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Amanda Knox Returns Home; Christie Not Running for President; Attorney General Denies Knowledge of 'Fast and Furious' Program

Aired October 4, 2011 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening everyone.

We begin with breaking news. Looking here at live pictures of the Seattle-Tacoma international airport, British Airways, flight 49. The 747 carrying Amanda Knox is now descending towards Seattle. And in a few minutes it will pull up at the gate.

Shortly after that, we are expecting a news conference and possibly word from Amanda Knox herself. The news conference said to be by her family. Again, we expect possibly to hear from Amanda Knox. These are photos of her at London's Heathrow airport where she was changing planes for Seattle. Her trip home three years, 11 months since her incarceration in the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher.

Now, just a day since a jury in an appeals court cleared her and her boyfriend at the time of the charge. Safe to say her family has been waiting for and working for this moment for a very, very long time, working extraordinarily hard. Also safe to say it was a moment that Meredith Kercher's family has been dreading.


LYLE KERCHER, MEREDITH KERCHER'S BORTHER: It's also a very complex case. You know, there's a lot of evidence there, whether it's forensic or physical. And of course, one of the things we're left questioning is how the decision was so adamant the first time around has been so emphatically overturned.


COOPER: That was from the Kercher family in Britain earlier today. Again, we're waiting to hear from the Knox's themselves tonight, so as Drew Griffin reporting tonight from Seattle.

So Drew, the plane that Amanda Knox is on landing within just a few minute, do we know what's going to happen as soon as she arrives?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATION UNIT: Well, she has to clear customs somewhat, and pick up her bags and extended family, have to come. And then we're expecting a news conference. I'm right in the middle of this huge, huge media gaggle, Anderson that is awaiting this news conference. We expect to hear from a spokesperson, an attorney and then Curt Knox, the father, Edda Mellis the mother, and perhaps we're told a statement from Amanda Knox, although that was unclear.

The family very concerned how Amanda is going to handle all of this now that she's out and free and has the ability to interact with the media which she's not had yet in that Italian prison.

COOPER: And also the ability to actually speak freely, something she hasn't really been able to do. After they leave the airport, do we know what happens to her next? I mean, she obviously hasn't been able to plan for her future at this point. Where she even headed?

GRIFFIN: Look, you know, she lived with her mother. If that's where she goes back, we'll see. I can tell you there's going to be a lot of media chasing her, trying to find out where she is and capture every aspect of her life. The family told me they would like it if she could, quote, unquote, go dark for about six weeks, try to assess what she wants to do, what kind of deals she want to enter and kind of get back into this freedom and pressure slowly, but you know it's anybody's guess honestly if the media, the press, the tabloids will allow her to do that.

COOPER: Well, let's hope people respect the fact that this is a very young girl who is just now a young woman trying to readjust to life and hope people aren't chasing her down. Drew, we'll be back with you shortly again. I want to bring you that live press conference when it happens.

For our politics now, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the no heard around the Republican presidential world.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Now is not my time. I have a commitment to New Jersey that I simply will not abandon.


COOPER: Governor Christie today saying he was swayed by calls to run for president but ultimately not moved, which shouldn't come as news to anyone who has been following him the last couple years.


CHRISTIE: I'm governor, I want to be governor. I'm not running for president. I don't feel ready in my heart to be president. I don't want to run for president.

I don't feel like I'm ready to be president. I don't want to run for president. I don't have the fire in the belly to run for president.

I have big things to accomplish here. And that does not include leaving and running for national office.

I'm 100 percent certain I'm not going to run.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you do see the presidency at all in your future?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you running for president?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm kidding. I'm kidding. All right.

CHRISTIE: My God, I'm not running for president.

I did. I said what do I have to do short of suicide to convince people I'm not running? Apparently, I actually have to commit suicide to convince people I'm not running.


COOPER: So, with Christie out, Rick Perry struggling for the moment, Mitt Romney seems to be merging to be a front-runner right now with Herman Cain getting a surprising boost.

Let's talk about it with our political contributor Erick Erickson, editor in chief of, Republican strategist Mary Matalin, also with us chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

So Gloria, I can only imagine that Mitt Romney is part breathing a big sigh of relief tonight.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I spoke with some people in the Romney camp. They are clearly breathing a sigh of relief. Look, they would have been competing against Chris Christie for the same constituency in the Republican Party. They would have been competing for money in the Republican Party. And essentially they would have been making the same argument about being the most electable candidate in the Republican Party.

So, with Chris Christie gone, what we're hearing tonight and what we're reporting on CNN is that some of those top would-be Christie fund-raisers are now moving very quickly to the Romney camp, including Ken Langone, who is the co-founder of Home Depot. So, the Romney people are quite happy about this. And all they have to do is convince Republicans to get on board. They're polling at a solid 25 percent. But you need to do better than that to get the nomination.

COOPER: Mary, let's look at some of those polls because after losing support, now seems as it Gloria says some voters are giving Romney a second look. New polls like this one from "the Washington Post" and ABC show Romney claiming the top spot, Perry battling of Herman Cain. For a second, what do you make about the rise of Herman Cain and I guess the stumble of Rick Perry?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the Romney is the same floor and the same ceiling he's had throughout the race. So, the dynamic hasn't changed, still a two man race Romney versus the anti- Romney. There is a two-man race for the not-Romney candidate. And there's well, or you could say another way, 75 percent of the primary electorate is still not with Romney. What Gloria just reported is an important fact to see where the money goes.

But there is still an enthusiasm gap for Romney and there is a 13-point enthusiasm advantage for the conservative electorate at large. So this primary's very rational. The activists want their enthusiasm for their candidate to be commensurate with their enthusiasm for their message. And I think this thing will go longer into the primaries than people think.

COOPER: Well Erick, I mean is the Christie phenomenon, the interest in him as much about what voters thought of the current crop of candidates as what they thought about him?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Yes, I think it was a lot to do with him. His leadership performance at this press conference was so strong today. There will probably be a poll out next week showing he moves into first place in the Republican primary and Bill Kristol will start to rumour he's running again. Then we'll have a press conference where he says yet again for the 14th time he's not running.

Look, the problem here and Mary is absolutely right here. The Republican conservative electorate wants someone who can beat Barack Obama but they want someone who can beat Mitt Romney along the way. Seventy five percent of them subdue. And they are trying - that's why you see all these other numbers bouncing up and down. Bachmann's rise, Cain's rise, Perry's rise. They're vetting these guys to see who can be the anti-Romney to then run against Barack Obama and be viable.

The Romney is the bar in a survey that came out today that shows he has a huge problem with evangelical voters in the country, which will impact not just in Iowa, but in South Carolina as well.

BORGER: You know, Anderson, this wasn't supposed to be an establishment year for the Republican Party. This was supposed to be an outsider's year. You know, this was the tea party coming in and saying we're going to bring you a different kind of Republican candidate to challenge Barack Obama, who was a different kind of Republican candidate. Only guess what? It may turn out to be an establishment year.

COOPER: Mary, I mean is all -

ERICKSON: You know -

COOPER: Go ahead.

ERICKSON: Well, I was going to say, Gloria's absolutely right. It is largely because there are 50 billion tea party groups in the country all vying to be the national tea party. And each of them has a different candidate that they like. As long as there's no consensus there, it's Mitt Romney's race to lose.

MATALIN: But let me say to that point there is no establishment message.

BORGER: Right.

MATALIN: There might be an establishment candidate at the end, but this is an anti-establishment, anti-Washington, stop spending, start working year. So it doesn't matter who the messenger is. The message is not changing. That dynamic hasn't changed.

COOPER: Mary Matalin, Gloria Borger, thanks very much, Erick Erickson.

I just want to take you to live pictures right now. Amanda Knox, her plane has landed in Seattle at the Tacoma airport. British airways flight 49. Amanda Knox we saw her changing planes earlier in London.

Again, we anticipate a press conference, as Drew Griffin was reporting. She obviously has to clear customs. But not sure if she'll get a special whisk through customs but there's a press conference at the airport scheduled where we'll hear from members of the family, her legal team as well and possibly Amanda Knox herself. We'll bring that to you live. We anticipate that happening within the next 20 to 30 minutes, we were told to expect that.

We are going to take a quick break. Let us know what you think. We're on facebook; follow me at twitter, @andersoncooper. I'll be tweeting tonight.

Just to add tonight, also, the attorney general of the United States saying he only learned about the box ATF gun operations that we've been talking about called fast and the furious. We've been reporting on it for months now. He says he only learned about a few weeks before lawmakers asked him about it.

Keeping them honest tonight, we have memos that say otherwise. We also have some tough questions too for the Republican curves men behind the investigation of the attorney general. First, let's check in with Isha Sesay.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, an interesting day of testimony in the Michael Jackson death trial. Look at Conrad Murray's girlfriends take the stand including the one who received cartons of the drug that killed Michael Jackson. That and much more, when 360 continues.


COOPER: And we are looking at live pictures of the Seattle Tacoma International Airport. The British airways flight at the gate now or just about at the gate bringing Amanda Knox home. She'll be deplaning shortly, going through customs, expected in just a few minutes after that to be at a press conference. There's a large gaggle of reporters. Our Drew Griffin is there as well. We are going to bring that to you live. Not clear if Amanda Knox herself will be making a statement. But we certainly hope her family members are or one of her attorneys will.

She has obviously a lot of support not only in the United States but especially in her home state of Washington, her home city of Seattle. This has been a financially devastating blow for the Knox family. They've had a lot of support not just emotional support and verbal support but financial support from friends and neighbors and family members. And a lot of those people are going to no doubt be thanked tonight by the family of Amanda Knox.

And again, we do anticipate hearing from her as well. It will be the first time we've heard from her as a free woman on American soil. A lot to bring you, we'll bring that to you live.

Now, tonight keeping them honest. What newly uncovered memos say about the botched ATF operation we've been reporting on, called fast and furious. The operation to let firearms bought in America get across the border into Mexico. The idea was to trace them to drug cartel leaders, but instead of tracing them, the ATF lost track of them. They never even informed the Mexican government about the weapons. And to add insult to injury no one ever told the Mexican about the entire thing. The whole thing was predicated on being able to follow these things but no one told the Mexicans.

So, the U.S. is basically arming murderous drug cartels and no one tells Mexico. We're not talking about a dozen or even a couple of hundreds guns, we are talking about thousands of weapons.

Two of them, two of those weapons turned up at the murder scene of a U.S. border agent named Brian Terry. That's his photo. It's important we remember his name. Tonight, the GOP controlled house Judiciary Committee asked the White House to name a special counsel to determine whether the attorney general himself Eric Holder lied when asked about fast and furious. Here's what he said back in May.


REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R), CALIFORNIA: When did you first know about the program officially I believe called fast and furious, to the best of your knowledge, what date?

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about fast and furious for the first time over the last few weeks.


COOPER: However, keeping them honest, we've obtained memos that show otherwise. Weekly reports from Holder deputies to the attorney general, weekly reporting one dated the week of October 18th, 2010 talks about eight pending indictments then under seal in connection with gun running to Mexico. Quote, "The ceiling, will likely last until another investigation, operation fast and furious, is ready for takedown."

So, assuming that attorney general Holder read the memo, assuming that in fact he was at least aware of the operation months before he testify, head was. Now, another memo from the first week that July also mentioned fast and furious and gives a brief thumbnail description of it. Now, presumably the attorney general read that one as well. Both, we should say, are heavily redacted. So, we don't know what else they say about fast and furious if fact, they say anything more at all.

Tonight at the Justice Department, an official told us all we know for sure is that the memo suggests Eric Holder had reason to at least be aware of the operation months before he said he did before the oversight committee last May.

Now, an official of the Justice Department though says the attorney general was simply repeating the answer he gave a Senate committee in March about whether he was aware of questionable tactics. This official says, and I quote, "Chairman Issa, of all people, should be familiar with the difference of knowing about an investigation and being aware of questionable tactics employed in that investigation."

But recall in the clip that was played Congressman Issa's question wasn't that complicated. He simply asked when Attorney General Holder became aware of the operation, not when he learned the details of it.

So is our source at the Justice Department splitting hairs or is Congressman Issa? You can decide for yourself. We spoke with the congressman earlier tonight.


COOPER: So, Congressman, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has formally asked the president to appoint a special counsel to investigate what Attorney General Holder knew and when he knew it. The request is based on an exchange you had with him back in May. Do you believe the attorney general lied to you?

ISSA: I certainly believe that he either misrepresented the facts or he's sufficiently incompetent that he didn't know what was in his weekly briefings. And I certainly support the fact that the attorney general cannot investigate himself.

COOPER: CNN has obtained some of the documents that you and your colleagues have referenced. And the attorney general did receive some memos last year acknowledging the existence of Operation Fast and Furious, but only in passing. The Justice Department is saying basically, look, he receives dozens of reports every week, some more than 100 pages, there's no indication he knew the problems with this particular operation that far back. Do you believe that?

ISSA: Well, it's difficult if at all possible to believe it. Additionally there's a spin going that when they talked about guns walking in excess, that this were other programs. We've had testimony in front of our committee that says Justice never lets guns walk. And now we have written proof that they were concerned about the guns walking. They were concerned about the optics of press interviews in which they were going to talk about problems, including Brian Terry's murder. And very clearly this was not hundreds of pages of reports. This was the key weekly briefing that the attorney general received, on which there was a paragraph on Fast and Furious, repeatedly. So to say when asked specifically about Fast and Furious, he didn't understand the question, he certainly had to know that every week he was seeing briefings on Fast and Furious. He had to at least say I'm familiar with the name. What is it that you mean? Or I don't fully understand everything as well as I did two weeks before.

Instead, in fairness both to myself and to Jason Chaffetz, the attorney general implied that he'd never heard of this until two weeks before, rather than that perhaps he didn't know what a felony stupid program this was that led to the death of Brian Terry and the release of at least 2,000 weapons into the worst of the worst people's hands.

COOPER: I want to read you what a Justice Department official has told CNN, because they're pushing back on what you're saying. They said, "Chairman Issa, of all people, should be familiar with the difference between knowing about an investigation and being aware of questionable tactics used in that investigation, since documents provided to his committee show that he was given a briefing," meaning you were given a briefing, "that included the Fast and Furious Operation in 2010, a year before the controversy emerged."

So I mean, did you yourself know about the operation last year?

ISSA: That is an outright lie that the Justice Department has been spinning. They shopped that to the newspapers until they found one that would print it. The fact is that Kenneth Melson (ph), a man who under oath, very, very well recorded has said he didn't know much of this and clearly did not brief me in one briefing that was about gun trafficking into Mexico.

And let's understand something, Anderson. They would have you believe that I knew -- that I knew what the attorney general didn't know, that I knew what they were deliberately withholding from ATF, DEA, and Justice agents in Mexico City and from the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

So is this cover-up and this game of spin and delay continues, the problem is it's only creating problems that didn't initially exist. Initially, this was a dumb program that led to very adverse consequences. Now it's about a cover-up, about deception, about slow rolling discovery of this and other committees. Understand, I got involved in this because Senator Grassley was denied any discovery because he wasn't the chairman over in the Senate. And I got involved somewhat on his behalf, and my committee has taken a lead on it. But this was about stonewalling of the Senate long before I got involved.

COOPER: I always thought this was the first time this kind of a program has been tried. There are new revelations tonight coming out that the Bush administration had a similar weapons program, something called Operation Wide Receiver. Do you know about that? Do you think officials from that administration should be looked at as well?

ISSA: Well, Anderson, we'd know a lot more about it except that's among the documents we're still waiting to get. What we do know about Wide Receiver somewhat is very small amount of weapons, much more intensive following. But in fact, we will get to the bottom of whether or not this practice in a smaller way may have begun on the Bush watch.

We're not putting it past any administration and giving anyone a pass. The American people and the people of Mexico expect us to have a zero tolerance for letting drugs come into our country or weapons go into Mexico.

COOPER: Congressman Issa, appreciate your time. Thank you.

ISSA: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: We will continue to follow that story. Still ahead, the breaking news, Amanda Knox back in the United States just landing at Seattle a short time ago. We're expecting to hear from her family, possibly Amanda Knox herself in the next 10 to 15 minutes. We'll bring that to you live when it happens. We don't have an exact time. Just stick around.

Also tonight, celebrations in Seattle yesterday from the hometown that stood by Amanda during her four-year ordeal, we will take a closer look at some of the people who never doubted her in (inaudible).


COOPER: And breaking news tonight, Amanda Knox finally home. That was the scene just a few minutes ago. A short time ago, the plane carrying her and her family landed in Seattle. This is actually a live picture now. Vans, I assume, with Amanda and her family, taking her from the plane.

A crush of media and well-wishers are waiting for her at the Seattle-Tacoma airport. Knox left her hometown in September by the way as I said, there's supposed to be a press conference really momentarily, we're told, within the next ten minutes or so. It's really a minute by minute thing here. We're just kind a watching this very carefully.

And we do anticipate Amanda Knox speaking, also her family members speaking, her lawyer, we're not sure she's going to speak, but we think she is. Obviously we'll bring that to you live.

You know it's important to note when Knox left her home town back in September of 2007 to study in Italy she was just 20-years old. She was a college student unknown to the world.

Within months, her junior year brought run into a nightmare and back in her home town a very long vigil began. Take a look.


COOPER: They had waited four years for this moment. Amanda Knox's friends in her hometown of Seattle celebrating the overturning of her conviction. KAREN PRUETT, KNOX'S FAMILY FRIEND: When she gets home, she'll have some time to decompress with the family. Then we're going to have a big old barbecue.

COOPER: From the beginning of her ordeal, a network of friends and supporters rallied to Knox's side. Even as the European media painted Knox as a sex-crazed vixen, the so-called Foxy Knoxy and despite of her murder conviction in 2009they never lost faith.

TOM WRIGHT, FOUNDER, FRIENDSOFAMANDA.ORG: We put together a Web site the to put the facts of the case out there, to show our support, to give emotional support to the family. We had fund-raisers and to try to help them through this crisis, any way that we could.

COOPER: It was support that Knox's family would find in valuable.

As legal bills and plane tickets crushed them financially.

EDDA MELLAS, AMANDA KNOX'S MOTHER: I think we've mortgaged everything we can mortgage, but there are lot you know there's been very kind people who have sent donations to help pay for Amanda's defense.

COOPER: Even behind the walls of her Italian prison, Amanda felt the love and support of her family and friends.

WRIGHT: The family was really very brave. They elected right at the beginning to always have a family member in Perugia for her so that any visiting hour there would be someone there who could go in and be there and help her get through all this.

KENY HICKEY, PRESIDENT, AMANDA KNOX'S HIGH SCHOOL: Primarily how we help is by sending letters or care packages. We want to let her know that we still care about her and we're with her during this time.

COOPER: But Amanda Knox's allies didn't just provide financial and emotional support. A forensics expert from Idaho became intrigued by the case and volunteered to reanalyze the DNA. His findings proved to be the catalyst for the overturned conviction.

GREG HAMPIKIAN, DIRECTOR, IDAHO INNOCENCE PROJECT: The DNA that was done the day of the murder in that room was done perfectly well. The tragedy here is that gut feeling, the gut feeling of the prosecutor trumped the science.

COOPER: But now that tragedy has been turned into triumph.

DEANNA KNOX, AMANDA KNOX'S SISTER: We're thankful for the support we have received from all over the world. People who took the time to research the case and could see that Amanda and Raffaele were innocent.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Anyway, you are looking a live picture of the podium where we anticipate Amanda Knox's family and possibly Amanda Knox herself to speak. As we wait for them, Drew Griffin is also with us. He's been covering the case for CNN for years.

Also with us is Tom Wright, a filmmaker and the founder of friends of Amanda. He's known the Knox family for a decade. And Nina Burleigh, who's move to Perugia to cover the murder trial. She is the author of the fascinating book of fatal gift of beauty.

So, as we continue to watch that podium, Tom, have you been able to speak to anyone in the Knox's family since the acquittal?


COOPER: And what have you --

WRIGHT: Pure elation, pure elation. This is just a profound glorious moment that she's home now after these four years. Everyone is extremely happy, and Amanda is very strong and maybe momentarily you'll hear directly from her.

COOPER: Drew, do we know what comes next for Amanda Knox? We talked about this a little bit at the top of the program. The hope obviously is that she's not going to be hounded by media. Does she know what she wants to do?

I'm having trouble getting in touch with Drew. He's probably trying to get a position in the press conference. Nina, you and Amanda were in touch through letters while she was in jail. What do you think -- at this point, how do you rebuild a life after four years like this?

NINA BURLEIGH, AUTHOR, "THE FATAL GIFT OF BEAUTY": Well, I haven't been in touch with her in the last couple of months. So I would imagine that she's going to try to have some time to decompress and be home alone.

I would hope that she would be left alone and kind of be back in the family, you know, with her friends in Seattle, but I know that she was writing. She thinks of herself as a writer. She was writing constantly --

COOPER: I'm sorry. Let me just jump in. Drew, there's some activity. What's going on? There she is.

GRIFFIN: Hi, very joyous occasion for us today. Let me just give you a quick hint as to the order of speakers here today. First up, will be Theodore Simon, noted Philadelphia attorney, has been the family's United States legal adviser and a member of the defense team.

Mr. Simon will make some comments and will take your questions for a short time. Second up will be Amanda's parents, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas. They too will make comments and take some of your questions. Last up will be Amanda Knox. She will make a statement or comments but will not take questions as is her right. So thank you, and here's Mr. Theodore Simon.

THEODORE SIMON, ATTORNEY: Thank you for coming. As David told you, my name is Theodore Simon. I'm a Philadelphia lawyer. I've been a criminal defense lawyer for 37 years in Philadelphia.

It has been a trying and grueling four-year nightmarish marathon that no child or parent should have to endure, but Amanda and her parents, Curt, Edda, Chris and Cassandra and family -- as I was saying, Curt, Edda, Chris and Cassandra and family have demonstrated unquestioned and unparalleled patience, steadfast courage, dignity, resilience and fortitude.

But most of all, they have relied upon their faith that this unjust conviction would not stand. They have persevered with unusual grace and under extremely difficult circumstances. Given those circumstances, the significance and severity of the charges and the unrelenting pressure they faced, they have been and continue to be deserving of our support, admiration and prayers.

We are appreciative, thankful and ever so grateful to the appellate jurors for their willingness to reopen and re-examine the facts, to conduct a thorough and searching inquiry into the true facts, which we believe can only be characterized as profoundly absent and thereafter rendered a bold and courageous decision.

This decision unmistakably announces to the world that Amanda Knox was wrongly convicted and that she was not, absolutely not responsible for the tragic loss of Meredith Kercher. Finally, finally, and importantly, let us not forget that Meredith was Amanda's friend.

And I know Amanda and the family wants you to remember Meredith and to keep the Kercher family in your prayers. I'll take a -- I'll be happy to take a few questions as long as they don't invade the attorney/client privilege or work product privilege or co-counsel privilege. Seeing none, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Simon. Amanda's parents, Curt Knox, Edda Mellas.

CURT KNOX, AMANDA KNOX'S FATHER: First of all, we'd like to thank everybody. As Ted said, this has been a very long four years, but we couldn't have made it through it without all you people out here that have supported us and especially Amanda.

EDDA MELLAS, AMANDA KNOX'S MOTHER: All I can say is again thank you. It's because of the letters and the calls and just amazing support that we received from people all over the world, especially here in Seattle.

That we've been able to endure and that we've been able to, you know, make sure Amanda had had the support she needed. There's no way we could thank everybody. So here -- individually, so here's our way to just say thank you.

CURT KNOX: I'd like to add in one more thing. We'd also like to send our appreciation to our Italian lawyers, Carlo Del Deva, Luciano Ghirga and Maria Del Grosso. They did a fantastic job on that side of the pond and Ted was phenomenal on this side of the pond.

And obviously, we couldn't have done it without you. So appreciate that. You want to talk? Yes, Edda and I will take any questions if anybody has any. There's a couple hands over there. How are you going to hear it? Can't hear it. OK, all right. You want to talk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home, Amanda!

AMANDA KNOX, MURDER CONVICTION OVERTURNED IN ITALY: They're reminding me to speak in English because I'm having problems with that. I'm really overwhelmed right now. I was looking down from the airplane and it seemed like everything wasn't real.

What's important for me to say is just thank you to everyone who's believed in me, who's defended me, who has supported my family. I just want my family's the most important thing to me right now. I just want to go and be with them. So thank you for being there for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is going to end it today. Thank you for coming. As you can imagine, the family's been under a great deal of stress, emotional and otherwise. It's been a long flight back for them as well.

They're tired. I would really ask a big favor of all of you, and that is to give this family some time. Give them some slack. Let them re-adjust to whatever normal life is going to be now that Amanda is home. So please give them some peace, give them some time. I really thank you.

COOPER: The homecoming for Amanda Knox. Drew Griffin is with us, also Nina Burleigh who's been covering this trial and moved to Perugia to cover the trial. Also joining us Tom Wright, a filmmaker, the founder of "Friends of Amanda." He's known the Knox family for decade. First of all, Tom, how did Amanda look to you?

WRIGHT: She looked terrific considering the circumstances. And it was profoundly moving to see her walk through that door. What she's endured and how she's conducted herself with such dignity through it all is just remarkable.

COOPER: And Nina Burleigh has written the book, "The Fatal Gift of Beauty" covering the trial, how did she look to you? I mean, you've been covering her in court. You've seen her under the worst of times.

BURLEIGH: Yes, I mean, I think, you know, she's looked four years in prison was traumatic for her. You can see, you know, the way she expresses herself very simply. She's not this very complex witchy person that they depicted. It will take her some time to become whole again. You can see that. That's visible, I think.

COOPER: I certainly hope the media allows her time and people aren't trying to hound her down. Why do you think, Nina, that this went on for as long as it did? Because once it got to the appeals process, I mean, they looked at the DNA evidence or relooked at it, it wasn't there.

BURLEIGH: Well, you know, it's a complicated story. It's a simple crime, but it's a complicated story was created around this simple crime. And it's hard to explain it in a 30-second sound bite, which is kind of why it kept kind of -- it grew and grew in the media.

But I think, you know, four years is what it took for the Italian -- the wheels of Italian justice to work through this thing once it was set in motion with the arrest of these two students and it took -- they were in jail for a year without charges. That's just the way the system works there.

COOPER: I mean, that's incredible that they were there for a year without charges.

BURLEIGH: That's the way the system works there. I think the Italians have -- some of them question that whether that's such a good idea, but that's the way it works. And then the trial, you know, in our system, trials start and end in two weeks or four months, but they meet every day.

In Italy and in other countries, they meet one day a week or two days a week, then they knock off. And of course, they knock off for the summer vacation. So it took a year to get the first verdict, and then it took a year to get to the second verdict. That's the way the system works.

COOPER: What was life like for her in prison?

BURLEIGH: Well, I mean, I think that she was obviously the most educated person in that jail. I interviewed the priest who ministers to --

COOPER: He became quite close to her.

BURLEIGH: He became quite close to her because, you know, he was proselytizing her basically. I mean, she got in there. They threw her in a cell. The first persons to see her were nuns. She was in isolation for a few days.

Then the priest came in and started giving her books about Catholicism. She's a young woman who went to a Jesuit school. She wasn't particularly religious. She was writing about this in the first month. He was trying to proselytize her.

I think the priest told me that her best sort of comrades in there were doctors and people who were kind of educated who she could talk to on a certain level because her fellow inmates were, you know, what you get in a small central Italian town in jail.

You get prostitutes, you get drug addicts and you get probably immigrants who have been thrown in there. But I think she was -- you could tell when I think there were cheers that erupted in prison when she was put back in there, that was broadcast.

She had a lot of support from those people. They called her Bambi. They thought of her as this kind of passive young woman.

COOPER: Interesting.

BURLEIGH: So you know, but on the other hand, it was extremely traumatic and there were issues with jail guards early on. That I think will end up being discussed later.

COOPER: We're going to take a short break. We're going to continue on with Nina and Tom and Drew Griffin, we're going to hear from as well who was at that press conference. Again, we'll play you what Amanda Knox just said.

Also tonight, the latest in the Michael Jackson death trial, the trial of his doctor, Conrad Murray, Dr. Murray's three girlfriends testified in the Michael Jackson trial.

They all either talked with him on the phone or texted with him on the day that Jackson died. Yes, he had three girlfriends. And one of them received shipments of hundreds of cartons of the drug that killed Jackson. Details ahead.


COOPER: And we've just heard from Amanda Knox. This was the family coming in. This was really the first glimpse we saw of her. You hear the crowds cheering there, a lot of her supporters had assembled along with the press. Let's listen in to Amanda Knox to what she said just moments ago.


KNOX: They're reminding me to speak in English because I'm having problems with that. I'm really overwhelmed right now. I was looking down from the airplane and it seemed like everything wasn't real.

What's important for me to say is thank you to everyone who has believed in me, who's defended me, who has supported my family. I just want -- my family's the most important thing to me right now. I just want to go be with them. So thank you for being there for me.


COOPER: And we're here with Drew Griffin who was at the press conference and also Nina Burleigh, whose book "The Fatal Gift of Beauty," all about the trial. She moved to Perugia to cover the trial.

Drew, in terms of -- Drew, you actually, you also were in Perugia. You talked to the prosecutor in all this. You think a lot of this stemmed from the prosecutor, just his personal belief or what he said was his instinct when he got to the crime scene. That's how this started. DREW GRIFFIN, SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: Yes, and Anderson, I've covered a lot of these prosecutions that have gone awry, many of them, I've been with prisoners who have gotten out of prison for 17 years for crimes they didn't commit.

They seem to have the same thing. They have a police or prosecution case that formulates very early, then the police or the prosecution stick with their original suspects and their original theories despite what the evidence shows.

And I think that is what has taken place here in Perugia, but I don't want to isolate this to Italy. I've seen this happen in U.S. systems as well where the prosecution just can't get their mind off of the theory that they came up with, and instead of changing that theory when they get new evidence, they bend the evidence to form their theory or to support their suspect.

I think that's what did happen to Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. Because no matter how many times the evidence pointed somewhere else, this prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini would twist the information and bend it into his theory of the case. He still sticks with that.

COOPER: And Nina, you agree with that.

BURLEIGH: Yes, I agree with that, absolutely. I mean, they made it -- I wouldn't go so far as he does blaming it entirely on the prosecutor. It was -- the police were making the original errors, I think. There were investigators who took a look at this girl and just took a disliking to her.

She didn't seem right to them for a lot of reasons and that's why the story has a lot of -- there's a lot of mistranslation, a lot of cultural misunderstanding. And that the instinct of the police was that there was something odd about this young woman.

The prosecutor, of course, has his own issues because he sees a satanic rite, two nights after Halloween, you know, he's superstitious and so this sort of culmination of things, but yes, absolutely they made a hasty judgment. They need it because it's a college town.

Perugia is many things, it's filled with art. It's a beautiful, beautiful medieval city, but it's a college town. There are 40,000 students there. The economy depends on these people, and they were fleeing. They were freaked out. You know, and the British were running out the door, the British press was in there covering it.

They had to have an answer, they got one. They thought they had these three people, and they announced it. Then they ran with it and they couldn't -- they wouldn't turn exculpatory evidence came in, they found the guy whose fingerprints were in the room.

COOPER: There was a bloody fingerprint or palm print.

BURLEIGH: There are fingerprints all over the place. A bloody palm print on the wall, his footprints are on the wall. There's a fingerprint on a purse emptied of money.

COOPER: Even though they found that, they still would not deviate with this story.

BURLEIGH: That's exactly what Drew was saying. The lesson that people should take from this, watching this poor girl, you know, coming home is that these mistakes happen too often. They happen in this country.

They're just different types of people getting jailed because they seem odd to the police. The police make a bad call. Prosecutors should and police should really look at this and think about, you know, this is a lesson in how, you know, people -- when we think we'd made an error, we need to go with the exculpatory evidence.

You know, the innocence project is exonerating people left and right who have confessed in the United States.

COOPER: And Drew, in this case, there was also a confession from her, which obviously she then later said, you know, just simply not true.

GRIFFIN: Anderson, you know, and that was one of the linchpins of this case that formed public opinion, this confession. If you read what she actually, quote, unquote, "confessed to," it wasn't the murder of Meredith Kercher.

She confessed under a 15-hour interrogation with no attorney, with no translator, that she was in the apartment and heard screams coming from Meredith Kercher's room. And by the way, she was there with Patrick Lumumba, her former boss, the owner of a bar. So she didn't confess to taking part in this satanic killing or a rape or stabbing Meredith Kercher.

All she, quote, unquote, "confessed to" was actually being at the apartment and hearing this scream. And if police had just taken that confession and checked it out before they released it to the public, they would have known that Patrick Lumumba couldn't possibly have been there because he was operating his bar at the exact time Meredith Kercher was killed.

That's one of the reasons that Patrick Lumumba was immediately released when they finally checked out his story. So what did they do? They just said, OK, well, Patrick -- Amanda Knox --

GRIFFIN: Sorry. We're obviously having trouble connecting with Drew. What was it about this case that you think has so fascinated people and so fascinated you?

BURLEIGH: Well, there are a number of things. You know, we as a society are far more interested in the occasional allegedly evil female than we are the more run of the mill kind of domestically or sexually violent man. And it was happening in Italy, a play pen for all of us and that was fascinating.

COOPER: It's all in your book "The Fatal Gift of Beauty." It's a fascinating read. Appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much. We'll be right back.



KNOX: They're reminding me to speak in English because I'm having problems with that.


COOPER: That was Amanda Knox just a few moments ago. Her first words as a free woman in the United States, landing in Seattle just within this last hour. That does it for this edition of 360. We'll see you again live at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. At the top of 10 p.m., I'll be live for all the latest in the Amanda Knox return. "PIERS MORGAN" continues our coverage. Piers?