ROME (AP) — Amanda Knox, who maintained that she and her former Italian boyfriend were innocent in her British roommate's murder through multiple trials and nearly four years in jail, was vindicated Friday when Italy's highest court threw out their convictions once and for all.

"Finished!" Knox's lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova exulted after the decision was read out late Friday. "It couldn't be better than this."

The surprise decision definitively ends the 7½-year legal battle waged by Knox, 27, and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, 31, to clear their names in the gruesome 2007 murder and sexual assault of British student Meredith Kercher.

The supreme Court of Cassation panel deliberated for 10 hours before declaring that the two did not commit the crime, a stronger exoneration than merely finding insufficient evidence to convict. Instead, had the court-of-resort upheld the pair's convictions, Knox would have faced 28 ½ years in an Italian prison, assuming she would have been extradited, while Sollecito had faced 25 years.

"Right now I'm still absorbing what all this means and what comes to mind is my gratitude for the life that's been given to me," Knox said late Friday, speaking to reporters outside her mother's Seattle home.

The case attracted strong media attention due to the brutality of the murder and the quick allegations that the young American student and her new Italian lover had joined a third man in stabbing to death 21-year-old Kercher in a sex game gone awry.

Kercher, 21, was found dead Nov. 2, 2007, in the apartment that she shared with Knox and two Italian lawyers-in-training. She was half-nude beneath a duvet soaked in blood with her throat slashed. Investigators determined she had been sexually assaulted.

DNA evidence in Kercher's room led police to arrest a man from Ivory Coast, Hermann Guede, who was convicted of the murder in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence.

The court that convicted Guede ruled he did not act alone, citing the absence of defensive wounds on the victim and concluding that bruises on Kercher's arms indicating she was restrained while one or two others inflicted numerous stab wounds.