After hours of deliberation, an Italian appeals court Monday ruled to overturn Amanda Knox’s conviction for murder, allowing Knox to leave prison and return to the United States. Hit the jump to read the rest of the story.

The court upheld Knox’s previous conviction of slander for accusing bar owner Diya “Patrick” Lumumba of carrying out the killing. He set the sentence at three years, meaning for time served. Knox has been in prison since Nov. 6, 2007.

Knox collapsed in tears after the verdict was read out Monday. Her co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, also was cleared of killing 21-year-old Meredith Kercher in 2007.
The Kercher family looked on grimly as the verdict was read out by the judge after 11 hours of deliberations by the eight-member jury. Outside the courthouse, some of the hundreds of observers shouted “Shame, shame!”
Yet inside the frescoed courtroom, Knox’s parents, who have regularly traveled from their home in Seattle to Perugia to visit the 24-year-old over the past four years, hugged their lawyers and cried with joy.
“We’ve been waiting for this for four years,” said one of Sollecito’s lawyers, Giulia Bongiorno.
Prosecutors can appeal the acquittal to Italy’s highest court. There was no word late Monday if they planned to do so.
Earlier Monday, Knox delivered a tearful 10-minute address in Italian to the packed courtroom asking them to allow her to return to the U.S. and saying she did not kill her British roommate.
“I did not kill. I did not rape. I did not steal. I wasn’t there,” Knox said.
“I’ve lost a friend in the worst, most brutal, most inexplicable way possible,” she said of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old Briton who shared an apartment with Knox when they were both students in Perugia. “I’m paying with my life for things that I didn’t do.”
Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, Knox’s former boyfriend from Italy, were convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher, who was stabbed to death in her bedroom. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, Sollecito to 25. They both deny wrongdoing.
“I never hurt anyone, never in my life,” Sollecito said Monday in his own speech to the jury.
Hundreds of eager observers gathered outside the courthouse ahead of the highly anticipated announcement, joining television vans that have been camped out for more than a week. One hundred reporters were being allowed into the subterranean courtroom.
Observers lined the street leading to the courthouse, taking pictures as the two vans carrying Knox and Sollecito from the prison to the court passed by.