By Marie-Louise Gumuchian, CNN
More than two years after they were acquitted of murdering a British exchange student, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito await another Italian court verdict Thursday as judges decide whether to uphold or overturn their conviction.
But the American student will not be in court to hear the decision. Instead, she will be thousands of miles away.
Knox has been back home in Seattle since an appeal court acquitted her and ex-boyfriend Sollecito in 2011 of the murder of Meredith Kercher in November 2007.
Kercher, 21, was found partially naked in a pool of blood in the house she shared with Knox in the picturesque town of Perugia, where both women were exchange students.
Knox says she is afraid to return to Italy, where she spent four years behind bars.
“I will become … a fugitive,” she told Italian daily La Repubblica this month, when asked what she would do if she was found guilty.
Italy’s Supreme Court in March overturned the pair’s acquittals, saying that the jury did not consider all the evidence and that discrepancies in testimony needed to be answered.
The case was sent to a retrial in Florence.
After hearing the defense team’s final rebuttals, the jury retired to deliberate and a verdict was not expected until after 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET).
Dressed in a purple sweater with sunglasses nestled on his collar, Sollecito made it to the tribunal for the session that was beamed around the world.
The retrial began last September, refocusing international attention on the case that grabbed headlines in Italy, Britain and the United States — but neither Knox or Sollecito were present in court.
It has renewed questions about the effectiveness of Italy’s justice system given widespread doubts over the handling of the investigation and key pieces of evidence.
Prosecutor Alessandro Crini has said both Knox and Sollecito should be convicted and handed a 26-year sentence for homicide, with an additional four years for Knox for slander.
Both have maintained their innocence.
With little change in the case details over the years, it is not clear how presiding judge Alessandro Nencini will rule.
Regardless of the decision, both sides will have the opportunity to appeal that verdict to Italy’s Supreme Court. That process could take months.
If Knox is ultimately found guilty, Italy could request her extradition from the United States
Knox, 26, and Sollecito, 29, were convicted in 2009 of killing Kercher, who was found with more than 40 stab wounds and a deep gash in her throat.
Prosecutors say she was held down and stabbed after she rejected attempts by Knox, Sollecito and another man, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede, to involve her in a sex game. Guede is the only person still in jail for the murder and many aspects still remain unexplained.
Speaking on Thursday, Knox’ defense team asked for an acquittal.
Lawyer Carlo Della Vedova said the team was “serene” about the verdict because they believe the only conclusion from the case files is an acquittal.
Knox has always denied murdering Kercher and has maintained she is not guilty in a written statement to the Florence court.
“I must repeat to you. I’m innocent. I did not rape, I did not steal … I did not kill Meredith,” Knox said a lengthy e-mail presented by her lawyer to the court in December.
Sollecito was in the Dominican Republic at the start of the retrial but returned to Italy.
In November, he took to the stand to make a spontaneous declaration, saying the charges against him were “absurd.”
“For me, it’s a nightmare that goes beyond imagination,” he said of what he’s been through.
‘No one remembers Meredith‘
A lawyer for the Kercher family, Francesco Maresca, said the victim’s brother and sister, Lyle and Stephanie, would attend court to hear the decision.
The case has dragged on for more than six years, frustrating attempts by Kercher’s family to discover the truth about her death. The three trials have done little to clear up mysteries surrounding the details of the murder.
“They are tired of this long trial and they want justice,” Maresca said.
The Kercher family welcomed the retrial ruling, Maresca said in March, adding they believed the ruling that acquitted Knox and Sollecito was “superficial and unbalanced.”
They believe more than one person was in the room when Kercher was killed, he said.
“No one remembers Meredith, while the two defendants write books, speak to the media and earn money,” Maresca told the court in closing remarks last month.
Ferguson advocates for Knox
One person who has been advocating for Knox is Ryan Ferguson — the Missouri man who walked free last November after being imprisoned for nearly a decade. He was wrongly convicted of murdering a newspaper editor, and a state appeals court overturned his conviction.
“We kind of had this connection in the sense that we’ve been through this justice system … It’s relatively the same. We’ve been through this, and there’s not a whole lot of people” who’ve had the same experience, he told CNN’s “New Day.”
“So it’s cool and we can kind of just talk to each other. She wanted to reach out and say if you need to talk to anybody, if you need any help, I’m here for you. If not, I completely understand. So that’s how we began communicating.”
Asked about Knox’ current state of mind, he said she’s staying positive.
“She seems to be doing very well. I’m impressed with her. It’s so daunting at this time,” he said. “Within 48 hours she should know her fate. You can’t start living life until they actually clear you and until you’re free essentially. So I’m amazed how she’s doing. She’s working hard on school and continuing life the best she can. She believes the courts are going to do the right thing based on the facts. I agree.”
CNN’s Livia Borghese contributed to this report
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