Juror in Amanda Knox Case Says Verdict Was 'Agonizing Decision'

The family realized the verdict was guilty when Knox began to cry.

ByNikki Battiste and Jon Meyersohn via via logo
December 07, 2009, 7:43 AM

PERUGIA, Italy Dec. 7, 2009— -- A juror in the Amanda Knox case told ABC News that reaching a verdict was an "agonizing decision" and that none of the members of the eight-person jury could sleep the night before.

"No one slept the night before ... and I think we were all -- judges included -- in tears before the verdict was read," she said.

Knox's fate was decided by two Italian judges and six jurors. After more than 11 hours of deliberations, they reached a unanimous verdict, which found Knox guilty of murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in the cottage they shared.

"It was hard to envision Knox doing this," she said. "But it is possible. … We can all drink too much, then get in a car and drive."

Knox was sentenced to spend 26 years in an Italian prison. Her mother, Edda Mellas, told ABC News "20/20's" Elizabeth Vargas that she got to speak with her daughter this weekend, and told Knox behind bars to "have courage" because her family is still fighting for her.

"You will get out of here. Don't worry. Keep your chin up and have courage," Mellas said to her daughter.

It's courage that the family knows they must maintain.

"Our lawyers told us to have courage. We need to be strong for Amanda. We will fight for her and she will get out of here."

Watch the latest on Amanda Knox on "Nightline" Tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET

The verdict has set off an international debate over whether the Italian court convicted Knox without sufficient evidence. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said she has complained to the Italian embassy and intended bring the issue to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton said she had not been presented with the case yet and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said no criticism had come from the U.S. State Department.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said today that Clinton's initial comments this weekend indicated she wasn't familiar with the case.

"It's fair to say that she is following it closely now," Kelly said.

When asked, however, if the State Department felt Knox had received a fair trial, Kelly replied, "I don't have any indications to the contrary."

Clinton herself later said State would follow Knox's appeal, but did stopped short of saying she would intervene. "I stand ready to meet with anyone who wishes to discuss this case further," she said.

Mellas also told Vargas that the wait to hear the verdict was so tense that it was literally making her family sick, and when the word finally came down in a foreign language, the horror of it dawned on the family slowly.

She told Vargas how the family had to interpret the Italian verdict by other peoples' reactions. Mellas recalled the moment she knew her daughter would not be coming home to Seattle.

"[Amanda] put her head down and then she started to cry," an emotional Mellas said.

The entire Knox family, devastated by the realization that she had been found guilty of murdering her roommate, began to sob.

"I heard someone gasping in the audience back where the public stood," Knox's younger sister Deanna said.

"I heard, 'No, no, no,'" as Amanda Knox was led out of the courtroom her sister said. "Then I heard other people weeping back in the public area and I thought, 'wow.' It took me a minute, but then I could see Amanda."

A teary Mellas remembers the moment as a grief stricken blur. "It's all this really weird memory that I don't really remember. I cried. Some of the lawyers were crying. It was chaos."

Amanda Knox and former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were found guilty of murdering Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher in Novemebr 2007. Amanda was sentenced to 26 years in prison, while Sollecito was given 25 years.

Knox's fate was decided by two Italian judges and six jurors who were not sequestered, screened for biases and could freely read media reports.

Knox's family was literally crushed by a press mob scene waiting outside the courthouse. "We couldn't get in . We got to the door, within 10 feet, but because the crowd was so huge and crushing, we turned around and had to find a back entrance to the courthouse. It was horrible," Mellas explained.

Things weren't any better after the verdict. The family was not allowed to see Knox before she was whisked back to jail. As they left the courtroom, they vowed to appeal, but the know the appeal process will be long and expensive for a family who has already spent at least a million dollars defending their daughter.

"We will do whatever it takes to support Amanda," the family insisted in a statement shortly after the verdict.

The family says their daughter is innocent and continue to hope she will eventually come home.

"All over the world, not just in Italy, in the United States too, truly innocent people are found guilty and this is one of those cases. She is innocent," Mellas said.

This weekend Amanda's family was allowed to see her for the first time since the verdict.

Before Amanda's lawyers can appeal, the judges and jurors have to release their reasoning behind the verdict which is expected within 90 days.

The debate over the legitimacy of the verdictS continued today on "Good Morning America" where reknowned criminal lawyer Ted Simon and Vanity Fair contributing editor Judy Bachrach assailed the verdict and the Italian justice system.

Simon said the "lack of evidence is both compelling and profound," and that she was convicted of murder despite the fact that there was "no sweat, no salavia, no DNA of Amanda Knox" in Kercher's room.

Bachrach said, "Although constitutionally, theoretically the individual is innocent until proven guilt in reality that is not the case… If you are accused you will very likely going to be convicted if it goes far enough."

She said Knox "didn't have a chance" because "she is an outsider. If you are an outsider, a foreigner, you don't know a lot of famous powerful people you are sunk."

Bachrach said there is a chance that Knox could win her case on appeal.

"There is a possibility if Italy is ashamed enough," she said. "She might win on appeal, but it will take a lot of influence…it will take a lot of clout, a lot of work, I'm afraid."

ABC News' Kirit Radia contributed to this report

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