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Knox lawyer says team is ready for highest appeal

Amanda Knox embraces her lawyer Luciano Ghirga after hearing the verdict in Perugia
Amanda Knox embraces her lawyer Luciano Ghirga after hearing the verdict in Perugia

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An attorney for freed American student Amanda Knox said on Tuesday that his team would be ready for Italian prosecutors planning to appeal her murder acquittal to Italy's highest appeals court.

Carlo Dalla Vedova told U.S. morning TV talk show "Today" that Knox's lawyers would be prepared for the appeal to the Court of Cassation, Italy's highest appeals court, which the public prosecutor promised after Knox and her former boyfriend were cleared on Monday of murdering British student Meredith Kercher.

"We are ready," he said. "If that happened we would be ready to defend and support our client's rights, also in front of the supreme court. We are not worried," he told "Today."

Knox spent four years in an Italian jail but headed for home in Seattle on Tuesday after leaving Rome for London to join a connecting flight, airport officials said.

The 24-year-old broke down in sobs after an appeals court in Perugia ruled Monday she and her former boyfriend, Italian computer student Raffaele Sollecito, should be freed immediately, prompting prosecutors to promise the appeal.

Dalla Vedova told "Today" he did not believe the prosecutors had a personal vendetta against Knox.

"It's a very difficult job so everybody has to respect this position. It is not a personal issue, it's a big mistake to bring any evaluation on a personal level," he said.

Nevertheless, the prosecutor's office had "made a huge mistake" with the first investigation period of the case, he said.

Knox and Sollecito had appealed a 2009 verdict that found them guilty of murdering 21-year-old Kercher in 2007 during what prosecutors had said was a drug-fueled sexual assault.

The overturn of that verdict on Monday was an embarrassment for the prosecutor and Italian police investigators. Independent forensic investigators sharply criticized scientific evidence in the original investigation, saying it was unreliable.

According to Italian judicial process, the prosecution cannot file its appeal until the court publishes a formal explanation of its decision, expected in a few months.

While Kercher's disappointed family said the search for who killed the British student in 2007 would go on, Dalla Vedova said Knox's break down upon hearing the verdict was understandable.

"For her this was the end of a nightmare, the end of a tunnel and she almost collapsed," he said. "For her, the way of crying, it was just a relief."

Knox and Sollecito, 27, consistently had maintained their innocence throughout the original investigation and trial. A third man, Ivorian drug dealer Rudy Guede, was imprisoned for 16 years for his role in the murder.

Dalla Vedova disagreed that some of the Italian public did not welcome the verdict. Outside the court hundreds of people whistled, booed and shouted "Shame, shame" and "bastards" at the courtroom and at U.S. TV crews.

Many observers, Dalla Vedova said, had recently "clearly identified that there was no evidence supporting the accusation."

"Amanda is a very good girl and she deserved to go back to her life and freedom," he said.

(Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Jill Serjeant)

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