The Puzzling Memoir of Amanda Knox

Is Amanda Knox guilty of murder? One Italian jury said yes. Then a second jury said no. Now the case is being sent back for another trial. Ms. Knox isn’t waiting any longer to tell what she knows about the matter. Her new memoir, Waiting to be Heard, is her account of what she knows about the murder of her flatmate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy, in November 2007, and of her trials and her four years’ imprisonment.

The Knox trials are endlessly fascinating. The case turns on a disputed confession, the statement of a co-defendant, an alibi defense, and the interpretation of trace, and potentially mishandled, forensic evidence. The case has spawned books, articles and web sites. Folks argue with the zeal of religious converts in favor of Ms. Knox’s guilt or innocence. I confess to having acquired more than a passing interest.

I’m of the view that Knox is innocent. She was convicted of engaging in a sex assault gone violently wrong with two other men. When Ms. Meredith didn’t participate, the theory goes, she was killed. The theory simply makes no sense. Ms. Knox had recently struck up a relationship with a moonstruck young man, Rafael Sollecito. My hunch is that these two were so wrapped up in one another that the rest of the world was but a distraction. Young love is a powerful drug.

But there is the troubling matter of a confession Ms. Knox gave while in police custody. She was interrogated without a lawyer for more than 40 hours over a four-day period. She finally told police officers that she was in the flat when Ms. Kercher was killed, and that another man, Patrick Lumumba, was also present. When Mr. Lumumba later produced an air-tight alibi, charges against him were dropped. Ms. Knox was held liable for criminal defamation and fined for falsely implicating Mr. Lumumba.

I read her book to find out how and why she falsely identified a man and why she confessed.

She claims that police broke down her will to resist. She claims she was struck by a female officer and called a liar. Police told her getting a lawyer would only make things worse. She was simply worn down and wanted to end the interrogation when she made her inculpatory statements.

Is she telling the truth? I can’t tell. She says all the right things in her book. She has an innocent explanation for every damning fact. The book addresses all the things her critics throw at her: she cares about the victim’s family; she was not flip, just scared; her sexual explorations were simply the pose of a 19-year-old experimenting with visions of adulthood. And as to her confession, it is exactly the testimony I would want a client to give if I were claiming that a confession was coerced and unreliable.

The book is perfect, all to perfect.

Although Italy and the United States have a very liberal extradition treaty, I would counsel Ms. Knox against returning to trial when her cases is next reached for trial. She can be tried in absentia in Italy. If she is convicted, there are good grounds to fight extradition: there are substantial differences in the criminal procedure employed in Italy that raise questions about whether she can get a fair trial in Italy – inadmissible evidence in a criminal case is nonetheless presented to the jury. Why? The jury simultaneously hears related civil cases, where such evidence can be admitted.

I imagined Ms. Knox’s prosecutors reading her memoirs with a simmering rage. She has all the answers. Each and every one. It’s almost too good to be true, unless, of course, it is true. In that case, reality is stranger than fiction. I just can’t tell.


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