In 2007, an Italian newspaper asked, “Who is Amanda? From brilliant student to cold man-eater.”
On Saturday, Amanda Knox, the former exchange student from the University of Washington who was twice found guilty and then acquitted of the murder by Italian courts of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, castigated the media in Italy and sought to reclaim her story in her first trip back to the country since her release from prison in 2011.
“I know a lot of people think I’m bad, that I don’t belong to this place,” she said in a tearful and defiant speech at a conference on criminal justice in the northern Italian city of Modena. “Some have even claimed that only by being here, by my presence, I am traumatizing the Kercher family again, and profaning Meredith’s memory. They are wrong.”
(Before the speech, the lawyer for Kercher’s family called Knox’s invitation to the event “inappropriate” and a “mistake,” saying “lawyers for both parts should have been involved,” The Associated Press reported.)
A 20-year old Knox was studying abroad in Perugia in 2007 when the Seattle native was arrested for Kercher’s stabbing death. In 2009, she and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted of murder. Knox spent four years in prison before an appeals court overturned her sentence in 2011, when she returned to the United States. In 2015, their convictions were overturned by Italy’s highest appeals court, saying there was no evidence that she had committed the crime.
Rudy Guede, another suspect who was later convicted of Kercher’s murder, is serving a 16-year sentence, The Associated Press reported.
Speaking in Italian on a panel titled “Trial by media,” Knox said on Saturday that despite her acquittal, she knows she is still a “controversial figure for the public opinion, especially in Italy,” The New York Times reported.
The 31-year old blamed prosecutors and the media for creating a version of her that suited their story.
“To the world, I wasn’t a suspect, innocent until proven guilty, I was a cunning, psychopathic, dirty, drugged-up whore who was guilty until proven otherwise,” she said, according to Reuters.
The story attracted global media attention, spawning salacious headlines such as “Dead Girl Feared Knoxy’s Sex Toy” and “Took Part in Sex Attack” that glommed on to allegations of “orgies and sex toys.”
Knox arrived in Italy on Thursday but declined to conduct interviews ahead of her panel appearance, instead sharing an online essay where she discussed her attempt to reclaim her narrative and space in the public sphere, including establishing a presence on social media.
“I just wanted to have what every other person around me had, the freedom to shout into the wind and say, ‘Here I am!’ The freedom to strike up an unexpected conversation with a friendly digital stranger,” she writes.
Knox has taken other steps over the years to share her side of the story. In 2013, Knox published “Waiting to Be Heard,” a memoir of her experience in Italy’s criminal-justice system. She appeared in a 2016 Netflix documentary about her case and hosts a podcast, “The Truth About True Crime,” which focuses on wrongful-conviction cases.
During her speech, Knox wept when recalling a prison visit by her father, during which he told her she would not likely be released soon. She also talked about her fear returning to Italy, “of being harassed, of being trapped, and I am afraid that new accusations will be made just because I have come here to give my version of the facts.”
She remembered Perugia prosecutor Giuliano Mignini as “a nightmare figure, a monster whose only goal was to destroy me for no reason,” Reuters reported, but had come to see that he had sought justice for Kercher.
“One day I’d like to meet the real Mignini,” she said, according to the AP. “And I hope that when he comes, he will also see that I am not a monster, I simply am Amanda.”
Knox received a standing ovation.