Fraudulent Forensics: The False Conviction of Amanda Knox

Imagine being a twenty-year-old American college student coming back to your dorm room in Italy after spending the night at your significant other’s house. You’re ready to get back to studying and hanging out with your roommates. However, upon entering your dorm room, you see several suspicious things. The door is open but no one is supposed to be home. You see unflushed feces in the toilet and blood droplets on the floor between you and your roommate’s shared bathroom. You also notice that your roommate’s bedroom door is locked. Worried that someone broke into your dorm, you go back to your significant other’s house and explain everything you had seen to them. Your significant other decides to go back to your dorm with you to check out the area. To your surprise, you notice that the feces in the toilet you had seen earlier had been flushed. Someone had been hiding in your dorm when you had first walked in. Your significant other quickly calls the cops. Your other roommate arrives with her boyfriend, and he kicks in the door only to find your roommate’s dead body laying on the floor, stripped naked from the waist down, and covered in stab wounds. Now, imagine that after being interrogated by Italian police officers, you are arrested on the spot and accused of murdering your roommate. This is exactly what happened to Amanda Knox – an American college student who was judged and wrongfully convicted of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in an Italian court.

A crime scene composite of the apartment in Perugia, Via della Pergola 7, where Meredith Kercher was murdered | Originally created by Maximilian Schönherr | October 5, 2011 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Amanda Knox was a junior at the University of Washington when she decided to study abroad in Perugia, Italy, to learn the Italian language at the Universita per Stranieri. Little did she know that she would spend the rest of her life associating the Italian language with pain and suffering.1

On November 2nd, 2007, the body of Meredith Kercher was discovered in her bedroom by Knox, her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and her fellow roommates. Once the police arrived at the crime scene, they took Knox, Sollecito, the other roommates, and a group of Kercher’s friends to the police station for questioning. Knox was questioned from November 2nd to November 6th. Late in the evening on November 6th, after being bombarded with questions from interrogators, Knox’s memory became frazzled and she was told to sign a paper written in Italian that interrogators claimed was a translation of her account of what happened. Exhausted and wanting a break from all of the questioning, Knox signed the papers without knowing that it was actually a written confession that stated that she was there while the murder occurred and that the killer was her boss, Patrick Lumumba. This seems to be problematic with the language barrier; since Knox wasn’t fluent in Italian, she wasn’t able to completely comprehend what she was signing. The police then arrested Knox and Lumumba, but he was released on November 20th after they had confirmed his alibi. After her interrogation, Knox claimed that the Italian officers refused to provide her food and water for a long period of time, told her that she would never be able to see her family again, and even hit her twice on the head.2 In December of 2007, police officers charged Rudy Guede, a drug dealer, with first-degree murder after finding his bloody fingerprint on a pillow at the crime scene. In 2008, Guede was sentenced to sixteen years in prison; however, this did not stop the Italian court from still thinking that Knox was somehow involved.3

A headshot of Amanda Knox in Seattle | July 6, 2011 | Geraldbostrum | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Knox’s very long trial began in January of 2009. During her trial, the Italian court used character evidence – evidence of a person’s character trait to prove that the person acted in accordance with their trait at a certain point in time – against her. They used her Myspace username “Foxy-Knoxy” as evidence to prove that she was narcissistic and addicted to sex. According to the prosecutors, Knox had slit Kercher’s throat in a sex game involving her boyfriend, Raffaele, on the first of November. Since U.S. courts prohibit this type of character evidence, many Americans viewed this as unjust. They also thought it was unfair since Knox was an American citizen and had to face punishment by an Italian court. However, this did not eliminate Italy’s negative perception of her, as the Italian court used the fact that Knox was kissing Raffaele while at the police station as a sign of her selfishness and sexual desires.4 However, Knox claims that she and Raffaele weren’t making out and that his kisses comforted and reassured her that everything was going to be okay during the worst time of her life. Despite her claims of innocence, on December 4th, 2009, Knox was convicted of murder and sentenced to twenty-six years in prison while her boyfriend was sentenced to twenty-five years.5

Knox was stunned that she was found guilty of murdering Kercher. During her trial, she took notes of what the witnesses testified and compiled a long list of false information that was said and gave it to her lawyers in hopes of supporting her innocence. Although she knew that many people thought she was guilty, she thought that there wasn’t enough evidence for her to be convicted of the crime. Knox kept in frequent contact with her lawyers, and whenever the trial was brought up, she remained hopeful that she would be found not guilty. According to Knox, she was naive to believe that she had a chance of being found innocent. Despite all of her attempts to prove that she was innocent, Knox ended up spending 1,427 nights in prison for a crime she did not commit.6

During Knox’s appeal trial in November of 2010, experts reviewed the DNA samples gathered at the crime scene and concluded that there were many errors in the gathering of the DNA. For example, the experts had found that there were no traces of Kercher’s DNA on the alleged murder weapon they had obtained from Raffaele’s kitchen. The experts also found the DNA of multiple males on the bra clasp of Kercher, which had been lost for 47 days. Because the bra clasp had been lost for so long, the experts claimed that the evidence was most likely contaminated and that it shouldn’t be used against either Knox or Raffaele. Although the Italian forensic team did an inaccurate job at gathering and using the evidence in court, the forensic experts were able to disprove their theories of what happened the day of the murder and help Knox and Raffaele become acquitted and released on October 3rd, 2011.7

Amanda Knox leaving the prison in Perugia inside a car | October 11, 2011 | AK for the Italy-USA Foundation | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Just when Knox thought she was finally free and could put all of this behind her, the highest court of Italy demanded a retrial on March 25, 2013, after finding a note that was written by her that confirmed that both she and Rudy Guede were present during the time that Kercher was attacked.8 Knox stayed in the United States and was represented in the Italian court. Once again, on January 30th, 2014, both Knox and Sollecito were found guilty because the court concluded that the murder weapon had been cleaned and rid of Kercher’s DNA. More than a year later, on March 27th, 2015, the Supreme Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeal in Italy, heard the case and concluded that this was a case that lacked a solid foundation. Based on this conclusion, both Knox and Raffaele were acquitted for the murder – this time, for good.9

Although Amanda Knox was released from prison, many people still believe that she was, in fact, the murderer of Meredith Kercher since Raffaele had changed his story after being interrogated by the Italian police. On November 2nd, Raffaele claimed that Knox was with him the night before the body was found. However, on November 5th, the Italian police claimed that he no longer had an alibi for Knox, which suggests that he was trying to cover up for her. In addition, the fact that Knox had pointed the finger at her boss, Patrick Lumumba, for murdering Kercher even though he had an alibi shows that Knox could’ve possibly had something to hide. Despite this, however, Knox has written her own book about the situation and speaks her truth.10 Knox is also the host of her own podcast titled, “The Truth About True Crime with Amanda Knox,” in which she explores and analyzes different stories of vigilante justice. An Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox, also sheds light on Knox’s perspective of the situation.11 Now, eight years after being released from prison, Amanda Knox is happily married and continues to voice her opinion about injustices in the courtroom.

  1. Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, “Amanda Knox 6 Years After Prison ‘”I Have My Life Back,'” People, August 2017, 57.
  2. Danielle Lenth, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Justice: A comparative Legal study of the Amanda Knox Case,” McGeorge Law Review 45, no. 2 (2013): 359.
  3. Danielle Lenth, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Justice: A Comparative Legal Study of the Amanda Knox Case,” McGeorge Law Review 45, no. 2 (2013): 351.
  4. Nina Burleigh, The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox (New York: Broadway Books, 2011), 6.
  5. Amanda Knox, Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir (New York: Harper, 2013), 243.
  6. Amanda Knox, Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir (New York: Harper, 2013), 142.
  7. Danielle Lenth, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Justice: A Comparative Legal Study of the Amanda Knox Case,” McGeorge Law Review 45, no. 2 (2013): 355.
  8. Danielle Lenth, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Justice: A Comparative Legal Study of the Amanda Knox Case,” McGeorge Law Review 45, no. 2 (2013): 355.
  9. Amanda Knox, Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir (New York: Harper, 2013), 482.
  10. Amanda Knox, Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir (New York: Harper, 2013) 26-27, 34-35.
  11. Blackhurst, Rod, and Brian McGinn, dirs. Amanda Knox. Plus Pictures, 2016.

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80 Responses

  1. This was very informative on Amanda Knox’s case, I had never heard of her case till this. But it really sucks to know that this can become a reality for people. It reminds me of the Innocence Project, where these people help wrongfully convicted and thrown in jail. I will admit her innocence is questionable, but that nevertheless, she had many disadvantages such as the language barrier. What scares me the most is how this happened when she was studying abroad, I plan to do that in the future so this is never-wracking to me.

  2. Great article, Cristianna. This case was novel to me, and what a scary thought to be prosecuted in a foreign country while studying abroad. Wrongful convictions are prime examples of how nuanced and complicated these murder crimes can be. This makes me wonder what kind of protections are provided to U.S students studying abroad if any. Maybe the U.S should pass a bill providing some type of protection to U.S citizens temporarily studying abroad to avoid situations like this.

  3. Wow this is an incredible case that demonstrates the injustices and violations of human rights. I believe that any case of murder should always have direct evidence to charge someone as guilty. I definitely did not know about this case until I read about it. However, I am aware of the corruptions and flaws that the criminal justice has not only here in the U.S. but all over the world as well. The U.S. and other countries need to do a much better job to have fair and equal trials for everyone. Furthermore, I also think that civil liberties and justice should always prevail in any type of criminal case. It was very unjust what Knox went through that definitely impacted her life. However, I am glad to hear she eventually encountered justice.

  4. This is my first time hearing about this case, but I do believe that it should be studied in universities across the nation, especially made aware to students who decided to embark on study abroad. It is actually so dangerous. The inconsistency of laws between America and another country just leave so much at stake. Clearly the language barrier was sign enough, but to continue they clearly don’t have a rule against double jeopardy. It is actually quite terrifying that any sort of evidence that can come up leading to this case can send Knox back to jail. This should definitely be made clear in order to prevent more dangerous trips.

  5. I did not know about Amanda Knox before reading, but after I can say she will most likely be someone I will not forget. I hate that it is still a pressing issue of false conviction because this is something that ruins peoples lives and there is no real way to gain back the time they have lost. I am glad that Amanda was strong enough to fight against this injustice and glad that there was a positive ending to it as well.

  6. This was a well-written article. There were so many factors that affected her case and whether she was innocent or not. From lack of evidence to her language barrier, it was difficult to make a clear judgment from those factors. There were situations on both sides of the case that could have swayed the decision one way or another. Amanda, being in a foreign country, was already at a disadvantage and that resulted in her receiving poor treatment and her rights being violated.

  7. The name of Amanda Knox was of much familiarity before reading this article, but I had not known the exact trace of events she endured. This story brings insight into a much-needed topic of attention, courtroom’s injustices, and provides a comparative analysis of the US and Italy justice systems. For instance, the use of character evidence is one that can significantly sway a court and is justified for it not being practiced in the US. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and becoming more aware of multiple instances of wrongdoing in a foreign court to an American citizen.

  8. I remember hearing about the Amanda Knox trial when I was younger and I remember the way the news presented the case made me believe Knox was guilty as well. This article describes the entire case and evidence very well as well as what occurred before the court proceedings. After reading this article I am now rethinking what I thought I knew about this case and feel like Knox did not receive the benefit of the doubt in Italy.

  9. Wow, this is a brilliant article. I guess Amanda Knox’s story is similar in a way to Scott Peterson meaning that the court pronounced them completely guilty and that there was a media circus over the murders they were accused of. Only to later be acquitted, or in Peterson’s case, I think he just appealed his death sentence because there is still a lot of evidence that he was a suspect in his wife’s murder. But I’m just shocked at the lack of responsibility the police took, in this case, I mean taking advantage of someone who doesn’t speak the language as well to trick them? That’s suspicious.

  10. This is a rather interesting case as it is difficult to confidently make a solid judgment on her innocence. This is the first time I am actually hearing about this case and it seems that there was definitely a lack of evidence and a mismanagement of the evidence such as, due to the language barrier she was unaware of a confessional document that she had signed. However it does seem strange that she contacted the authorities after visiting her boyfriend again and then returning to the crime scene. Regardless, her rights were clearly violated and she deserved better treatment. In the case that she is completely innocent, I sympathize with Amanda as she was at a disadvantage in a foreign country with little knowledge of the language and was wrongfully convicted. The writer of this article did a great job of summarizing the details of the case while also incorporating a little of both sides.

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