a more demure young woman in boxy clothes off the rack might have been the smarter way to impress the jury.

Barbie Nadeau: She's passing chocolates to her boyfriend. She's smiling at the camera. She's wearing inappropriate clothing. The trial at times feels like a reality TV setting. She really is seen at times like a character in a play or a character in a movie rather than a suspect of a very serious crime.

And those cameras would be recording the long-awaited moment that Amanda Knox took the stand to speak out in her own defense.

Throughout her trial, Amanda Knox has had two teams working for her: one fighting for her freedom, the other defending her name.

AnneBremner: I was asked to try and turn around the supertanker of misinformation before the trial.

Attorney Anne Bremner speaks for a group known as "Friends of Amanda Knox."  Five thousand miles from this Italian courtroom in Seattle, Wash., they have been mounting an online and on-air PR offensive to rehabilitate the American student's unsavory international reputation.

On NBC's TODAY show and other network and cable programs, Bremner--a former county prosecutor--has refuted the prosecution's case, citing everything from sloppy and suspect evidence collection...

AnneBremner: I called it Fellini forensics.

...to a motive for murder--I hate my roomie--that sounded ludicrous.

AnneBremner: There's no evidence to connect her physically in any way in what had to be a very violent crime which was carried out.

Finally, this past June, a year and half after the murder, Amanda Knox now 22 years old, addressed the court in both English and fluent Italian. The Ice Queen of the tabloids took on those first suspicions about her. Why the kissing and cuddling display with Raffaele just after Meredith's body was discovered?

Amanda Knox in Italian via translator: I was shaking. He embraced me.

All perfectly normal, adds Bremner, and no basis for the sleazy tabloid narrative that instantly superglued itself to the young student.

AnneBremner: Which was Foxy Knoxy. A sex crime.  Depraved. And we had to say, "Wait a minute.  Nice girl from Seattle.  Worked three jobs to get to Italy.  Very studious. Good friends with Meredith.  No violent background.

Amanda testified she was completely unaware her behavior--the cartwheels in the waiting room-- had gotten under the cops' skin.

Amanda Knox: Arriving in the police office, I didn't expect to be interrogated at all.

She recollected how in her all-night interrogation, the investigators peppered her with sneaky hypothetical questions: What if you'd been there? What might you have done? 

Amanda Knox: For instance, who could I imagine could be the person who killed Meredith? And I said I still didn't know.

The cops, she said, didn't like her answers.

Amanda Knox: They called me a stupid liar, and they said that I was trying to protect someone.

She said they cuffed her around the head until she admitted she was there and then coughed up her boss the bar owner, Patrick Lumumba, as Meredith's killer.

DennisMurphy: What are we to make of it?  "I was there. I admit it. I had to cover my ears to block out the screaming.  Wait a second.  I wasn't there.  I was with Raffaele at the apartment for the night."        

AnneBremner: Sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one and it is here, which was they asked her to imagine what happened.

DennisMurphy: Or maybe they cracked her and they finally got her--

AnneBremner: Yeah. Well--

DennisMurphy: --closer to the truth?

AnneBremner: --Well, if they cracked her and got her closer to the truth then what she would have done was to say that, "I did it."  But she didn't. She cooperates. And they took that, spun it and spun it all over the world as a confession.

DennisMurphy: Probably the most damaging thing to come out of that statement that she gave was giving up Lumumba. “He was the one who killed Meredith.”

AnneBremner: They said, "You know who did it. Give us the name."  You know, "You know Patrick."  That's the context. It's not like, "Oh, by the way, you know, I think I'm just gonna hand up a friend of mine."

In her hours on the stand, Amanda admitted to the court she did switch off her phone on the night of November 1, coincidentally, the night Meredith died.

She did that, she said, because, she was excited to have an unexpected night off with Raffaele and didn't want to be called to work suddenly. And there were other questions about Amanda's and especially Raffaele's electronic footprints. He told the special telephone police he'd already called the Italian 911.

DennisMurphy: in fact he hadn't.  And it was only after the telephone police showed up that the first calls were made.

AnneBremner: He had a relative that was in-- in the police department that he got a hold of.  And that's what he was saying.  And so, you know, to try and say he's not being truthful is not correct.

A point echoed by Raffaele's own father, Dr. Francesco Sollecito, who spoke to his son minutes after Meredith's body was found.  He says Raffaele was clearly in a state of shock.

To find himself in the house of someone who he had very vaguely met just a few days before and to see her there dead - killed - it was evident that this greatly upset him.

Though Bremner does not represent Sollecito, she also takes issue with the DNA found on the clasp of Meredith's bra.  The prosecution said it was Raffaele's DNA.  But Bremner notes police left the clasp lying around the crime scene for 47 days before collecting it as evidence.

AnneBremner: It was kicked around the room. I watched the footage where they drop it, pick it up, hand it to somebody else, then they say his DNA’s there along with a number of other people.

Raffaele's father goes a step further.  He says experts hired by his son's defense team have shown that there was no trace of Raffaele in that house.  The DNA on the bra clasp - and footprints - all rubbish, he says.

AnneBremner: The traces of DNA on the clasp don't belong to Raffaele. The footprint - we demonstrated through another forensic expert that the prints could belong to anyone except Raffaele.

At trial the toughest forensic evidence against Amanda Knox was the drop of blood in the bidet, her blood, experts said, freshly mingled with Meredith's.  "So what?" the defense countered. Mixed DNA wasn't unusual as the two roomies shared the bathroom.

AnneBremner: What we've heard from the experts in this case is that there was no blood in the footprints in the-- in the hallway.  None.  There was evidence of some blood in the bidet of Amanda Knox and near a sink.  And that-- consistent with having an injury to her ear with a piercing and not co-mingled in a way that would be consistent with any guilt in a homicide.

She also questions the DNA findings from the blade of that kitchen knife...

AnneBremner: Was not a match with Meredith.  Was not enough to test.  May not have been human.

DennisMurphy: This is the knife that killed her maybe or this is a knife definitively that killed her?

AnneBremner: This is not the knife that killed her.

Amanda Knox ... on trial for her life... had at last told her story.  As she stepped down, in at least one reporter's notebook, she did what she had to do.

Nick Pisa: I think she did very well. I think she came across very convincing, very self-assured, very confident.

AnneBremner: And in this case, there is no evidence that links Amanda Knox to the homicide. The knife doesn't match.  It's not the murder weapon.  There's not one hair follicle in that room from her.  No DNA.  No blood.  No saliva.  Zero of Amanda Knox in the room.

To Bremner and the friends of Amanda, Rudy Guede alone killed Meredith Kercher.

DennisMurphy: Rudy explains everything? Ladies and gentlemen of the court, why are we here?

AnneBremner: It's true.

DennisMurphy: You have your killer and he's convicted.

AnneBremner: Right, it's, it's really that simple.

But is the view from an Italian courtroom as clear as the view from Seattle?

Two years after the brief life of Meredith Kercher was memorialized in an English church, the trial of Amanda Knox and her onetime boyfriend was, on Friday, Dec. 4, in its final hours. Cameras jostling as the onetime Seattle student was led to her accustomed seat. Her younger sister, father and mother there for support. The case had gone to the jury and the consequences couldn't be more stark. Would Amanda Knox walk free or remain behind Italian prison walls, perhaps, for decades? How would it fall?

On Thursday, a clearly frightened Amanda rose to address the jury. She said, I am not a murderer. She pleaded for the jury to acquit her.

Amanda Knox in Italian: Many people have asked me the same question: "How have you managed to remain so calm?”  First of all, I'm not calm.  In these last days, I have written that I feared losing myself and was going around confused. I mean that I'm afraid of being defined as something that I am not and according to acts that are not mine. I'm afraid of having the mask of an assassin branded onto my skin. 

She thanked her family for their support and, surprisingly, even thanked the prosecutors for just doing their jobs even though they didn't understand. Now it's up to you, she told the jurors.

Then it was Sollecito's turn:

Raffaele Sollecito: I didn't kill Meredith and I wasn't in that house on the evening of the crime.  With every day that passes, I hope that the true guilty person will confess.

Sollecito said Amanda was not the she-devil portrayed by the prosecutor and he wasn't a girlfriend-dependent "dog on a leash."

For a long day behind closed doors the jury of eight, including two judges, considered an array of charges against the pair. Not just murder, but sexual assault, staging a break-in, and Amanda a civil charge of defaming her old boss Patrick Lumumba.

The jury called for dinner and then it was announced that they would come back with a verdict about midnight Italian time. Lawyers and families were summoned. Two police vans were pulled inside the courthouse gates. One for Amanda. One for Sollecito.

The courtroom hushed. The lead judge who was also one of the six jurors began to read the verdict: Amanda Knox guilty of the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher.

Guilty as well of most of the lesser charges. She sobbed and slumped her head on her lawyers shoulder. Fluent in Italian now, Knox knew immediately what had happened. Her parents behind her confused waiting for a translation they hoped they'd never hear.

Raffaele Sollecito, the doctor's son, guilty of the murder of Meredith Kercher. His stepmother sobbed and shouted out "Be Strong! Raffaele!"

And just like that, it was over. Twenty-six years for Amanda. Twenty-five for her onetime boyfriend.

Amanda was led down the stone passageway back to the waiting van. She was taken back to the same prison where's she's spent the last two years, time served off her fresh sentence.

Outside the courtroom her father Kurt Knox pushed a cameraman away from his two daughters--Amanda's half-sisters their eye makeup smudged.

Her mother also made her way through the crowd saying nothing to reporters.  But Amanda's family did issue a written statement:  "We find it difficult to accept this verdict when we know that she is innocent... we will continue to fight for her freedom."

International legal expert Theodore Simon has followed the case closely from his office in Philadelphia. And so it's finally over in Perugia, Italy. The university town goes on, of course, as memories fade.

The student rental cottage has been leased by three new tenants, African students.

But like a puzzle with lost and scattered pieces even people who know the case the best will always look at that little house and wonder what the horror there was all about. The why Meredith?

Barbie Nadeau: We absolutely have no idea what happened the night of Nov. 1, 2007. It's no more clearer than it was the days after she was murdered.

A quiet night with friends, then… the abyss.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints

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