Amanda Knox’s antidote for her social-media trolls is vulnerability, with a dash of fictional superhero Jessica Jones.
Amanda Knox definitely did not dress up for Halloween as Amanda Knox. The website hiphalloweenideas.com once cheekily suggested that costume is Land’s End catalog chic, with a “How to learn Italian” book in the pocket. Add a few cartwheels.
That costume idea was a thing back in 2011. Knox had returned home to Seattle after spending four years in Italian prison for a murder conviction of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. Tuesday is the ninth anniversary of Kercher’s death.
This Halloween, Knox dressed up as fictional superhero Jessica Jones.
The choice reflects her vindication as perhaps America’s most famous exoneree. Italy’s Supreme Court declared her definitely innocent, citing “stunning flaws” in the investigation.
She’s innocent, and if you don’t believe her, talk to Jessica Jones.
But Knox is still making the transition from social-media meme to spokeswoman for innocence cases. She is back in the news because of the new Netflix documentary, titled “Amanda Knox,” which shows how the case fell apart, through interviews with Knox, her prosecutor and a sleazy British tabloid journalist who played co-conspirator to the rush to justice.
“I was at peace with the idea that people would never treat me as a human, and that was one of the main motivations I’ve had to bring attention to other exoneree stories,” Knox said when we met at a Capitol Hill coffee shop last week.
“It’s not as simple as treating me like a little doppelgänger cultural reference point that you can just throw and project anything you want onto. It’s more difficult when you’re right in front of me, and I’m clearly not that.”
In person, she comes across as thoughtful and still wounded. Now 29, Knox has graduated from the University of Washington, works as a freelance writer and lives in Seattle’s Central District with her cats and her writer boyfriend. Her previous engagement to a childhood friend ended last year. She says she is occasionally recognized in Seattle and is usually greeted warmly.
After mostly hiding for years, Knox will speak to just about anyone who invites her, from high-school classes to conferences of exonerees. She is pitching a documentary series to TV networks about innocence cases. There’s certainly no shortage of stories: a study led by University of Michigan law professor Sam Gross estimates that 4 percent of death-row inmates are innocent.
Knox said the documentary proposal is intended to be “not a who-done-it, but a how-done-it.”
“I want to make sure I’m not exploited and the people I talk about are not exploited,” she said. “I never want to be part of the kind of journalism I went through, honestly.”
Knox’s persistent detractors point to the false confession she gave under interrogation in Italy, wrongfully implicating her former boss. But that’s also a common theme among exonerees: More than 25 percent of people later found innocent gave a wrongful confession.
Knox was convicted of slandering her ex-boss, and that still stands. She is appealing the conviction to the European Court of Human Rights. She is alleging she was hit by her interrogators and denied an interpreter.
In her new role as champion for exonerees, Knox has an antidote for false confessions: Videotape all interrogations. “Instead of calling it a false confession, they should be called a false admission,” said Knox. “It’s all authored by them (police).”
That statement will probably prompt a fresh round of attacks on social media. The Twitter hashtag #amandaknox has vile troll fodder. On her personal blog, Knox shows a chillingly detailed torture threat she received last year.
Knox has an antidote for that problem, too. “The automatic assumption is you should be defensive, because obviously people are attacking you in a way that is insane and unwarranted and out of context,” she said.
“But the first step toward defending yourself is being vulnerable, and engaging the person who is pointing the finger at you with compassion. Not all trolls are going to be human with you. But the only thing you can do is sit there across from someone and acknowledge that you are a human being, and you aren’t just confined to their definition of you.”
That sounds like a task that would require Jessica Jones’s superhuman strength. But when your name was reduced to a Halloween costume, you’ve got to give it a try.