I could’ve been Amanda Knox. I’d barely returned home from my own study abroad trip when she turned up in the news, a fellow University of Washington alum in the same country I’d just fallen in love with. First, the headline just said the roommate of a UW student had been found dead. Before too long, headlines popped up saying Amanda Knox was suspected to be involved. I couldn’t stop reading every detail about the case; I remember the brouhaha over her short story about date rape and I remember her MySpace photos holding guns. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was to base so much on a social media profile and creative writing assignments from class. How much of what I had posted might someday make me look like a crazy person when viewed in the right light?
I followed her first trial, vacillating between thinking she was guilty and thinking she was innocent. She changed her story, she confessed, she accused her boss when he’d done nothing wrong. But yet, I had friends who shared mutual friends with her. We were basically the same: two twenty-something females from Seattle studying abroad in Italy.
I was at work when she was convicted. My friend and I had been emailing all day, awaiting the verdict. I called my parents immediately upon seeing the Breaking News on MSN. I was floored; whether she was guilty or not, I hadn’t really thought she’d be convicted. It just didn’t make sense. What evidence was there, really? Did people really believe it was a Satanic ritual, some kind of sex game gone awry?
That was that, for awhile. All quiet on the Amanda Knox front. Slowly, I began to vacillate less and believe in her innocence. She might just be a little naive, a little stupid to act the way she did. There were a lot of problems with her story, but did they add up to murder? I couldn’t make myself think so.
And then I went to Italy again. There were jokes about “don’t kill anyone while you’re over there!” or “don’t get stuck like Amanda Knox!” which, of course, I laughed off. But then I was apprehended by the police and taken to the police station. I was questioned in Italian, a language I don’t speak. I’d had a few drinks and I was terrified. It was nearly one in the morning. All I could think about was Amanda Knox, being questioned in a language she didn’t speak. Being terrified, probably high or recently high on pot (which, to the best of my knowledge, does not make you murder people for sport). I had the good sense to keep my mouth shut, to say only what needed to be said. “I don’t have a residency permit. I’m here on vacation. I used to have one when I studied here, but it’s expired and in Seattle. I’m leaving in two days.”
But then, I pride myself on having good sense most days of my life. I was blessed with the common sense to know when to shut my mouth and when to speak up, how to act and how to present yourself. Not everyone has that common sense, especially at twenty years old. All I could think was, if I try to speak in Italian, I’m going to say the wrong thing and I’m going to be stuck here in a cell for the rest of my life. So I switched between English and poor Spanish, neither getting my point across very well. Luckily for me, the situation resolved itself after a lot of tears and a lot of waiting around a smoky police station. After that, I had a newfound sense of solidarity with Ms. Knox. I could see how a false confession could have happened, how the Italian police could have worn her down so much. I’d almost lived it.
I was again at work when her conviction was overturned. We’d gone to lunch and it was playing in the restaurant; I couldn’t tear myself away from the TV. The subtitles were lagging, so we didn’t know what happened as it happened. We saw Amanda start to cry and immediately one of us said “She’s crying, they must have upheld the conviction,” just before the marquis across the screen read that the conviction was overturned. “Amanda and Raffaele did not do it. They were not there.”
I’ve read numerous books about the case and numerous articles, both biased toward and against Amanda herself. I’ve read about Mignini and his issues (The Monster of Florence). I’m not unaware of the fact that the victim, Meredith Kercher, has largely gone unnoticed. I’m guilty of it, as well, because I don’t relate as much to a British girl as I do a girl from my own hometown, a girl in a situation I could imagine myself in. But that’s the truth and it’s why I’ve followed the case as long as I have. It’s why I know so many details and have so many opinions.
After all that, I found myself shocked that she is going to be retried. I’ve spent the past few days poring over articles and skimming the Massei Report trying to get to the bottom of it all. It’s the kind of case that drives you crazy – everyone speculates and has their own ideas of what happened, but you’ll never really know. You weren’t there.
There’s a huge part of me that can’t separate our two situations; in the wrong place and the wrong time, with enough of the wrong moves, something like this could have happened to me. But then, it didn’t happen to me. It makes you wonder: innocent woman screwed over by a foreign justice system, or cold-blooded killer… or something in-between?