When University of Washington student Amanda Knox left her hometown of Seattle in 2007 for a year abroad in Italy, she thought she was living the dream. Instead, her life spiraled into a very public nightmare. Her roommate—21-year-old British exchange student Meredith Kercher—was found stabbed to death in their apartment, and Knox was fingered by prosecutors for the crime.
Knox was put on trial, and tabloids across the world ate it up, scrutinizing everything from her clothing at court to her college creative writing assignments.
Knox’s trial was front-page fodder for months, with the British and Italian press decidedly unsympathetic, casting Knox as a cold-blooded femme fatale (under the moniker “Foxy Knoxy“), a promiscuous young American who prosecutors alleged committed the murder with her Italian boyfriend (Raffaele Sollecito) and another man, (Rudy Hermann Guede) as part of a “sex game gone wrong.” American coverage was more sympathetic, focusing on the lack of forensic evidence and painting the case as an anti-American witch hunt.
In 2008, Guede was convicted of the murder after a fast-track trial and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
In a separate trial that started on January 16, 2009, Knox and Sollecito were also convicted of the murder and sentenced to 26 and 25 years, respectively. Two years into their prison terms, an appeals court overturned that decision. The case was retried, with the Italian Supreme Court definitively exonerating the couple in 2015.
A&E Real Crime looks at what Knox has done since her release.
Knox’s advocacy with the Innocence Project and for publicly-shamed women
After Knox was incarcerated, she wrote that if she ever were released she’d want to work for the Innocence Project, an American nonprofit dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions via DNA evidence.
“It is a really deep emotional, intellectual and psychological community that sees so many facets of the experience and deals with them really practically,” Knox explained in an interview with Rolling Stone. “It’s changed my life.”
In recent years, she’s widened the scope of her public advocacy, and now focuses more on women who have been publicly shamed: In 2017, she became the host of The Scarlet Letter Reports, a VICE Media web series that explores the gendered nature of public shaming via interviews with publicly-shamed women like feminist video blogger Anita Sarkeesian, actress Mischa Barton and model Amber Rose.
In a statement on her blog, Knox wrote that she decided to host the show to “re-humanize others who have been similarly shamed and vilified, and elevate the standard for how we think and talk about public women.”
Knox’s writing career: a memoir, op-eds and articles
After Knox’s initial release she wrote a memoir, Waiting to Be Heard, which earned her a $4 million advance and became a bestseller. The work received positive reviews, with the New York Times‘s literary critic describing Knox’s prose as “evocative and verbose, sympathetic and enigmatic.”
Author Candace Dempsey—whose book Murder in Italy details Knox’s trial— says the Seattle native’s love of words was obvious well before she was exonerated.
“It’s an extension of who she’s always been,” Dempsey tells A&E Real Crime. From interviewing family members, Dempsey says she came to learn that as a child Knox was always writing letters. Even to those living in the house.
“She doesn’t like to yell at anybody,” says Dempsey. “In the house, they have stacks and stacks [of letters] from the time she was a little girl. She’s always been scribbling.”
Knox studied creative writing at college, and several of her short stories were scrutinized for their overtly sexual and violent themes.
In 2014 she started writing articles about local theater for her hometown Seattle paper, the West Seattle Herald.
Knox has also written op-eds for several newspapers—tussling with unlikely foes along the way. After writing a piece critical of President Donald Trump, one of the president’s advisors said the president felt betrayed, having voiced strong support for Knox during her trial. Knox then penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in response to the president’s alleged issue with her, saying the commander-in-chief had earned her gratitude, but not her vote.
Knox’s prison diary generates scrutiny
During her trial, the prosecution made Knox’s sexuality a focal point: video and photographs of Knox and Sollecito kissing after the murder were held up as evidence of their guilt, both in court and in the press. Knox’s diary entries from prison—in which she detailed her sexual history and wrote about fan mail from gentleman callers—were similarly scrutinized.
Dempsey says the promiscuous picture of Knox that prosecutors painted was overblown, adding that her diary was “not very shocking” and was typical for a college student. [The Italian press corps] had this idea of American women as wild sex kittens,” says Dempsey. “She was supposed to be a street kid, but she’s the farthest thing from that. She grew up in West Seattle.”
Are Knox and Raffaele Sollecito still a couple?
Setting aside the question of how relevant Knox’s alleged promiscuity was to a murder trial, her post-trial love life is decidedly stable. In November 2018, she got engaged to her boyfriend of three years, writer Chris Robinson, following an elaborate proposal. Robinson, co-author of War of the Encyclopaedists: A Novel, staged a fake meteor crash in the couple’s backyard; among the rubble he’d planted an inscribed tablet, purportedly from the future, claiming the couple’s forever well-being. Knox met Robinson after reviewing his novel for a local magazine.
“I don’t have a ring, but I do have a big rock,” Robinson tells her in a video of the engagement, which was uploaded to YouTube.
As for her relationship to Sollecito, Knox says they remain in touch.
“We keep track of each other and we care deeply about each other,” says Knox. But she emphasizes that their pairing—while highly publicized—was only a week old when their arrests occurred. “We barely knew each other. In fact, our relationship is almost entirely a relationship of survival.”