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Amanda Knox's Family Likely Spent Millions for Her Acquittal, Say Experts

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- Monday's acquittal verdict for Amanda Knox caps a four-year financial nightmare for her parents, including spending millions on her defense and other expenses, legal experts say.

According to Monday's acquittal, Knox will still have to pay over 22,000 euros, or $29,000, for defamation in accusing a bar owner for her roommate's murder.

Curt Knox, her father, told ABC News in October 2009 that he and his ex-wife, Knox's mother, had spent over $1 million on attorneys, travel and living in Perugia to be near their daughter. Gerald Lefcourt, a criminal defense attorney who has represented high-profile clients such as members of the Black Panthers and actor Russell Crowe, estimated the family may have spent more on Knox's appeal than they had during the first two years leading to her conviction.

Lefcourt, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said rates for criminal defense attorneys could go as high as $500 an hour. He said the same rate could apply for some DNA experts, especially if experts are asked to testify in the courtroom. The most costly expense could be if Knox's family helped pay for the DNA experts, according to Lefcourt.

At least part of the DNA evidence was provided by volunteered time through the Idaho Innocence Project and Dr. Greg Hampikian, professor of biology and criminal justice at Boise State University.

"If this were a paid case, I suppose it would be over $25,000 -- very rough guess," Hampikian wrote in an email to ABC News. Hampikian volunteers as director of the Idaho Innocence Project.

"If her family spent $1 million without experts, I cannot imagine it could be anywhere less without them. They probably spent significantly more. Suffice it to say you have to have a lot of voluntary hours or you're going to spend millions on something like this," Lefcourt said.

"We have literally mortgaged everything and used our retirement funds," Curt Knox said in October 2009. "But we do what it takes because we are not leaving our daughter in a foreign prison for something she didn't do."

Knox's family has made dozens of trips from Seattle to visit her in prison near Perugia, Italy since she was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting and killing Meredith Kercher in November 2007. Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted in 2009 and given 26 years and 25 years in prison, respectively.

Curt Knox lost his job as an executive at Macy's during the ordeal. He and his ex-wife, Edda Mellas, a math teacher, are likely paying their own legal costs as well. The two were indicted for libel charges against the Italian police in February for telling newspapers the police abused Amanda physically and verbally during her arrest. Their case was adjourned until Jan. 24.

The Knox family also rented an apartment outside Perugia after spending money on numerous hotel stays.

Lefcourt said some criminal defense attorneys will decrease their hourly rate based on a client's ability to pay or, in some high-profile cases, if they have permission for some media rights -- as much as 50 percent lower.

Lefcourt said he doubts media appearances or even a book deal could recoup the millions of dollars he said the family has likely spent.

"But who knows? If there's a book deal and it's a best-seller? Who knows?" he said.

Bill Ponall, president of the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said people often invest "large sums of money" on behalf of family members in murder cases "because they are essentially fighting to save the defendant's life."

Italy does not permit the death penalty, but one of the possible verdicts for Knox was a life prison sentence.

"The sentence the defendant faces is usually a life sentence or some term of years which would require them to serve most of their life in prison. For that reason, people are often willing to take money out of retirement accounts or go into debt to help a family member in this situation."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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