On December 4th, Italian courts found Amanda Knox guilty of murdering her roommate Meredith, a British exchange student from Leeds University. Prosecution relied heavily on DNA evidence found on the murder weapon, as well as portraying Knox as a "little-she-devil" capable of killing. The defense will appeal the 26 year sentence and experts anticipate it could be years before a final verdict is reached.
Amanda's Mom Edda Mellas Photo Credit: Simone DonatiIt wasn't the 21st birthday party Amanda Knox's family had planned for her - a barbecue at home in Seattle, with gifts like rock-climbing and camping gear. Instead, when Amanda's mother, Edda Mellas, wished her daughter a happy birthday, it was 6000 miles away, in a silent, sun-seared Italian prison.
Amanda's Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 24, sent her flowers for the occasion; he'd called the florist from his own prison, an hour south. The bouquet, which Amanda was allowed to glance at before it was whisked away, was made up of white nasturtiums, symbolizing "victory in battle."
On the morning of November 2, everything changed. As she remembers it, Amanda returned home from a night at Raffaele's and found a few drops of blood in her bathroom and the door to her roomate Meredith's bedroom locked. "She called me to say she was worried, and I told her to call the police," says Edda. Amanda has said that she was in the process of calling the police when they happened to arrive on their own, looking for the owner of two cell phones tossed in a nearby garden - Meredith's phones, in fact. They broke into Meredith's bedroom and discovered her lying in a pool of blood, half-naked, her windpipe crushed in an attempted strangulation and her throat partially slashed.
Three days after the murder, the senior police investigator on the case sought out Amanda and Raffaele to question them. When he discovered them casually eating in a pizza restaurant, he grew suspicious. Soon after, they were arrested. "That was how it started," says Paul Ciolino, an American forensic examiner who was the primary investigative adviser for the Innocence Project, which has helped exonerate more than 215 prisoners jailed in the U.S. He has independently studied the facts of Amanda's case in Italy, and says the senior officer told him Amanda should have been "wrapped in grief in bed, crying, not eating" at a restaurant. "I was stunned that this was why he suspected Amanda and her boyfriend were involved in the crime," he says."These two kids, never in trouble, classic middle-class college students - it's ludicrous that they were implicated."
Local news reports buzzed about Amanda allegedly being spotted buying racy thongs in the days after the murder, suggesting callous plans for a "wild night of sex," as one paper put it. According to Amanda, the truth was much more mundane: With her home sealed off as a crime scene, she went to a discount store to buy some basic cotton underwear. Regardless, she quickly became the prime target of the Italian press, possibly as a result of Italy's increasing xenophobia and concerns about immigration, with the government blaming foreigners for a spike in crime. Indeed, the director of Amanda's prison says, "Seventy to 80 percent of our inmates are foreigners."
Amanda's Facebook and MySpace pages also provided fodder. News reports said she had an unnatural fascination with weapons, because there was a photo of her toying with a machine gun. In fact, the only image posted of Amanda with a weapon was a typical tourist shot taken on a family vacation in Europe, where she's posed at a museum behind an antique gun, pretending to fire it. The tabloids also claimed she had a bizarre interest in rape, as demonstrated by a short story she posted on the topic - when in fact she'd written it for a class assignment, then put it online for friends to read.
In grade school, Amanda's soccer teammates nicknamed her "Foxy Knoxy" because she would crouch down like a fox on the playing field. European tabloids picked up on the name, calling her "Foxy Knoxy: a sex-mad American party girl."
Amanda has been sitting in prison for a year now, while the Italian press dissects her past and her behavior, framing her as a sex-crazed ugly American who didn't properly mourn the death of her roommate. Did she kill her, or is Amanda but the latest in a long line of women deemed guilty in the court of public opinion for acting in ways that subvert the script? Be it the U.K.'s Kate McCann or Australia's Lindy Chamberlain, both of whom were judged harshly in the disappearances of their daughters, a woman's demeanor and the way she grieves is sometimes her greatest crime.
READ AMANDA KNOX'S SIDE OF THE STORY HERE
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