Amanda Knox waves to supporters as she makes her first appearance at SeaTac Airport after arriving in Seattle following her release from prison in Italy on October 4, 2011. (Kevin Casey/AFP/Getty Images)
ROME (USA TODAY) -- An Italian court convicted American Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Thursday for the 2007 death of a British woman.
Knox, who was in Seattle while the court verdict was reached Thursday night in Florence, was sentenced to 28 1/2 years, although the verdict is expected to be appealed.
Ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was also sentenced to more than 25 years in connection with the slaying of Meredeth Kercher, a 21-year-old student found stabbed to death in the villa that she and Knox had rented in Perugia.
Knox and Sollecito's first two trials produced flip-flop verdicts of guilty,then innocent.
The pair were acquitted on appeal in 2011 after spending four years in custody after a court found that important evidence regarding blood and DNA had been handled improperly by investigators.
But Italy's supreme court - called the Court of Cassation - dismissed that ruling based on what it said was key evidence that had been omitted during the appeal. A Florence appeals panel was subsequently designated by Italy's supreme court to address issues it raised about the acquittal.
Knox and Sollecito are expected to file appeals with the Supreme Court. Legal experts said a further trial could take place if new evidence is made available.
Much of the attention has focused on Knox, 26, who has remained in Seattle during the latest trial, citing her fear of "the universal problem of wrongful conviction," according to her statement emailed to the Florence court. Her representatives say she is concentrating on her studies at the University of Washington.
She told Italian state TV in an interview earlier this month that she would wait for the verdict at her mother's house "with my heart in my throat."
In a statement to the court in closing arguments, Knox's lead attorney, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said he was confident his client would be vindicated.
"The knowledge about Amanda is innocence is rock-solid and it allows us to wait for the verdict with complete serenity," Dalla Vedova said. "It is impossible for the court to convict someone because they are 'probably' guilty or 'may be' guilty."
Legal experts have said that if Knox is again convicted, Italy may seek her extradition, but probably not before a final judgment has been made. If that happens, it is not clear how that may play out.
"Italy would usually refuse to extradite someone convicted of murder to the U.S. based on human rights grounds, because of the death penalty," said Argia Bignami, a Rome-based attorney and frequent commentator on criminal justice issues. "But that is not relevant for an extradition request to Italy from the U.S.
"But an extradition request is not automatic," she continued. "That's a further step that must be taken, and it's not at all clear how U.S. authorities would react to such a request or what would happen if they refused."
Unlike Knox, Sollecito has said he would be in the courtroom when the verdict is announced.
Some Italians said they are bothered by the fact that Knox refused to come back for the trial.
"I have no opinion about guilt of innocence of these two, but it doesn't seem fair that one (Knox) stays at home, while Sollecito is brave enough to appear to hear the judgment," said 66-year-old Sabrina Vincente, a retired law firm office manager. "They either committed the crime together or they did not. It's not just to think the punishment would be given to only one half of the couple."