YAKIMA — Amanda Knox stood on the stage of The Capitol Theatre, facing a crowd of nearly 1,500 people, many of them Washington residents who had likely spent nearly a decade reading about her in the newspaper.
She thanked the Yakima Town Hall audience for coming and allowing her to tell her story. Then, she asked a question: “Just so I can sort of spread a little bit of the attention around, I’m curious to know if anyone else here has ever been to prison?”
The house lights brightened as the audience erupted in laughter. Hundreds of heads turned, stretching as far as they could to see if anyone had raised their hands. No one did.
Knox was accused of murder in Italy, convicted in a high-profile trial, sent to prison and later acquitted. For years, newspapers, websites, news shows and tabloids around the world shared salacious details of the case. She used the beginning of her presentation in Yakima to establish few people fully understand what she went through.
Knox first made international headlines in late 2007. She was a 20-year-old University of Washington student studying abroad in the city of Perugia, Italy.
Five weeks into her semester abroad, Knox came home to the cottage she shared with three roommates. She was greeted by an open front door, blood in her bathroom and a locked door to her roommate Meredith Kercher’s room.
Six days later, after intense police interrogation, Knox signed a confession to having been in another room of the cottage as the owner of the bar she worked at killed Kercher. Knox’s boss was soon released from custody after multiple alibis from patrons of his bar placed him there on the day of the murder.
What ensued was an eight-year-long struggle to prove Knox’s innocence. A mix of what Italy’s Supreme Court later deemed to be shoddy investigative and prosecutorial work, the scrutiny of the media and of the public, led Knox to fight a seemingly unwinnable uphill battle.
In 2015, the Italian Supreme Court annulled the murder conviction and acquitted her of the charge.
Knox gave her side of the story during the Town Hall speech. She talked about the media’s portrayal of her and how it played a role in how the public perceived her.
Knox started with the first days after Kercher’s murder and how the public’s early focus on her, cemented her as the villain of the story, even to this day.
“I think one of the most extraordinary things about this case is how few people have ever actually heard the name Rudy Guede,” Knox said. “How few people even know that the person who murdered my roommate was eventually caught and convicted and served prison time.”
“The reason for that is because from the very beginning, from the day Meredith’s body was discovered, the detectives, the prosecution, the police, the media and the international public all focused their attention on me instead.”
Knox looked back at her childhood, growing up in the suburbs of West Seattle. She said she was a sheltered kid and had never had a reason to not trust the police or doubt them.
Her reaction when she first visited the police station after Kercher’s murder was to comply with directions from the police.
Knox said she was considered guilty by police almost as soon as she started what would be 53 hours worth of interrogations over the course of less than a week.
Then, she again turned her attention to the media.
“How do you get a young woman who has no criminal history, no history of behavioral problems, no history of any kind of deviancy … how do you turn that into a murderer,” Knox asked. “Well, you create a monster.”
Knox then brought up two nicknames assigned to her by British and Italian media. The first, and the one she’s most known for in the U.S., was Foxy Knoxy, an old nickname from her childhood that Knox later used as an online screen name. The second was Luciferina, or “she-devil” in Italian.
Other monikers included The Ice Maiden, The Ice Queen and Amanda the Ripper.
She said many of these names were used to fuel rumors and speculation that her involvement in Kercher’s murder was sexual and satanic in nature.
“I was the femme fatale, I was the adultress,” Knox said. “I was not a person in court who was accused but innocent until proven guilty. I was a sex-obsessed she-devil who was so depraved and so sexually virulent that I brought two men who didn’t know each other into my home to rape my roommate for me and then hold her down while I stabbed her to death. That was the theory.”
After two years of being in prison and a year-long trial, Knox was found guilty of Kercher’s murder and was sentenced to 26 years in prison.
It would be two more years until Knox could appeal her sentence. In that time, Knox had to learn to adapt to life in prison, this time with the knowledge she would likely be there for longer than she’d been alive.
Knox described the moment she received her sentence.
“The judge stood before me just like I stand before you, held up a piece of paper and started reading,” Knox said.
At this point, Knox was fluent enough in Italian to understand the judge.
“It was like somebody had stuck earmuffs on me,” she said. “It wasn’t until someone behind me said ‘no’ that I heard him pronounce the word ‘colpevole,’ guilty. At that moment, I felt the ground fall beneath me … I crumbled between my lawyers. I had a piercing whine in my ears.”
“The courtroom was not this scientific laboratory, it was a battleground of storytelling, where the most compelling story and not necessarily the most truthful won. And that story of the good girl gone bad, Foxy Knoxy, that story spoke to people’s fears and fantasies and people loved that story. They loved to hate me.”
Back to the U.S.
After serving a total of four years in an Italian prison in between trials, verdicts, acquittals, reversals and a final decision, Knox returned to the U.S. in 2011. In 2015, Italy’s Supreme Court determined she was innocent of Kercher’s murder.
Rudy Guede, an acquaintance of Knox and Kercher, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for Kercher’s murder. His sentence was shortened to 16 years and he ultimately served 13 years before he was released in late 2021.
After returning home in 2011, Knox completed her degree in linguistics at UW, published a memoir about her experience and became a freelance journalist.
Knox lives in Washington with her husband and her child. She has advocated for justice system reform in the U.S. and Italy, speaking in both countries during events for the Innocence Project and the Italy Innocence Project.
In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy had to pay Knox $20,000 for not providing her with a lawyer or an independent interpreter during her initial interrogations.