ROME (AP) - Italy's highest criminal court today overturned Amanda Knox's acquittal in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial, prolonging a case that has become a cause celebre in the United States.
Knox called the decision "painful" but said she was confident that she would be exonerated.
Italian law cannot compel Knox to return for the new trial, and her lawyer said she had no plans to do so. The appellate court hearing the new case could declare her in contempt of court but that carries no additional penalties.
Italy's Court of Cassation ruled that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American student and her former Italian boyfriend for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. The exact issues that have to be reconsidered won't be known until the court releases its full ruling within 90 days.
Knox, now a student at the University of Washington, stayed up until 2 a.m. Seattle time to hear her fate and issued a statement through a family spokesman.
Knox said the matter must now be examined by "an objective investigation and a capable prosecution."
"No matter what happens, my family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity," Knox said.
Knox, now 25, and Raffaele Sollecito, who turned 29 today, were arrested shortly after Kercher's body was found in a pool of blood in November 2007 in her bedroom. Kercher, whose throat had been slashed, had shared an apartment with Knox and others in Perugia, an Italian university town where the two women were exchange students.
Prosecutors alleged Kercher was the victim of a drug-fueled sex game gone awry.
Knox and Sollecito denied wrongdoing and said they weren't even in the apartment that night, although they acknowledged they had smoked marijuana and their memories were clouded.
An Ivory Coast man, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the slaying in a separate proceeding and is serving a 16-year sentence.
Knox and Sollecito were also initially convicted of the murder and given long prison sentences, but were then acquitted on appeal and released in 2011.
The high court's ruling today overturned the appeals court acquittals.
"She thought the nightmare was over," Knox attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova said after the decision was released.
The court today also upheld a slander conviction against Knox. During a 14-hour police interrogation, Knox had accused a local Perugia pub owner of carrying out the killing. The man was held for two weeks based on her allegations, but was then released for lack of evidence.