(NEW YORK) — Amanda Knox has been working to build a new life after spending years being accused of the notorious murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher, a crime she says she didn’t commit.
Fully exonerated just last year by the Italian Supreme Court, Knox is stepping back into the spotlight to shed light on how innocent people can be branded as guilty. She is sharing her story in the new Netflix documentary, “Amanda Knox.”
“I am never going to be free of having had to go through that experience,” Knox said. “There is no way I can go back to being the person who I was before all of this happened.”
Knox spent four years in an Italian prison, wrongly convicted of the murder, and painted by Italian prosecutors and the global tabloid media as a sexually obsessed killer. Tabloid newspapers ran with wild stories that called her “Satanic,” “demonic,” and “sex-crazed,” and depicted Kercher’s murder as a “crazy orgy gone wrong.” The world watched Knox’s sensational trials played out in an Italian courtroom.
“There was a prosecutor who had tunnel vision, who had this idea that I was guilty, and I was guilty no matter what, he had to just find the way to prove it,” she said. “It was this attempt to project this monster onto me and to like see from a glint what could be the monster. But really what … we need to look at the objective evidence that’s available to us, and that has nothing to do with me.”
Knox’s ordeal began almost nine years ago when she was a 20-year-old exchange student from Seattle just beginning a year abroad in Perugia, Italy. She was lovestruck by a new Italian boyfriend named Raffaele Sollecito, whom she had met five days before the murder.
It was November 2007 when Kercher was found sexually assaulted and stabbed to death in the four-bedroom house she and Knox shared with two other roommates.
The murder became a worldwide media frenzy, with Knox’s every behavior dissected. When she and Sollecito were seen smiling and kissing outside the murder scene just hours after the crime, they immediately came under suspicion.
“The way the media represented me outside of the crime scene was taken out of context and magnified in order to fixate on the inappropriateness and define it as inappropriate,” Knox said. “But the other thing is: It doesn’t matter whether or not my boyfriend was comforting me outside of the house where I had just found out my roommate was murdered. It’s irrelevant because the evidence of the case proved my innocence.”
But Italian prosecutor Giuliano Migini claimed Knox, Sollecito and a drifter named Rudy Guede killed Kercher in a sadistic sex game gone awry. Knox believes their denials were pushed aside in favor of a more salacious story.
During 53 hours of withering interrogation, Knox claims Italian investigators “broke her down.”
“I was hit on the back of the head,” Knox said. “I was yelled at. Police were coming in and out of the room telling me that I was a liar, telling me that Raffaele had lied about me, and it was, it was chaos. It was utter chaos.”
Knox said interrogators made her doubt her own memories.
“The police told me that I had amnesia, and that I better remember the truth,” she said. “And so what they were forcing me to consider was that my memories that I had spent the night with Raffaele were wrong and that I needed to re-scramble my brain around in order to bring out the truth.”
Knox insists she conjured up a false memory, confessing to being there in the house and covering her ears to block out Kercher’s screams when she wasn’t.
“A lot of cases of someone who is wrongfully convicted include a false confession, where someone was put through coercive interrogation techniques that led them to break,” Knox said.
Knox’s confession and some controversial DNA evidence found on her boyfriend’s kitchen knife were enough to put the couple on trial for murder in 2009. Knox and Sollecito were found guilty and sentenced to 26 and 25 years in prison respectively. Knox was stunned.
“The first guilty verdict, I couldn’t believe it, because I still believed that it was impossible to convict an innocent person,” Knox said. “I had already been through two years imprisonment and everything being thrown at me, but I was so sure that my innocence would win out.”
Rudy Guede, who had a history of break-ins, left fingerprints and DNA all over the crime scene and he was tried separately. He was convicted and sentenced to just 16 years in prison.
“My reaction is that he wasn’t found guilty of everything that he was guilty of,” Knox said. “And that’s just because in the criminal justice system, they allowed him to be tried separately from me, and that is something that he needs to answer to.”
The Italians celebrated Knox’s conviction and a British tabloid reporter continued to print sensational headlines. Knox languished in prison, and said her hair fell out and she had trouble sleeping. Her family never doubted her innocence, mortgaging their house and declaring bankruptcy to pay for her defense. Even now that she’s back home, Knox said it’s still difficult for her and her family to talk about what happened.
“They don’t want me to feel bad, like it’s somehow my fault that … the emotional pain, the financial struggle was somehow my fault,” she said.
An independent forensic team eventually discredited the DNA found on the kitchen knife, and after a thorough review of evidence, almost two years after the initial guilty verdict, their convictions were overturned on appeal. Knox was released and immediately returned to the United States, but her ordeal wasn’t over. In January 2014, her acquittal was reversed by determined prosecutor Migini.
The Italian courts considered forcing Knox to return to Italy, but finally, seven-and-a-half years after Kercher was killed, the highest court in Italy ruled to fully exonerate Knox, blaming “stunning flaws” in the investigation.
Knox still lives in Washington State and her new project highlighting others who have been wrongfully convicted.
“I am not being hunted anymore. That means that I can finally be proactive,” Knox said. “I am going to take ownership of the fact that I am an exoneree and share the fact that there is a voice to be heard with them … and what matters now is sharing and finding value in their experience, and … I am in a unique position to do so, and I am going to try.”
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