SEATTLE – With some unable to hold their tears, Amanda Knox supporters in the U.S. watched an Internet stream of the Italian court hearing where she pleaded her innocence Monday in the 2007 murder of her British roommate, hoping her days in jail are numbered.
"The end is near, and we hope it will be a positive one," said Tom Wright, a friend of Knox's family.
With Italy nine hours ahead of Seattle, Washington, about a dozen friends and supporters of Knox began gathering Sunday night at a downtown hotel to watch a live feed of the courtroom and await the verdict. They stayed up through the night.
They watched as a tearful Knox told an appeals court in Italy that accusations that she killed Meredith Kercher are unfair and groundless.
Knox fought back tears as she addressed the court, minutes before the jury went into deliberations to decide whether to uphold her murder conviction. She is asking the court to free her so she can return to the U.S. after four years behind bars.
Knox's supporters clapped as she wrapped up her speech.
Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, her former boyfriend from Italy, were convicted of murdering Kercher in 2009. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, Sollecito to 25. Also convicted in separate proceedings was Rudy Hermann Guede, a drifter who spent most of his life in Italy after arriving there from his native Ivory Coast.
They have denied wrongdoing.
Kercher, 21, shared an apartment with Knox when they were both students in Perugia. She was stabbed to death in her bedroom.
Knox grew up in Seattle, attending a private Jesuit high school before going to the University of Washington. Her grandmother, uncle and a few other relatives are the only family members who were unable to make the trip to Perugia to await the appeal verdict, Wright said.
"We've known her since she was a kid. She's a person of stellar character," Wright said, adding that Knox has a "goofy sense of humor."
The support group, called Friends of Amanda, is made up of the parents of her high school classmates, her friends from college and high school, and sympathizers from around the country. It formed shortly after Knox was accused of the murder.
Some of the people gathered for Knox are wearing T-shirts that say "Free Amanda and Raffaele." Pictures of Knox, Sollecito and Kercher have candles next to them.
Susan Rosales doesn't know Knox but has been active in the group.
"She's one of ours," Rosales said. "We're all parents together. She's absolutely innocent and so is Raffaele. It's a horrible tragedy of justice. That's why I'm here."
Wright said if Knox is not freed, the group is ready to be more aggressive in their advocacy work.
"The family doesn't harbor any specific resentment of Italy per say, but this is a very specific case," Wright said. "This case needs to be rectified. It's wrong."