Amanda Knox at the National Innocence Network Conference with David Camm and exoneree Randy Steidl
July 9, 1987 |
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
|Known for||Being convicted, acquitted, and re-convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher.|
Amanda Marie Knox (born July 9, 1987) is an American woman who was convicted, along with Raffaele Sollecito, of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher in Italy. Knox maintained her innocence and the case was the subject of intense media interest in America, where the guilty verdict was widely seen as flawed. Knox spent almost four years in prison before a second-level or appeal trial freed both her and Sollecito in October 2011, she returned to the US. The prosecution appealed to the Italian Supreme Court, which ordered the case to be re-heard. The second appeal trial of Knox and Sollecito began in September 2013, with Knox remaining in the US. On January 30, 2014, the court returned guilty verdicts, sentencing her to 28 years in prison. Both Knox and Sollecito remain free; in Italy a guilty verdict in a serious case is not regarded as a definitive conviction until the accused has exhausted the appeals process. A third person, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the murder in a separate trial and is currently serving his sentence.
Amanda Knox was raised with two younger sisters. Her mother, Edda Mellas, a mathematics teacher, and her father, Curt, a vice president of finance at the local Macy's, divorced when Knox was a few years old. Knox grew up in West Seattle. Her stepfather, Chris, is an information-technology consultant. She graduated in 2005 from the Seattle Preparatory School, and began to study linguistics at the University of Washington, making the university's dean's list in early 2007. Relatives later described Knox as not always able to pick up on social cues. Knox had become interested in the culture of Italy while young, and went there on a family holiday when she was 15 years old. She decided to study in Perugia rather than Rome so as to mix with Italians instead of American expatriates. Her stepfather had strong reservations about Knox's going to Italy that year as he felt she was still too naïve.
Meredith Kercher murder case
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In September 2007, Knox moved to Perugia, Italy, to study Italian, German, and creative writing at the University for Foreigners for one year. She shared a house with Meredith Kercher, a student from England, as well as two Italian women. On 25 October 2007 after going to a concert with Kercher she met and began a romantic relationship with a 23-year old Italian engineering student, Raffaele Sollecito, and began spending her nights at his apartment a short distance away.
In the late morning of November 1, 2007 Knox reported that she had returned to the house in the morning. She found feces in the toilet and a broken window, and that Kercher was not answering her door. When Kercher's bedroom door was broken open, her body was found on the floor. She had died of blood loss and suffocation caused by stab wounds to her neck. Interviewed by police, Knox said she had spent the entire night of the murder with Sollecito at his apartment. The alibi was maintained by them except in the interrogation and statements of 5–6 November, during which Knox incriminated herself and Patrick Lumumba, a bar owner she worked for. Knox, Solicito and Lumumba were arrested and charged with committing the murder of Meredith Kercher. Lumumba was released after examination of the crime scene identified forensic traces of Rudy Guede on Kercher's body. Guede, Knox and Sollecito were then charged with committing the murder together. On 30 November 2007 a panel of three judges endorsed the charges, ruled there had been no burglary, and ordered Knox and Sollecito held in detention pending a trial.
Knox became the focus of worldwide media coverage, especially in Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Soon after arriving in prison, she was wrongly told that she was HIV positive and prompted to make a list of previous sexual partners, which was leaked to the media. Shortly before her trial, Knox had begun legal action against Fiorenza Sarzanini, the author of Amanda e gli altri ("Amanda and the Others"), a best-selling book about her that had been published in Italy. The book included accounts of events as imagined or invented by Sarzanini, witness transcripts not in the public domain, long excerpts from Knox's private journals, which Sarzanini had somehow obtained, and unsubstantiated details of Knox's sex life.
In 2009 Knox and Sollecito pleaded not guilty at a Corte d'Assise on charges of sexual assault, murder and simulating a burglary. They requested Guede testify, but he refused. American lawyers were troubled by character evidence about Knox, much of it centered on matters of a sexual nature and heard without the strenuous objections defense attorneys would have made in a US court. Found guilty, Knox was sentenced to 26 years imprisonment, and Sollecito to 25 years. The judges' written explanation of their verdict was criticized on the grounds it contained a hypothetical motivation with no basis in the evidence: that the sight of Knox and Sollecito caressing had caused Guede to become sexually aroused and make advances to Kercher which she repulsed; and that Knox and Sollecito had then aided Guede in assaulting and murdering Kercher.
In late 2008, a number of Seattle-area residents, including lawyer Anne Bremner, founded the "Friends of Amanda", a support group. Maria Cantwell, United States Senator for Washington, issued a statement on December 4, 2009, that the evidence against Knox was inadequate. Gregory Hampikian, director of the Idaho Innocence Project, a non-profit investigative organization dedicated to proving the innocence of wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing, supported the Knox defense. In May 2011, he said forensic results from the crime scene pointed to Guede being a killer who had acted on his own.
Acquittal and release
A Corte d'Assise verdict of guilty is not a definitive conviction. An appeal trial, Corte d'Assise d'Appello, reviews the facts of the case as well as legal aspects. On October 3, 2011 Knox and Sollecito were found not guilty at their appeal trial and released. In an official statement giving their grounds for the acquittals, the judges emphasized that a court ordered independent expert review had discredited DNA evidence key to the prosecution case, while Knox and Sollecito's accounts failing to completely match did not constitute evidence they had given a false alibi. Discounting testimony from a homeless man who said that he had seen Knox and Sollecito out on the night of the murder as self-contradictory, the judges observed the witness was a heroin addict. Having noted that there was no evidence of any phone calls or texts between Knox or Sollecito and Guede, the judges concluded there was a "material non-existence" of evidence to support the guilty verdicts, and that an association among Sollecito, Knox, and Guede to commit the murder was "far from probable". Knox returned to the US. She wrote a letter to Corrado Maria Daclon the day after regaining her freedom:
To hold my hand and offer support and respect throughout the obstacles and the controversy, there were Italians. There was the Italy–USA Foundation, and many others that shared my pain and that helped me survive, with hope. I am eternally grateful for their caring hospitality and their courageous commitment. To those that wrote me, that defended me, that stood by me, that prayed for me... I am forever grateful to you.
In Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox, she acknowledged having been naively out of step with Italian cultural expectations of behavior.
On March 26, 2013, Italy's highest criminal court set aside the judgement of the trial of the second degree that had acquitted Knox and Sollecito, leading to a re-trial of the appeal. The retrial began on September 30, 2013, Knox remained in the US. On 30 January 2014, Knox and Sollecito were found guilty. Knox was sentenced to 28½ years in prison, Sollecito received 25 years. Knox's lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, stated that she will seek to appeal to the Supreme Court of Italy.
At the appeal trial which acquitted her of murder, Knox was also appealing against her conviction for defamation (calunnia) of Patrick Lumumba, who had been arrested after Knox implicated him and herself while under police interrogation. She was found guilty of calunnia by the appeal trial and the sentence was increased to three years and eleven days imprisonment. She was ordered to pay restitution to Lumumba and compensate him for legal expenses incurred by being legally represented as an interested party at Knox's trial. Lumumba's lawyer had used vituperative language about her in court.
Knox testifying at her trial that she had been slapped by a policewoman during the interrogation led to another calunnia charge against her in June 2010. In February 2011, Knox's parents, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, were indicted on charges of criminal slander as a result of an interview published by The Sunday Times in 2009, in which they said their daughter "had not been given an interpreter, had not received food and water, and had been physically and verbally abused" by police officers after her arrest. They sought to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that there was no intent.
On May 26, 2011, 11 members of the Italian parliament, led by Rocco Girlanda and all members of The People of Freedom Party founded by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, issued a document as an act of parliament addressed to Justice Minister Angelino Alfano. The document criticized the evidence that resulted in the Knox/Sollecito guilty verdicts, and the extended detention to which they were subject. Girlanda also addressed a letter to President Giorgio Napolitano, in Girlanda's capacity as president of the Italy–USA Foundation, in which he wrote, "These distortions, not without reason, are fuelling accusations against the administration of justice in our country." Some commentators have suggested that the case becoming politicized in Italy has worked to Knox's disadvantage.
Knox said that during her trial, her demeanor in the courtroom was scrutinized more carefully than the evidence. Although many observers thought that a media image of Knox had swayed perception of the facts in the case, there were differing opinions as to whether the net effect had been favorable or damaging to her. American media were said to have painted Knox as innocent, because they were influenced by her appearance; while the Italian media, which nicknamed her "Angel face", had given sensational critiques of Knox's sexuality. Nina Burleigh suggested that the person Knox had been in 2007 may not have been particularly nice, but for public opinion a pretty girl accused of murder had to be either perfect or guilty. Referring to salacious coverage of Knox, in particular focusing on a British television presenter's controversial comments regarding Knox on UK television, Viv Groskop wrote in The Observer: "We've become so in thrall to the idea that 'sex sells' that we see it everywhere and judge everything according to sexual attractiveness, no matter how inappropriate or ridiculous."
In February 2012, Knox signed a book deal widely reported to be worth $4 million. She said most of the money went to repay debts incurred by her family in her defense and the residue would be gone by 2014.
Prospect of extradition
Jurists and legal experts have disagreed as to whether Knox, if she exhausts the appellate process and Italy invoked the relevant treaty that exists between the two countries, would be extradited to Italy. According to legal and political commentator Alan Dershowitz, the US government's requirements for international cooperation in its own extradition requests are likely to outweigh any domestic political considerations, and Knox could be extradited to Italy regardless of American public opinion.
Sean Casey, a former prosecutor who is now a partner at Kobre & Kim in New York, believes that under the extradition treaty between Italy and the US, extradition should not be granted as she was already acquitted for the same acts for which extradition is requested, and as double jeopardy is explicitly proscribed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Furthermore, Casey argues that Italian law enforcement may not seek extradition which would prolong the legal process because the "original verdict was so terribly flawed by prosecutorial overreaching," noting that the appellate court that overturned the original conviction detailed those flaws in a damning report more than 100 pages in length.
- A Long Way From Home: CBS 48 Hours documentary, broadcast in April 2008 in the United States
- American Girl, Italian Nightmare: CBS 48 Hours documentary, broadcast in April 2009 in the United States,
- The Trial of Amanda Knox: NBC Dateline NBC documentary, broadcast on December 4, 2009, in the United States
- The Trials of Amanda Knox: The Learning Channel documentary, broadcast on March 24, 2010, in the United States
- Beyond the Headlines: Amanda Knox: Lifetime documentary, broadcast on February 21, 2011, in the United States
- Cold Blood: Life Behind Bars For Amanda Knox: Investigation Discovery Cold Blood documentary, broadcast on April 20, 2011, in the United States
- Murder Abroad: The Amanda Knox Story: CNN Presents documentary, broadcast on May 8, 2011, in the United States
- Amanda Knox: The untold story, CBS 48 Hours documentary October 8, 2011, 7:45 PM
- Murder Mystery: Amanda Knox Speaks an ABC News 20/20 special interview with Diane Sawyer. Knox's first interview after being released from prison.
- "Amanda Knox guilty of murdering Meredith Kercher, gets 28 years". Sydney Morning Herald. January 31, 2014.
- Amanda Knox 'Frightened' By Guilty Verdict and 28 Year Sentence
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- Follain p.15 &19
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- Mirabella, Julia Grace, Scales of Justice: Assessing Italian Criminal Procedure Through the Amanda Knox Trial (January 5, 2012). Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2012, page 247, note 122
- Mirabella, Julia Grace, Scales of Justice: Assessing Italian Criminal Procedure Through the Amanda Knox Trial (January 5, 2012). Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2012, page 242 and 247
- Telegraph, 8 Dec 2009, Only doubt over Amanda Knox conviction is exactly how they got it wrong
- Mirabella, Julia Grace, Scales of Justice: Assessing Italian Criminal Procedure Through the Amanda Knox Trial (January 5, 2012). Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2012.
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- Sewell, Cynthia. "Boise expert: DNA shows Amanda Knox isn’t guilty"[dead link], Idaho Statesman, May 27, 2011.
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- Follain, p. 366 & p. 428.
- Follain p. 351.
- Follain p.239
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- "Did Amanda Knox slander police? Second trial set to start Tuesday", KOMO-TV staff, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 30, 2010; also see Dempsey 2010, p. 265.
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- "MPs: Amanda Knox Treated Unfairly", Belfast Telegraph, May 26, 2011.
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- [ Mirabella, Julia Grace, Scales of Justice: Assessing Italian Criminal Procedure Through the Amanda Knox Trial (January 5, 2012). Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2012.]
- March 29, 2013,Time World, The Amanda Knox Haters Society: How They Learned to Hate Me Too
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- Groskop, Viv (9 October 2011). "A kettle isn't sexy. So don't say it is". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
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- Prof Stephen Vladeck, Prof Julian Ku,
- The Atlantic, January 31, 2014
- PRI, January 31, 2014
- BBC World Service, 31 January 2014, Interview with Alan Dershowitz
- CNN, 26 March 2013
- "A Long Way From Home". CBS News. April 10, 2008.
- "American girl, Italian nightmare". CBS News. April 8, 2008. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
- "The Trial of Amanda Knox". NBC News. December 4, 2009.
- "The Trials of Amanda Knox". Discovery Communications. March 25, 2010.
- "Amanda Knox TV Movie Draws Ire from Victim's Dad". CBS News. February 4, 2011.
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- Collected news and articles at the Guardian