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THE SITUATION ROOM

Amanda Knox Acquitted

Aired October 3, 2011 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so there you have it. You heard it in Italian. The bottom line, Amanda Knox, 24 years old, after four years in prison, is now about to become a free woman. Also her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 27 years old, he's about to become a free man.

Both of their verdicts, both of their guilty verdicts in the murder of Meredith Kercher, 21 years old at the time four years ago, overturned by six jurors, two judges in a dramatic moment that we all saw live here on CNN.

You're looking at these live pictures coming in from Perugia.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're going to cover all of this extensively. That's coming up. But let's listen in right now, Amanda Knox's sister speaking in Perugia.

DEANNA KNOX, SISTER OF AMANDA KNOX: Not only did they defend her brilliantly, but they also loved her.

We are thankful for the support we have received from all over the world, people who took the time to research the case and could see that Amanda and Raffaele were innocent. And last, we are thankful to the court for having the courage to look for the truth and to overturn this conviction.

We now respectfully ask you to give Amanda and the rest of our family our privacy that we need to recover from this horrible ordeal. Thank you.

BLITZER: So there you heard Deanna Knox, the younger sister of Amanda Knox, speaking out, expressing her gratitude.

We will be hearing a lot from the prosecutors and from the defense. Let's listen in. We will be getting a lot more reaction coming in, dramatic, dramatic developments in Perugia, Italy. Amanda Knox is now about to become free.

We are told she is going to be leaving the courthouse, taken back to prison, but eventually probably within a matter of only a few hours, she will be released, as well as her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 27 years old. She is 24 years old and this dramatic word just coming in.

Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, is watching all of this unfold.

Jeffrey, the conviction was upheld on a much lesser charge, basically, but she is about to become a free woman.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: She sure is, Wolf.

And based on what I know of the evidence, if this were an American courtroom, they would have reached the same result. This was a very thin case. Remember, there were three defendants in this case. There is an overwhelming evidence for guilt against one of the defendants, Guede, who is in prison serving 16 years.

But as for Amanda Knox and her boyfriend, the evidence is almost entirely these garbled, forced confessions and a highly, highly disputed one example of DNA. That is simply not enough to keep someone in prison for 25 years, much less for life. And this seems like a just verdict, and it seems like a verdict that a good American courtroom would render and she is coming home.

BALDWIN: She is coming home very quickly.

Becky Anderson is outside the courthouse watching all of this unfold.

Quickly, Becky, set the scene for us. What is going on now? I think this is the criminal defense attorney who representing Amanda Knox speaking to reporters at that microphone right now.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is in fact Sollecito's lawyer, I believe. We just heard from Amanda Knox's lawyer.

Her family have gone back in, Deanna Knox making a very short statement on behalf of the family. She was there with her father. They have gone back in to the courtroom. One assumes that they will have a chance to spend time with Amanda Knox now.

You're right in saying that we believe that she will be returned to prison, but simply to pick up her things and fill out the paperwork. Her American passport had actually expired. But we believe now that has also been sorted out. She can leave the country just as soon as they can get her on a flight.

Matthew Chance was in the courtroom when the decision on appeal was delivered.

Matt, just take us through what you saw and heard.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely incredible scenes, Becky. Inside, it was very tense as we saw Amanda Knox come in. She looked devastated, frankly, and exhausted. She was pale. She was stressed. She looked like that throughout the course of the last few days, as a matter of fact. But this time it was much worse. She was sitting on the chair sobbing, talking to her lawyer next to her. Then, when the jury came in, everybody stood up in the court and sat down again. And the decision was delivered very quickly. Amanda Knox has been acquitted of all charges except for the charge of defamation where she named Patrick Lumumba, the bar owner here in Perugia, as being the person that carried out the killing.

That still stands. But what it means is that after four years in jail, of course, she can walk free tonight potentially after she has done the paperwork that you mentioned. And that murder conviction against her and against her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito who was also acquitted tonight has been quashed by this court in Perugia.

ANDERSON: The Kercher family of course were there as well. As they walked in, I asked Lyle Kercher, Meredith's brother, how they were feeling. And he just said nervous. And they looked exhausted.

How did they respond to the decision?

CHANCE: Very, very different, obviously. It was a stark contrast. While there were whoops and cheers in the kind of Amanda Knox corner, if you like, of the courtroom, just in front of me was sitting Arline Kercher, the mother of Meredith Kercher, Stephanie Kercher, her sister, as well.

And they were very silent when they heard this verdict come through, this acquittal come through. The mother, Arline, sat in silence. But you could see that her tears were welling up in her eyes. Stephanie Kercher broke down in tears and was being comforted by the person next to her.

And it's understandable because obviously, they have been through absolute hell in the past several years. And they wanted very much for the original convict in the first trial, which found Amanda and Raffaele guilty of murder. They wanted that to be upheld because they believed there was good reason to suspect that Amanda and Raffaele did do it. But as we have seen tonight in these dramatic, dramatic scenes here in Perugia, the jury on this occasion did not agree with them and has set them free.

ANDERSON: And we are just hearing a lot of sound from around as people respond to some of the legal teams who are making their way out from this courthouse. There are two exits here. And we are hearing the similar discussions that we -- or similar response that we heard at the beginning of the decision making process.

I'm joined now by Amanda Knox's lawyer here.

Well, you must be absolutely delighted this evening.

CARLO DALLA VEDOVA, ATTORNEY FOR AMANDA KNOX: We are satisfied with the decision of the court. We were expecting this rectification of this mistake. So we're fully satisfied. Amanda is released. She wants to go back home. She has been waiting for this. She always confirmed that she was a friend of Amanda -- of Meredith and so this has exactly with -- relief, yes.

ANDERSON: Go over some of the facts here. When will she be able to leave Italy?

DALLA VEDOVA: As soon as possible, I think. She wants to go home. She is here with the family. We need to go and take her out from the prison right now. And as we organize the procedure, she will be in a position to go back home. She really wants to go back home. She is not leaving Italy. She likes Italy. She likes Perugia. She will be back. She came here for this reason. She just wants to go home now.

ANDERSON: Do they have a flight booked for her?

DALLA VEDOVA: I don't think so, no. I'm not aware and I'm not involved.

ANDERSON: OK. Hold on for one second. Let me just ask you -- I just need to get this correct.

I heard that she was acquitted of all charges aside from defamation. We heard the sentence of three years there. She won't serve any more time. Is that because she has already served four?

DALLA VEDOVA: Correct.

The time has passed. Therefore, she doesn't serve. And the court has ordered immediate release.

ANDERSON: All right. OK. I'm going to have to let you go. Thank you very much indeed for joining us this evening.

DALLA VEDOVA: Thank you. Thank you.

ANDERSON: Quite a remarkable scene outside the courthouse here in Perugia.

You have heard the news. Amanda Knox straight from the lawyer's mouth is now free to go. They will take her back to the prison, but she wants to get out. Even she loves Italy, she enjoyed her time here before this all started back in 2007, she is desperate to get home now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, Becky, as we watch what unfolds right now, correct me if I'm wrong, she is still in that courthouse right now. She is going to be taken back to the prison, get her documents under order, if you will, get any personal stuff she might want to take out of there and then she will be going to an airport. Presumably she will get a new passport because her old passport is expired.

The family wants to get her out of Italy on her way back home as quickly as possible. Is that the scenario you're being told will happen?

ANDERSON: Yes. Absolutely, that is exactly the scenario. The family came out and in your program, when you heard Deanna Knox, her sister, speaking, but they didn't then leave the courthouse. They went back in. One can only assume that's because they wanted to go back in and spend some time with Amanda before she leaves.

We have seen her come back and forth today. Right in beginning of the day, she was brought from the prison in a police van with the sirens wailing. She went right past here. She then left after they had made their pleas of innocence, as it were. They left, both of them, her former boyfriend and her, in that same police van. They were brought back about an hour or so ago. So one assumes that we will hear the walling of that siren once again as they are taken back to the prison, but this time it will be, of course, for the last time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to play, Becky, this clip, Deanna Knox, the sister of Amanda Knox, just moments ago speaking on behalf of the family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KNOX: Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not working.

(CROSSTALK)

KNOX: Hello. Great.

I'm Deanna Knox, Amanda Knox's sister. And I just have a few words on behalf of our family.

We are thankful Amanda's nightmare is over. She has suffered for four years for a crime that she did not commit. We are thankful for our lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova, Luciano Ghirga and Maria Del Grosso, and their assistants.

Not only did they defend her brilliantly, but they also loved her. We are thankful for the support we have received from all over the world, people who took the time to research the case and could see that Amanda and Raffaele were innocent. And last, we are thankful to the court for having the courage to look for the truth and to overturn this conviction.

We now respectfully ask you to give Amanda and the rest of our family our privacy that we need to recover from this horrible ordeal. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: There she is, the sister of Amanda Knox, Deanna Knox, speaking on behalf of the family.

Becky Anderson is still watching all of this unfold.

Becky, I guess a lot of viewers in the United States and around the world are going to ask what happened in between the time of the original conviction for murder until now. There were a lot of new pieces of information that came out, but the most damning, I guess, was the fact that the DNA evidence apparently that resulted in the original conviction against her and Raffaele Sollecito, that that original DNA evidence was tainted.

ANDERSON: Yes. And that's what the appeal was really based on . That was the key DNA evidence. It was DNA on the knife that the prosecutors said was used to commit the murder and DNA samples on a bra strap.

And when the independent investigators came back in June and said that it shouldn't be admissible in court, it was contaminated, it was questionable evidence, it was then that people really began to believe that Amanda Knox actually might be acquitted of what was a brutal murder and a brutal sexual assault.

Let's remember she has been acquitted on all charges, but that of defamation. She was sentenced to three years for that, but has also already served four years.

I think we have got a protest though going on. I'm not sure if we have got the picture up for you. If we haven't, I can describe, I think, what is going on. There's a police car just leaving to my right-hand side. Let's get the camera over here. So difficult to know at stories stage who is involved in which sort of transport.

We are waiting for Amanda Knox to be returned to prison. We are expecting that she will be returned to prison in the police van that...

BLITZER: All right, looks like we lost that picture.

But we're going to reconnect with Becky in a moment.

Matthew Chance is on the scene for us as well. Jeffrey Toobin is back.

Becky, can you still hear me?

ANDERSON: I can still hear you, Wolf, yes.

BLITZER: Let's talk about this protest.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Are these people who are upset about the conviction being overturned?

ANDERSON: Yes, there are people who are protesting the decision here.

We heard some cheers of victory. We have also heard cheers of shame. I think the shot that you're sitting on now is a shot of Amanda Knox's lawyer, who we spoke to just moments ago. He is obviously absolutely delighted. She had a big team of lawyers. He was one of the leading lawyers. And he says that she is, as we know now, free to leave Italy after she picks up her stuff from prison. He doesn't know, Wolf, whether there is a ticket booked for her. But one can only assume that the family, the Knox family, has -- has been putting preparations in place, hoping that they'd get the results that they were hoping for today. And we heard Deanna Knox, of course, talking earlier on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And so, basically, both of these young people, Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, they will be allowed to go. I assume he's going to stay in Italy. He is Italian, the former boyfriend, who was also convicted of murder. He'll stay in Italy. She'll come back to the United States, presumably go to her home town of Seattle as quickly as possible. She wants to get out of there as quickly as possible in Italy.

Was it -- here in the United States, as you probably know, Becky, it was widely assumed that she was not guilty of this, even though the Italian court system convicted her early on. But what was the sense in Italy over these past four years? Did most people believe that justice had been served when they convicted -- when they originally convicted her and Raffaele?

ANDERSON: Not only did they think justice had been served, as this appeal has been sort of building, there's been much sense if this was seen as a miscarriage of justice, then that would be sort of -- the Italian justice system besmirched as it were.

I want to bring in somebody who is joining me now and may be able to shed some more light on the proceedings today, Candace Dempsey, who just look at me, has written a book about the murder of Meredith Kercher. You've always believed that Amanda Knox was innocent, haven't you?

CANDACE DEMPSEY, JOURNALIST: I always believed the Italians would do the correct thing. I haven't always known that she was innocent obviously because I had to do research. But I have always said that if they knocked out the DNA, that she would go free. And that's what we saw tonight. So --

ANDERSON: Yes. Wolf is asking me whether there's been polarization in people's views here as to whether she was innocent or not. Certainly, Stateside, there's been a sense that she was innocent from the start. But I certainly felt here there's been differing opinion. People didn't want to see the Italian justice system sort of smeared by this.

DEMPSEY: I think it's a great day for Italian justice. As an Italian-American, I'm very proud, because I've always said that we believe in science, and that we shall. We act crazy, but in the end we do the right thing.

And it's a beautiful thing to see justice done. We don't often see that in the world. There will be jubilation and celebration in Seattle tonight. I feel bad for the victim's family. I just saw them living. And every time I see them leaving without their daughter. So, there is the sorrow at the end.

But it's a good night for the family of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, no question.

ANDERSON: Candace, thank you for that.

Of course, it's a very good night for the defendants this evening. But as Candace said, lest we forget there is a victim in all of this, of course. And that's being Meredith Kercher.

So, what we've been hearing, some protests here outside the court.

Barbie is "The Newsweek" correspondent who has been covering these proceedings over the last four years. You heard some yells and some screams as the decision tonight was handed down. Your response.

BARBIE NADEAU, REPORTER, NEWSWEEK: Well, I was surprised actually at the protest. I think everybody very much assumed that Amanda Knox would go home tonight, whether the she was actually involved in the crimes or not.

But the protests tonight are surprising to me because these are Italians who are protesting their own judiciary. They're saying, shame, shame, you know, remember Meredith, don't forget the victim. This was obviously planned in advance in anticipation of an acquittal tonight.

ANDERSON: Were you surprised by the verdict?

NADEAU: No. I think we all assumed this is how it was going to go, because there was an independent review of key forensic evidence that just didn't happen the first time around. In the first trial, the defense asked for the same thing and didn't get it. This time, they did and it was a game-changer.

ANDERSON: Yes. I just want our viewers to really understand what these protests were about. I mean, there are a lot of people still milling around. We are not hearing the same sort of volume of protests that we heard just earlier. You said you were surprised by them.

NADEAU: I was surprised because I think really, I have thought that the mood had changed here really, that a lot of people have come to realize that maybe Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito's conviction was not clean. And as a result, I was surprised that people were protesting.

And I think it comes to do, actually, the fact that Meredith Kercher was a European. And maybe it comes to do something like that because in the protests, they are talking about Meredith, don't forget the victim. This is not about the suspect. And we'll see how this goes. It could just be the university students here who feel very attached to Meredith Kercher. This is a university town and school is in session. It could be very much be part of that.

ANDERSON: It's a town that had enough of this, isn't it? This town wants to move on. It's a medieval city. It's 14th century. And since 2007, the sort of headlines that have seen about Perugia been all about these proceedings and not about the culture and the sort of modality of those and that's what you find when you come to this city.

NADEAU: Exactly right. And you're coming up on Perugia's Chocolate Festival, which used to be the most famous thing that ever happened here in Perugia. And I'm sure that all of these trucks and media will be out of town and they can enjoy their chocolate without us here.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Barbie, thank you very much indeed.

So, we have heard protest there. And as Barbie was suggesting, she was very surprised by what we heard. It may be that emotions are just running high. And rightly so, people are wanting the world to remember that there was a victim here. That being Meredith Kercher, who was brutally stabbed and murdered back in 2007.

Rudy Guede, who's a drifter, picked up in Germany and brought back here, he's serving 16 years in prison for that murder. There is somebody behind bars tonight, it just won't be Sollecito, the former boyfriend of Amanda Knox, who is effectively free -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Here's the question and back to you -- why can't folks in Italy believe that there was one murderer in this particular case? The man was convicted of murder. There was a lot of DNA evidence that resulted in the conviction of Rudy Guede and he is serving, as you point out, multiple years for this murder. So, if we're remembering Meredith Kercher, why can't people in Italy simply believe that this young woman, 21 years old, was raped and murdered by this one individual who is now serving multiple years?

ANDERSON: Yes, you're asking the wrong person. I'm yet to ask these guys they have been protesting. But as Barbie said, you know, it may just be university students who are so proud of this city, and what a beautiful city it is, and so distraught that its reputation has sort of been drawn through the mud, as it were.

And don't forget that way back when in 2007 in November, nearly four years ago, just after the murder of Meredith Kercher, under duress it seems now, you know, in conversations with police, Amanda Knox did change her story a number of times. She implicated one man who is completely exonerated after, the bar owner here by the name of Lumumba.

So, you know, there was a lot of distortions in this case and a lot of distortions in what we said right from the outset. What we got to remember tonight is on appeal, Amanda Knox is now free. One thing we do have to remember, this is not the end of the line as far as the appeal process is concerned. For our viewers who aren't aware of the Italian justice system, both sides can appeal to Italy's highest court. It doesn't mean Amanda Knox can't leave Italy, but one assumes, we haven't heard from the prosecution yet, but one assumes that the prosecutors will appeal to Italy's highest court. There's a bilateral extradition treaty between the States and Italy.

So, she will be free to leave. Whether she will ever come back, if indeed that appeal is heard here in Italy, well, that remains to be seen. I can't get any legal mind to confirm that she will be made to come back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see what happens on that front. A, we got to see if the prosecutors in Italy decide to appeal. And B, if she's here in the United States, that the U.S. were to then go forward and actually extradite Amanda back to Italy, which is problematic, obviously, to be sure.

Becky, I want you to stand by. Don't go too far away.

Matthew Chance is with you as well. If there are other lawyers, other eyewitnesses who want to join you, we want to stay on top of this story -- a dramatic development right now just to remind our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Both Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, they both are now free. They'll be taking back to the prison briefly, but they will be released and presumably, within a matter of hours, Amanda Knox will be flying back to the United States.

Our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM resumes right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: And you saw it live here on CNN. There she is, Amanda Knox, being taken away from the court after six jurors, two judges ruled her innocent in the murder of Meredith Kercher 21 years old, four years ago. She and Raffaele Sollecito -- they both have been serving time in prison. But both have now been announced free.

They're going to be taken from the courthouse to the prison. They're going to be given their personal material and then they will be allowed to leave.

Matthew Chance is watching all this outside the courthouse together with us.

Matthew, you were in when the verdicts were announced? You're now outside. What is happening now? She and Raffaele, are they still inside that courthouse or they've been whisked away yet?

CHANCE: I don't know is the short answer to that. What normally happens, after these hearings, the police vans, they come up this street here, and they whisk Amanda and Raffaele back to the prisons on the outskirts of Perugia, certainly where Amanda have been staying. I haven't seen that happen this time. Maybe there's a backdoor that they've gone through.

But you can see, there are so many crowds, so much crowd here tonight. So many hundreds of people who have come out onto the streets of Perugia to witness this really incredible event. I mean, everybody has been talking about in this town, has been talking about what the outcome might be. And I think that nobody really believe it was going to be the outcome that it was. And, you know, you're hearing lots of people chanting, lots of people celebrating.

But, you know, it's an issue that's divided in opinion, as well. And earlier, we heard some people chanting, "shame, shame," because, you know, there are still a lot of people in this country, and a lot of people around the world, as well, who believe that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, her former boyfriend, were, in fact, connected with this crime, the killing of Meredith Kercher.

But the jury today here in Perugia just a few moments ago inside that very tense courtroom decided otherwise and set them free, Wolf.

BLITZER: As we watch what's unfolding and we are watching it obviously very closely, the family of Amanda Knox is there and we heard that brief statement from Deanna Knox, the sister of Amanda Knox, expressing gratitude, delight in this decision by these jurors to go ahead and overturn this verdict. Certainly, you've been covering this closely, Matthew. This must have been an extremely difficult decision because it is such an indictment on the Italian justice system that they were convicted to begin with. Although it's a credit to their justice system, that they had the courage to go forward and acknowledge a brutal mistake had been made and now announce that she and Raffaele will be released.

CHANCE: I mean, that's exactly right. I mean, there were so many flaws in the initial trial, in the initial legal argument. And it was great surprise expressed back in 2009 when the guilty verdicts came down by the Knox family. They thought she was going to get off. Raffaele Sollecito's family thought he was going to get off.

But when they were put in prison, the 26 and 25 years, respectively. I mean, there was utter shock, obviously. What happened over the course of this hearing is, first of all, the DNA evidence, the physical evidence, that connected Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito to that crime scene, that's been undermined. There were independent forensice experts brought in by this court to assess the police work that was done. And I have to get out the way here, because there is a police car, coming this way. And it found that the evidence wasn't reliable. That there wasn't enough of the DNA to establish an actual presence of Amanda Knox and Raffaele in the room where Meredith was murdered. In addition, earlier today, Wolf we saw these extremely emotional appeals, firstly by Raffaele to the jury, to the judges to set him free. Secondly by Amanda Knox of course, who was in tears much of the time sort of choking on her emotions, trying to keep her composition, trying to communicate these sentiments inside her. Because she felt she was innocent. She said she didn't want to be punished any more. And that she wanted to go home to Seattle and be with her family and resume her life

.Clearly, all of these issues, the evidence, the emotional appeals, appear to have cut through to the jury. And they delivered this acquittal which is obviously fantastic news for the Knox family.

BLIZTER: Amazing news, wonderful news for the Knox family, for the Sollecito family in Italy as well. Becky Anderson is with us. Becky, I want to jury tell our viewers what they are seeing. We've got live cameras outside the prison, not that far away from where you guys are at the courthouse. But we're looking at these live pictures. We assume at some point we'll see a motorcade come in bringing these two prisoners, soon to be free individuals, back into this prison so they can collect their personal possessions, do some paperwork and then presumably they'll be allowed to leave. That's what we're told will happen. And we are looking at the prison gate right now, where they will be brought.

ANDERSON: Yes we're still hearing protest behind me, we'll get to that shortly, You're absolutely right. I'd stay on those pictures, outside the prison. I just heard from one of the producers that they thought the van was on its way. It was actually a false alarm. But that van is on its way. It will have the two defendants who are now going to be free to walk out of that prison. Can you imagine what it feels like after four years. One of the things that I wanted to remind our viewers of, was something that struck me this morning. When they were giving what is known in Italian as spontaneous statements, both Sollecito and Knox appealing on their own behalves today of their innocence of course in front of the jury.

And they talked lovingly about each other. These were not two people who were going to, sort of ditch each other in it even after four years in prison. They will be able to walk out of there tonight. Richard Greene is one of the CNN correspondent who is with me here on the ground. He was also in the courtroom today as the decision was read out alongside Matthew Chance. Your thoughts as you listened to and watched what was going on

RICHARD GREENE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well it was absolutely remarkable. I don't know if the crowd had been expecting one verdict or another. But there was an audible gasp as the crowd of several dozen realize what was happening. And then suddenly this eruption of whoops and cheers .Someone behind me went "Wow." Just this euphoria as the crowd realized that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were going to be freed.

ANDERSON: How did the lawyers react?

GREENE: The only one that I could see was her lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova. Now this is the one whose shoulder she cried on when she finished her statement this morning. And he just lit up with this grin that filled the entire room. They had conferred quietly before the judge came in to announce the decision. And when he realized that his client was free, he just absolutely grinned.

ANDERSON: Richard you've been out of the courtroom, which is now behind us, for about 20, 25 minutes or so. You've been over in what is a throng of people behind us. There have been some protests tonight. Were you surprised by those?

GREENE: Well, I'm not sure if I would describe it as protest, here's just been this euphoria, general excitement in the air. When the verdict was heard outside there was a mixture of cheers and boos. And there was an older couple. They were in the court. I have to say, .I'm not sure who they were. But they were clearly angry about the verdict, charging their way through the crowd, and a much younger crowd, a college-age crowd, sort of, jeering at them and laughing at them. It wasn't hostile, but clearly there was some tension going there.

ANDERSON: The first lawyer to leave the building of course Giulia Bongiorno and he was booed as she left here

GREENE: Yes, which is interesting because, she was the one in this powerful closing statement rejecting the idea that Amanda Knox was a femme fatale, she said think of the character Jessica Rabbit, this voluptuous temptress from the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." She protests, "I'm not that, I'm just drawn that way" And that's what Bongiorno said had been done to Knox, this character had been painted of her. And it wasn't true. She was a good person who had simply gotten caught in a horrible situation.

ANDERSON: As you reflect on what you've seen and heard today, what are your thoughts?

GREENE: Well certainly, this is a huge event for the city of Perugia. The excitement in the air around us. It's a college town. .I spoke to some young Americans who are here. One of them said, yes, I'm delighted about this. I'm glad that an American has gone free. His friend said you know what, it's exciting to be here, but I just don't know enough about it to judge one way or another. And I do think the crowd here there's a sense of that, it's like something big has happened, but maybe we don't have all the facts. Maybe we don't really know enough to judge the way the eight people down in that chamber underground did tonight.

ANDERSON: Now I was just reminding our viewers, that of course is not the absolute end of this process. Because the prosecutors can appeal now to Italy's highest court. Your thoughts very quickly on that? Do you expect them to do that?

GREENE: They've indicated that they will .We are probably 90% of the way there. We have--the judge will within 90 days explain why the jury ruled as it did. The prosecution can then appeal. They said they will, but it's not going to be a complete retrial like we've seen here this year.

ANDERSON: Right, OK, let's get back to you, Wolf .I believe that Amanda Knox is arriving at the prison.

BLIZTER: And Becky I want to go to the prison. Our own Paula Newton is outside the prison. You're outside the courthouse., not that far away. Paula set the scene for us at the prison, in Perugia right now. PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well incredible tension and security, I have to tell you Wolf, as soon as the verdict came out we saw an influx of police officers. We're not sure what's' going on, because we do not know if in fact, Amanda Knox will enter this prison in those police paddy wagons as she entered it and re-enter it this way. We see the Italian police in front of those prison gates. Before then we saw in fact a dark tinted van. We could not see who was behind there, go in right behind this police van. We don't know if they escorted the lawyers or the parents They all expect to be here with Amanda Knox. What we have not seen are those vans return from the courtroom. The ones that took her, to hear her verdict But what a difference Wolf, you and I covering the verdict almost two years ago. The reaction couldn't be more different. And here at this prison, they are ready for her. They have the documents ready. It will take a little bit of time for those to b processed. Her passport is expired. We do expect the American embassy In Rome to help her, and get a new passport so she can get on a plane as soon as possible.

BLIZTER: We just got a statement also from the State Department. Paula courtesy of own state department correspondent, Jill Dougherty. Victoria Nuland., the state department spokeswoman, saying the United States appreciates the careful consideration of this matter within the Italian judicial system. And she goes on to say that the U.S. Embassy in Rome will continue to provide appropriate counselor assistance to Ms. Knox and her family, suggesting it won't be very difficult for her to get a new passport.

NEWTON: Wolf, we can hear cheers now from inside the prison. That definitely means that, that tinted van that I told you about must have had Amanda Knox in it. I can't imagine why else they are cheering. I'm just speculating here. But we can hear the cheers outside here from the prison of her obviously having entered, that's' what we assume. And them cheering her on. Wolf, she was a very popular prisoner here. Everyone said that she was nice and friendly. And she certainly was part of the prison community here. And we continue to hear some cheering just behind me from inside those gates Wolf-

BLITZER: Well we don't know Paula. I just want to be precise. How long she and Raffaele Sollecito will be in prison right now to do the paperwork, collect their personal possessions and be allowed to leave. We also don't know how they will leave. I assume she will have, and I assume he will, as well, proper security given the enormous media coverage of this case.

NEWTON: We don't expect her to walk out of this prison .We expect her to leave in a car within the protection, obviously, of Italian authorities, help from the American embassy here in Rome and also her family. That's what we have been told. The paperwork inside, they need to get that official paperwork from the Italian justice ministry, that her personal belongings. And then she can be on her way. You know, it is just still a bureaucratic process Wolf. Before this we were told by someone very close to the warden here, that she is prepared for this. But it takes as long as it's going to take for them to get the bureaucracy process. That could be a frustrating wait for everyone right now. But that is what we are waiting for. And again, we are speculating, but the cheers that we hear from inside there, we believe that perhaps in one of the tinted advance that, did have Amanda Knox, just from the protection that was around that vehicle Wolf--.

BLIZTER: Throughout the day, and you've been there for a while, Paula. Throughout the day, the tension level must have really been building, especially after the court appearance earlier in the day when she made that personal appeal and she basically cried out her innocence to the jurors, the six jurors, the two judges that would determine her fate, as well as the fate of Raffaele Sollecito.

How significant was that personal statement, you believe, that she made? Or was it all the forensic evidence, the DNA, which was tainted, obviously, contaminated, and very thin to begin with?

NEWTON: It was so dramatic Wolf. And I'll tell you why, during that first verdict, and you and I covered almost two years ago now, she read from a piece of paper. Yes she read, it was in Italian, but she read from a piece of paper. Wolf I just want to turn now, we're going to turn our cameras to the road. We see more blue flashing lights. And we just want to make sure, perhaps it is her, perhaps her family. We are not exactly sure. But just-we're going to move our shot. But just to continue answering your question, this was different Wolf. .She threw away the script it seemed and really spoke from the heart. She had an attentive jury though Wolf. You know when I was in court this week, I could see that when the prosecution was speaking, it seemed as if they were shaking their heads and, really were quite animated. And perhaps that is what made the difference. This is one of the vans Amanda Knox went into the courtroom with. You'll see it now in our shot. I'm not sure if she is still in there or if they are just returning. We'll see what happens now when they go in. A lot--still a lot going on here, Wolf as you can see. But as I said, I could see from what those jurors were mouthing, they were actually mouthing back to the prosecution, that certainly even if they didn't acquit her, that reasonable had doubt crept in. Wolf-

BLITZER: That van that just pulled in, you could see that the windows were are all shaded. We have no idea who was inside, if it was Amanda Knox, if it was Raffaele Sollecito. We don't know who was in that Van. We assume somebody related to this case was there. But we are just speculating at this point. They have-the authorities at the prison have not given you Paula, an actual timeline of what is about to happen, have they?

NEWTON: They certainly don't want it to take more than a couple of hours maximum. They want to expedite this process. They do respect the decision of the Italian court. And that is their job here. So they want to make sure that anything she has to do--doesn't take too long. They want to make sure, that they can get her in and out as quickly as possible. She does have a lot of friends here. I know I spoke with an Italian parliament earlier, who's had a rapport with her, has written about his conversations with here. He said that he would see her back here tonight after a verdict to give her a gift. We do believe the chaplain that she has been so close to here in the prison, is also in there waiting for her, waiting to say good bye .What we are waiting to find out now is if her lawyers are arriving and if her family will arrive here under special protection. That is also a possibility. The paperwork really shouldn't take that long Wolf. What is more important,. And going to be a little bit more complicated are the logistics to actually get her out of this prison and on a plane.

BLIZTER: Yes, that's going to be within the next few hours we assume. Paula Newton, stand by. Matthew Chance is outside the courthouse, Becky Anderson is there, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin is watching all of this. We are here in the "Situation Room" with the breaking news. Amanda Knox 24 years old from Seattle, Washington, is about to be freed of her guilty verdict overturned by these eight jurors in Perugia, Italy. Our special coverage will continue right after this.

(COMMERIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right, this is video shot just a little while ago, vehicles going onto the prison near Perugia, Italy, where Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have now been freed.

They're about to be freed. The jurors -- six jurors, two judges overturning the guilty verdicts for murder just within the past hour or so. They both are about to be released. We're watching it closely.

Becky Anderson is outside the courthouse where she's been getting crowd reaction, very intense, I assume and a lot of mixed opinions. Is that what you're seeing, Becky?

ANDERSON: Absolutely, a lot of mixed opinions. I'm joined now by somebody who is absolutely furious about what has happened tonight. Veronica is a fourth year law student here in Perugia. You were part of the protest moments ago here. Veronica, why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am very upset with the Italian justice. I think this legal process go very, very bad. This family needs some justice and more important to know the real truth of the story. I think they happen to know who is the killer of her daughter, Meredith. I hoped the legal process will be useful.

ANDERSON: You're talking about Meredith Kercher, lest we forget there was a victim in all this. A young girl who's brutally assaulted and murdered back in 2007. You don't believe that Amanda Knox and Sollecito, her former boyfriend should have been released tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really believe it is completely out of mind.

ANDERSON: Do you think a lot of people agree with you here in Perugia?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. The majority of people agree with me.

ANDERSON: Why do you think that is? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the problem is the Italian justice. This family need to know the real truth. It's for the family and for Italia.

ANDERSON: Are you not satisfied there was a man named Rudy Guede who was found in Germany and brought back here, he is in prison for 16 years. He cannot appeal. Are you not satisfied that the person who murdered Meredith Kercher, it now appears is behind bars?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's terrible. I am not satisfied. I am scared because a killer is around us.

ANDERSON: All right, well, thank you very much indeed, Veronica, for joining us this evening. It was quite remarkable, Wolf. You heard the protests as this decision is not a verdict, it's a decision, of course, overturning the convictions for murder that were delivered back in 2009.

Meredith Kercher, of course, killed in November nearly four years ago today back in 2007, a very, very brutal murder. The protests began here almost immediately we heard the decision delivered by a presiding judge, a judge who is actually a member of the jury here.

It's an interesting system, this Italian system here, six lay assessors as they call and two judges involved on the jury. They were there simply to guide, not to direct the process, but it was one of those men today, Presiding Judge Helmand who delivered the decision, handed after 11 hours of deliberation here at the courthouse beside me.

They delivered the verdict just about an hour or so ago. They've been deliberating for 11 hours. It's been quite the most phenomenal day in what is a medieval city here in central Italy. I'm sure Perugia has seen a lot in the years, but I'm not sure it has seen anything like this. Wolf --

BLITZER: I'm sure it hasn't. As we've been pointing out, that little city of Perugia was basically known for its chocolate over the years and a chocolate festival. And now it's about to be known for something very different.

Here is what I don't understand, Becky and maybe you understand this and can explain it to our viewers. Rudy Guede, this drifter who was convicted of murder, a lot of his DNA was all over the place at the scene of that murder, at the scene of that crime.

Obviously, a lot of people believe he killed Meredith Kercher by himself. Why has he only been sentenced to 16 years in prison for a brutal rape and murder of which he was convicted?

ANDERSON: Let me put that question to somebody who's just joined me now, Renzo Parody, who's a journalist here. The question from Wolf Blitzer back at home base here on CNN International for our global audience, why has Rudy Guede only been sentenced to 16 years for what was a brutal sexual assault and murder? RENZO PARODY, REPORTER, IL SECOLO NEWSPAPER: First of all because he chose to have a shortened judgment. This means he has a cut of one third. Secondly, it was not acknowledged as the man who stabbed Meredith. He was one who participated in the crime. Now the problem is who stabbed Meredith.

ANDERSON: That is the question here. So I guess the next question is this, will the police reopen the investigation?

PARODY: I think the lawyer for Rudy Guede will ask for a new trial because they have to find out who actually killed Meredith.

ANDERSON: That is one of the reasons, I'm told, there were protests here this evening because Veronica who was just speaking to me, a fourth year law student is absolutely furious about this verdict.

Not necessarily because Sollecito and Knox are now free to walk away from the prison this evening, but because she says she is scared here in Perugia now, should she be?

PARODY: I think the people, everybody has his own feeling. We must not take this as something for granted. You know, if you ask more people in Italy, everybody has his own opinion.

ANDERSON: What does this say about the Italian justice system?

PARODY: We have many problems, as you know. It's too slow, too complicated, but I think it gave proof that it's a fair justice. The court had to be very courageous to overrule the first verdict.

ANDERSON: Knox, of course, acquitted of everything but defamation. That was no real surprise, was it?

PARODY: No. It was clear she put blame on Lamumba, which was totally out of the scene of the crime. She had four years sentence and she is out because she was committed for three years.

ANDERSON: Are you surprised by what you heard today?

PARODY: No. I was just expecting this verdict.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. All right, so Wolf, just another commentator here on what is being the most extraordinary day here in Perugia. Back to you.

BLITZER: An amazing day, a wonderful day for these two defendants who have now are about to be freed within the next hour, two or three. We are watching that prison very, very closely. There you see the prison gate. We expect that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito will be released fairly soon.

Could happen within minutes or could happen within a few hours. They are going through the paperwork inside the prison. They're collecting their personal possessions and then they will be released. Amanda Knox will head back to the United States presumably to Seattle, Washington.

We'll take a quick break. Jeffrey Toobin is standing by with some legal analysis. More of our breaking news coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We are getting new pictures just coming in from inside the courtroom. There is Amanda Knox when the judge was reading the decision to overturn the previously guilty verdict. You see these still photos that are just coming in.

Amanda Knox, 24 years old. She is in the prison right now, but she is about to be freed. It could happen any minute. It could happen within the next hour or two. We are watching that prison very, very closely.

You see her family, her friends who are thrilled by what has happened. Raffaele Sollecito, 27 years old, his guilty verdict also overturned. There you see the crowd outside.

Jeffrey Toobin is our senior legal analyst is watching all this unfold. One of the more intriguing aspects of this, Jeffrey, is that the prosecutors can now appeal to the Supreme Court, the higher court in Italy, even though she will be back in the United States.

Technically if the Supreme Court, the highest courts in Italy say she is guilty, they can seek extradition from the United States of Amanda Knox and ask the U.S. government to send her back to Italy. Is that right?

TOOBIN: Well, that is a theoretical possibility. I think all that transpiring that way is remote. But it's just another example of how the Italian legal system is different from ours.

If someone is judge acquitted even by an appeals court in the United States, that's it, double jeopardy, it's all over. You cannot seek to retry someone who's been -- who has had a decision like that.

But, you know, they have a different legal system. That's been on display throughout this process, the considerable differences between their system and ours.

BLITZER: The one person now actually convicted of participating in this murder, Rudy Guede is serving 16 years because he pleaded guilty, apparently. Although he says he didn't actually stab Meredith Kercher, but he did plead guilty to participating.

So someone may be at large right now. That's why this young law student was complaining she was scared because a killer could be on the loose in Italy, some place, Jeffrey. What do you make of that?

TOOBIN: I really don't make much of that argument. This is a fairly straight forward case if you believe Rudy Guede acted alone. His DNA, his fingerprints, his evidence is all over the murder scene. It is a fairly straight forward, if horrible, crime. What has never been clear is why Amanda Knox and her boyfriend would be participants in this. This is a case based, as far as I can tell, on a very controversial, probably false confession by Amanda Knox.

That is a phenomenon that we see in the United States more and more often, confused defendants admitting things that they didn't do plus bad scientific evidence. This DNA evidence was just not reliable.

BLITZER: Also, at the time -- this is going back four years ago, when she was making those initial statements and she was being, in her words, pressured by the police, her Italian was by no means as fluent as it is now. She was speaking in a halting Italian. And that could have resulted in some of the miscommunication, if you will, in setting the stage for prosecutors believing she was guilty.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. The -- the -- the issue of false confessions is much compounded by someone who is in an unfamiliar environment. It's an unfamiliar territory. But even more, as you point out, an unfamiliar language. She had only been in Italy for two months. She had studied some, but she'd only been in Italy for two months. You can't become fluent in Italian -- in -- in any language -- in two months.

So that was an extreme disability that she was laboring under. And that statement, that series of statements she made to the police, was always the heart of the case against her. Which just underlines, in Italy and in the United States, that cases based on confessions, it's always much, much better to have some sort of other corroborations, because confessions can simply be wrong.

BLITZER: All right, Jeffrey, stand by for a moment.