ROME—A tearful Amanda Knox, the Seattle native who was twice convicted and twice acquitted of the 2007 murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher, has returned to Italy to seek exoneration in the court of public opinion.
On Saturday, she told a criminal justice festival audience in Modena, Italy, that she is not as horrible as everyone thinks she is. “I am not a monster,” she said, fighting back tears, during her keynote address on Saturday. “I am simply Amanda.”
Kercher’s murder captivated the world during the many trials that are part of Italy’s complex three-tiered judicial system. She was portrayed by many American media outlets as an innocent abroad and by many in the international press as an American gone wild who got away with murder.
She was originally convicted along with her erstwhile Italian boyfriend Rafaelle Sollecito of the murder in 2009, only to be acquitted on appeal in 2011 when she was released from prison. That acquittal was thrown out by Italy’s high court and her guilty conviction reinstated in absentia in a second appeal in 2013. But in 2015, Italy’s high court definitively acquitted her and Sollecito, closing the case for good. The high court upheld her guilty verdict of falsely accusing her then-boss Patrick Lumumba of Kercher’s murder during her initial interrogtion in 2007.
Ivory Coast native Rudy Guede remains the only person convicted of the murder for which he is serving a 16-year sentence. He was convicted as one of three assailants.
Knox’s decision to come back to Italy has been widely followed by the global media since she first announced she was coming back to speak about being at the center of a media trial. She has played cat and mouse with the press, seeming to invite them to follow her by tweeting that she was looking for anti-papparazzi clothing and then seeming appalled that they did. On Friday, she left the conference complaining that the glare of the cameras had caused her stress.
Knox briefly lost her composure before delivering her Saturday talk, during which she expressed interest in meeting Giuliano Mignini, the prosecutor who won a successful conviction in 2009. “One day I’d like to meet the real Dr. Mignini, and I hope that when he comes, he will also see that I am not a monster, I simply am Amanda,” Knox said before addressing those who had gathered. “I have the same hope that being brave enough to face you and meet you face to face we can get to some sort of understanding and reconciliation.”
Knox’s visit was met with condemnation by many Italians, who still believe she was complicit in Kercher’s murder. Francesco Maresca, the lawyer who represented Kercher’s family in the trial, called her return “ill-conceived.” He said that she has exploited the media “to become famous, to write the book, to make a film.”
Knox, though, has expressed the need to close the circle by returning. “I know, despite my absolution from the court of Cassation, I remain a controversial figure in the public opinion, above all especially here in Italy,” she said. “On the world scene I wasn’t a defendant, innocent until proven guilty. I was a clever psychopath, dirty and drug-addicted whore, guilty until proven innocent. It was a false and unfounded history that lit up people’s imagination because it fed fears and fantasies.”
Knox ended her talk with a stern warning to the media that they often play a role in how suspects are portrayed and, as such, ultimately judged. In a country like Italy, where juries are not sequestered, public opinion often seeps into the courtroom.
Knox is expected to return to the United States on Monday. She has not returned to Perugia where the murder took place.