By Claudio Lavanga, NBC News Producer
PERUGIA, Italy – When a crowd of locals gathered in front of the court of appeals in Perugia on Monday evening, many journalists thought they were just curious residents there to witness the end of an appeal trial that, to some, had become a nuisance that disturbed the town’s idyllic peace.
But as soon as it became clear that the appeals court had overturned Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s murder convictions, there were cries of “Shame, Shame,” from a vocal few. The Knox family was whisked away by security.
For some in Perugia, the mood had changed overnight.
During the two weeks leading to the final verdict, journalists scouted endlessly for local opinion on the trial. With a city center about the size of Times Square, they ended up interviewing the same people twice, and sometimes, out of desperation, they turned the microphone on each other.
The answer they would get from residents, in many cases, was one of resigned indifference. To them, the case was closed in 2009, when Knox and Sollecito were found guilty of all charges.
Perugia went back to being the quiet, medieval enclave where students partied until the wee hours of the morning on the city’s cobblestoned alleyways.
Many residents were prepared for a slight correction to the sentence. A few years off here and there, perhaps. But they did not believe that Knox and Sollecito would be acquitted.
“It’s unbelievable,” a newspaper salesperson on Corso Vannucci said this morning while handing out papers – many of which sported front-page headlines that simply read: “INNOCENTS.”
Another local, Mario, who only gave his first name, approached our NBC News crew while we were filming in the city center Tuesday to offer up his opinion. “It’s outrageous. If she was tried in the United States with the same evidence, she would have been given a death sentence.”
Others here disagree. Amoi Amici, a bartender at a cafe across the square from the court of appeals, said, "I'm happy because I really believe they are innocent. They had nothing to do with it."
The mood towards the media here was not so mixed. “What are you still doing here?” a well-dressed woman shouted at our NBC crew as we sat down for dinner at a local restaurant Tuesday. “Isn’t your job done?”
She, like some others around here, blame the American media for what they say was a pro-Knox campaign that influenced the jury’s decision.
One man on a Harley Davidson driving past the few TV camera positions left in front of the court house Tuesday slowed down and shouted: “GO AWAY!"
Crews from around the world are in the process of dismantling the media circus that turned this sleepy town into the center of the world, even if only for one day.
When the lights are off and the cameras gone, it will go back to being the secluded medieval fortress perched on a hill that will guard, maybe forever, the secret of what exactly happened to Meredith Kercher in the middle of the night on Nov. 1, 2007.