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Amanda Knox

  

Country: Italy

Arrested: November 2, 2007

Status: Released/Exonerated


OVERVIEW

With an average of some 300,000 American students studying abroad every year, the case of Amanda Knox is a cautionary tale.  Her case demonstrates that ShowTrials can occur almost anywhere in the world, including Western countries, and are not limited to the regions of authoritarian regimes and terrorist strongholds.

Her case has all the major ingredients of a ShowTrial, including sensationalized claims, a whirlwind of media coverage, questionable court proceedings, high-level involvement of multiple foreign nations and non-state organizations, and a family thrust to the forefront of the crisis. 

In an attempt to control the firestorm in the immediate wake of the allegations, initial details of the case were released in a manner that resulted in shaping lasting misperceptions of Knox.  For example, the world first heard that Knox had initially confessed to the crime but later recanted.  What the world did not yet know was that Knox was under duress when the false confession was obtained; also not yet revealed was the lack of prosecutorial evidence, and the questionable circumstances of the case as a whole.

Like many ShowTrials, the case involved multifaceted international pressure points.  However, that pressure did not have as much impact on the case as it could have due to the fact that the case details and circumstances had not been revealed in their entirety.  International media surrounding the case also chose not to focus on what was an undeniable source of informal influence on the case:  internal Italian politics.  Beyond internal domestic politics, the case was influenced by a number of external political factors—including US-Italian military and national security relations, and unrelated circumstances that had caused deep-seated resentment toward Americans, such as Italy’s conviction of 23 CIA officers for kidnapping just three weeks before the first Knox verdict.

The media attention and political matters that complicated this ShowTrial have cemented its place in history.

BACKGROUND

In the fall of 2007 Amanda, a 20-year-old college student, left Seattle to study abroad in Italy, but her life was shattered when her roommate was murdered in their apartment. After a controversial trial, Amanda was convicted and imprisoned. But in 2011, an appeals court overturned the decision and vacated the murder charge.  Amanda returned to the US, however an Italian appeals court reinstated the murder charge in 2014.

Amanda Knox grew up in Seattle, Washington.  At the age of fifteen, Knox took a family trip to Italy where she fell in love with the culture.  This trip inspired her to study in Perugia, Italy.  She planned to attended the University for Foreigners for a year while she studied Italian, German, and creative writing.  She chose to study in Perugia, instead of Rome in order to mix with Italians rather than American expatriates. 

CASE REPORT

At the beginning of November, Knox had been dating Raffaele Sollecito just a week and spent the night at his house.  On the morning of November 2, 2007, Knox returned home from Sollecito’s house.  She found the door unlocked, feces in the toilet, a broken window, and her roommate, Meredith Kercher’s, bedroom door locked.

Knox returned to Sollecito’s apartment. They then both returned to her apartment, where they noticed a broken window.  Sollecito called the police when Kercher did not answer her door.  The Postal Police, who handle crimes related to computers and cell phones, were the first to arrive.  They were investigating two cell phones, both belonging to Kercher, found in a nearby garden.  The Military police arrived next.  Police found Kercher’s body in her bedroom after forcing the door open.  Kercher was found mostly nude with stab wounds to her throat.  The cause of death was loss of blood and suffocation, caused by the stabbing.

A series of misinterpretations and skewed media attention lead to the prosecution and conviction of Amanda Knox and Sollecito.  Scared and grief-stricken, Knox and Sollecito were told to wait outside of the house were Kercher was found.  The two were seen sharing a kiss, which the police interpreted as evidence they were somehow involved in the murder and was actually used as official evidence in the case against them.

“after being interrogated for 13 hours by several police officers… Knox submitted a false confession”

Police questioned Knox repeatedly for hours in the days following the murder.  Though forensic evidence had not been analyzed yet, a police commander said he knew they were guilty based on his intuition alone.  When Knox asked for an attorney, she was told an attorney would only make things worse for her.  She did not understand or speak Italian very well, and the interpreter acted like an assistant the police than an objective translator.  In the middle of the night, after being interrogated for 13 hours by several police officers threatening her with a long prison sentence unless she confess, Knox submitted a false confession, incriminating herself and Patrick Lumumba, the bar owner she worked for.  When Knox later stated she was struck in the back of the head by a police officer during the interrogation and refused water and food, she was charged with defamation. Police claim the interrogation was not recorded.  Experts say this is unlikely.

Knox, Sollecito, and Lumumba were arrested and charged with the murder of Meredith Kercher.  Lumumba was released after traces of Rudy Guede were found on Kercher’s body.  Upon his release Lumumba filed defamation charged against Knox. Rudy Guede was tried separately in a fast-track trial, where he confessed without any mention of Knox or Sollecito. He was found guilty of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher.

A three-judge panel endorsed the charge against Knox and Sollecito in November of 2007.  The two were ordered to be held in detention until trial, a year later.

During the year leading up to their trial, the media portrayed Knox as a sex crazed murderer.  Prosecutors stated the murder was due to a sex game gone wrong.  As a child, Knox was nicknamed “Foxy Knoxy” because she was a sharp defender on the soccer field.  The media picked up on the nickname and began referring to her as “Foxy Knoxy” in reference to her sex life. 

Shortly after arriving in prison, Knox was falsely told she was HIV positive.  She was told to make a list of previous sexual partners, which was then leaked to the media.  A best selling book, written by Fiorenza Sarzanini, included accounts of conjured events imagined by Sarzanini, witness transcripts not in the public domain, unsubstantiated details of Knox’s sex life, and excerpts from Knox’s private journals, which he obtained without permission.

“In the judge’s written explanation of the verdict he relied on hypothetical motives, not based on the evidence.”

Knox plead not guilty on charges of sexual assault, murder, and simulating a burglary.  Throughout the trial, prosecutors tainted Knox’s character with evidence centered around sex. This evidence was heard without objections defense attorneys would have vigorously made in the United States.  In another blow to the defense, Guede refused to testify on behalf of the defense.

Knox was found guilty and sentenced to twenty-six years in prison.  In the judge’s written explanation of the verdict he relied on hypothetical motives, not based on the evidence.

After the trial, eleven members of the Italian parliament, led by Rocco Girlanda, and all members of The People of Freedom Party issued a document, as an act of parliament, addressed to Justice Minister Angelino Alfano.  The letter criticized the evidence that resulted in a guilty verdict and the extended detention Knox was subjected to.  Girlanda also sent a letter to Giorgio Napolitano, the president of the Italy-USA foundation.  In the letter he stated that the distortions in the case were fueling accusations against the administration of justice in Italy.

After reviewing the facts and legal aspects of the case, an appeals court found Knox not guilty on October 3, 2011.  After four years in prison, Knox was released.

CURRENT STATUS / AFTERMATH

Knox returned to the Seattle, Washington after her release.  However, prosecutors did not relent.  On March 26, 2013 the Italian Supreme Court ruled that Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito should stand trial again for the murder of Meredith Kercher.  Despite evidence to the contrary, the Florence appeals court reinstated Knox and Sollecitor’s guilty verdicts on January 30, 2014. 

Knox and Sollecito appealed the guilty verdict to the Italian Supreme Court and on the 27 March 2015 the court overturned previous convictions and exonerated Knox and Sollecito of the murder.

She has since returned to academia, published a book, and frequently blogs about her own case. She has expressed interest in campaigning for others.