Roughly two years after Meredith Kercher's body was discovered in their shared Italian cottage, and nearly a year after her trial began, American exchange student Amanda Knox (and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito), has been found guilty of murder.
After a trial that lasted 11 months, the jury took 11 hours to reach a verdict, returning to the courtroom at midnight to deliver the results of their deliberations. Knox and Sollecito were both found guilty on all counts and sentenced; Knox received 26 years in prison, while Sollecito faces 25. Knox reportedly sobbed as the verdict was read.
When we first discussed Amanda Knox on the site, in November of 2007, former editor Jessica Grose noted that the already-in-media-overdrive story was "a Lifetime movie waiting to happen." The story had all of the twisted details usually reserved for "ripped from the headlines" episodes of Law & Order, and the story—Knox in particular—quickly became the subject of public fascination. The press jumped on Knox's MySpace nickname, "Foxy Knoxy," and the unfortunate moniker (as well as the femme fatale characterization attached to it) has followed her ever since.
When the story broke, much attention was paid to Knox's beauty: Time hypothesized that "those who are convinced of her guilt no doubt will hate her even more because she is beautiful," and Knox herself seemed to agree, noting in her diary: "If I had been ugly, would they have acted in the same way? I don't think so."
Indeed, it is Knox's image that dominated much of the trial coverage: her ex-boyfriend and fellow suspect, Sollecito was pushed to the background for most of the trial, and Rudy Guede, who is already serving 30 years in prison after being found guilty of both the murder and sexual assault of Kercher (he's currently in the process of appeal, seems to be a lingering ghost in the story, as well. It has always been the "Amanda Knox Trial," even though she wasn't the only one facing judge and jury over Kercher's death (most headlines regarding the verdict, including my own, display this today). The world, much like the jury, was presented with two starkly different versions of Amanda Knox: the innocent abroad caught up in something much bigger than herself, and the devious beauty filled with rage.
These two versions of Knox were presented throughout her trial; Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini painted her as a "compressed spring," who, under the influence of both drugs and alcohol, seized on the opportunity to hurt Kercher during "an unstoppable crescendo of frenzied violence." Mignini also claimed that Knox's motive for the attack may have centered around financial disputes the two were having, sending Knox into a rage and causing her to lead the sexual assault on Kercher in order"to take revenge on that prissy girl."
Knox's parents and her attorney Luciano Ghirga, however, remained firm in their belief that Knox was innocent, and a victim herself of the media and the Italian judicial system. Ghirga argued just two days ago that Knox had been "crushed by the system," and Knox herself faced the jury to state that she was "afraid of being labelled as someone that I'm not, of doing things I didn't do and having the assassin's mask clamped to my skin." Defense attorney Giulia Bongiorno also attempted to paint Knox as "a naive, slightly extravagant, spontaneous young girl who is 60 percent imagination and 40 percent reality," a sharp contrast to Mignini's portrayal.
Knox's parents also felt their daughter was being painted unfairly by the prosecution: "This was a horrible crime," her mother, Edda Mellas, was quoted as saying, "but I couldn't understand why immediately Amanda was painted in this horrible light, where she was unrecognizable." Convinced of her innocence, bought her a plane ticket home a month or so ago, hoping she'd get a chance to use it. They are expected to give a statement regarding the verdict shortly.
Though the trial is finally over, it's doubtful that we've seen the last of Amanda Knox. If prior high-profile cases have taught us anything, the debate over who she really is and what really happened that night will surely continue; a civil suit has already been filed by Kercher's parents, who are seeking $37 million dollars from Knox, Sollecito, and Guede. The suit hinged on a conviction; now that Knox and Sollecito have been found guilty along with Guede, it looks as if that suit will go forward. We will most likely be seeing and hearing much more from Amanda Knox and her family in the future, but perhaps it is best to end with the words of Meredith Kercher's mother, Arline: "Her death was unreal in many ways, and still is. We will never, never get over this."
Update: The Knox family has released the following statement:
We are extremely disappointed in the verdict rendered today against our daughter. While we always knew this was a possibility, we find it difficult to accept this verdict when we know that she is innocent, and that the prosecution has failed to explain why there is no evidence of Amanda in the room where Meredith was so horribly and tragically murdered. It appears clear to us that the attacks on Amanda's character in much of the media and by the prosecution had a significant impact on the judges and jurors and apparently overshadowed the lack of evidence in the prosecution's case against her.
We want to thank the excellent work by Amanda's attorneys, Carlo Dalla Vedova, Luciano Ghirga and Maria Del Grosso, who successfully showed there was no credible evidence against Amanda and who fought hard on her behalf.
We also want to thank the many supporters both in Seattle and around the world who have contacted us with their support of Amanda and of us. We ask for their continued support.
We will immediately begin the process of appealing this verdict. Amanda is innocent and we will continue to fight for her freedom.
Knox Reaction: "We're Going To Fight To The End [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
Friends And Family Of Amanda Knox Await Verdict [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
Italian Jury Finds Amanda Knox Guilty Of Murdering Roommate [CNN]
Italian Jury Convicts U.S. Student Of Murder [NYTimes]
Exclusive: Amanda Knox's Parents End Their Silence [ABCNews]
Meredith Kercher's Family Breaks Silence On Second Anniversary Of Murder [ABCNews]
Lawsuits Fly In Amanda Knox Murder Trial [CBS]
Prosecutor Asks For Life Sentence For Knox [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
Meredith Kercher Trial: "Don't Give Me The Mask Of An Assassin," Says Amanda Knox [Telegraph]
Amanda Knox's Lawyer Tears Up In Court [CBS]
Amanda Knox Prosecutor Imagines The Attack [ABCNews]
Knox Hated Slay Victim, Prosecutor Says [CBS]
Amanda Knox "Had No Motive For Kercher Murder" [BBC]
Rudy Guede Guilty Of Meredith Kercher Murder, Amanda Knox Faces Trial [TimesOnline]
Amanda Knox: I'm Only A Target Because I'm Sexy [TimesOnline]
A Murder Year Abroad? [Time]