Fourteen years ago I was wrongfully convicted of murdering my roommate. Ever before since, the people has believed it have the right to tell me that I really am.
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A brand-new film certification Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin, right, is influenced by the crime that led to the wrongful convictions of Amanda Knox, left. Knox to be exonerated in 2015. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters / Focus functions / Cedric von Niederhausern / The Atlantic)
About the author: Amanda Knox is a writer based in Seattle. She is the writer of Waiting to be Heard and also the co-host the the podcast Labyrinths.
Does my name belong come me? Does mine face? What around my life? mine story? Why is mine name offered to express to events I had no hand in? I return to these concerns again and again since others proceed to profit off mine identity, and my trauma, there is no my consent. Most recently, there is the film Stillwater, command by Tom McCarthy and also starring Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin, which was, in McCarthy’s words, “directly inspired by the Amanda Knox saga.” how did we gain here?
In the loss of 2007, a brothers student named Meredith Kercher was researching abroad in Perugia, Italy. She moved into a tiny cottage with 3 roommates—two Italian regulation interns, and also an American girl. Less than 2 months right into her stay, a young male named Rudy Guede, one immigrant native the ivory Coast, damaged into the apartment and found Meredith alone. Guede had actually a background of breaking and entering. A week prior, he had actually been arrested in Milan while burglarizing a nursery school, and was discovered carrying a 16-inch knife. He was released. A week later, that raped Meredith and also stabbed she in the throat, killing her. In the process, he left his DNA in Meredith’s body and also throughout the crime scene. The left his fingerprints and footprints in her blood. He fled to Germany automatically afterward, and later admitted to being at the scene.
I to be the American girl in the story, and also if the Italian authorities had been much more competent, ns would have actually been nothing more than a footnote in a tragic story. But as in plenty of wrongful convictions, the authorities formed a theory before the forensic proof came in, and also when that proof indicated a sole perpetrator, Guede, ego and reputation led them come contort their concept to keep that ns was still in which method involved. Guede was quiet convicted because that participating in the killing in a different fast-track trial, and then I became the main occasion for eight lengthy years.
While i was top top trial because that the killing of Meredith Kercher, from 2007 come 2015, the prosecution and the media crafted a story, and a doppelgänger version of me, ~ above which civilization could affix all their uncertainties, fears, and also moral judgments. People liked the story: the psychotic man-eater, the dirty ice cream queen, Foxy Knoxy. A jury convicted my doppelgänger, and also sentenced her to 26 year in prison. Yet the guards couldn’t handcuff that invented person. They can not escort that fiction right into a cell. The was me, the actual me, who returned to that windowless jail van, come those high cement wall surfaces topped with barbed wire, come those cold, echoing hallways and also barred windows, to that all-consuming loneliness.
Ten year ago, in ~ the period of 24, ns was acquitted, and I tumbled right into a sort of purgatory. Ns left one cell and immediately gone into another: the quiet of mine childhood bedroom. Outside, the telephoto lenses were fixed on mine closed blinds. Prison had provided me an evaluation for every the freedoms I’d taken because that granted. Liberty showed me how plenty of I quiet lacked.
As i walked back into the free world, ns knew the my doppelgänger to be there together me. I knew the everyone ns would ever before meet from climate on would certainly have currently met, and also judged, her. I had actually been acquitted in a court the law, however sentenced come life by the court of windy opinion as, if no a killer, then at least a slut, or a nutcase, or a tabloid celebrity. Why no she simply go far already? her 15 minutes room over.
In freedom, i had end up being a pariah. Searching for work, going ago to school, to buy tampons at the pharmacy, almost everywhere I went ns met people who already thought lock knew that I was, what I’d excellent or not done, and also what i deserved. I was intimidated with abduction and also torture in broad daylight; ns was endangered with having actually Meredith’s name sculpted into mine body. Strangers sent me lingerie and bizarre love letters. Everywhere the world, people believed they knew me, a warped presumption that turn me into a monster come some and a saint come others. Ns felt prefer I was always standing behind that cardboard cutout, Foxy Knoxy, saying, Hey, back here, the genuine me! also most of the strangers who readily available kindness and also support didn’t truly check out me. They loved her.
It’s tough to do friends, come date, to it is in a continuous person as soon as everyone you accomplish has a preconceived id of that you yes, really are, whether positive or negative. I might have favored to hide out, to change my name, to dye my hair, and also hope no one well-known me ever before again. Instead, I determined to take on the people that had actually dehumanized me, and also all those who turned me into a product.
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From the minute I was arrested, mine name and also face and trauma became a source of profit for news organizations, filmmakers, and other artists, scrupulous and also unscrupulous. The many intimate details of mine life, from my sexual background to my thoughts of death and also suicide in prison, were taken from my personal diary and also leaked come journalists. Those journalists turned mine darkest fears right into fodder for hundreds of articles, thousands of blog posts, and millions of hot takes. World speculated about my psychological state and sexuality, castle diagnosed me indigenous afar, they provided my predicament together a metaphor, they do TV movies around me, based personalities in legal reflects on me, and also the worst that them take it every chance they could, when I remained in prison and while I’ve been out, to dead me for something i didn’t do, to shame me for living while Meredith is dead, to shame me for being in the really headlines castle write, because that being in the photographs they take without mine consent. The hypocrisy and the cruelty are maddening. And also yet, gift under that microscope has provided me understanding into just how wrong a media narrative deserve to be, how easy it is for every one of us come consume other people’s lives as if they to be mere contents to fill up our Twitter feeds.
All of this has actually led me to dedicate myself, in my created journalism and on my podcast, Labyrinths, come upholding the honest principles ns so often found lacking in the media the covered and consumed me. I think that journalists must always center people in their own stories, and also recognize what is at stake for your subjects. But even together I put my own voice into the world, the idea the me is still an item for rather to consume. So ns can’t say ns was surprised as soon as I heard about Tom McCarthy’s brand-new film.
Stillwater is both “loosely based on” and also “directly influenced by” the “Amanda Knox saga,” together Vanity Fair put it in an short article published by a for-profit magazine firm promoting a for-profit film, neither of which i am affiliated with. I want to pause on that phrase, “the Amanda Knox saga,” due to the fact that the manifold methods that my identity continues to be exploited begin with this shorthand. What does “the Amanda Knox saga” express to? walk it describe anything i did? No. It refers to the events that result from the killing of Meredith Kercher by Rudy Guede. It describes the shoddy police work, the fault forensics, and also the confirmation bias and tunnel vision of the Italian authorities who refusal to recognize their failure led them to wrongfully judge me, twice. In those four years that wrongful imprisonment and also eight years of trial, I had actually near-zero agency.
Everyone rather in that “saga” had more influence over the food of events than ns did. The erroneous emphasis on me by the police brought about an erroneous emphasis on me through the press, which shaped how I to be presented to the world, and also continues to shape how civilization treat me today. In prison, I had actually no manage over mine public identity, no voice in my own story.
This focus on me led numerous to complain the Meredith Kercher had actually been forgotten. Yet whom walk they blame because that that? not the Italian authorities. No the press. Somehow it was my fault the the police and also media focused on me in ~ Meredith’s expense. The result of this is the 14 year later, my name is the name connected with this tragic series of occasions I had no control over. Meredith’s name is regularly left out, together is Rudy Guede’s. As soon as he was released from jail in late 2020, the New York Post title read: “Man Who eliminated Amanda Knox’s Roommate Freed on neighborhood Service.” My name is the just name the shouldn’t be in that headline.
In irradiate of the #MeToo movement, an ext people are coming come understand just how power dynamics form a story. Who had actually the power in the relationship in between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, the president or the intern? Shorthand matters. Phone call that occasion “the Lewinsky scandal” falls short to acknowledge the large power differential, and I’m happy that much more people are currently referring to it together “the Clinton affair,” which clearly calls out the human being with the most company in that series of events. I would certainly love nothing much more than for people to refer to the occasions in Perugia together “the killing of Meredith Kercher by Rudy Guede,” which would certainly make me the peripheral figure I always was, the innocent roommate.
But I recognize that my wrongful convictions, and my trials, became the story that human being obsessed over. I recognize they’re walk to call it “the Amanda Knox saga” in perpetuity. I can’t adjust that, yet I deserve to ask that when people refer to these events, they make an initiative to know that how you talk around a crime affects the civilization involved: Meredith’s family, my family, my co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, and also me.
Every evaluation of Stillwater I have actually seen has mentioned me, for far better or worse. Some refer to me together a human convicted that murder, when conveniently leaving the end the fact of my critical acquittal. The new York Times, in profiling Matt Damon, referred to these occasions as “the sordid Amanda Knox saga.” That’s no a good adjective to have placed next to your name, specifically when it explains events that you no cause, but that you experienced from.
Even the tiniest selections people make around how to describe newsworthy occasions shape just how they are perceived. And when real events serve as incentive for fiction, that impact can be magnified and distorted. Stillwater is by no way the an initial project to usage my story there is no my consent, and also at the price of my reputation. While ns was tho in prison, and also still top top trial, Lifetime created a film called Murder on psychological in Italy. I sued the network, which brought about it cutting from the film a dream succession that portrayed me death Meredith. A couple of years ago, there was the Fox series Proven Innocent, starring Kelsey Grammer, which was developed and also described as “What if Amanda Knox came to be a lawyer?” The an initial time ns heard indigenous the show’s equipments was once they had actually the audacity come ask me to help them encourage it top top the eve of its premiere.
My name, mine face, mine story have efficiently entered the general public imagination. Ns am legally taken into consideration a windy figure, and that leaves me small recourse to combat depictions that me that are harmful and also untrue, and also gives carte blanche to anyone who wants to write around me to execute so without consulting me in any kind of way. A prime instance is Malcolm Gladwell’s publication Talking come Strangers, which functions a totality chapter analyzing my case. He reached out come me just before publication to ask if he might use excerpts of my audiobook in his audiobook. He didn’t think come ask because that an interview prior to forming his conclusions around me. I enabled him to use my voice, because at least Gladwell was arguing for mine innocence. Yet even he placed the burden of my wrongful conviction on me, based upon my behavior, quite than on the authorities, who hosted all the strength in that dynamic. To his credit, Gladwell comment to my critiques end email, and also was gracious sufficient to sign up with me on mine podcast. I have prolonged the very same invitation to Tom McCarthy and Matt Damon.
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McCarthy was “inspired by” mine story, and told Vanity Fair that “he couldn’t help but imagine exactly how it would certainly feel to it is in in Knox’s shoes.” however that didn’t inspire him come ask me how it feel to be in my shoes. He ended up being interested in the household dynamics: “Who room the human being that are visiting
“We decided, ‘Hey, let’s leaving the Amanda Knox situation behind,’” McCarthy called Vanity Fair. “But permit me take this item of the story—an American woman researching abroad connected in some type of sensational crime and she end up in jail—and fictionalize everything approximately it.” however that story, my story, is not around an American woman studying abroad “involved in some sort of sensational crime.” It’s about an American mrs not involved in a sensational crime, and also yet wrongfully judge of committing that crime. It’s an essential distinction. Now, if he truly to be leaving the Amanda Knox case behind, that shouldn’t matter. However then why go every testimonial of Stillwater point out me? Why execute photos of mine face, not owned by me, show up in articles around the film?
Clearly, McCarthy has not left the instance behind. Which means that exactly how he has chosen to fictionalize mine story affects my reputation. Ns was accused of being associated in a death orgy, a sex video game gone wrong, once I was nothing but platonic friends with Meredith. But the fictionalized version of me in Stillwater does have a sexual relationship with she murdered roommate. In the film, the character based on me gives a tip to she father to assist find the male who really eliminated her friend. Matt Damon tracks him down. This fictionalizing erases the corruption and also ineptitude that the authorities. Reality is stranger than fiction here: In reality, the authorities already had the killer in custody. Rudy Guede to be convicted before my trial also began. Castle didn’t require to discover him. And also even so, castle pressed on in prosecuting me, due to the fact that they didn’t desire to recognize they had actually been wrong.
Vanity Fair reported the “Stillwater’s finishing was inspired not by the outcome of Knox’s case, but by the demands of the script
It turns out, she asked the killer to aid her remove her roommate. Yet she didn’t typical it that way. She want her roommate evicted, not killed. Her request indirectly led to a murder. Go McCarthy take into consideration how that creative choice affect me? I continue to be accused of learning something I’m no revealing, of having actually been affiliated somehow, also if ns didn’t plunge the knife.
By fictionalizing away my innocence, by erasing the function of the authorities in my wrongful conviction, McCarthy reinforces picture of me together guilty. And also with Damon’s star power, both are sure to benefit handsomely turn off this imagined variation of “the Amanda Knox saga” that will certainly leave plenty of viewers wondering, Maybe the real-life Amanda was associated somehow, and Googling whether the film’s story is true.
I never asked to end up being a publicly person. The Italian authorities and worldwide media do that selection for me. And when i was acquitted and also freed, the media and the public wouldn’t permit me to become a exclusive citizen again. I have actually not been allowed to return to the loved one anonymity ns had prior to Perugia. I have no choice but to expropriate the fact that ns live in a world where mine life, and my reputation, are freely available for distortion by a voracious content mill.
I’m no angry through Matt Damon or Tom McCarthy, however I am disappointed that they no seem to appreciate the worth of mine perspective and voice, only the value of my circumstances as inspiration and also my name as a marketing tool. For 4 years, I lived alongside women actually guilty that crimes ranging from petty theft come filicide. And let me call you, play cards through a drug dealer and being taught to roll out pizza dough through a broomstick by a mafiosa definitely puts things in a new perspective—one that doesn’t forgive people’s crimes, however puts them right into context. I concerned recognize the humankind in my other inmates, imperfect human being whom society had written off together worse 보다 worthless, or as monsters. Those very same judgments were, and also still are, hurled in ~ me, regardless of my innocence.
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All that this has made me extremely skeptical of those who conveniently pass judgment. It has actually made me allergy to the impulse to flatten others into cardboard, to erase their human being complexity, to rage versus things around which I understand only a snippet. Judgment just gets in the way of understanding. Refraining from referee has come to be a way of life because that me. Speak to it radical empathy, or extreme benefit of the doubt. Ns know how wrong people were about me, and also I don’t ever want to be the wrong around another person. The people is not filled with monsters and also heroes; the filled through people, and also people are extraordinarily complex. That has Tom McCarthy and also Matt Damon. I’m certain they had no ill intent. That, too, matters.