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THE SITUATION ROOM
Amanda Knox is Freed from Prison
Aired October 3, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I just want to let our viewers in the United States and around the world, we're here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're watching the breaking news out of Perugia, Italy, where these two defendants have now been -- the verdict has been overturned in the murder of Meredith Kercher, a 21 -year-old woman, who was killed in Perugia some four years ago.
But now, the verdicts have been overturned and Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are about to be freed.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're watching what's going on. These are new pictures just coming in from Perugia. That's -- you saw the picture of Amanda Knox once she heard the judge say she is a free woman, free to go back to Seattle, Washington.
We believe she's still in the prison, though, near Perugia right now, together with Raffaele Sollecito. They're awaiting the official paperwork that will release them.
Our own Becky Anderson is watching all of this unfold together with us -- and, Becky, before we come to you, we just got a statement from the family of Meredith Kercher. She was the 21-year-old woman, an exchange student, a foreign student in Perugia, who was studying, who was butal -- brutally raped and murdered. And the Kercher family has now returned to their hotel.
According to a spokesman, this is their statement. And I'm quoting it exactly. "We respect the decision of the judges, but we do not understand how the decision of the first trial could be so radically overturned. We still trust the Italian judicial system and hope that the truth will eventually emerge."
A short statement coming in from the family of Meredith Kercher, the woman who was brutally raped and murdered some four years ago in Perugia.
It's a tough statement and it's tough for the family, obviously, of Meredith Kercher -- and, Becky, as you've been reporting, as our other reporters have been noting over the past hour or so, let's not lose sight of the fact that Meredith Kercher was killed in a brutal -- in a brutal way. BECKY ANDERSON, HOST, "CONNECT THE WORLD": Yes.
BLITZER: And we don't know why, but we know she was killed. And let's keep her -- her memory in our thoughts.
ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. And I spoke to her brother, who is here, who was in the court earlier on, when the decision was handed down. I spoke to him as he went into the courthouse today.
I said, how are you feeling?
And he said, nervous.
And it was as if they knew that this was going to happen today.
And, listen, they held a press conference. And they spoke to the -- the gathered media here earlier on today, Wolf. And I can't tell you how dignified they were. There was no sense of malice in their voices. They just kept saying all they want is justice served. But they did keep reminding people they had lost their daughter and, indeed, their sister.
Meredith Kercher's mother is here with her brother Lyle and her sister Stephanie. Her father and another brother aren't here. And I think that is simply because they couldn't cope with what's been going on.
They are a very, very simple family. As I say, they were so dignified earlier on. The press conference, as you suggest -- well, certainly you just read the statement and I've just heard that there will be another gathering of the media with the Kercher family at 10:00 local time tomorrow here in Perugia.
Let's get to Paula Newton, I think -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, let's go on to Paula Newton.
She's standing by outside the prison near Perugia.
What are you seeing out there -- Paula?
What's going on?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're keeping a close eye on the prison to hope to see (INAUDIBLE). A police escort is being organized. We are still hearing chants and screams from the prison. We're not exactly sure what it's all about. We believe that the bureaucratic paperwork is underway right now and that she will be released relatively soon.
We see a lot of movement from inside the prison right now. And it seems that we have a lot of speculation as to how much the Italian authorities would cooperate with her being able to leave here and not actually have to walk out of the prison. And it seems like they do have some type of a police escort organized here and that her family will be able to take her away to an airport quite soon. We have not seen any of the family members come in, not seen any of the lawyers come in. I don't know if that's something that they will wait for or if there is some kind of meeting point outside of this prison and that's where she will be reunited with her family -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Do we know if there's a private jet getting ready to take her out of Italy or if she will be flying commercial back to the United States?
Do we have any idea about that -- Paula?
NEWTON: Categorically, Wolf, I can tell you that Curt Knox, Amanda Knox's father, denied that to CNN just the other day. He says there is no private jet. They have commercial flights booked and always did in the eventuality.
Wolf, when you and I covered the verdict, I mean, Curt Knox told us then, we have tickets booked. We want her home for Christmas. As a matter to make her hopeful, to make sure that they understood that they believed in her, they always told her we have those tickets booked.
So as far as we know, they have commercial tickets booked to fly out of Italy as soon as possible. Given the time, that probably wouldn't get them out of Italy until at least tomorrow morning. There could still be some type of private jet. But all I can tell you is what Curt Knox told us a couple of days ago. He denied that they were doing anything other than flying commercial out of this country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Because, I assume -- Paula, you and I are in the news business -- there are news organizations that would be so anxious to speak to Amanda Knox that they would be more than happy to charter a private plane and get her on that plane, fly her out of Italy, back to the United States as quickly as possible, in order to get that first exclusive interview with Amanda Knox.
I don't know if that's happening. I don't know if the family is interested in that. But I do know the news business and I know that there would be plenty of news organizations in Britain, in Italy, here in the United States, around the world, that would more than happy to spend a lot of money to get her on a private plane and have a chance to talk with her. But that's just based on previous experience of these high profile criminal cases that we're so familiar with over the years.
So we'll wait patiently to see what the family decides, what Amanda Knox decides to do about leaving Italy.
We know, Paula, that there has been enormous media interest in this case. But tell our viewers. You're there in Perugia. You've been watching it now. There are reporters, media outlets, from all over the world that have been covering this.
NEWTON: I've never seen anything like it in terms of covering a personal criminal case. I mean why this case decided to be covered?
There was a very -- many of us could not believe the kind of access, Wolf, that we received. I had personal conversations with some of the prosecutors. The defense attorneys were always available. You had legal briefings from judges. That was also part of this case and part of the heightened media interest.
But the families, it was very difficult, because I know, Wolf, that as much as we did speak to the families on both sides, many times, they didn't want to speak to the media. They knew that they had to.
Unfortunately, Meredith Kercher's family feels like they had been railroaded by what they called a very large P.R. machine. But, obviously, this is a family still hurting and in despair from what happened to their daughter.
I want to be able to have a look at the prison now, Wolf. We will turn our attention to the prison doors. There seems to be some movement. Again, we're going to have a close -- keep a close eye on what's going on with those vehicles. They seem to have their police escort ready and seem to be offering, if it is Amanda Knox, they seem to be offering her some protection outside of this prison. And we'll just wait to see. We have some doors opening...
BLITZER: All right...
NEWTON: Go ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: I was thinking, it's now after 11:00 p.m. in Perugia, in Italy right now. And we'll see if they've wrapped up all the paperwork and allowed her to collect any personal possessions she may want to bring out of her, any books or any papers that she has written over these past four years she's been in prison, convicted two years ago of murdering -- participating in the murder of Meredith Kercher.
We see that one vehicle on the other side of the prison gates -- we don't know who is inside that vehicle, Paula, do we?
NEWTON: No. And they deliberately tried to tell us as little as possible about what was going on. You heard the Knox family say that they wanted some privacy, some time for the family to heal. And for that reason, they weren't going to tell us all the details.
What I know what I heard from someone very close to the warden here. The female warden at this prison said they would try and expedite the process.
And if that is her in that van right now, it would have been less than an hour that she was back in there.
Again, Wolf, I can tell you, we did constantly hear -- at first it was very loud and then some low level -- low level cheers and commotion from inside the prison. We know she was a very popular prisoner here and that she spent the day, Wolf, today, in the prison chapel singing hymns and -- and playing some songs and that she was incredibly confident this would happen. She told people today that she was confident she would be doing this tonight and she'd be on a flight home -- Wolf.
BLITZER: She is being released. Amanda Knox, 24 years old, she's being released from prison.
Raffaele Sollecito, 27 years old, he's being released after these six jurors and two judges overturned their guilty verdicts of only a few years ago.
We're looking at these live pictures at the prison near Perugia. Once those prison gates open, will see who's -- hopefully, we'll see who's inside that vehicle. But it looks like they want to get moving and those doors -- those prison gates will open.
We're going to stay on top of this picture, Paula.
And if you wanted to tell our viewers what you're seeing right now, I know you'll be near that car...
BLITZER: -- that vehicle...
NEWTON: -- the gates are...
BLITZER: -- was at least...
NEWTON: Well, Wolf, we are very, very close to the car right now. It is coming through the gates. And we'll try and get a good glimpse of who's inside. We should be able to tell if it is her or not.
And here the vehicle comes, Wolf, again, with an escort. As I said, we do not know if this is Amanda Knox in this vehicle. There is no one in that vehicle, Wolf, no one in the back seat. And the second vehicle goes by.
It seems that she is in the second black vehicle, Wolf. And you can see the crowds chasing down the street right now. So she has one escort car and a private vehicle, that black Mercedes that you saw drive away right now.
And, Wolf, we did not have the dramatic exit on foot here outside of this prison. She had a very private exit. And you can see, without the police escort. They made sure she was protected at the door and that was it.
We are going to speak now, Wolf -- I'm just going to see if I can get any interviews.
We're just going to see if we can -- ciao, ciao, comma va? (ph)
Cosa viadeto (ph) Amanda Knox (INAUDIBLE)?
(INTERVIEW IN ITALIAN)
NEWTON: Wolf, I don't know if you can hear me here, Wolf.
I don't know if you can hear me, Wolf. That was Rocco Girlanda, who was, in fact, an author of a book and had quite a rapport with Amanda Knox.
BLITZER: We -- we hear you, Paula.
Tell our -- we -- we heard him speaking in Italian, obviously. I don't know if you can translate. But give us the gist of what he said.
NEWTON: That was Rocco, who had said, in fact, that she was thrilled, that she was very joyful. But unfortunately, she had not, as of yet, seen her family. That was the private escort out of here.
You can bet, Wolf, that as she -- they had actually talked about planning -- planning for her trip home today at lunch, she had told me. So, clearly, she was very confident.
BLITZER: Paula, I don't know if you can still hear me, but if you can, the individual was inside the prison, that man we just saw?
That -- that -- he was inside and he did confirm Amanda Knox was in that Mercedes sedan, the second vehicle that left the prison?
We don't know where it was heading.
But I don't know if you could see inside those tinted windows.
Could you actually get a glimpse of Amanda Knox in the back seat?
NEWTON: (INAUDIBLE) very, very close. Wolf (INAUDIBLE). Wolf, I don't know if you can still hear me.
BLITZER: We hear you.
We hear you, Paula.
NEWTON: OK. Go ahead.
So, sorry, Wolf. Yes, I did get a very short glimpse of her. They were very tinted windows, but it was her. And certainly Rocco Girlanda just confirmed that it was her leaving. That's it.
BLITZER: So she -- so she is now gone. She's a free woman. She's in Italy. And, presumably, they're going to try to get her on a plane, whether a commercial aircraft, airliner or a private jet or whatever. But that's the vehicle, that Mercedes sedan following that -- that first -- that first vehicle. They have now left the prison and they're going somewhere. We don't know where. But, obviously, a very, very happy moment for this young woman.
And there's the individual you just spoke to, Paula, who is a journalist. And he was inside. He had some exclusive access, obviously, confirming that she is gone. Didn't take very long, Paula, for her to get her personal possessions, do the paperwork, and she is now free. She is out of prison for the first time in four years.
NEWTON: Wolf, Incredible. Less than an hour. The man I spoke to was Rocco Deblonda (ph). And he had this rapport with her, even on -- he is an Italian parliamentarian, which is why he had that special access that others do not have.
What is stunning to me, Wolf, is the fact he, in fact, did not -- she did not see her family. He did not know she was seeing her family. And the fact she was allowed to walk out of here in a car on her own with no support from her family, which had to be a bit tough for her. I think the image of seeing her leave on her own would be incredible to many people.
BLITZER: Yes, it's amazing that she is gone now, knowing the paparazzi, knowing the Italian media, the international media who have flocked in on Perugia, basically they're in that vehicle She probably has one of her attorneys with her or someone. But as you say, we assume she is going to be reunited with her family, we assume, very, very soon. A very dramatic shot right there.
Drew Griffin is standing by as well.
Drew, you spent a lot of time covering this story for us. Where are you now, Drew? I want to set the scene.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Seattle, Wolf, where presumably Amanda Knox is now on the way home eventually. We expect she may be here at the earliest some time tomorrow, depending on the flight schedules, if, as you say, she is flying commercial. We are awaiting her arrival here in Seattle.
BLITZER: I assume everyone in Seattle, they followed this -- that's her home town -- they are thrilled right now. Are they surprised that the Italian justice system moved as dramatically in reversing that earlier guilty verdict?
GRIFFIN: I think it's been a long, long wait here in Seattle. The family has been mortgaged to the hilt. They've been borrowing money for this defense. There have been fundraisers in this town. Amanda Knox's high school played a role in that, as well. I think they are all relieved now. But we'll have to wait and see.
There has also been not the great amount of support in this town that you might imagine, Wolf. Because a lot of the information coming to Seattle was coming through the tabloid press over in Europe. It was hard for people in Seattle to get a clear picture of what was going on. Now that she is released and will be back here, presumably to tell her story, that may change a lot of people's minds.
BLITZER: Drew, you've spent a lot of time reporting on this story. Give us some of your thoughts about what we have just seen unfold. Because it's really a remarkable testimony to the Italian justice system that either they screwed it up really bad from the beginning or they were courageous enough to recognize that and to let justice be served. GRIFFIN: Yes, I actually dove into this case during the appeal process. When I looked at the prosecution's original case, what actually went to trial and got these two people convicted, quite frankly, I couldn't believe, Wolf. The evidence was so flimsy. The witnesses I saw in court were so, in my opinion, unreliable. One of them was a heroin addict living in a street corner, that I couldn't believe there was a conviction in the first place. But as you said, the Italian justice system on appeal got a new judge, new jury and whole new trial. And that independent forensic review of the DNA evidence, which found absolutely no evidence that either Amanda Knox or Raffaele Sollecito were in the crime scene where Meredith Kercher was killed.
BLITZER: We are hearing, by the way, Drew, from our producer on this scene in Perugia, she will be leaving tomorrow for Seattle, we assume, on a commercial airliner. We don't know that for sure. But we are being told -- it's now approaching midnight. It's about 11:19 in Perugia right now. It's getting close to midnight.
BLITZER: She'll be leaving probably early in the morning, a commercial flight out of Italy back to the United States. We assume a commercial flight, but maybe she'll be on a private jet. We're staying on top of this.
Drew, I want you to stand by.
GRIFFIN: All right.
BLITZER: Don't go too far away.
Becky Anderson is in Perugia for us as. Jeffrey Toobin is watching what's going on.
There you see, just moments ago, Amanda Knox in that second vehicle, that Mercedes sedan, in the back seat. She is leaving the prison. She is a free woman after serving four years for a murder that the jurors today in Perugia decided she had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with. And Raffaele Sollecito also freed, as well, her former boyfriend. The 24-year-old Amanda Knox free. 27-year-old Raffaele Sollecito free. We'll stay on top of this story.
Stand by, we are in the SITUATION ROOM watching the breaking news.
BLITZER: Amanda Knox is now a free woman. There you see her being escorted out of the courtroom not that long ago after six jurors, two judges decided she was innocent, not guilty of murdering Meredith Kercher, 21 years old, some four years ago. Her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, also released. His guilty verdict also overturned by these eight individuals who listen to all of the new evidence unfold.
Within an hour or so -- there you see two cars, two vehicles leaving the prison near Perugia, Italy. In the second vehicle, that Mercedes sedan, is Amanda Knox, being driven to be reunited with her family. And she will be leaving Italy tomorrow morning, we are told, to fly back to Seattle, Washington, her home town.
Becky Anderson is outside the courtroom watching all of this unfold outside the courthouse.
Becky, the crowd still there or are people basically going home?
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the atmosphere is very different to that outside here about an hour and a half ago. What a difference an hour and a half can make. It was quite remarkable. The tension was palpable was we awaited the decision to be delivered by the presiding judge hire. When it was delivered, well, there was a huge gasp, an audible gasp outside here. There were whoops of joy inside the courthouse. There are being protests outside tonight. Most people have now moved away.
But many of the younger students here in Perugia are absolutely furious about this. We've been saying, we'll say it again, lest we forget, Meredith Kercher was brutally stabbed and murdered here back in 2007. While tonight, this is Amanda Knox's night, and she must be relieved her conviction of murder has been overturned on appeal by a jury today, many people here are saying, what happened to the Italian justice system? Why is it, there could be somebody roaming free still. You have to remember that Rudy Guede, who was a drifter here back in 2007, was picked up in Germany a couple of years later and convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher. He is doing 16 years inside.
A lot of people tonight say, shame on the Italian justice system. Why is it, there is the possibility somebody involved in that murder is still out tonight? It's been quite the most remarkable day -- Wolf?
BLITZER: And we're told, Becky, that she is about to be reunited if she has not already reunited with her family.
ANDERSON: That's right.
BLITZER: She's going to spend the night in Italy and get out of Italy tomorrow. We did hear earlier from her sister, Deanna Knox. Am I'm going to get that clip. I want to play it for our viewers who may have missed it. She made a statement on behalf of the family. We'll play that clip in a moment, Becky. It was an emotional moment.
In fact, let's play it right now. This is Deanna Knox, the sister of Amanda Knox, making this statement outside the courthouse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEANNA KNOX, SISTER OF AMANDA KNOX: We are thankful Amanda's nightmare is over. She suffered for four years for a crime that she did not commit. We are thankful for our lawyers, Carlo Delavitava (ph), Luchano Gerda (ph) and Maria Degroso (ph) and their assistance. 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 we need to recover from that horrible ordeal. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Emotional statement. Obviously, a very, very happy Knox family. If they haven't been reunited yet, they are about to be reunited. We saw her drive away, being driven away from that prison moments ago.
Becky Anderson, as you watch all this unfold, the political ramifications in Italy, I guess there will be a lot of soul-searching in Italy. What happened over these past four years? A lot of reviewing going on.
ANDERSON: Yes. I think the decision will be split. There are people who say shame on the Italian justice system. What has gone on here? They should reopen the police investigation. They say --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ANDERSON: This guy has been doing this all day behind the broadcasts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ANDERSON: OK. That's enough. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: I don't know what he was saying. He was obviously unhappy about something. We'll stay on top of this. Becky, are you OK over there?
ANDERSON: Yes. He's talking about Berlusconi. Yes, I'm fine. I'm absolutely fine.
The point here is I think the decision is split here. There are many people who say, what's happened to the Italian justice system? It could be somebody walking around today who brutally sexually assaulted and murdered Meredith Kercher. Other people say -- and this is an interesting point. Other people say that Italian justice is deemed to be good today. It's successful. They thought they had somebody. They went through a whole conviction process and when, on appeal, it was deemed the evidence was insufficient, they were able to bring themselves to the point which they said, we have to overturn this conviction. So really a split today. Many, many protests here. And many people very disappointed with what's happened. A lot of people -- I will say this again and again and again -- a lot of people have said to me in the last hour and a half, let's just remember Meredith Kercher and her family tonight -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, I want to bring Jeffrey Toobin in for a moment.
You studied Italian, the Italian justice system, if you will. It's very different than the U.S. criminal justice system as, by now, all of our viewers know. But basically, it's the same historic conviction of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, isn't that right?
TOOBIN: That's right, but how you get to that result is very different. At its core, the Italian system is what's called an inquisitorial system where the judge is really an investigator, more like a prosecutor. We, of course, have an adversary system with a prosecutor and a defense lawyer and the judge as a neutral party.
And in Italy, you have an appeal with a jury. Our appeals are only in front of judges. And we pick jurors who are neutral and not expert in the cases.
In Italy, we had a jury that was partly ordinary citizens, but partly judges. And just for sort of a surface difference, I'm sure many people noticed looking in the courtroom that there was a crucifix on the wall. Of course, in the United States, we don't have religious symbols in our courtrooms.
BLITZER: That's one difference, obviously. There are other differences as well. And we saw some of those still photos that were shot.
And I want to tell our viewers, we saw that member of parliament, that parliamentarian who emerged from the prison right after Amanda Knox was driven away, Rocco Jurlanda (ph). And he tells reporters at the prison that Amanda Knox is now meeting with her parents only a few kilometers away from that prison.
He quotes her saying just before leaving the prison her first desire is to lie down in a green field, that Amanda jumped for joy when the other prisoners greeted her inside the prison with words like, "Well done."
She'll spend the evening with her family near Rome. And presumably, in the morning she'll get on a plane, whether commercial aircraft or a private chartered aircraft, and get out of Italy. I guess it will be for her family as quickly as possible. If they could leave presumably right now, they would be more than happy to leave, but I guess they'll wait for daylight to get out of there.
Paula Newton -- Paula, are you still outside that prison over there?
NEWTON: I am still outside this prison, and what a scene here. Her lawyers did eventually show up, but it did not go as we thought it would.
She did not meet her lawyers inside here. She has gone off, as you say, to go and meet with her family.
Still a lot of questions, Wolf, as we've been pointing out about what this means to the Italian justice system. But for Amanda Knox and her family, they believe -- they were hanging their hopes on this appeal, Wolf, not just after the original verdict, but even before that verdict.
Her family told me they knew their best shot was during this appeal. And that's what they will be celebrating right now.
Wolf, all that yelling that we heard outside the prison, Rocco Jurlanda (ph) confirmed it for us, that, yes, they jumped for joy for Amanda and said, "Well done! Brava!" as you say in Italian to her to cheer her on. She was -- and you can't put too fine a point of it -- she was very popular in this prison -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What kind of conditions -- I don't know if you've been inside that prison, but you've probably read about her conditions inside that prison, as well as her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. What kind of conditions are inside that prison there? What kind of opportunity did they have, for example, to interact with their family and friends?
NEWTON: They did not have a lot of interaction with their family and friends. I mean, visitation was strictly restricted -- I mean, a lot of times they would only be once a week.
What they did have was a good rapport inside the prison, especially in this prison. She was with the other female prisoners, and they take more of a reform attitude towards it.
She was given lots of liberties to be able to sing and play music and go to church and write letters and study Italian, Wolf. She is still a student, and she has been very diligent about studying the history and the language. That is the kind of interaction she had.
The conditions here by many, many different standards -- and they include those back home in the United States -- were very, very good. I mean, her family certainly would have liked to have had more visitation with her, but in general, she got a lot of interaction with many people here. And her former cell mate here who was just released said that she was always nice to everyone and seemed to try and make the best of the time that she was spending here.
Now, I want to point out, Raffaele Sollecito, while he spent the day in this prison today, is normally at another prison. And it's always been assumed that he had a much harder time in prison. He was in an all-male prison, and for that reason, many times they really worried for his mental health and the state that he was in, in that prison -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, we assume he will stay -- he's Italian, so he'll stay in Italy, at least for the time being. Isn't that right? NEWTON: Yes, and absolutely crucial now. They have 90 days to write a ruling, and then the prosecutors can appeal this to the high court. They can throw out this appeal and they can go back to appeal. But Amanda Knox would have to be extradited from the United States.
He is here, he is from a region in southern Italy. I spoke to his father on Friday, and he would not speculate on what would happen. He would come home for a little while, but he did not know how his son would be picking up the pieces of his life -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's fair to say that neither of these two individuals, even though they were convicted of participating in this brutal murder of Meredith Kercher, neither one of them had any criminal backgrounds, any history of violence, any extensive drug or alcohol use. They didn't have the mental problems. So there was really, in terms of their prior records, nothing to base this kind of brutal, heinous rape and murder on.
NEWTON: Absolutely, Wolf. But on the other hand, because of some of their behavior, they -- you know, Amanda Knox was seen by some in Perugia as a party girl. They did admit to smoking drugs on the night of the murder. Those kinds of things played against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the Italian press.
You know, many Italians, Wolf, in the last few years have come up to me and made it seem as if, well, these were moral errors and it meant that she was guilty. And it didn't matter how many times you tried to point out that does not make them guilty of murder, it was still a problem.
And, of course, even if you look at the family of Meredith Kercher, when she saw the 400-page verdict, the original one, they were willing to believe that, in fact, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were guilty of this crime. So it's interesting, the different moral judgments that were imposed in this case for so many years now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Paula. We're going to get back to you.
Becky Anderson is in Perugia for us as well. Jeffrey Toobin is watching what's going on.
We'll take a quick break.
This is what happened only moments ago when Amanda Knox was driven away from that prison to be reunited with her family near Rome. Tomorrow morning she'll get on a plane with her family and head out of Italy, head back to Seattle. The 24-year-old Amanda Knox is now a free woman.
Our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM continues in a moment.
BLITZER: All right. So that happened nearly two hours ago, the judge overturning -- announcing the decision to overturn the guilty verdicts of Amanda Knox, 24 years old, and Raffaele Sollecito, 27 years old. Both of them are now free people in Italy.
You see this new photo that we are just getting of her leaving prison. There is Amanda Knox right there. She has now been reunited with her family near Rome. She'll get on a plane early tomorrow morning and head out of Italy, presumably back to Seattle, Washington, her hometown.
Dramatic announcement just a little bit -- under two hours ago. Becky Anderson was watching it outside the courthouse. She is still on the scene for us.
Becky, it's over for these two individuals, but it's certainly not over for the Italian justice system. A lot of people, as I've been pointing out, are going to wonder, what happened here?
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, some people think it's over for the Italian justice system, if you know what I mean.
I mean, that's the point. A very divided audience here on the streets of Perugia. Many of the youngsters here who are students, as Amanda and Sollecito were at the time of this murder in 2007, many of them are absolutely furious about what they heard today. And there were boos outside the court when the decision was delivered earlier on today.
They said what is this Italian justice all about? What happened? How could they have gone this far and overturned on appeal these convictions? Who is or who are the people who killed Meredith Kercher on November the 2nd, 2007?
Others say this shows that the Italian justice system works, that even after so long, that a decision or a verdict can be overturned, and that the system therefore works. A lot of people saying to me today -- and they may be right or wrong, but a lot of people saying to me today, because I work for an American network -- they said, listen, in America, Amanda Knox and Sollecito might have been executed for this. At least here in Italy we see justice prevail today.
And I can understand where their arguments are. So it's a really interesting day for justice here in Italy.
You heard the Knox family cheering in court earlier on. And you heard the presiding judge delivering that decision, asking them to be quiet.
Don't forget the Kercher family were also in that courtroom today. And what a terribly, terribly difficult, difficult day it is for them.
I spoke to Lyle Kercher, Meredith Kercher's brother, as he walked into court. And some people had said that they wouldn't appear in court today, it would be to much for them.
But as they walked in, I said to Lyle, "How are you feeling?" And he said, "Nervous." They looked absolutely exhausted and emotional. I think the Kercher family had an idea that this conviction would be what is partially overturned.
Let's remember that. Amanda Knox and Sollecito were still found guilty of defamation, but they were acquitted on the other five charges. The two most important being rape, sexual assault, and murder.
So it's been the most extraordinary day here. It started at 9:30 in the morning, the courthouse just over my shoulder, and it closed out at around 10:00 at night.
So everybody is exhausted. We are exhausted. But you can only imagine what the families on both sides feel today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I can only imagine how excited and happy and thrilled they all are that they got back their son, they got back their daughter. It's a really momentous moment for that family, and we're very happy for them.
But let's not also forget if you believe this decision by the jurors and the judges today that they were innocent, these individuals are victims in their own rights, these two people, because four years of their lives were spent in prison for a crime they obviously -- at least you believe the decision today -- they did not commit.
Now, I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin to assess.
I'm getting a lot of tweets right now and a lot of reaction from viewers all over the world, Jeffrey, that these two individuals, these young people, spent four years in prison for something they did not do. What do they do about that? How do they regain those four years?
TOOBIN: You know what? I think the answer is they get on with their lives. There are always possibilities. It happens in the United States rarely. I can't say I know how often it happens in Italy of trying to sue people.
The best answer is to get on with their lives. Amanda Knox is fortunate that she has a loving family, she has people who love her, who care about her. She can continue with her education. It just seems to me that the last thing Amanda Knox wants or needs is the inside of another courtroom.
You know, you pointed out earlier that it is possible that the prosecution here will appeal to the highest court in Italy, which could reinstate these charges. That suggests to me Amanda Knox ought to take her vacations elsewhere in the future. She ought to stay the heck out of Italy, because she doesn't want to get caught up in any further proceedings. Just get on with her life somewhere else.
BLITZER: Well, under that hypothetical -- and I think it's remote, as you point out, Jeffrey -- but let's say the higher courts reverse today's decision and found her guilty once again. Under U.S./Italian extradition treaties, what would the chances be that the United States government would then extradite her back to Italy?
TOOBIN: Extremely, extremely remote, because remember, extradition itself is a very slow and cumbersome process. If the Italian government went to extradite her, that proceeding would then move into the American courts. Amanda Knox could argue in an American courts that her extradition was unjustified.
I suspect she would have a very good argument, a very good chance of winning. That's why it's important for her not to be in Italy, because if she is in Italy, and somehow this decision comes down, that issue of extradition doesn't happen.
The United States is a big country. There are a lots of places you can go, lots of other countries you can go to. It just seems to me that it would be prudent for her to start her life over somewhere else.
BLITZER: And you saw the statement that Meredith Kercher, the victim in this, the young 21-year-old who was brutally murdered in Perugia four years ago, you saw the statement from her family. Basically, they're saying, we don't know what happened, we are totally shocked because today's decision is 180 degrees different than the decision two years ago convicting these young people of participating in murder.
Where do the family members of Meredith Kercher go from here?
TOOBIN: Well, their nightmare continues. Nothing about this is good for them. They have simply suffered one horrible thing after another, starting with the horrible murder of their daughter.
But it is worth pointing out that this crime is solved. Rudy Guede is in prison. Rudy Guede's blood, his fingerprints, they were all found at the scene.
This case is not a whodunit. So, to the extent they can receive some comfort from that, he is doing 16 years. It's not a very long sentence, but this crime has been solved. And the prosecution of Amanda Knox and her boyfriend was a sideshow from the beginning, and seemingly, to me, anyway, completely inappropriate.
BLITZER: Well, stand by for a moment, because Drew Griffin has covered this case almost from the beginning. He's joining us now from Seattle once again. That's where the family will be flying tomorrow.
Drew, has it been resolved? Is it one murderer and only one murderer, to the best of your knowledge?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what the forensic evidence has always pointed to, Wolf. And I just want to pick up on what Jeffrey was saying.
Rudy Guede had fled to Germany when they found him just days after this murder took place. And he did go to prison for 30 years.
It was only after his cooperation, the cooperation in which he named Amanda and Raffaele as being involved in this crime, that his sentence was reduced back down to 16 years. So even that was controversial over in Italy.
But, I mean, there is a person ion jail whose evidence was all over that crime scene, whose DNA was found on the victim. And that person is Rudy Guede, and he is in prison.
So, I don't think, like Jeffrey said, that this is a case of now there's some, you know, murderer roaming free that has not been caught. All along it has been this person, Rudy Guede, whose evidence has been found at the scene.
BLITZER: And it's shocking to a lot of us if, in fact, he was the sole murder of Meredith Kercher, why he's only serving 16 years in prison. But we heard the Italian decision that he pleaded guilty not necessarily to killing, but being there at the scene. And as a result of cooperating and pleading guilty, they took off years from his prison sentence and he's now serving a 16-year sentence.
Matthew Chance, I want you to weigh in as well. You're in Perugia. You're watching this unfold.
And for our viewers in the United States who are just tuning in, and around the world to THE SITUATION ROOM, Matthew, set the scene. You were in the courtroom when this decision was announced.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I certainly was. And it was a very emotional courtroom, indeed, because the tension before Amanda Knox walked in, and when she did walk in, she looked absolutely under enormous stress. She was, you know, very pale. She had been like that for the past couple of days, actually, but it was much worse.
Her family were there to support her. The family of Meredith Kercher, the murdered girl, were also in the court, and that sort of created this very sort of tense atmosphere.
Then, when the acquittal came through, the atmosphere was just electric. I mean, there were whoops, there were cheers. The judge tried to silence people.
The family of Amanda Knox were absolutely euphoric. Amanda Knox herself -- I mean, she was totally devastated by it in a positive way, if you know what I mean. I mean, she was crying. She could hardly walk. She was in hysterics, as I saw her sort of being led out by the police guards.
She could barely walk. She sort of limped past us in floods of tears. But afterwards, there were scenes of very intense emotion. Indeed, obviously a huge bit of good news for the Knox family.
On the other hand, the Kercher family, you know, it was a stark contrast. They were very upset.
Arline Kercher, Meredith Kercher's mother, had tears welling up in her eyes. Stephanie Kercher, the sister, she was actually crying and being comforted by the guy next to her.
And so these very different emotions circulating through that very tense courtroom -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very different emotions, indeed. Matthew, stand by for a moment.
We'll take a quick break, continue our coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
BLITZER: All right. There is Amanda Knox a couple of hours ago. She was taken away from the courtroom after the jurors, six jurors and two judges, decided after all is said and done that she and Raffaele Sollecito were not guilty after all of murdering Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old student in Perugia, Italy, four years ago.
She went back to the prison, collected her personal possessions, did some paperwork, and both of them have now been freed. She's spending the evening with her family near Rome, getting ready to fly out of Italy tomorrow morning, presumably back to Seattle, Washington, her hometown.
Drew Griffin is already in Seattle awaiting her return there.
Drew, you've watched this story unfold. So just give me a few personal reflections right now on what's going through your mind.
GRIFFIN: I think it is a culmination of things. One is what the family is so concerned about, and that is that Amanda Knox does not know, really comprehend, what a media frenzy, what a worldwide phenomenon she has become.
The family is very concerned now that she is out not only in terms of the pressure from the media, but also her personal safety. This is not a wealthy family that can afford a lot of security. They're mostly middle class. And they are concerned about how Amanda Knox will now handle life beyond this Italian prison.
So, as we await for her to return here, we'll see, number one, Wolf, if Amanda Knox will say anything either today, in the coming days or the coming weeks, or whether her family will try to sequester her and let her absorb what has happened to her over these last four years.
BLITZER: And, you know, there's no doubt, Drew, there will be some in the United States or around the world -- despite this decision today by the jury in Italy, there will be some who will still believe that maybe she was, in fact, guilty and did have some involvement in murdering Meredith Kercher. And that's something she's going to have to learn to live with the rest of her life as well.
GRIFFIN: That's absolutely right. And the family has been concerned about that as well.
There are some nasty blogs, as we all have been victims out there. There's a lot of tabloid press still driving this story and trying to make her out to be a villain.
You know, in a lot of cases -- we've seen it in crimes, we've also seen it in politics -- the first word out there is what usually sticks on the wall. And the first word out there about Amanda Knox came through the tabloid press and through the prosecution that she was this somewhat satanic, crazy, partying teen who came over there and participated in a sex orgy turned bad.
That has stuck with a lot of people for a long, long time. And that's what the family is concerned about, that Amanda Knox will have to live with that hanging over her head regardless of what this appeals court has decided today.
BLITZER: And until the very, very end -- indeed, just before the jurors made their decision today, a dramatic decision -- the prosecutors were not only asking that she and Raffaele remain in prison, they were asking, actually, that those prison sentences of 26, 27 years be increased. They were so convinced in their theory that they were involved directly in that case.
Drew, I want you to stand by, because CNN, of course, is going to continue its coverage of all of this.
But a very, very dramatic day in Perugia, Italy, as we now know that Amanda Knox is a free woman, 24 years old, and Raffaele Sollecito is a free man, 27 years old.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.