Amanda Knox made an impassioned and emotional plea for her freedom Saturday in the Italian court where she is appealing her conviction to 26 years in prison for the murder of her college roommate, breaking into tears as she spoke of the victim, Meredith Kercher.
"I am innocent," said Knox in Italian to the new jury that is judging her along with her co-defendant and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.
"I am innocent. Raffele is innocent. We did not kill Meredith … we are paying with our lives for a crime we did not commit," she added strongly.
"I never would have expected to find myself here," said Knox to the jury, "condemned for a crime that I did not commit … I will never get used to this broken life."
Knox stood to speak at the beginning of the second hearing of her appeal which is taking place in the same courtroom in Perugia, Italy, where she was convicted almost exactly one year ago together with Sollecito, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
A third person, Ivorian immigrant Rudy Guede, was also convicted for participating in Kercher's murder in a separate trial. His 30-year conviction was reduced to 16 on appeal, and he is appealing again to Italy's highest Cassation court next week.
As a defendant, Knox is allowed by Italian law to make a "spontaneous statement" when she chooses during court proceedings.
"I and [Raffaele] deserve our freedom, like everyone else in this courtroom today," Knox insisted.
Knox spoke in an emotional crescendo that turned to sobs as she addressed her words to the family of the victim, Meredith Kercher, the UK student she is accused of murdering.
"To Meredith's family, I want to say that I am very sorry she is no longer living. I cannot know how you are feeling, but I have little sisters too, and the idea of them suffering and missing [someone] forever, terrifies me," she said.
The Kerchers, who live in England, were not present in court, but Knox said she hoped her words "would reach them."
"What you are going through is unacceptable," Knox sobbed, and after a long pause added, "I am sorry that all this happened to you...it isn't right and never will be."
She said Meredith was "nice, intelligent, and friendly, it was she who showed me around Perugia. I am grateful to her and honored to have known her."
In the three years since she was arrested, this was the first time Knox has publicly expressed her sorrow to the victim's family.
Meredith Kercher's father, John, who has spoken out very rarely since Kercher's death, has criticized the Knox family recently for never having expressed their condolences to him and his family, "no letter of sympathy, no word of regret."
Francesco Maresca, the lawyer representing the Kercher's as civil plaintiffs walked out of the courtroom as Knox began her statement.
He later told reporters that he left because he "didn't want to have to listen to these affirmations which come too late, are inappropriate, and devoid of any meaning, and intended to [impress] the appeals court."
In the appeal hearing on Friday the General Prosecutor, Giancarlo Costagliola, summarized the verdict in the first trial and outlined the appeals by defense and prosecution. In Italy prosecutors can also appeal a verdict they do not agree with, and the prosecutors in Knox's first trial have asked for a heavier sentence.